Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wherever you Hang your Hat

They say that home is where the heart is, but I think it is also wherever we make it.  Having moved homes a few times in recent years, I have come to the conclusion that there are a few things that can make almost anywhere seem like home to me.  

No matter where I have hung my hat over my life, no matter how temporary, there are some things I like to have.  In the kitchen, aside from the basics, I have to have egg cups.  Sometimes vacation rental homes are lacking in this regard.  I have had to resort to using shot glasses or something with the right size opening to hold an egg.  When I was packing up for this latest move, I decided to bring my own egg cups.  I had a hunch they might be missing and I was right.  It's not that I eat soft boiled eggs everyday, but once a week anyway and when I do, I like a proper egg cup.  Silly, right? Eggsactly.

Larger items on the list include a comfy mattress and a good pillow.  Following that, a comfortable chair inside and one outside as well. Sitting down with a cup of tea or glass of wine or a good read makes this one mandatory. When I was roving around the world in my early twenties, a good piece of foam on the floor would do me, but my aging body requires more now and I am happy to report that my summer retreat has filled all these requirements.  

Less necessary, but a welcome sight in any accommodation are flowers.  It can be as simple as a bunch of wildflowers or a collection of interesting branches or a pot of tulips.  Flowers add an instant sense of "home" for me. I have added some flowers here this summer and I can see them out of the windows wherever I look.  

However, none of  these things outweighs a framed photo of my kid. She is near my bedside and in my wallet, her subliminal presence a constant source of comfort.  We Skyped yesterday and I am so grateful for the technology that allows us to connect this way.  No matter where we are in the world, we can still see each other. 

Same goes for my friends.  My best friend and I have been separated for years now by many miles and yet, we still manage to stay connected via texting, skyping, emails and phone calls.  Years ago it was mostly phone calls, costly ones at that.  Our latest way of connecting is with Viber.  Free call and free texting.  A free app that you download and you are ready to go.  Talk about changing times. I would encourage all of you to check that one out - you have to both be on Viber to make it work - so if you have people you want to chat with regularly that live afar - this is a great way to go.

There was a time when I imagined my life differently.  The idea of living in a house, preferably in the country, for my whole life.  A big family that came and went.  Holiday gatherings around a big table.  Thinking back to those dreams now, I see that much of it was folly and as unrealistic as the fictional families I based them on.  The Waltons.  The Ingalls. Even if I did live in a country house from now until my end, it would not change the fact that I only have one child with the potential of one spouse and possible grandchildren.  No need for a 12 foot harvest table to entertain the brood when they visit for the holidays.  I have a secret wish for my daughter that she marry someone with a large extended family so she can experience that crazy big family thing.  

Don't get me wrong here.  I am grateful for the blessings in my life.  Large families come with their own set of issues, probably more so.  The romantic notion of happy family gatherings is about as realistic as the new bride's dream of happily ever after.  As often as this dream comes true, just as often it dissolves into not so ever after. 

So, on that note, this is Debbie Downer signing off for now and wishing all of you a happy long Canada Day weekend, with or without your families or friends.  

Maybe home really is wherever you "hang your hat".

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Soul Soothing Sunday

A doe, a fawn, 2 eagles, 3 marmots and a few quails. These are things I saw today on my drive out to Carmelis Goat Cheese Farm today, just under 6 kms from my summer home. The sun was shining and the road to the farm follows the Okanogan Lakeshore Road. I stopped several times along the way to observe the wild life and take a few photos as it is all new and fresh to me and I have that "new kid in town" wonder about me.

I used to live in B.C. about 16 years ago and I have always missed it. The mountains and the landscape never fail to feed my soul. Just a few minutes ago, I looked out the front window as I heard some wind whipping up and a dark ominous sky was moving quickly from over the mountain and heading my way.  A few years ago an unfortunate forest fire destroyed most of the evergreen trees that once covered the surrounding hills here and it will take years before the landscape replenishes itself. I saw quite a few burnt out acres on the drive from Jasper to Kelowna and it always saddens me.  It feels eerie and sort of creepy almost when you are driving through it.  Like the valley of death.  Blackened trunks, now sharply pointing to the sky, stripped of life, evil looking. 

