Present and Past

A sunny day here and Attila is using it to its fullest advantage.  He is repairing the roof on the screened in porch, which has had issues since it was built; largely due to some unusual design specifications I insisted on.  He is also gathering materials to take to the little house when we next visit.  Further winterization of our country house is also high on his list for today.  He will install the insulated panels over the windows downstairs and parts of the windows upstairs, literally boarding up the windows to prevent excessive heat loss.  And finally, there is a lot of wood to split!

I am having a very busy day as well.  I’ve been baking apple crisp, two so far and another will go into the oven this afternoon.  I baked bread yesterday for the first time since we started commuting to the little house on a regular basis.  Attila is extremely pleased to be eating homemade bread again, as he does not consider commercially made bread to be palatable.

My most recent visit to the doctor revealed that my blood pressure is excellent but my cholesterol levels are slowly creeping up.  Yikes.  I had hoped to reduce my dosage on that medication because it has terrible effects on my digestive system.  Rather than reducing the dosage, I’m facing an eventual increase.  So, after reading various forums where people have talked about what worked them in reducing their cholesterol levels, I decided to eat nuts and oatmeal daily.  I used to eat granola daily, but I now find it far too difficult to chew, since the difficulties I had at the dentist’s office.  However, I’ve come up with a plan, and that is the oatmeal apple crisp, made with very little fat or sugar and lots and lots of apples.  Nuts make a very satisfying snack food.  I began with walnuts and will add almonds to my list of snacks.  To that end I purchased a kilogram of raw almonds last weekend, and today roasted them.  Delicious!  I spread a single layer on a cookie sheet and baked them at 350F for 15 minutes, very simple.  I’ll store them in large glass canning jars.

I was tooting around on the computer when I ran into a few blasts from the past.  One is an article describing a school closing in Toronto.  I began my teaching career at this school, just after it opened its doors to students.  Now it is closing!  How time flies and how things change.  This is the article describing the closure of Arlington Senior Public School.

My university years in Toronto were filled with wonderful experiences and very wonderful friends. I found an article that includes one of my friends. I was glad to see that she is surviving, and sad to see that she has had to struggle to do so. Kris Scheuer wrote an article that describes Mary Milne’s struggle with hunger, representative of the struggle of many in Toronto and elsewhere.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

13 °C
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 13.0°C
Dewpoint: 3.1°C
Humidity: 51 %
Wind: WNW 15 km/h

Quote

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
Kurt Vonnegut
(1922 – 2007)

Ageism

Ageism, the lucky amongst us are going to face this type of discrimination, later rather than sooner.

I urge every one of us to keep an eye on how we interact with people younger or older than ourselves. Respect for differences should cover just about any situation. When we assume the way we look at the world is “normal”, we do a disservice to everyone, including ourselves.

I wonder, why would I find the comment, “you look so young” complimentary? It always upsets me, makes me feel uncomfortable and unhappy, aware of impending loss. I can tell it is meant as a compliment, so I smile. But if this is so important to people, what the heck am I going to do when I don’t look so young??? It will happen, if I’m lucky. I really don’t want to think of myself as “young looking”; I want to be “Maggie looking” and I want that to be all right. I can carry “Maggie looking” to my the end of my days, it is that flexible a compliment.

My Dad died of colon cancer. I have regular colonoscopies, which, for me, are always potentially fatal due to human error with medications (my allergy). I hate them, the colonoscopies that is, but I do it. I am always glad to come home alive. Between colonoscopies, which are five years apart, I annually complete the home “Fecal Occult Blood Test”, FOBT. I hate these too, but I don’t have to fear for my life to do this test. This isn’t pretty stuff. I read recently that a new blood test may offer an equally efficacious test for colon cancer. Please, please, please let it be true!

A lovely sunny day here! Attila is working this morning, I have the day off. A bonus because I will be working on the next two Saturdays. Day four of curing the fireplace is well under way. The masonry heater is not charged yet though, so very little heat is emanating from it. By Sunday it will retain some heat from the firings and the house will begin to warm up. Monday we can burn a full fire!

Curing the Masonry Heater October 2010

Curing the Masonry Heater October 2010

The apples we picked on our holidays are keeping well so far, but there is some urgency in eating and cooking with them before they begin to go soft and ultimately rot. Yesterday I made an apple crisp. I haven’t made a dessert in a very long time, I gain a lot of weight when desserts are sitting on the counter, testing my resolve.

Yesterday I seared two round steaks in the cast iron dutch oven, then added cubed potatoes, sliced onions, cubed carrots, pepper corns, bay leaf and water. By the time Attila arrived home hours later, our dinner was ready. There was enough left over for two additional meals! That is our solution to ready-made meals, we don’t buy them ready-made, we prepare enough for several days when we cook from raw ingredients. I guess some people don’t like left-overs; aren’t ready-made meals off the shelves in the grocery store already left-overs? I guess we see things differently.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

6 °C
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 6.0°C
Dewpoint: 2.6°C
Humidity: 79 %
Wind: NNW 9 km/h

Quote

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust
(1871 – 1922)

Thin Layer of “Fools”

Last night Attila and I watched a program about the history of Scotland. I was interested, many of my ancestors came to Canada from Scotland. My grandfather spoke with a mild Scottish accent, which I picked up and was ridiculed for at primary school.

