Saturday, July 30, 2022

Height and the usefulness of ladders....

 The word for our second memory challenge is "ladder." Here's how I remembered it.

Given that my father was a silver medalist in Canadian diving, height had very little effect on him. Placing a ladder on the apex of a bungalow's roof so he could climb up and fix the orientation of our TV antenna was simply what he did to save money and improve reception.

One day, however, it was a little windy and I guess the weather had unnerved him. He asked me to stabilize the ladder, while he climbed up, yet again, to tweak the antenna. 

"You just straddle the roof of the house and hold the base of the ladder, while I climb up," he said.

Now let's put this in perspective. I was 12 years old, about 4'5" tall and 95lbs. My father was 42 years old,  5'7" in height and about 200 or more pounds. There was no way that I could prevent that ladder from toppling over in a sudden gust of wind. But, that day, I had become my father's keeper.

How he managed to get both of us onto the roof, pull up the ladder and then position it against the antenna was a feat in itself.

He climbed on the first rung. I inched forward to grab the sides of the ladder. He climber higher. I held my breath. Ladders shift with weight. I gripped the struts tighter hoping to anchor the ladder to the roof of the house with my fragile limbs. I couldn't fail. I had to keep him from falling to his death. The ladder shifted. I pulled tighter. How long does it take to adjust a wire or two? How long would I live with the guilt of his death. The wind blew up. I closed my eyes. I clenched my hands tighter around the base of the ladder. My knuckles were white. Surely this would be his Armageddon. Do all electrical engineers die by twisting the wires of Fate? 

Finally, the ladder shifted slightly with his decent. It was over. I was free and he was saved, for now anyway from a premature death. In fact, he went on to live another 62 years. His next house had an antenna with a built in ladder secured to the ground not the roof. I often think he had a Guardian Angel - Evel Knievel comes to mind.

At the time I never questioned his sanity in choosing me as his safety net. After all, I was the eldest, my mother's balance wasn't great, or she had more sense and the neighbour's had given up on him years ago.

In fact, this ladder incident was just one in a series of chores I was asked to do. Fortunately the other tasks were more mundane. I could jockey the car out of a snowbank while he pushed from behind. I was 13 or 14 without a license. This is second only to popping the clutch to start a car with a dead battery, while he pushed the car downhill, to get her rolling. Again I had no license. I could hold the solder while he used a blow torch in a tricky plumbing maneuver. This was easy I had done it before when I was 8 or 9. The list goes on. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer. No, I should have been an engineer.

Have a grounded day.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sands of time...

My writing partner and I have reconnected and we have decided to write in a slightly different vein. Rather than simply giving each other words, as a challenge, we have decided to give each other "memory" suggestions. Yes, they may still be words, but they have to be connected to personal memories - definitely a challenge for me, as I tend to lock "things" away, avoiding the personal - so here I am baring my soul!!

Our first writing for this challenge will be on the memory of "sand." 

Well, my first recollections of sand are of a sandbox my grandfather made for me in our teeny-tiny backyard on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto. My grandparents owned an attached house that was 17' wide, so yes, everything physical was either very small or overstuffed and out of proportion. However, to a child, as long as there was love, harmony and a place to play, it was a perfect world.

My best memories of sand are also of summer. I vaguely remember a trip to Lake Erie, when I was very young. I remember losing a small wooden boat in the waves. Why there was not an adult there to retrieve it, is still a mystery. There were also more mysteries buried in sand, when my parents bought a small cottage on Lake Ontario in an area called Fairport Beach. This was not a holiday house, for us. It was meant to be our year round home, until the realities set in. There was -

