Tuesday, 14 November 2017

And Lo, it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished

Thank you to Thoreau for the title...

I can't believe it has been a week since my last post, and a week since the Royal Fair. I feel as if time has slipped by me when I wasn't looking. I haven't done much of anything in the seven days since. Hemmed some towels. Went to work. Watched TV. How did the days get past me?

One of my bosses explained it to me this way: when you are six years old, summer seems endless because it's, like, 16% of your life. So in relation to how long you've lived, it's really quite a chunk of time. But when you're 50, summer is only 2% of your life, so in relation it feels like it zips by. Or something like that, anyway. I have never been good at math.

The concept rings true, however accurate it is. Summer has fled and here we are, digging out the boots I swear I just put away last week. Frost has killed the nasturtiums, I can smell someone's wood stove when I'm out walking the dogs, and we had our first dusting of snow the other day. Thoughts turn to hardy stews and egg nog. Mmm, egg nog. God's way of apologizing for winter. For that season where you struggle into five layers to walk to the bus stop, struggle out of them once you get into the overheated bus, struggle back into them when you reach the subway system and walk through those cold tile halls, struggle out of them once you reach the overheated train, struggle into them to walk from train to office, then struggle out of them again when you reach your airless cubicle... Just to repeat the process in reverse at the end of the day. I wish someone would invent an inflatable suit that you just dial up or down without having to put on or remove anything.

But before you know it, it will be spring again, the layers will be cast aside, and I'll be sketching garden plans and trying to find my secaturs and knee pads. And as I emerge back into sunlight, blinking dazedly and feeling like a displaced mushroom, I'll be wondering how I managed to reach this age already without knowing how to sharpen a lawnmower.

I saw an ad for a t-shirt today; it said "Irony: the opposite of wrinkly." I'm thinking I might buy one. Goodness knows I'm wrinkly already. I could use some irony in my life.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Kissed by a Cow

I went with a friend to the Royal Agricultural Fair in Toronto today. It's my favourite autumn activity -- rows and rows of interesting vendors, Superdogs, a petting farm (where I always marvel at the soft, dainty muzzles of the alpaca, goats, and sheep), the thrill of Percherons and Clydesdales, the perky little Hackney ponies, sharp-hipped cows, and a million other things to see. I ate a potato pancake with lox and sour cream for lunch, managed to resist the maple cotton candy, and debated for a while before giving in to my first taste of poutine. (After almost 30 years in Canada, I figured it was time to try it.)

At one booth, which was selling sprouting supplies, the saleswoman put down her sprouts, picked up her Celtic harp, and sang for us, which was magical. I loved wandering along touching alpaca sweaters (made from, not made for) and admiring carved wooden bowls and beautiful oil paintings. Talked myself out of buying fuzzy slippers and darling knitted hats for the grandkids (a bit pricey). Enjoyed the Frisbee stunts of the Superdogs. The furry Angora rabbits. The soft-as-marshmallow stuffed animals. The colourful John Deere-themed quilts. Too much to mention!

I go every year, but it's as if it's all new and fresh to me every time I go. That smell of hay and manure makes me nostalgic, and that velvety touch of the cow's nose as it eats from my hand so gently still melts my heart every time.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Mindfulness in Daily Life

I don't do much on social media, but I do belong to one group (now a closed group) on Facebook that's all about finding beauty in the earth and promoting handcrafting and rural skills. After being bombarded all day with scary, depressing, and hysterical news, this Facebook group is such an oasis of peace. The contrast is stunning -- people building each other up, supporting and cheering for each other, people posting beautiful scenery they've come across in their rambles through forest and moor. They show the shepherds' crooks they've carved or the pottery they've made or the wool they've spun. They announce the birth of piglets and the rescue of burros. They encourage each other through illness, loss, and house moves. They teach each other foraging skills and offer accommodation to anyone passing through their part of the world. They share recipes and suggestions to minimize waste and support the planet. It's just a genuinely kind, friendly, compassionate group, without an unkind word, and I'm really pleased to have stumbled across them, a peaceful place to take time out from a chaotic and angry world.

