January 19, 2020

I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.

Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.

I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.

Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.

Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.

My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.

From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.

I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.

Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.

I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.

Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.

Sure enough.

I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.

Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.

The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.

This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.

Arriving back to the car, I cranked up the heat and checked my messages. Doug sent a link to a marvelous series of photographs. I think that the images exemplify everything I believe about nature, life and the wonder of it all.

If you have a chance, take a look.

Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.

This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.

The Clam Chowder Feast

Sidebar: To read up on how to make Rapure, see the post titled Comfort Food From the East.

Wendy Lees said it best…

“It took ages to coordinate our schedules but we finally all made it to the very inviting and interesting home of Kath for a delicious clam chowder feast, visit with Max, studio tour, and big catch up!

Along with the chowder, Kath treated us to Rappie, a traditional Acadian dish she recalled from her childhood. It’s made with shredded potatoes and fatty pork – yum! Tammy and Jas brought homemade pickles, spring flowers and a canned treat. Karen brought Red River bread she’d made, and we enjoyed Christmas baking brought all the way from Nova Scotia by Stephen made by his mom, Betty. Oh, and I didn’t get the memo about drinking at noon being OK but Lauraine brought vino from the Rockyridge growing region in Calgary’s NW.  Steven made the very same selection!

What a tasty and heartfelt meal. My only quibble with our gathering was there just wasn’t enough time to visit thoroughly with every one of these wonderful people ❤️”

I’m posting Karen’s bread recipe here.  It’s amazing! Red River Bread Photo Credit: Wendy Lees.

Red River Bread
Recipe
2 cups water
3/4 cup red river cereal
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast (fast rising works great)
4 1/2 cups flour

Combine 2 cups water in pan with cereal. Boil then simmer 5 mins or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add butter, molasses and salt. Cool completely.

Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast and proof for 10 minutes.

Combine yeast with cooled cereal mixture.

Using a wooden spoon mix in all of the flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, covering the whole ball with grease. Cover with wrap and let rise (can use oven to proof) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until ball doubles in size.

Punch down dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape into loaf pans. 8×4
Cover and let rise for about and hour. Then bake at 375 F. 30-35 mins.
Loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from pan and let cool. Enjoy!

Tammy and Wendy, Stephen and Steven and Lauraine, brought yummy things.  I wasn’t archiving at the time,  but, my buddies were.  The following two photographs, though, were mine taken this morning. The next time you pickle, Tammy, I want to be there.  They got eaten tooo fast for a photograph!

Photo display I made, in order to acknowledge my family.

Thank you, Jas and Tammy for the springtime flowers!  So beautiful when it’s -40 outdoors.

Check out the jar of pickles in the photograph, below.  This one must be Tammy’s shot.  I’m sorry I didn’t get an image of the plate of baked goodies Stephen and Steven shared.  Oh man!  So good!

The photo journal above is a collection of photographs taken by Wendy and Tammy.  We always have so many laughs when we gather.  I’m grateful for all of you!  Being with friends and sharing conversation/food/beverages and/or live music/dancing is so life-giving.

Please take note of Max (I snapped that one), only an hour after the lunch…completely played out!

Comfort Food From the East

While speaking with my sister, this morning, she reminded me that today, January 15, is the anniversary of the day our brother, John, went into hospital.  It was from this date, onward, that our family was sucked into the vortex of the medical system and diagnostic testing.  As it would turn out, our brother would celebrate his last birthday in Peter Lougheed Hospital.

I begin this particular post, writing about my brother, because I’m thinking about comfort food and what happens when people gather with foods that are familiar and rooted in memory.  These foods will often vary depending on cultural context…sometimes an affordability context…regardless, if my readers look back into their journeys, they will find foods that mark various moments along their journeys.  Stories and narratives will endlessly surface of childhood and Mom or Grandma or Great Gramma’s cooking.

For example, if I type the words, FRIED BOLOGNA (Baloney) SANDWICH…what memories are evoked?

