Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Final Apple

I was 5 when my parents built a new house in the apple orchard across from the old farm house where we lived. I remember gingerly walking across the thick wooden plank to look down into the wet hole of the foundation. I still have the smell the fragrance of the dank mud and the new wood. I have the vision of our very first night – everything stark and overly bright. I have the echoes of blank walls and bare hardwood floors. That stuff that makes it homey and absorbs the sounds had not yet been accumulated. I have happy times, sad times, pets and people all centered around that little corner of the world.

That house conjures up a thousand memories, many of them centering around the apple trees that surrounded it. Perching up in them, confident that I was in my own world where no one could see me, but I could see them. The smell of the apples baking on my Dad’s dirty old woodstove in the garage – so delighted that we were to be able to ‘cook’ something ourselves. Playing for hours on end under one old tree where the swing and sandbox lived. Trying to duck under the branches when Trigger the pony would decide that he was taking a short cut to the barn.  Watching my own children conquer the same trees that I climbed as a child.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is November 22nd, 1963. Since we lived in the US for a good part of the year, I was well acquainted with JFK. I had collected campaign buttons and wore them with great pride. I cheered for him to become President because he had children and because I figured he had to be related to Jim Kennedy – an ancient rubby-dub Irishman who worked for us.

It was the last recess and I was sitting at the old piano at the front of the classroom, trying to eavesdrop because it was unheard of for a visitor to come to the school in the middle of the day. I heard the word 'President' and 'assassinated' and was excited because I figured it must mean that he got a promotion, that there must be something bigger than President.  When the teacher told us that assassinated meant 'dead', I just didn’t believe her. She was wrong. When my Dad picked us up at school, I told him what she had said and he confirmed, with uncharacteristic solemness, that it indeed was true. Him, I believed. I can see the day, feel the day – typical November – gray, cold and early darkness; it too was solemn. When we entered the driveway, the hired men were all out under the apple tree, filling bags of fallen apples for the horses. I wondered why they were doing a happy thing on such a sad day – didn’t they know. Shouldn't everything stop. That is the image that comes to my mind with thoughts of that day – men with big burlap bags stooping under the apple tree.

Snow apples, Russets, Spies, Crab apples, ones I didn’t know the name – but my favourite were the Delicious. I would run out after school and scour the long grass and fallen leaves for one with the least worm holes. Organic apples they were, all the way.  With eating around the worms, the scars and the bruises, it would often take four or five apples to equal one. In the spring Bud and I used the tiny little green ones as ammunition in ridiculously dangerous attacks on each other. I'd use them as heads for stick people, long before I knew of the existence of apple head dolls. I'd fill my pockets with them and coax the foals to become my friend.

Apple pies and apple sauce … I see my Mom in her apron, standing at the sink with piles and piles of apples. When I helped her peel them, each one would be a personal challenge to get the peel off in one strip without it breaking. Success was sweet because it was so rare.  

The very first time that I visited Mom's grave, I did not take flowers – I took apples from our yard and laid by the headstone and mourned the loss of my mother and life as I knew it. 

The day came in 1990 that we had to sell our childhood home. It took my sister and I months and months to tackle it. It was no longer stark and bare; it was filled with the accumulation of 31 years of living. It held not only the memories, but also the last physical remnants of the lives of so many we loved: our father, our mother, our sisters and brothers and grandparents. All gone, but with bits and pieces of them left there - us the reluctant stewards, needing to make decisions of what to keep and what to let go.  We would go in to the house, make a cup of tea and sit there trying to figure out where to start. Then we would both say, ‘I can’t do this today.’, and spend the time talking instead.  It took us a full eight and a half months to deal with it – almost like the gestation of a child.

We offered it for sale privately so that we were in full control. One fellow said, ‘Nice house, first thing I’ll do is clear out all these old apple trees.’ ‘Then you won’t have it.’ we bluntly informed him and walked away with him still standing there in the driveway.  The wonderful young couple who ended up with it, won our hearts because they answered the first question properly: ‘What about the apple trees?’  ‘We LOVE them!’, they replied and their enthusiasm and sincerity endeared them to us forever.

Their love and care was evident from the beginning and there was great comfort in that. But still, in spite of how happy I was that they had it, and how they welcomed and encouraged us to come back any time, I could not do it.  Seven years it took me to enter that house again. It was changed enough inside that it didn’t make me sad, but as I left, I automatically turned to see what time it was. There was a picture where the clock should have been and the reality of life and loss and change was like an electric shock.

