A Few Good Signs

They’re Baack!

Only today did I hear that wonderful cry of geese flying overhead. And then walking through the park on my way come from the tax man- another sign of Spring- there were these two.

Don’t get me wrong, these birds are no favorites of mine . They foul the paths of my neighborhood park. They can be aggressive and I don’t find them particularly beautiful. However, they are living proof that no matter what, winter is really over.

Yes, the tax man! A sign that it’s time to turn the page on another year. This man has been doing my taxes for well over 20 years. Although one year I was was lured away by someone who charged less and had an office closer to home, well, no one is better than Nelson. I took my mother to him too before she passed away.

“ Why do you insist on bringing me here to this man who doesn’t speak a word of English! I don’t understand anything.” And she would fix him with a steely eye. I think it was only with Nelson that she established a reputation of being “ ben tuff, ben severe, vot mere!” as he put it to me today. “ Why on earth is he called Nelson. That’s the name of a great British Naval hero?” She asked one day. Laughing, in his raspy voice nurtured by decades of heavy smoking, “ Tell your mother I have a brother Napoleon.”

But he knows his stuff and is meticulous and prompt. When I go back to pick up my return we will be one step closer to the heart of Spring.

Seed packages arrived today. More nudging from Spring. Go get heirloom seeds from these guys, people! You only pay a donation for shipping. I have shame and so I sent 20 US dollars and they came within a week. FreeHeirloomSeeds.org go for it. They are a bit particular about how you place your order but I love that homey feeling of being scolded by a seed merchant. Most I will give to my daughter in BC for her big wild garden.

Oh, no boots today just my Compostela running shoes. Another sign of our lovely world turning it’s lovely profile towards the spring. Enjoy, darlings! Go outside and enjoy!

Spring is knocking on my Window

No other sound so intoxicating

Although it is not warm, the sun’s rays are strong enough to melt the snow. The texture of the snow has changed too. No more fluffy deep snow or treacherous plaques of ice covered with a faint dusting. No more crunchy steps, my crampons gripping the pure surface. Now the structure under my feet is airy, corn snow. My trusty poles have kept me upright on a few occasions.

I went by the track where I trained for the Camino, not once, but twice! Damned Covid! How many times did I stomp around the track and up the toboggan hill? I really want to start up again but… as you see the snow is still deep here. However, it will not be long!

Too much snow on the track. Too much snow on the hill

Before that though, I will do a short trip to Vancouver Island. Looking forward to seeing my darling daughter and getting a few hikes in over on Vancouver Island. Time to break out the bear bells!

Where do we go?

Simply shadows

What does it mean to be alive? To be alive as a human being, as a bird or animal, as water, as a plant or a cloud?

It has been a hard winter. In the dark, cold days and nights of February I sometimes descended to an even darker place. These days the ducks in the water in the big park close to my house are lively, diving into the icy water and playing or fighting among themselves. The ice is getting darker, a sign that it will soon melt. Yesterday I took my first long walk for a long time.

My thoughts were full of the memory of a young woman I knew who simply dropped dead last Friday at the age of 44. Simone was the mother of three adolescents. Her husband tried to administer CPR to no avail. As he put it in the heartbreaking obituary that appeared today, “She died in my arms”. She was a bright spirit. My mother gave her some basic painting lessons so that a renowned teacher would accept her as a pupil. He did and she went on to become a successful artist who painted many scenes of the little town in New Brunswick where she lived.

She and her husband worked hard to renovate a ramshackle old building and to turn it into an inn. Markus, her husband is a chef and their business, the Europa, became justly well known.

As I walked in the sun on spring snow that is, at last, melting under strong sun, I puzzled over where Simone’s spirit, the essence of her cheerful and loving personality might be. What happens to the ducks passing under the bridge when they die? The plants know how to rise up again in Springtime. We have forgotten that gift.

All the teeming life of the universe is rising, busy making the next generation and passing away. I had a fancy that I could hear my mother setting up the easel and making tea as she welcomed Simone to yet another painting afternoon in another sphere, another realm.

But these are deep secrets. Even the one who seems to have a “ perfect” life and character carries with her some shadow, something unknown.Why should I be free to walk about when , yes, sometimes it is a lonely walk but Simone’s life is simply snuffed out?

Mysteries not yet to be explained… perhaps never.

