Friday, 31 October 2014

planting potatoes

“I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream!” The magical Moominvalley of Tove Jansson’s imagination contains all you need to know for life.

It's night-time and nearly November; tomorrow, all-hallows' eve. It's past potato-planting time for 2014, though certainly not past the time for peace and dreams.

Tomorrow I'll don my fabulous tu tu, bought on a whim 6 months ago, when I was shopping in Vancouver with a dear friend.  I'll need to rescue it from the dark corner in my closet where mistakes live! The store, JNBY, has disappeared from South Granville Street, so I'll wear it to honour the fun and funky clothes they had featured.

We haven't bought candy this year, rather we have a stash of 36 mini bags of Cheezies, hoping that only a few children come to our door so that we can indulge ourselves on the salty left-overs.

We have a huge off-centre squash sitting on our front steps, its  pink-orange body gleaming in the evening drizzle.  If I were to cook it, there would be gallons and gallons of soup. But I won't.

As a young child, living in Montreal, my Halloween costumes were often inelegant.  Imagine me as a 6 year old fairy princess wearing my mother's nightgown, tinfoil-covered cardboard stars stitched on. Now imagine this magical outfit with a bulky brown winter coat stuffed underneath it!  In the early fifties, in our neighbourhood, there was no debating with what our parents said.

My older sister and I would climb the stairs to the neighbours' front doors and then ask, in a sing-song voice,  'Charity please'. My friends on the West Coast laugh at this, however Wikipedia explains this oddity:  'In Quebec, children also go door to door...however, instead of 'Trick or treat' used to be La charite s'il vous-plait'. 

We carried white pillowcases to collect our loot, eating as many of the loose jelly beans and other unwrapped candy as we could, because, once home,  our mother would make us throw them out.  

Our first stop was always to a neighbour's house where we were given magnificent homemade toffee apples.  En route we got handfuls of peanuts in their shells, wrapped Halloween candies that were sweet and chewy, Tootsie Rolls, pieces of Juicy Fruit gum, and the coveted chocolate bar.  (no mini bars then)

We carried small cardboard boxes to collect coins for UNICEF.

Back home, the routine was always the same.  Mum had a white sheet spread out on the carpeted floor of the entry hall.  Estelle emptied her candy to one side while I  eagerly spread mine to the other.  Then the sorting. The best part. Favourites were piled to one side and the few nickels and dimes were counted.

And then the bartering began!

'I'll trade you two boxes of raisins for your Tootsie Pop.'
Are you kidding? Who wanted raisins on this special evening!
After candies had been exchanged, we put our stuff into grocery bags to sample in the morning.  Then, on a sugar high, we peeled off our home-made costumes, double-brushed our teeth and went to bed.

Wikipedia notes that in 2008, Halloween candy, costumes and other related products accounted for $5.77 billion in revenue.  (I'm not sure if this is in the United States or world-wide. The article doesn't specify. Either way, it's a lot of money)

Monday, 20 October 2014

with thanks.....

I finally made the phone call.  For several days I had notes to myself. The scribbles  changing from phone to phone and finally to PHONE The voice on my old Panasonic answering machine was still asking me the same question. Would I open my garden Mother's Day weekend, for the wonderful tour arranged by and benefiting the Victoria Conservatory of Music?

While I have shown our garden before, twice as a happy participant in the Teeny Tiny Garden Tour, benefiting Hospice, and many times casually to the members of the Horticultural Society, the Conservatory tour had always seemed a bit aloof. A bit too proper for the likes of my more casual gardening style.

But, I digress.

I decided to phone, hoping no one would answer and I could just record a message. As young children, my sister and I used to chant 'Chicken! Chicken! Rooster! Rooster!' under circumstances just like this!

I am not a phone person: I like to see the people I'm conversing with, gauging the response by their frown, a wrinkled nose or a grin. Face to face, I know no one is drying the dishes or absently surfing the net. 

But I digress. 

I phoned, she answered, I declined with thanks.

Speaking fromtheothersideofseventy made it easier.  Not easy, but easier.  I love my garden and my friends are always welcome to wander through and pause for a visit.  I will complain that 'just last week the ferns were at their best, just unfurling' or that 'in just a week or two the clematis Sweet Autumn will be fuller, more beautiful'.  But, of course, that's the language of gardeners.  And if there is an empty spot, awaiting  inspiration or a shift of plants, I'll definitely mention it...the difference is, when friends visit, I don't have to fill the brown space right now...I won't have to run to the nursery and buy a full-grown and expensive plant just before our lunch date so the garden will look more perfect.

Declining with thanks, graciously refusing, saying no.

Why is it so difficult? The fear of missing out on something?  The worry of offending someone?  Letting someone down?  Being the good daughter all over again?   Maybe it's just lack of practice!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

candy chang

On Sunday, Brian and I drove home after a beautiful day spent by the ocean.  We had celebrated my birthday by going first to one of my favourite places,  French Beach.  On this visit, the shoreline was jagged and the beach-land small, with only the larger tumbled rocks visible under the breaking waves.  The plentiful logs we were accustomed to were under the swell. With the chopped-up beach, zig zagging as far as I could see, there was no place to sit and comb through smaller stones, noticing their shapes and patterns. Though beautiful still, the peace I had always experienced at French Beach was replaced by majesty, undercut with agitation. Brian wandered and I moved slowly, with my camera.

We then headed to Point No Point for lunch, sitting at a window table with binoculars set beside the cutlery. Local wild salmon with horseradish mousse was our choice and it was delicious.  With a glass of dry white wine- perfect!

