wordless wednesday (summer postcards)

Long before digital anything… when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and water bottles were not yet common (or even invented?), I sat in the courtyard of an ultra swanky hotel in southern Florida. Service was abominable. We waited ages and ages for an initial glass of water, never mind the wine and the meal. Polite questions did no good. The attitude of staff was even worse than the service. But the courtyard was beautiful and it was a perfect southern Florida night, i.e. not too sticky or buggy, so we stayed and waited and waited and waited for our meal. Given all that time on my hands I decided to make a few notes in my travel journal, just personal notes (this was before blogs, before the internet, truly the dark ages it was). Something about the act of pulling out a notebook and writing caught someone’s attention and before we knew it the manager appeared at our table asking if there was anything he could do for us. Well, we’re waiting for our meal, we said… And just like that, presto bongo! our meal followed. The manager returned (several times) to ask how the meal was and was there anything else  he could do. No, no, we’re fine, we said, and he said well, maybe after we’d eaten we’d like a tour of the hotel because he’d personally love to give us a tour of the hotel. Um, okay… we said, a little confused. The wine and dessert and tea were comped and the tour was comprehensive and complete with much ass-kissing, which neither of us could understand… until we realized he thought I was a food writer. Because, apparently, who else would write in a journal?

This was before the days of taking pictures of meals and sharing every food experience, when the power of print via pen and ink had clout.

Like I said, it was a long time ago.

~

(Southern Florida, ’90s)

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

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wordless wednesday (summer postcards)

A guy playing guitar next to a basket of chanterelles, which to this day I regret not buying. The next day I go back, no basket. So in my broken french I ask if there will be more and he shrugs almost sadly and says something like ils ne sont pas mes champignons, madame….

The expression on the fish monger’s face when I enter his tiny shop, wave at the air and say (enthusiastically):  mon nez est tres joyeux!

The woman at the b&b whose english is on par with my french (which makes me so happy) and where, after determining that I do not mind that my room has only a shower and no tub (this alone feels like it took the better part of twenty minutes), I receive la cle  and decide this tiny quirky space with a bougainvilla covered porch, tivoli lighted tree and room with a tiny humming fridge and a most magnificent view of the parking lot is so very much better than the place the tourist office recommended, which, instead of bougainvilla on the porch, had three grouchy old men sitting in rockers.

My dinner of smoked salmon from the fish monger, which I eat on the rocks at the beach as the sun sets.

The older woman, swimming in the cold water of the harbour — pure joy — and the way, ten or so minutes later, she’s joined by another woman and they hold hands, jump and bob about in the waves.

A child playing at the shore and the slant of late day sun on his face.

The rosehips I pick and bring home to mix with calendula and borage flowers for tea.

The food, everywhere. (I vow, again, to improve my french if only to be able to at least order a meal without feeling like an eejit in this kingdom of cuisine.)

The long fields of long Kamouraska grass.

A tree outside the museum, covered in knitting.

This patio on the water, and that one… hidden in a garden.

The bakery!

The small lights of a boat across the river pose questions: where has it come from? where is it going in this dark night? The best guess is that it’s coming for dinner.

The curious note I make in my journal — cafe avec caffeine, et sans caffeine. Curious because I don’t drink coffee.

And this, copied from somewhere…. dans la vie, il n’y a pas de hasards, il n’y a que des rendez-vous.

 

(Driving back from PEI, September-almost-October, 2015)

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

how to do campbellford in twenty four hours

 

Start in Oshawa. At the RMG. Give the current exhibition of abstract paintings too little of your time and make a note to go back when it’s the only item on your itinerary.

Take Hwy 2 to Bowmanville and stop at the VAC. Be delighted to find Frances Ferdinands’ work. Fall in love with a couple of the pieces.      Continue on Hwy 2 (on this getaway we’re generally flipping the bird to the 401) to Newcastle and make your way to the waterfront where you’ll find a monarch recently arrived from Texas and the air pungent with seaweed.

Take the Lakeshore Road east along the shoreline and through the countryside and past a field of cows that apparently live in the forest.

Take that beautiful winding road all the way to Port Hope where you have lunch at Gusto. Have the fresh bright green dairy-free pea soup and the smoked trout and arugula and shut up about not getting a table on the patio because oh my god already… you have a window seat and air conditioning and the baby at the next table isn’t even crying. Life is good.

