Wednesday, 22 April 2020

I am fortunate


We are into our second month of near isolation. Two months of keeping at least 6 feet away from friends, grocery store workers and strangers who are out walking as we are.


Two months of hand sanitizer, gloves and wipes. Two months of unsatisfactory Zoom connections and sadness as our family can only communicate through technology.

Two months recognizing again and even more fully how unbelievably fortunate I am: I have a life partner, a home, and the financial ability to care for ourselves and to give to others.

I have two daughters and their families who I love dearly.

I am fortunate:

-a citizen of Canada.
-a resident in Victoria.
    -a gardener.

My garden has always been my sanctuary, my oasis of peace, and never more so than now.  During April,  I repotted plants into larger containers, unfurled the rolled leaves on our apple tree, squishing those black worms hiding there, and then hand-pollinated the white and pink-tinted blossoms with a soft paintbrush.  It seems the bees aren't plentiful again this spring.

I've dug up some plants to share with my neighbour and with other gardeners.  This is like sharing a favourite recipe, giving enjoyment and leaving a legacy.

I've weeded and divided and trimmed back.

I am fortunate:
-a citizen of Canada.
-a resident in Victoria.
-a  gardener.
-a photographer.


I see things more clearly and feel more deeply when partnered with my camera.

Yesterday, I again visited my newfound corner of the Cattle Point area, where rocks meet the sea,  and where striations are reminiscent of magnificent and subtle abstract paintings.

I hurried down as I wanted to photograph while the sun was hidden by clouds.




When I returned home 1 1/2 hours later, I downloaded 250 images to my designated photograph-only computer. During the afternoon and evening I edited these down to 111 and that's only the first run-through!  I will likely weed the photographs saved to 50 later today.



It is not the photographs that are ultimately important, rather, it's the time I spent looking and seeing and being present in the moment.  Fully engaged. In isolation.



As I've heard from others, my lofty plans to tidy my clothes drawers haven't materialized. I organized my socks! A couple of partly-filled bins sit in our t.v. room, waiting to be topped up with more winter clothes and then stored. A bag of spring clothes deemed "good but not for me", were gathered mid-winter to go to a consignment store, now closed. And a table with 2 boxes is laden with goods for my participation in the Oak Bay Garage Sale - Garagellenium XXI, June 13, 2020 - which will most likely be cancelled.

On Monday, I arranged two phone call appointments with friends. While speaking on the phone is not something I relish, it was a real joy to connect.  A joy to listen and talk, with no agenda. I realize that email has nearly erased this pleasure from my life and I need to remember this even when this strange time is over.

Will I?

And, although I am engaging in activities that give me pleasure, I am still lonely.

I can't lean over the fence to chat with my neighbours. And while I've walked with a friend, with her following 6 feet behind me, it feels weird. I can't converse with the staff I've come to know well at For Good Measure, except by email when I order my food to be measured and bagged for me. And it makes me sad that I've chosen to curtail my twice-monthly volunteering at the food bank at St. John the Divine Church. I miss the clients I have worked with over these many years and especially now as the need is so great.

The vulnerable in our communities are always struck the hardest, and this pandemic vividly highlights the inequality in our city.  My donations to the Rapid Relief Fund and for bottled water for the homeless at Topaz Park seem almost like a cruel joke, in their minimal effect. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says every morning "We are here for you" the meaning seems to be that we are here for just some of us.

It is a sad time when a doctor on Victoria's front lines says, on radio, that the the homeless at Topaz Park need the oversight of Doctors Without Borders to be safely cared for.







I am very fortunate, indeed.





As Arundhati Roy wrote in an essay: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans 
to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”



Saturday, 4 April 2020

isolation

Covid-19. Three weeks into isolation.  Six feet between people, if,  in fact, you meet anyone on the street or during the restricted hours in stores deemed essential services.

I was at my local supermarket, Pepper's, this morning, 10 minutes before their 7 a.m.opening time for seniors and those who are vulnerable.  I had come to buy  hand sanitizer made in a cooperative venture between a local distillery and a company that makes herbal products. The bottles were right by the door so I was waved in with the warning "shhhh....don't tell anyone!"

Back home, I slipped a CD into my CD player and started folding my laundry. It was a Barbra Streisand CD from 1997 called Higher Ground, that I had purchased from a thrift store many years ago and that I had tucked away and never listened to.

