Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Walk with Camera . . .

So many words, lately, both on this blog's latest instalment in my series on Travel and Independence and Getting On (where Wendy from York's comment made me snort tea out my nose!) and on my reading blog (posted there yesterday, a real mixed bag of book titles). I'm off on a mini road trip this morning to visit a grandbaby (okay, I'll say 'hi' to her parents as well, but she knows she's the main attraction!); first, I thought I'd post a few more pictures from last week's "Walk with Camera."

Alongside the road, neighbours often put out items they no longer need or want, free for the taking. Eventually, most items get recycled, but we also have a local entrepreneur who's made a business of helping us get rid of that which cannot find its way into a new home. . .

 And in case you want to stop and rest. . .
 Admire random beauty. . .
 Watch a boat sail happily through a sea of green. . .
 Wait, with a lonely golf cart, for its owner to get back from a day in town . . .
 Watch, she'll be coming up from the dock any moment now . . .

And that's it for today's tour. I'm off now. . . as usual, I welcome your comments and I wish you a Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Travel and Independence and Getting On. . . The Anniversary Edition . . .

I have to admit that I’ve written and rewritten this post, deleted it and begun it again. I’ve wondered if there is really anything significant here or whether I’d be better off just dropping the whole idea. The connection between a difference between the way I travel with my husband and the way I travel without him and a parallel difference between the way he cycles on his own confidently and the way I, well, am working up to some confidence . . . . is it too spurious a connection? Am I connecting the dots for anyone out there to understand? Should I just stop?  

And yet, I know there’s something here, and I know I need to get it out of my system, and hey, you can all just click yourselves to another blog if you’re bored or fed up. Right? 

So, having decided to persevere, but frustrated about how to get closer to what’s bugging me, I decided I’d try these parallel approaches.  I’ve interrupted the more straightforward, linear development of what I’m trying to say (in regular font) with vignettes that sketch (in italics) a number of moments that capture something of my (foolish but real) anxieties and tensions around the cycling. I beg your patient indulgence. Here goes:
These photos were all taken at a delightful rest stop along the Central Valley Greenway -- I love these sculptural bike racks!

When I look back at what I’ve written over my first two posts in this little series, and when I look at the richness of reader responses to them, I see that I may have inadvertently scattered a red herring or two.  My long approach, the attempt to sketch a lifetime of travel before presenting my current dilemma, seems to have suggested that I’m regretting, or trying to make up for opportunities lost through early marriage and child-rearing. Building up, apparently, to my timidity about cycling around Vancouver on my own, it’s no wonder that the posts elicit a certain amount of “Oh, just get on the damn bike already.”

 I sat in the apartment living-room, in the dawn light, the traffic just barely yawning on the street just below us. Paul slept in the bedroom, behind the door I’d closed as I tiptoed out earlier, and he’d still be sleeping as that traffic roused itself to morning rush-hour intensity over the next two hours, as the sun rose eagerly into another hot summer day. Meanwhile, our bikes also slumbered on the small concrete balcony that adjoined bedroom and livingroom. Even if I could muster the determination and, apparently, courage required to get myself out for a solo cycle, wrestling my bike inside would wake even the most committed sleeper. His bike was the most accessible of our two, both snuggled against the wall of the building. It would have to be shifted first before I could try to heft mine over the slight ledge between balcony and living room. And even if I got it inside, and even if I then got dressed and got it outside, oh, the foolish worries that have so far kept me from riding it on my own through the city streets. So I sat in the apartment living-room, in the dawn light, with an inner chorus of anxiety and frustration and impatience with my limitations growing noisier in tandem with the morning traffic.

Instead, what I had hoped to do in those two posts was to indicate a lifetime of travel competence combined with a personality that’s inclined to anticipate problems and to second-guess decisions. (A personality, also, that is slightly fearful, physically – High places and high speeds and demands for balance make me uncomfortable.)  I also needed to outline the difference between the solo traveling I’ve done and the travel with my husband. I needed to do so not because I regret that I haven’t done more traveling on my own.

