Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Camp

It happens almost every year. I intend to go camping because I enjoy it so much and then it's the end of August and summer is done. I promised myself last year that I would definitely make it a priority. I even scouted out and wrote down all of the sites at the Pinery where I would like to live.

Problem is, if you want to get to choose or basically have any of the spots at all, you need to book ahead … WAY ahead - like in January. My life doesn't work like that. First there's weather. I need to see the 7 day forcast. I am not an avid enough camper to be wet and cold.
Or even damp and chilly.

Then there is the fact that other possibilities could come up. It's hard for me to plan two weeks, let alone months ahead. I live to a great extent, Last Minute.

So, here it is, end of summer once again, no time left to run away to the lake for a few days, once again. But I am a big believer that everything one really needs is in your own backyard. Or side field, in this case.

The tent was up anyway because I had all the kids over for a camp out. I hadn't taken it down because JP and I were sneaking over there for little naps. It's heavenly with the top cover off.  With the breeze softly blowing, the canopy of trees and the crickets chirping,  it feels like I am away in a woods anyway.

"I'm going camping." I told Brian. "Where?" he asked, knowing with me that could pretty well be anywhere.  "Right there." I said, pointing to the field just feet away. "I won't be home - except if you want to BBQ me a hamburger - I can come for 'take out'."

Just like last year, I had a comfy bed - a pile of 10 quilts and comforters and a feather bet as my airmattress still has a leak in it from last time. I had my books, my writing  and a big bonus that I didn't have when I went 'off site'.
My dog.
JP likes camping. He also likes water.

'Can I come in, huh - can I? I like it in there!'

Not with those dirty feet, you're not.

'I washed them - are they better?'  No.

Well then I'll just lay out here with my sticks, looking ever-so-dejected.

'That's not working? I'll add a little more drama'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Going Batty

It's Brian's fault really. Last week he told a friend "I can finally sleep without having one eye open - it's been five years since we had a bat in the house".  An hour later, seriously… actually LESS than hour later, what did we have? Yes. we did.

And yes, I know, bats are great and awesome and wonderful and all that. They are a major pest controllers. But if they are swooping around my house, around my head, then they are the major pests.

I never laid eyes on a bat until I was in my 30s. When Brian would tell of the time that a bat was in his bedroom when he was a child, I would pretty well hyperventilate Then we moved into an old farmhouse.

Ashley sees something coming ... me, I'm too busy 'smiling for the camera'

and still focusing on smiling
The first bat that I experienced, I was sitting down in the kitchen alone one night while everyone else was upstairs sleeping. Did I scream? Oh yeah. Big time. Had I ever before in my entire life screamed like that? No. Never. Ever. Did it cause Brian to hop out of bed and rush to save me? No. I think the ... ahhh ... okay, keep it nice ... 'silly guy' recognized a Bat Shriek.  Jamie, all of 13 years old, came to save me. "Get your Dad! Get your Dad!" I hollered at her as I cowered under a blanket. What did he do? When he finally showed up, he quickly shut the two doors locking me into the kitchen with a rippin' bat and a dog that was barking and going crazy trying to jump up and get it. Peeking through a tiny crack he said "Just open the door to outside." "Are you nuts?" I screamed at him; that and probably a few other loud and frantic sentences. What happened after that, I don't really remember.  I must have blocked it out for the sake of our marriage.

There were lots more bat stories in the years following. In none of them was he cast as the Hero. One of the most vivid images I have of Brian is seared into my brain. It was one of those 'never un-see it' moments. If I had only had a picture of it, I would have an entire line of cards and posters ... it would have gone viral instantly.

The setting: Our bedroom in the middle of the night. I wake from a sound sleep to the swoosh of air and wings close to my head. Scream ... from me: "Oh my Gawd! There's a bat in our room!!" From under the covers I hear "No there's not." Rapid conversation back and forth, ending with him being forced out of bed to get a badminton racket from the basement. (Yes, I know people, it's terrible but until you have a bat wooshing around your head, don't judge.) I am sitting in bed with all the lights on, covers clutched up around me - blanket over my head. He's taking forever. "Where are you? Hurry up!" I yell - numerous times. He finally appears. Honestly all thoughts of the bat were gone. My fear changed to dismay and laughter ... uproarious laughter. There he was, clutching a racket in both hands - dressed in cowboy boots, a tight leather motorcycle jacket and helmet … and briefs. Bare hairy legs and cowboy boots - a great look - one for the 'fantasy file'. I called to Jamie "Get the Camera! Get the camera!" He calmly and politely asked us to refrain from that. Well, something sort of like that. Then he informed us: "You can NOT do half-naked battle with a bat. Simple as that." That's when the true depths of his bat terror was revealed. 

