Tag Archives: history

Waking

overhead

the ceiling fan and the surprising chill

the night caused me to wrap up in the summer quilt

 

suddenly changed

catching

me off guard

my dream worked

itself

out

seeing someone surprised at me being in their house

checking on things and scaring them no doubt by hearing my footsteps

stop

at their front door

shocked at what was

outside

and then only a few moments to make the morning coffee and see the neighbour

before finding out the news

yet again about the crazy

things

that happen oddly

enough

a form of shock

had the impact of overwhelming

fatigue

and a need to either go back to sleep or find a place with flowers and trees where some beauty remains

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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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Thankyou, Ruth!

Inspiration can come along in many ways and today it was in the country library. It was a combination of several things such as the neat and orderly setting, the book lined walls and the familiar folk gathered there . The author we all celebrated there today is a gentle speaking, delightful senior that held our interest and also charmed our hearts with her book launch.

This writer has been writing a variety of articles and material for many years. She is published and has been nominated for awards. Today, she read from her most recent book which just happens to be historical fiction. It is rich with material from her own heritage as well as her knowledge of farming in the pioneer days.

The energy in the library, as she lead us through the chosen excerpt from her book was the kind of sensation you feel when something meaningful happens on a very good day and all seems for the moment peaceful, calm and positive. Being part of the group there today and enjoying the overall experience I came to the realization that she had given me a boost as a writer but I think there were connections  with everyone gathered there.

Respectful admiration, community and family support, good humour, down to earth conversation and practical discussion were the artistic vibrations resonating in the small but packed to the gills rural library today. Chairs had to be brought in from the nearby hall to accommodate the crowd, all of her books were purchased, signed and her own son gave up his own copy to a delighted fan and it was all topped off with a delicious cake ( made by her daughter, no doubt) and glasses of cider. We were all there to celebrate the love of writing that this author shared with us.

That is what I felt in the room and I can best describe it as inspiration. A young person in attendance today shared her appreciation of this author with me and it was glowing, enthusiastic and appreciative. Now, that’s energy!

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Loads of Gravel

Ninety years ago from her farmhouse window she would see the loads of gravel being sold from my grandpa’s gravel pit. Every load moved by horse and cart was marked down on a tally on a calendar beside her party line telephone. With all the typical work to do in her house and around the farm she had time to do this. This neighbour had a husband but no children. She was a topnotch housekeeper, cook , quilter and kind soul.

When you went to visit her, even in her later years, she could put together a great homemade meal in no time flat. Bam! She was amazing. The visit would last well into the night because there was a lot of ground to cover with respect to catching up on all the news of the neighbourhood and adventures of those farther afield.

My neighbours are close at hand.

An older couple has moved into a seniors apartment but they are still involved in the local activities at the church and coffee shop. A new person has taken over their place and has a very old dog and a very young dog as well as some horses boarded somewhere which are part of a business venture she manages.

Another neighbour is constantly on the go with his trucking business and his wife is a devoted daughter, caring for her parents.

The folks beside me are busy night and day caring for children and others, often in emergency situations. Quite possibly, these people are angels.

Across the street are lovely folk involved in teaching,books, music, art, food and cats. They are either on their porch with herbal tea or off to watch the swans. Music from the sixties floats through the air, sometimes.

Directly across,a relative resides. Family sports events, community and social activities, planning such events for her wide range of friends and recently some kitchen renovations occupy her time. She seems to keep tabs on me as well.

Further along, another relative lives a bachelor life of hobbies, friends and travel. He is also very fond of his amazing ginger coloured cat. He sends me emails about his cat, often.

Across the street is a young family with several children that liven up the neighbourhood, attracting the other kids down the street and they all get together as “The Chicken House Gang” and happily go off to the local park to play. All of them are sweet and polite. I should know because I see them go by back and forth a couple of times a day and they wave or say hi. Quite possibly, these kids are angels too.

Around the corner is a gentle and dignified grandma that rides her bike or goes on walks with her grandchildren.

At  the end of the street, another couple, distantly related, reserved and respected.

On the corner, in a huge restored old house a busy family, a tiny dog, teenagers in the house.

More neighbours, further along, as the streets and lanes wind in and out. New grandchildren are the news of these folks, or so I hear. They have been away to visit this new baby but are home again as I’ve been told as we gathered on the porch.

