Welcome: the Two Dose Summer!

I love poetry.  I’ve loved  It right from childhood (now who doesn’t remember the giggle fest of “Eletelephony”?) so it’s not a later in life acquired taste.  It’s a bred in the bones, deeply resonating, visceral connection with the language of poetry.   My father used to recite “The Lion and Albert” at parties so perhaps I inherited the poetry gene.  I also love science fiction, having fallen under the spell of  “The Foundation Trilogy”  as a teenager (in which I encountered the word “jihad” for the very first time).

So perhaps it is natural that I will quote this from Ursula K Le Guin: “And in poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning.  It is the truth.”  Below are two poems about entering a new world – which for us is the summer of 2021.

Instructions on Not Giving Up

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, / more than the neighbour’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate / sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me.

When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, / leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, / the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over / whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, /  the hurt, the empty.

Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf / unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

(Ada Limón      Fireflycreativewriting.com)

Autobiography of Eve

Wearing nothing but snakeskin / boots, I blazed a footpath, the first / radical road out of that old kingdom / toward a new unknown. / When I came to those great flaming gates / of burning gold, / I stood alone in terror at the threshold between Paradise and Earth. / There I heard a mysterious echo: / my own voice /  singing to me from across the forbidden / side. I shook awake – / at once alive in a blaze of green fire. / Let it be known: I did not fall from grace. / I leapt / to freedom.

(Ansel Elkins)

P.S.  Just imagine it, Eve wearing snakeskin boots!  You go girl!

 

How Did This Happen?

Can we talk?  Between you and me, I have a confession.  I think I am getting older.  In fact, I don’t just think,  I have actual evidence of it.

Number 1:  is the day I tried to put my socks on and I couldn’t reach my feet.  What on earth happened during the night?  Did my arms suddenly shrink?  I could always reach my feet before this.

Number 2:  is the time I went to get on my bicycle and I couldn’t get my leg up and over the seat.  What on earth happened here?   I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was seven years old.

But Number 3 was the worst indignity of all:  as I bent down to pick something up from the floor, I grunted.  Oh no, not that too!  I remember my elderly parents grunting every time they bent over.

Clearly emergency remedial  action needed to be taken!  But what?  I diagnosed the symptoms –  surely stiffening muscles were obviously at fault.  I sprang (well, maybe “sprang” is not quite the right word) into action.  I made up a series of stretching exercises to do first thing in the morning to loosen my back so I could reach my feet again and then  added some hip stretches so I could hop (okay, maybe “hop” isn’t quite the right word either) onto my bike.   Suffice to say so far so good, both strategies are working.   But what to do about the grunting?  Now I understand why my mother-in-law simply kicked offending items out of the way as she walked through a room.  No bending and grunting for her.   But how practical is that?  I needed another solution.  By trial and error, I discovered that  if one takes a deep breath in while bending down, it will do the trick.  Not a peep can escape when one is  breathing  in.  Victory!

Resistance is not futile; at least not for the next little while and  I figure I’ve got some time before further action will need to be taken.  And there you have my happy story, dear reader;  a modest proposal for remedy and  a conviction to remain an upright and walking warrior with my TPW friends  until the end (hopefully) of my days.

P.S.  Hot Tip – Dr Fauci was interviewed by Jane Brody (both are eighty years old) about how to remain healthy as one ages.  Dr F no longer runs marathons but he power walks 3-4 miles every evening.  Sounds like us…

IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY…AGAIN!

Well, here we are, in complete lockdown again.  I have to admit that for the very first time, I feel like a prisoner in my own home and in despair, like a child being punished for something they didn’t do.  And  this on top of what The New York Times calls: “Languishing – a sense of stagnation and emptiness”…  Who could imagine this would happen?  Clearly not our inept provincial government, only our dedicated and exhausted healthcare providers, but don’t get me started, it’s too enraging and bad for my blood pressure, though anger has sent me exercising so furiously maybe that’s one good thing?

So my fellow solitary walkers,  it’s definitely time to break out the emergency brownies again (one brownie a day is my prescription although now it’s “take whenever needed”) along with some laughter (otherwise we would weep).  I dragged out my volume of “Age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese”;  and below are some quotes I think we can all relate to:

“I have everything now that I had twenty years ago, except now it’s all lower”  (Gypsy Rose Lee)

“I cut my own hair.  I got sick of barbers because they talk too much.  And too much of their talk was about my hair falling out”  (Robert Frost)

“When you get to my age, life seems little more than one long march to and from the lavatory” (John Mortimer)

Reporter:  “What do you expect the future to be like?”  Very Old Woman: “Very short”  (One of the oldest women in France during a birthday interview)

“I regret having been so polite in the past.  I’d like to trample on at least a dozen people”  (Harold Brodkey)

Interviewer:  “To what do you attribute your longevity?  Chef Julia Child:  “Red meat and gin”

And as always, things could be worse (I guess) -for all you math phobes,  here’s what Samuel Beckett once said:  “Even death is unreliable; instead of zero it may be some ghastly hallucination, such as the square root of minus one”

Walk on, my merry band of walkers,  this too shall pass, we shall walk with each other again, though not nearly soon enough for me.

