Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Making my Way Back ... or "gambling everything for love"

There is a Rumi quote that has been repeating itself over and over in my mind since last evening. That is when, after 3 attempts, The Department of Home Affairs in Australia finally gave me permission to return to their country and my beloved Mick. (thank you Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison - hope all my tweeting didn't annoy you too much). After months of anguish and unknowing when we would ever re-unite on the same continent, we now have a glowing bright light at the end of what, until now, was a grim and hopeless dark tunnel. We were both feeling sad and defeated. With step one of this journey home to love behind us, now we face the next challenge. Getting there.

The reality is, few airlines are flying to Australia right now. With limited options and routes that would take me through countries that offer no guarantee for my connecting flights, I am going to be relying quite heavily on that wise old sage Rumi when he said,

"Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being. If not, leave this gathering. Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty."

There can be no half-hearted attempt at this. It will involve risk and endurance to be sure. In all my excitement to be able to actually enter Australia, I have given little thought to the biggest risk - contracting Covid 19. When I left for Canada in March, the spread was minimal in Queensland. Precautions were in the early stages. I wore a mask on the plane and avoided using the loo (once in 15 hours was surely some sort of record-call me a camel.) I wiped every inch of my surrounds of the seat at the window (one less person breathing near me I reckoned) with disinfectant wipes, never touched my face, did not utter more than a few words to my seat mates, smothered a sneeze (likely caused by dust) as best I could but even still it was clear that the young man beside me felt threatened and generally did all I could to avoid those evil virus droplets that were possibly floating in that petri dish called a plane.

When I finally arrived at my destination in Ottawa, my friends had driven my car to the airport, tossed me the keys and I drove myself home and quarantined for 14 days. Each of those 14 days I was on hyper alert for the slightest symptom. I was justifiably tired and my nasal passages were bone dry from flying, causing a couple of days of nose bleeding but it passed once moist air restored my airways to normal function. My friends and neighbours delivered groceries to my door and I was able to wander around our 2 acres here alone outside which was a comfort and a blessing. Having lived through this, I have a bit of experience with quarantine.

The next one won't be as cushy. In fact, a little more like solitary confinement with a better bed (I hope). I also isolated prior to leaving last time and will likely do that here again this time. The one thing I don't want is to have to spend any more than 14 days in quarantine once I get to Sydney. Which brings up a whole other issue. Sydney. There is only one airline flying direct into Brisbane (where I want to land) that is available to me but it transits through Taipei. The Taipei layover is over 18 hours and by law, the government there will only allow a layover of 8 hours or less in the airport. That would mean a possible quarantine situation there and that is out of the question - a deal breaker I'm afraid.

Both Delta and United are flying sporadically to Sydney. That means I have to fly from Toronto to either L.A. or San Francisco (unavoidable) before getting on a flight to Sydney where I will spend two weeks monitoring every sneeze or sniffle due to allergies for the slightest sign of worsening. As it stands, the layovers are reasonable - 2-3 hours, but again, that is never written in stone either. What happens if I am stuck in either place for hours or days? It has happened to me before in days long before Covid 19, so it is not an unsubstantiated paranoia. Positive thinking aside, sometimes all the sunny thoughts of smooth sailing don't do a damn thing in reality.

So, let's say I do make it to Sydney in one piece, no fever or cough and the usual jet lag, then what? I finish my quarantine, get tested (I think) and I am ready to head home. But wait -  in the weeks leading up to this momentous day, the Melbourne and Sydney virus numbers have escalated and the Queensland state border has remained closed. A likely scenario. I do hope I will be able to apply my Sydney quarantine to re-entry into Queensland, but that is something I have yet to investigate although a "friend of a friend" did it during the last state border closure and they let her go home. I don't mind isolating at home for another 14 days, but I hope I don't have to do the hotel quarantine thing again just because I was in a quarantine hotel in Sydney.

So, there you have it my friends. This first hurdle was indeed just a baby step and if every journey does indeed begin with one step, well, that has happened.  In the next couple of weeks, my life will be a blur of details. Closing up the house here, final appointments for this and that, tearful goodbyes and lists, lists and more lists. I could avoid it all and just lay low and wait it out for another six months or a year or longer, but where I ask you ... the "majesty" in that?

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Will Australia let me Come Home, or are we Phuced?

My journey to re-unite with my beloved Mick continues. It is not looking very positive. For those of  you who read my previous blog post, here is the latest update.

I did receive a reply to my first application to return to Australia. As I suspected, I was denied re-entry to the country based on the fact that I had not provided enough evidence of our relationship. I was not entirely surprised but I was astonished to receive the email reply from the Department of Home Affairs sent to my email, but addressed to a Mr. Tu Phuc Dat Pham. I have never known this man and as far as I know, I am still a woman. I couldn't help but feel as though my application had not been handled with much care. Attached to my email was a copy of my original application that contained all of mine and Mick's most private information, like our passport numbers, addresses, birthdates, etc. I couldn't help but wonder who had been privy to all of this private information about us and it continues to worry us.

I contacted the Department of Home Affairs in Australia to tell them about this concern and was told they would send me a new copy of the email addressed to me. That did not really instill much confidence in regards to my very real concerns. I wondered if Mr Tu Phuc Dat Pham received a letter to Mrs. MacFarlane? I wondered if this was a clerical error or had my original application been intercepted by hackers? There have been several cyber security breaches within Australian government websites of late and was I a victim? Should we be worried about identity theft? Had my application been truly considered?

I reported that I had sent a second application as I was concerned I had not received any reply at all up until then and so now I requested that they link my first and second application (which included stronger documentation proving our de facto partnership - wills, power of attorneys, joint bank accounts, etc), so that my second application might get moved further up the queue rather than starting the waiting process all over again. Mick visited our member of parliament, Llew O'Brien's office in Maryborough to show them a copy of the mis-addressed reply letter and the admin staff there also said they would "see what they could do". In both cases, we were told that no one had access to my applications. Hmmmmm, no one but Mr Tu Phuc Dat Pham, I thought. He now possibly had a copy of my entire personal information and identity.

I have had some time now to contemplate all of this. My letter arrived at a very odd hour. In the past, all of my correspondence with the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Immigration have arrived during standard business hours - Monday-Friday, 9-5. This reply letter arrived in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. I suspect it came from a time zone outside of Canberra or Sydney, but have no idea where in the world, although if I were to do some further sleuthing, would likely be able to determine approximately where it had originated - most likely from some offshore operation who I have since learned are actually processing these very important applications. It is extremely distressing to imagine that decisions about my life...our life together, are being made by someone sitting in a cubicle outside of Australia in some foreign country who is being paid a wage per application. (I don't know about you, but if that were the case and I was getting so much per application, I would be cranking them out faster than a great white headed for a surfer's leg at Bondi).

