Whenever I get too busy/sick/tired/lazy the yoga is the first thing to get put aside. Which is, I always realize later- when I finally go back to it, exactly the wrong thing to do.
By then my back is usually screaming in pain and my hamstring's so tight I want to cry. Only then do I aquiesce and take the time to strike a warrior pose.
And the physical benefits are, undeniably, great; as effective, if not more, than any chiropractor's visit. But there's so much more to it than that. I've only been back at it for a week and my posture and breathing are improved tenfold over this time last week and, most importantly, I feel a hundred times more focused and closer to finding my center again.
Balance. What kind of crazy person gives that up in favour of more movie time?
Your own secluded island (or bathtub, any place with water will do)
A fire pit
A bottle of your favourite wine
A full moon
Lhasa de Sala discography
Strip naked. Let the sun warm, and the wind tickle, your skin, untouched now for so long the pleasure of it is almost excruciating. Close your eyes. Remember how you came to be here. Remember all the happy years, the difficult days, the eternal seconds. Remember the lovers, eager and bashful seducers. Remember the teachers, pedantic or wise. Remember your friends when you needed them. Remember your enemies when you needed them too. Remember your suffering, remember your joy. Remember you have not had an easy life, remember it was not hard.
When you have remembered every abandoned dream, every punchline and plot, slip quietly into the waves and swim. You will remember how and the water will remember you. Let the water take your memories. Let them feed the fish.
As the sun begins to set carry the box with all of the important papers - the A+ essays, the copyright poems, the love letters, the hate letters, the mortgage and first draft divorce papers- outside. Take some papers- do not read them- from the box and lay them in the pit, then stack the kindling around them, then the wood around that. Turn up the Lhasa, pour a glass of wine, light the match to the papers and let your gaze follow the fingers of the fire pointing towards the full moon rising in the heavens.
I took a lover the summer after you left. Or was it me who left? Can you leave without going anywhere? Of course you came back, you always came back, but that time, the last time, you had finally gone too far. I refused to answer the door, I unplugged the phone.
But the next summer I took another lover. He was fit and fine, especially when you factor in his age. He read newspapers. He collected art. He had two defunct families, three jobs to support them, tattoos and a personal library. If either of us had been inclined to spend the night, we’d have had plenty to discuss over breakfast. But, it was an arrangement of convenience; he did not have the time, and I had no desire, for anything more than a tumble and toss between the sheets. I thought this might make me feel alive again. I thought maybe, if nothing else, he’d fill the gap.
And it was amusing enough, I suppose, until one night when, afterwards, he said hesitatingly into the darkness, “I know your ex-boyfriend.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, sleepy and bored, thinking he meant the Ex, “How do you know him?”
“He hangs out at the bike shop. Ex snowboarder? Talks about you a lot. Says you dated for a long time.”
“Dated?” I exclaimed, realizing he meant you, then added quickly, hoping I sounded cynical and cavalier, “I wouldn’t call what we did dating.”
His laugh sounded relieved, “Yeah, so I gathered.”
I am instantly enraged with you, the ruinous romantic, still discussing me with strangers. But in the same moment , inexplicably, as though tricked into confession by either the shock or the wine, or the combination of both, I hear myself say, rawly, “Still, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over him. It still feels, every day, like I’ve had a limb amputated.”
“Yeah,” he says again, though biting and hard this time “so I gathered”.
That night I come to several conclusions:
First, as he tries to kiss me, gently, sweetly this time like never before, instead of feeling like love or caring or tenderness, it just tastes like pity on my lips and I feel like an invalid, I reach conclusion number one: I can never see him again.
Conclusion number two follows quickly thereafter, as he attempts to make love to me, instead of having sex like we used to or even just did only an hour before: I cannot do this anymore, with someone I do not love and who does not love me.
Which leads all too swiftly and frighteningly to conclusion number three: I am too broken, and human and wrong for anyone to ever actually love me.
On the cab ride home, watching the sun rise over the Osborne Bridge I remember the night we met at your favourite pub, the nights we spent in your van, illegally parked or otherwise, and all the fights we had on every street corner, restaurant, coffee shop and bar in the heart of the city. Conclusion number four: if my own heart is ever going to not ache again, I am going to have to leave.
I give notice to the Corporation, the landlord, the city and its streets.
As a PoliSci major, news was once an imperative part of my life but, much like Dan Bern, I gave up watching the news and reading the papers and knowing the names of the hip people several years ago. Unlike Dan Bern it's never really made me feel out of touch. Now that I am literally out of touch, I have begun listening to and watching the news again. What a soap opera. Don't get me wrong, I am amused, entertained, even awestruck but it can be dizzying.
