Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tent Caterpillar Egg Cases

The tree pruner came this week and did a nice job of the apple trees and pears and the Dolgo. He does the big trees which are standards and I do the smaller trees as I am now too old to climb high. About 8 to 10 percent of the 1 and 2 year growth on the apple trees have tent caterpillar egg cases this winter. I think we all knew an infestation was going to happen this coming year since the moths, Malacosoma, were extensive this fall on Lotus Island. We have yet to have a sharp frost which I am still hoping for, but rigorous pruning will get rid of the bulk of the egg cases and oil sprays will deal with some of them that are left as well, since they need to breathe. The pears are safe because the leaves have a harder finish. These caterpillars may be somewhat controlled on my apple trees, but the alders,birches,ocean spray,Rosa vulgaris and wild cherries are also loaded with egg cases and I can't prune the whole countryside, so in the end, we are going to have to rely on Mother Nature to interrupt the cycle with the Tachinid wasp. I have never tried BT but am going to do so this spring as I expect an inflorescence of worm, to follow the inflorescence of bloom, despite all these other measures. The trouble with spray is the worm appears in graduated stepwise larval stages over six weeks here, so multiple sprays are needed. Cost! The pruner is a nice guy but leaves his cuttings for me to pick up for shredding or burning. Thank goodness I've got Eddie who does the bending and hauling while I do the shredding and burn what I can't shred, on the beach. Shredding I am sure will destroy the egg cases when I compost the chips. Burning will certainly do it! One thing struck me as I wrote this and that is, Malus and Malacosoma: of course!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Diurnal Rhythm

If you have to take a nap or siesta after lunch, or struggle to stay awake in the early afternoon; if you wake up in the middle of the night for a period, or struggle to go back to sleep; and these episodes are consistent, you have a quadrinal rhythm, a variety of diurnal. Of course that rhythm is not satisfactory for most employers of today's workaday Western world, so those of us who had it, struggled to change to a diurnal sleep-wake rhythm unsuccessfully. Now that I am retired I can embrace my true quadrinal rhythm. The seasonal change of long dark nights and short days as now, in deep December, can increase the torpor of the organism, not only for Hibernators, but for the Quadrinals as well. Those of us that are dark-adapted will still thrive in the quiet and reflective 3am period when the night is long and satin. To thrive, one uses that rhythm to advantage. We do not mistake periods of torpor for depression, but see it as renewal, resting our metabolic rate, and being, rather than always doing! Sadly, those who have to manufacture energy, sometimes trumping the natural rhythm of the organism, may be stuck by the external demands of work. A paramecium embedded in a milieu, not of one's own choosing! At least, by embracing this concept one will erase blame and give one the hope that retirement will allow the natural man to emerge!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Smell a Rat

I went to the farm to pick up our turkey today. The farmer is a retired accountant. We talked about accounting and taxes since my grandson, of whom I am proud, is to article as a CA. The farmer friend told me how easy it was for an experienced CA to smell a rat in a tax return. It was an interesting conversation. He said, "Once a whiff of trapped rat is detected there is a hyper-vigilance annotated. A stench is often found with a little more time!" As I was driving home I thought about a friend who works for Revenue Canada as investigator. I think the phrase "I smell a rat" arose literally from the vermin arena! It occurred to me as I thought about it, that intelligent assessments, both with taxes and vermin, would use red flags as tip-off to a trapped rotten rat behind a wall. The audit is a bit like pest control! Some I know have a nose like a bloodhound. They get a whiff of the dead rat in the wall between Studs early on. I am a person with anosmia! "I can't smell a thing", I say. "You never do", they say,"'til it's too late." A little later, it's not a whiff, but a stench!" "I pick it up it now," I say. Well, the auditor gets a whiff, and looks forward to find the stench. Moreover,he looks for the loophole below that leads the rat to behind the wall of deception. The pest control needs to quickly find the hole that the rat used to get into the wall in order to plug it so only one rat is rotting. Since they run in and out, this too is a loophole. The more loopholes there are, the more rats we'll find. Rats aren't stupid. They multiply easily and if they live with anosmiacs they will last a long time with their fellow corpses before the stench subsides! Painful though they may be, fair taxes and plugged loopholes lead to an equitable, just and fragrant society. A toast to the CA's and Pest Controllers, cats and terriers!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eureka, I think

Soon we will sing We Three Kings. The lyrics of the hymn are well known, but TS Eliot's poem, Journey of the Magi, is not wooden. The Magus who narrates the poem is alone and his epiphany was "Eureka, I think!" It wasn't easy and it wasn't sure and there was doubt. The epiphany both was, and wasn't, a long time coming. The poem stirs the soul because it reflects a thoroughly human person. Who provided the greater gift? Whose is the greater gift? That's easy! The Babe. The narrator of the poem has the gift of distance and time to arrive at the discovery of the paradox that out of death can come life. Someone said to me , "I don't understand what you mean by that last sentence. It doesn't make sense!" "Well" I said, "Read the poem! I'm not going to tell you what I think it means. It's not my job. You're not a stupid man so you will have your own ideas and they are as good as mine, though you'll never be as poetic as Eliot! And you'll never have to ride a thousand miles on a camel in the winter to find out either!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dry Land Farm

In Saskatchewan in 1950, when I was in grade 12, a mandatory course in the provincial curriculum was called Agricultural Economics! It represented more than just another course. It was a signal that reflected the cultural imperative for the bald prairie following the hardships of the dirty thirties and the efforts of the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) to ensure that improvements in dry land farming would never again allow those dreadful times to recur . The shelter belts, contour plowing, deep furrow planting, stubble retention, summer fallow, early maturing wheat and prairie grass seeding were implemented in my time in the forties and fifties and were a deep and abiding part of our prairie culture as evidenced by the curriculum in school. In Kindersley I still vividly remember the wet rags around the windows during frequent dust storms, the relentless wind blowing the Russian Thistle across the bald prairie, unhampered by fences, seeding as they tumbled into the piled up top soil in the ditches. Later, in Conquest the planted 12 foot Carragana hedges(Siberian peashrub) served as shelter belts; planted in rows every eighth of a mile to check the wind erosion and preserve the blowing snow drifts for precious water retention for dry fields. The hedging protecting the roads from excess snow when we went to school by cutter. Many years later I couldn't even imagine such a course in high school that would so reflect overarching cultural mores and direct the interest in everyone of school age to its economic importance. I have changed my mind. That zeal we felt then has reappeared in new clothing. Dressed in today's energy toward a green revolution, and the ecological drive manifest by today's youth who are addressing a new problem with the same commitment and zeal that we had. Maybe harnessed with the same school effort that we were privy to! I don't have my essay from Grade 12 now, since I haven't saved my paper from 61 years ago, but I remember I got an A+ from Bill Cybulski for my report on the work of the PFRA. The changes were a matter of survival as a prairie society at that time. We knew nothing at that time about the presence of oil, potash,uranium or diversity of grains. For me, it is wonderful to watch today's economic renaissance in Saskatchewan and the need to achieve balance with the environment we have been given!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Ronald Reagan was said to be the Great Communicator! Style and Substance: Short and Sweet and Succinct. It reminds me of the contrast from my early years of medical practice, and the later role I served in the complaints committee of the regulatory body. Many of the complaints about physicians arose as a result of failure to explain, failure to take the time to answer questions, and assumptions that people understood, when in fact they didn't. It all takes time, truth and syntax! It may reflect caring if you communicate wisely, but it is more important that the patient is truly informed for the benefit of the caregiver as well as themselves! We used to laughingly joke," We were taught in third year Medicine to write illegibly so that no one could use our records against us; and taught in fourth year Medicine how to mumble so no one could gainsay what we told them! The joke was of course, "We ended up with no communication skills." Some times that, in reality, was not far off. I have seen many cases of superb treatment provided to people who bitterly complained about the treatment because the communication, both before or after, was awful or non existent. Since I went to Medical School in the 50's and trained in surgery in the early sixties, communication took second place then, to technical skill. The "cared for" were patients, not clients, and certainly not customers. That terminology is evolutionary. We cared deeply in the olden days about doing good work, and we worked so hard, but we wondered why they didn't love us.The idea of the patient participating in their care or contributing was nonexistent in those days, even if you were not a Martinet. It's hard to even fathom that attitude now, but the change of patient, to client, to customer, for better or worse, is the great leveler. Certainly, like all else, nothing is cut and dried, respect is a two way street, and education of everyone is the key!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Force Vitale

My architect friend, who designed a post war modernist house for the pianist and me in 1970, phoned yesterday to tell me it was featured in a 3 month Legacy Show in Lotus City! It, amongst some other buildings, broke new ground at the time in the seventies, and for me the house was ground breaking, though in retrospect, I was an arriviste then and thought I needed such a vehicle.We sold the house after seventeen years of living as our family grew up and we simplified with an apartment in town and a cottage on Lotus Island.I never forgot the house through the intervening years as it was for me a crowning jewel throughout the time we lived there! When we left and the furnishings were gone I never returned to see it because it would have been painful. The pianist however went back to look at the empty house and as she looked in every room she knew: "A house without a force vitale; is only a beautiful empty shell." Time has healed desire for me now and I am looking forward to the Legacy Show. I hope I have conquered my arriviste tendencies. The heart of any house, beautiful or homely, is what creates the home. The pianist shared my feelings about leaving it, but it became apparent to her as she toured the empty house that it was a corpse, albeit a beautiful corpse, without a heart, awaiting a new transplant. I wish now that I had the pianist's foresight to revisit it once it was empty so that I could also write finis to the sense of loss that I felt at that time.