We have never had an opportunity to speak to a real human being about our relationship. We have never had the chance to explain how our lives have been affected. How our life together has been halted. How we have gone from being connected as a couple on a daily basis, to being half a world apart with no light at the end of this crazy tunnel. As each day passes we become sadder and lonelier and more heartbroken. The insensitivity surrounding the entire decision making process is astounding.

I decided to google Mr. Tu Phuc Dat Pham. I learned some interesting things. Pham is a common Vietnamese surname. Good to know. However, the combination of Tu Phuc Dat Pham is not. I ask you now, dear readers, to read this name slowly. Once. Twice. Three times. I don't want to spell it out for you, but I think as you repeat it over and over a few times you will see what it "might" be translated phonetically in English to mean.

I took it a step further and found a story about a name that had been made up as a Facebook profile a while back and was found to be fraudulent. That name was Phuc Dat Bich. Again, not a common combination in Vietnam. I suppose there is some humour here in a very politically incorrect manner, and surely there are many who would laugh. The creator of that name thought so at the very least.

For what it is worth, the creator of the name Tu Phuc Dat Pham,  has succeeded. That is exactly what our efforts to re-unite seem to be at this time, completely..... PHUCED.

Allow me to express my sincere empathy to everyone at the Department of Home Affairs and the staff at Llew O'Brien's office in Maryborough. I do realize that these are unprecedented times for all of us. We are facing chaos and tragedy daily during this Pandemic that none of us have witnessed in our lifetimes. My purpose here is to illustrate our frustration and put a face on the "number" we seem to have become. We just want to resume our quiet and simple life together in our small town in Queensland. I do not have Covid 19, and I would quarantine upon my arrival in Australia (unlike some recent young women who cavalierly toted the illness back into Queensland from Melbourne without a care in the world for their families or fellow Queenslanders.) I am a mature woman from Canada who loves Australia and her Australian partner and I just want to come home.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Please Australia...let me come back!

Original Painting by Cindy Schultz that hangs in our home at Kyeema North

 I don't know what else to do, so I am writing this open letter to the powers that be in the land down under. Let me come back to "my Mick". He needs me. I need him. We have been apart now for over three months. I left Brisbane on March 24, 2020, heeding the call from my Prime Minister in Canada to "come home now". 

I regret that I listened to that now. I wish I had stayed in Australia with "my Mick". His name really isn't Mick as most of you who know me and know him are aware, but that has been my pet name for him on this blog for years now. In case you don't know why I call him "Mick",  it is a reference to Mick Dundee of Crocodile Dundee fame. I had never met a man like him. He is about as rough and tumble an Aussie as you might ever meet. He is what people outside of Australia would see as an authentic fair dinkum Aussie man. He is strong and brave and tough-skinned and funny and he knows how to pick up a snake, fix a broken down car, drive in soft sand, swim like a champion and rescue a Canadian girl like me from Huntsman Spiders and Rhinoceros Beetles. He is all that and more...much, much more.

I met him in Spain in 1977 when we were just kids backpacking through Europe. I was 19 and he was 20. We didn't see each other again until 1979 when I came to check out Australia. That was when sparks started to fly between us, but as fate would have it, that was not the time for "us" to become "we". We remained friends throughout the years. He was good with Christmas cards. So was I. When I finally became a mother at 36, he already had 3 boys. He called me and teased me about being "a little long in the tooth for babies" by that age. He had had his kids much earlier. I was married. So was he. Life went on. He sent a sweet little t-shirt with a kangaroo on it for my baby from him and his boys. These little connections went on for years. I kept telling myself we were just old friends. I had to. What else could I do? I was a married woman. 

I do recall thinking however, that should something ever happen to my husband, I would very likely think about taking a trip to Australia to see if there was something more there. I knew his marriage had ended, although he never really revealed that directly.

Then the thing I thought would never happen, did. My marriage fell apart. I had started writing this blog and "Mick" started reading it. He started commenting on it...anonymously. It took me a few weeks to figure out who these sometimes annoying comments were coming from, but when I did realize it was this boy/man from my past, we started to talk and talk and talk and before long, "Mick" decided to come to Canada so we could meet up again in person after more than 30 years. Despite the passing of years and hair loss for him and the effects of gravity on me, that old twinkle in his eye was still there and we got that old spark ignited pretty easily. 

For the next couple of years, we had this crazy intense long distance relationship and racked up thousands of air miles and wore out computer keyboards chatting daily on-line until we knew we had to take the next step. Mick took a leave from work for one year and came to Canada and we lived together here until his leave was almost over. He had "proposed" prior to arriving in Canada. Neither of us were too keen to actually get married again in the traditional sense having "been there, done that", so on a beautiful sunny day at the Sandy Cape Lighthouse on Fraser Island, he asked me instead to be his "life partner". That was in 2012. He gave me a ring that he had gotten made, fashioned from a ring I had given him in 1979. There are many romantic stories I could share, but I am saving those for my novel. This is more of a synopsis of how things have developed between us for the powers that be to learn and understand our history together.

In 2013, we travelled back to Spain to visit the town where we had first met. We came back to Toronto from Spain and packed up and moved to British Columbia to see if we might like to start a new life together there. It was a bit early for him to retire, but we wanted to explore our options. He got along great with my brother and so we thought it might be nice to live near him out west. In the meantime, I had taken and early retirement and it was my turn to give Australia a shot. Toward the end of 2013, I left my life in Canada behind and moved in with Mick in Australia. He bought a little house for us and while he worked, I renovated the house and created a "home" for us. It kept me busy and life went on happily for the next 4 years in Maryborough, Queensland. We created a new life together with old and new friends, family time and travel. I went back to Canada each year to visit my family and friends and we both returned for my niece's wedding in 2014. By the end of 2016, Mick was getting ready to retire in 2017, so I came back to Canada ahead of him to begin to search for a house. It was our dream to spend half the year in Australia and half the year in Canada between our two homes. 

