Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Going to the dogs…

April 11, 2009

This past month has been health month for Jessica, our, Scottie, and me, both. I have undergone numerous tests for a heart blockage and for measurement for a new lens for my left eye. Jessica had to have some dental cleaning done and some blood tests to determine her overall health, after all, she is a ten year old, but vigorous, Scot. She welcomes visits to the vet’s – there are cookies there, and plenty of admirers to compliment her on her greying black sleek body, her shiny black eyes and her remarkably loving temperament.

Now that she is through with the trials of teeth cleaning and ear-hair plucking, she is feisty and energetic as is appropriate for any being in the new Spring-time. Last week she also went to the groomers and recieved her spring clip, which always make her have a little vanity induced sprightliness. She seems to feel, as I do, the same insouciant joyfullness whenever she is freshly groomed. Yesterday, I too went to have my spring hair-cut, so we both prance about the house and yard like a couple of ageing divas. Rumpole is amused with our new-found flirtatious gadding about. Spring has sprung at the Stepford household.
Meanwhile, the yard has also gone to the dogs, so to speak. Our fences are falling down and no longer will stand up when propped into proper position. Time to bite the bullet and have new fences installed. According to all the local wags, “good fences make good neighbours”, so I have to beard Lookingforbeauty, next door, to agree ro a simple and effective separation of our two plots of suburbia. She wants, it seems, a new re-reiteration of our old fence – with no embellishments such as latticework, which she deems as trifle fussy, and frankly so do I.

On the other side of the property, Gary and Laurie seem also to want a repeat of the six-foot fence that separates our back yard from theirs. My own idea is to lower the fence to four feet there, so we can get more afternoon sun for my planned vegetable garden. Next Saturday, our garden Guru, Matthew, is coming by to break turf on the back yard and rototill the manure and compost for the planned vegetable beds. I have wonderful visions of Swiss Chard, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, pole beans and herbs to start out my little gardening effort. Also maybe some yellow Hungarian peppers.

Since Jessica is almost a vegeratian, I will also have to plant zucchini, as she really likes to chow down on smallish zucchinis. (She always raids my weekly vegetable sack and extracts any zucchini in it as her treat.) Any garden plan has to take into consideration the eating habits of any dog which might currently be living with us. It may be that turnips should be on the to-grow list, as Jessica is wild about chomping turnips, as well.

I figure I have two good months of establishing a little veggie plot before my late June eye-operation, which will prevent me from mucking about in the soil. Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis is going to have some growing space here for herself, in exchange for weeding in July and August, while I recuperate from the operation. We should be able to share in any growing bounty at harvest time, and then plan to increase the size and scope of the veggie garden next year.

A tag from Nita…

May 10, 2008

Fritz Wunderlich, tenor – Das Land des Lächelns

Nita – – has tagged me with a writing tag… to select a song which compels one to entre into a state where writing (or making images) is stimulated. While I rarely work with music in the background, preferring silence or ambient sound, certain pieces of music cause me to disconnect from mundane preoccupations and let my spirit soar into regions where imagination, or “what if”, lives.

This beautiful aria is one I fortuitously found on a record from an obscure little record store, back in 1973. It was a recording of Fritz Wunderlich’s great arias. A heartachingly beautiful tenor, this song is one I always listen to in the springtime. Especially when looking at my apple tree in bloom, which, this year it has not done in April, but rather late right now in May – I hum along in an atrocious alto with glee and intense pleasure.

“Die apfelbluete ist einen kranz…” (The apple tree is a crown…)

I hope you enjoy this lovely song, by someone who was one of the finest lyric tenors in the 20th century, one whose sad, abbreviated life, yielded so much musical pleasure for us all.


Equus in Agrum Est…

April 7, 2008

What a sentence – “the horse is in the field.”

Does it imply a horse-inhabited landscape

of fields rolling,

pocked with wild-flowers, a crop,

as far as the eye can see?

Does it suggest a legion of soldiers

marching by with their kits,

a simple farm-boy among them

who gazes on the browsing horse

with longing for his homestead?

