Easter Weekend

Easter Weekend

Every time Easter weekend rolls around my husband and I can’t help but get sentimental about our first fight. It was Easter weekend and we were visiting Antigua, Guatemala. The streets were teeming with people ready to watch the parade of the Passion of Christ. Men dressed up with white head coverings to look like the Romans caring crosses for the very busy and exciting Semana Santa or holy week festivities. There were flower vendors everywhere selling fragrant bouquets to tourists and locals.  I recall my Spanish was quite rudimentary, so when I bought a bouquet of flowers the woman selling the flowers said something that seemed to be commending me for being a good  Catholic girl. I was confused about why she seemed so happy to sell me the flowers. I soon learned that I wasn’t to keep them for myself! I think I was to follow the procession and lay them down on a cross- out of respect. I still feel ashamed to this day! AH, youth.

I will never forget how the narrow roads of Antigua had decorations of vibrant fresh flowers in complex designs along the cobblestone streets.

As backpackers in the early nineties, we had to rely on cashing traveler’s cheques to live. We didn’t have credit cards in those days, no cell phones either- imagine! To survive from day to day we needed to find banks to cash our cheques and live on real money. I recall sending my beloved on the errand to go to the bank. It was the Thursday before Easter weekend. I was busy packing up the hotel room that cost us a mere dollar a night. The room was very rudimentary- no windows in our room, just a cut out window-shaped hole to let air in during the day. At night we just battened down the hatches like we were living in a stable, bare-bones living for sure, but it was very economical for us young travelers. We were trying to travel for three months on our meager savings, with hopefully a bit more to tide us over when we returned to Canada.

My beloved came back shortly afterward and I said surprised, why are you back so soon? He replied I didn’t’ want to wait because the line up was so long.  I  worriedly said that’s because the banks won’t be open for another four days and we are out of money! We then hustled back to the bank but by then it was too late. Everything was shut down for the upcoming holiday.  He then persuaded me to go to an expensive hotel for an all you can eat buffet, the only kind of place that would cash our traveler’s cheques. The cost of the meal was more than ten days of our normal traveling would cost. ( I really can’t recall the amount but I am trying to make a dramatic point) I was so upset that I remember we walked on different sides of the street from each other, not talking, as we walked home. What bothered me the most was that I was worried that I had fallen in love with a fool.

The funny thing about this story is that not a whole lot has changed. We have this same fight but in different ways. We still argue about wasting money. I am generally more careful about our finances.  When the family is voting on what restaurant to choose, his vote is always for an all you can eat buffet. I have trouble with overeating, so these places are not conducive to trying to eat less!

We can now joke about that weekend over twenty-five years ago… when two people had to learn to live together. A very hard lesson for couples. But I guess it worked out in the end.

How many people are lucky enough to have Easter Weekend as the anniversary of their first fight?

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Of Mice and Women

Of Mice and Women

Living in the country is not all freshly picked roses and sipping lemonade on ivy-covered porches. It can be chopping kindling every morning and battling the deer and raccoons for your freshly grown fruit and vegetables all summer. It involves battling the wrath of storms,  with trees falling all over your hydro lines and enduring long power outages. But the biggest battle I have ever had was with—

mice.

I have lived in many different properties on a small gulf island, and some houses have been better than others when it comes to keeping out rodents. But lets’ face it. Wherever there are humans, with warmth and food scraps there will be mice.

I remember fondly a place that we lived up on five acres. It was a cute little log cabin surrounded by ferns, apple, cherry and plum trees, and a big huge network of mice families. In fact, sometimes I felt that I was living in their house and not the other way round. I tried all of the traditional ways to get rid of mice. We had a cat. I went round and stuffed all the holes with steel wool. I tried to leave the doors closed at all times and had a cover on my compost bin. I eventually set traps for them and even this did not keep them from coming. I remember one day I had bought a flat of peaches because they were in season. I set the cardboard box out in the middle of the kitchen table and in the morning, each peach had one tiny bite out of it.

I thought I could outsmart them. When I made bread I thought, well, I’ll just leave this nice loaf in the oven and in the morning I’m sure it will be safe for our breakfast. Well, the next morning, I opened the door and there, sitting on the top of my fresh baked bread was a little mouse having his own breakfast. He looked up mid-munch and I’m sure he waved at me and said,” Hey! This batch turned out great! Thanks.”

At night I could hear little mice fights- there were so many of them. I had had enough. I went to the local hardware store and said, give me poison and lots of it. I set it out under the sink and was shocked when it was empty within the hour. I set out more. Empty again. This happened too many times.

