Saturday, 22 December 2012

A foot and a half of snow, oh yeah.

We just got the electricity back on, after two days in the dark. Not cold, because we heat, at this time of year, with two woodstoves, but very, very dark. We lost the power at about 10:00 am on the 21st, with about a foot of snow down. And it just kept snowing, wet and heavy and the trees bent further and further and the poor Hydro repair crews couldn't even get down the roads. Our repair time kept getting put back. Finally, this afternoon the crews arrived, just behind the plough, and unloaded a snow machine to follow the line through the bush to the break. And now we have light, and hot water and the internet (our node is at the top of a pine tree and it boggles my mind that it made it through, but it did).

Not great photos, but here is a bit of a sequence. I was using the barbeque on the back deck for a measure.

 About noon, the first day.
 Later that same evening
Across the field back of our house after about half the snow was down.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas into which no more snow will fall.

Enough, already!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Oh, Christmas Tree?

It has been a cold, wet, icy day, dark, damp, dismal. And productive. I have been doing my Christmas shopping list online, and getting assured delivery dates with a minimum of hassle. Sometimes I love the internet. Poor JG has been in the city all day - a meeting, a medical appointment and (shudder) shopping in stores. However, so poor has the weather been that he probably did not have as much of a hassle as I imagine. One wonderful year we slithered over to the nearest shopping centre in the midst of an icy blizzard and did a whole evening's worth of spending in solitary splendour. I did feel sorry for the staffs, who had to be on duty until closing time, weather or no.

Another year the YD came home just short of Christmas with a guest from sub-Saharan Africa. On Christmas Eve (this is when we lived in a city) in -18ºC weather, she took the guest to the shopping centre to buy long underwear and other equipment for a Lanark Christmas. They could not find a parking spot in the whole mass of parking garages that surround the place. In fact they could have probably walked it faster from where we lived then, except for the fast-frozen visitor. Who loved, loved! the snow, never having seen much before, and leapt out of bed every morning to shovel and marvel. Me, I shovel and whine.

Other than smugness about the online coups, I do not feel very Christmassy this year. I horribilifed the YD by saying I was not really enthusiastic about putting up a tree. This afternoon I am off to the Hall to help pull together a Christmas feast for 25, which we will serve tomorrow. A two day marathon. Our Hall committee is very small at present, but we have to keep events going or we will have no money for heating, power and necessary small repairs. And the Hall is our contribution to the community. So, two days of cooking, two fat birds, three sweet desserts and dish pan hands in perpetuity. I should not be complaining - I enjoy working at the Hall, and it keeps me in touch with lots of friends. But it is hard, this year, with Marion gone.

It is a gorgeous winter day, today. Blue sky, sparkling snow, crisp breeze, sun pouring in to all the windows. It's the first bright day in a while. The little birds are swarming the feeders, and I have to get the suet up pronto. The YD's animals have gone back to the city and I can now clean the footprints off the hardwood floors - my cleaner came yesterday and together we de-haired the place. Cat and dog hair accumulates in the most unexpected places. We have a wood stove in the living room that you can burn with the door open, with a separate screen to put across to keep the sparks in. I keep the screen stored behind the stove. It was absolutely stuck full of hair yesterday. And the YD's dog, she avers, is one that does not shed. In fact, Shammy is not bad, compared to the dogs we had while the kids were growing up.

This nonsense has taken me two days to put together and I now have to quit. I have to assemble ingredients for aspic to take to the Hall, make several lists, do a bunch of mail, drop stuff off to a neighbour and be at the Hall by 1:00 pm. It is now 11:00 am. And I thought that when I quit the major board I was a member of, I would have lots more time.

Bah, humbug.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Columbia Icefields

JG and I have done a lot of driving around over the years, have followed a lot of the roads identified in a National Geographic handbook of scenic drives, have explored byways and rutted trails to no where and have, for the most part, been awed and delighted by the scenery encountered. But I think our favourite road is the one between Banff and the Columbia Icefields. It has been improved over the years and now contains only one section where I want to grope for the anti-panic pills in my purse (see previous post). In any kind of weather, it is a drive well worth doing.