We made that dream a reality when I bought a house in May of 2017. He retired in February of 2017, came to Canada and now we could live this amazing life splitting our time between the two countries. Everything was going swimmingly well until March of this year when Covid-19 turned our life upside down. If I stayed in Australia, I would not have any health insurance for any "pandemic-related" illness. If he came to Canada, the same thing would apply to him. In retrospect, what I should have done, was stay in Australia and apply for my permanent residency, something I intended to do "one day".  As the years have passed, we have always known that at some stage we would have to choose which country to spend our final years on this planet. We were leaning toward Australia all along but now that is indeed, the plan. When I do finally get back to Mick in Australia, I will be applying for my PR. We never imagined a scenario like the one that has played out in 2020. 

We are 62 and 63 now. We don't take time for granted anymore like we might have when we were in our 20's or 30's or 40's. We are retired and in the final third of this life now and that makes these last three months seem like an enormous amount of time that has been stolen from us. At the end of 2018, Mick had a heart attack. That was a big wake up call for both of us around the fragility of life and how every day is precious. Together, we made some major lifestyle changes and I am happy to report that Mick is in fantastic health. With my help, he changed his diet, we exercise together and he has never been stronger. And that is why we are so desperate to be back together enjoying each other and living out the next part of our lives in the same country.  Deb and Steve (his real name), Poppa and PoppaDeb (what the grandchildren call us) - we are a team...the "perfect couple" according to a sweet, young neighbour here in Canada.

I have had to apply for entry back into Australia as his de facto partner. I have yet to hear back from the Australian Government as to the status of my application and now I fear that I may not have provided enough evidence of our relationship to warrant approval. I may be wrong and perhaps I am just in a very long queue. I have booked a flight to Sydney September 1st, but without the thumb's up from immigration, I cannot get on that flight. 

I am asking all of our friends and family in Australia to please share our story. My tennis friends, our neighbours, our family in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Gympie, all of our mutual friends in Maryborough - Please share it verbally, share it on social media, share it any way you can to help bring Mick and I back together. 

Please help mend our broken hearts.  Thank you all so very much.

 Happier times...Deb and Steve

Thursday, May 28, 2020



It’s clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. - Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

Two months had passed since their last kiss. It was becoming clearer and clearer with each passing day that they were likely not even near the halfway mark of their separation. They had sworn they would never travel between their two continents separately again, but they had made that promise to each other before the Pandemic. Before the world they had known had changed into something unrecognizable. Before their near perfect life had been disrupted beyond their imagination.

Diane’s heart was heavy.  She had decided many years ago that she was not gong to be a Francesca. In the 1992 book, The Bridges of Madison County, the main character, Francesca Johnson, an Italian born war bride of an Iowa farmer makes a decision to remain in her dull marriage rather than leave him to be with the great love of her life, a photographer named Robert Kincaid. The bittersweet romantic novel was equally adored and scorned by the critics. Diane happened to adore it. It ticked all the boxes for her with its passionate love story combined with tender poetic writing.

Making a decision to move to Australia to be with Mick had some similarities in that it meant leaving behind everything and everyone she knew to take a leap into the unknown. At that time she had laboured long and hard over the pros and cons and the many possible outcomes. A quote from that book became a secret mantra whenever doubt prevailed. Kincaid says to Francesca after asking her to come away with him,

“In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

It was how Diane felt about her love for Mick - an instinctive urging from her gut that he was the one.

Her intuition nagged at her constantly. “Do this Diane, just go. Go to Australia” Her heart was telling her one thing and her head was telling her another. The battle went on for months. Mick had taken a year off work to come to Canada to be with her. After her separation from Graham, they had waited a full year before he came. It was Mick’s idea. He wanted her to be sure her marriage was truly over before starting a new relationship with him.

Their first few months together in Canada were like a honeymoon. Intense and passionate togetherness combined with the happy planning of taking a trip to Spain to revisit the town of Sitges where they had first met in 1977. All of 2013 became a wild adventure. After Spain, they decided to leave Toronto and drive across the country to the West Coast to see where life might take them. It was another bold and daring leap for Diane and once again, she sold her newly accumulated possessions, quit her job, loaded up her SUV and headed off to figure life out as it came. They had a vague idea about settling in British Columbia, but nothing was set in stone.

As they drove westward, they took a detour though the USA. Diane had always been curious to see Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, so they mapped out a route that would allow them to make a stop at the famous National Memorial. As Mick drove and Diane navigated, they were making their way through Iowa when Diane noticed a directional sign for the town of Winterset.

“Did you see that sign Mick?”
“What sign?”
“The sign we just passed. I’m sure it said Winterset.”
“And I should recognize that because…..?”
“Isn’t that the town from the movie?”
“What movie?”
“THE movie…The Bridges of Madison County. It must be a real place!”
“Ya think?”
“Look there! Did you see that sign? It said Welcome to Madison County!”
“Do you want to turn back?”
“Hold on, let me see how far it takes us out of our way.” she said as she surveyed their roadmap.
“It’s not too far off the main road…let’s go! Are ya with me?”
She didn’t have to ask twice. Mick pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and did a U-Turn.

A country road led them a few miles off their route into Winterset and they were not disappointed. The film had been made in the town and it was instantly recognizable. Diane could not believe this was happening. With no idea or plan in place they had stumbled across this place she thought had only existed in the imagination of the author of the story. It had never occurred to her to research the location details of the film that had been made from the book and yet here they were. Mick was able to sit on the exact diner stool at the Northside Cafe where Clint Eastwood, in the role of Robert Kincaid had sat during the filming of a scene. A small gift shop sold keepsakes and copies of the book and Diane bought a photo of the Roseman Bridge, one of the 6 remaining covered bridges that had been the subject of Kincaid’s photos. She framed it when they moved into their beloved Kyeema North and it sits on the windowsill next to their bed, a constant reminder of her choice.

From Winterset, they drove to visit the bridges and they appeared just as they were in the film. Mick and Diane had each bridge to themselves which surprised them considering they were somewhat of a tourist destination for anyone who might be interested in movie locations. They were still in use and part of the Madison County backroads, not props as Diane had once mistakenly assumed. She imagined Meryl Streep leaning against the corner post of the Roseman Bridge and could recall her self-deprecating and shy wave toward Clint Eastwood, embarrassed that he was taking a photo of her and she herself posed in the same spot while Mick took her photo. She watched lovingly as Mick scrambled down the embankment of the creek next to the covered bridge to pick her a posy of wildflowers just as Eastwood had done in the film.
A sucker for such romantic gestures, her eyes welled up as he handed her the sad little handful of limp-stemmed daisies. When it came to knowing what made her happy, he never held back and she never grew tired of his efforts to win her heart.

She couldn’t help but think it had been some sort of message. It felt fated and when they got to the Hogback Bridge, Mick noticed someone had written his name and the year 2009 on one of the wooden posts supporting the bridge.