Does it foretell of a scene

where an unmanned horse nuzzles

fallen men, strewn in the casual,

splayed, abandon of the dead?

Does it intimate that a horse is

 a guileless companion to man,

a witness to all that takes place

in fields everywhere?

GM 2004

Anyu at 77…

February 24, 2008

Anyu at 77

 This is a drawing I made of Anyu one late spring day when she was 77 years old. I had just turned the corner from the main road into our driveway when I spotted her sitting on the front porch steps, basking in the sun with closed eyes, her large canvas sack beside her. Seemingly lost in reverie, she hadn’t seemed to notice my truck pull up.

I parked the truck at the back porch, skirted around the hedges surrounding the house, and walked up to her, unannounced. Her hearing couldn’t have been very acute, or maybe the nap of the lawn had quieted down my footsteps, for she had her eyes closed as I approached and then stood to look at her in silence. No wonder she was unaware of my presence; she was after all 77 years old and her senses had begun to falter. The look of unvarnished pleasure in sitting under the sun suffused her face. This love of the sun was and had been a constant in her life and had not altered in her advanced years.

 I sat down in the grass near her and waited for her to notice my presence. The sun warmed my back and heated up the backpack with my calculus stuff inside. I had just driven back twenty miles from doing the final exam in my university calculus course. It felt luxurious to sit soaking the heat up and not have to calculate how and where to fit in studying to a busy day of wifely doings.

Anyu opened her eyes and gazed about in a daze. Her glance passed over me and returned in surprise.

“Where have you been?” she asked. “When did you come back? I rang and rang the doorbell and you didn’t answer.” The querulous tone in her voice projected her displeasure.

“I was at SFU writing my final exam. I wasn’t expecting you today.”

Anyu stretched her arms and popped upright on the step. “Well, I was bored. It was such a nice day, a little bus-ride was in order. I figured I might as well come out here to see you.” Then she added, “What’s for lunch?”

“I have some left-over lentil soup from yesterday.” I said, getting up off the grass and hauling my back-pack toward the stairs. “You can have that, and I’ll also make you a sandwich. Egg salad, I think.”

“I have to watch my cholestrol. Does the lentil soup have much fat in it?” Anyu asked grabbing her sack. “And, I can’t eat eggs – too high in cholestrol. Make it a tuna sandwich.”

“Come in then. I’ll see what I can rustle up for you.”

We entered the house and dropped our bags on the coffee-table. While Anyu hunted around inside her sack I went to the kitchen to prepare her food. She followed me and sat at the kitchen table watching me hop about, making the preparations.

I worked quetly, without talking. Reheated the soup, opened and drained a can of tuna, chopped onions and pickles, buttered bread and assembled the sandwich. I mused about Anyu’s penchant for flitting about the countryside by bus in all kinds of weather and without letting anyone know about her eventual destinations. Often, she groused about arriving at some far-flung friend’s place, unexpected, and finding herself not welcome. This day she had travelled, by bus, through 4 adjacent municipalities to reach our place. This had to have taken her at least two and a half hours. Of course, because she had not let me in on her plans to visit, she was ill-informed about my doings and whereabouts. So, if she was irritated with me, I figured that a product of her bad planning.

“Let me see that tuna can.” she demanded. “I need to read the label and see the counts for cholestrol. If it is too high, I will not eat that sandwich.”

I handed her the can. She fished out her reading glasses and perused the label at length. I placed a bowl of soup in front of her and went off to plug in the kettle for tea.

“Where did you learn to make soup like this?” She said between spoonsful of the lentil soup.

“Well, not from you, Anyu,” I chortled. “you never let me touch anything in your kitchen. But I love reading recipes and anything about cooking.” Then I added,” it is the meal one does not cook for oneself that is delicious. Enjoy”

Anyu ate with gusto and polished off two bowls of soup and a whole sandwich. For a woman who prided herself on eating like a sparrow, this day’s demonstration of feasting indicated an uncharacteristic  vulture-like appetite.

