Saturday, 24 December 2011

'Twas the night before Christmas

December 24th. The night before Christmas.  I've been to church at St. Mary's,  the little church in Brinsley, a four corners so tiny even people living around here don't know where it is. However this evening, there was a traffic jam with the United Church-goers at the end of the road. Not very often that happens - unless we schedule our bazaars on the same day at the same time!

This year we have had a skiff of snow and it is cold out, but one year, it was so mild the cattle were still in the fields after dark and you could hear them lowing - not mooing, but lowing, just as in the carol! They were noshing on turnips still in the field.
Speaking of which, I am going to have some more tourtiere and maybe some cheese... and if we have any more Lindt orange dark chocolate, yes, some of that... then hang up my stocking. I wonder what Santa/Greg will put in it this year...
I am not sure who besides a select few reads my blog, but in any case, Merry Christmas to you all and a prosperous new year in 2012!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Dispatches from North Middlesex #9

Things are changing in Parkhill. 

On Main St., Kelli’s Family Restaurant has been sold. There is much speculation as to the nature of the new eatery. Rumour has it the owners are from west of here, perhaps from as far away as Chatham – and may be French. The previous owners were Greek, but spanakopita, tzatziki, and other delectables were never on their menu, alas. The signs in the windows now advertise “Want Home Cooking?” We in the low mobility exercise class don’t know if this indicates the new name of the restaurant or the nature of the cuisine. The chef is said to have worked at the casino in Windsor at one time, so we are expecting great things.

The shuttered dinner theatre is in new hands as well. A steak house will rise from its ashes, although I am being metaphorical as, unlike a previous incarnation of Kelli’s, it did not burn down. The marquee has been advertising an ABBA night on May 23 for the past three or four years, so this development is a welcome change.

And wonder of wonders, the Saturday Globe and Mail is now for sale at the gas station downtown; there are only six copies, so it is wise to get there before noon. 

Our little village is expanding its horizons in other ways too. Over at Tim Horton’s, a customer placed an order, then went out to his car and returned with something in his hand, sat down at a table in the corner and appeared to say prayers. At exercise class, we concluded he was probably a Muslim and definitely evidence of our growing cosmopolitanism. In fact, the North Middlesex Christian Ministerial Assn. in which Greg is an active participant, may need to expand (and change its name) if this trend continues.

In the meanwhile, preparations are underway for Christmas. Lest anyone think we are overdoing the cosmopolitan thing, it is still called that here, not Holiday Season. And there is a nativity scene on the piano at the Leisure club. I have been tempted to wish people a Blessed Advent but felt that might be going too far in the other direction. Going to extremes is frowned on around here.

In any event, no sooner were the boulevard gardens and hanging baskets put to bed for the winter, than it was time to decorate Main St. for the Santa Claus parade. The sturdy ladies of the Horticultural Society collected greenery from the woods at someone’s farm outside town. We then decorated the planters at the new parkette across from Kelli’s and hung swags on all the public buildings. Aesthetic ability was welcomed but not necessary (much to my relief, as my offering looked as if Dr Seuss constructed it). 

Being able to saw thick branches and climb ladders in the wind was more a more sought-after skill. As the new president of the Hort said, “If anyone has anything to say about our decorating, they can do it themselves next year.” So far only a couple of bows have been stolen, and nothing has blown away. 

The men attach the wreaths on the lampposts downtown, and this year, sadly, they did a sub-optimal job. They failed to fluff them before hanging them. I have the same problem with my man and our artificial tree: You really do need to stand the little branches up for an effect of fullness. However, those who decorated the pine trees beside the Post Office did a splendid job of stringing the lights – as one of my neighbours said, “They look like proper garlands.”

The Santa Claus parade was a great success again this year. It is always held in late afternoon, while night is falling. Unfortunately, Greg and I were attending (a rather unaccountably well-lit) Advent carol service at the cathedral, so we missed it; as a result, my information is somewhat second-hand. Apparently the pouring rain let up a bit, and the street was lined with spectators.

