Wednesday 5 June 2024

Artistic Merit


I read an interesting essay this week about the effect of art on the human condition. The argument was that, from our very earliest beginnings, our precursor ancestors practiced and were affected by art. You can reference the cave paintings, of course, some of which are now believed to have been done by Neandertal man (or woman?), decorations identified as being on the bodies of very early protohumans buried with ceremony, decorated bone and stone found in the caves inhabited by the earliest of humans. Obviously, we have continued to do all three of those things, as well as make music and dance. The article posits that art has a measurable influence on our hormone flow and thus on our physical and mental well-being. ‘Art therapy’ is a universally employed remedy for many distressing illnesses. We are soothed or stirred by a song or instrumental music. (Bagpipes, anyone? A trumpet call? A lullaby?)

Those musical influences are obvious, for sure. I had to think more about what was put forward for the effect of visual art. The argument is that the various forms of it influence us to see things and think of things differently. Photography is easy. We can be moved by a strong image (think of the photo of the little boy drowned and cast up on shore) . Interpretive art is more obscure. But, once you have seen even a reproduction of a Group of Seven Canadian landscape, can you ever think of the Shield Country the same way? Thompson’s The Jack Pine, just as an example, has generated not only learned investigation but also driving and rail tours.  We endeavour to describe our world through visual art and, by doing so, influence and even change how we think of it and use it. Or, so goes the persuasive argument I read.

It is an interesting concept to play with. I was responsible for looking after a childless aunt. For her stipulated appearance in her open coffin, I arranged that she would be dressed in her favourite red suit and that her makeup was suitably bold. And, beyond decorating our bodies both in life and after death, if we have the time and money (and sometimes even when we don’t), we decorate, colour and curate where we live so that it looks and feels like a refuge or nesting place. I have watched family members struggle over decorating decisions and plead guilty to a few obsessions myself. And we are not alone. Have you noticed that Christmas decoration on many houses reaches far, far beyond a simple festive wreath? As for decorating what we use, anything can be a candidate. It is possible to see automobiles with antlers attached in December, and I would not be surprised to see them wearing bunny ears at Easter. Personal decoration? I have pierced ears, as do my daughters, in multiples. There is also, to my bemusement, the current rage to have a tattoo or two. Cro Magnon man would have approved.

Do we do these things because we are cognate, or are we cognate because we do them? It is certainly an amusing and fertile topic. Do you find yourself soothed and enriched by some form of art? And, if you do, which one? (AC, besides your amazing photography, of course.) I do not know enough about music to discuss it usefully, but I have loved and worked in the visual arts since I was a child.  I am amused to find that the practice has been so meritorious.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Foresight may be Vain

 We were supposed to have had a flying visit from the YD this week. She was to get her vacant house back and get started on the repairs and renovations needed and wanted before her return for good in July. The plan was that she (and two cats) would arrive on the weekend, she would commute into the city to get things underway and the week would end with the grandkid’s twenty-first birthday celebration.

Well, mice and men, of course. She got on the plane feeling a bit off and got off it feeling a lot worse. When sister picked her up from the airport, where she was to get the grandkid’s car and roll on out here, sister produced a Covid test and, of course, it proved positive. And so, YD is now ensconced in a hotel, sister (The efficient and caring ED) has run some of her errands, including depositing one cat here, and the house transfer has been a masked endeavour. Luckily she is a strong and tough-minded woman and has made the best of it. And we are chatting via electronics at unholy hours of the morning. But, damn!!!

At any rate, the house is vacant. The repair and renovation exercise is underway. She feels better. And sister has a whole box of test strips as she and her partner have had several bouts of Covid after travelling. It seems that with the vaccinations, the illness manifests for them as a nasty sort of cold and does not last all that long. But they are being super careful about not infecting the aged parents, especially the one with a bum lung.

About the cat. The YD’s two cats do not get along. Callie is an elderly female with strong ideas about what is due her. She went to Pakistan with the menage, had the run of a large establishment there and was indignant when the YD added a young and ebullient male to the mix. Gilgit, the newbie, would like to play and interact with Callie. Callie is not playing. And so the two of them in a hotel room, even a large space suited to keeping the Covid victim apart from others, was not a Good Thing. So, sister loaded the matriarch into her car and brought her out here, complaining all the way. (The cat that is; not the daughter).

