Saturday, January 31, 2015

What Is Normal....?

.........I have always admired people who can live in a normal way. You know, the ones who accept the ordinary, the repetition, the hum drum and still smile. They smile when it snows or rains or shines, nothing is too spectacular or too horrid for them, they just chug along accepting everything.....with a smile.

Maybe they secretly have drugs or they have secret drugs, like mantras, "this too shall pass," they say or they quote from scripture. "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." I wonder if they ever really think deeply about life. Do they ever try to measure it in something other than teaspoons or tasks completed?



I am thinking about these steadfast pillars of the earth, as I sit here doing nothing, while a large Amaryllis stares down at me with its tongue out. Wait a minute, that's not a tongue. It's a pistol and stamens, the reproductive organs of a flower, a lily. Do those, who are productive, ever take time to muse about the productivity of a lily? A botanist would, of course, but then that's his job, he's being normal. Maybe a poet would, is he being normal, or is normal to a poet really abnormal to everyone else?



What is normalcy anyway? I now measure my walks to and from work in folk songs. Depending on the length of the song, I can get to work in four or five songs. I pass the time between January and March in flower buds, lilies, paperwhites and hyacinth. And I pass the minutiae of my days dreaming of an escape, picturing the open road and wondering how to get there. How many folk songs would it take to get to the hills overlooking the sea? How many pistols and stamens, how many buds yet to open?

Then again would a "normal" person just get out there and do it, rather than merely dreaming of it?

Have a day, your way!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

I Hate Change

It's not that I don't want to learn new "things" or move out of my comfort zone, it's just that I am terrified of the "domino effect" that often occurs when you make one seemingly simple change. Let me explain.

I have been taking a serious look at my business expenses lately and finding ways to reduce them. It's something most people do on a regular basis, however, I haven't really done the "biggies" in a while. Last month I did, though, pop into my bank and ask about the regular charges on my business account. Simply by asking, they reduced my monthly fees by $35.00. Well, "A penny saved is a penny earned" even if we don't have pennies anymore :)

My bank adventure buoyed me up to take on my telecommunications company, a big word that really just means telephone, fax and internet. I was paying approximately $200.00 per month from All-Stream. I called and asked them, if they could reduce some of my expenses. Well, no, they couldn't. I was hoping to give up my fax line at $50.00 per month, even though I still needed some type of fax service.



Enter Fax-to-email for a reduction on my monthly bill of $50.00. I switched, only to find that the new company's modem, didn't work with my equipment and no one was willing to come on site and fix it - sigh!! I couldn't use my printer, I had to reconnect to the internet several times a day and I ended up getting a nasty virus on my computer!! In a fit of pique, I have these often, I called Bell Canada. Well, lo and behold, I could have all my services and a dedicated fax line for a mere $100.00 per month. I switched again. They even sent someone out to set everything up!! I was thrilled, except that, at the end of the day, I didn't even have a computer that was working. Here's what happened -

1. The Bell technician installed their modem/networking device. They plugged my computer, printer, point of sales terminal and internet into the device, with one port left over!! The internet worked, yay! but the printer and terminal didn't.

2. He was about to leave, when I panicked and said, he couldn't until the two other machines were working!! He fiddled around with a few "things" and eventually knocked out my computer which wouldn't even boot Windows by the time he left.

3. Somehow a state-of-the-art business system, from the biggest provider in the country had left me without even the use of my computer - all the dominoes had finally fallen!!

Fortunately, I had a tech person I could trust, who just happened to be available that day! However, it would cost me!! At this point I would have paid anything to get back to normal - whatever that was :) Bora came out in a few hours and with a good deal of effort and some major ingenuity on his part, restored the hard drive, made the computer talk to the printer through the modem and got the internet connection back!!

Now I have to get Bell back in because my phone doesn't ring, I can't access my voicemail messages and I'm not sure about the fax line. I was able to get my point of sales terminal up and running by calling tech support, but I think this may have knocked out the voice line. What do I know, then again, what did they know?

The picture? I'm the defeated pawn, beaten by the evil overlords in this game of life!! Well, who plays dominoes anymore, anyway?

Have a great day

Monday, January 19, 2015

Wild, Wilder, Wildest

I have just finished reading the book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. I loved it!! I now have to see the movie, starring Reese Witherspoon. In a nutshell, it's the story of a women who walked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on her own, when she was twenty-six.

It all happened in the summer of 1995. The PCT is a three month hiking journey from Mexico, through the west coast mountains to Canada. It's a trip I would have loved to have done at her age. Instead I took an easier challenge and hitch hiked through Europe. I still have never done a prolonged wilderness trip. Well, never say never!!

I loved every minute of the book. I particularly loved the reading material Cheryl took on her journey. Although she had to burn the pages of the books, as she read them to lighten her load, she never burned her poetry book, "The Dream of a Common Language" by Adrienne Rich.



