‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

I just delighted myself by reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas aloud to myself. Many decades too late to delight my Granny, and my Mother, who read us poetry every night as bedtime stories.

When I was four my Granny and Mother helped me memorize this poem, to recite at a school Christmas Concert, at the one room school house that my Mother had attended as a child.

I was a shy child, very unused to the company of people other than my parents, grandparents, and siblings. The thought of standing up and reciting in front of an audience, most of whom were unknown to me, was terrifying.

I memorized most of the poem, and then balked, and insisted I could not remember the lines, deliberately making mistakes. I did not perform that poem at the Christmas Concert, nor any other poem. I think my Granny and Mother were disappointed.

The Christmas Concert was a magical event, with every child who attended school there performing some little thing, a poem, a song, and the audience sang along as the students all stood on the “stage” and sang Christmas Carols. Every child received a small gift, including me. It was the highlight of all social events in my life, so wonderful that someone once said of it, “heaven couldn’t be any better than this.” I measure all social activity by this experience, and have been lucky enough to experience similarly magical occasions… Mary’s Christmas open house… Fat Albert’s open stage… an evening with Michael Smith and musical friends at a small intimate cafe… my social life has had its sweet moments in time.

Yesterday we received a message from Terra, asking us if we could come and take care of Sunny and Sky for a few hours. Terra is working shift work, and Lares is on call on the weekends. Lares was on a call and couldn’t leave to come home in time for Terra to leave for work. Their regular babysitter could not take the babies, so Terra messaged us and asked if we were busy. Happily our plans for the day were flexible, so it was an immediate “we will be there” response.

We arrived well before Terra had to leave for work, so Sunny and Sky had lots of time to adjust to our presence before their Mom left. We had a wonderful time playing with them, for about three hours. They are very active little people, curious, good natured, and very rambunctious. The three hours flew by and before we knew it Lares was home. Their faces lit up when Lares came into the room. He had another job to go to, and was taking them with him. He bundled them up, and off we all went, they to the job site (a house with children to play with), us to the grocery store before it closed. I was surprised at how tired I was when we got home!

My Mom left for Florida early Sunday morning. I sure hope I inherited her genes, 86 and nothing slows her down for long. She arrived at her first stop along the way Sunday night, texted my sisters, and later messaged me. She will stop along the way again, for another night tonight, before she reaches her destination in Florida tomorrow. Mom has the same incredible independence, and force of character, that my Grandpa enjoyed.

And so another quiet day begins here at Mist Cottage. Christmas approaches and my shopping is done, what little of it there was. This year we have six Grandbabies. God willing, next year we will have seven Grandbabies. Our budget for gift giving is very limited, so we have opted for one Dollar Store toy for each child, candy, and a high quality book for each child. It was fun to search for just the right book for each child, attempting to match the reading material with the particular interests of each individual. Hopefully the exercise was successful!

My projects for the day have been crocheting, and making a large soup pot full of Vegetable Beef Soup, a on-the-fly variation of my Vegetable Soup recipe. My soups are “stone soup” affairs. I begin with either caramelized onions, or braised ground beef if I am getting extravagant, and build from there. Today’s soup has a bag of frozen Italian Vegetables, and a few cups of our pureed Hubbard Squash added to it. We will eat if for our dinner tonight, and then I will enjoy it for quick lunches for the rest of the week. Attila spent time on the weekend preparing his Pea Soup, a favourite of his.

Twice neighbours have arrived at our mailbox to deliver Christmas Cards. We will be delivering our cards to them very soon!

It has been snowing all day. The snow plow just rumbled past. I have about 40 minutes, to get myself bundled up and out there with my shovel, before Attila arrives home. I hope that snow bank isn’t too high! Mom, aren’t you glad your in the south!!!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-10°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Monday 18 December 2017
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -10.2°C
Dew point: -14.0°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: NE 16 km/h
Wind Chill: -17
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I don’t own a cell phone or a pager. I just hang around everyone I know, all the time. If someone wants to get a hold of me, they just say ‘Mitch,’ and I say ‘what?’ and turn my head slightly.”
Mitch Hedberg
1968 – 2005

Memories!

Music

This morning I’ve decided to resume muffin baking. To that end a tub of frozen pureed squash has been fetched from the freezer in the basement, and is thawing on the kitchen counter.

I love live music. This is something I discovered in my thirties, after my first marriage ended, and my own likes and dislikes were allowed to bloom. Living in downtown Toronto, I was able to enjoy live music everywhere I went, bars, cafes, walking down the street, open stages, musical get togethers with musical friends, and in many more ways. At that time I wrote a lot of poetry, and read my work at open stages, and sometimes in bars (where I found a surprisingly appreciative audience, if I got on stage before the serious drinking started). All that was a lifetime ago, and since then there has been no other social activity that has held the same appeal.

