Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fearlessly Forging Forward

Three large suitcases. One set of golf clubs. One carry on. One handbag. That is all I am taking to the other side of the world with me. Whittling down my life to approximately 200 lbs of clothing and possessions took some ruthless editing and more than a few anxious moments, but I did it. 

In two days, I will check the bags through to Brisbane.  There is mostly clothes and shoes in two of the bags and the third bag is an odd assortment of things I could live without but simply did not want to leave behind. Mostly meaningful things. A couple of books, framed photographs, my favourite mug, my softer than soft pillowcases, gifts from friends over the last couple of years that symbolize my journey. Stuff like that. And yes, Margot - a 4 lb carved stone that has been my house protector for 20 years. It must work - I have never had a break-in. It will grace the front door of my new house one day.

Anything that did not fit will be stored here in Canada and over the years, perhaps bits will find their way back to me...or not.  The last move I made meant leaving behind even more and already I struggle to remember what most of it was. Things. Just things.  It would have been unfathomable to me 10 years ago to find myself so unburdened as I am now.

One "thing" I came across today in my wallet has only been with me less than a year. It was a small medallion given to me by a very close friend. I have treasured it from the moment she gave it to me because every time I have worried about or doubted my decision to move to Australia, it has helped me move forward. On the front, as you see above, is an image of a woman or goddess, her feet are roots, firmly anchored in the ground and her arms are raised above her head, reaching, seemingly taking nourishment from the sky. She is a symbol of strength and conviction in my mind. She is sure-footed, confident, in touch with herself, her body vulnerable, exposed, without fear. Her foundation is solid and her outstretched arms have also found a place that feeds her heart and soul. Her spiritual life, clearly as grounded as her physical form, completes her.

On the back of this medallion is one word.  Courage.  She came to me when I needed her. Or did I? Certainly there were moments when I felt a need to hold her between my thumb and fingers and meditate on what she symbolizes to me. At other times, she was just a comfort to me, a reminder that I was on the right path. A touchstone. I would repeat the word over and over in my head. Courage. Courage Deb. You can do this. She also symbolized the support and encouragement I have been given from the friend who gave her to me. It helped me recall the many conversations we have had over the past months.  The analyzing, the dissecting, the laughter, the tears, all leading me to where I am today. 

I tucked her back in my wallet where she mingles with some coins, guaranteeing she will be seen often.  Once in a while I take her out for a walk with me, tucked in my pocket or in my clenched hand. I used to worry about losing her this way. But now, I doubt that even if I did lose her, I would never really lose her message.

She has really rubbed off on me. People keep telling me I am courageous. I used to hear their words and think, ME? Courageous? I always thought courageous people were heroes like firefighters or policemen or soldiers. But now I realize that courage comes in many forms as do courageous people.

And I guess, like the cowardly lion, I had it all along.

Only, this time, I am following my own yellow brick road. 

To Oz.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Changing Patterns

It's official! I stopped in my tracks when I checked the beep on my phone and read the email. Good news Debra it said. The Singing Lady has a cheque for you. I always enjoy these emails from this consignment shop. "We sold your China".  Last May I took all my fine china, crystal and depression glass collection to this shop hoping to unload these items. No one I knew wanted it. They either had their own ill-chosen sets they dusted off every Christmas and Easter or their tastes had changed, their entertaining had become less formal (the latter most likely) or they loved their china and would continue using it until it was passed down to their heirs.

My daughter was completely disinterested. She does not even want to own a house. She claims she prefers a smaller, more low maintenance space. A condo will suit her one day apparently. She has never been one for fussy formal table settings although I do believe she is comfortable in formal dining situations.  I did teach her basic etiquette. It is always a handy skill in the work world at the very least. I don't have to worry about her embarrassing herself should her future partner's family judge her knowledge of which fork to use. (Gawd help her if she chooses someone whose family is like that!)

Anyway, it feels like a seriously symbolic moment for me. One of the last bastions of my former life has been passed along to a new owner. The baton has been handed off. I think back to the girl who chose that China all those years ago. It mattered to me. I was careful not to pick anything too bold or flowery. It was all white.  Unfortunately, at the time I was very drawn to Victorian period design, so the edges were embossed in a raised garland of small roses that turned an otherwise timeless plate into something fussy and overly feminine.  I used to occasionally pair it with the pink depression glass and it did make a spectacularly girly luncheon splash.  It also worked well at Easter with all the pastels but just as my lifestyle has changed, so has my taste in crockery.  I would never choose it now in a million years!