I tracked down some of Adrienne's poems. "Power" might have been one of the texts that kept Cheryl on track.

Power
by Adrienne Rich

Living in the earth-deposits of our history


Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth

one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old

cure for fever or melancholy a tonic

for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.


Today I was reading about Marie Curie:

she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness

her body bombarded for years by the element

she had purified

It seems she denied to the end

the source of the cataracts on her eyes

the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends

till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil


She died a famous woman denying

her wounds

denying

her wounds came from the same source as her power.

It takes a lot of courage to move out of your comfort zone, to struggle, to endure pain, but in the end, to really live. Yes, you know you will be punished for it, but the rewards are amazing.

I can now see the movie. I had to read the book first, though, to understand the journey from the author's point of view, before it was filtered through the director's lens. Read the book. See the film, then do something amazing!!

Have an awesome day!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Peace and Paperwhites

Do you often feel that what seems to be accidental is often very purposeful? Have you ever had the feeling that The Cosmos might be speaking to you, even directing you, with unseen hands, toward your goal (s)?

Let me explain. I have this 50,000 word manuscript that is really just an outline of a novel -  I can't imagine how long the actual book could be. I "won" the manuscript by completing a Nanowrimo challenge in 2012. Now I have to do something with it. I have been thinking about it over the years and every once in a while I feel that I am being directed, by forces unknown, to yet another approach that I might take, to actually shape the text into a real life novel.



I don't read a lot about writing, because, I find, it can all become very confusing. I let the important ideas find me! This is how lately, I have come across a few references on FB that I feel have been looking for someone - It's me - I'm over here!! Several were from Neil Gaimen, about telling stories, writing, imagining, writing about what you know etc. and another just happened today. It was a feed about writing and language from a BBC podcast.

You see my "novel" was a little too ordinary, rather common, everyday "stuff" with very little tension (excitement) and not a lot of humour or emotion. It was a little too "real." It is also composed of a series of "flashbacks." I have now decided to try to make some, if not all, of these flashbacks into tightly knit stories - well it's a start.



The podcast, though, may have been the page turner - no pun intended - well maybe just a little. It's about fantasy and it gave me the idea to infuse these flashbacks with touches of fantasy or the surreal and still have them believable in the context. The salient word for me from the talk was "poetry." It gave me permission to use the lines of poetry, that pop into my head daily, in the text of the novel.

I think I can do this "thing"!!

The pictures - Paperwhites and a Peace plant in bloom - the surreal in the middle of January - are you there muse??

Have a surreal day!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finding humour....and dignity :)

...... I may also be getting my sense of humour back. That is, I seemed to have lost, for a while anyway, not only my enthusiasm for writing, but also my ability to find the humour and/or irony in situations that I come across daily. Well, my sense of humour has always been a little macabre, so it may not actually be the humour shared by others. Nevertheless, it did help me make sense of a world that could sometimes seem very senseless :)



Here's what I mean. As I walked to work yesterday, I came across this sign - "Seniors Loading Zone." OK, it's out in front of a seniors' centre and yes, people get dropped off and picked up, so I guess you have to put up a sign to tell people what to expect. However, I had this vision of all these seniors lining up, waiting to be loaded onto buses or whatever, to be taken....somewhere. Where indeed and were they to come back again?....who knows. Somehow I think that there my have been a more sensitive way of phrasing the information.

Maybe the people who create notices for organizations need to be especially terse. That's why they work very hard at saying what has to be said in just a word or two...OK...maybe three, because the more you have to say, the bigger the sign and the more expensive the project.

Anyway, I'll keep my eye open for groups of seniors being herded off somewhere. I'll also try to find a better way of phrasing the information on the sign to bring a little more dignity to the situation.

Have an awesome day!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thawing....

Today the temperature will be -14ºC. It's body freeze weather, so why am I trying to thaw out my brain? Perhaps it's because I have read a few articles this morning that have nudged me, into re-thinking my lack of thinking - does this make any sense? You see, I haven't been posting and I haven't been walking - two activities that I have deemed essential for my well-being. Now, I have been knitting, however, it is sedentary and although, I think - sort of - I don't record my thoughts, so there is very little writing.



My first nudge today came from an article about a woman who made a New Year's resolution in 2011 to walk every day. She has now walked everyday for 1500 days. I was walking everyday until it got cold and well, my feet were cold, so one could say that I had "cold feet." No I wasn't afraid of walking, I just found it easier to make excuses for not walking. This, of course, means that I have to walk today. Hence the opening line of the post. I really know how to punish myself!!