I couldn’t believe how much poison they ate. Now here is the horror story part of this tale. It was summertime. A few days later, I noticed flies coming out from behind the stove. My poor husband was asked to investigate. We pulled the stove out and he pried open the wall. There was a whole panel of the wall filled up with dead mice! It was the stuff that Amityville horror movies were based on, but worse.

This seemed to keep them at bay for awhile.  But soon the next generation of mice descended upon the cabin with a new vengeance. They were mad about the murder of their cousins and grandmothers and grandfathers I suppose, in the great rat poison extermination of 2003.

One day I opened up the compost bin and sitting at the bottom of it was a tiny cold and shivering mouse. He looked up at me with his sad little eyes, and I couldn’t take it. I carried that bucket as far away as I could manage and let him loose in the forest, even though I knew he would be back, scratching in the walls, or chewing on my earplugs under my bed. Ah well. Times are tough for all of us. That was his lucky day. But tomorrow may not bode so well for him if I don’t feel infused with the milk of human kindness.

Badboy the Squirrel and a Very Enticing Whale Vertebra

Badboy the Squirrel and a Very Enticing Whale Vertebra

Whale Vertebra with Deer skull

You might think one would get bored sitting staring out into a small front yard of trees every evening, but I am here to tell you this is not so. There are many things to amuse a person.

As many of you may know my husband has been a diver for many years. One of the perks of his job is the strange things he finds on the beach. This is an example of just one of these things. It is a whalebone vertebra from somewhere in the Queen Charlotte Islands or as he calls it “The Charlotte’s.” This whalebone has been with us for many years. Once when we were renting up on a property with a neighbour who had a fat old friendly dog named Baby—I came home to find Baby happily gnawing away at the side of this bone, unaware that we may get upset. We had put it in the front garden as a kind of ornament. Imagine the moment that dog came upon this bone. Bonanza! (For a dog)  We decided our best bet was to attach it to a tree where it would be safe from dogs.

Well, wouldn’t you know the other day we noticed a naughty squirrel sitting on the edge of it, nibbling away—scritch, scritch, scritch.  It certainly couldn’t still be flavourful after all these years?

Our young neighbour often talks to us through the garden fence, so when my husband was explaining this story to him as he was watering, he had to make up a pleasant child-friendly name for this squirrel.Thus the name Badboy. He is quite amusing to watch, slinging himself from tree to tree, often stopping to natter at us in a very high pitched way. He reminds me of the very naughty Squirrel Nutkin story by the author Beatrix Potter. He has all the same poor character qualities. He has been known to run off with our raspberries. And although I know it is nice to share. It is hard to share with this little guy.

Island Living-ya gotta be prepared

Island Living-ya gotta be prepared

As many of you may know, I just recently moved back to a little Gulf Island. And although I am enjoying my return, I  realize that there are many things that one needs to prepare for in order to live here.

It is not just easy living out here you know.

Here is my list of important items that you must have ready at all times:

  1. One must always remember to pack your berry picking attire and keep it in the trunk of your car if you are able. You must have an old pair of jeans, a long sleeved jacket…or shirt, something that will protect the skin of your arms… an old pair of runners, gardening gloves and a clean bucket or I like to use a big stock pot with handles. I also like to bring an old metal hanger bent into a hook shape. I sometimes throw in a pair of snippers to cut back big ol thick spiky branches that are in the way of the mother lode of blackberries. This is serious business folks. I often fill my deep freeze full of free antioxidant producing berries, enough to feed my family and what ever friends come over for the year. Next-
  2. For collecting clams and oysters. One needs on hand and at the ready, a good shovel for clams, a clean bucket… not the one for berries and an oyster knife so that you can shuck it on the beach and leave the shells behind. You must have good rubber boots and a little clean yogurt container ready to go at all times so you are ready when the tides are right at Brickyard Beach.
  3. For swimming… always have a little bag in your car if possible, with dry towels, a good book, (don’t forget your glasses), your bathing suit and old sandals in case you pick a barnacled beach. The man ( as the blogger of Frugal Endeavors refers to her man, instead of significant other)– says we must always have his metal detector at the ready…we would keep it in the trunk if it wasn’t so full… we may have to buy a van for all this gear.
  4. For the ferry lineup-a clean cooler with ice for groceries. Some water and some healthy snacks,  a good book ( don’t forget your glasses) and a ferry card that one of your children have probably swiped–so cross your fingers that there is enough money on it! Don’t forget to tape the schedule to the sun visor, although it will be memorized soon I am sure.
  5. For power outages— candles, matches, firewood, butane for the little cook stove—–buckets of water for flushing, a good book ( don’t forget your glasses) and of course…some good wine and a secret stash of chocolate to accompany those stories from the good old days, so you can talk into the wee hours as one tends to do when you aren’t distracted by modern technology.