A toad is happy to be in my garden and follows my footsteps as I water the plants. The big tree across the street has a racoon carefully moving along the bigger branches.

At night, when I can’t sleep I think of things like the neighbour of my grandpa’s watching and tallying his gravel business and then I blog a bit to boost my stats. I’ll count them in the morning.

 

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Carved In Stone

Orange pumpkins by the door set off by bins of Christmas lights and wreaths ready to go make this time of year quite festive. A village Hallowe’en recently celebrated must rapidly make way for our night time Christmas parade next weekend. Everyone tries to get a few lights up and hang a wreath or two. There will be pots of chili and hot cider on the stove ready for drop in guests.  Families visit together and local service groups provide entertainment for the little ones. The parade route volunteers gather food from the sidelines for the foodbank and donated clothing such as children’s snowsuits .   A couple of senior citizens are designated as parade royalty and marshal everyone in their antique cars to the park to visit with Santa in a charming restored pioneer log cabin. Hot chocolate and hotdogs are part of the scene at the beautiful heritage park as everyone gathers for a fun evening.

A few days later, we gather again at the park for Remembrance. There will be several there who know first hand what Remembrance is all about and these are the faces that I can’t help but study. The stories of these people are powerful . I can only try to appreciate the depth of each one and seek some personal reflection on the intensity, grief and sensitivity of those who first hand have experienced things I can’t even imagine. Many of us attending can only contribute our quiet respect and do our best to live honourably.

There is a fine monument in our park and names are engraved there. That is what I know. I will silently stand there in a few days and be part of the gathering.

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Fowl Suppers Circa 1960

Soapsuds past my elbows as I plunged into the freestanding metal wash tub, I felt worthy of the status of a church lady despite the fact I was barely seven years of age. On each side of me  at my workstation on the wooden table were more basins of hot water to dip and rinse the dishes as I did my best to keep up with the circle of older ladies drying dishes as fast as possible. Proudly contributing  my youthful enthusiasm I worked at the dishwashing as long as my services were needed. Sometimes I was enlisted on other more pressing tasks such as running upstairs to the church sanctuary with messages for the elders pinned to my chest or collecting dirty dishes from my sister and sister-in-law ordering me around as they prepared available seatings for more guests at their assigned table.

The rural church kitchen had no modern features that I recall except an ancient stove of some kind and a deep laundry type sink with a tap. There was a hand pump on one side of the drain board I think but my memory is foggy on that. I don’t recall a refrigerator either. If there was one it was non-descript.  Tall wooden cupboards to the ceiling held a large collection of  old  thin white china with a plain rim of burnished silver and another smaller collection of light green fiesta ware cups and saucers. As the dirty dishes came in through the swinging kitchen doors they were scraped quickly and plunged into the soapy water for a quick turn around use as they were needed for the next seating of people coming down the two sets of stairs leading from the upper sanctuary. I remember coleslaw swimming aound on top of the dishwater until one of the ladies would dump it out in the big sink and refresh it with clean hot water from the giant kettles steaming away at the back of the stove.

The experienced, talented younger ladies were involved in rolling out the white paper to cover the long tables and resetting the dinnerware and silverware ( as we called it). Once presentable, the men organizing the  seating of our guests would announce that those seated in certain pews in the sanctuary were to take their turn for the meal while others would have to wait until a table was ready. It was a whirlwind of activity, friendly folks and wonderful turkey dinner smells. It went on for hours because we fed the community at large and I thought it was the most fun, ever to have at church.

The food was prepared at home on the farm and brought in to serve the huge turnout. Some local ladies were entrusted with the roasting of turkeys and their husbands roared home to collect the birds from warm ovens when supplies ran low. Canning kettles of mashed potatoes and turnip were kept hot on the feeble old stove while extra huge kettles were kept handy, close by at someone’s local home. Bins of homemade coleslaw marinated safely in vinegar ready for quick dishing up and served in a variety of bowls along with the potatoes and turnip. Homemade applesauce and pickles rounded out the meal along with stuffing and gravy.