As track 3, At The Same Time, played, I was amazed by the lyrics! "Think of all the hearts beating in the world at the same time" was the main refrain.

Barbra's words in the insert to the CD read:
"I adore the lyrics of this song, which reflects exactly what I think: knowing how fragile the planet is, how fragile souls are, and how desperately we need unity. Look how the world came together after Princess Diana's death.  We all saw how people need to be close, to love each other, to cry together, to feel together.  I wish we could live like that all the time, without having to wait for tragedy to strike."

Yes, knowing how fragile the planet is .... and how desperately we need unity.


Then and now and always.

And, in order to stay as healthy as we can be, and to help others do the same, we must move our physical selves away from one another.  We must have no less than six feet between us. And, we are beginning to cover our faces with protective masks.

Food Bank clients at St John the Divine, must wait outside for their dry food order and for bags of fresh food that are passed out to them.  The vulnerable unsheltered in our community get meals served to them outside of Our Place on Pandora Street and camp out in tents.

Yesterday, a friend gave me a donation of two $20 bills for the Food Bank.  Today, I was chastised for not immediately disinfecting the paper money and then washing my hands for the one- minute hand- washing protocol.

The world has changed drastically and so quickly.

We are in the midst of the phenomenon called physical or social distancing.  While this isn't as restricting as complete self-isolation, it seems just baby-steps away.

The word  "isolate" comes from the Latin word "insula", which means "island", and definitions of isolation include  "separation",  "segregation", and "not connected to other things."

Panama exemplifies these definitions with its new measure to combat the virus. Starting on Wednesday, only women will be able to leave their homes to shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The men's days for errands are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The time allowance is limited to two hours.

Everyone must remain home on Sundays.



Solitude is a different thing all together.

Vocabulary.com says about "solitude":
 "'Solitude" is the state of being alone. You might crave solitude after spending the holidays with your big, loud family — you want nothing more than to get away from everyone for a little while...........The word solitude carries the sense that you're enjoying being alone by choice."

Solitude frees the mind from distractions and may enhance creativity.

Supporting this, Abigail Brenner M.D., in her article "The Importance of Being Alone", writes that "spiritually, being alone may bring you closer to your inner being, allowing you to more readily access the creative and intuitive aspects of yourself."





And, Rainer Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, referring to solitude writes:
“But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”




Further explanations infer that solitude is a state of being alone without being lonely, whereas loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation.

Okay!! Enough!

The question for me is how I can ease my often painful sense of isolation to a place that more resembles solitude.

Earlier this week, a friend sent me a text to set up a 9 a.m. phone date for the following morning. She told me that she tries to do this every day.  I am definitely not a phone person....so what can I do to move closer to personal engagement?

I was introduced to someone on Facebook who posts a "prompt" on her page every day to engage her friends. She writes a word which might be a colour, a descriptive word like "rise" or, today's choice "wind", and people post their visual interpretations.  I look through my photographs on the computer and choose one to post.

At first I thought I might start something similar on my Facebook page to involve some of my on-line friends, and then I realized that playing on Franny's Facebook page was absolutely perfect!

I'm thinking that a story time "game" might be fun.  I will choose a few willing friends to play what we did as kids and even young adults, where one person started a story and stopped at a crucial place passing the story on to the next person who then added a bit and then passed it on again. An email
game?  Or might it work on Facebook as well?



Either way, it will be engaging.  A connection.  A stretch towards something and out of isolation.








Wednesday, 11 March 2020

saying goodbye

I am trying to bring some order to a few shelves in our library and to sort through papers and half-filled notebooks.

Of course, this becomes simply an excuse to look through piles of notes carefully tucked into file folders marked "save".

It is also a time to utter "OH, that's where it is", although the purpose of finding it is long forgotten.

For a short while, when vacationing in Sedona, my friend Nancy and I met to spend a couple of hours together writing.

We followed Natalie Goldberg's model from her 1986 book, Writing Down the Bones. We would choose a word or two as a prompt and then say"Go!", generally spending between 5 and 10  minutes on each exercise.




Keeping the pen moving.  No crossing out.

Then we read our short pieces to each other.

Today I found one of my notebooks from that time.

Warning!  This writing burst from 2001 is entirely unedited!


  * a photograph from 1998

"saying goodbye

The cycle of life - beginnings and endings hellos goodbyes
birth. youth, adulthood, old age and then death.

Holding on doesn't help, really
time is stronger than my fingers,
grasping, tugging.