We brought foods to hospital and those we love, also fed us.  My brother enjoyed jello and Cozy Shack rice pudding during those end days.  He also enjoyed fresh ju-jubes for the duration of his hospital stay.  My sister-in-law sent loaves.  John shared birthday cake. Spaghetti was brought from home.  Things we create in the kitchen, we have control over (usually).  Sharing food creates a feeling of joy, constancy and being rooted.  I am grateful for how food brought some pleasure to my brother in his last months.  Now, the remainder of this blog post will explore one particular recipe that comes from my memory banks and my Acadian family’s tradition.

Our little Airforce family found itself in Quebec and New Brunswick for two of its postings.  These postings gave some proximity to my Great Grandparents, Mamie (Sugar Arsenault) and Papie (Gabriel Gallant) and my great uncles and aunties.

My Grandmother, in back and my mother, directly in front of her.  Jimmy Fardy, my Mom’s cousin is directly to her right.

My Mamie, with my mother in her arms.

Mamie and Papie.

I knew when I went to Prince Edward Island that I was among some of the dearest people who were in my mother’s life.  I knew, also, that when we traveled there, my mother was home.

Memories of that little Summerside house on Front Street are connected with wood stoves, home made rolled cigarettes, potatoes grated and cooked up into pancakes, horse drawn milk delivery wagons, coal chutes, seaside smells carried on the wind, bingo chips, coffee, bottles on the kitchen table, loud laughter and kitchen gatherings.

It was in 2015, when I attended a library program with my friend, Pat, that I first considered researching this childhood dish. The topic of the presentation was on foods as they relate to a cultural road trip across Canada.  The presenter was going to be Julie Van Rosendaal, but as it turned out, she required a replacement.  The session did not disappoint.

Shortly after the session, I sent my Mom’s youngest sister an e mail. “I was telling Dad about a cookbook that was mentioned at a Library program I attended last night.  It’s called Feast: An Edible Roadtrip.  I asked the speaker if the recipe for “Rapeur” (don’t know the spelling) was in it.  One Acadian lady sitting next to me said it was called Rappi Pie  hmmm…Dad told me that you make Mamie’s recipe and I was hoping you might send it to me.  I know it’s a big job to make and that it needs a special touch to turn out right, but I would like to share it with my daughters.  If you would be so kind…I’d really appreciate it.  Kath”

I sent that note in 2015 and received an expedient reply that included these steps.  I quickly learned that the spelling of the recipe was Rapure and that its translation is coming from the word grate in french.

[cheese, carrots] râper

to grate some cheese râper du fromage

This recipe was followed by one through the post…thank you, Auntie Pat.

Some time during the Christmas break, I decided to invite a small circle of friends to the house to share some Clam Chowder, also made in my mother’s east coast tradition.  Clam Chowder also varies depending on where you grew up in eastern Canada.

With the invitation to my friends, came an opportunity to try making my very first Rapure, without any of my matriarchs present for help.  My friend, Hollee, was visiting from Vancouver in order to attend her Auntie’s 100th birthday, so she became my cheerleader as I endeavored to bring my east coast traditions in comfort food, to life.  I remember, well, this dish being prepared by my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my Mom.  It is important to me that I share this, along the journey, with my children.  One thing I decided, after looking over the recipes and speaking with Hollee, I was going to borrow my daughter’s food processor!!

The Rapure brought back particular aromas in the little PEI kitchen of my memory, pork and onion fried up on the wood stove, along with a scoop of lard.  This dish, along with my mother’s Meat Pies, was very much a symbol of home for me.

Nervous, the night before, I spent a lot of time seeking out Youtube videos, learning for the most part, that the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were using chicken stock and chicken in recipes that they called Rappie Pie.

 

On the Arsenault Facebook group, I put out an all-call for recipes and these are some from the Rappie Pie tradition.

These were the posters’ connections with their recipes.

