Archive for the ‘living’ Category

Victoria-Day weekend, 1972 and 2008

May 18, 2008

It is the first day of this Year’s Victoria Day weekend. It is also the first scorching Spring day we have had, so far. We have decided to stay close to home, take out the garden furniture and putter about the place. It has been a wool-gathering kind of day. i have rested my eyes as they are sore. The bright light hurts them. We are waiting for the cool of the evening to stroll around the neighbourhood with our new, seven year old Scottie, Jessica. When she goes out into the back garden she doesn’t stay out in the heat. The heat almost seems to rise from her compact black body and she tries to take refuge from the heat by digging a shallow trench to lie in. Like us, she doesn’t do well in heat.

Man of Science came to take a cup of coffee with Rumpole. I decided, that since the sun was well over the yard-arm, I could treat myself to a glass of red wine. Man of Science made a hilarious declaration which caused me to sputter and spill the damn stuff on my fresh new white cotton pants.

“I told you white is not a good colour for you. You didn’t waste time in staining those pants.” Rumpole always has to chide me for being a wee bit of a slob. He handed over the Tide stain remover, which upon application to the stains caused them to turn bright blue. I dragged out the lemon juice and salt and did the salad treatment on the stains. That did the trick, and I changed into a blue pareo and hung out the pants in the afternoon sun.

Man of Science has been a friend since 1970. He has seen me at my best and worst. He has no illusions about my feminish capacities. “Once a slob, always a slob!” he intoned. “But you are a good shit.” (Gee, thanks MoS)

I promptly withdrew to my room, wine in hand and lazed about sipping wine and half-listening to the guys chatting in the kitchen. A memory of driving away from Man of Science and Ardent Feminazi’s University housing at UBC exactly 36 years ago flashed in my mind. Then, Man of Science hoisted two year old Renaissance Man up to the open car window to kiss me goodbye. He and AF were looking after RM while a friend and I drove up North to the small community where we had both been hired as art teachers a couple of weeks previously.

Then, as today, the weather was hot and sultry. Lauren and I had done our final practicums at the same Vancouver high school, and discovered during one lunchtime that we both had been hired by the same school district. She, for the senior high, and me for the junior high. Right then we decided we would make our first trip up to meet the principals and see our schools on the upcoming Victoria Day weekend.

We dropped Renaissance Man at AF and MoS’s place, waved our goodyes and began our journey by car, of 465 miles. Lauren’s car was a small Toyota sedan. It didn’t have air conditioning. The drive was hot and long. We stopped outside Hope, and rolled all the windows down. Cranked up the radio to whatever local station it might recieve in the mountain valleys, and sang along on the road. Our hair flew freely in the wind; the windshield spattered with many dead bugs. We raced transport trucks on the passing lanes but kept our eyes peeled for the local police vehicles lurking behind tall stands of trees to nab unwary speeders. At nightfall we arrived at our destination, windswept, sweaty and dust grimed. We found a cheap motel and bedded down for the night laden with local newspapers to check out the housing situation, and the concerns of the locals.

While Lauren washed off the road grime in the bathroom, I perused the “Apartments for Rent” section in the paper, consulted the town map and tried to figure out the best places to contact the next morning. Then it was my turn to use a lot of hot water. Lauren spent her time looking for apartments nearest her school. Before we turned in we primped our hair and put in rollers to set up decent looking hair-dos.

The following morning, we phoned our respective Principals and arranged to visit our schools in the early afternoon. Then we began the earnest telphoning to set appointments to look at apartments in the evening hours. before lunch we drove around the whole town. it took only 30 minutes. The town had one main street, two stop-lights, one hardware store, two grocery stores, several small banks, a small hospital, funeral home, an RCMP detachment office that was easy to miss, post office, two hotels and several gas stations. It was a lumber and pulp town and boasted of a brand new pulp mill, several saw mills as well as novel structures neither of us had seen before – bee-hive burners attached to the saw mills. The town, situated at the confluence of two rivers sat in a valley the slopes of which were covered in mixed conifer and birch and aspen groves. It was a little jewel of a place, and we congratulated each other on having our first teaching jobs in such a lovely setting.

 In the afternoon, Lauren dropped me at my school for my appointment and drove off to meet her own principal in the west part of town. My principal was a gracious and friendly, almost fatherly man of early middle years. He walked me through the whole school and showed off the facilities for teaching Agricultural sciences which he himself had brought to fruition and manned as part of his teaching schedule. He was very proud of the Science labs, the Industrial Arts  workshops and then showed off the art-rooms and their adjoining storage areas. I was surprised at how well equipped my rooms were. There was a general studio with good tables and stools, good light, adequate cleanup and storage facilities. As a bonus, there was a fully equipped ceramic studio with four kick-wheels and two electric wheels, a large kiln and a small enamelling kiln, pug-mill and clay-recycling tables.  I felt like I had dropped into a dream art class-room. The nice principal said that although I was going to have a tiny budget to work with, he would ensure that there would be enough for me to get by with for the year, and that he was willing to help me forage for local clay bodies for the pottery program. I was thrilled.

