Voices Forever

I watched an episode of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a production out of Botswana, on Youtube. I love everything about this production, the cast, the characters, the story, the portrayed culture, and the music. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I thought, “to have music like that playing through ordinary life events!”

This led me to think about Graceland, the album, one of my very favourites, released at what I might consider the most creative and magical years of my life. In the late 80s I was in newly in love with my work (PhD), with my friends, and with a man who loved me as much as I loved him. It was a magical time, full of laughter, music, and love. There were hard parts, but they didn’t destroy the magic, they couldn’t even touch it. Listening to Graceland reminds me of that time in my life.

All of this comes to me at a time when I need it most. On Saturday a dear friend passed away from lung cancer. He was a singer/songwriter, but more than that, he was one of the gentlest and kindest souls to have walked the earth. How lucky I have been to call him a friend, and how deeply I will miss him.

He was a quiet man, and when he offered a comment it always hit the mark with surprising speed and accuracy. Something he said often caused me to burst into laughter. I loved talking with him, spending time with him, his presence was a transcendence, he was just like that. Perhaps in some ways he was very like me, I recognized something in him that was essential. We were friends in the finest sense of the word. He and Attila got on like a house on fire, it was an instant connection. Derek came to stay with us at the country house one weekend, bringing along Rufus his canine companion, and his guitar; our time together that beautiful fall weekend was unforgettable, low key and charged at the same time.

Derek Currie, Many Times Many Places

I met Derek in 1988, at Fat Albert’s open stage in Toronto, when it was held in the basement of the Bloor Street United Church, across from the previous Rochdale College. By the time I began to spend time at Fat Albert’s it had been in existence for 20 years. I read poetry on stage, at one time accompanied by music, played by Steve-Paul Simms. Fat Albert’s was an indescribable community, that reminded me of the small community where my Granny and Grandpa lived, and where my Mom grew up. All kinds of human traits existed in the community, including the talented, talentless, kind, sarcastic, arrogant, contemptuous, radiant, intelligent, creative, and hopeless; it was a rainbow of humanity, brought together by the common thread of creativity.

Fat Albert’s was urban, my Granny’s community was rural, but the similarity came in the respect, tolerance, and thread of decency and humanity that connected the people involved. Fat Albert’s became my urban community during that time in my life, and Derek was a part of what made the community so rare, healthy, and vibrant.

“Performers who are familiar with Fat’s know the benefits are of the non-monetary kind and accept our limitations. What we pay is attention. We like to see and hear anyone who can come by some Wednesday evening. Ray always said Fat’s ran on a “need to know” basis: when you need to, you’ll find us.”
Ray [Ray Peake] was a bright light in the world, one of the very few people on planet earth that I can honestly say I admired. And he was right about “need to know”, I needed Fat Albert’s and I found it.

Ray passed away a year ago, another fine friend. A favourite memory of mine about Ray was when I was preparing for my week of comprehensive exams for my PhD. I slept little, and sometimes needed a break from the books, so one night, after midnight, I needed to take a break, to get out and walk around, so I called Ray on the phone and he came over in his truck to go for a walk with me. We walked around the Bloor/Bathurst area, and around Kensington Market. At one point we passed a bar that was open, Ray walked over to the large window, and gazed in as if there was something interesting going on. He waved me over and said, “have a look”. I peered into the window to discover that a whole host of Portuguese men, drinks in hand, were staring back at me, wondering what I wanted. Ray had already moved down the sidewalk, chuckling the way he did. We laughed together as we rounded the corner and left the bar far behind us.

Another voice I came to know through Fat Albert’s was that of Sam Larkin. I knew Sam and his music when I frequented Fat Albert’s, but it wasn’t until years later that we became friends. Sam was a very talented singer/songwriter, and Sam really “got me”. Sam saw my strengths, my weaknesses, and could make me smile while “taking the mick”. Sam passed away in 2013, it was a big loss.