How amazing was it to witness the head of CSIS accuse certain politicians of being vehicles of foreign interference yesterday? For me it comes in a close second in my list of most (probably only) memorable TV watching moments to Paul Martin's disastrous proclamation that he would invoke the notwithstanding clause to prevent health care reform, killing any hope of finally becoming prime minister in less time than it takes to say "Don't f*ck with my constitution".
Breathtaking. Mind boggling. But there it was again yesterday. An otherwise intelligent man announcing on TV, things that even a child would know should never be uttered out loud, even in whispers to a priest. Moments like these lend complete credence to conspiracy theorists. Otherwise how could they commit such hubris, if not as puppets playing (poorly written) parts of a much larger scheme?
Even more fun is watching the media and pundits scramble today to try to find a plausible explanation. Allow me: Occam's razor tells us there can only be one two word answer: Knights Templar.
Christian Bok's plan to encode poetry into bacteria and, further, to "create" a bacteria that will, on replication, write new poetry, is pure genius. If it worked, I think it would be the closest act of man to do what "g*d/ boogey bugga/ tao" whatever you call it has done in creating the universe. What is it, after all, if not poetry incarnate? Brilliant and beautiful!
I am feeling great empathy for my favourite hero, The Little Prince. Somebody please draw me a box to keep my groundhogs in so they don't eat my flowers? And a leash for Digger, the campground dog, so he doesn't hurt my groundhogs?
Frankly though, despite listening to their distressed squeals while I tried to shower and Digger set about hunting them, it only took them a few minutes after he left to feel quite comfortable climbing up onto the porch where he'd been sitting, so I'm guessing they're not in the least bit traumatized.
I gave up gluten three years ago. I don't remember dreaming about food before then but since then? I dream of two foods and only two foods recurrently: Niakawa Pizza (usually feta and tomato) and my mother's rhubarb platz. In my dream I start eating these things and then realize halfway through that I can't have them anymore, decide that it's too late now and keep eating them until they're all gone. When I wake up I'm really glad it was just a dream or else it would be about a months worth of hurt. But, this weekend, my mother made one of those dreams come true and baked me a gluten free rhubarb platz.
Eating the first piece on Friday night I almost cried and I kept saying, "I can't believe this is really happening. I'm not going to wake up from this. I am actually eating this and I'm not going to be sick." I wish I had adequate words to thank both my mom and the girls at Mennonite Girls Can Cook for making that happen.
To be clear my mother does other amazing things for me all the time, like making rhubarb jam, chicken broth, and potting herbs for me so I have fresh rosemary and basil and chives for cooking up here at the lake. She does my laundry, delivers the post for me every Friday, buys me the odd bottle of wine and tries to remember what brand of this or that I like when she goes to the grocery store. In return I drive her crazy with all my crazy. Mother's are amazing. At least mine is.
We also finally finished turning this, my summer home:
With the exception of some weeding and window washing, the rest of the summer is ours to enjoy!
Alberta Minister of Culture and Community caused an uproar this week for saying, "I look at what we produce and if we’re honest with ourselves, why do I produce so much shit? Why do I fund so much crap?”
I can't answer why he funds and produces so much shit and crap but I would like to encourage him to continue to do so. Furthermore, if I may be so bold, I would like to suggest the question he really should be asking himself, and we ourselves, is what's wrong with crap?
I think effluence is erroneously maligned by most cultures. It can rain and shine all it likes but without healthy well fertilized soil, nothing edible and/or beautiful will grow no matter how hard you try. So, why aren't we producing more shit? What is this great aversion to poo?
How did something so very fundamental to life come to be so misunderstood and reviled? I blame the advent of the modern sewage system (while I simultaneously and heartily endorse it) which allowed, for the first time in human history, mankind to largely ignore their waste by flushing it away with a quick flick of the wrist. Over the years it's become shameful, this business of doing one's business.
The other night, while watching my favourite movie "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring" which was excitingly on the only TV channel I get as the late night movie, a commercial came on for a deodorizer. "What's the best thing ever?" asks a pearl necked lady. "Not leaving a smell when you use the washroom." answers an equally stiffly coiffed, stepford wife in the next shot. The commercial goes on highlighting all the benefits of using even just a single drop of this deodorizer so that you need never smell your own waste again. While this commercial is wildly funny on first view what it proposes is actually dangerous to both the individual and society.