Attila and I have decided that we will explore music venues within driving distance of Mist Cottage. Last night we drove for about 40 minutes to listen to a band at a bar, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The band was friendly, the staff at the bar were friendly, the other patrons were friendly, no one really cared who we were, they were just happy to have us there… it was a social-engineer-free zone. We will be exploring other venues in the weeks to come, and in the years to come. Who knows, I might start writing again, and do a reading here and there, or maybe not, it depends on how I feel at any given moment.

Up until last night every evening musical event Attila and I have attended, in the last fifteen years or so, has been “stiff”, with the performers feeling too special, too focused on building a “fan” base, to genuinely connect with the people in the audience, the hosting individuals feeling too excited about their own importance to be genuinely present to anyone but the performers they are so enamoured with. This kind of atmosphere is not appealing to me, or to Attila. No performer is so special that being genuine with people is beneath their dignity. The most talented people are usually “over themselves” very early on in the game. Part of the magic of creativity is in its openness, absent in the performer/adoring-fan binary cage.

It is very cold today! I was only out of doors for a short time. Every year a Christmas card arrives in our mailbox, addressed to our neighbour at our address. Every year I bundle up, walk over the neighbour’s house, and pop it into their mailbox. Today was delivery day.

This isn’t the jolliest Christmas I’ve ever experienced. Without realizing it, I’ve been listening to canned playlists of Christmas music, instead of my cherished collection of Christmas music on CDs. Why? I find I don’t want to associate the the disoriented feelings I have this year with the music I love. I want to listen to that music in future years and enjoy it without triggering the sad feelings I have this year. If the universe allows, these sad feelings will fade, and their existence used as a tool, but not revisited as part of Christmas memories. One pass through these feelings will be enough. There are lots of good feelings floating around at Mist Cottage this Christmas, making good will and hope the order of every day. That in itself is a wonderful thing.

In the colder weather Mist Cottage switches automatically from heating with the air source heat pump to the oil furnace. When that happens the air dries out, everything dries out, and the humidity in the house plummets. Today soaked washcloths are draped in front of every heat register, where they dry in less an hour, at which time they are carted over the sink, soaked again, and placed back in front of the registers. The humidity level is being maintained in this way, but no gains are being made, it is holding steady at 28%.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-20°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Thursday 14 December 2017
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -20.1°C
Dew point: -23.3°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: NNW 10 km/h
Wind Chill: -27
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller
1880 – 1968

Cold Snap

It is 6:30 a.m., I’ve been up and about for several hours. Attila left for work half an hour ago. It is a lovely time of day, at this time of year. The coloured lights on the Christmas Tree cast twinkling colour on the tinsel, as the forced air heating sets the airwaves in motion on either side of the room. My old hand made lamp casts a soft light from the far corner. It is warm inside these walls, and very cold just a few feet away, beyond the border of shelter.

The light is beginning to creep into the sky. My coffee cup sits empty beside me. Soon it will be time to rise from this comfortable chair, to prepare breakfast, and then to begin the day’s activities. I linger in the soft light, just a little while longer.

Attila and I are continuing to “try”, a complex shared activity that seems to be progressing slowly but surely (I think!).

Here I am writing again as the day begins to close. It is very cold outside, but Mist Cottage is warm and cozy, thanks to our most marvellous thermostat. My day passed quietly, crochet hook in hand, sitting in the warm sun, comfortable in my easy chair. Yesterday shovelling snow was my exercise for the day, today it was the elliptical machine for thirty minutes. I have slowly worked my way up to a half an hour on the machine, having started at fifteen minutes. So far it is very easy on my arthritic knees.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-13°C
Date: 6:00 AM EST Wednesday 13 December 2017
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -12.6°C
Dew point: -16.9°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: NW 21 km/h
Wind Chill: -21
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne
1804 – 1864

Blowing Snow

There are theories about chaos, official theories, well thought out theories, exploitable theories. But chaos as I know it on a first-name-basis, is not subject to any theory. Of course, I try, I really try, to fit it into some kind of a manageable box, where I can view it from the outside, comfortably. And sometimes I actually achieve containment, but only briefly, it is temporary.

Awareness brings more questions than it does answers.

I am reminded, constantly, that we humans are a mystery, as often to ourselves as to others.

The world was white when I got up this morning at 5:00 a.m. Winter has arrived here at Mist Cottage, our first snow. When Attila left for work, the tire tracks left in his wake were deep. The snow plow passed by at 7:45 a.m. I wish now I had asked Attila where the snow shovel was stored in the chaos of the garage, before he left for work this morning. I didn’t think of it! He would have grabbed it for me and set it where I could reach it.