At the Symphony

“Oh, I was at the symphony concert last night… with my grandson! “ Is there a grandmother anywhere who wouldn’t be overjoyed to just casually drop this into conversation. How lovely it was to take my place next to my oldest grandchild who is now almost eighteen. Is it possible? Oh, and he’s the one who noticed that Dvorak was on the program. Seems he’s a fan.

It was awful to slither along the icy rutted streets but wonderful to have a strong arm to grab onto. It was awful to still have to wear a mask, but wonderful to see Samy’s eyes light up with pleasure at a particular passage that he loves. Sometimes it’s scary to understand that I’m getting old, that an icy sidewalk is not a joke any more, that perhaps I’m not hearing the symphony as acutely as I would have done ten years ago. But everything is weighed in the scale. If I don’t get older, Samy can’t be old enough to want to go to the symphony or old enough to offer a helping hand. I had the patience to sit next to a patron who was obviously mentally ill. I understood the music better. I could understand the themes and how they wove together. I could hear birdsong in the flute behind the majestic orchestration. I could “see” the untamed rivers and mountains of the “ New World” that inspired Dvorak.

After the concert we went home by Metro. My grandson hugged me goodbye and we parted. I walked home in the mild winter night and thought how wonderful it is to look forward to another Spring.

Camino Souvenir Book

Many many thanks to my dear friend Masha Schmemann Tkachuk for putting this together. Shutterfly has a great service which allows smart people like her to create actual books from photos and text.

Beauty of Galicia

As you can see Masha did a great editing job . The material was taken from last fall’s blog posts that chronicled my walk along the Camino Frances. I did blog entries every day because I know how easy it is for individual experiences during a long journey to blend into a general impression. Of course I still have access to the blog posts but I am old-fashioned enough to be thrilled to have a “ real” book in my hands.

It has been a long, difficult winter that still drags on. Receiving this book in the mail lifted my spirits. The day before I found another happy surprise in my mailbox… the Brierley guidebook for the Portuguese Camino. Hmm, I’m thinking September.

Many thanks to Masha and looking forward to working on the next one!

Water under the Bridge

In the park
No matter how cold

Gone, water under the bridge they say as if the event, the person, the feeling is disposed of. But it’s not gone just gone somewhere else. Not disappeared, not effaced, that water just flows away to a river, to the sea, to a new form. It will turn into a cloud and fall, fall somewhere on earth, in a swamp, onto that same sea. The water under the bridge is never gone. It’s always flowing towards the bridge, it’s really “ under the bridge” for a second or so and then it’s flowing away, leaving the bridge behind. It’s in the glass I drink from, in the shower with me, in the water that greens up a lawn, that irrigates my food, that falls over a cliff in a jungle. Wherever I go the “ water under the bridge” is with me.

Keep on Walking

Snow dragon

It was cold today -17 but as you see it was sunny and there was no wind. I had seen a few quirky snow sculptures over the past few weeks but this one was really special!

I don’t know who made them but they are so much fun!

Moma Bear

And here is a duck? It sure is encouraging me to walk!

I would love to run into whomever makes them!

Back on Track

Long winter shadows

It is very cold and last weekend we had quite a lot of snow. In the park near my home the trails are almost deserted. In fact, as long as there is no wind it is lovely to walk in the brilliant sunshine. At noon it is about -15 and I got quite hot marching around the lake with my hiking poles. I am trying to train a bit. If Covid dies down I might try the Portuguese Camino. Got to keep moving!

I’m in charge here

Preparing for sunset at 3:45

The sun is brilliant but determined to leave the party early. In the big city park, deserted on Monday afternoon the sun sits bright and brilliant as he prepares to leave. Having discovered the thrill of feeding wild birds by hand I dropped by a couple of likely spots. The boys were a little quarrelsome today, chasing each other off.

Sumacs

I had a little competition too as there are some brilliant red sumac berries available to birds. They have a velvety texture that I love. It was quite cold and I suppose some of the normally cheeky chic a dees were already hunkered down for the evening.

The clouds were lovely, dark above and lit by the sulky sun from below. By the time I turned and went home they were pink and yellow. In summer it can be very hot at the end of the afternoon but that is now a faint memory. It will be a lot colder tomorrow and the little birds will have to stick to red berries. My bare hands just can’t take low temperatures and wind. I’ll be back on Wednesday. The sun may be in charge but the wind gives him a run for his money.

Winter clouds