With love,  Philippa

P.S.  Hot Tip:  Listen to CBC radio’s Sunday Magazine (April 25) for Piya’s interview with neuroscientist Lisa Genova – it is guaranteed to make your aging brain feel better.

 

 

V-DAY!!! A Call to Arms…

I have (what is the right word?) traversed this pandemic to the best of my ability; I’ve tried to remain calm and reasonable in the face of constantly changing information and negotiated the multiple levels of risk like a gambler at the wheel of fortune.  But my subconscious?  That’s a whole other story…as I am having  dreams that I have never had before.

In one dream, to my horror, I enter  a large indoor gathering where I am the ONLY person wearing a mask.  In  another dream, I am the only one NOT wearing a mask and lost in a huge group of people.  But the worst dream I have had so far is the one in which I reach out to grab someone`s hand as I watch them falling in front of me  and as our hands touch, we both recoil in horror.   Sound familiar? I think we are, each one of us, suffering from a pandemic  anxiety that has seeped into our very bones.  Who ever had dreams / nightmares about face masks prior to 2020?  Or been horrified at the very idea of touching another person`s skin?

Therefore it was such a wonderful relief that, contrary to being told that my age group would be vaccinated in June, I had my first dose of vaccine last Wednesday, March 24. Now,  no matter how bad the numbers become in this province, somehow I am feeling that things will eventually, over time, be all right and I am so grateful to live in a country that not only tries to do the right thing but also has the means to do it.  This pandemic is a world changing event; I only hope we learn the right lessons from it.  It is, as an Indigenous Elder said, a message from our planet and we would be wise to heed it and take action.  It’s a call to arms, both in the sense of vaccines, and to the belief that we, collectively, must do better.

Happy Passover!

 

Best Excuse Ever!

Really!  I couldn’t walk with the group last Saturday because a bat flew into my  bedroom first thing in the morning.  I had just gotten up at 7 am and was getting dressed for the walk when something black torpedoed into my bedroom being chased by my cat.  At first I thought it was a panic stricken bird flapping its wings but then the creature landed on a curtain rod and folded up its wings – it was jet black and quite tiny and definitely looked like a bat and not a bird.  Well!  What was I to do?

I definitely knew I did not want to be sharing my house with a bat and quickly shut my bedroom door, hoping to contain the little critter and then immediately called a wildlife control company for help.  You know, the kind of company that removes unwanted racoons and squirrels from your attic.  “Oh yes, Ma’am, we have experience with bat removal, we’ll send one of our people over to collect the bat”.

Meanwhile, the cats and I sheltered in the kitchen while we awaited arrival of the batcatcher.  Two hours later, a pleasant young man (although everyone seems young to me these days) arrived with a net and jar in hand.  “Oh no, Ma’am, we can’t just chase the bat outside, it’s winter and it would die in the cold.  We have to catch the bat and take it to a wildlife refuge centre where it can safely nest until spring when it’s warm enough to be released”.  The pleasant young man then proceeded to take apart my bedroom from top to bottom looking for said bat which was not to be found, anywhere.  Apparently bats can squeeze into a hole the size of a dime and I live in a big old house full of nooks and crannies.  Two hours later, still no bat.  Batcatcher told me there were two possibilities: 1.  I would find a dead bat over the next two weeks (no food) OR 2. bat girl/boy had made good her/his escape.

That night I moved up to the third floor and into my spare bedroom.  There had been no further bat sightings but just to be safe, as I’m sure you understand.  As I was nicely drifting off to sleep, I heard little scratching noises coming from the chimney wall behind the headboard.  Aha!  There were creatures in my chimney! Suffice to say I did not sleep well that night.  The next morning, I made another call to the wildlife company to make arrangements for them to climb up onto my roof and inspect the chimney flue for invading critters.  And no, of course they won’t poison any invading critters (perish the thought!), they will seal up any cracks they find while leaving a one way door in the main opening that will let the critters escape but deny them return entry. That’s what they tell me anyway.  The batcatchers will be returning this coming Wednesday to finish the job.  In the meantime, I await their invoice with trepidation!

P.S.  I came across the quote below that extolls the virtues of walking; it could be the TPW motto!

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right” (British historian George Trevelyan.)

 

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, the world outside my door was glistening wet and grey.  When I woke up on Christmas morning, everywhere I looked was laden with luminous white snow draped over bushes and trees, houses and sidewalks; it was such a picture perfect day.                                            The next morning, Boxing Day, we were a small group of seven that gathered at the cemetery gates.   Hardy winter souls ready to enjoy the fresh cool air, the sound of the snow crunching under our feet, the quiet calm of the cemetery on a winter’s morning and most importantly for me, each other’s company.

I took deep breaths of air as I walked, thinking of the pandemic and how we’re still not through the worst of it.  A while ago I heard an Indigenous Elder speak of Covid19 as a message from our planet, our beautiful and precious home.  I hope we are learning to hear that message and to reconsider what we hold as valuable in our society.  The most painful lessons often turn out to be the most instructive.  As Winston Churchill once said:  “Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

So, warrior walkers, let’s kick 2020 to the curb and walk with each other, one footstep at a time, into that brave new year.

