Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 31, 2013

It's Halloween, 
The lamp is lit, 
And round the fire the children sit 
Telling ghost tales bit by bit, 
“Til sister Jane says, “shush!” 

Who’s that knocking on the kitchen door? 
Who’s that creeping across the bedroom floor? 
Who’s that coughing like his throat is sore? 
It’s a goblin! 

I was taught this song in Grade 4 by a very skillful teacher, Mrs. Price. I recall she dimmed the lights in the classroom and added an unexpected sound effect or two! Perhaps that's why the song is etched so clearly in my memory bank.

In school back then there were no costume parades or parties but there was no shortage of Halloween themed activities, from art and music to reading, writing and yes even arithmetic. A whole week of decorations, singing, stories and math problems featuring ghosts, goblins, witches and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and a great run up for the big night.

Honestly, I would have been horrified if I had to wear my costume IN THE DAYLIGHT, IN SCHOOL! That would have been enough to bring on a sore tummy on the morning before school for sure. My preferred characters for Trick or Treating were pirates, gypsies and tramps (no thieves - lol), and the outfits were hobbled together from stuff in the house an hour or so before heading out. The one exception was the very special year my parents bought me a pirate costume. Dad made the eye patch. My Mom was not a seamstress, but she did know a thing or two about makeup. There was an awful lot she could do with a burnt cork, baby powder and red lipstick. She also had that big jar of cold cream for getting all the stuff off afterward.

Mom's speciality at Halloween, at any time actually, was conjured up in the kitchen. Beyond the orange and black wrapped candies, apples, peanuts in the shell and packages of sunflower seeds, many of the treats were homemade and every kid knew which house in the neighbourhood had the best ones. For years, our house was #1. Mom made popcorn balls, rounds of white popcorn held together by molasses syrup boiled to the hard crack stage. With buttered hands so the hot syrup didn't stick, Mom quickly assembled the hardball sized treats. The hot syrup always burned her hands no matter how fast she worked.

Gone now are such delectables, even the apples and peanuts are absent from the treat bag; there will be more zombies and vampires out tonight than pirates and tramps and it's been a very long time since I've heard anyone utter my childhood chant, "Shell out! Shell out! The witches are out!", but still it's Halloween. The pumpkins are carved and soon candlelight and darkness will bring the jack-o-lanterns to life. Soon there will be the stomp of feet on the porch and then those magic words:

(with a just as magic 'Thank you' after treats are given)

It's looking to be a dark and stormy night in these parts. Be careful out there.

Our very own Sherlock Holmes is already on the look out
for things that go bump in the night.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 28 October 2013

Monday Moanings - October 28, 2013

The Tower of Doom

I knew it was dangerous. It knew I was placing my entire weekend with all its plans and chores in jeopardy, but temptation had me by the throat. Well, what harm could there possibly be in just looking?

My feet easily ignored all the feeble admonitions to turn the other way and I watched my outstretched hands park the over-sized grocery cart then felt my body turn and move toward an irresistible panorama. Pupils dilated, heart racing, fingers twitching I stood before a tower of Dowdle jigsaw puzzles in Costco.

250, 500, 1000 pieces - what's your pleasure?

A panoply of folk art skylines - Paris, Chicago, Old Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, and more - called out to me, and tucked in here and there a Santa Claus grinned from the front of a sleigh full of toys. I swayed before the luminous tower of doom and two boxes jumped into my hands. "Christmas presents for others," I vowed.

I turned away from the tower of temptation, but alas I cast a glance back over my shoulder. Only for a moment, I swear! Long enough to see the bright orange jack-o-lantern wink at me. I was instantly bewitched by 'All Hallow's Eve'. The box levitated into my cart.

And so here I am on this Monday morning face to face with an over flowing ToDo list. Ah, but there's a twinkle in my eye and a finished puzzle on the dining room table. There is nothing quite so satisfying as the soft click as a puzzle piece finds its place in the whole. There is nothing like bringing order and beauty out of a jumble of cardboard. And the feeling as I press that final piece into place is as close to perfection as it gets.

"All Hallow's Eve" Dowdle Puzzles

It's time to kick off into a new week - I've got some catching up to do.

text ©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 24, 2013

The Time Between

The gardens have been put to bed, the lawnmower and weed whacker silenced.

We have paid homage to giant pumpkins and shiny farm tractors at the Fall Fair.

We have celebrated and given thanks for all the blessings of life.

The air outside my house pulses with Autumn's incense as smoke rises from a lazy fire in the woodstove within, murmuring about warmth.

I love this time between - that gracious respite after the September start ups and October gatherings, and before the Christmas machine roars to life. It is a time of tender reflection, a time to look behind me and around me, both where I've been and where I now am.

It's a bit like a meander through a fine old book shop...

Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumberland, England

My fingertips brush across the bindings of the stories of my life as I stroll the along the years. A few tales linger on my heart, a few bring a tear, a few tease out a giggle or three, and of course there are a couple of debunked myths just for entertainment.

