Photo Challenge: Frame

August 28, 2016 at 10:09 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , )

image

I went back home recently; my second home, my other home – the place where my dad and his second family lived. I don’t have the words to describe accurately what this place means to me. It’s not second, it’s not other, but it’s not quite my only home either. Can we have more than one home?

One of the places that speaks to me spiritually is the Bow River Falls and it’s been too long since I was able to sit on those shores. I miss the sight of them, the sound of them, the smell of them. Not knowing when I would return, I wanted to bring them back with me. So I recorded the sound of them and paced the parking lot looking for perfect angles (sans tourists) to capture the look and feel of them.

It took a while!

I liked the way the top two trees were growing and could see how they framed the Falls perfectly. I had to wait and wait for other photographers and tourists to get out of the frame. It took forever but I had the perfect angle from where I sat on the stone border wall. So I waited and snapped other photos.

Finally I got my shot!

It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed that the trees almost form a perfect heart.

I think I’ll print out this one and frame it. I’ll think of home every time I look at it.

Other Frame Photo Challenges here.

Plus, go here for 8 tips on enjoying your national parks.

 

Permalink 4 Comments

Coming Home

July 1, 2016 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It’s a busy Canada Day weekend here.

My hometown is celebrating it’s 95th birthday and is hosting homecoming.

The last homecoming I was home for was in 2005 when our province, Saskatchewan, turned 100 and New Orleans was flooding. In between homecoming events my sister & I discussed the effects of Katrina and wondered at the race differences that were so apparent in deciding who tells your story.

An old neighbour had a hand that year in telling Saskatchewan’s story.

Naicam Mural

And now it is Homecoming again. I am writing this post a week early because next weekend I will be busy hosting family and attending a historical homecoming.

The town I grew up in is small. The 2006 census gives the population as 690 persons. The town is about 6 blocks long and four wide. It sits in the middle of an expanse of prairie farmland.

I wonder how they survived it? My ancestors who came with nothing, worked extremely hard clearing bush and planting crops, raising children without the distractions of television and internet, and surviving when your nearest neighbour could be miles and hours away.

Why did they do it?

One side came from Scotland in the early years of the twentieth century. He was a grocer’s son. The other side came from Poland ten or so years before the second World War. His father had land.

Why did they do it?

How did they end up in such a desolate and wild country? I hope they came in summer and saw the beauty of a warm summer’s eve before they had to endure one of our winters.

I do love this place. I’m glad I grew up where I did. I just wonder a lot. I wander a lot. From here to there and back to here.

This Homecoming weekend, and whenever they will sit and listen, tell your children stories.

Wonder and Wander and come back home again.

Desolution 2012

Permalink 1 Comment

Everything Old Is New Again

June 19, 2016 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Dinosaur

My father was a digital man in an analog world. He weren’t no dinosaur.

He was an electrician and tv repairman. He started his career working on army airplanes and ended it fiddling with computers. He loved taking pictures and capturing movement with film. He had his own dark room once.

Sometimes I wish he were still around. Sometimes I wish I had been braver when he was alive. There are so many questions I couldn’t ask. So many skills never passed on.

I didn’t grow up with my father in the same house as me. Out of the nine children he had I always knew I was not one of the favoured. He did what he could with the resources he had and as a father, he did it badly.

And every father’s day, I try to forgive him his shortcomings and remember the man he was.

 

Record Player

My father was a digital man in an analog world. He weren’t no dinosaur.

I am a late bloomer and a late adapter. I am cautious. I take my time. I hold my heart in. If I’m not a dinosaur than I’m a sloth. Slow, quiet, and protective of my vulnerable areas.

Gradually I step out of my comfort zone. Gradually I try something new.

In my house, right now, alongside the smart tv, DVD/VCR player, computers and Apple box is an old fashioned record player that I’m not sure how to hook up. My dad would know and if he didn’t he would get right in there and experiment.

I long for a good old fashioned stereo cabinet like my grandparents had.

I have a small collection of LPs and 45s that I hardly ever play. I have cassettes that I play on trips because I only have a portable cassette player. The only music storage device I’ve never had is 8-tracks but they were mainly used in cars and I’ve never owned a car.

All I’ve done is expand my world. I am both analog and digital. I’ve gone from books to ebooks, 45s to MP3s, VHS to DVD to iMovies. Where will it stop?

What will I do on that day when I receive the heart attack inducing words “file cannot be found?”