                It was my idea, last fall, to buy bikes for the condo. My limitations as a cyclist might be suggested by my decided preference for a “girl’s bike” – it’s not just the tightness in my hips that constrains me from throwing that leg over a higher bar, but a fearfulness about loss of balance and also, I think, a long-engrained fear of “doing it wrong” and looking foolish. I’m undeniably fit, damn it! I ran a marathon last year, do yoga a few times a week, have enough flexibility and strength and endurance that I should be confident about riding a bike (and I ride one to the boat, daily, over a kilometer of dirt road on our little island), but I’m not.  Nor does my longstanding knowledge of the city as both driver and pedestrian give me the confidence it should about routes and street behaviour. I often feel clumsy and exposed pedaling across an intersection from a dead stop when the light turns green. I feel similarly visible in my potential wobbliness when I work my way to the left lane for a turn across traffic, my left arm awkwardly extended, vulnerable.
Nevertheless, I wanted us to get bikes and take advantages of the city’s cycling paths, and I’m so glad we did. It’s been a great activity for us as a couple, and it’s added an element of cross-training to my fitness that’s undeniably more fun than solo running.

Of course, we all know what Freud said about denial, but I have done a fair bit of travel independent of my husband:  getaway weekends back “down South” from the small northern city we lived in when our kids were small, Paul staying behind to manage the domestics; the trip I made in my late 30s, to France; academic conferences I attended  in Texas, California, numerous Canadian cities, England;  the occasional girlfriend and sister weekends to nearby cities.

Someday soon, though, I will position my bike by the door before I go to bed. I’ll have my clothes laid out next to it, so that when I wake hours earlier than my husband, I can ease myself out of bed, tiptoe out of our room, close the door silently behind me, dress quickly, and coax my bike down our hallway, jackknife it into the elevator, walk it through the concrete parking basement, step heavily on the cord that opens the parking gate, and finally mount the bike as the automatic gate lowers behind me, and I decide whether to go right or left down the lane. I will finally risk making stupid errors like forgetting to signal my turn and having drivers honk at me. I will take the chance that when I turn sharply into a hill steeper than I’d expected I may have to dismount and walk the bike – I suspect the humiliation will not be as total and obliterating as it has loomed in my imagination. I will, perhaps, follow the “wrong” route, and then realize, perhaps even with some joy and a sense of liberation, that this is just a different route. There is no wrong. My husband learned this long ago. He’s been sharing his city-cycling confidence with me for months now. It’s time for me to develop some of my own.

I’ve also tackled new challenges independently of Paul, heading to grad school in my early 40s (having finally completed my B.A. at 42!) being the prime example.  So while this “lady [might appear to] protest too much,” I want to say emphatically that I don’t regret any opportunities possibly lost to early marriage and child-rearing.

                Up ahead, I see Paul arrive at the intersection just as the light turns yellow. Instead of stopping, he accelerates through. On an earlier ride, I followed his example, at much more risk because of being behind, the light clearly turning red as I pedaled through it, thinking cranky thoughts about my leader. This time, a bit wiser, a bit more confident, I decide to stop, knowing that I’m perfectly capable of crossing the road on the next green light all by my grown-up self. Still, I watch his back moving away from me and hope he’ll notice he’s lost me. Or do I mean I hope he’ll notice that I’m lost? Or do I really hope he’ll notice that while I once would have felt lost, abandoned at the light, I’m finding myself here. I once might have sulked, just a little, or even a lot, at his not waiting. I’m beginning to realize that his riding ahead comes not only from a confidence in his own skills but also from confidence in mine. Is it ridiculous that I’m only just finding and realizing at 62? Or is it glorious that such discoveries can still exist at this late age?

I want to say that emphatically today, in particular, because today is the 41st anniversary of the day Paul and I pledged our troth to traveling together.