 I must run now and finish the four mince meat pies I am making for the St. James Christmas bake sale.  The first year I was here I donated two dozen sticky buns. I felt quite proud of myself until I saw the other ladies hauling in stacks and stacks of baked goods. I am still not attempting such a feat, but I am rather pleased with my pastry.

One small serpent in the garden: I always fortify the mincemeat with lots of brandy, but when I looked this morning, we had none left, I suppose after too enthusiastically flaming last year’s plum pudding. I asked Greg if I could use some of his Drambuie or single malt scotch of which there seemed to be a plentiful supply.  For some reason, this otherwise mild-mannered man said, in no uncertain terms, that I could not. Goodness, was he still harbouring hurt feelings about my assessment of his tree fluffing? I hope not. He has agreed to brave the howling wind and the first snowfall to get me some brandy from the liquor store later this morning.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


This Christmas there will be no flames.
We are subdued.
The best we can hope for is a quiet undecorated dinner.
I feel guilty but not remorseful.
I  am puzzled by my failings and
I am not quite sure what to do
with all the ragged pop-up memories.
I can't paste them back together,
but I can't throw away the book either.
So this year everything will be neatly shelved, 
for being tidy keeps serenity intact.
Lorna Harris (December 1, 2011)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tidying up my workspace

My study is turning into a chaotic mess. Periodically I reorganize my surroundings. I need to do this again, especially in view of the fact that I may be soon deluged with stuff from the condo if it sells. Where will I put everything? What should I throw out?

This conundrum may be at the base of the mood I’m in just now: a combination of irritability and melancholy.

I can’t seem to concentrate on writing anything, don’t want to do my 10-minutes-per-day writing exercises or do much of anything else. Everything is such an effort. 

This sounds like a description of someone suffering from depression, and that diagnosis may be true for me just now. I like to be in control and not have things or events beyond my control. This oozing mass of stuff with nowhere to put it perhaps coincides with my inner mood – so much stuff that won’t apparently sort itself out, even with my best efforts. My ponderings and self-chuffings have been remarkably ineffective!

I’d like to keep, donate or give away a lot of what is going on psychologically, re-order my mental frame of mind, leave my “brown study.”  What a great pun that is!

Maybe my creative juices are beginning to flow again!

Friday, 18 November 2011

How do I love the Lee Valley Christmas catalogue: Let me count the ways

The Christmas 2011 Lee Valley Gift Catalogue has arrived and is definitely worth those upper case letters. As always, it’s a capital treat.

I am always entranced by the offerings it contains, especially the space-saving devices. How could I not live without the foldable water bottle ($7.50; $12.95 with sleeve for carrying)? And my goodness, there’s the folding potato masher ($16.50), the folding trivet ($7.50), the collapsible vase ($6.50) and the collapsible bird feeder (albeit slightly more expensive at $34.50).

Some of the items are just so purely handy they are irresistible. The cookie dropper, as its name implies, is used for moving sticky drop-cookie dough onto the cookie sheet.

The roll-up-the-rim gadget is made especially for when Tim Horton’s has its roll-up-the-rim-to-win contests, although now that Tim’s has gone all upmarket on us, I doubt the espresso cups will condescend to participate.

But how about the tape clamp,” the gift wrapper’s assistant”; for only $2.95, it clamps to a table (including “folding table with hollow tops”) and holds a standard tape dispenser so you don’t have to. 

Tired of grocery bags spilling their contents as you round a corner on two wheels? The trunk organizer/storage bin, designed especially by Lee Valley, will brighten up your eyes when you spy it under the Christmas tree.

Finally, for stocking stuffers (just $1.60 each), there are the “clever” pop and can pulls for those who struggle using pull-tabs.

And if only I had the campfire back warmer, cool autumn nights beside the fire pot in the back yard would be much more pleasant.

There are a lot of nostalgic items too – for example, the original Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper (“virtually everything pops and nothing sticks”).

And why use electricity when you can sharpen your pencils using the “Little Shaver” pencil sharpener. Modeled on a design from the 19th century, it not “brings a pencil to
a point,” but provides a  “unique glimpse” into history.

