Travel Theme: Environment

March 1, 2015 at 8:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , )

Thursday, February 27th was International Polar Bear Day and Polar Bears International marked the day with a petition urging world leaders to take decisive action at the UN climate change summit in Paris this December. You can read more about the petition here.

To help spread the word, Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? took a look through her travel photos for shots that suggest environment in some way and urged us to do the same.

I give you sky, land, and water.

Sky, Land, River

Live Long & Prosper

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The Basement

February 22, 2015 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I hate basements. No, I’m not sure hate is a strong enough word.

I loathe basements! If I built my own house it would not have a basement. As it is, I only go into my current basement to do laundry as that is where the basement appliances live. Well, at least until I get too old to handle stairs and can afford to move these appliances upstairs.

So, to recap … basements ughh! Basements bad!

Basement Appliances

I grew up in a house with a tiny, claustrophobic dirt basement. Basically, it was a hole in the ground with a house atop it. It was accessed through the kitchen. Down there was the washing machine and various jars with glutinous forms glowing in the basement’s dim light. Here we stored the summer garden’s bounty (in jars and pits) to get us through the winter. We were poor, we canned everything we could – my mother’s mother even canned chicken as she had grown up (of course) before refrigeration and knew how to do this. Canned chicken is good eating!

The farm houses my grandparents lived in also had claustrophobic dirt basements. We never went in them. When they moved, their new houses had bigger cement basements that aspired to be rec/wreck rooms for the grandchildren to play in – we were too old by then to be really interested in hanging out downstairs as the gossip upstairs was always more interesting.

Cold Room

That first basement was avoided at all costs but on occasion I had to go down and fetch something for supper. There were salamanders and worms and spiders down there. There was a noisy, child eating wringer washing machine down there. I knew that washing machines ate children because my best friend missed half of kindergarten when their machine sucked her tiny arm through the wringer.

The basement was dark. It was damp. The light was turned on with a pull chain and you had to go all the way down the stairs to do this. If someone closed the door before you got there you couldn’t see anything at all. Many times, someone closed the door.

Someone, hah. Siblings – older sisters and younger brother – don’t we all have them!

They weren’t mean just sadistic as all children (me included) tend to be. I’m sure all of us, Gandhi included, have shut an annoying sibling up somewhere dark and noisy and scary! Though dark and quiet and scary is no picnic either!

Furnace Circa 1950s

Dark and scary. Dark and scary amidst scurrying spiders, revolting reptiles and supposed ghosts. With only a steep staircase between you and escape – no windows anywhere and why can you never find the light string when you need it most. Stupid siblings.

Why couldn’t I be an only child? But then I’d have had nobody to play with and during a tornado I’d have to hide in the basement with only a frog for a friend. I read, in a book about the Depression, about a farm child who only had a frog to play with. The frog laid quietly on its back and let her dress it in a tiny doll dress. Is this normal frog behaviour or was the frog shell-shocked by the tornado and just glad to be somewhere safe out of the wind and rain and this giant thing was, at least, trying to keep it warm and here it (the frog) thought contently “at least, I am warm and safe in this tiny, dark basement!”

My half-siblings didn’t have a basement. They lived in a trailer. A crowded, shaky trailer. What would they do if a tornado happened by? Where would they be safe from big, strong winds? Would they blow away like Dorothy did? I guess, a basement can be useful for some things. Like for hiding in. Unless you’re in a horror movie.

Do not hide in an old stone and dirt basement with only one exit if you’re ever in a horror movie. Okay! Got that!Basement Stairs

So, to recap – basements are bad! I loathe them!

But, they can also be useful for hiding in but not if your life tends to impersonate a horror movie.

Okay, maybe, basements aren’t 100% loathsome! Maybe just 95% loathsome.

I still prefer not to have one.

February’s posts were inspired by the Ray Bradbury Noun List. I hope you enjoyed them.

