Wednesday, November 30, 2005

early Nov colour

Look at that!  We still had some colour back in the first weeks of Nov.  We have now officially had our first BIG snowfall too. It started to melt yesterday and after lots of rain, it's gone again.  I didn't even get a picture of the first snows!
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

fairy castle

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do I believe in magic?

We watched the latest Harry Potter movie last night and the question arose:
Do I believe in magic?

Of course I do.

How can magic exist?

I don't think that question is reasonable in that magic is by definition something that defies logic. It is mysterious and beyond the possible of more concrete scientific or material terms.

That is exactly why the books and movies are so popular. We must have the mysterious in our lives. While I respect and require logic and concrete evidence for so many things in my life, I also require mystery and magic. It is my religion.

Mystery and magic make this world the awesome and beautiful and thrilling place it is. I don't want to hear any logical explanations for sunsets, snowflakes, ice crystals, the softness of a baby's skin, the tender brave shoots of green pushing out of the ground from daffodil bulbs in spring.

Great architects and landscapers wait for the "spirit of the place " to speak to them.

Enchanted places draw people like magnets and become famous spiritual places of retreat, meditation and connection.

Connection to what? What is the unity we seek? Does it matter what we call it? Community, communion,'s magic. And in poignant moments that are all too rare, it's as if our hearts stop and we break open just a little bit and realize how we are a tiny part of the everchanging cycle of life with all of the universe.

Does magic look like Harry Potter's world? Why not? I can easily believe there are fairies, goblins, elves, and the like, everywhere. The whole world is full of enchantment, but we are too busy, too bitter, too needy, too right, too see it.

the stories we tell ourselvesl

Years ago, when I was still very raw from the breakup of my marriage, a wise co-worker at my paying job made one of the most radical statements I had ever heard in regards to relationships. She said:

We never compromise. We both do, or get or give what we want.

At first, I had a lot of trouble understanding how this could possibly work. I came from a dysfunctional family where nothing was freely and unconditionally given. Eventually, there was always an accounting: I did so much for you, you owe me...; or you should be ashamed, you are so demanding, selfish, needy...

I did learn, after a lot of pain, that I was always struggling to maintain control of an uncontrollable situation.

Control is an illusion. When we attempt to control people and things that we have no business controlling, we forfeit ourselves and enter into a reactionary dance with our object of attachment. We hang on and hang on and justify it in so many ways, forgetting that our only business in the lives of others is to love, simply love, "let go and let God."

Why do we do it? This article by Lynne Forest on the web does a great job of explaining the pathological triangle of roles we assume in control dramas.

She suggests first to take responsibility for ourselves. Then we begin to "allow ourselves to acknowledge and express our true feelings, even when doing so is uncomfortable".

One very interesting aspect to me was the constant presence of guilt in the victim role, and how learning "to sit with guilty feelings without acting on them is a big part of resisting the Victim game. Feeling guilt does not necessarily imply that we are out of integrity with ourselves. Guilt is a learned response. Sometimes guilt indicates that we've broken a dysfunctional family rule." Feeling guilt in such a situation should be celebrated. Then such rules that prohibits growth should be thrown away!

I recommend the whole article, by the way.

In my own life, the best relief I have had from some of the most destructive relationship patterns, came from deliberately discarding bad religion and replacing it with a spiritual practice. I found this definition of a spiritual practice that will do nicely:

A spiritual practice is anything that we do on a daily basis to practice quieting our racing thoughts - our unruly ego so that we may look inside and see what is in our hearts and in our soul. Our thoughts are usually a result of believing what we were taught as a child - that we were not enough, that we were too much, that we would be abandoned if we had feelings. Listening to those thoughts are what creates suffering in our lives.

Beginning the path of spiritual practice is described quite well in the Introduction to the book God Without Religion, by Sankara Saranam.

Two steps are involved in preparing to seek direct knowledge of God.

The seeker's first step is to assess his reliance on beliefs instilled in him by
spiritual leaders, teachers, self-appointed gurus, or well-intentioned parents
or friends. It is important to realize that the truth of an idea cannot be
established based on the authority of its proponents. In fact, because of their
positions some religious leaders no longer engage in actively seeking the truth.
Ultimately, only when individuals are free to challenge authority does spiritual
growth become possible...

The seeker's second step in preparing for a
more meaningful understanding of God is to use his own intellectual faculties to
evaluate his beliefs. A critical investigation of beliefs increases the
willingness to take responsibility for them and also nurtures self-reliance.

