Saturday, November 28, 2009

I am having a great day!  I am loving this Saturday morning.  I’ve written a short story, I’ve talked to my sisters about New York and I wished my brother a happy birthday.  All before 11 o’clock.  The planets must be is alignment or something. 

I started my Christmas baking last weekend — made Boiled Raisin cookies.  This weekend I plan on making some shortbread.  Seriously, don’t know why I’m going to do all this baking — it’s just Tim and I.  Sigh.  Maybe we should plan a party and have a whole houseful of people.  Haven’t done that in ages.  It could be a lot of fun.  Usually is.  If I can stay organized I might just do it.

Thursday, I took my granddaughter to her Tae-Kwon-Do class.  She is four.  She is the only girl in the class.  There are 3 boys who make up the rest of the class. 

These kids are hilarious!  I had the best time watching them, took a bunch of pictures of Hailey in action.  I give such credit to their instructor because he has to have the patience of a saint.  When he says “Okay, turn in” (which means pay attention) and they continue to hop around on one foot and make faces at each other, and he repeats it two or three more times before they realize he’s talking to them and he still remains utterly calm I have nothing but admiration.  Their little voices yelling “yes, sir!” when he does get their attention is also hilarious, because they act so serious for about a split second and then they become four-year olds again and they’re just jumpin’ and bouncin’ and rarin’ to kick something, anything, but usually not in the way he’s shown them. 

Of course, I realize that he’s just familiarizing them with the concept of discipline that is required for a sport like Tae-Kwon-Do, and the sense of respect and seriousness that must be given to a teacher.  Still, to see these eager little people attacking the skills they’re being taught is pure delight. 

And, I am so proud of Hailey.  For four years old, she shines.

Just After Sunset, Stephen King

Just After Sunset is a collection of short stories SK wrote a couple of years ago.  I got the book last year, either for Christmas, birthday or Mother’s Day.  It’s a sad statement on how busy I’ve allowed myself to get that it takes me this long to get around to reading a book.  I think it’s only about the fourth book I’ve read this year.  Maybe fifth.  I used to read voraciously, one or two books a month.  (That’s voraciously for me.)  Now, if I manage to get 1/2 an hour a night before I go to sleep I’m accomplishing something. 

Anyway . . . whining about my poor time management skills isn’t what I started this post about.  It’s supposed to be about Just After Sunset. 

In the preface SK says he wrote these stories after being asked to judge a short story contest.  He says doing that re-awakened in him a desire to write short stories as he once had — with passion and a sense of urgency for getting the story told.  In his younger days, when writing meant feeding the kids or putting gas in the car, short stories were his stock and trade.  They paid the rent while he was working on the big stuff. 

I can remember literally devouring his collections of stories when I got my hands on them.  They were like a special treat and I would read them like I would occasionally binge on chocolate.  These days I don’t have time for binge-reading, and maybe that’ s a good thing.  I’ve also got a few years of University lit classes under my belt, so I’ve got a somewhat more refined skill-set in use when I’m reading now. 

When I used to read, I read strictly for pleasure, now I read with a more critical eye — I’m looking for plot, construction, reference, tone — all the boring stuff they teach you about in school, or try to at least.  I’m just lucky enough, or geeky enough — have it your way — to find that stuff not boring at all, but fascinating.  And when I’ve applied my newly acquired critical eye to a few of Stephen’s latest books I’ve come away a tad disappointed.  They all seemed to be lacking something, seem to be forced in some way that when I finished I felt a little sad, a little disappointed, because the man seemed to have lost his way.  But I’m a devoted fan, so I’ve hung in there, waiting.   Hoping. Praying he’d get the ‘feel’ back. 

