Sweetening up the world



Here are some friends of mine adding to the beauty and  sweetness of the world. Last weekend I went to see my friends Judith and Dick play Bluegrass music at the Verdun farmers’ markeDxt. It is held in summer beside the beautiful St. Lawrence River. The humidity was gone and it was relaxing to sit and hear the guitar and mandolin accompanying the duo’s harmonies. I love Bluegrass and these two are really talented.

Above are my neighbours, Stephan (yes, without an “e”) and Danny. They are tending their beehive in the yard just down the lane from my house. It is almost time for the bees to go to sleep. I think of their murmuring echoing in the strumming of instruments over the city even when their hive is covered with snow. The golden honey sits in the jars ready to soothe voices and to feed our love of sun and sweetness.

Many people around me are making beauty and it is lovely to notice them.

A roof over my head!


They did it! In one sunny day the roof that has sheltered me was ripped off and replaced. And no, they didn’t find a giant bee colony or termites or rotten wood. All went smoothly and well. Of course, it is traumatizing to hear the hammering, the crunch, the small bits of debris grumbling down the air shaft. Fortunately I had an appointment made months before that forced me out of the house for a couple of hours. Otherwise I think the feeling of insecurity might have done me in.

The afternoon before the big job a charming young lady named Valerie dropped by to set up ” No Parking” signs. The whole block was blocked off for the heavy equipment that came early next morning. I had made the decision to go with white gravel but you still need tar to cover a flat roof in Montreal. White gravel or white membrane is required by law now in the city to reflect the rays of the sun. At last we are waking up! Too little too late? Let’s hope not.

The guys worked from 7 am to 4pm and during the day a crane brought down material ripped off the roof and hauled up hot tar and buckets of gravel to make the new surface. Of course ventilation hoods and flashing around the building were put on too.  Most emblematic for me is the big barrel of hot tar warmed by a flame that roars under the belly of the barrel. A generator chugs along all day feeding the gas flame. For all the modern crane and the environmentally correct colour of my new roof, it is still pitch, tar, goudron….heated by the eternal element of open flame that holds the roof over my head.

Who does this work? Old guys, guys with wild beards, men who have put on hundreds of roofs in the drowning humidity and  heat of Montreal summer. I salute them and thank them as I thank plumbers, garbage collectors and all those who work hard to maintain my ‘ civilized’ life. They deserve a good tip at the end of the day so they can go have a nice cold beer.

Charming Valerie, minus her hard hat and construction boods but armed with a dazzling smile, dropped by a day or so later to relieve me of a hefty cheque and to present me with an impressive guarantee worthy of an ornate frame.

” Are you happy with your roof?”

” Well, I can’t say I’ve been up there to inspect the job but I must trust to your skill and reputation. “”

In this hurricane season I am grateful that I am safe under the new roof. Come on blizzards, do your worst!

Changing and staying the same

 Why is the rosary hanging on the clothes line? To guarantee good weather  on the wedding day of my neighbour’s daughter. This is a very old French Canadian and Italian tradition. It seems the Poles have the same idea as I just found it mentioned on a website for the Wilnus polish community in Ontario.

Yes, people still get married in a white dress in church.  The New York Times had a recent article about how many churches in Quebec have been transformed for use other than worship. A particularly grand church right in my neighborhood is now a theatre. The Montreal church of St. Jude, patron of hopeless cases, is now ,somewhat ironically, transformed into an upscale gym!

What is it that makes us cling to some things and discard others? I wonder

Nature’s plan

Black flies, horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes

To them I am a tasty treat, like Cheetos or Doritos.

I rub my skin with Insect Off and spray with DDT

But still the pesky insects love to make a meal of me.

My blood type’s O – I must admit. A magnet draws them near

But I’m not pregnant, don’t wear black and never have a beer.

I tend the garden, water plants and drag out pesky weeds

I pray to all the Nature gods – but not one ever heeds

my fervent cries I swat and howl. Why must they bite so much?

But then a pretty bird flies by. He tweets out, “That’s my lunch!”

I get it! I am just a part of Nature’s magic plan.

The bugs eat me and I eat steak that’s fried up in a pan.


PS the top picture is of a snake that we found in the well in the garden.  Poor baby!


Parking Spot

imageThink you have parking problems? This ” Mr. Cool” had it all figured out. Just pulled into the  Canadian Tire parking lot in Parry Sound and found a two-vehicle slot! Sorted! The charming pilot/driver told us his plane only weight 200 pounds. Was he joshing us? Certainly his car had no problem pulling it. Just one of the things one is liable to see in Parry Sound.

