Category Archives: books

Half Done

The book is well written and poetic but it doesn’t appeal to me.  I will finish reading it because it is for book club. It is the kind of book I have to take to my reading hideout in the market parking lot and finish as I eat an oversize sandwich on whole wheat with choice of pickle, celery or carrots and drink dark roast coffee. I can’t read this book at home.More to the truth, I won’t read it at home. The afternoon sun will fade. Grey nothing best described as late afternoon surrounds the car and I drive home. It is the way this book is tolerated. In a few days there will be a meeting and we will have a good time as usual for this is the book that has brought us together. A well written, poetic book,complicated and thoughtfully done, it has merit. Historical, educational, sensitive and bluntly graphic with images of sunlight on the feathers of geese and the flight of a terrified child falling into defective net,a flag held by other children,breaking both arms and no one coming to help. It has become a chore and most likely worth finishing to get the full benefit.  My book, which I’ve never written glints in the moonlight. No geese.

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Creative Differences

Snow whipped into a frenzy piled up past the ledge of the kitchen window and I still thought we would go to the concert. Even after the telephone chain call originating from the school trustee I thought there would be a chance that we could still go. I had the lead in the school Christmas pageant….as least in my mind I was the lead! My eight year old self suffered terrible disappointment that night. I never got my chance to perform as Mary and have the one goose necked reading lamp “spotlight” rigged up by the teacher shine reverently on my white and silver headscarf illuminating my blonde ringlets. All I had was the one  rehearsal and the approval of the young teacher. Oh, so long ago and the pain goes deeply.

At the one room school, S.S. # 7 Bear Creek we had a stage platform with two side entrances. Those entrances and exits fascinated me when we did community concerts for our parents. The visiting health nurse also used the stage area for eye examinations and giving vaccinations. She would take off her high heeled shoe and pound the eye chart into the wall. With the curtain closed it was made medically official. We carried on with our lessons and waited our turn.

One exit led to the boys cloak room where they kept their coats and lunch pails. It always seemed grubby and smelly in there. The other exit led to a small teacher’s room with another door exiting to the outside.This little room was for the teacher’s stuff and there was a  wall mounted crank telephone. The teacher let the Grade One kids play in there when she was busy with the older kids and I fondly remember wearing her coat, scarf,gloves,boots and going through the contents of her purse.

 

My sister was with me there for two years and then she left me to fend for myself while she went off to high school. Fortunately she was there for the horrible day in Grade Two when I sat on an ant hill under the maple tree to eat my lunch. She was the one to deal with my terror of having big black carpenter ants bite my tender little body in every conceivable spot. To this day I can recall the ants creased into my armpits and in my underpants. Another recess event I recall with some significant dramatics was when my sister diagnosed my raging out break of measles as I erupted  one warm spring day into blotches and  blistering bumps and informed the teacher to call home immediately.

When I was in Grade three with no sister around, Elveretta, a neighbour girl claimed me as her charge.She didn’t suffer fools gladly so I was basically protected from harm. She let me help her keep score for our baseball games and let me sit in her lap. The boys at bat would make it a point of honour to hit the ball over the top of the huge evergreen trees and send the ball into the orchard across the road. There were good girl players too like Elveretta and impressed me big time as they could hit the ball just as well, run like the wind and slide into base while wearing billowing knee length skirts .

I played as little baseball as I could and maybe hit the ball a total of two or three times. I preferred being off in the corner of the school yard telling stories and organizing plays about elves,fairies and trolls and delegating roles to my friends Julie and Irene, who just happened to be sisters and artistic types like me. They were real artists and could draw anything, even horses.Their creative input was invaluable.

I would visit Julie and Irene at their farm and they would visit mine. We had lots of fun together. Their parents were good to me and fed me Ukranian food. I remember turkey suppers, cabbage rolls, borscht, the best ever  dill and garlic pickles and apple pies. There were some special pictures, painted trinkets and darkly coloured floral scarves draped around them in a tiny parlour which we were supposed to stay out of so we wouldn’t damage anything in there. Outside the  barnyard geese would chase us, honk and spit, knock us down and trample us.  That was terrifying and extremely noisy especially when we provoked the geese repeatedly despite being told to stop by both parents in English, Ukrainian and maybe Estonian or Latvian.