Get on the 28 to the 9 and go west a bit to the lavender fields of Laveanne. Shrug when they say you cannot have tea because there are no tables free (tables overlooking the lavender fields!) because they’re expecting a large wine group whatever that is. Buy shortbread cookies instead. Use the loo.

Go back along 9 until it turns into 29 and then magically becomes 30 or Grand or something that takes you into Campbellford where you wonder how you’ll manage to find your B&B because you misplaced the address and then, presto bongo, it appears before you like B&B magic.

Wander about town for just a bit.

Then settle on the patio for a glass of pre-dinner wine in the most ultra Canadian way — under a big old maple.

Have a dinner of curried mussels while listening to a guy in shades sing Dylan. Call it a night when he starts doing Led Zeppelin.

Next day,  cross a suspension bridge into the woods and find a pianist playing birdsong at almost-dawn.

Have breakfast on yet another patio in a town where, oddly, there are not that many patios.

Discover a place that cares for feral cats. And another with a lineup for doughnuts.

A visitor centre that grows tomatoes.

A big twoonie.

And the woman who used to run the Ultramar who has now bought the old bowling lanes and is making them wonderful (truly wonderful…!) including a tropical themed patio (in a town where there are not that many patios).

At the farmers’ market, buy organic lettuce picked this morning and something called rat tails that look like snap peas but taste like radishes and buy a bright red perennial and sample the clover tea.

Have conversations EVERYWHERE. Because you can’t buy a stamp in this town without the friendliest people engaging you in the sweetest banter.

Choose the house you’d live in if you lived here.

And where you’d buy your subs.

And your trophies.

Buy postcards at Stedmans. Buy an optical illusion wind-chime thingy for the garden. Buy a bright orange and yellow tea towel that will make it 1965 every time you dry a soup bowl. Give thanks that places like this still exist, who sell garden hoses and slippers and sheets of gingham patterned vinyl by the metre (what does one do with the vinyl?) and so much else you didn’t know you needed, all in adjoining aisles. This truly is the only way to shop.

Visit the WestBen site and vow to return for the music.

Visit Kerr’s Books and marvel that a town this size has an indie.

Visit Empire Cheese and find not only whiskey mustard cheddar but maybe the best veggie chips around and a view of the land in this part of the world.

Take your time driving home.

Above all, continue the theme of bird-flipping to all major highways.

You’re welcome.

(Note: *do* is just another word for relish.)

More travel notes here…

 

 

 

 

wordless wednesday (summer postcards)

Greetings from somewhere west of Toronto, way west (but not as far as Calgary) (or even Windsor). No idea what’s inside this museum as we didn’t stop, or it wasn’t open, who can remember. What is recalled is the infamous garden at the swanky inn where we stayed (a gift to us from kind souls else we’d never have gone the way of such swankiness). I’d looked forward to staying there mostly because they are known for their enormous vegetable gardens and famously claim almost everything on their menu is seasonal and made with their own produce… but what we saw on the menu didn’t jibe with their marketing schpiel (butternut squash and cauliflower in July for instance). In fact almost everything on the menu was out of season  and when we asked the waiter what was up he got a little jumpy and said he’d check with the kitchen but in fact he never came back to our table. Someone else brought the bill. Later, walking in the infamous gardens of menu mythology, we asked a couple of gardeners where the celery was, and the frisee (two of very few things on the menu that were in season) and were told they didn’t grow celery or frisee and so we mentioned the marketing that spoke of how all this magnificent produce was used in the kitchen. Ha!  they snorted. The garden, it seems is pretty much for show… while rows and rows of produce go unpicked, none of it on the menu. Not a single string bean, not an onion. Even in the face of oodles of evidence, we didn’t want to believe it… a vegetable garden of this size, being used only as a marketing tool??? Nah. Can’t be true. But in the morning, as we set out for a walk, we watched a delivery arrive from a huge commercial vegetable supplier whose name was painted very clearly on the side of the truck.

I wrote a letter to the inn, asking them about this.

Didn’t hear back.