I went back today, for what I know will be the very last time ever. After 21 years, our lovely couple has moved and this is their final weekend. It is one more step away from my memories, my childhood and my childhood home. There will be no connection with whoever moves into it now. They won't know us, won't know our attachment; there is no need to go back.

There was no one there today when I stopped by to walk about and reminisce. I was glad - I wanted to be with my own thoughts.

The circle drive which was so huge when I rode my tricycle around it, has shrunk. The immense old maple tree that I thought was the most gigantic and splendid tree in the world, apparently has shrunk as well over the years.  It turned into just an ordinary tree.

The garage door where my Mother would bounce off one side or the other, then stick the chrome back on with bandaids, is still narrow.  A fifties garage was not meant for a big boat sixties car.  An inch and a half clearance on each side took a special skill that apparently none of us in our family ever mastered.  The vehicles bore the proof of that. 

I sat by the planter where ‘Pete the Budgie’ was buried after a full military funeral – army men and canons surrounding his tiny tin casket. It’s likely still down there, we planted him so deeply.  I gazed into the window that my mother’s face is forever etched into – peering out when we drove in the driveway. ‘The kids are home.’, she’d say. "WHEN do we stop being the KIDS?",  I’d tease her, being the mother of two myself at that point. "Never. You’ll ALWAYS be The Kids", she’d firmly respond. But she was wrong. Before we knew it, before we were ready, we were nobody's kids anymore.

I wandered around the yard that had nurtured my dreams and imagination. I gazed up to the tops of the trees that were eye level when they were planted. I laid my hands on the same trunk that my parents had touched. I gathered up a bag of imperfect apples for the donkeys, thinking about that gray November day. And I scoured the ground under the Delicious tree for one that had the fewest worm holes and bruises and ate around them. 

My sister just lives a mile down the road, so I stopped over there for a cup of tea and a chat. She wasn’t home, so I left the most perfect apple I could find on her doorstep.

The final apple.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October Sky

The other day I was rushing around like a mad fool – coming from town with a zillion things needing to be done and running late to be at the Little Church. It was torture. Not the pressure or stress, but the fact that the sky was so incredibly incredible and I could not take time to soak it in or take hundreds of pictures of it.

The were still lots of leaves and the combination of the colours: the sky, the trees and white fluffy clouds with smudges of gray illuminated by the sun ... was stunning.  It literally took my breath away. I wanted to re-decorate my house in that exact palette. I so wished that I had hours and hours to take my camera and drive around and just capture it all. I knew that in a blink, the grayness of November would be upon us and I would desperately long for this moment.

So I took a detour to our house, grabbed my camera and shot back to where the scene grabbed my attention. Within those four minutes, it had totally changed. The sun had gone behind a cloud and the vibrant blues and grey-blues and green-yellows and white and deep gray were all gone. It was muted and it didn’t move me at all.  That is the magic of it all. You have one brief milli-second to grab it. It’s a disappointment when you miss it, but a huge joy when you succeed.

I missed what I was after, but I did get some cloud shots. They were amazing too. Actually, this fall, the sky here has been spectacular. It must be something to do with the atmosphere – the sunsets have been especially glorious and the clouds have been a world of their own. Two year old Gibson even noticed them the other day and said to Ashley ‘Look... fishes in the sky.’  It looked like their aquarium to him.  Even Brian has taken notice. He commented that he has seen more rainbows in the past month than he has in his entire life. It pleases me that he is being attentive to the sky now too.

October Sky ... warm, beautiful moments to bring out in the days to come.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm Back

Since the first of September my life has been crazy. Well, in actual fact, it is ALWAYS crazy, but the past eight weeks have been shades of the even crazier days when I was going in way too many directions at once. Moving too quickly. Spinning.  It’s Monday. It’s Friday. It’s Monday. It’s Friday.  Three weeks gone.  Six weeks gone. No time to write. No time to read. No time to think.  Worst part is that my babies are getting bigger without me having enough cuddle time.

A new grandbabe, 2,500 hundred photos from two weddings to edit, two weeks out in Newfoundland, two weeks of trying to pull my creations together for the show, the Artisan Show itself and then all the things that it takes to put things in order from there.

All wonderful stuff. All behind me now so I can start to focus on the next step – getting my Christmas line on Ebay. Still lots of other stuff coming up in the next few weeks – a concert we’re organizing for the Little Church, the Vineart fundraiser for Gallery 96, meetings with a new organization I’ve joined, some workshops that I’m offering.

