Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prairie Grain Elevator

My first summer job when I was 15 was cleaning out the grain dust in the bottom of the bins in the Pool elevator for Bill McClughan , the operator! We lived in the railway station across the tracks from the Pool elevator which also had an attached annex. My brother Ken used to sit in the railway office and shoot rats around the annex through the open window with his 22 when our dad wasn't around. One day he aimed too low and the bullet hit the track and ricocheted through another window. That ended his rat hunting career! My job was to shovel out the grain dust , rat droppings and general debris, in the bottom of the bins, to get ready for the fall storage season. The prairie elevators are now an iconic reminder of a special past and a way of life when industrial farming was nonexistent. The elevators announced each town in large letters to the passers through, a statement of importance to us. The elevator had a grated weigh scale where the grain truck was weighed full and then empty. Grain was dumped through the grate and samples taken by the elevator operator for grading during the dumping stream, Then the grain was carried by the elevating buckets to the top of one of the 16, 80 foot high bins and poured into them. During the fall and winter when the grain was loaded into box cars the loading was not from the bottom. As a consequence the detritus, rat droppings, chaff and dust settled to the bottom of each bin over the winter and spring to about three to four feet high as I remember. It was a dusty job cleaning the bins out, getting them clean for the fall harvest. The dust and detritus got in your clothes and hair and nostrils. I was happy with my first paying job but I understand why Bill McClughan didn't want to do it. I was strong and never got sick. We didn't have running water so it was hard to keep clean every day since our water had to be hauled from the town pump and heated on the stove top. My bath water in the galvanized tub looked like porridge at the end of each bath. I have a slightly altered view of the romantic nature of the iconic prairie elevator.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This supposedly disparaging comment toward the forgetful or the thoughtless requires some reexamination! For the past two months the robins on our plot in Lotus Island were notable for their complete absence. They were abundant during the early fall. Nothing had changed that would have occasioned their departure. The worms and bugs remained in plentiful numbers. One thing however is noted and that is the holly berries were not quite ripe during that period. The robins of course are omnivorous. They don't exist on protein alone. They must have, if not an internal clock, an internal calendar, or alternatively a readily available Dayrunner. They are no" birdbrains" ! They may even follow a Sonoma diet plan for all I know. At any rate, they appeared in spades about 4 days ago. They started in the orchard by turning up the leaves in the windrows that I haven't been able to drag to the compost yet. Tossing their heads as they threw leaves helter skelter, seeking the cringing bug or worm. Once I saw them I knew what they were really after. The appetizer may have been bugs and worms, but the entree was my holly berries. The assault on the holly tree usually starts about the 5th of December and despite it being a loaded 50 foot tree they clean it up in 4 to 5 days! This year the tree was a bit late in ripening like everything else! How they knew? That kind of timing doesn't suggest a birdbrain is forgetful or thoughtless. They may not be able to spell well, but they are not stupid. Neither am I because I cut all the holly we needed three days ago, preempting their action. They can go to it all they want now! The only drawback to this feeding frenzy is the distributed seedings I have to weed next year from the droppings. Nevertheless, La Chaim!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Motley Crew

As I march through the commercial nursery greenhouses from time to time I feel a touch of envy over the pristine, row on row of abundantly flowering or verdant house plants for sale. They smack of the beauty of the young but are often bought, treasured, and turfed when they are no longer so beautiful. If you see perennials as furnishing, to stage your house for beauty, you will see no sense in any alternative use for them. However if you anthropomorphize your house plants, you will, as we have over many years, create a Confederation of a Motley Crew. The pianist has said, from time to time, we should get rid of some of these plants since they are too big, some are ugly and they are taking over the house and greenhouse. I don't disagree with her observations about ugly and large but have so far avoided some of her suggestions with regard to action. A good marriage seeks compromise. I do have a bottom line, and have euthanized and buried the worst to the compost. Such an act is love in action and they will rise again. The survivors are old friends. They can be primped up to be at least acceptable, but it does become more and more of a struggle. They provide memories of the olden days when they were young and beautiful. I am not a callow person. I am not "Sans Loy". They can rely on us to give geriatric care, to water regularly, to avoid rich food, to amputate at times to stave off death. We are more a happy home for the elderly rather than a hospice and we share their joy. The Cymbidium in the photo we have had for years. Some years it blooms, some years it doesn't! I have two others that have not favored us this year. I accept that. They have a mind of their own. I can always wait 'til Mother Nature chooses to reward us with her "presents"!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Pro Career

In 1953 I was recruited to go to Wynyard, Saskatchewan as a baseball pitcher for their ball team! Since it was my summer job I needed the money for school in the fall. The team had the desire for a winning team, but they had neither the money, nor a pitcher! A philanthropic business man in Wynyard, who owned a service station, came to their rescue and paid me 250 dollars a month to pump gas and be a go-fer in his business so that I could be at the behest of the ball team. 250 dollars was too generous for the job I did for the business owner, Mindy Halldorson, but it was expeditious to his town's ball team. I,of course, was flattered that they wanted me. My pro career, since I was the only pitcher, included providing this service 3 days a week at local sports days around the area, and usually,since we often won,generally pitched three short games a day. My job on the field was also to carry the equipment, bags and bats, to our next venue since I was the only "paid " player.The team felt that was a reasonable request since I was only 19 and I couldn't go with them to the beer parlor in between games. A real source of discontent for me. Predictably, half way through the season, pitching without respite, and having no brains to pace myself, I developed a severe rotator cuff tendinitis in my pitching arm! It was so bad I had trouble lifting the bag of jelly doughnuts I brought to the garage mechanics for coffee break twice a day, when I was working the go-fer shift! The black day came when the ball team manager took me aside and told me the team was not making enough money to pay me anything further. I of course, couldn't pitch for them because of my arm, but never thought to question why I was fired, since Mindy Halldorson was paying for me, not the ball team. I was of no further use. Used up! I did see the local doctor but he was a quack and gave me some talcum powder to rub on my shoulder! My pro career ended and I went back to the track at the CNR for the remainder of the summer! Oh, brief fling of greatness dashed!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


When my dad retired from the railway in Lotus City,and he could no longer garden; but before he was anchored to the apartment by an oxygen hose,he did volunteer driving for the housebound! He was getting on a bit however, and found driving in the city a bit tense. He would drive elderly or disabled people to the doctor or dentist, or for treatment to the hospitals. Wait for them and drive them back. He had not much else to do so he was content to wait for them. My dad was not a reader but he enjoyed engaging others in the waiting room in conversation since he was never shy! He was given to frequent expostulations in his conversation generally. These were never scatological nor sacramentally incorrect but were provided with some passion nevertheless. His routine passionate epithet, prefacing remarks, was "By Dad!". Certainly beyond criticism! One day in my office I was visited by an elderly woman with a hip problem. At the end of our consultation she volunteered that she knew my dad and that he was often her volunteer driver. She said, "He's quite a character!" I agreed. Then she observed that when he drove her to an appointment he was frustrated with other drivers passing him and and bumper hugging. She said he would mutter, or sometimes yell, "You jackass" ,during the trip. I said, "I know that. He drives so slowly that people pass him abruptly and he is nervous. It's his word! We know it well." "Well ", she said, "I like your dad a lot but one day I was very late leaving the apartment and he was waiting for me a long time. I just knew when I got to his car he was going to call me a jackass." "He would never do that!" I said. "You're right",She said, "He just smiled and said he hoped I was feeling well." I can see my dad now in my mind's eye, trying to remain useful,tense with driving, but enjoying the company of fellow strangers, staving off the eventual time of relative immobility,fighting the feeling!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pansy

The pansy, or for that matter the shrinking violet; what misnomers! They are tough little plants! The pansies are anything but pansies and the violets may be modest in size but they are mighty! We had minus 6 centigrade here on Lotus Island last week. The foundation box chrysanthemums turned black but the pansies didn't turn a hair. How could anyone have taken these plants as a metaphor for timidity? The pansy was always the favorite flower of the pianist. As a little girl she saw the flower as a face! I can see that. Anthropomorphizing again! Particularly for me as well, the yellow and brown petal arrangement are about as close to a little face as any flower I can think of. They not only are tough, but they are not in your face. Never mistake modesty for weakness! I am long enough in the tooth to know that with some other plants, what you see is not always what you get! On the island, the pansy winters over beautifully, waiting for that first soft warm breath in February to flourish, when under planted in the foundation boxes with the emerging daffodils. The reflected heat from the house allows them to spring forward. Being greeted by these harbingers of spring, as we leave the house, puts the spring in your step as well as in your heart.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Powerless in Paradise