Sam Larkin, Voices Forever

These fellows I have lost, as well as other male friends, my brother Carl Robert in July of this year, Patrick Logier in 1996, and my Grandpa in 1985, are the stars in my night sky… they are my voices forever.

Note: Attila and I try to attend musical events, such as house concerts, and small cafe events, but these venues seldom offer a satisfying experience. The show does not promote creativity, we find ourselves in a workplace for practising singers/songwriters/musicians. I am not much of a woman for adoration, I never adore people I don’t know know well, so I don’t adore performers. I appreciate certain performers, as they are channeling something from a higher plane, but that is as far as I can take a top down offering. I do not mistake a conduit for electricity itself. The performance is not one of peers sharing, but of performer and audience, there is a hierarchy. Creativity doesn’t live in these venues. After experiencing Fat Albert’s these venues always, always, always disappoint. I think Ray Peake may have been a genius, or maybe he was a strange kind of angel.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 11:00 AM EDT Monday 12 September 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 19.2°C
Dewpoint: 10.6°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: SSW 9 km/h


“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”
Rabbi Julius Gordon

Dream Our Own Dreams

Yesterday, Sunday, Attila and I spent the most peaceful, happy day of our years together. We arose early, ate a hearty breakfast, me a bowl of oatmeal, Attila sausages and an bagel. We puttered around the house, gathering more items that I am to take to the little house on my lone visit. Attila headed into town when the store opened to purchase milk, because there was none left, and Mist was having none of that! When he arrived back, Mist had her milk, and we packed the car for a day trip to the camp.

The day was sunny and warm. The leaves on the trees are at their peak right now, the beauty was almost overwhelming. We had a pleasant drive, and arrived at the camp before lunch time. There were no damages from the storms the weekend before, thank goodness.

There was no pressure to accomplish anything. This is unusual for us, we usually have a list of “must get dones”, but not yesterday. Attila puttered about, preparing the ground for the transplants he brought from home. He planted Ajuga in the bed under the tree. He planted Periwinkle along the driveway, and he transplanted one of Granny’s Roses, out of the driveway at Granny and Grandpa’s house, planting it in the sunniest location on our camp lot.

I puttered about, taking several walks down to Granny and Grandpa’s house, where everything seemed just fine, again no ill effects from the storm last weekend. At one point, as I was walking back to the camp, a group of ATVs roared by, the lead individual coming to a halt, pointing at Granny and Grandpa’s house, and shouting at the top of his lungs, “creepy”. Then they drove away. I think horror movies have had a real effect on the perceptions of some people! Later I was walking along the road on my way down to Granny and Grandpa’s house, and three lycra-tighted cyclists rode by the house, pointing and calling loudly to one another that it was a “great old place”. There are all kinds of people recreating in Ontario’s northland.

While Attila was finishing up his planting, I took the water jugs and headed out for a refill at the local public water supply. Before filling up though, I stopped in at the dump store, my favourite place to “shop”. I found: a rusty old metal rake, good for raking gravel at the camp; two books, one of 1937 vintage called Blackie’s Sports Series: Lawn Tennis; and two very large glass canisters with lids, made by Ball. There were other items of great interest to me that I did not scoop up: such as an old wooden chest of drawers, extremely well made, but we don’t need a chest of drawers; large plastic barrels that would be good as rain barrels; plastic lawn chairs, ugly and stained and otherwise perfectly serviceable, but we already have enough; a electric pasta maker, which seemed complete, but I already have a manual pasta maker.

After making my donation at the dump store, I headed for the public water supply. I filled all six 4 litre containers, loaded them into the car and back to the camp I went. We used three of the containers to water the new transplants.

One of my little projects at the camp was to create a small table, on which to prepare meals. Attila obtained a scrap of wood, a small square of 1″ thick pine. We brought a small saw with us, and I went to work on one of the ironwood stumps, sawing it flat to make a pedestal for the table. It took quite a while, the wood is green, the stump is still alive. When I was done and the top of the stump was flat, Attila took three nails and nailed the square of pine to the top of the stump. And there we had a little table in the bush.