The hours, the days and the years,
the calendar from 2000 replaced by 2001
to be replaced in a week, it seems, with 2002.

Here I am at a crossroads again
preparing to say goodbye to our life in Sedona.
12 years wintering here among the Red Rocks.

It is time.

It is time to say goodbye with grace, with love, with understanding.

Understanding that my body is old-
older that it was in 2000
My limbs more fragile, more complaining.

Understanding my life is less adaptable
to the coming back and forth into 2 different cities,
two very different existences.

Goodbye, not only to Sedona,
but to my more youthful self, my stronger body.

Saying goodbye to one thing is really an opportunity to welcome a new beginning.

If there is no void, there can be nothing new appearing to fill the space.

Goodbye and Welcome!"


                                        old in 2001?   old at 58?   no way!

Here I am in 2020, having traveled four times this past year to Havana where I gathered images for my 2019 solo photography show, Fragments.

Here I am in 2020, still working hard in the garden while continuing to do small acts of kindness in our community

                yes, "My limbs more fragile, more complaining." but still not old!












Saturday, 8 February 2020

she persisted

When Brian and I moved to Victoria 16 1/2 years ago we moved into a newly renovated home.  It was a relief, as I didn't want to be living in chaos as construction was going on.

The garden or rather, lack of garden, was the kind of challenge that excited me.  Digging out most of the  grass, relocating the path and working in yards and yards of sea soil into the new large bed was a start.


As a feature of this virgin bed, I planted a young ginkgo biloba "Autumn Gold".  I had been entranced by an entire boulevard planted with these trees as we drove through a city in California on our way to Sedona, Arizona many years ago.

I read that this trees is considered to be "living fossil and is the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago."
 http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c910



I was told this tree had survived because it had traditionally been planted in Buddhist gardens.

It is a slow-growing columnar tree and its bright golden autumn leaves are outstanding.

After spending hundreds of hours transforming our front property, and just tamping in the soil around  this specimen tree, you can imagine how I responded to a neighbour's comment, something like "Why are you planting this? It will get TOO BIG and ......blah blah"

Turning to this critic, my retort was: "I'll be dead!"  Period.

I clearly remember the sense of freedom that comment gave me!

The age thing hasn't always been so liberating.

A few years ago, I told our financial advisor that I didn't want our new investments' maturity to be 10 or more years from purchase.

When I reach beyond 80 years old, I'd rather have the cash in my pocket.





My kitchen floor always looks dirty these days.  Not from lack of washing, but rather because the surface "varnish" has worn away in this most travelled hub of our home. The floor needs refinishing.
I have the name of a company that did my friend's floors and the number has been by the phone for two weeks. Every time I think of phoning, I hesitate.

To have the work done means the fridge, the stove and the dishwasher need to be moved from the kitchen. Pulled out and then carefully moved back into place, without damaging the now perfect floor.

I'm going to wash it again later.

I've put the company's phone number away.  For now.

Maybe I can live with the smudgy look for this lifetime in this home.

And finally, chronology tiptoes in as I try to choose trees to separate our back garden from our neighbour's.  Since the death and removal of a huge cedar at our fence-line, the intimacy of our garden has been lost. I thought that three delicate and evergreen pittosporum tennufolium would be lovely screen there....until I discovered that they wouldn't even begin to afford even a little privacy for five years and counting!

Wrong choice.

As a kid, how many times did I say "NOW!  I want it NOW!"

I don't think this desire for right away/instantly means that I am reverting to my childhood, rather this is my new version of "living in the moment"!

                                    THIS MOMENT NOW!

As suggested by a friend and plant-person extraordinaire, I think I will purchase three large evergreen magnolias "Little Gem" and have the guys from Demitasse nursery plant them in the spring.

The downside is it's still winter!




 If you are unable to leave a comment on this site, you may email me or post on my
Facebook page            Jackie Saunders-Ritchie

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2020: as always, it's up to us



"We receive the light, then we impart it. Thus we repair the world."
    - Kabbalah












"There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
-Rumi























"If we get cut off from our passion, where's our compassion going to come from?"
-Matthew Fox












"Live as you will have wished to have lived when you are dying."

-Christian Furchtegott Gellert














Apologies: I don't know the artist of the flying bird or who wrote the final quotation.
Somehow messages aren't being posted....again!  You may share your comments by email or by posting on my Facebook page.  Thank you

Friday, 13 December 2019

when will I get it!?

when will I get it?!