The Sailor’s Book of Knots even comes with optional rope lengths for practice; however, there is also a more up-to-date gadget for those who give up trying to learn all those “beautiful and useful” knots by heart. It’s the Gator Cleat Rope Tensioner (just $4.50) and I’m sure is worth every penny for “all sorts of hitching.”

As I leaf through the pages, I see items I have bought in former years. This is nice. There is a comforting repetition to this annual Christmas offering and the ritual of shopping from it. I am tempted to go on and describe the children’s toys, but I shall stop now and save that fun for the next time.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Poem: Blue and pining

The March wind scours this labyrinth.
Behind it, a few pine trees
sway rigidly against the blue sky.

Often when you walk a labyrinth, someone else is there with you,
but on this one,  I am by myself.
Well, not completely so:
For I follow rows of stones  – smooth and hard like the tops of skulls –
I take them for markers of the dead –
one dead soul after another and after another
making a path of grief.

Between the stones, the path is lined with wood chips
slowly rotting: springy but still stiff with cold.
It’s like walking on frosted flakes.
Here and there, they have blown over the stones.
Hands jammed into my pockets against the cold,
I stop to uncover the rocks with the toe of my shoe,
stubbing until  the shiny surfaces re-appear.

I pause too at the tight constricting corners – this labyrinth is narrower than others.
The long sweeping arcs send me to the centre then away, as usual,
but, at the centre, where you expect the rose,
there is a just a circle,
save for a big rock
slightly off-centre –
a red heart-shaped rock, ventricles down,
unmoving, solid and dead.

So is this the heart of the matter?
Is this a sacred heart?
Will the stones cry out?
Is there no shudder but the wind?

Six months have now gone by since my life’s heart stopped.
I follow grief’s labyrinth,
hoping every day  
that I have reached the centre and can return,
leaving my  cold stone heart behind once and for all.

But I look back and, of course, am turned
to a pillar of salt – too many tears.

L. Harris April 10, 2011

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Some reflections on raking leaves 

This is the first day after the resumption of standard time  – the sun is going down, and it is only 4:00 – a sudden harbinger of winter, I hate to say. Everyone seemed to be in a rush today.  People pulling their children around in trailers behind golf carts, my next door neighbour on his motorcycle, the farmer at the end of the street still working in the field – they were all going at full throttle, it seemed. Even a mother cat was urging her two distracted black kittens along impatiently. There must be something instinctive, no matter what one is doing, about rushing and prolonging the fall before the snow comes.

 I was out raking leaves this afternoon. I wish I had my young grandson alongside because the possibilities for leaf houses and leaf piles were endless!  I enjoyed getting into a rhythm of raking, and I didn’t rush. I am more methodical than I used to be:  not so much out of desire, but by necessity. Slow and steady wins my race.   It is rather nice not to have to go anywhere, just be raking on a windy afternoon.

The wind did blow back some of the leaves, but all in all, I got them to the side of the road mostly .  It gives such a satisfying sense of accomplishment to see the grass gradually re-appearing from beneath the leaves even though it was at the expense of that gorgeous carpet of gold. 

However, from a practical point of view, the leaves won’t stifle the grass, and clearing out the flower beds will make the bulb’s job that much easier in the spring if they don’t have to poke through dead leaves. …

I can’t say I am enthused about bagging the leaves.  I hope our yard guy, who has to go in hospital for a minor operation, is soon able to help us with that. We had upwards of 65 bags a few years ago – Greg took them to the composting centre at the edge of town.  

And there are many leaves still to fall. After I finished raking, I looked at our ghoulish smiling jack o' lantern sitting on the railing of the deck. It may smirk now, but there are traces of black mould around its face, and the compost heap waits as well  for it.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Carving the Hallowe'en pumpkin

Thought I’d get in touch with my inner pagan this morning rather than going to church, so I decided to carve the pumpkin. The canvas awaiting my skills was a huge round specimen purchased for only $4.99 at our local Sobey’s. But after a 15-year hiatus during which I did not partake of this ritual, my carving skills were somewhat rusty. 
Note to self: It is a good idea to remove all the stringy bits before carving. They are hard to remove afterwards and the dangling bits can yield a somewhat snotty jack-o-lantern.

