Category Archives: food

In the Night

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.)

 

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Summer Time

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.

 

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Second Saturday in June

Poplar Hill Picnic week is here. Picnic is always the second Saturday in June .It is the week of tidying up both yards and homes, arranging some decorations and getting some treats on hand for visitors that may drop in.The picnic occasion is really old and this year it celebrates it’s 130th anniversary. Originally a day of celebration for school children from all the small one room schools in the township it now continues it’s good natured heritage in a  community celebration. Our Lions and other volunteers make it a very special day for everyone. Personally, I think I’ve probably attended every picnic during my lifetime. I grew up knowing that you just always went to the picnic.

It is a thing.

Picnic day is many different things to different people. It represents to me a time honoured family, school and community tradition. It is predictable in many ways and yet has evolved slowly and kept up with the times.

Some memories surface and makes one nostalgic for those long gone people and experiences and yet the picnic restores the resilient spirit within oneself just by being there, each time.

As little kids we prepared for the picnic by practicing marching drills at school for weeks ahead of time. Each one room school would dress up a little bit special and march like our lives depended on it!

Left….. right, left right Left. Left….. right,left, right Left. Left….right, left right Left!

Two of the tallest big kids carried our banner (S.S. #7 Bear Creek ) and our teacher made paper majorette hats with tassels for us to wear . My school, in my era wore white shirts and skorts ( short pleated skirts with shorts) for the girls and the boys cleaned up their act as well.

We were led in the park by the thumping beat of the drums and whirl of bagpipes and circled the flagpole, proudly waiting to be judged on our parade.

Everyone took in the moment as it meant something. We did it every picnic day. It was a thing.

At a signal, the parade march was over and everyone was free to run off to play, run organized races for prizes,watch the baseball games, sit in the grandstand for the baby show, eat popsicles, hot dogs and pie, drink pop and later on enjoy the savage pillow fights and corny talent show.

A rather unique flirting custom was to walk by the covered grandstand in the afternoon with friends and see if any of the good looking boys hiding in the upper level would whip pinecones at you. If you felt the sting of a pinecone you knew love was in the air. Most likely this manner of courtship has been replaced with something less obvious. I wouldn’t know, it’s been awhile but this year I will make an effort to observe carefully and see if this right of passage has survived.

On every picnic day, my mom gave me a plastic change purse with a transparent side panel with some nickles and dimes to spend. Dimes won at the footraces were extra spending money but only given to the top winners so you had to make your cash last for the day. If you bought a double Popsicle with a dime you were wise to break it in half right away and share it with a friend because it would melt anyway and fall wasted to the ground. A good friend shared in return. Things worked out well that way.

Most folks had to return home for farm chores in the late afternoon and had their supper  before returning to the park for the final ball game and garden party of entertainment. Usually I was allowed to stay all picnic day with my grandpa, a retired farmer and we shared a community meal with his cronies from the village under the grandstand .

Picnic tables were set end to end and homemade food was shared. I felt very grown up sharing the potato salad, devilled eggs, bolonga sandwiches, pickles and pie with these folks well into their eighties and high nineties. The wooden tables covered with  farm house tablecloths, the earth floor underfoot, the white enamelled coffee and tea pots, my Grandpa Walter A.,  Great Uncle Clayton and Great Aunt Flora, Great Aunt Mae, Old George Barclay and all the rest of the older crowd sharing this good time with a little kid.

Such vivid memories of those people, that time, it’s sweetness. It is a thing.

 

 

 

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Arkona, Ontario On a Fine Day

My son, his dog and I spent a nice afternoon celebrating Mother’s Day together in  Arkona , Ontario. It’s about twenty minutes away from home. We just kept things easy this year deciding to go for a very short drive and have a picnic.

I had just been to Arkona just last week but the weather was stormy so I didn’t venture to Rock Glen Conservation Area which is a famous spot of interest so I wanted to go today.

Just spending some time together today on a fine spring day felt like the old times we used to go on little adventures and find new places we had never been before.

We never went too far all the time my son was growing up but occasionally we ended up at Miller’s Lake, near Tobermory visiting a cousin.  The furthest drive I’ve done was to Kingston with my extremely excited teenage son off to see his first choice school, Queen’s University. We have also driven the back roads together to Niagara-on-the Lake and Welland for his summer courses there. Once I drove the old Hwy 3 along the port towns of Port Stanley, Port Bruce, Port Rowan etc. We have had some fun little trips together just doing our thing.

Other than that, I drive mostly around London, Strathroy, Stratford, Seaforth and surrounding countrysides.

My son however is accustomed to driving across Canada and in the States for his work and studies. Today though he had a nagging toothache and expects to have dental work done as soon as possible. He willingly let me drive and I think he enjoyed just being the kid again, out looking at little villages and places to discover with his mom. He actually mentioned it was like old times. That touched my heart, after all, it is Mother’s Day and I am a softie.

Our first stop was the dog park in Strathroy and his bulldog Penny enjoyed playing with a couple of bouncy puppies and checking out the interesting smells along the fence line. This was an enjoyable point of our little road trip for our family. We are dog people.

