Saturday, August 30, 2003

any time you're in nashville

Did I tell you about this? The other day, in the store, I was discussing "The Bean Trees" with some customers. Another woman who had been in the background while this went on went out to her car and returned with Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Small Wonder.

"Here," she said, "I'll be in the area for a day, why don't you take a look at this?" Her name was Jeanne, she was from Tennessee, she had a lovely smile and a dainty way of holding herself. The spine was practically untouched, the cover a creamy white. Since Deanie was to be away for a week, I put aside my work for the day and just read. I got home from work, took an old comforter from my bed and went down to the field, where I read until the sun set. I went back up to the farmhouse, played Boggle with the boys, then read til midnight. After breakfast and a bike ride, until 11 am, and when I wasn't attending to customers, I turned page after page, taking in all Ms. Kingsolver had to say. When the woman from Tennessee came back, I handed her back the book, a big fat "Wow" forming from my lips. It had been intense, but in a pleasant way, and the kind of thing where you don't realize til after how much of it you took in. I still think of certain passages and want to go find the book, but it left its mark in one day and is now gone, no trace of it left anywhere near me.

Jeanne and I talked a bit before she left, me breathless from taking so much in, asking rambling questions that jumped over one another. She smiled sweetly and said "Any time you're in Nashville!" and then left, the cream-colored book tucked under her arm.

lime, claire says.

lime, claire says. take a lime and chop it in two. squeeze the juice into a mug and microwave it, with honey. don't dilute it, leave it strong, then sip it like you would a fine liqueur. you can feel it burning the bad things in your throat all the way down, even when you don't have a cold.

i take a steel pot that lost its handles long ago. i pour in about an ounce and a half of ReaLemon juice and then some spoonfuls of local honey. I put it on the stove, turn the flame to the lowest setting, and stand over it stirring while reading "The Edible Woman". Soon the juice (a chartreuse color) and the honey (a drippy, medium brown) merge and soon after tiny licks of steam begin rising from the pot. I turn the flame off, pour the contents of the pot into a metal cup, and go to sit on the couch to drink it. Jazz plays, there is soft lighting, and me and my book on a rainy afternoon.

one day by the river

We all had the day off, the three of us contented in our bodies on this rainy day. We filled the morning with food and card games and phone calls, and then around 1 I had enough and had to get out. I put on my old Docs and some faded grey cords and my locals hoodie and headed off down the road, the air close to my skin, the sky a thick grey. I found an old path (that Dad took me down one time a few years ago) that meanders through the wet undergrowth and sticks, muddy, to the edge of a steep hill, and then brings you over a few small streams to the edge of North River. It takes you to a little pool that to get to otherwise involves much scrambling over slippery rocks. I tucked myself and my boots up onto a rock under the overhanging branches of a maple and sat watching the flow of the river, which was sometimes punctuated by the fall of rain. The water surface would become dotted sporadically by drops, and then as the pace quickened would shiver and wiggle with the tension of it. When I closed my eyes the sound was electric, buzzing.

(The last time I was here was a month or so ago, one of those nameless, happy days that now run together but at the time were as distinct as breathing. I'd convinced Mat and Will to river-run a little bit with me and try to find this pool. (As far as I know there is no local name for it, then again, I haven't asked.) The aforementioned slippery rocks proved a bit daunting, but not much, and we made it there, though on the way back Will did fall a few times. We all dove off the rock and I somehow got the boys to act out the water scene from Dirty Dancing, together; they took turns being Jennifer Grey.)

I feel like my life these days could best be summed up by the cover of Prodigal Summer.

Friday, August 29, 2003

"the new shim sham shimmy"

There's been this hunger in me all day. At first, in the sunny morning, it was a hunger to feel settled and happy (the pleased neutral I usually am, and how lucky I am to be so), and after sitting by the window, listening to CBC and writing in my journal, it came back. It was a slow, long day in the pottery shop, I hand-built a few little pots, and was visited by the hugging horde that was Jacky, Carolyn, Kelly, Ardelle, and Davey T. And then, after eating supper with Janice (couscous and a tomato+broccoli+chickpeas mix), we went for a walk, but all that was on my mind was food. I wanted something, anything, easy to make, that wouldn't entail washing dishes, or baking time, or getting mixed up at all with those manky dishrags. I wanted something thick, and cake-y, and chocolate-y, and made in a Bundt pan (which we don't have). I wanted convenience, and substance, and warmth.