JG is also fascinated by the glaciers of the Columbia ice fields and has made three trips over the years to see them. ( I have made two.) While driving out onto the glacier itself is a bit of a mixed adventure (mega steep approach!), it is also pretty spectacular. And the obligatory photographs give you a marvellous reference about what has changed over fifty years.

The first trip JG took was in the summer of 1962. Here he is in a typical young adult pose and here is what he rode onto the glacier inside. Although I have not done this myself, I am assured by several sources that it was one of the noisiest vehicles you could imagine.

Here is what the hanging glacier on the left(east) side of the Columbia Ice field looked like in the summer of '62.

In September of 1999 we did the trip again. We rode in onto the glacier in dignity in a big, high-wheeled bus, a bus only partly filled with mostly, as I recall, North American tourists. It was easy to get a good photo of the main glacier and the hanging east side glacier. There was a lot less of it.

Hanging glacier

Main glacier

Our third trip was last month, September of 2012, just a little over 50 years since JG's first trip. The machine he rode in on the first trip is now painted up and parked in the interpretation centre as an interesting antique. You have to drive a good bit farther to reach the main ice field and we were driven in a series of two huge buses, one of a string of buses taking tourists out, most crammed with tourists from Japan, China and Korea interspersed with a few North Americans.

When we reached the glacier it was swarmed by tourists collecting melt water and having lots of photos taken with a Canadian flag. I did manage, however to get a photo of the east hanging glacier, shrunken even further.
Hanging glacier.

Main glacier

Here is the antique snow machine. Notice, I am not making any other comments on antiquity.

We stayed overnight at the hotel that forms the third floor of the interpretation centre. I highly recommend doing this as you have an exceptional view of the main glacier in varied lighting conditions. This photo was taken from the patio at dawn - long exposure, no tripod, but not too much shake. The glacier shown is the west one - Icedome.

It's very much a case of good-bye glacier. Of course, photographer and subject are a bit eroded too.

One more photo, this one from '99.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Thoughts from the Road

JG and I have just completed a five week car trip from our home in Eastern Ontario to Vancouver and return. Although we did shorter driving days (average 6hr 30 minutes) and stayed in Vancouver for five days, we found the trip more tiring than previous similar long driving vacations. I am finding that passing three score and ten does tend to slow one down a bit. But we had fun and we had incredible luck with the weather. 

 I find myself taking unplanned naps, still dreaming of roads unrolling (and from time to time unravelling) before me. Since I have now done a first run through my photographs, here are some roads we travelled.

 Sun Across the Prairies

 The Icefields Parkway (between Banff and Lake Louise)

 More Icefields Parkway

 The top of Mount Revelstoke (we walked this one)

 Heading for Lillooet BC

 The Frank Slide (faint line is the road in the distance)

Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Leaving on Sept 21st after visiting JG's mother, we drove up to Tober Moray and took the ferry across to Manitoulin Island, then drove up to 17 (the Trans Canada Highway, friends from the US of A) and headed west and north and west and .......... All of the time from Sault Ste Marie until we re-entered Ontario on the homeward journey was almost completely rain free and sunny and frequently warm. The worst we encountered was some fog in the mornings and a few clouds, notably at Roger's Pass in BC, spoiling my last chance of great mountain photographs and causing me to miss the one group of mountain goats we saw (low visibility = no place to stop). And when we got back to Ontario on October 24th, the leaves were mostly still on the trees in their gold and crimson and ochre glory. Of course they came down with a whump two days later.

The most annoying thing about this trip is that, given the weather, all of the provinces had closed their interpretation centres, most of their parks and a good number of their wayside rest facilities. It is more than a little disconcerting to drive up to a marked wayside rest stop and find a gate across the entrance and the washrooms locked. Blessings on Manitoba, who, while closing down their western interpretation centre, left the bathrooms open. Blessings on whatever district administrator in Northern Ontario decided to leave the rest stops around the north shore of Lake Superior both open and clean. All through our trip you saw the occasional driver out of his (note, HIS) car standing dreamily, legs akimbo, beside the edge of the road. It's a long, long time between gas stations and fast food outlets in northern Ontario and across the prairies.