I've discovered something else from this group that I didn't expect to find, too. Since others are posting photos of beautiful spots they've discovered on the planet, I find myself watching for beauty I can share as I walk the dog or go about my day. I'm alert to loveliness in a way I wasn't quite before, with the added incentive to share it with someone else. It changes my outlook. It expands my awareness. I look for handmade crafts and tools that I may have overlooked before. I see the beauty hidden in a fallen tree or a paw print on stone.

I'm grateful to the person who started up this group, and I'm grateful for the men and women spread across the globe, from Europe to Mongolia to Australia to the Northwest Territories, who contribute to this group. They are such a refreshing change and give me hope for the world.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Weaving Update

I've finished my second set of tea towels. I miscalculated somehow, so the last towel ended up just over half the length it was supposed to be...so we'll pretend it was meant to be a face cloth all along!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Overheard on the Subway

On the subway home today, I was struck by the sight of two older women talking together. They had such interesting faces, such animated expressions, and I thought to myself, "I bet they've lived interesting lives." And I admit I sidled over and shamelessly eavesdropped (which really isn't hard to do on a crowded subway. I mean, no one has a private conversation on the subway, right?) Anyway, I was right. In the space of a few minutes I learned one was on her way to the airport for an international flight, and the other was an artist who had something to do with organizing concerts. And she knew a fantastic violinist in Kyrgyzstan (I think she said) who was asked by the president of the country to set up a music school, and when the violinist said she didn't even have a decent instrument of her own, he bought her a Stradivarius. And the lady on the subway whipped out her phone and played a video of this violinist playing an achingly beautiful piece in concert. She told her friend about cornering a couple of political bigwigs and insisting they organize a concert featuring this violinist, and the concert is indeed happening.

By the time we reached my stop, I had gleaned leads on about five topics that would be worth writing about. There were so many magazine articles I could draw from their minds, maybe even a biography or two. I was tempted to turn to them and say, "Please let me interview you!" But I didn't have any business cards on me, and the only paper I had to write my contact info on was an old receipt. And then I got an attack of shyness and chickened out altogether and ended up not interacting with them at all, but got off at my stop and thought about them on the bus home.

Lost opportunity, probably. Terribly bad manners for eavesdropping? Undoubtedly. But what an interesting ride home that was! I wonder what other intriguing people were on that train car.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Tucking the garden into bed for the winter

This week I planted the garlic and pulled out the remainders of the cabbage and peppers, cut down the asparagus ferns, and piled six inches of straw over everything. I left the kale, which is still producing, and I let the cherry tomatoes remain standing to act as a sort of retaining wall until the straw is damp enough that it won't blow too easily into the pool.

I love spreading straw. That dusty smell isn't quite the same scent as hay, but it's close enough to send me straight back to childhood and Grandpa's farm and my horse Shadow. That hollow sound horses make when they chew oats. The damp-wood smell of Grandma and Grandpa's back porch. The particular squeak and slam of the back door. The crunchy sound of boots on gravel. The fascinating view of gravel speeding by underfoot as I peered through the hole in the floor of Grandpa's pick-up. Good memories.

I wonder sometimes if my farmer grandfather is watching me from beyond as I dig potatoes and dry mint and play mini-farm in my backyard. I feel him nearby as I harvest my own wheat and oats, hoe carrots, and pick zucchini. I picture him grinning as I dig up my four sugar beets. (They were an experiment, okay? I just wanted to see if I could grow them.) I am grateful every day for my heritage and that my parents passed on to me the love of land.

I took my grandkids to the park the other day, and as we walked we took notice of the birds, ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, and even a garter snake wriggling like a bootlace on the path. My granddaughter sighed and said, "I love nature. I would never hurt it."

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I've forgotten how to wear shoes

My last pair of shoes wore out completely some time ago, so I have spent all summer in sandals. It has been heavenly, I have to say, and so convenient to just slip them on and go. But the cold weather is descending, the leaves are starting to fall, and even I know that it isn't fashionable to wear socks with sandals, so this week I broke down and bought another pair of tennis shoes.

And they're awkward. I mean, I know they're the right fit and they're comfortable. But I guess I have a rolling-out gait, because now that there's actually support in my soles, I feel like I'm rolling in. I stub them on things. The soles scrape the ground because I'm not used to picking my feet up that far, as I walk. My feet don't bend right. It's weird. It's like learning to wear shoes for the first time.

It's funny how quickly we can become undomesticated.