I made up a pot of tea for us and took the fixings into the living-room. “Come sit in the big green chair and put up your feet. While you rest and digest, I’ll do a drawing of you.” I placed her tea-cup on the table by the chair for her. “If you want you can close your eyes while I am drawing.”

“I don’t want to look dead. Pictures of people with their eyes closed makes them look dead.” She settled herself, took a sip of tea, then patted her hair. She marshalled her energies, drew herself up stiffly and presented a dignified self for my study.

I went into instant drawing mode and drew like mad for half an hour. Anyu was silent throughout, and her facial expression registered an array of emotions, but not ones which showed any pleasure at all. The primary affect was pride overlaying dissatisfaction. Or so it seems to me that my drawing emphasized.

Whe the drawing was at a point I felt comfortable leaving off, I nudged her out of a funk by turning the drawing to face her. She studied it at length, took sips of her tea and finally commented wistfully. “What ever happened to my pretty face? I used to be so beautiful.”

“You still are beautiful, Anyu.” I reassured her. “Just different in beauty, more complex and tempered by experience.”

“Well, you can take me home now.” she said. ” I paid for my lunch by sitting for you. Let’s get going.” She finished off the last of her tea, grabbed her satchel and stood up, ready to leave.

I put aside my drawing board and charcoals, grabbed my purse and keys and led her out the back door to the truck.

On the hour-long drive to her apartment in Burnaby, she fell asleep. Once we arrived, I walked her to her door, used her keys to let her in. She yawned and reclined onto her couch. “I am so tired,” she said. “Please cover me with the afghan and let yourself out.”

I covered her, kissed her cheek and left. Driving back home in rush-hour traffic, I thought about how my day unexpectedly turned out. Anyu arriving out of the blue was surprising, but provided a break from my obsession with thoughts about calculus. This is the drawing of Anyu at 77. She may no longer drop in on me as she used to, but I have this drawing in memory of our time together.

Flood warning…

June 5, 2007

The rivers are rising! Last week’s hot weather seems to have resulted in a fast melt of the high ground snow pack. Cows from dairy farms in the eastern valley are being evacuated in large numbers, and are being moved to higher ground. Lucky and her husband and children are sand-bagging their house on the dike, their immediate neighbours are removing and plugging toilets and moving belongings to higher levels in their houses. 40 or so families who live in the flood plain in our community are on evacuation alert.

Rumpole and I drove down to the river, quite some distance from our place.  It is running high and very fast. it has been raining here for the past few days- that kind of intense spring rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rain looks as if it is here to stay for a couple more days, and the vegetation does need it.

What if the flood does come and is the expected high?  Will the many blueberry farms, all on low land  surrounded by diking, be inundated? If the worst happens how much damage will be done to the vigorous fields of bushes which provide a living to these farmers?

We have friends who have a farm a fifteen minute walk downhill from our house.  They have a herd of fallow deer, with a number of young this time of year.  How will they manage?

Now the wait is on, with it the hope for respite and reprieve for all of our neighbours threatened by this flooding.

Flood Watch…

May 18, 2007

 Last evening, Martha and Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis convened in our kitchen for a bout of tea drinking.  I had promised OLPC that she would be provided with her favourite chai tea, however, Martha arrived first and announced firmly ” I hope you are not making chai, that yucky stuff that makes me gag!” So, for her, the kettle was put into service for some appropriate, bland herbal concoction and she sat with her own tea pot of the stuff. OLPC breezed in late, as is her habit. She sat with the pot of chai which she shared with Rumpole, who also prefers it to other sorts of tea.

OLPC launched into a description of the flood planning meeting at the hospital where she works as nurse.  During this meeting, maps showing a worst case scenario flloding of the Fraser River showed how our Municipality might be isolated like an island from the municipality 20 kilometers to the west where her hospital is situated.  In fact, our place was to be cut off from the nearest Eastern municipality where Martha works as a photography teacher. This also means that Rumpole would be prevented from going to his office in the town across the river from us which is accessible by 2 bridges or one ferry.