But I got lots of roadside photos.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Following First Ladies

I watched Ann Romney give her speech to the delegates at the Republican convention last evening and I was not impressed. Mrs Romney reminded me of all of the confident, pretty blondes with small waists and lipsticked smiles whom, as a high school 'square', I watched from afar, covering envy with disdain. Her acceptance of the adulation of the crowd seemed smug, her choice of topic ('Love'!) inane and her praise of her husband shallow in the extreme. Some of her comments (the noise of five boys on a rainy day as hardship, for example) really annoyed me. I found myself muttering that it must have been the nanny's day off. (As a young mother, I worked from home with two rug rats under my feet and rate myself as a connoisseur of noisy kids.) On the other hand, I felt for the woman, forced by other's expectations to expose herself in, to me, a most unnecessary way. And her chewed lipstick was certainly evidence of very understandable nervousness.

The under-trained social anthropologist in me has always been fascinated by the USA's First Lady cult. I was too young to pay much attention to Maimi Eisenhower but felt the full force of the Jackie (Jaquie?) Kennedy adulation. Soon after her husband's election, many of my contemporaries started to try quite hard to look like Mrs Kennedy and some of them to try to emulate her flair for decorating and entertaining. Her demeanour at her husband's death and funeral made her almost a holy icon to many Americans and her topple from the pedestal when she married Onaissis was fascinating to watch. The whole drama was played out in the media and captivated me to such an extent that I have been a First Lady watcher ever since.

There is a row of books on my shelves that I have collected off and on for years: autobiography - Clinton and Bush, are the latest; memoirs - including J B West's Upstairs atthe White House; biography and analysis like Margaret Truman's First Ladies and The Obamas by Jodi Kantor; all of these and more share a bookcase of similar reading on women's lives, from Elizabeth II to L M Montgomery. The books document the changes in women's lives from the late 19th century through to our present so-called post-women's-lib days.

The evolution of the First Lady is one of the more dramatic threads in the tapestry. I believe that no one much knew or cared what Bess Truman was up to when she retired many evenings with Harry and his briefing notes to a private room. But everyone had an opinion on Hillary Clinton's 'two for the price of one' efforts to untangle the medical insurance mess, even though everyone also had an opinion on her hair and whether or not she should have left Bill after the Lewinsky affair.

This fascination with First Lady clothes and style has moved from the adulation of the Kennedy years through exasperation with Barbara Bush's perceived insouciance  and horrified comment on Nancy Reagan's face sculpture to include Michelle Obama's dilemma - should she appear to be a model of sophisticated (and expensive) black womanhood or signal lack of being impressed with herself by wearing inexpensive off-the-rack garments. It appears to me that the poor woman is bound to lose no matter which way she plays it.

The Americans seem to me to be as deeply conflicted about what they expect of women as they are about what type of state they want. A huge number of American women are working outside the home to keep their families afloat but the ideal American woman seems to remain a mom with a station wagon who drives the kids to soccer and (still) bakes apple pies. Norman Rockwell women in yoga pants and (sometimes) $500.00 sneakers. At the same time as Mrs Kennedy was being almost worshipped for her looks and style she was being castigated for how much money she spent and how little time she spent at the White House. And in 2012 the criticisms sound a lot like they did in 1962. The Michelle sneaker drama. The Ann Romney 'never worked outside the home' comment.

Why are these poor women being subjected to this exquisitely detailed scrutiny and commentary? I have never been able to come up with a completely satisfactory explanation myself and I am not convinced by some of the analysis of the whole phenomenon. Part of it is, certainly, the pressure put on candidates for public office to reveal and to be validated by their personal lives. There seems to be almost a consensus on the rather stultifying values that politicians are expected to follow. The British royal family gets a similar treatment, but there is a profound difference in that they are only there to be symbols of government, not to govern. Why so many people seized on Bill Clinton's indiscretions as a way to discredit his ability is beyond me. Was all the drama simply a chance for one side of the 'what kind of state do we want' advocates to savage the other one? Or was it really a belief that personal sexual stupidity is a mortal sin? If so, our choice of politicians is more than somewhat limited.