1. No potable water. We had to fetch buckets of drinking water from our neighbour's well.

2. No flush toilet.

3. No bath and only one sink, which was in the kitchen.

4. My parents didn't own a car and the bus to anywhere was a two mile walk.

Although our indoor arrangements were limited, our outdoor amenities were amazing. I remember the long stretches of sandy beach, the endless sky meeting the boundless water, the piles of pebbles, the masses of driftwood, and the small pools of a million tiny minnows. This was nature's wealth to share with those who saw her riches. The beach itself was a playground of a different sort. There were just a few of us - my sister and I, the five Morrises, and the three Menarys, ranging in age from about three to eight. We climbed the cliffs, waded into the frigid waters of the lake, built homes of driftwood and lit small fires in the sand to smoke "punk" - small bits of driftwood that looked like cigarette butts - pretending to be adults. In fact there never seemed to be an adult around. Fathers were at work and mothers were at home. We roamed like the free spirits we were. 

However, not all was as idyllic as it seemed. On the steep headland that dropped down to the beach were pockets of clay. A clever trick the older kids played on the younger ones was to lead them across the cliff to a slippery patch of clay and let them struggle there, screaming for help. I remember it was terrifying. There was no foot hold and the drop to the rocky shore was at least 10 feet. Even if you managed to hang on to a weed or two the older kids would push you back onto the clay. My sister and I must have screamed so loudly that someone ran to get our mother. The others took off leaving us there looking like helpless prey. Fortunately, my mother, with a great deal of effort, was able to drag us off the clay and onto the rocks. She was not pleased. We, of course, were blamed for not being smart enough to stay out of trouble.

There was another nasty trick I remember, an older boy playing once or twice, as well. He was a fat-faced bully with squinting eyes and yellow teeth who would purposely start an argument with you near the edge of the cliff. He would inch forward accusing you of stealing or calling him names. Your natural instinct was to step back from his imposing figure. In the heat of the argument it was easy to lose your orientation and step back too far only to fall off the cliff. I think it was the sand that saved me. Yes, when I came home crying, I was punished for being stupid enough to put myself at risk. My mother's heart was made of rock not sand.

We didn't last long by the lake. I went back to live with my grandparents, when I started school and my parents moved with my sister to a small flat in Toronto, renting out the cottage to another young family. We traded the sandy shores of the beach for the concrete streets of the city, exchanging a wild and dangerous freedom for the confines of verandas, sidewalks and sandboxes. In my mind, I know that this safety was better, however, in my heart, I still yearned for the freedom of the timeless days, the endless reaches of the lake and the eternal stretches of sand with their breathtaking challenges.

Have a timeless day.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

My Kingdom for a Mermaid's Purse

 I know a little dramatic, but here's how I got there.

I'm in the process of trying to find ways of both appreciating and preserving artwork that I have done, my kids have done, and others, close to us, have done.

For the artwork in fabric, I have begun doing a series of quilts, as a way of preserving and appreciating some lovely pieces. This is a square from a quilt for a twin bed. Well, of course there will be two quilts, because they are for twin beds and have to be matching. Each quilt has 28 squares of appliqu├ęd and embroidered pieces of needlework that I felt had to be saved. These pieces would be crocheted doilies from my grandmother, a collection of silk and linen handkerchiefs from my mother and a "crazy silk" wall hanging I did years ago and never liked. I know the kids will just throw out the individual items as soon as I'm gone. In fact, they may still throw out the quilts, as well, but the guilt will be greater! 

Each square is joined to the next with a strip of fabric which in turn is embroidered. 

Here is one of the almost finished quilts. I have the other one close to being finished, as well, and I have hand stitched the fabric edging to the first one. I now have to piece together a backing for both quilts, embroider the edgings and secure the backing to the front with some quilting - evening activity for the "stuff" I do during the day.

...but I digress. I was talking about a Mermaid's Purse...we're close.....I don't do much gardening in July - it's either too hot, or I've given up, so I "putter" around adding something here, re-arranging something there...the list goes on. The other day I mounted several pencil sketches I did years ago. Yes, I actually found them in one of the 25 or so half finished sketch books scattered throughout the house. I also found sketches my eldest did when he was young - more ideas for quilts now that I know how to transfer pictures to cloth.