                Although I’ve been cycling faster and further and more confidently lately, I still have moments when I feel awkward and foolish in my biking manoeuvres, mainly at intersections involving cars and other cyclists. Sometimes my awkwardness, I’m not just embarrassed but rather ashamed to say, leaves me feeling exposed and resentful and I’ve been known to direct that tangle of feelings at Paul. I blame him for a mistake I made or a weakness I think I displayed. He didn’t give me enough warning, for example, that we were going to stop or start or turn.  If we’d stopped for that water break I didn’t tell him I wanted, I wouldn’t have been so tired going up that hill. He knows I don’t like going too fast down a hill – why did he have to pick that route?!
                A few weeks ago, though, cycling  on a bike route separated from the main traffic  only by a line painted on the road, I looked ahead to where Paul coasted happily down the gentle hill. To my alarm, he swiveled ‘round on his saddle to check my progress, wanting to make sure I felt comfortable with the pace and the grade and the traffic.  And while he was doing so, of course, he couldn’t see what he was coasting toward, what car might be backing out of a driveway he hadn’t noticed, what driver might be opening the door of his parked car right into my dear husband’s bike, what . . . oh, I don’t know, any number of potential dangers ahead that he wasn’t watching for because I’d intimated that I needed him to look after me. I yelled at him to turn around and look at the road, shouted “I’m fine, I can manage! Really! Keep yourself safe!” We had an extended chat about this when we got home, and my commitment now is to demonstrate to both of us that I am capable and confident on my bike, in the city – occasionally, if I don’t feel confident about a route, I will have to say so and then either convince him to pick an easier or safer route or make my own way. It’s a process, and I’m guessing I’m going to have a setback or two, but the training wheels are off, finally. . .
As he so often must, Paul waits. . . and waits. . . and waits. . . as I take photos for the blog. Such a patient man!

And I know that the compromises have been significant, both for a man who doesn’t think twice about pedaling out to explore new bike paths or finding his way through a new city, and for the woman who tends to think twice about, oh, so many things in this life.  Yes, I see more of my old competencies surface again when I travel with someone else, but traveling with me has trimmed Paul’s sails as well: most notably, he no longer enjoys the luxury (in his eyes) of arriving at an airport only an hour before an international flight (and yes, there’s a long and painful story about how that lesson was learned, on our return from Paris, our 3rd or 4th trip).  

I’m hoping that we’ll have another 20 years together, at least – imagine, 60 years of marriage! I want those to be rich years in which our love and partnership continue to enhance both our lives.  In my next post in this little series,  I hope to conclude my thinking on Travel and Independence and Getting On by articulating how my trip to my Paris with my sister this past spring will change how I travel with my husband from now on, beginning when we land at Charles de Gaulle airport in just over a week.   We’ve been very compatible, mutually supportive travel companions throughout our 42 years together,  but  as I join him in retirement, there are some (gendered? personality-driven?) domestic politics that can (and have, almost every single trip!) led to squabbles in Le Jardin du Luxembourg and stormy silences at romantic café terraces. So Ive actually proposed a little list, a contract well both agree to, and as foolish as it might seem, Im going to share it with you before we head off to France and Italy where well give it the sidewalk test. But thats for next time, and this post has gone on far too long already. Now I have a bottle of bubbly to uncork with someone special Happy 41st, my love! Keep your eyes on the road ahead. Well travel it together!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekend Projects

I've been working on a few projects: 
And putting together the itinerary file and Moleskine notebook for our trip
And finally, finally, getting photographs into frames and beginning to play with arrangements for getting them up on a wall

And making jam
And clearing out some cupboards and drawers, which means all those new jars of jam have a place to wait their turn on the table

I've also been working on the next post about Travel and Independence and Getting On. This one's been eluding me and perhaps I should just have abandoned the project, but I've persevered and we'll see whether it was worth the effort when I post on Monday.

Meanwhile, we have a house sitter coming this afternoon for an orientation (although we don't leave for another week and a bit). And I have a little project before she gets here: a cup of tea I've just brewed and a big fat weekend Globe and Mail full of news to read.
What about you? Is it a Projects weekend or a Visiting weekend or a Weekend of Complete Relaxation? Whichever it might be, I hope you're enjoying it!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I Wore (Wrinkles Included, and I don't mean the linen!)

Even though I'm home at my regular computer and have a relatively light schedule today, I'm going to stick to my commitment to at least one "Short and Sweet" post per week as a way of maintaining my blogging energy. Using the BlogGo app on my iPhone is a good way to make that happen--the combo isn't comfortable for an extended post, but lets me show you a photo or two and say a few words.
So first, a photo. My new haircut/style, as I wore it to an absolutely magical island wedding by the sea on Tuesday.

I'm mesmerized (and, okay, occasionally horrified) by how it brings out my mother's face and/but highlights the rich pattern of wrinkles around my eyes. I'm not so keen on what's happening around mouth and chin, frankly, but I honestly love what I've got going on at the soul centre of the face.
I'm going to work on loving the mouth-chin (that good old naso-labial fold), but that's not as easy. Perhaps that's why I intuitively went to a big (distracting!) earring. Haven't worn these for years.