The first major storm of November, with wet, heavy, sticking snow and high winds has culled the weak, the rotten and the leaning trees, mostly Alder and Maple, since,at the edge of the forest, they overhang the power lines. Peripheral trees, ditch side trees, they crush the power lines with the awesome might of Mother Nature, having it on as the Grim Reaper to the old and feeble,( trees not me!). We were 41 hours on Lotus Island without power, landline ,face book, or all the other accoutrements we have come to take for granted. Mother Nature is going to do this a further three or four times this winter but the first big one is the major cull, much like the flu' season, and then the diminishing returns will follow. It has to be. Global pruning! Wolf pack at the edge of the herd! Our anxiety primarily extended to the two freezers in which we parked our frozen, value added fruit creations, and the frozen dinners created by the pianist as our lifeline. Valued as per summer work effort, not monetary! Our product survived the 41 hours since we scrupulously avoided peeking! But boy, the house, was it cold and dark inside and out! Black November, source of SAD for many! Cause of Snow Birding for others! At 76 years, rapid dark adaption with the older eye and heat transfer from core to periphery is not what it used to be! We had lots of wood however, rock salt, and both the fireplace and the Vermont Casting were going full blast! As long as you rotated your backside and front side it was bearable, but reading by candlelight is tough, by flashlight, hard on the arm. We don't have miner's lamps. That's another purchase. Hibernating under two duvets and a blanket, nostril to toes, was the real ticket! What was good about all this however, was the incredible silence and the sense of power in self sufficiency that one gets from knowing that we are all in the same boat, and 'making do', and unlike our forebears, it would all end. Also, I'm ashamed to admit, the vicarious pleasure obtained by knowing that your children were worried about you! Still ducking the widow makers in Paradise! Still salting the slippery slopes!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Husband is also an archaic noun meaning a soft cushion with arms that enfolds or supports the occupant. I hope it is not misnamed, given the decades of change! Too traditional? Too uxorious? The pianist has a yellow corduroy bed cushion with back and arms that you can sit and lean onto and read in bed to your heart's content without sliding down. It's a good husband, though one of the arms has a tear in it and the padding shows. An old husband! Needs repairs! I have yet to eponymously designate the pianist's husband as Jim, but it does seem appropriate! We seem to anthropomophize many of our inanimate objects anyway! Why not her cushion? It may be a bit worn but its been around a long time and it is comfortable. And what's more, it never talks back to anyone. Actually I like the husband too! "To husband" is a verb from yesteryear meaning 'to care for'. Both the cushion and the elderly eclectic gentleman have that role, the verb and the noun! We both provide a certain comfort and possibly induce sleep more readily than the past! I am not sure which of us husbands is going to succumb to Father Time first. We both need some patching around the edges. We are both amply appreciated for our contributions. Long life and service to us both!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Mold season is here on Lotus Island. Mold always seems to get a bad rap, but 'tain't necessarily so! It's also the season for spiders and mold's fungal cousin once removed, the mushroom. Both also subject to bad raps. The only reason fungi grow on anything is because they can. Fix the substrate, fix the fungi ! In the meantime beware of badmouthing the molds. If it weren't for Penicillium notatum we wouldn't have developed the range of subsequent generations of antibiotics, and many more World War two survivors would have succumbed to overwhelming infections without the first generation antibiotic . We wouldn't have Stilton cheese to go with our Port! We wouldn't have Truffles to lighten our wallets. The Chrysanthemum in the photo is on the way out with mold. The grey mold may not be beautiful but it is doing its job of assisting in biodegradation. That is where it's at with Mother Nature! Certainly mold does not have the beauty of the fungal mushrooms my Face Book friends are posting, but lets have some ugly plant pictures too! There is room in the world for everything, including UBS plants! (Ugly But Satisfactory)! If the mold on your tea rose, or your wall, or your basement or uncovered tomato plants is a problem,it's not a problem, you're the problem by providing a substrate they will thrive on. If the mold you love thrives on what you provide for it, you will also thrive. It's a curious paradox that the Genus that can kill you, can also cure you. The Genus that can tear you down, can also build you up. Here's to the spiders and all the fungi!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rubber Ice

The first year I was away from home in the 50's two little boys in our hamlet went through the ice on a pond next to the railroad station. One died. My brother Ken, there at the time, raced to the station and called my dad who ran out with a rake and walked into the icy pond and remained for many minutes, to try to probe and find the body in time. He never succeeded. In a small town like ours there were no ambulance persons, or rescue, or police. People did what they could. It was a tragedy! The pond was covered by rubber ice at the time of the drowning. Children, despite warnings, are impatient to play pond hockey. In many small towns, pond hockey is a necessity, not a choice! Rubber ice announces it's presence when you step on it. It groans and moans and squeaks! It also undulates as it speaks to you. Being impatient and failing to heed the warning sounds were drummed into us over and over again but the tendency for the adventuresome is to "try it out". It's a bit like life in general isn't it? There are always those who think they may get away with skating on thin ice and there are those who always wear both a belt and suspenders so they will never get caught with their pants down. Standing on rubber ice is fatal. At the first sound, getting down on your knees or better still on your belly will distribute the weight over a much larger ice area and save your life. People rescuing can put a plank or a ladder out to you to rescue you! There always has to be the first person singular to "try it out". It's inevitable and necessary when it's thoughtful! Let's just say, no matter what, plan B should have both belt and suspenders! When trapped on rubber ice, never jump, kneel, crawl and slither! Provide tough love for your kids!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Home grown vegetables.

Home growing vegetables is usually a bust, I am sad to say! The cost-benefit ratio is,in the hands of the home gardener, a disaster. I like to say," I spend 10 dollars to grow a dollars worth of vegetables!" I am aware that this point of view will spur fury amongst the committed and I will be accused of egregious incompetence by the seed catalogue producers, presently mailing their colored pictures, and their devotees, but I have to come clean. I have tried my best every year, mostly for forty years. I have read, studied and inwardly digested the books of the great vegetable gardeners and tried their techniques. Arthur Willis, Bill Vander Zalm, W. G. Smith, Dr. D.G Hessayon, Jill Severn, Bernard Moore, and Marjorie Hunt. I have subscribed to Rodale's publication, Organic Gardening and the Ortho publications. All to no avail! I have grown everything from salsify to stevia, from peas to potatoes. The occasional success is not worth the effort for me. There is a solution to get the great taste of the home grown organic vegetables that will cost less in the end. My farmer daughter has organically farmed vegetables for 20 years. It is hard work. She is exceptionally knowledgeable and full time plus. She can make a living but it's a tenuous thing. She does it because she loves it and sees safe food production as an essential in a world that is spinning out of control! Lotus Island has a salubrious climate that allows both winter and summer vegetable growing but it is also kind to many of the pests. Carrot fly, leaf miner, cabbage butterfly, cut worm, a myriad of fungi,rabbits,slugs sow bugs and earwigs.Waterlogging, tomato blight, unexpected frost, and a sorry lot of other enemies combat you. If you love it anyway, then bring your Remay, your fibrecloth, your little collars for the cole crops, and your lumber for the raised beds. Bring your compost, and your slug bait, and Rotenone. Not me! I'm sticking to Rhubarb and Globe Artichokes in the vegetable crowd and growing ornamentals. We'll buy our vegetables from the organic marketers. It's easier on the budget and you won't need Hope Springs Eternal.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Father of the bride

When my daughter was married in the mid 80's I gave a toast at the reception. The reception was in our home at Lotus City and the house was "chockablock" with family of the bride and groom, and many friends! It was a joyous occasion! I had not prepared a toast since it was only at the last moment I was informed to do so! I quickly searched my memory and came up with the idea to describe the day he asked for her hand. Our house was shaped like a tomahawk and a series of bedrooms down a long hall, the handle of the tomahawk. They were visiting from Olympic City at the time he asked to marry her. I described the scene to the assembly as follows." My present son-in-law came up to me out of the blue some time ago, and said, ' I'd like to speak to you about something.' It didn't take much intuition to know what was coming! ' Sure,' I said. I looked up the long hallway as we talking and could see my daughter peeking out of a bedroom door and then pulling back quickly when spied. It was a telling, classical, scene. He said, ' I would like to get your permission to marry your daughter.' I was actually, at the time, surprised to be asked! I said, ' Do you love her?' 'O yes,' he said,' I really love her, she is such a happy joyful person to be with.' He spoke with such vehemence! I paused, to fully take in this response. I then said to him, ' We would be glad for you and her!' " That was the gist of the matter. So far so good. Then, I added a tail to the tale. I told the reception guests my thought, during the pause after his confession of love. I said, "I thought at the time, holy shit, he really does love her! " My friend Janet said, later in the reception, "Do you know you said shit ?" I didn't know. My Toronto sister-in -law, standing with us, said, "Of course he said shit!" She understood. It can be a word of passion, in a moment of glory.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


When I was newly arrived in Lotus City to practice, one of the first cases I treated was an operator of a front end loader working on an industrial site. The bucket of his machine contacted high tension Hydro wires. An electrical charge ran from the bucket to both his hands which were on the levers, and through his body, and out the left foot which was on the pedal. An attending Plastic surgeon looked after the severe electrical burns of the hands and I dealt with the left leg burns. The operator went on over time to develop quite severe cicatrix of both hands and gangrene of the lower leg requiring a below knee amputation. Several years later I went to court as a witness in this case. Who was liable and how much was the main issue, and the defendants were the employer, the then WCB and the Hydro! The judge was a senior man of long experience in personal injury cases and a reputation for well-honed asperity! As I was new to Lotus City, I had never appeared before him. As I was asked to describe the appearance of the leg by the lawyer, the plaintiff's council rose and told the judge that "we" had a series of pictures of the hands and leg. I did not know this, since the Plastic surgeon had been taking photographs regularly for his own medical portfolio and they did not appear on the hospital chart! I must have appeared evasive or confounded by this information because the judge gave me a withering glare! I could see a cartoonist's balloon over his head, thinking "This greenhorn Orthopedic surgeon has taken pictures home to somehow cover his ass because of fear of criticism!" The judge however, really said imperiously, " What! Orthopedic surgeons never take pictures!" He glared again! THe plaintiff lawyer said, "Oh no my lord, the Plastic surgeon took the pictures." "That's alright then, " said the judge, "Plastic surgeons always take pictures." He smiled at me. Exonerated! Credible after all! He was right: we never take pictures!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Little Helper