So, after visiting the Twin Falls (where the water rushes in together from ten different waterfalls and looks thick as brown sugar melting into syrup) Janice and I drove to Piper's. Yes, the very same campground where there are strung up between every trailer boxy little colored lamps. We strolled along the gravel road eating our ice cream cones and letting the blue, green, red, yellow lights fall on us, on the grass around; and we listened to the pop and crackle of all the little fire pits. After the ice cream I devoured a Caramilk bar. This might just be PMS, but would that be too blatant to say?

I think this little trip satisfied two parts of me: the part that wanted chocolate and sugar (she shows up every month), and the part that wanted something she didn't have to work for, something she could unwrap, something she didn't have to wash up after.

Yes, sometimes I'm a wuss at being an adult.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

turning to fall, it is

the sky's been tempestuous these days, but we're not having any tempests. the wind makes the leaves show their pale undersides, and clouds cover the fragile blue sky with heady steel-wool texture, and i worry about getting home before the rain begins. and then it clears within ten minutes and again the sky is blue, the clouds are cream puffs, the wind blows them around.

tomorrow is pat sloane's 84th birthday, and also a friday, and also another turn round the sun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

in the august heat

I promised a description of the play, didn’t I?

For starters, the whole thing was Martina’s idea. She adapted the Irish creation myth to a play, and then threw a party at the beginning of summer to rouse the volunteers. It proved to be tough, as summer is a busy time in North River, and most of us have steady jobs, or at least what passes for one. It took til end of July for there to be enough volunteers to get rehearsals started; we didn’t have a full cast til last week. All the roles in the play: 5 gods, assorted monsters, fairies, animals, a bard, and the voice of Bridgit. Plus musicians who also double as the gods’ chorus.

Martina made all the puppets, with the help of Jean-Pascal, her son (known to everyone as JP, for obvious reasons; one of the homesteaders). The gods are seven feet tall, and are worn by a puppeteer (like me) in this fashion: on my head sits an upside-down planter, made of green plastic, on which is built the head and shoulders of the god I play. (Ogma, magician and inventor of writing, in my case--pure coincidence.) From the shoulders comes the cloth of his body, and I hold in my hands two dowels that connect to his hands. My feet are the only things that show to the audience; and I see through a square of screen sewn into the cloth at the god’s heart.

Laurel plays Bridgit, the head goddess, the one who tells the other gods that the earth exists at all. Jitka plays Angus, the god of love, the foolish, young god. Bev plays the Dagda, the father of the gods, the one who looks the most like God, mostly because of the white beard and the crown. JP is Midyir, the warrior dressed in red, with crinkly red yarn for hair and a ‘metal’ helmet made of grey Styrofoam. Jeremy, tall with his real white beard, is the bard Taliesin, who comes in on a boat and reads from a scroll the lines of all the gods except Bridgit; Carol reads her. There is also a collection of kids from the area who change costumes countless times to become fairies, monsters, animals.

The story goes: Bridgit tells the gods about this crazy earth place that wails all night because it has dreamed of beauty. It is a place of hellish demons and writhing mess, and it lives in the pit of chaos. The gods decide they are courageous enough to go down to the earth and make a place for Bridgit’s cloak and to bring beautiful life, and so they do. Midyir fights off the awful monsters, and then Bridgit spreads her cloak. But Angus interrupts and the magic ceases to spread, so they are left with an uninhabitable misty place. Bridgit makes lakes and pools of water, but if there is to be any life here at all, the gods will have to stay and make it. The kind of life they are used to in Tir-Na-Moe won’t survive here. So they decide they will stay and make it, but Bridgit can’t stay (maybe she has to work the next day), so they implore her to tie a knot in her cloak so she will always remember the earth. She takes off, and the gods create animals and then everyone takes their costumes off and we all sing a song.

Well, it is a creation myth, after all.

We’ve only had something like 4 or 5 rehearsals, but I think in the end we’ll pull it off. We all know roughly where to go, what to do. We'll be fine.

(One more thing: the lower part of the field is marshy and muddy because the dam above it leaks. Mint grows here because of this, and in our practices we crush it with our feet and the scent of mint rises up in the hot air all around us. And after I pull off the head of Ogma, there is a red mark across my forehead where the plastic digs into me, but I don’t mind.)

Thursday, August 14, 2003

how do i tell you about the river?