Even four-year-olds know this. Yesterday on the phone, my grandson told me he was using a spoon to scrape the inside; I should have filed this fact away for use today. Too late for the broad strokes of a spoon,  I ended up using a Tupperware lettuce knife for rear-guard  action on the delicate areas around the eyes and nose.
Also, I saved the seeds, and I separated them into two piles: one is for growing another crop next year (as grandson optimistically observed, “We won’t ever have to buy another pumpkin.”).

The other is for toasting. I first ate toasted pumpkin seeds a year ago at Hallowe’en at my son and daughter-in-law’s. They were really good; my son has a knack for baking them, and also, I might add, for making delicious pancakes. When my children were growing up, my pancakes apparently were heavy sodden challenges to their discriminating palates – usually because I felt I had to include things like apple bits to add to their nutritional value. I hope for better results with the pumpkin seeds.

The Internet provided the procedure for toasting the seeds. I removed the gushy bits to prevent their scorching and ruining the seeds during baking (recommended is 300 degees for 45 to 55 minutes).   Then I soaked them in salty water.  Thanks again to my grandson, who during our telephone chat wondered what that paper was that his other grandmother was using, I lined a baking sheet with tin foil. This should make clean-up a breeze.
But back to carving. I tried to find ideas for the face on the Internet. I wanted large doleful eyes, but alas, the one image I had seen on a previous search was, not surprisingly, nowhere to be found today. A piece of advice: Many small strokes with a small knife are better than hacking away with the butcher knife.  I accidentally lopped off an upper tooth (on the pumpkin's  face, that is) before I learned that.  The eyes look fine even though one pupil is attached by only a hairsbreadth of pumpkin flesh. The nose has character – like a boxer’s  – and although I eschewed doing ears, I did carve a couple of fetching eyebrows.
It was fun!  Instead of the creed and the various responses found in the Anglican ritual for worship, I recited the pumpkin poem.  Did not feel nearly guilty enough though...
And there is a candle that  fits – all is ready for tomorrow night!

Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “Oh my, it's getting late!”
The second one said, "There are witches in the air.”
The third one said, "But we don't care.”
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!”
The fifth one said, "I’m ready for some fun!”
Then Woooooo went the wind
And OUT went all the lights.
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Dispatch from the wilds of North Middlesex: #8

 A Parkhill ode to autumn 

Autumn is a season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” in other times and places, but here, not so much.  It’s mid-October, and I still have dozens of spring bulbs to plant.  However, today is wuthering (cold, rainy and windy, in other more prosaic words), so I am safely indoors watching leaves and small branches fly off the poplars in the back yard and hoping the 60-year-old trees themselves don’t topple.

Speaking of which, the biggest story here — aside perhaps from the provincial election, in which the incumbent was likewise tossed away on the winds of change — is arboreal.  The tree trunk carving in Coronation Park is now complete. The work was commissioned by the Parkhill and Area Horticultural Society — known here as simply the Hort.  An earlier dispatch reported that the carver said the old trunk “spoke to him.” Now we know what it said:  a fairy tale come true in oak.  For older folk, the side towards the street commemorates the recent Royal Wedding with the initials C and W rapturously entwined on a shield and surrounded by a fantasy of oak leaves and roses.

The other side depicts  Rapunzel  letting down a long braid of hair just tantalizingly out of reach of a spry youth climbing up to meet her.  This latter image is intended for the entertainment of children, with the underlying hope that none of them will later vandalize what captivated them as youngsters.  Around the top are several jaunty plump acorns carved from the truncated remains of four or five large branches. The intentional fallacy prevents me from contemplating what the artist had in mind when he included them, but to me they appear more mammiferous than memorial.

Before my imagination takes us irretrievably gutter-ward, I should report on another new feature here in town:  the crosswalk on Main St.  Coincidentally, the same pedestrian safety device had been instituted in Souris, PEI when we visited this summer.

Each appears to be confusing to both motorists and pedestrians — but for different reasons. In Souris, as in much of the Island, cars still stop for pedestrians without having to be told. In Parkhill, they don’t. It can be embarrassing either way – well, actually, here it might also be fatal.