Thankfully, I’ll have analog files to access.

Record Player 00

My father was a digital man in an analog world. He weren’t no dinosaur but me, I’m happy to identify as such.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Pure Country

June 12, 2016 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Old Barn

This picture was taken one quiet Christmas Eve not too long ago. I was feeling nostalgic. This is my grandfather’s old barn. It is the only original structure left on the property my nephew now owns. My nephew never met his great-grandfather but he ended up buying his home quarter a few years ago. From generation to generation to generation the wheels turn.

Chickens

These are my nephew’s son’s chickens. At five, he is responsible for seeing them feed and selling the eggs. He will probably be a farmer just like his dad and grandfather and great-grandfathers.

As things change (bigger farms, bigger machinery) so they stay the same (chickens to feed, crops to tend to).

Chickens Running

Pure” can convey wholesomeness, something undiluted, or simplicity.

Permalink 2 Comments

Listing Queens

May 22, 2016 at 8:15 am (Fun) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I recently joined li.st (formerly the List App). This is an app that lets you explore engaging lists on everything from passionate opinions to travel recommendations and share your own experiences, opinions, musings, and knowledge. I practically got in on the ground floor of this one, it went live last October. I’m a late adapter – I’m usually the last one to the party. It feels weird to know about something before all my computer savvy friends know about it.

This, very long introduction, is to let you know that I will be creating a list to share on here. A trending topic recently on li.st was “the television character I am, the one I want to be, and the one I’ll probably be.” Many people expanded on the theme. I did both television characters and cartoon characters. You’ll have to join the li.st to see these (I’m @solitarygigi).

But with every list I read on the topic, the Queens I want to be kept running through my head. This is the list I’m doing here because this weekend (here in Canada) is the Victoria Day long weekend. In honour of Queen Victoria, of course. We celebrate her birthday (May 24, 1819) on Monday only one day early this year. Happy Birthday Queen Victoria!

It’s hard to keep track of the long weekends when you’re unemployed. Long weekends are meaningless when you’re unemployed. I keep track of such things so that I have blogging topics.

So, here goes – “the Queen I am, the one I want to be, and the one I’ll probably be.”

The Queen I am is Tsarina Alexandra, the last Queen of Russia. She lead a tragic doomed life from a young age, was prone to over reaction (Rasputin), fell easily in love (Nicky), had four daughters and one tragic son. She also had an overbearing, too loving grandmother who, through her progency, had ties to most of Europe.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, with her son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (right), and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (left). Seated on the left is Alexandra, Tsarina of Russia, holding her baby daughter Grand Duchess Olga.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, with her son Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (right), and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (left). Seated on the left is Alexandra, Tsarina of Russia, holding her baby daughter Grand Duchess Olga.

The Queen I want to be is Queen Victoria. She led a long happy adult life. She died at 82 and until recently was the longest reigning British Queen. Her life was a fairy tale one full of duty but also romance and family. She overcame an overbearing mom, fell in love with a handsome prince and had many children who adored her. Her husband invented stuff for her, like this bathing machine and her children lovingly oversaw her legacy.

At one point, she ruled over most of the world. Who wouldn’t want to be such a powerful woman?

Victoria's family in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Left to right: Prince Alfred and the Prince of Wales; the Queen and Prince Albert; Princesses Alice, Helena and Victoria

Victoria’s family in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Left to right: Prince Alfred and the Prince of Wales; the Queen and Prince Albert; Princesses Alice, Helena and Victoria

The Queen I’ll probably be is Lady Jane Grey. She ruled for nine days and was then beheaded for treason. She was a Tudor embroiled in the tragic circumstances following Henry the VIII’s death. Lady Jane Grey had an excellent humanist education and a reputation as one of the most learned young women of her day. She was manipulated by her family and circumstances and died young.

Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche

Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche

Notice a theme. No, not true love or many children but overbearing mothers and manipulation. Sometimes this seems the story of my life. When will I become my own person? Believe me I struggle daily to live how I want to but it does get easier the older I get.

Li.st is addictive. I could list all day. I could do another list riffing off this theme. How about “the Drag Queen I am, the one I want to be, and the one I’ll probably be.” I could link to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar and Pride for inspiration.

Join li.st if you like to list and have a safe Victoria Day Weekend everyone!

Permalink Leave a Comment

No One’s Mother

May 8, 2016 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ll never be anyone’s mother.