This isn't one of the sketches, but it's close enough. The framed ones are also of shells. This is where I needed help. I had two framed sketches, but needed a third for balance. I decided that I would do a new sketch, but it had to be of shells or similar beach finds. Well, we had kept a few treasures from our various trips to the sea and I was able to locate an almost intact Sand Dollar, a very small and totally intact Star Fish, but I needed a Mermaid's Purse (embryo case for a shark). We used to have about a dozen, but I guess I threw them out over the years. Suddenly, the idea of a beach trip started to materialize.

No, I couldn't justify spending a lot of money to go to the beach to collect a few shark cases. It was at this point that my daughter came home from work and asked how my day was going. I moaned about having thrown out all of our Mermaid's Purses and how I happened to need one right now!

My kids, for all I complain about their messy rooms, their tardiness in doing chores or their flagrant waste of food, time and/or money, are still very magical people. My daughter came downstairs a few minutes later with one almost intact Mermaid's Purse. This only happens in movies or in fairy tales, but it's what makes life precious.

I'm toying with the final arrangement for the sketch. I may show some of the crumbling edge of the Sand Dollar or the other side of the Mermaid's Purse, with its missing "arms" - a composition, perhaps, that comes closer to a statement on life itself. There will always be a missing tendril or two, some crumbling around the edges, beside one or two perfect accomplishments, all preserved in the treasures we decide to keep from the detritus of our lives.

Have a accomplished day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I have lost count...

 ...which is better than losing face or maybe even Faith. I don't know if there are parameters for things like - too much snow, too much grey, too much idle time, too much dark.... the list goes on. In fact, I have lost count of the number of - 

1. Waves of this pandemic. I hear there is another to come, now would that be 5, 6 or 7?

2. OK, I haven't lost count of the masks, only about 5 or 6 that have been used. Maybe one for each wave. Yes, we are told to "ride them out", but we (I) are (am) not surfers and really no one wants to catch one of these waves.

3. The number of hours that should be daylight, which are not because the clouds are so thick they smother the sun and my soul.

4. The number of snowflakes that have fallen after the start of Spring. Yes, I know it can snow in May. Do I get clear passage to heaven for my penance of enduring more Canadian winters than I care to count - there's that word again.

5. The number of squares of an afghan I am crocheting - yes there are probably about 50 or more, but there is always one or two less than I think there should be. If I were paranoid, I would think that someone was stealing my granny squares. Yes, I have lost count of the number of times I think I have lost my mind.

6. The number of left-over meals you can make from one $12.00 chicken on sale at Metro. Maybe 5 or 6, if you count the lunches. If I did the math, that would be about $2.00 per meal. Then again one ham and cheese sandwich with coffee from Jules is a $12.00 lunch. Time to stop counting the calories and/or the pennies.

7. The number of times I check my e-mail for some enlightenment. I could count the spam, but that would be too depressing.

8. The number of plants in my house. I bought a few to ease the boredom of the lockdowns. However, they grow and breed and now I have so many that I have lost count....

9. The number of snowdrops in the garden that have come up through the leaves that have not been raked, because of the number of days that have been below zero.

10. The number of sighs breathed in an hour to fill the time waiting for something to happen, to count, to be an accomplishment, to be rapture!!

The pictures? Things that count.

Have an awesome day

Friday, February 25, 2022

Oceans of Snow

The Winter of 2022 might just go down as the Winter from Hell. Well maybe I shouldn't say Hell, because it's warm there (or so I am told, I've never actually been) and should, as a result, melt everything. This Winter is definitely right up there with the Winter of 1970-71 where I distinctly remember a country road with snowbanks so high they met at the top and created a tunnel, even for the snow plow - wow!

My mother would say it wasn't anything like the Winter of 1944 (I wouldn't know), when the milkman couldn't get his horse-drawn cart up Gladstone Ave. to deliver milk to my grandmother's house because she fostered babies (5 at a time) from the Infant's Home and they needed that milk!! Hence (love that word) the milkman walked half a fairly long city block, with at least six quarts of milk through knee-high drifts to make sure these babies were fed. They don't make them like this anymore!