Meditation and yoga have been two rituals that I have practiced "religiously" (not really, but the playing with words was soooo tempting.) Just be-ing, not judging my thoughts, not judging my body, accepting myself with love, has created new spaces for better thoughts. Some of the harshness of my ego has quieted down...

My next step has been to make new stories that I tell myself often: stories of fun, joy, discovery, magic, and apppreciation.

This has been extremely hard to do this past week as we made do without water. We hope the problem was fixed at last, today...Nobody said a spiritual path is smooth, but I wish I could have faced these problems with more humour, equanimity and courage. I was by turns the Victim, the Persecutor, the Rescuer and then the Victim again. Poor Me!! The Stories I could tell you!!Ah well. It just goes to prove I'm on a human journey.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

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STILLNESS by -- Brother David Steindl-Rast
"May you grow still enough to hear the small noises earth makes in preparing for the long sleep of winter, so that you yourself may grow calm and grounded deep within. May you grow still enough to hear the trickling of water seeping into the ground, so that your soul may be softened and healed, and guided in its flow. May you grow still enough to hear the splintering of starlight in the winter sky and roar at earth's fiery core. May you grow still enough to hear the stir of a single snowflake in the air, so that your inner silence may turn into hushed expectation."

Monday, November 21, 2005

thoughts from Desmond Tutu and a prayer

At Cassandra Pages, I found some quotes from desmond Tutu that made me cry. I hope you read them and find some glimmer of hope, that people might stop, listen and think! Think about the endless cruelty we seem to be so willing and capable of inflicting on each other.

eating out

What do you eat? a H. asked, when I said I hate to cook. Trouble is, I love to eat, so I have to cook, most of the time. But it does seem like last week, I did not cook--maybe one dinner that I took to my paying job. I did eat out a lot!

You don't mind eating out alone? H. asked.

Why-ever should I mind eating out alone? I go to places that I like, where the ambiance is friendly and where I think I might like the food. I often don't even retreat into my book or my sketch book (ideas from SARK)! I simply sit and stare at the people around me (How rude!!), but interesting! Sometimes, like when I just bought a new book, I read my book, like last week...

(read an interview with SARK, author of Succulent Wild Woman, and many other inspiring and healing books, here. )

I guess so...H. said. She sounded doubtful. I have noticed all sorts of people eating alone, actually. H. said. I thought that was pretty cool.

(in my mind I was thinking she thinks its sad...they have to eat alone.) So I told her my red wine story. See? Maybe now H. will eat out alone whenever she wants to and will realize that it is not only necessary sometimes, but fun! That young man of the red wine gave me a lovely gift which I am busy passing on to anyone who needs it!

mind warp

He is often hitch-hiking at the side of the road when I pass him. He has long greying hair and a long grey beard. He sometimes wears a black headband. Over a thin white t-shirt, he wears a black leather jacket with long fringes hanging from the whole length of each sleeve. Blue jeans and white running shoes complete the outfit. He always carries a big black quitar case.

He is only doing what the judge told him. He has a complete case against the cops. They are not working for honest people. He doesn't do drugs. He is on his way up and as soon as this business is done, he's out of here. He's going to Hollywood. He has invented all sorts of new chords and scales. Some of the top people in the business have seen what he has come up with. Major and minor and again major chords on top of each other, flip-flopped, like. Scales that fit in between, on every fret of the guitar. Like the major and minor, the Hungarian, augmented. See, there are people that have just decided to get Andy. He knows people in the Hell's Angels and they told him. But he has all the facts. The cops are going to go down. He is doing what the judge said, exactly what the judge told him to do. but they want to tax this, and fine that. They are always after him. They all want a piece of Andy. He plays, sometimes he get $5 while he is still tuning up. He wanted breakfast, and he got the money for it.

I have great difficulty in trying to follow his line of thought. I mention that I play the piano and did try many years ago to learn to play the guitar. I ask him how he remembers his inventions, does he write them down, chart them?

Did I know Mike Oldfield? A lot of people play one instrument. Tubular Bells? He played every instrument and recorded it track by track. He listens to the taperecorder and plays along and once, once he hit a wrong note and thought, hey it fits, like in between. So he started experimenting. He has invented scales too. They can go in opposite directions (his hands are flying in front of him as he gestures scales going up and down towards each other and away).

I mention that I know the major and minor (melodic and harmonic) scales very well and that I'm aware that there are such things as a Blues scale (with the flat 5), and the modes of the major scale used in a lot of jazz music. What's the Hungarian, you mentioned so many times?