Monday, November 28, 2011


When my father read the newspaper in the olden days he frequently, absentmindedly, tore off corners of the newspaper and chewed them as he ate up the news of the day. Cellulose is as indigestible as the news was, both in those days, and perhaps even more so today! Phytophagy can occasionally morph into the compulsion to eat vegetable matter unselectively and pathophysiology ensues if the matter is indigestible like cellulose. It leaves the growing mass of a cellulose ball called a Phytobezoar trapped in the narrow area of the GI tract! My dad never ate enough that it was other than a forme fruste of indigestible Phytophagy! Since he rarely read books, our stock of books was unmarked! One always knew he had read the paper or the magazine from the absent corners. A form of marking, like Kilroy! Like the neighborhood dog idly pissing on the hydrant, marking the bounds of the territory. I, for some reason, continued his habit, idly tearing the odd corner off a book and chewing it as I ingested the material and its content. It was never bad enough for it to be considered a pica, but it offended my friends if I had borrowed their book! Cellulose from paper is one thing, but wooden matches, toothpicks,popsicle sticks and other wood bits are worse. Human beings are not beavers. When I first married the pianist she was horrified to see the ingestion of her books, corner by corner as I sought to share her interesting reading material! I realize now it was a form of marking, done innocently! A habit idly acquired is easily dispensed with in the interest of literary harmony when love intervenes! I no longer have ever gone back to that bad habit, but when my son grew up, became a bibliophile and had his own library, I often read his books but for a while bent open the spines of his tighter books for easier reading. Again I was castigated for my book destructive tendencies. I am careful now to eat candy or popcorn when I read, and I strain to read obliquely through a semi-open book if it is newish and not my own! I want to be good!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quince Jelly

Two mature ladies I know who like quince jelly took a large portion of my crop this past month, but I still had a number of fruits that I tried to get rid of, unsuccessfully. Quince jelly is not for everyone! The flavour is rather unique and somewhat perfume like, to my taste! It however has an exotic quality and a heritage aspect so I could not bring myself to discard the basket full of the fuzzy yellow fruit. I made my own quince jelly last week and it was very successful as the pectin content is high, even in the fully ripened and over ripened fruit that I used. Since quality jelly requires not only taste, but colour and jell quality, my product will rate highly for the scarce aficionado who appreciates the unusual and acquired flavour and appearance of the quince. The jelly in the jar has a colour of fine orange furniture oil, unique as well, from the ripe quince. I am also hoping that my value added product will entice the wary who avoided the primary product, but who could become a new enthusiast after trying the jelly. Those of low taste who require the more usual jellies on their toast can content themselves with the predictable, but I do not intend to proselytize to the unadventuresome. I am sure there are more elderly eclectic ladies on Lotus Island that can be enticed with my jelly!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turf the Old

The Beech tree,(Fagus sylvatica) does not shed it's leaves 'til later in the spring despite the cold winter temperatures in Europe. The beech hedges, seen widely distributed in Scotland, retain the browning and yellowed saw toothed leaves though out the winter in contrast to almost all other leaves of deciduous trees, which conveniently and expeditiously retire to the turf in the fall and make way for the young in the spring. The Beech leaf is much more stubborn about going, and needs the young growth to expand and force the old leaves from their tenacious foothold. The elderly Beech leaves serve a minor purpose I suppose, in that they increase the winter density of the hedges which moderates the wind, but the appearance is of elderly gentlemen whose role is come and gone, but won't go readily! Eventually the youth will push them out and fulfill their role of windbreak plus providing new life to the company! Because the old are reluctant to leave 'til the spring, the mess to clean up after their departure detracts from the work available for the new growth. If they only knew! They fortunately, usefully serve as late arrivals in the compost, but the earliest at that gathering get the most points and serve the greater good quickly. The Evergreens are another matter. Here on Lotus Island, the Western Red Cedar, (Thuja plicata), nominally an evergreen as most of the Conifers are, loses its leaves in a 3 year cycle, as all the rest of the Evergreens do in 2 to 5 year cycles. At least Thuja, in the fall, drops abundant spent leaves with the November storms over our plot, as it is doing at the moment, and the deposits on the turf are huge. A better corporate system leaves much of the tree with both space for new leaf recruits and 2 and 3 year veterans to work usefully though the winter and spring. They are always green in name but deciduous in fact, since shedding of the very old is part of Mother Nature's renewal. Unlike the Beech tree; more like the Evergreen; continuity for corporate health of the tree and of us is a consideration!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Low Key Mad Cap

In the 60's when I arrived to practice in Lotus City there were only 85 doctors and everyone knew everyone else with all the passions that arose in such a closed and hothouse society! Famous for their medical parties were two brothers who lived in Lotus City but were from my Alma Mater! In one soiree they required each couple to do twenty toe touchings and deep knee bends at the door before they entered the party! They recorded the comments with a mike at the door under the category of "What Dr W. said to his wife as they bedded," such as, " This is a damned stupid thing to do!" or " I'm too old for this sort of bloody thing", or "I'm short of breath already" and so on, and we listened to all the tapes at the party. When the second brother arrived in Lotus City, as yet unknown, a party was held in his honour to introduce him but he didn't appear! It was a fancy affair and a butler in tails served drinks and aperitifs to the crowd and was excessively friendly, putting his arms around the ladies, complementing them on their hair and gown and seemed exceedingly familiar. Whispering sweet nothings in their ear. Everyone said," The hosts were really putting on the dog with this butler in tails, but his familiarity seems excessive." It was revealed at the end of the party that he was the brother that was to be introduced. These same Alma Maters of mine would tease their colleagues by putting monkey faces on pictures of their friends who had dared to be photographed as a family musical group on the society pages of the local newspaper. There were a no holds barred for that time in the 60's. Medicine may be much more organized now, and business like, and progressive, but the characters, for better or for worse, have disappeared into the grey morass! Now members are of the corporate medical society! Now governed by regulations that includes behavior both incurred in the practice (Professional Misconduct), superseded by all of one's activity (Unprofessional Conduct)! The practice of medicine in the past never precluded the pursuit of fun at the edge! Mind, I'm not condoning badness, or "Conduct Unbecoming", just silliness!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fat Elvis

A useful service a parent can offer a boy in his early teens, is to accept that the father is a foil for certain mirthful commentary by the son and his friends. I learned, through some sort of inadvertency in the grapevine, that I was referred to by the diminutive set as Fat Elvis! I think it had something to do with my 60's hair style, carried over a later time, rather than my singing voice or my pelvic inclinations. I wasn't particularly dismayed by this description as I recall, since I considered the source. It is important for a son to have the opportunity to rail away at his father with his friends and to share in the joy of their raillery with one another! Heaven knows there are far worse labels to apply to a parent than that of an aging Elvis. Elvis Presley and I were the same age. If they were more literate they could have called me something really demeaning like Sancho Panza. At any rate they would skulk around, claiming the smell was just Patch, shoelaces untied, and nothing done up, and claiming victory to themselves over the Foil. Little did they realize the honour felt, being compared to one of the finest voices and rhythm makers in the world, less the girth.I won't say I was glad to be called Fat Elvis as it smacked of schoolboy insolence, but as long as it was behind my back it remained unacknowledged. I have never yet asked him how that name came about. He may have even forgotten about this period. I just celebrated the fact that a little derision, particularly with your friends when bravado is practised, is part of the important and necessary distancing process! I could have got back at him by calling him "dear" in front of his friends, as I occasionally did when we were alone, but I assiduously avoided this in company. Like most conditions in life, if you wait it out in good humour, it gets better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An act of Care

My father came into the bedroom of my brothers and me every night before he went to bed and pulled the covers up on us and tucked us in. We would have been mostly asleep but we always had the vague sense that a hand was present and a vigil performed. This act was probably never necessary, as our rooms were warm, though our covers were often kicked off because young boys are restless sleepers; at least we were; fidgeting night and day! Where did that routine of his come from? Probably an automatic act from the need to show us protection through the darkness of the night and its terrors! A form of gathering us in! I don't think, I confess, ever doing that with my children! It's only now that I think about that act as one of care, a visible sign of an invisible impulse of love. We do little things to signify love! Different things unique to us. Different ways of expression! My dad's was his unique act! They only signify what they mean to us and what they meant for them, at times as we reflect on them. Hey! That was an act that I never really recognized the significance of at that time. It was just accepted that that was what he did. The small and seemingly inconsequential visible signs of parental love so often are under the radar until your soft wear revisits a reawakened state! When Robert Munsch published his fabulous children's book "Love You Forever", it made me wish I had tucked in the covers more often for my mother and father before they died!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Masterly Inactivity

Hippocrates, in an aphorism once wrote, "The wise physician amuses his patient while nature affects the cure." We used to have a phrase for that willingness to stay the hand. Masterly Inactivity! A small, but distinct segment of patients fit the need for this category of care. This active pursuit of inactivity has nothing to do with interest or disinterest of the patient by the physician. It simply means that when there is nothing to do, do nothing stupid; or "Do nothing, stupid!" Patients are frequently unhappy with this approach, even those sufficiently sophisticated who have been counselled that diagnosis and continuing observation is all that is required for their condition! After some time taken at explanation, the response will be, "For heavens sake, you have to do something rather than nothing!" The simple fact is many conditions are self limiting and many other conditions inevitably worsen! Hippocrates aphorism applied for this is, "Cure occasionally, comfort always!" Reputations for success are achieved often by the institution of an active treatment for a self-limiting condition just before its denouement! Credit where none is due thereby, is still useful, at least for the aura of the practitioner! Useless treatments applied to conditions where deterioration is inevitable can always be excused with, "They tried everything and they worked so hard to help!" There is some comfort that there was never neglect for the trying! Setting science aside, the Art of Medicine does not include taking credit for Mother Nature, and burdensome treatments for untreatable conditions. The line between Hope, Comfort, and Reality needs a careful tread! Somehow the ideas of a Greek Corpus, 2500 years ago, are still relevant today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black Bamboo