And … catching up on this and The Daily Muse.  I miss writing. I miss playing pictures.
But I’m back!

A few shots of the show - VERY few ... was too busy visiting to remember the camera.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ten:Ten; Ten.Ten.Ten

Years ago, we were sitting around the dinner table one night when Brian and I got to talking about our Moms' pumpkin pies. I was telling him how good my Mom's pies were - that I could still taste them. He said, 'My Mom's pumpkin pies were awesome too.'  'Yes, they sure were,' I recalled fondly, 'they were different from my Mom's but I grew to really enjoy them, even though I'm not much of a fan of pumpkin pie.' 

Back and forth, the conversation went - recalling the texture and the spices and the whipped cream. "My Mom's pie...", then "MY Mom's pie...". One of the kids piped up and said: "Well, we've never even tasted OUR Mom's pumpkin pie."

Sad, but true.  They haven't. I have never once in my life made a pumpkin pie. Never. Ever. No pumpkin pie memories for an entire generation. Shame on me.

Actually, I don't make any pies. Except for when I am in Newfoundland. There is rhubarb growing in front of the house and partridgeberries behind it. I use Brian's grandmother's recipe for both and I must say, it kind of tickles me to make a pie out there. Seems like the thing to do when you've got fresh and free fruit growing at arm's length.

I'll eat pie; I just don't make them. I have convinced myself that they are just too much work for the length of time that they last. When I make something that takes a lot of effort, I like it to last for years.

So today ... 10.10.10 ... at 10:10 AM - what was I doing? Something out of character and totally memorable. I was making a pie. Three pies in fact!  Lemon meringue, chocolate cream and banana cream. THREE pies.  That's more pies than I have made (other than rhubarb & partridgeberry) in the past ... hmmmm.... ten years.  And I'm not exaggerating - ask my family; they'll tell you.

Ten, Ten, Ten at Ten:Ten AM, I was making pies and at EXACTLY Ten:Ten PM on Ten, Ten, Ten, I am posting about pies.  Insignificant for everyone else in the world - memorable for me!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Poor Brian. I think I might have given him a bit of a startle last night. I was working away at the stove, making supper when I glanced out of the window.  I gasped "OH MY GAWD!", threw the stuff I had in my hand, rushed in the livingroom and grabbed something and torpedoed out the door. All the while, he was saying: 'What?' ...'WHAT?' ... 'WHAT???'. I was moving so fast that it took three Whats to throw back 'The SUNSET!!!'. The thing I grabbed was my camera. 

The sky was spectacular. Shockingly spectacular. It darn near made my heart stop. My frenzied response nearly made his stop. There was the brightest and most brilliant shade of pink and intense, deep blue spread over the entire west - from one side to the other, not just the usual hot spot that contains the magic.

In my attempt to get closer to it, I had to climb the fence and go across the donkey field. In my slippers.  Without soles between that and my feet, I was feeling the odd pile of soft stuff.  It wasn't possible to avoid it because I could not take my eyes off of the sky for even one split second. Sunset is fleeting; slippers wash.

Just a couple nights ago, Brian had been witness to my Sunset Frenzy as I rushed down to the causeway in our place in Newfoundland. There's a wide open view there of the water and the hills and the evening sky. 

What might have been a few minutes turned into a long excursion because a neighbour who I had never had the chance to meet,was walking along and we had a nice visit. She said 'I thought it was some tourist taking pictures.' 'Nope, not a tourist.' I replied, 'Just an appreciative local.' 'Oh maid, there's been a lot better sunsets than this.', she informed me. 'You should sees it some days.' 'Well, this one's not too shabby.' I responded, assuring her that I didn't consider it a waste of time at all. The sunset was done and the sky was basic black by the time I returned.  Poor Brian was likely thinking that I had fallen into the sea, as I've been known to climb the rocks to get a better shot, just as I climbed the fence last night.

These are just a few from the other night:

Glorious sunsets get me downright excited.  Always have. There just aren't enough of them. Any time that the sky turns into an artist's vibrant palette, I stop anything I'm doing and glue my eyes to it for the duration. 