I think I’ve known this since I was first married at twenty-four. I started taking care of other people’s children the New Years I was thirteen and stopped, doing it as a job, in my middle thirties.

It’s hard leaving other people’s children once you’ve spent years being responsible for their daily care and knowing you will probably never see them again.

I may not have given birth but I have raised children. I sat up with them when they were sick, took them to the doctor and emergency care, was the sole caregiver for weeks on end, went to their school events and nurtured and worried over them.

But they were not mine!

I vowed young that I would not have children if I could not take care of them properly. To me that meant that they would have two primary parents who could provide them with a middle-class home. I was raised in poverty by a divorced mother with little contact or support from my father, I knew how hard it was to raise a child.

Now I am entering menopause knowing that I will never be anyone’s mother.

FurBaby

And I’m okay with that.

I am okay with being child-free. I struggle to support myself, both financially and emotionally. I thank the stars that I never had to make the decision between my well being or my child’s!

I only have myself but all of me is mine – this is both exhilarating and scary. Who will take care of me in my old age? I will take care of me as I always have.

Straw Doll

There are a million ways to create a family. There are a million different types of families.

I am a family of one (plus cat – the census doesn’t consider my cat to be family).

Friends

There are many types of mothers.

I have a biological mother and a stepmother.

My cousin had an adoptive mother and a birth mother.

I had more than two grandmothers. There was my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother and my stepmother’s mother.

I had honorary grandmothers as well. Grandma F who lived to the left of us and Mrs. Stapleton who lived to the right of us across the alley and Grandma Smith who I think was my paternal grandmother’s stepmother.

I had literary mothers. My first librarian, Miss Missler taught me to love books and reading.

Women have been a major influence in my life.

And I hope that even though I will never be anyone’s biological mother that I will be a major influence in the lives of the girls and young women I have constant contact with.

Pink Roses

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who mother me!

 

Permalink 2 Comments

My First Obsession

February 14, 2016 at 8:15 am (Fun) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ailsa’s latest travel theme reminded me of my first obsession.

Like many of you, my first obsession was horses (not ponies)!

ad160211

I loved the magnificence of them, the largeness, the feel of soft nose and soft breath on my hands. I grew up poor in a small town. The town was four blocks wide times six blocks long and surrounded by farm land. There were horses living just outside of town and when I had a bad day I could walk to their field and stroke the horses and instantly feel better.

Horses 02

I was too poor to even think about having a horse of my own; never going to happen poor! I knew, even as a young child, that such things were impossible to dream on and so I didn’t dream on them.

Anyway, even now, I don’t necessarily need to own dreams.

It is enough to dream.

Having horses to visit and lean into was enough.

Grandpa's Horse

I think I came by this obsession honestly. The horse, above, was the first gift my then adult mother bought for her father after she had left home. I don’t remember if he had a fascination with horses but I do remember his occasional tales of army horses (WW1) and handsome farm nags.

Around grade four when we started studying mythology, my obsession with horses led to a fascination with Pegasus and other pegasi (flying hoses). This was long before the My Little Pony phenomenon so I never collected any Flutter Ponies!

The idea of flying away on a horse was very exciting.

hev160213

As were the thought of unicorns – mythical, enchanting, fey unicorns.

As a young teen, I had an official Unicorn Hunting License. (It looked like this one)! This was before the internet made acquiring one easy. I had to use actual snail mail to send for it and then waited months for it to arrive and then nobody else cared about this enchanting piece of geeky paper that I possessed.

Horses, pegasi and unicorns, oh my!

Light Border

Schmendrick: I know you. If I were blind I’d know what you are.

“We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemists eyes to notice.”

Jacob Nordby

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”
J. B. Priestley

Permalink Leave a Comment

Christmas at the Farm

December 27, 2015 at 8:15 am (Life, Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A few years ago, without purpose or intent, my nephew bought my grandparent’s homestead. The only structure, of theirs, left standing was the old red barn which got destroyed in a windstorm this past summer!

Barn Collapsing

I’m not sure if this was my grandparent’s original home quarter, that is, the first place that they lived when they came to Canada. I’m pretty sure that this is where my father was raised. He was always very nostalgic about the farm and the surrounding country schools and rural towns nearby.

My nephew was not at first aware of the personal history when he went to look at the place. My father’s parents were both dead by the time he was born.

There is a synchronicity here. A place that once was important to the family comes back full circle.

