Category Archives: local traditions

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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At the Crack of Midnight

It’s that time of night that I prefer for my writing exercise. It is very late, dark and quiet. Nothing is going on outside that has anything to do with me . I’ve spent the day again. There is no time left for any duty or errand or guilt. This is the time of night, crack of the new day that I seem comfortable with my pouring of words onto some surface.

Late to computer skills I prefer the use of a three ring binder, fluid black pen and a notepad for fly by ideas. I prefer to keep this all in an printed orange Bahamas cloth bag, slung either on my shoulder or tossed in preparation in the backseat of the car. The only trouble is that it is now often left there, forgotten in the backseat.

The actual use of this blog and it’s technical aspects has started to fade from my experience as well.  Desperate times require desperate action.

This past week I went to a book event and this week I plan to visit with some local writers. Just doing those two things seems to have injected some enthusiasm back into my writing attempts.

It seems to be the stress of having to type rather than physically write that annoys me at the moment.

Here in the  darkened house I have only the one light on in the corner of the living room and it casts a gentle nursery glow. In front of me now is the clinical office glare of the computer screen. I find it intimidating and yet the features of computer writing are useful for editing and review or should that be review and editing.

All of it is an excuse for not doing the work. When I was about eighteen I wanted to study to be a journalist and also write novels. That didn’t happen. What happened instead was tragedy, graduation, bereavement, marriage,  university studies, family issues, loss,  more work,  teaching, having a baby, weight issues, divorce, raising a child,more tragedy, more work , non stop teaching, more studies, bills, repairs, friends, loss, another bereavement ,health changes, responsibilities, exhaustion, fatigue, retirement and then sitting on the yard swing, reflecting back as far as possible.

The step of starting this blog about eight years ago was the crack of the night that I needed. It started some writing and endured for a good run. It ran itself out and then went away exhausted again but not to die.

The writing notebook, the note pad and the fluid pen are mostly still in the backseat but have recently shifted around. Sometimes the notepad is stuffed into a purse and used at a whim. The notebook is flipped through occasionally. New black fluid pens were recently purchased and one has leaked rather badly into the lining of my purse.

At the book talk this past week I made some notes while being scathingly critical of the speakers( internally in my head) and making  abrupt (thankfully silent) judgement calls on their work which I knew nothing about. At the end of the book talk I left in a hurry to avoid making eye contact with these speakers who were actually writing and publishing their work. However, at the exit I turned and spoke to one writer and expressed thanks for her contribution to the evening. Wasn’t that big of me?

A few evenings ago, during the wee hours of the night I did a tiny piece as a homework assignment for my pending visit to the local writers group. I’ve received several welcoming emails from one of the members and read the upcoming agenda for our meeting. Tonight at the crack of midnight I have considered the universality of writing  (another point for discussion at the upcoming meeting) and found myself stumped.

My only thought about this universality point was that I have reached some readers around the world with my blog posts and usually had the most positive reaction from my poetry.  Yet, this isn’t a poem. It is nothing more than an essay (of sorts) on finding that collapsed writing than ran frightened into the woods somewhere and nurturing  it again with enough jazz to give it the will to live.  All of this. timed from the crack of midnight to 12:38 am. ,not including review and editing.

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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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