We had a week of constant rain, as I've mentioned, and it filled our well, as I've also mentioned. Since it happened, I hadn't been down to the swimming hole (or Smith's Pool, which is the local name) in nice weather. (I was down, last Sunday, just as the rain was ending. The sky was gun-barrel grey, and the river was running high, fast and red. The surface of the pool was covered in white foam, and twirling round itself much faster than normal, and the water was a bitter cool. I went in up to my knees, dipped in, and did some scattered, frantic laps before getting out; the fast current and changed river bottom scared me.)

So today, after work, with the puffy white clouds building and dismantling slow as elephants in the sky above me, I put on my sarong and picked my way in bare feet through the sharp, fresh-mowed field. I crossed the shallow, slippery-rock part and slipped into the pool. All the stone piles Mat and I had built in the shallow part, save one, had fallen in the week's rain. The water was still the maple-leaf red that it had been earlier, and in the shallows it was technicolor golden. I swam in it naked, revelling in being in the water again, after a week's absence. I let the current take me down, then stood with legs braced against it while boils and rolls of rushing water flowed over my arms, against the backs of my legs. I lay on my back and let the pool turn me around lazily, while sound was thickened and stilled by the water in my ears and all I could see were the tops of the hardwoods that lean over the water. I did laps, seeing only water, my arm, water, my arm, water. The water was welcoming and only a little nippy, there was a feel of fall to it, the breeze blew little ripples across the surface.

I got out, dried, then walked home. The river regenerates me. My skin feels soft and cool, and my hair is happy and a rumpled mess.

some parts of a day

Yesterday, just as I was about to close, at 5 PM, a couple came into the shop. Although it was closing time and I wanted to go home, I ended up talking to them for half an hour. Thier names were Larry and Carol; he looked a bit like Alan Alda crossed with a PDR teacher, she was tall and thin and had a thick mane of hair pulled back simply with a black tie. You could tell they had money, but you couldn't tell much else just by looking at them. She had a tattoo on her left forearm which I saw when she came over to ask about Claire Ryder's wood work, and it was her own calligraphy design for a pheonix, rising from the ashes.

As they were leaving, he said, "It's good that you're doing all this travel now, because if you want to go into medicine, you won't have the time later." "Oh, it's true!" I said, laughing. Carol pointed to Larry. "He knows all about it," she said, stepping out the door. "Oh--he's--you're a doctor?" I said. They smiled and said yes and left.

After pulling the signs in, I got on my bike and headed for home. The sky was that traditional blue with white clouds, but they were all different shapes and sizes. Some parts of the sky had those speckled crumbs of cloud scattered across it, another part had three wisps rising up and ending in clots. I passed all my neighbours' houses, Kathy Kerr with her horse barn and tractor, the MacDermids with thier old farmhouse and many cars.

At or around 9 Jenny came to get me, in Einar's truck. Will and I went over to the land, "The Oregon Boys", the commune...whatever you want to call where Einar lives. It was the first clear night we've had in a week, and the moon was rising full. It was cool like fall, and we sat around in a tight circle while Alec and Galaad played gypsy-sounding guitar. A nice restful way to end the day.

Off to work. Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

now know this

It rained straight for a week (or so it seemed) and our three-foot crock and the run-off crock filled up. Hurray! And what else: I had two days off and spent them with my mother, who is one of my best friends, and we road-tripped to Antigonish for old haunts, health food store, and dinner with friends. I went to B2G again, my old favorite from when I was at St. FX University every weekend, last fall, visiting the one and only Morgan Currie. (I had lots of time on my hands from when he was in class, so I would go there, and sit for hours nursing a Spicy Hot Chocolate or a Just Us free-trade coffee, writing and watching people. Then I'd walk around the breezy, fall-colored small-town streets of Antigonish, usually stopping at the health food store for something, before returning to the dust-smelling hallways of his residence, where most of the neighbours were friendly. I knew that I was leaving in a month (and time kept running out, like it does) so each moment was genuinely enjoyed, and then October 25th came and I really did leave, and all that became the past.) When I went there yesterday, I had my usual, a sandwich with hummus, cream cheese, sprouts, hot peppers and tomatoes, and felt like the whole winter hadn't happened. And then I went to the health food store! and roamed the bulk aisles and stuck my nose right in the cardamom pot.

Indeed. So what else is new...some things are ending (I will not, as it happens, have free honey for the rest of my days) and some are beginning (I'm doing more, much more, research into the rest of this year and the one after)...the play will keep me busy, and so will my job and all those 'friends' who are leaving for uni at the end of the month...come to the ghetto for the time of your lives! say I. At least, before you go off to books and residences and all the rest of that foolishness...

