Thursday, June 27, 2019

More Field Notes

The field is a very busy place these days. One can hardly sit still with a cup of coffee without having to jump up to witness who is wandering through.
This morning, Dwayne called from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth. "Come look out the bedroom window."

And this is what unfolded as we watched:

I can't resist adding:
Humans, please note - this is how you do it. Everyone minds their own business, keeps to themselves, nods Hello and How are you? Lovely morning, aren't the bugs bad this year? and continues on their way.
If the black bear and the white-tailed deer can hang out in the same field together, there is no reason why we can't all get along as well.

(My Disney-eque lecture falls apart when the wild things start eating each other... !)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Field Notes

Out in my field.
Last day of school. An entire summer of creative writing. Only that - no sermons, no prayers, except those that come from my heart as I write stories for children, stories for adults, stories for myself.

Out in my field in the hat I stole from my husband, who head is one size smaller than mine.
Wearing my boots and wool socks.
Carrying a yellow bucket that first had soil in it for the willow seedlings I planted by the pond.
Then filled up with wild irises, a bumper crop in our field thanks to the rains of May and June. One upside to a wet spring.
Although my father like red carnations and red geraniums, irises are the flower that make me think of him. When we arrived at the florist two days after he died, I walked over to the glass-doored fridge full of flowers and saw a bucket filled with purple irises. Just the like the ones growing along the lane of our summer house on Pugwash Point.
Purple irises, the symbol of royalty and wisdom.

Out in my field with a bucket of wildflowers and one goose feather plucked from the edge of the pond as a gaggle of goslings -- large, at their ugly duckling stage -- and their two parents hover amongst the bullrushes.

Later, while in the bath, I will find a tick on the back of my thigh, an unwelcome gift from the field. A reminder to not be lazy, and always change into pants that will tuck into my wool socks.
Later, while swabbing the back of my leg with rubbing alcohol, my husband will call from the bedroom, "Come and tell me what you see in the field."
And I will see something parting the growing grass and through the binoculars, I will realize it is not a bear cub separated from its mother.
"It's a really big cat," I tell my husband. "It's a really big bobcat."
Suddenly, finding a tick on my leg is not very exciting.

Later still, Dwayne will call again from the bedroom and we'll stand at our big window watching the young buck deer in our back yard, nibbling at the leaves on the elm tree. It will wander across the ditch to The Mound, where my father's ashes are buried, and red geraniums and purple irises grow in the memorial garden.

Last day of school and all this unfolds out in my field. As if the universe is saying, You know where you belong.

Monday, June 24, 2019

My New Muse

Shortly after I decided to rewrite the story of my father, this groundhog took up residence on our property.
The reason this is significant is that I grew up knowing that my father had a groundhog as a pet when he was a teenager. It's one of those family stories that has its own, inexplicable significant - making groundhogs rather mystical to me, I'm afraid!
So this fella showed up and burrowed under the garage. He wanders around the yard eating stuff growing in the lawn and for some reason, he likes to sit on the laundry deck. Surveying his kingdom, perhaps.
Basically, this groundhog has become my muse for the rewriting of this memoir, which I began last Friday and I have to tell you:

Honestly, I'm not even sure I can do it. For all six previous versions, I knew the story and I wrote it. I knew how it started and how it ended, and that was that. But now, this new version is completely different. It's focus is different, and there's a THEME to be followed. This different focus, and this theme are essential, they are what I've been told the story needs, but right now, I feel like everything is pinging around in my brain and I'm having a hard time grabbing what I need and anchoring it to the page.
Egads. It's bloody hard work already. I feel like I can't do it but some part of me is wondering if that's the secret this time: not knowing the story and letting it unfold as I go.

I wish I could ask my muse, but he seems to have scarped off to the field. I didn't think muses would be allowed field trips.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Putting Down More Roots

Remi checking out the willow branches on the window sill.
Apparently, some of the locals here believe all you have to do to propagate a willow tree is take a branch and stick it in the ground.
I don't want to waste time trying that so I do it another way: Put small branches in water until they grow roots. The first time I did it, I had success -- I was able to grow a lovely new tree out of a cutting from one of my father-in-law's willow trees.
But my last couple of attempts were failures. It might have something to do with the cats chewing on the branches.

I love willow trees. They have a special place in my heart because I associate them with a special memory of my father.
Our cottage at Rice Lake in Ontario had several old, massive willows trees lining the shore. One night, during a nasty thunderstorm, with lots of wind and lightning, I stood next to my father at the picture window and watched the wind whip the willow branches around. It was dark and loud really scary, and I worried one of the trees would break and crash down on the cottage, but everything was fine, we were fine. I've always felt safe with my father, no matter the storm. Even with him gone, I still feel safe with him.
So willow trees are a connection to my childhood, and to my father, their gentle yet strong tendrils holding me safe and sound in this memory.

This spring, I tried again to root some branches and it worked. Two of three branches grew roots and as soon as this 24 hours of torrential rain ends, I'm going to stick the rooted sticks into the wet, wet ground next to the pond -- where willows belong. How pretty is that going to be in a few years?
Also, despite the photo, the cats seem to have left these branches alone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bird Watching

Exciting times here along the river! New wild birds showing up, and Canada geese with their babies, and the ospreys working together to feed a couple of hatchlings; we'll start seeing their heads at the beginning of July.

Baltimore Oriole at the hummingbird feeder this morning. 