Forgoing dessert, we drove the short distance to China Beach. The mist was thick and rain seemed almost certain.  Brian carried an umbrella, which I considered blasphemy! (in honesty, he had forgotten his rain jacket and his down vest left his arms un-weather-proofed)

We walked past the empty campsites, closed until the spring, and began a curving descent to the Pacific.  It is a 1k walk on a forest path with about 300 shallow broad steps (a very wild guess) built where the slope is steepest.  Being small, I had to stretch to keep the single-step rhythm, and, at times, I felt as if I was being propelled down the path  The moisture clung to the trees and numerous and varied fungi grew from huge tree stumps.

For a moment, I seemed to see the forest as it had been before the giant trees had been felled for lumber.  The stumps had become the nursery for hundreds of young trees that sprouted from the crevices in the rotting wood.

Young surfers passed us in wet suits, returning from the beach with surfboards under their arms.

The smell of smoke greeted us before the ocean appeared. Several small fires were burning, stoked with driftwood and larger logs; surfers near to the coals to warm themselves. The waves seemed to hold their shape, tantalizing and powerful. We watched the surfers' ritual- waiting, waiting and then being lifted and carried on this magical carpet of water. I held my breath, hoping for a perfect ride.

As a light rain began, we turned back, this time climbing uphill.  Brian opened his umbrella and I kept well ahead of him, like a child who pretends she is not with her mother!

The climb was exhilarating; the steps built so skillfully they seemed not to be an intrusion into the forest, the markers keeping track of the distance remaining.

Ready now for dessert and coffee, we stopped at Shirley Delicious, a wonderful cafe in Shirley.  I always judge a place by the quality of its date squares, and I awarded these bakers an A+.  Brian had a huge slice of vanilla peach pie and a cappuccino that seemed like coffee topped with a clown's huge ruffle!  When I ordered my latte, I was asked whether I was right or are asked so that the intricate design on the foam faces the correct way!  Talk about attention to detail. With all the baking  done on-site, for me, the drive to French Beach just got a whole lot shorter!

Now, back to the reason for this post's heading.  As we neared Victoria, I turned on the radio and we listened to a bit of Tapestry on CBC.  An urban designer and conceptual artist was being interviewed. Candy Chang was describing an interactive art installation that she had done. a few years ago.  On a wall, on a deserted building in her neighbourhood, she wrote in chalk paint: "What do you want to do before you die?" and made a grid with 80 lines.  She left coloured chalk for people to write their responses. The grid was quickly filled, with additional writing on the edges and tucked into corners.  This experimental wall idea has spread to over 60 countries in 30 different languages, the question changing somewhat as it travels, and Candy happy to have it fluid.

Before I die, I want to walk on our magical beaches millions of times...well, lots and lots and lots of times.  With the mist and the fog and the smell of the Pacific.  With stones and shells to examine. With sunlight bouncing off the waves. With family and friends near me and with my camera tucked into my pocket.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Perhaps it is because I have just celebrated the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Perhaps it is because another birthday is sneaking up on me.
Perhaps it is because the summer in Victoria has been so glorious.

Or perhaps it is all of these things or none of them at all!

I have been musing about friendship.

My young granddaughter was lonely when her 'best friend' moved to a new city last year, although her sadness was mostly overcome by a new best friend made at her week-long biking class.  Now that kindergarten has begun, new friends and their birthday parties will shift the terrain once again. It's not that she will forget those earlier friends, they will likely remain loved in her memory. It's more that in her five- year-old life there are many opportunities to meet and connect with other children- at school, in the park and at gymnastics or art class.

For me, from the other side of seventy, friendship sometimes has funny quirks. Some of my dear friends have no shared pasts with me.

Walking from a movie at Cinecenta a few weeks ago, after seeing a film set in the Eastern Arctic,  I only then discovered that my friend and movie-partner had spent several of her teenage years living in Inuvik.

We are friends in our adult selves.

Another woman, who I knew casually 30 years ago in Duncan, has more recently reappeared in my life.  Although living farther apart now, our connection has deepened and increased in its significance.  We knew each other when our kids were in primary school, yet, even with this history, we are truly bonded by who we are now.

With another friend, I wander in downtown Victoria, checking out the shops and talking politics and tech hints over coffee. Our friendship is new.

My dearest friend is my husband. Brian sees me as I am; who I dare to be when I'm cranky, un-groomed or sad. He embraces my power, and, in fact, sees beauty in it. He is the first person who ever told me that I was beautiful. And he tells me again so that I will really hear him.

There are other friends too. Women I reach out to when I look for vibrant conversation, a walk around the chip trail at Henderson or for comfort when life seems to sit heavy on my shoulders. A caring friend who includes me into her circle to celebrate holidays, and my artist friend with whom I delve into colour, composition and mood. We may not visit or talk often, still I hold these women close.

The common thread with these special people seems to be that we can be together without needing to pretend.  I am safe with these friends. We find time for each other despite busy schedules. With these friends, my voice is heard and I truly listen to what is said; we are constantly learning from one another.

Ziad K Abdelnour wrote 'As we grow older, we realize that it is less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.'

I particularly like Samuel Coleridge's description of friendship, saying it 
 'is like a sheltering tree.'  

near Willows beach

I imagine the roots growing deep in the earth and the canopy of leaves keeping off the sun's glare.  The tree is home to many species, living together, mostly in harmony.