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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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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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The Will Must be Stronger

Such along time has passed since my last post. Why has the title appeared so bold faced when typed? I no longer know the features on this blog site so everything is new again.

Hot chocolate, made from a dark chocolate bar and hot milk( don’t try it) at hand and very late at night I settle into the chair ,  aching from an old church parking lot injury ( (don’t ask) and therefore suffering a bit for my art I decide it is now or never. I must write. Fighting off the cat from the laptop and from sticking her nose into the hot chocolate ( I’ll use milk chocolate next time) I make this feeble effort to at least open up the writing part of my quiet existence once more. I know I can do this.

It is the will that has somewhat atrophied almost to the point of disuse.

Folks in general have noticed my absence from writing. Comments, blunt and discreet are often made. The greeter at church one day mentioned it to a visiting minister. The coffeeshop staff have cleared a spot for me and reminded me of their hours of business, gently suggesting I should return to my table of soup, sandwich coffee and journal writing, people watching and listening in on conversations. Family send updates to writing events. Hints drop, suggestions are made, jabs here and there.

 

Even the winter creature that lives somewhere along the exterior wall under the radiator behind my desk has rattled on a bit with encouragement for me to return to my swivel chair, laptop and late hours. Mr. Mole or Miss Mouse or possibly worse nibbles and scratches a bit as I type keeping me alert. Nothing more arouses the will to write than the prospect of having this wee soft creature zip across my foot. It is like having a snake loose in a dark bedroom and being too petrified to confront it so the imagination must cope.

Topics to write about are overwhelming and yet some appeal to me. Reading, writing, poetry, music, theatre, family, cooking, gardening, teaching, pets are my comforting favourites. My own stories are on the surface, bubbling, waiting to be stirred. World issues, problems and general chaos are too much for me, yet provoke thoughts and  disturbing dreams. Am I reluctant to write of these things because of what they are or am I afraid that I will write?

Cat has jumped over the screen once more, the mug of wretched chocolate has been drained, the small creature behind the wall is quiet once more. The will to write has stretched a little ignoring the ache.

 

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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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Yard Duty

Meeting running

over

time

Rain threatening but groups remain

gathered outside

Supervision

on a misson

beyond trees

approached by grinning little boy

shoelaces untied and jacket tied

around his waist

a student but from the past

oddly enough

a tug on my sleeve

grin and run

like he always did

oddly enough

walking on to grand old house

empty, brick

abandoned

light area opens up, home like, table and cloth, pram, unfinished meal on window sill, half eaten porkchop and apple slice

dried but not there long

sound there, women, music, is it music?

soft voices, gentle laughter

oddly enough

door unlatched

way to leave

mown lawns, great expanse

leading to a busy highway

hidden house

oddly enough

 

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Dog, Cat and As the World Turns

Note to self, remember to bring the poor cat inside tonight. Cat has been sequestered for days while the dog was visiting. At the first chance of an open door, clear of an intimidating looking muscular but actual cream puff of a bulldog has gone back home to my son’s house, the cat has bolted outside. It is dark. Coyotes lurk in the nearby bush.

Cat has made a break for it. Anyone would after sitting in a wicker basket on a high dresser for two days. Food, water, litter tray and a nice oscillating fan to stir the air is nice enough for a cat staycation for one day but after that it gets old fast.

Since the dog has left I can eat without worrying about the head butts against my leg that signal begging for food. My books, glasses, coffee cups, journals and pens are safe from being snatched or knocked over. The large bay window with it’s wide lower ledge in the living room is now just a window rather than a showcase for a chubby bulldog to stand in, prance around on and bark at passerby’s, tousle around the new spiffy drapes, lick the glass panes and sleep upon for hours. Things are returning to normal except for the cat escape.

Point being?

We all get a bit set in our ways. We do things the same old way. It’s good to hang out with interesting characters but send them home once they become a bit much. Let loose when you can. Get out there. Take a chance or two. Watch out for coyotes and leave the porch light on.

 

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