He whips out his guitar, sits on the curb and starts to play. Unlike his speech, his playing does not stutter. His fingers fly. Chords and scales pour out into the air. Sure, solid, ripping out of the guitar.

You know Led Zeppelin? Like I invented, ah-I took his augmented chord and invented a totally new one.

He plays. I'm tired out by trying to understand his mind. I thank him for playing his guitar, showing me what his invented chords and scales sound like. I try to express how impressive his playing is. (But I cannot understand 50% of what he has said.)

He puts his guitar into the big, black case and walks away into the night, white t-shirted belly protruding over the top of his jeans. I feel very sad as I watch him walk away, the long greying curls of his hair and beard lifted by a wandering breeze.

The only thing that remains is a mild lingering odour of unwashed body and clothes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


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how delicious is RED??

red red wine

I phoned Mike and left a message: I'll be in town, do you wanna do coffee? phone me, I can't remember my cell phone , wait! Here it is...I never call myself, ha ha!

Danielle, tall, with a glorious, short and ragged mop of impossible red hair, gave me a huge stack of magazines and I sat back. I could feel my hair sliding out of the clip again and again, but soon my head bristled with foils. Danielle went away. I read about Prince William and his new love: will she be Queen material? I read about Didion's new book about dying, her husband and her daughter. Danielle came back and spritzed cool water under some of the layers of foil.

Danielle took me to a chair and rinsed out the bleach. Then strong fingers massaged my scalp, circles of pressure, round and round....aaah....I relaxed. Please come and shampoo my hair everyday like this! Warm water. Silky conditioner. More massage...Mmmnnnnnn....Yeesss....!!

Danielle was off at six. A petite dark haired Italian woman cut my hair beautifully. Was I already drunk? It must be the chemicals they use at the hairdressers!! Pleased? Oh yes, I was pleased.

But I'm hungry. What to do? I need food, but first, lets shop a little. Pants. Yes, I need new, maybe a poncho, or an exotic looking scarf...books. I always love books.

I looked, and looked.. Several times, a girl asked if I needed help, if I was looking for anything in particular. No, no. I'm just enjoying myself. I already have picked out two books....I go back to look at aubiographical books by Karen Armstrong. I really want them, but I already have two books....I see "The Okinawa Program", and remember my eldest daughter raving about the Okinawa diet many times....yes, there are recipes in the back, and there is some discussion of the mind-body connection, mind-states to promote wellness...yes, I'll take that too.

I now have "The Okinawa Program", by Bradley J. Sillcox, D. Crag Willcox, and Makoto Suzuki;
"What the Body Remembers", by Shauna Singh Baldwin and "The Tree Bride", by Bharati Mukherjee. I laugh a bit at myself. Am I still angry at my Indian acquaintance?

I drive to the restaurant where my daughters and I had lunch just last week. There is a booth available only in the cocktail lounge. About a gazillion flat-screen TV's are tuned to about 3 sports channels. Whatever, I think. The bar is full, mostly men in black. Mostly young men. Three middle-aged business men at the end of the bar nearest my, one of the business men is in his 30's, I think.

Yes, I am alone, I tell the blond waitress with the sunny, round face. She recommends the red wine, Fontanafredda. She gives me a contest entry form. Win a Trip for 2 to Turin in 2006. I can't remember the order ofoperations for the mathematical skill testing question, so the entry form becomes my bookmark.

The business men leave, the two middle-aged men with grey hair and pot bellies, the younger man wearing a nicely cut black wool coat. They give me only a cursory glance. I am nearly finished my salad.

The salad is great, redolent of garlic. I can't remember, does pink chicken make me nervous? Maybe it's pink because of the breading. No, the cheese would not make the chicken pink. I'm ravenous. I finish my salad. I order another glass of the red wine. So what? I admit I'm buzzed already. I always said I was easy but not cheap!!

Satya bitterly realizes that her husband has married a second, much-younger wife. Young and trusting, she modestly is grateful when Satya asks her to sleep with her in the hot afternoon, cooled by the silk fan manned by a pukkhawalla....

I am distracted by a foursome, two couples, who enter the bar. Loud voices over the clamour of the televisions. A handsome blond young man, an aristrocratic featured dark-haired young woman, a young beautiful blond girl, and a dark-haired young man with his back to me....

I bend toward my book. Yes, I tell the waitress, I would like to see the dessert menu and I'd like a cup of coffee after....(I mean after I finish my second glass of red wine, right?)

