summer postcards: the joy of wallflowers

wall1

I am the happy wallflower who stands by the cheese table trying not to make eye contact and when someone bounds over all breathless gaiety (about???? I never know) and absolutely no interest in cheese (because I would LOVE to talk about cheese), asking some ridiculously inane question such as how are you? while looking past me to see if they’re already missing something on the other side of the room I pretend they’ve asked me something interesting, something about cheese perhaps, and answer that instead and they soon go away.

p.s. I realize the picture looks like a floor but it’s actually a wall and I regret not taking a wider shot to make that obvious so this postcard could have been sent without a p.s.

 
 

summer postcards: sometimes, on a friday night, when you are very young, you learn a thing that lasts forever, only at the time you have no idea that’s what’s happening

moonshellA million years ago when I first left home and moved to Toronto I met a woman, a potter. She had her own studio. I wasn’t yet twenty and she might have been twenty-four, twenty-six, something ancient…. I remember she was ancient.

A group of us were having dinner somewhere and at some point that seemed still early to me, the potter announced she had work in the morning so she would be heading out. But we were having such fun, and it was Friday, why would she want to leave? And what did she mean: work in the morning?  Tomorrow was Saturday and she worked for herself, no one was telling her what to do. I said as much, hoping it would convince her to stay but she explained (in the way of ancient people) that that was just the point, that if she didn’t impose discipline on herself there was no one out there who would. And then she’d get nothing done.

She wasn’t defensive or condescending about it and she didn’t say it from any kind of *aren’t-I-clever* place. It was simply the way it was.

I never saw this person again and have no memory of what she looked like, but I’ve never forgotten what she said and it wasn’t until decades later when I began working from home that her words, still rattling around my head, suddenly rang crystal clear.

“When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you’re working.” — Andy Warhol

 

summer postcards: I saw these questions somewhere and answered them because I love everything about the Where and the How of the places each of us live and could talk about it almost endlessly (but not to worry… I’ve kept this short)

curtains - Copy

One thing you love about your house.

The curtains billow in a breeze.

One thing you’d like to change about it (that is changeable).

If my bathroom was bright green and white or turquoise and white (or possibly bright yellow and white) tiles I wouldn’t complain.

And one thing you’d like to change about it (that is not changeable).

A place to put up an indoor winter clothesline (but that would require a proper basement and one of the things I love is the rather improper basement).

Where does the sun rise and set?

Rises behind the forest across the road where I’m told there used to be a mill — the millpond is just around the corner and has a bench for sitting and trout for fishing. I can see the sun rise from my bedroom and the light also floods the living room and greets me in a most delightful way when I go downstairs. It rises above 200 berry bushes and a meadow of wild thyme.

What does your kitchen most often smell like?

Currently possibly cat food as our cat recently had dental work and there are sometimes six bowls of different flavours and textures (pate, gravy, gravy and chunks) spread out for her to nibble on as she fancies. This is the equivalent of giving ice cream after tonsils.

Where to do you like to sit (or be) when it rains?

In the cottage, attached to the kitchen. The cottage is where the curtains billow.

Do you have a small sanctuary of your own, a chair, a window, a room?

Many. Each serving a different purpose.

How do you know you’re home?

I read something once that said the trick is to find a place where you fit. That’s the whole enchilada right there. When you fit, everything feels right and looks beautiful. And the thought of bathroom tiles is insignificant to the pleasure of being able to breathe. When you fit, so does everything else.

 
 

this is not a review: (summer edition, wherein even blue skies and gentle breezes demand quality reading or crankiness quickly sets in)

 

Under no circumstances will I name this book so don’t bother sending bribes in the form of fresh baked anything or even exquisite cheese.

However, I will say this.

It was published in the last ten years. The author is a man. Or possibly a woman. Canadian. Lives east of Alberta. The book is a collection of stories. Some of which are pleasant enough reading. Too many are carbon copies of one another with teensy alterations of character or place or circumstance, which hardly disguises the sameness. Because we’ll never notice, right?

Yawn.

The women are ALL flakey.

Yawn.

Too many people are having affairs.

YawnYawnYawn.

Most of the couplings have big age gaps, which is always highlighted as if it means something to the story but it never does.

Characters DO things but no one knows why. (In every story I have to ask this question: who are these people? In every story I have no idea.)

I swear that if you changed the main character in (any) story midway with the main character in (any other) story I wouldn’t notice this sleight of hand.

Nor would I care.

Have I mentioned voice?

EXACTLY the same. Every time. And worse than ‘just same’, it’s quirky-same. Different stories, different characters, different ages. Yet everyone speaks as one, adding to the sense of interchangeability. (If this were a theme or important to the overall vibe of the collection that would be great, but it isn’t.) A common trait many characters have is that way of speaking where the sentence is left dangling, meant as emphasis but when over-used is just plumb annoying. So awful you can’t. So awful you almost.

(And no, this isn’t some clever intentional use of sameness to make a commentary of ANY kind.)

Are you kidding? Oh… if only!

All of which to say this is a writer whose work I have admired in the past, a writer who knows how to write exceedingly well and who has received much attention for their work, and (and this is the unfortunate bit) is lauded for all of it as if all of it is equally laudable.