I asked several friends and family members if they would choose two or three words that they feel describe who I am.

When a few people wondered why I was asking, I told them that I wanted to see if their descriptive words matched my personal self-image.

How do you see me? How do I see myself?


Because of this asking, other memories pushed forward.

When my dear friend Sarah had a brain aneurism and while she was in intensive care, I sat at the hospital for many hours each day. I occasionally made sandwiches for her son as he waited and watched.

One evening, her husband G left a message on my phone, asking for me to call back. Why was he calling? Was he upset with me and how I was sitting vigil for Sarah? Or was it something else? I finally gathered my courage and phoned.

In fact, G was phoning to ask if I would be willing to be their Power Of Attorney.

Far from a dismissal, he was instead feeling trust and the closeness of our relationship.

When my neighbour J and I were visiting this afternoon, I talked about my early sense of self.

I  described how my sense of  worth increased when my high school husband-to-be dated me many weeks in a row rather that his standard not-getting-involved-once-a-month-kinda-date.

I felt special. He was the top of his class, popular and he chose me.

Describing this to J, I realized that I had never once thought that he was lucky to have found me!

And we married.  And later divorced.

HELLO!?
                 Old stories.  Old insecurities.

When I asked for these descriptive words, I thought it might allow me to see positive parts of myself that I may have discounted or under-valued. And perhaps to see traits that I have disowned because of my belief that they are negative.

As expected, no one hit me hard with negatives.  Though  I did say it was allowed!

"Creative" wasn't a surprise, but it became more powerful when it was mated with "focused".
"Leader "and "caring" partnered was another combination that I could hold close.

When "powerhouse" was chosen twice, I thought it was indicating a pushy Jackie, barreling along, running over people.  However, when I googled the word, I was surprised to see that this was not a negative connotation. Rather I now see it as a strength!
  1. pow·er·house
    /ˈpou(ə)rˌhous/
    noun
    1. a person or thing of great energy, strength, or power.

I love when a friend didn't stop at two words so that she could add "strongly principled, fiercely supportive!!"

And from someone who has known me for years, "oh that's easy. ...caring
...energetic..precise.."    

And when I asked what the meaning of "precise" was to her she said "knowing exactly what needs to be done or what you want."

So, it seems that I have been too quick to call myself, all in CAPS, "BOSSY", when likely it can be lowercase "bossy"with a dash of "precise" thrown in!

"Precise" cautions me that I need to be aware of the FONT!

Someone chose "determined", which, if it hadn't been coupled with "generous", I might have of believed was "stubborn" or "dogmatic". And, it's really not the same thing at all!

Looking at the descriptive words that people shared with me, I hold "generous" and "kind" closest to my heart. This is how I wish to be seen and to be remembered.

Although "powerhouse" has a wonderful ring to it!

This exercise has been a remarkable experience.

Maybe it can help lessen the weight of these early beliefs and allow me to  grow more fully into who I truly am.

Thumb my nose and say.....

                              abracadabra and piss off!







Somehow messages aren't being posted....again!  You may share your comments by email or by posting on my Facebook page.  Thank you



Wednesday, 13 November 2019

that's Cuba!



Yesterday I started  making chutney.  It was to use some of the amazing Bramley apples that our  neighbours and friends Rick and Joanne had given us.  Each apple the size of a large grapefruit.  Delicious to slice and eat and perfect for cooking. While we lived in the Cowichan Valley, I made about 100 jars of chutney.  Apple, pear, plum and stone fruit combinations of apricots and peaches.  But that was over 20 years ago.

Initially, I likely followed a recipe but I soon dispensed with that and, as my mum used to say, I now fly by the seat of my pants.

This time I wrote the quantities down as I added ingredients to the saucepan, scratching out and rewriting the numbers as they were altered. 1 cup of brown sugar became 1 1/4 cups and the amount of chopped crystalized ginger increased as well.

I have always loved making chutney, both because of its forgiving nature and because of the wonderful smell that fills the kitchen as it simmers.  Though it needs almost constant attention as it cooks down and thickens, there is a meditative nature to the process.


 A perfect pot, a wooden spoon and lots of time.

I shopped for most of the ingredients for this year's chutney at my local small supermarket, Pepper's, and at the next-door bulk food store, For Good Measure. Apple cider vinegar, Black River organic sweet apple cider and ginger root from Pepper's and sun-dried apricots, brown sugar and both organic crystallized ginger and Thompson raisins from the bulk food store.