Sometimes we only had one every few years. One year though, we had a number of them. By that time, I was spending a few weeks in the summer in Newfoundland and he was on his own with Bat Battle. He called in a professional ... 'Batman' - that was the business name. He spent a couple hours finding the spot and putting in a system where they could get out but not in again. Cost: $3500. 'Worth it.' my bat beleaguered husband declared.

We been fat-free ever since ... until he summoned them back which his fatal words the other day.
As John Paul and I headed up the stairs to bed there was one swooping around the hallway. Brian was in the bathroom. "There's a BAT!" I hollered. "No there's not!" he yelled back. I knew instantly from his tone that he knew full well there was a bat. He was HIDING in the bathroom. John-Paul high-tailed it out of there. 'GET IT!' Brian shouts at me. "WHAT!? YOU get it! YOU were the one who just put it out to the bat-gods and caused it. YOU get it." "Get a badminton racket!" he shouts. "We don't HAVE any badminton rackets anymore. We haven't for years now. We are Bat-Free, remember?  Three thousand, five hundred dollars - lifetime guarantee - remember?"

I searched the basement and came up with the only things I could find. He wasn't impressed. The only other thing was the broom. In the end, that was what stunned the creepy creature resulting in his removal. But there was no convincing John Paul that it was safe to enter the premises again. Even cheese couldn't coax him in. We had to actually pick him up and carry him in. He has made the kitchen couch his personal bed for the last couple months, but that night he got in bed between the two of us. He's not taking any chances ... he's moved back into our room.

That was last week. This week, JP and I have been on our own while Brian has gone fishing twelve hours away. Yep ... you guessed it. Bat fun again. No main man to defer to and no help from the four legged male. Dog gone. I opened the upstairs balcony door then went into the bathroom with the little sucker ... actually he was a BIG sucker - wing span on him of three feet ... well, maybe a little smaller than that but he was HONKIN' HUGE. There's not a chance that Brian would have ever been in a five foot space with a swooping bat.I can't say it was one of my favourite tasks but I had little choice. With a towel over my head, I took another one to flap at him to drive him out into the hallway towards the open door. Darned if he didn't get caught up in the towel which fell right on top of me. We both went tumbling into the bathtub. I got out faster than him. So I got the broom. I tried to get him to hang on to it so I could 'walk him' out the door. He refused ... very loudly and angrily. I think I know what bat swearing sounds like.

There's always a way to solve a problem if you remain calm and think - and it helps if you are highly motivated. I was expecting a guest for dinner and an overnight stay any minute. She would have simply freaked and ran if she knew we had a bat in our house ... Ever. I shut him up in the bathroom and went to the pond for the fish nets - two of them. I stuck one over top of him and slid the second underneath, walked him to the balcony and set him free.  There he was, zooming away with his three foot wing span as she drove in the driveway.

I didn't say a word about it and neither did JP. That's because he was outta there.

It won't take too many more bat adventures for Brian to be searching the internet for a new Batman. Or a new house.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chapter 4: Island Adventure - the First Guest

Window view - candlelight reflection on the field of daisies.
It's fitting that my very first overnight guest on Ship Island is one of the gals who was with me when the opportunity to have it in my life presented itself.

When Brian offered to buy it for me as a birthday gift, since he ... QUOTE "haven't got you much over the past 70 years so I likely owe you some gifts" ... thanks Brian ... I didn't jump on it. "I don't really need another place to 'sit' when I don't have enough time to sit at the places that I have and love now." I told my two friends who had come up to see it with me.

