What else is there to say?
I have just returned from a vacation to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is home. At least it was for the first five decades of my life. It has been said that you must leave home and return in order to see it for the first time. It’s true for me. You see the beauty, the scenery, even the people with eyes that are somehow fresher as a result of time and distance.
Canadian folk singer Connie Kaldor grew up in Saskatchewan. She has lived in Quebec for some time and yet has written several songs about her native province. I became a fan of hers when I lived in Saskatchewan. I always wondered how she could see things so clearly and it is possibly because of that time and distance.
My view of Saskatchewan is a biased one. I was raised and educated there. It’s where I met my husband, where we raised our daughter and where we were able to find meaningful and challenging work. Much of our wonderful family still lives there. When I visit Saskatchewan I feel it fills up my soul and I bring that feeling back with me when I return to our current home in Ontario. Now we have two “homes” where we have family and close friends. Who could ask for anything more.
During your life have you been transplanted from your native home to another place on the planet? If so, what is it like for you to “go home”?
Green (sometimes) Thumb -Year Two
It’s been hot and dry in our neck of the woods this year. We have been declared in a Level 2 drought. This isn’t good for all sorts of reasons but there are some benefits-fewer mosquitoes, not much for lightning and thunder (not enough humidity to muster up a decent boomer), reduced e.coli counts for beach swimming-thought I’d throw that one in.
Dry as it’s been, our garden, or maybe it’s the gardeners, is showing much improvement over last year (so far). Yes we’ve invested in all manner of things and we know more than we did last year. We declare (to ourselves) that we have moved from the bottom rung of community gardeners to possibly mid-range. One early morning last week I spent a glorious few hours-no mosquitoes-pulling weeds, talking to the plants, chastising whatever varmint is chewing on the yellow beets and thoroughly enjoying just being. It was a morning glory-ous.
Evidence about dirt and happiness
There is some evidence that digging in the dirt..and breathing it in-maybe ingesting some is good for your health. Growing up my Mom would bring us lunch out to the field. We’d eat sandwiches with our very dirty hands (from hours of operating a tractor with no cab-there might be some grease in there too). You could literally see the dirt from your hands transfer to the homemade bread and then into your mouth. Mom used to say “everybody’s got to eat a pound of dirt a year”. We secretly thought we ate 2 pounds a year to make up for the city kids who likely didn’t eat any.
Good News and Not So Good News
Good news-two rather robust looking pumpkins. Bad news-some nefarious insect or blight is trying to suck the life out of the plant. Any idea what that might be or what we can do about it?
Good news-potato plants very big. Bad news-potato bugs plus some sort of insect or blight is turning leaves brown and causing them to curl up-any idea what that might be? Or what we can do about it?
We are enjoying a much improved bounty this year, so far. Lettuce, radishes, swiss chard, new beets, patty pan squash and just today-baby potatoes!
We held a breakfast come and go at the “farm” yesterday and we were proud to show people our gardening efforts. Those who attended were likely hoping that once they showed up maybe we’d quit talking about the garden and they’d get some peace and quiet (or maybe a butternut squash come harvest time). It was a pleasure to have people drop by.
Some twenty years ago my sister gave me an album on cassette tape (remember those…or maybe not). She’d heard about the performer, Garrison Keillor, on CBC radio. Mr. Keillor, an American, is well-known as an National Public Radio (NPR) radio performer, an author, a humourist and essayist. The album was “A Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra” and I listened to it time and time again. I enjoyed the music and the stories that went with the album. This makes me think I should likely buy it again-in a format I can listen to these days.
A Prairie Home Companion
Garrison Keillor is the host of the weekly NPR radio show A Prairie Home Companion (PHC). I often listen to the archived shows. There was a 2006 movie of the same name. The movie was set around a single radio show and used the same set that Keillor and colleagues perform on at each show. The show is quirky and warm and often showcases well-known performers as well as local musical talent (the show is based in Minneapolis but does travel across the U.S. during the year).
Tanglewood, June 30, 2012
We seized an opportunity to see a live performance of the PHC last week in Lenox, Massachusetts. The venue is Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston
The stage is in the “shed” and you can purchase tickets either in the shed or out on the lawn. We learned that to picnic on the lawn before and during the concert is part of the charm of Tanglewood performances. The venue (The Serge Koussevitzky Music Shed and lawn) can accommodate upwards of 20,000.
The day was perfect, June 30th, 2012 as we drove to Tanglewood. It was sunny and very warm, with a little breeze. The concert was great. Keillor said (tongue in cheek) they like to give local talent a chance and so had Arlo Guthrie as one of the guests. You can hear the show on the archives of the PHC website. I was thrilled to be at the concert and enjoyed the evening immensely.