I went to another store to find small B.C. pears that were perfectly ripe.

All of these purchases because I had been gifted a small bag of beautiful apples!

All of these purchases made in our neighbourhood. In stores where I had an array of choice. Three kinds of raisins, four varieties of brown and raw sugar, several choices of pears and a number of apple vinegar varieties.

Now, step back two weeks to when Brian and I were in Havana/Habana, staying once again at the casa particular with our wonderful hosts, Rafeala  and Willie.

Riding in Willie's diesel -powered old Renault, we started off to find cheese for me and apple juice to settle Rafeala's stomach.

We drove about 1/2 hour to the shopping centre I had visited with Willie in May. We paid to park and then went to line up with several dozen people patiently waiting their turns to enter the supermarket.  Only a certain number of people can  shop at the same time and shopping bags are carefully examined with the bill of sales upon exiting.

Rafaela spoke to the person who was monitoring access to inquire about the variety of cheeses available on this day.  There was only one kind and Rafaela told us that it was very acidic and unsuitable.

So our journey, spanning several hours, continued.

At the second fairly large store we saw two young men unloading cartons from a truck and placing them near the store's back entrance.  They told us that the store was closed because of this and didn't know when it would reopen.

Willie voiced a refrain I was becoming familiar with..."That's Cuba!".

A third store was closed though a sign on the door cited its hours as 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

At the fourth store Willie again paid to park and Rafaela and I entered.  She instructed me to crumple up my shopping bag so that there would be no suspicion of shoplifting.  Finding that there was no cheese, we went to the aisle that held juice.  Rows and rows, shelves and shelves of pineapple juice.  Every tetra pak of juice identical to its neighbour. Nothing other than pineapple juice.

The fifth store again had neither cheese nor apple juice.

The sixth was closed.


The seventh store had cheese!  A tiny free-standing counter had small pieces of Gouda and a stack of the cheese already sliced.  Rafaela suggested I buy 5 CUC (tourist money, 1 CUC equivalent to about $1.35 Canadian) and the employee cut and wrapped it for us.  While Raphaela was chatting, I took a brief walk around the store, my flattened bag tucked under my arm.

Again, no apple juice.

Whereas the other supermarket had many hundreds of containers of pineapple juice, here I saw an entire aisle with its shelves stacked only with bottles of cooking oil. One variety. The oil I see in my casa's kitchen.

Several months previous, in Habana, there had been a shortage of this very same oil!

"That's Cuba!"

When I visited Havana this time, I filled a portion of a carry-on suitcase with "treats" for Rafaela and Willie.  I had searched many stores for the more delicate pink peppercorns that Willie had once tried and now coveted. (Root Cellar- three containers) Wonderful shampoo, several bars of gentle Dove soap, full-sized Pro-Enamel toothpaste, many freezer Zip Lock bags (forgive me!) Polysporin, Tylenol and lots of bandaids.

On my previous trip to Havana, I noticed that Willie had bought four bandaids from a pharmacy.  Bandaids purchased individually. So, on this trip, I brought every size and type of bandaid I could find as well as gauze pads and both plastic and paper tape.

I also gave Rafaela two wonderful pattered nylon shopping bags.

And, of course, small cars and trucks for their much-loved young grandson.

A contrast from my life?  For sure.


I have a wee piece of paper from a wrapped gift I had received that says "thank you".  I keep it in the centre of our dining table and look at it many times a day as a reminder.

To remember how very fortunate I am to be living in Canada, and in this city, Victoria.

And to remember how fortunate I am to have a home and enough money to live comfortably and to share some of it with people less fortunate.

Thank you thank you thank you.

                    Every day be kind.  Be generous.  Don't judge.  Be thankful.


                                                                     
                                                              " That's Cuba!"
Jackie's chutney- this time!

11 C apples, chopped
3 C pears, chopped
1T+ minced ginger root
1/2 C+ 1T crystalized ginger, chopped
1 C  dried apricots, chopped
1/2 C Thompson raisins, chopped
3/4 C onion, chopped
1 1/4 C light brown sugar
1 1/2 C Black River organic sweet apple cider
1 1/2 C apple cider vinegar

In a heavy bottomed pot mix the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil.  And now it's the meditative part!  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, and stirring even more often as the chutney begins to blend, darken and thicken.

Slow cooking takes longer but tastes better! The vinegar looses its bite as it gently cooks.