All the stories are important.
Life is beautiful.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 21 October 2013

Monday Moanings - October 21, 2013

It's dull.
It's dreary.
It's raining.
It's a Monday moaning, BUT nobody really wants to hear a morning report full of whining, especially the whimpers of someone else. So I'll get on with it; get on with the business of life in this great wide world, one that allows me to trod in her forests, splash in her rivers, lakes and streams, bask in her sunshine and even be drenched in her refreshing rains. Mother Earth gives me so much more that I give back and I am blessed and deeply grateful to be living at this time, in this place.

Labyrinth, Lucca, Italy

I have the privilege of being able to travel the globe seeing marvellous places and faces, experiencing sights and sounds, flavours and fragrances, and touching of my fingers to ancient stones where so many other fingers have lingered long before mine. How awesome is that? Yet there is still so much more to explore.

The Library at Ephesus, Turkey

Street Child, Mumbai

Prayer Offering, Mumbai

The Spring of 2014 will see my love and I heading to Asia; a cruise from Hong Kong to Shanghai with stops in Taipei, Nagasaki, Busan, Jeju, and Tianjin, and then a river cruise on the Yangtze from Beijing back to Shanghai. This trip has the scent of pilgrimage about it. My mother loved China and walked the Great Wall. I want to walk where she (and so many others) walked.

Thinking, dreaming about this next adventure is my sunshine today.

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 17, 2013

Sophie's Choice

It's been a stunning Autumn so far. Many, many days of sunshine and warm temperatures lure me outside to meander through the forest and revel in the splendour of it all. I confess that I "left undone those things which I ought to have done" and fallen for Autumn's siren call - again, and again, and again. Woe is me.

Every morning all the "oughts" and "shoulds" line up to wag fingers of condemnation at me as they hector, "Today, today you must go to the gym. Today you must work."

Every morning I drink in remorse along with my cappuccino and I resolve to do better, to resist the temptation of the world outside my door, to get to the gym, then get back home to nail my backside to the chair and get to work on my book. But then the great day star rises above the trees, drenching my writing space in light. The world outside sparkles and Autumn quickens her step. I cap my pen, turn from the page for just a moment...

Our faithful canine Sophie stirs at my feet, stands and stretches then rests her chin on my lap. Her mismatched eyes - one blue,one brown - are as seductive as the season, "Let's go for a walk, mummy. Pleeeeeze." And I am undone. Camera and dog treats at the ready, we make good our escape into the forest.

Sophie wanted to go all the way to the stream yesterday, way at the far east end of the trail, a good 3 mile hike round trip. In fact when I tried to take the more usual path, she simply sat down and would not budge until I caved in. There had been quite a lot of rain overnight so the ground was soft and glistening. It was grand. And it was after all, Sophie's choice.

Text & photos ©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 14 October 2013

Monday Moanings - October 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Day in Canada

In my household, today is a day to kick back, relax, enjoy and Clean Up - our family celebration was yesterday. As always, it was more than of a feast of plenty, it was a feast of  "too much". We all ate too much, I made too much, and it rained too much. Yet it was also a plentiful cornucopia of good conversation, good laughs, and great love. We feasted on the usual roast turkey with two stuffings (my Mom's traditional sage and thyme bread stuffing with chestnuts and a wild rice & rye stuffing), candied sweet potatoes - also my Mom's recipe - and oven roasted veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, beets, butternut squash, radish topped with pomegranate and bacon bits).

We pushed ourselves away from the table to take a breather before tucking into a dessert of apple pie with ice cream and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

And the wine, all Ontario of course, ... we polished off rieslings from Thirty Bench and Cave Spring (my family are lovers of this varietal and it's a great choice for turkey, though personally I would have gone with a Gewurztraminer or Viognier), a Malivoire Old Vines Marechal Foch, of which the turkey enjoyed a really good snootful and an Angel's Gate Pinot Noir. Phew!

Good thing we got some exercise on Saturday taking in the Erin Fall Fair. Humongous pumpkins, cute animals, humongous trucks, the usual rides, humongous tractors, great french fries and to top it all off a tractor pull. Nothing says southern Ontario farming better than a good ol' tractor pull (unless of course it's a ploughing match).

This year we didn't have to wait until 11pm for the fire and smoke of the modified tractors. The order was changed to place the noisy classes of tractors earlier in the evening. Apparently the seniors in the nearby houses complained about all the raucous way past their bed time. Yup, I get that! Thanks to my sister Cathy and her hubby Bill for offering soup, sandwiches, free parking and clean washrooms! Love ya!