One of the things I have watched increase rapidly over my adult lifetime is the cult of celebrity watching. Although malicious gossip has always been with us, the tabloid type seems to be more and more free with speculation, mostly without a grain of truth, about people whose careers - political, entertainment and socialite - put them in the public eye. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to believe what is written. There are also people who validate themselves by putting their lives out in public, courting people's interest. Politicians, I guess, have to do this to feed the public appetite. But, I very much wish that all of the people who run for political office could and would quit making political capital out of their families.

I am glad I live in Canada where the wife of our Prime Minister can get out and ride her motorcycle from time to time. Although we are not free of prurient curiosity (Margaret Trudeau anyone?), we do not do the First Lady icon thing - one good reason to remain a monarchy, in my mind. On the other hand, when Michelle Obama is marched up onto the stage to give her speech, I am going to be right there watching her. And when she writes her memoir, I am buying it.

So, what does that make me? Part of the problem, I guess.

My Jackie Kennedy phase - 1963. The gloves were amazingly annoying. As was the hairspray.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Through the Fog

I've been away for a while. I'm not at all sure when I put my last post up, even, although I will find out when I upload this to Blogger. I'm not sure, in fact, where the last two months have gone. Only that my life feels very changed, very different, somehow insubstantial, even though I have been busy cleaning and doing a lot of child and animal care.

In June I left my last position on the volunteer board where I had served, we calculated, for the last fifteen years. It was hard, in a way, to let the work go because it has been such a big part of my life for so long. But it was time. I was stale, ready to see the baton bob off down the track in the hands of some of my trusted compatriots. And I was looking forward to having more time for my friends and hobbies.

The transition has been very choppy. My best friend in all the world fell ill and we all put everything on hold to be with her and support her. And she died, and I put everything on hold to help and support her family. And so now I have no more almost-daily phone calls, no invitations to 'run away days', no pick-up Scrabble games. I am bereft of her laughter and her great store of wisdom and fun. And she left me the Hall Minute Book, with all sorts of bits and pieces tucked into it in her own inimitable (and pretty well incomprehensible) shorthand, and there is no phone where I can call her and ask for help. And I can't stop crying.

About the cat. I have spent more time at the vet's office in the last month than in all of my previous life-with-dogs spanning twenty odd years. First wee Callee had to have a check-up and shots, then we took her back to get spayed, then a third time to have her stitches out. I have never seen an animal less impeded by surgery - the day we got her home she jumped three feet in the air to catch a moth and continued lively and busy from then on. She did not much like being a house cat, though, and told us what she thought about being kept inside for a week loudly and often.

For a lot of July we also had the YD's dog, as the YD was paddling the Coppermine River ('easy', she says. !) At one point in her visit, Shammy found a porcupine and ended up with a fine Van Dyke beard of quills. Back to the vet, and the poor thing had to be anaesthetized to get the quills out. We hope she has learned a hard lesson. I took her for a walk when we got her back and she staggered around looking hot and miserable for most of it.

And it was hot. Hot and dry. We are experiencing, as are many parts of North America, the hottest, driestsummer for fifty years. The grass is brown and crunches, small trees and bushes are dead or dying, and does do not seem to have fawns with them. All the streamlets on our property are empty. Luckily the beaver are still maintaining the big marsh at the north-west end of our land. Or, I guess it is lucky as it gave Shammy some nice mud and duck weed in which to immerse herself. She didn't even wince at being hosed down with icy well water, the heat was so intense. Best summer for deer flies in years, though. Shammy did not have a fun visit.

I did have a lovely time with Miss G who was here for almost two weeks in late June while her parents did two back-to-back conferences in Europe. She made herself a dress on my sewing machine and was quite triumphant over her success. This visit will have to last me until the new year, however as Miss G and her parents have now launched themselves toward the west coast where they will stay until Christmas, doing research at UBC. Miss G has acquired her own email address, though, and I am waiting with some impatience to read her take on driving across Canada.