“I came here a few years ago,” he joked. “I set this whole thing up. Pretty good, heh?”

It was the exact sort of thing Mick would do thought Diane, so the idea that he actually may have wasn’t a stretch.

The magic of that day was not lost on either of them. Visiting the site of one of the most bittersweet romance stories they had both read and watched together (she had sent him a copy of the book a year earlier with a note telling him she did not want to end up like Francesca), was both surreal and confirming.

He was her Denys Finch Hatten and Robert Kincaid all wrapped up in one big beautiful, chivalrous, romantic soul and their journey was only just beginning.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Excerpt from My Novel


Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road. - Isak Dinesen

While most of the people Diane knew were eager for life to return to normal during the Pandemic of 2020, she wasn’t so sure. The solitary life was suiting her and she finally had no excuses not to write. Wasn’t this the ideal writer’s retreat? She had her desk in front of a window with a waterfront view. She could drift and dream at her leisure, eat when she was hungry, sleep when she was tired, get dressed if and when she felt like it without a schedule or interruptions. A writer or poet’s dream if ever there was one.

But it came at a price. She hadn’t seen her family in several months, since she had been in Australia for five months prior to the virus outbreak. If social distancing restrictions didn’t start opening up soon, a year might pass before they could connect in person. Her parents were not computer literate, nor did they use a cell phone, so the old fashioned land line phone was their only form of communication. Her only child was in a city too far away and had roommates who worked in essential service jobs, putting Diane at risk should they meet in person. And then there was Mick on the other side of the world in Australia. When would borders reopen? When would planes start flying? When would his head be lying on the pillow next to hers again? The cost of her isolation was loneliness.

After all they had been through to finally create a life together, they hadn’t ever imagined being torn apart by something like this. Diane likened it to what one must feel when spouses go off to war never knowing when or if they will see them again. Perhaps that example is a bit extreme, but instead of an adversary with a gun, the enemy they both would need to avoid was Covid-19. The idea that their farewell kiss at the Brisbane airport could potentially be their last was a thought she needed to put out of her mind whenever it came.

At the last minute when she was packing to leave for Canada, she remembered to take the antique compass he had given her the first year they were together. It held so much meaning. It was almost an exact replica of the compass that was passed from character to character in the epic romance movie Out of Africa. It was a recurring symbol of finding one’s way home throughout the film.

Denys George Finch Hatten (Robert Redford) gives it to Baroness Karen von Blixen (Meryl Streep) to help guide her home across the endless dusty plains to her farm in Kenya several days away. At the end of the movie, after the great love of her life is tragically killed in a plane crash and her farm has gone bankrupt, she has to leave her beloved Africa and return to Denmark. In the final scene of the movie, she hands the compass to her faithful Somali man-servant Farah and says…

“This is very dear to me. It helped me to find my way home.”

When Diane told Mick that Out of Africa was her favourite movie, they had watched it together and he understood the bittersweet romance she found so powerful. A hopeless romantic, Diane cannot watch the movie without crying. For their first Christmas since reuniting after more than 30 years apart, Mick spent months scouring antique shops in both Canada and Australia for a gift with some meaning. They were still living on separate continents. Christmas came and went and Diane had not received anything from him. She was disappointed and a little hurt that he had not managed to get anything to her but he told her a gift was coming and he was sorry it would be late. He said it was something very particular and he was having trouble finding one. She had no idea what it might be.

When a package finally arrived two months after Christmas, Diane was beyond curious to know what this special parcel would contain. She opened the small box wrapped in plain brown kraft paper and inside was what appeared to be the exact compass from the movie and with it, a note that said,

“So you can always find your way back to me.”

She had to sit as it had taken her breath away. No gift had ever touched her more. He was her very own Denys George Finch-Hatten.

She had never felt so known, or so loved.

(Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals) 


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Time for a Pause

This is a special announcement for those of you who have been regular readers of my first 24 Chapters.

I am about to take a bit of a diversion and it will require some rewrites, some format changes and some adjustments to my writing schedule.

Before this story goes any further, I have had some thoughts on how to edit and present the chapters differently which means going back to make changes. Once I have done that, I will resume writing the chapters in the new format.

I am so grateful to all of you who have been following Diane's adventures up until now and my wish is that when the book is finished you will pick up where you left off and continue reading. With any luck, it will be an actual hard copy of the book. 

I will leave the last 3 chapters up on my blog for those of you who have fallen behind, but will be removing them in a weeks time as well. 

I don't have writer's block, if that's what you may be thinking. On the contrary, it is my desire to dive deeper and longer into my writing without the self-imposed deadline of producing and presenting a chapter each day for the sake of longer chapters and smoother segues.

Be well everyone. I will miss our daily interactions. At least those pertaining to the stories.



Thursday, February 6, 2020

Sweet, Sweet Rain

And the rains have come and the entire world around us has come to life. The humid air has awakened every blade of grass and the insects are rejoicing and the frogs are singing and the pool is overflowing with rain water and we get naked after dinner and slip into the fresh cool water. An infinity edge has been created by the heavy rains. Light rain falls as we swirl and dive and dip. 
An oasis after the drought. When we finally come inside, my feet stick a little with each step on the chill ceramic tiles and everything is slightly damp and my hair is limp and my skin is moist and the air from the ceiling fans feels soft and cool and breezy and we devour cold mangoes and watermelon and dragonfruit and melt into the sensation of moisture that has been missing in action for months now. 

It's exotic and magic and I feel bohemian and alive. 

I sit in near darkness, the crickets and frogs serenading me as I write; here in summer, in Queensland, in the wet season that has finally arrived. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Mysteries of the Heart

I've got a good mother and her voice
is what keeps me here...
-Jann Arden

I never got to know Rita. By the time I arrived on the scene here in Australia, poor Rita's mind had already been swallowed up by this horrid disease we call Alzheimer's. She was still able to sit in a wheelchair in 2013. Her devoted husband, John still took her on outings, went to the home every day to feed her lunch and sit with her, always hopeful she would return, that the disease would halt, possibly reverse, that he would have the old love of his life back. For a time he would even put a little lipstick on for her - an effort to preserve some sense of normal. Eventually, the inevitable deterioration of this once vibrant lady, the family touchstone, the sharp mind of Rita Joy Shields took hold. Her ability to communicate ended.

