Saturday, October 31, 2015

Four Letter Words

The Gods unleashed their fury on us Wednesday - gale force winds and driving rain kept us inside for much of the day. We ran outside with the dogs on almost every lull in the onslaught, just in case it didn't let up again. I would have liked a fire, but by the time I mentioned it to Carm the weather was easing down, and I'd finished writing for the day. I've discovered that the wing chair in front of the fireplace is perfect for prose. There is a small round marble table the perfect height for my tablet. I can imagine many a snowy day this winter cuddling up with my tablet, and a fire roaring. It almost makes winter sound good!

Speaking of winter… you know when you have some idea of what an event will be like, even though you've never been to one before so have nothing to baseline it on? We'll today Carm was 'shooting' (it sounds so much more impressive than hitting a golf ball) at a competition today. The thermometer in the car read -3C when we arrived at the golf course (yes, I went along and was one of 4 other spouses…). I had a vision in my head of gathering in the clubhouse, which in my mind was a fancy building with tall stone fireplace (with a crackling fire of course), and lots of windows so we could see the 'action' (and I use that word lightly). We'd drink hot chocolate and politely applaud each try.


It was cold (I know I've already mentioned that but it bears repeating). We got there way too early. The golfers stood in the cold talking amongst themselves waiting for it to start. Carm and I walked waayyy out to the tee to see the lie, then walked all the way back (through some puddles) to the car. I stayed in the car studying the map, which is so out of date that it doesn't even show the 416, planning our trip for next spring. When it was time to start Carm came to get me and we walked waayyy out to the tee again where thirty plus golfers stood waiting their turn. The wind picked up enough for there to be wind chill.

With an audience of 30 plus seasoned golfers staring at you it is no surprise that some of them choked, sending the ball skipping just a short way down the fairway. Carm finally had his turn (he wasn't closest to the hole). I stood around talking with a few other frozen golf wives before heading back to the clubhouse to warm up. There was no roaring fire, but they were serving up chili - I passed until Carm was back. I stood inside talking to one of the owners, and then headed back to the car to study the ancient road system some more…

At last! I could see Carm's grey head bobbing down the fairway in a clump of others, his clubs glinting in the sunlight. Strike that. There was no sun. But I could still see Carm making his way over green and around rough. Back at the clubhouse they were still serving up delicious chili and garlic bread.

Aren't you astonished at how many golf terms I know ;-)

They call it golf because all of the other four-letter words were taken. ~Raymond Floyd

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

CW #2 - Dialogue Challenge

The Creative Writing workshop was on Monday and, as last week, it was a fantastic learning experience. I had slaved over the assignment: a writing prompt that involved 3 women at a bar. The focus was conversation but also keeping an eye to descriptive "show not tell" prose. I've never done any dialogue so it was a challenge. I was excited to have my work critiqued by the group. I want to hear what needs improvement! How else can I improve?

Assignment: Tabitha Merkle has just broken up with her boyfriend, Pete Lawsky. They have been going together for two years. Tabitha thought that this was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She is meeting two of her best friends, Gloria Stimple and Rosie Ratchinsky in a bar to discuss the breakup. What happens next?


Tabitha slumped down into a chair and looked around. There was nothing outstanding about the place: the dark wood of the floor was scuffed with years of use; the walls were a diluted burgundy, which matched the ring her glass of wine had left on the white table ; it even had an enormous oak bar with a brass foot rail dominating one side of the room. Small tables for four peppered the floor, many of them occupied by groups of women. In the far corner a bunch of men had pulled three tables together and were making a lot of noise.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw the door open and turned her head to see Gloria and Rosie walk into the bar and with a frantic wave she got their attention. Tabitha stood up and embraced them both, a fragile smile wavering on her face. Her eyes were puffy with with recently shed tears.

"I'm so glad you're here, I couldn't have sat here by myself any longer."

"Oh, you'd be fine." said Rosie. Her heart shaped face framed by carefully brushed ringlets showed little sympathy as she looked at her friend.

"I'm glad to see you too. I'm so worried about you. How long have you been waiting?" said Gloria. She looked at Tabitha and noted her outfit of loose fitting jeans and frayed grey t-shirt, a sharp contrast to her own carefully combed blond hair and stylish shirt that she wore over form-fitting jeans. Tabitha usually took more care.

Tabitha collapsed back into her chair. "Not long." and broke down with quiet sobs.  Her right hand twirled a strand of her lifeless mousy brown hair.

Gloria pulled her chair closer to the table and leaned in towards Tabitha. “You’re a wreck, Tab, what happened?"

"We were having supper and Pete just blurted it out. That he was leaving me and going to live with Ann. I can't believe it, we were going to get married. What's wrong with me? Nobody will ever love me... I'll never meet another guy like him." Reaching under the table Tabitha unearthed a box of tissue from her backpack. "I don't think I can live without him."

"Pete is a jerk. I can't believe you saw anything in him anyway. I say good riddance." said Rosie as she glance over at the table in the far corner, the blush in her rosy cheeks matching her pink blouse.

Gloria shot a nasty glare at Rosie then continued, "Rosie's right, although she didn't need to be so blunt about it. Come on, you have lots of good qualities, he just didn't see them. But it's over now and you have to find some way to move on. And hey - we love you, haven't we been friends for years? This isn't the worst thing that could happen to you!"

"I know… I guess. It's just that we had made plans. And I'm so stupid. I thought they were just studying together, I even invited her over so they could be together. I left them alone and slaved in the kitchen making her vegetarian lunches. How could I have been so dumb? It's no wonder he picked her, I'm not the smart one, studying architecture…" she trailed off with a sob.

Gloria and Rosie exchanged glances, there wasn't much to argue with, she had been a bit of a dope.

Gloria took a long swallow of her Carlsberg Light. "Look, you're the nice one, and she is just a conniving bitch." she blushed at using a swear word then kept going, "She knew what she was doing, and you were just kind - it’s your nature. Hey, how come you didn't answer your phone these last few days? I must have called a million times. We were worried sick about you at work."