Judy Arsenault I recently made a Rapure from the cookbook Abram-Village Handcraft Co-Op Recipes (which I purchased from the Bottle House (PEI) that my cousin use to own) and it didn’t turn out. Has anyone used this recipe from this cookbook? How did it turn out for you

Thelma Arsenault Hack I have varying results with rapure, regardless of the recipe. Choice of potatoes makes a difference – I don’t think ‘baking potatoes’ work as well. And whether the grated potatoes are rinsed and dried well makes a difference. It’s a lot of work and very frustrating when the results are not good. I’ll be interested in what others comment. Good luck to you.

Jim N Wendy Spain This recipe was made by my great grandmother Catherine (Lefave) Doucette, from Nova Scotia. I recently typed it as shown, for a family reunion. 🙂

With great courage, Hollee and I peeled 10 lbs of potatoes and I chopped up the pork roast into 1 cm cubes, setting aside the pork fat to coat the roaster surface, keeping all chilled and prepared for the morning’s culinary adventure and the visit with my friends.  I decided to stick closely to my Auntie’s recipe.

At 7:00 am…I began my processing of the potatoes and put my pork to browning.

I’m going to log my notes here, for future reference.  I had my daughter’s food processor set for grating and tried both the medium grate and the fine grate.  In future, I would  use the fine grate setting.  Whoosh…out spewed the gratings of ten pounds of potatoes.  The kitchen smelled yummy and CBC radio was turned up, as the pork, onion, salt and pepper were bubbling in the 350 oven.  (use the roasting pan for this)

Once the potatoes were done, I quickly covered them with wrap so that oxidization wouldn’t happen. (green bowl) I cut up my cheese cloth and began the process of removing starch from the potatoes. (I will use my red bowl for this next time.)  I transferred my shrunken potatoes into my large soup pot.  Once finished the cheese cloth step, I added the yummy pork and onion to the big soup pot and mixed and mixed and mixed some more.

This is the step where I decided that in future I would use the fine grate.  I remembered my Great Grandmother’s Rapure being smoother in texture, but being coated with crunch.  This is what my kitchen looked like, right before beginning my Clam Chowder.

From the mixing stage, I pressed the mixture into my roasting pan…nicely greased with some cubes of pork fat (not all), and pulled from the oven.  (don’t burn your hands, here)  I roasted the Rapure at 275 for an hour and turned it up for three hours at 350.  Next time, two hours at 350 for me!

Thank goodness, Wendy brought a salad as it made the appearance of the square of Rapure look more appetizing, on the plate.  I began apologizing before we even sat down because I knew already that the topping was TOO crunchy.

My guests are such dear friends that I could tell them I expected them all to try a piece, as I was very much in the mood to share my PEI nostalgia.  They all carried on, without complaint.  I love them so much! Photo Credit below: Wendy Lees.

Later, I discovered that the crust softens with just a short wait after removing from the oven, so I would serve it a little differently next time, and definitely crust up instead of flipping it over (lol).  I have been happily nibbling on the leftover Rapure ever since and I am generally really happy with the flavours and it very much reminds me of Mom, my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.

See the next post…the feast…for the treasured gathering.

When I remember my brother, I also remember the family meals that brought us together.  I remember celebrations and loud responses to the yummy-ness of food!  Much of the recollections of family come with the memory of food.  I am so grateful for this.

Thanks to Lauraine, who remembered that her mother made ‘Snowballs’, those red cherries wrapped up in coconut buttery sweetness and rolled in graham cracker crumbs.  Isn’t comfort food amazing?

 

Down the Rabbit Hole She Goes! This is How it Began

This morning, I sat with coffee.  Soon after, I told Max that I’d get dressed for a walk.  And, this is what happened.  (The LOOK ON HIS FACE!)

While I was downstairs, digging out the next pair of track pants, I tucked away a Christmas box in the closet and came upon my sketchbook…1968-1972.  Oh my goodness!  I propped myself up on my bed and took a look and all sorts of memories came up.  For one, at some point, my sister signed every one of my drawings.  She was just a wee little girl and she must have held me in some sort of esteem…or, the drawings.  As I think about my former Junior High art students, I think these sketches are very rudimentary.  There’s nothing at all impressive about them.  What’s with the solid contour lines?  They look like colouring book drawings.  Hmmm….f

I wrote little poems along the way…sentimental poems…what were they about?  I guess I’ve always been a dreamer.  Sketches and thoughts from 52 years ago…

So my trip down the rabbit hole began.  And Max, patiently waited.

 

The Season

Those readers who know me, know that for almost two months, I’ve been sequestered to the family room with Max, my border collie.  He’s been struggling, but at the moment, seems to have rallied after being put on a regime of medications that are helping him with the anxiety of pain and now, even tackling the inflammation.  In the meantime, we sleep here….together.  Thanks to those who have supported me.  For now, Max is making it up and down stairs, able to look out the window from his red sofa and is doing a walk around our urban circle each day.

There have been a number of events that have marked this season for me.  I’m just going to go through and gather from photos in my archives and stick them in here…I’m going to keep the writing brief.  This year, the darkness has really impacted me and I like that neighbours have strung up outdoor lights on their houses so early.  Christmas lights seem to dispel that cold and isolating feeling that might come with the darkness of winter.

Before I post the first photo,  I’d like to say that early in December, I ordered my gifts on line for the first time.  In the last week, I’ve received word that of all these, 100%, are delayed.  It’s 5 in the morning on a holiday Monday and I’m sitting here laughing about this.  Max is sound asleep on our wee cot, just behind me.

Steven and me after his very first daycare Christmas concert.  A brief video is posted below.

My Auntie Eleanor with a portrait I painted of her for her 90th birthday.  I love her so.

Daily walks at the Bow River fill me with a peacefulness.  I like to watch and learn from the various species that share this time with me.  I post a lot of those observations, here.

I did sponge printmaking with my grandson.  He’s made home made gifts for everyone this year.

Already, the male sparrow has taken up residence in the neighbour’s vent.  I will enjoy another springtime of observations…my sixth year of watching these families come and go.

Pat and I went to the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival again this year, this time being joined by Janet and Mary.  It was an inspiring experience.  I really learn so much when I attend this festival.  Thanks to all organizers.

When Wendy hosts a dinner party, the food is sooo scrumptious.  Happy birthday, Lauraine!!  Love the food, the conversation and all of the laughter.  Thank you, friends!

We attended the Bragg Creek artisan’s sale and I picked up my beautiful honey from Alvise and Paola.  Christmas wouldn’t be the same without seeing them.  A quick stop at the coffee shop to hug Randy and Jane…an ice cream.  Nanny Linda, it was so good to share this time with you.

A back yard snowman with Steven, Erin and Linda.  Fun in the snow!

I was able to paint Prince for my dear friend, Linda.  I’m pretty sad that she’ll be on her way back to London very soon.  I treasure her and I’m going to miss her very much.

Few people know that I’m deep in the application process for the Alberta University of the Arts BFA program.  The day that my sister, Val, contacted me that she had achieved her PhD, I was inspired to take this step, regardless the cost or the struggles that might come up.  In 1997, I took a sabbatical year to complete my third year of my BFA.  That’s when I met Bobby.  I’ve always been labeled a self-taught artist and I’ve really wanted to pursue my dream of actually ‘being’ an artist.  At this ripe age, it might be silly, but ‘OH WELL’.  When I went to the open house and orientation to the program, I stopped in to the Illingworth Kerr gallery and really enjoyed the exhibit, Thing to Wear.

Daughter, Cayley, and I were able to celebrate with Irene for her 70th birthday.  What a gorgeous setting at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.  Thank you, Phil, for the invite and your always-warm-hospitality.  We love you so much.

Linda and I went down to the Central Library to enjoy the exhibit of friend, Allan Rosales.  At this point in the season, I was beginning to feel unstuck.  I was beginning to feel lighter and like my feet were coming unglued from a deep muddy mire of grief.  It isn’t as though the losses of the past year were gone…it’s just that the grief was letting go of me and letting me stretch back into my life.  Good to bump into my cherished friend, Wendy.

My former student, Billy, asked if I would paint a tree on a headboard that he was creating and I was happy to do it for a few beautiful bottles of red wine.  I was spending my days with Max anyway.  These sorts of projects became opportunities.  I would see Billy again…a pleasure.


I reconnected with Joan.  My friend, Sheila, should be given credit for this because no matter how many years slip by, she has remained a friend over all.  I’m so grateful.  My heart is now open to share lunch with Joan on Fridays for as long as I can.  On a recent visit, Joan and I shared her books-to-read titles, stopping every so often to leaf through pages and talk about the subjects of these books.  Joan is such an influence on me.  Over the years she has given me so much in the way of ideas.  I love you, Joan.

My parish is my community of faith.  I love St. Albert the Great.  I love the narrative we share and the rituals of love, hope and peace.  I have found strength in this space over many years.  I’m grateful for this manger…and for the pure potential that I find in this space.

My cousin, Peter, took me out for a lunch to Earl’s restaurant.  I was so happy to get to do something so special.  I just don’t get out to dine.  It was fun.  Peter is one of my dearest cousins, always supporting and loving me.  No photo of him here, but, our server was a former student of mine, Nicole, so we grabbed this snap.

Pat and I never did catch up to these guys…but we were all at the Holiday Train’s arrival at Anderson’s station.  I left my phone at home, so no photos for me this year.  But, that was perfectly fine because we were really swept up in the experience.  Here, Erin, Doug and Steven, with the Holiday Train in the background.  A great initiative for the food banks across Canada.

All three of my children were with me to decorate my tree this year…along with Steven and Linda.  This means so much to me.  I know that at some point all three of them will have families and traditions of their own and won’t be able to do this.  But, this year it worked out and I’m always going to remember it.  I am grateful for you, Erin, Cayley and James.

I’m going to miss you, sister-friend!  Thanks, Linda, for coming downtown with me for the Sybil Andrews exhibit.

Extraordinary Objects.  I was boggled by this porcelain work!

Thanks to Trevor for helping me to deal with this leak.  I’m so sorry that I missed Mark’s birthday, but I was so relieved to get this managed.  I had my own frozen Niagara Falls escaping the outdoor faucet.  Crisis averted.

Dawn asked me to paint poppies for her Mom’s 80th birthday, so this happened.  I taught Dawn’s son, Justin, and beautiful daughter, Jess.  I will always be connected to this family.  May you have a magical year!

Then I made Party Mix…lots of it! lol

I was welcomed into the Saint John Henry Newman circle and did some teaching before the Christmas break.  I was so excited to connect with Hollee, another former student of mine.  I snapped a few photographs of her grade six classroom because I felt so proud of her and so excited.  We embraced often.  We both have so many fond memories of those years in Junior High School.  Thanks so much, Louise and Carl and to Lorelie.

My neighbourhood is lit up!

My daughter and her partner and their two bands, Darktime and Napalmpom, participated in Merry Keithmas at the Palomino, to raise funds for Calgary Food Bank.  I had a very fun time seeing Cayley performing Stones tunes.

I drove to Didsbury to share in the annual Christmas open house organized by University-friend, Brian.  Juan and Brian, this year’s event was another very special time.  Glad to have connected with so many wonderful people.  Your home is warm and welcoming and so absolutely spectacular!  The food, (pickled sausage, lettuce wraps, pulled pork, etc etc) was so delicious!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  May you be richly blessed for the coming year.

Christmas baking, this year, was a major blitz.  It was a full day of chaos.  But, I can not tell you how wonderful it was to share time with these ladies.  Visits came in the form of nephew, John, toting coffee for people and treats for Max.  Thank you, John!  I love you!  Following that, we all shared in a very special Facetime event with my brother, Cliff, during lunch.  These two visits pretty much made my Christmas already!

The bell that friend, Pat, gave to Steven.  I love these two and I’m grateful that they come to Mass with me.

Winter walks at the Bow River are peaceful and help to recharge me.  I’m grateful for all of the lessons that the river teaches me.

Mikey’s on 12th, with friends Dan, Lauraine and Wendy…treasured time and terrific tacos!

 

I’m wishing all of you and your loved ones Peace on Earth….and Good Will to All!  Rest up…there are sure to be bumps along the way.

 

December 16, 2019 Insufficient Space on Memory Card

Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up.  I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present.  So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape.  Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me.  The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.

I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me.  The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River.  All else was silent.  These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.

The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.

Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.

Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.

In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over.  It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river.  At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.

As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest.  At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface.  So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years!  It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold.  Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.

Poem for Maxman

You are here for
anniversaries and dinners.

You are here for
tears and laughter.

My hand sinks into
your soft fur. You
look up into my eyes.

My hand drops.
Your white paw reaches,
suspended in air,
a request for connection.

In empty moments,
when my anger and sadness
pour out onto the
red sofa where you are
sitting,
you give me, in their place,
safety and assurance.

You are my great friend.
You are stability and gratitude.
You are my companion.

We have, again and again,
walked through nature,
exploring.
You pause, ears alert,
at bird song or the deer’s silent pose.

You are the greatest cliche
ever written.

I search for the num lock key
and the accent code and
you secret under the desk,
plunk
beside
my feet.

I am grounded in you.

 

 

 

Remembrance Day 2019: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Yesterday I heard two presenters say that Remembrance Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.

Like everyone else, I am disappointed that the Don Cherry fiasco stole so much from the highlights of a beautiful day remembering those soldiers in our families and in our Nation who offered the ultimate sacrifice in past wars, Afghanistan and because of selfless service.

I was really pleased about attending the commemoration at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium this year and taking in the various rituals, but indoors, while cozy warm.  Last year, we headed to the cenotaph downtown and it got a bit cold at times, although it was also an amazing experience.  Next year, the field of crosses.

The seats were assigned, as we arrived.  This created a sense of calm and order.  Beautiful music was provided by the HMCS Tecumseh Band along with Jeanette Embree, Detachment Commander, CF Recruiting Center, Director of Music, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.  What a lovely repertoire.

I thought about my Dad while singing this hymn.  I used to sit next to Mom in the Protestant Chapel pews while Dad directed or sang in the choir.  I felt them beside me yesterday…and I felt surrounded by my family, many who have served.  My Great Uncle Joseph Gallant gave the ultimate sacrifice, as did my Great Grandfather John Moors.  This hymn was a perfect one to bring everyone home to me.

While we were prompted to save our applause until the very end of the laying of the wreaths, two of our Veterans from the Colonel Belcher caused our hearts to stir and we broke into wild applause.  I cried my face off at these points in the service, as well as during the Last Post.  Our friend, Helena, laid a wreath on behalf of the Alberta Retired Teachers.  We were very proud of her for representing us.

After the commemorative service, and as we were leaving, I noticed that Ralph MacLean, the 97 year old Veteran who had served with Canadians in Hong Kong in 1941.  Please follow the link and listen to his story on the Memory Project.  Through various circumstances and very quickly, I connected with Ralph’s son, daughter and grandson, author of Forgiveness, author Mark Sakamoto.  

I won’t soon forget the kind hearts of Ralph’s family.

I had the opportunity to exchange quite a number of stories with Ralph and I feel that it was a huge blessing to meet him.  I will be visiting him at the Colonel Belcher.

As I took my evening walk, slow around the circle because Max is ailing badly, I took in the beauty of the day, my friendships with Janet and Pat, my children, the freedoms I enjoy.  I thought about my family and their huge military connections.  I contemplated including their photographs here…but, I’m leaving the images of their faces and my research in my heart.  I’ll leave it all up to peace…the sky…the river.  I will always Remember.

 

 

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For This Day

Today’s Facebook ‘wall’ is plastered with various news blips on the topic of the cuts happening here in Alberta. I’ve made those posts.  But, rather than deleting them, I’m going to take a moment to consider what this day has actually been and been about.  Only moments ago, I brushed my teeth.  I stepped out onto the back deck and looked up at the moon.  I am taking pause and thinking about my day…my actual day…not about that veneer, that public explosion that happens for us if we dig too deep into the chaos that is today in the news.

My morning began like this.

I sat down, with coffee, and pin pointed the Barrow in Furness address where Mary Eleanor Haddow, my great grandmother, was born in the early 1800s.  I then scrolled Instagram, up on the red couch, while stroking Max’s head redundantly for almost a half hour.  I dreamed about making one more trip to England so that I might visit such places and walk Blackfriar’s road and travel, again, to France to stand at my Great Grandfather’s resting place in Etaples and maybe even get myself to Ortona, Italy.

I went to my computer station, in order to print out this map and while cropping it, my sister and I exchanged a few messages with one another.  She sent me a photograph of her and her three pup companions and I sent her a photograph of me and Max.  I love yous were shared.

I decided that Max’s injury had been quiet enough for a few days that I would take him to the river.  The air was so mild and the light, so beautiful.  We took our time; it was more a stroll than a walk, but it was so incredible.I really felt huge gratitude as the day opened up to me.

I dropped Max back to the car and then went for a last look to see if I could sight any of the coyotes.  I spotted several deer across the river, but no coyotes.  And then, the magic of friendship was enjoyed, as I saw Jeff making his observations along the pathway.  As is pretty usual, we ended up talking about cameras and such.  Today I learned about the Polaroid Cube and the Zoom Audio Recorder.

Lunch consisted of a lovely little Greek Salad at home.

After doing just a few things around the house and checking in on all things political (lol), I made a quick stop at the Dollarama Store to pick up some small canvas boards.  I felt a need to paint some poppies with my grandson before Remembrance Day.  There was a bit of a wait for him to wake up from his nap, so over two cups of hot tea, I had a nice visit with Linda and Erin.

Then, this.

I decided to stop at the river, again, on my way home, just to see if I could make any eagle sightings.  At the edge of the Bow, everything  was wildly alive, although the colour was muted which contributed to the magic of everything.  A loud cacophony of sound filled the air as hundreds of Canada Geese found their way to the river.  I was overcome.  And there, in the midst of the geese, one eagle flew assertively in and out of their crowds.  It was amazing.  I managed to capture a brief moment.  But, let’s face it,  no images were going to be focused because the light just wasn’t there.  I didn’t know what to do with my feelings about the scope and beauty in that moment, so as has become habit, I snapped photographs.

I spotted brilliant white southeast on the river, and so, took a quick peek through my camera’s viewfinder to identify the white birds and happily discovered the presence of Swans or Snow Geese, interspersed with the Canada Geese.  A quick and fuzzy snap and I was off and rushing to the location where I enjoyed watching them making their disappearance around the point and onto the river.  Darkness was settling over everything, apart from soft pink directly west.  I headed back.

 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw Doug and Shirley Anne’s car, stopped, opened my window and together, we marveled at the wonder we had just seen.  The three of us felt very blessed and it was just so nice to know that I had shared the magic with friends.

Upon my return home, my son and I headed out to the Saigon Royal Restaurant for a steaming pot of Jasmine Tea and a big bowl of Pho.  I started watching for a text message from my Dad who, I knew, was on the road from Ottawa to Belleville, earlier in the day.  He promised he would text, but I convinced myself that he would struggle with that as per usual and that he is well and safe and enjoying the traditions of the Mistletoe Market this weekend.

At home, Max and I walked the neighbourhood circle and then James and I watched some cop shows on his big screen.

