The connection for the lights must be reconnected each time. Usually about dusk, which is slightly later each evening I go from the living room to the small den and connect the lights so that any passerby in my neighbourhood can see the fairy lights festooning two large artificial, salvaged wedding trees The choice of lights vary from ordinary illumination to varying speeds of twinkle. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a pleasant speed of twinkle but often I am not. Tonight only one set of lights is on in the living room and it is so late now that my usual friendly neighbours are home with doors locked. The curtain is pulled to show the fairy light though, just in case there is a random person walking by with their dog or perhaps a soul or two might be out watching the changes in the moonlight sky. When the deer go through the yard at night maybe they look at my lights in the window and wonder how the stars got inside the house. My elderly cat likes the tiny lights on in the living room. She perches close by on the back of the couch and looks directly into the lights as they shine through the darkness and reflect against the window. She watches the deer go by and any other night creature that likes to venture around the village. It has finally rained enough to cool down the steam of the summer heat but there is a heavy warmth lingering in the night air. Many garden plants have scorched leaves and some have collapsed. Some plants have survived and carry on . At this point I am sad to see the end of the garden but indifferent almost to the fate. We tried our best both plants and I but there comes a time to be overwhelmed and give in. It has been a hot couple of months with the fans on full time in the house. The small air conditioner has made it’s noise so deafening that it has altered my routine. I avoid going into the den to read or watch television as the roar of the air conditioner , necessary to the comfort of my home is just too much for my sensitive nature to tolerate. Tonight it is turned off, the house is quiet except for the low sped hum of the fan directed at me in the darkened living room. It is too dark to read a book or write any letters that I still send off once a month. Those letters are another story. Tonight the fairy lights are on, the house lamps are off, not flickering, the curtain is open just enough to share the steady small stars and let them bounce back off the glass and no one knows if the deer is watching the elderly cat glaring back at him.
Category Archives: books
It is well into the deepest shadows of the evening and the Midnight Pen (inside joke) writes again.
When all is dark and it is best to be at home wrapped in a quilt by the fireplace, books and teapot by my side, the old cat nestled into the other comfortable chair in my woollen shawl, there is no sound from outside as the night is quiet and sleeping. Rain or sleet and maybe a forlorn twig tapping against the window pane would be preferable but one can’t have everything.
More than likely the members of a writers group I recently visited are all sound asleep.
From the discussion about personal writing habits and routines I seem to be the only one attending that night dependent on the night for the comfort to write.
Dynamics of the gathering convinced me that it is a wonderfully unique experience to walk into a meeting of assembled strangers and bravely say a quick hello before sharing your work in a round robin of readings. Once this was done and supportive nods and comments ensued, the task of writing on demand was a slight jolt to the system and yet accomplished. We wrote together, in our own worlds on our own notepads.
The few minutes left over were even convenient for my own jot notes of the experience as a whole in my designated Celtic design inspired journal ( a gift form my niece) for book talks and writers events. Personal characteristics, body language, off hand comments of the other attendees impressed me. No doubt I also gave off a variety of vibes in the other directions. At times I found myself to be too talkative, too much an attention seeker and too nerdy in my references to plays and theatre and books and travel.
In the course of two hours stories and poems about a wide range of experiences tumbled out in little heaps around the tables originally set up as a quilting room. There was laughter and there was quiet listening, head nodding and maybe a cringe or two. I myself cringed at least once.
The markings from measuring and cutting fabric on the tabletops distracted me a bit during the meeting. Was there some kind of message or connection between the slicing and cutting marks on the surface and the patches of stories and poems available that night? Was there a thread of connectivity between us to make something more out of the experience or was it to best left as pieces and frayed parts of something private and personal to be gathered up again and stored away.
I left the writers group that night feeling that the work of the contributors made me think of long forgotten things and that was the kind of creative relief I desperately needed. I remembered my own stories of books, theatre, travel and other nerdy things because the writing of others had inspired me, I was using my notebook, new fluid black pens, my special Celtic design journal and even had my note pad ready for jot note action. Simply writing, awkwardly sharing at times with strangers at a quilting table in a rural arts centre and finding pieces of myself again. It was all good.
