I’m heading out to the cottage early tomorrow morning and will away from electricity and Internet. Instead I will have the lake and lots of books. I’ll be back in a week. So you won’t be hearing from me. Maybe by the time I get back, my computer will be fixed, and I won’t be using this borrowed machine. My great grand parents on two sides went to this cottage, or at least the one before this one, which burnt down. This one was built in 1950. It was where I spent my childhood and my children spent theirs. And I’ve been away for eleven years, unable to return, but this summer I am free for a few days and will make it back to the place of my dreams, a little cottage on a point in the centre of a mountain lake. It’s an eleven-hour drive and I can hardly wait to be on the road tomorrow morning. My family is gathering to celebrate my homecoming. I was in an unloving relationship that separated me from my family. I missed so much and now I am receiving so much.
Morning: I wake around dawn, which is still coming early here. I usually make myself a cup of hat water with a slice of lemon or lime. I spend some time meditating. My next step, even before breakfast, I walk to the corner store and bait shop and get the newspaper. So today as I eat, I look over the “International” headlines: “Pope Prays for Peace”. Is that news? Isn’t that what he is supposed to do? It would catch my attention if it read “Pope Prays for War”. It would disturb me, but I would certainly notice it. So there was his photo, standing in his white, with a row of old men in their dark cassocks. I suppose that they were cardinals, but it was a black and white photograph. How can a male hierarchy that excludes women and the married folk talk of peace in the face of injustice and sexism? Perhaps it all came to mind because on Sunday we read the story of Martha and Mary. Mary chose to take her place as one of the disciples sitting at the feet of Jesus. Jesus accepted her, but somehow all this is lost on this pope. I pray for an end to this papal tyranny. It doesn’t make headlines.
Against my better judgement I agreed to take a cat that was going to be put down. It is one of seven from a woman who is having a kidney transplant and has been told by her doctor that she cannot be in a house with animals. But then I thought that if this cat had been with other cats it might not be happy alone, so then I said that I would take two. This is all the result of a very persuasive conversation before church. We went to see them this afternoon. I picked out a delightful grey with white. I said that I would have another to go with her, probably it will be a solid grey, but I left that to the humane society. They will keep them until I get back next week. It seems that these are indoor cats. The thing is that I don’t know where I will be going next year or whether I can take cats. Moreover I have to move everything I own in my Toyota Echo hatchback, and cat carriers simply take up too much space. Anyway at the very least these cats have been given a year’s reprieve. Something will happen. I’ve never been without cats for so long in my life, I do miss them so. She is such a beautiful cat. When I picked her up she snuggled into my arms. So she and her friend will be part of my life when I return next week.
“Go and get.” – I was quieting my mind and beginning my mediation this morning and these words kept going through my head like some sort of continuous tape – “Go and buy a tent. Go and buy camping gear. Go to Canada Tire and buy camping equipment.” Now I’m sixty-three. I haven’t camped for at least ten years. I tried to pray. I kept thinking about it. I did some morning chores and then went to the store at the other end of town. In the end, after looking at all the equipment, I made the following purchases: a 2 person tent, a self inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag, a stove, a chair, a gas bottle and a lighter - $153.68. So if I take a dishpan, a pot and a can opener, I’m set. Camp sites are always more interesting than motels and the cost of travelling with restaurants for all meals as well as dreary motels one of which looks just like the other, I should begin to realise savings after a pretty short period. Now if my body can get used to sleeping on the ground, this could be an adventure. So I’m heading off in three days to spend a week the family cottage. It’s going to be very crowded as the clan is gathering, so I think that I might just try out the gear in the woods and see how it goes.
Sooner or later my feet begin to itch and I want to be on my way. I’ve been thinking about Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. These standing stones predate Stonehenge by about 800 years. (How do they know?). How does one get there? Do I Google it? Perhaps I have been born a pilgrim. I have also been thinking of Saint Cuthbert’s Walk from Melrose to Lindesfarne. But it seems that the first day is 18 miles long and I’ll bet it isn’t flat. So I’ll really need to get into shape. Closer to here I was thinking of going south to Ohio and see the Snake Mounds. But in this climate most things are not open during the winter months and the summers are too short and too crowded. Next week I am headed for a week at the family cottage on a lake – a day and a half trip, to spend several days with sisters and grandchildren. There isn’t room for us all, so it should be interesting. And in September a friend and I are planning a trip through Northern Ontario to see some of the sights while we are still up here. My feet are itchy. One of the good things about this tragic break-up that I’m working my way through, is that it frees me to follow my nose. Now it’s only the job that holds me down.
This afternoon I went down an open pit gold mine. This is a gold mining town, and we are in a boom, due to the high value of gold these days. Then when we add to this the diamond mines and the developing nickel deposits, everything is booming except for the deteriorating roads because of the constant traffic of the heavy transports. The pit operates around the clock taking only Christmas off. The other mines are working at an equally feverish rate. Gold fever – there are few rentals, and the motels are full. It’s hard to be poor here. Being in an open pit is exactly like being in a very, very large gravel pit. It’s just grey rock with the occasional vein of quartz. Most of the gold is microscopic and associated with the quartz. There really nothing to see, except a lot of very, very big machines. Mining for gold is like finding the precious stuff in life amongst the mundane. It is hard to find, invisible to the eye, it takes a lot of work, but the payoff is fantastic.