When Lauren returned to fetch me so we could go off to look at apartments, she looked crest-fallen. She reported that her principal was a stiff and formal man, her room, in the brand new school had no equipment nor supplies and that she would have to build up her program, teaching supplies and equipment from scratch on a minimal budget. She expressed concern about the wisdom of taking on the job.

On the plus side, she managed to find a pleasant apartment across from her school, while the only apartment that would take me and a two-year old child as tenants was a basement apartment across the river from my school. We drove to a local diner and commiserated on the less stellar aspects of our upcoming adventure living and teaching in a small northern town. We determined to share teaching resources, and I assured her I’d ask my principal if she could have the two electric wheels from my school on loan to her for a year.

The following morning, the last day of the long-weekend, we drove back to Vancouver, largely silent and entertaining our own thoughts and concerns in privacy on the tedious hot drive.

So back to today; here was good old Man of Science, sitting in my kitchen 36 years later, sipping coffee, talking laughing and sounding very much like his earlier self. I like the constancy of old friendships,  shared history and knowing how life has changed us in the intervening years. Then, we were young parents; now we are grandparents. But we still are curious, vital and up for anything life throws at us.

It was pleasant to have his presence today with us as a reminder of how long a life we had in parallel with each other. I hate to see him with his white hair, but his keen blue eyes are as lovely and acute as ever, and he is his sweet, opinionated, questioning and fiercely loyal self.

This is going to be a good Victoria Day weekend, full of visits with the rest of our family, and good friends. But boy, is it ever a scorcher!

New Year’s Eve…

January 2, 2008

It was to be a quiet, uneventful New Year’s Eve. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were to play at a New Year’s gig with their band. Glasgow Girl went along to help serve food and tend bar for the celebrants. I was most grateful to serve as companion for Mousey, as I have not now, or ever, been a party-girl, and am bored to tears by the noise and bustle of large, raucous gatherings of the festive kind that New Year’s parties tend to be.

Martha agreed to spend the evening with Mousey and me, as she was entertaining no other option for this evening. I feel unease at having sole responsibility for this little grand-daughter now, with my bad eyesight and the lack of confidence and clumsiness that has come along with it. Martha and I planned to bring along a take and bake prepared pizza,  a movie, Yahtzee and Dominoes. We spent some time on the 30th selecting a movie, buying the pizza and debating what games we could play after Mousey’s bedtime. We were ready and looking forward to the entertainmet of Mousey’s company.

We convened at RM and GG’s house at the appointed time, loaded down with our stuff. Mousey met us at the door with Glasgow Girl hovering nearby, putting on her shoes and coat. Mousey immediately forgot about her mother and glommed onto Martha, who seldom sees her and thus presented as great novelty for her. We got her to wave bye-bye to her mom and proceeded to be entertained by a steady stream of Mousey’s favourite toys,  and her attempts at conversation which takes the form of completely unintelligible sentences, complete with emphases of tone and an occasional word which referred to objects. Of course when Martha or I asked her a question, she would nod and say a long convoluted reply which neither of us really understood. miming and pointing. Our three-way conversations had the surreal aspect of spending time with a foreign speaker where only small portions of meaning could be gleaned by us two older visitors, whereas the native, small person fully understood what we meant when we spoke. Really weird and quite funny.

Martha put the pizza in the oven to cook while Mousey and I dragged her high-chair to the dining room table and readied some snack for her to eat more appropriate for her tender system. Mousey ran into the kitchen and observed as Martha pulled the pizza out of the oven, slowly waved her little hands and uttered “Hot!” and commanded me to pick her up so she could see Martha slice it. She licked her lips; her eyes brightened and lingered on the pocked pattern of the wedges. She was eager to be strapped into her high-chair and drummed her hands on the tray part, quite excited until I placed her biscuits on it. Martha brought the pizza and placed it in front of us; we helped ourselves to a couple of slices. Mousey picked up a biscuit, sampled it, and tossed it over the edge of her high chair. She beaded me with her dark eyes and held out her hand, beckoning me to share with her. I plucked an olive slice and handed it over to her. She sampled it, made a moue of disgust, took it out of her mouth and tossed it overboard, like garbage; she waved her hand at my pizza slice and made a long, garbled sentence with a loud demanding tone that brooked no misunderstanding. I picked a piece of crumbled sausage and dutifully handed it to her. She liked it, and made impatient gestures to keep more coming, and be quick about it.

“Not a good idea, G,” cautioned Martha. “She’ll get diarrhea. You’ll be sorry later.”

I handed Mousey another, unsullied biscuit. She was having none of it and threw it away. More waving of her hands at my pizza slice. This little one has inherited her father’s cast-iron digestive system as well as his adventurous appetite. I figured a few bites of sausage, cheese topping and crust might not harm her.

After eating, I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her outside into the yard to look at the neighbourhood in the dark. She oohed and aahed at the Christmas lights on neighbourhood houses. We stayed out for a few minutes and she identified lights, houses, cars driving by. “It’s dark,” I said to her. “Is it time for you to have your bath now?” She nodded. “Dark…bath,” she said. “Dark night…can you say good night to the lights, houses, cars and the dark,” I asked her. She made her farewells to the outdoors and we went in to ready her bath.