When my son was six years old we received a letter from the Sunday School discharging him from the Little Helpers group at the church. The ignominy of the event didn't seem to faze him, but for the pianist and me it was disturbing! I cannot recall exactly what he had done or not done, but it had to do with the Lenten Box. The Little Helpers were engaged in collecting for the African poor. At least as I remember the box, a triangular cardboard tent, purple, with an African on the side, had a coin slot for the Little Helpers donations. He may have lost his box, spent the money, or we may have failed to maintain his attendance, or encourage a good attitude toward his charity. What ever the cause, the failure was ours, the dismay was ours, but the price paid was his. Being fired from Little Helpers is an enormous blot on your copy book. Whether this interface with the Anglican church in Winnipeg was a signal event in his spiritual journey I do not know. It is certain that an earlier experience in the Anglican Cathedral church in Plymouth was also a watershed moment when he was four years of age. He admired greatly, the garb of the Dean, a very fine fellow, of whom he remarked, "When I grow up, I want to be dressed up like God" . We never know the inklings that proceed to one's chosen priestly vocation! Up from the mustard seed!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


The photograph,one of my favorites, was taken at St. Ives,Cornwall, a Sunday morning in 1962. The other innocents were the parents, the pianist and me. Little children,taken by the hand and transported, not necessarily where they want to go. The photo depicts for me, the vulnerability, the aloneness, the immensity of distance, the clinging to the companionship of the known, the longing for something inexpressible. Almost 50 years later it still evokes strong feelings for me of a time when we all struggled to retain our center! They are looking out onto the Bristol Channel to the west, as it widens into the Atlantic. The same route taken by many to the new world, and first by the explorer-navigator John Cabot in 1497 for Henry V11. We had taken the weekend off but had driven too far to get back to Plymouth that day so had to stay in St. Ives overnight. Our car was the warmest enclosure we had so we often went driving in the winter, escaping the cold council house we lived in. Money was tight but we found a bed and breakfast in St. Ives to tide us over. I remember the weekend as if it was yesterday and it was a cherished family time. None the less, as I look at the picture now, and think of the feelings I ascribe to the children, they are really my feelings. I have a marvelous ability to project! Those feelings were there then, but I operate by denial, and certainly did in spades at 28 years of age. Home for them was where ever the pianist and I were. Home for us was out there, somewhere, in that direction!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mother Nature's Fruits

The indigenous berries produced on the prairies,where cultivated fruit is rare, provided a wonderful bonanza in the fall: a gift from Mother Nature for the taking. I'm not talking of the cultivars that have developed from these plants by the plant developers at the universities and experimental farms, but the original plants that we harvested berries from in the olden days. Low bush blueberries from the Hudson Bay Junction area (Vaccinium agustifolium). Your fingers were blue from the bloom on the berries and your back sore from the stooping. Your ears were alert for sounds of bears in the patch and your legs ready to run. High bush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) were from the same area, but not related at all botanically or horticulturally ,to the common cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) . These high bush berries made a tart and piquant jelly. The pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanicus) also was a favorite for the jelly maker. A tart and delicious jelly was created, particularly good for meat and game. My favorite as a child was chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). The flavour of jelly from this berry was unique. A slice of homemade bread,slathered with butter and chokecherry jelly was ambrosia! Food for the gods from Saskatchewan! Because it took a long time to pick enough of these fruits, and since they were so small and thinly spread, the preserves were special and treated with great care. The Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia) was wide spread through the prairies. The pioneers named the city after them. The berries made very nice pies and were easy to pick. They were the prairie icon.The cultivars that have arisen as a result of selection have improved the production of all these little trees undoubtedly, but they will never supplant the fruit flavors one remembers from one's youthful taste buds. Mother Nature has provided indigenous fruits on the wet coast as well. Here, we have abundant cultivated fruit on Lotus Island, so we often tend to ignore the indigenous offerings. Too bad because they are spectacular! I don't include the Himalayan Blackberry variants or the Rowanberry because they are not indigenous. The Trailing Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinis}, that little squirt that tangles everything you plant, produces a quality berry jelly, very different from its mellow Himalayan cousin.The salal berry (Gaultheria shallon} and the Oregon grape {Mahonia aquifolium) produce berries that our long time neighbor used to add as a wild flavour, to most jelly and jam preserves. The Thimble berry (Rubus parviflorus) and the Salmon berry (Rubus spectabilis) are for the birds, and best left to them. There are many good publications on a lot more wild fruits that may be worth trying! Not in anyway to derogate the abundant cultivars that are the anchor of the fruit industry, it's worth trying a little of what our early ancestors had available to them, freely given, if only for the novelty. A paen to history and Mother Nature!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Loss of Innocence

My dad took me to watch Whipper Billy Watson, Hardboiled Haggarty, and Chief Thunderbird "wrestle" when I was about ten. My mother wasn't at home then, or she would have never let me go. My dad met up with his friends, so I sat and watched these large men punch and kick one another endlessly in what seemed to me like a life or death struggle.I still remember the feeling walking home in the dark, on that winters night in Kindersley, on the glittering hard packed snowy road with a newly found sense of dread! I thought of this when I watched Wendy Mesley yesterday on CBC interviewing two "experts" who have studied evil and the media's compulsion to cover it. The experts concluded that the extensive coverage and all the abundant crime shows, serve a "useful" purpose to inform the naive that evil is around and protection is needed! Bosh! We all have a shade, including yours truly, that is compelled to watch, however dreadful,the sad,the sick, the evil that is around us. The fear it arouses has a titillating presence. It doesn't take a psychologist to note that we all have a shade. To say the portrayal of evil is "useful" panders to this need. Unfortunately as a human being we can't fully embrace Philippians 4:8. The other day I saw some writing on the wall. I went up and read it. Do you know what it said? It said, "This is the writing on the wall!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Touching (verboten)

I was at supper in a restaurant with my granddaughter,her uncle ,and two colleagues, when the up beat waitress, who couldn't remember my order, put her hand on my forearm to get my attention! "I'm sorry ",she laughed "I was so discombobulated, I forgot what you ordered!" After I confirmed my order,the granddaughter and my colleague were aghast! "She touched you!", they both said at the same time. My reaction was bewilderment. So what? All I noticed was nothing more than a friendly and an apologetic gesture. My grandaughter, who is 25, said, "They never do that!" I've thought about it since! Teachers don't proudly touch children who turn in good work any more! Your avuncular old pediatrician never gives a precious squeeze to his little patient. Grandad never bounces little Mary or Johnny on his lap. What is going on here? Not everything is sexualized! The world is in a spin of phobic correctness. Maybe it's my age but there was a time when you could pass the peace with those you knew and that mutual cherishing was accompanied by a comfort hug. Now when we pass the peace we shake hands or bow with hands folded prayerfully with those that worry about germs. Old friends cheek kissed as a matter of course! People who conquered the mountain together gave precious hugs to one another! It still happens, but all too often there is tentative hesitation . We seem to have entered a time when tactile expressiveness is guarded. I suppose for good reason at times, but it is a sad thing. For simple enthusiasm with one another, our human connectedness, we only have our voices and the five senses to utilize. That is ,all the five senses! Without them, we are looking at an alternative definition for six degrees of separation!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Avoiding Vanity

In the olden days I played defense for our hockey teams. I wasn't all that bad a defenseman. I wasn't the best skater on the team for sure, and I wasn't rough and tough. I was a "stay at home" defenseman, moved the puck forward well and stickhandled skillfully! Whenever I had a really good game,my dad would say, "That Jackie Clark is a terrific forward!" Tantalizing, but the string was pulled just out of reach! Whenever I brought my spelling tests home my mother always wanted to see the word I spelled wrong! I'm not complaining, I'm just observing. The carrot was held just in front of my nose! I tried hard to munch! My best buddy in those days was my brother, Ken. Later when I was the new boy in a prairie medical clinic I often showed the senior guy my good results. I was looking for affirmation. Eventually he said, "Jim, I know you are a good surgeon but I'm too busy to keep patting you on the back all the time." Gulp! The head of the clinic once said to me, "If a patient gives you splendid feedback, suck it up, because you'll be able to withstand the brick bats more easily!" Good advice! Is this reluctance to praise the praiseworthy the fear of instilling vanity into the big striver? It certainly made me work harder to eke out that scintilla of praise that came. King Solomon, who was a very smart guy said "Vanity of vanities,all is vanity".It sounded like danger to the devout! The residual Presbyterianism in my parents may have taken that to heart in the olden days. They praised with a faint damn to our face, but waxed on about us to their friends. Somehow we knew this and that had to be enough! Today's parents are supportive and rightly effusive about the children's success to their face.I'm not sure that the new approach is any more effective frankly, but it is more pleasing. Even slight praise from the constipated provides a small hard thing to be savored!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fellini Satyricon

