things i learned in a few patio hours with my favourite eccentric

A teaspoon of red wine vinegar tossed into a bowl of lentil soup just before serving apparently turns lentil soup into nectar.

Shivasana is THE most important yoga move. Ten minutes is good.

Persimmons for arthritis.

Raccoon poop is best disposed of with a) gloves, b) crumpled newspaper. Forget the trowel or shovel because then  how do you clean off the toxic??

Margaret Carney, nature writer and birder extraordinaire, once upon a time worked as an editor at Harlequin.

Lima beans, aka butter beans, will last — tops — three days in the fridge once the tin is opened so after you use half a tin for making a butter bean flan, use the other half — straightaway! — in a butter bean salad (red onion, celery, dressing of choice).

A lavender farm has opened not a million miles away from my front door.

And if that isn’t enough there’s ANOTHER lavender place even closer.

Ways of peeling garlic. (The knife crush is but one.)

Levine Flexhaug.  (1918 – 1974)  Famous for more or less painting the same cheesy landscape scene over and over in audacious colours and with various ‘differences’. So bad it’s brilliant.

The word minim.

 

 

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it’s the small stuff that connects us

 

From Welcome to the Hood,  a work in progress.

Glynnis is wearing pink cotton shorts, a striped tee shirt, support hose and brown sandals. Her toenails are painted red. She is only 56 but lives in a nursing home because she is epileptic with brain damage—the kind of brain damage that has rendered her almost childlike. She can’t function on her own. Or even walk. If I don’t visit for a week or two it takes her a minute to remember we’ve ever met. Her parents are close to ninety. Until recently she lived with them. She tells me all this, matter of factly. She thinks the nursing home isn’t a bad place but occasionally has issues with the oatmeal.

She likes colour. So do I. It’s what we talk about. The colour of everything. Look at the bird, I say as I wheel her past a cage in the sunroom, he’s such a beautiful bright blue. She laughs, says that’s not a bird. What is it then, I ask, and she looks at me, back at the cage, then at me again. It’s a bird!  she says, still laughing. I never know what part of her is confusion and what part is just plain smart-ass funny. I think she likes it that way.

I take her out to the courtyard where no one ever goes. Tables and chairs, umbrellas, gardens, a walking path, a bench under an ivy-covered trellis; it all makes for good optics when the inspectors come but in reality it’s too much trouble for the staff to move people outside. Instead they’re crowded around a TV screen near the nurses’ station. No one looks at the set. Most nod off. Some watch the comings and goings in the hall, others beg to be taken back to their rooms.

None of them has the slightest idea there’s a courtyard full of sunshine on the other side of perpetually drawn shades.

There’s a purple hibiscus bush that reminds Glynnis of one her mother has. Her mother’s garden is magnificent, she says, and then we pass a window where we see Marion in her room staring out at something. When she sees us she taps on the glass, points. Marion doesn’t talk much, mostly she sits alone in the dining room and counts her collection of plastic cutlery. But now, this tapping… I’ve never seen her so animated.

At first I can’t tell what she’s pointing at and this frustrates her, she points harder. Maybe she means the hibiscus. I point at the hibiscus. No, no, she shakes her head. I want to tell her to open the window, but it would be too complicated. She may not know how, it may not even open. I don’t want to frustrate her further. She hangs her head as if giving up, then looks at us again, makes a face, annoyed, sad, says something, points. Jab, jab, her finger tapping on the window, intent on getting her message across.

“What’s wrong with her?” Glynnis says.

“She’s trying to show us something.”

“Who cares.”

Glynnis wants to get going.

Marion keeps tapping.

Finally, I see what it is. A bird’s nest tucked into a niche in the trellis. I show Glynnis. She laughs, says her mother has a bird’s nest. Marion smiles, her whole face relaxes and as each of us, from three different vantage points, stare at the bits of grass and twigs, it occurs to me that in this split second of discovery we experience the wonder of this tiny thing in exactly the same way, with exactly the same joy. And in that fraction of a moment I see the connections between us and know that the differences are only an illusion.

i woke this morning with a yen

I woke this morning with

a yen to swim

in the Indian Ocean, to lick

the tile walls of Morocco, sunbathe

nude on the side of a grassy hill overlooking

the coast of Africa I wanted to tear

silk underwear to shreds

and tie the rags to the tail

of a kite—

sing to purring elephants at dawn

and ride caterpillars to the tops

of mossy trees.  I woke this morning,

then stepped outside

—never happier to be home.

 

this is not a review: ‘meatless?’, by sarah elton

 
I so enjoyed Meatless? : A Fresh Look at What You Eat…. a book (but also a really lovely, enlightening and important conversation) about eating meat or not eating meat… the choice being ours and the emphasis being on choice. (There is nothing, nothing, nothing judgy or even suggestive of one ‘side’ being righter than the other. It’s merely info.)

The author, Sarah Elton, is a well known food writer. She also eats meat, although she truly understands the ‘other’ side. This, in my view, is the ideal perspective by which to write such a book. Balanced, in other words.

It’s picture book size with loads of gorgeous illustrations by Julie McLaughlin, and tons of easy to digest info. Really the most brilliant tool to start a chat with kids about veggie-ism, before they get their ideas on the schoolyard or to clarify some already-got misconceptions.

A smattering of things of note:

♦ It was Pythagoras that came up with the germ of the idea that became veggie-ism. He felt animals were reincarnated humans.

♦ Why is meat the MAIN part of a meal? And why, in a restaurant, do we order ‘the chicken’ that comes with the lentils and asparagus…. instead of ordering the ‘lentils and asparagus’ that come with chicken?? (This one item is a whole conversation in itself in my world.)