"I couldn't. After Pete moved his things out I couldn't go on. I couldn't get out of bed. Couldn't talk to anyone.". In a low voice she continued, "I didn't want to live." Tabitha stifled a sob. "Gloria, the policeman said that you were the one that called. Thanks. He got there right in time - I was just leaving our, err, my apartment, for the drugstore." The final word hung in the air. Tabitha thought back to the the last few days and realized how lucky she was to have friends like this; she wasn’t sure if she would have gone through with it, but she had a strong feeling that the cop and Gloria might have saved her life.

Rosie locked eyes with one of the guys across the room; a coy smile passed her lips while she batted her eyelashes at him. "Hey, look! I'll bet one of them would fix you up for a night!"

Gloria glared at Rosie and gave her a kick under the table. "I think it's a bit soon for that".

"Tab, you have a lot going for you, so don't throw all that away. You complained yourself about Pete's distraction and how he always put you down for not going to university. Hey, you have a good job and you didn't need to waste all those years studying. Maybe this is a good thing and you'll find someone who loves you for who you are." Gloria said.

Rosie looked at them both with a smile. "How does that song go? 'Always look on the bright side of life'. Can't go wrong with that as your ear worm!", she looked around the room, bored with the conversation. "Hey girls, those guys are waving to us to come over. I think we should join them." Rosie flipped her perfect curls and waved back.

Tabitha thought about what her friends were saying, agreeing that much of it she couldn't argue with. Pete was a jerk and had dealt her a huge blow but was she going to let him spoil her happiness? No, at least not for tonight, she thought to herself.

Gloria looked over at Tabitha expecting another outburst of tears. Instead she smiled at them both and said, "you know what? I can find a way. I am okay and I'll find someone. Hitting rock bottom showed me that Pete's not worth it, no guy is worth dying over. Oh, and thanks you guys, you're lifesavers." Tabitha put the box of tissue back into her backpack.

Rosie looked at Tabitha with a puzzled smile while Gloria patted Tabitha's arm. "Don't scare us like that again.".

The three girls talked among themselves, and ordered another round of drinks. They giggled when a tall, dark haired man swaggered over to their table. "Ummm, hey. We have three extra chairs, why don't you girls join us".

Simultaneously the three chimed "sure", and stood up to walk over.

"Are you okay with this?" Gloria asked as she scrutinized Tabitha's face.

"Yeah, it will be a good thing, beside which we could hardly stop Rosie!".  Tabitha smiled, promising herself that she’d enjoy the evening, and walked over to the table with her head high and a bit of a spring in her step.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

WYL #15 - Those Years In Between

lets get this show on the road

I struggled to open my eyes when the rock concert suddenly blared from my alarm clock, the sound of loud Marshall amps jolting me out of my slumber. The clock blinked 4:45 am. My arm flung out, searching for the button to stop the infernal noise and I started to pull the covers back over my head, but I knew that wasn't an option. Swinging my feet out of the covers, they hit the cold floor and I stood up to get my bearings.

In the kitchen, I started emptying the fridge of its horde of fruits and vegetables. The knife sliced dangerously through the air, narrowly missing my finger, as I chopped and shredded. Oatmeal mixed with eggs, beans and pasta warmed in the microwave, a colourful salad of veggies and fruit was on the menu for today, as it was everyday. I piled the food onto glass pie plates and started transporting the colourful offerings, two at a time, to the basement. When I turned on the lights I was greeted by cheerful hellos and squawks from the waking parrots. The morning avian hello always brought a smile to my face. I greeted everyone by name, and carefully observed them for a moment, before moving on to the next pair of parrots. While the birds dug into their breakfast I checked their water supply then dragged myself upstairs to get showered and dressed.

I pulled big warm boots, and a long coat over my office clothes and braced myself. The blast of winter air that hit my face when I opened the door almost sent me back to bed, but I had an appointment with a computer, so I forced myself out into the cold. Wind had drifted the snow over the path, but there was no time to shovel. Pushing through the drifts towards the barn I thought of the day ahead of me - inside, with no windows to the sky - I felt grateful for these few minutes of Nature, even in her fury.

The large bodies of the horses had warmed up the little barn, and low nickers greeted me. Shoeing them all out, I picked up the night's accumulation of manure, then struggled with the huge muck bucket, dragging it out to the manure pile. Next, I spread out several flakes of hay onto the floor, a pile for each horse. Calling them in, each horse chose a pile and started their breakfast. I paused for a moment burying my face in the thick coat of the closest one and listened to the rhythmic chewing. A feeling of peace and contentment washed over me. These few minutes of equine therapy would get me through the busy day.

I trudged again through the deep snow to the waiting car, I was grateful that I had this opportunity to live my dream but it was now time to rush across snow covered roads, through heavy traffic, and into town to the paying job.

After work the process reversed itself. A drive through rush hour, into the house to change and prepare steaming buckets of warm mash, then outside with Carm to clean the barn and feed the horses. If it was warm enough I'd clean their hooves and brush them. A few minutes of training would be shoehorned into the evening. Once back into the house it was time to feed the dogs, and take care of the birds. The parrots would all get a fresh helping of pellets along with a walnut. We'd sweep the floor and say goodnight. If I was lucky Carm and I had a few minutes for supper before we'd go out to the barn again for bedtime hay. My head would sink into the pillow when it was finally time for bed, anxious to get to sleep before the band played again.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sunny break

We've been home for several days … and there are 209 days to go till our next camping outing. I just made myself depressed - note to self: do NOT add a widget to my tablet to count 'days to go'…

The week passed quickly; getting the camper ready for winter, which included picking up a million nasty Asian beetles and bringing into the house things we might need for the winter required a fair amount of effort. Much of the rest of my time was spent thinking about writing or actually writing. Being involved in two writing groups fills my time with brain draining activity. Don't get me wrong though, I'm loving every minute! The creative writing group is a real challenge. I have a long way to go before I'll feel confident in what I write for that.