Callie is very familiar with our place, having stayed here many times. She is presently occupying her favourite inside chair, which is the spare office chair in this room, peacefully sleeping with no active and annoying youngster trying to play. At night she prefers the wing chair in the living room, thoughtfully draped with a towel by Grandma. And she adores the screened porch. When it is not raining, that is. As it is forecast to do.

However, the promised joy is still there. The YD will be home for good in July. In time for her birthday. Rain or shine.

Monday 13 May 2024

On a High

Many years ago now, when I was young(er) and strong and agile, I took a solo trip to England. It was early summer, and I had spent the fall and early winter nursing my mother through her last illness, the hard winter and spring grieving and regrouping. My ED was doing a doctoral degree in England and I knew I could have a base with her. And so I packed up, left my menfolk and flapped off to southern England. My redoubtable daughter extracted me from Heathrow (probably) and took me back to her college where she had arranged for a guest room for me. I toured her town for a few days and then, to get out of her way, partly, and for interest (mostly), I rented a little tin can of a car and trundled off around England for several weeks.

I had, as you can probably imagine, some adventures, but I can tell those stories some other time. What I want to do today is to feature, as I recall, one of the best days of my trip, perhaps one of the best of all my days. I want to savour that memory and share it. The day and place? A summer day walking a portion of Hadrian’s wall on the England/Scotland border.

I have always been fascinated by Roman history. I recall getting, from our school library, a book titled The Last Days of Pompeii. I was probably ten or even younger. The librarian questioned whether I could read it and made me read a piece aloud to her. But I got the book and I loved it. I still recall bits of it and have reread it as an adult. I am sure I read other books with bits of Roman history in them, but the next book I love to remember is The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe. I think we read it in Grade 9, but after that I found and devoured all of Sutcliffe’s books about Roman Britain and have found them, over time, to be fairly accurate, where there are known facts.

I enjoyed Latin as a high school subject and carried it on into university where I also found a whole course in the Classics department on Roman History. The course was excellent and a fine source of reading material. I ended up writing a thesis fifty pages long for my final term and I had a lot of fun doing it. My grasp of the history and geography of the eastern edge of Rome’s mantle is less than that of Germanica and Britannia, but all of it is fascinating.

And so, when on the loose in England with a car and all the time I needed, I went north to Hadrian’s Wall.  I was not, of course, equipped to hike the whole sixty-something miles of the distance of the wall. I did have a day, a day of glorious sun with a cool breeze, and after exploring and inspecting the Vindolanda reconstruction, I decided that I could hike out the wall for a short half day and turn around and hike back before dark – late in that place and time of year. I am not sure what I had to eat and drink, but it was probably a sandwich and soft drink from a pub. I had a small knapsack and off I went.

I have a whole roll of film of photos I took of the wall, of the countryside around it, of the reconstruction, of the day and the place. Luckily for me, a pair of hikers stopped courteously and took a photo of me standing on top of a stub (which is most of what is left) of the wall. I am not sure where that photo is at present, but I do have some of the photos of the wall itself as it wound its way toward the sea. Other than the kind, photographing fellow hikers I saw few, vanishingly few, people along my walk. Not on the wall paths, not on the farms adjacent. I did see a lot of sheep. A lot. And in parts of the photo where you might believe there are white rocks, in video those rocks would move, slowly. There was also sheep shit. You could skirt it. 

A lot of the wall is just a few blocks high. Two thousand-odd years of farm needs and building needs will reduce the best wall to a stump. But there is enough of it, snaking along the high points, to see what it was. You can identify where the watchtowers were. If you go far enough, the ruins of the forts, with their entry gates to the wild lands, can easily be seen. I did not get that far, but it did not matter. You do not walk on the wall; you walk beside it. And you look at rock shaped two millennia before you were born, painfully, and painstakingly placed with precision, There they still are, resisting all eradication.

