Real, Imagined and Otherwise

For me there is very little as exhilirating as turning a wooded corner to find a body of water; a perfect eye reflecting the blue sky after a long walk.  There is just something about lakes.  They are to me not only the epitome of beauty and tranquility but also keepers of secrets and deep mysteries.  Gaze into their clear depths on a hot Summer day and you will see layers of story and history.

When we were children, my sister and I used to spend every Summer weekend at a lake.  It was a large body of gray green water just outside the city, skirted by bulrushes and weeping willows.  It was no where near as pristine or as picture perfect as the Canadian lakes I now fall into nor as remote or hard to get to.  Yet it was our lake.  Our idyllic getaway in what my sister and I liked to think of as ‘the country’.

We grew up swimming and windsurfing and one of our favourite activities was diving for treasure.   The bottom of that lake was strewn with rocks and submersed weeds so we had to ‘hide’ the treasure we hoped to find.  We used to throw marbles in and pretend they were nuggets of gold! As the years went by and my taste in reading material changed from fairy tales to real life mysteries, our expeditions became forensic dives; a fruitless quest for underwater clues.

This is probably why I find it impossible to sit by a lake without wondering if there is a car at the bottom of it or the skeletal remains of fur trapper or a woman spurned by her lover…macabre, I know.

What truly surprises me is how, despite having grown up in a haunted house, we did not believe in lake monsters.  We never hesitated, like our youngest son does, on the water’s edge.  (He is convinced he had an encounter with a snake-like monster in a lake not far from Radium Hot Springs).  Some people look at bodies of water and see danger.  Real, imagined and otherwise.

Photo:  Y McAdam

Photo: Y McAdam

I watched a program recently on Bigfoot ‘hunters’ and what stayed with me was not their unwavering belief in an elusive, ape-like creature but how in this day and age of spy satellites and infrared cameras there are still pockets of unexplored wilderness.

I like living with a few mysteries, don’t you?

Random Weekend Happenings and Thoughts On Buying

1) On Friday night the Mr and I watched Interstellar.  Several friends and acquaintances had told me to watch it because they enjoyed it and thought I would too.  While it is a long movie (just under 3 hours long) I loved it and did not want it to end.  Interstellar is one of those rare gems in that a) the ending is unexpectedly positive b) the cast and acting (and excuse the pun) is stellar and c) it explores the issue of climate change and the probable outcome for humanity if we continue along the same path.

Interstellar is not for everyone in fact I am delighted but surprised that it is doing as well as it is.  Four people walked out of the theater midway through the movie – a pity really because the last hour and half is the best.  I suspect those people were struggling with the whole ‘Theory of Relativity’ and ‘space-time continuum’ bit but if you are willing to suspend belief or accept that Physics just isn’t your forte then you will be completely gobsmacked as I was, by the spectacular visual effects.    This movie is a lot more than a story about exploring uncharted territory, it is primarily a story about a man who makes the heartbreaking decision to leave his children behind so he can ultimately save them.  There are scenes played out between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his daughter that are heartbreaking to watch.  If you thought Gravity was good then you will really enjoy this movie because in my opinion it is the better movie.

2) We experienced our first sub-zero temperatures this weekend and our first snowfall.  So Winter is (unofficially but undeniably) upon us.  While all our neighbours have strung up lights, decorated their trees (inside and out) and crowded their front gardens with fake reindeer, giant inflatable snowmen and Santas we have yet to decide on a tree.  In our family it has long been a tradition to put up the tree on the 15th December so I am still ok (although my neighbours are looking at me askew).

3) One of my fondest and earliest memories is of riding a carousel with my grandfather standing by (in case I slipped off). He would take me to the Christmas Fair and I would go on every ride – my favourite for a really long time was The Octopus.  I felt really brave holding onto my swivel chair at the end of that octopus’ long arms.

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Carousel Ride

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The Mr surprised me this year by taking me to the Christmas Fair early because he will be away for work until just a few days before Christmas.  I hauled myself up and onto the prettiest pony I could find and prayed I could stay on and keep the mulled wine I had imbibed earlier in my stomach.  I succeeded on both counts and was very proud of myself.

Did you have a favourite ride?  

I love markets and fairs especially at this time of the year.  I go to them not so much for the buying experience (although I do support artists and creators) but mostly for ideas and inspiration.  I also know that if I am going to find that ‘special gift’ it will probably be found in a craft market.

At this time of year, most of us tend to overspend (yes, guilty as charged) so in an effort to become more mindful of how and where I spend money I started considering the following before buying gifts:

Will the receiver find my gift useful or will it improve the quality of his/her life in some way?

Would the gift of my time, service or expertise be more helpful to the receiver and therefore a greater reflection of my love and appreciation?

How much of my gift (and wrapping) will end up in the landfill?

Does the company I buy from share my values and ethics?  For example I love supporting The Body Shop because they support Community Fair Trade and their products are ethically produced.

Do you follow any rules or guidelines when buying gifts or do you just run after the sales (I can’t fault you if you do) 😀

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As if…And Thoughts On Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and I am looking forward to many things not least the feast that I am to prepare (because no one else volunteered).  This year will be the first time – ever – that I’ll be attempting apple pie. So if you have any advice or tips (like which are the best apples for pie?) please leave me a comment.  Much appreciated 🙂

via Penguin Books

Image: Penguin Canada

It will also be the first year we’ll be celebrating without the Mr.  because he’s away on business. It is also why there will be apple pie – Mr. hates apple pie as much as he does anything with coconut which is to say he hates it  A Lot.  He doesn’t even believe in using it as a beauty aid which is a pity really, I love coconut.

