Thursday, 28 August 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 28, 2014

The Last Long Weekend of Summer

For far too many the weekend perched on the doorstep heralds the end of summer and much moaning and lament flows in it's wake. But I am a stickler for precision - summer does not end until 22:59h EDT on Monday, September 22, the Autumnal Equinox.

Get a grip people! Summer has MORE than 3 weeks left to go!

In my story, these weeks are full to the brim with memories and celebrations.

In 1975 the Labour Day Weekend was my last weekend of single life. I went to the EX with my cousin Claire, who had come over from England for my wedding. We didn't know each other well when she first arrived but in no time at all we became bosom buddies. So the new best buds set off for a full day at the CNE. Bus, subway then streetcar let us off at the Dufferin Gates. We took in a hunter jumper competition in the Colosseum then worked our way through the Midway of rides, side shows, and games of chance. Claire did something I have never done, neither before nor since. She won not one but two prizes: at a shooting gallery she got all her ducks in a row and won a plush purple mouse a bit larger than a football; and then at a coin toss won a humongous plush polar bear. That bear was an armful.

Done with the Midway - there was no way I was letting her win anything more and we couldn't get on any of the rides with the thing either - we hauled the bear and the mouse over the bridge to Ontario Place.

Two attractive single women in their early twenties, one hugging a white bear and the other carrying a purple mouse walk into a bar...  Let's just say we garnered a lot of attention, many offers of free drinks and a few visitors who felt impelled to join us. From the savoury to the unsavoury, from the tailored suits to the stubble-faced sleazebags, we met them all. We refused all come-ons politely, then firmly then when pressed too hard, we packed up the bear and mouse and moved on to the next bar.

At the third tavern, though it might have been the fourth, after a parade of lonely, hopeful hearts club members, each one rebuffed with increasing intensity, the barman appeared with two scotches on the rocks, our tipple of the day, "Here you two lassies get these down ya, then move along before the dogs get ya."

It took us another twenty minutes to follow our protector's instructions, twenty minutes during which he ran interference for us while we downed the scotches we already had and then knocked back the two freebies. We made good our escape leaving behind empty glasses and a very large tip. We ambled, after a fashion, through the marina, took in an IMAX show at Cinesphere, and had wine with dinner in the restaurant with white table cloths. We oohed and ahhed loudly and giggled all the way through the fireworks.

From that very night in 1975!
My Dad, Claire, Whiskey & Mousey-mouse mouse, 1975

By now the bear had acquired a name, "Whiskey", as had the purple mouse, wait for it... "Mousey-mouse-mouse". Yeah, well we lugged our menagerie back across the bridge to join the boisterous crowd heading for the streetcars. Whiskey continued to bring us more attention than we wanted but now it was he not us that was the main attraction. We hung on tight to the big bear and made it to the subway, but missed the last bus home and had to walk from Kipling Avenue. As my late mother told it, she heard us long before she saw us. I personally have no idea what she was talking about. Mousey-mouse-mouse and Whiskey of course, know it all.

Happy Labour Day Weekend folks. Be safe and have fun.

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday Moanings - August 25, 2014

The Last Monday in August

Please excuse the cliche, but just where did the summer go? We all ask the same question at the same time every year and every year the answer is more sigh than words, at least in this part of the world where summer is our reward for enduring snow, ice, wind and bitter cold.

While I happily admit that autumn is my favourite season, summer offers unique joys that I never want to miss. I never want to miss breakfast on a deck bathed in sunlight and warmth

Out there this morning with my omelette and latte, I watched blue jays sweep in and out of the tray feeder, hummingbirds buzz in and out stopping just for a moment to sip some nectar, chickadees and nuthatches. The distant hum of highway traffic offered up a steady bass line while crickets kept up a staccato chirp. The neighbourhood dogs barked in sequence along the street as a cyclist whizzed by.

And every now and then the breeze picked up the baton and conducted the leaves, still mostly very thick and very green, in a soothing chorus of rustling chatter.

One has to make the most of mornings like this one...

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 21, 2014

A Great Escape

Sometimes the best thing for me to do, the only thing that I can do to soothe the heartbreak, the turmoil of questions without answers that swirls in my head, the sense of utter helplessness that haunts my soul when world events turn frightful, horrific, and incomprehensible, is seek temporary refuge in images of beauty.

I'm not running away from duties and responsibilities for I have no active role to play in any of the conflicts, epidemics or natural disasters. I have no magic elixir with which to dose the combatants, the casualties, the bereaved. And a kiss will not make it all better.