If I'm driving now, I pull over. I used to try to glimpse them as I carried on, but now I stop and savour the gift.  I remember numerous times, driving along with my kids in the car, saying to them 'Look at that sunset!  LOOK!'. They'd humour me and say 'Yeah, Mom - we see it.'  I'd insist 'No ... LOOK at it. Really SEE it!'.  They never seemed quite as impressed as I thought they should be. They'd have their heads down, doing whatever it was that they were doing and mine would be swiveling like one of those bobbing puppies that people used to have on the back window ledge. I'd be going from the road to the sky to the back to see if they were looking, then back to the sky and the road and another shot at them in a frantic attempt to make them learn to appreciate the treasure that we were being given. I've told them 'When I'm gone and you see a particularly gorgeous sunset, think of me. If I was here, I would be saying 'Oh my gawd, would you LOOK at that sunset!  Know that wherever I am, I will still be doing the same thing.'

When I returned from my unexpected diversion last night and resumed frying up the wonderful cod that we brought back from the island, Brian said to me: 'There's something I'm curious about.' 'Yeah ...', I replied. 'I'm just wondering ... what exactly do you DO with all these 'oh-my-gawd-it's-wonderful' sunset pictures?'. I looked at him incredulously. 'What do you MEAN... what do I DO with them?' 'Oh, I was just curious ... do you DO something with them?  Like, are you making a book? Or are you putting them on that thing you write on? '(meaning THIS thing). 'No, not necessarily.', I answered. 'I just capture them so I can revisit them another day; but I suppose I could put them on that thing.'

So I did.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Yet Another Season Finished

It’s a good thing that I have kids and grandbabes at home that I want to desperately see. And friends.  And Abby and the donkeys. And the farm.  It’s the only thing that gets me out the door when it’s time to close this place up for the season.

I get a little weepy. Not boo-hoo, all-out-sobbing, but the lump in the throat and bladder just below the eyeballs type of weepy.  I am going to miss my family and my friends here. And our place.  It wraps around me and begs me to stay just a little longer.  It does that with the air and the clouds, and the beginnings of fall colours that tease me with the splendour to come. It does that with the sun shining bright in my kitchen window and the rocking chair beckoning for ‘one more sit’.  It does it with unbelievably delicious smell of the laundry as I bring the last loads off the line and bury my face into it, declaring each and every time ...'How can anything possibly smell this heavenly?!'

It especially does that though, with the smiles and laughter and embraces of the folks that I will miss so much over the next nine months.  It’s hard to turn the lights off and leave one more house darkened over the long winter months.

This morning, I made one last trip out to sea with Heber.  He fished; I observed. I watched those experienced eyes intently scope out the landmarks. I watched with great fondness as he dropped his line in  - remembering countless times over the past seven years when he’s done the same thing with the boat filled with my family or friends. Today it was just the two of us. I quietly savoured every moment and soaked the time deeply into my being.

He fished. I observed. I watched the clouds – gentle smudges on the pale blue sky, suddenly as the wind change, turn into it into a deep, gray palette that totally changed everything about the day.  One moment is was July – warm, pleasant t-shirt weather; then literally seconds later, it was late autumn – jacket, hat, blanket and a darkened November feel. Both were stunningly beautiful.

He fished.  I laid back and felt the roll of the sea.  The waves advanced and receded, advanced and receded – similar to the emotion I was experiencing.  I scanned the horizon for whales, that were out there somewhere, and dolphins, which had been spotted the day before on the big causeway.  Two of our neighbours drove up to compare results with Heber, then picked their spot a few hundred feet away.  Later he told me that they had a number of sharks encircling their boat … ‘little ones’ – just three or four feet. I would have like to see that – I had my camera this time. After missing the sea of hundreds of dolphins, I was not about to leave home without it ever again.

I took snapshots in my head too: the entire image that is far beyond a four by six; and the feel – inside and outside.

When I got back, I made my usual rounds of goodbyes, which takes me throughout the neighbourhood and up to the hospital. Two of my sweet friends are both 93 years old.  One fella’s response to my cheerful ‘See you in the spring!’ was a matter of fact: ‘Don’t be too sure of that. You likely won't see me.’ The other, just as matter of fact, said ‘I just might hop in the car and drive up there to Ontario to see you - don't be too surprised to see me.’  They both made me smile.

I thought about some goodbyes last year, which indeed were the final fall farewells for some dear and precious friends. And again the tide of emotion washed over me and the sea rose up to my eyes. I allowed myself those moments of bittersweet memory. Sweet, in that they had so unexpectedly come into my life, and bitter in that it was much too short.

And then I switched gears, got busy covering things ups and taking a mental inventory of what I need to/want to do next year. That and the thoughts of the other half of my world awaiting two thousand miles away, sent the tides rising once again. This time, Joy and Gratitude for having such a doubly blessed, rich life filled with the most amazing people and places.