Back at school it was the simple little readers and sparse few textbooks that held my parched interest. No extra literature or media was available except for an occasional box of films from the National film Board.When the box of films arrived that is all we did for a couple of days. The classic poems from the readers soothed my poetic  little soul but left me wanting much more. Basic knowledge in print form, limited text material ,barely fed me a starvation diet of information. The only books for extra reading available where a set of old black and yellow atlases , Gideon New Testaments,  battered dictionaries and High Road to Song books.

It was a bit grim creatively. Exceptions were the times when the teacher would plan an art lesson such as painting the school windows with seasonal art or read aloud for a few minutes on a warm afternoon from her own book or request everyone to write an composition based on a a selected picture from her file of clippings. Possibly, I was the only kid who really loved this writing exercise. I recall others groaning when we did this task every Friday afternoon. A calendar clipping of a fall tree or a cute kitten in a basket or a dark and stormy sky set my imagination free. When selected ( without fail) to share my composition with the class I would deliver it with all the impact I could muster.

From Grade Five  until the end of Grade 13 I was always selected to say my “speeches” . Not once did I win a speech competition. However, for thirty two years I taught kindergarten and other primary grades and loved the creative opportunity to play, read,write, tell stories, act things out, laugh, listen, draw,paint,dance around, sing and share what I love about communication. Retired now, I read every darn obscure book that interests me that I can order from the local tiny library and write a little and sometimes I write more. It all depends on me.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Will Must be Stronger

Such along time has passed since my last post. Why has the title appeared so bold faced when typed? I no longer know the features on this blog site so everything is new again.

Hot chocolate, made from a dark chocolate bar and hot milk( don’t try it) at hand and very late at night I settle into the chair ,  aching from an old church parking lot injury ( (don’t ask) and therefore suffering a bit for my art I decide it is now or never. I must write. Fighting off the cat from the laptop and from sticking her nose into the hot chocolate ( I’ll use milk chocolate next time) I make this feeble effort to at least open up the writing part of my quiet existence once more. I know I can do this.

It is the will that has somewhat atrophied almost to the point of disuse.

Folks in general have noticed my absence from writing. Comments, blunt and discreet are often made. The greeter at church one day mentioned it to a visiting minister. The coffeeshop staff have cleared a spot for me and reminded me of their hours of business, gently suggesting I should return to my table of soup, sandwich coffee and journal writing, people watching and listening in on conversations. Family send updates to writing events. Hints drop, suggestions are made, jabs here and there.

 

Even the winter creature that lives somewhere along the exterior wall under the radiator behind my desk has rattled on a bit with encouragement for me to return to my swivel chair, laptop and late hours. Mr. Mole or Miss Mouse or possibly worse nibbles and scratches a bit as I type keeping me alert. Nothing more arouses the will to write than the prospect of having this wee soft creature zip across my foot. It is like having a snake loose in a dark bedroom and being too petrified to confront it so the imagination must cope.

Topics to write about are overwhelming and yet some appeal to me. Reading, writing, poetry, music, theatre, family, cooking, gardening, teaching, pets are my comforting favourites. My own stories are on the surface, bubbling, waiting to be stirred. World issues, problems and general chaos are too much for me, yet provoke thoughts and  disturbing dreams. Am I reluctant to write of these things because of what they are or am I afraid that I will write?

Cat has jumped over the screen once more, the mug of wretched chocolate has been drained, the small creature behind the wall is quiet once more. The will to write has stretched a little ignoring the ache.

 

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Underground Formation

Third time starting this post. A most efficient way of prioritizing what I want to write about before the blog glitches up on me again and vanishes into thin air.My recent Young Writer’s Craft evening for our local library went well. Six children attended with ages ranging between five years of age to eleven years of age. Three sets of siblings consisting of four girls and two boys. Two parents, one interested and supportive relative(mine), the librarian and myself spent the evening with these kids. We played some sensory games, memory games,discussed some shared interests, evaluated favourite kinds of books, made some word banks, wrote some summer graffiti on a poster… intentionally,…. created some graphic illustrations and labelled them, created a group story, dramatized some lines from the story using different genre styles, shared a great book and some storytelling and examined some memories in a basket. There were cupcakes also. Some takeaways like little journals, stickers and pencils were the final touch. Every child, every parent and the librarian thanked me for my efforts. My relative invited me over for coffee and snacks. The Word Garden, although very tiny seems to have some strong sporadic growth and is rooted nicely and may produce a harvest yet.