Enough light for writing.
This particular friend is an "AND Girl".  We had played the game together at a workshop we were at.  The one person says something they want to do ... like "I want to go to Ireland" or "I am going to get a little cabin on an isolated island." The other person, for everything they say, replies with 'BUT' and follows with some reason that it won't work. "BUT you can't afford it. BUT it's hard to get to. BUT you don't have enough time now to do the things you want to do."  And then you switch and say the exact thing but with the reply of "AND" instead. "AND you can visit all those cool castles in Ireland. AND you can look up your family history! AND you can drink lots of Guinness!" When we did that exercise, the energy in the room totally changed to electric and excitement from the dragging down of every one's dreams.

We can find a photo-op anywhere.
Yes, she is an 'AND Girl'.
Her 'ANDS!' for the cabin were a rapid fire pistol:

 "AND you could have SO MUCH fun decorating it!
AND you can go over there and paint and write! 
AND it could be a retreat for other writers and artists and tired women! AND we could spend the night there!!!"

And so we did.

Morning coffee in the daisies.

I must tell you, this dear, wonderful, always-supportive AND Friend is a City Girl. When she slept in my cabin on the farm - feet away from the house with a big yard light shining like a full moon, she didn't. Sleep that is. She kept saying 'What's that?' 'Just the donkeys knocking around.' 'WHAT'S THAT???!!!!' 'Bullfrogs.' 'BULLFROGS! Oh LORD!" Yep, a City Girl, bless her heart.

So the fact that she was keen ... and I seriously mean KEEN to sleep over on Ship Island was really cool besides being completely fitting to be my very first overnight guest.
We packed a little bag with the most essential 'overnight-in-a-cabin-on-an-isolated-island' items ...
comfortable lounge wear, a book, journal, snacks and coffee.
 AND off we went.

From the outside looking in.

It was heavenly. 
We lit the candles and then went outside to look in. 
We both played 'taking pictures'.
We talked.
 A lot. 
We both said 
'Isn't this COOL?!'
 a dozen times.

We figured out how to make the couch into a bed so we didn't have to both squeeze into 
the tiny double bed in the tiny bedroom.

In the morning, we sat in the meadow of daisies and raspberries and read. 
We soaked in the peace and serenity and history and magic. 

And we were grateful.

 Grateful for friendship; 
 for freedom;
 for time 
and for the fact
 that it only takes
 the very simplest things in life 
to make us
And gleeful.
And then another Very Cool Thing happened. 
I happened to just catch them as they were coming up the well-hidden path.
What fun! My family ... well a good part of it, got to see finally see where I am when I say I'm 'heading overseas'.
I think they approved.

Visitors! Woohoo!!!

Their very first time there.

Perhaps a longer trek than they expected.
I gave them the grand tour ...
the cabin, hout 'ouse, cemetary and Tom Tumbler,
leaving the Lighthouse and other challenging hiking for another time.
Then they said goodbye and we carried on for the rest of the day,
doing what we were doing.


Chapter 3: Alone On The Island

Sunset ... Little Red Boat parked for the night.
I would have been disappointed with myself if I hadn't done it ... if I haven't camped out at the cabin.

Time was short. I had a month's worth of work to do in six days. Hours were running out. The weather had not really been conducive to outside painting and I really needed to be at that task, but I also needed to fulfill my vision and expectation even more.

When I told people I was staying there - alone on the island - I'm pretty sure they thought I was just plain weird.. While they didn't come right out and say it, I suspect that they thought that I had a hole in my net. Some thought that I would be/should be scared. 'Of what?' I'd ask." All that is out there is some rabbits, maybe a moose and ghosts." "Yes ... the ghosts!" they agreed. "Well," I assured them, "I know that they were ALL hardworking, lovely people and they're glad that I'm there with them." 

Not exactly on the beaten path.
Being 'alone' wasn't necessarily on my 'need-to-do' agenda. I would have happily welcomed company for my first sleepover, but it wasn't to be. That evening, my friend came to see the place, we hiked to Tom Tumbler to view the icebergs and visited the cemetary, but she wasn't about to spend the night even knowing that it meant I would have to be alone. 'Nope.' she said, 'Can't do it.'  And so I drove her home in my boat, both of us giggling like school girls at how 'independent' we were, running the boat by ourselves. Oh yeah, my friends are as easily amused as I am. Apparently not quite as adventurous sometimes, but easily amused.