Where did she go? Where do all the victims of this mind ravaging illness go? As anyone who has ever lived through this slow and painful journey with a family member knows, there is a dark mystery that hovers around the unanswered questions. The stricken offer few clues. Where once there was connection and knowing winks and glances, there is a vacant stare and one-sided conversation. Alive but not living. It is a most difficult and heart wrenching thing to witness. I am pretty sure it is what really killed her husband in 2017. The hopelessness and his own broken heart surely making his life unbearable, the cancer finding a way in with his defences down.

How, we all wondered, did her mind fail her so, yet her body kept going. With each passing year, she lay, silent, unmoving and completely under the care of nurses who fed her, bathed her, turned her, watched over her. For years her heart kept beating, strong in her frail chest. How did her heart go on? Why did her heart go on? What was it that Rita still needed to go on for? 

I have a theory. One of her greatest gifts to the world were her two sons. She turned out a couple of pretty special kids, grown men now -  men who grew into kind, caring, loving fathers and partners themselves. Men who are respectful of women, generous and decent human beings. Men that make a mother proud. In addition to this, she won the hearts of their offspring. She continued her nurturing role with seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Nanna or Nan as they fondly called her was loved and adored by every one of them. She was a giver until she could give no more.

She just may have saved her biggest gift for last however. Two weeks ago today, my darling man, her eldest son, suffered a heart attack as Rita lay quiet and still alive in her bed. Thanks to the swift medical attention here in Maryborough, then Hervey Bay, then Brisbane, Steve's heart was repaired and we are beyond grateful to have been given a second chance. After five days in a Brisbane hospital, we came home to rest and reflect before a second round of repair will take place December 13th. That same afternoon, we got word that Rita was failing fast. Rest would wait. We went to see her for what would be the last time. I worried that Steve's still healing heart would not be able to withstand the heartbreak of seeing his poor mum like this but it did. We had known this day was coming for a long time and her passing was really a blessing in many ways. She would finally be with Pop again and in a much better place. He whispered in her ear and kissed her cheek and we knew this time she was leaving this world. By morning, Rita was gone. 

I cannot help but marvel at the timing of her departure. Did she somehow sense her son's health crisis? Did she linger this long to do one final task? Is the bond between mother and child beyond all illness, existing in the unconscious, ever present despite what we can actually see? These are the mysteries we cannot prove but perhaps we don't need proof. Did Rita give what was left of her still strong, beating heart to her eldest son? I believe she did and I am forever grateful she was the mother she was - the giving kind. Loving to the very end.

So, I  cannot thank you enough Rita for this most generous gift. 

We plan to take especially good care of it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Entering the Golden Years 101

Ash...the transition begins.

Sixty. Fuck. How is this possible? No need to remind me by saying things like, "well it beats the alternative". I say those things to myself constantly to bolster my own enthusiasm for life. It's all good I tell myself. You are still alive, can still remember most shit, can still hit a tennis ball with some oomph and even get it on when the mood strikes. So, I should be content. Am I right? 

 I am content but it comes and goes in waves. And those waves get higher and harder and frothier everyday. I have lost count of the spider veins on my legs. I have begun the transition to grey hair with the help of my colourist (go will blend with the silver). My eyebrows are becoming as sparse as up days in the stock market. I am developing a penchant for eating my main meal of the day at noon. Those senior early bird specials ain't early enough for me it seems. And my bathroom scale must be broken, cause there is no way I weigh what it keeps telling me and lately I find it hard to give a shit anyway. 

I read books about the meaning of life (in case I have missed something), birds and longevity diets, skipping from one to the other like a mad woman unable to focus on any of them for more than a chapter before I fall asleep - usually before 9 pm. I never make it through the night without a trip to the loo and sometimes I just stay up and do some banking or mindless social media surfing (FB and Insta, as hip as it gets) until I am tired again. This broken sleep pattern then makes me unable to make it through the afternoon without a nice little power nap for about an hour - my nana nap. 

I am officially a senior according to some. When I get back to Canada this spring, I will be able to get a discount at Shopper's Drug Mart.  Ain't that something to look forward to?! I am less interested in fashion trends until I hang out with my fashion forward friends (young and old) and when I try to incorporate any of them into my wardrobe, I am an instant "fashion don't"! (Anyone want a pair of "worn only once" floral print tights or a pair of oversized triangular "brush" earrings?). I didn't think so. I like reliable cars even though I still wonder what it would be like to drive around in a vintage Karmann Ghia convertible that I have had a secret longing for ever since Ken Olin's character, Michael Steadman drove one on that series Thirtysomething a few years back. If you don't remember that show, you are too young to relate to this blog and if you do, dare I remind  you that the series ended 27 years ago. Truth. WTF!?

Twenty seven years ago, I did not have food sensitivities, age spots. droopy eyelids, molars that keep cracking, breasts that required underwire, sensible panties, progressive lenses, a need for Poise Pads and NOBODY called me Ma'am! 

This is it. I am running out of steam to fight the inevitable. The beginning of the last third of my life has arrived and I can no longer deny it, nor do I plan to inject, slice and dice or starve myself to be thin. I will draw the line at that permed grandma hair and Hilary Clintonesque pant suits, but for the most part I am going to try to do this aging thing with a modicum of dignity and a hint of style (think Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). 

So, bring it on. 

I may not like it but I can bloody take it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kitchen Memories

Have you ever wondered what to do with vintage kitchen utensils? You know what I mean - the things you remember your grandmother stirring, mixing or mashing with that bring back memories of your childhood. Sunday dinners and family holidays watching nan or grannie in the kitchen. 

We have recently had to sift through a kitchen and house full of such things as Mick's parent's house is now empty and unoccupied. There were cupboards and drawers full of old and worn bits and pieces that were laden with memories but well beyond their expiry date to be truly useful in a modern kitchen. I have always had a soft spot for such time worn utensils, so we decided to gather a collection of them and vowed to come up with an idea to repurpose some or all of them in some creative way. There was a complete set of wooden handled cooking ladles, forks and spatulas that apparently had been a wedding shower gift to his mother. I noted the fact that they had been "made in England", which likely contributed to their longevity. 

We both wondered how many pots of potatoes had been mashed with the masher as it was clearly the most used piece of all - the handle cracked from overuse and much of the paint worn away. It was clearly tied with the hand beater and slotted spoon. How many meals had Rita served to her family with these kitchen tools? How many times had they been tapped on the side of a pot, washed by hand, wiped dry with a cotton towel and put away until the next meal was prepared? Imagine the stories they could tell. So, we decided to create a tribute piece to honour the memories created by her and the tools she used to feed her family. 