In 1971 I planted several clumps of Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) along a faked dry river bed of Saturnalite that gave a pleasing appearance, even if contrived. I wanted it to remain clumped and it did since it was surrounded by poor soil and the aggregate of Saturnalite. My understanding at the time was that it was a naturally clumping bamboo and would not spread. Since there had been an embargo on bamboo at around that time and particularly Black bamboo I was pleased to have it, and I might have imagined I was in China as I sat, musing on my dry river bed. We moved from Lotus City to Lotus Island, both in the Pacific Northwest, and I took some rooted portions of the clumps with me. They are still in my garden here today, protected from wind by windbreak plantings, and having weathered a particularly cold winter in 2010 with some top foliage loss. In the garden here they are in three big clumps, but this year they have started to move! They have, for the first time in 40 years, begun to develop spreading rhizomes in spades! The clumps are monstrous after this length of time and have probably responded to exhausted soil by seeking fertile land, sending probing rhizomes and new plants abroad. In addition, probably seeking for a location warmer than their present spot. Lotus Island is in zone 5, Black bamboo's top cold tolerance threshold. Like populations of anything, the plant does what it has to do to survive and thrive. It goes to show that the classification of clumping or spreading, in plant and animal, fails to account for the contingent capacity to change and move with whatever means is necessary to survive! Climate and food trump stick in the mud, in the plant and animal world!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Winter Ducks

The Lotus Island Harbour is teeming with American Widgeons and Bufflehead Ducks today! Vegetarians and carnivorians! Dabbling ducks and diving ducks. They will be here all winter in our little spot in the harbour to our great delight. The Eagles have not returned yet to begin their connubial activity so the ducks have a short reprieve. The Widgeons crowd serenely together and float along, seemingly unhurried, occasionally dabbling down when close to shore for plant food. They don't need to hurry because the plants wait for them! Their pace is unruffled! Why wouldn't it be? They are the gatherer society. The little Buffleheads skitter along, wings flapping repeatedly, posturing and diving and darting hither and yon! You can always identify them by the wake they leave; they move so fast with both feet and wings going a mile a minute; in or on the water chasing flesh! No wonder they are in a hurry. Their prey waits for no Bufflehead, and they are the hunter society! The seagulls pester them, hoping they will drop the prey but the Buffleheads have an answer to that hunter society. They swallow their prey under water where no seagull will go. They spend much of their time swimming around and through the Widgeon flock: they look like Hares among the Tortoises. Curiously the only ducks we usually see now are these two species. In days of yore there were many winter species that visited but the varieties seem to have dried up. I don't know why. The harbour provides an abundant source of both plant and animal foodstuffs and the species don't compete because of the nature of their diet. Aside from the Eagles their winter sojourn is untroubled! For the pianist and me, familiarity never breeds contempt!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eg Latin

For years our family has spoken Eg Latin, a superior subset of Pig Latin that has much greater cypher advantage and is not generally known! It was used only in fun but was completely confounding to the uninitiated. In the standard Pig Latin the post fix, AY, is placed at the end of the word behind the transposed first consonant or consonant cluster. Hence Rhinocerous would be hinocerousRay or perhaps inocerousRhay! Not too difficult to intercept. In Eg Latin, each syllable is treated by EG following the consonant or its cluster, so Rhinocerous is transposed as Rheginegocegeregous! If there is no consonant, but a vowel leading the syllable, the Eg precedes, such as in "over", egoveger! You may think this is hard to become fluent in, but it is not! Small children will take to it like a duck to water! Start with simple stuff like Legategin! Like Pegig! It is much harder to write it than to verbalize! I was taught this foolishness by my father and have transferred it to the succeeding generations successfully. I remember flying with our family somewhere years ago and talking EG Latin quietly to a kid that was misbehaving, when the family behind us joined the conversation much to our delight. I am completely illiterate in any language except English, (I hope), so I scrape the bottom of the barrel as my only claim to linguistic pluralism, derived from the country of EG.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Advertiser

In the 1960's, advertising for patients in a medical practice was forbidden by the College of Physicians and Surgeons! They were tough regulators! Making claims of any sort were also subject to sanctions by the College! A new specialist in town was to simply hang a modest shingle and a tiny and dignified announcement of arrival in the paper (three times I think), and then wait until their colleagues saw fit to refer a surgical case. The growth of the surgical practice occurred ostensibly through practicing the three A's, Available,Affable and Able. That does not include Advertising! Remember of course that this was before Medicare and paying patients were jealously guarded by their General Practitioners. When the pianist and I moved to Lotus City with our little family in 1965 to start a surgical practice, I took a job at the Veterans Hospital to keep the wolf from the door while the slow process of developing a consulting practice began. A tough old veteran had been having serious trouble with an old gunshot wound to the lower leg, incurred during the Second World War. He needed a below knee amputation and the Veteran's Hospital Prosthetics Department was keen to try a new prosthetic technique with the immediate application of the artificial limb in the operating room. After the team surgery, I was astounded to read a front page article in the Lotus City Paper the following day relating an interview with my tough old patient who was walking around in the veteran's canteen, fully weight bearing on the limb, extolling my surgical virtues! He was so elated he had phoned the paper! It wasn't very long before I was called to the mat by the College of Physicians and Surgeons for unfairly advertising! Several of my surgical confreres had complained and the Registrar warned me that I was on thin ice. I pled innocence! However---it was a good start!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Identity, Our Tool is Us

Today I cranked up my Bearcat Shredder and munched and ground my pile of pruned twigs and branches to pulp. I am old and feeble and have Rheumatoid Arthritis but with my tool as an extension of me, I am mighty! I am Marlboro Man at work, employing a machine in a rugged activity that my forefathers, at my age, could have only dreamt about. I eventually ran out of gas at the same time as the Bearcat, so both of us called it a day! We all have tools that can be an extension of our arm or leg or brain or senses that make us explorers, visionaries, artists and rugged adventurers! Whoever said,"It's not important what you do, but who you are" was not telling the whole story. We are creatures of our tools. In the olden days my father would watch my mother cut slices from the bread loaf in which she pressure forced the knife down onto the loaf, rather than deftly sawing with light downward force. Her bread slices ended up about an inch high. He would look at us and say, "Let the tool do the work." Good advice! When the first primate, or the first crow, used the first tool to do a job that they had originally used a arm or beak to do, they began the process of advancing to a new identity that separated one from another. The artistry displayed by the operator of the excavator is astounding, who, with foot and hand can practically pick up his cigarette packet with his bucket, or lift a one ton rock. The machine has become part of the body. With time and skill the tool incorporates into the organism so there is no space in between the two. There is an area on the gyrus for the tool! Whether the golf club, the hockey stick, the brush, the egg whisk, the ivory keys, the strings, the cup or the scalpel; when you have arrived at that golden moment where you are one with your tool, you will no longer see yourself apart from it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Story's Butt

It was often my habit when I was working, to go fishing at daybreak off the waters by Lotus City! I would start at 5 am and finish at 8 am, change on the boat and go to work. I fished alone at that time of day and there was nothing more pleasant than to troll along the Discovery Islands in Strongtide Bay on ebb-tide, with the wire lines humming and the trolling bells on the rods rhythmically ringing with the gentle swell. Because it was early morning, nature usually called sometime shortly after the setup, and in the cabin on the throne I would rest a bit, watching and listening to the bells through the open cabin door, in repose, with an air of contemplation and expectation. The joy I felt on the briny deep in pursuit of the salmon was enhanced by the embrace of Mother Nature, who was mine alone at that time in the morning. The world was still asleep! My lines were fishing deep, the depth maintained by planers, that, when tripped by a strike, prompted the rods to ring the bell urgently. The planers rose to the surface quickly with the fish, causing line slack. The fisherman always needed to act with alacrity to get to the rod and tighten the slack to avoid the fish throwing the hook! In the midst of my meditations the bell rang stridently on the starboard rod and with great speed I hopped off the throne, pants dangling at the ankle and retrieved my rod from the rod holder and began to reel in the slack to start to play the fish! I suddenly heard great cheering and looked up to see high fives from a quartet on the guide boat fishing long-side me, starboard. My boat had little freeboard so I wasn't entirely sure that they were cheering my catch or my crotch! To be perfectly clear, neither were impressive! I wasn't fishing for compliments but so much for ego!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Familiar

"Look", I said to the pianist this morning, "There are a flock of American Widgeons that have returned. They weren't here yesterday." They are the first returnees of our winter ducks and you can practically set your calendar by them! What is it about the familiar that is so comfortable? Expectations met! The orb is turning as it ought! November is such a black month but the dark,wind, and cold is familiar. The Widgeons tell us it is good to be here! They say, "This is where we choose; this harbour and you, are familiar. You can rely on us and the Buffleheads and the others that return for the winter to sooth your familiars." The older one becomes, the more familiars one has that are available to the mind and the more they become of value. Breaking new ground, on the other hand, is crucial for the young: creating familiars for themselves, though they may not know it at the time. Years ago I had a white cable-knit sweater that I really loved. I wore it a lot, and particularly on my boat with my captain's hat and a scarf: it became my joie de vivre! It was my statement! As it was in frequent use, it became frayed, baggy, elbow thinned, a bit stained, and after multiple washings the pianist chucked it in the bin to discard. I retrieved it and continued to wear it, adverse comments notwithstanding! It was a familiar and I still felt a certain jauntiness it imparted despite its disagreeable appearance. After all, I was the author of its decrepitude and I owed it. My efforts to prolong the life of my cable-knit came to an end when the pianist had finally had it with washing it, trashing it and having it repeatedly retrieved. One day she washed the algae and mold off the greenhouse floor with my treasure. It was a dirty grey-green! It was like the day my aunt took away my blanket when I was three. Another familiar bit the dust and I needed to break new ground again!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fibrotic Creep

