Friday, 12 May 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - May 12, 2017

Friday was Bookmobile Day.

Mom and I walked hand-in-hand down to the end of our short street where the big two-toned green bus parked for an hour every Friday morning from 10:30 to 11:30.  Sometimes we arrived in time to watch this behemoth lumber and creak into place, but most of the time it was there already, with the stairs pulled out waiting for us.   In good weather, the driver lounged outside on the grass smoking a cigarette, but when he saw us coming, he jumped to his feet and with a big smile lifted me up into the library on wheels.  Those steps were just too big for my four-year-old legs.  Mom always thanked him, and the librarian who greeted us, always smiled.

circa 1954

Inside, both walls were lined with books floor to ceiling and the narrow hallway between them was paved with beige linoleum.  A long thin bank of fluorescent lights that ran down the centre of the bus emitted a comfortable hum.  In the summer, it was hot and airless, so we never stayed very long, but in winter the bookmobile was a cozy refuge from bitter winds, due in no small part to the engine running for the full hour.

About half way down on the driver’s side was a two-foot square window.  This was where the children’s books could be found.  A small kid-sized wooden table with two chairs sat under the window and nestled between two low vertical shelves that displayed the entire children’s collection, perhaps some twenty books in all.  Most of the time I had this special space all to myself -- it seemed not many children got taken to the bookmobile by their mom.

My favourite books were Lois Lenski’s stories about Mr. Small – Cowboy Small, Policeman Small, Papa Small, The Little Sailboat, and The Little Train,  to name a few.

One day, Mom handed me Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline”, even though I really didn’t think a story about pretty little girls in Paris, France was anything I would like.  As the story goes, Madeline is taken ill and has to go to the hospital.  I had just had such an experience, so Madeline and I had something in common.  My mom was very clever!  My all time favourite book was “Curious George”.  George and I had something in common too.  We were both very curious and that occasionally got us into trouble.

Sometimes I just liked to watch Mom find her books.  She scanned the shelves carefully, often with her right forefinger tracing along the bottom of the book spines until she found something of interest, at which point she pulled out the book to read the inside flap.  Then one of two things happened – she either put the book back or she went on to read the first page.  If then a smile crept across her face,  she closed with a satisfactory snap and added it to her book bag.

Mom was a voracious reader right up until her death at 89 years.  If a book was on the New York Times Best Seller list, chances were Mom had read it, particularly if it was fiction:  “DesirĂ©e”, “Auntie Mame”, “Hawaii”, “The Thorn Tree”, “Exodus” as well as anything by Daphne du Maurier or Mazo de la Roche.  I suspect these stories fuelled her inner life and kept her dreams alive.

We presented our finds to the smiling librarian who great purpose, thumped the due date stamp on the slip in the back of the book and filed the borrower's card in a wooden box. Then it out the door we went - with a little help from the driver - and back up the street, walking hand-in-hand.  After a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, I spent the afternoon curled up beside my Mom while she read to me.

Mom & I  at the beach, 1954
At the beach, 1970
January 2002

So many memories,
So many stories,
So much love.

Thanks, Mom. 

Happy Mother's Day!

©2017 April Hoeller

Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday Moanings - May 8, 2017

Stormy Weather

I've been very good these past weeks in adhering to my commitment to refrain from pouring a deluge of weather observations into the blog. However, the past week unbound my weather geek soul, freeing her to observe, measure and report at will.

The forecasters warned of heavy rains; a possible 70 to 90 mm (2.75 to 3.5 inches) of liquid sunshine to fall between Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. As the ground in much of Ontario and points east was already saturated and water levels in the lakes and rivers were near record highs, flood watches and warnings were posted. Towns and cities geared up for emergency measures, including evacuations.

Mother Nature, her winds and pressure zones, stars, moon, and tides do what they do without any regard for weather forecasters. She does her own thing in her own time. This time in my neighbourhood, she delivered less than the forecast, dropping just over 41 mm (1.6") on the land in a more or less steady rain. No thunderstorms or torrential downpours, or wicked winds. Just a rhythmic pitter patter, something my Dad would have called a "watchin' rain."

So I watched - weather radar, frontal boundaries, my wireless rain station and the rain streaming past my window. The radar soon proved boring, an all green palette with only a few intrusions of yellow indicating higher intensity. The pressure gradients and frontal boundaries changed at a snail's pace - no excitement there. The wireless rain gauge, a new addition to my instrumentation, displayed values that crept casually upward; on the whole, a bit of a yawn.

But outside, the leaves and grasses seemed to shout out their greening despite the refrigerator temperatures of 5°C (41°F). The world was dripping with colour...

