Saturday, August 30, 2008


Aunty Linda left a legacy
To a group of twenty-somethings.

One bought a car with low kilometres.
One saw the way to a great vacation.
One paid the rent for a year’s university.

And in the end it seemed to me
That this was just the kind of thing
Aunty Linda would have mentioned
When she went with friends to breakfast.

You can live on in a good used car,
Or a beach resort
Or pre-paid rent.
And a million zillion other ways
They can find to remember you fondly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


My bones are not as dense as they ought to be—indeed, not as dense as they used to be. Just where that mass has gone I do not know. Possibly it gradually escaped out my mouth while I was talking. But anyway, it seems to have escaped. But the news is good. It can be rebuilt.
Apparently it won’t be all that difficult to rebuild it. All I have to do is take one pill per week, not such a big pill either. The thing is, I’m not to lie down after taking that pill, and it must be taken at least thirty minutes prior to taking anything else, including food, beverage or other medication. As far as I can figure, this is a Monday morning pill, a pill to be taken on a day when everything else is already messed up. All I have to do is get up a little earlier than usual, take the pill, take a shower, doddle in the bathroom, dress slowly, take my other medications, have breakfast, and then arrive for work, possibly a little late, which seems pretty natural for a Monday morning.
There’s just one more little thing. I ought also to be taking calcium, which doesn’t seem to absorb unless it is taken with vitamin D. The doctor has jotted down a formula for the balance between the two. We stare for hours at the pharmacy shelves, only to conclude that No product, either pre-mixed or individually packaged, meets his exact specifications. So we finally settle for the drug company recommendations and ignore the line on the package that tells us to follow these directions unless otherwise specified by a doctor. There’s just one more little thing, though. The calcium should not be taken two hours before or four hours after other medication, which allows me to take the four gigantic pills at bedtime, except if my arthritis flares up again and I have to take a pill for that at bedtime, at which point I will have to skip supper, I think. Or maybe Monday morning breakfast.
The more I think about it, the denser I feel. Could this possibly explain where the bone density has gone?

Saturday, August 23, 2008


And what did we plan for our two-week vacation?
Well, not much, really, except for a wedding.

And what did we do on our two-week vacation?

We went on
An architectural tour of historic buildings in the 104 Street Warehouse District,
A self-guided walking tour of West Oliver and Glenora
A ghost tour of Old Strathcona,
A raft trip down the North Saskatchewan River,
A ramble through a corn maze,
And a visit to the burial grounds on the spot where they’ve decided not to build a new power station.

We attended
Three Fringe plays in the blistering heat
Two Fringe plays in the freezing cold,
A wedding rehearsal
A wedding,
A gift opening,
A funeral
Two Sunday services
And a party to celebrate the 147th birthday of John Walter.

We visited
Four farmers’ markets,
Four City Parks we had not walked in,
The Provincial archives in search of a story,
A casino in search of a win,
A doctor
Five show homes,
Our brand new minister,
Friends in the country
And relatives too numerous to mention.

We ordered a bathtub,
And also bought
Six towels
A low-flush toilet,
Three pairs of casual pants,
Four chrysanthemums,
Some excellent bread
Several cups of coffee
And a lot of fresh vegetables.

We played
Many games of dice.

We ate
Elephant ears,
Buffalo burgers,
Ed’s garden cucumbers
Lunch at Teddy's
Dinner at Rat Pack Louie's
And a free lunch courtesy of the Allen Pharmacy.

We planned to
Watch the Olympics on TV
But we didn't get around to that.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Here’s hope for you. Yesterday we participated in an absolutely fre activity. It was John Walter’s birthday party at the John Walter museum in Edmonton’s river valley. We had a guided river valley tour, two storytelling sessions under shade trees, a tour of three houses, an intro to the historic logging industry in Edmonton, live music, birthday cake, lemonade, parking, and all of it was free. We passed on the bannick making. The weather was perfect!!!! There were lots of kids activities there also, but we didn’t have any kids with us. We were there three full hours.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Mike and Anne came to dinner. They brought with them a tomato plant grown from a heritage seed. As soon as I held it I forgot that I’d said we were absolutely
not planting any more tomato plants this year. And even though I have always declared it inefficient to start tomato plants from seed, I could feel myself
sliding into the future, slicing gently into ripe juicy tomatoes to extract the finest seeds for next year’s planting. This, I suppose, is the magical
influence of a heritage seed.

