"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Friday, 29 August 2008

A Unitarian wedding and a very Montreal reception

If I were a cynical person, I might huff that a wedding is a wedding is a wedding. You go to a stuffy place of worship, hear the same tired vows, then sit through bland speeches and an even blander supper. I might say that I used to love both 1Corinthians 13 and chicken breast, but as a repeated wedding mixture over the years, that they're starting to lose their appeal.

But when D and I attended my good friend Jarrett's wedding in Montreal last week, my jaded, easily-bored self remembered why I just can't be cynical where weddings are concerned.

The ceremony took place on the East end of the city, at a Unitarian church. I've never been to a Unitarian church, much less a Unitarian wedding, and I was impressed with its non-dogmatic approach. I liked the way Unitarians are able to find compatibility between spirituality and science, even if I still believe in a triune God.

The pianist played a full 30 minutes of classical music exquisitely on the church's grand piano before the ceremony. The rich sound echoed through the small, high-ceilinged building. The music sounded fresh - not snobby, the way classical music can sometimes come across at a formal event - and was an interesting complement to the young cousins who came bashfully down the aisle to place white calla lillies in an old maple syrup pail at the front of the church.

The entire wedding party sat in chairs on a small platform facing the congregation - an arrangement I'd never seen before. It felt very personal, as you could make eye contact with the bride and groom from time to time. Two friends of the couple read a gorgeous poem - one read it in French and the other translated in English - and a cousin of the bride sang a Pete Seeger song. The vows had a lot to do with respecting one another's individuality and support for one another's dreams - no nonesense about loving and obeying. It was a beautiful moment.

The bride's dress was quite simple, but when you looked closer at it, you could see little golden rosebuds embroidered all over the skirt. When I told Cynthia how much I liked the details, she said that her female friends and relatives had come over one night and each woman had sewn on a bud.

She and Jarrett looked so happy. I've never seen a calmer, more relaxed groom than Jarrett that night. It does my heart good to know he's found the perfect partner.

But the best part was the reception. Held at what was once a 1920's cabaret called Le Lion D'Or, the party was classy, sophisticated and a whale of a good time. I loved the live jazz quintet that played all the oldies - Jarrett is a sucker for old-fashioned music - the delicious supper, the crisp, cold glasses of Blanche, trading wit with my two old friends (now PhDs) I've known since Kindergarten but haven't seen in ages. D and I danced nearly every song together. Nothing like a wedding to remind you how good it is to be in love.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

"Oh, I'm as happy as a big sunflower...

...that bends and nods in the breeze, Oh! That bends and nods in the breeze, oh!"

I first came across this cheery little song in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura calls it Pa's "trouble song" because Pa sings it when he's worried about dying crops, cyclones, ravenous locusts, or any of the other nasty hardships those poor folks faced in the wilderness. Why someone would sing a happy ditty about sunflowers when they're facing dire circumstances is beyond me. But then again, I've never had to fend off hungry locusts.

I've never had much luck growing sunflowers in the city. They'd wither up or tip over or not bother to sprout at all. The chosen few plants that did make it to maturity were mercilessly decapitated by squirrels or crows, usually the day after I'd rapturously marvelled at the sunflower's bright, friendly face. But a happy accident occurred this spring on Someday Farm: a messy bird spilled a bunch of black oil sunflower seeds from the birdfeeder, and voila! 10 sturdy sunflowers took root, right beside our back door. No decapitations, no squirrels - just golden, joyful looking flowers that really do bend and nod in the breeze, oh!

As much as I've loved seeing them every morning as I come out the door, I've come to realize that while sunflowers in their prime are a thing of beauty, a sunflower slowly rotting on its stem is a true study in blechiness. Ah, but that is the essence of gardening, isn't it? Plants and flowers that were once so pretty and vibrant turn crispy and vile, seemingly overnight.

I thought that at least I'd harvest the seeds to repay the kind birds who'd helped me plant my sunflowers. You can imagine my yelp of disgust when I tried to pry them out and was met by an angry army of meal worms, ants and earwigs. Apparently I don't get to keep the sunflower seeds - the bugs have claimed unequivocal rights. Oh well. At least I haven't seen any locusts. Or cyclones. Yet.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Teat Dip Blues (or, confessions of a milkmaid)

Although I have fond childhood memories of playing in haylofts and patting calves on farms near my Dad’s cabin, getting intimate with a cow’s underside was never high on my priority list. But when you marry a man who grew up on a dairy farm, you learn to appreciate the grimy beauty of the barn pretty quickly.