Well, I think he has.  Just After Sunset is a fun read.  The stories roar along like a freight train and when I’m reading them I’m gone.  That’s what SK used to do for me, he’d transport me right the hell out of where ever I was, and take me on crazy ride.  I’d be jammed into some small compartment with people I didn’t know, some of whom I really came to care about, others whom I wanted to hide from, others whom I’d weep over as they fell or were pushed from the open doors of the speeding cars.  And to come back from that ride was agony, all I wanted to do was stay there and see it through to the journey’s end.  And when the book was finished?  I felt the way you do when you just don’t want to leave the party even though you know it’s over, that the door is closing, you’re waving goodbye, but you wish, real hard that the host will say: “Aww, what the hell!  Let’s keep’er going!”  And I’d put the book away on my bookshelf with my growing collection of Stephen King’s books and I’d start waiting, right there, right then, for his next one to appear.

Of course, I’m reading this one a story at a time, a few pages at a time.  The cool thing is, I can’t wait to get back to it every evening before I turn in for the night.  The other cool thing, my critical eye hasn’t found anything to bitch about.  So far, it’s all good. 

This was taken in August this year. We were on our motorcycle trip out East and back and we swung into Maine, well, because we were THAT close and I just had to do the dopey fan thing and go see where Stephen King lives. I was too chicken to go and knock on the door, although the gate was open and there were cars in the driveway. I'm guessing it was just groundskeepers and housekeepers -- Mr. King was probably in Florida. Still, it was a great big thrill.

The Horse Whisperer

I finished The Horse Whisperer.  I really enjoyed re-reading this story, but in the second reading I came away with a feeling that the whole story seemed to end before Tom and Annie consummate their love.  Once they’re together the whole thing is pretty anti-climactic.  The love-making is clichéd, and you can see the end coming from a Montana-mile away.  The most important character in the story, Grace, gets short shrift, and to kind of make up for it, I suppose, Evans turns her into a female version of Tom.  This is an amazing transformation for a fifteen-year old who has suffered unbelievable physical and emotional trauma.  Even Pilgrim, Graces’ badly maimed and brutalized horse, is miraculously cured and becomes himself again, although with a few scars that make him even more handsome than he was before. 

This is a book to read once, in my opinion.  A great summer or Christmas break read — you’ll cry, and then you’ll want to run out and fall in love with a cowboy and buy a horse.

some thoughts. . .

I try, these days, to live as environmentally, and globally conscious as I possibly can.  I think — a lot — about things before I buy them.  How much energy will they use?  How and where were they made?  Are they sustainable?  How much garbage will I be contributing to the landfill when I’m done with said item?  Can that garbage be gotten rid of here or will it wind up clogging some third world country’s landscape?  Will it be dumped in our oceans?  The list of questions I can ask myself is absurd.

Thirty years ago I would not have been asking myself such questions.  Thirty years ago it was all about self-gratification and never a thought to the impact my actions might have on the world.  Now, I know, from having taken a sociology and psychology course or two, that this introspective thinking I currently engage in is a natural progression.  As I grow older, I grow more contemplative, have greater awareness of the impact of my existence and begin to question the ‘why’ of life.  I think this makes me a much more interesting person than I was thirty years ago, but as I age and as I continue on this path of responsible living I sometimes wonder if I’m going to turn in to that old woman we’ve all seen with the yard full of bleach-bottle whirligigs, painted rocks and tin can mobiles hanging from the branches of the trees in her yard.  Will I do my dishes in old dish pan and then carry the water out to pour on my garden?  (Wait a minute!  I’ve already contemplated doing that!)  Surely that’s not a bad thing?  Why then is it that I feel rather geeky admitting that I would do that?  Saving water is something we should all take very seriously.  And yet. . .

isn’t the water we’re using the same water the planet’s had for millenia?  I’ve heard the world doesn’t ever create more water, it just constantly recycles what there is.  So, how can we be running out?  Especially with the glaciers, icebergs and polar ice-caps melting at the rate they are.  We’re more in danger of being flooded out than dried out, I’d think. 

Yes, I’m being facetious.  I’m really quite worried about our water supply and I do all sorts of things that I won’t bother getting into in order to save as much water as possible in my daily life. 

