Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Does Green Smell Like?

Green is the tangy, sharp smell of newly budded willow trees along the river.

Green is the smell of freshly mown grass.

Pink, however, is apparently the colour of clams and proof that I dream in colour.

I just today read in the "Uncle John's Ultimate Bathroom Reader" (essential reading in any household) that only 5% of American households dream in colour (the book is published in Oregon, but I'd wager the percentage is the same here in Canada, even if they don't know how to spell 'colour' correctly).

I dream in lovely technicolour, and not just as proven this morning. A few years ago I dreamt of an acquaintance who had painted her toenails brilliant colours, a different colour on each toe.

But back to the clams. I who have never dug for clams in my life (scarce on the ground out on the Great Northern Plains) was out in some high-rolling ocean close to shore but out in the water (and even a prairie kid like me knows that's all wrong) with a kelp fork, digging clams, and the shells were a lovely blush pink.

Clams. Go figure.

I came upon a great book sale earlier in the week. Doesn't she have enough books in the house, I hear you ask. Silly people, there is no such thing as too many books.

And this was a really good sale. I came home with seven gentle used books for less than $6. Now, I ask you....

I'm deep into the first, 'The Quest' by Wilbur Smith. I know, I'm surprised too. I've never been a big fan of his but this is about ancient Egypt and a magus and a witch, all good stuff. Also acquired Dave Barry's 'Bad Habits' (he's the Miami Herald syndicated columnist I used to enjoy); 'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield; 'The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing' by Melissa Bank; 'Jewel' by Bret Lott; another Maeve Binchy and and a little novella from 1942 called 'The Snow Goose' by Paul Gallico.

I'm also listening to 'The Lovely Bones' on disc on the drive to and from work, so my brain's a little crowded these days.

Ironing is a good way to clear the clutter. I don't mind ironing, I quite enjoy it when I make the time for it. The cotton things from my laundry were piling up in the sewing room so last night was designated Ironing Night. Popped a DVD into the player ("Elizabeth" with Cate Blanchette, Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes) and had everything neatly pressed and hung in the closet by the closing credits.

White smells like cotton shirts, freshly laundered, hung outside in the sunshine to dry and touched up with a hot steam iron.

That task complete gave me free rein to wallow in gardening today. But the day is less than stellar. Cloudy and overcast, ever promising our sorely needed rain but failing to deliver.

I finally resorted to digging out the sprinkler and began soaking the backyard early this morning, been moving it every two hours throughout the day. We are so desperately dry, I fear for what the summer will bring.

Happy little grape hyacinth faces are crowding one of the bed in the front yard just below the retaining wall.

Purple smells like hyacinths.

Everything else is busting out at the branch and root. The investment in perennials, though costly at the outset, is well worth the trouble when viewed from spring a few years along.

Haven't heard from Bryan for a few days now. Called him Tuesday morning to tell him the accountant had phoned, my books audited and our tax returns complete. Nobbut a signature and a cheque and all is done for another year.

Darren, a new neighbour just up a bit to the west, stopped by while I was weeding the herb bed.

"Has Bryan gone north never to return?"

Oh heavens, I thought, he wants his trailer back that he lent to Bryan to bring home some motorcycles.

"Hopefully next week," was my cautious reply.

"I've been hoping to get out on some rides with him," was the explanation.


"When he gets home, we'll all go for a spin."


Sort of the grown-up version of "can Bryan come out and play?"

As I moved the sprinkler yet again and resumed cleaning out the front flower bed, some people came walking cautiously down the driveway. I knew they weren't the local JW's because they had been by last weekend and tend not to wear out their welcome (such as it is).

"Could you tell me where the back property line is?" came a query from the woman. Ahh, prospective buyers of Kelly's place.

I thought she'd pulled it off the market, but apparently not.

I waved in the group of people - extended family I expect - and showed them where the line was between our lot and Kelly's, where the other survey pins were, the approximate size of the lot (Dennis Wangler is the realtor and for some reason didn't include that in the report) and other info they requested.

They were friendly enough. And the gentleman likes my pink fishing rod (hanging up on the garage wall, clearly in view with the door rolled open). That's always encouraging.

Time to move the hose again.

Black smells like moist, rich compost, a faint whiff of molasses, providing a comfortable bed for grass seeds, which in time will smell green.

Monday, April 12, 2010


My struggles of the past two weeks are now history and lessons have been learned. The situation is always evolving because life and work are organic beasts. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I received so much support and validation from literally around the world that it's very humbling.

Now here's the interesting part. I often re-read favorite books. Heck, if they aren't favorites, they don't stay in my stacks. There isn't always rhyme or reason to my re-reads. Sometimes they are 'comfort' reads (like comfort food but a lot less fattening); sometimes interest is piqued when I'm cruising for something/anything to read and I come across a title I haven't looked at for a long time.

A week or so ago, I pulled some small bedtime reads off the shelves and cracked into them at random. One is a little book I picked up 15 years ago called "Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish" by Sue Bender, written in 1989. I picked it up partly because I'm a big fan of Amish quilts, partly because it was on sale and cheap.

My first read-through wasn't promising - I found the author to be self-absorbed and neurotic. I still feel that way a bit but in subsequent readings have found some value to it. That I should pick it up again after a five (or more) year hiatus is curious, because as I relaxed and recuperated over the weekend, I came to these words:

"I used to think depending on others was a weakness.

"Depending on others became a strength."