He said,I paraphrase," If you eat me you will partake in my bounty." So the last, or perhaps the penultimate scene, is the compromise of the Lustful, sitting around the large table,or perhaps a large marble entableture (it's so long I can't remember exactly), at what appears a campsite, munching doggedly on the corpse of the deceased! Awaiting largesse! They clearly are not enthralled with the means to the end, but it just goes to show where Fellini would put the bounty hunters, let alone the fate, if you'll pardon the imagery, of the deceased in the "end"! In the meanwhile, the final scene shows the rest, the Enlightened, the non inheritors, down to the beach, about to sail to unencumbered freedom. How much, money seems to rule! How much misery it has caused! How much sacrifice it has driven! How little stability it really provides! How much joy has it erased? How manipulated those who receive! Of course it is not money per se that is evil, it is the love of money that leads to destruction. Money can provide ease, the love of money provides dis-ease. There is a pointed character on CBC that says ."I love money". "Greed is good." I don't know how serious he is. He may be partly provocateur! His counterpoint,a female with a strong animus, serves to modify his point of view, but marginally! Our values have become so skewed by reward that it is difficult to carve a path that combines the growth of the soul with the necessities of the flesh. People give up trying. They become cynical. Anger at the fetters that have become bonds and chains. Ambivalence confounds even the gentle. I think a good idea is to stop, now, watching television, reading the newspaper, and surfing the internet! It's a start!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Agonal bloom

As the ground water rises and the light shortens, the dahlia patch enters the period of agonal bloom! The old plants have become exhausted,partially due to "seed production interruptus" from yours truly! Each time they produced a perfect bloom to perpetuate their species it got plucked. If it escaped the plucking when prime, it got deadheaded well before seed set! Now, in it's approaching agony, the plant throws itself into a desperate budding frenzy to reproduce, to no avail! Feeble little curlicue stems, petal deficient flowers,stem rot,color fading,nodding blooms, and a proliferation of unsightly "sports". "To everything there is a season............a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted", Ecclesiastes 3. It's inevitable, I guess, that we interrupt the natural history of the plant,or nature,or for that matter maybe of ourselves, in order to produce some sort of other gain. That's progress! No one asked the plant if it wanted to stay rooted in a spot that was drier in the winter and more clement, and if it wished to produce some serendipitous seed from a colleague,as well as perpetuating itself from it's tuber. Instead it may have got pruned to one or two miserable stems by a showman for another inch of bloom breadth and millimeter of stem width. Or it became the bride of a chosen groom's family by a plant marriage broker and shrouded in mystery until seed production! Or it was allowed to flower till "untimely ripped" for a vase, when in full pubertal beauty! We are plucking up that which is planted on October 25th. They will be buried in a straw cloister for the winter and frustrated again next summer! In my hands always the bridesmaid! Sorry, mea culpa!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Many years ago the pianist and I went to the Belfry Theater in Lotus City to see Waiting for Godot! I was mystified by the play, thought it completely opaque, and blamed myself for not being "with it"! What is it about that play that has stuck with me over the years? At 76, am I able to see through the opacity that bedeviled me when I was 35? Maybe! Why Beckett wrote it in French, and whether at 76, he understood more than he did when he wrote it in his 40's, I do not know. I do know that the play has been dissected over and over again. For me I stick with "res ipsa loquitor". Otherwise it contaminates! What Samuel Beckett thought, and what his interpreters thought, is interesting,but what it says to you is the crunch point. We went to Olympic City last weekend to spend time with four old friends who were an integral part of our wedding party in 1957. We have all grown old together and walked similar, but dissimilar pathways! Together we have a total of 157 years of marriage. The play no longer seems absurdist. At forty I was impatient and certain that I would amount to something! It seemed terribly important! Amounting to something was clearly defined! In my case it was defined by others. Rabbit ears! Waiting was agony. Waiting is still somewhat agonizing but expected now. Living with uncertainty is easier. Amounting to something is no longer as important. Godot will appear when he does. It is certain, that he will when you least expect it. If he doesn't appear, then the faithless were right, but that also doesn't seem important. Being part of the woodwork and watching that march of humanity is a blessing in itself since the woodwork no longer has to perform if it chooses not to. Both cream and shit float to the surface!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trip to Fairyland

In 1947 my dad went to Kelowna for a holiday to see his family siblings. He took me along for company. My dad's brother and sister lived in the Okanogan with their families and his younger brother had just arrived there after a long period as a prisoner of war. When I say " took me along for company", I use the word advisedly since when my dad broke free of his responsibilities, then, he became a free spirit.I don't remember seeing him much during the week long holiday! Bonding wasn't in! No matter! I had acquired the company of my cousin, Joyce and her friend, Linda. Kelowna in those days was like a fairyland to a boy from the bald prairie. Both of the girls I was chumming with for that week seemed like princesses! And they liked me, wonder of wonders! I had no real time communion experience with girls before. They both had boyfriends but they set them aside for the week to devote their time to me,an object of interest. The three of us were sitting in my cousin's back yard ,a fairyland of lawn and flowers and a small clear stream. Our conversation was innocent and intimate. My aunt was busy hanging clothes on the clothes line. "Jim",she said ,in loud and ringing tones, "You didn't bring enough clothes. I'm hanging up your underpants that I washed and you only have this old yellow sweater as well." I could see the underpants swinging down the line with my only sweater,designated as old, and could envision my newly found princesses with horror that I,a boy, would have somewhat worn underpants. The humiliation was intense. It's easy to be humiliated at 13 years of age. They however, didn't miss a beat. I don't think they even noticed! It was one of my best holidays ever. It was a year when I realized my "anima" for the first time, and came to appreciate the gifts of girls.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Heritage Dahlia

Bishop of LLandaff, some times listed as (Landorff), is a heritage dahlia, first created in 1924. It is by modern standards very venerable, like it's namesake. Llandaff is the Scottish Episcopal Seat in Wales where it was first developed. It cannot be purchased locally, but is available through friends, as is the one currently in my possession. My friend Sue, who gave it to me, tells of her parent's garden in Comox BC, which was then, a commercial Rhododendron nursery,but had some Bishop of LLandaff available. Her mother wrote to the Royal Horticultural Society in England to offer Bishop of LLandaff to them, since they wrote an article describing their loss of this treasure, following the second world war, stating the dahlia had disappeared in English gardens due to displacement because of the war effort and the priority of food gardens. The pianist tells me her "nana" grew it in her garden in Regina. The plant is a small,semi double dahlia,with a red core and rich red petals. The foliage is green black with a small but attractive crenellated leaf margins. This is the only heritage variety I have, as most of the dahlias I own are modern hybrids produced by a limited number of committed hybridizers. The season this year has been exceptionally long and the dahlia are still in good bloom. I am looking forward to growing Bishop of Llandaff next year! A dahlia that has remained with quality morphology over almost eighty years and has an affectionate following among knowledgeable growers has outstanding worth! It may not have the lushness of today's varieties but it has the character and the history!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Legal Wrangling

I was in court as an expert witness, testifying at the request of the insurance company in a personal injury case! The plaintiffs' lawyer was cross examining me on the basis of my previously rendered report! I had examined the plaintiff earlier and had reviewed all the documentation germane to his medical condition, consisting of records both before and after the accident. This material included the hand written notes of the emergency room physician at the time of the car accident. This particular physician had quite terrible handwriting but we were accustomed to deciphering one another's script or scribble, so it was do-able for me. Cipher was a good word for it though! In the copy of the emergency physicians note I had circled two words,though I didn't refer to them in my report! The plaintiff lawyer showed me the copy of the emergency report from my chart and asked "Is this your circle around these words?" "Yes", I said. He then asked me, "What are these words?" I said "Hyperventilating and circumoral numbness". He paused, so I said, "Do you want to know the significance of that observation?" "No," he said," I just asked you what the words were!" After he concluded his cross examination the defense lawyer rose for a re-cross question and asked what the significance of these words were. All hell broke loose and the plaintiff lawyer appealed to the judge that the question was improper since he had not opened the question of "significance". They argued the point for about ten minutes and the judge agreed that the court would not address the significance. I swore in court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! I'm impressed that due to the arcane logic of the lawyers, that the whole truth is often not addressed. The whole truth means consideration of all evidence, favorable or otherwise, rather than some truths buried by arcane rules of evidence. As a physician I couldn't make a good assessment without all the evidence available! Why not find out everything? Why suppress anything? Making argument, making judgement, expert witnessing, should, in an ideal world, be peopled by those completely indifferent to the outcome. The only interested parties should be the plaintiff and the defense! Adversarial, alright, but based on the whole truth, not half-truths! Law reform in British Columbia needs to go well beyond Duty to the Court and promises of unbiased and independent expert witnesses. It's just a good start!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inherent Vice

Years ago my father-in-law purchased a car load of walnuts from Chile. He owned a packaging company that wholesaled to retailers. The walnuts were prepaid. When they arrived and at the time of packaging it was apparent that a hatch of worms had occurred in the bulk walnuts." Inherent vice" would have been the label applied, and neither the carrier or the insurance was liable. My father in law had no knowledge of the term. He just knew he was out a big bundle and had no recourse.! This simple phrase reminds me of the history of joint replacement and implant surgery in general, an activity in which I was immersed for many years. Inherent vice, this strange term, is defined as, "a hidden defect (or the very nature of) a good or property, which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) it's deterioration, damage or wastage." The evolution of surgical implants are highly dependent on the research capabilities of the bioengineering firms that manufacture the implants. Inherent implant defects were not uncommon in the pioneer attempts to restore joints, immobilize fractures and reconstruct major physical defects. Though careful case selection was undertaken by the surgeons, and product safety was paramount, the test of time is infinite, not finite and so many products, despite best efforts in the early days displayed inherent vice.It was a ethical tightrope to choose. It's a curious thing that until recently ,I had never heard the term,inherent vice, despite my long professional career inserting surgical implants. I only learned of the phrase when, in a literature group, we were reading The Faerie Queene, and encountered the human characters created by the magician, Archimago; faux humans who were really Sprights: a product with inherent vice! It just goes to show, no matter what you know, there is always something to apply to your area when knowledge is cross fertilized!

