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.