The boiling fowl is tough because of fibrotic creep. Someone might say of an elderly eclectic gentleman, "He is a tough old bird!" That person is literally, righter than they think. We are all subject to this phenomenon of creep as we become analogous to our boiling cousin! Muscle fibres, which have little capacity to regenerate, are crept into by fibrous strings of collagen, replacing over a life time both voluntary, involuntary and cardiac muscle fibres. Healthy fat cells providing energy storage, heat and insulation are emptied of their contents by Father Time and move to fibrous tissue and the losses that are gradually entailed. Bone, becomes both thinner and less dense, with loss of mineral and change in the fibrous and cartilaginous structure. The fibrous replacement for young collagen does not have the same capacity to mineralize! Toughened fibrous tissue surrounds the joints and loss of resilience limits the range of motion. Gravity flattens the feet which become longer and wider and the fibres around the joints stretch and are painful! If you take a Petri dish and a batch of primitive mesenchymal cells and subject them to varying oxygen tension and varying motion applications, they have the capacity to become fibroblasts, chondroblasts, or osteoblasts, consistent with the milieu you have created for them! This elegant system, when operating at prime of life, has the capacity to restructure and regenerate on demand, fibrous tissue, cartilage or bone. So those primitive cells are the basis of the framework for our body, that houses the vital cells of life. There is a hourglass at work that spells the demise of the magnificent primitive mesenchyme, but not before its last gasp at the vital organs. It is gradual, but as fibrotic creep invades the space of the vital cells, the timbers of the house are joined by the fibrosis of the essential organs within!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dirty Fingernails

Years ago when I started doing surgery in Winnipeg I remember sitting across at lunch from a very prominent internist,a stellar academic from a noted Winnipeg family. He was consulting that day and I was taken aback at his dirty fingernails! As I think back now, I can't really remember much about him, but the first image that always comes to mind is his fingernails. What an unworthy thought! If one toils in the soil to any extent the fingernails will always be dirty; there will be scabs and sores around your hands and calluses in palmar areas. If one is pinching, stopping or fine weeding one will have stains as well. Certainly pruning vegetables will leave stains that challenge the scrub brush. Nails will be cracked and uneven! It has always been a challenge to metamorphize from grub to social butterfly in a single day. Don't tell me to wear gloves. No fine garden or potting work can be done with gloves. They are a refuge for the dilettante! I had a physician that scrubbed with me every fortnight for some time. He and I enjoyed gardening conversations when we scrubbed. He said to me how much he enjoyed working with me every second week. I was flattered that he appeared to compliment my skill which I erroneously thought he enjoyed. "Yes", he said, " The work allows me to get my fingernails really clean every fortnight." Ha! Trumped by the scrub sink. When I was working at surgery it took me half an hour scraping and bristling before a scrub to get my fingernails clean. Now that I'm retired there is no letup because in addition to "cleanliness is next to Godliness", there is the job of serving communion as a lay congregant to 100 odd communicants in full view of my fingernails. There is no respite!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gunnera Attacked

It's fall and the Black Tailed deer bucks on Lotus Island, a subspecies of Mule deer, are in rut! Whether they are getting rid of their antler velvet to get into fighting trim, or practicing their moves against the Gunnera stems, is moot. Either way the young are preparing for the coming conflict. Once the testosterone rises in deer or man, some projection may take place. Whatever harm did the Gunnera do to them? And yet, it is a convenient foil! The stems are coarse with rough spinous projections, sufficiently sharp to remove velvet! After that little favour, it's not much of a step to give the stem a good whacking with the newly hardened antlers. The warrior class is simply doing what is necessary to perpetuate the species. Lucky for us they are benign warriors throughout the growing year until fall so the Gunnera enjoys a pristine existence 'til now. The plus for all this is they leave the bark alone on the smaller ornamental trees that would otherwise be victimized. I hate the idea of surrounding all the little trees with wire cages. If you are not going to restrain the warrior class by fencing them out of your property, you must respect their need to train, but hope that they will restrain themselves by doing only what is necessary! That said, one doesn't want the young and fearless males to be equivalent to a walking Gonad controlled by a Betz cell! Wreaking havoc! The species would be indeed be in jeopardy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Power of One

Some time ago a woman in her mid-seventies was trapped by the doors of an elevator in a parkade. The doors shut after she tripped on entering and both legs and one arm were outside the elevator as it ran up four floors and then down again to ground level. She was transferred to the hospital in extremis! The limbs were mutilated. I was working in the OR at the time just finishing a fractured hip. The general surgeon phoned up from Emergency and asked if I would look after her as I had a space and could bump my next case. We examined her in the OR and her limbs were shredded. Nothing was salvageable and an ill informed attempt would be certain death with old kidneys. She had immediate amputation of all three limbs and was transferred to ICU. She never turned a hair and was out of ICU in three days and on the ward. Shortly after that she was transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital. Her husband and children were incredibly supportive. After her transfer to rehab I lost track of her. About a year or so later I was visiting my mother-in-law in a personal care facility with the pianist and we were having lunch in the dining room. A beautiful woman in an electric wheel chair came over to me with her husband and thanked me for looking after her. She was vibrant and her eyes sparkled. She was all there! Her life had resumed! Where does the power come from? Where is the Well that we can draw the strength from to continue to live a real life that is not just, existing? We didn't talk about faith that day but I saw serenity. The Well that we draw from may be beyond definition for some, or defined by the curious faithful, but whatever it is,it is real!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Self publishing

My experience in self publishing has been stimulating and exciting, but a financial failure. On the other hand my book has only been available for 6 weeks and it takes that long for some to read it. I would do it again in an instant for the self gratification it brings and the heartening responses from my family and friends! The book I wrote, "An Elderly Eclectic Gentleman", was taken from this blog over the three year period and edited for publication by myself. The self publishing company was very helpful throughout and the cost was not exorbitant. I have some weaknesses, not the least of which is, I love my own writing much more than most books that I read. I am sure the weakness also includes more pride than sense, but I did not wish to go hat in hand to a commercial publisher at my age! I still have the perennial optimism that I will be discovered eventually. My book is 294 short topics on the real and mystical world around us that I have encountered. If I went to a commercial publisher I figured they would delete a third of my work for market reasons and I didn't want my muse assaulted. Therefore I am poised, willingly, on the horns of my own dilemma. So be it! In the meanwhile I continue to write because I can't help not writing from time to time as something weird, quixotic, or quirky, occurs. My thematic is the ordinary is almost always extraordinary in some settings and life is a mystery. God is a mystery to me but there always seems an Immensity in much of life that is both ever present and evanescent. Maybe that's it! This is much of what I touch on, but I only know what I feel. Jesus is more tangible for me and the Holy Spirit more recognizable for me, but God, I can't quite grip since for me he exists objectively only by hearsay. I hope he doesn't mind me saying so. Writing is therapy when sex,violence and cynicism are replaced with wonder! It's just that it may not be commercial.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Boiling Fowl

When the Rooster looks like he is going to permanently roost, and all the elderly egg laying maidens of yesteryear have begun to flag, the chicken farmer from the days of yore, considered them all to be boiling fowl and there was a good market for them. A dish from the past from these geriatric fowl was chicken fricassee with baking powder biscuits, an old time favorite. The pianist bought a boiling fowl from the store yesterday; 80 cents a pound and few takers since hardly anyone these days has any idea how to cook this product, since they are so seasoned to eat pediatric or adolescent chickens of 10 or 20 weeks. The flesh of the unsung boiling fowl is red,red,red! The bones are hard, hard, hard! The cartilage of youth is non-existent. The joints do not disarticulate with ease! The flesh of the 8 pound fowl we dealt with today is firm, but needs boiling for several hours to be tender! The gravy it makes, if first thoroughly browned, is abundant! The boiling fowl is a different meat from the penned adolescent of the Colonel's! This fowl has run for years and its muscles show it. Bulgy and tough! The throwaway culture of today fails to take account of the rewards that being hard up in the olden days actually introduced! One might consider, even today, that recycling your old chickens rather than relegating them to the dump, could be useful! Certainly frugal! Unlike the bland flavour of young chicken flesh per se, the older flesh of the fricasseed provides it's own unique and delicious flavour, cooked to tenderness in its own juices! The bold taste of red meat should be served with a red wine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yesterday I said to the pianist," Look, there is a doe and a yearling lying on our footpath chewing their cud!" Their front legs were crossed in complete repose; a posture not adapted to rapid takeoff They stayed there for a good part of the afternoon. It's safe here! I guess in another place and time, they and all the Ruminantia were surrounded by predators. Mother Nature demanded rapid food gathering in sites of danger,always ready to flee, with the capacity later to regurgitate and break down the snatched food in found safety and sanctuary! I ask myself from time to time, why I write about such trivial matters when the world is going through such monumental events, war, revolution, economic fears, shaken faith, individuals on the cusp of disaster? And here I am, ruminating along with my deer. Chewing the cud of information and ideas long gathered in a hurry and not fully digested! Much of that information was gathered during the momentum of a hurried life where one was feeding quickly. I guess, to answer my own question ," I am writing for myself!" I call it "reflection" since the psychiatrists have tainted "rumination". In a sea of troubles we have to reach for a plank to stop drowning. It has to float! I guess my plank in life is to celebrate the ordinary stuff of existence that may have some buoyancy. Age gives one time to ruminate/reflect on the information gathered in a hurry! Now I can repose with my legs crossed and let go!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Whole Truth

