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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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Wizzy’s Protest Flight, All Over This Land!

Oddly, whenever Wizzy ( an owl, if you haven’t been reading her old adventure stories) ventured out of her hideout in the boreal forest something always happened to startle her and she flew back to her favourite old branch.

She had hidden from the chaos for a couple years of several confusing seasons due to her vulnerable and sensitive nature. The final straw of weird and reckless nonsense surging through the little blue button in her nest riled her up  however and brought her back to the border between the Land of Pinecones and Maple Vistas and The Land of the Right and the Left.

It was time to dive in and try to straighten things out once and for all. The survival of bird values was at stake. More than her feathers were ruffled. Wizzy felt inspiration for protest welling up in her craw and it was time to sing out, loud and clear once more!

Where to begin?

The situation was dire!

Everyone was in a flap!

Baby birds in cages, separated from their parental flocks and ….no reason,  no plan or solution in sight for restoring things to the natural order of give and take, live and let live or don’t be a bird brained fool if you can help it. What a mess!

Apparently advised by a few cuckoo birds who were of questionable pedigree and enforced by pterodactyl wannabe’s the attack seemed focused entirely on the exotic southern song birds seeking refuge by migrating  from terror and destruction from deranged and violent gangs of vultures straight out of a Hitchcock movie.

After a long and difficult journey, expecting only a chance for rest and possibly acceptance,as other tattered and torn birds in the past had hoped for and flocked to these shores and lands, the songbirds had a terrible experience of detention, rejection and separation from their young. Identification slip ups galore ensued and you know what hit the fan, big time!

Wizzy flew directly to The Roost on The Hill searching for Old Samuel the Eagle but he unfortunately was gone and wouldn’t be barack (unsure of spelling here) and was somehow replaced by a huge stiff looking Leghorn with small claws scratching around in the dust and raising a twittering ruckus to beat the band.

Surrounding this old bird was a tired gaggle of geese, hissing and spitting in frustration and threatening to quit and take off at any moment. Looming overhead was a very sneaky falcon, surveying the damage with elaborate swoops and smirking into his well preened wings.

Oddly enough there seemed to be dens of foxes everywhere on the grounds as well, mostly muttering to themselves and whispering updates into the Leghorn’s ear frequently, just adding to the general uproar and confusion.

Fortunately for all, the Fearless Birds of Intelligence were quietly on the case and almost ready to send out their pecking order of charges to expose the whole darn thing and set the record straight on the scrambled mess of rotten and cracked shell games afoot.

Wizzy  returned home, back to the Land of Pinecones and Maple Vistas, protest singing loudly and flapping wings of strong support in hopes of encouraging the terrified fledglings and heart broken and confused flocks of adult jailed birds.

What else could she do?

Well, she would turn on that blue button to keep abreast of the daily squawks and keep her beady eyes on the situation for starters.

Wizzy, the owl was a Canadian bird after all. She would politely and respectfully protest the situation for the sake of the downtrodden and of course not let anyone push her around.

 

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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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What Goes Around Comes Around

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.

 

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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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