I spent many happy Christmases here as a child and am now returning to make new memories for a new generation.

Tradition

Tradition. Traditions are important. Growing up, it was customary to spend Christmas at the farm and Easter with my mother’s parents. This was partly because my mother didn’t drive and partly because her father did not want to drive cross-country in the winter. Plus, mom is basically an only child (her bachelor brother was 13 years older) so Christmas at the farm was a lot more fun!

All the aunts and uncles would come and altogether there was twenty or so grand-children ranging through the ages from baby boomers to generation X ers (1956 – 1973), from babies to young teenagers. We were a diverse group.

Mom would take us four kids to Christmas eve service, we’d get to open one gift that night and then in the morning we would open the rest of our gifts and Grandpa would come pick us up for the short drive (15 minutes) to the farm. I couldn’t sit next to grandpa because I was a wiggler and was always bumping the gear shift.

Once at the farm we would all sit down to a big meal, after which the women would wash dishes, the men would talk and the children (no exceptions) would be sent outside to play because once the dishes were done the grown-ups would get down to some serious card playing.

Christmas Eve 2014

We didn’t mind. We’d make forts in the hay stack (this was when hay was stored in smallest rectangle bundles), play in the snow and generally run around going crazy until we got cold.

Once back inside, we would squeeze by the grown-up card players and settle into the smallish living room to watch the Christmas movie on CBC. This movie almost always seemed to star Hayley Mills. I remember parts of Tiger Bay and The Family Way; my favourite was The Trouble With Angels!

We would lay on the floor staring intently at the black and white TV. The youngest children slowly nodding off. Grandma’s Christmas cactus, which eldest sister still nourishes parts of, was a bright pink and green splotch in the corner.

There would be leftovers for supper after dark and slowly us kids would be bundled up and taken home where, no doubt, we slept soundly long through the night. No doubt, sweet dreams abounded.

My grandparent’s home was such a small house yet it still held all of us (20 kids, 9 parents, 2 grandparents and an occasional neighbour or two). I don’t remember feeling crowded. My nephew’s house is probably three times as big with half the amount of people coming for Christmas Eve and it can still feel too crowded to me!

Elf

I’m not saying that I never felt crowded out at my grandparents. Too much party, too many people and I need to escape to somewhere quiet. I’ve always been this way. Neither me or my cat are extroverts.

Too much and I need a place to hide close enough that I still feel like I’m part of the party. At my grandparents that was the spare bedroom right beside the quiet living room which was right beside the crowded dining room full of grown-ups. When I got overwhelmed, I would grab a book (the older I got the more likely it would be that I would have a book with me) and disappear into the bedroom to read all by myself.

All my life, I’ve curled up in a corner reading as life and chatter swirled around me. This is where I feel most at home. This is when I feel most warm, secure and safe. If anyone needed to find me, they instinctively knew where I was! I was somewhere quiet reading!

I loved getting together with my cousins. I loved the sociability. With them I learned on my feet, to get along with people and what love is.

Yes, even though, I was the one hiding in the corner with a book.

This is one of my traditions.

Chicken Bones

As a family of one (and a cat), I mostly get to enjoy the holiday as I want to and I definitely get to create my own traditions.

My traditions are:

  • Garlands of Stars,
  • Celebrating the Winter Solstice,
  • Chicken Bones (see above – I once tried explaining this candy to my Montreal boyfriend and he pictured actual glazed chicken bones),
  • Watching the 1966 Grinch Who Stole Christmas,
  • Watching a darker Christmas movie (like Die Hard or Gremlins),
  • Watching The Nightmare Before Christmas (at both Halloween and Christmastime),
  • Spending time alone reading.

Enjoy your particular traditions.

It is snowing right now. It is a soft, drifting snow. It covers all the bleakness of my lawn and makes it look soft and warm and white.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night!

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Remembering the Intangible

November 29, 2015 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What is tangible? It is something physical; something that can be touched. Not just seen in the mind’s eye but something actually there. I can see a memory but I cannot always touch it.

Physical objects are tangible.

I spent the last month helping my mother move and discarding physical objects that were important to her but not to me. A plastic rose from my paternal grandfather’s grave was to me just a dusty, plastic annoyance. I tossed it.

All this moving has stirred up a lot of memories. I’ve moved a lot in my life. The last time my mother moved was thirty years ago and her last three house moves have all occurred in the same small town. Her roots there are deep and even though she has only moved one town down the highway it has been a trying move for her.