We have a shelf full of cans that are in grave danger of losing their flimsy paper labels… Thursday night I headed downstairs with an armload of cans that had come off the camper. I wanted to put them on the pantry shelf so they'd get used in good time. I plopped the black olives on top of another can. Hummm, that felt weird. I reached out to put a can of chickpeas onto the shelf and as I put it down noticed the sheet of thick black liquid that covered the whole shelf. WTH! Carm came down and we started the clean up. Can by can went under the tap to wash the goo off the bottom. What was the sweet smelling, sticky mess? Two (no, not one) containers of molasses had leaked from the shelf above. Boy what a mess. We'll be playing what kind of legume roulette this winter!

My writing topic for next week's WYL group is 'turning points'. We were at friends last night and I asked everyone what were their main turning points. It made for a spirited and interesting discussion. Nobody had to think very long to come up with a few life changing decisions. A question: is a turning point only a decision that you make for yourself or can it also be something that happens to you?

Friday I took a break from all this activity. My good friend Christina picked up up in her new (to her) Buick something or other. We had a good laugh over her driving an 'old persons' car, and gushed over how comfortable it was. We drove to the Warkwick forest conservation area - I'd never heard of it and was delighted with the lovely trails that were thick with fallen leaves. The thought of dropping to the ground and having a roll around briefly crossed my mind.

The sky was sunny and the light breeze slightly cool (high 9C). We had a wonderful high-speed walk (neither of us are dawdlers) which culminated in cups of hot tea drizzled with local honey. A perfect fall day.

My sorrow, when she's here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.  ~Robert Frost

Thursday, October 22, 2015

WYL #5 b Eternal Summer

The essence of a sloth descended upon me Wednesday, that with an accompanying headache had me in bed way past a respectable hour. When I finally did emerge from the somnolent cocoon I wasn't exactly leaping like a lemur - the sloth was still with me. It gave me a chance to go through me WYL writings and print what I hadn't printed. I also identified the ones that haven't be posted yet, so hang onto your britches folks, fine literature is on its way :-0

Today was writing group so I read something I wrote in the summer about my summers as a child - minnows, creeks and frogs figure prominently.


Eternal Summer

The train roared by, stirring the tranquil summer air and mixing the acrid smell of tar with sweet clover. Suddenly I was in a time warp, transported to the mid sixties when I was a child. Smell can do that to you. Just ten years old, life was not a tapestry of 'what ifs' - it was the 'here and now', the moment. I had no thoughts of the future, other than the vague idea that I would have a horse someday. And a dog. Otherwise, there were no specifics. Tomorrow was as far ahead as I looked.

My bike tires crunched the gravel surface of that lonely country road. A recently cut hay field waiting to be baled lay on one side of the road; the smell of purple clover and drying grass hung in the air. There must have been the smell of creosote and tar mixed in with the sweetness of the clover, but I don't recall where it came from, perhaps a nearby railway track, or maybe two memories are mixed into one.

A line of barbed wire fence delineated the pasture on the other side of the road. Brown cows grazing peacefully dotted the grass, some were lying down in the shade of a large elm. There were wildflowers of all sorts carpeting the shallow ditches. Butterflies flitted among them. I could hear the music of bees doing their work. A meadowlark sang its distinct song.

A dark brown shape caught my eye. A horse, with a black mane and tail stood slightly apart from the cows. I was already obsessed with horses and had a notebook filled with carefully printed out names. Flash, Jet, and Patches were a few, the rest a faded memory. My stand-in horse, a blue bicycle, was named Fly. I rode this steed everywhere, imagining the pounding of hoofs as I peddled.

Further down the road was a dark forest, shadows obscuring most details. It was cooler here and quieter too, the sounds muffled by the deep carpet of leaves, and tall, strong trunks of the trees. The deep woods never held a quiet peace for me, instead, I always peddled a little faster until I was out into the sunshine again.

My destination was a little creek on the other side of the forest. Slightly out of breath, I lay my bike carefully on the ground. I peeled off my shoes and rolled up my shorts, then slithered down the bank until my toes were deep in the cool mud, revelling in the sensation of it squishing between my toes.  Some dragonflies flitted over the water and into the reeds. I crouched down to catch a little leopard frog that jumped from beneath my feet, grasping its slippery green body in my hands, and held it in front of me, looking into its alien eyes. It gave a little struggle and I let it disappear into the nearby cattails. I chased down some minnows, hoping to catch one to take home to my aquarium, but without a net or jar to put it in, it was a pointless task.

Splattered with mud, I scrabbled up the bank to the grassy area bordering the creek. Lying back on Nature's green velveteen blanket I gazed at the sky. A fluffy white horse raced across blue fields, its tail streaming out behind it. Another one raced nearby. I had to squint my eyes and turn my head just so to see the dog in the other cloud.  

As the morning disappeared into the afternoon the rumbling in my stomach reminded me of the time. Fly galloped down the road and skidded into the driveway, I jumped off and ran into the house as I knew my Mom would be waiting. With a quick wash of my hands, I rushed into the kitchen for a sandwich. Sitting at the table, with my mud splattered legs dangling, I savoured each bite of peanut butter and jelly.

I had no idea that decades later I'd be sitting in a car, in a far away place, reliving that memory, though perhaps it is augmented with others to create a beautiful kaleidoscope of images, smells and tastes. What makes a particular memory of a particular moment have so much impact that decades later it can be rerun and the feeling fleetingly recaptured? Maybe those memories are more indelible because they were lived in the moment and not diluted with all the must do's and worries that normally accompany our thoughts.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

WYL #13 - Family Life

The First Evidence I Had of Love

The shiny red Camero pulled up in front of our house. Aunty Jean and I rushed out to see my mom, and the newborn baby that was Kirsten, my sister. Being only 5, I couldn't have anticipated the change from beloved only child to responsible older sister, and I certainly couldn't have predicted that the bunting bag would hold a life-long friend. 

I don't remember much of the first few years after her arrival. I was no longer the centre of attention and she was too young to play with but I think I cheerfully accepted this. 

