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Putting The Blanket Away 1 comment

I was doing a bit of spring cleaning over the weekend, pulling everything out of a closet. At the bottom of a pile of random “stuff” was Freddie’s electric blanket. In the last year or so of her life, I had put this electric blanket on “low” under her bed and she seemed to appreciate it. After she died, I quickly tossed or donated most of her things except one shirt, one little blanket and this electric blanket.

(RIP Freddie, co-pilot and canine companion for 18 years, 7 months. October 2, 1997 to May 26, 2016.)

It was filthy, I remember thinking at the time, and I didn’t have the ability to figure out how to wash or clean an electric blanket. It seemed a near impossible task to me, figuring out how to clean this polar fleece fabric with wires in it. Like being asked to do some complex calculations in my head. I’ll deal with it later, I thought, and I tossed it into the bottom of a closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

So it has sat at the bottom of this particular closet for nigh on two years. As I pulled it out, I noticed the care label, quite clearly displayed, on the “down” side of the blanket. “Machine wash … dry on low”.

Oh. Not that hard, then. It is all clean now, folded and put away properly in the linen cupboard.

What I couldn’t face, I think, was the cessation of what had become a beloved routine. Freddie needed to go outdoors first thing for her business and I would carry her in my arms and set her down gently on the grass or snow. I’d move the electric blanket, a moisture pad (which was just a precaution between her and the electric blanket), and her bed from the bedroom to her spot by the computer. I’d go back out to see if she was ready to come in. She wasn’t capable of getting very far but she was usually enjoying having a sniff around the grass or snow. She might even bark at some smell or some perceived “thing to be barked at”. Maybe my neighbour Jim would come over and pat her as he adored her, too.  I’d come in and I’d get her breakfast ready. Eventually, I’d tuck her into her spot in her bed by the computer and my day could begin.

She went out for outdoor visits several times during the day. Bedtime would come and the routine would run in reverse, with the blanket/moisture pad/bed moving back to the bedroom.

Caring for this elderly creature felt like a sacred duty and it made me oddly happy and serene. It bears mentioning that my relationship of seven years had officially ended Labour Day 2015, after dragging on painfully for too many years. Caring for Freddie was, for me, a nurturing that fed my wounded soul.

Big Dee arrived in my life in late Fall 2015 and, to be honest, he couldn’t figure out why I was keeping this smelly senior around. I think it wounded his pride to know he was, as dog hierarchy goes, inferior to this old girl. In truth, I think it was not a bad idea for him to learn his place. In his mind, I’m sure, he was hoping she’d head off on a long walk into the woods one day and he’d have me all to himself.

I always thought I’d wake up one day and find that she had died in her sleep. That is not what happened. That last weekend, the long weekend in May 2016, she slipped several notches in function, becoming disoriented, seemingly blind, confused. She was no longer herself. It was time, and I had to make that dreaded decision pet owners (owners? parents? stewards? companions?) have to make. It was hard. It was necessary. And I had to be pushed a bit to get it done.

My desk area has changed and a bookcase now stands where her bed was. A night stand has now filled in the spot in the bedroom that used to be hers. Sally has joined the crew now … life moves on. I think the electric blanket was the last piece of unfinished business remaining from that time.  I’ve put it away now. But that won’t stop me from glancing over occasionally, as I’m sitting here at the computer, and remembering her little face looking up at me, wondering if it is time to go out yet.

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.

=====

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.

Extended Absence Greeting 4 comments

Hey there – remember me? 🙂

So, the last few months of 2009 became a muddy blur during which time writing, and exercising, took a backseat to the following:

  • caring for the lovely Freddie as she recovered from surgery to repair ruptured discs in her spine (neck). My home became a baby-gated, cushioned, modified pet crate for seven weeks. My dog was in pain and I felt helpless. And then, shortly afterwards, broke. So grateful that Freddie’s Other Mom, and the lovely WWBA, were able to be such a supportive part of this adventure. But it did take its toll. Freddie needs to be carried up and down stairs and, at first, needed more, shorter walks. I live up two flights of stairs and my routine was tied more than ever, to Freddie’s requirements. I was exhausted.
  • … and thus got I ill myself with a persistent bronchial infection – several weeks of coughing and hacking and sleeping badly.
  • having my car vandalized, right here in the underground parking lot. Stuff stolen, car damaged. Much time and energy lost over a 10 day period, dealing with this. Not to mention feeling just a wee bit violated.
  • grading 174 really sub-par essay-like business reports in 3.5 weeks. That is a real number, 174. 87 in the first round that had to be done quickly and returned so they could have feedback to complete and hand in the second round. Second round to be graded to the grade submission deadline at the end of term. This activity will suck your brain out through the eye of a needle and will rip your heart out of your chest, tossing it away like last year’s PlayStation. Don’t let anyone tell you that teaching isn’t an emotional pursuit. After teaching plagiarism (how to avoid it, not how to do it) as a topic in class, finding students who persist in the behaviour is like getting smacked up the side of the head with a 2 x 4. I’m not sure I can explain why, it just feels … horrible.  It does get balanced out, of course, by students who really do make incredible progress and there were some really fine moments of this as well. Somehow, though, this term, the amount of grading and the roller coaster ride it took me on just about did me in.
  • ongoing negotiations with management on workload issues (see above) and the looming possibility of a strike that no one wants yet that seems difficult to avoid. Multiple meetings with management over next term’s workload. A workload review by a larger committee. Not much progress. Stress. Self-doubt. Worry.

As you can see, not a lot of writing took place. Furthermore, I actually have found myself daydreaming of the smell of my gym. What I’ve learned is that my mental and emotional health is linked to these two activities. Thus, I resolve to re-prioritize and get both disciplines back into my life. Although I’m going to wait until mid-February to actually step on the scales, I think. Yikes.