And one of the very best parts of the experience was what happened after the live broadcast (2 hours) signed off. The PHC broadcast starts at 6pm and ends around 8pm. A number of audience members left early, probably thinking getting out of the parking area would be a nightmare. Another number left at the end of the show while many of us stayed and called for an encore. And did we get encores. Pure singing-some folk, some songs from long ago (my Dad would have loved their choices) and some rock and roll. All the band and guest performers (e.g. Arlo Guthrie) came out and the songs went on one after the other. The audience stood and clapped and sang and danced. They walked up the aisles to get closer to the stage soaking up the experience.
After they had played for almost an additional two hours and left the stage for the third time we started toward the car. We weren’t aware of the after show soiree and we hadn’t eaten. It was closing on to 10pm. We were on our way to the parking lot and heard the band start up again!
- If you have a chance, attend a PHC live performance-no matter where it’s being held
- If you go to Tanglewood buy tickets in the Shed
- Arrive early (grounds open at 4 pm for 5:45 pm show)
- Pack a lovely picnic lunch with accompanying beverages. Eat on the lawn and then pack up the bits, take them back to the car and take your seat in the shed.
- Buy tickets for next year…I plan to!
Do you have a concert or live show experience that stands out in your memory? A performance you found so very enjoyable. What were the reasons? Who you attended with, the performer, the venue, the weather…it seems a combination of all of the above for me.
Life’s transitions and purpose
If you are fortunate, you are able to experience many transitions in life. Infancy to childhood, childhood to the teenage years from there to young adulthood and so on. In addition to the transition from one age to another, we have many other life transitions. We start out totally dependent on others, move to complete independence and for some of us we may end up towards the end of our lives being totally dependent on others once again.
I have known some people who have had very clear ideas about their lives. As a child they knew they wanted to grow up to be a (fill in the blank), they wanted to buy a house, have 2 children, travel and so on. Lots of things to do, lots of things to accomplish and not a lot of time to do it, it seems.
My mother had many sayings. They are all indelibly burned into my memory. They should be burned in for we heard them over and over again! One of them is “everyone has to have a purpose”. It’s true and it’s plain speak for a life with meaning. We may feel we have more than one purpose but it or they are there somewhere swimming around in our conscious or unconscious selves. That purpose may be re-focussed as we go through life. While very young, perhaps our play was our work and purpose, then school, adult relationships, a family of our own and a career. Then comes a time when full-time work ends-for some they choose to say goodbye and for some the end is decided for them. There will be quite a bit of that in our city over the next few years as there will be downsizing in the federal public service.
So How’s Retirement, They Ask
I stepped aside from full-time, flat-out work just over a year ago. Here’s my take on this transition:
- Rewirement is the word. We need to use a new word for this stage in life. The word is rewirement. Retirement might have started out as good term but now sounds too lethargic, too flat, too, well, too retired. I’m not retiring, I’m rewiring.
- Everything takes longer than you expect. I thought I’d be a lot more organized than I am one year out. Boy it takes a lot of time
- You notice more things. Not flying out the door to work early in the morning and returning many hours later day after day you have a bit more time to look at things with new eyes. How long has that bit of the house needed painting? Have I ever cleaned that closet?
- Photos do not organize themselves. If you avoided tasks before you left full-time work, you will avoid them afterward.
- Time and freedom of choice. Whether you take up some part-time work, immerse yourself in old or new hobbies, connect or re-connect with family and friends, the choice is yours.
- The day in, day out routine. Don’t miss it one bit. The people yes, the routine of up and out the door day after day, no. I am fortunate to be doing some part-time consulting and find the variety and flexibility to be wonderful.
- Connections are the key. Life is rich and purposeful when we are connected. Connected to our loved ones, our friends, a community. Connections can take many forms and they are what give us purpose. If you think others care a great deal about what you do or that it makes you something special, another of my mother’s sayings ring true. “The higher the monkey climbs, the more you can see his ass.”
- A lifestyle to be highly recommended. Yes work is important and yes we get tied up in careers and things, however I would recommend life beyond full-time work for anyone who is able. It seems a bit backwards that when we are younger, perhaps raising young children and busy with so many things that we also may have full-time work in our day. It’s upside down, really. I believe many people would like to work part-time but circumstances don’t allow it.
Life can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye. Make the most of it.
Have you found your life stages unfolded as you anticipated? Do you have words of wisdom to share?
A while ago I wrote about Snow Plow Happiness and the joy of pushing the snow off ones driveway and onto the street BEFORE the snow plow arrives. The plow pushes the snow away to some far off place rather than me hoisting it up and onto our already large pile of snow on the lot.