(Summer, 2015)

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

at the train station

 

The five year old whose dad says “Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute,”  and leaves his kid kneeling on a bench surrounded by backpacks and bags and the kid stares in the direction of the washrooms like a puppy until he comes back.
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The teenage boys who fist pump goodbye like it’s nothing. The face on the one that stays.

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The lads that take pictures with real cameras with real lenses.

dsc08769The three young women whose minds explode when they see each other. Their smiles.

 

i drove to barrie

 
I’ve never been to Barrie before.

dsc08000I’d heard there was a nice waterfront.

It’s true.

dsc08006dsc08008But I didn’t go for the waterfront. That was simply a bonus, a nice way to spend the hour before sunset.

dsc08010 dsc08014At 7 p.m. I was in the living room of people I’d never met, about to be entertained by one of my favourite musicians, Laura Smith.

And Paul Mills.

A house concert, my first.

dsc08015 dsc08016And I really can’t even begin to describe how extraordinary it is to hear a concert quality performance in the comfort of a private home.

dsc08036And Laura Smith’s voice… well, if you’ve ever heard it, you might understand the mind-boggling effect of hearing it up close. If you’ve never heard it, listen to this…  And more, here.

It was Laura’s voice on a couple of CD’s that kept me company as I drove back, solo, from Prince Edward Island last year. For me, her voice and driving, travelling, looking and seeing and finding new things… are all connected.

I’ve also been known to dance in my own living room to her tunes.

I did not dance in the living room of strangers, though I suspect they might not have minded.

dsc08048I must have had the feeling I wouldn’t be able to describe anything and so I scribbled down lines throughout the evening… some from stories Laura told about the origins of the songs, why and how she wrote them; others from the songs themselves. This is a sliver of things, my concert mash up…

 

I Drove to Barrie to Hear Laura Smith

I was never safer
because of my smart dog
—the hardest part was starting.
Only an echo will answer my name;
I look into your eyes and see stories
that will never get told, like a father
and a daughter—love to have you here
havin’ a beer, right about now, steamin’
with toil, with the seagulls around me
and crows on the plough; you are loved
and you are loved always, you’re home.
I hear voices in the salt spray, the last
light of the sun going down; I sit in the
same chair every night, Jordy—
a bad hair day in a cheap motel—I’m a
beauty. I’m a beauty.

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Nothing else to say.

Except, thanks. It was the best…

life’s a beach (aka: accidental seaweed)

 
One of my favourite books is Drinking the Rain,  by Alix Kates Shulman.

beach-8It’s about how, at the age of fifty, Shulman runs away for the summer to a rustic cabin on an island off the coast of Maine and has all kinds of little epiphanies, mostly about her relationship to nature. Having grown up and lived her whole life in New York City, it has never occurred to her that nature is especially significant except as a nice place to visit now and then.

beach-7 beach beachbeach-8 beach-2beach-5She returns to the cabin every summer for years, each time trying to bring the feeling of these epiphanies back with her to NYC in the form of shells and bits of seaweed and eating the way she did on the island, but apparently it’s hard to forage in Manhattan. So it never feels quite the same, it feels ridiculous in fact, this tree-huggy approach to life once her feet are firmly back on pavement. And it bothers her, initially, that she has to divide herself between this new sense of exhilaration and freedom as the island person and the reality of living most of the year in the city.

beach-9 beach-9 beach-11 beach-2The book is about finding her way to being both sides of herself, regardless of where she is.

***

But this post is about PEI, my personal choice of islands to run away to.

beach beach-3 beach-2There is magic there, and when you feel it you understand why islanders want so very much to protect it. The first post I did in this Week of PEI  was one called ‘Home and Away’… I get it. I’m grateful there’s so much love of place from those who call it home.

beach-12 beach-6 beach-7The island’s magic is in good hands.

beach-10I also get what Shulman says about the island vibe and how you can’t bring that back to wherever you live, but what happens is maybe even better because if you embrace that feeling, gather the moments, the essence of the place, like stones on a beach, and tuck them inside yourself… a kind of alchemy happens… those moments hold bits of energy that change who you are, wherever you are.

beach-3 beach-2 beach-3beach-4I bring back stones. And shells. And sometimes accidental seaweed.

beach-4Reminders of magic.