The money I got for it was criminal compared to what was paid for it. I can't dwell on that though. I am just glad it is gone. I don't have to retrieve it from the shop, store it in a basement somewhere for the rest of my life. One more thing I don't have to worry about. I hope the new owner enjoys it. They got an amazing deal on it. It was in mint condition. Not a single chip or missing piece. Service for eight and all the accessories. Serving bowls, platters, cream and sugar, salt and pepper - the works. When I think back to the time I chose it all, I recall doing it because it was expected. I remember people saying - "You are going to register somewhere of course." Um, yeah, OK, sure, I am.  Truth was, even then, it did not occur to me that it was all that necessary, but I got caught up in the rules, the proper etiquette for a young woman about to marry for the first time. So, I went out and selected Rosenthal China and Crystal, which was a little non-traditional (my first husband's father was German), no Royal Doulton or Royal Crown Derby for this gal...even then I was determined to buck the system a bit.

My first husband had inherited silver from his grandmother, so I had to choose something that sort of blended with the intricate ornate pattern of the flatware. I always felt the silver out shone the China...in a good way. But when he left, so did the silverware, so then I had to find a replacement. Not just for him.  So, not long after, I did find both. Husband number two came along and within a few years, he was awarded a set of silver for 25 years of service with his company. Once again, I had to choose from a menu of patterns, this time matching the silver to the China.  Silver is wonderful to look at but a royal pain in the ass to care for.  For a time, my wonderful cleaning lady would take it upon herself to polish the silver for me, but even she grew weary of that chore. It was not uncommon some holidays for me to sift through the case looking for the least tarnished fork tines to set the table, always placing the most severely burnished looking pieces at my own place setting...no one would notice I reckoned. 

So, once again, the silver set number two left with the second husband. There won't be a third set. My table will be set with stainless from here on out. No more polishing. No more special box to store it. Dishwasher safe. Worry free. Care free. Something simple and streamlined. 

Not unlike the next third of my life.

Here's hoping anyway.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Swirling Deb

My best friend is out swirling tonight. She texted me a photo of herself and another friend of mine at a gala affair I was invited to in Toronto with the tag line - Wish you were here!  Swirling. That is what we used to call it back in the day. Back in the day referring to the period of our life that we spent living in Banff...where we met. It would be an understatement to say that we swirled occasionally  We were young. In our early twenties. It was just the way it was. If we were not working or sleeping or skiing or hiking or riding our bicycles, we were swirling. 

Swirling could be as tame as a night out with just a few drinks and calling it an early night, or as crazy as losing count how many drinks, how many tokes, and dancing until the wee hours and polishing that off with a private party back at someone's pad till we crashed. Apparently I was a champion swirler according to my BFF. When my marriage was collapsing, she said I had stopped being that fun Deb - the swirler she knew and loved.  Marriage had suffocated that Deb. She was probably right. But, I also saw it as growing up and being responsible. I had a child. I needed to set an example. And I did. I don't know that I really fooled my kid. She did manage to figure out that her mother had a past, but for the most part, I tucked that swirling Deb away for about 20 years. It was likely good for my health and good for raising a daughter to be a responsible citizen, but even though I tucked her away, there was always a part of her itching to resurface.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go back to that kind of life. I am too old and too health conscious now to abuse myself that way. But what I have resurrected in recent years is some of that old swirling spirit. It is not always easy to let her out. I worry it would embarrass the people around me, so I sort of contain her, reel her in a bit, but the truth is, I want to let er rip sometimes. I love dancing. I just finished dancing alone. In my kitchen. Music loud. A tall Mount Gay Rum and Stevia Cola with lime (a healthy Cuba Libre). Moving my body, slightly buzzed, no one watching. Bliss. Me and Tom Cruise...a Risky Business moment. Feeling more me than me.

It is almost like good sex. In fact, it could surely be a prelude to good sex. Feeling in touch with your body, your senses aroused. Music is a big part of 'swirling Deb'. It is a mandatory component.  I watched a movie last night called Peace, Love and Understanding with Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener. The movie was not really very good but the character played by Jane Fonda, an aging hippie who had been at Woodstock, supposedly had an affair with Bob Dylan and lived her entire life essentially always swirling even into her old age made me pause. She had not compromised herself, not for anyone or anything. Had I?

