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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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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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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