I think that looking after my parents, coping with my mother’s dementia and physical ailments and my father’s difficulties, both physical and mental, had exhausted all of my resources. But I was able to navigate around the back roads of southern and then northern England with some ease. I was proud of coping by myself, although glad to see my daughter join me on weekends. I slowly healed, enjoying self-sufficiency and even competence. And the day on the wall, with its evidence of the work and politics of which I had only read, was simple and real and satisfying in a way I struggle to describe.

One thing that I saw that day delighted me more than anything else. The lengths of wall march along, string straight or carefully curved to avoid an anomaly. But in one spot where there is a fair height of wall remaining, two straight stretches are not perfectly aligned. There is an offset of a few inches. Although I tried to photograph it, the photo does not show the jog at the join. My mental picture is of two Centurions, (a sort of lieutenant in charge of, of course, one hundred men), both of whom had been charged with completing a section of the wall base, finding that their calculations were not the same and that their wall sections would not, seamlessly, tie together. There they stand, in their short togas and breastplates, (but probably with their legs wrapped against midges), looking at the mismatch. The stringers have been laid. It is too late to change anything. They look at each other and … what? Shrug, grin and go off for a sup of awful army wine? I hope so.

The display at Vindolanda is very much expanded from when I saw it. The roads and the pubs will have been changed and improved. GPS and aerial photography will be helping archaeologists discover more about the whole effort. But the wall, the line of painfully laid stones, is there and will probably be there for measured time, if not beyond. And that is no small immortality. 

FSL = French as a Second Language

I wrote ths post 14 years ago. The five year old is now an adult university student - in an English Language proram, but with excellent French. (Very excellent - she was the top student in her French Language High School, and top student in French) I think that it is worth saying it again, because it is so important. Since I wrote this I have had the wonderful experience of coaching adult speakers of Arabic, newcomers to Canada, in English language skills. Young men, in two cases, one in his late twenties with very little English at all, the equivalent of the 40 minute program in, say, grade 9 or 10. the second is a man in his early twenties with decent oral fluency and a great accent, who had learned what he knows by watching TV and movies. The first guy needed basic literacy and a lot of vocab and expressions. The second needed written literacy (and a gentle warning about some of the words he had learned watching gangster films!). I am proud to say that both of them are now doing fine, settled, happy and working, and that the younger one just completed his high school diploma. 

Great guys. But it was hard, hard work, especially for student number one who was terrifyingly uptight about everything in the first days and months he was here. I have never seen anyone try so hard to focus and I hope we learned enough from his struggles to make it easier for others. (These were refugees from Syria when Canada opened to doors there. We are now expecting two families from Afghanistan.)

Here is the language post. (And my French is still lousy.)

 My five year old granddaughter corrects my French.  Carefully, patiently, frequently.  'No, Grama, it's *burrrr*' she says, doing that impossible Francophone thing with her tongue that makes the word sound like a cat's purr.  'Br?' 'Burrrr, BuRRRRR!  Say it again, Grama.'  Sometimes she sighs and gives it up as a lost cause.  At other times she gets stubborn and we pat the word back and forth like Ping Pong champions until she is satisfied.  Until the next time, when I have forgotten how again.  And the huge brown eyes roll upward as she says to herself, 'Elle a mis ma patience à bout'.

My generation of Canadians was taught French as a Second Language starting in Grade Nine for 40 minutes a day.  We memorized vocabulary and verb structures, wrote exercises and listened to recorded voices saying simple phrases that we repeated in unison. If we weren't doing well at it, we were allowed to substitute Latin for our second language.  Or drop it altogether.  Or never bother, if we were in a secretarial or industrial arts stream. This program taught me to read French fairly well with the aid of a dictionary, understand some slowly spoken French and get frustrated by anyone speaking it conversationally.  I can say 'Lentement, s'il vous plaît'* and 'Encore une fois'** very well. My husband, another product of this program, got a lot of French training as an adult because he worked as a manager for the Federal Government.  He can understand talking heads on TV, but loses it in movies. His accent is worse than mine.