In any event, last year in Souris I walked up and down by the post office trying to find the mailbox. Veering a bit close to the curb, I slowly realized that traffic both ways had come to a halt. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, I crossed the street. Traffic flow resumed.  Gazing back across at a wider angle than before, I spied the mailbox, stopped traffic, re-crossed the road and mailed my postcards.

This summer, crossing Main St. in Souris had become complicated. Does crosswalk protocol mean that cars need stop only there, or can they still be expected to stop anywhere along the road?  Small children on bicycles seemed to think so, as they darted across anywhere as before.

Here in Parkhill, it’s not that simple (and, incidentally, the only people crossing Main St. without looking first are ATV operators driving illegally on the hiking trail, oblivious to the fact they have suddenly intersected with the road).  Anyhow, the Highway Traffic Act makes clear no one is to move into the path of a vehicle that is “so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.” This would describe most vehicles barrelling along Main St. In fact, local opinion holds that the OPP would be better advised to lurk beside the crosswalk and catch real speeders than by entrapping senior citizens nudging the speed limit just outside town.

In any event, cars don’t get it, nor apparently do pedestrians. The other day, I saw one poor soul standing meekly behind a parked car while a couple of pick-up trucks whizzed by. Having experience with crosswalks in bigger urban centres, I advanced with a toe into the gutter, raised my cane, waved it, fixed the motorist with my gimlet eye and began to cross the first lane.  This procedure has worked for me, at least so far, most notably with drivers I can make eye contact with. In fact, just this afternoon, I crossed twice — and both times I didn’t have to wait long before cars came along.

However, as the local paper points out, understanding how to manage a crosswalk has something of a learning curve. The editor implored readers to be careful, as she doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt using this new safety feature. 

Speaking of getting hurt, the 153rd Parkhill Fall Fair got underway several Fridays ago. The highlight of the three-day exhibition is always the demolition derby held on the Sunday afternoon.   Leading up to this competition crescendo were baby contests (including baldest, most dimples and rolls, and craziest hair), mutton busting (a sort of demolition derby involving sheep), crowning the fair royalty (not just a princess, but also a bespectacled prince and several ambassadors) and of course, judging the hundreds of fair exhibits.  The judges, perhaps wisely, come from outside the community — in fact from as far away as London for the exhibits sponsored by the Hort.

I did not attend the fair’s finale, but one of our neighbours entered a vehicle, which I saw being carted off on a flat-bed truck a couple of days later. It didn’t look like a winner. Anyhow, to start the event, the fair’s karaoke champion, sang  O Canada, and you’d think she was standing in our back yard the sound system worked so well.  Engines roared all afternoon, and traffic was lined up at least 10-deep at the stop sign at the south end of town, as the crowd dispersed — not perhaps as “gathering swallows “ twittering in the skies, but there aren’t a lot of thatch-eaves around here either.   John Keats lived in quieter times, or at least they were differently noisy.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Poem:  Your Pigeon Dream

As a totem animal –  if that is what this is –  
pigeon is not much:
why choose a dirty, dithering coward of a bird,
toddlers like to chase?

Why not an eagle for mastery,
a cardinal for showiness,
or a robin for diligent worm-hunting?

 And on a motorbike?
that symbol of daring,  irresponsibility and roaring get-away –
where is that in my life right now?

And the trainer who comes and takes away the pigeon 
why is he there?
for how do you train a pigeon?

If this were my dream,
I might think of him
as my pigeon’s guardian:

Keeping watch
over my dirty birdiness
until I park the bike
 and pause to love that despised part –
that part longing to be known –

 Then I would wonder – if this were my dream –
 in what way a such dirty, clumsy, stupid thing
might then hover,
graceful and holy.

Lorna Harris
February 17, 2011

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Story of Thomas’s Pumpkin


Here is Grandpa Greg removing sod in the pumpkin patch we have just begun to dig. Its early May.

Here I am putting on my gardening gloves. I narrowly missed some worms when I starting digging!

Whew! We are all done, and now there are four hills. We still need to shovel in the fertilizer from one of those plastic bags. Luckily the shovels are still there! But where is Grandpa Greg?