There is shouting! "Yeah!" "Give it to her!" "Yeah, let's see some tongue action!" Hard to hear exactly where or who is shouting. I glance toward the foursome and see that the blond girl is stroking, stroking, stroking the dark-haired young man's buttocks. He is kissing her, deeply. It lasts several seconds.

Roop escapes her brother, Jeevan's attempts to grab her by the ankles and pull her under the water. Spray sparkles in the sun under the waterfall. Laughing, they emerge to eat their picnic with their selfless sister, Madani. The picnic of rotis and curries is served to them by Gujri, the serving woman.

Suddenly, the dark-haired young man is sitting across from me in my booth.

"Please let me sit with you for a while,'" he begs, his smile disarming. "My friends over there are making fun of me. See that guy over there? He's my landlord and my boss...he's terrible!
Will you wave to them?"

I laugh. I wave. The blond, round-faced waitress comes over, anxious. "Everything alright?"
she asks.

I laugh again. "Just fine."

"Are you here for the Monday night football?" the dark-haired young man asks.

"No," I reply. "I went shopping...I had my hair done... and I needed something to eat..."

"What did you buy?" he asks.

I pull out the other book I had tucked into my bag before I got out of the car. I put two of the books on the table in front of the young man: "What the Body Remembers" and "The Okinawa Program".

"Pretty heavy reading, pretty serious...I mean heavy stuff!" the young man says, as he takes the books into his hands to examine the titles. "Are you into a healthy lifestyle?"

I gesture toward the French vanilla icecream and the half remaining glass of red wine."Not if you look at what I'm enjoying right now!"

"Ah, red wine is good for you!" he exclaims.

Sure, I nod.

He thanks me, and off he goes, back to his friends at the bar.

I am utterly charmed and laughing.

The vanilla icecream is melting, but I eat some more.

Roop's mother is ill. She dies in childbirth. Roop's grandmother mourns her in the Hindu fashion and her father is upset. A Sikh, he forbids any further Hindu traditions in the house, to the dismay of Revati Bhua, his eldest cousin-sister...

The bar-tender brings me another glass of red wine, from the dark-haired young man at the bar, he says! Wow! Thank-you. I wave to the quartet at the bar.

I'm delighted, but I know this will make me quite drunk...I drink anyway, (ok, i can count, my third glass of wine, i'm past my usual self-imposed limit) and eat some more icecream.

Thank god the coffee arrives and is hot, smoky and flavorful.

Revati Bhua talks to Lakshmi, not to Vaheguru, as Roop's mother did. But Roop's father wants Revati to talk to his Sikh guru. How can Revati talk to the guru who is not even an idol like Lakshmi? Revati talks to Lakshmi about everything.

I get a refill on the coffee. I'm surprised that I ate all the icecream!

I am way, way too buzzed. Three glasses of red red wine. Can I even drive? Should I drive? I gulp in the cold, fresh air. This is so funny. I am being so irresponsible, but I have never had anyone buy me a drink before!

In the car, driving home past Brooklin, Port Perry, Little Britain, listening on the radio to Dr. Laura interrupted by terrible buzzing and crackling as the signal fades out, I laugh out loud. Here I am, goddam fifty-one years old and a young (did I say young??) man bought me a drink! This is too hilarious.

Who0-hoo! Yeah!

Life is supposed to be FUN!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

a la Georgia O'Keefe?

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Aaah!  The sensuality of red!

a personal revolution

I wonder why we only celebrate certain holidays? Ann has a theory that Sundays have a special energy because so many people take it easy on Sundays. This might be true in the West where supposedly the tradition is Christian. But what about the energy on other days of the week in cultures where another day might be special?

I asked a man from India one day, around the time of Dewali, to tell me about the holiday. I really don't know anything about it. Oh sure, I read stuff, because even in the newspaper, around the time of Dewali, they do the obligatory "multicultural piece" about the holiday. After all, there is a huge Southeast Asian population in the greater Toronto area. It would be nice to know a bit more about our neighbours.

Anyway, the man paused, then in his customary sarcastic tone, he corrected me, saying: "It's today, it's not coming up, it's today." Oh well, that's nice, but tell me, what do you do to celebrate it, what is it about, what's the story behind it? I really want to know.

