Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wild Life in a Not-So-Wild Life.

 There's a lonely, tooth-scored soccer ball sitting on the snow on our front lawn. I have just vacuumed up the top layer of dog hair (doodles don't shed - hah!) and have found a dog brush that fell out of HRH's travel bag. The YG came out on Saturday and picked up her dog after a fraught ten days of travel around Europe. She shovelled off the roofs, cooked supper and generally looked after her aged parents before she and the pampered princess returned to the city. There are still Shammy sized holes in the snow banks and lots of footprints. But I think both the dog and we enjoyed her stay. The turkeys did not - Shammy hardly ever barks and if she does it is a sweet and soprano sound. Not the day the turkeys visited. She raced around the outside of the house in full-throated voice for quite a while and I have not seen even a turkey toe-print since.

This buck, on the other hand, has been here often. There have been no does for several weeks: I think they must be 'yarded up' because of the crust. This buck is not huge, but he has a splendid rack and still has it. And he seems to be able to get through the snow. Here he is in all his glory on the feeding station, having slurped up all the deer ration and corn. Well, what the ravens and jays did not get to first.

It's been bird city around here lately. We've had 30 to 50 American goldfinches every day, on the nyger feeder. One of our neighbours was up here to consult with JG on a porch redesign and he says their feeders are carrying close to 100. We also have both white breasted and rose breasted nuthatches, the usual jays and chickadees, both hairy and downy woodpeckers on the suet. Today I spotted a pileated woodpecker on a cedar out near the feeding station and a small flock of about a dozen juncos, the first I have seen for a long time. And I'm pretty sure I saw some red-winged blackbirds on a road verge last week - a month early, the silly things.

(Sorry, YD. I know bird spotting is not your favourite thing.)

We've also had two days of glorious sunny weather. We got an 8" dump of snow on Friday night and then a high wind with mild temperatures. It sculpted the snow into weird shapes, as this sort of bread twist on the kitchen porch railing. It also covered up the ice, for which I return much thanks. I can walk down the laneway without my ice grippers.

I've also had a lot of flowers; cut flowers for our anniversary and, just lately, the paper white I got for a Christmas gift is blooming. Plus the Christmas Cactus. And the tarnation poinsettias just won't quit. I figure, dead or not, they are going out to the compost on the 1st of March, lion-like as it is forecast to be.

There's another snow dump due to come in then: in the meantime, I will enjoy one more blue sky day.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Poor Little Fireflies

I have been reading Ursula K Le Guin's Voices, nominally a teenager's book but, like all Le Guin's work, worthwhile for all ages of readers to read.

It could be titled 'Words', because that is what, in my mind, it is about. The power of words and the weight of them are the story. The voiced word is the hero of the story as the written word seems to be the victim. In an interview in the back of my version of the novel, Le Guin talks about the power of poetry and fiction:
Poetry and fiction use words in somewhat different ways, but they are both attempting to say various things that probably cannot be said at all. .... People certainly can learn - or relearn - "their truth" from poetry or story, but the meaning will always be the truth they seek....
After reading this I found my thoughts (which often have a life of their own) drifting to writing in a blog, and wondering what Le Guin would have to say about that form of writing. Like poetry and fiction, I believe, blogging is an attempt to say things that really cannot be said. It is an attempt to connect across and through a cacophony of other voices but at the same time it is often reaching out and finding a connection, another voice, a fragile link.

Do you wonder what other bloggers think about what you write and what they make of the stories you tell and the ideas you present? When you write, to whom are you writing? for a while I was part of a group called Blog Rhet that considered and wrote about some of these things. We came to no conclusions but the discussion was fun. I believe, as well, that bloggers need to read what other bloggers write. I know of some bloggers who have shut down because of time constraints, not writing time but reading time.

I like to think about the words I send out as tiny fireflies, pumping their wings and briefly glowing against a star-filled sky. Are they there if no one witnesses their flight?

