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Winter Transplant 1 comment

Cue, huge intake of breath … and … WHOOSH!

*cough*

That was me, blowing the dust off this blog. It has been a while.

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Confession: I love winter.

supermoon

Supermoon over Coby

I love the crispness of the air, the freshness that new snow lends every vista. I love having a vista, of sorts.

I love the challenge: staying warm, balancing system heat with wood heat, the work of shovelling, snow-blowing, stacking, sweeping. God help me, I even like winter driving. That is to say, I’m not put off by it. Bring it on.  A “supermoon” hung over the east sky a few nights ago, as I was piecing my way through a few squalls to get home. Like a huge bauble, dangling just above the horizon.  Gorgeous.

I love the coziness of a fire when the temperature is plunging outside, the sound of a hockey game on the tv as I go about other tasks. The happy riot at the birdfeeders when I’ve just re-filled them.

The eagerness on Big Dee’s face when he can see me going through the steps of getting ready to go outside: boots, scarf, coat, hat, go back inside for something (my phone), come back to the door, go back inside again for something else (treats), open the door, close it again, grab my mitts, open the door, close it again, go back inside for something (coffee) … eventually, we get outside. He has learned patience.

Up here, the silence is extraordinary. I’m not really one to judge, given that my world seems to get more silent, or muffled, every day. Maybe silence isn’t really the word – stillness.

This is my second winter up here on my own, and it certainly came on quickly.  I thought I would have a bit longer to wrap up my outdoor projects … but, no … the shed isn’t finished and the raised beds still stand. Oi.

The plan, for those who are still following along, was not for me to be here on my own. Yet, here I am. It has, in fact, worked out. I want to say something about the journey up here as part of a couple in 2011, the rapid deterioration, the frantic yet dismal attempts at repair, the denouement late summer of 2015. But … what to say? It did NOT work out.  Anger, hurt, blaming – all the old standards.  I did not blow the dust off the blog to re-visit the minutia of the hash we both made of it.

The fact of my life at the moment is that each season up here is a gift. I wouldn’t have moved up here, independently. It doesn’t make a ton of logistical or financial sense. I had to be given the context to step back into a non-urban life. The fact that the context evaporated pretty quickly left me with a choice:  stay by the river or return to the city. Every cell of my being said, unhesitatingly, “stay”.  So I am grateful for the context, if you will, dragging me up the road and depositing me by the river.

The first four seasons on my own were, quite possibly, the happiest I’ve been for so many years. The absence of tension was palpable. I’d come home from the city and just stand on the landing between the kitchen and the living room, looking out over the deck, and marvel at the opportunity I have to re-invent myself. Re-plant, perhaps. A transplant, happy to find herself in a place that restores and nourishes.

Easy Is In the Eye Of The Beholder Click Here To Comment!

About nine years ago, I had a short but mind-blowing chat with a woman in the choir-of-my-past. She had gotten involved with a woman who was living at quite a distance from Toronto and I had just struck up an intense long-distance connection with a woman in Copenhagen.  As one does, one tries to seek some common ground and I said to her, “It is hard, isn’t it? Trying to manage building a relationship, a connection, at a distance?” And she looked at me with a penetrating, quizzical expression and said, “Why does everyone say that, that distance relationships are so hard? Who ever said that moving in together or getting married was easy? It is just what people are used to, what they view as ‘normal’. But in fact it is very hard. But people are used to that pattern so it gets called ‘easy’.  You and I know that it isn’t easy, either way. So follow your heart.”

She gave me a lot to think about, as she usually did, in our little mid-rehearsal chats.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, and not so much in relation to the fact that I have, indeed, moved in with the lovely Knotty Girl and her (mostly) adorable children. That part is as hard/easy/magnificent/mundane/challenging/fun/exciting/surprising/normal/frustrating/puzzling/funny/beautiful as it is supposed to be. I’m thinking more about the reactions people have had to me appearing to have gone mad by moving a vast distance out of the city.

The established, expected “pattern” would be to live close to work and to stay within spitting distance of the city that I’ve come to love and feel nurtured by. But is that truly the “easy” choice, or just the “expected” choice? How “easy” is it to live in very dense proximity to strangers who behave in unexpected ways, to cope with traffic that is worsening daily, to have very limited access to greenspace, to have to plan carefully one’s route to across town and back to account for time of day, traffic, road closures, protests, events and water main breaks?