Well, he gave us the super-duper-micro-condensed-extra-special Coles' Notes version: it's to celebrate the victory of good over evil, there was a's to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Hah! Just like my Joulupukki in Finland these days is dressed in red and looks suspiciously like the Santa of Coca Cola commercials! What is that? Where did my mysterious tramp Joulupukki go?

I Googled Dewali and found that it is celebrated over about 5 days, and there are lots and lots and lots of stories associated with the holiday. Check it out for yourself! What was my Indian acquaintance so afraid of? Why was he so reticent? Did he think I needed a Christianized version of the story? Did he think I would think less of stories of many gods and goddesses? Did he think I would think poorly of colourful, lustful, extravagant, lush and opulent gods and goddesses involved in convoluted, agonizing and passionate interrelated plots, story upon story?

Stop, already! Please, please tell me juicy stories with complex, earthy characters who get up to all sorts of things. I don't want the watered down, sanitized, disinfected, commercialized, benevolent, smiling Santa and the distant, ethereal saintly madonna smiling vaguely at a plump, white infant. She looks so saintly and distracted in so many paintings, it's a wonder the child doesn't simply roll off her lap! Did anybody ever ask if the baby Jesus pooped? Did the poop just miraculously disappear?

So, in thinking about that for the last several days, I also realized that my personal coming out has not happened. I have a huge hesitation about talking about my personal complexities. While encouraging others to be more of their authentic selves, I have issues myself. And no, I'm not ready to be completely real yet either.

Only a couple of my really dearest friends know how frightened I am of money, for example. No doubt I am known better than I think I am known, but I have not confessed my weaknesses to anyone but those couple of best friends. Mostly, I pretend to have a brave face.

Another issue is talking about sexuality. It is probably the most taboo subject still, in our society. I believe sexuality is a continium of experiences and practices and preferences, ranging from the earliest comforting sensuality of a mother's kisses and hugs, to anything you want to imagine; and I resist labels and boxes that try to compartmentalize sexuality. The desire for labels, boxes and definitions may be the desire to thereby contain the "other-ness" of other people which would otherwise frighten us. I believe sexual desire is a natural longing for connection to others, skin to skin. It is as natural and simple as breathing.

If we tried to control, dictate, formalize and order breathing the way we do sex, it's easy to see breathing would explode into very weird expressions indeed, leak out, becoming twisted up with the unnaturally strong desires for power, as an example.

It is from and within that sexually twisted culture that I live and write. I cannot easily describe my desires or pleasures without all the built- in fears and judgments that play out within my own head, and I am accutely aware of the subliminal feedback fraught with embarrasment and discomfort when I do talk about my own sexuality with most anyone I know.

Without feeling the need to explain our sexual relationship, I would like to say that with my friend Mike of the roadtrip, discussions of sexual topics was incredibly freeing for me. But with many of our acquaintances, who asked about our trip, the feedback I got was of the kind that tried again to judge, compartmentalize and label...without actually being open enough to really hear what I might have had to say.

It wasn't really even that frightening!

Shortly after I came back, I re-read Suzie Bright's "Full Exposure" . In the introduction, she states that "there is no such thing as a person without an erotic story...a personal erotic identity." She argues that "sexuality is a creative process and that erotic expression of any kind is a personal revolution."

"How many people are willing to name their erotic character as one of their most demanding or enlightening teachers?" she asks. "In our efforts to be honest or realistic about sex, we often can't even get past the naked basics."

I guess, that is what expresses my frustration the best. When I talked a bit about this with my beautiful, aware and perceptive daughters, I said at one point: "I don't feel I can be open about my lifestyle..."

"What lifestyle!" they laughed. 'Mom, you don't even have a lifestyle."

Ah! Even they have a fantasy about Mom's sexuality, a safe little story they prefer to tell themselves. But, I will blunder on.

As Maya Angelou said:
Some of the things I know, I know only because older women have told me
their secrets. I have lived and am living long so that I can tell my
secrets to younger women. That's the reason we women go on

vege-gardens in fall

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Under this shrub which I think is a beauty bush, Ann has planted some iris, artemisia, heuchera, daylily, bee balm, and hosta. A pretty statue of an angel stood there too, this past summer, holding a silver gazing ball. The angel resides in the safety and warmth of the basement at the moment. Tasha is in the background.

In the closer bed, with the clay birdbath, Ann planted some sedum, the white variegated-leafed iris, some daylilies and magenta-coloured pelargoneum. The pelargoneum is cooling its heels in the greenhouse.

This area is to the east of the vege-gardens (view towards to south), so the vege-gardens would be just to the left of that big shrub above.