Down the country roads we went and I showed my son all the interesting spots I had recently discovered. We went as far as Forest, just about seven km from Arkona and had our picnic there under some shady trees.

We went back through Arkona and stopped at The Arkona Heritage Market. We took turns going in to see the antiques as we had the dog in the car. The market has a cat scampering about ( I think I saw a cat!) so it was a wise decision. (Not that I would take a bulldog into an antique store..talk about a” bull” in a china shop!)

I was intrigued by the wide variety of vintage things for sale along with a whole sideline of contemporary items. I was treated to a taste of local maple syrup and offered homemade cookies just for dropping in to look around. The friendly gentleman behind the counter told me about his family, hobbies and some points of historical interest about the village.

The topics he told me about ranged from chickens, turkeys, orchards, Rock Glen Conservation area, a memorable restaurant with an appreciative clientele requiring bookings and the legacy of another local person who had created elaborate Christmas displays that brought in the crowds for years. I purchased some specialty maple barbeque sauce for my next crockpot creation.

My son took his turn going through the store and was impressed with the roasted coffee, maple syrup products, spices etc that were promoted in the store along with the heritage dishes, furniture, pictures, jewellery and other typical treasures.

Driving to Rock Glen we took in the rolling landscape and rocky waterfall, trailer camp and park and picnic area. My son had not heard of Rock Glen before even though it is so close to our home and I explained it’s geological significance and it’s appeal to rock hounds. Considering he is thirty-five years old and no longer a little boy he seemed content to take a picture of the rock falls and not try to clamour about looking for fossils.

Part of me wished I had taken him there years ago! How did I miss doing that? (Busy working single mom back in the day so some things just got missed I guess. )

Just down the road (Townsend Rd.) we visited Thuss Greenhouses.  After all, it is Mother’s Day today! I had visited this greenhouse already this past week and knew just what I wanted. My son took his dog on a quick business trip to a grassy patch out by the roadway.

The owners and staff were busy restocking a wonderful selection of annuals and other plants  and finishing up for the day but Lisa stopped and visited with me for a few minutes. We discussed plants, shared some ideas about Mother’s Day and I told her I had met her sister a couple of times. I was visiting the greenhouse on her recommendation. I’m glad I found this country style greenhouse and intend to visit it again!

I made my choice of a very pretty hanging plant and went on my way. As we prepared to leave some long time friends of my sister-in-law drove in and we had a chat and our sweet bulldog, sitting in the backseat of the car was suitably admired.

Driving back home we took a mini detour into Strathroy for a few items and stopped at a brand new touchless car wash. I was treated to a fancy car wash for my Mother’s Day present and we rolled through the coded experience by being dampened down, well soaped, rinsed and foamed up again and re-rinsed before being air dried. It was a rather novel experience for the dog and she hid her face in her towel for awhile until it was all over.

I had a crockpot supper of spareribs ready at home for us (my son’s favourite even with his toothache) and the dog settled for her nap after gobbling down her food. They have now gone home but I have the feeling they both enjoyed a simple afternoon of hanging out with Mom (Grandma to the dog), just playing at the dog park, going for a Sunday drive, finding some new and interesting country places and coming home for supper. I know I did.

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A Charming Path and Smiling Eyes

Last night I was at a historical night about my rural community. Today I sought out one of the still existing landmarks from the past that I learned about at that meeting.

In Carlisle, just about hidden from the main road outside Ailsa Craig, Ontario I found the small red brick Victoria Inn. How I wish I could own such a place! It is quaint, historic , on a lovely grassy lot and beside a babbling brook.

I can imagine carefully restoring it and pretending to be one of the Bronte sisters or something along that line. Such a cute little village off the beaten track! I struck up a conversation about the interesting landmark with a local fellow getting his mail and we chatted about a variety of things. It turns out I taught his young son back in the day! This man had moved his family out of the city and found this special charming place on a whim. Lucky him!

Just down the road, in Ailsa Craig I was touring around and was impressed with the beautiful grand homes as well as the lovely cottage like places along the side streets. A simply lovely old chapel caught my eye.  A heritage Inn, now a home (I assume), with signage declaring it to be The Falstaff Inn, also captured my attention. So lovely to find these unique places ! Driving around a bit more I finally found the enchanting looking pottery studio I’d heard about but will return to as it wasn’t open today.

Just  a skip or two away from there I noticed a sign pointing the way to The Ailsa Craig Arts Centre. Well, naturally I stopped the car and went in to see what I could find in there.This is what I do.

I was greeted by a volunteer, Belle, and spent about an hour enjoying myself immensely learning about the activities going on in the modern and fresh space. Quilting, painting, photography, writing and other artistic endeavours were discussed. I was shown a wonderful sample of these projects, crafts and art forms.

One on the go project, Fidgety Aprons, I found to be so creative and wanted to hear the story of their construction. These aprons are designed for people in memory care at nursing homes. Sensory items are attached to a variety of colourful materials and provide comfort to anxiety ridden hands. This item is done by volunteers and donated with genuine respect and kindness.