On her first birthday Dad and I were in charge of the icing for her cake. A little of this colour, a little of that, and it was a murky black - not a crisp penguin black, but more like a nasty bruise.  I recall another incident when she was around 3. We were in the bath and I convinced her that the bar of soap was white chocolate. She sunk her teeth into the glistening white bar and then howled, bubbles coming out of her mouth like a rabid dog. I had learned from the best - my father was always pulling some sort of trick on one of us, even the pets didn't escape his wicked sense of humour. Looking back it seems I may have had a mean streak!

You would think that Kirsten would be less trusting of me after that, but she was a sweet soul. When we had ice cream cones, I'd greedily finish mine and then suggest to Kirsten that we play that I was her dog. Of course she'd feed me licks of her melting treat. She had a pink 'blankie' that went to bed with her every night. When she was 5, I convinced her to cut it up to make blankets for the Barbie house we were building out of cardboard boxes. She complied, but at bedtime realized what had been done. This time there were no soap bubbles coming out of her mouth, but she was no less mad! I teamed up with my dad to tease and harass. 'Monkey Bean' and 'Kirsten Jean Jellybean' were favourite taunts. We felt that somehow all this teasing would make her stronger and better able to fare on the playground. I think she'd tell you that it had the opposite effect. 

Those years have long past and as proof of the strength of family bonds we are good friends. The best kind of friend: one that has shared a lifetime of experience.

My next sibling was announced as we sat around the dinner table celebrating my father's birthday. Mom handed him a card signed from his new son or daughter. We sat in stunned silence until the good news sunk in. I was excited about having a baby brother or sister. Olaf arrived in September 1976, 2 days before my 14th birthday. 

We heard about the upcoming arrival of my youngest brother, Graham, while we were sailing on the Ottawa river. After all the diaper changing we had already done Kirsten and I might not have been thrilled to hear the news. He was born 1 1/2 years after Olaf when I was 15 1/2. We loved him instantly. Our family was complete.

Olaf and Graham gave me plenty of practice changing diapers and walking the floor in the middle of the night with a colicky baby, but they soon grew out of that and became charming little boys. I loved to dress them up in cute outfits and take them on outings, sometimes in the stroller and often on the bus. They were adorable, the centre of attention wherever they were. Unfortunately my family moved away when I was 19 so I missed their growing up years. Of course we visited and there were times when they came to visit me in my various apartments, but those times were few and far between. I do recall one time bringing Olaf to Ottawa from Kingston on the back of my motorcycle - he would have been 6 or 7! A few times they had to come to work with me while they were visiting. They'd sit quietly with crayons colouring on the back of computer listings. Co-workers would drop by to entertain them with ascii art and other incredible sights. I still have a crayon drawing of the CN tower drawn by Olaf.

Kirsten, with her husband, Shawn, and daughters, Shenna and Nissa, moved to New Zealand in 2003. We don't get to visit very often - 4 years was the longest stretch (so far). Olaf and his wife, Tammy, followed in 2009. They had a daughter in New Zealand in 2012 - I've only seen Freya a few times. I miss them all terribly. My heart aches from missing the girls' growing up years. Phone calls are good but no substitute for being there. 

Graham has two kids, Erik and Juliette, and lives in Ottawa so we visit frequently. My youngest brother shares a bipolar diagnosis ensuring that we have a special relationship.  

I am lucky to have a warm and loving relationship will all my siblings, thanks in no small part to the influence of my parents. 


"People talk about the happy quiet that can exist between two loves, but this, too, was great; sitting between his sister and his brother, saying nothing, eating. Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel -- before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been. Looking at them both now, Jerome found himself in their finger joints and neat conch ears, in their long legs and wild curls. He heard himself in their partial lisps caused by puffy tongues vibrating against slightly noticeable buckteeth. He did not consider if or how or why he loved them. They were just love: they were the first evidence he ever had of love, and they would be the last confirmation of love when everything else fell away." ~Zadie Smith

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

damn bugs

The weather turned nice today giving us a chance to get patio furniture (including my swing - boo hoo) and other odds and sods safely stowed for winter. The sun's warmth triggered a reemergence of those DAMN Asian beetles which took a few opportunities when my hands were otherwise occupied to gnaw on me,  leaving me with several itchy but sore swollen spots on my neck, chest and back. I am miserable and now have an even stronger aversion to the werewolves disguised by pretty red shells.

Did you watch the election? It is pretty clear that the country wants a change, so let's all keep our fingers crossed that it is a good one.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  ~Albert Einstein

Monday, October 19, 2015

let it rain

Everything was frosted with a heavy white glaze this morning. No, not snow. Just plain old plant killing frost, the kind that turns the impatiens to mush. It isn't without beauty, if you get on your knees and look closely at the grass and clover they are adorned with tiny crystals. It is even prettier when the sun lights it up (which it was doing this morning).

Despite the cold, or perhaps because if it, the dogs went crazy. They ran and ran, even Kabira who still had her pajamas on. Spike pounded down the driveway and around the apple trees in a perfect suspended gallop, quite a feat for a dog with no greyhound in his background. Eighteen days worth of constrained leash walks powered their exuberance as they raced into the hay field and did laps in the centre.

Monday's are 'creative writing workshop' day so I chugged a cup of coffee and made myself barely presentable. I wasn't sure how the class would pan out - what would it be like to have my story critiqued? Would my feelings be so hurt that I'd cry? I'd already told myself that I'm doing this to learn, not to already be good (if you know what I mean). I find it hard not to be really good at something - most of the things that I've done in my life I've had an aptitude for, so it's been easy to excel and haven't had to try very hard. Horseback riding was not one of those easy things, nor is writing. Writing is hard for me, although it has gotten easier over the almost FIVE years that I've been writing my blog - that's a lot of practice!

It wasn't hard at all. The critiques were well balanced with comments on what was good about the story so I didn't feel overwhelmed or picked on. Instead I felt encouraged to try different things. The next assignment involves dialogue - that is totally outside my realm… gulp.

When I got home I tried to avert my eyes from the piles of stuff in the front hall, and the table in the great room. Imagine an 8' long harvest table piled with everything that you'd need to live with. Well, not everything, there is still plenty of stuff left in the camper… cans and boxes of food, spices, bags of stuff from the bathroom… it is all piled high on the table and somewhere, somehow, it has to be put away till the spring. When I walk past I try to dim my eyes and not see it - I'm not ready.

