Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The birds' garden

About 18 months ago we installed a bird feeder. It has been a delight for us watching the birds change with the seasons, getting to know what they are and their quirky little personalities.

This past spring I decided to plant a garden on the back deck. I planted six boxes of flowers and herbs. I noticed two plants coming up that I hadn't planted. One clearly looked like a sunflower. The other also looked sunflowerish. I figure the birds had dropped some seeds in the box on their way to and from the feeder. Quite clever, actually, as they are ensuring their food for next winter.

I have been tending them all summer. The sunflower is putting out many heads and happily following the sun.

However, the little plant seemed dwarfed, stalled if you will. Until yesterday I noticed this:

So is it a pumpkin? A cucumber? A zucchini?

I guess time will tell.

Those bird gardeners are pretty funny. I am glad they felt at home enough to start prettying up the place.

They will get all the seeds. I promise.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A mother's Pride

My daughter is attending Pride events this week in her home town. It is not an easy year for her to raise the flag as she is nursing a broken heart, but there she is, putting on her beautiful femme face and taking on the world.

This was her facebook status a few hours ago..
"Already received a flyer that said there was help for me...."

Ok, now that just pisses me off.

So here goes:

Dear "helpful" person at the Pride Parade:

My daughter does not need help. She is perfect just the way God made her. Yup, you read that right. God. I am a Christian. And you know what Jesus would do? He would love her and he wouldn't judge her and he would follow his own advice and love his neighbour.

You, dear "helpful" person, might want to remember that.

And, if you want to be "helpful" to all the people in the world that don't fit into your definition of gender then perhaps you could stop handing out flyers on a day when people are trying to reclaim their rights to be treated well, and to be safe, and to be just who they are.

I imagine for some people this is their first Pride event. For some people the guts it took to get out of bed and head out into the street proclaiming their identity was a risk they had to take. I truly believe that closets are no place for anyone to live.

So back off.

Or this momma bear is gonna take you out.


The mother of a fabulous femme queer daughter!

But alas, dear readers, even within the Queer community, which should support each other in their individuality, there can be struggles and my daughter has written a thoughtful and articulate post about that too. Please take the time to read her latest post

She ends her post talking about how there are not enough letters in the alphabet.
I wish we just needed one. H for Humankind. In all of its colours, genders, beliefs, and ages.

So, dear daughter, have a fabulous day at the Pride parade. I wish I was there with you.

(PS: Don't forget to wear sunscreen)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tinking back

When you make a mistake in knitting and have to knit backwards to undo the work before the mistake it is called tinking. Knit. Tink. Get it? Tink is the word knit backwards.

Sometimes in knitting you put in a life-line on a difficult pattern so that if you make a mistake you can just rip out the knitting until you get to the life-line and then you can pick up the stitches and start over. This is called frogging, because that is the sound frogs make - rip-it, rip-it, rip-it.

Yesterday I frogged and tinked a lot. And it got me to thinking about the things in my life that I have frogged or tinked, or wish I had. Now I am not talking about knitting anymore.

There are times I wished I could have tinked back to a moment and had a do over. Golfers call these mulligans. Those opportunities to try again - to communicate better, or be more generous of spirit, or to apologize and move forward.

There are times I have frogged, or completely ripped up a situation, and wish now that I had been more careful. I frogged when I should have tinked.

You see, the thing about tinking is that you are unknitting each and every stitch. As I tink I have to analyze each stitch, and then do it backwards to undo it. I have to ask myself - "Is this where the mistake was?" "Is this the place where I can start again?" Is this the moment where it all went so horribly wrong?" It is like looking back over your day - the Ruchschau.

When we were first married we often would stop fighting and ask each other to start again. To have a do-over. To grant a do-over is to offer a moment of Grace. It is allowing that there was a moment, a stitch if you will, where it all went wrong and acknowledging that we could do better. We could fix this.

And yet, there are times in all lives when frogging is the only answer. We have to unravel it, and roll it back up into a ball, and either throw it away, give it away, or make it into something else.

I know married couples, who after divorcing have re-knit their relationship into a strong friendship. I know close friendships that once ended have never seen the light of day.

So yes, knitting is sometimes rewarding and easy, and the stitches just seem to flow off the needles.

Sometimes there is a lot of tinking until it is right.

Sometimes frogging is absolutely the correct, and only thing one can do.

Sometimes we leave a mistake in as an example of our humanity, our fraility, our willingness to let the world see we are not perfect.

And sometimes mistakes turn out to be wonderful design features.

Just like Life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tending my little garden

I have never thought of myself as a gardener. My mother was a fantastic gardener. My youngest sister is also.

Me? Not so much.

But, this year I decided to plant a few flower boxes on the back porch, and, with my son's encouragement, a tomato plant.

