Wednesday, August 27, 2008

petty crimes and little criminals

This is a very dramatic garden story that involves wanton destruction, spying, nasty rumours and even poison...
The story involves the flower beds and pots that I planted up in front of my apartment building. Naturally it attracted lots of attention. And almost immediately, nasty holes appeared in the new flower beds, plants were dislodged and blame had to laid at somebody's door.

(note clue to poison in photo at the feet of the pot...!)

I had my suspicions it might be critters of some sort. After all, squirrels and raccoons thrive in urban and suburban spaces with impunity. Some people blamed kids in the neighborhood. Some even named names of this or that particular child! So, the war began and one or two tenants began to watch out for the culprits.
Discussions took place and advice was sought. Expert opinions were solicited. And the news was brought back to me that a consensus was emerging that is was the squirrels.
Unfortunately, along with the opinions as to the culprits, many suggestions for remedies were also dispensed. Then, unfortunately, the solution most tenaciously embraced and held by one of the tenants who is most deeply invested (besides me) in guardianship of the little garden is also the most offensive solution (to me, at least): mothballs.
Yup, you heard me. Mothballs were promptly purchased and liberally sprinkled all over the flower beds.

Now, it is rather questionable if the mothballs deter the squirrels even a little bit. But, they are replenished regularly after rains, etc. by our self-appointed guardian. The merest hint that the squirrels are digging and throwing dirt and plants around less today than yesterday is firmly added to the pro side. Evidence that the squirrels merely dig, just as vigorously as before, only in locations between mothballs, only gets added to the pro side as well. In fact, I'm beginning to fear that The Guardian would cover the flower beds in mothballs until they are as white snowbanks, if given the slightest encouragement.
(note evidence of squirrels digging between mothballs!)

Now, my concerns about mothballs being toxic to animals and children aside, I despise the smell. No worries! The Guardian sits on the front step, entertained by the comings and goings of the neighborhood, all the while happily inhaling the mothball smell which she confesses to love! Oh dear...
I think it's wonderful that my wee garden is of any interest at all (even somewhat important!) to some of the tenants. And that The Guardian has taken such an ownership of the welfare of the garden is a good thing...but I'm becoming increasingly worried that sitting out there inhaling the noxious fumes might be doing funny things to her mind....
...meanwhile, I continue to periodically toddle out there to scrape the soil off the lawn back into the flower beds... I'm thinking I must buy some more mulch... the last few rain-less days have been hard on the new beds and flower pots...and it seems like the beds that are mulched have suffered much less in the maurauding, digging-raids of the squirrels! In other words, I'm drawing my own conclusions!
(note protective mulch in flower beds! white stuff at top of photo are from shattered roses only -- not more mothballs!)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Maple Lake

I am recovering (ie, coming back down to earth!), from a wonderfully invigorating and entertaining all girls' weekend at a friend's cottage.
We did all the usual things girls do: eat a lot (the prescription was q2h and prn!!), drink a lot, talk, dance and laugh! Oh, did I mention that we laughed? A lot!!

The theme was "Blue Hawaii", so above, one of the ladies is over-the-top, in her unique, whole-hearted and exuberant way, into the theme! Don't you just love it?? What an amazing person you are, M. !!

Here, another one of the women whose friendship I treasure, with her marvelous purple hair, and though wont to wear battle fatigues or black to work, looks edgier than she actually is.

An event such as this serves to remind me of the incredible strength and beauty each of my female friends possesses! I would like to take more time to describe some of them to you someday. So many complex personalities. So many interesting stories. So many battles they have fought and won -- and are still fighting! I am humbly honoured to have been able to share the weekend with them!

I joined my friend, Kim, for a walk around the lake in the middle of the day, Saturday.

My good friend, Kim, in front of St. Peter's Anglican Church on Maple Lake, Ontario. While we were there, it was being visited by some black-leather garbed people on motorcycles. And I noticed that they were checking out headstones in the small graveyard behind the church.

I enjoyed this strange little architectural detail. It could be called "how to handle a change in levels within a regular repeating pattern".