Along a wall in the Sunday school were specially built shelves that held all the pies. Needless to say, they were also all homemade. There were mostly apple ,pumpkin,cherry, elderberry and raisin pies but some ladies would bring in show stopping  lemon pies heaped with swirls of meringue.  Coffee was made by my mom in a huge copper laundry boiler where the grounds boiled with salt and eggshells. Along with all the other tasks involved with the big supper her special job was to make the coffee for the crowd. I think she was the only one who could get tanks of it just right so it became her special job. Dippers of this strong brew were ladled into white metal coffeepots for the ladies to serve coffee along the rows of tables.

When the last guest had been served and sent again on their way home, the kitchen staff, servers and all the male helpers sat down to share the leftovers and rest weary legs. Every year, for a long time before and a long time after, these fowl suppers were a special event in my young life and represented to me what a church community did. They worked hard, did their best, encouraged each other and had fun whenever they could sharing their traditions and faith in a down to earth way. I am thankful for the memories and yes, we really did call them…Fowl Suppers!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

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Fooling Them, Some of the Time….

Twice now I’ve been mistaken for my lovely niece, at least twenty-five years younger than myself. I know! Why would I even worry about that? It seems extremely odd though. Somehow, people I know very well and see often enough should not make these mistakes. We may have some similar family traits but my niece is a trim, slim dressy young woman and I am traditionally built… (ahem)… and wear black yoga pants daily ( they are slimming and oh, so comfortable.) We have the same hair colour, hazel eyes, fair complexion and sense of humour but that’s about it. Side by side, we look very much like ourselves (allowing for the fact I am very significantly older and very, very, very significantly plumper). Apart, we look very different, as we should. On both occasions, it was older fellows who made the error . I didn’t correct them. Would you?

Years ago, the mistaken identity thing happened to me but in reverse. I had recently moved back into the rural village close to our family roots. Very early one morning there was a light knock at the front door and I could see through the peephole that it was an elderly lady that I knew from the community when I was a young girl. Although I greeted her by name she in turn  handed me some wild weeds she had picked in the yard and called me by my aunt’s name, Dorothy. She told me she was glad I was back home again after all these years. My aunt had moved away years ago and had died far from home. I never knew her. Oddly enough, my aunt and I apparently were alike in many ways according to what my parents told me. When the old and very confused soul had welcomed me home as Dorothy I didn’t correct her. I watched her leave through the back garden, picking catnip mint….wandering barefoot despite her advanced age with her wispy long white hair, long cotton dress and singing mysteriously to herself. Literally stunned by this Ophelia-like encounter, it took me a few moments to figure out her visit. She had it almost right. I was back home again, single again…. with my young son. I guess I could have been Dorothy except for the age difference of fifty odd years.

As a university student in the 1970’s, when typists worked on faculty papers I was mistakenly presented in the coffee shop with a huge folder to be typed up for a professor . I was a first year student barely able to find my way around the huge campus and a vile typist of my own work.  A girl in the secretarial pool apparently had the same Farrah Fawcett hairdo and platform shoes that I had and the mistake was pointed out to the rather confused fellow wanting his dissertation typed as soon as possible. He seemed to think I was kidding because apparently one Farrah Fawcett hairdo looked like another.

Getting out of my car in the school parking lot where I worked (almost) my entire career as a Kindergarten teacher, I was approached by a harried looking woman bent on discussing her son’s progress. I had taught her two younger boys in Kindergarten but they were now in the junior grades. Bizarrely, she started in on how upset she was with her son’s progress so far and wanted to discuss it in detail with me. I told her to make an appointment with the teacher. Looking at me with intense stress she left in a huff. She hadn’t realized I wasn’t her older son’s teacher at all. She had mistaken me for the Grade Eight teacher. Granted we are both about the same age, fair, hazel eyes and traditionally built but…come on, how can you not know your own son’s teacher? The difference in nine grade levels should have been her first clue. ( I have to add the detail that this woman was a nurse at a mental hospital, so…..)

The best observation of all time wasn’t really a mistaken identity but rather a wonderful compliment, ( much like being confused with my lovely young niece!). In the middle of one of my more dramatic lessons , outfitted with an array of props ,puppets and costumes I was storytelling my Kindergarten teacher heart out. A student, four years of age asked me point blank at the end of my performance…”Are you a real grownup ?”  That was a wonderful moment in time, a treasured confused moment!

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