The daylight hours today were spent in reading, cooking, housework, watching news programs and late night comedy shows. The really late hours of now, in the dark and in the night I wrote this blog. Wrapped in the quilt, beside the fireplace, the cat making little sleep noises in my woolen shawl on the other comfortable chair, the night completely quiet outside, I write, In the dark. In the night. (Thank you S.J.)
Guilty as I might have been back in the day of raising my own son as a single mother, of providing special summer activities for him to keep him from getting bored, I feel the need to reminisce on my own childhood summers.
For the sake of transparency, I wanted to provide things for my son that I didn’t have so he had soccer, baseball, swimming lessons, drama camp…and oh yeah..I rented a cottage for a week, and I took him up north to visit my cousin’s cottage and he had sleepovers with his cousins and play dates with friends…(oh dear, I did too much too didn’t I?…but I had my reasons….).
Today parents, the same generation of my mentioned son, are perhaps overdoing it a bit.
I’ve been observing carefully.
It isn’t just the parents at fault in this area. Some grandparents seem to be going above the call of duty as well. Also, for the sake of further transparency ,I am not a grandmother yet except for the distinction of being a grandma to a six year old bulldog (or is she seven years old?…I’m not keeping track very well aren’t I?)
Back to me.
I was a farm kid so my summers were mostly farm based. I was invited to my brother’s rented cottage when he had one, I stayed once with my aunt and cousin in Toronto for a couple of weeks and I often hung out in my early and formative years with my grandpa at his place when he retired from the farm.
Summer holidays were spent quietly working in the garden, playing with my dogs, puttering around, going to church regularly and spending long periods of time on my own, just doing ordinary farm things.
As a very little girl I recall the excitement of my cousin’s summer wedding being held at my brother and sister -in law’s farmhouse as it was a special and beautiful place for such a special country event. I even sang at the wedding and received a tiny fancy golden teacup that is presently displayed, after all these years, proudly on my fireplace mantel.
When I was about ten years old my grandpa passed away at our place in the summer and we had a large turnout of family at the farm for the garden funeral reception. This event both saddened and frustrated me as I was very angry about losing my very good old friend. I didn’t understand the pain.
At the moment I can’t think of anything else done for my sole entertainment during the summer months except for family trips that my dear sweet Dad and Mom took me on when they had the chance to do so.
These trips were to the States for visiting with my brother away at school and then working there, a trip out east once to see another aunt and uncle and a family trip to Montreal for Expo 1967 .
My sister’s wedding was a fun summer memory but mostly planned around the farm lifestyle. The birth of my little niece was a pretty exciting summer event too. Playing with and supervising my baby brother as well as my nephews and niece during summer breaks were wonderful times and treasured moments of my formative childhood.
Finally a summer family trip out west in 1969 that came to a crashing and tragic end upon our return when we were given the saddest news imaginable that my oldest brother and a friend had passed away in an accident . We didn’t know until we walked in the door. This was before cell phones and internet.
At this point, life changed completely for us but we carried on, somehow.
Much of this time is so painful I have blocked it out. Things I should remember like popular music or other events I have little recall of except in vague terms. I was included, after the tragedy in another trip to California to visit my brother and sister in law and other family. A few years later, when I was almost eighteen my parents let me go on a special school sponsored trip to Spain, again I suspect as a way to help me overcome some of my grieving.
My parents didn’t go on any trips though, not anymore.
So when I see today’s parents and grandparents overdoing things and trying to entertain the kids too much I just want to say that I understand why you think you need to do all these elaborate and expensive things but maybe reflect back on a simpler time.
Spend time talking to your children, tell them your own stories about your childhood, bring good books into the home, visit the library together, visit the older folks in the family and community, sit under a shady tree together, work in the garden, play with the pets together, make a picnic and go to a local park , teach them some important skills such as swimming, cooking,photography or managing responsibilities. Sing together, tell jokes, play games, walk in the woods, share your faith and beliefs, hug your children, love them joyfully and just be there for as long as you can be.
The idea of a labyrinth was discussed a few weeks ago at my church during an informal service in the Sunday School room. We had coffee, activities, games and a discussion, Afterwards, we had lunch. There was a Biblical reference to being guided to understanding in the worship part of the gathering.