Surprisingly on my drive past some of it today, two eagles still perched upon these tall charred look outs. They stood out easily on them. Their majesty and beauty surpassing the devilish spikes they rested upon.  It lightened my heart to have to slow for a doe and her young fawn a little further up the road.  They clearly had not deserted their ashen homeland, the terror of that time surely a distant memory for them now. Marmots scurried across my path, speedier now with less brush to camouflage them. Despite this section of the fire's wrath, it is still possible to find the beauty that lies west of the disaster. Looking over to the water, the view is still spectacular and lush. 

I discovered a nice little beach access at Cedar Creek that I will definitely frequent when the weather soon turns hot.  A couple of brave souls were waist deep in the water today, but I got the impression they were just posing for a photo and would soon hightail it back to shore.  The lake temperature is not quite warm enough to entice me yet.  

I found a lovely nursery where I stopped and bought some flowers and herbs to plant in pots to enjoy over the season.  As it is late to shop for this sort of thing, I got lucky and everything was reduced for the last week of June.  I spent the afternoon planting and it felt good to dig in the dirt as I have been away from my garden for a couple of years now.  It made me realize how much I love it and how I have missed it.  

All and all it was a perfect Sunday here in this western paradise.  I even had some furry company as I am cat-sitting my niece's cat for 10 days. Winx is quite social and seems to function quite well with one eye.  Her altered face makes her even more sweet and lovable.  She hung with me while I puttered away and it was nice to have her around. 

Once again, I will look forward to sleeping.  It is soooo quiet here. After living in Toronto for so many years, the white noise is absent here. The quiet is such a contrast. 

Just what the doctor ordered. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I'll give ya a buck for that!

If you read yesterdays blog, this edition will seem as though I have lost my mind. Two weeks ago today I had a big garage sale where I unloaded heaps of possessions. I swore after the experience that I was never going to collect so much stuff again. 

Fast forward to today.  As I have been settling into my new summer house, I have concluded I needed a few things to make it more functional and comfortable.  Clearly, it is insane to purchase things for a short term rental that I will not likely tote with me when I leave. However, I had been making a mental list of what I would need to complete my summer experience here. The boys are off on a fishing trip, so I got the invitation from my sister-in-law yesterday to join her and another friend to go GARAGE SALEing today.  "EGADS!", I thought to myself. No way. 

Then it occurred to me that perhaps many of the things on my mental list might actually be found on such an excursion, and it would also be nice to spend time with her and meet someone new, so I accepted the invitation to hit the streets at 7:30 this morning.  I had been forewarned that the woman who had planned the morning was a "professional" garage saler. Really? OK then, let the games begin.  I was a bit of an expert myself many years ago when I would scour the neighbourhood on a Saturday morning for treasures, but had long since given it up as my own garage became the receptacle for most of the junk I collected.  Things that required repair or painting or revamping that I never got know the drill.

This woman made me look like an amateur.  She assigned another woman who joined us as the navigator and handed her a lengthy list filled with addresses.  Her job was to read out the addresses and check them off as we completed them.  She knew which homes would be more likely to have good stuff versus crap stuff and in between the planned list of stops, we stopped at even more that were unadvertised. This was gorilla garage saling.  She even had some rules.  No wasting time.  If you sized a place up and decided you were uninterested, you were to head to the car, indicating you were finished rather than hanging about.  This way the last one left lingering knew she better step up the pace and complete her negotiating as the others would be waiting back at the car.  This was serious business!

And fun. It was almost a workout actually as we zipped in and out of a dozen places or more.  When the car trunk would become too full, we would stop back at her place, unload, and head back on the treasure hunting trail. I half expected to buy little if nothing at all.  Wrong!  I was on a mission for lamps.  The place I am staying is lovely and cool nestled in the trees, but it is dark. The walls and ceilings are all pine panelling and the present lighting is just not bright enough.  I needed more light and I found it!  Not only did I find lamps, one seller even had an entire carton of new light bulbs for fifty cents a box. Kid you not.  I bought 5 lamps for $21.00. There is a nice little peninsula in the kitchen here, but no counter stools.  Found a good solid pair of those for $20.  The guest room needed a second side table next to the bed.  Found one for $2. There are no cloth napkins in the house. Found a brand new set of those with tags still on them, brand new, for $2. I need a new garment bag. Found one for $8 after some serious negotiations. I have been on the hunt for an old copy of Crocodile Dundee as my daughter has never seen it and I told her it is pretty funny.  Found it for $2. Then of course there were a couple of other purchases that were not necessary but so cheap it was crazy to turn down.

