Tuesday, July 27, 2010

After the Rain ...

... the sun did shine and the flowers burst forth at the TH.

I cut my first posy of sweet peas this morning; I wish there was a way I could capture their scent - so accessible, so ephemeral.

Just like this shimmering, beautiful day. There is so much to do; and yet ... we're not given many days like this one. I will make a little time to sit on my verandah and breathe the summer air and swat desultorily at the mosquitoes. To take some time to ponder (and try not to dwell on whether 'ponder' is an intransitive verb or not!).

To breathe in deeply the magic of this unexpected gift.

Monday, July 19, 2010

... A Long Way From Home

This relentless rain has washed all the colour from the sky. It's July 19 and it's cold. I huddle lower in the purple chair facing the east window and think, This is the kind of weather only a British mother could love ...

My mother. We experienced lots of weather like this in Coonoor and Ooty. We would drag ourselves off to school after lunch in our anoraks and wellingtons, miserable and with the damp permeating our wool socks and blue-and-white checked school uniforms. We shivered our way through Latin declensions and pointless scientific formulae, through the dreaded art class where the poor deranged teacher was as likely to pull your hair as praise your work.

But when the bell rang at quarter to four and we were free to leave, we turned our thoughts toward home ... toward tea time ... toward our mother.

And she never failed us! On a grey, wet day like this, she would have a fire lit in the dining room fireplace and a pot of tea ready. And, as a special treat, she would make us cinnamon toast: the bread would be toasted till it was crisp but not burnt; and then the toast would be buttered until you could taste the butter but it didn't make the toast soggy; and lastly she would take a spoon and dip it into the cinnamon sugar she had blended together in a bowl and she would sprinkle it carefully, evenly, lovingly, on each piece. They would be cut in half and the plate passed around as many times as it took until our faces lost that pinched, woebegone look and we could chat cheerfully about our day. Seconds of tea were offered and hair braids were loosened and poor tender scalps massaged gently until we were warmed even more by her care than by the fire.
Today reminds me of those lonely, rainy days. My Dad is with Debs at his specialist's office. Angela Hewitt is playing Beethoven's piano concertos plaintively on the sound system. And the rain streaks down the gutters and gushes out the spout. Even the adolescent sparrows, who were born in the underlay of the car port and have abandoned their nest and summarily dismissed their parents, as only adolescents can do, are popping by with offerings - a twig here, a piece of straw there - hoping they can gain readmittance to the one safe place they still remember as home.

"Sometimes I feel like a motherless child ..." These are the kind of days that a man needs his wife. That a girl needs her mum. Mum would know what to do to make the day feel brighter; she would find a way to turn the vast empty room into a cocoon of warmth and nurturing and anticipation of the inevitable sunshine just ahead. She would make me cinnamon toast and tea and the world would seem less stark, less austere.

And so almost as if sleepwalking, I went to the kitchen and plugged in the kettle. I toasted two pieces of ancient grains bread until they were crisp but not burnt and I made a little dish of cinnamon sugar. I steeped a pot of tea, chose my favourite cup and saucer and cream pitcher, and carried it all on a silver tray to the glass-topped table by the fireplace.

As I bit into the first half-piece of toast I could almost hear her saying to me, "What's wrong, Chrissie?" and I could almost feel her fingers working at the tangles in my mind until my headache started to ease away. And I could almost tell her about this strange, heartless day that was squeezing the air from my lungs and the colour from the world. And as I sipped my tea and ate my toast, I could almost hear her telling me to go outside, telling me that the grey was just a canvas for some of the most spectacular artwork imaginable.

I wandered outside and was greeted by the enormous pot of birthday flowers that Doreen had tended only yesterday.

I glanced over at the sweetpeas that lovely Deb had nurtured from seeds into seedlings until she planted them a few Sundays ago - now they were stretching their heads defiantly upward toward the sky, bursting into a colourful song of joy.

I looked at my beautiful Schubert cherry tree, lovingly chosen and planted for me by Allan. What a solace that tree has become! Even the sparrows were taking refuge in its swaying branches. The lilac twigs that Matthew had carefully planted last year were at last coming into their own.

At the foot of the little lawn there was a surprise cluster of pale pink flowers, so delicate I could not decide if they were weeds or just an aberrant seed that had had the good sense to land on my patch of green.

Lastly, I peeked around the rock to see how my and Sister Sue's Shauna Rose was faring - after the crazy wind of last week, what blooms she had mustered had been scattered on the lawn in individual petal boats holding tear-drops of rain. But this morning, Shauna Rose was standing proud and tall, bursting with hope and promise, the miniature pansies a jeweled anklet at her feet.

And seeing all the colour and recalling all the love that had placed it there, I felt like the canvas of my life, which has been feeling stretched tight recently, was now revealing that I am not a long way from home - that this beautiful place, in fact, is my home on this particular panel of canvas; and that the Old Master is continuing to blend and apply the colours and the textures as carefully as Mum mixed the cinnamon sugar and sprinkled it on our toast so long ago.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remember how I tell you ...