On Wednesday evenings the folks gather at the local Tim Horton’s. It is the only coffee shop out here that is open. It is the local meeting place. I think it is really the local living room. I suppose that there is another crowd at the tavern, but it isn’t nearly as popular as “Timmy’s”. There is a new coffee shop downtown that serves the lattes and the cheesecakes. It is very nice and, although it has only been open for a couple of months, it is wildly popular. But out here we have the ubiquitous Timmy’s. There are Tim Horton’s right across the country. People drive across the nation from one to another, using the washrooms and getting a coffee so they will have to use the washrooms at another stop down the road. It guarantees a clean washroom, but as the establishments are all identical. There is never any local colour. There are at least seven Timmy’s in this town. They are very bland but dependable. I have to admit that when I drive to the Maritimes, I do much the same thing. Here as a community place it serves to allow us to tell our stories and hear each other’s griefs. And that is how I spent my evening.
All over the world today people sat in quiet sending good energy to earth at the same time. It was called “Fire the Gird”. The time worked out here to be 7:11 this morning. It was the best and easiest time for me. I know for those in other parts of the world that it came either in the middle of the night or in the midst of the workday. But for me it was just right. It was my usual prayer and quiet time. I have a spare room in which I have placed a small table. On it I have placed objects, an odd assortment. There is a candle, an incense burner, a striped green stone that I found one day lying by itself in a tidal pool at our cove, a statue of Therese D’Lisieux, which surprisingly arrived in the post last winter, a little trainman carrying a lamp, which must have come from an old train set, and which I found in the bottom of a Chinese vase that I purchased at an auction. It reminds me to bear the light. There is a green porcelain frog that had once come in a box of tea bags and which I found in the grass behind our house. It reminds me that I am an amphibian, half in a material world and half in a spiritual world. Perhaps the frog is my totem. There is a small needleworked prayer rug made by a dear friend. I have two photographs. One is of Mother Gavrilia and the other is the Elder Paisios. On the wall is an icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov and above him an icon of Christ. Above hanging from the ceiling is a dream catcher that slowly moves in the updraught of the candle’s heat. I was given it by the Mennonite Central Committee at the time that we gathered to pray and hold vigil for hostages in Iraq.I sat before all this. It was a beautiful time. But then the day fell apart and I shattered, and only now, late in the evening, have I pulled myself together to write anything at all.
Thunder, pelting rain and then brilliant sunshine and the temperature has reached 20 Celsius. This afternoon I visited with an older woman who is slowly approaching death. She was sitting up and they had wheeled her into the corridor. She never really knows who I am. It doesn’t really matter. Her small hands, all sinew, bone with large deep purple veins enfolded my hand. She seemed beyond saying anything until I recite the Twenty Third Psalm and she mouths the words along with me. We share time and prayer and soon I leave as she retreats into suspended animation. I have done a lot of things today, but that brief interlude was probably the most important.
It’s cold and dark and while it isn’t raining now, sky says that there is more to come. This is mid July. I hear and read of heat waves elsewhere, but I suppose that they must have our allotment of heat. Maybe there is only so much to go around. The thing about being in the Arctic watershed is that we are far from any large body of water, and it can really get very hot here. Then when the winds blow there is a real possibility of the boreal forest burning. While there were two nearby fires in May there is little chance now. So yesterday, in the rain, a friend and I went downtown to check out the summer sales at the classier shops. This summer is a shopping bonanza because shops are moving and then improving, so we get the bargains. I always wonder that if everything can be half price or less, what on earth are they making on the full mark up, and who has the luxury of buying at the full price. I have a pang of jealousy. I would like to be one of those who just breeze into a store and purchase the perfect outfit whenever they feel like it. As for me, I am not keeping these stores in business. I usually purchase two outfits a year, one in the winter sales and one in the summer sales. As it is I actually don’t have the full wardrobe that my profession demands, but it will have to do. Yet here we are being told to consume less for the sake of the planet. Perhaps in the clothing department the best I can do is to buy good quality and wear it well. Otherwise my purchases come from the thrift shops when I really need something. I notice, though, that I seldom get as much wear out of these items.
It’s rainy. It’s cold and wet and there are plenty of bears roaming through the city. Bears – black bears that can run very fast. Last week we drove to a cottage for a barbeque and a swim and then drove back. There were nine bears enroute including a mother with three cubs. Of course on the way back we took our garbage to the dump, and there were a couple feeding there. You are practically guaranteed to see bears at the dumps. The city dump is an informal tourist site for people who want to see the bears. Bears have been dumping on my lawn, so I know that they are around. The Ministry; of Natural Resources have posted a warning on my door. Here it is just part of the life. The city cemetery has signs posted warning about the bears. I sometimes take burials in the cemetery. A service has been cut short when the undertaker started to wave frantically. A bear was ambling through; so the committal, short prayer and the benediction and then advising the grieving family to get into their cars with due haste. The bears were here first. This spring took the first crop of berries so they are hungry and are in town looking for food. When the blueberries ripen they should disappear again into the woods.
Dead computer, or at least sorely ailing My computer died. It went into a slow decline. Now it is at the repair shop for the second time and I am trying to figure out a loaner from the geological company just down the street. I just finished installing the driver for my printer. Being off the infernal machine has given me a lot more time, but of course, there is stuff waiting for me to return to my “work” station. On the other hand I have been frustrated knowing that I have so much to do. The thing is now I am expected to be wired up. Then there is all the stuff on my computer. I’ve backed up some, but not everything. Then I’m wondering if I can even find my blog on the net. Twenty years ago none of this was a consideration. My first computer was a Vic 20 – for playing. The family took it over. Anyway I did some back searching and found it. It has been so long since I’ve had a functional machine and so now I promise to post whenever possible. I tried to post photos that last time I was on and it looked like it should work, but nothing appeared. I am back in Northern Ontario and trying to piece my life back together. I am learning to live alone, sometimes lonely, sometimes guiltily contented. I am working through separation, a separation that I never wanted and that I did everything I could to prevent. So a new life, knowing I have to leave here in a year or sooner, but with no idea where I am going. The one thing I know is that I am to be aware and writing this will help me achieve this goal, And perhaps you will help me do this.