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Ever Bearing Berry Seasons

At about 9am yesterday morning I bought some wild black raspberries at our tiny farmer’s market. Gladly I paid three dollars for the large container. I know the young person selling the berries and I know she found them growing wild in this immediate area. As soon as I saw the berries I immediately thought of my mom and her berry picking excursions that usually included me very much against my will. At this point I started telling the group of neighbours gathered at the teeny market about some of the very close to the surface memories of my mom. They suggested I write about these preserved thoughts and as I have had a patch of dried up and fruitless writing lately I turned on the computer .I picked my usual late hours to produce this mixture of plucked recollections, revised a few words here and there and went by my old recipe of writing from the heart.

Throughout her youth, maturity and old age my mom was in tune with the seasons and made the very most of every available harvest. Berry picking was one of the most tedious things I could think of doing as I was not as motivated as she was by the hard work, strain, heat, exhaustion and endless boxes of berries from our own patch or from other commercial sources. I would rather read, act out stories, play with our puppies and daydream.

Despite this attitude I continued as the many years went by to  suggest to mom that if she would like to go berry picking I would go along or drive her to a local “upick” place as I knew it  would be fun for her. Once we were driven  by a farmer to the very back of a huge field and dropped off for the day so she could pick to her heart’s content. She was well over ninety years old, decked out in shorts and long sleeved shirt with a berry pail attached to her waist with a belt and jauntily wearing a sun hat and her favourite white nurse’s shoes and ankle socks. She was pretty impressive and caught the attention of several younger pickers working their way down the enormous patch. When she saw student pickers taking a break and resting she gave them a piece of her mind and told them they better get busy picking berries if they wanted to make any money. My job was to run the boxes of berries she picked to the end of the rows so they could be gathered up at the end of the day’s pickathon.That day my legs ached and I sweltered in the heat  in total sympathy with the  student pickers but she seemed  content and very proud indeed of her huge harvest. We drove around later to show the relatives what she had picked like  it was some kind of athletic achievement  to have the entire car full of  stacked flats of berries !

Another time at another upick farm and she was in awe of the size of the operation. It was almost impossible to get her to leave the place. She seemed to feel it was her responsibility to pick over the already picked rows to glean the berries missed by others. I pointed out that other rows were untouched and just hanging with ripe fruit but she was determined to give these so called picked rows another going over just for the challenge of finding berries other people, unskilled in extreme berrypicking missed entirely. She stood by our car finally with all the berries we picked and was a bit miffed at having to pay the  required full price by the owner.She had a point. These berries were the ones left by others, under the leaves and close to the ground. They had  been picked and salvaged, saved from waste by her expertise. These berries had been given the treatment her own berry patch was used to, a thorough going over, a picked patch, a job well done.

Again I was glad to finally get her out of there and home for supper. After eating a warmed up dinner of leftovers and several cups of strong tea and a soup bowl of fresh berries with sugar and milk we would face the cleaning and snuffing of the berries. I would sometimes help for a short time and then beg off to go home with excuses of lesson planning or childcare responsibilities. Mom would spend hours cleaning, snuffing, preserving and freezing the fruit, well into the night and totally pleased with her product. These berries made their way into pies and jam for the family and anyone else who would drop in for a visit.

The work she loved on the farm was like this every single day. Involved, committed, determined it was like an industrial project yet fuelled by her love of nature, gardening, farming and family. There were many such excursions and many similar experiences with home-grown fruit and vegetables . All of them are ripe memories just bursting forth at the moment, poised and ready to be simply touched, held and admired for what they are worth. They are inspired by the one box of wild black raspberries gleaned in the bushes and brambles by my young neighbour, undaunted by mosquitoes and the heat. I think I got a deal.