"What happened was a laying on of hands - a handmade process - a procession of friendship. Friends, one more busy than the next, came, reached out beyond their overcrowded schedules, saw the possibilities, and offered their help. This group of strong-minded individuals joined forces - cooperated. It wasn't the Amish way of community but I saw these friends as a community of quilters, making the quilt stronger, more mine than I could have done alone.

"These were my neighbours, helping me harvest the crop."

and a bit further along:

"Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want."


Strong stuff.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Almost but Not Quite Spring

It's been a long time since I had Saturday morning time to write.

Last weekend, being Easter, was loaded for bear. Four days to get 10 days worth of things done. And the weather was ucky, which is par for the course.

Could be worse. A spring blizzard blew through Alberta just lately, making life miserable there. And again, right on schedule, because brother Todd informed in a telephone call Thursday night that the first calves hit the ground just a day or two before.

If he moved his calving dates up to August, would it still snow? Yes.

So I won't complain about the -4 I woke up to this morning. Spring has come far too early here in the southern interior. We're very dry and still getting below 0 temps of an evening. Spoke to my Winfield salesguy yesterday and he informed me that he'll be buying his apricots this summer.


Snow and cold temps killed his apricot buds. I don't mind, I'm not overly fond of apricots.
Thankfully the peach and cherry trees, for the most part, having begun blooming.

Went to Revy last weekend to work in my mother-in-law's back flower bed. The tree trimmer had been there the day before - perfect. She has two ornamental cherry trees back there that are an absolute nightmare. They're opened up nicely now.

So, dug up the entire bed, removed some creeping groundcover plants that she was tired of and planted perennials: more bleeding heart including a white one, six astilbe, five coralbell, three hosta, a periwinkle and a wack of lily-of-the-valley.

There's something inspiring about an 80 year old woman planting perennials.

There's nothing more to be done in our yard for a while. Things need to grow and temperatures need to improve. I bought a fan rake last week so will get out and clean up the debris from last weekend's windstorm.


The train engineer's book is done - or will be when I change the colour of the spine title on the cover - and off to the printers. One project down, three to go.

Publishing partner Val dropped off my little usb drive with the almost-done MS of the next book. She's the primary editor of our team. However, she's stymied and needs a second pair of eyes on this one. That often happens - get too close to the thing and after a while you can't see your way through it. That forest and trees things.

So one of my to-do items is giving a first read-through on this manuscript. I think it will be interesting. It's family history written by a man who will be 90 years old this summer; was raised on a homestead in Trinity Valley (between Enderby and Lumby on your maps, south of Ashton Creek to be more precise).

Somehow, between gardening, work and book design, the sewing room has been neglected. I have fabric set out on the little spare bed, calling to be in a plaintive little voice. The dressform downstairs is dancing little jigs trying to get my attention. The spinning wheel is sulking and the loom is just leaning against the basement call, toothpick in the corner of its mouth, daring me like a cocky teenage boy to take him on.

And all of them, even the garden tools, are looking nervously over their shoulders because the motorcycle is quietly biding its time in the garage. Every day the temperatures get a little higher on the thermometer, every day the skies are clear more often than overcast. And one day soon, the Triumph will be back home and luring me out to come play.


Ooops, my accountant just called. Bryan took the books up to High Prairie and she's working on them today. We've had a social visit but she's gonna be getting into the nitty-gritty soon and I'll get at least one if not two calls for clarification. You'd think after 26 years that my books would be crystal clear. They are very clean, I happen to know because she always tells me that, but sometimes I trip.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Songs in my Head

Well, it's the end of the 'interesting' albeit short work week. Nothing like embarking upon a significantly new protocol on a week with double deadlines. If nothing else, we learned the most apparent strengths and weaknesses of the system under pressure.

I woke up this morning thinking about probably the best Holy Week I ever experienced - a few years ago, attending a week of 6 am services at St. Andrew's Church in New Plymouth, NZ. Walking through the almost (but not quite) empty streets of the downtown, from my flat to the church, at 5:30 am. It was a wonderful way to begin the day.

I think the memory came partly from my bedtime reading of the previous evening. I'm re-reading the story of a woman who lived a hectic and what she thought was productive life, who spent several weeks back in the early 1980s with an Old Order Amish family; in doing so, she learned to focus, centre and clearly define her life. The family started each day with family prayers at 5am.

It reminded me of the Hutterites I've known throughout my life. They, too, live a life centered in prayer.

So the day had an auspicious start, and I think contributed to the calm I felt throughout most of the day. No matter the chaos that occasionally surrounded me, I refused to get caught up in it. In the end, I accomplished just as much as most everyone else with a whole lot less stress.

My preparations for Easter this year are otherwise non-existent. I didn't make any pysanky although I did think hard on it a week ago. Without the kids, it just wasn't so easy to get into the spirit of it, though. Likewise no Easter goodies to buy and no visitors for Sunday dinner. All in all, a quiet weekend ahead.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I found myself humming a song I know well. The strange thing (when I realized I was doing it) was the song, an old BeeGees classic:

And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend a broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again.”

I think it must have been playing on the radio station that plays throughout the office, the background noise that one usually stops hearing, at least consciously. I have no recall of actually hearing the song, but it struck a deep chord within me. Strong waves of melancholy have washed over me at moments throughout this week. Deep longings and nostalgia. So often music expresses the inexpressible in my life. I wonder if it does for you as well?

Hmm. Don't mean to sound all glum. I'm feeling more akin to introspection. I'm actually at a pretty calm place in my head, and if not satisfied with how things are at the moment, at least OK with it. Life is what it is.

It's pretty hard not to feel hopeful about life in general when Spring is in the air and new growth is busting out all around.

Happy Easter.