In the first instance, changes in the smell of your waste can be an early cue to, sometimes serious, changes in your health. So by masking it you could be delaying a diagnosis of any number of debilitating, possibly lethal, gastrointestinal ailments.
But secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, try to imagine a society of people who believe that their shit doesn't stink. Like Western culture isn't insufferable enough.
I think it's time, dear reader, to embrace shit. Not only is shit a uniting factor for all humanity but for all living creatures on the planet. Moreover, no good would come to any of us without it. So, next time anyone rushes to disparage something you've created or enjoyed by referencing shit or crap say just say thank you. And, if we require a shorthand derogatory reference point, I propose the use of the term "plastic bag" instead.
Now that all the work is done I don't mind the rain at all. I've thrown on a cozy sweater, so far the porch is keeping me dry and I've made the richest spinach soup to sup while I listen to the lullabye thrum of the rain on the roof.
Marscapone Spinach Soup
1 cup Mom's homemade chicken broth *
8 T Marscapone cheese
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion
2 cups spinach
Chop onion and garlic. Add to pot and sautee in olive oil until halfway to transluscent. Add spinach and rosemary cover with lid for two minutes. Add chicken broth. stir until heated through. Add marscapone cheese. You may add more or less depending on how creamy you like your soup. Once marscapone has melted and is well blended, pour into bowl. Add smoked paprika to taste and top with parmesan cheese if you have.
* If you don't have any of my mother's go ahead, use what you have. I'm sure it will still taste fine. (Just not nearly as fine as mine.)
I paddled out to Turtle Creek today, so dubbed for the family of turtles that will, year after year, greet you near the entrance. They will be sunning themselves on the same log in descending order of size.
You will never be able to get a good picture of all six of them because, no matter how prepared you are, they will always see you before you are properly positioned and will, after seeming to heave a collectively weary sigh, dive into the water. Their heads will poke up out of the water to spy on you but, as soon as you spot them, they will duck shyly back underwater. They may be camera shy, but they have erected a sign to convey everything important you might need to know on your visit:
So I always take care to not reach any speed more dizzying than a 2k/hr stroke but you're more than welcome to take your chances. When you reach the tributaries, hang a left towards Colossus so dubbed for it's size which is, obviously, analogous to Hoover dam despite having been built by mere rodents.
Only this year, the Colossus will be gone. There are only two small dams, both of which have been breached and, if you just keep paddling, you will eventually find yourself with this stunning vista:
If you sit in your big blue kayak in the ditch long enough, wondering how it could all have gone so horribly wrong, a lady will drive by in a K-car and, spotting you, her face will light up and she will wave at you enthusiastically, or wait, no that's encouragingly. Smile wanly and wave back, feeling like you just got caught trying to kayak in a bathtub.
I'm still hobbling about though I went for a very long walk this morning, partly as rehab, partly to alleviate my stiff, stiff joints and, mostly, to use my magic stick. Yeah, I have a magic stick. The weekend was full of surprises that way.
My father flew in from Calgary after visiting his brother in Windsor (yes, he had to fly to Calgary to get to Windsor even though we live on the prairies-see also Dan Bern "Lightning Jazz" "Every plane flies to Phoenix, even if you're trying to fly from New York to Boston you have to fly to Phoenix") so my parents arrived in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
It was raining Saturday so my father and I accompanied my mother to a birthday party for my mother's friend's 90 year old father. It was here I confronted my future in the face of Violet. She was new to "the home for the Aged" (this is prominently set in stone above the building's double security doors and made my father and I laugh- is this a cheese factory?- though I soon forgave the fine institution for the label when I saw they had Happy Hour three days a week. I am now campaigning hard to convince Ma and her sister to get on the waiting list) and when I asked her if she liked it there she said, "It's different... it's very different."
She lived her whole life in this town, at home with her mother and twin sister Viola who died only recently in their 90th year. Childless, having never married and no contact with any of her 3 brother's children, she delcared herself the "lone survivor". Come for the cupcakes, stay for the heartbreak.
"So," she said lightly, changing the subject, "who's this party for anyway? I don't have a clue who this man is." We had that much in common. Still, if I can find a pensioners palace with Happy Hour on weeknights, I think I'll be okay. At least I'll have practice attending stranger's birthdays.
After that I went in search of information regarding the local cemetery walks. While perusing the tourist brochures I was pleased to discover I had already experienced one of their much lauded attractions: the ER. The blurb highlights the hospital's cutting edge medical equipment "including a CT scanner" and "dedicated medical evacuation helicopter on standby should an emergency occur in the area" which I have every intention of riding in to see that Scott fellow again. Why they didn't have his picture in the inset...