A daily reminder to us and all who visit our kitchen of the history of food and family and love.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Sweetest Honey

In case dear readers you did not get enough of my last blog about magic and mystery, allow me to regale you once again with yet another tale of intuition and the miracle of what happens if you just listen to that wee voice in your head that makes suggestions, nudges you, or simply hovers around like an annoying house fly that you absent-mindedly wave away while you are focused on your news feed or newspaper depending on which decade you were born. 

It is only possible to follow the lead of that voice if you are consciously aware it is there in the first place. Most people are not. The average person is so wrapped up in the minutiae of their life they are not paying attention at all. There is no opening for the voice to sneak through. All that constant chatter in their heads creates an impenetrable barrier for the intuition to flow. I know this because I used to be that person. It has been about a decade now that I have been working on turning off the monkey mind. And it has changed my life. Many of you reading this have witnessed my journey and seen where it has led me. I never would have imagined my life would have taken such a drastically different route. I owe much of it to tuning into my intuition. 

So, today, as I fumbled around at 5 am. getting dressed to go for a walk, I noticed some cash laying on my bedside table. Some money I had emptied out of my pocket before bed the night before, strewn about amongst my books and earrings, sort of grabbed my attention. I rarely bring anything besides my phone on my walks. There really isn't anywhere to spend money along the way unless we pop into the convenience store at the corner gas station to buy a newspaper. But that is a weekend thing. Not a Thursday morning thing. My little voice urged me to pick up the five dollar note. I fought with the voice. "Why do I need that 5 dollars?" Just take it said the voice. "Nah, I don't need to take it." I went and brushed my teeth. I started down the hallway to the back door. "Go back - get that 5 dollars." "Alright, alright," I grumbled as I went back into the bedroom and stuffed the fiver in my pocket. Even Mick said, "you don't need any money - I'm not getting a paper today." I almost relented again, but reminded my self that my intuition is not something to ignore. 

Off we went toward the residential streets versus the country road walk. "G'Day Kanga, G'Day Roos,", I sang out at the corner as we passed the usual mob in the sports field at the corner. We normally head straight ahead from there but today we ventured left after a couple of blocks for a change of scenery. About two thirds of the way up this particular street we came across an ordinary house with a small stand in front. "Honey for Sale" I could see from the curb that there were 2 containers of honey, one a little larger than the other. PERFECT! I needed some honey. I walked across the lawn and took a look. One was marked $4.20 and the other as you have probably already guessed was $5.00. I stuffed my fiver in the slot on the rusty honour box and turned on my heels and held up my prize. "See Mick!, what did I tell ya? I knew that five bucks was in my pocket for a reason!" 

As much as he likes to poo-poo my "messages from the universe", even he had difficulty scoffing at this one. This was clearly a premonition I reckon. I don't know why I even bother arguing with that voice. It never steers me wrong.

And that is it sweet!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Magic and Mystery

No matter how many times people look at me like I am from another planet when I mention my belief in messages from the universe, it will never stop me from believing it happens. I have made major decisions in my life based on the strength of my intuition and I can assure you, it has been life changing for me.

However, I am not here to convince you. I can only share my experiences and you can decide for yourself if you want to consider the possibility. I write this today because I had one such experience at 3:30 this morning. I woke up in the middle of the night as I often do and noticed that the front of our cottage was awash in light. Not moonlight. Artificial light. I got up and looked out and there were three coach lights on out front. We moved here in May of this year and have been unable to get these lights to come on. We figured there was a wiring problem. We did everything we could to get them to turn on like putting fresh bulbs in and checking for switches that might have been two-way. Nothing. 

We don't really use them, so we just put it on the back burner item on the fix-it list. On at least three or four occasions, we would flip the switch to see if they would "suddenly" work but they never came on. So, when they lit up like the Fourth of July in the middle of the night last night, it was completely bizarre. The switch is on the lower level. We were alone in the cottage. Had a small rodent climbed the wall and flipped the light switch on? And, even if that were true, how was it that said creature was able to succeed at getting these lights to work when we couldn't. I sent Mick down to investigate and he saw nothing unusual other than that the switch was in the on position. He turned it off and came back upstairs and that is when I saw the first one.

"Hey darlin, I shouted, LOOK, a shooting star!" He stumbled across the room to join me at the window and that is when the show really began. In less than 45 minutes we watched and counted 52 falling stars streaking across the night sky. They were in every direction and some were smallish while some were long and vivid. Everyone was greeted with a number count. I said, "let's watch until we have seen 29 (our lucky number)", but 29 came in the first 15 minutes or so and it was a bit addictive so we kept watching. There is something so magical and mysterious about watching a meteor shower. The sky was crystal clear and the moon had just started to rise up over the horizon, so the conditions were perfect for viewing. 

Now, normally I keep abreast of these sorts of things. I like watching these celestial events and have seen many but I somehow missed the memo on this one and oddly enough, astronomers say this was possibly one of the best shows of the year. This Geminid Meteor shower was a "must see" for anyone who enjoys this sort of sky porn. 

We got to see it because those coach lights came on for no apparent reason and caused us to wake up and investigate that mystery and resulted in us noticing the night sky. One could chalk it up to coincidence. I get that. Could be. Or, was it something else? No one can say for sure. All I can say, is thank you to whomever or whatever caused our lights to come on giving us an opportunity to witness a little magic in the heavens. 

Now, for the record, we have tried to turn those lights on today and they are not working...again. 

It may well be a wiring problem, but why last night? Why at that moment? So, all you naysayers out there, go ahead and rain on my parade with your scientific explanations. I am going to go with my gut on this one anyway. 

Something strange happened and it was beautiful. 

Some mysteries are best left unsolved. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Botanical Love Letter

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Over the last few years, I have experienced this many times as Mick and I have navigated our relationship between Canada and Australia. It has been impossible to spend all of our days together. We were excited to finally be able to not have to endure these separations last December when he was retiring at 60. At long last we could look forward to spending our life together consistently. Well, almost. As anyone who has a partner with distant families knows, there comes a time when you need to return (sometimes urgently) to tend to matters like illness and death when you least expect it.

This past summer was the case for us when Mick's dad passed away. He had to return to Australia and I was unable to join him and so, once again we were apart for weeks. It has become harder and harder for both of us to live separately now that we are a team...or one soul as he so sweetly verbalized in a note recently. I found myself wanting to do something special for him while he was away, not only as a heartfelt gift to him, but as a distraction from the lonliness I was feeling in his absence. 