Let’s Have Some Fun!!!

The news is not good; the second wave of infection is well and truly upon us.  We’re in another lockdown and I am very, very  grumpy about it. Pessimism abounds  (I recently found a definition for pessimists that claims they are the happiest people on earth because:     1.  their dire predictions have proven correct, which means they were right,  or 2. their dire predictions have proven wrong, in which case things were better than they thought!)

In a time of such misery,  I think of words written by Susan Sontag:  “Do Not Suffer Future Pain”.   Each of us has quite enough to deal with in the present moment without projecting  horrors from the uncertain future.  We don’t know what awaits us as we face the unknown;  things could be good,  things could be bad, they could be in-between.  Most likely it will be a combination of all three.  So I try not to suffer future pain as there will be time enough for that, if and when it arrives.

And so I have decided that I must have some fun (safely, of course) to help me get through these winter months – perhaps skating parties with hot chocolate, or walks with my friends on frosty mornings , or a snowshoeing adventure  in a provincial park , maybe lots (and lots!) of sweet treats with tea and good books, and staying connected to the world in every way possible… or thinking up surprises that make others happy (and me feel good)- like sending flowers to a friend, or giving an extra big tip in a coffee shop, donating to a worthy cause or just plain helping out.

Here is a little poem written by Roger McGough called (very appropriately): SURVIVOR

“Every day,  I think about dying.

About  disease, starvation, violence, terrorism, war, the end of the world.

It helps keep my mind off things.”

I think I am feeling better already!

 

A Great Day

What a wonderful day we had last Saturday as we gathered together, for the first time in a long time, to walk in the ScotiaBank virtual race.   Our teams met in front of the Hotel X at 8:30 in the morning but before we left for the waterfront starting point, the walker we were fundraising  for spoke to us.  It was so moving to hear her speak of what she has learned about her illness and for her to share that understanding with us.  For her to find meaning in a terrible experience and educate us with information and knowledge.  For us to know that the money we raised will go a small way to help scientists discover more about this little understood disease.  It was such an inspiring and beautiful way to start the day.

As we began the race, some people walking east, others west, the weather was cool and rough with great gusts of wind blowing across the lake, sending white capped waves crashing across the breakwater, but it was warm in the sun and all the colours of fall swirled madly around us.   Off we went, challenging each other to keep up the pace and warming up quickly.  And afterwards, as walkers returned in twos and threes to our starting point, we joined each other sitting on the grass in the sunshine and enjoyed each other’s company in the aftermath of a race well done.  Best of all (I say) were the delicious homemade treats  and the friendship that we shared  amongst each other – thank you all so much for that.

Joy in the Age of Anxiety

Did you notice how sweet and juicy the peaches were this year?  They tended to be small but so intense.  And the tomatoes?  Plump and full of redness, just waiting to be sauced.  (I have discovered an old Italian recipe in which sauce and pasta cook together in one pot.  It’s genius!).  And the corn that was sweet and crisp, dripping with buttery salt, and the newly ripened apples, so hard and shiny, delicious with cheese?  And don’t forget the pears, my personal favourite, so soft they drip when you slice them open and let their fragrance spill out?  I love this time of year best of all.  It’s Autumn – the period from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice.

It’s the time when the trees begin to flame orange or yellow or red and the damp earth smells rich and complex with fallen leaves.  Up high, the birds swirl together in dark clouds as they prepare to leave us and cooler air circulates at night, reminding me to get out my feather duvet so  I can snuggle under its the warmth.   Sweaters and gloves must be removed from their summer hiding places in order to withstand the crisp chill of morning air.  Soup bubbles intensely as it simmers for hours on the kitchen stove.  All our senses are engaged.  We are in the lingering transition of summer to winter…

And I recall my all time favourite quote which is by Northrop Frye, that great Canadian literary figure; he once wrote:  “Heaven is this earth, to the awakened imagination”.  And so it is.

I am glad to be alive.  I hope you are too.

Checking Out

Saturday,  August 22

It was a beautiful morning in the cemetery Saturday, warm but not so much, with a gentle early morning sun and scattered raindrops dripping on us as we walked under  the  trees.  I was very happy to walk with someone I haven’t spent much time with recently so it was a perfect opportunity to catch up as we strolled through the pretty grounds.  It felt so good to be amongst friends amid the exchange of conversations and my spirit lifted.

I confess to  feeling discouraged earlier in the week, because I was beginning to understand how long this “new normal” might go on.   As an antidote,  I have sworn off “doomscrolling” (how descriptive a word is that???), that constant stream of unhappy news,  so that I can focus on happier things and lighten my mood.  And so I offer the words of Satchel Paige, thinking how perfect they are for we TPWs at this time:

“Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.  If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.  Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.  Go very light on vices,  such as carrying on in society.  The social ramble ain’t restful.  Avoid running at all times.  Don’t look back.  Something may be gaining on you.”

He also said: ” How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”  That’s a very good question, don’t you think?!