... that working at Carswell helps support the TH? Here are a couple of pictures of my arduous duties last week:

Welcoming our Stampede guests with Sarah and Dawn

Catching up with old friends: Annamarie ...

... and the timeless Judy

with my long-time Carswell buddies: Big O and Little S

I would have LOVED to have a picture of the Carswell "Old Guard": my beloved Sue and McDoom were also present and a number of the librarians and lawyers in attendance remembered them from the days of a local Carswell office. But - alas! - no picture was forthcoming as I was without camera when I was with them. Next year there will be no escape for them!

Yee-haw, y'all! Is it any wonder I love my job?!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Changing of the Guard

Phew! What a crazy weekend at the TH ... new staff and new roles, and lots of roast beef dinner and quiche and tons of desserts.

But the happenings of this TH are not controlled by me, as you well know: I am completely bossed around by Don, who advises me and pitches in in ways large and small; and even more so God - who is unfailingly merciful and kind to the clueless such as myself - is with us every step of the way.  

And the new people held up remarkably well under the able direction of our wonderful Krista.

Emily is working on Saturdays. This is her first foray into work like this, and she brought a cheerfulness and earnestness that made me muse on the thought of our very own Anne of Green Gables at the TH ...

Michelle - how exciting is it to have her?!: Michelle is our own dear Brenda's grand-daughter and will be working here this summer. Michelle is also cousin to two of the cutest guys in the world so I am hoping that she will motivate them to join the TH family a few summers down the road ...

Carla - Ha! This one I have been waiting for with MUCH anticipation. And, true to all that had been told me, she shone on Sunday evening. She tirelessly and uncomplainingly kept up with the mountain of dishes, and even managed to squeeze in some plating and other tasks in the kitchen. To have her with us for the summer is a gift as she takes over for her brother Brent ...


Oh yes, Brent: he was back, working on Saturday for his brother Curt - grinning from ear to ear. If university and city living become too boring for you, Brent, you know you're always welcome ...

And speaking of Curt - is this person really just 15? He was outstanding in the dining room on Sunday evening. Working through the pain and tiredness of a weekend soccer tournament, and the disappointment of the FIFA finals, he stretched well out of his comfort zone to serve customers, even taking orders, and managed to get through a tough evening with grace and dignity and little flashes of humour. (Curt, no pictures this weekend!) ...

                                                                                                                                                           Carla and Krista

And loyal Anita, who is moving to Calgary but is still going to come back and work her Saturday shift - this Saturday night was busy and chaotic, but she worked her magic, designing flowers on mango mousses and making the brownie sundaes truly impressive attention-grabbers ...

Lastly, Krista - we will be losing her at the end of July. But what a treasure she has been at the little TH since December! Her professionalism and artistry and willingness to pitch in anywhere she is needed have been such an example to the younger staff. I personally have gleaned rich benefit from her resilience and willingness to share her multilayered talents. 

Welcome to all of you. This is going to be a great summer!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fifty-four Years

Where did the time go, you wonder. Wasn't it just this time yesterday that you were at your wedding reception at the community hall, wondering if you would make it before the motel cut-off time of midnight? (You made it with five minutes to spare!)

And then those beautiful daughters of yours! all grown up and with their kids almost all grown up too. All you've wanted for your girls is for them to be happy, to be strong, to know the kind of love the two of you have - the kind of love that sets goals and works, side by side, heart by heart, to achieve them.

You're a team, the two of you. And because of the love you have for each other, you've been generous with your love and care to those of us who aren't technically in your family but have adopted you anyway.

Neither of you is given to speechifying, but your actions show each other, and us, how you love each other.

Like the Tommy Hilfiger golf shirt.

Like the two dozen red roses.

Like living in the campground for the summer. And staying put for the winter.

The kind of love that puts the other one first.

My wish for you is that the enormous kindness you have shown to scores of people throughout these past 54 years will be returned to you in spades.

And that your love will only continue to deepen, "for better, for worse, in sickness and in health."

And that the golden years will truly be golden.

And that God will keep you in His tender loving care.

"Loving you,"

 - One of those "adopted" daughters of yours

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tea Cozies!

When I was in Victoria, someone else I bumped into was Penny from Honeysuckle Cottage in Victoria - the lady I bought tea cozies from back in 2003!

And look at the happy result of our meeting! Not ten minutes ago the CanPar dude showed up at my door with a box ...

Why don't you come over for a pot of tea?!

Monday, July 5, 2010

There's a New Kid in Town ...

When Brent gave his "official" notice (don't worry - he'll be back; he's part of the family!), his younger brother, Curt came to me: "I'll be your senior person now, won't I, Karyn? I'm really nervous ..."

