2018 has arrived, bringing with her with bitter temperatures and far too much snow.The birds are struggling and I have been snowed in for a few weeks. It is the time of year for both looking back at the good the bad and the ugly and a time for looking ahead in hope.
No big promises and giving things up – it’s more about what to incorporate into my life to make it richer and more rewarding. Do what makes me what and to be kinder to myself. I have many passions and just as many worries. I need to find the right balance, I know that it is always not that easy to do. I need to listen more and spend time unplugged to techno and engaged with people and nature.
Of course I always promise to read more, reading is my solace and succor.
We dream of a more prosperous, healthy happy new year, often times it never turns out that way. The cycle of hope, expectations and then reality goes on and on. I love reflecting back and I am always surprised both by what I recall vividly and what I forget- or choose to forget. Walks with my family, sharing laughter and worries with friends, great meals the music-spoons, ukulele and trombone and voice. The phone calls, the fights and the love that brings us back together, reaching out at lonely moments and finding unconditional love. The fear instilled in me by careless comments of healthcare workers and then the kindness of care givers when I have been ill. The power of a hug and the calm of a gentle touch. The cold impersonal sound of the MRI machines and the reassuring voices of family and friends telling me not to worry. Memories of my family; finding a tape I heard the voice of my sisters laughing as we sang I love to go a wandering and be singing “People” so off key they giggled uncontrollably. I had long forgotten the good The much younger sound of my father’s voice that I have not heard in 20 years, hearing him request Adel Weiss the same beloved song I sang to him as he lay dying.
Looking back, 2017 was not a good year for me in many ways, especially health wise. On the other hand I have made many new friends and re connected with lost ones. That has been my jewel and my hope. I had a wonderful Holiday with all three of my children even though we had to postpone Christmas day. I have taken the time to forgive those that I can and to try and forget the family that has long since forgotten me. I have nightmares about the perfunctory rejection of me however I try each day to leave those behind. As one of eight children I was still always alone. We were never a team, there were and are factions but not a true family. I am still sifting and filtering through my experience and it will be a long process.
My health has been a huge preoccupation and has limited my today’s and my tomorrows. I have to accept the new truth, the new me without hating my body betraying me. I always imagined what growing old would be like, how my body would feel. However I never imagined it would involve such intense chronic and acute pain. Feeling helpless is not how mothers and chefs should feel – we run the show- at least we defined ourselves by that role. Tides have turned and slowly I need to accept the help of others- sometimes strangers- as the time I went to collect my CSA basket of produce and I couldn’t carry it to my car and so when the worker offered her help, I accepted and cried as I thanked her. A kind word, a gentle touch can bring me to tears as I feel so vulnerable and grateful. At the same time I feel very sad when I am in line packing my bags and the people behind me, impatient and with hurried huffs in anger and disapproval when I have a difficult time opening the grocery bags- My daughter came up with a practical solution- use bins- no need to struggle with plastic bags and embarrassment.
This spring I opened my home to strangers when I placed 14 hives on my farm- a lifelong dream. I finally took the bee keeping course in a freezing classroom, I loved each moment. I love honey just as my father taught me to- he preferred buckwheat, of course. I feel very strongly about bees and the environment and I always have. I came across a grade 5 project that my mother helped me with. My parents expected us to do things on our own and to do them very well. It was the only time she ever drew a thing or helped me with a project. I enjoy having people come by to see my gardens and kitchen and to buy honey. I have learned much from them and I realized that honey lovers come in all sorts I made a dear friend in a dis advantaged adult and his mother who treats him with such love, dignity and pride. I often shed a few tears when they leave. This Christmas they arrive to buy three large jars of liquid gold and I had just baked a cranberry coffee cake and offered her a few slices. As I was handing the still warm cake to her she mentioned me that her sick husband had lost 7 pounds that week. I wished then Merry Christmas and even gave Sheldon a Christmas peck on the cheek. She called me an hour later and asked me to bake her 2 cakes for the holidays. I did and wrote her a card and I waited for her – she never turned up. I am still thinking about her and hope she is doing as well as possible. All this snow makes me more difficult if not plain arduous to get about and to hear news about neighbours. Winter is a time of uncertainly, loss of mobility and freedom and a time for reflection.
There were great disappointments and many happy times. My mother who would have been 91 today, New Year’s Day told me that happiness comes in moments – not in sustained time. My mother was right, as she often was, full of practical and sage advice. She was never sentimental and told me that life was for the living. She said many things that made no sense to me. Just like the priests sermons I could never see the meaning in all those heavy words- they all just seemed to me like warnings, admonishments- laying the foundation and the creation of guilt and shame. Manufactured to increase the monetary donation as the baskets were passed at collection time.
My three yearlong battle with the thief who stole my money, my dreams and left me without the cooking studio I had always dreamed of. The entire process made me furious frustrated and full of despair. Being a victim is a hard lesson in loss- loss of rights, loss of money, loss of resources and loss of confidence. I am capable of raging against the dying of the light- At times I surrender to the sad truth that he got away with it – with the full support of our criminal system and he was the victor. Not an easy thing for me.