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The Kitchen

February 15, 2015 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Every kitchen is basically the same. There is a fridge, a stove, a sink and perhaps a kitchen table with chairs. In home economics we were taught about the kitchen triangle. This was a way to design kitchens so that the cook could work most efficiently. Less steps, more fun. Okay, fun was never the goal we were taught. We were taught practicality. The goal was to get a proper nutritious meal on the table in as short of time as possible.

I spent a lot of time in kitchens when I was a young child (birth to preteen). I was my mother’s youngest daughter and very much a homebody. When she went to tea/coffee with the neighbours, I almost always tagged along. Grandma F was next door, Mrs. S was across the alley, Mama H lived down from my mother’s parents. Grandma F would let us use her oven to bake our “mudpies”, Mrs. S’s house was attached directly to the back of the library and Mama H’s grandson was my first kiss.

We would also visit aunts and uncles regularly, especially in the summer. Aunt B’s kitchen was small & crowded. Aunt A’s kitchen was a typical open farm kitchen. I didn’t spend much time in these kitchens; us cousins were sent into the living room or outside – usually outside- to play as the grown-ups gossiped in the kitchens.

We meet deeper in kitchens. We visit deeper in kitchens. Living rooms have too many distractions – there is a radio or television in the corner lurking, begging to be turned on.

Not my current kitchen

Both sets of grandparents moved into town when I was a child. They traded small country kitchens for modern 60/70s kitchens. The appliances were all brand new sets – the fridge and stove matched for the first time. I don’t remember what colours they choose. (Did anybody ever choose Avocado Green?) I missed the old, crowded farm kitchens where we would all gather after meals to do the dishes and chatter.

When I was a new teen, my father moved from a house in Banff to a trailer in Canmore. The house kitchen was obviously my stepmother’s domain, the trailer’s kitchen seemed to be more my father’s domain. I remember her making us soup for lunch in the old kitchen while in the new kitchen, my father attempted bouillabaisse and homemade ice cream. This was also the kitchen where my eldest half-brother unjustly got into trouble for baking bread.

There are nine of us kids. Half of us cook well. The other half just feed ourselves. What is the difference? Cooking well means experimenting and enjoying the numerous appliances and kitchen tasks. Feeding yourself involves quickly just using what you have to make a meal. My eldest sister has a comfy, homey kitchen where she prepares marvelous holiday meals. My eldest half-brother, though he is more likely to get tense & stressed, enjoys experimenting with new and exotic dishes. My middle sister and her husband have a synchronous kitchen relationship – one is more of a perfectionist, one is more down-home. My youngest half-sister specializes in healthy dishes. My eldest half-sister specializes is the new and pretty dishes. The other two (middle half-brother and half-sister) I haven’t spent enough time around to gauge their ideas about cooking and cooking stlye.

Not my current kitchen 0

I spent Saturday afternoons every Saturday, the year I was sixteen, baking. I attempted cakes and cream puffs and fudge. I liked the middle of the cream puffs the best. My chocolate cookies are legendary. I can’t do pie crusts at all. My fudge never turned out. It didn’t matter, my younger brother ( a substance cook) would eat it anyway.

I can feed myself (and others if the need arises). I made a mean pot of soup. My chili is passable – better always the longer it sits. Chili should be eaten after it’s sat for three days! I can make Lasagna but it’s too much work when there’s just me to feed. (I impressed a man with it once).

Cast-iron

I’ve spent time in tiny apartment kitchens, cooking and visiting. Laverne’s kitchen in Montreal produced an amazing pot of chili though there was as many art supplies in the room as kitchen supplies. I’ve had tea in Avis’s kitchen as a group of us spent Sunday afternoon writing surrounded by the scent of herbal tea and being tolerated by cats. I’ve cooked in tiny basement kitchens that never saw the light of day but were filled with love and laughter.