This is the abridged story of our Curt. From earlier posts you know that he started here when he was 14 years old, same as Brent. I do believe he was shorter than I! And - as younger brothers tend often to be - he was in Brent's shadow, literally. He kept close to him in the TH and looked to him for guidance and direction. Brent, being Brent, rose to the occasion and with great patience and wisdom and humour encouraged Curt, pushing him back on track when he needed it. And then he gently started detaching the apron strings bit by bit.

Until we arrived at yesterday. Curt is now 15 1/2 and counting down the days till he can get his driver's licence. He came in at 2:55 p.m. ready to work. He seemed to be everywhere: dishes, drinks, clearing tables, garnishing desserts. I hadn't found the time to make a peanut butter pie yet and asked Curt if he had made one before. "I haven't made any pie before, but I can try," he replied earnestly.

And what a pie it was! Not only did it come out light and creamy and fluffy but it was marketed with a zeal and determination I have never witnessed at the TH before: as a table of eight people celebrating a 50th birthday was about to order dessert, Curt said to me, "No one has had my PNB pie; you need to tell those people that I made it."

So I dutifully went out and informed the table (almost all who knew Curt through their kids) that Curt had made the PNB pie this evening - his first pie! And immediately the birthday girl said she would definitely have a piece. Two more followed suit in short order.

Curt carried the pie, complete with birthday candle, out to the table ("But do I have to sing, Karyn?!") and led the chorus. He served each of the PNB pie slices with great gusto. When everyone was served he told them: "This is my first pie," to a round of applause.

And this is the most charming thing about Curt - his sense of dry humour. After they had eaten the pie and raved about it to Curt, he responded, deadpan, "This is the best pie I've ever made!"

That entire pie sold in a few minutes. Curt, grinning happily, said to me in mock irritation, "I had really wanted a piece, you know ..."

Curt, you'll be just fine here as my senior person!

Friday, July 2, 2010

O Canada!

REUTERS / Chris Wattie

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North, strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.

REUTERS / Chris Wattie

God keep our land glorious and free !
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western Sea,
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!

Cathryn Ironside

God keep our land glorious and free !
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

REUTERS / Chris Wattie

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western Sea,
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!

REUTERS / Stefano Relladini

God keep our land glorious and free !
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.

God, keep our land glorious and free !
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee."

REUTERS / Chris Wattie

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A City Fit For a Queen

Last week I worked in Victoria and one of the places I had appointments was Royal Roads University. The day was beautiful. I went to the dining room of the Delta for breakfast and was seated at the same table that Dad, Mum, Cath and I were seated on the Sunday morning in 2006 when I brought them out with me to Vancouver and Victoria for the weekend. This was the view:

I got to Royal Roads at 9:00 in the morning, just when the mist was rising off the lagoon and I could glimpse the mountains.

I met lovely Max, who introduced me to the new head of the department and new faculty members - Max who, at age 60, will complete her degree next June!

    Walking up from the parking lot                         The sweeping front drive

Max introduced me to Mike, he of the quicksilver lines tripping off the tip of his tongue but the disquieting lament tugging at the corners of his eyes. As Max and I were sitting in her office, Mike came back and asked if he could have a word with me in his office.

He wanted to ask about the possibility of
publishing with Carswell (sadly, his work is not one of our subjects) and somehow our conversation drifted away to parents and then it was clear what had been reflected in his eyes: his father had died recently, needlessly, from a tiny infection that had gotten out of control. "It was tedious," he commented laconically.

"It was devastating," I suggested.

"Yes," he admitted softly.

"I know," I replied.

"Yes," he said and looked me straight in the eye.

And as I left his office and the building, my mind and heart were suffused with memories of my Mum, who was here on the grounds of Royal Roads in 2006. How she loved flowers and greenery and gardens and beautiful buildings replete with history!

I followed a hint of jasmine on a breeze and tracked it to a bush teeming with blossoms just near the entry to the gift shop ...

And then I walked around the grounds and took a few pictures:

                        Secret door 

This tree reminded me of my Mum - complicated, wise,
wounded, sheltering and embracing


Flowers everywhere!

Later that evening I met Sweet Jane in Sidney for our second annual Farmers Market Blitz and Mexican Feast Reunion:

I selected three more hand-crafted marbles for the TH collection, marbles created of blown glass by Sarah Mulligan in the tradition of the 1800s (if you're interested in seeing how she creates her marbles, go to http://www.sarahmulligan.com/ - each marble is a work of art!) ...

... and a beautiful pendant, also created by Sarah, that reminded me how life is so precious, so delicate, a vapour; fragile and powerful as a breath of air.

That evening, having said goodbye to Jane, I strolled to the pier and watched the sun set, all crimson and peppery extravagance ...

... and the moon rise, silver and munificent in an ultramarine sky, a benediction.