Martha’s younger brother is an RCMP officer in our town.  He has kept up to date about emergency plans, quite detailed and elaborate, and Martha has been informing us as to how the anticipated flood might impact our lives. Even though where she, OLPC and Rumpole and I live are on high ground, we may lose electricity, water and sewer, and could be isolated for a number of days on an island surrounded by floodwaters.

OLPC poses a question to Martha. “What would you have to do if you were isolated at school, while at work, if the flood suddenly rose?” Martha thought about this awhile and discussed the possibility that she may have to stay in the school for a number of days with several hundred students, sleep in the gymnasium and eat cafeteria meals. As to whether or not she would have to work around the clock to occupy the students during such enforced isolation, she fervently hoped would not happen.

In response to this, OLPC told the tale of being sequestered in her elementary school with students and teachers during a three day snow storm which had caused a massive whiteout in her village back in Ontario one winter.  She and the other kids thought this to be a total lark, a huge unexpected yet welcome adventure.  They didn’t sleep for three nights, nor did the poor supervising teachers, who gave every indication of succumbing to nervous breakdowns near the end of this ordeal/adventure. Martha visibly shuddered and offered up for us to think about just how horrible it might be to be stuck in a large school with hundreds of hormonal teenagers, already chafing at the bit anticipating the end of the school year, the Prom, the unavoidable final exams.  So far, she said, there were no concrete plans in place for her school being isolated by flood.  Martha is a planner, examines every possibility, and trouble shoots in anticipation.  She finds this lack of direction from the powers that be quite frustrating. “I just hope the river rises while I am still at home, not while at school” she states.

OLPC’s hospital is staffed by people from all over the Eastern Lower Mainland’ north shore. Any workers prevented from going to work their shift by rising flood, would additionally stress an already understaffed hospital and the patients requiring its services. “The problems that would ensue boggles my imagination,” says OLPC.

When asked how he would handle going to work, Rumpole proposes that he may move into Vancouver for the short term and stay with his friend “Man of Science”.  From there he could easily go to his office daily.

Since I do not work outside the house, I could be den mother, and ensure OLPC’s three just grown children might get along well if their Mother was stuck at her hospital. It just also might be possible that these kids would reciprocate this looking after by checking on me and other neighbours from time to time.

All of us have laid in adequate provisions to last for a couple of weeks.  No one need go hungry and thirsty. We can also provide help for our immediate neighbours.

Rumpole and I are reassured that Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey are fully provisioned for this potential emergency, we just hope that the worst case scenario does not happen because many people will be adversely affected and much turmoil and discomfort will ensue for large number of our neighbours.

Martha walks daily by the river and notes its gradually rising waters. In many places where she habitually walks with her dog, the river banks have been eroded and shore trees have toppled.  She is anxious about the potential massive flood.  So are the rest of us, and we hope the melt of the massive snow-pack up country occurs gradually enough to allow the river to carry excess water to the ocean without causing a disaster in our little corner of the world.

We are prepared as well as it is possible to be ready.

Dawn Chorus…

May 17, 2007

A gentle lambent pale grey light filters through my uncovered right eye as I awaken to an awareness of this other reality. Stirring in the cocoon of my duvet I lie, silent, listen to Rumpole breathing, waiting for the robins’ morning announcements, for the chicka-dee-dee-dee counter melodies.  Minutes pass, this morning chorus is very weak this dawn, not the familiar vigorous callings and singings back and forth among these suburban companions.  I am instinctively worried, crawl out of bed and make for the back door.  Maybe the membranes of the house prevent these familiar locutions from  being heard from  inside the house in their full vigour. Willing the sounds to be their remembered strength, I throw open the back door stand quiet, listen and note little appreciable difference in what can be heard – it seems a weak, half-hearted chorus!

 At dawn, The General, our Maine Coon cat, generally lies in the studio window listening to the birds, and eagerly waits for their first movements in and about the apple tree, their foraging in the grass at the foot of it. This morning, he is absent from his habitual perch.