My roots are not deep. I have transplanted my self many times into many different types of soul. (See my Place I’ve Lived series). In the thirty years since I graduated from High School, I’ve moved at least twenty times. I plan to write about everywhere I’ve ever lived, if not in this blog then in a book. Moving so much has taught me to only hold on to the most practical and useful items. I don’t hold on to items for purely sentimental reasons. Though on occasion I did send them to my mother – one of the things discarded in her recent move was the stuffed unicorn my ex-husband won for me.

My mother had a lot of stuff. I would tease her about being a hoarder even though really she was not. She is of the generation that saves things for a rainy day as you never know what and how something can be re-purposed.

I am not sentimental but as I get older I wish for tangible items that would link me with my ancestors.

What I have I have mostly from my mother’s parents. There are my grandfather’s vintage German books (the small Bible he use to read daily, his children’s catechism texts) that I liberated from my mother’s house because she was storing them in the basement which is death on old books. The Bible is from 1926 and even though I can’t read it, having it gives me pleasure. I can see, in my mind’s eye, my grandfather sitting in his chair and reading it.

Grandfather's Books

Tucked inside one of these books is a letter written in German. It was written the year I was born. I need to get it translated. My mother no longer speaks the language. There is no signature on the letter so I don’t know who wrote it but I assume it was my Grandfather as my Grandmother was illiterate as far as I know. They didn’t educate women when she was growing up. I like to think that if she had been able to read she would have been a bookworm like me. We are so much alike in so many other ways. We were both quiet solemn people who enjoy being alone.

Letter in German

I also recently commandeered my grandfather’s cane. I plan to use it one day when the ice and age make walking an unwelcome hazard – some days it feels like that will happen this winter. My grandfather was a tall man and his cane fits me perfectly. It makes me feel regal rather than aged.

Grandfather's Cane

I have less tangible memories from my father’s parents. My grandfather died when I was thirteen and my grandmother died when I was three thousand miles away in another province. I was not around when they dismantled her house and disposed of everything a life accumulates.

I have a bow-tie quilt that my mother says my grandmother made. The squares feel familiar to me. Did I have a dress made of that gingham red? Did I have a shirt made of that pink? I don’t remember.

BowTie Quilt

I have nothing my paternal grandfather or father made. They were practical men. They used what they made. They lived. They loved. But they were not talkers or writers and in the end, though I know they loved me, I can’t say that I know as much about them as I would like to.

But do we ever really know anybody?

Can love be tangible? Or is it in its very essence intangible; unable to be touched?

I have tangible essence of my mother’s love. When I was sixteen I asked for an afghan in shades of black, red, orange, yellow and white. If you knit you know how hard these dark colours are to work with. She made it for me. There were long afternoons spent knitting and an occasional curse word but I have a tangible object that represents my mother’s love.

When she’s gone there will be something I can touch and wrap myself in and feel her love stretch across miles and time and death.

Colourful Afghans

What is tangible? It is something physical; something that can be touched. Not just seen in the mind’s eye but something actually there. I can see a memory but I cannot always touch it.

I am not sentimental but as I get older I wish for tangible items that will link me with my ancestors.

 

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Between

November 22, 2015 at 8:15 am (My City) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Daily Prompt: A Tale of Two Cities,

If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

If I could teleport or have someone drive me, here are the two places I would choose. There is an eight to ten hours distance between the city I feel most comfortable in and the resort city that use to be a small town (I miss the small townness of it) where I spent many childhood summers with my dad and his family. In the summer I would take a bus between the two but in the winter the teleport idea would work best.

But how to divide the time: daily, weekly, monthly. It wouldn’t do to spend six months here and six months there as the climate is no better or worse depending on the seasons. Summer in the city is just as pleasing as summer in the mountains. Winter in the city is just as brisk as winter in the mountains. Spring is just as enchanting as is Fall spinning with colour.

Here is my city bursting full with Summer…

Broadway_Bridge

Here are my mountains in all their April (my birthday month) glory…

Canmore

I even enjoy the rainy, cloudy days!

Oh, but how to choose. Christmas in the city or solstice in the mountains?

And to choose to only live in these two places always. I couldn’t! I haven’t been to New York’s Broadway yet or San Francisco or the Yukon.

But if I had to choose, these are the two places that I would teleport between forever more.

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »