Thursday, December 30, 2004

home again, home again, lickety split

My holidays were heaps busy, as a regular reader of this site would have been able to tell by about a week after my last post. Sorry about that, but there were extenuating circumstances--scanty access to the Internet. Plus, there was much revelry and family to attend to, and also a heap of travel.

So here I am, back in Fredericton, on a cold and snowy night. I'm also under the proverbial weather, having developed a bit of a bug on the last day of the Quebec trip. Mat had it, and then Mum did, and then we were packing to go and I foolishly thought, Oh, I won't get it. Hah. Famous last thoughts. At least Mum had upgraded our train arrangments to sleeping berths, so at least I had somewhere flat to lie down in between visits to the rollicking train restroom. Yikes.

I'm going to write a better summary of all that went on (and there was a lot!) tomorrow. For now, though, I've just remembered that before I left I washed my flannel sheets and remade my bed. There is absolutely nothing better than getting into a freshly-washed-flannel-sheeted bed, especially after having a long hot bath. So without further ado, I'm off to that. I'll write again and tell you all my Super Exciting Stupendous plans for New Year's Eve, tomorrow. G'night!

Friday, December 17, 2004

time's flying

"One more?" Dennis asks us, and balances another pin delicately on its side in the glowing ashes. It flares, catches, glows, splits open and dies. I pay attention to it. Usually I'm so preoccupied, so busy, I forget about this odd ability of time to overtake us. Then something reminds me. Cemetaries--they stop me short, do they ever stop me short--and old buildings and tree stumps, things like that. And the sight of burning fires, like tonight, like right now, this minute, how economical it is, how it eats up everything we give it, everything we have to offer.

From Carol Shields' short story, "Fuel for the Fire", in her collection "The Orange Fish".

I'm tying up some loose ends, packing and finishing Christmas presents. We leave the city at 6 pm tonight. The holidays begin, and today it is snowing like snow in those glass shaker balls, the snowflakes drift and jump and fly around everywhere. My aim this break is to relax as much as possible. That will be tough given the stuffed itinerary, but I'm going to give it my best shot. I'll write again soon. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

the done and the undone

--exams! every single last one of them. They went like this:
--English, open book, essay questions about poems and stories. Enjoyable.
--Biology, cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Long.
--Political Science, the UN, China's rise to global prominence. Lengthy.
--Latin, harder than I thought, like little puzzles. Fun once I got into it.
--Psychology, multiple choice, easier than I thought it would be.

--first term of university! and my how it flew. Didn't I just get here? Isn't it still September?
--Most of my Christmas shopping. Thanks in this regard to Fredericton Public Transit, the Dollar Store, and the Owl's Nest Book Store. Don't worry, nobody's present is from the Dollar Store.

--packing for the Christmas holidays:
(--St John on Friday, for two days--Gill's birthday!--Cape Breton by Sunday if the weather holds, then a crazy party on Monday--by Thursday I'll be on a train to Quebec City, and spending the Big Day of Trees and Presents there, then on the 29th taking the train to Moncton--bus to Fredericton, then New Year's Eve will be spent here, spent like shiny new coins--then classes start the 3rd!--whew. Must catch my breath.)

--wrapping said presents.
--relaxing post exams.
--one last walk in my sweet Odell Park before I leave Fredericton, which has become my little world, microcosm if you will.

And by the way:
--it is a beautiful day here in Fredericton. The sun shines, the snow is thick, white and criss-crossed with shadows of trees. (The snow underfoot squeaked as I walked to school, as the sun was rising, a little after 8 am. Down in the valley the river, the steeples, and the town hall glowed a little pink-ish.) The sky is that painted-on robin's-egg-blue, which will fade in a few hours to dusk, in clear tones, as the air chills. Today, it's all possible. I have jazz playing, I'm done a term of university, and jubilation has never known a more willing companion!

Monday, December 13, 2004

'silver white winters'

It snowed today, and the whole world (yes, Fredericton is the whole world, it feels that way sometimes) is made of white fluff. White fluff on sticks, white fluff turning to grey mush on the roads, white fluff falling into my hair, on my hat, down the back of my jacket. White fluff on bushes, on house lights, on our shoes. My last exam is day after tomorrow. I wrote Latin today. I'm singing Christmas carols as I walk places, "girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes", and "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." White, white, everywhere! How delightful.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

the miracle of canning

Remember in Little House on the Prairie, when (I think) the Ingalls family was taking care of a clapboard house way out in the prairie, and they were having their dinner? I think it might have been Christmas dinner, but I'm not sure. In any case they found canned peaches in the pantry and had that for their dessert. They were all so happy to have the luscious fruit in the middle of bleak December. That's how I felt this morning when, for breakfast, I opened a small jar of ruby-red strawberry jam that Mum had sent with the food box. (We take advantage of friends driving this way to send boxes of goods, this time she sent tomatoes from her freezer, along with blueberries (!) and some hamburger, all preciously wrapped in newspaper and still cold when it got here.)

This jam was in a small Mason jar, and I popped the lid just as the toast popped from the toaster. I took a small amount of it on the tip of the butter knife, and licked it quickly. I closed my eyes and was immediately transported to the height of summer, when there are so many strawberries that people bring them in large bowls to potluck suppers and serve them with a side dish of whipped cream. There are so many strawberries around that your fingers, lips and tongue turn bright red from eating them, and they are eaten on ice cream, or with cream or simply by themselves. The days are hot and you wear shorts; you can leave the house in bare feet and walk down dusty dirt roads, picking your way along the smooth part of the road, until you get to the river and then you duck into the cool woods for a moment before emerging on the other side, where the river flows dark and slow.

(Bear in mind this is December and outside we got another 5 or 6 centimeters of sticky wet sludgy snow, and all the trees and the sidewalks and the sky and the yards are a wet white-grey, and you have to bundle up in boots, warm socks, scarves, hats, mittens and a well-zipped coat before venturing out anywhere.)

This is the miracle of canning.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

in today's news...

"Stricken by a mysterious illness that has left his face a mask of puffy, red cysts and lesions, Yushchenko said to the crowd, "This is the face of today's Ukraine."--Harper's.

Canada's Strippergate continues. And the rest of the world makes headlines, too.

We woke this morning to something like 7-8 cm of snow on the ground, the sky gray. I made coffee and pancakes, Patti ate an egg and toast. While I was answering emails just now freezing rain began, and I can hear the little icy splats against the windowpane as I type. I think I might have more coffee. And then, after my mug is sufficiently warmed, I will open the Latin and continue on, studying, filling my brain, re-awakening the knowledge I put in there over the past three months, letting it stretch a bit. Prodding it like a mum: "Come on, 3rd declension i-stem nouns, it's time to go to school." "But I don't want to, and look, it's snowing..."

Yes, that's right, I'm going to bundle my little Latin verbs up with scarves, and put them on the little Latin bus. Or is that omnibus? OK, I've really gone over the edge.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

let us praise December! and dogs!

I went to Odell Park, today a study of sunshine and frozen creeks and mud crystals, after my breakfast of an omelette, toast and a coffee with frothed milk. I sat on a bench near a very tall tree in a sunny opening, and watched people walking by. One couple had a big German Shepherd, whose luxurious coat was grey and sand, and he (or she) spotted a little scrap of a brown dog walking with his master (an woman in her fifties) a little distance away. Little Scrap saw Big Shepherd around the same time, and as neither were on leashes they were free to exalt in their dogginess and proclaim who was the Alpha dog. Shepherd chased Scrap until Scrap turned dead around and faced him with his nose; they held noses for half a second and then the chase was on again. Both dogs exuded great clouds of breath, which roiled and rolled around their furry bodies as they did the dance of dominance. I think Scrap's owner was a bit worried, but Scrap held his ground, while also knowing (as little dogs do) when to roll over and when to run away. Big Shepherd's owners laughed at the antics and drank their steaming coffees. As the human owners turned down separate paths, the dogs would run to each other, back to the owners, then back to each other, until finally Big Shepherd was up the hill and out of sight. Little Scrap ran like fluff on string past me, stopped and wriggled his body as I petted him. "You had quite an adventure, didn't you?" I said. He ran off again, tugged onwards by the coiled springs in his body. The white clouds of breath had dissipated. All that was left was the great silent tree, and me on the bench soaking up the sun.

Now I am back at the house. The sky is that strong baby-blue and the white birches illuminated by the sun make a striking contrast against it. I have a paper to write for Monday and lots of studying to do. Exams are coming up. There is much work to be done. I believe, though, that it's all possible. And besides--easy is over-rated. Ha!

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