The last straw was my pool. For some years I have had a little swimming pool in the basement - the brand is Endless Pools, and I swim against a current - perfect exercise for someone with arthritis and a tricky knee. We have had trouble with liner leaks, however, and the pool was out of commission for quite a while. JG geared up and got a new liner in and the pool back in working order before Miss G's visit and she loved swimming in it. So did I. Last week it sprang yet another leak, after only five weeks in service, and we had to drain it. We must be doing something wrong when we put it together, we think. Such is my state of mind that I cried about that, too.

I don't have any good ideas about how to finish this off. I think the worst part of grieving is the lack of control you have over yourself. I am not sleeping well, not focusing well, not doing things efficiently. I have a list of projects to do. I have the prospect of a nice vacation coming up late next month. I have a silly cat who loves to sleep in my lap and an equally silly dog who thinks my feet taste great. I am getting daily updates from the travelling family complete with photos. I threw out 22 pounds (just weighed the bag) of useless paper to-day. Wasn't this supposed to be the paperless world? I have laughed and cried with the Olympic athletes this last two weeks.

Now my two week orgy of TV and computer viewing is over for four years. I am telling myself to get on with things. And I will.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


 Zooming in the big boat
 Swimming in the pool
 Baby snapping turtle
 Chatting with Grandpa - big boat in the background.

Miss G's parents are due to touch down just before 1800 today, and so I have to give her back. We are at her house in the city today as she has gone off to the first day of her swimming camp. She did not want to go. The granddaughter does not have a pick of fat on her anyplace and this means that in cold water she turns blue and purple in about five minutes. At her camp she has two half hour lessons a day in 72 degree water (why does Apple not use common symbols, she said plaintively - or at least the codes I know?) and I will probably have to thaw her out this afternoon in spite of the hot day outside. Plus, the games are boring, I am told.

Her aunt, when I repeated this to her, laughed a lot and remarked that after she has had hot and cold running grandparents for two weeks, almost, anything would be a comedown. Probably true.

Grandpa took her out in the punt on the beaver pond, for a day fishing and swimming (cold, Grama!) and zooming in the big boat on the Rideau Canal system, shopping (they found a minuscule snapping turtle on the way home and brought him back in the truck bed, installed him in a luxury condo for the day and then released him into the big beaver pond), dog walking and has provided an enthusiastic ear to her daily summer reading task. In French.

With Grama she has learned to use the sewing machine to make endless bags and, finally, a dress, painted, swum daily in our indoor pool (85 degrees) and played water games, done  lots of other crafts, shopped for a new bathing suit, and generally hung out.  Plus she has had our adopted cat to play with and helped me take her to the vet. She has eaten and drunk precisely what she wanted, gone to bed late and slept in (!), and read in English and played with her video game without time limits. We got front seats at the local Canada Day firework display and it was excellent. If this is not Nirvana for a nine year old, it must be pretty close.

Her besotted grandfather asked me to mention to her parents that if she really can't stand the camp, we could have her back to our place for a while longer. Her aunt, while laughing, did point out that I do not need to have her elegant little foot on my neck quite so much. Ah, well. Soon she will be grown past the point that she needs Grama for a playmate so I should gather ye rosebuds while I may.

In other news, the Vet estimated the cat's age at one to two years, so she is not a kitty, just a very small (and opinionated) cat. When the YD brings her large and gentle dog out to visit and spreads the dog's bed out, the cat sprawls out on it and Shammy goes and sleeps elsewhere, looking put upon. We will be looking after the dog for much of July and I am wondering just how these two will co-exist long term. At present it appears that 7 lb Callee Cat is the boss, but we will see. 60 lb Shammy could make one mouthful of her.

I must now go and stock up my poor jet-lagged daughter's refrigerator. Miss G is almost out of fruit.

 Baby frogs.
The punt!

Edited Wednesday to add:

Gave her back last night, but not before she passed her deep water qualifier at swimming camp. Grama is proud.

Grama is reading the newspaper without interruptions. But we miss her.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Entre Act

Or something like that.

Since Thursday I have been the somewhat frazzled caregiver for: granddaughter, age nine, broken finger in cast that needs redoing daily; large white dog with grief issues and too much hair; small thin cat with voice like chalk on a blackboard and frequent need for food; and somewhat sleepless husband trying to keep cat off couch and dog occupied while simultaneously listening to granddaughter talk to him.