Attila has plans to build a larger wooden table out of lumber scraps that he is slowly collecting. That will be a welcome addition to the camp. It will be left there, and hopefully left alone when we are absent. Someone goes through our belongings when we are not there. The old plastic car top carrier, where we store our pots and pans and water jugs, was deliberately opened, and not closed up again. It had copious amounts of water in it. It could be someone local, or it might be one of those people who see themselves as a great adventurer, exploring what they consider to be abandoned buildings and properties. There are whole groups of people who boast about trespassing on private property, under the guise of exploring abandoned buildings. There was nothing taken, nor was there any damage; they merely failed to re-close the car top carrier, and if they had done that we would not have known they had been there. I wonder if they are the same person/persons who break into Granny and Grandpa’s house, to rummage through their things, pocketing items, which is theft. It is a serious problem in the area around the camp, which is sparsely populated.

Attila and I were both feeling peckish by this time, so I rebuilt the rocket stove to fix us a bit of lunch. Attila gathered some dead pine branches, and soon we had a lovely little fire going. I washed out the frying pan, which we keep at the camp, which came from the dump store. As a wash basin, I used the plastic tote picked up at the dump store on a past visit, using another container of water, dish soap we brought from home, and a dish cloth we brought from home. I dried the frying pan over the fire, then assembled the bread and cheese for our grilled cheese sandwiches. There is nothing quite like a grilled cheese sandwich cooked over a wood stove! While the fire was still hot, I cooked two hot dogs as well. How wonderful, how simple, to sit eating sandwiches in our worn dump-store lawn chairs, our dirty old work clothes, side by side, looking out over the fields at the distant hills of red and yellow and orange. Other people might enjoy big houses, fast cars, big boats, beautiful clothes, media touted “livin’ the dream” stuff… Attila and I find perfection in the bush, we dream our own dreams.

On the road to the camp. I have been travelling this highway for over sixty years, all of my life. As a child I believed it was the road to heaven, heaven being Granny and Grandpa’s house. I never tire of it. It is much safer now, there used to be no paved shoulders, and the rock cuts were much closer to the road. Now those wide paved shoulders are often occupied by pedestrians and cyclists, who usually keep well back from the speeding vehicles. Not always though, occasionally they walk or ride “the line”, forcing vehicles to swerve around them. That is risky business, as I well know. On this highway my young cousin died when struck by a car, while riding his bicycle when there were no paved shoulders. It used to be a very dangerous highway, and still can be for the careless, or the ignorant.
Tothecamp 1
The same highway, with rock cuts and full fall colours.
Tothecamp 2
Another Highway on the way to the camp. This highway has a speed limit of 80 km per hour. Cyclists and pedestrians here are at greater risk, than those travelling the paved shoulder highway. This cyclist is using good practise, hugging the side of the road as high speed traffic pass them by. This is a new phenomena on the highways, recreational cyclists. They do not need licenses to ride these highways, and pay no taxes to maintain them. Some of them are responsible and respectful, many are ignorant and can be confrontational towards motorists. There are no regulations on how to cycle on high speed highways, and no knowledge of road safety required by cyclists. Personally, I dread coming across them on the highways, because you just never know what they are going to do, they are unpredictable, and many are foolhardy.
Tothecamp 3
The road into the camp, again a high speed, paved road. It dips and dives and winds around rock cuts and swamps, a beautiful drive. There are no paved shoulders on this road! We came across pedestrians walking two abreast, who refused to vacate our lane as we approached. We had to slow down to get around them, cottagers, again people without respect for the road.
Tothecamp 4
This is what I have been leading up to in my mention of pedestrians and cyclists. This is a high speed road, at times there have been people travelling over 100 km an hour along this road, we see them flash by while at our camp. This is a blind turn in the road, note that there are NO shoulders here at all, pedestrians and cyclists will be in the travel lane here, they have no other choice. Vehicles, travelling at the legal speed limit, might come around this corner and suddenly come upon a pedestrian or cyclist, with no warning. If there were an oncoming vehicle, one could not move into the other lane to avoid hitting the pedestrian or cyclist, nor could one stop quickly enough to avoid hitting them. I do not know which I would choose, to hit the other car head on at full speed, or to hit the pedestrian or cyclist, both options will result in serious injury or death. When I drive these roads, I slow down to a crawl coming through these corners, I know where they are. Often there is an expensive SUV, or sports car, or a huge new pickup truck, right on my rear bumper, angry that I have slowed down. I don’t care, I slow down every time!
Tothecamp 5
After our pleasant drive we arrive at the camp. Several of our trees are in full colour, like this maple. I take a snap shot of what I see when I look into the sky.
Tothecamp 6
Granny and Grandpa’s house on an autumn afternoon. My Grandparent’s moved into this house in 1930, it overlooks the fields where my Grandfather tended sheep, away across the fields, as a young boy, at the turn of the century, over 100 years ago. Both of my Grandparents were born near here, as were their parents. My Great Great Grandparents came to this wild landscape, to take advantage of the first land grants in the area.
Tothecamp 7
This is my Granny and Grandpa’s house, shortly after it was built in 1894, as the Railway Store at Maple Lake Station, later renamed Swords. The trains were still running when I was little, and I played in the station house, the building on the right. It was grand, with polished benches along three of the four walls. It was a forbidden playground though, because the trains were still running at that time, and playing near moving trains is not advisable for children.
Tothecamp maplelake
You can’t see me! This little fellow sat frozen in position until I had walked past him, on my way back to the camp. As soon as I had passed, he disappeared in a flash.
Tothecamp 8
My new little table at the camp. On top of it is the section of wood that was sawed off to make the top of the stump level.
Tothecamp 9
After a wonderful day together at the camp, Attila and I took one last look out over the fields, as we drove out onto the highway.
Tothecamp 10