Usually chaos or mess disturbs me and may even cause a mood shift. I read some previous blog posts from this time of year and it is clear that I was entering winter from a bad place. This year is different though - I still have the same calm contentment that I did during the last 2 months of camping. I'm not bothered by the table's 'bounty'. This year is going to be different.

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, October 18, 2015

from which to look ahead

Done, and just a little too late! I turned on the tap this morning and when nothing came out knew that it had gotten cold overnight. Sure enough the hose was frozen solid. Luckily, we always travel with at least 1/3 tank of water so I just had to flip the switch on the water pump and the water was flowing.

The dogs leapt at the end of the leashes - if they were horses we'd call them 'fresh'. It was amazing that I didn't get my shoulder dislocated… inside for a hot coffee, and then 'lets get this show on the road'. We didn't dawdle getting packed up and were home by 12:30pm - with flakes of snow flying. Burrr. Together, we worked hard at getting all the food and freezable things off-loaded so we wouldn't have to run the heat overnight. We even got it fully winterized.

As soon as we got home Carm got the furnace going and started a fire. The house was only 11C/52F! I turned the furnace on in the camper and kept Grace by one of the vents so she was toasty, but the dogs shivered.

So that's that. Six months is looking a long way from here, but I have to focus on other things or I'll drive myself into a funk, and that is not a good way to start winter.

An ending like this calls for a bottle of bubbles to celebrate the months that have past, but also to celebrate the months that are yet to come.  Life is good!

A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”  ~Graham Greene

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Snow drifts on my shoulders

Rain, snow, sleet, ice pellets, bright autumn sun... WIND. Our final day of camping has us grabbing fleece vests and sweaters to keep warm when we venture beyond the toasty warm inside (can't be freezing Grace!). It is cccooolllddd. I suppose it is nothing compared to what we'll be faced with in a month or so…

The campground filled up yesterday - people with kids camping in hybrids (tent ends for the beds), a little a-liner, and numerous trailers, 5th wheels (which is what ours is), fancy class a's and c's (google it) occupy the park. Many of them can be seen shivering in winter coats & hats, their chairs pulled up close to a campfire. Sorry. I'm not THAT into a campfire that I want to freeze my $$$ off! I'll cuddle on the sofa with Carm, Spike between us (he always seems to be there), and listen to music, read, or, write.

I am happy.

Most of the time.

It is our last day before reality befalls.

I'm trying not to think about it but the fact niggles into my brain, tweaking the unhappy chord. (Kabira is having a bad dream too - maybe she's thinking that it will be over as well. Or maybe she's dreaming that camping will never end!). We've made a pact that we will get out more this winter and do more things. Museums, movies, meeting up with friends will fill up the long hours. Of course it is easy to think these things when the roads aren't covered in a white, ice sheath.

With all the precipitation the roads were back to being muddy. 12 paws splashing through muck = 3 baths… so… we took the easy way out and loaded them into the truck for a drive to one of the group areas. A grassy field is nicer to walk through than a 'puddle dotted not much gravel' road - even when the wind was whipping at our faces and hands. There are several ancient apple trees that bear beautiful apples - large, red ones with a tart, crisp 'bite'. Carm picked a few while I did a few circuits of the area with the dogs. It wasn't a long walk but at least we all got to feel the wind tear at our hair.

I wonder what I'll make with those apples?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sunshine on my shoulders

We started out on our walk this afternoon under leaden skies. There was a cool breeze, but we were all happy to be enjoying a walk. Heading east I was surprised when I felt a warm sun on my shoulders. Spirits rose. Sun! It played hide and seek behind the clouds, teasing us with its golden rays. We walked to group camp 'a' where we had let the dogs out yesterday. They strained at their leashes as we got close - no one can say that dogs are dumb. A click of the leash and dash away, dash away, run all you can. Of course I had treats in my pocket so we played come and get a treat and then you can play some more ;-)

The group camping area is like a Turner painting. River in the background. A carpet of short grass is shaded by majestic maples, their autumn crowns golden far above the ground. The scene calls out for a picnic blanket set with a bottle of wine, cheese and crusty bread. The man should be in a dapper jacket with white shirt and brown pants. The woman would wear a long white dress trimmed with lace. She'd have a sun hat with a wide pale blue ribbon that she would casually toss to the side.

Once the dogs had run themselves tired we continued on down the shore to the next camping area. From there we got on the road that led further east. We hit the end of the island and turned around to come back to camp. We saw a deer that was about 50yds away from us. We all stood stock still sizing each other up until she decided she'd skidadle. Hang on tight - that was high on the excitement level for the mutts.

When we got back I started emptying cupboards and other storage spots as I had bought a new frying pan (which will replace 3 that I already have) and wouldn't you know it, it just doesn't fit in the oven like the others do. Darn handle is too long and Carm refuses to saw it shorter! So I did the shuffle and found a place for it. The good news is that a big pile of heavy stuff will leave the camper when we get home.

Last night was WILD. The wind thrashed the sides of the camper, driving the cold rain against the windows. We pulled all the blinds and closed the curtains against the fury. I kept checking the radar hoping to see an end to the rain before it was time to take the dogs out, but no, it didn't seem like it would end. Just in time the rain let up enough for us to go. I put on my rubber boots and my wind breaker. I leashed the dogs. I opened the door and holding on to it so it didn't smash against the camper I climbed down the steps. The dogs stood at the top and braced themselves against my downward pull. They were aghast that I would even suggest they leave the comfort of their beds to venture into the maelstrom. I called Carm and he got behind them to push, while I pulled. Whoosh. Down the steps they came. We (quickly) trudged to the edge of the road and they (quickly) did what they had to do. There was no way they were going to agree to a longer walk so we dashed inside - where we were snug as bugs in rugs.