This afternoon I dropped granddaughter at her gymnastics club to go with her class to see the Canadian Olympic trials, dropped dog at the YD's house shortly before she was due back from her latest trip, came to the granddaughter's house and fed and watered cat, guinea pig and tortoise.
The house is now silent and perfectly peaceful, the background noises of peaceful munching only adding to the perfect bliss of ........  six hours off.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Tale of Maria Callico

About three weeks ago some small-souled lout dumped a half grown kitten at the end of our lane way. Such events are not unusual where we live, at the end of a sparsely populated country road. Last December a neighbour found four tiny kittens in a box in the snow and other neighbours have been gifted as well. So common is this that our local animal shelter is not taking in cats at all these days.

We did not see this poor little thing until she was almost starved and quite wild. We first spotted her under the bird feeder sniffing around in the seed husks. JG had just finished a bowl of berries and cream. He added more cream to the bowl and I took it outside. The cat ran for the woods beside our house when she saw me, but came back later and lapped up her treat (and yes, I have since been told firmly not to feed dairy products to cats). We refilled the bowl with leftover chicken from supper and she reappeared and ate that.

The next day it poured with rain and we spotted the kitten sheltering under the eaves of the garage across from the house. I put out more meat where she could see the bowl and that food, too, disappeared. So did the cat. We have an old cabin that we used before we built the house and we figured she was sheltering there. Next day the ED and family visited and Miss G and her mother soon had the cat out, on their laps and named. Game over, but I struggled. After a quarter century of looking after animals, I did not want another. We phoned all the neighbours. The YD, who had also fallen for the cat, put out an advertisement among her friends. No one wanted a kitten.

Because she is a calico, Miss G named her Callee and I expanded that to Maria Callico (after Maria Callas, a famous diva of the sixties) because this cat has a shattering C above high C shriek when she wants something to eat. And she wants it often. She has also turned into a bit of a diva. At first she ate anything but as her condition improved she started to reject cat kibble. After she had ignored a bowl of nice kibble for two days (while leaving bits of chipmunk and mouse strewn around the cabin site) I gave in and bought tins of cat food. This she approves of. As well she is now the proud owner of a fluffy cat bed, a litter box, a cat carrier and an appointment with the vet.

On Saturday Shammy, the YD's large white dog, joined us for a week. She regards Callee with resigned indifference, refuses to drink water out of Callee’s pottery bowl and demands her own stainless dish, and appears to roll her eyes when Callee shrieks. Callee has decided that Shammy's kibble tastes just fine (and has tried to claw a corner out of the bag), that cleaning up Shammy's dish is good fun and that Shammy's water tastes better. However, when she left a bit of breakfast this morning, Shammy got that, so honours are about even.

On Thursday this ménage will become larger with the addition of Miss G herself, who will be here for ten days while her parents go to conferences. She will, of course, have her own bowls and diet, but may end up sharing her bed.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Four Weeks

My friend is gone. She was dealing with a fast acting, difficult form of leukaemia Since she was not in good enough health to be a candidate for a bone-marrow transplant, nor willing to undergo extreme forms of chemo, her life-expectancy was originally put at three to six months. But she responded only a little to the forms of treatment she could endure, a drug to knock down the immature white cells, red blood cell transfusion and treatment of the resultant kidney problems. The original estimate of the time she had left was been revised downward.

However, last week she went into a bit of a remission and her blood work stayed steady for almost six days. She was able to go and spend a day in her beloved home, and was quite able to receive visitors and enjoy phone calls. And there were an astonishing number of them. Our wonderful local hospital waived all the visiting hour and number of visitor rules for her and put her in a private room at the end of a corridor. Last Sunday her daughter and I counted seventeen assorted family members and friends in the Family room and her room, rotating in and out. This Saturday the amazingly talented 'special friend' of her eldest grandson came in with a guitar and fiddle and sang and played for her. Another musical relative arrived, grabbed the guitar and there was a concert, with step dancing. And she loved every minute of it.

Many of her grandchildren got home in time to be with her. Beloved nieces and nephews had time to come from all around the province and the States. The resident granddaughters worked with her daughter, a BNSc, to provide day and night support and care, and so she never lacked for a helping hand whenever she needed one.