Worldly Distractions


Date: 8:00 AM EDT Monday 29 September 2014
Condition: Fog
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 0 km
Temperature: 10.1°C
Dewpoint: 10.1°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: calm


“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”
John Ruskin
1819 – 1900

Path to the Outhouse

On the weekend, Harriet and Ariel cut the grass at Granny and Grandpa’s house. It is a big job! They cut a path to the outhouse, just for me! Harriet has a magnificent heavy-duty, self-propelling lawn mower, which makes the job viable, just. I could not manage the job with the bottom-of-the-line, wobbly little push mower that we own. With the dead Elm gone, the garden cleared of weeds and brambles, and the grass cut, the place looks wonderful. Next on our list for Granny and Grandpa’s house is to repair the support beam for the store porch. The wood was sound, but the winter was severe, and the snow coming off the roof snapped the support beam. We do not have a vehicle that will transport the needed timber, but Attila thinks he can make do with a log from one of our camp’s downed trees, and some short lumber that will fit into our car. This fall Attila will do some pruning on the ornamental bushes around the place, just to spruce it up a bit. This is not a good time of year for pruning.

Granny and Grandpa’s house needs a new roof, which is beyond our time and resources; we do not own the building. Without a new roof working on the interior of the house is futile.

At the camp our plans are to continue felling trees, and to burn the brush created in clearing the lot. Short and sweet to write, long and sweaty to accomplish!

In the meantime, we continue to keep our country house ready for prospective buyers. I do not really like keeping it “showroom” clean. Rushing to get everything shipshape before leaving for work in the morning is a pain! Attila is a little behind with the lawn mowing, but at least we are here most evenings, so there will be an opportunity to get it done quickly if we get a call from the realtor. Our yard has very little grass, and is mostly native natural ground cover, which we keep mowed. Actually, the new reality of insect repellent clothing might give me an opportunity to do a little bit of light yard work myself! I find the push lawn mower is too difficult for me to manage, so Attila will have to do that job.

