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Long Standing

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.

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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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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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George and Walter A.

After Alice had made supper for us and Grandpa had a pipe on the porch we would head on down the old unused highway to meet up with George.

Alice was the older lady next door who had another exceedingly ancient old lady boarding with her. Alice made supper for Grandpa, the old soul who lived at her place and for me when I stayed with Grandpa. This went on for several years.

Grandpa passed away when I was about nine years old.

George was another old timer. He lived just at the edge of the old highway, down a lane that is still there. George would start out at his end of the old highway, bent over, both hands behind his back, head somewhat down, watching his feet and walk very slowly towards my Grandpa and I. We would meet up where the new road and the old road joined.

George and Grandpa were known as the two mayors of Poplar Hill. Two old farmers in their eighties walking along the road to find each other and talk over the day.Grandpa referred to this as having a” chaw” with George.

Going along on these civic duties I knew if I was well behaved I’d maybe get an ice cream cone at the corner store sooner or later. The cone wasn’t a sure thing. It was something you could imagine possibly happening and never asked about.

More often than not our return walk home would be completed in the twilight.Robie’s Store was usually closed by then and any hope of an ice cream drumstick was forgotten.

Grandpa had the cook stove fire embers stirred  low for the night. It was at this time of day that Grandpa seemed older. His walk had tired him.His steps were uncertain. His cane became his best friend.

Grandpa told one bedtime story. It was always the same one about poor little kittens  left out in the snow that were finally let in to warm up by the stove.Grandpa would add some special effects when describing how pitiful the poor kittens cried at the door while the snow and wind raged. I will never forget those crying kittens…..never.

Grandpa kept his house neat and tidy.

The parlour was kept sealed off unless there was any interest in looking at the faded green velvet picture albums of relatives or the need to entertain oneself with the stuffed turtle he kept there. He put newspapers on the floor to walk on and burned them in the stove when they were muddied up. You kept your boots on in Grandpa’s house. He kept his small pint of milk cool on the over head ledge going down into the basement root cellar. His bathroom was quite up to date with light green fixtures and kept spotless with a box of Spic and Span on the window ledge and a bar of pumice soap in the soap dish. For the most part, the bathroom was unused as an outdoor privy was preferred by Grandpa when he was on his own.  Backed right up to the large iron cook stove was a narrow cot covered with bed linens from years gone by.He kept a tiny box of generic liver pills ( Dodd’s) on the window ledge beside this cot.

Grandpa wore dark cuffed trousers with a faint pinstripe, grey and red work socks, overshoe boots that zipped up, a green cardigan with a off white pattern on the bottom edge and a black felted fedora. His long white and red striped shirt was also his nightshirt. Long johns were worn in every season as far as I know.

He kept his teeth in a mug of water at night. A handy thunder jug was under his bed. Two small old fashioned glass ornaments were on his handmade dresser. They are now on the same dresser which has been repainted in a soft blue in my guest room.A small blue and gilt top hat dish and a tiny golden pipe attached to a pink leaf. I like to think they were my grandmother’s keepsakes.

Fifty years later, I’m living in the same village not far from Grandpa’s place and just around the corner from the old highway lane.  People walk there, often with their dogs or when showing their visitors around our quaint community. The old highway has an area with a few houses and it is named after George’s ancestors. A street beside the cemetery has been named after my Grandpa’s ancestors. Alice’s house is still there. Grandpa’s house is still there. I never really knew where George lived because we always just met on the road and turned around and went home. I like to think his house is still there. It probably is there beside the old bridge at the end of the lane shaded by maple trees behind the long grass. I must ask Anna about it. Anna will know.

George and Grandpa along with about two dozen of their  male neighbour friends are in a historic picture on my mantle. It was taken the day the fellows were all together to dedicate our park . It is a memorial park. A well used, loved and safe place.

As far as I’m concerned they are still known as the mayors of Poplar Hill.

 

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Compulsion

Not the way to go home but in the immediate vicinity

sometimes

a  dark moody time

sometimes a brighter sunshine filled afternoon

finding

myself

travailing

the lane to take in

the feeling

being at home again

among the ancient

trees and tangles of undergrowth and weedy growth

just to feel the air

and hear it

go

through my mind and soul

to the very quick finish of the lane

finding myself

turning back

along the hardened surface that takes me suddenly back to even a safer spot

sometimes I just need

to be

away

before returning

as the dusk gathers

once more around

the older part of the world

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Still Voices

News reports on and off tell just about the missing and murdered indigenous women

and then it’s quiet

for awhile the news goes on to other things like who wrote the big cheque and who knew about the big cheque and what kinda happened after that

and more

than a fortune was spent on shaking up the others

so it would look like something

was being done

but it is smoke and mirrors

then the world goes on

more than enough trouble to shake a stick at goes by too but there are diversions and events and debates and then the tears flow again on the highway, in the remote areas, woods, ditches ravines  and back roads and another outcry after another shatters the air and when it is all said and done and  it is not on the radar as a priority then it echoes only in the stillness.

Time moves on and faces turn in several directions

attacks on character uncharacteristically fill the screen

then snide asides become photos

some respond but many don’t have a clue because it is still summer and the fall is yet to come before winter settles in for the long stay that so many have become accustomed to and merely tolerate

solutions

at the root of the problem need to be addressed

with caring, kindness, help and understanding , education protection and support would lend the scaffolding of strength needed to face down the crime wave and raise up awareness and self esteem high enough to make change happen and also provoke some answers

so many

women lost

their faces should be on every road sign billboard

maybe on the side of buses, trains or murals in the public buildings across the country

better still on the paper money which passes

so fast

hand to hand.

