Sunday, 30 August 2015

Let the wine of friendship never run dry —Les Miserables

I have talked about the bounty of the land. These past few weeks I have also been privy to a different kind of boon: the joy of people, of friendship offered and gladly accepted.

Neighbours have introduced themselves, welcomed us to the community, shared the spoils of their gardens and invited us to their homes. I had great fun meeting one of my online writing peeps for the first time. She dropped by and I now have a face to go with a name, and am thrilled to discover that we have an affinity beyond the Internet environment.

New faces, new stories and people who have never heard our tales...terrific! Yet, there is nothing like a good friend, someone you have known through the years, someone who knows you—the good, the bad and the ugly. We are fortunate that we have several of those on the island. In fact, I believe, we followed their crumb trail here.

This weekend the house resounded with shared stories and inside jokes, and it shook with raucous laughter. We sat quietly and talked about our lives, we baked together, broke bread while growing louder as the night grew dark and we truly laughed until we cried.

The comfortable familiarity, and the depth of understanding we find with one another, makes me realize how true the adage is: It takes a long time to grow an old friend. Maybe some day these new folks will fit the bill too. In the meantime, we are so lucky to have such dear friends close and to have their visits to treasure.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chasing My Tail

Moving across the country is not just an adventure, it’s hard work. The trek alone is exhausting but it is alleviated by the thrill of newness and the stunning vistas, not to mention the excitement of anticipation. Looking for a house was a little daunting, yet it turned into a bit of “Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am!” Inappropriate, I know, but that was how it went down. Arrived on Monday, looked at houses on Tuesday, owned one on Wednesday and moved in two weeks later—no furniture, mind you, but moved in nonetheless.

The house needed extensive cleaning and we rolled up our sleeves, grabbed the Vim and went to it. Some wall patching and painting ensued. Without all of our things, we had to borrow from a friend and purchase many practical day-to-day things. We had also sold some furniture before leaving, so our labour was interspersed with shopping forays: browsing, choosing, and making arrangements for delivery.

Work-filled days that included assembling many purchases (I can hardly wait until we have to assemble the elliptical!) were interrupted by a parade of tradesmen—hot water tank and central vacuum installation, septic pumping, cable, dishwasher repair, pesticide follow-up spray (Surprise!) and a plethora of delivery men. More often than not, all did not run smoothly. The bed company had arranged for the new bed to arrive two days after our contents. Perfect, since we needed to paint the bedroom and scrape the bathroom free of evidence of the previous inhabitants. Unfortunately, the mattress hadn’t arrived so they postponed delivery until the Sunday. Then the footboard was MIA and, while they delivered the rest, they could not put it together properly. Nice guys, but in a hurry they tore off the decorative post on the baseboard and ripped a strip off of the baseboard. So, more repairs to make and some more waiting on the finished bedroom. Now, these things happen to everyone regardless of where they live. It’s just that when you move, you squeeze an abundance of these incidents into a short frame of time.

I already wrote about being hit by a drunken driver. The fall out of that continues as we have yet to get the vehicle in for repair. Our Ontario license/plates renewal came in and DH diligently phoned them to let them know we have left the province. Well, not so easy. Letters need to be written and signed and sent off. We still need to face my health card renewal gap where it runs out before our BC coverage kicks in. Fingers crossed for good health.

Then there is the day to day learning that comes with living in a new province. We bought a lottery ticket and were charged $3.50 for the privilege. What? Curb side pickup is a challenge. Every Monday you can put out organics but garbage is only collected every other week. Not coordinated with garbage, recycling happens every other Tuesday. Okay, put that in the calendar and we’re good to go. But wait. You can only put paper, cardboard and non-drinking plastic and cans. Anything you drink must be brought back to the store or to a local recycling depot. And glass? Well, apparently that is a specialty item handled by few. Again, you must carefully collect it and return it to a depot, unbroken. Broken, I suppose, it is yours for life.

All of this to say that I have spent my days endlessly spinning. And, I have had just about enough of it. The house is clean. Eventually, everything will find a home in a corner or on the wall and we will persevere and come to know the ins and outs of our new home and community. I’m ready to move on.

Time to stop chasing my tail and start chasing my tale.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Full Circle

I was raised with the mountain out my back door and the ocean out the front. My husband grew up on a dairy farm. Our new home has merged the two: a bucolic landscape guarded stoically by mountains, washed softly in glimpses of the ocean. Heaven. Surreal. We have basked in it, wallowed in it, shouted our glee from the balcony while the grasshoppers knocked their knobbly knees in approval, seconded by the chirp of crickets.