The kitchen my ex-husband and I cooked and entertained in was a tiny apartment kitchen. He cooked – he was a much better cook then me and I cleaned. I missed his kitchen skills most when we broke up.

Valentine Banner

Kitchens need people in them to be true kitchens not just show room kitchens. Perfect appliances, lovely cupboards, large pantries and pretty tiles do not a kitchen make.

Neighbours, friends, and families bring life, light and love to a kitchen.

We meet deeper in kitchens. We visit deeper in kitchens.

Kitchens should be the heart of a home.

On this Valentine’s weekend, I wish you life, light and love (and a kitchen filled with the same).

February’s posts will be inspired by the Ray Bradbury Noun List.

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The Music Box

February 8, 2015 at 8:15 am (Blogging) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A music box is a Lady’s treasure chest.

A music box is a Lady’s lock-box.

(NOT that type of box. Get your mind out of the gutter).

It is something only she can open.

It is a place to keep treasures.

It is a place to keep secrets.

I had a pink music box when I was seven.

I was not yet a Lady.

(Am I a Lady now?)

It had a pink ballerina in a tiny, pink tutu made of tulle.

She twirled round and round not quite dancing.

I would have preferred a musical carousal with tiny, perfect horses.

Or unicorns.

I did not want a practical music box that was also a jewelry box.

I had no jewels.

The poor own nothing of value.

Seven years later, I coveted the Imperial Easter Eggs of Russia.

This was my ballerina phase.

This was my Anastasia phase.

I read and read and read.

Books about the Russian ballet.

Books about the last Imperial family of Russia.

I coveted riches.

I would settle for any jewel-encrusted token made by Faberge.

Perhaps a tiny tortoise or a regal elephant to grace my window-sill.

I had no need of a jewelry box.

I had no need of a music box.

I had no need of  music.

I had secrets within me.

I had a ticket not unlike Willy Wonka’s. It would lead me through the maze, down a winding path and home again.

I had a handful of river and ocean stones to guide the way. Forward or backwards it didn’t matter. I took a stone from every body of water that I came upon. I kept them in my pocket.

I had a mysterious envelope full of fortunes collected throughout my life. There were no repeats. All of them were right. All of them were wrong. All of them were mine.

I had a winding key. I still have not discovered what it winds up (or down, as the case may be). I have no time-piece to try it on. I have too much time. I have not enough time.

I have no need of a music box.

I have no need of a treasure chest.

All I need I can carry in my heart, in my mind and in my imagination.

I have no need.

Golden

February’s posts will be inspired by the Ray Bradbury Noun List.

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The Attic

February 1, 2015 at 8:15 am (Fun) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Shirley Jackson, in her book Life Among the Savages, writes longingly about the first house she raised her children in. It was old, it was large, it had five attics one of which could only be accessed from above one of the others.

I am intriqued by attics. Exciting things happen in attics. Scary things happen in attics (ghosts like to live in attics). Attics are for hiding in and exploring. One could lose days, weeks, months, years trapped in an attic with only one’s imagination for company.

SC Funeral Home 01

What type of houses have attics?

Century old farmhouses have attics. Houses newer than 100 years old very seldom have attics. Attics need space and air to grow. They need time to ripen.

Manor houses have attics. Former owners, who use to have a lot of money now only have memories and attics to store those memories in.

Seaside cottages have attics. There must be a place to store unused beach chairs during the off-season and a place to dry swimming suits in the summer with room for beds and reading and day dreaming.

Haunted houses have attics. It’s a common fact that ghosts like attics to reside in. Basement are too damp and the rest of the house is too busy accommodating the living. Ghosts, on occasion, will stomp through a kitchen or preen in a bathroom mirror but at daybreak they prefer an attic to retire to.

What happens in attics?

Adventures happen in attics. Hours are wiled away as corners are explored, trunks are opened and new friends are made. Cats slink in corners and bats rest in the rafters.

Doors open to new worlds. Are you in the past, present or future now? No one really knows anymore and no one really cares.