A few bedraggled birds and one toad braved the elements.

I and those in my town were lucky. The land on which our houses are built is largely sand. By Sunday noon, there wasn't even any standing water; all had seeped back into the ground. Others were not so fortunate, While I watched the weather, warm and dry in my house, to the north, south, and east of me people battled against swollen rivers and lakes. Homeowners, bolstered by many volunteers laboured side by side to fill sandbags and build dikes. They worked round the clock to protect their homes from rising waters. Not all were successful. Dikes were breached, water rushed into basements, filled streets waist-deep, caused landslides, washed away bridges, washed away so many of the things folks hold dear. Our sister province of Quebec has borne the brunt.

I can only imagine the frustration, the sorrow, the hardship. My heart goes out to all those in Ontario and Quebec who are struggling with floodwaters: homeowners, volunteers, first-responders, and the men and women of the Canadian army who were called in to help out in Quebec. For those of my readers who are able, the Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations via their Quebec Spring Floods Appeal.

After a week of being under the weather, so to speak, we all are ready to dry out and warm up.
We all need a little bit of normal, enough to allow water levels to go down, enough to give respite to those in need. We all need to feel the warming touch of the long yellow fingers of sunshine.

Make it so.

©2017 April Hoeller

Monday, 1 May 2017

Monday Moanings - May 1, 2017

It's raining.
     It's pouring.
          This old scribe is...

Well, what is she up to on this first day of May?

Get out your smallest violins because I've got on a pair of whiney pants for this Monday Moaning.

What, pray tell, is the point of having a plan, a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based strategy for getting things done, when something as simple as a telephone call can render it so irrelevant so quickly?  Let me be clear - nobody died or was diagnosed with cancer, or lost a job. World War III has not broken out, though that has been a haunting concern of mine for a few weeks now (a whole other blog!). There is nothing tragically wrong. My world is still turning at a great clip but it's just not doing so according to my plan.

I arrived home last Tuesday afternoon from an amazing writing retreat.

Good morning, Starshine!

The most productive retreat ever. I found the doorway into a section of the memoir that I've been struggling to get a grip on for months. I not only plotted out my way through it, I also committed some 5000 words to paper, half of the chapters. Woot! Woot!

I am indebted to Ruth Walker and Gwynn Scheltema, the dynamic duo of Writescape, for their encouragement, companionship, and occasional goading.

... and a good sense of fun too!

Indispensable to the retreat is the energy and inspiration that blossoms when a group of writers gets together for a weekend. Good conversations, suggestions, laughter and affirmations abound. A big thank you to all of you!

I arrived home all fired up, ready to move forward at good pace. I had a plan too - always an important part of a retreat. So there I sat Wednesday at the harvest table in my kitchen with pens, paper, and mind ready, at 1 pm - right on schedule. And then the phone rang. I ignored it, letting my guy answer it, while I put pen to paper. A whole sentence emerged. With great satisfaction, I tapped a period at the end. The next sentence was spoken by my husband.

"They want to start work on the solarium next week."

I capped my pen and closed the book. No words have been written since. The solarium construction was not scheduled to begin until the end of June. Nowhere in my plans for the coming week, or even the coming month was there any reference to "The Solarium." But the contractor had a cancellation and our name rose to the top.  We have been able to put them off for two weeks - because we've got prep. work to do, none of which was on our radar - until last Wednesday.

What's a writer to do?

This is not a derailment. It's just a layby in a siding to let a construction train through.

So, throw off those whiney pants.

Make another plan to write my way between, around, over, through the interruptions.

Just think, in a few weeks I'll have another writing space!


©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 20, 2017

Off and Writing

While I'm making good an escape to Spring Thaw, my annual writing retreat, let me treat you to an escape to the Great Wall of China, a souvenir of our trip to China in April 2014.

Check it out here:

I'm firing up my pens to lay down amazing words, phrases, sentences and paragraph on cream-coloured sheets of paper...

See you back here in a week.

©2017 April Hoeller 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Monday Moanings - April 17, 2017

Leftovers and Takeaways

It was a grand long weekend of fun and accomplishments, feasts and fine weather - a fitting greeting to the season of renewal. Friday was indeed good, very good for a little garden clean up, servicing of the snowblower for storage, switching out of the winter tires for summer, washing AND waxing the car.

                                                    Baking bread...

And one other task - polishing the silver.
Fifty plus years ago, Good Friday was the day my mother, sisters and I gathered around the kitchen table to polish 8 full place settings and serving pieces. If we were hosting the whole "fam-damily" then the coffee urn and tea service were added to the polishing list. Silver place settings have long since fallen out of favour, replaced largely by dishwasher proof stainless steel. Friday, I only had to polish a pie server and a pair of candle holders.

