reasons and benefits of aimless wandering

 

“Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.” —Gertrude Stein DSC04920“To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life.” — William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life (1899)

DSC04910

“The constant remaking of order out of chaos is what life is all about, even in the simplest domestic chores such as clearing the table and washing the dishes after a meal…but when it comes to the inner world, the world of feeling and thinking, many people leave the dishes unwashed for weeks so no wonder they feel ill and exhausted.” — May Sarton, Recovering DSC04916“I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the mind.” — EinsteinDSC04921

“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” — William Blake
DSC04907
“The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.” — Yutang Lin
DSC04917
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” — Iris Murdoch DSC04912“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.“ — Rainer Maria Rilke

DSC04911
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Gandhi
DSC04914“I once thought it was not worth sitting down for a time as short as [ten minutes]; now I know differently and, if I have ten minutes, I use them, even if they bring only two lines, and it keeps the book alive.” —Rumer Godden, A House with Four Rooms
DSC04905

“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognize.” — Diane Arbuscarin

“Do not hurry; do not rest.” — Goethe

“Never hurry, never worry.” — Charlotte’s Web

Now go eat some chocolate. (see Iris Murdoch instruction above)

 

 

visitors

 

When people come to visit, I never know where to take them.

DSC04471

Inevitably, we find ourselves at this diner or that café or the restaurant that does the excellent veggie naan even though the server is a pill.

Almost always we walk. Through the ravine, downtown, around the ‘hood, the beach. I point out the tree with windfall apples I use to make a crumble each October. And the place where once the kids and I ate pistachios and played Daniel Boone eating pistachios. It’s not a high end tour but there are almost always stories that spring from it… mine, the visiting people’s.

DSC04470

We’ll go to the galleries of course. There are a lovely abundance of them here. The market. The bookstore. The emu farm.

A concert maybe. A slice of local theatre.

There’s a junk store I might think of taking them, depending on mood and whim and inclination, where you can barely move for the amount of crap and treasure and the owner’s hoarding instinct, which prevents him from ever wanting to sell anything. The only store where when you ask how much this is, you’re told it’s not for sale. You don’t go there to buy, you go there to do anthropological studies.

DSC04472

If it’s summer we’ll paddle a rented kayak and have fries from the best chip truck in these parts or sit on a patio in a trailer park luncheonette and drink iced tea with some not too bad grilled cheese sarnies.

If it’s winter we might stay home and light a fire. I might make a feasty meal or maybe just keep it simple, make an omelette… I’ll mention that final scene in the movie Big Night and I’ll put on the CD and we’ll talk about first times… first omelettes, whatever…

We might drive. To see the xmas lights or the country lights.

DSC04469

This is what I do… and sometimes I wonder: is it enough, these emus and sunsets? And then I wonder why I feel that way because when I visit someone this is exactly what I want. NOT the Eiffel Tower, not a string of organized entertainments, but the experience of actually living in a place… the small slices of everydayness.

(Although I will not decline a quick dash into the Louvre.)

So tell me… when visiting, what is it we want?

And by we I mean you.
  

 

 

 

great full

 

This couch, these cats, this morning, my handwriting, breath, this page, that light, the sun waiting to rise, the way my mind wanders to pumpkin soup vs puree the moment I congratulate myself on achieving something close to a state of meditation, the backyard, the large hostas that need dividing, a bushel of garlic, fresh string beans, tomatoes in a silver bowl, friends for lunch, the wine last night, the olives and raw milk cheese and crumbs of baguette, the new tradition of running away at xmas (already exciting), the poem about Edmonton, the pillow of peace and a shoelace with feathers tied to either end, the Benjamina and the fern, the ferns outside, the way something smells both sweet and spicy under the honeysuckle arch but I can’t work out what—catmint?, the beautiful green success of the kale and spinach and chicory, the nasturtium leaves (in October!), the way the red dress hangs in the park and the boy who said to his mother after they stopped to read the sign on it: what if we get to 30,000? , that painting of oranges and a vase of yellow flowers, a laundry line, the homemade chairs on our porch, always enough toothpaste, these feet and these hands and the way Laura Smith sings about joy, that open window, these books, this tea, breath—I said breath already, right?

DSC03947

a post about nothing at all

 
I meet a friend mid-way between her town and mine in a town the size of a walnut that neither of us know.

DSC03746

The kind of place where you can buy a summer dress, ice cream and a box of worms in the same store. Time-saving ingenuity, this, and sadly lacking in larger urban centres.

DSC03749 DSC03750

My friend brings her dog, a border collie named Becky, whose goal, given the amount of attention she gives the trees and hydrants, is to pretty much own the town.

We wander through the cemetery (where it always feels too weird to take pictures) and talk about people who come to tend their loved one’s graves and those who don’t and how it’s impossible to judge these things.

A reminder about judgment generally.

I tell her about a certain Olive and Burt, who now reside in the ground side by side but for years it was just Olive that was buried and her plot was never without the most beautiful arrangements, Bird of Paradise, that kind of thing. I’d notice them when I went to visit my sister there. Then one day the flowers stopped. Soon after Burt’s name was added to the headstone.

Here people leave more ‘things’ than flowers and I wonder why that is. Stuffed animals, a yellow toy truck, one of those windmilly doodads you hold up as you run and it flutters… I wonder at the stories behind them all. My favourite is the solar powered dog light. No story required.

We walk down side streets where the houses are made for jewellery’d windows…

DSC03744

DSC03745

…and the porches for sitting a while.

DSC03747

And if you’re wondering where all the flamingos went, they’re here in this walnut-sized town.

DSC03757

We walk across Becky’s newly christened bridge…

DSC03755

… past places no one has the heart to tear down but which I would love to see used and maintained before they fall down.