I don't really write for connections, though, or for readers. I write to confirm to myself who I am. Maybe my grand daughter will read these words some day and learn something about me or something about herself. I don't know if she will even be interested. But still the little words pulse and briefly fly.

My poinsettias are finally dying. Thank goodness. And the paper-white I got for Christmas has just put out another bloom. The house was filled with flowers last week in honour of our wedding anniversary. Even the Christmas cactus has obliged with a good show of pink February bloom, contrary plant that it is. And my neighbour has given me yet another papyrus plant, even though I have killed the last two. Last night the YD's dog got some spaghetti sauce and a meat ball with her supper and was thrilled. Tonight she got mostly dog food and I suspect she thinks she is hard done by as she is ignoring her dish. I washed all the cleaning cloths this afternoon and folded them neatly back into their rack. But there's a load of wet stuff still to go into the drier and here I am, letting the static in my mind drain on to the page.

Poor little fireflies.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Life, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The ironing and mending will soon overflow the laundry room and start creeping up the basement stairs. There are assorted bits of paper and notes about things I have to do creeping out of my office and starting to flow down the basement stairs. And I will shortly be in a position to plough and plant the kitchen floor. Tant pis! JG is enough improved to get himself to the chiropractor and I have an hour and the house to myself. For the first time in a month. And I am going to enjoy it.

We are looking after the YG's dog for the next week or so. At present she is reclined on her bed, ignoring her well-filled food dish and glaring at me as I go by. This is always her first reaction to being left behind but she soon gets over it and by this afternoon will be galloping along beside, ahead of and behind me, with the occasional pause to ostentatiously SIT in front of me, this action being a demand for a dog biscuit. We once had a dog that I named Biscuit because of her colouring; we had her for seventeen years and I do not recall her assuming the SIT position deliberately even once in all those years. She relied on stealth and her big, pleading brown eyes to gain her treats. And on standing on my feet while I cleaned up after a meal, especially one where a roast pan had been employed to make gravy. Mind you, the YG's dog is equally fond of gravy and I have a small portion put away for her. If my dogs were not well trained, at least I am.

I listened to a CBC broadcast last night as I drove home from the YG's place with the dog on the back seat. What I was listening to is a program called Ideas, which airs most evenings, 9:00 to 10:00 pm EST. The documentary that was on was a thing called 'Say No to Happiness' , and I found it fascinating. The premise was that the purpose in life for most of us is 'the pursuit of happiness' (whether or not it is explicitly written down, American friends) and that this is not a good idea. One of the focus points was this: that most people cannot define 'happiness' and therefore do not know what it is that they pursue, leading them to live shallow, facile lives.

It's a point, certainly. I have been thinking, ever since, about what I think 'happiness' is and what it is that I pursue in life. Um. I think that I am happy when I get a new book in the mail, especially one that I have been waiting for. Or when I curl up in my easy chair, late at night, with hot chocolate and the aforesaid book open in my lap. Or when the sky is a deep, vibrant blue and the sun flashing diamonds on the snow as I head off for my morning walk. Or when our daughters or granddaughter visits and we have crafts and laughter and cut-throat games of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. These moments, though, are gifts and, like gifts, things that are not part of the regular routine. and they may be moments of joy, not simply happiness.

Am I a happy person?, I ask myself. Certainly I routinely try to seem happy. From the time I was a small girl I realized that my mother needed me to seem happy. I was her candle, burning in the night, and she needed me to do well, to be her sunshine, to bring purpose to her days. I guess this taught me to be outwardly vivacious and warm; it also taught me to need to be needed. And so I am content with myself when I am involved in some helping activity in my community, I feel that I am worthwhile when I do something for a member of my family, I try to be caring. I also enjoy sewing, knitting (if the garment is not too big), painting, photography, graphic design. These are things I do reasonably well and that produce a finished product that is satisfactory, if never as perfect as I intended it to be. But does content or enjoyment equal happiness?