It is a strange town.  There is one supermarket, a Sobey’s. Since it holds a monopoly it is pretty expensive and before the new manger took over I took a perverse pleasure in finding mistakes in the prices of things. The policy of the chain is that if you find a mistake you get the item for free. Joe and I had quite a run of getting free stuff every single time we shopped. A spirited exchange with the new boss was my swan song. I had so many mistakes on my bill that she wanted to impose a sort of statute of limitations…. let us say that we were both satisfied at the end —I got a generous voucher and she got an “issue” to work on with her staff.  Boy, did she whip them into shape. No more gloating over the cash slip. Those who know me in my regular shopping life will know how atypical this is of my habits. Oh, it was just fun!

Besides the Supermarket there is a small hospital. In summer the population of the district soars. All the Torontonians flee (the heat? the shootouts?) and head up to cottage country. They fall into the bar=b=que. They get stung by wasps. They cut themselves with knives or saws – they shoot themselves with sport arrows. They faint in the heat. They narrowly escape drowning or forget their meds in all the excitement. The beleaguered staff of the hospital deal with this and then the doctors quit so that it is quite a task to get on the rolls of a family doctor in winter time.

In the summer there is  money in Parry Sound – our friend who parked in Canadian Tire lot is not the only person who flits around in a little plane or who zooms over Georgian Bay in a fancy boat. A water-side restaurant offers “fly and dine” for a couple of hundred dollars. A plane slightly larger than this will fly you and your date to a distant restaurant where you can dine and then (if you can keep your dinner down) they fly you back to Parry Sound.

Of course, there’s a Wallmart and a McDonald’s in Parry Sound and it seems to me there are a lot of people riding around in mechanized wheel chairs.  When the cottagers go home a lot of the money goes with them and the winter mood is, to me, sadder but less frenetic.

I prefer the little village close to our house and land – Orrville. There are two churches, about forty houses and a blessed library in this village. In a pinch I can walk to the library. I like the little yellow plane but the library is good enough for me.


Sad sight, scary sight

Joe and I have been following the progress of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. For the second time a pair made a nest in a box he made from old junk salvaged from the dump. We gathered from the internet, universal source of all wisdom, that these birds can live up to ten years and that they often return to the same nesting spot. They had some endearing habits. The male would buzz Joe if he came too close as he cut the grass or tidied up the veggie patch. The female often sat with her head poking out of the entry hole and would peep out if we whistled. Last year the nest was abandoned after a spectacular tornado that felled a huge poplar close by. So we were happy to see it occupied again and enjoy  the beautiful flight of the two birds as they came and went to the little nesting box.

Imagine my shock to find this morning the nesting box torn off its post, thrown down in the field and surrounded by feathers and hay. I could not imagine what had happened! When I called Joe out we explored the area a little and found clear evidence of a bear’s presence. He had uprooted a corner fence post and forced his way through the wires. It is the only animal curious and strong enough to reach the box and tear it off.

We reattached the box and within a minute both birds returned. I was very surprised but our happiness was not to last. It appears the pair only came back to see if there were any surviving eggs and now for a couple of hours they have not been around.

In the past we have found other evidence of bears coming around the house. One day two summers ago when it was very hot and dry we found a small tree stripped and its main trunk snapped in two. There were few fruits or apples because of the dry weather and the bears came into the neighboring town quite a lot. I found it spooky to think of the big creature lumbering around so close by as we slept. They are big animals and require a lot of food. Were the few little eggs in our bluebird’s nest enough to make a difference to a mother bear perhaps? It was very sad for us to lose our favorites but here it is clear that we are visitors here no matter how we strive and work to claim our bit of the environment.

We read that bluebirds can have two clutches of eggs in a season so we must be hopeful. Next item a search on Amazon for a bear repellent.

Elections in the Country

Wandering beside the silty creek I noticed a curious frog who approached the bank to stare up at me with a fixed gaze. I sat down on a broad smooth rock. He swam even closer. “Are you a prince?”I whispered whimsically
He immediately croaked and jumped into the deeper water with a splash. He had no time for my nonsense. What was he doing there all day, I wondered. The afternoon stretched out before me, the banks of the creek rich in green and brilliant wild flowers. buttercups, indian paint brush, a wild white baby’s breath, cultivated daisies and forget-me-not gone rogue. Above all grew the tall and prolific grass, intensely green, thick and full of a whole world of insects, frogs and other mysterious life.
We like to say all is still and quiet in the country. Yet there is a movement, even a level of noise here. From time to time a breeze moves the new leaves, fresh and tender, high on the birch and poplar trees. Mysterious bubbles disturb the surface of the little pond formed as the trickle of the creek fills out a broad shallow space between two flat expanses of rock. Large dragon-flies buzz nearby, a bumble bee rumbles and fumbles in the wild flowers. A fat black fly settles on my arm and I shake him off. A mosquito meets his maker as I smack her into eternity. If only she had been content to nibble on my ear like her sisters she might have lived to draw blood another day. Sitting boldly on my hand was more than I could bear.
The banner? In our recent election, Mr. Mole ran as an independent candidate. I longed for him to win but it was not to be.