Just after I wrote the above paragraph, about the snow, I heard loud noises outside the house. There was our neighbour with his snowblower, clearing out the end of our driveway, and a path almost to the door! This is the fellow that wanted people in the neighbourhood to show up at the town Council meetings to protest the rental unit development proposals, for a private road to go in at the end of our cramped dead-end street. We showed up at every pertinent meeting to show support, because we value the community spirit on this street. The community lost, the developer and mayor (stated conflict of interest) won, approval was given, environmental protections were altered with approved rezoning. I think the community spirit on our street might survive the new development, even though 80 additional vehicles squeezing up and down the narrow street will make it very congested.

After the driveway was cleared, I bundled up and went out to the garage to look for the snow shovel. There it was, on the other side of mountains of loose stuff that was stacked high. Determined, I waded through and over the pile, careful to find firm footing on the floor, which I could feel but could not see. I managed to grab a corner of the shovel, reaching to the point where I was almost lying down, and drag it across the mountain of stuff, then throw it over the mountain of stuff to where I could pick it up, from the path cleared to the door. Then it was time to extricate myself from the mountain of stuff, which was accomplished with huffing and puffing. The shovel was then used to clear the snow immediately in front of the door, and around the mailbox, so that the mailperson could get to it without any issues.

The roads were awful, icy, slushy, and slippery. The snow continued to fall. Tank lumbered slowly through all this, paying no attention at all to the impatient drivers behind her, who wanted to drive faster than the speed limit in these conditions. They have Tank to thank for their safe passage through town!

After arriving home from the Post Office, mission accomplished, Tank was parked at the end of the driveway, which had been cleared by the neighbour. The snow shovel was fetched from the garage and within a half an hour almost all of the rest of the snow was cleared, from around where Tank had been parked, and around Iris the trailer.

Not an altogether unpleasant experience getting my chore done this morning, thanks to our neighbour’s good will, and his snow blower.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-7°C
Date: 7:00 AM EST Tuesday 12 December 2017
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -7.1°C
Dew point: -8.9°C
Humidity: 87%
Wind:
NE 21 km/h
Wind Chill: -14
Visibility: 2 km

Quote

“You’re dealing with the demon of external validation. You can’t beat external validation. You want to know why? Because it feels sooo good.”
Northern Exposure, Gran Prix, 1994

Vegetable Soup

Good news arrived in my inbox this morning. A few years ago I was invited to participate in an international working group to develop a set of standards in health care. We were all volunteers, lending our time to a very worthwhile endeavour. It was interesting, and it was challenging. I am co-author, with the rest of the team, of an article that has just been accepted for publication in an academic journal. This will probably be my very last academic publication, and it is one that I was very glad to have been involved with.

Here it is, December 11th, and there is virtually no snow! We are very glad of this! We know there is over a foot of snow on the ground where we used to live, at the country house. We are both very happy to be here at Mist Cottage, where the weather seems almost tropical by comparison to our former home in the bush.

I started the second crochet blanket last week, before our travels. This allowed me to work on the blanket as we travelled in the car. What a difference it makes to the whole experience, for me and for Attila. My eyes are busy with my project, I don’t notice the traffic on the highway, the transport trucks that weave out of their lanes as we pass them, the distracted drivers who also veer onto the shoulder and into the other lanes, as the drivers talk on their cell phones, smoke cigarettes, or struggle with junk food packaging. I don’t see it, when I am so delightfully occupied with my crochet hook. I don’t see it, so I don’t react to it. Attila does see it, and he navigates us through the fray with diligence.

Attila and I have very different driving styles. I tend to react with more immediacy to things I perceive on the road, and Attila has a more “wait and see” approach. Both are very effective, and very different. This means that when there is something going on in the traffic, while Attila is watching and waiting to see, I am reacting, subtly reacting. Attila, attuned to my presence, is aware of my reaction, no matter how subtle it is, and this distracts him from his own way of dealing with the developing situation, which is not desirable. What I don’t see, I don’t react to, so reading, and more recently crocheting, are important activities for me to involve myself in when we are travelling.

I made a Vegetable Soup today, intending it for my midday meals. It simmered in a heavy bottomed stock pot all day, and by the time Attila arrived home the mouthwatering aroma filled the house. So we had the soup for dinner, with plenty left over for small meals for the rest of the week.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-6°C
Date: 7:00 PM EST Monday 11 December 2017
Condition: Not observed
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -5.9°C
Dew point: -11.7°C
Humidity: 63%
Wind: ENE 9 km/h
Wind Chill: -10

Quote

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.”
J. K. Rowling