DSC03754

There’s a gas station, a grocery store, a place to sit outside and eat fish and chips, a shady corner to park the cars…

DSC03752

…and a bakery that opens at 5 a.m. to feed farmers and town workers and people driving into the city, and people who come in later too, people who’ve known each other close to forty years and still don’t run out of things to say, who come to do nothing at all except wander in this nut-sized town and eat freshly baked cheese bread with a few deli slices on the side…

DSC03759

(not so) wordless wednesday

DSC03059

Woke this morning expecting it to be Wednesday. But it didn’t sound anything like Wednesday. More like Sunday or New Years Day. So I wondered and then remembered the holiday and thought how amazing, really, that a few thousand people not going to work can change the atmosphere to this degree.

Even now as I write, the paperboy is making deliveries (with a red wagon, bless him); I hear the trundling sound of the wheels through an open window and neighbours chatting. The sun is out. A faint hum of traffic, birds sing, dogs bark, train whistle, wind chimes; it’s all there, all normal, and yet…

… something undefinable is quiet that usually isn’t.

Happy red and white day. (And keep it down, willya?)

Other Wordless Friends—

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

how myrl coulter and me are both the same and different when it comes to birthdays

 
Myrl Coulter’s ‘Those Pesky Natal Days’ (one of the essays in her lovely collection A Year of Days)  begins like this:untitled

“The human ritual of marking individual birthdays started with the advent of the calendar, when people began to track time according to the sky, to notice when it got dark, when it got light, when the moon appeared, and when it didn’t.”

She continues with some background to the origins of birthday celebrations, considers the idea of birth and what, exactly, we’re celebrating, then moves into her own personal likes and dislikes about the occasion.

This just happens to be one of my favourite things to discuss and so instead of responding out loud to the pages from a park bench, which only frightens passersby, I decided to bring the conversation here.

Warning: the following might not be suitable reading for traditionalists, or anyone who shops at The Party Store.

How We’re Slightly Different:

Coulter says she doesn’t like the Happy Birthday song. Calls it grating and trivial with only five words to the lyrics, and a sixth to be added by the singer. “The sentiment is a tedious repetitive demand to be happy.”

Hard to argue. It’s not the greatest piece of music ever written (she tells us the copyright is worth five million dollars), yet I sing it loud and proud to a circle of lucky souls each year. And they do the same for me. And I kind of love it. When I was a kid the song made me cry. I think that had more to do with how my parents liked to go through the whole day pretending they’d forgotten what day it was and then after dinner a cake would come out, a few gifts would appear, and the song would be sung. Tears of relief followed. To be honest I still weep a little, though for different reasons now.

How We’re Very Different:

Coulter enjoys planning parties for friends and family. I don’t like parties. (Could I plan the party and not attend? Because then I could get into it.)

How We’re the Same:

She describes how kids’ parties have changed, how today they have themes and décor and tapenade and rules about everything. She says it used to be simpler and I get the feeling she prefers the simpler.

Me too. Pin the Tail on the Donkey; pound cake with rosettes and a misspelled name; (what’s a loot bag?? kids go home with extra piece of pound cake)

How We’re Different:

Preference for simplicity aside, she says she’s actually impressed with these parties but relieved that her kids are grown and she doesn’t have to throw them.

Me: I am less impressed than cringey at the very idea. I once organized a birthday party for a nine-year old in a bowling alley. Lunch was included. Plus bowling. Plus a few jokes from my repertoire. And  I pretended to enjoy myself. (There was lunch, I mentioned that, right?) When the parents arrived to pick up the little darlings, they asked where was the loot bag… I had no idea what they were talking about. Can’t even remember how I answered. But there was a distinct ‘attitude’ as they left. (Hey, there was lunch!!)

How We’re Really Really the Same:

She says she likes other people’s birthdays but not her own, that the thought of it approaching actually tightens her throat.

I know just what she means. And it’s not an age thing. It’s an expectation thing.

She writes:

“To distract myself after that initial birthday thought wanders in, I start thinking about how I want to spend my day. My first idea is always the same: I just want to disappear. No obligations, no hanging around to receive birthday wishes, no smiling when I really fell like roaring into the wind”

I get that. I hate handing my birthday over to someone else (shades of childhood trauma, i.e. late-in-the-day cake?)… I think that’s a lot of pressure on the other person and anyway, it’s my day and I want to be responsible for it. I’ll make the dinner or the reservation or run away somewhere, or take a friend… I’ll give the gifts, I’ll bring home a cake, I’ll light the candles. You can sing if you like…

And Here, More Same than Different:

About gifts, she says:

“I don’t like opening birthday presents, especially in front of the people who have given them to me, who sit in my line of vision smiling with eager anticipation.”

For me, it depends on the circumstance, because some people are a delight to share these moments with. But then there are those others, the ones who have pretty much given the gift for what they get out of your reaction, which better be what they expect.

“When I open gifts in front a large group of people, what falls into my hands is secondary, because I’m hoping that my smile is big enough, that I’m not over-reacting or under-rewarding my donor, that I’m appropriately grateful without resorting to an ‘I’ve always wanted one of these’ gusher statements. I wince when I recall times I have gushed.”

Agree. I would love it if birthdays were a time to give rather than receive.

We’re Different:

She says birthdays ending in zero or five are toughest.

They make no difference to me. Numbers are not my thing.

Yet We’re the Same (Is anyone Different on this one?):

“The frenzy exhausted me. Surrounded by people I love, I looked forward to the moment they all left.”

And this:

“What I do know is that the day after my birthday will be a good day. I will feel normal again, relieved, and somehow refreshed.”

It’s that kind of essay. Sits you down and says, so what about you?

—So what about you?

A Year of Days  is available online at Blue Heron Books.  Shop indies! ♥