Fifty dollars later, and after scrounging up some pots from the side of my house, I had planted mimulus, pansies, fuchsias, marigolds, herbs, lavender and geraniums. I also had two sunflowers volunteering thanks to the bird feeder. And a little tiny grape tomato plant.

Every morning, before the coffee has finished brewing, I head onto the back porch to tend my little garden. I pick off the dead flowers, see if water is necessary and ooh and aah at their progress. I even have bought some fertilizer to help them along. (impressive, no?) And yesterday I plucked up the courage to re-pot (yet, again) my tomato plant. It was so root-bound, and I apologized profusely to it.

The picking off of the old blossoms makes me think of my mom. She used to have baskets full of fuchsias, and every morning I remember her picking off the dead-heads, as she called them. It is a fond and loving memory.

The flower boxes make me happy, the herb garden enhances my dear husband's wonderful culinary experiments, and the arrival of more and more little green tomatoes just makes me feel, well, proud and accomplished.

I am already planning for next year's boxes - strawberries I think!

So, I have to change my view of myself. I am not, yet, a fantastic gardener, but I am gardening and learning and loving sitting out on the porch admiring the view.

It helps me think fondly of my mother.

And that is a good thing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Following my own advice

Do you do this? You are giving advice to someone about something and as you are talking you think....I should take my own advice.

It has happened quite a few times in the last couple of weeks. To further bring this to my attention I have noticed this in others - giving advice that they themselves could take advantage of, but aren't.

It seems that our intellect can know what is to be done, or said, but we can't put it into action. Essentially we don't practise what we preach. Is it fear, or something else? Inertia, perhaps. Is it the belief that the perfect time will present itself if I just wait? Or the magical thinking that things will happen if I just think about it without doing anything? It is a mystery.

I have been reading a wonderful book called 'Winter's Tale', by Mark Helprin. It is written so beautifully that I am always stopping to write down a passage, or sometimes photocopy a whole page.

"The shelf was filled with books that were hard to read, that could devastate and remake one's soul and that, when they were finished, had a kick like a mule."

Winter's Tale is that kind of book for me. And this passage sums up what I truly believe about this incarnation, about every incarnation.

"Someday the curtain of the world would lift onto a sunny spring-like stillness and reveal that nothing - nothing - had been for nought, neither the suffering of all the children that he had seen suffering, nor the agony of the child in the hallway, nor love that ends in death: nothing."

I believe in the Grand Scheme of things. I believe that in this life I came to do something, to learn something, to be something that I will take into my next life.

I believe that in giving advice to others I am always, always talking to myself.

And maybe, just maybe, this is the time I will not only listen, but put the advice into action.


Or maybe I will consider the act of Wu-Wei. The art of trying not to try.

I heard about this concept on the radio on Sunday.

The book. The radio. The still small voice within.

There is a trinity of thoughts coming to me.

Yes, it is time to heed my own advice.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What's that?

Ah! The question of the young child. The curiosity that overwhelms them. The newness of it all. To look at the world as a young child is a gift. This post is inspired by a friend's blog question. What's that - a drawing challenge. She is an artist. I have known her for at least forty years. We met in high school. We were roommates years upon years ago. She is a talented artist. She has the greatest laugh. Check out her blog here carolereidartist.

I am an artist too. But it is different. I knit, I photograph, I write. Sometimes I paint, and sometimes I like what I paint, but not always. It is getting better in that regard. But mostly I write.

What's That?

That is a fuchsia. I am growing these in a planter on my backporch. The hummingbirds love it. And, well, hummingbirds and I have a connection.

My tattoo! My hummingbird is always with me. She is my totem, my reminder of the fragility and beauty of my life.

These are my latest project, hot off the needles. They are called Dazzle them from Behind and are dedicated to the designer's greataunt and to women who are quiet and in the shadows of everyday life. Her aunt would say: "when you walk away leave them with something to think about."

So that was the plan for this post, those three things.

And then this showed up last night at my house.

It was the garter I wore on my wedding day...."something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue". Our best man caught it. Thirty-seven years later he showed up at our house for dinner and ta-da! He had found it while moving. Imagine. It looks like new.

And Carole was at our wedding too.

It seems perfect to answer her blog challenge with that garter.

What's That?

It is the beginning of a story still being written.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


A question was posted on facebook today. "If you could rid the world of one thing what would it be?" Before I looked at any of the comments I said to myself - alcohol. As I read the comments there were responses like: hate, war, cancer, abuse, racism, sin, pedophiles. I was feeling chagrined by my answer. It seemed so selfish. Then the last comment from someone else said - alcohol. I pressed like. Then I typed my answer.


So many people I love, and others I know, struggle, or have struggled with alcohol. My mother was an alcoholic, probably too was my father and grandfather. My husband drinks wine almost daily. Both of my children have had their struggles with alcohol.