Over the past few years, I’ve progressed from being the girl in ill-fitting coveralls who’s constantly in the way to confident scraper of poop and feeder of cats. Recently, I graduated to the status of bona fide milkmaid. I knew I’d reached the pinnacle of my dairy career when I was allowed to assist my in-laws with morning milkings for five straight days.

I could go on at length about all the interesting things I’ve learned while doing the milking - how to push a 300lb grain cart without dumping it in the gutter, how to avoid a nasty spatter of calf scours - but one vital truth revealed itself to me during my week of being a milkmaid. And it is this: cows are stupid.

That may sound harsh, especially to anyone who hasn’t been crammed into a barn on a humid August night with 46 of the obstinate creatures. But trust me, it’s true.

I didn’t always feel this way. I grew up reading books by Barbara Woodhouse, famous dog trainer and all-around animal guru. She maintained that all animals had an innate wisdom and that, with the right training and a little patience, could be taught to do anything. As proof of this, she’d saddle up her Jersey cow and ride it through the English countryside, much to the consternation of her neighbours.

As a result of my Woodhouse education, I thought that cows would have a beautiful bovine wisdom about them, a placid intelligence that I couldn’t help but admire. Why, after a few milkings, I’d probably become one with these gentle, useful creatures. My in-laws’ milk quota would likely skyrocket whenever I was around.

Then came the poo-covered tail in the face of reality: cows aren’t smart at all. In fact, many of them seem downright dumb. I’ve decided that cows, valuable creatures though they are, were put on earth solely to test the patience of inexperienced milkmaids and even hardened dairymen.

For example, I’ve seen a seasoned cow come lumbering out of the pen, udders squirting milk in every direction. It is clearly time for her to be milked. She has been doing this routine twice a day, every day, for approximately three months. And yet she stops dead in front of three open stalls, looking around in wide-eyed confusion like the kid at the Christmas pageant who has forgotten her lines.
“Mrs. Cow,” I tell her, “we’ve been through this. You know the drill. I have a pitchfork and I’m not afraid to use it. Get in the stall!”

Mrs. Cow continues to look at me blankly until I make good on my promise and poke her in the rump with the blunt end of my pitchfork (I haven’t quite gotten used to the pointy end yet). She looks surprised, shambles into the nearest stall, and surveys her surroundings with wonderment, as though this isn’t the 300th time she’s been there. Repeat this performance several times in a row and it’s enough to make you switch to soymilk.

Expecting a cow to behave is an exercise in futility. Take “The Kicker.” She’s been milking for two years. She isn’t sick, injured or mistreated. But every blessed time someone approaches her udders, she kicks. Once, as my brother-in-law was grimly outfitting The Kicker with her pretty red “anti kick” strap, I asked him why he didn’t use cow psychology on problem cows. He stopped what he was doing and looked at me as though I’d asked why he didn’t paint the cows’ toes pink. I won’t print his response here, but suffice it to say I don’t ask about cow psychology anymore. I figured my bro-in-law was just crusty and unwilling to entertain new ideas, so I asked another dairy farmer who graduated with the same agricultural degree that D did. Strangely enough, I got the same look of disgust. I asked this fellow whether there was anything one could do about a cow that kicked. He nodded. "Yeah, there's something you can do all right. Ship the bitch."

Still, I suspect there may be a million dollar business lurking behind my idea. There are horse whisperers and dog psychics; why not cow psychologists? If I owned a dairy farm, I’d make room in the budget for a bovine therapist. Or at least a really big pitchfork.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Simple Pleasures

There are many excellent ways to enjoy this luscious time of year: eating wild raspberries, skinny-dipping, going for moonlit walks, motorbiking...the list seems endless. But I felt compelled to share a few of the simple pleasures I've enjoyed over the past few weeks up here in the Kink.

Elvis Lives
My cousins invited me to attend the Bluewater Playhouse's production of...well, I can't remember the name of it, but it was all about Elvis. I was a bit skeptical; in my experience, small-town theatre is often more painful than amusing. And while I like Elvis as much as the next gal, sitting through two hours of Elvis-related amateur theatre wasn't high on my priority list. So it was a revelation to see a well-crafted, fun, swingin' production that had me laughing out loud all night. The show revolved around 4 Elvis impersonators competing for a shot at performing their schtick in Vegas and featured a female Elvis (she was pretty hot too, esp. in her red leather pants!), a fat, bald Vegas Elvis (complete with sequins and scarves), a sexy young lip-curling Elvis (think Jailhouse Rock) and finally, a sweaty, melodramatic, all-in-black-leather Elvis. The show was so much fun to watch, I was sorry when it ended. Just goes to teach me a lesson about judging small-town theatre.