In a blink of the eye children grow up and move away only to return with their own children in tow. Old men wear hats. Dresses have bustles. Which queen is it in that picture? Whose baby carriage was that? Is that really old great-aunt Mildred in that picture? She looks so young and witty there.

Half-asleep, drowsing in the attic heat, young girls discover love.

SC House 01

What gets stored in attics?

In this corner there are dress up clothes. There are luxurious wedding finery, tiny little baby blankets and grandfather’s stovepipe hat. What shall we try on first?

In this box are old toys. There is a tea set, a train set, many, many dolls and a worn teddy bear. Who will come alive first – that creey doll or that patchy tan teddy bear?

Like a maze, there is old furniture everywhere. We wind our way around old chairs, duck under the oak table and pause, wondering if we should dare open the ebony wardrobe. The little one stops to pet the hobby horse. The older ones are intrigued by the steamer trunks. What journeys have they been on? Why does no one travel like that anymore?

All these trunks, scattered willy-nilly, hither and yon, hold such treasures and wonders within.

Whose love letters are these?

Key Hole Window

Does anyone have an attic (or two, or three) that I could explore?

February’s posts will be inspired by the Ray Bradbury Noun List.

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I Hate Clothes

January 25, 2015 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My turquoise blouse has become a Smock of Shame…It tells me that I’m cheap, that I very possibly have no taste, that I’ve all but given up on being an attractive, reasonably well-dressed person. By this time next year I’m going to be in kitten sweatshirts. (p.33)

Welcome, Valued Customer
by Emily Chenoweth
pp. 29-34

Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship With Shopping
edited by Kerry Cohen
Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2014

Silk Shirt

I hate clothes. No, this is not about me coming out as a nudist. I wear clothes. I just don’t like them. I’ve yet to find anything that is 100% comfortable or fun or that makes me feel pretty.

There is so much wrong about my wardrobe. Firstly, tags annoy me. I cut off all tags the minute I get new clothes home and then everything goes straight into the washer. I prefer v-necks to scoop necks but only one t-shirt in my closet is a v-neck. Right now, none of my pants fit. I’ve lost weight recently and I am in-between sizes plus I’m unemployed and have no money for new clothes. I’m pretty much wearing the same thing day after day because I see so few people. Plus, way too much of my wardrobe is black, bland and depressing.

I can’t remember the last time I experimented with colour. Okay I lie. Yes, I can remember. I was thirteen and in love with nail polish – greens, pinks, reds, violets, blues. I could afford nail polish. In High school, I tended not to wear colourful clothes because they got you noticed and I didn’t want to be noticed. Painting my fingernails was just enough colour for me. This phase didn’t last long. My nails were always bitten to the quick and the colour soon chipped off. I had better things to do (read) than to be constantly applying nail polish.

The outfit I mostly wear beside the shirt I never wear anymore.

The outfit I mostly wear beside the shirt I never wear anymore.

I hardly ever shop because I have no money and no taste and no desire. When I do shop, nothing ever fits. It’s a never-ending loop of frustration. I want to feel comfortable in my skin (comfortable not necessarily pretty) but I can’t even remember when I felt attractive.

That is, when I felt attractive for myself not when someone told me or showed me that they felt me to be attractive.

My ex loved for me to wear my white jeans and fluffy white sweater. I don’t wear white anymore. White clothes stain too easily and I always feel washed-out in white. This was his fantasy, not mine.

Fav Buttons

My youngest sister could never find the clothes she wanted so she sewed her own. Her mother, my step-mother, also sewed.

I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine. I loved it. I could sew at a slow and calming pace. I loved to sew tiny barbie doll clothes for my barbies.

Then came home-ec and more modern sewing machines that wouldn’t let me control the speed. I made impractical outfits – baby doll pajamas, a stripped pantsuit and a cape. I only ever wore the pajamas and I’ll admit that I wore them for years. They were impractical because the year we sewed them we had to model what we made (something we only found out once our patterns were selected and begun).