Just a short while ago, I stepped out on the deck and snapped a few photographs of the moon.  While I didn’t capture them, there were three soft rings of colour surrounding her tonight.  Those colours and the lovely still air remind me of the beauty that is ours.  I am grateful.  And one never knows what a single day might bring.

Imaginairium: Wordfest 2019

The days are getting crisp…things are going to sleep for the winter.  I’m not writing as much, but I AM reading.  When this weather arrives, it’s wonderful to curl up and read.  In preparation for Wordfest, I read Birth House for the second time and loved it just a much or more than the first.

Birth House by Ami McKay is right up there among my favourite books.  I’ve read a lot of books by this time and so, there can never be a favourite, but there are heaps of favourites.  I couldn’t afford the time or the money for a lot of sessions at Wordfest’s annual event, however, I made certain to register for two of the sessions where Ami would be speaking and I purchased her most recent book, a memoir, Daughter of Family G.

The first session was delightful, a Cabinet of Curiosities, and featured a number of writers including Ami.  These authors each brought a single object to share, an item that connected with their books, process or lives.  It was an intriguing grouping, covering a big array of topics and styles of writing.  I picked up a few books that night.

Anthony De Sa shared a GI Joe camo jacket.  He shared a heartfelt story that I will not soon forget about Christmas at home and a loving gesture from his mother.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.  Anthony is writer of Children of the Moon.  This is now in my collection and I am looking forward to reading it.  Eloquent!

Marina Endicott shared her first Greek book.  It was a book that her Greek Teacher gave to her.  “Wherever you go, there you find your teacher’.  Her teacher, she shared, was her first home.

Cecil Foster writes for his grandmother.  His talismans are ideas.  As he writes, he takes pause and contemplates what might make his grandmother laugh or what might make her cry.  The material, he described, doesn’t really matter.  The idea matters.  He lifted a glass at the conclusion of his presentation and made a toast to his grandmother.  His most recent book is on my ‘to read’ list, They Call Me George.

Michael Christie’s new book, Greenwood, is also in my collection.  He shared with us the story of building his new home on Galiano Island and about how, during a huge storm on the family’s first days in the house, blew over a tree that crashed into the family Subaru.  He shared a slice/coin of the big branch that caused the destruction.  His reading caused me to weep.

A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions and half-truths that exists at the root of every family’s origin story. (From McClelland ​​​​​​& Stewart)

Ami McKay shared something her mother/grandmother said, “All of the flowers that our blooming in our todays are to be enjoyed because of the seeds that were planted in our yesterdays.”

Terry Fallis was very animated and shared several items via Powerpoint imagery; his fountain pen collection, a framed image of Robertson Davies and an old typewriter that he keeps close by.

And finally, Anosh Irani shared a map of one district in Bombay.  His story and the poetic gifts that he shared that evening, were beautiful.  I purchased his book, The Parcel.

What a tremendous evening.  Thank you, Wordfest.

The next day, I had the opportunity to hear Ami McKay talk about her family, in detail, and her struggles and strength as both connect with her life.  The initial disease suffered by my brother was Colorectal Cancer and so I was very interested in what Ami shared about her family’s journey with Lynch Syndrome.  I really appreciated the time that Ami took with me personally as I found myself first in line to have my books signed by her.  This was an inspiring book talk and I am presently 100 pages in to the book, Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate

I met Aracely outside of the Memorial Branch library.  Aracely is the moderator for the book discussions that I enjoy at the Fish Creek Library once a month.  She is smart, fun and very generous.  She is also in love with reading!  I was swooped up by her enthusiasm and headed over to the Central Branch for the Humble the Poet presentation.  Am I ever glad I went!  Such a timely and inspiring talk!  While I didn’t purchase it that evening, I’ve added Things No One Else Can Teach Us, to my list.

Good to meet dear friends, Diane, Bill, Catherine and Bob, sitting directly behind me.

Wordfest never disappoints.  I hope that next year I have it in my schedule to take in even more of the book talks.  They open up the mind, the heart and put you in touch with other big time readers!  Thank you, Wordfest!