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The ruby chard in the vege-garden continues to grow, not minding the frosty nights yet--it isn't that cold really. (We did have our first sprinkling of snow last week.) I haven't harvested all the beets, or arugula yet either. The lemon balm continues its leafy green, the dill and parsley have self-seeded about a little. I really hope the cilantro will do the same. Yesterday evening's supper included the most flavoorful and tender brussel sprouts from our own garden! All I needed to add was a little butter and salt...

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a picture of one end of the vege-garden with "gates" of old iron headboards. We would still looking southward. The benches were made by a sweet man in Manilla (Ontario), who also sells perennial plants for as little as a dollar. Yes, you heard me, a dollar. Many of his flower beds are exactly that, "beds". Framed by old beds, headboards, etc, he never steps in them. The plants must appreciate the conditions: one summer I saw echinacea there that towered over my head.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

doggone adventures

After working a bit around the yard and house today, I went for a long walk around my beloved meadows. I was a little worried because the wind seemed to smell of rain. Looking toward the southwest, it looked like rain. But the walk was fine. I noticed interesting pathways across the split cedar rail fences, hollowed out trees, piles of the droppings of? what? I have no idea. The dogs paid the droppings little mind. Further on, they were much more interested in the hollow log and Misty tried to climb the remaining trunk and limbs of the dead tree. Raccoon? Porcupine? The droppings I mentioned earlier are not raccoon--I see lots of those in the barn, thank-you very much!

By the time we were nearing the last gate, Molly was dragging. Between munching on corn and lazing around without the walks she used to make with Ann, she is de-conditioning fast! I hope with the work I am doing to get in condition myself for skiing, Molly will benefit too.
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Molly, tired, homeward bound to snooze under the back porch for a couple of hours!

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Impossible to get Misty to stand still for the camera!


I have spent most of this weekend working with Ann on some of the chores related to getting the house (and ourselves) ready for winter.

Since Saturday was amazingly mild, we finished cleaning the windows upstairs and tried to sweep as much of the fallen leaves out of the eaves troughs as possible. In the process, one of the curtain rods in my bedroom, not secured into a stud, pulled out of the wall. Nothing for it but to take them all down. They were rather flowery anyway for my taste.

Now that the curtains are gone, my little room looks almost huge. Amazing how much "space" a large patterned fabric takes. Rearranging one's room is often very refreshing!

The curtains probably did a lot to help keep that room a little warmer, however, so I think I'll be putting plastic over the windows, except for one. I must have at least one window that I can open for fresh air and to hear the outdoor noises.

These last few days, the wind has sounded like a freight train roaring through the trees. Nearly all the leaves are gone. Only the weeping willow still has most of its leaves, the topmost branches just starting to turn yellow.

Some stunned fall flies are crawling out of the window frames and flying kamakaze-style into anything and everything. A few of those Japanese lady bugs are also crawling about the windows, particularly on the south side. They were such a nuisance a couple of years ago. A little moth was disturbed when I tidied up the woodpile a bit...where was my camera when I needed it??

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Ha! Some de-bugging will have to take place so the photos will appear on this blog the way I want...(see below)


I did promise to give an update regarding my road trip with Mike. The long and the short of it is, I was talking with my friend Mike about plans I had for driving down to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, then seeing my sister who lives in Kentucky, and then getting over to Nashville to see one of my brothers. I'm not sure, but I think the idea occurred to me at the same time as Mike asked me where I was going with this? did I need a driving buddy? are we going on a roadtrip? What a brilliant idea!

One of the easiest ways to test a friendship is to see if it endures a road trip, they say. Well, so far, my friendship with Mike is doing fine. Our trip was really lovely. It is amazing really, how much fun it is to bare your soul to a friend who understands, with whom there is that spark of recognition. It is totally energizing!

In many ways, some of my acquaintances find our friendship odd: we are many years apart in age; our life experiences differ hugely. But because our ideals and beliefs and politics are so similar, it is easy between us.

Let's see...

After driving like mad southward down the I75, we went to Pigeon Forge in Tennessee, stopping for an afternoon at Cumberland Falls.

Coffee soon became a problem. You see, it seems that good coffee on the road is hard to find in the U.S., for those of us pathetically addicted to Tim Horton's. Not only that, but where there is coffee (weak), there is no real milk or cream. There is only packages or dispensers of powdered creamers made out of who-knows-what that taste terrible!