We had quite a bit of snow Friday night and Saturday morning last week. I got up Saturday morning early. The driveway would need shovelling today. I had a hankering for cinnamon rolls and had just put a batch in the oven when I heard the snow plow on our block. Drat-I would really have to rush to get some snow out there before he got to our house. It’s not fair to the driver keep pushing the snow out after they have passed your house. Out I go, madly pushing snow down the driveway and then sticking my head back in the house to listen if the oven timer has gone and the baking is ready. When the rolls were done, I put two of them into a bag and out I went. I flagged down the snow plow driver said thanks for great job and handed him warm baking. He seemed surprised and was very thankful.
We had more snow yesterday and today. After dinner tonight I went out to push snow onto the street-no snowplow in sight. Just as I started shovelling the plow came around the corner. Drat again-I’ll never get this out onto the street on time. I had a few swipes pushed out when the snowplow turned into our driveway and in two fell swoops and 45 seconds cleaned what would have taken me 15 minutes. It was the same driver as Saturday.
The power of cinnamon rolls. And the kindness of a driver.
Good for a smile for a week. And an incentive to share baking another time.
I have a theory about a human “anti-freeze” phenomenon . It is based on my experience with winter and living my entire life in the northern hemisphere. Those of us who live where the snow falls and temperatures can drop into -30C to -40C range (and colder if you factor in windchill), well, we learn about dressing warmly. We have anti-freeze in our car’s windshield washer fluid. We buy fleece lined vests and woollen socks and down-filled gear.
When winter first takes its place out our front door we shiver and shudder. We find it very cold and we begrudge putting on the layers and the winter boots and the scarves and hats and on and on. Then gradually, we become used to it and it doesn’t feel so cold. My theory is we have some human anti-freeze that builds as winter progresses. It makes the cold tolerable.
The Bad News
Due to a design error, our human antifreeze does not have a very long shelf life. It starts to dissipate somewhere around the end of January. Slowly it ebbs away. If our bodies came with fluid level lights (like our vehicles do) the low-level anti-freeze light would start to flash. And then it feels cold no matter whether the temperature is moderating or not. I recently read an article that put forward a hypothesis about why it feels colder as winter starts to exit. It wasn’t an “ah ha!” moment for me. I prefer my anti-freeze theory. Those of you have lived or do live in colder climates-do you think you run out of tolerance for cold as winter ebbs? Tell me it’s so.
What can you do?
Think of something else: here’s a few pictures of some things that took my mind off thinking I was cold this past week.
A sunny day, mid-week snowshoe with a friend and a tremendously tasty dinner cooked by my husband. Oven roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts along with a braised beef tenderloin topped with a blue cheese/thyme/breadcrumb dressing in a red wine reduction sauce.
What can I say? It was outstanding. Who cares about the temperature outside. It’s likely all in my head anyway.
We have had some very unpleasant weather this winter. It’s not that it’s been bitterly cold or there’ve been great dumps of snow. It is the warm weather that brings us freezing rain and ice pellets then freezing to a huge coat of ice on everything-your vehicle, your front step, your sidewalk. Today school buses are cancelled, walking outside is treacherous and if you are able, you might want to stay in your pyjamas until it’s time to go to bed tonight.
Cleaning the Driveway:
Out I went this morning, ice chipper and shovel in hand. I gave it a good go for over an hour and made some headway. I shoved the crud onto our street.
On days like this, it’s wonderful to find happiness in unusual places.
Like the snow plow that shows up AFTER you have pushed the snow onto the street! This is almost as good as winning a lottery. In my case, this is good for smiles at least till dinner time.
The Book Backed By Research
Not long ago I read the book “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirski. It was a good read. From the official website for the book: “The How of Happiness offers a new and potentially life-changing way to understand our innate potential for joy and happiness as well as our ability to sustain it in our lives.”
The author and her colleagues suggest a number of way to improve your level of happiness. Examples included counting your blessings…but not too often for it then becomes more of a routine must-do effort rather than a practice to increase your level of happiness.
An Act That Can Improve Happiness
With all due respect to Dr. Lyubomirsky and her colleagues, they missed one everyday occurrence that can impact your happiness-at least it does for me.
And that occurrence is shopping for dairy products. The shopping by itself isn’t that exciting but what can bring me joy is looking at the expiry dates. Here’s an example from the store today.
And When You See the Expiry Date
Picture this-it’s January 10th-the wind is blowing, the snow is falling and you are tired of putting on jackets, toques, gloves and boots every time you step outside. Then you are in the dairy section of your local grocer and being the wise shopper you check best-before dates as you shop. How great is it to see that the cream cheese is telling you spring is around the corner!! May 12th can’t be that far off if the cheese is guaranteed to be of good quality till then. By then we will have small plants ready to go in the garden, we will be itching to start planting seeds, a few games of golf will be under our belts and the bicycle will be serviced and ready to go!
No need to point out to me though that expiry dates can conspire against happiness and good moods depending on the season. If you buy dairy products on a beautiful late fall day and expiry date is January-well, you get my (snow) drift.