The second article was actually just a quote on Facebook - something about life being more precious the less time you have. So the closer we get to 100 - assuming we are all going to live to 100, the less years, you realize, you have to do the activities you want/need to do. I know it really is silly to mope around finding excuses for lethargy, when I should probably just get out there and be productive. I also know I am not enriching my life. I'm cocooning and I'm not sure that a butterfly is going to emerge at the end of it all.

The pictures? I finally cleaned out my handbag and cleared the photos from my IPhone. A rainbow is always a good sign and the second is a sculpture at the Brickworks entitled "Future." Yes, I hope to be more productive in the future :)

Have an awesome day!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

10 Unusual Ingredients in Perfumes

1. Deer Musk -a substance with a persistent odour obtained from a gland of the male musk deer situated between its back/rectal area. The substance has been extensively used as a perfume fixative, incense material, and medicine, since ancient times. It was and still is one of the most expensive animal products in the world. The name originates from the Sanskrit word muṣká meaning "testicle".

2. Black Pepper

3. Dill Oil

4. Tear of Venus

5. Mustard

6. Feces of Civet Cats

7. Castoreum - similar to Deer Musk in that it comes from the genital sacs of Beavers.

8. Ambergris - a by-product of the digestive system of sperm whales. It is apparently part of their diseased stomachs and they either vomit or excrete it.

9. Resin from conifers.

10. Lichen

11. Roots - grass and Iris roots (orris)


Have

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Worn - a clothes story

While shopping for Christmas gifts this December, I came across a book entitled "Worn." It's a collection of stories by famous personalities about special garments that have become part of their life. It got me thinking about the clothes that people wear and how so many of them must have amazing stories to tell.

I have, for example, kept a special sleeper or pair of socks from my children, when they were infants. In fact I still have the outfits my two youngest wore when they left Guatemala to fly to Canada, after their adoptions were completed. These are transition garments. They tell the story of who they were and where they came from. I have also kept the sweater my mother knit for me when I left home in my early twenties to live in England and travel through Europe - another transition story.



Then there were the prom dresses that I couldn't keep, along with the school uniforms and their badges, plus that favourite hat. Many women, I know, keep their wedding gowns - costumes for the play that's about to begin. Men keep their uniforms - statements of who they are. Parents, as I have said, keep their children's clothes - a way of holding onto the passing years a little longer. Garments, it seems, have a life of their own, the years adding chapters to their stories.

What happens, though, when an item wears out? If there is very little left of the original piece to keep, is its story over? Oh, I know there are some very worn items in museums here and there - delicate lace Christening gowns, classic fishermen's sweaters, beautifully embroidered hats, mittens and gloves. However, some of the most meaningful pieces are the ones that never make it to the likes of the Smithsonian. They are those special garments in our own closets and drawers.



The pictures are of a sweater I knit for my husband about ten years ago. I have actually thrown out sweaters that I have knit for him, because they have been too worn to mend. I guess in a way their stories are over. Although in a weak moment I have been tempted to re-knit them. Would their story then continue?

This sweater, though seriously frayed, can be mended. I will reknit the cuffs and the ribbing, as well as, new patches to cover the holes at the elbows. This should shore it up for another few years, enough time to add a few more pages to its story.

Please tell me your favourite clothes story.

Have an awesome day.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Oh Grow-Op, My Grow-Op....

Every year for Christmas, my husband and I give each other bulbs to plant indoors, for the New Year. I always give Amaryllis bulbs, at least one, but sometimes two or three, depending on the price. My husband gives me Paperwhites and maybe an Amaryllis, as well. This year, I got both, plus six Hyacinthe bulbs. Hmmm, I wasn't sure about them!

Paper Whites

I had already bought in potting soil and dug out the pots before they had a chance to freeze themselves together in the shed. In fact, this year the ritual went very smoothly - practice does make perfect!!. The pots, even the cracked ones, shone, after a good scrub; all the bulbs fit in all the pots and there was even enough soil to top everything up. That is, everything worked, except for the Hyacinthes.  Yes, I could just go out and buy another pot, but I wanted the task to be finished. What could I do? Then I remembered giving a neighbour of mine a small gift for her birthday one February. It was a Hyacinthe bulb in a curved vase, that showed the flower's roots growing in water.

Hyacinthe bulbs

I could do that! I dug up, pardon the pun, some large plastic drinking glasses - OK, they are from The Beer Store. Sometimes, when we improvise, old habits surface :)  I stuck each bulb with four toothpicks and balanced it just slightly above a full glass of water. Fortunately all the glasses fit on the kitchen window sill - the perfect stage for my botanical theatre!!

I did, though, have to explain the "line up" to the kids. This was my grow-op, I said. Yes, some people can get "high" on Hyacinthes :) Maybe, you just have to be a gardener to understand the joy that can be found in a tangle of white roots and an emerging green shoot - the legal drugs that get us through Winter!!

Have a stunning day!!