My daughters' generation got FSL for 20/40 minutes per day starting in Kindergarten.  They learned songs and stories and numbers and had fun.  Some of them even learned a good bit of French that way. Parents who were serious about the kid learning French could opt for Early French Immersion, starting at Kindergarten or Grade One. My elder daughter did 'Late Immersion' with a year taught completely in French in Grade Six, followed by two bilingual years and 'Enriched French' at high school level. She came out of that with decent conversational French, good enough to let her work in the National Park system in French.  If you were a hard working, motivated student, this program worked out well. The YD, having watched elder sister slave away at the syntax and vocabulary, tore up the application form for this option and stayed with the 40 minute program all through high school, graduating with decent pronunciation and no grammar.  When she was hired by the Federal Government and had to be 'Level Three' bilingual, she spent months and years as an adult in French language training and she still needs to do revision.

These FSL choices are available to my granddaughter, but her parents chose a different route.  After bilingual daycare from eight months old, she graduated to a French Language school and an attached French Language daycare. Her French was mostly passive when she started junior Kindergarten (Maternelle) at age four, and she struggled for the first few months. (Big brown eyes awash with tears, she told her mother that she was afraid of getting things wrong because she did not understand.) However, she sopped up the language like the sponge children are designed to be at four and younger and is now level with her Francophone contemporaries and doing fine.  And terrorizing her grandparents and her parents, of course.

I fervently believe in the value of banging language, grammar and vocabulary into the heads of children from birth on up. Fluency in the milk tongue and a second language if possible, good reading and writing skills made accessible by fluency: these things are the recipe for success in whatever the growing child and adult decides to do. I would be happy to argue that Barak Obama is President today because his mother hauled him out of bed very early in the morning to give him extra English training. There are a lot of routes to language competence - I'm not specifically advocating for early rising or second language immersion or cue cards here. And I don't expect everyone to end up as a language lover who plays games with words and lives to write. But language is a tool box.  The better the tools, the better the job the tool user can do.  Even more than the bike helmet and the rubber boots and the mouth guard and the vegetables, skill with language is a survival tool, enrichment and protection all in one.

In my grandaugher's case, success in learning a second language well enough to fit in was a hard job but her success at it has made her a much more confident child. And certainly one who can teach her old grandmother new tricks.

Sunday 12 May 2024

That Ounce of Prevention


The daffodil bed around 2009

The hummers are here! The day I put the feeder up, having been prompted by several Facebook memory posts, we saw at least one male and one female. Skittish, as they are when they first arrive. Because there may be two males, I am going to put a second feeder on the other side of the house. An ounce of prevention of hummer wars.

And speaking of prevention. A while back I got a very formal letter from the Ford Motor Company, warning me that there was something that might be amiss with the engine of my 2020 Escape. If I were to hear an unusual noise, the letter advised me, or see smoke coming from under the hood, I should pull over to the side of the road immediately and turn off the engine. The letter also said that a repair for this was in the works and I would be notified when it was available. The letter said nothing about leaping out of the vehicle and running like a rabbit, subsequent to the noise/smoke. I filed the letter under C for ‘car’ and, frankly, forgot about it. I got another letter today saying the fix is available and reminding me to make an appointment with my dealer to have it done. I now have the fix scheduled for next week and I do most earnestly hope there is no strange noise or smoke in the interim.

Daffodil bed after the re-edit. 2010

My phone rang Friday morning and when I answered it, a sad voice said ‘Hi, it’s me’. YD me. Well, more incensed than sad. She had just had the second bike in a very short time stolen from her, this one her pet and favourite. And the robbery was a fast cut-off of her lock while she was in a store right beside the bike rack. She has reported both of these and is now going to have to persuade her insurance company to provide money to replace them. I gather that bike heists are pretty common where she is. Well, pretty well everywhere. Saddening and maddening.

Friday night I clumped out onto the deck and was rewarded with streamers of pale pink in the northern sky. We are surrounded by trees, nowhere more so than on the north side, but the light rays reached up almost to the apex of the sky dome and were a lovely thing to relish.

Saturday was cloudy and not overly warm, but a thing to relish was a late afternoon visit by either six turkeys or three turkeys twice, four deer and a solitary and scruffy raccoon. The deer munched along what used to be a wildflower garden along the grass at the kitchen end of the house, but although one doe did sniff at a daffodil, the clump survived intact. I am not sure about the trilliums.

Opened out and blooming - the daffodil bed

The daffs mostly do survive. I have a daffodil bed on the field side of the house, but it is so overgrown that it produced few flowers this year. And there is no way I can rescue it, other than to hire someone to do it for me. The YD has offered, but gardening is not her thing and reducing this bed will be a last labour of Herculean proportions. JG and I last redug it in 2012 or 2013. The daffs that are doing well are growing from bulbs given me in bloom as, probably, Easter or birthday gifts. I unpotted and planted several under the lilac bushes or in the unmowed verge of the lawn. They are thriving. The carefully curated bed is not. It was also a mistake to try to get iris to coexist with the earlier spring bulbs.

Iris competing with the done daffs

The frustrating thing about old age and chronic medical problems is that the jobs that used to be easy are difficult or, in a lot of cases, impossible. But … they are all still there.

Postscriptum. Just did the review and spellcheck does not like what I think of as reversal verbs – adding ‘un’ to show the negative. Some are classic, such as ‘unmarried’, and ‘unloved’, but as for ‘unmowed’, not allowable.  Mind you, spellcheck does not like ‘spellcheck’ either if it is Uppercased.  Grammarly corrections are many, mostly specious. Hah!!!

Wednesday 8 May 2024

My screen porch

This is the side of the screened porch that is part of the house. The door on the left goes out onto a deck, and behind the right hand green chair is a patio door to the living room.

This is the screened porch from the patio door. There are two walls of screen, the one shown and one to the right of the chairs. There is a house wall on the left and behind the camera.

And early snowfall caught me before I stripped and piled the furniture for the winter. The photo appears to have a double exposure but that is acutally a reflection  in the glass of the patio door.


Noxy and I


At the feeders, 2011

Spring is springing and all of my photographer acquaintances are madly shooting. The only more frenetic activity is that of the birds who are nesting, involving much singing, building, and, of course, fertilizing.  The photo above is from 2011 and shows, from left to right, a rose-breasted grosbeak, purple finches and, on the silo, goldfinches. We have a few each of these this year, but the numbers are down and there have been almost no nuthatches, although we usually see quite a few. Although we do seem to be seeing fewer birds and fewer species, I live in hope and have, today, put out the hummingbird feeder.

What has been the most fun is watching the turkeys that are regulars to our field and the feeding station. Where there has been over the last while a fairly respectable group of hens (the hens go and find a male when they want one), there was, yesterday, only one hen and two toms. The hen and the older, bigger tom were pecking along, as they do, calmly searching for bugs/seeds (whatever they do look for). The smaller tom was displaying and doing a thing we have never seen before, circling around and around the quite oblivious hen that seemed interested only in a nice snack. Tom kept this up for quite some time, dancing and following the hen as she strolled. The other bird was grazing in quite a different direction, paying no attention. It really deserved an action shot, but that doesn’t work through the window.

I have had a day. Medical appointments seem to be raining down like a hailstorm. After a Zoom appointment with the sleep apnea clinic, I now have an overnight assessment at the clinic, followed by more Zoom for analysis and, oh yes, he wants bloodwork. Meanwhile my own doctor wants an ultrasound of my heart, goodness knows why, and I had two separate booking people looking for me, both, of course, on voicemail and voicemail was all I could get when I tried to return one or both. Plus, the voicemail on the second booking call gave a canned recital of about four different extensions on the two phone numbers, all of which I had to hear before I could leave my message. That finally got settled this afternoon. It is,I think, a universal and plaintive whine of old folks like me that there used to be people on the other end of a telephone call.

Got an analysis yesterday for the oxygen levels in my blood and it looks like the rest of May and June will feature MPG still on a leash. Ah well. It is blackfly season and being indoors, as long as I have my screened haven, is not so bad. My portable oxygen generator and I are going to town tomorrow for a haircut. I have decided that this machine needs a name and am considering Noxy, short for noxious oxy machine. Not that I am ungrateful. If you look up things like hypoxemia, it seems that having a stream of extra-oxygenated air blowing into your nose is the lesser of quite evil evils. However.  I am, I have been reliably informed, a stubborn person and I am being quite stubborn about aiming to bid Noxy a fond goodbye as soon as ever I can.

Friday 3 May 2024

Report on Book Reports


My portable oxygen generator and I went to Book Club this morning. It was somewhat difficult, especially since the wretched little machine insisted on beeping at unreliable moments as well as chuffing. I became, quite soon, so annoyed with it that I shut it down and spent the rest of the meeting breathing normally. I did not notice much if any difference. I was, however, talking, and that tends to keep my blood oxygen count up.

It was a small meeting as three members had other pressing commitments, leaving five of us to report on an amusing book by a female author. What was first reported by most of us is that it was difficult to find such a book. One member lugged in three that she had searched out at the library and allowed as how none of them were good enough that she bothered to read the whole book. An interesting, but quite telling, comment came from one of the two who had thought to look through the Stephen Leacock awardees. Almost all of these winners have been men. Only a very small percentage have been women. 

And so we went on to discuss what makes a book, especially by a female author, funny. One of us said that she had noticed that she was not laughing a lot lately. “Not a real belly laugh,” she said. And when I heard that, I felt the same. While there was no firm consensus, the propensity of women to go to personal anecdote, to tell funny stories on their family, was noted. Also noted was that ‘jacket blurb’ is not to be believed and that what we are told is funny often isn’t.

Stephen Leacock was again mentioned and his humour discussed. Interestingly, Wickipedia agrees. They say “Between the years 1915 and 1925, he was the best-known English-speaking humourist in the world. He is known for his light humour along with criticisms of people's follies.”

What was perfect is that one member had found and reported on a book by Canadian journalist, author and ‘Wife Of’, Sondra Gottlieb. Her husband was appointed Ambassador to the United States and Sondra wrote a book about her experiences as a diplomat’s wife in a high-pressure environment. She has written a good number of books, but our member could only find one in audio.Gottlieb’s humour is in the Leacock tradition, the criticism of foibles being those of herself, her husband, his job and anything else that her sometimes wicked mind came up with. I read her newspaper column in the Globe and Mail for years, and enjoyed what I would describe as acerbic wit. Certainly not many belly laughs. 

The same member reported, however, that she had also found a really good read, Normal Women, Nine Hundred Years of making History, a non-fiction book by Philippa Gregory and she recommended it highly. It recounts the ‘extraordinary roles of ordinary women’ in British history, ‘a landmark work of feminist non-fiction’. I am getting this book as soon as ever I can.

I was more than a bit stumped by what I could do with this topic; I don’t read much that I would consider humour. And so I went back in time and found If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits?, Erma Bombeck’s take on marriage and family life described as “fun from cover to cover”. And yes, it was. It was a lot more topical and funnier when I first read it as I also was raising a young family and coping with husband, house, job and all the minutiae of life at that stage. 

We were also told about Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks, described as an ’okay read’. This book wond the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 2013. Our presenter commented that as humour is not an area she normally seeks; she wondered what the criteria are for the award. The website for the competition says: “The major emphasis of each entry MUST be on humour, but literary merit and insightful comment are also important. Books of cartoons and graphic novels are eligible only if they contain a substantial amount of textual material.”

Dance is ‘an easy read when you follow the lead of the main character and her ‘contact’, Gladys, who is a ghost. The connection with the ghost causes the protagonist to see life in a new way, and is a ‘witty, affectionate tale -= with a supernatural twist – of several women who are coming to grips with the dreams they have sacrificed or given up on and the changes that they make to their lives to follow their dreams once again”.  The summing up? “I guess the humour comes from the basic premise of the book.”

I also have notes on the three books that the reporter was too bored to finish. I will spare you.