Here are the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin Daddy carved last year. I kept them cool in the refrigerator all winter, but it is time to plant them. Its the third week of May now, and the soil is nice and warm.

The seed between my thumb and forefinger is pretty small.

There it goes into the pumpkin hill. You can see there is some black fertilizer on top to help it grow.

Its early June.  Here are the first leaves of the pumpkins.

Now its the end of June and the pumpkin plants are bigger! But where are the pumpkins?

At last a flower! The bees must have been busy pollinating because here is a pumpkin flower with a tiny green pumpkin at its base.

Several weeks later and here is a pumpkin, but it is not ready to pick just yet because it is still too green.

Here we are in September, and this pumpkin is ready to be picked.

Can you see the pumpkin patch? The pumpkins stand out because they are orange! Grandpa Greg and I are getting ready to bring them to Toronto.

Here you are holding your pumpkin! It’s all ready to carve!  Remember to save some seeds for next year.

by Granny Lorna (October 15, 2010)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Poem: Trying to understand trapdoors

My spells of grief are not as frequent now,
 for the season has changed,
 and winter has come.

October seems so long ago
It’s almost odd to think of you alive.  

Yet  there you are in my dream
In the hustle-bustle of dead souls:
Very professional – wearing your topcoat –
All business-like in a crowd – heading off somewhere.

You don’t see me standing behind the glass wall. 

Having watched you go,
 I turn and waken and think maybe my grief
has gone at last with you
 into the city of the dead.

But then, once more, without warning,
the trap door opens beneath my feet:
Just before I fall
 into the oblivion of grief,
 I recall that suddenness
of everything disappearing.

And I wonder
Is this how you died?
The heart-wrenching pain,
The hard fall – knowing this time it was not going to end well,
 As you dropped in the void.

[December 19, 2010    Lorna Harris]

Monday, 3 October 2011

Off to get some spring bulbs

With apologies to Bulwer-Lytton, it's a dark and gloomy morning. However, it is not as cold as yesterday, and the wind has died down. I have just finished re-reading Wuthering Heights so there seemed to be a bit of pathetic fallacy going on: certainly the poplar trees in the back yard were endlessly sussing.  Wuthering seems a bit too strong a word for the pastoral village I live in. And Heathcliff is definitely not a spring bulb sort of guy.  Malignant grief contorted him ...well anyway, I will try for a better grief...and perhaps plant snow drops as a memorial.
I am heading out to get my spring bulbs today and not leave it so late that  I have a poor selection and must plant in a snow shower.  No tulips because the squirrels eat them as a delicacy.  I want the very early bulbs (winter aconite, grape hyacinths, crocuses, and the snow drops I already mentioned) to fill up the bare spots under the bushes in the garden. Planting them in the fragrant humid earth and then months later, after the iron-hard winter, seeing them  actually come up are one of my life's pleasures. 
I have planted grocery-store, forced daffodils once they have finished blooming, and after a year or so they revert to their natural growing rhythm and start to multiply. I am full in agreement with Wordsworth: everyone should have a host of golden daffodils.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What is it about islands?

I like islands. One of my earliest memories is of going to Toronto Island with my mother and paternal grandmother. I must have been about three when we went there – probably to Ward’s island because I remember a lot of trees near the shore. I remember swimming in only my white underwear and vest and thinking I really should be in a swim suit. A sense of propriety cosseted me even then, it seems.

Later while I was a student teacher, I visited Toronto Island in the middle of winter and stayed for a week at the Toronto Island School. Even though we were so close to downtown Toronto, it was an adventure for both the pupils and the teachers. We learned why ducks’ feet don’t freeze in the winter and, amazingly, how to shoot a BB gun.

Since then, I have travelled to many Canadian islands: Malcolm Island in B.C., Manitoulin, Pelee and Grand Manon, the Magdalens, Newfoundland, Cape Breton, and of course, Prince Edward Island. I suppose going across the water on a  boat is a big part of the attraction. There is that enforced pause: slowing down to a halt to wait for the ferry and then lounging about on board while the crossing is made. How often are we made to slow down and stop in life, to merely wait and wool gather with no choice but to enjoy patience.