Friday, October 8, 2010

African Violets

In May of 2007 the pianist and I attended a celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary! Our daughter bought a large number of African Violets for the table settings! African Violets are beautiful, but fussy, and if you are to keep them in good health the care is rigorous. We ordinarily couldn't be bothered maintaining plants that are not user friendly,beautiful notwithstanding. However ,given the circumstances, these are a keepsake. Having a greenhouse and a potting shed is an advantage to maintaining house plants through the rest period they enjoy, and the necessary pruning, splitting and repotting, but the real secret is care during the bloom period. The violets are the pianist's wards and she is as fussy as they are. She bottom waters them and gently strokes the leaves with warm water. She maintains them by situating the plants with a good view of the east. She feeds them every 10 days or so, lightly, and pinches unwanted growth and spent blooms to extend the season. She does the same with the second cousin of the violets, a Streptocarpus that was given by a good friend years ago and therefore also a keepsake. We still have after 3 and 1/2 years, almost all of the African violets and their offspring. I could never do this labor of love, since I am too impatient. Plants of a keepsake nature are nurtured not only because they are beautiful, but because they have meaning, history,and relevance to the ongoing relationship of our family. Embrace the present because you can't take them with you!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Turkey Fish

I picked up a frozen hen turkey from the farmer this afternoon. A Thanksgiving dinner years ago came to mind! An aunt and uncle, with whom we had a chequered relationship over the years, came from Winnipeg to Lotus City to stay with us for Thanksgiving. It was a precious time of healing and love in, and my aunt was keenly interested to go fishing with me on the briny deep. I lucked out that morning and she caught a fighting spring salmon of about 15 pounds. When we got home she phoned her daughter in Winnipeg to set up her customary fancy dinner party for their medical clinic friends and colleagues. We then settled down with them to a family dinner of turkey and all the trimmings attached to that festive occasion. It was nice and my aunt was ecstatic about her catch and fully engaged, since she was particularly fond of our children. Perhaps because it was so much fun, the stay was stretched to the last minute before the necessary ride to the plane for Winnipeg. The fish was in the freezer in a double bag, frozen solid. The pianist has always operated on a " waste not,want not basis" and had frozen the turkey carcase for soup making, also, it in a garbage bag of the same nature. You know what happened! The carcase was packed in the rush and discovered in Winnipeg when she proudly opened the bag at home to display it to her daughters. The pianist and I had a enjoyable salmon dinner party with our friends and colleagues later.Even later, we made delicious home made soup from the Christmas turkey carcase. That winter my aunt died of a head injury when she fell from her horse at the roadside in Winnipeg! She was 56 years young! That Thanksgiving a relationship was restored! It never fails to remind me at Thanksgiving, of the healing, humor, blessings and sadness we are given!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wood Burning

The pianist developed, over the years,expertise from her wood burning, fast fire, outdoor kiln. Her choice of wood was cedar and fir, split fine, which we have in abundance on Lotus Island. She managed over 600 firings of high-fired, ash glazed, ceramics in the years when we were young and sturdy. We, however, were never attentive to the wood burning alternative in our house until this year. The reasons were laziness and a lack of parsimony! Since the onset this year of the cooler weather of fall, and a greater desire to hoard one's diminishing wealth, the fireplace and the Vermont airtight have become fully employed. No more baseboard heating for the present in the house. We are novices in this heating matter, but are keen to learn and experiment with woods of a various kind. Our base wood for jump starting and push is Alder. This is primarily used in the airtight. Ceiling fans and room to room fans, distribute the warm air after a fashion. Laziness must be set aside in the early morning, to take the ashes to the compost daily and reset the airtight for a new fire later each evening. The fireplace, on the other hand, is large and the Alder is the starter, but Cedar and Fir split logs that follow are abundant in the ancient woodpile. The fireplace is set at night for the early morning wood fire when the pianist and I gather for our coffee and a vegetative period with one another. Care needs to be taken with this older wood to avoid the Brown Recuse and the Widow. They are unwelcome in the house! We also have, in the old woodpile, hard wood from the orchard trees that we had felled or trimmed in the past . Both Italian Plum and Apple logs are available. They provide an even and spark free heat. I have a number of year old, Evergreen Magnolia branches and logs that are also a hard wood and burn slowly and well. Much of the very old wood is what the woodcutter described to me as "punk".He looked at it with disdain and observed it had no BTUs. The etymology of this description of "punk" escapes me. It is certainly light weight and becoming sawdust so maybe that is it. It certainly ignites and burns fast but doesn't last! Maybe that's it! Maybe punks have no BTU's. This exciting phase of our life is beginning to take fire, learning to make smoke!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ponce de Leon Syndrome

Juan Ponce de Leon, in his search for the mythical Fountain of Eternal Youth,discovered and mapped much of southern Florida. He never achieved the immortality he sought since his search for the fountain was interrupted by a Seminole arrow. His contribution of the discovery of Florida was, however, a useful secondary goal. The genetic discoveries of telomere shortening in the ageing process and the role of the enzyme, telomerase,in reversing the cellular aging in vitro has led to new speculation. Extending life with enzymatic treatment, or alternatively extending cellular health through a normal life span, has been an engaging idea for some scientists. It has also piqued the interest of some entrepreneurs. Certainly Ponce de Leon had a healthy entrepreneurship in mind. Maybe we are talking about a phenomenon like The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay! It lasted perfectly for one hundred years and then it all fell apart at once. As I understood it, abrupt and complete system failure. We are more and more avidly in pursuit of physical health and longevity, which is some how, equated to happiness. We seek freedom from stress, and exercise without goals other than achieving self health. Now, the new rationale, will be increasing your telomerase levels and checking the shortening of your telomeres through relaxation and exercise. The Fountain of Relative Youth! High achievement is often associated with high stress and frequent accomplishments,often for the good of mankind. Exercise with the primary goal of producing a product, or a service, or an achievement will have two benefits, one to you and one to mankind. Those of us who were long in the health field and long in the tooth were often beset by the demands of the patients with Ponce de Leon Syndrome and were never able to provide the satisfaction they required. The many physicians from Lotus city over the last twenty years that volunteered to Vanuatu, to work for six months to a year in the primitive surroundings will recognize that the Fountain of Eternal Youth is a fantasy of the affluent world! The scientist who tries to touch this star, towards immortality, shouldn't say, "I'm doing it because it can be done"! They must say "Why am I doing this?" It's undoubtedly fascinating research, but why is it that technology always seems to drag ethics well behind it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Good Egg

You might say of a friend that he is a "good egg", or a demanding boss that he is "hard boiled". An intelligent friend could be an "egghead". And, if we were arguing, we might be "egging one another on". I don't have useful etymological thoughts on all these weighty matters, but I know a good egg when I taste one. I know a good egg when I find one. They are not always hard boiled; they are not necessarily smart; and they are not typically argumentative. The pianist is an expert at the craft of cooking eggs. Poached, with the addition of vinegar to the water, the surface white is congealed early so that it neatly contains the contents due to the vinegar altered surface tension. The egg remains lightly congealed on the inside. She times 3 minutes,10 seconds for me and 4 minutes -10 seconds for her. This timing of course is at sea level. That delivers a good egg, and mirrors the characteristics of our good egg friends, soft, contained, and delectable. With boiled eggs, when cooked from the onset of the boiling, the same timing is apt for the two of us, as with the poached egg, but variation in timing occurs throughout the country, again as a result of the relationship of the egg to sea level. As you travel around, only experience will tell you what timing fits the definition of a regionally cooked, good egg. The rate of drying of the water on the shell, when the perfect boiled egg is lifted, is 4 seconds here on Lotus Island . It's easy for us to treasure a good egg. Perfect hard boiled egg timing in the hands of the pianist consists of 20 minutes of immersion, off the element, from the initial boiled state, and then a cold water bath. Unfortunately, the over boiled egg, timed beyond this period, develops unsightly grey margins at the center. This is unattractive in man and egg, giving a grey shade to the derivatives, potato salad,deviled eggs,doing business,meeting people, charitable acts. The grey shade will not occur if a cold shower is applied in timely fashion, to the hard boiled! As always, in love and war,timing is everything!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Peony Leaves

It's curious how often a visible sign reminds of an invisible presence! Now that fall is here, the peony leaves are turning to a russety, red and beige, that melds with the still vivid dahlias! They remind me of Laura, now departed, who first suggested to me the combination of these materials, to produce the spectacular flower arrangements she routinely produced for the Altar Guild. The peony leaves are of such a color in the fall that the entire spectrum of dahlia colors read with them, and of course, the seasons bring them both hand in hand to the flower lover. They belong together and are only accompanied from time to time with Michaelmas daisies. Laura was our neighbor, and the pianist acted as her church ward since Laura became significantly confused over the latter few years before her death. She never lost her discerning eye however, for an incompetent flower arrangement. Moreover she was always able, to the last, to read music and sing the complicated choir arrangements with considerable skill, as long as the songs were prepared for her in sequence , the pages turned for her,and an adjacent finger identified the line from time to time as she got lost. What an interesting software we have for a brain that allows a savant area, retaining our favorite and valued aspects, despite the failure of the rest. I never walk by the turning peony leaves without a moment of thought for Laura. They will come again!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kee Heep