And if I don't have time for you right now, know that I love you anyway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

birds of a feather flock together

I got to the poll station around 7:30 yesterday. It was grey out, the air was humid. The forecast called for rain. The other 8 people and I set up the folding tables, folded ballot boxes, opened the sleeves up that people vote behind, taped them to tables. The big urn that is found in every community hall in Nova Scotia had hot water in it and was whistling away. I taped the big yellow plastic sign that said "Voting Place" to the wall outside.

There were two polls at the hall that day. 50009 was the north side of the bridge to Tarbot, 50010 was the other side as far as "Alex Mac's mill". At each poll were: a DRO (District Returning Officer), a Poll Clerk, two agents from political parties who oversaw things, a ballot box, 200 ballots, and lots of other kinds of documents. I was in charge of most of them, as Poll Clerk. I was also in charge of a ruler, which I used to cross names off a list. I drew all over this ruler, but that comes later.

The polls opened at 8 am. There was a rush of maybe 10 people before nine, before they went to work. Then people trickled in and out all day, voting, talking, asking about friends and neighbours. Most of the people there manning the polls were above 30, but there were Geordie and Malcolm and I representing the 'young people'. We all got along great, 'like a house on fire', regardless.

At one point I went to get a cup of tea and found a big honking mug with "Birds of a Feather Flock Together" printed on the front and two arrows down to the bottom, and when you flipped it over it said on the bottom "Wanna flock?" I proceeded to drink countless cups of tea out of this mug all day. (No really, I lost count. It could be around ten.)

We talked all day. We talked about the weather, about the needed rain, about our relatives, about our friends, about our neighbours. We talked about the coming winter, about the tourists, about how the hall was humid so we should shut the fans off and shut the doors. We talked across the hall, table to table, we talked in hushed voices about how some of the voters couldn't read or write. We talked about how the rain was starting, and that was good, and some of us would check our wells and some of us wouldn't.

We closed the poll at 7. We dumped the ballots onto the table and counted them. Ink got all over Donnie's fingers, he was the DRO. Donnie Morrison runs a B and B down the road, he used to be the tax collector, people consider him a fine and upstanding citizen, and he is one.

We put Envelope B and C and all the D's into Envelope J, and sealed it all up, and then realized that we'd left out the stubs of used ballots. We tried to pry open a plastic envelope (J) made not to be pried open, then cut open a slit in it and shoved the stubs in. Then we wrapped masking tape around the whole top and signed some seals and stuck them on and stuck the whole thing in the ballot box. Donnie hurredly gave it to the other DRO and said he'd be going home to phone in the results. I couldn't stop giggling, so I had to go into the kitchen to put the scissors away.

After everyone had left, I walked the bike home. It had rained all day and now it had stopped, and the air was purple and wet. I sang jazz classics all the way. I was wired til 2 am from all the tea. And I didn't find out who won the election til this morning.

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

still life with tea

it's just turned 7 am. i'm not awake enough yet to use caps. in fifteen minutes i will get on my bike and do the regular run down the hill, across the bridge, and up another hill, but this morning my destination is not the old schoolhouse filled with pottery but the aging community hall next door. today is election day in nova scotia, and three leaders (Darrell Dexter, John Hamm, and Danny Graham, in order of my preference) face off. i will be a poll clerk, meaning i will sit at the poll and explain some things to each voter, while the DRO does some other stuff. i'm not too sure yet what these things and stuff are, as geordie and i were late to the training (we didn't realize we had to go all the way in the back of the fire hall, past all the trucks and the posters from the seventies about potential fire traps), but i think it should be pretty simple. tonight we'll either have a new premier or we won't. there's an 80% chance that no matter who we get, nothing will change.

in other news, tonight it is supposed to rain. youpee! however, continuing the pessimistic theme of this post, even if it rains buckets, our little three-foot well is probably not going to get much accumulation, and even if it does, it will only make it feasable to run water from the tap again for about a day. then, back to hauling buckets from finlay's.

back to my life. mmm, tea.

Sunday, August 3, 2003

days passing

There's been a lot of busy-ness. We've run out of water in our little ghetto shack, so Will and Mat and I routinely haul buckets from Findlay's, next door. Also, the play (again, you'll hear all about seven-foot-puppets at a later date) is gearing up and rehearsals take up my time. And then there's friends coming to visit, and the swimming hole, and the election...all things worth more to me than sitting in front of a computer.

As usual I'm rushing off to work. It should be a good day, I have lots of tasks ready for me and some good music to listen to, and might even make some sales. We'll talk soon.

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