Still, there is something very comforting about removing stains of darkness and renewing shine and sparkle. It's an Easter takeaway, a gift of remembrance and tradition.

Saturday brought April showers and downpours too. A great day for the indoor cleaning spree. In this house that translates into a massive "de-furring" of the rugs, flooring, and furniture. The resident canine, the main contributor to the gargantuan fur bunnies that decorate every nook and cranny, appropriately makes herself scarce during these search and destroy missions. I think she actually uses the time to plan her next carpet bombing.

Housecleaning is not a regular chore of mine. Why if I kept on top of the dusting and de-furring, I'd never be able to truly appreciate the amazing swath of clean a dampened cloth can leave behind.

The joy of Spring cleaning and an evening walk after the rain - another Easter weekend takeaway.

Then Sunday - the festival day.

Easter baskets filled with chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and more candy. Also bones and bickies for Sophie dog.

Good conversation with healthy infusions of silliness and love.

Followed by the feast.

Monday is all about leftovers.
The fragrance of the few lily blooms in the vase of cut flowers wafts by from time to time today, twitching my nostrils each time (just two lilies makes for a good dose of scent!). A reminder of the work and wonder and love of Easter.

The pie will be gone by mid-afternoon, given the current rate of consumption. It is as of this writing half of what it is in this picture.

The veggies will round out tonight's supper.

The ham will be carved up into slices for sandwiches, chunks for stir-frys and last but by no means least, a ham bone soup will soon be simmering away. As lovely and warm as this past weekend has been, including the showers, God knows as do I, that there are still a few clunkers and throwbacks left in the weather department, days that can only be redeemed by hearty comfort food.

I'm not going to make it to the gym today.

It's already after twelve and besides, I'm still savouring my Easter weekend.
The Takeaways and Leftovers are a good enough workout for my soul.

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 13, 2017

Easter 2017

Somewhere back in the mists of time these days before Easter were jam packed with command performances of worship liturgies; eight or even nine of them from Palm/Passion Sunday through Easter Day. In the sacramental traditions of the Christian Church, this is Holy Week, but in all my years of working in church land, these days were anything but holy. For clergy and support staff, choirs, and altar guilds, the week is a marathon, sometimes an unholy circus, of bulletin printing, chancel colour changes, rehearsals, and homilies. It's an annual organizational nightmare just in the preparation.

It's also a week when life outside the doors of the church carried on as usual. Accidents, illnesses, personal crises, and death were constant companions, each one needing pastoral care and compassion.

The worship services never quite went according to plan: something broke, something was forgotten. someone, a key liturgical assistant perhaps, didn't show up ("Sorry pastor - we decided to go to the cottage for the long weekend."). Sometimes the weather competed with the rituals - torrential rain put a damper on the new fire, or gusty winds caused the fire to roar with flames that threatened to set the pastor on fire, then later blew out the light of Christ.

But Easter morning always arrived right on schedule. There is nothing quite like being the first person to open the doors of a lily-filled church at 7:15 Easter morning. What begins as a strong but pleasant announcement of floral decorations, in less than a minute balloons into a dizzying, nose-hair twitching, throat-gagging stink bomb.

How did I manage both my family celebrations, with all the trimmings - dying eggs, hiding eggs, hunting for eggs, and of course the big feast - and the Church? Well I know I had more energy 10 to 20 years ago than I do now, but I also know who got the shortest end of the stick - Me - and the Church got the longest.

Well, that was then. Now I choose to stage a family feast. Way fewer rules equal way more room for love.

My family will gather on Easter Day as we are able, to dine on ham, glazed with sweetened mustard and decorated with pineapple slices and maraschino cherries, scalloped potatoes, dark brown around the edges, and a medley of roasted Spring vegetables. There will be apple pie for dessert, with whipped cream piled on top. And I will find time at some point to meet up with God in the garden and talk about sacrifice, gratitude, and love.

My late mother, struggling with Alzheimer's,
decorated this wooden egg in 2002. 

This week is really no different than any other week of the year. The sun rises and sets each day, the world turns, people are born, people die, crises come and go, as do blessings and breakthroughs. Life happens. That's really what my holy week is all about - the good, the bad, and the ugly all make an appearance and I celebrate the joy of being alive. I am loved and I love.

The ham is in the house. Spring is in the air.  I've got chocolate.  And I've got jelly beans!

Happy Easter!

©2017 April Hoeller