Now, I’m going to talk about something else that I think is quite important.  Deodorant.  Yes, that’s right, deodorant.  I think deodorant is probably one of mankind’s greatest inventions.  But. . . about 2 years ago I started looking for alternatives to the traditional deodorants I’ve been using since I was a kid.  No more Alzheimer causing deodorants for me!  I’ve tried quite a few different ones but nothing ever really truly measured up to what I was used to.  One thing I’m really conscious of is body odour, and I would be mortified to think I stink.  Anyway, I’ve found this great product from a company called Saje.  It’s called Natural Wellness Crystal Fresh Deodorant.  And it really works!  The ingredients in this deodorant are:  Liquid mineral salts, and essential oils.  The one I’m using right now has lavender, sandalwood and patchouli.  The company is based in Delta, BC, so I even feel great about supporting a product made in Canada.  Even greater is the fact that they don’t overpackage.  There are no extra boxes, plastic wrap or bags to throw away after you’ve made your purchase.  You simply take your bottle or tube or what have you, pay for it and away you go.  I love it; it’s simplicity and value and something that is good for you. 

I just wanted to share all that with you.  And I want you to try Saje deodorant.  Trust me, you’ll like it.

Here’s a link to their site:  http://www.saje.ca

Monday Morning

It’s back to work after a wonderfully relaxing weekend. 

Our friends, Muryl and Shelley introduced us to Geo-caching this weekend.  What a lot of fun!  A great way to get some exercise while familiarizing yourself with the place you live in and the surrounding countryside (or city-side if you’re a city dweller.)  I think it could become quite an addictive little hobby.  I just may have to seriously consider pursuing it.  With winter coming on, though (maybe), I will probably wait til Spring.  I’ve been thinking of all kinds of ways you could incorporate geo-caching into your other activities.  Would love to get Timothy and Hailey involved.  I think they’d have a blast.

As I said in the opener of this blog, I had  a nice, relaxing weekend.  Started a new book — a collection of Stephen King short stories called Just After Sunset.  So far, it’s vintage.  Loving it!  Also got working on my photos; trying to learn Photoshop.  Am I the only person who thinks Photoshop is difficult to use?  I struggle all the time.  I guess I’m going to have to find a course or class somewhere to get some help, because right now I’m about ready to pitch it.

Well, I hope everyone has a great day, a great week.  Talk to you soon.

Saturday, November 14th

Well, made it out of Friday the 13th unscathed!

Actually, I had a pretty good day.  Got to go look after my grandchildren last night.  That was a treat.  God, they make me smile!  Baby Ethan reminds me of his dad so much.  He’s got such a serious little look on his tiny face, like he’s just taking it all in, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll let you know what he thinks a little later on.  Can’t wait til he’s walkin’ and talkin’!

Today, I’m spending the day cleaning house and doing a bit of writing.  I’ve got quite a few things to work on — a short story, a couple of children’s stories, some poetry, a couple of essays and of course, the ever continuing list of ideas that I never seem to get around to.  But I’m sooo happy to be able to spend today and tomorrow just dabbling away at what moves me.  A rare opportunity.

Christmas is coming fast!  Last night we were talking Christmas day plans with Landon and Jenn.  I can’t believe it’s that time already.  They’re excited to spend their first Christmas as a family in their first home — and I’m just as excited for them.  That’s such a wonderful feeling, that little cocoon you make around yourself and your child(ren), it’s a place where nobody else can come, where you truly come to appreciate what you have created.  Now I’m getting all sentimental, so I’ll stop.  But it is a rare and wonderful thing.

I’m getting used to the idea of Christmases spent mainly with just Tim and I.  A few years ago I’d have been crippled with self-pity, but I’ve finally accepted this change in my life, and even embrace it.  Although I do sometimes long for the days of noisy Christmas mornings, kids laughing and crying, adults getting into the ‘nog a little too early and turkey dinner perpetually late, I can appreciate the quiet relaxation of a day spent leisurely reading, doing jigsaw puzzles and talking to loved ones and friends on the phone.  We’ll do Christmas morning/afternoon with Landon and his family and it will be perfect.  It really is so true: To everything there is a season.