There are three children, eleven grandchildren, and so many nieces and nephews that I have never been able to keep them straight. She has sisters-in-law, cousins by the dozens and lots and lots of friends and fellow card players, dancers and maple syrup manufacturers, all of whom have filtered through her room the past week. And she was well enough to love every minute of it, to be thrilled by the throngs of visitors and the wall of cards and the ever-growing pile of flowers and treats.

My special job was to do the daily run to Timmie's for her Ice Cap.

On Monday the white blood cell count was up and they had to put her back on the cell-killing drug. Tuesday they doubled the dose. Yesterday she started to fail and she died this morning, surrounded by loving voices and comforting hands. In the circle of her family.

I bought myself an Ice Cap on the way home from the hospital. And imagined her laughter.

Friday, 1 June 2012


I'm doing as much as I can to support my friend, and finding it very hard to talk about.

However, I do have some nice photos from a short drive we did last week along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

These parking spots really took my fancy. Note the buckets.
Up on the Shenandoah section - beautiful but misty weather.

There were more flowers in bloom than we had expected. This is one of the early azaleas.

And this is another.

Mountain Laurel. All of these blooms were on bushes, many taller than we were. And there were lots of them.

Just loved the colour.

We took some hikes. This one is to 'Mary's Rock'.

We visited some of their displays. The dry wall fences are very dramatic.

This shot took a lot of climbing up and down over rocks and along a pathway that was mostly mud and water. The Parkway map labelled it 'easy to moderate'. We did not try anything marked 'difficult'.

Early moring facing south. I am going to delete the power line. Soon. The long light gives the best photos.

One of the places we stayed. This is Peaks of Otter, right on the parkway and run by the park.

A bit of the road from the overview. Himself drove. I closed my eyes and leaned in from time to time.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a gorgeous, serene drive, except, I am told, in rhododendron and coloured leaves seasons. And for the first time over it, we had good weather all the way.

Country roads, take me home. Even if you are all corkscrews.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Big Black Hole

Just over two years ago I lost my sister-in-law to cancer and one of the lights of my life went dark. This morning I learned that my almost-sister, my very best friend, is strongly suspected to have leukemia. And the flat grey sky and cold wet rain just match how I feel. She is not only my rock and solace, but the centre and anchor for her whole large and extended family. I don't know what to do, how to be.

Well, not true. In fact, I can just imagine what my friend, the eternal optimist, the most courageous person I know, is saying and doing as she is shut into the cancer ward and subjected to a gazillion tests. And I know what she expects of me, too. If she could see me typing here, all grey and rainy, she would tell me that there are treatments for leukemia, that she will get through this. Then she would tell me a funny story about the hospital or something.

So, I will put my chin up and try to give her family some help. And stop the cold, grey rain from falling on the keyboard. Soon. Any minute now.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Dancing on Air

I took these photos as part of an exercise in stop-action, shutter priority photography. The location is the edge of the Rideau River in an Ottawa park. I am here because I am looking after my granddaughter while her parents are away. The method - the granddaughter was tasked to throw bits of bread high in the air and entice the bread-habituated gulls to hover in the air in front of her while grandma clicked, panned and clicked some more.

Some of the shots turned out quite well.

Although I did think that this guy was going to fly right into the camera lens.

The GD loves this park and regularly hangs out here, feeding whatever furred or feathered critter drops by and observing all that passes. Her biggest thrill on Monday was to spot a red winged blackbird female displaying and the male bird swooping down to mate with her. We spent the majority of the after school period, however, observing a nest on which a Canada goose and a mallard duck both seem to be laying eggs.

Lots of the GD's feathered pals turned up for their treats and I also took the opportunity to take some portraits.

It was an entirely beautiful interlude, even if we are paying for it now with three forecast days of rain. The GD set off for school this morning in her jacket. When I observed that she had two raincoats hanging in the closet in the hall, she informed me that both of them are too small and that, in addition, her toes are curling under in her rollerblades.  She mentioned birthday gifts, in passing. An eminently practical and delightful child.

She will be nine on her birthday. How swiftly the years pass by.