Speaking of modelling, on the way home I spent a good three minutes with this beauty on the side of the highway:
Big Brother made it in time for dinner and the rain let up long enough for all of us to spend the evening around the fire.
I worked really hard this week. Still I was surprised to find myself excitedly saying, "Thank god it's Friday" when five o'clock hit and all the campers started arriving for the weekend. In a few more hours my family will be up for the weekend so I am done until Monday morning.
I think I thought writing would be easy. I enjoy it, why would it be hard? But it's a roller coaster and every morning I am a little bit terrified to turn on my laptop. One day the muse is with me and I'm astounded at the plot twists and character's development that seem to flow effortlessly onto the screen. Other days are torture. I stare hopelessly out the window praying for the groundhog underneath the cabin to chew through the floor and swallow me whole. Sometimes the tide can turn in a matter of minutes. It's fascinating and frustrating work.
The story itself is, at times, far more action and plot driven than anything I enjoy reading and those parts are absolutely dreadfully written.
Please, does anyone out there have any suggestions of well-written action type novels- preferably literary as opposed to Grishamy- I can read to get a handle on how to write this stuff well?
Mike Richards, from the town where I'm currently living is playing for the Flyers and Jonathan Toews, from my hometown is playing for the Blackhawks. Who do I cheer for?
Update: I missed which player said it but my new favourite sports quote: "It's better than anything. Better than any vacation I've been on, anything cool I've ever done, better than kissing the prettiest girl in school."
I stumbled on a book sale at the grocery store over the weekend. I was maintaining my puritanical pauper resolve to not buy a book but, when I was informed all I had to do was make a donation in order to help myself to whatever books I liked, any hope of financial or aesthetic discipline was utterly ruined.
And so I came to be in possession of James Joyce's "Dubliners" and Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" both of which have lead me to ask the same question I always ask when duped into buying and reading "classics". How did this come to be defined as a "classic"? Who decides these things? Because they really ought to be fired. I am admittedly not very far into either of them but it's the sort of reading that I will do only because I have time right now and, I suppose, because it will be good for me, in the way that eating fibre and playing team sports are good for one. I'll do it but I doubt I'll enjoy it. I'm consoling myself that neither can be worse than "A Farewell to Arms" which was, in my opinion, the literary equivalent of eating hay bales while simultaneously playing outfield on a boggy baseball diamond with a cigar smoking monkey flagellating you between pitches. No, wait, the monkey makes that scenario far too interesting; a cigar smoking dentist performing a root canal on you between plays. Growing a beard for three chapters indeed.
The fact that I fall for this 'but it's a "classic"' schtick everytime does nothing to improve my opinion of my own intellect and the fact that I only scored 110 on the test in the "Boost Your IQ" book I bought at the sale, isn't helping either. Admittedly, you probably shouldn't try to test your IQ after half a bottle of wine but I've been holed up due to injuries and rain so I thought it might alleviate the boredom. I suppose it has, in an unexpected way. It's hard to be bored when you're neurotically developing a complex.
Spent the bulk of a beautiful sunny afternoon in the ER due to a minor mishap. Fortunately my foot is not broken, much to both mine and the doctor's surprise, but now I have to figure out a way to (not) break something else so I can meet the handsome, kind and blushing X-ray technician again. Only next time I will be prepared by showering and having nicely pedicured feet instead of looking like a hobo and smelling like a swamp creature. In the meantime though I am the proud owner of a pair of pewter gray crutches and my lack of mobility should be very good news for my writing schedule.
Even more exciting I discovered the smurf village right outside my kitchen window! No smurf sightings as of yet but I'll keep you posted.
I am officially settled in at the lake for the next couple of months, warm and dry despite the stormy weather.
Mom took me out for a late lunch at the Sawney Bean, my last hope for curry. The menu very clearly states it’s authentic British curry which, once I’ve tasted it, I gather means it’s the same colour as curry and is served over rice but is otherwise not particularly curry like. Still, unless I manage to snag a job in India, or a country with a reasonable Indian population, it will have to do, I’m settled somewhere and can try my hand at making my own.
When the waitress asks me what size wine I’d like, I order the big glass with the excuse it’s my birthday. “Congratualtions,” she says. Apparently a birthday entitles me to free dessert –without the humiliation of a bizzare birthday song- and, while they haven’t anything gluten free, they do have GF ice cream and strawberry sauce. I don’t believe i’ve ever said no to strawberries and I’m not about to satrt now.