Rose-breasted grosbeak in our birch tree. 
We also have an American Redstart but I've not managed a photo of it. It has similar colouring to the oriole but it's smaller, like a purple finch.

Five goslings and two very attentive, protective parents in the field. 

Osprey leaving the nest with a fish. One parent remains with the hatchlings.
We know for sure these aren't "our" ospreys, the ones who first claimed the pole in July 2008, then returned the following April to build the nest and hatch out one baby that first year.
For starters, this pair spends more time in the nest together, and right now it seems as if both parents are involved in the feeding the hatchlings. Even when the one -- the male? -- is not on the nest, if he's not fishing, he's sitting on the perch in the field, staying close by.
They also are more skittish, chirping and flying off the nest when we walk over to the mound to plant flowers in the garden near the tree where my father's ashes are buried, and the first time Dwayne mowed over there, I thought one of the parents was going to dive bomb him! Although we are respecting their space, they will have to get used to us. We aren't going anywhere, and hopefully, neither are they.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Putting Down Roots

As I watched the young principal of the small rural school where I sub a couple of mornings a week set up tables in the gym for an upcoming community yard sale, I marvelled at his place in the community.
He's deeply ROOTED. He grew up in this place and returned after university to live there and work at the school he attended.
Everyone knows him.
For me, that is an experience I will never have, not only because I'm an introvert who doesn't put herself out there, but also because I've never stayed in one place very long.

My family doctor is thirty years older than that principal and nearing retirement. But he came from the same small rural community as the principal. At a recent appointment, my family doctor said several of the teachers who taught him in school are patients of his.


Except there's this: I grew up knowing that my father moved his young family out of Toronto in order to return to the area where he was born and raised. Yet that knowledge didn't keep me from moving around a lot, even across the country.
I still feel connected to that place where I spent part of my childhood -- the part that really imprints on you and makes you who you are. That's the place I returned to when I left the west coast, because that's where my parents lived. That's where my father died. Yet it never occurred to me to stay there, t put down roots alongside my father's.

What was I searching for?

I have lived on this rural property in northern Nova Scotia for twelve years. It's the longest I've lived anywhere. Even Trenton, Ontario, where my family lived for nearly twenty years, I can only count at most ten years of living there; I went away to university, I lived in Oakville with my best friend for two years, I worked my first job in radio in Bracebridge. I kept returning home but only to catch my breath and relaunch.

What was I searching for?

Thinking about this on a morning walk, I intentionally asked myself if it was time to leave, if twelve years was long enough. And I knew immediately, before the inquiry had even finished, that I am home. I have no urge to leave. There is no reason for me to leave. There is no cycle to my life; I'm not "supposed to" move on after five or ten years.
I feel rooted here on this 72 acre property in rural Nova Scotia. This is my home. This is where my heart is. This is where my spirit roams free, where my inspiration soars like the eagles over the river. I am grounded in this place in a way I only felt at our family cottages -- where there were trees and water and space to breathe.

I caught my breath here, and turned off the launching sequence. (Pardon my mixed metaphors)
This is my home in the world.

But being rooted into this red soil, into this life, into another soul, doesn't mean I don't want to branch out. When I think of "getting away from this place", I don't mean I want to pack up and move. I just mean I want to venture further afield. Through books, I want to meet more people, explore more places, get exposed to new perspectives, be inspired with more ideas.
I miss the chance to network with other writers; just this week, I had turn down another offer to meet someone for coffee because I live two hours from Halifax. I can't find the time to drive 45 minutes to Amherst to buy new underwear!

One of my favourite quotes that I've carried with me since I left Vancouver and landed back in Nova Scotia/Ontario is this one from Simone Weil, an early 20th century philsopher, mystice and political activist:
"To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."

Perhaps the question I should be asking isn't, What was I searching for? but What did I need? 

And that quiet voice inside me whispers, "Yourself."

(In Googling Weil's quote, I learned she went on to say, "It is one of the hardest [needs] to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his [her] real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future."

That certainly ties in with how the principal and the doctor experience their life. If I ever get the chance to write a followup collection of Field Notes essays, there is definitely one anchored by this idea.)

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've almost reached the tipping point for "Be careful what you wish for" but the upside for being busy writing is that I'm developing some amazing organizational skills. I've always said the busier I am, the more efficient I am so this morning, after walking the dog for an hour, feeding the wild birds, doing the chickens, feeding the cats and dogs, drinking coffee and eating my breakfast...
...I planted the herb garden.
The photo above is only half of it - the rosemary, thyme, tarragon and parsley - because I'm trying to give plants more space when they are little. I have two bad habits when it comes to gardening: planting stuff too close to each other, and planting stuff at the edge instead of in the middle.
Anyway, the basil and oregano is to the left.

And everyone admire the one red tulip that came out out of the five bulbs I planted along there. Why do I bother with gardens?
Twelve years ago, they seemed like such a good idea. I made gardens everywhere on this property. This is perhaps a lesson in quality over quantity, and also another example of my lifelong tendency for "more enthusiasm than skill". But thinking like that makes me feel grumpy, and sound grumpy, and I really do enjoy gardening even if my back can no longer take more than than 20 minutes at a time.
Also, there is a chance the lackluster performance of my tulips has more to do with our cold, rainy spring than my planting the bulbs too deep!

Let's end this post with some big enthusiasm for these two gorgeous tulips - two of the four bulbs I planted in a little end piece to the right of the herb garden. I say good morning to them every day when I hang out the feeders for the wild birds.