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!