This week, DH was wrapped in memories as the field behind was cut, the hay dried and then baled. He remembers the harsh winters, the long summer hours and the hard work. He remembers hefting the heavy bales (apparently, nothing like the “easy” forklifting going on in this farmer’s field J), envying cousins who lived in town, and dying to get back to school for a break. Yet, he watched the clearing of the field wistfully.

I was right there with him. Although my rural experience was somewhat different on the east coast, I remember the wandering cattle, the sheep clustered around the mailbox and the old-fashioned scything of the hay and the manual pitchfork turning. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass and the camaraderie of my cousins. I too smiled at the scene in the distance.

Reality hit shortly thereafter when the farmer spread manure. His field backs directly onto our property, so it was as though he had dumped the load in our backyard. It was thirty degrees and we desperately needed some air in the house, but we closed every window. Lordy, that is not a smell I recall, nor is it one that I want tickling my olfactory senses. DH laughed, recalling the scent quite well, but no more enamoured of it than I. Two very warm days followed with windows sealed tight. A sigh of relief when he was done, and the joy returned as we once again sat on the balcony soaking in our pastoral views, hoping our farmer did not fertilize again until cooler weather.

Another unexpected aspect of our newfound rural life is produce. I am excited by the emergence of fresh fruit. Grape vines wrap the veranda and are producing a healthy crop of delicious green grapes. An Italian plum tree is ripe, dropping its bounty daily. Pears and apples are slowly coming into season. All of this is happening despite extremely dry conditions and with no help from us. You gotta love that.

I have spent the last 30+ years in a city. I got everything I needed from a store. Now it is in my back yard. I am thrilled daily by these surprises. But, I don’t know what to do with any of it beyond the obvious of eating the fresh fruit as is.

DH and I must put our heads together and truly combine the wisdom of our younger years to come up with a plan to take advantage of what nature is so kindly offering. We have explored life in the city together. Now, we must come full circle and join our country hearts to make the best of everything this new life has to offer.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

A Non-Post

I’ve got nothing. Just sayin’. Nothing.

House contents arrived on Tuesday. Six hours of unloading and we stared at a very full house—boxes, miscellaneous, unidentifiable odds and ends and stinky furniture (it had been wrapped and stored for two months; it smelled of stale blankets with a soupรงon of diesel). Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the job ahead we did what any sane person would do. We opened a bottle of champagne and avoided it.

On Wednesday, we had to follow up on the accident I wrote about last week. Paperwork here, pick up a report there, more paperwork and a few phone calls and the day was pretty much shot. Now, we did squeeze in a little shopping and DH was snorting and pounding his chest, ala Tim the Tool Man, in pleasure at the sight of some new big-boy tools in the garage.

Thursday, we dove in. It began like Christmas. Some of the stuff has been packed since May, so you kinda forget what you own. By mid-day we had to take separate floors in the house and do business the way we each do business. DH is rather OCD. Cautious, meticulous and particular, he does everything slowly…but perfectly. The complete opposite, I had paper, contents and boxes strewn everywhere. It was best we worked in our own corners. By the end of the day, the joy of Christmas was long forgotten and we realized that we did not sell enough in our garage sale.

Friday, the furbabies got their first BC grooming. Two weeks overdue, they were thrilled to have an outing. While they enjoyed their new spa experience, we fenced a section of our yard and secured the full perimeter. The sweet innocent-looking one of the fur duo is a total Furdini, and can fit into small spaces and disappear with the snap of our fingers. We also managed several runs to the local recycling depot to get rid of cardboard and paper.

Today, we marathoned unpacking. So much got done, but the house looks the worse for it. Boxes that need to be disassembled are stacked to the ceiling. Bags are full of paper and full boxes still abound. Although, I would estimate that we are about 2/3 done, so that is not too shabby. We started at 7:30 am (yes, separate floors…we are who we are and fully accept that. J) and finished around 5:00 pm.

And, now I sit, staring at the computer, knowing I need to do my blog. But, I am empty. Just sayin’. I got nothing. Nothing.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Once in a blue moon...

July 31st was a blue moon. We thought it entirely apt, as we have shaken up our lives to a degree that is unusual to the average person…in our lives. And, once in a blue moon, we do that. Well today, after too many years to want to put in writing, our accident-free record was undone by a fender bender in a parking lot. So, that is also a once in a blue moon for us.