Now that the fixed link has replaced one of the ferries to PEI, some of the magic of the crossing has been sacrificed for efficiency, but going to PEI each summer is what I look forward to all year long. This year Greg and I visited yet again, and I was not disappointed.

Some mainland habits die hard. A short distance from Confederation Village, there is an ESSO gas station, where the tarmac is always clogged with cars. Not for fuel for the vehicle, apparently, as much as for fuel for the body: the first Tim Horton’s, probably since Moncton, is located here. In fact, a sign enjoins visitors to pay for their gas before they get their Tim's.

Once we fueled up both ways, we headed for Victoria-by-the Sea, a former ship-building village, where the old frame buildings, now restored and painted glorious bright colours, house an inn, a playhouse, B & Bs, and one-of-a-kind shops. All were open but one; according to the notice on the door it was closed due to the wedding of the owner’s niece.  It might be the height of the tourist season, but family comes first!

Islanders are pretty trusting: Not all of the shops we visited were staffed. In one, I found a print I wanted to buy. As there was no one in the store, I wandered out a side door and found four people in a rather pleasant back garden enjoying tea.  One left the group and helped me make my purchase.

After doodling along the shore taking in potato fields and rolls of hay we arrived at our lodging for the night, the Desable motel, an unintentional paean to the 1970s and before. Each unit had an orange plastic basket chair outside the door.

The bathtub sloped slightly, but the water was hot, and behind the motel were walking trails to the ocean, an unexpected treat for the travel-bleary.   Meals were served across the highway at the Blue Goose Restaurant and Bakery, recommended by the motel proprietor who often went to eat there. She was right; the food was good.

The next day was Sunday, and we decided to go to church in Charlottetown. We had plenty of time to get to the 11:00 service, or so we thought, as we dipsy-doodled our way along Highway 19.

We came to a park, the Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada, to be exact. From there, we could look across the bay towards what is now Charlottetown and agree with Louis Denys de La Ronde, a French naval officer and explorer, who wrote in 1721, "...Port-la-Joye, one of the most beautiful harbours that the eye can behold."

Unfortunately, despite a damp wind, we lingered a bit too long over the history of the M’ikmaq, the Acadians and the English and got to church in the nick of time, we thought, only to find that the summer services started at 10:00. "Oh, well," said the cheery greeter at the door, "You haven’t missed the most important reason for coming." By this she meant Holy Communion.  Needless to say, St. Peter’s is in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Clutching the bulletin and masses of inserts, so typical of any Anglican tradition, we crept into the back pew, where a plump, jolly older woman made sure we knew where the hymns were to be found. Once the very formal service was completed, we were invited to assemble for lemonade on the lawn – well, everyone went except for us, who were held in thrall by the same dear old soul, as she recounted decades of Anglican history and the lives of a number of rectors  from the Island and Upper Canada. Other congregants looked at us with a mixture of alarm and pity before quickly exiting.  

(On our way off the island at the end of the week,  we attended the other Anglican church in Charlottetown, a much more informal service, so low church in fact that during the chatty portion of passing the peace, someone left to go to the washroom - located conveniently in the narthex. He returned in lots of time for the resumption of the liturgy.)

  We agreed neither was necessary, as a cross draft provided all the air conditioning we needed, and the satellite TV offered the same two programs in every time zone across Canada.  However, I was happy to have WiFi and even happier to enjoy gourmet meals, lovely gardens, and a view of the Bay.  

Our week on the Island had begun well.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Poem: Advent Sunday 2010

Above me, while I take my walk,
the  November clouds hang
heavy, grey and silent. 

Like their rain that does not fall,
my tears are tight in my throat.

 I remember your hands – hands I loved –
palms down on the table:
Stubby fingered, wrinkled, ominously grey.

“Poor circulation,” I noted,
but only to myself. 

For what we did that last time, we did heedlessly:
Heedless that your heart would stop,
when you went walking.

And now the great grey hands of grief
squeeze my heart
and there is no resuscitation.

 Lorna Harris  (November 28, 2010)