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Summer Supper on Scotchmere Drive

Perhaps the best part of my special Saturday evening was not knowing I was going to the wonderful country church supper and suddenly finding myself there. Invited along by my sister-in-law and her friends I was included at the last minute. Unfortunately another,who held the ticket for the annual event had taken ill. Fortunately for me I was the one generously called as a stand in. With the most perfect late summer weather, a beautiful family farm setting, no mosquitoes, excellent food, great music and friendly company it was an unexpected treat.

The event at the McGugan Farm was a Pork and Corn Roast sponsored by North Caradoc St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. The setting (Strathroy, Ontario) was like something from a picture on a Canadian Country Calendar. Beautiful countryside, country road, huge shady trees, towering cornfields, lovely well kept heritage family farm, wide expanse of lush green lawn and a big drive shed set up for a feast. An estimated gathering of almost three hundred people gathered together to enjoy this home-style supper.  Very good music filled the air. It was the right kind of music, the kind that told a story and made you think back. One or two of the songs really got to me and that is why I think I was inspired to write this post on my blog. However, it was more likely the combination of all the elements I’ve mentioned that just seemed to be special and when I am moved this way, I write.

While thoroughly enjoying the tasty food, people watching, listening to music I constantly had the feeling that this was indeed something to share on my blog. After all, someone had shared with me so I could be there. Just being in the moment. Pies and butter tarts, homemade, ice cream on the side stretched out on a long table. Little kids, adorable, with families gathered. A hay wagon, tempting platform for the little ones to climb on. Lawn chairs in the shade. Tables set up in the drive shed. Food in bowls, platters, some nestled in icy buckets. Hot food, baked potatoes, beans, pork roast and corn on the cob and cold chilled salads.

Help yourself style with many helping their elders and their youngsters. The farm host, mingling and carrying a basket of raffle tickets, listening to my request to write about the supper. Buttertarts, like the wonderful buttertarts I shared with some folks there may have spurred me on as well. A wonderful country church supper all around and it was just what I needed. (Oh, and the peach pie… I can’t forget the peach pie. Yes, I had both.)

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The Porthole, Melbourne, Ontario, Canada.

Simply stated,The Porthole, the little coffeeshop is right downtown in Melbourne,Ontario. Downtown is marked clearly across the street on another heritage building that appears to be quite retired at the moment. Around the intersection of downtown Melbourne, Ontario there are some business concerns and agricultural spots but as far as I can tell, The Porthole is the only place to eat. On my drive today in search of out of the way places I drove past the little place a couple of times before deciding to try it out.

Country style, no fuss, just come on in and what will you have?

Drawn to the serving counter first I was met by the nicest soul and within minutes of chatting with her I had the story of the place. While finding out about The Porthole I could also sense the connection this wonderful lady had with the folks gathered there. As a newbie on the scene amongst a table of beautiful seniors, another table of friendly locals, several weathered handsome farmers, a few younger, slightly weathered handsome farmers and another artsy looking chap in a leather cowboy hat I felt like I was just one of the gang.

Back in the kitchen a couple of young women cooked our lunches but one ( who turns out to be the owner I believe) also came out on request to banter with one of the comical regulars. The scene was fun and unscripted and as good as anything you might see at Blyth. Around the corner of the kitchen wall I think I could see an old time pie safe or icebox. In any other place it would be all tricked out as a décor touch but not in this place. It was just part of the furniture.

Some sailing décor, in keeping with the name is there. Sailing is hardly a pastime in this spot as it is just farmland for miles around. The owners had at one time had a connection with Port Stanley and so the name, The Porthole. Social doings in the community like barbeque suppers are clearly posted, Girl Guide cookies were promoted at the counter and several squirrel and birdfeeders hang jauntily from the ceiling.

My lunch was good, especially the fries. The fries made me think of the kind of fries you get at the local fair. Coffee was good and in a big mug served with extra cream right from the carton. I didn’t ask to see the menu but I bet it is a good place to get good country food any season.

I will be going back to get another helping of a good lunch, a bit of banter and the warmth of human kindness.

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Yard Work, Digging Mostly

Keeping me on my toes, the gathering of two family members, a neighbour, my librarian and  her daughters, I went ahead with my night to meet and encourage other community writers.

The sensory games and  creativity ideas were tried. Some poetry, mine and another’s ( a professional) published piece were read. A story about the influences of the neighbour attending the event, upon my writing, was pulled for my stockpile and read in it’s entirety. We ate fruit and dessert squares. Another evening, led by me, encouraging young writers was planned for the summer.

In the meantime, stories and threads of ideas were revealing themselves, The group dynamics were interesting. From the mixture of a very small gathering came ideas of reading with very young children, the trauma of  caring for elderly pets,decluttering household contents and wondering about the unforeseen future, knitting, crochet, tatting, hooked rug making, church yard sales, baking, cooking, reading cookbooks, dealing with children, throwing away blackened pots of burnt spaghetti, recalling the chores of working with father in the barn milking the cows and going to the mill and cleaning the house, despising those awful hooked rugs so heavy to drag from the upstairs bedrooms all the way downstairs to air them and clean them while sister baked, studying French and setting up a writing blog …. one that the mom , the librarian, can’t read because it will be all about her according to one of the young daughters.

At the conclusion of the evening another neighbour arrived. A young mother returning her library books, noticing us finishing up the brownies and the fruit tray, realizing we were a bit over the closing hour at the library. Familiar to me, a neighbour, we often say hello. I knew she was a fellow teaching colleague on maternity leave and an artist. Now I know she writes a blog. From just skimming through some of her blog posts I’ve also discovered that her husband is a poet.

All in all, a successful gathering . A very small community gathering of supportive people just planting the seed and nudging together the warming circle of stories, ideas and creativity.Tending a word garden takes effort and patience and with a sprinkle or two of interest it might even take root.

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