Christmas cookies

Gingerbread decorated by little hands.

Remembrance Day, 2009

Peony

A peony from the Devonian Gardens outside Edmonton. (It reminds me of a poppy.)

Today we paused — briefly — to pay tribute to the men and women who have given selflessly of themselves to secure and uphold our rights and freedom.  I am glad for this opportunity, though it generally moves me to tears, and today I added an extra little ‘I am grateful for. . .’ in my daily affirmation of all that I am grateful for. 

Whenever I see the old, withered faces, the rheumy eyes, the trembling hands of old war veterans I can’t help imagining them as they once were — young, vital, full of hope and excitement for the lives that lay before them.  I know that not all of them endured the horrors of battle, some of these vets were lucky enough to have served at home, but they come from a time when the world was new to the wide-scale broadcast of the horrors that are done in the name of war.  They are icons of a time that is slipping away, remnants of a world where once innocence was naively considered the norm.  We now exist in a world where innocence is a fantasy, it having been mercilessly flayed to tatters by atrocity after atrocity.

And yet. . .

there is still this feeling, when we stop in our relentless pursuit of ‘our right to happiness’ on this one day each year, of deep and heartfelt gratitude that permeates the air and the airwaves.  I feel it as I sit in the crowded gymnasium of the school I work in and take part in our Remembrance Day ceremonies.  It’s there on the faces of the kids who go up to light a candle for grandfathers, fathers, uncles, aunts and siblings who have served, and are serving, our country. It’s there in the tears rolling down the cheeks of many in the audience as we watch and listen to “A Pittance of Time”.   And, again, it’s there in the nervous, eager faces of the kids performing their version of “In Flanders’ Fields”.   I treasure those moments, and am not embarrassed by the tears streaming down my cheeks.  I wish and wish and wish that no person should ever be harmed in warfare.  Call that folly, or naiveté, or just plain old bleeding heart romanticism, it doesn’t matter; it’s what I wish on this day. 

As an ironic aside — yesterday, the launch of the world’s bloodiest, most gory video game, Call of Duty something or other, took place.  People lined up for hours, some overnight in order to secure their copy.  Today, in Britain, the first Remembrance Day ceremony took place without any survivors from World War I.  Time marches on.  Sadly, those who, 91 years ago, lay in fox-holes running with mud and the blood and guts of their comrades, with the screams of the dead and dying in their ears, and made it possible for all those people to line up in the cold and buy that game so they could ‘play’ soldier, and perpetrate horrific acts of violence and bloodshed without having to risk a thing, will be forgotten.  The idiots who play these games can live securely and ignorantly, that right gained for them by the horrors endured by a generation gone before. 

I wish for all those who have won me the freedom to write as I do on this blog a day of peace.  Thank you for all you’ve sacrificed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nova Scotia Sunset

Nova Scotia Sunset

Well, it’s a new day, a new week, a new start.  I’m grateful that I am given this opportunity each and every day to start anew.  The past can cripple you if you let it.  I choose not to.  I choose to be happy everyday, or at least as happy as I can be (and we all know what a struggle it is sometimes to be happy). 

For me, I start my day with a walk at six in the morning with my friend, Heather.  Always, I am glad for her companionship, even though there are times when I am not glad to be walking that early in the morning.  Each morning, my gaze is drawn to the sky, and I’m awed by it.  Whether it is clear or cloudy, a full moon or no moon, the sky always has beauty to offer. 

The vastness of it, the bold colours, the very existence of it over my head instantly calms  me, makes me grateful for my tiny little speck of being.  Rather than making me feel insignificant, it does the opposite.  Standing under the blanket of an indigo sky, with stars blinking a millenia away I feel that my life does have meaning, that all that I have strived for is infinitely worth the struggle.  I say a little inward prayer, plant one foot firmly in front of the other, and begin to live all over again. 