The whole outfit -- can you call it an outfit if you simply pull on a dress (bought in San Sebastián, Spain and worn for my son's beach wedding 3 summers ago), slide on a pair of nude Vince pointed-toe d'Orsay flats, keeping the orange double-tour Hermes watch, gold Wendy B fleur-de-lys necklace and thin gold bracelet (First Nations-carved) I was already wearing, that I wear almost every day?

Casual, yes, but the dress's luxe fabric (linen and silk) beautiful construction, and rich colours felt celebratory and the flats did a good job of walking the kilometre of dirt road to the festivities. And the simple accessories please me more each day. In fact, if this weren't a Short and Sweet post, I'd speculate a bit here about whether my range of accessories will continue to narrow at this stage/age. I'm already shaping a For and an Against argument...

But Short and Sweet it must be, so I'm almost done.

I did want to say, just before I close, that I've been riding some waves of sadness* lately. They're periodic, they don't usually last more than a day, and they're manageable with Pater's support. Yesterday the wave was bigger than they've been, and some of my self-talk gets a bit mean. Somehow I made myself get to a yoga class, and that got me up enough that I said "yes" instead of "no" to a friend's phone call. Visiting her, talking about real stuff over a glass of wine, helped me ride the wave to shore and I'm  feeling much happier this morning. But I want to stay honest here, without feeling any need or obligation to tell you all. Nor am I writing as a plea for sympathy or advice. I just think it's important that a blog that purports to represent a woman's life sometimes shows that the woman struggles. Yes, there are so many far tougher struggles, but there was mine, too, yesterday...

And that is all. Short. Sweet?

Comments always welcome, as you know

(I've written about this sadness before Here and Here and Here. I hope that's spread out enough that it doesn't become too tiresome -- although that tendency to self-censure myself as "tiresome" is something I really need to stop doing! It's part of the problem. . . )

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tarrying a bit, at the end of Summer

 Yesterday morning I walked down to the Community Dock to bring Nola's bike home (I know, I know. I was going to do that Sunday, but I was so very relaxed in my chairs). Knowing the flattering effect of the sun's early rays, I brought my camera along. . .
 While the pears in the top photo are ripening nicely, just across this little road from our place, over my neighbour's fence and within tantalizing reach of any passing deer or raccoon, the blackberries are almost done for the season. The scent of their over-ripe fruitiness hints at fermentation on the vine, but it also deepens the air with prophecies of autumn. . . My nostrils breathe it in and imagine woodsmoke; they remember the late September aromas of grapes being crushed in basements we walked past when we lived in Prince Rupert years ago, where Portugese and Italian immigrants kept the Old Country going in their small Northern city; they anticipate the rich, spicy-musty dark notes of leaves fallen thickly along the road and the mineral muddy smells that follow the first fall storm.
 The apples are still ripening, but they, too, speak of colder months to come, months when apple pies might be pulled out of the freezer to bake up for dinner guests, the dark folding itself around the windows some rainy November evening . . . already, the sunsets are paring back the day, making room for more nighttime. . .

For now, though, mornings are sunny perfection, beckoning, promising. . . .

Many of my neighbours have already parked their golf carts at the island's "traffic circle" and headed off to work or play. . . .

I wonder if they, too, think of Autumn on its way, following closely on August's heels. Did they spot the patches of thistles, all that sweet purple fragrance turned to silken fluff and prickly husks?

That sounded more than a bit melancholic, didn't it? Honestly, I'm looking forward to the fall rains, but I'm savouring these last weeks of summer. . . Especially summer on my little island . . . these summers have numbers on their back, if only I could flip them over to see how many remain for me. . .

Okay, then, enough of that (she says, attempting to change mood and tempo). We have an island wedding to attend this afternoon, and the couple couldn't have chosen a more perfect day, although it will be rather warm. . . And what about you? Are you savouring the last weeks of summer or despairing that it barely arrived in your part of the world? If you're wearying of your summer wardrobe and hankering for more substantial colours and textures, I see that Sue and Lisa at, respectively Une Femme and Amid Privilege are featuring transitional wardrobes today. I haven't had a chance to read either yet, but I'm going to pop over there as soon as I sign off here. Perhaps you'll follow me (or, just as likely, you've stopped there first) -- do leave a comment before you go, if you have a moment.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday, the Guest has Gone Home

Our young house guest went home yesterday, leaving her bike at the community boat dock for me to bring home on a walk later today.