Quite a few years ago in Lotus city I was on call for Orthopedics at the Jubilee Hospital. They called about a newly arrived patient with a fracture that needed to be seen. It was a case that needed seeing that evening but not a real emergency. There was an upcoming program on TV I was anxious to see and I looked at my watch and knew if I hustled down, then I could be back in time for my program. On the drive to the hospital I heard a siren behind me and pulled over. The policeman came to my window and said "Do you know how fast you were going in a 50k zone"? "No', I said. "Sir", he said, "You were doing 75k. What's the emergency?" I said, "I'm a doctor and I was going to the Jubilee Emergency department. "Can I see your licence"? he asked. After examining it he took out his phone and called his dispatcher. "Find out if Dr. J Warren is expected at Jubilee Emergency", he asked. The dispatcher confirmed that was the case. "Follow me doc", he said, and put his lights and siren on and we wheeled off to the hospital! When I parked he waved and left! When I went in to the "emerg", I felt sheepish! Worse, I took advantage of someone! The staff knew and I knew! I didn't lie to the policeman. I told the truth and I told nothing but the truth, but I didn't tell the whole truth. I could have told him, " I was hurrying to see a patient that needs seeing, but not urgently". I can't tell why I remember little things like this, but it is a form of a lie when we leave out the bits that round out the truth and fail to tell it like it really is!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On call Surgeon

Possibly the last time my younger colleagues in Orthopedics allowed me to take weekend calls was in the early 90's! That possibly was also the last time the pianist allowed me to cook for myself! I thought of this today when I looked at all the vitiligo on my right thumb. It was a beautiful weekend in the 90's and the colleagues were all away. The pianist was at Lotus Island potting and I was in Lotus city,meeting the osseous needs of the populace! It was quiet that Friday evening at 8 o'clock or so and I thought I would make some popcorn while watching TV. As I began by heating my oil in a saucepan on the electric range, the phone rang from the emergency with a problem. As I discussed the matter with the ERP there was a flash from the kitchen and my oil was on fire and shooting up to the ceiling. I raced in and grabbed the saucepan with the flaming oil and burned my thumb, so laid the saucepan in haste on the linoleum of the kitchen, which proceeded to burn as well as my thumb. The thumb developed a monster blister on the palmar aspect, and the linoleum, a large black melted welt in the center of the kitchen. I did the weekend call that time, but kept a glove on regularly to contain the swelling of the thumb. The hospital staff were impressed at how tough I was and also how stupid. I got through several surgical cases, and my landlord at the apartment was gracious, and said, "It is time we redid that kitchen anyway!" Serendipity struck: I got out of taking weekend calls any further, obtained a kitchen renovation, reaffirmed that I needed feeding, and provided general hospital merriment! How can they say I wasn't useful?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Punching in

When I was between 3rd and 4th year Medicine, I was living in Olympic City on the North Shore with my parents to save money with my summer job. I was working at the Canadian Fishing Company in the frozen fish warehouse as a piler. I had done this job in Prince Rupert the two previous summers. This was 1955 and the first ferry across Burrard Inlet left the foot of Lonsdale at 6:30 AM and docked at the foot of Gore street at 7:00 AM. I ran one block to the Canfisco Freezer and punched in at 7:04 AM every day, four minutes late for work! The last cheque I got at the end of the summer, was docked two hours for my unavoidable late punch in. For years I always felt a twinge of irritation at the company for being so cheap. I was the only student working there and they had only hired me for the halibut rush as I had worked in Rupert before, so was experienced. During the summer the union had threatened a strike and when we voted I was the only one who voted against a strike. I needed to work. I know the union was irritated! Then, years later, I had a patient who was a manager of the fishing company branch. I told him my story, thinking he would be embarrassed. He said, "I know about that! It wasn't the company! It was the union. They told us if you were allowed four minutes of grace every day, they insisted each member receive the same or be compensated two hours. It was easier for us to dock you the two hours. Besides that, he said, "You took home at least two hours worth of fish in your lunch bucket that summer." Hand in the cookie jar! He turned the tables on me . Don't start what you can't finish! I now extol the virtues of the management at Canfisco!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The hay ride

When I was 14 we lived for one winter in Conquest, a small town in Saskatchewan. I played hockey with the senior team which went to Milden and Dinsmore and Outlook in a league of sorts. The team was composed of big children and adults, of whom a few were a bit skillful. Those of us without transport; the young; accompanied by a few girls, traveled in a truck with a covered box filled with hay and entered by the grain chute at the back. It was cosy and warm and dark with the packed bodies and the smells. There was sensuality to it all that at 14 we could not identify, but knew it was there. There was no rolling in the hay in those days but there was an ill defined excitement for me from the presence of Lily-Mae, a pretty, lanky, snub nosed, freckled,longhaired fan that had come to cheer. Just dream on! We were away from the restraints of school and parents and at close quarters. I was too rapt up in myself at that time to have the energy to foster a relationship. My experience of hay rides was finished that spring until I was 21 and met the pianist for the first time on a hay ride in Winnipeg. This was a party organized by the student nurses. This time the rack was horse drawn and cold so you bundled up and huddled together to keep warm and hear one another through the din. This leads to a "close for comfort" that casts off the restraint and awkwardness that formality or contrivance brings. The excitement this time was less ill defined for me. She was beautiful and fun and I was ready to put some energy into someone other than myself. I don't know what it is about hay,or dark, or cold, or simple pleasures, but I know that the closer you need to be, the closer you will become. There may be something primordial and concupiscent about the influence of hay! It is the stuff of legends!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Now that the hurricane has passed by, I was thinking about life existing in the eye of the cyclone! Homeostasis! Perfect equilibrium! If you think about Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs met; the eye of the cyclone remains the perfect sanctuary, but it is a job to stay there and not get into the vortex. I'm not sure that the concatenation of activities needed to stay in the eye of the storm is what life is all about! Take your pills, seek friends and love, have a good job, insurance, be good, have confidence, create a beautiful home and children,a good book club, join the service club, grow old gently, die in your sleep! There has to be more than this. Maslow had the idea that all these met needs would ease the development of self actualization! Seems to me that more is needed and it will be outside the eye of the storm that actualization will happen. Homeostasis by definition is stasis: Homo sapiens standing still on the airport belt, carried along in measured pace. Wow! Unfortunately we need stress to temper. If you don't know black you will never recognize white. If you haven't been buffeted by the ill winds of fortune you will never know the quality of your fortitude! Better that you have an illness, lose a job,lose a love,get kicked out of a club and recover from these to know you are made for the vortex rather than the eye of the cyclone. Leonard, in his song, Famous Blue Raincoat, says, "Are you living for nothing now? " Getting old isn't for sissies, so we have to be living for something real!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Polluter

The pianist and I have an 1990 Nissan Axxess that is in good running order partly because it is softly used and serviced regularly. I tried to start it the other day after we had been away for a while and the battery had run down since a roof light had been left on. When the tow truck man came and jumped the starter he told me to run it for a half hour to charge up the battery. I drove around Lotus Island for a while with the pianist and then took her to her bank. I was fearful about stopping the car at that stage so sat in the car with it running in idle while she did her business. I was musing on nothing in particular when a small, purpose driven lady in earth clothing came over and said, "You people are all the same. You pollute the earth with your gas fumes and use up a natural resource and do not have any regard for the earth or the people in it." She was quiet and intense and having made her clear statement she left me hanging and crossed back over the road. I wondered, "Am I of the tribe of 'You People' and who are 'You People' anyway?" I was never given the chance to explain that I was not one of "Them". A man then emerged from the bank wearing earth clothes and came to my open window and said, "You know your car is running!" "Yes", I said. "My battery is flat and I am afraid to turn it off as yet since it is still charging and I may not get it started again." "That's OK then", he said. I thought, "Thanks a lot green buddy." It is not that I was being accosted and taken to task that took me aback so much, since this is Lotus Island. It's just that I am one of the "You People", separated, categorized, held up as a lesson and packaged as not like us. It's hard for all of us not to jump to conclusions!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Targeting readers

The self publishing industry has two important rules for the novice writer who has no track record in the industry and needs the initial buzz to launch their book. TARGET READER MARKET and UNIQUE SELLING POINT! That is NOT a book that tries to be everybody's cup of tea,or is a whole grab bag of ideas! The book, AN ELDERLY ECLECTIC GENTLEMAN is targeted to the over 60's that embrace the world around them as a part of themselves; who are of an eclectic nature and perhaps a bit eccentric; and whose empathetic, open-handed nature has led them to believe that the small things of life are some of the most important! In search of a unique selling point is a thread in the book that repeatedly describes the ordinary as uniquely extraordinary! As usual, I stumbled into the two rules without the intelligence of knowing what I was doing! This is a reader market for which I have considerable respect, since their perspective gained from age and experience will quickly dispense with insincerity!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Surgeon Songster

Years ago, one of the old time surgeons in Lotus City, who seemingly only knew one tune, would sing sometimes softly under his breath and sometimes look fixedly at his scrub and sing Sotto voce during his operative procedure. A co-conspirator admitting his scrub to the mysteries of his song. He usually had a commanding presence and could fix you with his eye and say something like, "Fresh fish", and you would ponder that a monumental message had been delivered, since it had a certain sonority to it! Though singing is not that uncommon in routine surgical procedures, it is usually during the closure and when the mood lightens! Most surgeons have a modest repertoire to draw on and will drone on tonelessly, but it is relaxing to the surgical staff to know that the operator is at least content with the progress of the case! The one of whom I speak however, only sang Nearer My God to Thee, which would emerge at intervals during the procedure, not always at the most relaxed or routine part of the procedure. Thankfully the patient in those days was always asleep, so they would not take the hymn as premonitory of some trip that they were not quite ready to make. On the other hand the more optimistic of the patients may well have considered that they were simply being operated on by a saintly man, whose connection with God was immediate and proximate. Since, however, they lay blissfully ignorant of the heavenly melody that was mercilessly massacred by the operator, they could be reassured that their organ in his hands was treated with more skill and care than any organ with which he may have attempted to accompany his hymn!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Good Man