I have a visceral reaction when I hear the cork come out of a bottle, or the sound of liquor being poured over ice. Some of the meanest things my mother ever said to me were when she was drinking. Some of the worst fights I heard my mother and father have were while they were drunk. All of my most shameful moments were while I was drunk.

I can't bear being around people when they are obviously under the influence. It is my cue to leave the party, the pub, the 'action', when words are slurred, voices are raised, or stumbling begins.

This is not to say that I do not enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. I do. Although as I age I enjoy it less and usually one glass is enough to give me a headache the next day. I have become intolerant to alcohol - literally.

So this seems all about me, and not about the world at all. However, still and all, I think the world would be a better place without alcohol, or any of its substitutes.

I woke up this morning to the news talking about the legalisation of pot in Washington state. Just what we need, I thought, another legal substance that will take people. t
Take them away from themselves, their loved ones, the world.

Everyone medicates themselves I have heard it said. Drugs, food, alcohol, running, swimming, meditating, yoga, anti-depressants. Everyone medicates themselves is true. But not every medication causes violence, estrangement, abuse, broken families and heartbreak. I suppose most do if taken to extremes. Alcoholics, yogaholics, foodaholics, zenaholics....I suppose they do.

But this post is about alcohol.

I know it is a disease. I understand that, I really do. And it is just as frustrating for me that someone with a physical ailment won't go to the doctor as it is that a person abusing alcohol won't seek help.

I know it is their choice, not mine. I know it is about free-will, not my will. I know it is often none of my f#@$king business.

I know that.

But how I feel? That is something else entirely.

I once said to a very close friend, one of the few I talk to about this, is that I wished that just once someone would choose me over alcohol.

I talk to myself about this a lot. Is this what my life lesson is this time around? Am I atoning for a past life when the shoe was on the other foot, the bottle in my hand?

I can only surmise. I can only practise seeing God in the other. I can only do what I can do.

So I set my boundaries. I remove myself from situations I find uncomfortable and delight in situations where I find alcohol is consumed lightly or not at all.

This is such a personal thing to write.

But today is that day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A year ago today

I broke my arm. 9:30 in the morning, a slip from the top stairs of my camper and down I crashed. The pain was horrible. My son and husband stars. They got me to a nursing station (we were in Burwash, Yukon and the ambulance was busy), and then got me to Whitehorse emergency room, 300 kilometres away.

That was a year ago.

Today I swam 1400 meters: front crawl, breast stroke, and back stroke for about 45 minutes. My arm still clicks occasionally on the backstroke, but it has full rotation.

I was lucky. Lucky I didn't need surgery, lucky the injury wasn't worse, lucky I had access to good medical care, lucky I had the coverage and money for physiotherapy afterwards.

Sometimes life throws stuff at me. I ask myself why. I could also ask why not? Shit happens. Life happens. Sometimes the shit teaches me a lesson, sometimes I just have to clean it off, and in the cleaning I usually see that there is a lesson to learn.

I have to listen for it. Sometimes it whispers to me, sometimes it shouts and sometimes it comes right out of left field.

I know that I am stronger, healthier and happier than I was a year ago.

I also know that now I am really, really careful when I go down the camper stairs.

Because sometimes shit happens.

But if I am paying attention and not going too fast, I can step around it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oh look! A new toy...

A dear friend is clearing out his family home. His mother was a spinner and I picked her spinning wheel up last week as we were helping him get ready for the move.

Now I don't know how to spin, but I thought I could find her a good home. What with all my yarny, spinny, knitty friends.

Clearly she had other ideas as she quickly wormed her way into my heart. She looked so beautiful and felt so good in my hands.

A friend from my knitting group came to see her. It turns out that some of the parts were not directly to do with the spinning wheel, but cool in, and of, themselves.

Two knitty noddies,

and one hand-crank skein winder.

Oh, sure she was dusty, but all her parts were there (which is more than I can say for myself)!

So today I took her out into the sunshine and dusted all her nooks and crannies. She is beautiful. She was made by Istvan Nagy in 1971. It seems from googling around the internet his spinning wheels are quite well respected. She came with six bobbins and three different sizes of whorls and a built in Lazy Kate. Aren't you all impressed with the new words I have learned just since last night?

I imagine she needs a deeper clean, some wood oil and some new drive strings, but I am told butcher string works just fine for that. I think all I need to buy is a springy thingy with hooks on both ends for something or other (OK, I don't know ALL the words yet.)

I have already found a ten week spinning class that starts in September. (not that kind of spinning, I swim for fitness remember, stay with me people).

Anyways, I already love her, and I haven't spun one blessed strand.

And look?

She is already making friends with the tomato plant.