One of the most wonderful events was to learn the ukulele- well at least attempt it. This fall I started off trying to perfect my French, learn Spanish learn to clog, play ukulele sing in a church choir – all those activities plus fit in all my medical appointments. I started with a bang but had to let certain things fall to the side. Bringing back music into my life is the happiest and most joyous element that I have brought back. Just setting up my music stand, leafing through the sheets of music discussing the rhythm or notes makes me feel so at home- just like I feel when I am in the water. Never mind that sometimes my arthritis makes it painful or impossible to play the ukulele- but nothing can stop me from singing. At the recent Christmas concert a fellow member asked me not to play too quickly, I smiled and reminded her I can barely play- in fact I play every third note depending on the songs difficulty but I can sing- and thankfully the rest of the group agrees- I know that I am often off key but who cares I a blissfully happy.
Another deliberate re introduced joy has been dancing- I enrolled in a dancing through pain group led by a marvelous local woman whose work is so giving and patient. I giggle as we dance and wonder what our grandchildren or children would think if they ever saw us. It is about letting go of inhibitions and learning to try and like your body again. It worked and I plan to return to dance in the New Year.
Looking ahead I am hoping for better health, to complete my cake and cookbooks and to continue to work on my autobiography. If I sold this property what I would miss the most is the garden?- no the many many gardens that I have spent 6 summers planning, tending, nurturing and loving. I won’t miss the times when I cried because groundhogs and other anonymous creatures ate all my perennials- one that I wait a year for and never get to see bloom. I won’t miss the peach tree that I finally managed to nurse back to health this summer and which produced enormous juicy peaches. I won’t miss it because late last fall a deer came and broke its central branch. In effect killing it. The 65,000 bees times 14 created
a garden that I had only dreamed of. I could hear bees in my sleep. The raspberry canes were blooming in November and were over 13 feet tall. The wild grapes were singing with bees as they emitted a gloriously intoxicating scent. The water lettuce and hyacinth that started as two plants each multiplied into nearly 200 plants. The fish multiplied as well. This winter I did not bring them into the house- at times it seems as cold in here as it would be under the ice.
Gardening is a large part of my year and this year there were failures- the 150th celebration of Canada tulips were ivory not white. The herbs and tomatoes that I started in doors bolted and were useless ad had to be discarded. We got tomato blight again, but thankfully after having the enormous pleasure of eating bruschetta with herbs for a few weeks- I discovered I rather like crumbled feta and unfiltered olive oil on my bruschetta. The peppers were a bust and the brave zucchini kept on delivering late into fall, only snow could stop her.
The leeks did well but were not planted deeply enough so they came out more like scallions. Of course we waited until the last moment to harvest and store the leeks and we left them in the ground too long. The ice and an enormous snow fall of two feet buried those lovingly tended sea of leeks in a matter of a few short hours. The red onions that sat in the ground for months and months- 6 in all did not really grow any larger than the bulbs that I originally planted , but the green tops made up for the small size. We scaled back as we always promise to do, I did add raspberry canes and a few strawberry plants- time will tell. The grapes rotted on the vines again- the asparagus gave up the ghost and the rhubarb is losing its vibrancy. These are all sad but natural events that I have to accept when working with the soil and natural elements which are out of my control. I will miss picking the vegetables and fruits just before cooking with them. Strolling out to the garden that seems to change each year and I never perfected the balance the incredible surprises that brought me such joy for instance the ribbon of wild flowers that I bought for three dollars that was full of delicate pink blooming poppies well into November or the incredible crop of wildly delicious tomatillos that we turned into amazing salsa verde. Never too old to learn or try something new.
As a long time gardener you learn your lessons and you learn that nothing keeps blooming or producing. This year I said goodbye to my asparagus crowns and my rhubarb has had better days. The harvest was weak and very fibrous. Time to plant some new rhubarb or perhaps just let it go.
I don’t believe in resolutions as a Catholic I had to give up things for Lent. Something which I never managed to do and so I felt the weight of that Catholic guilt? Do you see a theme here? I am not making promises that may be broken – I am making life choices to enjoy each day to love my children and friends as much as possible and to continue on trying to be charitable and kind to my community and its members. Every person has a jewel a gem to share with you – I want to greet people and share my passions.
I want to piss off the speeders that race by the farm- how do I do that? Feed the turkeys year round. Today I took the time to call the mayor to ask why the roads aren’t being ploughed same with the mail box. I can clearly say service just isn’t the same anymore. No one speaks the language no one cares we have to do everything ourselves. Recycling and self service is a full time job. Have I mentioned Apple telephone support?
I often feel obsolete and I come across technology, jobs and language that I can’t understand whatsoever. I am lost at sea in this sociopolitical environment that is so intolerant. I have much to say but that is in another piece. Of course it is very discouraging and I have no control over anything but myself.
On a very happy note, my eldest daughter is planning her summer wedding and that has me terribly excited. What a wonderful time to enjoy our mother daughter relationship and to share the joy and yes the unavoidable frustrations of a modern wedding. It was so much easier when I got married- no internet – no choices, no saying “yes to the dress” with a crew of 8 friends and family. We are faced with far too many choices and social media plays into our wants versus our needs. I am trying out wedding cake recipes and I am singing a total eclipse of my heart as a tribute to my daughter. Of course I get to enjoy wedding dress shopping and dreaming about the big day. As a long time caterer my mind is swirling.