Mousey did not linger in her bath for long. She was eager to get dressed in her sleeper and rejoin Martha in the living room. She curled up beside Martha and had an extended conversation with her, threw herself on her lap, inspected her curly grey hair, and wriggled and giggled. She dragged her blanket over, pulled it over the two of them and leaned on Martha and gazed up at her face while sucking on her middle fingers. This she did only when she was sleepy, so I scooped her up and suggested she give Martha a good night hug. Then we put all her toys to bed, in their appointed places, went back to wave good night to Martha.  Mousey turned off her bedroom light and went to her bed cheerfully. She blew me a kiss as I covered her with her blanket. She grabbed her Pooh bear and fingered its ear. “Help Pooh go to sleep. He is tired and sleepy,” I suggested and waved her good night.

Mousey settled in easily and talked in a light soft voice to Pooh. Martha got the Yahtzee game organized on the dining room table. She went over the rules of engagement and scoring in the game. I had not played Yahtzee for many years. Mouse quited down, so we waited for a little while to let her fall into a deep sleep before beginning the rattling of the dice. I went off to grab myself a drink, and to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later, as I was sitting on the toilet, came a loud thump followed by sudden screaming from Mousey’s room. “Oh, my God!” yelled Martha. “G, get in here!” I quickly pulled myself together and ran into Mousey’s room. She was up in Martha’s arms, tears streaming down her little face. “I think she is all right,”whispered Martha. I took Mousey in my arms and placed her on her changing table. Took off all her clothes and checked her thoroughly; moved and felt her limbs, chest and back. She looked a bit shocked, but was, fortunately, had survived the fall unscathed. I dressed her up again and bundled her in her blanket. Martha and I inspected her crib. It was intact, so we figured she had climbed out by using her Pooh bear as a ramp to give her height to scale the side of the crib. Out came the Pooh, relegated now to spend the rest of the night on the couch with the other stuffed toys. I brought Mousey into the living room and cuddled her. She had not cried for long, and she nodded when Martha asked her if she was scared. She lay in my arms and snuggled down. Twirled her hair around her finger and sucked on her fingers.  After some time had passed, as she could hardly keep her eyes open, I took her back into her room and laid her in the crib. She turned on her side and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep.

Back in the living room, I said to Martha, “Why did she have to climb out of her crib for the first time on my watch? I’d better report this to Glasgow Girl on the phone right now.”

So, I called GG’s cell. Told her what had happened. “How did Mousey fall out of her crib? Is she all right?” she asked.

“She scaled the wall, climbed up, and gave herself a good shock.” I told her and asked. “Has she ever done this before tonight?”

“Ooh, the little bugger,” replied GG with her Glaswegian brogue. “This is entirely new behaviour for her. I guess we’ll have to put her in a regular kid bed now.”

“This new change will give you and RM many nights of broken sleep. This next phase can be daunting. Until you change her crib she will now try to find ways to keep climbing out.”

“Of, dear God!”exclaimed GG. “I guess we’ll just have to suck it up.  Got to go now and tend bar. Don’t wait up for us.”

Surely she had to be kidding. There was no way I’d be able to nod off later, given that I’d worry about a repeat of Mousey’s earlier performance. I hung up the phone and Martha and I began to play Yahtzee. we had forgotten to bring pennies so couldn’t gamble on the games, but I beat her two games out of three. She was disgusted with the fact that she had helped me make my winning strategies. We decided to next watch the movie, “Dream Girls”.

This musical had some wonderful musical bits, a couple of  brief Diana Ross cameos, terrific acting by Eddie Murphy and was the right movie to watch on a New Year’s Eve. It finished just before midnight and Martha went off to her house to make sure her Jack Russel, Murtaugh, was not excessively traumatized by the setting off of fireworks in her neighbourhood. Of course, he was probably oblivious to any fire-cracker noises, as earlier Martha had dosed him with some dog equivalent of Ativan. But she frets about him and was eager to get home and make sure he was not having a nervous breakdown.

I settled out on the back patio to have a cigarette. A sudden wind arose, the sky was clear. People were banging pots and pans in the neighbourhood. Lights from the house next door winked through the gaps in the hedge. I sat there thinking that with my poor vision now this view appeared to be a scintillating, shifting dark scrim where pinpoints of light formed and reformed new and novel constellations.

Once back inside, I dug around for books to read. Before I got a chance to settle with a book about Scotland, Mousey woke and started yelling and complaining. I went and got her, changd her diaper. She was wide awake and resisted going back to bed. I wrapped her in her blanket and took her into the living room. We turned off the lights and sat by the low glow of lights from the Christmas tree. “Look…dark,”said Mousey pointing to the window. Then she wanted her bottle, but when given it licked it and then tossed it aside. She tore the glasses from my face, put it over her eyes and grinned at me. She peered through them and looked toward the window. “Dark” she said. Then she pointed to the Christmas tree lights and said, “light”. So I talked to her about how we sleep in the dark, and get up and play in the light, that now grandma was tired and sleepy, Pooh was also sleeping. She was not convinced and wriggled to get down and go about playing. I kept her wrapped in her blanket, on my lap. She whined at first, but soon acquiesced to sitting calmly with me. I closed my eyes and yawned at her. She mugged back at me, grinning. She fiddled with my hair, eyes, glasses; peered closely at me and tried to get me to giggle. I finally bored her back to a sleepy state and as soon as she was flagging I suggested she say good night to the dark and the lights, took her back to her dark room where we waved to all the stuffed animals, wished them a good sleep. She lay down in her crib, quite content and waved me good night.

I returned to my perch on the couch and opened the book on Scotland. Had trouble staying awake, so went off to tidy in the kitchen, polished the dining room table and finally turned on the TV, with low volume. Flipped through the channels. There was nothing even vaguely interesting, so I kept flipping channels. Soon, the sounds from the garage door announced the arrival of Renaissance Man and Glasgow Girl. “Mother, why are you still awake?” he asked. It was, after all 3 am.

“I want to go home to my bed now. I didn’t dare to fall asleep, in case Mousey might repeat her vaulting from her crib.” I explained how she had gotten up shortly after midnight and showed little inclination to go back to bed, but in the end was quite amenable to the idea of going back to sleep once she had been sufficiently entertained. “She should sleep through the rest of the night, quite well.”

Rumpole arrived, shortly thereafter to take me home. On the drive I told him of Mousey’s discovery of being able to get out of her crib, and how that could hurt her “You know, I’m surprised that parents get through this phase, sometimes relatively sane and unscarred. But I sure don’t have the stamina for the kind of vigilance required for keeping a toddler safe.”

Except for Mousey falling out from her crib, it was fun to spend the new year’s eve with her. She is an absolute delight to be with. But today I was exhausted. Well, that doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to have her in my life and look forward to all the changes in her we all will have the pleasure to witness during the next year.

Guilty pleasures meme…

November 19, 2007

TIV at  has tagged me in true sand-lot fashion, and  I will try to play the game to the best of my ability. I should be good at this one, as a lapsed Catholic, I have had many unforgettable moments in the confessional, and while guilt carries with it the promise of certain burning pain of incipient punishment, it also proves perversely pleasureable.

Six guilty pleasures no one would suspect me of having

–    I enjoy going to all kinds of church services, despite being assured at an early age that there was only one religion – the Catholic one. Rituals from different faiths yield me similar feelings – this I find amazing as well as reassuring.

–    I enjoy reading mythology

–    The obituary pages have always fascinated me, even when I was young. Beats me why.

–    I love the scent of many people in close quarters. Even the ones who reek of garlic and old socks. Before Rumpole leaves me for the day, I have to take deep snorts of his neck, behind the ear. If I don’t, somehow the day doesn’t progress as it should.

–    it gives me great pleasure to have regular visits with the podiatrist. I like the matter-of-fact way he uses the dremel on my toenails – it tickles!

–    If I could afford it, I’d go three times a week to have my hair washed at the hairdressers. That is such a delicious luxury.

six guilty pleasures I wish I had the courage to indulge

–    to do a weekend marathon of all movies with Peter Sellers in them – I wish I could learn how to talk like Inspector Clouseau and drive my family crazy with the impersonations.

–    I wish I had the nerve to prepare toilet paper out of 6 different types of unexpected materials, install them in the ladies’ toilets at the local art center, plant myself in a cubicle with a tape-recorder and record the reactions of visitors to the particular material they find in their stall, and the kinds of dialogue that would result in asking persons in the next stall to hand under the dividers the material they find themselves provided with – then make an installation, using the tape and types of toilet paper material.

–    I wish I had the nerve to wear only clothing which I feel totally comfortable in, never mind how it looks to others.

–    art books, books of poetry, dictionaries of all types and all the time in the world to read them

–    taking to-do lists and feeling free enough not to have to cross of any item as having been done – If I make lists, have to be compulsive about performance

–    To have a live monkey for a pet – to indulge my lifelong fascination with monkeys

Six pleasures I once considered guilty but have either abandoned or made peace with

–    reading too much, not “doing” mundane chores enough

–    eating too much cheese and pate – my recent cholestrol levels have caused me to abstain – aaargh!

–    wasting time dancing around the house to blaring music – these days I’m too sore to do too much of this

–    Love affair with paper as a material, and the sheer luxury of excess availability of all kinds of paper goods – I’m having a hard time coming to grips with this one

–    luxury underwear, of wonderful material, no longer find essential or even desirable

–    wanting to own art objects of interest, beauty, utility, a huge guilty pleasure – am happy to browse museums and emporiums, just seeing the stuff, don’t need to “own” them

I’m tagging –,  Nicolemarie at, Kay at, Donna at,  D at and Dejan at . I look forward to what these individuals might want to share about their own guilty pleasures, because as I have been taught “confession is good for the soul”, and I must admit to be relieved that I have done my bit here. Whew!

He said, she said, and all that cheese…

November 18, 2007

During the past two weeks and some days, no morsels of cheese, my favourite food, has passed my lips. Sad to say, unfortunately, my hunting and pecking forefingers have generated enough cheesy byproduct, of the written variety, to satisfy the most discriminating palate. I have created a range of “fromage” of a staggering variety, from subtle Boursin, tasteless dry curd cottage cheese to absolutely reeking Roquefort.

Poor Rumpole and poor brave souls who enter our house begging for a cup of tea. I serve up tepid cups, and insist on reading to any too polite to say “please, no” the latest installment of my cheesy novel, “The Completer Set”. I do preface boring friends and loved ones  with my dramatic readings with a modest “cover your nose. My prose reeks of a cheese counter that has not been refrigerated for a week.” But, bless them, anyhow, they have listened, if not with rapt fascination, then with polite and patient utterings of encouragement.

I feel much loved and propped up in my delirious and obsessive attempts to wrestle a tale into existence. Rumpole has taken to calling me “Ernestine Hemingway”, and has kept me supplied with that Hemingway-an libation, red wine, to lubricate the Muse and keep her chattering inside my head with plot twists, character development, descriptions and dialogue with which to drag my story kicking and resisting toward some sort of completion.

To date, I have pounded out a bit more than 36,000 words, some with really creative spelling, and my story keeps on gathering steam. This morning, I considered just how soon this thing will peter out, and end. Is there some point where a writer hits a wall, and decides to end it all, no matter how abruptly, or does a writer manfully keep at it until the last bit of sense has been wrung out of the story and the ending arrives like a train chuffing into the train station and coasts to a stop?

I know, when a drawing or painting is in danger of being overworked. This writing business may be more like modelling with clay, like sculpting. Right now I’m piling on layers and layers, building up a core that has perilously bloated forms protruding from it, everywhere. For now, I’ll allow this excess; later will be the time to whittle away and pare down. But all this is very new to me, and I am amazed at the complexity of the task that awaits if I should decide, later to tackle the daunting task of rewriting.

Thank God for intimates and friends to keep one a realist, to help one not run amok with illusions about the worth of ones essays, in writing, in art, in living. I must say, that this whole experience has been mostly enjoyable, even when sitting in front of the computer with a blank look is all I could manage some days. The cheese pile is growing. “He said, she said” litters the ream of pages. Some of the really stinky passages are fun to re-read. I celebrate their badness. I actually managed to unearth this really awful stuff from inside somewhere. Go figure!

I will keep grinding away, sip my red wine in the evenings, and try to carry on the pretence that I am a housewife.

Rumpole deserves beatification after this NaNoWriMO month. So do Kay, Martha, BLW, OLPC, OCSA and PGT. Renaissance Man is convinced that I am nuts; and Glasgow Girl’s suspicion that I am a few cards short of a deck has been confirmed. Only Mousey treats me now as she always had – grabs the glasses from my face, tosses them away and roughs up my already messy hair. She sees it’s the same old me, leans her little forehead to mine and grins. She doesn’t care what I accomplish; I am simply Gramma. I’ll share a slice of cheese with her tonight at supper. Better a slice of cheese within the lips, than pouring out from under the fingers onto a page.

I want to let go of…

September 13, 2007

illusion and a habitual desire to not admit change is an inevitable condition of life. The signs of mutability are everywhere, constant reminders of the cycle of life. A morning look in the mirror while washing my face reveals minute morphing of my physical self. A look outside my kitchen window at the apple tree surprises with a view of newly dropped ripe apples, of leaves shriveling, yellowing. A glimpse of the night sky’s inky dome shocks a realization that I can no longer connect the dots of stars into familiar reassuring patterns because of my failing vision.

I have been avoiding activities that provide daily tests of a faculty which has served me well for sixty years – my eyesight. Thus it has proved shocking that I nearly bowled over a young mother toting her infant who attempted to pass me from behind my left side as I was walking an aisle at the grocery store seeking some needed product. Frustration and fear of losing a capacity taken for granted suddenly overwhelmed me. I was eager to instantly return home, to the safe and familiar environment where such forced reminders of diminishing capacity are minimized by movement patterns habituated by custom and frequent repetition.

The hardest adjustment for me is having to accept solicitous attention by family and friends in order to be able to cross the street without mis-steps, or to negotiate stairs and escalators in public spaces. A reminder by a companion to look at an object of interest I have to meet with a new kind of response, “where”. I want to let go of my illusion of independence and my fear of becoming a burden on others. After all, the reality is that dependence is an unavoidable life condition and ideas of independence are fictions.  I cling stubbornly to such illusions and in clinging to them become miserable when all indications point to realities I must accept. It seems that at all stages of life acceptance of what is may lead to more contentment than blindly insisting on maintaining the polite fiction of what was, might be, could be, should be. This seems to me my lifelong lesson to master.

From topic posted on – writing practice.  Thanks for the prompt, Redravine!

The Dream Home…

August 21, 2007

There is a song from the 60s musical “The Fantasticks” that I particularly loved and these days still sing in a cracked-alto version whenever I am doing mundane chores around the house.

” Hear how the wind begins to whisper -see all the leaves go swirling by – smell how the velvet rain is falling – out where the fields are warm and dry.

Now is the time to run inside and play – now is the time to find a hideaway – where we can stay.

Soon it’s gonna rain, I can feel it; soon it’s gonna rain, I can tell; soon it’s gonna rain, what are we going to do? (Girl)

Soon it’s gonna rain, I can feel it; soon it’s gonna rain, I can tell; soon it’s gonna rain, what’ll we do with you? (Boy)

We’ll find four limbs of a tree; We’ll build four walls and a floor; we’ll bind it over with leaves and run inside to stay.