Bloody right I had. I became who I thought society and my parents wanted me to be. I played the game. I joined the right clubs, volunteered for the right organizations, wore twin sets even. Holy fucking Hanna! Really? I mean, I did not turn into a total Stepford wife, but I came damn close. I did everything but rejoin the bloody Catholic Church.  That was NEVER going to happen even though I sent my kid to a good Mic school and played along with the bullshit. Mostly I just wanted her to be able to make Christmas and Easter crafts at school and be in the Nativity pageant and learn about Christianity before making up her own mind about religion. I was raised Catholic and even though I now think it is a total pile of crap, I still like the Christian holidays and wanted her to enjoy them too. However, that is a whole other blog - I digress. 

Back to swirling. So the girls are out tonight swirling - adult style without me. Mostly I am just sad that I am not there with them. But what really struck me was the fact that lately, I have mostly been thinking about how much I am going to miss my friends and family, but it had not really occurred to me that they were actually going to miss me too. Especially since they all know that the old swirling Deb is kinda back. 

This time I must be sure not to lose her again. 

Swirling Deb. The Deb we all know and love. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tattooed on my Heart

Minus 2 degrees Celsius this morning. If ever there was a sign it was time to leave, this was it. This cool crisp morning; unseasonable for this time of year in Kelowna, called for some layering up for my walk to the Sunshine Market. Living on an uphill slope affords one lovely views, but when it comes to walking, it is next to impossible to avoid some uphill climbs. Good exercise for sure, but sometimes I yearn for a flat track. It is a 2 km trot downhill for provisions...followed by the same 2 kms back up. I have done it a few times this summer, not as often as I should have but at least I did not let it scare me off completely.

The downhill portion is easy, needless to say with only an odd twinge in my shins as any downhill trekking will cause on my aging bones. I set out at a brisk pace, my layers not quite as warm as I had hoped. I followed the now familiar Chute Lake Road down past a few blocks of houses, round the bend past the organic winery, a couple of cherry and peach orchards and the intersection of Lakeshore Road and down another slope to the market. 

As I contemplated the changing scenery, I noticed I was following a set of deer hoof prints all along the shoulder of the road. There was something lovely about that. The doe (I made the assumption it was a she by the delicate nature and size of the tracks) had journeyed down this exact path very recently. Clearly, we humans did not own the road. I smiled at that thought. As I got closer to the market the tracks ended. I stopped and paused and looked to the left where it looked like she had turned. I squinted and strained my eyes looking down the shadowy rows of peach trees to see if I could spot her moving along the dewy long grass that ran along the rows, but she had vanished I guessed. She had likely set out earlier than I did.

The open market farm stand where I had stopped many times over the summer to buy lush ripe cherries by the pound was vacant. Closed for the season. The sign by the drive at the next orchard that invited you to pick your own peaches had been taken down. All around me, the signs were glaringly obvious. Summer was over. Fall was well underway and the temperature was foreshadowing what would inevitably come...cold and snow. Canadian winter.

However, for now, the last hurrah of colour was surrounding me and I was grateful for the cooler air on my ascent back up the road. The grapes that had hung heavily just a few short weeks ago, were snipped and gone leaving rows and rows of thick leaved vines, their job done for the season. As I was scanning the rows for any grapes that had been missed, I nearly stepped on a dead bird at the side of the road. Whenever I come across any sort of dead bird or animal, for some reason it always startles me and causes me to jump. This bird was particularly frightening to me, it's neck was twisted, the beak wide open and facing upward as though in its last moments it was beseeching the sky to rescue him. Maybe seeing sights such as these are reminders of our own mortality. One minute you're flying around, the world is your oyster and the next minute you're laying on the ground, not really ready to meet your maker but your time is up. 

Shaking off the aura of death, I continued along, wishing now I had left a layer behind, my bag of apples from a local orchard weighing me down a bit. At about the two thirds mark, I turned to admire the view. The view I see almost everyday as my car heads into town. It is always a  moment I love as I turn the corner and Okanagan Lake appears off in the distance flanked by the surrounding mountains. It is like a postcard. Picture perfect in every way. I never tire of it. It lifts my spirits even on a cloudy day. I stopped to take a shot like an addict who just cannot get enough - water views my drug of choice. The opposite side of the road where I stood is lined with old willow trees, their sweeping long tendrils falling like a curtain of green along the roadside. More beauty. 