I had been thinking about creating a garden bed here at our cottage. My bff Peg had put the bug in my ear one morning as we sat drinking coffee overlooking the lawn. "You know Deb, that spot right down there would be a perfect place for a flower garden." I had to agree it was the ideal location as it could be seen and admired from where we sat and the section was sunny and had a gentle slope that would allow it to be viewed from the second floor in its entirety.

I decided to get started on the project after it had rained steadily for a couple of days as I knew the ground would be softer and easier to work. I would have to remove sod, lots of buried rocks and boulders and chop through roots, so the task was challenging to say the least. As I began to pick axe my way through it all, I was unsure about the shape of the bed. After a couple of days of excavating the site, I had a light bulb moment. A heart. A heart-shaped garden bed as a living, loving gesture to my sweet guy. After all,  I thought, the project was most certainly a "labour of love". It would be like a permanent love letter - a daily reminder to both of us as we would see it every day and every time we looked out the front windows of our cottage. 

I started to think about what plantings might be meaningful as well. I knew immediately I wanted something red in the middle of the heart. A solid perennial shrub that would root deeply and anchor the bed. I chose a Euonymus alatus "Compacta", better known as a Burning Bush. Green for most of the season, but maturing to a rich dark red each fall, somewhat symbolic of our maturing relationship. I planted some herbs that I will use in my cooking to represent the nurturing aspect necessary to keep love alive and thriving. I gathered a few cuttings and pieces of iris and peony long neglected on our property and gave them new life in this garden of love under the tall pine to reflect the beauty we see in each other.  I found a small evergreen in the forest that had self-seeded to represent everlasting love. A Purpleleaf Sandcherry, with its passionate reddish purple foliage and delicate pink flower was chosen to add contrast, a salute to the importance of contrasting interests and traits that draw us to each other and remind us that we are two different people and that, were we the same, life would be more than a little dull. 

A white flowering Viburnum was chosen for its fragrance, to always encourage us to "stop and smell the roses", although admittedly, we are both pretty good at that by this stage in life. I then filled in the leftover spaces with fun, colourful, flirty annuals and some daisies and black-eyed susans to keep things light-hearted and joyful. What relationship couldn't use a dose of cheer and colour from time to time? There are several boulders and rocks throughout the bed, the foundation holding it all together that will weather the inevitable storms and winds of change that will come. 

The final touch came to me as I felt the bed needed some ornamentation. Mick had been collecting some old bits of salvaged wood that with a little imagination I could turn into something personal to us both. We have long loved a Rumi quote "There is some kiss we want with our whole lives." I painted these words on the old wood in red script and it stands at the top of the heart reminding us both that we are each other's "some kiss". 

Now that this "tribute to our love" garden is complete, we can watch it grow and change together as we do, and as we weed and maintain this bed over the years, remember that as the garden requires maintenance to thrive, so does our relationship.

There was one sizable boulder in the area I was excavating, so it remains and I added another, as well as many of the large rocks I found while digging. Solid foundational elements to prevent erosion and add some interest seemed appropriate. The second boulder took every ounce of strength I had to move it up the hill from where I found it tucked into the wooded hillside covered in moss. As I struggled to pull it up on a sled, it reminded me of the challenges we encountered on the road to becoming a couple. As I pushed it off the sled and manoeuvred it into place, I knew immediately it was staying put and never moving again, just like us.

And, on a final note, there are some beautiful but pesky deer that live in the woods that surround our little patch of paradise and it will take constant vigilance by both of us to keep them from nibbling and destroying our carefully tended bed. As it turns out they don't like Marigolds, so they will be added each spring as a deer repellent.  Let's hope they keep their distance. If they don't, I guess we will just repair the damage and carry on.

The bed is just a few feet below a very tall old pine tree and so I have named it.

Love Beneath Tall Pine...for Mick.

Love Beneath Tall Pine

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mornings on Bayview Lane

She stands on her hind legs like a circus elephant
I watch as her neck elongates and her head
disappears into the branches
flush with leaves and unripened fruit

Her offspring
all spotty and eager to learn
nibbles on a hard undersized fallen apple
both tails flit and flutter
soft white powder puffs

I sip my coffee and watch them
Offering some sage advice now and then
They glance toward me
Then ignore me
The rest of the family arrives

The spotty one's older brother
He is imperfect
but does not know it 
or care 
I call him Missing Antler

His father saunters slowly up the drive
all perfect and proud
Full rack intact 
Afraid of nothing or no one
He is king

Finished with apples, they move to the meadow
for their next course
Chicory, thistles, Queen Anne's lace and grasses 
an endless feast on a giant platter
A satisfactory alternative to my marigolds

"Don't eat my flowers," I have told them daily
They have listened and obeyed
So far.
Still, I stand and go to the window
To check. To be sure.

A tiny precious hummingbird hovers now
Did it come to say good morning?
I decide to translate its visit that way
Hummingbirds and whales 
Surprisingly equal amounts of awe 

For a few minutes each morning, I am immersed
in this wild kingdom, this joy.
Were it not for the hum of the refrigerator
Reminding me of my place in the world
and my supposed superior humaness. 

This deer family poses no threat 
of fire and fury
like the world has never seen. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Damn Fine Man

For several months now, I have had a severe case of writer's block...or maybe life was just getting in the way. Either way, today I got the kick in the pants that I needed to put a few words down on a clean fresh page.

It is not exactly the kick in the pants one wishes for, but death can be funny that way. It kinda makes you want to kick start life as it reminds you how little time we really have here on this planet.

The world lost a good one today. Bloody cancer. Hate that bastard. Cancer came knocking on John Shields door about 21 years ago. Back then he managed to kick it to the curb, only to come face to face once again a couple of years ago in a different form. Fighting it at 60 was different than fighting it at 80. This time he lost the battle.

On this grey and rainy morning here in Ontario, I got the news that he had passed. My wonderful partner's dad had died on the other side of the world. It was dark there too, literally and figuratively. The Shields men were all gathered and had all seen him before he left this world, and left some pretty big shoes to fill as well.

I met John Shields in 2012. Not that long ago. I did however, meet his eldest son in 1977. His son is an honest, hard-working, strong, funny,  fiercely loyal man. A giver. The apple did not fall far from the tree. I was a little nervous to meet his dad. I was worried he would not embrace the idea of me - a woman from Canada that threatened to lure his number one son away from Australia. He was close to his two boys. Who was I to come along and upset the applecart? Turns out I had nothing to fear. Turns out he not only embraced me, he loved me. I know he loved me because he told me so every time we saw each other. Yup, that's right. This crusty old, tough-skinned Aussie man had a soft and gentle side that came as the most welcome surprise.