We will let it rain; we’ll not feel it; we will let it rain, rain pell mell, and we’ll not complain if it never stops at all.

We’ll live and love in these four walls; happily we’ll live and love, no cares at all; happily we’ll live and love, within our castle walls. ”  (Boy and Girl, together)

This romantic song contains all the idealism and lack of practical experience of the young, the yearning for a love that helps one transcend all difficulty. I find its delicious naivete appealing. The Girl and Boy in the musical are supposed to be in their late teens, innocent, inexperienced and full of hope.

There is no hint of the Girl spreading tried-on and discarded brand name clothing on her bedroom floor and on every available surface. Her mother does not call her into the family room to catch the latest HGTV program on tacking together a fun and fashionable teen girl’s room with cool colours and kicky accessories. No “House Porn” for the Girl in The Fantasticks.

I often wonder what kind of longing is set up in sixteen-year old girls when they peruse the flyers that fall through their home mail-slot regularly, the flyers advertising the XXX Hospital Lifestyles Lottery, where the top prize is a million dollar Dream Home fully outfitted with the latest must-have luxuries and gadgets. And only $50 to $100 buys a chance at winning this Dream Home. Of course, the money goes to a good cause – Hospital Funding – so when one gambles one has expiated lingering feelings of guilt by being assured of gambled money going for “The Public Good”.

Some good friends bought a Dream Home from a lucky winner, who really couldn’t make a life in that house, for a variety of reasons. The house was designed by an architect, had soaring windows the three floors height, was situated in a semi-rural setting and had a gorgeous view of the ocean and islands. Outside, deer wandered by and had their way with garden plantings; racoons visited after dark to search for handouts; ravens flew by in the forest during the days, calling to each other and eagles soared in the sky.

There are unexpected downsides to Dream Homes, designed for a generic Mr and Mrs Average. The location of my friends’ house necessitated a two hour commute to and from work. They lived next door to another lottery home whose new owner left the house uninhabited.  Most of the neighbours were retirees.  Provisioning the home required trips into town a fair distance away. Power outages were frequent in the wintertime.  However, they lived there for five years, until the long commute to and from work became tedious, and the children needed to be closer to amenities, jobs and friends.

Lately, lottery homes are being built in suburbs, near amenities and schools, often on golf-course developments. My sister lives in such a community, and there are a few Dream Homes built on recently developed streets in her enclave. The new row of these lottery homes goes by the name of “Street of Dreams”. 

I toured a couple of these with Martha and Jeanie, and a crowd of other people, a couple of years ago. For the life of me I could never picture Rumpole and me living in one of these houses – we’d be like the Beverly Hillbillies and never fit in. The houses are tricked out to look like a hotel of sorts. People are expected to transport themselves via their imaginations into these places. All I could imagine was endless washing and cleaning of the granite counters in the kitchen and maybe occassionally chiding Rumpole for leaving acid rings etched on the granite from his orage juice glasses.  And the bathrooms! What sane woman wants to spend her time loping around the numerous bathrooms shining chrome taps. Besides which what woman could ever keep her eyes open watching Oprah  whilst slumped on the leather theatre chairs in the Media Room, exhausted from her rounds of incessant household maintenance!

Some dream! More like a nightmare wished on the unthinking and unwary women of North America! I think The Fantasticks version of castle is much more attractive and although the song didn’t mention ensuite bathrooms with rain-head showers and water-saving toilets, one can safely assume the idea of outdoor biffies never even crossed the librettist’s mind as he plinked away on a piano trying to fit words to the melody of “Soon it’s gonna rain”.

Neophyte sailors 1…

July 14, 2007

Back in 199o, Renaissance Man returned to live at home with us after a year up north at college. Rumpole and I had already moved to the Lower mainland that early spring, and we spent much of our leisure time wandering the many docks, looking at boats and ships of all types.  Rumpole loves the things of the sea, most particularly the conveyances that ply the waters moving goods and people about.  I love the character of the waters, their luminosity, reflectiveness and many moods.

In 1991 in anticipation of his birthday, Rumpole requested that we all take sailing lessons as his birthday gift. RM was delighted, but I was not too thrilled. Water is  an essential and marvellous material, but I do not necessarily like to be on it!

We signed up for sailing lessons comprised of two months of classroom theory and three months of actual sailing practice.  Off we went to buy the textbooks and sailing gear – yellow plasticized weather gear and gumboots.  We took out many books from the library on sailing, read and discussed them after dinners, whenever RM took time out from his studies to relax with us. These two men christened me “Landlubber” for my known love of solid footing on land, I called Rumpole “Ahab” and Renaissance Man as “Boy”.

Sailing classroom studies in theory and sailing nomenclature were once a week in the dark of winter evenings.  Along with a group of other eager learners we listened, made notes, tried to ask not terribly stupid questions. In amongst the motley group of classmates there was much competition to learn in theory what we would soon have to put into practice in a couple of months.  There were only two women in our class, myself and a pathologist form the local big hospital; the male students tended to curl their lips at us, as if we just would never, ever, cut the mustard as sailors.