Facebook has this 'thing' where it shows  you your posts from years past on today's date. My posts are generally my blog and today there were two of them. I read them both and wasn't surprised to see what was in them. We were camping at the Bird Sanctuary and getting close to the last day of camping for both posts. There was the usual lament about winter as well as the enjoyment of being outdoors. This year the weather has been colder so indoors will be the favored place! Still, the walking is the same and is lovely. It seems that for one of the years I found the perfect quote for these last few days so I'll do a repeat and include it a second time.

"And now, my poor old woman, why are you crying so bitterly? It is autumn. The leaves are falling from the trees like burning tears- the wind howls. Why must you mimic them?" ~Mervyn Peake

Thursday, October 15, 2015

down came the rain and washed the spider out

Cracks of thunder, rain, and for a little while, hail, have curtailed our plans to watch a movie tonight. Crack might not be the right word to describe the frequent explosions that we are hearing. Lightning is flashing, the momentary brightness disclosing things that were lost to the darkness. Yee Haw.

I gotta say though - I am SO grateful that none of the pets are worried. They are asleep in their various beds, occasionally looking to us for guidance when there is a really loud boom. Years ago we had a dog, Chetta, who was terrified of storms and would hide herself in the far depths of the basement. We lost her in the woods one time during some fireworks (we found her the next morning). She wouldn't be happy in the limited confines of the villetta.

"Take me out to the ball game". We turned on the TV last night in time to watch the last three innings of the Blue Jays game… yawn… but wait! It was perhaps the most exciting innings of baseball that I'd ever seen. Go Jays!

It's Thursday so it must be writing group. Carm drove me back home so that I wouldn't miss the meeting and while I had a great time, he checked on the house and readied a few things for winter. It wasn't a big sacrifice to be away from the camp today as the weather was brrrr. Blustery with leaves falling everywhere, the wind threatened to knock me over when I took the dogs for their afternoon walk. We walked quickly to keep warm.

We didn't see any deer today but we did see 3 piles of 'scat' that looked to be from one or more coyotes. I hoped that they were a long way from where we were, and thought back to the nights when I take the dogs out myself in the pitch dark. I have no doubt that they would scare ONE off, but what if it was a pack? Kabira would have to morph from an African Lion Hunting Dog to an Ontario Coyote Hunting Dog. The poodles already think they are tough and would be the first to raise their dukes.

"We all have life storms, and when we get the rough times and we recover from them, we should celebrate that we got through it. No matter how bad it may seem, there's always something beautiful that you can find."  ~Mattie Stepanek

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

halfway there

North or South? Or should I straddle the line and call it a tie? From where I stood the arrow divided me in half but it would have been easy to take a half step either way. Have I gone completely mad? (I was already partway there) Actually we were standing at the plaque that marked the divide between the north half and the south half of the northern hemisphere - we were at the 45th parallel.

It is another blustery day that requires windbreakers and sweaters - we'd walked Morrison Island yesterday so we decided to take a drive so we could walk the dogs somewhere different. The Long Sault Parkway has a few campgrounds (closed this time of year) as well as other walkable paths so we headed there. Our decision was helped along due to the proximity of a grocery store - need more brussels sprouts for our thanksgiving leftovers!

The trees were spectacular in their crimson and gold robes, the wind was whipping, and the clouds raced across the sky. Invigorating! We found a good place to park and started walking till a monument in the middle of a field attracted our attention. The ankle length grass was green and wet, but didn't impede our progress. Dogs tugged at their leashes eager for us to hurry up - where, they didn't know, they just wanted us to hurry. The waist height stone base had two brass plaques attached: the one at the front proclaimed the importance of the spot, another was mounted flat on the top and had a long line to delineate the two halves of our hemisphere.

We thought it funny that a monument had been erected in this obscure location where hardly anyone would see it. There was no parking nearby for tour busses nor did public transportation pass that way. In fact, it was on a little road, a track really, which came off the parkway road which ran parallel to a local highway which ran parallel to the 401. I got it wrong - it wasn't 'on' the track, it was perhaps 150 feet from the track and so on…

Who knows where a drive in the country will take us!

Last night we switched on the fireplace/heater and cuddled up to watch 'Hector and his search for happiness'. It turned out to be a sweet movie with good reminders about what happiness is. I need sticky notes for the rough times.

"Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too."  ~Yogi Berra

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

marvelous night for a moondance

The dogs woke me up this morning and I cursed them for wanting out so early, it was still almost dark for heaven's sake… rolled over to look at the clock: 8:45. Oh. Not so early after all, but that didn't explain the murk. A peek out the window in the hallway confirmed what I already suspected - the sky was laden with thick, leaden clouds, and they were dripping a drizzle of rain.

I got dressed and grabbed a windbreaker; it wasn't cold out so I didn't need a sweater as well. This is a lovely park and we have fantastic views of the water from our site, but, it is a long long way to business area, it's a long long way home. It is what it is… we were home 25 minutes later and all needed 'the towel'.

Normally we putz about on our tablets reading or writing for a good part of the morning, but today? We were antsy and wanted to be outside. Psychological! Our neighbors (Rochelle and Leo) came by for a coffee after Carm helped them with their hot water problem, then we putzed around more.

Wait! The sun! Oh glorious sun! We dashed out of the camper and with leashed dogs went for a long walk. A bonus for the dogs involved some off-leash play-time in the secret park on the other island. Tongues lolling they walked happily beside us as we rushed back to the camper to avoid another band of bad weather.

And such is life in the autumn. Rain, sun, blustery winds, beautiful blue skies are the backdrop to the trees dropping sorrowful teardrops on our heads.

It's a lot of words to say: dark when I got up, walked dogs in rain, sat around inside, visit with people, sit around some more, sun came out, went for walk...

This verse is in memory of one of yesterday's pleasures: it was a fantabulous night last night sitting by a small campfire, waiting for the coals to be just right for toasted marshmallows, gazing into the heavens and treasuring every second of life. (although to be clear: there was no romance - in the basest sense of the word - under the skies!)

