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.