“You’r hopeless,” Rumpole would remind me. “You’d better study hard to pass the exam, Landlubber.” I read my notes carefully, constructing elaborate scenarios of sailing down a channel and trying to remember the sailing “rules of road”, what various channel markers indicated.  Mentally I hoisted sails, read the tell-tales, tacked and jibed without getting swept overboard, being beheaded by the boom or ever being caught in that dreaded situation of “inadvertent jibe”.  I studied the problems of lee-shores and how to stay well clear of them, how to read charts to avoid shoals and hidden by the tide rock outcrops that would sink the unwary sailor.

Rumpole and Renaissance Man, snug in their conviction of male superiority in matters pertaining to conveyances, largely ingnored me and went about their learning after their own fashion.  They bet that of the three of us I would have the lowest score on the final exam.  That was sure like waving a red flag under a bull’s nose – I redoubled my study efforts!

Came exam time.  We travelled in the dark of a February night down to the classroom near the marina downtown.  On the way there, Rumpole and Renaissance Man quizzed each other and would lob the occasional tough question to me.  I felt serene and sure of what I had managed to learn.  Nothing they could throw at me would phase me.  After all I had played competitive tennis during my teens and knew full well the psychological games played prior to matches. And, this was no match among the three of us, I was just trying to pass the damned exam so I could get out  on the water on a sailboat!

The exam was a long one, very thorough, taken very seriously by all the examinees.  Rumpole sat next to me and kept his non-writing arm protectively around his exam papers, much like a dog-in-the-manger would protect his food bowl.  As if I’d stoop to cheating?! Renaissance Man had his cute smug look while tackling the various questions. We wrote for well over two hours and then handed in our exam papers.

The following week we were to attend class once more to receive our marks and our practical lesson schedules.  I was merely hoping to pass!

We attended the final class eager to hear how we did on the exam.  We were also curious as to how we would be grouped for the practical lessons on boats.

I got the highest theory marks of the three of us, second from the top of the whole class.  The lady pathologist got the highest marks of the group.  She and I and a gay couple were slated to be boat mates for the sailing lessons on actual sail boats.  Rumpole and Renaissance Man were really irritated by my test results.

“Good thing the four of you are together for the actual sailing,” grumbled Rumpole.  “There is a lot more to sailing a boat than theory, Landlubber!”

This fact I was soon to find out, for myself.


June 1, 2007

Last night, at Philosopher’s Cafe, about twenty people gathered at a restaurant, and over glasses of water, tea, coffee and wine discussed ideas relating to benevolence, of what may constitute benevolent acts.  Our usual moderator was absent, and in his stead his young 23 year-old daughter established the parameters of the discussion.

Our community is in the throes of trying to deal with an increasing homeless population. The local Salvation Army operates “A Caring Place” where meals and accommodations for short overnight stays are provided, where friendship, care and practical support are extended to people in extremity. A number of homeless people are drug addicted, and it is the fact of their addictions that cause numerous citizens to level criticism against the organization. A main criticism is that such help enables the addicted to continue practising a degenerate manner of living and behaving.

Not many people are willing to give their time to, or suspend judgement and actively perform acts of benevolence toward the indigent.  There are a few, one of whom is my friend Rita. Instead of numbing herself with self-entertainment on a Saturday night, she goes down to “A Caring Place”, shares in the performance of maintenance chores, and spends companionable time with people seeking succour there.  She also goes about in the town core, seeks out the homeless in their alley hangouts, takes them a hot drink, shares a small snack and sits with them in conversation. Sometimes she is accompanied, voluntarily, by her seventeen year-old son. Her fifteen-year old daughter is nervous about spending time with her mother and brother in this activity, so she declines to accompany them. Rita, calmly goes about her involvement, and performs her acts of what could be “agape”, and expects nothing in return.  Her persistent, “dripping water on the rock” method surely, eventually may act to erode resistance on the part of the recipients of her patient ministrations and may result in the small changes that are necessary for persons to be incrementally  empowered to modify their  attitudes and lives.

The discussion last night hung up on what many percieved as self-interest as an unavoidable component of benevolent acts. The young woman moderator lacked the skill to lead to an examination of the range of motivations which influence benevolent behaviors and actions.

I wish my friend Rita had been there to help the discussion move toward  an examination of more provocative ideas. But she declined the invitation to go and take part; she was committed to coursing through the alleys and hangouts to share her generous energy with persons who could most benefit.

A powerful, thoughtful, thought-provoking blog…

May 29, 2007

Today, Roger at has posted “Scary”, in which he has gifted us all with a poem “Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich. It is a powerful poem, made me think of the many occasions when I understood and accepted the finiteness of my existence, of my unimportance in the scheme of things, and the impermanence of all experience and of all natural phenomena. Change, constant, inevitable, is the one certainty I must acknowledge and truly hold firm in my awareness during this journey down the river of life.  A daunting prospect, and yet at the same time I find a certain relief in receiving this reminder today.

Politics and Marriage…

May 27, 2007

Ever since our courtship days, Rumpole and I have held differing political views, and have argued with considerable passion about our view-points during the past 32 years of our relationship as a couple. He considers himself a Liberal with strong Conservative tendencies. I have been a life-long Socialist with some Liberal leanings.  Whenever Rumpole gets frustrated with me during one of our many political disagreements he resorts to calling me a Pinko and adds “your father brought you out into freedom from a Communist country… you must be a huge disappointment to him with your Pinko ideas!”