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
’Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heartstrings that play soft and low...
~Van Morrison, "Moondance," recorded 1969

Monday, October 12, 2015

New backyard

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday evening with a traditional dinner. I cooked 1/2 turkey breast and sweet potatoes in the crockpot. The brussels sprouts were done in the microwave, as were the scalloped potatoes (which I will admit to having cheated with a box). I set the table with an off-white cut lace tablecloth, silver and gold patterened cloth napkins, our best camper 'crystal', silver cutlery. We had flickering candles and classical music playing softly in the background. We talked about thanksgivings in the past and gave thanks for all that we have and are. There was lots to be thankful for.

Today was moving day. Our backyard moved from Riverside to the Bird Sanctuary where we will have our final days before the long winter. Last year we had a fantastic day for the move and I think we were in shorts and sandals. This year was just as nice - we didn't change out of our long pants, but should have, at least for the walk across the causeway and onto the other island. Spectacular! 26C!!!

The weather for the next few days looks pitiful so we'll have to find out rainy day outings to amuse ourselves with. Somehow, we'll survive ;-)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lazy contentment

Saturday was pretty much a write-off for me, that is if you think of doing nothing but lazing around as a wasted day. It was sunny here, but cool with a gusty breeze. Carm left before 7am for a bridge tournament - he and his friend Bruce enter every year - leaving me alone for the day.

I'm sure everyone knows that a bit of time alone is a good thing. I slept in, then took the dogs for a short walk. I nestled on the sofa with Spike and a coffee, loathe to do much else. I didn't read nor did I write - my brain seemed to have hitched a ride away with Carm. Instead, I surfed the internet, looking at this and that, but nothing of any importance. We (dogs and I, too cold for Grace) sat outside in the sun for a while, we (same we) went for a walk a few times. We all listened to music and once it got dark I turned on the tv and watched an inane but sweet movie called 'Enchanted'. It was pretty much a wasted day, but a good one.

Every time I am stuck inside the camper I grow to love it more. Everything about it is pleasing to my eye and the space fits me like a glove. On a cold day the electric fireplaces adds more than warmth, the flickering of the fake flames adds a golden visual warmth. Kabira likes to curl up in front of it - dog in front of hearth is quintessentially home.

Carm got home around 8:30 with tales of bridge and their first place win. The dogs and I were outside for the bedtime out when the rumble of the diesel truck engine alerted us to his arrival. The dogs dragged me down the road for a family re-unite.

This morning we had another adventure in the land of everything junk. I wandered among the tables and what did my wondering eyes see? A thick wool blanket that would be good for Grace's inside or outside cage. I kept looking and found a silver tray that will fit two of my candles and another dish for another candle. I'd been looking for something. Nothing had a price, so with finds gathered into my arms I approached the vendor. "$5", "and what about for this?", "$5 for everything.". SOLD!

Since we left on our Presquile trip in the middle of August, I have had day after day of contentment. Just simple serenity, not a wild euphoric high. The ups and downs that normally affect me have been noticeably absent with just a few niggly exceptions. I'm trying to memorize this so that, hopefully, I can recall this feeling when things go bad again.

Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”   ~Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dark day of autumn rain

Thursday (yesterday) we drove back home so that I wouldn't miss my writing group meeting. I read a story about what our work days were like with taking care of parrots and horses. I wasn't happy with it, and after Carm read it for me I was even less happy as we had different memories about how our day went. He remembers doing the chores that I recall doing. How could our memories of something that we did day in and day out for years be so different? Oh well. I read it anyway and resolved to make a better effort for next week.  Carm had a more productive time at home - he did laundry, checked on the pool and other chores.

We were blessed with another beautiful afternoon once we returned to our villetta home. It wasn't very warm, but in the sun, and on site 212 with its special microclimate, we sat in short-sleeves, squinted our eyes and raised our faces to the sun. Each moment of sunshine is precious as we relentlessly march towards winter.

Many of the trees here have not started changing. There are a few spectacular ones but, unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me when we went for a walk yesterday. Today is grey and rainy with mucky roads so we won't be venturing very far on foot. I brought my small camera with me when we went into Morrisburg for lunch so was able to get a photo of the most spectacular one.

My pleasure for today? Getting the makings of a soup into the crockpot by noon. It will simmer all day, fragrant aromas of curry and sage pushing away the cold gloom. The fireplace flickering and a pot on the "stove" makes me feel warm all over.

"My sorrow, when she's here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane."  ~Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Alien Invasion

The invasion of alien Asian Beetles began today. Their orange Volkswagen Beetle shaped bodies fly awkwardly through the air in their quest to find somewhere warm. With the sun shining on the side of the camper, we are their destination. Thousands of them crawl over the surface, looking for any nook or cranny they can fit into. Surprisingly, they squeeze themselves through gaps in the door and windows to find refuge inside. Ugh. They march across the ceiling and walls, congregating in spots of unknown desirability. Did I mention that they bite? And that they stink if touched. Ugh.

Yesterday was grey with a bit of a breeze, but no rain in the forecast. It didn't seem like the ideal day for sitting around outside so we decided to drive to Lancaster to the Rob McIntosh factory outlet. We took the scenic route along #2, the windy windy road (breezy, curvy) following the shoreline of the St. Lawerence River. I found some deals at RobM but wasn't tripping over them, still, I got what I wanted along with a few other small gifts which made the trip worthwhile.

Today we were actually able to sit outside for a while after we got back from our walk. Oh, and after we dremeled the dogs' nails - a job of epic struggle with the need for two people. I hope the dogs get used to this procedure. I'm trying to get the nails to shorten up a lot so am aggressive with the dremel, once the nails stop clicking I will be able to ease up a bit.

At the grocery store today I broke my no-meat rule and bought 1/2 a turkey breast to cook for Thanksgiving. I'll cook it in the crockpot along with some sweet potato. We'll get some brussels sprouts, and I have a box of scalloped potatoes. I'll make an apple crisp and we'll have a bottle of bubbles. Maybe we'll even have a campfire.