I recently read a column in the National Post by Barbara Amiel in which she mentioned Septimus Harding in passing. He is one of my favorite characters in fiction and a subject that figures large in Anthony Trollope's novel, Barchester Towers. He is a prime example of the ordinary as truly extraordinary. In the BBC film production, a paragraph is placed as a eulogy provided in an after a dinner toast by his son in law, Dr Grantly, the archdeacon; but in the book it is Trollope's concluding narrative paragraph. Clearly of great importance to Trollope. Here goes: "The author now leaves him (Harding), in the hands of his readers: not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he has striven to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn." One can clearly see why the BBC wanted to place this wonderful narrative as dialogue. The place in this life of the Septimus Hardings of this world is so obscured by the lurid and extravagant that we cannot see them through the haze. When a master like Trollope brings them to life, we are humbled by their majesty!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shed Seaweed

My son in law and I were sitting on a log this afternoon and the tide was coming in with strong wind and moderate wave action. For the past two weeks there has been a big shedding of sea lettuce and sundry other seaweed carried in by the tidal action. There is a lot of lateral tide movement on our beach as well, and the accessible part of the beach that welcomes the weed is about a five hundred feet long. After a few days, the weed tossed up on the beach dries on the surface and loses much of it's salinity and its definition. In the olden days I used to collect much of this material for compost and top dressing. The ocean gives up its sea lettuce in August and its eel grass in October, both of them gifted to those who scavenge the shore for that kind of treasure. I have always had a fantasy that if I had a donkey and a two wheel cart I could walk the shore and pitchfork the drying weed into my cart with a lot more ease than trying to haul it up my 12 steps from the beach in a garbage pail. In the distant past my earlier Irish generations used this gift to create soil from barren stoney headlands. It was where they were banished to from the fertile valley lands that were usurped from them. As we looked at the drying weed I thought, "The line of drying weed at the tidemark is evenly ten feet wide over the five hundred foot length. It averages two inches thick!" By my calculation that is 833.3 cubic feet of compost from that little area. What the sea gives up today it will take back tomorrow unless we act! I wish I had a donkey and a large two wheeled cart and another life span.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Come see, come saw

The best definition of this is, been there, done that! A cursory look at Google does not come up with this definition which is too bad, but so what? By that definition everything is old hat! That individual is non entertainable! Non instructable! It is difficult to teach or please those who know a bit of everything and have seen all there is to see! The thrust of my blog and my book is that the ordinary is truly extraordinary. That is my whole point. Fancy then, that I'm told that it is very interesting and resonates with all my readers so far but it can't be marketed effectively because the subjects are too ordinary! I haven't succeeded in making the point. "For instance", says one," your piece on 'Puberty,Jim has hair'; why would any one care about that?" Well, I have thought about that observation. The appearance of that first tuft of black in THAT place! Why would not anyone care about that? It was a seminal event in everyone's life! Death of childhood! A fearsome step to the unknown! It was more important than the Iraq war to the adolescent. It was almost more important than anything at the time. It is an example par excellence of the ordinary being extraordinary! If it does not resonate with you it is because you have forgotten what mattered. I cannot help you; I can only tell you! Don't be life weary. Don't be come see, come saw!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Writer

The writer in some fashion is also a thief given the nature of the job and the occasional stealthy, or often unconscious acquisition of the resource needed to fulfill this job. The keyhole collecting of information, read, seen, heard, thought, where the writer innocently refashioned someone's material, looking at it from a different angle. The sleuth may or may not have had a peripheral role, just observing and recording, unconsciously or consciously. "I think I can use that," they think," I don't have to put it in quotes because it is a foundling!" Even the kernel of an idea or observation expressed elsewhere is fodder! This isn't bad. We are often just building blocks, piling onto the genius of others! Hopefully adding something more! It's a fine line and has nothing to do with plagiarism which is simply the more obvious! Someone said today that there may be no original thoughts! "There is nothing new under the sun". "What has been done will be done again!"( Ecclesiastes, 1, 9) We may just not recall what has been done, where we heard it, where it was recorded, where a small light was lit that we observed. If you think you have a lot of original thoughts there is a chance you haven't read much or observed a lot or have a short attention span! It's not that you need to invent the wheel, you just have to acknowledge to yourself that you didn't. It is a great service to display the "nothing that is new" again to remind everyone about it and know that yours may be an honorable theft, but not unique.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wheat grass

At the Lotus island market every weekend, wheatgrass is sold as a healthful food when prepared as a juice, with nutritional and restorative powers. It's virtues seemed to me to be something of a more modern and innovative discovery though it was investigated in the 30's and 40's and the art of juicing and marketing the drink occurred in the 50's. Remarkable claims have been made as to it's benefits. Fancy then, that Rabelais (1494 to 1553), physician, author and theolog, in his book Gargantua and Pantagruel,(1534), described the benefits of "wheat in the blade". There is truly nothing new under the sun. I'm not sure Rabelais is everyone's cup of tea but here goes. He writes, "From wheat in the blade you make a fine green sauce, simple to mix and easy to digest, which rejoices the brain, exhilarates the animal spirits, delights the sight, induces the appetite, pleases the taste, fortifies the heart, tickles the tongue, clarifies the complexion, strengthens the muscles, tempers the blood, eases the diaphagm, refreshes the liver, unblocks the spleen, comforts the kidneys, relaxes the vertebrae, empties the ureters, dilates the spermatic glands, tautens the testicle strings, purges the bladder, swells the genitals, straightens the foreskin,hardens the ballock, and rectifies the member: giving you a good belly, and good belching, farting-both noisy and silent- shitting, pissing, sneezing, crying, coughing, spitting, vomiting, yawning, snotting, breathing, inhaling, exhaling, snoring, sweating, and erections of the john-thomas: also countless other rare advantages." The observations of Rabelais render the modern pitch a bit pallid, wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I was reading one of my pieces, now published, where I can't grab and change it! Damn! The conclusion I wrote doesn't make sense and is stupid. I got carried away by my own rhetoric and stuck in a pretty, but shallow conclusion! We can't revise the dumb things we did in the past either. All we can do with the published book is improve the next chapter in the next book. Revise and revise and revise but eventually you have to let it go. Then you look at this later and say,"How could I have said that, missed that, and didn't delete all that?" In point of fact, most people will not judge you as harshly as you do yourself. Years ago the CEO of a college I was a member of, had a painting by Jack Shadbolt in his office that had been donated to the college by a fellow doctor. The painter often retrieved paintings from owners; paintings that he was not pleased with, and would repaint the parts he didn't like! The painting I recall was the old wooden Marpole bridge with people looking at the water. He painted the people out and returned the revised work. It would be tough to collect all the books one sold to change the lines that offend. It's tough to alter the past in your life where the lines were troubling. You just have to forgive yourself and crank up every morning, with the new knowledge and the new humility you have been blessed with. Then you can go and make a whole set of new mistakes. Humble pie has enough calories to help one grow bigger!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I was weeding yesterday in primarily perennial beds, including open interspaces that we fill with summer annuals. There were the Mid-July beginnings of re-seeded annuals and biennials that Mother Nature provided from the compost we spread in the late spring.I took a certain amount of care to identify and avoid pulling these little offerings out. They get there courtesy of my laziness and Mother Nature's Locum Tenens. (On second thought I am the locum, she is Mistress Of All) I usually can't be bothered clipping spent bloom on the annuals,I suppose due to laziness, so they often go to seed if the deer don't do the job of heading for me! The Lotus Island deer and the bunnies don't seem to like Snapdragons, Poppies,Sweet William or Forget-me-not, so the seed heads are usually left on and then either disappear and hide in the compost, or rest in the flower bed over winter. There is nothing like free and in old flower beds one should weed cautiously to anticipate the new surprises.If you garden for yourself, my view is never give the weeding job to the ill-informed! These small treasures are easily rooted up. I suppose a sensible person would say, "To hell with all this diddling around, just clean up the mess of weeds and replant some robust plants from the nursery and be done with it! For goodness sake, you must have a lot of time to waste!" On what?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grass is a plant

It's hard to recall that, when you see the beautifully cut carpet lawn of the North American golf course! The so-called lawn of the bucolic Lotus Island set is often the meadow grasses, cut to a higher measured level to read, "uniformity"! Taming the meadow grasses into a simulated lawn does not allow one to discard the recognition that one's grasses are a plant. As I have previously mentioned, we have 200 varieties of grasses on The Pacific Coast and they vary greatly in growth habit! They are not, on the whole, genetically engineered to flourish at half an inch or less. Neatness doesn't count, but sensitivity does if the free spirits of Mother Nature are allowed to flourish! I'm not suggesting for one minute that the fairway be cut to impede the ball from rolling. I'm not even suggesting the lawn proud urbanite change his ways if the genetics of the turf is such that a half inch set is a healthy thing! It's just that the heterogeneous grasses of Mother Nature will live together in perfect accord if you raise the bar a bit as you cut your so-called lawn. The grasses have been living together for centuries on Lotus Island without a lot of outside help. The composition varies from time to time depending on the changes in the climate. Celebrate that! Monoculture is less adaptable. Mother Nature is wise! Celebrate that too!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book Promotion

The book promotion module I have stresses the need to rely on your family and friends to give the initial impetus to one's book. The idea being there needs to be a seed snowball formed that can pick up size as it rolls down the hill. Ultimately, of course, it will have to stand or fall on its own. As Paul McCartney says, or almost says," I'll need a little help from my friends."