Entering the kitchen, I make up a pot of coffee.  As the machine percolates, giving out its gurglings, its noises blank out any other sound. The General pads his way through, his nails clicking on the linoleum.  He pauses to rub against my shins, makes a comment and proceeds on his way to his cattish occupations.  Coffee poured, I sit musing on my observations about this morning.

When we were courting in the mid-70s, Rumpole was working as an ecologist for the Provincial Government.  One day, he presented me with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and requested that I read it, think about the ramifications of its contents. We had many discussions about the cautions Carson raised.

During our life together, without undue discussion, almost by silent assent, we never used pesticides on the bits of land on which we found our perch.  When one summer, up north, carpenter ants decided that our log house made an ideal haven for nests, we researched ways to get rid of them and found that pouring ground cinnamon on their paths to and from the house, along the perimeter of the foundations and into their entry points in the logs worked quite well to offend them into leaving our house.

Here in suburbia, there is a movement afoot to prevail on the municipality to ban the use of pesticides. I know people who travel to the States to purchase pesticides banned here in Canada, in order to maintain their emerald, manicured plots of lawn. Experts of varying opinion weigh in, pro and con, about pesticide use.  Much argument prevails, decisions are deferred. The local lawns retain their manufactured sameness. The decorator gardens are ubiquitous.

But the dawn chorus, that one must now strain to hear, diminishing, lessening year by year, if it finally disappears to leave a soundscape of mostly mechanical music, should be treasured above any cosmetically perfect ersatz natural surrounding we fabricate around ourselves.

Third Time… Lucky?

May 1, 2007

Yesterday morning Barb came early to have a muffin and coffee for breakfast with “Rumpole ” and I, before she took me to the retinal surgeon for a follow up visit.  It was a glorious cool and sunny morning, fresh feeling and a beautiful variegated green world to be driving into town. Traffic was fairly easy and once we got to the destination my “parking angel” was in customary attendance, for we got a great spot in front of the building, with some paid time left on the meter.

The slow moving crowd in the waiting room and outside in the hall holding up the walls moved in and out of the examining room with the regularity of soup cans moving on a conveyor belt. When it was my time to be summoned by the surgeon, i groped my way past the reception desk where the surgeon grasped my hands and led me into his sci-fi equipped examination room. “You are such a sweetheart, Mrs. S” he announced, “let’s look at how things are?” “Sweetheart” had a momentary urge to throttle the poor man, but restrained herself, being somewhat dependent upon him to be in good shape to provide the necessary ongoing help.

“I don’t like what I’m seeing here,” he said, “this infection is not clearing up!” He did seem pleased that I saw shadows when he blinked the bright pin-light on and off, but determined that this upcoming Thursday I would have to go back into hospital for operation #3. “Now, get your friend to take you downtown to the Eye Care Centre for another Ultra-sound” he ordered, as he placed a number of legal release forms in front of my nose to sign off on. He led me by hand out into the waiting room to meet up with Barb, “sweethearting” me all the way in a most off-putting manner.  Had he called me “my little thunder-cloud” he may have hit closer to my state of mind at the time.  I was overcome with momentary rage!

Barb and I descended in the elevator kvetching and commiserating, and also giggling about the surgeon’s unnecessary obsequieousness toward me. “Helps to have a lawyer for a husband, eh?” ventured Barb. “Not for recurring eye-infections!” I opined.

We made record time downtown to the Eye Care Clinic, “parking angel” accompanying us. The short walk from our parking spot led us by stands of mature azalea hedges in magnificent purple bloom; the various spring greening deciduous trees were  delicious harmonies of lemon, pale yellow-green and tender apple green, sun dappled, glorious! The few clumps of dandelions were  joyful, jaunty wildings amidst this cultivated urban landscape.