Swing baby, swing
D and I love to dance. We met at dance lessons, and we try boogie down as much as possible, even if it's just in our kitchen or living room. When I saw an ad for the Stardust Big Band, playing as part of Kink's summer music festival - at the newly renovated 1902 beach Pavilion no less! - I begged him to go. We only know a few pathetic swing moves but we both adore big band and swing music. We took a slightly grumpy C along with us (I do love being seen out with two handsome men at one time) and quickly realized that we were the youngest people in the room. But that didn't matter, because the music was excellent, the pavilion cedar-scented and high-ceilinged, with slippery wood floors just made for dancing. The west-facing full length windows gave us an uninterrupted view of the orange and pale green sunset, which didn't hurt either.

The best part about the night in my opinion (next to cuddling up in D's arms and swaying to Moon River), was watching one particular couple get up and dance to nearly every song. They had to have been in their late 70's or perhaps early 80's. He wore a wine coloured shirt under his suit jacket, and she wore a wine coloured slim leather belt around her blouse. I loved that they matched! They laughed and hugged each other after every dance. They weren't always on the beat, and they didn't always get in step, but you could see that they'd been dancing together like this for years and the pure joy in their eyes was truly something to behold.

ShirtTail Parade
It's really hard to describe this one. Picture this: 20,000-30,000 people (the numbers have yet to be determined), of various ages, dressed in their underwear, drinking alcoholic beverages, marching down the main street of a small town while throngs of bystanders gawk and cheer. Yep, that's what happens in the Kink every 10 years for the Reunion. Seems like every small town up here has a reunion - I had just begun dating D when Ripley went through theirs in 2005, so I was kind of prepared for what I'd see. Back then, I was pretty shy and still getting to know everyone, so I wore full length silk pajamas. D, on the other hand, wore a mini skirt, a hot pink negligee, panty hose and construction boots. THIS time I was determined not to be outdone by my husband, so I donned his black boxer briefs, a black bra, a big white men's shirt and D's favourite black tie. Oh, and my black naughty sox (they're from Zeller's but they're still naughty).

My outfit was among the mildest I witnessed that night, my personal favourites being the fellow wearing a tiny tartan thong and the guy wearing homemade tinfoil underwear. Actually, most of outrageous outfits were worn by guys. Which is amusing and impressive until you realize you actually a) know them or b) are related to them or c) both.

Anyways, the parage converges in Connaught Park, where everyone parties with a live band until the wee hours. I left at 1:30AM and things were still going strong. Say what you will about small-town living, they sure know how to have a good time every 10 years! Yes, it's a bit crude. Yes, it's weird. But hell, it's FUN! Check out some videos...if you're brave...http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=qFmWSk_cZEw

Pipe Band
This last simple pleasure is going to seem a bit tame after the Shirttail parade, but it truly was a summer evening I'll remember. In Kink, every Saturday night in the summer, the main street is closed off so that the scottish pipe band can do their dignified bagpipe n' drum march. The best part? Everyone is invited to march along behind them. The whole evening wraps up with a pipe band concert in the park, just close enough to the ice cream shop that you can scramble down there for a cone and make it back in time to hear Amazing Grace, the final tune. I hadn't done the pipe band thing since I was a kid - back when we used to beg our mothers to take us EVERY saturday in the summer we were here. And you know what? It's just as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid.

So if you haven't been to the Kink, hopefully this little bouquet of experiences will entice you to visit. Soon!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Note to self...

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: be very, very careful when posting images "borrowed" off the internet onto your blog. I didn't realize that when you google images (e.g. "scary eyes") and use said photo that there may be copyright issues. Or at least a pissed off photographer who apparently feels possessive about his or her images and enjoys retaliating in passive aggressive ways.

I thought anything I found on google was free for the taking. Boy, was I wrong! Thankfully, my fellow blogger Jabbering Jaime alerted me to the fact that someone had removed the cute picture of animal eyes I'd added to my "Things that go rrrrr in the night" post and thoughtfully replaced it with a nice piece of gay porn. Which gave the title of my post a whole new meaning.

My apologies to anyone who might have been alarmed by the naughtiness! It wasn't intentional.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Things that go "Rrrrrr" in the night

Living in the city, one forgets how many creatures exist outside our patio doors. Oh sure, there are the squirrels, the raccoons, the occasional skunk. But none of these city critters stack up to the country monsters that go "Rrrrrr" at you in the night.

My dog wolfed down a rather sizable raw pork roast a few weeks ago. It was one of those nasty stuffed concoctions, filled with lard and seasonings galore, hand-picked by my father, who was visiting for the day. I'd set it in the sink to thaw while we frolicked at the beach, forgetting about Neko's ability to liberate food off counter tops. You can imagine my dismay at discovering a slimy trail of raw pork across the floor and no supper in the draining board. At least Neko had the class to drag the roast into the dining room to devour it.