The breaking point for me, where the rose-coloured glasses filtering “easy” fell off my eyes, happened one day when Knotty Girl and I pulled up to the arena for a hockey game and were astounded to witness a man stopping on the lawn in front of our car, pulling down his pants and defecating right in front of us. He just did his bidness and pulled his pants up and walked on. That was the beginning of the end for me living downtown. It was no longer “easy” and I could no longer pretend that I found it to be so.

I am, after all, a country girl. I am used to having cows, horses or pigs poo’ing in front of me. Not people.

My gorgeous condo was starting to feel cramped by lack of access to the outdoors and hauling bags of heavy groceries and hockey gear up three flights of stairs no longer seemed as easy as it once did.  In fact, everything about city living started to feel cramped. Space is entirely at a premium, be it space to put a vehicle or space to put a desk to work at. Even space at Starbucks, for those with laptops and that need for the unique focus that public space can provide, can be hard to come by.

I was raised in a huge, rambling, rickety farmhouse with seven bedrooms and two kitchens. We had 750 acres of land, much of which was at my disposal to roam, plow or play cops/robbers/army/spy or whatever, with or without my little buddies. The brickwork in the house was so weak in some spots, like “my” tv watching spot in the living room, that you could feel the wind blow against your ankles for six months of the year. But it sure was big. And there was room for everyone.

Is it “easy” to live far from the city, work, friends and hockey? Not always. Does it feel more “normal” to me? Yes, actually it does. We watch the weather closely, we plan and prepare for things (usually) in a more considered way. We are distracted by birds at the feeders, by the arc of snow blowing in clumps off the trees and glinting in the sunlight, by the size and proximity of the full moon against a black sky, by the wild turkeys and their crazy footprints across the snow on the ice rink. This feels preferable to being distracted by car alarms, traffic tie-ups, unintelligible arguments in grocery stores and sirens. We are responsible for solving a lot of our own problems out here, or at least being somewhat prepared for them.

A few months ago, as Hurricane Sandy approached the North American coast line, Knotty Girl and I spent about two hours getting ready. We gathered up all that might blow around on our property and stashed it safely. We shopped. We parked our cars out of possible treefall zones. We charged up all our flashlights and other devices. The weather models didn’t really suggest we would get hit hard but we’ve come to learn that weather forecasting is a less-than-exact science. It was best to be ready. And we were. I slept so well that night, having done all that we could think of to minimize damage and maximize continuity of lifestyle. We woke up to a few small branches down on the lawn. The hydro didn’t even go out.

My point is that we had some things we could do to make ourselves as prepared as possible. I don’t find this as easy in the city, especially in living spaces like condos. I did make sure that I had a gas fireplace and a gas stove in my place and hoped I could operate them if the hydro were out for an extended period. Hauling items up and down the three flights of stairs was a trade off for not having to rely on an elevator. The hydro did go out a couple of times in the nine years I lived there and I was grateful for having heat, cooking ability, and normal access to my abode.  But I couldn’t make my neighbours take their patio furniture and flower boxes off their balconies so that these items wouldn’t blow through MY windows. I’d be rewarded with a door slammed in my face if I tried such a thing. I couldn’t make all my condo neighbours be mindful of allowing strangers into the property and many of us were rewarded with an expensive overnight car break-in spree a few years ago.  Hell – the city can’t even make dog owners be accountable for dog poo and that problem seemed to get worse and worse in my neighbourhood over the years.

I apologize for the poo theme. One might think that I have a shitty opinion of downtown life. I don’t entirely. Let’s just say it lost its glamour for me and I’m feeling less claustrophobic and more able to make choices about how things happen out here, away from the city lights.  Easy? Not entirely. Preferable? Yes. More deeply familiar to me? Completely.

Be Stroganoff! 2 comments

Folks who have been following along with Facebook updates will know that the lovely Knotty Girl’s mother is in hospital, ICU in fact, and struggling. Each day, it seems, brings some new piece of unhappy information or new medical complication of some kind. It is a sad, stressful time and we hope she can turn a corner soon.

Moments of brightness and levity can be few and far between, but there have been a couple. Here is one of my favs: KG and I were texting early on in this saga and, if memory serves, she had just been informed that her mother needed extensive, high-risk surgery. Details were exchanged and, having run out of helpful things to say, I texted, “Be strong!”

Or, I thought I did. Just before I hit “send”, I noted that my iPhone had helpfully corrected this to “Be Stroganoff!”

I left it in. It is a measure of my vegetarian girlfriend’s fortitude that she thought it was funny, too, even in this horrible moment.

So, I encourage my darling readers to adopt this as your rallying cry, in those moments where strength is needed, and humour helpful, simply … Be Stroganoff!