It is a source of wonder to me that our 30 year old marriage has endured through a number of Provincial and Federal elections. The campaign periods leading up to these elections were times when our relationship was amply and discordantly spiced with our differing opinions on issues debated, quality of candidates’ debates and election outcomes.

“How are you going to vote this time?” became a question we asked each other prior to going to the voting stations. In the early days of our marriage we both believed that candour and transparency about our beliefs and actions was the best policy, and we ended up in some lengthy and vociferous arguments. This certainly provided showers of sparks that ignited some fiery discussions and strong attempts to convince each other with eloquent reasonings to see the error of our individual philosophies. Rumpole really learned how to argue when he was in Law School, and he firmly believed that if he presented me with logically structured and refined arguments he would eventually convince me to acknowledge the flaws in my reasonings and thus bring me around to his point of view. I soon learned to dig in my heels and concentrate on finding the weaknesses in his convoluted and convincing verbal barrages. This always caused the temperature of our exchanges to escalate. Boy, did we ever argue, nit-picking fine points and bringing articles from newspapers and references to details of political platforms to provide ammunition for our verbal salvoes.

Later during our marriage we learned to agree to disagree.  However, in typical passive/aggressive fashion I began to be subversive in small ways to remind him that I still held my beliefs.  Before one Provincial election the Premier seeking re-election was a right winger. Rumpole’s law firm decided to attend a fundraising dinner during which the Premier, then the local candidate, would make rousing speeches to whip up the fervour of the attendees. All the lawyers and their wives were expected to show up, decked out in appropriate formal dress.  Rumpole encouraged me to buy a new formal dress so I would be properly attired for the occasion. On principle, I decided that the occasion did not warrant me to buy new duds; I would never want to wear that particular dress again because of  unpleasant associations related to its wearing. After conferring with a friend as to how to deal with this little problem, we came up with a solution.

She had a khaki silk knee-length dress, with a little Mao collar, long sleeves and slits at both sides of the hem, like a  Chinese cheong-sam. It had a subtle, military tailoring and best of all, it fit me! I had simple carmine sandals that worked with it perfectly and provided just the right communist touch. When I modelled the outfit to Rumpole at home, being a quick study he caught on to my intention right away and said “What are you thinking of? Surely you won’t have the nerve to go to the dinner in THAT?” I replied with – “well, since I can’t get out of being at that dinner, I will wear what I feel comfortable in, and besides which the outfit didn’t cost a dime!” Ever practical, he shrugged and assented. But I knew, that sometime later, he would get even in a manner I could never anticipate.

Fast forward to the fundraiser dinner. The crowd was elegant, all a-twitter with excitement of meeting The Big Man. Men in formal suits, women in long flowing formal gowns (except for Stepford Wife, who looked like a little khaki drab bird) Rumpole’s partner was aghast and suggested that Rumpole should have controlled me better and made sure that I “blended in more and looked less severe”, and rumbled about me having “Pinko attitudes”. Score one for the Pinkos!

A few years later during a Federal election, the Senior partner contested the local Liberal running position. For his campaign speech he decided to get creative and ask all the company wives and secretaries to dress up as cheerleaders with pom-poms and back up his politicking speech with a little cheer-leader performance. It was my turn to be aghast, and I declined firmly this oppportunity to hit the stage and become part of a ridiculous spectacle.  I secretly hoped he would lose the nomination and he did. The man selected for the running position was someone Rumpole respected, and he agreed to be that candidate’s campaign organizer. And now he took his opportunity to get even with me. He volunteered me to design and print all the election signage.  “You owe me this after your act of rebellion with the Pinko outfit at that fundraiser!” he insisted. “Okay, but you have to actually help me print all those hundreds of lawn signs and all the big road signs, and you have to get your guy to okay the budget needed for all the supplies. And, you will have to get me helpers to do all of the printing and screen cleaning” I demanded.

I was not too thrilled to be volunteered for this task, but immediately buckled down and ordered the screens, inks, squeegees, paper tape, Coroplast and stencil material. It was a massive undertaking that took two weeks to finish, with unreliable helpers, static problems with the ink, and a whining Rumpole reluctantly learning how to clean screens and carping on about how he couldn’t get all the ink off his skin no matter how he tried. “How can I meet with clients with my hands  showing all this red stuff ? he complained. “Well, you could make some reference or other to Shylock.  Or make a quip about being caught red-handed!” I responded, not at all  sympathetic. Feh! I lived and breathed silk-screen ink and solvents for two weeks, looked very glamorous with red ink residue on my hands and arms, and crawled into bed each night sore and exhausted  after working flat out for 16 hour days during this “little ” project. After the signs were delivered, Rumpole admitted that had he known what a major chore this was he would never have volunteered me for the job. Hah! Score a big one for the Liberals!

As we have aged, we have become rather less argumentative about politics. Neither of us march off in a huff during disagreements and our debates have gentled to a truly civilized level. Also, both of us have learned to adopt ideas that make sense, no matter what political party they originate from and we are less dogmatic and extreme in our beliefs.

This is a huge relief! It also is a sign of our ageing.