Here’s to beautiful skies.

An Unseasonably Warm Saturday in November

Winter Trees

This is the magic kind of winter day I love.

It’s a gorgeous morning here in North-Central Alberta.  Hard to believe, actually, that it’s November.  A month ago I would have thought we’d be knee-deep in the white stuff and freezing our tushies off.  Not so.  Mother Nature has had a stroke I believe, or developed Alzheimer’s, because our weather is all out of balance and kind of making the rest of us that way, too.

The sad thing is, I like it this way.  I know that we need cold and snow and sub-zero temps to kill viruses, and bacteria and pine beetles, and that my darling perennials need deep-root sleep in order to thrive next spring, but I can’t help revelling in these schizophrenic times. 

I hate snow, unless it’s seen from inside, or it’s one of those fairytale days where the sun is shining like a gold coin in the bottom of shallow stream, and the temperature is barely below freezing.  Remember those days? 

Those were the days when you were a kid that you tromped along with your friends, coats open to the warm breeze, your shoes (who wore boots?) wet to the ankles, no hat, but a long, long scarf trailing behind you like a kite tail.  And you felt that free, that full of joy and life and you laughed and talked about a future you couldn’t even barely imagine, but you believed in your heart that it would always be as good as you felt in that moment, with your friends, with nothing but sunshine bursting all around you. 

Those are the winter days I like.  There are other categories of ‘those days’ that I cherish, and if winter could always only be made up of them then I don’t believe we’d have any ‘seasonal disorder’ diagnoses to contend with.  There’d be no reason for anyone to ever be upset, depressed or lacking in vitamin D.  It would be a perfect world. 

Ahh, such fantasy!  Eventually, snow will fall, it will blanket everything, we’ll feel stifled and mildly claustrophobic.  Our tempers will become short, our humours dark.  It will become harder and harder to drag ourselves outside to commune with others, and we’ll become slightly more pessimistic about the fate of the world and mankind in general. 

But. . .  if we keep in mind that those magical days are out there, if we keep ourselves open to the possibility of respite from the long, dark days of sleep, we’ll be okay.  We can remember how it felt to be young and vital and full of blind faith in the beautiful potential of ourselves and the world. 

So, whether or not Mother Nature has slipped loose her moorings, I’m going to enjoy these days for as long as I can.  I will not think about global warming, melting ice-caps (unless, they’re from Tim Horton’s), tsunami’s, earthquakes, El Nino’s or El Nina’s.  That’s adult, responsible thought.  I want, if even only for a brief, delusional moment, to feel in my heart that the world is that great and beautiful and unalterable entity I once-upon-a-time took for granted that it was.

Have a beautiful day.

Tim and I went on an amazing trip this summer.  We spent 32 days on our motorcycle and covered some 12,000 km.  Our trip took us from our home in Bon Accord, Alberta to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  We traveled across Canada on our way there, then back through the States to get home.  I swear, we had the time of our lives.  Jokingly, when we started out I had told everyone that we were going to be ‘that’ couple on The Amazing Race.  You know the one, they’re always bickering and can’t seem to get along, and everyone watching is saying ‘what the hell are they on the show for?’ and ‘good, god, they should get divorced all ready!’  Well, that’s whoI thought we would be like.  Luckily, somewhat proudly, I’m happy to say I was wrong.  We got along famously, it was like 32 years ago when we first met and all the fun we used to have. 
Being on a motorcycle, on a long-distance trip is, I think one of those make it or break it experiences.  I plan to put some more pictures and thoughts up about it as I go.  I hope you enjoy them. 
We’re planning our next trip.  Two years from now, the Oregon Coast.
Bay of Fundy

There were hundreds of these tiny snails left behind when the water receded.

Nova Scotia
Tim and Duane rock-hounding as the tide began to slowly wash back in.
Nova Scotia Trip -- Bay of Fundy, Hopewell Rocks

Tim's and my footprints in the red mud of the ocean floor.