So anyway, the boys and I have decided we will end up celebrating again in November with our American neighbours.  I have no complaints.  Life is always cause for celebration.

Our family has been celebrating Thanksgiving for eleven years now despite only living in Canada for seven years.  We started celebrating in South Africa before we knew we had been accepted into Canada and I think this act of faith or practical magic definitely helped pave the way to our new home.    I am a firm believer in ‘acting as if…’  are you?

Of course what made this extra special and powerful is that we started giving thanks BEFORE we got what we wanted.  That’s the secret you see, give thanks not only for what you have (and we all have a lot – don’t believe me? use the bathroom or open a tap) but also give thanks for what you hope to attain as if you have already received it.

We went to a whole lot of trouble to find a turkey in South Africa in November (we didn’t realize Canadians celebrate in October).  We went to various (very expensive) speciality stores and got presented with game meat like grouse, quail and the obligatory South African ostrich but no turkey.  We drove out of the city and into the smaller towns and asked around and found butchers (and farm hands) selling crocodile and wildebeest, which the Mr insisted on sampling.  I tried the crocodile and I’d like to say it tasted like chicken but really it tasted of silt and muddy banks.

We found a turkey in the most unlikely of places.  Or maybe it was likely but we were nevertheless pleasantly surprised. When venturing far and beyond city limits we always stopped at our favourite ‘country restaurant’ for brunch or dinner or anything in between.  That day, we chose a table by the window with a view of the duck pond and the rolling green mountains and – yes you guessed it! – spotted a gobble of turkeys.

The Mr wasted no time in ordering one to the waiter’s amazement.   I hate to think we claimed for ourselves one of those tame ‘petting zoo’ types though I have a hard time imagining a turkey subjecting itself to a few childish pats on the head.

A lot has changed since then.   We noticed when we visited South Africa last year that turkey is sold in most stores.  In fact I got the distinct impression that more people were celebrating their own version of Thanksgiving which makes my heart smile.

To my Canadian friends Happy Thanksgiving! and if you live in a country where they don’t recognize Thanksgiving as a holiday don’t let that stop you from celebrating the harvest and the many blessings in your life ❤

This Time Last Year…

This time last year we were living in an African jungle on the eastern coast of Southern Africa.

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Image:  Penduka Safaris

*just for the record, zebras live in the grasslands/savannas and not in the jungle but I thought you would appreciate the pic.

We were in Africa on an extended holiday break so when a (very) good friend of ours said we could stay in his house ‘between the ocean and the jungle’ we jumped at it.    Now, let me make it very clear that being ‘in nature’ in Africa is in no way comparable to a walk through Walden’s woods.   While both – jungle and woodland – hold mystery and magic, jungles are primal, hot and teeming with life. There is nothing pastoral or tame in the few remaining indigenous pockets of jungle.  Sure, we have black bears and grizzlies and belligerent moose but in parts of Africa you get an Ark load of slithering, slippery, super vocal and extremely dangerous animals (not that I’m saying a bad tempered bear isn’t dangerous) within spitting distance.

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I cannot think of jungles without thinking of drums.  And heartbeat.

The brush is so dense (see above) Mr thought he would have to buy a machete 😀 but his hopes of turning into a bushwhacking Indiana Jones were quickly dashed when we discovered footpaths and trails through the jungle and up into the surrounding mountains.

Not a day went by that we weren’t surprised by some inquisitive and potentially dangerous creature like this young male baboon who thought he’d vocalize his territorial dominance more times than was absolutely necessary.

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His troop tried to break into the  house. Twice. While we were inside.   Apparently they have no manners.  Apparently they do it not so much for the food but for the sheer pleasure of trashing stuff.   Being targeted by a troop of baboons is no laughing matter.  We tried to scare them away (as one would a curious bear) by banging pots and pans but that only seemed to encourage them.

Baboons are not  to be trifled with.  Neither are the venomous snakes.  And there are a lot of those.  You’ll find them hanging like vines waiting for a distracted bird or lying on the ground after dark to soak in the heat of the day.    A friend of ours was bitten by a green mamba and was told at the hospital to get his affairs in order as he would have (approx.) two hours left to live.

Imagine.

Being told you have an hour or so left.

The good news is the snake apparently didn’t have it in for him.  He lived because the amount of venom injected was not a lethal dose.

This time last year I was reading books by South African writers:  Nadine Gordimer, Dalene Mathee and  The Ivory Trail by T.V. Bulpin (there are many more excellent South African writers but these were in my travel bag).  Wherever I go on my travels I try to read about that country or state’s nature and culture.   It enriches the experience for me because I love history.

Mr read books on flora and fauna.

This Summer, we’re planning on venturing deeper into the wilds of beautiful British Columbia.  Mr plans on (finally) learning the difference between a hemlock and a spruce…

What were you doing this time last year? Where were you?

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Holiday Greeting Cards

I love Christmas and I love receiving and sending Christmas/Holiday Greeting cards which means I am particularly old-fashioned (snooty even?) about e-cards, I don’t send them and when I receive them I ignore them (which I can tell you drives my sister mad) who because of her crazy busy job likes to ‘expedite’ things.  For me, there is nothing quite like the opening of a sealed envelope and discovering within a heartfelt and handwritten wish (and when I was younger a monetary note or two).

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Since I send so many cards year round I know that a person who makes the effort to choose and post a card cares about the intended recipient and extends not only a gift of paper and words but also a blessing.  I am not sure the same applies for a quick pick e-card.  What do you think?

How do you feel about receiving e-cards vs actual greeting cards? Do you foresee a time in the near future where greeting cards made of paper and seeds (don’t you love this idea?) become museum pieces?