summer postcards: conversations with trees

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Tree growing out of beach stone, a sweet surprise, the perfect gift from the sea as I consider life between the shorelines I walk and the forest I speak to each morning.

The forest is behind my new-to-me house, new-to-me trees, we’re just getting to know each other. There is shyness on both sides.

My conversations with trees go back decades, as far back as I can remember. They are marvellous listeners, offer excellent advice on fixing paragraphs, and are intuitive when it comes to consolation.

(The language is the same no matter the variety.)

Still, friendship takes time.

I don’t tell them everything.

Not yet.

 

 

summer postcards: use the good bowl

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When you are a kid in yellow jeans eating popcorn out of an orange Fire King bowl in the basement watching Hitchcock’s The Birds while your mother entertains a friend in the kitchen who has just had herself fitted for dentures and has arrived (without them, as her gums are still settling) toothless and somehow generally diminished but oddly happy and you wonder: should you be eating popcorn? Is this the road to diminished toothlessness? You decide that no, that Cracker Jack may pose a danger but not buttered and salted in your Fire King bowl and so you continue eating, but with more care, not biting the kernels, for example.

And when decades later you no longer favour yellow jeans and have traded popcorn for pretzels as number one comfort food and which are best eaten directly out of the bag and when you realize the precious Fire King bowl had for… decades… been ‘preserved’ at the back of a cupboard in the house where you no longer live you give it a place of honour on the counter of your new house and let it dazzle you in the light as it collects vegetable peelings you will later dig into the garden.

hey there

 

I’m in no hurry to go back to shaking hands.

Hugs, yes. (Though I have some thoughts on that too.)

But the handshake I think we can maybe scrap forever.

Ugh. I’m thinking suddenly of all the hideous hands I’ve shaken and some really awful handshakes, the limp wrist affairs, the sweaty palms, the vice grips. The creepy lingering ones. Yeah, enough.

“Hello, nice to meet you” can so easily be accompanied by a nod or pirouette, a short expressive dance, a tap dance!, hand over heart, an elbow or ankle bump, a high pitched yip! or big toothy grin. It’s endless really.

Think of all the colds we’d save ourselves.

And the pleasure of meeting would be so much more pleasurable.

 

 

kindness unwrapped

My new favourite pastime is noticing the ways of kindness, what it is, how it becomes, the way people find or make their own versions of it, the sheer, sweet miracle of how the pandemic has inspired so much goodness and despite how tired everyone is there seems to be no wearying of being kind in extraordinary ways. It doesn’t feel like we are giving up on that. On the contrary, we seem to be getting better at it.

Not only in the giving and receiving, but in the recognizing.

Because it doesn’t always come as a box of cookies or slab of cheese. (Though either are entirely acceptable.)

For me, the awareness often comes as a surprise, a sudden sense of delight when I’m really not expecting delight and maybe lasting only a few moments but long enough to breathe differently, walk differently, to be in awe of how important we are to each other. Which of course is the true gift.

Possibly the very best of it is in fact wrapped up in something so ordinary that the one giving has no idea they’re giving kindness because it’s only a conversation, a compliment, a smile, a few minutes of listening, a pretzel made with sewing machine and catnip, a couple bags of potato chips (Covered Bridge brand from New Brunswick), a wayward puppet, a mouse saved, a jar of soup delivered, the title of a song that when played changes a morning, a page of typewritten text taken from a book that might make a day, a painting of peace and kayaks, a note left on a porch, a painted stone, a spontaneous book club for two, or (only) a cup of tea…

this is not a review: ‘a woman’s walks’, by lady colin campbell

The first thing I don’t like about this book is that she (Gertrude Elizabeth Blood), calls herself Lady Colin Campbell, which reminds me of the personalized stationery, little note cards on excellent stock, my mother-in-law (an otherwise intelligent and lovely woman) gave me, designed, I suppose, to obliterate any thought of whoever I used to be pre-marriage, being embossed as they were with “Mrs. (Son’s First Name)(Son’s Last Name)”. She explained that should I happen to send a card to a friend (who else would I send them to??) I was meant to strike a single line through “Mrs. (Son’s First Name)(Son’s Last Name)” and write in “Carin”. As if to say that “you (because we are friends) may call me Carin”. I still have the little copper plate that came with the box of stationery in case I ever need to replenish my supply. (hahaha) The fact that I don’t use anyone else’s name, neither first nor last (having been blessed with my own), is apparently beside the point. She, dear woman, came from an era of The Mrs.

The ‘Lady Colin Campbell’ syndrome is ridiculous. (And very different from adopting a family name, which makes a certain kind of sense in certain cases and to certain people. I do get why people do that.) But what sense can be made from using your husband’s FIRST name to identify you?