I give what I can to the NGO's that take no sides but just do what they can to alleviate suffering. Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) tops my list every time. A few mouse clicks and my donation is done. I feel good about that - for a moment, but then a great wave of helplessness sweeps all that comfort away, a tsunami triggered by conflict in Gaza, the Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Ebola in Africa, landslides in Japan, and intolerance in Ferguson, Missouri. And that's just the front page of the news this morning. I dare not look any further.

So here I offer you my antidote to the poisonous horror in the news; here I share with you my great escape.
May you find a moment of rest, a sigh of contentment, a smile.

All of the above images were taken at the Royal Botanical Gardens in October of 2011.

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday Moanings - August 18, 2014

Stuck in Neutral

At the top of this week I'm just rocking the wagon back and forth, just sitting up here watching the world go by. It's actually quite pleasant above it all - calm, quiet, nonchalant. Getting into this groove though was a pain.

Three weeks ago the tendons in my right foot took it upon themselves to gift me with a layoff. They stuck me in Neutral! I might have been a little more cooperative had it been all expenses paid, but no that's not how this lodge works. Though Health Ontario paid for MD's and x-rays, I have to pony up for physiotherapy treatments (the perils of a defined benefit plan for retirees!) and pay $16 parking at the hospital to get the x-rays taken. I have been a very unhappy camper these past 21 days and based on past layoffs imposed by the tendonitis gang, I've got 21 more to go before I can get outta Neutral.

So yeah, it's a good thing to finally let go of the protests and embrace the stillness (gag!) of being stuck in Neutral. There are activities here. Three times a day there are gentle foot/ankle stretches, toe and towel scrunching, arch raises to the tune of London Bridge is falling down and plenty of icing on the foot. Best of all I get to use a cane when I absolutely must walk any significant distance (>20m). People are very nice to me when they see I have a cane, stepping up to open doors, nodding and smiling. And speaking very LOUDLY to me! Yee gads, what's that all about?

Anyway, my tendons are on the mend - they do seem to enjoy the slow pace of things - so I think I'll try to hold out for here for another three weeks. It's not so bad being stuck in Neutral. The food is pretty good and the staff patient and understanding. Besides, the fastest way out is to stay put!

(a beach would be a much better location for neutral - just sayin')

So you folks head on off down the week.
I'll be watching from my wagon or my hammock, rocking back and forth, back and forth.

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 14, 2014

It's a good day for a Curry

There is nothing quite so intoxicating as the pungent aroma of gently roasting Indian spices; gossamer swirls of exotic fragrance rising above an open skillet in my kitchen. This is nothing short of divine, at least to my senses. Indian cookery is a relative newcomer to my repertoire. It all began about four years ago with a desire to prepare our palates for travel to the Middle East and India in April of 2011.

Curries fast became a "go to" on the menu when cold and damp threatened to suck the life of me; on a day like today in fact. I awoke to a chilly 9.6C and while at first such crisp, clear air invigorated my every pore - Autumn is my favourite season, though perhaps not in August! - the sun too soon disappeared, taking much of my burst of energy with it. Then the rain started, big juicy drops of cold splat extinguished every last ember of enthusiasm. It's a good day for a curry!

Crawford Market, Mumbai

There's a pork tenderloin that I can roast separately and I've got a few carrots. I've got some cauliflower and two tomatoes sneaking up on their expiry date. I've got zucchini, a bunch of chard, a lonely red pepper and there's a tin of chick peas in the larder. A curry is such a great way to dispatch all these veggies that on their own are not enough for a meal. And I will make my own garam masala, hence the wondrous fragrance in my kitchen today. My recipe? Well the fact is that I never make it the same way twice. It too is dependent upon what's on hand in the spice drawer. Cumin, coriander, cinnamon pieces, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, peppercorns, fennel and some mustard seeds made it into today's rendition. Bay leaves, turmeric, star anise, and mace have also appeared from time to time. I make absolutely no claim to authenticity - I just use what I've got. Close is good enough. Here's a link to a very simple recipe for Garam Masala.

I recall one year my mother tried her hand at making an Indian dinner for business guests of my father. She sweated and slaved for at least two days in the kitchen, her face red with the heat of the spicing. She concluded that it must be much too hot and so did her very best to tone it down. The guests were very impressed with her cooking but after the meal when Mom made a point of asking, they allowed that it was not quite hot enough. Meanwhile both Mom and Dad were red faced, sweaty and speechless after their meal. Water and antacid consumption remained high for nearly a week. Close was too close?