Anticipating the joy of reuniting with her parents after a week away, she made them a marvellous, multi-paged card with surprises hidden inside cunning pockets she'd  fashioned with tape and paper and scissors. The front page of the card wonderfully announced its purpose:

Yes, the niceties of proper spelling get glossed over in the need to create with passion, without consultation. But humour abounds as N "welcomes [her parents] back to child care" ....

For our part, having been released (or banished, depending on perspective) from childcare, we went to a housewarming party and to the local pub to hear a neighbour's very good band last night. I got to a yoga class yesterday and did my long run this morning. So for the rest of today? Plans are to move from armchair to hammock to chaise longue. Perhaps one of the coloured beach chairs will get a sit. 'Cause although I keep hearing that "sitting is the new smoking," today will be devoted to reading the weekend papers and finishing my mystery novel (if you're interested in my recent reading, do have a peek over here)
And you? Is your Sunday lazy? Happily so? Or are you busy today, and wishing for a lazy day on your horizon?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Five Things Friday

1. If you follow me on Instagram, or even just check out the images in the Instagram widget to the right, you will have seen this news already. However, given that it's the most dramatic change I've made this week, I have to include my haircut in today's Five Things:
 My stylist took these Before and After shots, and yes, they probably should be reversed, but I figure there's a pretty big clue which is which.

I only decided the morning of my appointment that I'd go short. More dramatically, at least in my mind, I also decided not to get the colour refreshed. Instead the half inch or so of grey roots are simply blending with the leftover colour. Next chop will alter the ratio considerably and will tell me whether I want to try staying grey or delay that move for awhile. I hadn't thought I'd go there this soon, but between my stylist's holiday and our own 7 weeks away, the colour will be tough to maintain anyway so.... We'll see. Short is a big change, for sure! another "out with the old" move, I've been sorting through the huge stack of sheet music that survived the first cull when we moved here 20 some years ago. I began piano lessons when I was 5, and then after many years working toward my teaching certification, I spent many years again preparing students for performance, exams, etc. And oh my, did I have the music books to prove it! Stacks of them collecting layers of dust and holding even more layers of memory.

That Masters collection above was a gift from the teacher who came to our house each week when I was 8 or 9! And yes, it went in the Discard pile and I think that's okay....

Frustratingly, though, the purge and re-organization did not reveal the whereabouts of a particular edition of a Bach Fugue I've been wanting to play again, although that's the only place it could have been. Virtue (of clearing out, cleaning up) is apparently not always rewarded.

3. Rain. Apparently, there's a 60% chance we'll get some today, along with thunder and lightning. A mixed blessing, obviously, with the trees so dry and ready to flame up if that lightning hits. Crossing fingers for some relief here, especially given real concern for the returning salmon.

4. Speaking of things falling from the sky, I took advantage of a bout of insomnia Wednesday night to sit on one of these chairs and watch for shooting stars (yes, more properly but less poetically, for a meteor). It took a while for my eyes to adjust and there's some annoying light pollution that distracts, but I saw one! Only one, but it was a splendidly brilliant swoosh, as clear an arc as if drawn in neon highlighter by a strong, decisive hand. Satisfying enough to allow me to go back to bed and sleep until 7! Did any of you under this particular section of sky check out the August thrill of the Perseids?

5. I started playing around with outfits, trying to decide what deserves to be squashed into the carry-on Rimowa that's going to contain my wardrobe for seven weeks. Want to see a few shots? (I took zillions! I've never done this before when packing and it was silly fun but would have been better if I'd had s few of you here. I'd have given you a glass of Rosé and you'd have given me helpful advice. Good times!)

My new gold lamé dress showing it can play nicely with others (a tissue-weight merino tunic, Vince).

Verdict's still out on the white jeans, but we will have laundry facilities and they look so fresh... Pretty versatile as well 


Decisions, decisions.

That's it for this Friday's Five Things. It's our last full day with our 6-year old, and I could have done a Five Things post on movies to watch with a grandchild! Or what Five Things made us belly-laugh to tears (it's been too long since I've done that! Feels so good!). Or Five Fun Things for kids to do on an island. Oh, the possibilities!

As always, I'm happy to read any comments about anything I've written here. What are you up to this weekend? I wish you a happy one!

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