And, yes, of course, publishers need to survive and writers such as this one are integral to the industry and fans are loyal and will buy much and forgive even more while waiting for The Next Great Thing…

…but.

What’s sad is that there are so many others writing really good stuff, being innovative, taking chances, saying things that matter, that go unread, even when published. Sadder still, that a writer of this caliber can (easily I suspect) publish a book that would be rejected coming from an unknown.

And rejected for good reason.

I know very little about the economics of publishing but am heartened to know there still exist houses who respect the work of creativity and literature itself, enough to take chances more often than merely selling out with main stream names and less than fine work. 

On that note… 

…rant over.

& my lips remain sealed.

cheese

 

summer postcards: how to write me a letter

seals2 - Copy

 

Don’t tell me about the weather.

Tell me about rain and sun and wind and the full moon or the new moon and what you are doing with it, the sound of your howling, the colour of lichen at sunrise, the view from where you sit and what your most recent conversation with the cat was about.

Here it was seals.

But it’s often about seals with us.

 

summer postcards: name that tree

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I’m more in love with trees every day now that I live with a forest. Am learning how they’re a community and speak to one another and how sometimes what we might call ‘crowding’ they call protection and comfort. Left to its own devices a forest pretty much knows how to be.

My interest is in understanding that being.

And these new neighbours of mine, the tamarack, beech, alder and spruce, fir, pine, aspen, among others, have introduced themselves and now that we see each other every day it’s impossible to see them as the same or even similar, impossible not to notice all kinds of differences in the edges of their leaves, their bark, how they each dance to their own drummer in the wind.

I’ve named some of them. Which of course is always a bad thing if you plan on eating a thing. Which, fortunately, I won’t. At least not entire trees. Although many parts are tasty and full of goodness. Spruce tips make excellent jams and pickles. Tea can be made from certain leaves. Most catkins are edible, and so much more.

In early spring I considered tapping a few birch for the water that’s said to be delicious and nutritious (syrup is too fussy for me) but now that we chat regularly, now that the birches have names… I just can’t do it. That water’s in there for a reason. I figure they need it more than I do.

And anyway, they’re already giving me plenty.

how to plant nine onions

 

Start with 10,000 or so.

Red onions.

Buy one of those little cell packs at the garden centre where they grow crowded together like blades of grass with a hint of white pin-prick bulb at the end. There are at least 10,000 in there.

Plant bulb-side down.

8″ apart.

Run out of space in your onion bed when you have nine left.

Consider squashing a few together because they are SO small, how can it hurt and you’re sure you’ve read something where it’s actually a good idea to squash them together.

Have a moment of doubt.

Consult your trusty gardening guide. (Don’t judge its falling apart condition. It is one of your best friends. Do consider creative use of duct or other tape at some point.)

Discover that onions love tomatoes.

Instead of squashing, decide to plant them companionably in the (as yet unplanted) tomato bed.

Dig over tomato bed and amend with manure from the cow named Rose down the road, which has lived under the tarp since last summer. (Manure, not Rose.)

Figure you may as well amend all the beds while you’re at it.

Dig dig dig. Manure from pile. Manure into garden beds. Finish with rake.

Whew. (wipe brow)

Decide to keep the last bit of manure for pots. Decide to keep it in the wheelbarrow not on the tarp. Enlist someone to help you lift the tarp and tip into wheelbarrow. Move now full wheelbarrow back to shed.

Clean tarp.

Decide to seed white clover over the bare spot left by manure on tarp since last summer.

Cover seed lightly with earth from earth pile (dig dig dig), which you will now have to carry in a bucket because the wheelbarrow is in the shed, full of manure.

Decide to seed a few other bare spots with white clover.

Dig more earth.

Water clover’d areas. (Unravel hose and drag around to clover’d areas.)

Go back to tomato bed and make a row with trowel.

Plant nine onions.

8″ apart.

book

this is not a (book) review — ‘the truffle hunters’

 

Recently watched ‘The Truffle Hunters’ which someone told me was about nothing and that nothing happens but that I would probably love it.

The someone was right. I loved it.

Wrong about the nothing though.

Far more everything than nothing in the ordinary daily lives of Italian white truffle hunters and their dogs. The dogs being essential to the finding of truffles and the finding of truffles being essential to the livelihoods of these people and how everything is symbiotic.

One long perfect scene is shot from the dog’s perspective in the moments while waiting to be let out of the car, then running through the woods. Another has a man and woman washing tomatoes in deep silence, just the splash of water, tomatoes being picked up, rinsed, put down, picked up, dried, no other sound until the man eventually says: I love fresh tomatoes so much. In another: a man wears shorts in the bathtub while washing his dog. In another: a 90 year old man feeds his dog treats while telling it not to be alarmed but there may come a day when he won’t be around anymore.

The side story is the enormity of the truffle industry with clients around the world, the ugly, ruthless chain of Big Business. But this part is only briefly touched on, more implied, this polar opposite view of a ‘commodity’. Thankfully the focus of the film remains on the simple origins of the commodity, the integrity of the truffle hunters themselves and the love, pride, and passion for their work.

And the dogs.

Everything.

There is of course another element, something the film left out — the fact that any mushroom, even truffles, indicates the presence of fairies.

But I suppose that’s another movie altogether.

And I would probably love that one too.

mushroom