After that we hit the highway, straight towards the ominous skies to the east, leaving reported funnel clouds behind us.
Once we’ve unloaded the car and unpacked the boxes we open the wine and the card comes out. It contains enough money to pay for my newly ordered laptop bag and these words of wisdom:
Last night I dreamed I was trying to carry a large buddha statue across a river. It was too heavy and the current too strong. So, worrying, I left the buddha on the bank and struggled across the river without it. It took me all night and when I finally made it across the buddha statue was there. I thought I had been turned around midstream and almost started to cry but the buddha laughed, which caused me to remember myself, so I laughed along.
I am officially an alcoholic. In my defense, if the bottle hadn't already been open I wouldn't have poured a glass and found myself drinking away my frustration, alone, in the middle of the afternoon.
But I have been mixing and stirring and whirring like a baking tornado these last 48 hours, trying to use up the last of my gluten free flours so I will have muffins and bread this summer and not be throwing any out before I leave the continent.
Yesterday went really well. I made, cinnamon bread, hamburger buns (soooo good, I can't wait to have an actual meat-on-bread burger this summer!), banana hemp muffins (they're reminiscent of bran muffins actually-not exciting but filling and nourishing and great for breakfast in my kayak), teff banana bread and, my new favourite, rhubarb muffins. Preliminary samples indicate everything turned out well so I had no reason to believe today would not be a smashing success. The fact that I was planning yeast breads for today was undaunting. After all, I made buns yesterday without a hint of trouble. I am getting better at this.
Instead of sticking with my tried and true Sorghum bread recipe, the rhubarb muffins were such a success I decided to try the beautiful looking teff and hemp sandwich breads. I proofed my yeast for both breads before mixing so I know it wasn't the yeast but neither turned out well at all.
The hemp bread was ridiculous even last night when I was reading it. It seemed like far too much flour for the amount of liquid but nobody mentioned having any problems in the comment section so I fearlessly forged ahead. After adding the liquid to the flours however it became frighteningly evident my flour was parched. I ended up adding another 2 cups and finally had a lump of dough that handled like a very stiff bread dough but my experience with gluten free baking tells me bread batter should be more like cake batter. The fact that the recipe itself uses the phrase "spoon into a prepared pan" tells me that a stiff dough was not the goal but I foolishly decided that, having already doubled the amount of water, I could not possibly add more. I also now had enough dough for two loaves.
Needless to say neither of them turned out although I've decided I can make them palatable, at least while they're fresh, with a nice soft mozzarella cheese.
I haven't tried the teff loaf yet but it also looks nothing like the picture.
This, of course, is why there are no baking shows on the Food Network. Cooking shows abound, but baking? It's too risky. You may have baked something ten times without trouble and then, one day- maybe you slept wrong, maybe you had a fight, maybe you fell in love and your mind is wandering- whatever the reason and you may never know, it will flop. And there is no room for failure on the chattering box. TV is no place for reality.
But this is something I had to accept when I had to learn to bake without gluten. It was hard at first. Not only did it contradict my perfectionist nature, a trait that had previously manifest itself neatly in my reliably edible baking, but it defied my innate Mennonite cheapness. Gluten free flours are high maintenance diva ingredients- outrageously expensive and demanding- and when you're used to being adept at something but find yourself failing more than you succeed, it's tempting to give up.
Today I decided to make one more batch of (bigger) buns rather than admit defeat and, once my yeast was proofing, I mixed my flours then set out to mix the wet ingredients. I cracked the first egg open and watched the yolk splat satisfactorily when it hit the bottom of the bowl. I was already reaching for the second egg before I realized the recipe called for egg whites not eggs. (I actually tried to separate it out of that bowl, go on picture it, before accepting it was a lost cause.
This is when I went back to the fridge to make sure that these really were the last three eggs and noticed the bottle of wine that had been opened but not nearly finished on Saturday night. There were definitely no more eggs so I poured myself a glass of wine. It did, after all, need to be drunk before the weekend and couldn't really be brought to the lake. I was taking my first sip when I spotted the yeast atop the warming oven, grown so high it was about to spill over the bowl.
Already feeling fortified, I separated half the egg and carried on. My brother dropped in for a visit just as I was popping the finished product in the oven and he kept me company while I finished the bottle. Does finishing the bottle in good company mean I'm not really a lush? Because if the beautiful buns can be entered into evidence, it certainly helped my baking mojo.
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."