It's been a great weekend of thanks giving.
We are safe.
We are happy.
We are healthy.
We are free.
My heart is full, love and gratitude woven finely together. It can't get much better than that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

text and photos ©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 10, 2013

Thanksgiving sits on the doorstep and my days are full of food shopping, cleaning and cooking, which doesn't leave much room for 'Thanks-giving'.
Today I pause at the start of a busy day to consider this offering of gratitude:

We are grateful for
eyes that see and ponder, for taste buds that know the sensuous pleasures of eating and drinking, for hands that hold and touch and feel, for ears that can delight in music and the voice of a friend, for a nose that can smell the aroma of newly mown grace or delicious food, and can also breathe the air that gives us life.

We are grateful for
the treasure of loved ones whose hearts of openness and acceptance have encouraged us to be who we are. We are  grateful for their faithfulness, for standing by us when our weaknesses stood out glaringly, for being there when we were most in need and for delighting with us in our good days and our joyful seasons. 
We are grateful for
the eyes of faith, for believing in the presence of God, giving us hope in our darkest days, encouraging us to listen to our spirit’s hunger, and reminding us to trust in the blessings of God’s presence in our most empty days. 
We are grateful for
the ongoing process of becoming who we are, for the seasons within, for the great adventure of life that challenges and comforts us at one and the same time. 
We are grateful for
the messengers of God - people, events, written or spoke words - that came to us at just the right time and helped us to grow. 
 Joyce Rupp; May I have this Dance? ©1992 Ave Maria Press; p. 151

all photos ©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 7 October 2013

Monday Moanings - October 7, 2013

Yesterday -
- a warm misty Sunday morning, drizzle hangs in the air; leaves dressed in Sunday best reds and golds clatter and fall in the wind; the kind of wind that forewarns of a cold front on our doorstep.

Days such as yesterday, when the leaves of autumn let go to dance and twirl their way to the ground, I'm always cheered by the song my Mom taught all her girls. As my children arrived on the scene in mid 1980's, she wrote out the words for me.

Once again I became the little girl at the kitchen table, listening to the opening bars then singing along with her clear soprano voice. I see her eyes twinkling with delight; I feel the sheer joy that filled the room.
Looking on that rich image from the past, I now see that the song awoke the child in Mom too. I like to imagine her running and skipping along the streets of Thompsonville, Connecticut, scuffing through the leaves and singing of course. Mom always sang.

I took advantage of the weather doldrums yesterday and while the coq au vin in the slow cooker basked in silent contemplation, I chased down a few of these family history morsels. The fount of all knowledge, Google, led me to discover the original poem written by George Cooper (1840-1927), and later published in a primary school reader - McGuffey's Second Eclectic Reader - intended for grades 4 to 6. Wikipedia, (not always the fount of all truth), says that when it comes to sales, these Readers rank with the Bible and Webster's Dictionary with more than 120 million copies and growing. Apparently McGuffey's books are still used in some private schools and homeschooling. The "Preface" and "Introductory Matter" of the Second Reader are well worth a read for their emphasis on articulation and punctuation.
Lesson 43, "The Wind and the Leaves" shows Cooper's poem in full.

1. "Come, little leaves," said the wind one day. "Come o'er the meadows with me, and play; Put on your dress of red and gold Summer is gone, and the days grow cold." 2. Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call, Down they came fluttering, one and all; Over the brown fields they danced and flew, Singing the soft little songs they knew. 3. "Cricket, good-by, we've been friends so long; Little brook, sing us your farewell song,-- Say you are sorry to see us go; Ah! you will miss us, right well we know. 4. "Dear little lambs, in your fleecy fold, Mother will keep you from harm and cold; Fondly we've watched you in vale and glade; Say, will you dream of our loving shade?" 5. Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went; Winter had called them, and they were content. Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds, The snow laid a coverlet over their heads.

Then I got to thinking about Mom's childhood home. Was it Enfield or Thompsonville? Once again Google showed me the way - first of all, Thompsonville is the downtown part of Enfield. A quick call to my sister Cathy, the fount of all family history knowledge, to ask if she knew the exact address of the house. Of course she did, 39 Garden Street. Back to Google and second of all bit of info, the house is clearly in the Thompsonville section of Enfield. Not only that but streetview displays this tidy two storey duplex, #39 is on the right (not the left where the red "A" is)

Could this really be the house? I can hear an outdoor screen door bang shut behind a little girl. I can hear the thump of her shoes on the wooden porch, before she bounds down the steps then off down the sidewalk.
And she's singing...

         Come little leaves said the wind one day...

The house - Google Maps; Streetview
Text & other photos ©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 3, 2013

Yet another magnificent Autumn day has dawned in southern Ontario. Once again it's too lovely out there to stay indoors glued to a chair, working on the book. The truth is that with more than two weeks of almost uninterrupted loveliness, my writing is pretty much at a standstill. I comfort myself with the knowledge that this sunshine and warmth cannot last and soon we'll all be cocooned indoors with blankies and tea by the fireplace. But for now there are apples to be picked, leaves to be raked, pies to be made and most importantly walks to be taken. See ya out there!

Photo & Text: ©2013 April Hoeller