In the meantime, I hope I am not singing out of key.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tent caterpillars

The massive hatch of tent caterpillar moths has happened this week on Lotus Island. They are everywhere, resting on the house siding and windows in hordes. Invading every cranny and nook where a little warmth can be found. This spring was a moderately bad year for the tents on the apples, and other soft leaf trees so the moth invasion portends a much bigger year next year. Interestingly I had made a search the past winter for egg cases and found few, so concluded that I didn't need to dormant spray. Big mistake! The trouble with Lotus Island is the "green movement" is so driven that even dormant spray is considered by many as dirty pool. This spring I spent a long time cutting off all the tents and drowning the tenters in the harbour but I can't spare the time to drown the whole island population of webworms. Now we have to await the natural control mechanism by parasitic wasps. The tent caterpillars this spring, when observed did not have that telltale white spot, dorsally, just behind their head. I should say the satisfying white spot. The parasitic wasp lays its egg there and on hatching the wasp larvae feeds on the caterpillar. The rise of the worm population provokes a rise in the wasp population. Isn't Mother Nature grand? In the meantime look next year for denuded spring time trees on the island due to the massive egg cases that will come this fall and winter over. Fortunately Mother Nature provides a secondary leaf recovery. If you have apples, plums and cherries, prepare for the worst!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


If you write a book, the most serious critics are those that love you most and are afraid you may stumble. With the book AN ELDERLY ECLECTIC GENTLEMAN the observations were, "Is it still as preachy as the draft was?" Or, "Are you going to leave all the dirty bits in?" And, "Have you verified all these facts you think you know?" Now, I don't pretend to be the Will Rogers of the bucolic island set, but I and anyone else who sticks his neck out and writes a book may get a pitch on the head and fall in the tub with a splash. It's the risk! Worse than getting conked on the head from the critic, is getting ignored. "You might get sued if some recognize themselves", they said,"For heavens sake don't mention any names!" Much of this is good advice but to scramble the adage; perspective is of the eye of the beholder! I have to be truthful without being foolhardy. If you haven't irritated someone in your life from time to time you have to ask yourself "Why?" I was always sought after as a golfing companion when I worked in Lotus City! I served a useful purpose to my companions as I was a cheerful fellow,never kept score, and was a bad golfer. It reinforced to my companions how good their game was in comparison. This useful role may be the service I provide to other budding authors as well. I can no longer, like the leopard, change my spots! I can only curl up and lick them clean!

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Book Sale

My book is based on the blog; the work entailed in production is why I have neglected blogging for 2011. The editing process has been extremely time consuming and has really diverted my muse. The book will be launched about August 01 and is called AN ELDERLY ECLECTIC GENTLEMAN. It is available through and can be viewed as an upcoming publication. This is all very exciting for me. Having reedited it so many times one ends up having a love-hate relationship with it and barf bag jitters but the Friesen Press people have been super to deal with and very supportive. I wouldn't have had the guts to do this without my family and my literature group and then the self publishing company. Hopefully now I can get back to writing the new stuff that needs to have the pump primed.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fundamentals of Life

Ingestion, procreation and evacuation are the triad of the fundamentals of life. Everything else is ornamentation in the interest of serving these fundamentals. If you wish to discuss life and you stick to the ornamentation you will miss the main. To fail to embrace the fundamentals fully is to deny the humanness of your vessel. Those of us in the practice of surgery, anatomy and physiology are of necessity engaged in the constant contact with the human vessel and it's fundamentals. Whether the Paramoecium or the Homo sapiens, we are either a one celled tube that ingests,evacuates and conjugates, or a complex multicellular collection of bundled tubing that does the same thing. When you spend your day with a finger in the bowel or the urethra or bladder, the vas deferens or the vagina, the tubing and the side kicks that serve the conduits are travelled daily. If your finger is in the aorta or the portal vein or the carotid or common duct, all these tubes are there to serve to support the fundamentals. The brain is the largest sex organ available and the greatest forager and you will know that if you fail to evacuate for some time, all concentration on other matters flees, and it becomes the most important thing in the world! Great art, music, philosophy: love, compassion, and indwelling spirit: Science of particles, universe and earth, all of these are evolved from this bundle of tubes we call our vessel, but it is easy to forget that without the fundamentals, we are nothing!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


The pianist and I took our daughter the other day to see our plot where we will eventually be planted! I lay down in the section that we have chosen and it felt comfortable; a grassy knoll next to the Celtic cross in an acreage of rolling hills with a blue sky and scudding clouds above. My daughter took a nice picture of me in repose. I had asked the pianist earlier if she would consider sharing the same urn with me so our ashes could be mixed since I am such a codependent! She was adamantly opposed to that idea and stamped her foot. "I want to rest in peace." she said," I have lived with you for 54 years and shared the same bed but I want privacy for my ashes.My vow extended to have and to hold as long as we both shall live!" Well that was pretty clear. "What's more," she said, "Your ashes are likely to jump and turn repeatedly and snore a lot and that's not going to be restful in peace for me! I'll finally get to have a good sleep! " I rethought the matter and it is probably not practical anyway as the timing is everything in these matters. I'll have to be a big boy!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Received wisdom has always said that the New World provided Europe with potatoes, tomatoes. tobacco and syphilis. I wrote a treatise on syphilis as part of a graduate studies programme at UBC refuting the idea that syphilis originated in the New World. At the time I was taking an Archeology minor on the way to an Anatomy degree. Ancient Corinth, a coastal city, was from the evidence of excavations at the time, the major Mediterranean port into the heart of Europe. From excavations of the healing Temples of Asklepius, one of the more interesting findings were what were called the votive offerings. These were pottery replica of the anatomical part of the patient that the priests of Asklepius had healed.They were accompanied by testimonials and hung on the walls of the temple. The votives could be purchased off the shelf at an adjacent Stoa and given to the priests by the grateful, or if you were rich you could commission a custom made part by an artisan. Curiously enough, many of these replica were male genitalia. Problematic for the student in these matters was that the nature of the disease was not displayed in the replicas so the pathology was unclear. The Asklepians it seems, insisted that only disease free specimens were to be hung on the sacred walls. My treatise advanced the idea that the prevalence of genitalia was evidence of syphilis in the Old World since the primary chancre would ordinarily disappear in time and secondary syphilis, that would appear much later, would not be connected. Since archeologists don't know anything about syphilis this treatise was accepted. That was 1962 and I was 28. As wisdom gradually seeped into my being, connected with age, I now and have for some time realized it was impotence that the priests were curing! Adjacent to the healing temple was the Temple of Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and the patroness of prostitutes. Teamwork counts! No wonder St. Paul was so exercised at the Corinthians!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


When I was in grade 12 my mother wrote to her father and her twin sister about me. It wouldn't have been easy for her to write a letter like she did. She told them both that my marks were good and that I would be a good student at University. She asked them for financial help as she and my dad did not have the ability to help. My grandfather and my aunt responded with enough money to augment my summer earnings and the amount my family could provide. After the the first three years I was able to finish paying for my my medical degree classes more or less on my own. My mother was willing to risk her esteem for my sake! There was no other option for her. Later, in the same year that she wrote the letter, when I was still in Grade 12, I met my aunt in Winnipeg at a family gathering. She was a family doctor who practiced medicine and lived with a wealthy husband in Connecticut. I was glad to see her and take the opportunity to thank both her and my grandfather. When you live, as we did in a small town,and your dad is the station master, he may not make much money, but no one else in the town did either so you still are a family that rates. As my friend Ian says, "When we were growing up we didn't have much, but we didn't know there was much!" I felt poor for the first time in my life. We may have struggled, but in the society that was ours, we were never poor. Poverty is often relative!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eagle Trial

This morning looking out in the harbour at some distance I watched two monster wings flapping with what appeared to be desperation(my interpretation). At first it looked like a seal. On close inspection it was a mature eagle in the water trying to take off to no avail. The pianist and I watched for about 10 minutes as it intermittently flapped and struggled and got nowhere. I couldn't bear to watch any longer as I thought it was exhausting itself and soon would drown. The pianist thought the same thing and we went out to the car to leave the house. Suddenly she said " Look it took off." I looked back and it was gone. Then it hoved into view in a tight circle just in front of us, close to the water, flying easily with what looked like a big bird in its talons. Not a Bufflehead or a little duck, but probably a Merganser since there are a lot of them out there right now. The bird was almost too heavy for it to lift off since they are impaired because of the half wing swing they have at water surface. If the eagle can't lift off, they can drown as it is hard for them to detach from the prey due to claw locking. Makes you think doesn't it how easy it is to bite off more than you can chew? Can't move on, can't let go, nearly going under, seduced by the big prize. Little and often, little and often.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Today I took my garbage bags out of the garbage cans and double bagged them to take to the garbage depot on Lotus Island! It's a good service and the cost is 4 dollars a large bag! When I emptied my cans, one of them had a collection of 6 black beetles about one and one half centimeters long. Since I go to the depot every week the beetles are obviously newcomers. They are clearly adults. There was a time when I was knowledgeable about entomology. I spent my third year in Science at the University of Manitoba studying invertebrate zoology as a prerequisite to admission to Medical School. I aced the course! The professor was R.K. Rankin-Hay. If you pronounce it with feeling, and drag the phase out, it makes a euphonious couplet! He knew his stuff even if he did have a poetic name. I loved entomology as it was one of those courses where the harder you worked the more surely you absorbed. I was like a blotter that year. Since we still called our bald prairie home "The Bread Basket of the World" , there was a large Agricultural Faculty at Manitoba providing degrees and also diplomas to many farm boys we called Aggie Dips! They had an insect museum in the Aggie building that was to die for and those of us trying to get into medicine haunted the rooms, learning about the Class, Insecta, probably the most important part of the invertebrate world and certainly the most complex. Most of the invertebrates as far as I could tell were only interested in eating and procreating. This was of some interest to imaginative 19 year olds. Most of the invertebrates were simple but the insects, their habits were legion! The Aggies concentrated on the sections of Insecta that were significant in agriculture but those of us who were in Science Faculties could study the panorama of insects whose ubiquitous dwelling places and complex habits were of compelling interest. Still, complex aside, the ornamentation is ultimately geared toward eating and procreating. It gets down to this, doesn't it? I just dumped out my six beetles on the ground since I don't identify with them now.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Mouse