As I was on the point of leaving I was shown another gorgeous  quilt stored in a quiet reading area and was told some tidbits about it’s construction.  It is a story  worth it’s own post, so I will save writing it for later. All I will say about it now is that it is about bears and the legacy of someone with mischievous tendencies.

Saying my goodbye at the door I was pleased to meet another friendly member of the art centre arriving. She introduced me to the rather impressive gentleman accompanying her as a viking! This viking in fact looked the part and yet had impeccable manners and smiling Irish eyes. He will be involved with the Quilts of Iceland Festival soon to be held this May in Ailsa Craig and take part in some Viking reenactments.This little village has international quilt art contacts and takes it all in stride!

As it turns out I was also informed that the potter I’ve been trying to track down was also just upstairs at the Arts Centre. She was involved in a presentation about Haiti and had made a Haitian soup for the participants. What an impressive and creative hub of activity I had found myself in by just going off the usual beaten path.

I left with some information about their writing group, a local author and with a smile on my face.I had lucked into such a welcoming and interesting group of arts loving country folks. It felt like finding more of one’s tribe.

On main street in Ailsa Craig I ventured into The Crown and Turtle Pub (turtles are an old Ailsa Craig symbol and another story  to tell another time) for lunch. I enjoyed  a tasty and hot soup and sandwich special as I made some notes on my day.

The pub is a cosy Irish Pub with a deep burnished glow decor. There is a corner snug named for some renowned patron.  A wooden bar with all the glow of a mirror, glassware and authentic pub hardware sets the scene and an appetizing menu for meals is available. My server was welcoming and my meal was ready quickly. An outdoor area is also part of the pub I was told by my friendly server and most likely fills up on nice summer days and evenings.

I thought it would be a good place to visit again with my son if I can convince him to come along on one of my off the beaten path adventures. It must be fun to be a regular there and enjoy the pub scene with the locals. I noticed the Irish Viking fellow there as well so that tells you something.

 

 

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From Longwoods to Green Onions

As you drive along the old King’s Highway (Hwy 2) from Delaware to Melbourne, Ontario it seems to be a quiet, sweeping path back in time. Some modern homes and signage are along the way of course. There is something though, gently pronounced in the atmosphere, so many stories untold. It is something difficult to explain. I will try.

As highways go it is well surfaced and an easy journey as it swoops along over a bridge and into lots of farmland. Many large and sturdy yellow brick farmhouses of yesteryear, set back from the road document the family life of the community. Another heritage style home of red brick with it’s lineage date carved on it’s front facade attracts the traveller’s eye. Few of the old wooden barns remain but some have been beautified with barn quilt art.  Some bush lots remain and large trees planted years ago provide windbreaks here and there.

Thinking of all the families, the history, the heritage of the First Nations people, the battles fought circa  1812-14 makes one wonder. A beautiful gated woods, Longwoods, beckons with some stories preserved. All of these thoughts surfacing along the drive and wondering all the time what untold  stories can be unearthed, but now are so quiet, undisturbed.

Turning around just outside of downtown Melbourne and driving back through it’s one two way stop intersection I see a familiar family name on a vintage sign that had escaped my attention earlier. A connection, another remote and distant relative perhaps but still part of a story yet untold.

The old school, just off the main drag, closed up. Compelling the sensitivity of a retired teacher to turn around once more and drive up the lane for a tribute glance. Stories of families and community glint from the windows somehow and are felt but are unexpressed.

Back in Delaware, the best thing to do at this latter part of a Sunday afternoon is to shop the market there. It is rural village style but with some trendy touches such as an outdoor patio, a deli counter,an ice cream station, groceries, baked goods, some barbeque items  and an assortment of small gifts and souvenirs.

With a chicken in the crock pot at home I just picked up a few things for supper, some whole wheat rolls and green onions…and bananas for a treat (instead of giving in to the glorious pies for sale.)

Cashing out at the register, I had a brief visit with the most pleasant mature lady who worked there with a couple of equally pleasant younger women. You could tell she loved her work as she moved from one thing such as sweeping the floor to another such as straightening up a display of items.

We discussed the power outage problems from the recent windstorm, the frustrations some had with technical issues and shared the realization that it was all minor inconvenience compared to what some folks have had to deal with.

I don’t know this lady at all but imagine her backstory would be very interesting and one of a strong work ethic and positive outlook. I’m glad to have met her along the old King’s Highway today.

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One Hundred and Fifty One Years Later at Narin Pickers

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.

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The Barracuda Grill, Lucan, Ontario, Canada.

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.

 

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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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Gathering

The call sang out in startled notes

I stopped and looked around

The sun was full of light and warmth

Footpath by tree was  sound

 

Darkness fell and the moon shone bright

Others had gone their way

Party over, food wrapped

Carried on a tray

 

 

Almost home nearly there

just steps along the lane

It struck and grabbed a hank of hair

Strangely gentle with it’s pain

 

Now the tree is  watched with care

The cat stays by the door

Village owls reside with us

My scalp’s no longer sore.

 

 

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