Anyway, thanks for your patience – all three or four of you. 🙂 Stay tuned for more … as for now, I’m off to the gym!

Buried Treasures 2 comments

I received the following by e-mail from a Handbasket lurker, a.k.a. Katje’s Auntie:

I am forever amazed at the items that reveal themselves as the snow melts. This week has been a particularly rich experience since the snow melted so quickly that the volume of exposed materials was far greater than usual. Anyway, as we were walking (and sidestepping) I spotted a lemon timidly protruding from a snowbank at about the 3 foot level (can we time deposits like archaeologists?). It was bright enough to catch my attention. Fully 2/3 exposed, I had to have a closer look. The lemon was intact, blemish free, pleasantly plump. I couldn’t help but wonder how it got there. It was too far from the garbage can area of the lawn. It hardly seems the type of thing to jump out of someone’s grocery bag. And I can’t imagine one of the local kids losing it from their lunchbag. (maybe it’s something to do with global warming?)

So, I’m curious as to what’s the strangest thing you or your audience have come across this past week as the snow temporarily recedes? I remember the shoes/food items you photographed last year and can only wait to hear what treasures are discovered this week.

Temporarily recedes? Pshaw! This is spring, my friend!!! 😉

A quick snow melt does reveal lots and and we dog-walkers are front-line witnesses. I can’t say that what Freddie and I have been discovering is always pleasant. For example, there is now clear evidence that other dog owners are not nearly as diligent as some of us are about picking up poo. I don’t know how many times this week I’ve rescued Freddie’s, er, output while staring at many months worth of similar output in the same vicinity. One wonders in these moments if such diligence is worth the effort.

One of my hockey buddies commented the other day about a bicycle that is being slowly revealed from under a massive pile of snow on a street corner. The bike was chained to a street sign and then buried under months of actual fallen snow, topped by snow removal snow. As the snow has started to fade, the bicycle has emerged. It is one of these gorgeous new but old-fashioned “sit up and beg” style bikes with big fat white-walled tires, no gears and a snazzy orange paint job. My friend, a bike-lover, railed against the absentee owner of the bike. “Who would abandon such a beautiful bike to the elements? How irresponsible! If I could pick locks, I’d snag that bike, take it home, clean it up and love it like it deserves to be loved!” I’m thinking about taking bolt cutters to our next game in that neighbourhood.

A fellow walker and I were discussing the mysteries of buried snow treasures in the park the other day. She offered up a story about some winter camping she did a few years ago. A sudden thaw happened mid-trip. The campers decided to go for a hike around a lake on foot/snow-shoe. As they rounded a turn in the path and looked out at a secluded bay, they saw an antler protruding up out of the now-slushy ice surface. A moose had gotten trapped, and subsequently frozen, into the ice at the beginning of the winter.

Personally, I find these early thaws to offer some of the uglier times to live in downtown Toronto. Months worth of discarded wrappers, the aforementioned output, and cigarette butts suddenly appear and I find it almost embarrassing. Especially the cigarette butts which I find distasteful and disturbing at the best of times. I rounded a corner the other day to be confronted with literally thousands of butts on the ground in front of a men’s hostel. That is what it feels like to me, a confrontation. Or, more accurately, an affront. A visual assault.  Blech.

What I remember, and what is missing from the urban experience of a quick thaw, is the smell of the earth thawing out.  A soft warm breeze that carried the oddly comforting smell of old leaves, now almost humus, and that unmistakeable scent of the earth waking up. It is probably too soon for that now anyway, in spite of my enthusiasm for this thaw.

What I have been enjoying is the enthusiasm of our feathered friends for this weather. Birdsong is everywhere, including in the parking lot on campus. Given that the parking lot is my least favourite location at my place of employment, it is particularly lovely to be welcomed by happy active birds, chasing each other from tree to tree.

They should probably get all the activity in that they can muster … we still have most of February and all of March to weather. So to speak.

Autumn in Toronto 1 comment

I’m only just getting around to off-loading some pics from my camera. These were from mid-October, when I had my dog, Freddie, for a fair chunk of time. These are of her favourite park – well, MY favourite park really. It is in Rosedale, a few blocks north of where I live.

Notice her stealth technique.

Notice her stealth technique.

Gotta admire a tree with flare.

Gotta admire a tree with flare.

This is like the big finish.

This is like the big finish.

Differences Between Me & My Dog: The Bathroom Edition Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

1. I do not feel compelled to sniff, examine or otherwise
contemplate the output of my friends or of strangers whose paths I may
cross.
I'm really quite clear on this. There is no information to
be gleaned from such examinations that I can't live quite well without.

2. I do not need to search out and carefully select the "perfect" spot to do my business.
In fact, my apartment has two perfect spots for me. I've noticed that
most of my friends, my workplace, and most public locations have quite
good places for this as well. Granted, it is possible that I may select
a preferred spot for hygienic or olfactory reasons.

3. To my knowledge, my output is not carefully saved for, er, posterity in plastic bags. At least, I certainly hope it isn't.

4. The wind does not blow my pee onto my foot where it then freezes instantly, causing me to frown and whine. This appears to be a seasonal problem. For the record, my dog appears to be pro-global warming.

5. I prefer to engage in this kind of activity alone and in private.
My dog, on the other hand, has no sense of personal space, boundaries,
or privacy with regard to relieving herself or, indeed, with regard to
her compadres relieving themselves. In fact, she has been known to
observe other dogs, at extremely close range, in the midst of
their bathroom activities. After such encounters, I've been known to
ensure that she gets a good scrub down.

6. I have no memory of EVER being praised effusively ("what a good girl!") upon completing my bathroom routine. This is possibly because I take great pains to have no one else in the room at the time (ref. point #5).

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