My dad was a farm boy and the phrase "kee heep" was used to call the cows! It was a peculiar throat sound! The shrieking and shrill "e" sound of kee heep carries a distance and was invariably pleasing to the recipients since it meant food and drink. If one of us boys was at a distance and he wanted to get our attention he also hollered "kee heep." Often it was also for food and drink. My dad was not a soft spoken man. I don't think either the farm or the railroad environment lent itself to being easily heard, given the distances, or the noise levels. If dad made himself available, he always said "Holler if you need me." He was not hard of hearing. Holler was a figure of speech, but for him it was literal as well. It was particularly useful in hockey and ball games, then generally fashioned with some colorful phrasing. My dad always whistled while he worked as a young man and particularly when he rode his bicycle to and from work. As he became older he stopped whistling as he worked, but could still whistle a little if he sat and caught his breath. He stopped hollering and stopped calling "kee heep". You need breath to holler kee heep and to whistle. The cigarettes had finally caught up with him and he became progressively disabled with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD in the lingo! He was still cheerful, but quieter! He latterly was largely confined to his chair and the oxygen tank. The day before he fell and cracked his hip, and two days before he died, the oxygen man who visited him to replace his tank observed," Mr.W is cheerful and doing well,in his slippers, washing the breakfast dishes." Wellness is relative! He has been dead some 20 years, but I still think back to the hollering "kee heep" and whistling merrily the same monotonous tune . You could always tell he was coming on his bicycle from a long way off.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Watchbird

When I was a little boy in the forties, the cartoon, The Watchbird, appeared in The Ladies Home Journal,a magazine to which my mother subscribed! The cartoon always featured a bad boy being observed by the Watchbird. The cartoonist would draw and describe the naughty,or whiney,or stingy bad boy being surveilled by the Watchbird, drawn in profile, the boy caught in the sinful act, and then the clincher would come! "This is the Watchbird watching a Sneaky". Named and shamed by his sin! A second bird would be drawn, facing the young reader. The heading read, "This is the Watchbird watching YOU"! Pediatric ethics 101 at the foot of The Ladies Home Journal! What was always most interesting was the naughty activity, which provided the young reader a certain vicarious pleasure. The Watchbird was a simple line drawn, fat little cartoon bird,peering at the offender and then at me. The assumption that we all bore close scrutiny at six or eight for our dirty little secrets was never really challenged in those days. My mother told me she occasionally spanked me with the hairbrush for no definable reason other than the gut feeling that I deserved it. She was probably right. She was a stay at home mum and probably knew far more than the Watchbird. I don't think the cartoon had any lasting ethical benefit because even in those days, naughty was more interesting to watch than goody-two shoes.I guess it wasn't the enlightened child raising that we see today, but there was never a feeling that I was short changed in the love game. We are still under scrutiny today by Watchbirds of a different name!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Garden Party

My oldest and dearest friends came over to Lotus Island from Lotus City to put my garden to bed,one weekend in October of 2001. That year I had broken my tibia in July and it had not healed by September. The plates and screws had broken and the screws extruded. The fracture was freely mobile and progressively angulating. It was re-operated on in September and bone grafted ,re-plated and re-screwed.I was six months non-weight bearing, in a three wheeled electric scooter, from July until Christmas. I was able to do some gardening from the scooter but it was pretty limited. My friend Janet planned and organized a work party of a dozen old friends with whom we had had many adventures. They were a group that we had hitherto often celebrated Halloween weekend at Janet's country home. The party came with tools and zest and worked like Trojans! Cutting down the perennial beds, cutting down the Gunnera, raking , blowing and hauling an enormous leaf fall from the big leaf maples. They buried a deer discovered under the leaf fall during the rake up period. Work included covering the Gunnera with 3 feet of leaves for the winter, and filling the compost. It was like the old time barn raising. I was on the scooter and raced from post to post giving free advice and exhilarated by the help. I needed to do something without getting in the way of good work. The pianist capped things off with a big turkey dinner and liberal libation. I can't remember a time when I was more touched than by this good natured and spontaneous act of generosity from my friends. It may seem strange that in the midst of my limb disaster I would be so happy, but I was. At the end of it all, I graduated to crutches, partial weight bearing in December, and became "right as rain" by the spring. That was the best garden party I have ever been to!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sensory Adaptation

My parents, my brothers and I lived in the railway station for years. It was our home. We lived on the mainline of the Canadian National Railway.There was, in the fifties, a train every hour or so on the main line, day and night. In our little town the trains went through at close to full speed and they whistled twice at the level crossings, 400 yards and 200 yards from the railway station. The track was about 25 feet from the station and our bedrooms shook when it whistled through. Many were very long freight trains. The station shook because the platform attached to the station was like the leg bone connected to the hip bone. Though most of the train traffic were long freights,two transcontinental passenger trains at night came thundering through as well. We never woke up at night with the trains running, the shaking and the noise. My mother, who was a light sleeper under certain circumstances never woke up! Fred Schmidt came in the station at 4 am and lit the fire in the pot belled stove in the waiting room right beneath us, and met the way-freight that stopped and unloaded mail and manhandled jangling cream cans, and we never woke up ! Sensory adaptation! However,when the running employees went on strike and the trains stopped for a few days,the silence was eerie! We all woke up repeatedly during the night ,alert because of the silence. We adapt to the familiar, however unusual, but change, however seemingly innocuous, brings sensory adaptation to a halt. Unconsciously alert to danger!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Relish and onions

As I witness the engagement of those I love in the throes of planning a life's work, I think of the aspect of jobs that one relishes and the portion of the same job that is onions. No job always provides the piquancy of relish, or is free from the shedding of tears from the onions! We are privileged to soar on the high moments, and given, to drudge through the low moments. I am a man under orders! They may be my own orders due to an Oath, formal in my case; but frequently an informal oath for those who pursue their own muse! The jobs may be under orders from others, where both relish, and duty bound onions, are also the expected case. Give me the person each time, who works through the duty bound process, rather than depends on the piquant flavor provided by the high spots. We all want to be useful and to be thought of as useful! There are few jobs in life that are not useful in the hands of motivated people. Usefulness does not have a pecking order! Usefulness is created within the job. The changing nature of jobs or the seeking of new horizons will not avoid relish and onions! There is no escape! Thank goodness for that! Walking uphill is healthier for you than going downhill! Retirement may mean continuing to try to walk a gentle uphill slope. The hallmark of the successful is the staying power that knows a job includes embracing the role of slicing the onions! The beginning of exposing yourself to all the elements starts with rolling up your sleeves!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The lichen grows on bare rock,

no earth, little sustenance,

a tenuous foothold to life.

It asks for sun and time,

and grows,defeated, grows again.

It rains, it grows, the summer drought comes,

it dies, to grow again with rain,

and when it dies, it leaves a ghost behind.

Soil? Or is it the merest memory of lichen

becoming soil?

So,mosses grow, a different plant,

thicker, greener, richer,

withstanding drought a little more,

because of it's poor precursor

which took a foothold where no other could.

Atom and Leave

Some might say," From atom you became and to atom you shall return!" Certainly, some have said , from compost to atom in an expanding universe until you disappear down , or up, the black hole. These are systems of belief. It's a mechanistic view of the world, fit for today's need for certainty.It smacks of a Tinker Toy world. Some say, "Though from dust you came and to dust you shall return, there is more!" Elysian fields, Happy hunting grounds, a mansion over the hillside with streets of purest gold? It smacks of a Fuzzy Wuzzy world! What is it about people who really know? Not even St. Paul,with all his bombast, had the temerity to really know. He said so! He saw through a glass darkly. For the Elderly Eclectic Gentleman the glass is darkly. It is enough for me to believe that I will eventually find out, and it's intriguing! In the meantime live your life with uncertainty. It's a lot more interesting and authentic than fanciful theories! What I can't control, I had best let go! I do suppose that I can prepare a Whereafter Kit! Certainly Tutankhamun took heavy baggage on his trip in case! Things he prized! Useful accessories! My Whereafter Kit might include a small vial of tears that the pianist and I have shed over the years, a can of laughter and endearments that we listened to with one another, and a photo of our dear ones. I'm going to travel light! I won't need shoes, but I don't think I'm going to be an atom and leave! If you wait and listen closely, you will know that there is something going on! It's soft and nuanced, but when you think back, it's always been there. That too, is a system of belief! It's harmless! I might get to see my dear ones! I can hardly wait!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Harrow your Roadway

If you have a small gravel driveway on your bucolic property it will become compacted over time, and become pack-ugly! The fine material comes to the top and the stones descend to the nether! The fluffiness is lost, as well as that wonderful crepitus we hear as the wheels move over the loosened gravel, greeting our return. The characteristics of the gravel driveway lends itself to better traction, and less runoff, and less slipperiness than a smooth driveway surface of any material. The structure of the pack-ugly roadway however, is lost in a picture of homogenized banality, and adopts the physical characteristics of the smooth surfaced applications. My neighbor Dennis has a garden tractor and recently, a coilspring-loaded harrow he purchased from the catalogue. He harrowed my driveway and parking area with considerable assiduity to a Zen-like creation! The theory is the 3/4 inch stones will, with repeated harrowing, rise to the surface with the loosening of the packed powder and small stones. The first rains that arrive will drive the powder below the larger particulate matter and give rise to a renewed, bold, formed structure of gravel. Physics 101! Dennis is a master of tractor control and wove his way like an artist as I watched with admiration. His price to do this work was some earthworms for trout fishing from my rhubarb patch.I was anxious to retain the center grass down the driveway that adds to the gum boot essence of our hidden treasure, which he skillfully preserved. I look forward to seeing the end result, following the monsoons to come on the wet coast. A petroleum free, Zen, roadway!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a parentis loci

In the movie Scent of a Woman, when Al Pacino became 'a parentis loci' to the student, Chris O'Donell, he simply returned the parental love he had been given the previous few days. Parenting may be a role but 'a parentis loci' is a choice and therefore, often a gift of Grace! When you give that gift to your old parent, your failing friend, the stranger on the corner, you have returned favor you have been given. We all have been given a spoon to take from the bowl what we need. To use your spoon to feed another, when you have been fed, is to take the step of faith that the bowl will be filled again! It's always a risk! The cynic in Al Pacino's role, smacked of, "Life is a series of missed opportunities, and then you die"! He was fed from the bowl and then found his spoon! He fed someone else. Then he could feed himself!