I can still sew. I mostly do repairs by hand – I can fix a seam or sew a button back on. That is why I have a button jar and a small sewing kit.

Button Jar

I do covet certain items.

I would love to try on Susan Sarandon’s 1996 copper Oscar dress. I think I would look good in copper.

I wanted a pair of Candies for the longest time. As a teenager, I could not afford such impractical shoes and no one was ever going to buy them for me.

Plus, a dress from Betsey Johnson. She designs nothing in my size but I’ve always admired her fun, quirky style.

And a charm bracelet (or at the least, the type of life that the tiny, little charms represented). I wanted parents who would buy me a Sweet Sixteen charm or a book or Big Ben. I wanted parents who understood and believed in my dreams.

I don’t hate clothes. I just don’t get what they represent and I still don’t have a style of my own. I’m not sure I want to spend any more of my time on my clothes but I do want to feel comfortable in them.

Anybody interested in being my personal style guru. ;-)

Jewelry Border

Today’s post inspired by:

Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship With Shopping
Edited by Kerry Cohen
Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2014

Women in Clothes
Edited by Shelia Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton & 639 Others
N.Y., Blue Rider Press, 2014

Previous Solitary Spinster posts.

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Photo Challenge: Serenity

January 18, 2015 at 8:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , )

Calm

Serenity (noun):
The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

 

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Ice, Water, Steam

January 11, 2015 at 8:15 am (Weather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On weeks like these, ice is easy to imagine. For most of January, so far, the temperature has hovered in the -20s with a wind chill up to the -40s Celsius. I should be use to this.

In December, just before Christmas, I walked home after dark. It was a crisp and clear night with nary a wind. The snow sparkled under the street lights. However, January’s cold is not the sort of cold one wants to be outside in.

I’ve lived here all my life. The cold is familiar. Sometimes the cold is a friend. In Summer, the wind would be an ally blowing away the mugginess of the day. But the wind is no ally today as I sit inside with cold toes. I really should go and put on some socks. All the cat and I want to do is curl up with a blanket and a book.

The only ice we wish to see are ice cubes sparkling in our mixed drinks.

I like to wax poetic about Winter and ice. I write “one freezes from the inside out. First the heart becomes a block of ice, then the veins.” I channel Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen.

The ice is a mirror. The mirror is ice. I am ice. What is reflected within?

Alaskan Ice Field

On weeks like these, all I want to drink is water. Ice cold water. I come in from outside and down two six ounce glasses. I sit and read with a glass of water by my side. The cat sit and stares at her water tower yearning for it to blurp. I really should buy her a lava lamp to stare at. I don’t know why this activity fascinates her, I’m just tired of constantly mopping up the floor as she tries to make the blurp and in the process spills water all over the place. I wish she could talk and explain herself.

I have a love/hate relationship with large bodies of water. I find floating on lakes relaxing as long as I am all alone. I never will be a fan of ice fishing though the winter we were young teens my brother and I walked a mile across the frozen lake listening to the groans and creeks anticipating the fear of falling in. We were lucky not to fall in and got major heck when we got back home to the grandparents. News travels faster than teenagers in a small town.

This was the lake in my mother’s parents village. My grandfather ice fished there. It was where we took our swimming lessons for the first time. I was seven and had to be dragged in, kicking and screaming, because I was determined not to go into that noisy body of water.

This was when I feared lakes. I feared lakes because I almost drowned when I was three. I don’t remember almost drowning. This is how the story was told to me. My mom and her friend were on the beach and me and her friend’s son, both of us about three years old, found a raft to explore and nobody noticed us until we were floating in the lake. I’m sure there was panic; my mother is a panic-er. We survived (obviously) but I came away with a fear of lakes and a bad dream.