The word history is a broad term, defined by the Oxford Dictionary in several ways. It seems that the new English meaning of the word is focused on “record of important or public events”. In the media these events seem always to be focused, in turn, on power, struggles for power, violence and violent death. When a book or a television program describes history, it is almost without fail a description of a very, very thin top layer of ambitious climbers. Seldom do I see descriptions of community building and strategies for human harmony; mostly I see long chronologies of wars, battles, political allegiances and betrayals. Certainly my high school history courses focused on these themes.

However, the origin of the word history offers more than this:

Origin:
late Middle English (also as a verb): via Latin from Greek historia ‘finding out, narrative, history’, from histōr ‘learned, wise man”

This origin of the word history does not state or imply a focus on important and public events. The focus of interest in the “finding out”, in the creation of a narrative of human activity, is left to the discretion of the author.

Personally, I’m interested in the how the majority lived in times gone by. How did they survive the power plays, wars, economic greed and political strategies of their times. How did they go on with their daily lives despite the ravages of the ambition, greed and avarice of the minority? For most of us, that is the wisdom we can learn from the past.

“History”, as the word is used in education and the media, focuses on those who determine issues that affect whole populations. Today’s common wisdom in Western education and media tells us that we are the authors of our own individual destiny, that “life is what you make it”, that “you can be whatever you want to be”.

Talk about mixed messages.  Who in their right mind would create a life of poverty, unemployment, underemployment, live in a war torn state or a violent neighborhood or go hungry?

I found the program on the history of Scotland interesting; a chronology of the thin layer of fools at the top, that shaped the structures, opportunities and limitations of daily life for the majority of humans in a particular time and place. What I wanted though, was to hear how the majority of people living at the time managed to survive such ravages.

I grew up around people who were very into the St. James version of the Bible, often called the King James Version, these individuals appointed Sainthood wherever they so chose. I often heard the phrase: “Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” This phrase has been discussed by many admired and noted men. As a child, what I thought it meant, was that those who lived in gentle harmony with their human and physical environment would endure, beyond the violence and machinations of those who “rose” through greed and ambition.

It seems to me this is a credible interpretation. For example, last night’s program described the “Picts” as disappearing from history at the same time that “Scotland” came into being, and that came about as a result of the “changing of the guard” in the high ranking positions, the Gaels replacing the Picts. The meek however, the majority of people living in the Picts’ lands, endured to live their unremarkable lives. Only one thin layer at the top was skimmed away to be replaced by another thin layer.

Paul, this entry is for you.  God bless.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

2 °C
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 2.0°C
Dewpoint: 2.0°C
Humidity: 100 %
Wind: NNW 11 km/h

Quote

LarsonGaryBozone

LarsonGaryBozone

Kindling

This morning I awoke at five to find Attila up and engaging the day. He is going in to work early, as it is very busy and he wants to get a start on things early. Before leaving for work Attila has started a fire in the wood stove downstairs to keep the place warm today, and he has assembled all the kindling I need to begin curing the masonry heater for the winter.

I have my first burn crackling merrily in the masonry hearth as I write. Curing the masonry heater is an annual ritual, necessary to slowly expel all moisture from the refractory cement core, to avoid steam during the force of a full fire burn. I will burn five or more small fires throughout the day today, and will continue to build incrementallly larger fires for the next five days. In five days a small amount of heat will begin to radiate from the heater and it will be ready for full service.

I am not working this week, a short break, so this is the perfect time to charge the heater.

From the car, Thanksgiving Weekend Trip, 2010

From the car, Thanksgiving Weekend Trip, 2010

Tending fires requires my attention at intervals, all day long. So, I have set the timer on the computer to remind me when I have to tend a fire, downstairs in the little wood stove or upstairs in the masonry heater. I putter in between my fire building tasks, and surf around on the computer. Old photos have my attention today, these are almost addictive. Many portray the era of my youth, giving me small glimpses into what other people were experiencing at the time.

A pleasant surprise for me this morning, Harriet and Caitrìona dropped by for a quick coffee, a piece of pie and a little chat. They were on their way to Harriet’s cottage, and also planned to check on Caitrìona’s property to make sure all is secure for the winter. They encountered traffic jams due to several accidents on the highway on their trip here, I do hope their drive back is less dramatic. They have invited Attila and I for dinner this evening, which is always a treat, both the meal and the company.

While Harriet and Caitrìona were here I received a call to come in to work tomorrow; another little bit earned to keep the wolves at bay. I’m very pleased, and can work the second day of curing the masonry heater around my work schedule.

I’ve been diligent with my fires today, so that today’s curing will be complete in time for us to leave for our dinner engagement and the house will remain warm and cozy for the night.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 10.0°C
Dewpoint: 5.0°C
Humidity: 71 %
Wind: SSE 13 km/h

Quote

“Holding onto anger is like grasping onto a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the one who gets burned.”
Gautama Buddha

What on earth…

I just had to write again today.

I don’t know how I bumped into this collections of photos on the net.

I don’t know what I could possibly have in common with a New York beat cop.

I don’t know what constitutes excellence in the world of photography. I don’t care either.

I know that this human being has created images, using a camera, that speak to me clearly.

Here are two photographs I enjoyed, and am grateful that the individual who created them cared to share them.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kowoods/4104634844/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kowoods/3819011786/in/photostream/

But for the Internet these images would not have been available to me.