"With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things." ~William Wordsworth

Monday, October 5, 2015

Writing friends and workshop

A jumble of objects both shiny and dull lay on the tables and shelves all around us. Every surface was crammed with objects that, depending on your state of mind, were either treasure or garbage. I looked out the window to confirm that we were above ground - the musty smell of basement was starting to overpower my nostrils. My headache started. I was looking for something specific and my eyes grew tired from scanning the thousands, no tens of thousands, of goods (good might be the wrong word as most everything was bad). Broken dolls, plastic doodads, odd pieces of glass and pottery, and old rusty tools distracted my eyes. I finally gave up and left the flea market empty handed.

Once we got back to camp we leashed up the dogs for a walk. As we were nearing the registration office a trailer pulled up and two people got out. "Della?"… the woman turned around. Yes! It was Della from writing group, with her husband Keith. We chatted for a while and made plans to get together later in the day. I dusted and vacuumed and tidied to ready our little home for our guests. Conversation started slowly as we got the 'feel' for each other, and soon we were chatting away happily. Before we knew it the evening had passed and it was time to part ways. But not without making plans for the next evening.

Gosh, the fun doesn't end! Today we drove back to the village so that I could take the first day of the Creative Writing Workshop that Don, from the writing group, is putting on. I'm excited to take my writing in a different direction, plus part of the workshop is getting a critique from the other participants. Finally I will feel that I'm not writing in a vacuum.

My pleasure today is standing outside in my shirtsleeves. It wasn't sunny, nor was it particularly warm, but it was still t-shirt weather! (well... I may be stretching it a bit... I had just taken my coat off after a long walk...)

So there you have it - two full days of activity and socializing - it doesn't get much better than this :-)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Friendly Feed Store

We celebrated Vashek's birthday on Friday night at, (guess where), Sol d' Acapulco which is just down the road from where we are camping. For a few years now this has been the place that we celebrate with our neighbor friends. They had been going here for years before we joined the gang - it is a second home of sorts, where we are comfortable and made to feel welcome.

It was dark and windy when we got back from dinner. The dogs dragged us around as they did what they had to do. It was ever so slightly miserable, in fact, I didn't even look up into the sky so don't know if it was cloudy or clear. The camper stayed a bit warmer overnight, perhaps helped by not having the vent over the bed wide open! It was a balmy 64F this morning, in contrast to yesterday's 56F :-0

After a quick walk for the dogs and a guzzled cup of coffee for me, we decided to go for a drive. The dogs went to the bedroom where they enjoyed music and we put on our coats and drove to the golf course for breakfast. After hemming and hawing over a few destinations we decided on Iroquois to pick up the bag of dog food I ordered. First we'd pick up the dogs and go for a walk by the locks.

The wind nearly knocked us off our feet at the locks. The parking lot is high and the wind was funneling straight down the river. That didn't stop the dogs from taking us on a fast paced walk along the lock area and around the block, past the old cemetery, down a muddy road, and finally back to the truck. Whew - not sure if my legs would have moved any faster.

After the walk we went to Rooney's Feed to pick up our food. The owner, Spencer, gave a hearty greeting and we launched into a long talk about raw feeding. It turns out that Holly, our neighbor, worked for him ages ago so we had a common ground. As he showed us around his shop he grabbed a bottle of some potion and asked if we had any arthritis. "no, but my Dad does.". He shoved the bottle into my hand as a gift, asking only that we come back next summer to let him know if it helped. We saw a stainless steel pig waterer that screws onto a hose bib - he uses one for his dogs, and other strange and wonderful things.  

Eventually a rack of dog beds dominated the aisle. "Thirty percent off today" he offered in his deep, gravelly voice. Of course we can't pass up a good deal and came home with a giant one (which isn't actually giant enough - we'll have to make a trade for two smaller ones to make the length we need). I saw some antlers packaged up and asked if there was a deal on those too. "$10.00". I'll take two. We talked some more and he shoved another bottle into my hand. "Here, take this. It will be good if one of your dogs gets an injury." Our arms were stacked with goods when we left. Oh, we had the dog food too... and smiles on our faces.

"That had always been the beauty of the wind. It could only be seen through its actions, its effect on others. A gentle reminder that reality does not only exist in the seeable, the palpable, the understandable, but also in the figments and daydreams, the steadfast beliefs and unexplainable uncertainties. Reality is seen and yet unseen. Wholly and absolutely relative. The wind had taught him that.”  ~Kelseyleigh Reber

Friday, October 2, 2015

a curse or a blessing - it depends

What was a curse in the summer was a blessing yesterday. I don't know if you remember, but in July we came to Riverside for a week long camp and instead of being on our favorite summer site, we were on 212, the site we prefer for spring and summer. 212 sits on a bit of a sandy hill, an oversize anthill really; the camper sits with its long side facing south with no trees to cast any shade. In the summer we cursed its heat-sink sandiness and brazen outlook to the sun. It was hot here, meltingly hot, frazzling hot, sun-burning hot.

We arrived here yesterday on a sunny but slightly cool day. We soon had our sweaters off as we putzed around the  site setting up our temporary home. Shoes and socks came off to be replaced with sandals. Passers-by may have looked askance at us, wondering how we could be in t-shirts while they froze in bulky sweaters down the hill. When done with homemaking, we settled into our chairs and lifted our faces to the sun. We felt blessed, and hoped that our good luck will hold out.

Last night was another matter. We had all the curtains tightly closed to shelter us from the cold night. The fireplace flickered. The dogs were bundled in fleece outfits, high necks and front sleeves to keep them warm. I had a sweater on. It was cosy and we felt cocooned from the world. When the dogs and I bustled outside at bedtime the air was crisp and clear. I lifted my face to the sky but instead of one bold sun warming my face, a million tiny suns warmed my soul. The milky way made a trail across the heavens. Stop, ponder, smile.

Today I have  a wonderment, which is a type of pleasure. I marvel at the huge colius, lush parsley, and fragrant sage that fills the pot brought in to protect it from the cold night air.  It is a miracle that we can take a tiny seed, plant it in the earth, and eventually harvest something good to eat. That brown dirt, which looks so common, can produce a flower of uncommon beauty. The earth nourishes us, our bodies and our souls, even if scooped into a pot.

"I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly -- or ever -- gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe."  ~Brian Greene