Monday, September 6, 2010


The top drawer of my dresser is the sock drawer. Socks are one of the more interesting and under rated items of apparel. They, in most cases, are only glimpsed after application to the foot and ankle, so you may get away with one or more of them inside out. or slightly mismatched, particularly common if you put them on quickly in the semi-dark. No one else, who has anything important to do, will probably notice. The club I belong to, forbids the wearing of ankle socks with plus fours. Gauche I guess! Here, socks are part of your statement. When floors are too precious for shoes, when one remembers, they can be accommodated with slippers,a ego saver in case of a previously unnoticed hole in the toe of one's sock. I have a number of singletons, the match having disappeared in some black hole of an unknown nature. Currently, store bought socks are cheap and expendable. They are never darned in this day and age as I observe, though my mother used to darn socks in the olden days. When I was a student I tried to darn, but I ended up simply sewing the edges of the hole together and the sock became progressively smaller. The alternative I learned was to cut your toenails. It's a curious business that the sock manufacturers always provide a slight change in the shade in the dyeing process so that in good light you can rarely combine singletons if you care. In the process of examining feet, I found people are often reluctant to remove their socks. In fact if they have come with a single foot problem I always removed the other sock and compared and contrasted, to the discomforture of the occasional patient who took the precaution to wash only the problematic foot. My father had a fetish about socks that drooped around the ankle and throughout his life always wore calf garters. My mother said to me years ago that " It's getting harder and harder to find garters for dad. I went to Eaton's the other day and they only had two left in the warehouse. I bought them both!" The pianist provides frequent useful commentary on my customary state of dishabille, but rarely, if ever, about my socks.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bee Cradle

Some of the honey bees,"overnight", on selected flowers. Some flower's anatomy provide a quality cradle along with a nearby pantry. The bees are choosy where they sleep! Jomanda is a ball dahlia that has smallish upturned edges to the petals that is form -fitting for a demanding bee and suitable for an overnight retreat. They are worker bees so they don't have to go home at night to the wife. If they don't bother going home they can start working in the early morning, which is admirable in the eyes of the workaholic, though I have found them a bit sluggish at 6.30 this morning. I roused them but they only showed modest enthusiasm. They left a few minutes ago and the cradles are empty now except for a messy dropping or two. We've always had hives until recently and I think these are escape variants that Mother Nature now harbours. Whatever! They are welcome here and perhaps have escaped the possible mite vectored disease, Colony Collapse Disorder, that has assailed so many of their colleagues! Fresh air, sunshine, and freedom from crowding is the answer for them and for all of us!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Handkerchief

In the olden days most civilized men pulled out a large linen handkerchief for nose blowing, and women a smaller and more elegant hanky, for sniffles. I can't, in this day and age, think of a more unsightly and unsanitary act than expelling a big honk into a handkerchief taken from your trouser pocket and then stuffing it back to use again. On the other hand, when the pianist and I were in Prince George years ago she was intrigued by the consummate skill of a man who displayed finger nose dexterity with a big honk deposited directly on the sidewalk without a trace left on the face. I remember my grandfather and great granddad with monster wrinkled handkerchiefs blowing, wiping and stuffing without a qualm. The linen hanky was a favorite in days of yore as a Christmas present from the thrifty. It may have been embossed, if given to a women, or had a flower stitched on. If it was initialed at least it stayed in the same hands. No one traded their hankies! Thank goodness for Kleenex now. My great grandfather also kept on his person, in readiness, a gold tooth pick that had an ear spoon on the other end. We children waited in breathless anticipation to see the ear spoon used. We used to laugh that the "snot rag was common but the ear spoon was a sight to behold!" No kid used a hanky! He either sniffed all the time, "Go blow your nose!" , or hawked, or had a runny nose or a dangle-booger. The tailor always put a little breast pocket on the suit for the dress up handkerchief, but latterly it became no longer de rigueur so the pocket remained empty. Occasionally, when stepping out, a tiny fabric peak on a chunk of cardboard was inserted in the breast pocket to give the gentleman "style". Even though it was a fake, it was not a sorry, soggy , snot-ridden, specimen!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Thicket

The Thicket, even better, the Briar Patch,is sanctuary for small feathered and furry friends, the denser the thicket, the better! If in the well ordered and cultivated garden there are periodic small thickets, especially near your windows, you will enjoy an abundance of creatures and provide a measure of safety for them! Your abundance will increase since these thickets will be home and partial larder, for the broody! It's unfortunate that the urban dweller may have more difficulty establishing the thicket since they are necessarily untidy, and the briar patch even more so, and often an affront to the scrupulous neighbors. Here,in the rural garden on Lotus Island, Mother Nature's display of thicket, can go hand in hand with that controlled effort of the Elderly Eclectic Gentleman. Mother Nature gardens in her own inestimable way and I in my trial and error fashion. The bird feeder and the bird house, while of some value, do not supplant the thicket or briar patch in meeting the needs of the creatures. In fact they may foster a culture of dependancy that is counter productive to the well being of the vulnerable. Well meaning activity on the part of animal lovers toward the wild, may expose them to more predation and disease and interfere with the survival skills in an uncertain world. This applies to us and our children as well as the fellow creatures. We hominems also need a thicket sanctuary where we can return, after we venture out. We all live in an uncertain world and need survival skills if we are innately capable, rather than handouts. Blessed assurance however, is that our thicket may still be there. Kindness is:come as close to Mother Nature as you dare!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"What ,Me Worry?"

In 1943 and 1944 my mother would take my brother Ken and me on the Goose Line from Kindersley to Saskatoon and then put us on the Transcontinental to Uno, Manitoba,about 400 miles away. My uncle would drive up from Isabella, about 20 miles north, in the model A and pick us up at about 1 am. I was 9 years old and Ken was 5. I was always worried, since I was in charge, that I would sleep through Uno and Ken and I would get lost. We never did. I don't think Ken ever worried. The Transcontinental stopped for us at Uno, the conductor always was prompt to appear in the day coach at the time; I never lost our tickets, and my uncle never failed to arrive. Ken and I spent two happy summers on the farm but when I look back on it now it seems it was a real imposition on my uncle's family and moreover, we never brought our ration tickets. My little brother David visited us in Plymouth England in 1963 with my mum and dad. They went off on the Continent for a week and left David to take another train to Waterloo Station to be met by Great Aunt Dora, who he did not know nor she him. The pianist and I put him on the train. He was 11 years old. I was more worried than he was I guess, but he looked pensive through the train window as they left. Great Aunt Dora located him we learned later. It reminds me of Julia Child in the movie waiting with her friend Simone in the Paris train station for Ernestine , with whom she has corresponded, but never met. Ernestine was to be indentified by a coat color. When I was 3 years old I got on a street car ahead of my mother who was temporarily diverted and I travelled the crowded street car a few blocks alone.I was worried. I had never been in Winnipeg. I remember it as if it were yesterday, seeing her racing along but unable to catch the street car. It reminds me of the scene where Dr. Zhivago sees Lara on the sidewalk and races off the street car but cannot find her. My mother couldn't find me and I cried on the street until a policeman came by and took me to the station. He bought me an ice cream cone. He chided me because I didn't, at that age, know how to tell the police where I was staying. Eventually I was collected by my mother. I was worried and bawled again. I am still afflicted with travel anxiety. Silly me!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Change of Culture

The General Hospital in "Olympic City" was a teaching hospital. I A, was a medical ward where I was one of the two Junior Interns responsible for the day to day medical care of assigned patients. We were on the floor for the entire month of May, 1958, and became close to the nursing and other ward staff. The Senior Resident Staff and the Consultants came and went as necessary! The Professor of Medicine made rounds twice a week on preselected patients. He came with a retinue of Chief Resident and various medical students on what was a teaching round. Professor K was a kind and quiet man who accepted the due deference he was given with a certain ease.He never played the martinet that was affected by some of his surgical colleagues. My junior colleague and I were sitting on the ward, doing charts early, the morning the Professor was due to appear! The air with the nurses was electric! There was a buzz! Something was up! Hitherto, they had all stood up when the Professor appeared, and remained standing while he had his charts gathered by the Chief Resident, and when he made preliminary observations. When Professor K came to the ward station that morning my colleague and I stood up but the nurses all remained seated and appeared busy, except the head nurse who remained seated , smiled at Professor K and said, " Good morning Dr. K! Your charts are ready for you in the alcove and the patients are prepared, so I hope you find everything in order". She then ignored him and proceeded to do her job. I felt sorry for Professor K. He was totally nonplussed. The rug was pulled out from under him. He had received the first gust of a new wind that would eventually deconstruct the hierarchical structure. All change occurs gradually, in little increments, in peaceable kingdoms like ours, hopefully. It may be true that this episode will no longer be understood fully, other than by Old Nurses!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Plato and Aristotle