A toothless woman at one stop in a rather dodgy area was selling a lot of stuff that looked like she had acquired it in suspect ways.  I noticed a copy of the movie version of Love in the time of Cholera. Having read the book, I was curious about the movie. How could I turn down anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez for a buck? I asked the woman if she had watched it. She had not.  I asked her if she had read the book. She said she was not much of a reader. Best I rescue it I figured, as it was not being appreciated in its present home. I do recall it got rather luke warm reviews, but surely anything with Javier Bardem cannot be that bad.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Then I came upon a copy of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead.  A nice hardcover in perfect condition. I will sheepishly admit I have never read it.  I know, I know, it is a classic and I surely should have devoured it back in the day, but it is on my bucket list of must reads before I die, so I chatted with the seller about it and as it turns out, she was actually giving all her books away for free. How do you turn that down?  She also had some trashy Jilly Cooper novel that came out a couple of years ago and I snapped that up as well...beach reading for sure. She was the same vendor that sold me a pine bedside table for $2.  I think she was in it for the company and conversation more than the money.  Ya figure?

Then, just as I was running out of steam for the day, we came to the piste de resistance of garage sale vendors.  An estate sale.  Not just any old estate sale, mind you.  This was the estate sale of a hoarder house.  A genuine crazy ass hoarder house!  I was gobsmacked.  It was just like those places you see on TV. The adult children of the deceased owners were there and just letting people wind their way through the whole house.  Every room crammed to the rafters with JUNK...and the odd treasure. There were unopened boxes of every thing you can imagine.  Small appliances, kitchen utensils, office supplies, never-worn shoes, unopened ugly bedding, a garage and shed chock-a-block full of tools and so much crap you could barely move through it.  It was horrifying to me.  Especially in my new state of minimizing.  How could anyone let their home become so, so out of control? It actually made me sort of nauseous. And oddly, of the thousands of things in that house, I needed none of it.  The other ladies were finding the odd items they would be able to use, so I reluctantly loitered about rummaging through boxes and shelves and drawers in a vain attempt to find some little item that might be useful to kill time.

Surely, amidst all this bounty there must be something that would ignite some little bit of consumerist desire in me.  Maybe if I had been trying to outfit an empty home with necessities for daily living, perhaps this place might have excited me, but it actually repelled me instead.  It just highlighted what I have been thinking and feeling for so long now.  There is just way too much STUFF. Then just as I was about to leave the house and go and wait outside, I spotted a box of assorted crap that contained a retro tobacco can. I recognized the label immediately. It was a VOGUE cigarette tobacco can. The lid was missing. In an instant I was sitting at my mother's kitchen table in 1961 watching my father roll his own cigarettes. We would have been at the gray arborite table with the chrome legs.  Suddenly I felt nostalgic. The can spoke to me. My sister-in-law recalled the label as well.  We rummaged for the lid to no avail. What would I do with it?  I suggested it would make a good pencil and pen holder.  She volunteered her idea of a small planter.  Whatever, it was coming home with me. 

As I sit writing this, the can is within my peripheral vision and it is giving me some sort of odd pleasure. Like all retro signage, it hearkens back to a time when we actually did not have so much stuff.  The world had not yet exploded with Dollaramas and "shopping til you drop" was not even a consideration. And maybe that is what appealed to me. My mother's minimal decor, our limited collection of toys, our sparser wardrobes, the weekly trek to the grocery store on pay day, one pair of summer sheets and one pair of flannel winter sheets, lacking versus excess. Were we more grateful then? 

I know one thing for sure. I had one pair of sneakers, a pair of sandals, a pair of penny loafers and a pair of patent leather Mary Manes for church. A far cry from the 4 boxes of shoes (reduced from 8) I packed in my car June 9th to move across the country. And guess what? Since I arrived, I have only worn 3 pairs.  My sneakers, my sandals and a pair of flip flops. The boxes remain unopened in my closet. 

Some lessons being learned here.  

Stop.  Just stop.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


bits here
more over there
impermanent shards to be retrieved later
or not
graphic patterns of light dance
on the wall where once
a treasured armoire stood
its beauty replaced
by something less tangible 
yet no less inspired
spaces everywhere left open 
allowing for new to flow in
new what?
wait and see

For now
my heart 
fragile, delicate
like a piece of chipped pink mayfair
softly absorbing
beating on
unblocked, unclogged

Open roads ahead
no guarantees
only leaps of faith
or joyful skipping