Up past the willows, brilliant russet Sumac cried out to have their picture taken as well, so I stopped once again. It occurred to me this morning's journey was like a Canadian send-off. The flora, the fauna, the water and the mountains doing their very best to imprint their images in my mind asking me to never forget them. Take us with you. Remember us.

Not to worry my home and native land. You are a part of me like a maple leaf tattooed on my heart.

And that, unlike the autumn leaves, can never change, eh?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Turkey Talk

Earlier today as I enjoyed a peaceful late afternoon walk through my neighborhood admiring the fall colours and feeling the cool autumn air on my face, I was suddenly distracted by a conversation taking place on the street between a couple. It was an emotional confrontation, the woman's voice growing louder and more agitated the closer I got.

She was spewing about the fact that she had discovered her entire family was gathering this Thanksgiving weekend and she had not been invited. She was full of anger and as I passed I heard her saying she wouldn't go even if they did invite her now. She was clearly upset and the fellow listening allowed her angry words to fly from her mouth seemingly knowing she needed to vent. As I continued along my way silently, it made me think about families. Families and their ability to arouse our emotions in such a way. She was behaving angrily but what she was really feeling was hurt. Big hurt. My heart went out to her.

It made me wonder how many others will be hurting this Thanksgiving weekend. A time that is supposed to bring families together, like other holidays, is a recipe for disaster for many. It made me grateful knowing I would be having dinner with my brother and his wife and their kids and spouses and my great niece.  I know it will be fun and boisterous and I look forward to spending my Thanksgiving with them. This is a rare occasion as we have not been in the same part of the country for many years for this weekend. My daughter will be missing, so we will try to Skype her in so she can partake.  Long distance calls will be made to grandparents across the country this year - a departure from the norm.

This will be the first of many departures from the norm for me in the next few months. I can get very melancholic about these breaks from tradition.  Change can be challenging. It can also be refreshing. Sometimes I wonder if traditions aren't overhyped. Doing the same thing year after year can get stale. Often we attend these family affairs out of a sense of obligation. I know a woman who in recent years decided to forgo the annual turkey fest with the family to spend 3 days hiking the Bruce Trail instead. Long weekends are few and far between and when you think about it, she now makes a much healthier choice both physically and mentally. I have often thought that these annual holidays would be better if they were less frequent - every 2-3 years perhaps. Especially Christmas. That is one holiday that could come every 5 years as far as I am concerned. At least Thanksgiving is just about sharing a meal and the company of family or friends. No gifts. No big panic for perfection. 

So, whether you are heading home for mom's pumpkin pie or trying something new this year, I wish you all a Happy Turkey Day filled with fun and love. 

Get stuffed. Your way.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Still Under Construction

The farewell tour is over. At least the Ontario version. The last 10 days were a blur of appointments and socializing. Glasses were clinked. Stories were shared. Tears were shed. Hugs were lasting and passionate. No perfunctory pecks or weak embraces. No - these were the kind of hugs you never wanted to end. The type you give when you are not sure when the next one will occur. Hugs between family and friends that mean something. 

I even walked by my old house for one last look. When I left for BC in June, the new owners had started to renovate. They are making slow progress. It is difficult to tell what the actual design plan is at this stage. Not sure where they are going with it. As I stood across the street observing the various changes, it occurred to me that the house was a metaphor for my own life. 

Under construction. Final outcome - a mystery.

My dear friend Margot was with me surveying the half-renovated structure. I asked her to let me know when it is completed. The landscaping will surely follow the changes to the house. My once well-tended, much loved garden is pretty much a disaster. I figure it will be at least spring before the place is finished. It was a relief to know I still have some more time to finish my own life transformation. Perhaps by springtime, my new life will be more settled. Fresh starts all around. 

Already, there is not really much that resembles the old house. All that really remains is the foundation and the memories that linger silent within its walls.

Not unlike me.

There is a handy book for writers called I Never Metaphor I didn't Like. Here's hoping I can live up to that title.