In Pigeon Forge, Mike was totally charmed by the southern hospitality and the accents. He didn't want to appear to be making fun of the accents, but it does seem to rub off on one rather easily and we tended to want to soften our speech into that relaxed drawl.

We did find a coffee chain with a Hawaiian name that served fabulous coffee in Pigeon Forge. A young man ahead of us in line with marvelous tattoos on his arms assured us the coffee was excellent here. When we told him we were from Canada, we found out he was from New Orleans, one of the "lucky" ones, relocated through his job after Katrina.

We visited a fortune teller--that was interesting, but frustrating. Although we could have asked questions, I was too stunned and puzzled by some of the things she said, to think of any sensible questions at the time. In hindsight, I have thought of so many questions I should have asked.

We drove in a leasurely way over the Smoky Mountains into Cherokee. We were a pair of delighted idiots: a duet of "Oh my god," all the way, every time we came around another bend, with another vista unfolding before us. The Smoky Mountains are magical.

There was quite the variety of tourists from many countries. I overhead Japanese, German, many Southeast Asian languages, French...

In Cherokee, we did a little shopping and I enjoyed some pinto beans and cornbread for lunch. We noticed again that portions of food served in restaurants are huge in the U.S.! Oh, the tendency is here in Canada too; people judge the value of the meal by quantity...

We missed our turnoff in Ashville and drove over the Eastern continental divide, before we realized where we were and turned back toward Ashville.

Monday at the Biltmore Estate was sunny, but windy and cold. Many roses were still in bloom, however, as apparently they had enjoyed the mild fall as well, until then. We did not see a lot of fall colours anywhere, actually. One of the best meals of our whole trip we had at the restaurant in the refurbished stables at Biltmore. We regretfully didn't have time for the winery, etc.

Tuesday was a lazy day, watching old movies on television at my sister's. It was cold and raining most of the day, and we were accused of bringing the cold weather down from Canada. Technically, we had come up from the south, from North Carolina and Tennessee, right?

We had a hilarious meal with my sister and a couple of my nephews in a Mexican restaurant. As a result, I was a little hung-over the next morning. Wednesday, we did a little exploring and shopping, then fixed supper for my sister and her family. Her youngest, aged 12, was mighty suspicious, worriedly thinking he'd prefer to wait 'till his mom came home...being one who enjoyed a "mostly meat diet". Even after his mom assured us that we followed her recipe for the grilled chicken, he was cautious. Finally, he actually had two pieces of the chicken.

Is it a guy thing? Mike really related to my nephews, talking about "the Simpsons", "the Family Guy", horror movies, etc. They talked late into the night, leaving my sister and I a little lost, thinking maybe we should watch some of that stuff sometime...not our usual cup of tea.

We did get to see my sister's ex and his parents. We even petted the horses at little. It got very dark quickly. As I chatted away to my sister, I reached out to touch her arm, in the dusky light, mistaking my nephew's long blond mop of curls for my sister. He didn't seem to mind.

I was disappointed that there was no tobacco curing in the barn. My sister's ex said something about very few farmers in the area getting quotas to raise tobacco anymore, something about the big tobacco companies and the changing ways of doing business. Where is it grown these days? South America? Who knows. I did love the aroma of the tobacco, the neat, symmetrical rows of giant leaves hanging in the barn, on my previous visits.

On our way home to Canada, Mike and I stopped in Berea. There, we met a lovely woman who sings harmony on a children's cd by her ?sister, Hannah Naiman. The cd's produced by a Canadian musician I had already enjoyed: Kathy-Reid Naiman. I somehow think I have the names and relationships mixed up, but this lovely lady issued us an intivitation to return and stay in their no-longer-officially-in-business bed&breakfast above the store, the Weaver's Bottom. I know both Mike and I intend to take her up on that invitation soon. I hear there is dulcimer music at the Weaver's Bottom sometimes!

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our three dogs in motion, Tasha taking up the rear

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

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Molly:  "You really mean I can't eat these pumpkins?"

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Misty, drinking from a puddle in a tarp that blew off our woodpile during Sunday's storm

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our wood pile
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architectural detail: the typical "Ontario cottage" peak over the front door of the abandoned house across the lane

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old kettle in junk pile near barn; the lid is rusted shut

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view through the top of an old gate near the barns

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peeking inside the abandoned house across the lane

new toys/ puzzles

Yes, I finally got myself a digital camera. That's very exciting. But...I have spent nearly one and a half hours today, figuring out how to simply download the images onto my computer. Finally, I realized I had all sorts of things plugged into all the available USB ports...Aaa-ny-how!

