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.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Baffled, Kindled and Frustilated

I got a Kindle for my birthday. After a day of skull sweat, dealing with an on-line helper who at one point remarked that 'well, it worked, but I don't know why' and squinting at a miniaturized screen, I got the device working, downloaded a few books, and happily began reading.  And, of course, not doing housework, not blogging and staying up far too late at night.

This ability to get a book any time I want it is like a dream come true. We live half an hour from the nearest second hand book store and library and while I own a lot of books that I love, there are only so many times that you want to re-read something. When we moved out here, I set up an office with a wall of bookcases and into them I put all my reference books, non-fiction hard covers and fiction hard covers. I  also have two shelves devoted to picture albums (so 20th century) and cases for maps and travel material. This left me no place for my eight large cardboard boxes full of paperbacks to be unloaded.

At the time (1996) this did not bother me, as there were lots of spots around the unfinished house where more bookshelves could be installed. In the interim, the boxes sat in the basement and I dug around in them if I needed something. When we partitioned that end of the basement, the boxes moved to the (unheated) cabin we used before we built the house. And there they still remain. Until we put a ceiling in the basement, I cannot install more bookshelves.

I go to the cabin occasionally and sort through the books for something I want. There are bookshelves over there and so some of the paperbacks are shelved. Some are stacked on the bunk beds, some still in boxes. The whole of the cabin needs to be gutted and reinsulated. The paperbacks, most of them quite old, have not improved by being stored in a place that is freezing in winter, hot and humid in the summer and damp most of the time.

Imagine then, my pleasure at discovering that a lot of these paperbacks are available as ebooks. Some for as little as $3.00. Since I got the machine, I have been digging around, finding them and loading them onto the Kindle. I can archive them after a while and throw out the brown-paged, unglued hard copies. And empty out two rooms in the cabin, ready for refurbishment.

Except, the last time I went searching for some of my favourites, I found the first and third book of a trilogy but not the middle book. The Kindle store has every other book by this author that I ever heard of, but not the one I want. I have discovered other sources of ebooks where I might find it, but that means more skull sweat, more tiny screens and, I suspect, more dealings with sweet voiced young dolts over the telephone.

Grama is being hauled, sweating and swearing, into the 21st century, but she is not loving all of it.