Every time we visited in his home or ours, he would take me aside and ask, "Is he treating you alright?" I would always smile and assure him that his boy was absolutely "treating me well".  He brought me plants from his well-tended garden to help brighten my own new garden. He supplied me with fresh basil - huge bunches of it, that he never used in his own kitchen. He just loved the smell of it, so he grew it. He grew lemons and oranges and paw paw's and generously shared them too. Everyone called him Pop. It suited him.

The first time he came to our little house, he glanced around and said I kept a nice home. I think it pleased him that his son was living in a love-filled home again after a few years of post-divorce bachelor living.  I liked that he liked it. I wanted him to feel assured that I loved his boy as much as he loved me. Doesn't every parent hope for that? I'm glad he died knowing that.

When his darling Rita's Alzheimers became too debilitating and he had to move her into a care facility, I watched the man's heart break a little more each day. He went to see her every day, his love for her unfaltering. He was a testament to enduring love. True love. As I said, he was a giver. Generous to a fault. He lived a simple, humble life and gave to his family always. He was a story-teller, with a cache of expressions that made me laugh out loud. He was a character, a truly memorable one. I do regret I never got to hear him play his accordion - even though I have been told it was something I really did not want to hear!

He and Rita raised two wonderful sons and I feel fortunate to be spending the rest of my life with one of his offspring. There is something comforting knowing that a part of John Shields lives on in my life through his son. I am grateful I got to know him these last few years. It is clear to me that he had a very positive influence on his entire family and sadly, a bright light went out today.

Hope you're resting easy now Pop.

Love you too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Can Boomers Keep up? Will we want to?

As always I over packed for my current adventure. I am a "just in case" packer. You would think that after this many trips overseas, I would have scaled it back by now, but alas, I still find myself the day before I depart adding and subtracting items from my suitcase until I am hovering within ounces of the airline's allowable weight limit for my baggage. 

Inevitably, I arrive at my destination with a suitcase full of "just in case" clothing that I never end up wearing. I also end up wishing I had packed the odd thing that I hadn't. Case in point. Something that I tend to use almost daily as I am getting older is this amazing little tool called a magnifying glass! The one we have at home is not just any magnifying glass, it is lightweight with a tri-pod handle and lights up at the touch of a button to illuminate whatever it is we are trying to see clearly. 

Unlike a cane or a hearing aid that is visible to the outside world instantly announcing "aging baby boomer", this aid to our aging vision is like a little secret we use behind closed doors to read labels (can the print get any smaller?!), observe imperfections on our bodies (I was sure I had a melanoma on my toe recently!), or to just be able to take a good solid look at a myriad of everyday eensie weensie items that a decade ago seemed much larger. 

Packing that useful tool occurred to me, but since Mick was not joining me until a few weeks later, I did the noble thing and left it for him (after all, he is a year older!). I think it was only a matter of days after landing on North American soil again before I missed that damn thing...and Mick too as a matter of fact. So, the only solution was to pick one up over here (a magnifying glass, not a new Mick). I came across this really cool mini - almost steam punk looking one called Little Helper. It is much more complex than the one back in Oz, but it looks interesting and has these little clips attached that can hold any item you are looking at which is advantageous if you are the least bit shaky or looking at something super small. It was meant to be a belated Christmas gift for Mick, but I had to free it from its box today so I could read the fine print on my "welcome to Ottawa" parking ticket. Turns out I may be able to have it forgiven as a non-resident and generally unaware idiot from Toronto, but that remains to be seen.

Anyway, I digress. What struck me about the need for this aid was how it relates to life as we approach our 60's. As I near the final third of my life, it is not only my eyes that need a little assistance. I want to see everything with more clarity. My soul yearns to ramp up the intensity of my spiritual journey. I am reminded almost daily now that there is an end to this life. 2016 was especially loud and clear on this with the death of so many of my own age or younger. How can I make this final third count? How can I move through life with more compassion? More joy? What can I offer to help? Where can I offer help? Can I keep up with technology in a way that enhances my life? As a society, are we sliding down a slippery slope into electronic communication that creates a gaping chasm where personal direct interaction with one another once existed? Will I have the energy to embrace the constant change coming at me? Some days it seems endless and overwhelming. Is that why we die? Do we just stop giving a shit about this new thing and that new way. Do our cells finally just burn out from it all? 

There are many seniors in my own life who have chosen to stop learning. They have put the brakes on life in a way that leaves them in a cloudy state of disconnect from the world. They don't own a computer. If they own a mobile phone, it is only used for emergencies and when said emergency arises, they forget how to use it or it has lost its charge, so what's the point? They miss out on instant communication with their children, their grandchildren and even their peers who have kept up.  With each passing year, I find I have more empathy for these old timers who have decided to remain in the past. It's easier for them. However, this is not likely to be an option for aging boomers. We already bought in long ago. Once our elders are gone, the companies and services that still cater to the techno-challenged will make that type of enabling obsolete, forcing anyone who wants to opt out to stick with the program or die. I don't mean die literally. I mean die in terms of living so disconnected from the rest of the world, that day to day functioning becomes impossible. You will not be able to survive without an email address. Paper bills will not be an option.  

Who would have imagined a tweeting president or the ability to access the answer to almost any question on a device you carry in your pocket? I graduated from Ryerson's School of Journalism in 1985. It was the year before computers were introduced. We typed our reports on IBM self-correcting typewriters in triplicate. There was no spell check. We had to flip through a dictionary if we wanted to check the spelling of a word. We did that a lot because if we handed in a story with a spelling mistake it got an automatic "F". We took spiral notebooks to interviews. We used pens. How is it that all of this seems archaic now? Will the way we do things now seem old fashioned in another 30 years or so? Will I become one of those old folks that gets left behind in the dust of obsolete devices? Will my current iPhone seem "retro" in 2047? 

Maybe in the next 30 years I will begin to care more about how I spend my remaining years and it will seem wasteful to obsess over the latest gadget. Meaning will replace knowing. Optimizing joy will outweigh mastering Apple's latest must-have techno tool. I already prefer observing birds at the feeder over anything technology related. Is this what happens? Do we hit a wall one day? Is that the definition of "slowing down"? Will being current and relevant reveal itself as a time thief? Will I become that strange old woman feeding pigeons on a park bench? Will young people pass by with glances of disdain and pity?

And will I care?

That bench is becoming more and more tempting some days... or more understood at any rate.