Next month we are meeting for a picnic in the park, rain date to be negotiated, and deciding what we will do in book club next year. My personal bias is toward the method we have used this year of picking a genre and having each member report. But since I was responsible for collecting the list of the types of books, the genres, that we were to use through this year, and since I lost the list and we have had to wing it, I think I may be told to be quiet and eat my picnic and let someone more organized, organize. 

Friday 26 April 2024

On the Trails Again

 I got out into the bush this afternoon. JG loaded me and my portable oxygen into the Kubota (yes, I will explain that) and we growled off up to what I think of as the back hundred. Our property is sort of in the form of a fat L, with our house right at the point of it. A lot of the most interesting stuff is in the upright part of the L – the beaver ponds, the sugar bush, some of the best bush. And so we mostly go that way. The ‘back’ part has rougher trails and fewer of them. We have cut a good lot of firewood off this part and had it logged once, but we visit it less often. When we skied, we had a loop that took us down the middle of the bush, out onto the beaver pond and back through this part, but in summer unless we are cutting firewood, it gets visited less.

Anyway, that is where we went this afternoon in glorious sunshine with not a bug to be seen. It is still very early spring here but there were tiny hepatica in many places

and I spotted one or two dog-toothed yellow violets and some Dutchman’s breeches in bud. The trillium leaves are just unfolding; when the trillium flowers are fully in bloom, the black flies are also here in numbers I shudder to think of. But, today, we zoomed along unbothered by anything biting.

What is less wonderful is that these less travelled trails have a lot of brush down on them from winter breakdown and the high winds we have had lately. Our ED clears trails as she walks, and she loves her walks, but she is almost always on the upright section, so there was quite a bit of brush down. JG has a dear little battery-powered chainsaw and he got out of the Kubota from time to time and chopped branches out of our way. 

Here is a ‘before’ shot of the trail and a second photo of the man and his instrument clearing it away.

The hepatica are tiny. They hide, almost, from a casual eye. But if you look carefully, they are there in number, pale-pinkly petalled and perfect, a harbinger of glories to come. 

And there are buds on almost everything, the red maples are flowering and the birds are singing their hearts out morning and evening. I heard a really unusual song late this afternoon after we got home, and am a bit frustrated trying to locate a bird with a call that sounds that way. I suspect a northern mockingbird is trying out its repertoire, sometimes, when I hear something brand new.

As for the getting off the leash, not anytime soon, as far as I can tell. And my GP is now back to worrying away at a sleep apnea diagnosis that, if accurate, will add yet another layer of misery. It is hard, a lot of the time, to be motivated to do the work that I know is what is needed. However, once bug season is upon us, what better occupation indoors can I have than an exercise program? Um. Don’t answer that.

Here is a picture of a little Kubota utility a lot like ours.

Diesel engine, noisy, but it will go almost anywhere and not get stuck. (Much – I have stories!) And JG can store all his trail clearing tools in the back, along with my oxygen pump.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Ambulances and Libraries

 It’s been a bit of a rough go, this last few days. On Sunday we were planning to celebrate my eighty-second birthday with a family steak dinner, followed by cheesecake by special demand. On Sunday afternoon I was hit by breathlessness, nausea and sheer terror and ended up in an ambulance being transported to the emergency room. A lot of holes in my arms later it was determined that I had not had a heart attack and I could go home. The cheesecake and gifts were transferred from my daughter’s car (she had zoomed out here from Ottawa) to ours, I was wrapped in a flannel sheet and we trundled home. I watched JG have some cake.

The next couple of days were pretty strictly recovery. And cake. I recovered quite well in that respect. But it is disconcerting in truth to find out that beside what you fondly consider to be your adult self is a frightened three-year-old whose reaction to stress is to sit down on the stairs and cry her eyes out. However. I am now back to the breathing and the treadmill (advanced to a .5 slope today, whoopee) and can get around the kitchen, get a meal and even try to get  my head organized a bit. I have things to do for the hall party in June that have to be started soon, and everywhere I look I see something that needs doing. Including a large cobweb in the front hall corner above the door. It got swiped, by golly.