It's not a question I normally ask myself - 'are you happy?' I wonder 'will this be interesting?', 'have I learned anything?', 'Was that helpful?'. Sometimes what I am doing, when I am writing and the words flow and the ideas come together, when I finish the last stitch on a neat little garment, when a meeting I attend goes well and people come together, I feel a mixture of, I think, satisfaction and joy. I live for those moments. And in them, I am alive.

Monday, 13 February 2012

C'est Moi.

This is a card made by the grandkid for a family party on the occasion of our forty-ninth wedding anniversary. Grandpapa has his own. Both daughters and their attendants came out here, loaded down with food and flowers. The feast they prepared included lobster and spareribs, ably handled by the ED and her partner and scallops and other delicacies turned out by the YD with one hand while she prepared and iced a cake with the other. Me, I stayed out of the kitchen. The offspring also did a bunch of heavy chores, in the intervals of cooking and skiing, that I had found difficult or impossible to keep up with. And they cheered up JG no end.

He needed that. For the last three weeks he has been suffering (it is thought) from a pinched or inflamed nerve in his lower back, and has been almost immobilized. Since we heat with a wood furnace and live a good way from doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists and chiropractors, I have been running about doing the chores he normally undertakes (you never know how much your partner does until he can't do it!) and driving him directly to the doors he needed to enter, fetching him a wheelchair and waiting to drive him back. In the intervals, I have had a colonoscopy, cancelled out of a lot of activities, including blogging, and worried a lot.

As of yesterday and today some of the worst effects seem to be easing off. Our doctor also managed to get an appointment for an MRI for this morning at 7:00 am, in our local city, an hour's drive away. Getting the sufferer there involved crawling out of bed at 4:45 am and slithering over the local roads in the pitch black dark until we reached a clean highway. We've also been getting temperatures that allow the ice to melt a little during the day and then set up in lovely slick patches overnight. I go no where without my ice grippers having had a bad scare when I lost my footing while bringing a pizza back to the house from the garage. Saved the pizza, though. It's amazing what you can do when you have to.

(Insert mental picture of big pizza box with feet madly whirling below it and face with mouth gaping above it. Our local pizza place does not deliver out here in the boonies, alas.)

I don't normally suffer from cabin fever - if I do, I strap on snowshoes and plop off with a camera to investigate beaver swales and slopes that are difficult to reach in warm weather. But this last while I have felt the walls closing in. I'll be seventy in April and for some reason that seems like a wall, too. The breakpoint between the four score and ten allotted years during which you can live your life and the onset of being too old to manage. I have already had to give up cross country skiing when my sense of balance went west and arthritis started to bite. Now I watch the family snap on the skis and zoom away, including the granddaughter who has new skis and is handling them very ably. 

Here's a shot of the crew taken on Saturday - it was pretty darn icy, as you can see. That's the GD's father, a highly skilled downhill skier, who has just wiped out. Our trails are narrow and have a lot (!) of ups and downs, this being eastern Ontario shield country.

It's a beautiful day today with an Alice blue ski laced with contrails and little puffs of cloud. Windy up there - the contrails wind and shift and fray and the puffy nubbins are really scooting by. Did you know that Alice blue is called that after Alice Roosevelt - Teddy Roosevelt's daughter? I often wonder why I can retain useless factoids like this and solve a crossword while I eat my toast at breakfast but lose my car keys, important documents and train of thought on a regular basis. But the chickadees are singing 'hey sweetie', their spring call, and the ice is at least off the porch.

Two days have passed while this post was building, a word or a sentence here and there. Now there is wet laundry in the washer, supper to be prepared and a meeting tomorrow to set up. JG is so much better that he has been loading the furnace all day. But I do have to go and get him some wood before he tries to do it himself and has a relapse.

Maybe the next post will be coherent. But maybe not.