Ain’t Life A Brook 1 comment

I was informed a short while ago that I’m soon to be spending some time with the person responsible for the greatest lesbian break-up song of all time.

Snippets of these lyrics go through my head with great regularlity and have since I first heard the songwriter perform them on a Live ’85 – the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival album – back when there was vinyl.  They are firm, direct and heart/gut-wrenching … depending on when you hear them in the cycle of a relationship.

I’m particularly fond of this part:

“… life don’t clickety-clack down a straight line track … it comes together and it comes apart.”

Do have a listen, someday, if you can manage.

Ain’t Life A Brook

I watch you reading a book
I get to thinking our love’s a polished stone
You give me a long drawn look
I know pretty soon you’re going to leave our home
And of course I mind,
especially when I’m thinking from my heart
But life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track
It comes together and it comes apart.
You say you hope I’m not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
You give me the furniture, we’ll divide the photographs
Go out to dinner one more time
Have ourselves a bottle of wine
And a couple of laughs
And when first you left
I stayed so sad I wouldn’t sleep
I know that love’s a gift, I thought yours was mine
And something that I could keep
Now I realize that time is not the only compromise
But a bird in the hand could be an all night stand
Between a blazing fire and a pocket of skies
So I hope I’m not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
I covered the furniture, I framed the photographs
Went out to dinner one more time
Had myself a bottle of wine and a couple of laughs
And just the other day
I got your letter in the mail
I’m happy for you, its been so long
You’ve been wanting a cabin and a backwoods trail
And I think that’s great…me…
I seem to find myself in school
It’s all Ok, I just want to say
I’m so relieved we didn’t do it cruel
But ain’t life a brook
Just when I get to feeling like a polished stone
I give me along drawn look
It’s kind of a drag to find yourself alone
And sometimes I mind
Especially when I’m waiting on your heart
But life don’t clickety clack down a straight line track
It comes together and it comes apart.
Cause I know you’re not the kind
To make me feel obliged
To go ticking through my time with a pained look
In my eyes
I sold the furniture, I put away the photographs
Went out to dinner one more time
Skipped the bottle of wine
Had a couple of laughs
And wasn’t it fine….

And She Said … 1 comment

“Every relationship we have with another person is really just a relationship with ourselves,” she said. These words were accompanied by the raspy sound of tissue being yanked from a resistant box. “Each person reflects back something essential about ourselves. We get a chance – however briefly – to experience ourselves through someone else’s eyes.”

And then she blew her nose.

I’ve been thinking about these words since hearing them. I’m still not sure I agree, or understand. But since they’ve been in my head a while, I thought I’d write them down.

Visibility/Invisibility Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

This summer seems to have a relationship “theme”. Seems most of the people in my life, including me, are wrestling with issues of visibility, of actually being authentically seen by others. Or maybe they aren’t wrestling at all … maybe I’m just noticing.

I had a conversation with a relative of mine a few months ago, trying to get caught up with her. It went something like this:

Me: So, how are things with you?

Her: Great! Bessie (her oldest daughter) and her new husband are in their new house finally and are anticipating pregnancy soon. Gertrude (younger daughter)’s beau has just moved in and they seem very happy so far … Billy-Bob (her husband) is really enjoying retirement and is doing …

It is almost impossible to get an answer from this person on how SHE is. So, when I first noticed this, I thought it was a gender thing. You know, women being trained to fade into the background   in their families. Then, today, I got this e-mail from a male relative:

Things are going OK. Busy as always. Junior #1 – was at Wakefest last week. Off to Fanshawe in Sep. Taking landscaping. Junior #2 – working  in TO. Off to Dal in Sep. Junior # 3 – rowing. Henley (largest regatta in
North America) starts next Tuesday. He’ll be down there all week. Junior #4 – auditioning for Fear Factor today in TO.  Harold – seems to be doing OK…no better/no worse. Wishbone the dog – getting older. Crops – terribly dry.

Once again, the author is not present in this accounting of lives. Since when is it so easy for one’s entire
life to just disappear from one’s own radar?

A few friends of mine feel as though they have been rendered invisible to me by virtue of me being in a new relationship. I want to plead forgiveness based on, well, that thing that happens when you meet someone new. It can get intense at the beginning. But, in truth, there is a deeper flaw in my character that I’m trying to examine this summer. My friendship pattern has always been, since high school, to be involved in many activities, with a wide range of people. This leads to a wide range of friends, happily. I am never sure, except with a handful of key individuals, just how visible I am to them. I’m always surprised, a bit embarrassed
and slightly pleased to find out that I’ve been missed. I need to be better at both seeing, and being seen by, all the wonderful people that I’m lucky to have around me.