We will not be doing any major renovations at the little house in the city this summer. One issue is that all of our money, and then some, was spent on the driveway at the camp, the other is that there are a lot of little jobs to complete at the little house in the city, which will not cost a lot of money. We need to stain the front steps that Attila constructed last autumn, and finish the trim in the bathroom and kitchen. Renovation at the little house in the city does not seem as urgent now, since the kitchen and bathroom renovations are completed. We are very comfortable there!

These are the daylilies we planted early in the spring, on one side of the front step, at the little house in the city.
These are the hostas we planted early in teh spring, on the other side of the front step, at the little house in teh city.

We are looking forward to our next trip to the little house in the city, to see how our garden has managed without us! There has been adequate rain, so we are hoping that it is thriving. If it is, so will have been the lawn! So our next visit will again entail cutting the lawn and tending the yard. The spring is the busiest season for tending the yard, as the grass does not grow as quickly in the summer, and very little in the autumn.

Terra and Lares have done a great deal of landscaping around their house, since we last visited. They purchased a riding lawn mower, so the that Terra could do the job easily. I am looking forward to seeing the results of all their hard work. Last I spoke with them, they were still waiting for back-ordered materials to finish the siding on the front of the house. I hope their materials arrived!

Luna posted a photo of Tink at her dance recital. We have not seen them since Christmas, at Terra’s house. I trust that no news is good news; best to be pragmatic.

The weather is beautiful again today. Mist is sleeping peacefully on the sofa, as the birds just outside our window serenade her. Mist is deaf. The birds do not know this.

I have no particular plans for the day. Of course there are the usual tasks, bed making, dish washing, cooking, sweeping, and such.

Tomorrow is another work day, my last scheduled work. It entails two hours of driving (at my own expense) and seven hours of work. The price of fuel is now so high that working at these locations has become untenable. Attila is urging me to hang up the towel, as the job is very stressful, entails a great deal of responsibility, is intrusive in our personal life, is increasingly complicated, and the returns are ever decreasing. There is little to no hope of advancement, or regular hours, contrary to what I was led to believe at hiring. The point at which the costs of transportation become greater than the pay cheque are fast approaching. It is a little unnerving, the thought of having no employment whatsoever, and no pension to speak of. But really, I am nearly in that position with this on-call job, so bowing out would merely remove the stress. The money I manage to make after travel expenses is infinitesimal. I think it is time to follow Attila’s advice.

The retirement years will not be golden for me, in a financial sense. Most younger people today will find themselves in the same predicament, in due course. It wasn’t that I didn’t save for my old age, I did, carefully and meticulously; it was that I had to spend my retirement savings to support my children, as a single parent with no safety net. There was nothing left when the job was done.

Although I do not feel bitter about this, I will not say that I feel happy about it either! Still, this allows us the opportunity to know, without any doubt whatsoever, that any attention we receive from our children is based purely on their affection for us; completely free of the fetters of dollars, cents, and financial assistance.

“Always look on the bright side of life,” as Brian would say.

Good old Brian. I can’t imagine life without Brian.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 9:00 AM EDT Monday 23 June 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 19.6°C
Dewpoint: 9.8°C
Humidity: 53%
Wind: SSE 13 km/h


“If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way.”
Jane Goodall

[I do not agree at all! I think that if you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you have a chance to find a way. But only a chance; it isn’t a guarantee, it isn’t a certainty, that you will find a way. There is no magic bullet, no sure-fire formula. If you are one of the fortunate ones that does find a way as a result of your wanting and doing, it doesn’t mean that your experience is a universal truth. You didn’t necessarily want, or work any harder than others, who met with less spectacular results. The experience of personal success cannot be extrapolated into a magic formula. It is not true that if it “worked for me”, it will “work for you.” Life is too random for that. Lots of people, possibly millions of people, want, work hard, take advantage of opportunities, never give up… and do not find a way. Not finding a way, after all of that effort, may be the norm, and the finding of the way the shining and desirable rare event, enjoyed by few, sought by many. I will say though, that it is my experience that there are some wonderful things to be discovered along the way when you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up… it is worth doing!]