No long waiting time for the ultra-sound, what little time we had to wait we whiled away looking at the fabulous art on the walls of the waiting room. The doctor who came out to shepherd me in is a pleasant Pakistani man of middle years, and he did his pokings in the eye with the ultrasound wand with skill and care.  He took pains to reassure me that the retina looked good and I should be encouraged.  For this I am extremely grateful.

Barb and I grabbed a couple of Mango smoothies to slurp on our way back to the car.  We admired the shrubs and trees in sunlight, and lounged on the tail-gate of her car to call “Rumpole” and report to him about proceedings so far. Then we drove to my favourite Pho Hoa restaurant.  We were quite ravenous and polished off smallish bowls of Pho with brisket, quite delicious.

On the way home, Barb and I debated on the wisdom of not continuing on with the evening’s painting class. She figured that she and L. would be happy to come and drink vast quantities of green tea with me, but couldn’t see the wisdom of me hanging about the studio with solvents circulating in the air.  I made her promise that she would spend her time at home this evening working on her painting, which is at a particularly interesting stage that she should capitalize upon.

Once we were back at my house, she walked me inside and gave me a long and loving hug, saying I should do little more this day except rest. We had spent some considerable time during our hours together discussing her trials and tribulations with her 17-year old daughter and her current anxieties with the whole parenting business.  Barb is a very smart and caring wife and mother, and her reactions to her family circumstances are based on a great degree of thought and heart, as well as with humour.  We determined that what we each had to do is to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, pause from time to time, and keep going.

“Rumpole” cut his workday short and spent the evening with me quietly lounging in the living room.  We are determined to persevere, hopefully with some grace!

The crows…

April 5, 2007

Cold, spring crispness,

gravel crunches underfoot,

a scattered cupful of sugar.

“Tall cathedral-spire cypresses loom ahead.”

Look up!

Crows are playing falling-leaf,

first one, then another,

tossing themselves against

spring-solid air,

calling joyously,

tumbling, then

at the last moment

catching on wing,

they labour back

to the top branch.

I walk by, earthbound,

wishing to be with

the crows.

Spring cold, Spring fever…

March 15, 2007

Swathed in many layers of pajamas, nightgown, sweater, housecoat socks and slippers, I surfaced from my sickbed late this afternoon, shivering with fever and thirsty for some hot lemon juice with honey. I had fallen asleep earlier while reading about twelve pages of Isaiah Berlin’s “The Roots of Romanticism”. Unfortunately found the book, with it’s paper cover bent, which may bring on the ire of the disapproving librarian who will have to process this book on its due-date return.  Maybe I should just offer to buy it, as it is a book that would require further revisitings, and I would use well over time? It needs one to have a clear head and an ability to concentrate in order to be fruitful to a reader, however I shall persevere, gladly as energy allows.

Gazed out the kitchen window while preparing the lemon concoction and admired the skeleton of the apple tree planted out front. Checked the potted plants inside the house to see if they needed moisture, wandering around, and then poked my nose out the back door to look over the sunny patio.  In one corner here, one which receives good shade during the heat of Summer, there is a large black nursery pot housing a Helleborus Niger. It has come into spectacular bloom, despite being weighted down by a heavy cap of snow during the snows of December and January. It is my calendar plant for Winter months, its progressive increment of snow-white nodding blossoms marks the passing of the cold season. In its 4th year it is a faithful and dependable harbinger of seasonal change. In the height of  Summer it has handsome rubbery greenery.

The moles have been busy in the lawn, their little hummocks add texture and pattern to its rigid rectangle. It seems they have taken up permanent residency here.  Maybe in the manner of “Rumpole’s” English and Scottish ancestors, I should append a name to this suburban “estate”(otherwise known as a standard suburban plot).  Perhaps “Mole Haven”? Has a certain catchy ring to it! Maybe I should succumb to a pretentious urge to make a sign for my studio, as in “Molehaven Studio”.  (Several artists here in Pleasantville advertise their presence in the community with painted wooden signs!)

Nope, it’s too much trouble, and I can’t be bothered, but it’s fun to tease the notion out and around!