Especially, in Lady CC’s case, whose husband turns out to be an ass and they split up. Which is when she begins her worldwide wandering and writing.

But why keep the ‘Colin’???

So that was my first problem with A Woman’s Walks, by Lady Colin Campbell. Despite the rather promising cover.

The other problems relate to the privilege Lady Colin Campbell enjoys throughout her privileged life and incessantly complains about. It is a problem when a writer bores me as Lady CC does and I find it hard to plough through but I continue because I’m looking for a good walk. Unfortunately her idea of walking and mine are quite different. Hers involving much first class train travel and staff helping her get from one luxury hotel to another.

Two exceptions.

One was a stroll she took through a Venetian marketplace where she bought a captive bird, not to eat but to release. She felt very chuffed with herself about that. Her good deed for the day, which again says a lot about her and the era of that kind of privilege. Not to mention attitude towards ‘the little people’ who shop and work at markets for reasons other than amusement and who rudely eat the captive birds because they need protein and aren’t able to take a train to the next luxury hotel dining room to order their pheasant under glass.

I enjoyed seeing her hypocrisy on such magnificent display.

And of course markets always please me.

The other was a walk around Milan that ended, to her surprise, at a crematorium where she lingered, feeling comfort and solace in a way, she says, she never does in cemeteries.

Not a terrible read but not something that personally appealed overall.

The book is one of several from a London Library series: ‘Found on the Shelves’… collected essays on various subjects from “the modern cycling craze” with the invention of the bike, to dieting in the 1800’s, to trout fishing instructions for women. Etc. All of them from a time long gone and full of quirks by modern standards.

Though, really, who are we to talk of quirks…

Fun Trivia:

Turns out there’s another Lady Colin Campbell whose Colin also turned out to be a schmuck and who is not a Victorian essayist, but a contemporary writer of contemporary Royal doings.

Not only that but the modern Lady CC was originally named George William Ziadie (she had unclear genitalia at birth and her parents were advised to err on the side of male, which turned out to be wrong so at age 21 she had corrective surgery and became Georgia Arianna Ziadie). So then she marries Lord Colin Campbell who decides to sell her out to the tabloids who run untrue stories on how Lady CC was born a boy and had a sex change. So they divorce right quick. And yet… she keeps not only the whole Lady Campbell schtick, but the Colin part.

I just don’t get it.

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I’m a big fan of the fine balance of nothing changing except whole worlds.

This can relate to books, art, conversations, people, places. To anything.

Sameness only looks/sounds/feels the same if you’re not paying attention.

Since the pandemic my walks have been pretty much limited to my backyard, where every winter I stamp out a labyrinth in the snow. This is the first year I’ve kept walking the labyrinth in every season. And it works just fine.

My penchant for nothing changing except everything fits well with traipsing the same paths over and over, several times a day in between reading, writing, chores. I’ve now walked these paths in rain and heat and snow and on windy days and perfect days.

Perfect being relative. Sometimes it means the weather, sometimes it means my own mood, which has me seeing beauty everywhere, swinging my arms, breathing deeply, thinking what else could I possibly want at this moment except to look at this precise shade of blueyelloworangegreenvioletcrimson.

Other times I’m walking my circles, feeling tense about one thing or another, muttering to myself about some scene I’m writing, arguing with a character who will NOT stop smoking, thus causing me to see a whole other side of her, which opens up a whole other aspect of the story. There are reasons these fictional types light up. It’s why I carry matches.

There’s comfort in the sameness then. The trees get me.

In this smallish space (larger than an average garden but not gigantic, not a park, not a meadow, not especially rambling) I’m allowed my many moods because there isn’t anyone to greet, no judgment, no bears, no coyotes, no traffic or intersections, and in the process of absolute walking freedom I always find a sliver of peace, of mind, of spirit. The things nature does best.

   

And in this confined space without distant horizon lines I see everything… woodpeckers, hummingbirds, doves, bluejays, the luminescent royal blueblack of the grackles and our beloved cardinal family who nested in the honeysuckle this summer, raised their kids, and who still hang out in the wisteria, like it’s their hood because, well, of course it is; and the hawk who sometimes sits at the top of a spruce until I shout and wave my arms about and it flies off (the doves audibly sigh); and goldfinches and things I can’t name, buntings or juncos, I’m really not sure. Geese fly overhead, seagulls too. And the crows crow about who knows what while the squirrels squirrel away things for me to find in spring. Or sooner. An apple in the nasturtium basket, a peanut shell on the chair were I sit to watch the sun rise.

Have I even mentioned the clouds?

Or the wild purple asters or the way virginia creeper turns scarlet and climbs to the top of the spruce tree.

Have I mentioned the last of the Queen’s Anne’s Lace, the zucchini, the green beans, the kale?

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Every day my walk is the same.

And entirely different.