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Write Now

When I see a recently retired friend, neighbour or complete stranger I rarely bring up the fact that they are retired. I don’t think I’ve really ever made much of the fact that they are retired as it really isn’t my business and there are so many more things to talk about. However ,when I am out and about and run into these folks I am almost without fail asked about how I occupy my time these days in retirement.

Answers vary. Sometimes I say I do artsy things but that really confuses people. Sometimes I list things like…I go to the theatre, visit friends, read, write, putter around, cook, take care of things, pay bills and play with my sister’s grandchildren.

This really concerns some people.

They wonder if this is enough for me considering that in the years previous to retiring from teaching elementary school, I worked non stop, raised my son as a single parent, dealt with a very difficult divorce, helped my elderly mother, lead drama workshops, gardened, walked my dog, supervised a couple of cats, had a tearoom, baked pies and tea biscuits for the tearoom, did community theatre things such as organize, write, direct and perform as well as volunteer for front of house, usher, set dressing, costumes, dresser for actors and promotion of productions, taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir, exercised with friends, fixed ( as in paid for) a never ending pile of old stuff in and around my very old house including several vehicles, rented a couple  of cottages, drove up north on adventures to entertain my young son on his summer holidays, cut grass, did yard work, took dance classes, drama and professional qualifications courses, hung out with several very good friends, tried dating again with very limited success because I am a” jerk magnet”, lost a pile of weight, gained the weight back again, worked on never ending decluttering projects, scrounged and saved to put my son through university and support him in his theatrical pursuits and generally coped with stuff.

Now I continue to do theatre things with my adult son, enjoy my extended family, visit libraries “for fun”, read obsessively, blog, write a bit here and there, go to book talks, poetry nights, theatre outings with the girls, stay up late, watch foodie programs, cook a little, go to small farmer’s markets, visit a bit with my closest friends, supervise the golden years of a very old cat, provide dog babysitting for my son’s bulldog at the drop of a hat, do errands, fix things as usual, grow a few things, sit on my recliner, my porch and my yard swing watching the world go by, cope with my arthritis issues, try to be as healthy as possible and sometimes I even make it to church.

However, I don’t make a big deal out of finding out what others do in their retirement because I am a tad sensitive to the judgement of such an inquiry.

I never ask. I just write.

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Catching Up With Appearances

The last couple of days I’ve been getting ready for visitors. Preparations involve cleaning, tidying up, decluttering ,shopping and watching the weather forecasts. The cleanup should have been ongoing like a routine already established but it is easy to overlook cleaning when I’m mostly reading during the day and watching international cooking programs well into the night.

Suddenly, with the realization that things need doing and how I have interspersed my reading through the day and food show watching during the evening with laundry, scrubbing the shower with a toothbrush, polishing up the cutlery, hiding old pots and pans, considering buying new pots and pans, buying nice fresh stuff to eat rather than making do with whatever surfaced, cleaning out the refrigerator, attempting to de-ice the sidewalk, buying extreme de-ice melt salt, giving up on improving the miserable chunky ice on the sidewalk and realizing that although things are significantly cleaner, better organized and presentable I could go on like this for several days before reaching the desired level of whatever I hope to achieve.

Considering that the weather is turning slightly foul and my visitors are travelling a far distance it is chancy whether or not that they will arrive tomorrow or postpone until next week. Either way, until they get here I can continue to move piles of neglected tasks around, scrub more corners with a toothbrush moderately improving my environment while finishing up reading the current three novels I’m engrossed in and binge watching foodie programs.

If this pace is maintained I will soon be worthy of starring one of those trendy home makeover programs that shame the  messy culprit with the before scenario and then praise the final results. Not only that, but another showcased skill  I could aspire to also would be a so called expert on cooking in New Zealand, Iceland, England,France, Singapore,  and diners and dives in the States, lifestyle and cooking tips from Toronto, Canada and  a soon to be informed individual on African cuisine. Not only that but I could discuss the merits of older style books by Thomas Hardy,Margery Sharpe, Willa Cather and Laurie Lee, just to name a few. I think the program would have an appeal, especially  among those of us truly glad to have visitors, only once in awhile.

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