The setting sun illuminating the bottom of the Steep, Steep Hill.
Icebergs ... more than a dozen of them surrounding us.

Sunset from Tom Tumbler

So, there I was - back on the Island, alone. As the sun was setting, I trod up the steep, steep hill ... which by the way, was getting easier each time I did it. I wound my way through the darkened, sheltered path to my little cabin nestled in the woods. Inside my tiny little abode, I lit the candles.

Candles are up there on my top 10 things that I'm passionate about. Along with chairs and small buildings, I probably have more than most normal people, so the fact that there is no power did not diminish lighting inside the cabin.  It was peaceful and lovely. Everything is lovely by candlelight. As I do in my little cabin at  home, I went outside to look in, to savour the vision of a candle lit window.

Cozying up for the night.
A candle lit window is a comforting, welcoming thing even if there is no one but yourself to welcome.

I sat in the rocking chair, glad that I had dragged it up there. Just as candles are, a rocking chair is mandatory in a cabin. I began a fresh new journal. I wrote about my fascination with and love of the history of Ship Island and what it was like to be spending the night there ... alone. I must admit, I didn't sleep well or much, but that was okay. In the morning, it was drizzling and gray, which totally pleased me. There was no need to rush back to paint. I lit the wood stove, a little bit of overkill to just boil a kettle, but necessary for my cup of tea.

And there I sat in the flickering candle light  ...
 blanket, tea, rocking chair and journal. 
And just me.
 It was quite lovely.

I've gone camping alone for couple times but in reality one is not overly alone on a campground with 1200 sites. This time I really was alone.
Well, except for the rabbits, the 'maybe-a-moose' and the ghosts.

People were curious when
 I returned and asked
''How was it on Ship Island?"

 "Quiet." I told them. "Quiet."
There wasn't really much more to say.

Chapter 2: The EVolution of EDEN on the Island

The sweet little cabin on Ship Island was amazing when I first visited. Extremely well built and cozy, it was spotless and inviting. It would have been perfectly and totally fine the way it was ... MORE than fine. It was awesome. But, I have some weird gene in me that won't leave well enough alone. The main reason that I have 'Small Building Passion' is that I get to decorate them. In truth, that's the only reason I want a Boler - I don't actually want to drag it anywhere.

I didn't have to do a thing to Ship Island Cabin but I have that need to put my own signature on everything I do. My need says 'Paint something red.' - 'Make lots of cushions.' - 'Get more chairs.' Sometimes it's tiring listening to that Gene but in this case there was very little to do.

I got the red paint, made some cushions and brought up more chairs. I loved, LOVED the turquoise door and chair and dresser. It was that which steered the colour choice.

When I took my friend from Twillingate over to see the place in the fall, she was surprised and delighted to discover her very own kitchen cupboards that she had replaced 25 years earlier. We had the same exact ones in the house that we built in 1975. I remember how much I loved that style. It was kind of hard to do in a way, but I needed something red, so out came the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. And voila. Red.

I sewed up some black and red cushions, made little valances out of black and white dotted fabric and painted the window frames and a little table to match the cabinets. I picked up some black and white dishes - mostly from the Dollar Store, added a couple turquoise throws from Value Village and a red rag rug and shiny red kettle and I was done.

So here she is ... just a different colour scheme, 

and more pillows.

All the art will be orginal, funky-kinda paintings.  
The first hung was my 'AND Friend', Debbie Brodie Ritz's painting ... on the door.

Oh yeah ... there are a lot of people who would not be impressed
that I was painting over nice wood.

This still isn't done ... 
working on a painting for above the bed.

I painted the walls a really pretty,
fresh and light green and
added a vintage 'tie quilt' from the 60's,
a really nice quilt from Value Village
and pillows. More pillows.
The reading light is very cool.
It's one of those solar jobs from Ikea -
not as romantical as candles but
very handy and practical.

They were totally FINE cupboards - they didn't actually need painting. But, oh well.
Work in Progess. GOOD HEAVENS!! What have you done, woman? You PAINTED over perfectly good wood!

Someday, someone will likely strip them back to what they were.