One of my soulful neighbours often walks a labyrinth on her outings to the university and another ambitious one is hoping to create one in her garden. I have instead experienced a form of labryinth on my country drives, searching for inspiration and motivation for my writing.
I noticed the sameness of my path and that the circuit chosen was repetitive. Often it seemed I ended up where I began.
As a writer I am a gardener, going here and there, digging at things, ignoring some monumental tasks, pulling a few weeds along the way and scattering some seeds of ideas and hoping for the best. With the seasons, my writing changes and I don’t quite know what will root and grow and what will dry up and wither away. Usually, I end up wondering ,what on earth do I want to say?
Slightly changing the path and broadening the scope of my travels still well within local communities I have encountered new people and struck up conversations about a range of things. Connections with past experiences and familiar names and places came up. Sometimes new notions and sensations stirred the day and shook things enough that I felt I could write freely about my observations.
Landscapes of small rural villages have opened up into more complex backstreets and hideaway spots. Large swooping connections of country roads revealed some flat farmland giving way to rolling hills and valleys. Houses of all descriptions and rural business endeavours have suggested the thousands of stories of hopes and dreams available to a perceptive writer. However, bulldozers and construction crews were sometimes found inconveniently ripping up sidewalks and main streets discouraging my path in going any further off the beaten path. Dark storm clouds overhead reinforced the merit of turning around and navigating along familiar roads. The labyrinth had enlarged itself but directed me home once more, back to safety.
Signage along the way home sought to encourage the wayward traveller to take advantage of what was offered. Two handmade signs, along the same village roadway were of special note. One sign outside a rural antique store said” We Have It All” and just around the bend another sign read “Jesus Lives! Roosters and Bunnies”. Both signs made me smile. I didn’t stop at either place although I did slow down and consider their messages. They are probably of no use to me whatsoever, but I will plant these ideas somewhere, wait and see.
Slowly our weather has become increasingly more springlike. A couple of weeks ago events were cancelled due to an ice storm. Yesterday we turned on air conditioners. Snowdrops were the only brave flowers for about a month and now the daffodils are nodding in the warmth. Last week, on one of my off the beaten path trips it was grey, wet and cool enough for a warm jacket and I almost made it to the lake. I usually pick such a day for visiting the lake because I now avoid crowds. People are fine, just not crowds.
About half way to the lake I decided it was far enough on a drizzly day and decided instead to further explore some small villages along the way. This is a very quiet way to explore but entirely on my own terms. With a supply of snacks and a half full tank of gas I drive around tiny places, browse the shops, soak up the atmosphere and have very random conversations with the locals. When I’m often asked what I do now that I am retired from teaching I often say….”oh, I do artsy things now, just artsy stuff…” The reaction is often puzzled.
Along the soggy way that particular day, I stopped in at an old place that was once a tiny country restaurant and is now a vintage store called Narin Pickers. Walking in, there wasn’t anyone visibly there among the aluminum teapots, feathered hats and concrete gnomes. At the back, behind the original lunch counter, a friendly owner on his computer called out and welcomed me.
I made two circuits around the store just looking at old postcards, ancient books, assorted bead necklaces, bracelets and bakelite dinnerware. Lots of other stuff beckoned as well. Two amazing grand gilt chairs that immediately made me think of King Louis sat in the middle of the shop covered with others things that paled by comparison. A hand carved walking cane and a collection of old pipes called out to me for some reason and I was transported back in time to being my Grandpa Walter’s constant companion on his porch steps.
All the time during my visit, Billie Holiday was softly singing…”I’ll Be Seeing You” as the wonderful music was coming from the owner’s computer. He mentioned that he and his son were musically inclined and that his daughter was an avid reader.
At that point of the conversation, we discussed what wonderful things might be found in old books such as postcards, photos,souvenir programs etc. Behind the counter, stored away in a jewellery box under cotton batting, the owner had his treasure of four leaf clovers which he had carefully salvaged from the brittle pages of old books. He had felt it necessary to gently treasure them this way as otherwise they would just break up and go to dust if left in the handled books. He shared their sweet old beauty with me and we spoke together about good luck wishes and these long ago people who had found the clovers.