I figured I'd be getting up with her at 3 a.m. when the raw pork began to take effect on her system and she didn't disappoint me. I heard the panicked scritch scritch of her claws on the screen door and, clumbsy with sleep, got myself out of bed, into a robe and down the stairs to let her out.

The stars twinkled at us as we walked down the path towards the garage - Neko yanking on the leash with a desperate look in her eye, me stumbling after her wishing I'd thought to put on my glasses. As my dog made her way to the hallowed pooping ground to do her dirty business, I stood and listened to the wind in the trees, the distant rush of waves, the crickets. It was kind of nice.

That is, it was nice until I heard SOMETHING say "rrrrrrrrr" from over by the chestnut tree. Neko froze in mid-poo. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, something I thought only happened in books. I squinted, trying to figure out what kind of creature the SOMETHING was. Maybe it was an angry squirrel. Or a baby raccoon. I took a step closer. The SOMETHING said "rrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!", the bushes rustled and I tore up the walkway, dragging poor Neko behind me. That was no freaking raccoon!

Now, I don't consider myself to be a fraidy cat. But when things make noises at me in the middle of the night from my very own yard, I have to draw the line somewhere. We've heard coyotes howl pretty darned close to the barns, and there was a recent bear sighting in Tiverton, so who knows what evil lurks in the fields of Someday Farm? I wasn't about to find out for myself. So I woke up my husband.

To his credit, he didn't make fun of me or moan about getting up at 3:15 a.m. He gamely stumbled down the stairs (looking very manly in his Big Bill work pants with crocs and no shirt), grabbed his trusty flashlight and went in the direction of my pointing. D made it about 3 steps onto the lawn when the SOMETHING said, "RRRRRRRRR? RRRRRRRR!! RRRRRRRRR!!!" That was enough to send my brave husband scuttling back to the safety of our porch to admit he didn't know what it was, and he wasn't about to find out.

We never did find out what the SOMETHING was. All I know is that it was mightily displeased at having its territory invaded, and it had a helluva set of lungs on it. Sharing our space with things that go bump in the night is going to take some getting used to. But I'll take noisy critters in the country to sirens and buses and drunken idiots on the road in the city any day.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Grey doldrums on a sunny day

It's sunny, mellow and beautiful outside. The shorn wheatfield to the north looks like burnished gold and the meadow out back is beckoning. The waves are curling on the beach and even the lawn chairs look friendly...but I'm all grey inside. Y'know, one of those days where you just can't seem to shake the winter out of your soul, no matter how hard summer tries to make you feel better.

I think part of it is the fact that my sister is leaving for a year's sojourn to teach in Russia on Tuesday. Tuesday!!! That's freaking 4 days away! Not that I begrudge her this marvellous adventure; on the contrary, I'm proud of and excited for her. But I'm sad for me. Even D has been moping.

"Why would anyone wanna move so far away from home?" he grouses from time to time about my other sister, who lives in Australia with my only nephew. "She should be living HERE." But my older sis is very happy there, and I think it's great she's found an adopted country to call her own - especially since it doesn't pester her with the nasty snow she found so trying in Ontario. Now my younger sister is leaving, albeit not permanently, and this has thrown D into the depths of familial despair. He thinks all families should remain in close proximity until death. I'm of the mind that a little distance can be healthy, which D thinks is pure craziness. Plus, he's been to Russia twice and can't for the life of him understand why anyone would want to go there on purpose.

Another contribution to my shades of grey is that Rose's due date just passed, and the universe apparently thought it would be amusing to commemorate the day with a chance visit from my sister in law and Dwain's 3 month old neice. Our neice is a sweet little ladybug, and I love her dearly. But it hurts to look into her wide eyes and hear her gurgle and smell her delicious baby smell and think about Rose. If Rose had lived when she was born in April, she would be four months old the day after tomorrow.

Anyway, I started mowing the lawn in my bikini to try and cheer myself up (I get occasional beeps from passing cars and that's good for the ego), but my heart just wasn't in it. I have a dish full of ruby red currants - freshly plucked from our very own bush - just begging to be transformed into jelly. I don't dare touch them in this mood though; I have a superstition that one should never try to cook anything when in a bad mood - I'm convinced that the jelly won't set when the cook is depressed.

Thankfully I made a batch of chocolate chip rum walnut cookies yesterday; they are helping to assuage my greys ever so slightly. And I think I will drag myself off this chair and go for a tramp in the meadow. Neko could use a bath in the river and I could use a breath or two of alfalfa to clear my head. Perhaps the purple and gold and green outside will chase away these internal shades of grey.