Every house including ours has night sounds. It's been particularly cold on Lotus Island this week and the temperature gradients between the inside and the outside make the beams and studs shift and squeak and crack a little, the wind shakes the house an infinitesimal degree, to which it nevertheless objects , and the boughs of the cedars brush it gently. The sleeper who is hypervigilant also hears his ear and head contact on the pillow, his tinnitus, the bruit of the carotid pulse at times and the crow on the roof. These sounds we have become accustomed to and are singular to our house. Another's house has different singularity of sound. At 4 am this morning I awoke with a new and unaccustomed sound. Was it the ice maker dropping chunked ice, an intruder or something else? As I went down stairs into the kitchen where the sound was coming from, it seemed to be a metallic sound originating from the tile floor. There had been a suggestion that an uninvited visitor had arrived the day before and I had set a mouse trap that night on the floor beside a baseboard with bait of peanut butter. In the trap was a mouse and it was alive and struggling. The metallic sound came from the thrashing around on the tile. The mouse probably ventured further into the trap to gnaw at the bait so his head was not crushed and he was caught in the trap by the body. I have always had a primal fear of vermin, a legacy from my mother and the Middle Ages. I could deal, albeit difficult, with a dead mouse but a living, wiggling, squiggling, leg and tail waving mouse that is in agony is a different matter. I went back to bed to await its death and silence. I couldn't sleep however, assailed with thoughts of the waning life force and with the reminder from the continuing sounds emmenating from the kitchen floor. I took my courage and went back and put the mouse outside on the deck. Silence! This morning at 8 oclock he was dead and had struggled for a further 18 inches, dragging the trap from where I laid him on the deck. I'm sorry! He was probably just seeking the warmth! I must kill! Rest in Peace!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's how you say it!

My youngest daughter's first job was a Pink Lady at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Lotus City. She was 15 years old but talked them into hiring her by simple persistence. It was a summer job. This was 1978 and the nurses still wore white uniforms and there were Pink Ladies and Yellow Ladies and Blue Men. Pink Ladies were the ward cleaning staff and she really felt she belonged because our family were Jubilee people and were connected by both the pianist who worked there as a nurse, and me, on the wards every day since kingdom come. I think the cleaning staff had a very good union agreement at the time since the pianist constantly grumbled how much our 15 year old was being paid in contrast to her, a registered nurse! But that is beside the point. My esteemed partner Jack came onto the cardiac ward with a mild heart attack and was being actively investigated on the ward where our Pink lady worked on days. She chatted with Jack every day as she cleaned around him since she knew him as a senior friend and he appeared to be doing alright according to her nightly report to us. Then a following morning I got a distressed phone call from her to tell me that Jack had died! She had been sent by the Head Nurse to the room where Jack had been, to clean it up, and the bed was stripped and the side tables emptied. She inquired where Jack was and the nurse said, ostensibly in a doleful voice, that Dr. Jack was "gone"! Then the nurse looked down at her feet. Body language! I phoned Jack's wife Eleanor to give solace and to invite myself over to commiserate. She said cheerfully that she would love to see me. Then she said so would Jack! Jack was not a "goner" at that time. Words associated with inappropriate body language have the power to mislead. Body language, even in the presence of a completely foreign tongue will communicate. The face, the hands, the eyes, the tone, the posture, the animation, will usually tell the aware what they need to know. We hear with the eyes as well as the ears. That's real anatomy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Psalms for Questors


God, I think you gave me the gift of life in the world! Why do you hide from me? Why do you make it so hard to see you? How can I know you are in all things? I want to be real! I want to be worth your gift! I want to be your gift! Help me! Show me how! Help me to care! Help me to pray!


You at the waters! You can skip stones only if the surface of the waters is calm. If the waters are rough your stone will sink. If you wish to skip a flat stone you will have to stoop down to the water so that you are parallel with the surface. If you want to skip the stone well you will have to be at one with the water. You will have to select a stone that is round and smooth and reads with the surface of the water.


When someone that you may have taken for granted dies and you are at the grave, you may realize that love lost was always apparent but unexpressed. To open yourself to the living will give you more joy but expose you to more sorrow at the loss, for a moment in time. When you realize that the loved one has found love beyond the grave you will repossess what you thought you had lost.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Two words that Aunt Mabel used to declare the 'otherwise of acceptability', of things, or matters, or people,I now contract into one word which I think fits it better. Lexicographical argument about the term, infradig, is of no interest to me. Moreover no amount of opinion to the contrary, or the way to spell it, was of interest to Aunt Mabel. Whether it was un-china, or furniture not mahogany, or rhubarb, or Catholics, or Socialists, controversy mattered little to her! Living in Smalltown, Saskatchewan as she did, it seemed necessary to her to work at bringing some enlightenment to the bald prairie. Aunt Mabel was a highly intelligent and sensitive woman whose sweetheart was killed in the Great War and she, at that young age, never fully recovered from the stream of "What might have been". That disappointment or despair after a period of inanition may result, and did, in a period of decision making and refueled energy to move on. Taking charge and firming up resolve led in her case to strong feelings and an unwillingness to bend. It was her salvation. The dogmatic among us become the most lonely of creatures because no one is willing to challenge them because of the futility of argument. No one is willing to listen with attention because they have heard it all before. All the interaction is lip service to avoid unpleasantness. No one is a winner because a wall creates a zone of separation with Aunt Mabel or others of similar persuasion . Infradig has nothing to do with stuff or ideas or people. It speaks nothing to the present reality. It is an old idea! Dignity never came because of the things valued by Aunt Mabel. Dignity comes from your acknowledgment of yourself! Once you do that and you really know it ,nothing you ever do will be below dignity!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Extraordinary Ordinary

When Esther Summerson ventured out, after months of a completely confining illness from smallpox, a deadly disease before Jenner's time as it was then , she spoke for Dickens and for all of us about the realized world around us. As she looked from the carriage for the first time in months,she said, "I found every breath of air, and every scent and every flower and leaf and blade of grass, and every passing cloud, and everything in nature, more beautiful and wonderful to me than I had ever found it yet. This was my first gain from my illness." To emerge into the light from whatever dark night of the soul that you have been confined to is a revelation that the ordinary is truly extraordinary. To merge your streams of consciousness and unconsciousness with the streams of Mother Nature, seen and unseen, heard and felt and smelled! The profound, once experienced, is enough! To expect it again is greedy. To have it always would render it powerless. The lasting gain is not in the exultation, but in the serenity. Go with the flow!

Monday, February 7, 2011


Growing up on the bald prairie, the pool room was in Steve Kish's barber shop, and the swimming pool was a local slough. You could skate on the slough in the winter, swim in it in the summer and raft on it in the spring thaw. It was fun and all your naked friends were there to swim . In the pool room you could watch Cheekus Bellrose take quarters off all the visitors playing snooker or eight ball and drink a coke with your friends and play against Steve Kish for nickels if he didn't have a haircut to do. There was always something going on. When we built a house much later in Lotus City, despite the pianist's misgivings,I wanted to recapture the feeling with a pool table and a swimming pool. You can never go back! It had nothing to do with blue water and green felt! It had nothing to do with affluence or lack thereof. The children learned to play pool reasonably well but a parent is only so much fun! We eventually got rid of the pool table since it was attractive but bored! "Use me or lose me",I heard it say. The swimming pool was a somewhat different matter for about three years. It required a lot of work to keep it clean, with it under the trees, in migratory bird lanes, and enjoyed by all those water loving algae. When we first moved in, in November 1970, I kept the boiler on to heat the pool through the Christmas season. I must have been mad, mistook myself for King Farouk, and have caused all the fog on Ten Mile Point that winter! By 1974 I had heated the pool for the months of May through to July and observed that no one else had swum in it. I jumped in from time to time because I felt guilty that this pristine womb was so lacking in the pleasure of fecundity. "Use me or lose me ",I heard it say. I turned the boiler off. No one noticed it was cold for the rest of the summer because no one swam in it. At the end of September I announced that the pool heater had been off for three months. They were all mad at me. C'est la guerre! It was all my fault in the first place. You may try to go back but you can't take them with you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Toilet trials

Occasionally over the number of years of joint usage of the toilet, difficult gender issues have occurred from time to time due to inadvertency on my part, never intent. Like Pavlov's dog, repetitive stimuli have to be applied over the years to establish consistency in behavior that is acceptable and reduces the danger that lurks close below the surface in physical interactions. There has never to my knowledge been electroshock treatment to condition my response, though I cannot testify fully to that since shock treatment does alter memory. Senior moments notwithstanding, even I eventually learned to restore the toilet seat to its place of repose after use. There eventually ceased to be expostulations of rage emanating from the occasionally incautious! Having conquered that neglectful and disrespectful habit of leaving the toilet seat up, a second problem began to surface that again resulted in tensional moments. Positioning the seat at the point of repose resulted from time to time with wet drops on the seat. Since I was careful to lower the seat after life's 'ever rolling stream' it was unclear to me that the source was mine. Since no other male was around it was a mystery,surrounded by a conundrum, overlain by an enigma,underlined as a puzzle! Nevertheless the solution was unclear, but the perpetrator was at least 'a person of interest' and guilty 'til proven innocent. Our lovely old samoyed eventually proved to be the culprit. I discovered one day by accident she preferred to drink water from the toilet since it was always in the same place. With her hairy muzzle she would dribble a little on the seat. I think she was embarrassed about her habit, so drank surreptitiously. She was completely blind from infancy so, over the years she learned her way around without the benefit of other than distant hindsight. She was pretty careful and we loved her! Both dog and man were exonerated. For the pianist and me she was never to be Pavlov's dog.