I think that’s it. I love the feeling of being prepared for all these very important aspects of island living.

There’s a Moon in the Sky- It’s called the moon

There’s a Moon in the Sky- It’s called the moon

Trying to get ahold of my worrying mind, I search around the emergency waiting room for something that is positive. I didn’t want to see men holding bloodied bandaged fingers or elderly ladies wincing in pain in their giant chairs with wheels. I didn’t want to hear the bored and whining child or watch the children’s television that gruesomely showed someone cutting out an eye of a pumpkin. I was waiting to see if my husband’s eye would be okay after a weed whacking incident, I did not want to be reminded of eyeballs being cut out. And so I looked up from my book…. I was the only one reading a book, which seemed odd as I heard the waiting time was 3 hours at least or maybe the whole day if you weren’t in excruciating pain. But I digress. I looked up through the large windows and saw a painting inspired image of a crow clasping the metal something-or-other and the moon with all its intrinsic patterns. My photo doesn’t do it justice.

And so, on what would be considered a bad day trip to Nanaimo to go to emergency…. on a long weekend, unsure if we would make the last ferry, I found a sliver of beauty.I began to relax and listened intently to people who became chummy and bonded over the long wait times. I learned that the elderly lady on the far right was pushed into the side of a slide by her great- grandson. It was worth the small injury on her wrist for sure and a great tale to boot. Seeing the moon reminded me of the song by the B52’s- There’s a Moon in the Sky, it became lodged in my head and I sang it quietly in my mind on the trip back.

His eye is intact.

We made the last ferry.

All is good.

Here is a great song on youtube…

 

Packin’ Up and Saying Goodbye

Packin’ Up and Saying Goodbye

photo courtesy of imgur

Well, our bags are packed and we’re madly dashing around doing last minute chores before leaving the big city of Calgary.

Here are some of the things I will miss the most;

  • Nose Hill Park, the wildflowers that I walk by every day always amazes me. And how fun to walk by gaggles of children out on a field trip singing,”Down by the Bay, where the watermelons grow”, ad naseum, just like we used to do a million years ago.
  • I will miss the wild winds and the way they move the grasses on the hillsides… I always think of ghosts running up the hill whenever I see those stalks wavering in the wind, quite an amazing sight.
  • I will miss the bright blue colour of the cold river waters and watching surfers tackling the waves in the middle of the city.
  • I will miss walking through Kensington, enjoying Oolong tea with my family and running to an afternoon movie at a local theater just minutes away.
  • I will miss Shakespeare on the Bow and the beautiful setting of the Cochrane market.

But most of all— I will miss the people that I have met here. Really good people, kind and funny and full of life! How lucky to have met so many great and intelligent friends. Goodbye big city, you have changed me and very much for the better.

 

(  I meant to send this post off before we left— we have now unpacked our bags and are settling in to our new home)

 

 

The Time Before Email

The Time Before Email

I have been going through a lot of boxes in anticipation of a big move. My intention was to cull unnecessary junk. I have managed to recycle quite a bit of old books and papers. But what I found is a treasure trove of written material.

It was a time before emails. I have poems written on crinkled paper Hallmark bags, I have an orange envelope with my progress reports from Seven Oaks School Division No.10–apparently in 1973,  I was “sometimes dreamy’ with a good imagination.

I found postcards from friends on trips to London or Hawaii. Words of love from faces I can no longer recall. Letters I sent to my baba from summer camp. I recall reading a book with her late on a Saturday night– Letters From Camp. We would laugh so hard that I wet myself and my baba fell onto the middle of the linoleum in her sparse kitchen.

I found Love letters that are as thick as a Russian novel—day-to-day happenings, written neatly with small drawings in pen— a kind of handwritten Instagram, but much slower. How can I get rid of these precious, precious items?

I can’t.  So into a box they go. I encourage everyone to pull out a pen and write a letter to someone. Write words of love or just any silly thing. I know your friend will be overjoyed to receive it. Your words will be a welcome surprise from junk mail and bills.