So, here we are with white caps on an ocean of snow. Drifts like the breakers of a moody sea swell and swirl, eddy and heave with the wind and the changing light. They are pretty, if you don't have to navigate them. The view from the upper deck is just fine.

The pictures? I know a little repetitious - go figure.

Have a precious day.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Everything NOT in its place.....

 It used to be that you could go into a store and buy what you needed. You could go back to that store and buy the same thing again or its add-ons, as needed. Not anymore! Here's my story.

I'm reorganizing the house. I do it every few years. It clears out the cobwebs and gets rid of the 'junk.' Well, most of it anyway. This time, I am re-doing the basement, as a room for my son, who will then relinquish his room upstairs, which will ultimately become a guest room.

However, in order to do this, I had to first move out all the debris from the basement's previous tenant, my eldest, who's been in Calgary now for 5 years. Fortunately I was able to ship the more memorable of his stuffed animals to him. I threw out the others in my last purge, saying they were too moldy to keep. Did I mention that he'll be 40 this year. There were, though, the other 'keepsakes' - old ninja turtles, scaly rubber dinosaurs, CDs, tapes...TAPES? we don't even own a tape player.

I decided that I could move my yarn, fabric, felting fibre, needlework books, partially finished knitting projects, etc. into the main part of the house, if I could find tasteful storage units. They had to be a certain height - nothing from Ikea worked this time and they had to be a certain length. Well, after several days on Google, I located an organizer with six 12" x 12" cubbies that each held a decorative 11.5" x 11.5" cloth cube for storage at Lowes. I ordered and was shipped the unit with lime green inserts. I built it and loved it. I loved it so much that I wanted another one. Well, Lowes only stocked six sectioned organizers. Unfortunately, another six cubbies would be too long. I needed a unit of four cubbies. In fact two two-unit ones would be even better. They were, however, only available from Amazon. I ordered and was shipped the two pieces. However, Amazon didn't have lime green inserts. I had to go back to Lowes for those. I guess I must have bought the last four in lime green, because when I went back for more there was only hot pink left. Rona, however, had the lime green and some dark blue inserts which I needed for another six-sectioned unit which I ordered from Lowes (again) for the dining room. Whew! that was a challenge.

Now I was thinking of adding another two 2-unit sets to the one in the dining room. I'm still thinking about it.

There is something amazing about being organized.

Have an orderly day

Friday, February 04, 2022

On a Dark Art....

My apologies to anyone who has had a family member, close friend, anyone, die by suicide. I have had two encounters, so I have experienced, though never understood, the reality.

Anyway, I am one of those people who survive through dark humour. It may be my Irish legacy; it may be just an aberrant characteristic.  In any event, this post was born out of a lunch with a writing friend of mine, bear with me.

We often exchange books, ideas, small gifts, lots of creative exercises, what can I say - a kindred spirit. Well, my friend arrived with a gift of a book about the creative inspiration and how artists manage to achieve their prodigious volume of work through their particular source of inspiration. Believe me, this was a research project of massive proportions. Anyway, one of the artist's listed on the cover was Sylvia Plath. I mentioned that she died by turning on the gas in her small flat in London. It was at a time when the gas that was used in Britain was particularly lethal.  At one point Britain changed to a non-lethal gas and the suicides in Britain were halved.

It begs the question, if you were really serious, couldn't you find another way to end it all? This was the gist of our discussion. Could we position a character in a book contemplating suicide and go through the scenarios?

Anyway, I need to get through this winter. I emailed another friend in my dark humour circle and she responded with this Dorothy Parker poem.

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

That's it. I am pressing on. I have finished my book and have begun my weeks, maybe months of editing. Be prepared for other posts of dark humour. It has been known to snow in May. I'm pretty suicidal in a cold April. If I don't answer the phone in May call the authorities.

The picture? Death by snow.

Have an interesting day!