I had to work like mad last week to make up some of the time I took off from my paying job to go on the road trip I least it seems like that. I have finally had the last three days to myself. On Monday--well, actually Sunday afternoon--the power went out as a result of a tree downed by the wind of the Sunday afternoon storm. It did not come back on until Tuesday morning, ie yesterday.

It was a revelation to me how programmed I had made myself to do stuff. When suddenly all the plans I had made for my Monday were kiboshed due to lack of electricity, I was adrift! I drifted to our local Tim Horton's to get some coffee and refilled Ann's thermos, I drove around aimlessly, taking some pictures of stuff up on Pinery Road near Kinmount and Burnt River, I filled up some water jugs from the lake for such things as the toilet (no power, no pump for the well)...I couldn't even knit because my current knitting project is of black wool, terribly hard on the eyes in candle-light. I was trying to read by candlelight, when Ann pointed out how programmed I was, trying to do, do, do, do....when all I had to do was be.

I finally gave in and enjoyed a quiet evening of watchng the fire, thoughts aimless and peaceful.

Yesterday dawned sunny and fairly warm. I went for a long walk with the dogs, minus Molly. She got distracted by a huge raccoon who teased her from the safety of the big willow tree. No meal for you there, Molly. And oh yes, before all that, I had a wonderful, hot shower--aaahh!

All day yesterday and today, either Ann or me can be heard saying something like "I love running water!" "I love being able to use the stereo." "I love having the microwave." "I love being able to put the kettle on!" Why does it take a little bit of deprivation to make us more grateful?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

where did October go?

I cannot believe we are already in November. It has been so unusual this fall, no heavy frost yet, mild day after mild day. Even though the green house is not heated, the tender things like the coleus are just fine in there. I brought in the New Zealand flax, the helichrysum, the sweet potato vine "Blackie", that South African plant...what was it? Sisiryngium? I also lifted the pelargoniums and a couple of the variegated impatiens out of the garden and they are happy in the greenhouse for the moment. Lets see, what else? I suppose the lavender seedlings should really have gone out into the garden, or into a cold frame...maybe I'll have time before we really do get frost. I did clean off most of the tender potted plants and brought them in off the deck, the Swedish ivy, the fuschias, the moses-in-the-cradle, the hibiscus, the asparagus fern, the rosemary. Some are in the greenhouse too, and some have returned into the house.

This mild weather is really, really unbelievable for our area of the country, at this time of year.

As late as last Thursday, I finally lifted the gladioli bulbs, not because we had had any killer frost or anything, but because I figure when we do, I will be so unaccustomed to cold that I won't want to be out there, digging up those bulbs. We still have some lovely gladioli in a vase on the dining room table.

Garlic and onion bulbs have gone into the ground, as have some tulip, crocus, hyacinth and ornamental onions. The squirrels are coming along right behind me and digging up the tulips, bold as brass. I also cleaned out some more of that overly abundant tawny daylily by the greenhouse and planted the lovely apothecary rose and some asiatic lilies.

Granddaughter had her 4th birthday party earlier in October, party, pin-the-tail-on-the-
donkey, cake, etc.

Ann and I tried to wash the upstairs windows that afternoon. Being older windows, some of them were quite difficult to get at. As the light started to fade, perhaps we got careless. Anyhow, the awful part of it all is that the ladder slid out from under Ann, and I watched from inside the house, horrified to see her fall. In the process, she has a small but very painful break in one of her ankle bones. She's been hobbling about on crutches all month.

The very last week of October, I went on a lovely road-trip with my friend Mike. More to follow on that!

Molly is packing on weight again, with Ann unable to walk as much as before. I started jogging around my meadows to try build up my stamina for skiing when winter comes. Molly comes along with the other dogs, but cannot keep up. Yesterday, we were nearly home when she collapsed, exhausted, like bullies are prone to do...right in the middle of the only mud-puddle around. That must have been so cooling that she was rejunevated almost immediately and did accompany me home without having to be carried -- or some such foolishness--but she was a very dirty dog...

During the heat of this past summer, one evening, when my youngest daughter and I went for a walk, we were nearly home when Molly lay down at the bottom of the last long hill and simply refused to walk anymore! Poor dog. I am more and more appalled as time goes on to see what man's "selective breeding" has done to these poor creatures. I can understand the desire for selective breeding, but with bullies, (and probably with any number of other species/breeds) it has simply gone too, too far.