In the evolution of the new relationship that I’m in, we’ve both noticed not being accurately “seen” by the other. For example, when she behaves in a certain way that I’ve seen before in previous partners, I tend to respond with the layers of assumptions I still carry from those previous relationships. I don’t check out my assumptions, or ask her to help me understand her particular, unique spin on things. Not surprisingly, she does the same. So, in a way, we are seeing each other through the dirty lenses of previous relationships, like murky ghosts are intruding and clouding our field of vision. This happens so effortlessly … and it is profoundly unfair. It is much harder work to wipe the lenses clean, to blink a few times, breath deeply, make the effort to ask and then to listen carefully to the responses. Much harder. But profoundly
worthwhile.

See and be seen … this is my new motto … 🙂 … pass it on …

Change Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

I’m interested in bodies these days. Not exactly in the way that sentence implies, though. Although … (pause) never mind … moving on

So, as I drop a few pounds, slowly, my body is changing. People are noticing, which is nice. Other people look at me more than I look at myself given that I rarely look in the mirror other than to check to see if my hair is standing up on end.

I caught a glimpse of myself putting the ironing board away tonight, as it is stored in a cupboard in my downstairs bathroom and one must stand in front of a mirror to access the cupboard. It was a mirror action shot, I suppose. There are parts of my body that are just not going to get that much smaller for a while, like my arms, possibly my calves. These are pretty muscular and are likely to remain so.

Today, I wore a shirt that I haven’t worn much since I bought it. I really like this shirt but it has never fit quite properly, until today. So the wardrobe re-claiming begins, which is a lovely side benefit of all this.

It needs to be noted that the fact I was putting the ironing board away indicates change also, since one of the things I do both poorly and rarely is iron. I have, however, run out of summer-weight work pants and this situation needed to be addressed pronto.

On my drive home today, I thought about change and how people respond to it differently.  I’ve left the
most stable job I’ve ever had, albeit temporarily and with a wide and welcoming safety net, to pursue a more entrepreneurial life. The change feels refreshing and invigorating. After several years of work stability, I chose change. Similarly, I’ve been the “leaver” in all but one of my relationships, long or short – choosing change repeatedly there. Some time ago, I was having lunch with my sister and my niece (sister’s daughter) and we were listing out the significant relationships we’d had and how they ended. We then went back in the
family tree and concluded that the women in our family don’t put up with much crap, as we all seem able to pull the plug on relationships that aren’t working and just walk away. The pattern is that we do the ending, rather than have endings forced upon us.

In my own history, this has caused me to attract no shortage of criticism from folks who have claimed that I haven’t done enough to resolve differences in relationships, to “make it work”. I consider these opinions ill-informed and offered from the cheap seats. It is easy to look in from the outside and render such a verdict. In particular, I remember leaving my partner of nine years and hearing no end of criticism for this. No one but the two of us knew how much pain had been caused in the last two of those nine years, and few people know how hard we had both worked to figure things out for the last eight months. One does not discuss such things as a matter of course over coffee. The leaver often gets tagged as being cowardly and emotionally lazy, at least I certainly felt that at the time. In truth, I felt like I’d achieved something brave and gargantuan – I made a strong choice to support my own mental and emotional health. It was absolutely the right one, I can say with clarity six years later. This situation taught me never, ever, to judge someone else’s relationship choices and to offer input on such things only when asked directly for advice or guidance.

Did this relationship ending work out entirely as I expected? No. In some ways, it worked out better as I retained the friendship of my ex with the added bonus of not having to negotiate nearly impossible relationship issues with her. Other than the actual decision to leave, did I feel “in control” of this process? Absolutely not – it remains one of the most chaotic and frightening periods of time in my life. Do
I know how this entrepreneurial gig is going to work out? No idea … I feel very excited and optimistic. Each day, I see progress and new horizons, new possibilities. Will we be fast enough and smart enough to
capture enough of what we need, quickly, to survive and thrive? I have absolutely no idea. All I can do is my best, and support others as they do their best.

Do I feel “in control” of this diet shift? To some degree, yes … but bodies are what they are. The end results are, frankly, unpredictable. All I can do is give it my best shot.

The only things one can be sure about are death and taxes, or so it is said. And change as a feature of life. No matter how hard one struggles to control the nature and direction of change, I think it is seldom
that we are ever fully in control of how things unfold. The opposite of change is stagnation which, to me, would be like death if one succumbed to it. The silver lining of change is possibility and growth. I must
remember this the next time that life proves to me that I’m not entirely in charge.

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