Today marks the fourth year since my mother's passing. It's a great day to be busy in the kitchen, her favourite place. And it's a good day for a curry!
Bon appetit!

©2014 April Hoeller

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday Moanings - August 11, 2014

Amazing...Absolutely Amazing...

As a little girl I stood tight beside my Dad, our backs pressed up against the brick wall of our house, our heads craned upwards, watching, waiting for Sputnik to pass over our night sky. He was a keen astronomer from his youth so while we waited in the cool night air for the Soviet satellite, Dad took the time to point out the Pole Star, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Arcturus, Sirius, Orion, Alpha Centauri and anything else visible on a clear night. He always was the first to spot the moving point of light arcing across the sky above us.

"There, look there," his finger stabbing the sky above us, "there it is. Sputnik!"

"I see it Daddy, I see it!" I squealed.

Then silence, a deafening silence engulfed us, my little hand clutched inside of his big one. I'm not sure who had the tighter grip as we watched, eyes then bodies turning to follow the alien orbit until it disappeared out of sight. "Amazing...absolutely amazing..." Dad whispered.

The night sky is one of the few places left that still holds a profound sense of mystery. One of the joys of living in the rural routes is seeing the sky in all her glorious light. When I look up into that blanket of darkness pin-pricked with twinkling lights I am always awestruck, almost overcome with wonder and uncertainty, reverence and scepticism, amazement and bewilderment. And one other emotion lurks in the background - a prickling of fear, that ancient human angst that rises in the darkness of night.

And so it was when I waited and watched for the rise of a Supermoon last night, filled with the same wonder and excitement, fascination and awe; filled with history and science, silence and handholds.

And a bit of moon glow:

Amazing...absolutely amazing!

©2014 April Hoeller

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 7, 2014

"Write about what should not be forgotten." Isabel Allende

Oh look! It's 'Throwback Thursday' again. Can I throw it back?
I limped into today via a Wednesday marred by a migraine and a nasty flare up of tendonitis in my right foot. In my efforts to salvage something useful out of the day I decided to clean the finch feeder and not only did I ram a screwdriver into my finger trying to remove the bottom plate, but I then forgot where I put an integral piece to reassemble it again. Not to worry, my love is an expert here - not at remembering things (he's no better than I am), but rather at fixing things - so problem solved and finches have food. Perhaps I should have written down where I put the all important part.

I took refuge in the kitchen. As I turned the fish in the skillet for supper a deep penetrating hum emerged from the oven. I jumped back at the distinctive sound of unrestrained electrical current. With a strange kind of thud, the noise ceased and stove top lights went out. "Well that was interesting!" Mr. Fixit offered. He'll figure it all out in due course, but in the mean time I have no oven, though the stove top is now working.

Is it any wonder that my approach to today, Thursday, is tentative at best? The headache is gone but the painful foot remains. Based on past experience, a few physio treatments to alleviate the acute stage accompanied by RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and 6 (SIX!) weeks from now I'll be back on track. Well, now what?

"Write about what should not be forgotten." popped up in a window on my laptop screen. The words grabbed my attention and instead of my usual disinterested nod, they garnered a full stop, look and listen as a deep resonance reverberated inside me.

For months the memoir about my journey with my mother through Alzheimer's Disease has languished in the bottom of a desk drawer. The story has all but disappeared from my radar. Oh I know the untidy melange of typewritten and hand inked pages is sitting there. I even occasionally give the drawer a kick to see if anything is alive in there. Nope. I chide myself for not getting on with the job, and therein lies the root cause of my inaction - the memoir has become a job, a boring, tedious chore devoid of all enthusiasm and out of sight. Where are the days when a passion-filled pen spewed out pages filled with a heart rending tale?
Why am I writing this memoir anyway?

Today the words of Isabel Allende answered my question. I took the time to search out the context of the quoted words, an interview titled "Why I Write." The full quote is even more instructive for me:

"...Maybe the most important reason for writing is to prevent erosion of time, so that memories will not be blown away by the wind. Write to register history, and name each thing. Write what should not be forgotten."

This may not be sufficient kindling to fire up my fountain pen, but it has opened up the drawer to let some light in, and where there is light there is energy.

Though a search on her name, "Irene Hoersch Cudbird" reveals her place in history, my mother did not change the world on any great scale, in any grand way. But she did shape my place in the world, how I experience and interpret life around me, and she still does so to this day. There are important stories to write, wisdom and truth, love and laughter that should not be forgotten.

©2014 April Hoeller