We partied into the night, enjoying marshmallows toasted in the fire, then dipped in Bailey's!What decadence, eh?
Notice the sparks in the photo above?
I'm at the far left in the photo above, thoroughly blissed out by the fire.

Sunday morning. Most of us don't look too bad, considering we've been celebrating for nearly two days straight. Our awesome hostess, standing in the black t-shirt, believes Elvis still lives, therefore the "Blue Hawaii" theme for our weekend.

I was not oblivious to the flowers in I.'s garden either.

Me, relaxing after a gorgeous 20 km run around Maple and Green Lakes. Some long steep hills, but mostly a pleasant run along scenic lakefront in one of Ontario's most beautiful cottage country/holiday areas. I also got a short 5 km run in on the Saturday morning. Can't be slacking off on my training for the Scotia 1/2 marathon in Toronto in September!

View Interactive Map on

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Thursday, August 14, 2008



Ethiopia reads

I hope you took a few minutes to view these videos! I expect it is impossible for me to describe the joy they bring me on so many levels. Most personal, is hearing the language of my childhood. My parents were missionaries in Ethiopia many, many years ago. The first memories ever that I have involve the music of the Amharic language, the dust and sun of northern Ethiopia and the smells and flavors of wot and injera cooked over charcoal and eucalyptus. In fact, for many years, I'm told, I thought every animal was some version of a donkey, large or small, even the first giraffe I saw in a zoo. Yup, it was "such a very large donkey", to the eternal amusement of my parents.

My friends know I love my books. I was raised surrounded by books. I have many memories of one of my parents reading to me and my sister and brothers, night after night. Later, in Helsinki, I was introduced to the children's department in a library near my home by my best friend, Sari. I did not know I could take the books home. I was far too shy to even look the librarians in the eye. But day after day, that last summer we spent in Finland before coming to Canada, I crept into the library, took a stack of books off the shelf, sat at one of the child-sized tables to read and got lost in a world of wonder and imagination.

I read about Curious George. I read about Babar the Elephant. I read beautifully illustrated Russian fairy tales. I read and read and read. Hours later, I would emerge to blink at the summer sunshine and stumble home, my imagination stimulated, and a little worried that I might have be late for dinner.

When we came to Canada, my father began the custom of taking us to the library once a week. We were allowed to borrow 8 books each (library rules). My father tried to steer our reading towards biographies, history and science. But we slipped in lots of fantasy too! Imagine: every week, for several years, each of us read 40 books, thanks to having 4 siblings!

I remember an argument my parents had when I was about 12 or 14. Xaviera Hollander's book, The Happy Hooker, appeared in my mother's closet (where I was snooping, I admit), so naturally I had to read it. I thought it might be a source of trouble, but I was terribly curious and I read it. Of course, my father found me reading it and as I quickly blamed my mother, a fight ensued. I'll never forget my mother saying she would rather her children read about the world than having to find out things the hard way by having to live everything, an argument for which my poor dad had no answer!

That has been my belief ever since. Knowledge is power. Without knowledge, nobody can make wise or informed decisions. Now, I find I don't have the time to read about everything that makes me curious! Ah me! Life is just too short.

Anyway, back to Ethiopia Reads. I am going to Ethiopia, as you already know, in November, to run in the 10 km Great Ethiopian Race in Addis Ababa. What I want you to do is to check out Ethiopia Reads' website. They are also now on Facebook. Most certainly, donate if you can. Or, tell your friends about Ethiopia Reads, or just wish me luck in the race in November.

Someone recently grumbled to me that he could not see how anything he did could help someone in Africa (or any other troubled part of the world). Okay, I admit I'm a naively hopeful bleeding-heart liberal. But I cannot believe anybody is that much of an ostrich that he really believes what he buys, what he consumes, how he lives, what he says and who he votes to govern his country, does not have some impact on somebody else in the most far-flung corners of the world! It is impossible to believe our actions do not affect others! I love the image of the butterfly wing causing a hurricane on the other side of the world.

So, let's give a few kids the opportunity to read, to imagine, to play with ideas. And let's see what might happen!

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