I never gave much thought to what expectations I ought to have of a heritage tomato. It is only now, in early August, that I realize I had expectations, expectations based on stereotypes rather than research. I could have done some research, can’t now figure out why I didn’t. I could have asked Anne how big the plant gets, when it produces fruit and how much water it takes. I did none of these. I simply thanked, her, told her we would be planting it in a pot on the deck, and ignored her response, which was to hesitate, and then say that it would likely need a good stake, or even a cage. What I ignored was the nonverbal message: Don’t plant it in a pot on the deck!

The heritage tomato seemed pleased with its new home. I transplanted it from Anne’s small carrying pot to a good sized deck pot and put it in the sun to do whatever heritage plants do, missing one important fact—heritage plants didn’t grow in pots. I now realize that the word heritage carries with it certain suggestions, visions of a hardy, independent, self-reliant plant, caring for itself and producing misshapen fruits that generate seeds without the benefit of the planned care given to its grower-bred cousins. That said, I decided to give this heritage tomato a little extra care—regular watering, a dash of fertilizer to compensate for nature’s lack of rain and the pot’s limited nutritional potential.

Things have turned out just as a more discerning psychologist might predict they would. That tomato has become dependent. Relieved of the responsibility of self-care, it grew and grew. Fearing that a tomato cage would be inadequate, we bought it a cage big enough for a peony. It grew out over the top. First came the flowers, then the tomatoes—perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped specimens decoratively adorned with rounded ridges stretching at intervals from top to bottom. One day we came home to find that the plant, pot, cage and all had tipped over. There it lay, begging for assistance. We stood it up. Must have been windy here,”” we said.

The next day was calm. Still, the plant tipped over as it had the day before. That’s when we realized that the cage secured the produce, but did not compensate for the heaviness of the tomatoes on one side, throwing off the balance. That’s when we pressed the geranium pots into service, circling them around to guard against tipping—or so we hope.

So now we wait. Every day we water—sometimes twice. That plant is thirstier than a dusty cowboy in a saloon. And every day those tomatoes grow bigger—and bigger. Who knows how big they can get?

And at summer’s end we will face an existential question: If you coddle a plant, giving it every chance to produce the best seeds, thus affecting future generations through the process of unnatural selection, is it still a heritage plant?

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Ruth says, “I never knew you guys were rich until I grew up. As a child, I thought we didn’t have much money.”
I am stunned to uncharacteristic silence. What can she possibly mean? Number one, we are hardly rich, in the sense of capital R Rich! Surely she has only to look at the homes of her friends’ parents to see that ours, comfortable and lovely as it is, is not the quality of theirs. And, number two, how could she have thought us to be poor? Did we not take her twice to Disneyland and once to Disney World? “Rich people,” I declare with feeling, “don’t usually drive around in mini-vans.”
But Ruth is unyielding, not persuaded by anything I can say. She says she drew her conclusions not so much from what we did, as from what we said about ourselves. In this she probably has a point. We would hardly have gone about speaking of ourselves as rich, and no doubt we denied her a request or two on the grounds of insufficient funds.
“Of course we could have afforded to buy silver wrapping paper,” I tell her when she raises the subject of gift-wrap. “We just didn’t, because we were trying to help the environment by wrapping birthday gifts in brightly coloured newspaper comics. Weren’t you proud that we were saving the environment?”
“Not especially,” she says. “I was embarrassed.”
“Oh well,” I soothe, “you turned out very nicely anyway.”
Ruth is a generous person. She will gladly give you a ride in her car, but there are a lot of bottles and cans rattling around. She recycles them and uses the money to buy things for her classroom. A big load from our garage will bring her ten dollars, maybe fifteen. And somewhere in the back seat you can find her new cloth shopping bags.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! And so goes the confusion when you start to sort out the memories of your childhood, what you knew versus what you thought to be true.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Just when I get to thinking that I’d better be finding my snow boots
Because it’s the first of August
And you can never be too well prepared
Given that the geraniums are full and luscious
The pansies are on the wane
With the lilies on their tail
And the peony blossoms a distant memory,

That’s when I notice that the Acidanthra are opening,
And the gladioli are poking up their buds through the evening scented stocks,
With the roses preparing for a second blooming round,
While the asters perform final stage checks before making their dazzling August entrance.

And then, noticing these things,
I am grateful that I, in many mid-summers past,
Heard the false alarm of snow boots pressure,
And found a way to silence it with flowers.