♦ 20 million pigs are killed EACH YEAR in Canada.

♦ 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of meat and dairy. This is more than from cars. (Kids will love the ‘how’ of this one!)

♦ There’s a terrific section on food combos that create complete proteins (for the days you choose not to eat meat). Beans, rice, legumes… nut cheeses. All of which are equally nutritious in terms of protein, but much cheaper. Good for students and families who need to make their food dollars stretch. A few meatless days a week = money saved.

♦ From the section titled ‘Telling Your Friends and Family’, this struck me as a fair warning: “Meat eaters sometimes take offense or react defensively when they hear someone is a vegetarian…”  Equally valid, that veggie people sometimes need to stop preaching. (And this is the best thing about the book…. no defensiveness, no preaching. The message is that there’s no way to be wrong, just misinformed. And that judgment serves no purpose.)

♦ Gallo Pinto is a beans and rice dish that I want to make. The name means spotted rooster.

♦ There is a small section on animal welfare, the reality of factory farms,  overcrowded stalls, pens, and feedlots, and animals that can barely move.

And before everyone starts wringing their hands about how the wee ones mustn’t be traumatized by the truth and that surely it’s better they believe ‘meat’ has nothing to do with animals… that, instead, it arrives by pelicans, already saran-wrapped at Costco or delivered with pickles in a burger under golden arches… and that the animals that are used to create such happy ‘bargain food’ have indeed lived sunny lives… let’s remind ourselves that country children grow up knowing where meat comes from and they somehow manage to understand, and survive the info..

Tell kids the hard truth about unethical meat farming, I say. And, harder still, tell ourselves while we’re at it.

Like Elton, I’m a meat eater, though it’s not a huge part of my diet and I can easily go a week without missing it or even noticing that I haven’t eaten any. I’m not a vegetarian but I do care about where my meat comes from. I care about how the animal lived and died and I care about its food source. I care about over-production and over-consumption and waste and I continue to hope that the big players, the golden arches, the chicken purveyors and bacon mongers, will one day insist their meat suppliers follow more humane practices because, mostly, I care about responsible farming practices. I hope, too, that maybe some of us will consider the effects of supporting the alternative. And given that information, we make our choices.

That’s really what this book is about… the idea of informed choices.

Meatless? : A Fresh Look at What You Eat  can be ordered online at Hunter Street Books.

Support indies!

maybe you’ve heard it too… the cardinal ball? (aka cat lullaby)

Open-eyed meditation this morning as I watch through the window and a break in the trees a cardinal preening, waiting for his date to the cardinal ball.

They fly off together and then a man in pale turquoise shirt and dark jeans gets into his car and flies off to work.

Nothing else for a while and cat #1, curled up at the very top of her indoor climbing tree facing the window, slowly closes her eyes while cat #2 finds a spot on the carpet to attend to her tail.

Ears perk up, mine too, when suddenly on a not so far away treetop the music of the cardinal ball begins… but it’s merely soundtrack to the contentment of a belly full of tinned turkey and kibble, and soon ears relax and all eyes close.

p.s. and yes, that’s a tulip in the pic

A happy long weekend to you!

 

 

juniper

 
It seems to me now on this March day from where I sit near the window, warm with cat and book,

dsc08965that maybe the baby juniper we planted last year could have been tied with twine a few times round or wrapped in burlap to keep it upright.

And compact.

And narrow.

dsc08867As it is it’s become a small flopping thing, arms landing north and south.

dsc08873East, west too.

But then would it have thanked me for keeping it in better form—

dsc08871

—or is it, in its untidy freedom,

dsc08870

the envy of the landscaped world…

 

**

 

(Junipers have a place in my heart, ever since I met this one…)

tell me about your walk

 
Tell me the beautiful bits, things I might not see if I walked where you walk.

dsc08625_1 Because we need to see beauty more than ever.

More than ever.

And through the eyes of each other.

dsc08623So tell me about a poem that came to you one day as you looked at this scene or that one and how it made you go home and count your blessings.

dsc08642And how this tree or that corner or this bench makes you remember a friend and a conversation about bread.

dsc08650Tell me about trees taken down with saws and others taken down with teeth. And tell me: where is the dam?  (Also:  where is a naturalist when you need one to explain where is the dam?)

dsc08629dsc08648 dsc08635Tell me about the sound of birds you can’t see and about a loved one who is flying across the ocean at this very moment, homeward.

dsc08622_1dsc08661Tell me about the litter you pick up or don’t pick up and about the bike you once found abandoned in the woods just there and how you wonder where abandoned bikes go… and why ducks’ feet don’t get cold.

dsc08652 dsc08638 Tell me about the neighbourhood stray.

How he appeared at the window one day when your cat was sitting on the sill and they both nearly scared each other to death and how neither of them have gone anywhere near that window since.

dsc08659Tell me about the brim of your hat and how you tilt it upwards because you want to let every drop of vitamin D into your eyes.

And the splash of red you see in a bush, which you assume is another Timmy’s cup and when you get closer you see that it’s not litter but a bird.

dsc08654Tell me about the man doing tai chi in the park and how you’re grateful for all the goodness he’s putting into the air. And how in the very same park someone left a hoover and a giant bag of household garbage.

dsc08657dsc08627Tell me why you walk.

dsc08651Tell me it’s to clear your mind, to remind yourself there’s more than madness in the world. Tell me it helps you see that despite all the anger, fear and hate, there’s no value in anger, fear or hate because that’s not how things work, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Despite all appearances, that’s not the essence of what we are.

Tell me you walk to refuel because refueling is necessary… because this isn’t a time for idleness.

Tell me you walk because there is so much beauty.

And so much work to do.