Plato was a deductive thinker! He learned and absorbed the thinking of Socrates. Aristotle was an inductive thinker! He learned from, and then rejected, the deductive processes of Plato. Plato deduced solutions by applying logic to situations and interior argument leading to reasoning. He said to his students " Go figure! " and they did. Aristotle, on the other hand, broke with his teacher,Plato, and set up his own school and said to his students "Go observe!" and they did. Inductive thinking is reasoning, first based on experimental observation. Solutions follow, or fail to follow as the case may be, but thereby, they are evidence based! Both processes still go on today. Both camps are useful. Aristotle was a physician amongst other things, so I guess he was one of the first researchers. It's probably why I like him better. So Plato was a top down thinker and Aristotle was a bottom up thinker. As an aside, we used to say that the top third of the medical school class made the best researchers. The middle third made the best doctors. The lower third made the most money! A little sarcasm when you find at the end of your career you have less than you wished! I suppose if you owned an Academy or Lyceum, as a thinker, you could earn a fair bundle, teaching on the side.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heather and Heath

Walking on the Pentland Hills this spring with my son, a midlife eclectic gentleman, we observed the hillsides of Scottish Heather, burned in planned and programmed manner for renewal! Traveling a few years earlier , in the fall, with the pianist to Wick, through Sutherland and Caithness, the hills were alive with the purple heather and the yellowing fern. The heather belongs! It seems indestructible. The Heather is blooming today in my patch on Lotus Island. It is unruly, grey green with dusty purple bloom and greatly favored by all manner of visiting little flying travelers, most of which I cannot identify. I don't prune my heather and I can't burn my patch to renew it. It's cousin, the white heather, is also unruly and somewhat larger. It is so nice to have the muted colors of the fall bloom. Mixed in with the heathers are the heath. They of course are spring blooming mostly, so are presently at rest. They, in most of the Wet Coast Gardens are pruned rather tightly so the bloom is abundant and very showy. I don't think mine has ever had a haircut. Some of the heath in the patch is fuzzy, tall, shrub heath with small white bells in the spring. My patch all told, looks about like a population of adolescents. They seed themselves so some new plants come along, and new plants also take root from low branches, so they are a crowd, ranging in size and age and flowering! "Bless'em all, bless'em all, the young and the short and the tall!" Aside from water they need aught else! They are user friendly!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Eating Crow

If you rise to the first level of your incompetence you will learn to eat crow or not survive! The Peter Principal is easily the most obvious phenomenon in the career of the rising star! When training in medicine in the olden days, humility was learned early and often. As one gained experience and knowledge in what was really a rigorous apprenticeship there was a further step upward in the programme to new levels of skill and knowledge. Having skill and knowledge was never enough! The phrase used was not having, but " bringing skill and knowledge to the practice of medicine". Each step up was accompanied by more meals of crow. With time, crow becomes more palatable and more easily digested. You don't have to lie, or protect your ego, or remember what you said earlier to protect your tangled web! You just put on your bib and settle down to a new meal of crow. People knew that you would tell the truth because you had a cast iron stomach and could survive the vicissitudes of your marginally incompetent role. Over the crow eating meals, new skills are imparted by your nutritionist boss. You will become more competent as a result of crow flesh. You can enter the practice of medicine with the proper humility and knowledge that you are and will be an imperfect creature and that's OK! Enjoy your meal!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rototill Your Compost Pile

After a hot, dry midsummer, the rain came for a few days and I rototilled my compost pit! It's a great way to mix the working material, but a cautionary tale is, avoid the front tined tiller.The rear tine tiller gives much more control in mixing, and you are less likely to fall off the compost heap. The compost I have consists of shredded hedge cuttings with lots of leaf, and old straw bales used earlier for dahlia bulb storage. These take time to digest! I throw some balanced fertilizer on it to speed up the working, and some of my nephew's Happy Farmer Bokashi (tm), with SCD Efficient Microbes! These latter two things are less important than the adequate mixing of the materials,and even more crucial still, the tiller brings up from below, the thin residual layer of compost we always leave behind when we spread it on the garden in the previous fall. Last year's compost is like the sour dough starter yeast that the bread makers prized and perpetuated for years. How could a Old Sourdough manage to live and prospect without his cache of yeast to sustain him? Last year's retained compost layer is like the residual tea leaves in the cha-damari of Japanese tea ceremony raku bowl. A ceremonial tea statement that we never take all from the world! We return the compost to the land from whence it came, but leave a little behind as a starter for the next year's compost. This is practical. We also leave a little compost remaining behind because we do not take all from the earth. Like the raku which also comes from the earth, we leave a few tea leaves in the raku bowl, and compost in the pit, as a spiritual reminder that we always owe a debt to life!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning from Bad Examples

Pity the poor student, that in life, had only superb teaching and exemplary teachers. I learned much from my own failures and from those whose failures surrounded me. Periodic teaching from bad examples provides one with the zeal and stimulus to do better and emulate the best teachers you have encountered. The realization that you can do much better than that which has been offered will lead to renewed efforts on the part of the student. The stream of consciousness will be stimulated not only by good ideas, but in the right hands, often by ideas that are barren. There is not much in life that is absolute. Received wisdom has ebbed and flooded over time and often given way to a new and further temporary wisdom. We are hammered these days with polarized disputes on almost every subject imaginable. You have been given five senses that allows you to come to your own conclusions. A sixth sense is buried deep within everyone which can be awakened. The seventh sense is crucial to the scientist. That is, common sense! Observe the world around you on your own terms. Smell the roses and all else! Touch and feel the rough and the smooth. Listen to the sounds of the natural world. Taste the abundance you have been freely given . Wait and listen for the spirit to awaken you to fresh beginnings. Ask yourself "Does this make ordinary sense?" Know that all experiences are a teaching tool, good and bad. Accept it with grace. That's what moulds the collagen in character!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Importance of Being Silly

Humor and cultural differences often collide. The humor in Canadian culture, as frequently elsewhere, is often associated with self effacing speech and action, general silliness, and irony. The nature of my postings often include such an attitude. Being silly is serious stuff since it both reveals and conceals , mocks with a gentle rejoinder, and allows the author to remain attached to an unidentifiable point of view. I had some Asian comments on my various posts, but I was unable to read them. The few comments that have been translated for me, display what appears to be an identifiable difference in perception. That is, my humor is treated with an earnestness it does not deserve. I wonder, is the Asian character given to knee slapping, belly laughing, frantic foot stomping , aisle rolling, juice depleting, humor? I think not! Silliness may be seen as outlandish! What about irony? Is that seen as deceptive or sarcastic, rather than for it's own humorous parody? Is self effacement in humor considered degrading? Is there a cultural gulf in the way humor is expressed by the western and eastern parts of the Pacific Rim? I would be very interested in opinions as to what constitutes the difference, if any, in humor. You should know that an elderly eclectic gentleman brought up on material such as The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and Beyond the Fringe, would not be confined to writing exclusively in earnest! The Importance of Being Earnest is silly!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hedge trimmer

As an elderly eclectic gentleman I am too feeble to manage a large hedge, and a heavy, gas hedge trimmer, without some creative inventiveness! My Rube Goldberg apparatus was a simple structure that employed a crutch secured to a boat engine mount, both apparatus readily available in the household of a decrepit, who lives by the beach. When it was trialed it was somewhat awkward and only moderately effective. The hedge I have inherited was planted by Mother Nature and consists of, among other things, thorny 'rosa vulgaris' and blackberry vines. The object of my invention, as you can see in the attachment, allows the hedge cutter to perch on the handhold of the crutch which takes the weight of the 7 foot trimmer. The engine mount base can be moved every 4 feet along the hedge and the hedge trimmed in an arc-like fashion. The hedge height achieved is consistent, due to the constancy of the purchase on the crutch hand hold, which obviates the need for string or eyeball. I thought it was a good idea, but then my son-in law came along and just cut the hedge without my creation, since he is a youngish eclectic gentleman. Since my hedge is 6 or 7 feet deep, and to be 5 feet high at the lawn, and 15 feet at the water side, and 200 feet long, it is a daunting task! I was blessed with his help. I did the mop up work and shredded the clippings the following day.I have become parsimonious in my old age, since hitherto, I have spent about 400 dollars getting a strong man to do this job. A dollar saved is a dollar earned! Thank goodness for my son-in-law.If I am abandoned by my family and friends, I may have to revert to my invention, but it's current trial was a bit of a bust.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Peripheral Vision

When Hercule Poirot solves a difficult case it is because he sees more than meets the eye. When the Radiologist in training, 101, focuses on the center of the radiograph, looking at the item for which the image was taken, and neglects to look at the edges of the film for other things, stuff gets overlooked. The great painters spend much time on the edges of the painting, not just the treatment they give at the golden mean. There is a lesson here for the gardeners who would be true to their craft. It is not just what is seen that is important, but that which is not seen. That which must be looked for! The boundaries of your plot that you have applied with brush strokes over the years has intimate details and secrets that only you know about. You probably value the unseen, the secret and the inobvious as much as the familiar. If you neglect your boundaries for the seen only, you will not have a private place that you can choose to share, or not share, with someone who loves a garden as much as you do. Intimacy means sharing secrets as well as triumphs or disasters. They come in ample supply in the garden for all of us. Humility is a chastening thing, but leads to knowledge. I never learned much by my successes, but plenty with the failures. As Hannah quoted Leonard, who paraphrased the Scripture, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in". Give yourself a still, small, dark place in the garden that is not for display, but only for those who have eyes that can see.