I have this dream every time I am extremely stressed. I dream of being on a raft (alone) surrounded by water. I am floating through my home town which is flooded. I don’t feel afraid. Mostly, I feel eerily calm. I have not had this dream in a very long time. I was much more stressed in High School than I am now.

I have made my peace with large bodies of water. I float in lakes, take long cruises on oceans and fly over the seas acting mostly calm.

But in my mind large bodies of water are dark and maleficent. What is hidden beneath the calm? What is reflected there?

Dark Water

On weeks like these, I miss the steam we use to create as skin touched skin. He was a water sign (Scorpio) and I am a fire sign (Aries). Water signs tend to bare their souls and enjoy the chance to walk fire. Fire signs are impulsive and prone to boldly charge in.

We steamed up my small university basement apartment whether or not we were stormed in. One memorable weekend the drifts covered the door and we didn’t care. We had shelter. We had food. We had each other.

There was plenty of steam as Fire and Water embraced. Eventually, the fire was doused and the water evaporated away to nothing.

What was hidden in the steam? What was reflected there?

Girl w balloon 00

On weeks like these, who you are may change or take on different forms.

Are you solid, liquid or gas?

Are you ice, water or steam?

 

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What Am I?

January 4, 2015 at 11:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Remembering. I am half-smiling at ridiculous situations, crazy people and strange places, all with the benefit of hindsight. I admit I am choosing my memories selectively. I am quickening time, losing years and even improving my looks. I have never included the bad side which, I know, is an integral part of one’s memories. That was not for me.

JOHN KEMP, Sticky Wicket

Bkmk & Shadow

Now that you’ve got some blogging experience under your belt, re-write your very first post.

My very first post was posted on September 22, 2008 in the late evening. It was just under a thousand words and had no pictures. None! I had been considering blogging for almost five years before I attempted my first post.

I introduced myself to you all by employing the journalistic concepts of who, what, where, when, and why.

Don’t worry I’m not even going to try to do that again. I think I’ve learned a few things in the 5+ years I’ve been blogging. In hindsight, I’ll be briefer and more concise. Also, not much has really changed about who I am.

I’m still who I was except you can add home-owner to the list and maybe remove librarian.

Why maybe? I no longer work as a librarian. Am I still a librarian?

Dictionary.com defines librarian as a person trained in library science and engaged in library service.

Yes, I still have a degree – they can’t take that sky from me -but I am no longer engaged in library service.

Does that make me a former librarian or a has-been librarian?

I much prefer the definitions over at Urban Dictionary.

There, librarians are defined as :

  • a person who is trained to help you find whatever information you might be looking for,
  • people who desire to make the whole world of information available to people at the time they need it,
  • well-minded angels with little street-sense or business-savvy [who] love to help,
  • ugly old people that know a lot about books,
  • someone with weird quirks.

Now, this is a list which perfectly defines me.

The librarian smiled politely and said to the crazy patron, “I’m sorry Sir, but I can’t help you print your email from hyperspace.”

Who am I?

I am a librarian and a bookworm and still so much more.

And I want this job!

 

 

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Christmas Eve 2014

December 28, 2014 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Photos taken by iPhone before and after candlelight service Christmas eve day and night. Santa was not spotted because he was very busy elsewhere. ;-)

Christmas Eve 2014 01

The hoar-frost was thick on the trees it being a typical winter so far. Snow – warm – snow  –  too darn cold.

Christmas Eve 2014 02

There are a couple of inches of hoar-frost everywhere. The furthur you travel into the country the thicker it is.

Christmas Eve 2014 03

The sky was an eerie twilight blue all afternoon tinting my pictures in nostalgic terms. I longed to be elsewhere. Elsewhere in time. I longed for the past.

Christmas Eve 2014 04

Were those jingle bells that I heard echoing from the past off some long forgotten sleigh? Who travels where? Who travels when?

Christmas Eve 2014_Moose

Shh, you’ll wake the moose.

;-)

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