As I prepared to leave I was drawn again to the postcards and selected only one. It had caught my eye earlier but wasn’t exceptionally beautiful or valuable. The message on the back had hooked me in. It was a message to a student from a teacher.I made my little purchase and left…thinking all the while…”Maybe I should buy that gnome?”. Oh well, another time, perhaps.
When I was finally home for the day I took a long shot and looked up the obscure information on the card in hopes of finding these long gone individuals and learn more about them. With one click, the information of the student was there right in front of me. It was a record of his wedding date and also some information about his community.
This information was from at least one hundred and fifty one years ago. Nothing was available about the teacher who had written the card so long ago. I can assume though. This teacher was kind, thoughtful and without a doubt searched for four leaf clovers. I’m also sure this teacher hoped to be remembered in all those old familiar places.
An hour to wait until the Lucan Library opened and I had several options. I could wait in the parking lot, browse the village or go for lunch. As usual, lunch won.
Instead of the drive thru place which is my usual routine in this village, not all that far from London Ontario I found myself having Today’s Special at The Barracuda Grill.
Land locked Lucan is far from Margaritaville but the decor suggested that theme possibility. As it was close to the 2pm lunch closing time for today I decided to have something quick and be on my way.
Another customer, a nattily dressed older gentleman quietly enjoyed his soup and sandwich while following the news on the wall mounted screen.
Over my shoulder was another television screen and also the framed portraits of a couple of The Donnelly folks. I took this to be a good sign of local approval and continued with my meal with them kindly looking over my shoulder.
My special was well presented, hot and tasty. The service was ideal and welcoming even though I had walked in rather late for lunch. The grill is one of those small rural village places but prepared to service at least ten tables of four. The pleasant server told me the tables are often pulled together for full breakfast action on Saturday. I’m forgetful so I can’t remember what the hours are so you should check them out before going.
It is a breakfast and lunch style place and today, a Tuesday, it closed at 2pm. I imagine it really would appeal to the locals year round and be a comforting stop for the fun events that go on, Lucan style at the arena, Baconfest and such. Today, at the late lunch period it was perfect for a pleasant and quiet meal before my literary visit to the local library.
I enjoyed reading my writing magazine , had some time to jot down a few sentences in my journal, person watched this older dignified fellow peacefully enjoy his good lunch and then have a tiny cat nap when the newscast didn’t fully hold his interest.
After my second cup of coffee and getting ready to pay my bill another customer arrived for her takeout order and with this active turn of events my fellow grill patron woke from his little nap and we all went on our way.
However, I keep checking over my shoulder , just in case . It feels like a strange energy followed me home but most likely it is all in my imagination.
A long time ago, in this land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses, I started to write some posts. Stories began to appear sprouted from little word gardens scratched into the keyboard. Sometimes poetry surfaced, usually with a reflective tone, sometimes with a satirical voice and occasionally with a slight edge of humour.
Life at that time carried on quietly and some attention given to my writing was most appreciated. With the passing of time I wrote a little less and then stopped. Blow sand covered my work.
The land of sandy soil, evergreen trees and old houses remained the same and quietly waited. Wet winters and hot humid summers, fast windy springs and stunningly golden short fall days swept by. Snow fell once for days and days and days.
Slowly seized and creaking passages of time lengthened my reading and I found it challenging to find the right book to fill my escape. Searching for the right book to inspire, uplift and relax with proved to be an all encompassing goal and yet it was never really found.
Oddly enough, a lover of books, a devoted reader, a timid writer and an occasional speaker I found myself tossing aside some very well thought of books and not feeling the inclination to finish the work in front of me.
With a weariness in mind and body surging into atrophy fortunately some small and sustained healthy efforts took hold and gave me a good shake. Further details here are not necessary and perhaps just as well kept to myself as that is a long standing family trait.
Something that can be shared is the renewed search for the perfect book, a sudden burst of interest in creating something visual which could be considered spontaneous joy art, continuing the quest for the perfect quirky coffee shop, settling down to a quiet journalling time, dignified writing and living life in an artful and kind way ,another long standing family tradition.
I missed you.
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.
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.
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.