While DH pondered the blue moon implications, in the midst of the turmoil of the moment, I could not help but also put on my writer’s cap. I truly felt as though I were above on a crane, filming the moment, aware of all of the actors involved. It was disconcerting and interesting. Luckily, DH understands, and I will not be subjected to a battery of tests by the local psychologist. Not yet. Truth? Between you, me and the cyber wall? He really should be asking me to stretch out on a couch and spew forth. But, he’s a patient man. A good man. A once in a blue moon kinda man. J

Camera #1 pans the couple. They have just received license plates and insurance for their new province. Pictures are taken of the dear husband putting the plates on the car. It is a moment. It is something to celebrate. They drive across the plaza and park and go in to buy a little bubbly with which to toast this landmark moment in their transition. A man runs in asking who owns a vehicle with such and such a license plate. Having only owned the plates for maybe, fifteen minutes, it takes a minute to register that they are the grand winners in his bingo callout. The car has been hit.

Camera #2 pans to the bystanders. They insist that the police need to be called. One man thought his vehicle was going to be hit. He is visiting his children and grandchildren and had been sitting in the van with them. He is angry that this woman has hit the couple's car and insistent that they need to ensure she does not leave the parking lot. He is rattled. It could have been him and his precious grandbaby. Another man hands over his card, apologizes that he has to run but says he saw it all and would be happy to speak to the police. A third man stays nearby for support while DH goes in to phone the police.

(God bless the bystanders willing to speak out. Seriously, this is a new experience for us and we had no idea what to do. We had a line up of witnesses who left their names and numbers and hung on as long as they could waiting for the police to arrive--the police we called at these people’s insistence. For, we are new to the province and, have I mentioned, too many years to count as accident free? They were concerned for us, but they were also concerned because the driver had driven over a very high meridian and hit us…twice.)

Camera #3 pans to the driver of the car, a woman. She is disengaged from the events, standing in the hot sun by her car, sweating, calmly waiting for the police to come. No fuss and few words, despite attempts to draw her into conversation. The only thing she said was that she was having a really bad day. When the RCMP arrive she raises her hands and says, "I'm the culprit." She willingly takes the breathalyser test and fails. She is put in the back of the cruiser, her car impounded.

My story is pretty linear (Camera #1). License plates, insurance, sense of celebration, a few minutes later, deflation. A man and a woman who could not decide whether to laugh or cry at the impossibility of the timing. (We did choose laughter in the end. Possibly a tad hysterical, but laughter nonetheless.)

The bystanders are the heroes of the tale (Camera #2). They saw not only injustice (apparently, the driver was going to leave until someone jumped out to tell her they had seen it), but the potential for harm that this woman could do in their community. They displayed incredible vigilance and support on the Friday of a long weekend, when you know everyone had somewhere to be. I do believe I am officially in love with my new province.

Camera #3. That’s the camera filming the heartbreaking part of the story. The woman stood, dishevelled, almost disoriented. Remnants of her last meal sat nestled on her chin, the preceding appetizer drizzled down the front of her t-shirt. I would estimate her age to be mid-sixties. Old enough to know better and old enough to know that sometimes life sucks and you wallow in it until you drown. She was drowning.

As a writer, I dissect point of view on a regular basis. I clearly understand my POV. Happily putting on the plates, newly insured, we truck across to the other side of the plaza and are hit by a drunk driver while selecting our champagne. I do believe this situation sets itself up for the exploration of the concept of irony, but I will leave that for another post. J
I love the just and righteous POV of the bystanders. Amazing. I applaud them for living up to what we wish for in this world. If more people spoke up when they saw a wrong, more importantly, when they saw a danger to their community, the world would be a better place.

It is her POV that I cannot leave be, that haunts me. What is her story? What leads someone to drunk driving, arrest, and impoundment at 2 PM on a Friday afternoon? What leads them to stand there willingly in a hot parking lot without a word of defense or defiance, placidly waiting for the police to arrive? Regardless of the answer, it is a sad story. It is a weighted POV.

My car is just a car. A lump of metal with a motor, it can be repaired. But what of her? Will this be a catalyst to change? To help? I know not, for that is not information that I will ever be privy too. I feel guilt about making her already bad day, worse. But, then I think of the alternative. She would have been out on the roads. She jumped a high meridian and hit our car twice. What damage might she have done if allowed to go back on the road? What other POV’s might I see? The child on the bicycle? The old man crossing the road? The family heading out for their once a year vacation?

I regret camera #3, I really do. It saddens me. But it is not tragic. What might have happened had this poor woman continued on the road, Camera #4, that would be tragedy. And, quite frankly, I prefer my tragedies to lie between the pages of a book.