On June 3rd, we are opening the hall for a celebration, the main piece of which is that the Dalhousie Library books will again be visible. And visitable. It has taken the library crew months to get things cleared and cleaned and ready to go. What library?  It’s a story. Probably the simplest thing for me to do is add the rough draft of our advertising writeup to this post. And so, I shall do that. Note: rough draft. It will be better, shorter and clearer when I get the edits done.

But it would be nice to know what in [censored] caused me to get weirdly ill last Sunday. Nice, but I am pretty sure it will not be explained.

So, here is something that is its own explanation.   

History in your Backyard Draft 2

“Did you know that the oldest rural library in Ontario is only a short drive away? It’s not easy to spot but the historic Dalhousie Library is inside the Watson’s Corners Community Hall at 1132 Concession 3 Dalhousie in Lanark. If you drive on County Road Six, you drive right by it. On June 2nd, don’t drive by. Stop in and find out about the library and the history of the hall.

We plan to celebrate both the fascinating history of this old and well-loved library and of this wonderful rural gathering place.  On June 2nd, from 12:00 - 4:00 p.m., you will find the Watson’s Corners Community Hall Open House and the Grand Reopening of the Dalhousie Library. There will be music, light refreshments and tours of the historic library. The original Scottish settlers will be evoked by a piper to open the event, highland dancers, and fiddlers. When the hall addition was opened in 1947, there was piping and dancing too. Inside there will be photos and information about the many years that the hall has been in use. Come and find out what you remember and what your neighbourhood has provided.

The Dalhousie Library has been in existence since 1828 when it was established by the early Scottish settlers, who arrived from Scotland starting in 1821 and settled this area. Books and learning were valued commodities, so valued that, along with surviving in their new rugged home, building a library/ meeting place was a priority for these determined people.  Members of the local St. Andrew’s Philanthropic Society petitioned The Earl of Dalhousie, Governor-in-Chief of Canada, for help to start a library. Dalhousie sent 100 pounds sterling and 120 volumes stamped with his coat of arms. Along with the books from some of the settlers’ private collections, by 1843 there were 800 books housed in the log meeting place called St. Andrew’s Hall. 

The pioneers made long journeys through the woods to attend “Issue Day”, held six times a year. Library Issue Day was a social occasion as well, when friends and neighbours caught up on one another’s news. And they looked after their books. Amazingly, the current historical library collection contains a number of the original books that are stored on the shelves of the original 1827 pine cupboards in their section of the Watson’s Corners Hall. 

Although the original hall housing the books did not survive, in the early 1940’s there was community interest in having a new St. Andrew’s Hall built for community gatherings and to preserve the library books. In 1947, after years of community donations of cash, material and labour, the new St. Andrew’s Hall was built and became the Watson’s Corners Community Hall. 

Since that time there has been a very useful addition built to add kitchen facilities and indoor plumbing, also involving fundraising and volunteer labour. During the 1990 ice storm, the hall was a hub and a refuge. There may even have been a kangaroo at one time; certainly it has been fun for the hall to celebrate its possible existence. We want to talk about this history and hear your stories. Seventy-seven years later the hall continues to be a community hub, providing space,  variously, for exercising, dances, card games, birthday and baby showers, formal meetings and celebrations of life. The Dalhousie Library also lives on in the hall 196 years later!  

Come see the history and share some memories. See you there on June 2nd.”

Friday 12 April 2024

Watch It

 Small things amuse small minds. I was reviewing the post that I wrote about the Drivers’ Test for eighty-year-olds, plus, and thinking that anyone who was wearing an analog watch would have no difficulty with the clock face that we were asked to draw. Although a great many people these days use digital timepieces. And teaching the little ones about clock faces is a harder task for that reason. As I was ruminating about this, I looked at my watch face. And laughed. A lot. 

Below is a drawing of what my watch face looks like. 

And, just for further amusement, I drew it again with all of the numbers that SHOULD be shown, where there are silver dots on my watch*. Grade ten Latin, anyone my age?

*The silver dots on my watch, and the silver outside round, are shown in light grey in the drawing.

And here it is.

Artistic Merit

  I read an interesting essay this week about the effect of art on the human condition. The argument was that, from our very earliest begin...