Sunday, 30 March 2014


The Longest Day
, a 1962 movie about the D-Day Normandy invasion flashed through my consciousness. Smug smirk on my face, I snickered, That's it! I'll title this blog, "The Longest Winter".  My two surgeries in January and March had deprived Jim and I of a southern escape during what proved to be the longest Canadian winter in my memory.  Add to that, seven weeks of medically imposed relative inactivity and, stir-crazy, I was eager to wallow in self pity.  The bleak view from our front window of dirty, still unmelted mounds of snow, dusty, sand-covered roads, and gray, lifeless trees added fuel to my gloomy mood. Like the Grinch, I would indulge myself and share my misery with one and all.

As I mentally reviewed my hiems horriblis in preparation for penning the colossal pity party rant, all self-centered thoughts suddenly evaporated. On January 27, Shelley, the owner of Blue Heron Books, was involved in a horrific car accident. Shelley survived, but remains in rehab, struggling to regain her strength and her return to regular life.  So much for bemoaning seven weeks of relative inactivity. How blessed I am to be mobile.  Our dear friend, John, succumbed on February 9 to a cancer that was mistakenly diagnosed as an unrelated ailment until, at Stage 4 and beyond the point of no return, it was discovered. How can I rant when I remain alive and well. One of our morning swimming ladies, Sandi, was in England this month, nursing a friend, when she received news that her home had been destroyed by fire, a fire that disastrously took the life of her husband and three family pets. Sandi returned to Goodwood with nothing but the clothes in her suitcase. The sheer scope of Sandi's tragedy remains beyond my comprehension.  And to think I was set to complain. I am blessed to be sitting across from my husband in a home filled with love and memories.

My life should be filled with gratitude.  I am so very blessed.  It has indeed been an endless winter through which to live, but it sure beats the alternative. Now humiliated and supremely annoyed that I permitted my self indulgent dark side to consume my mind for even a nano second, I scream silently, Get over yourself! I return my gaze to the view from our front window - a view of now melting snow drifts, roads finally free of ice and trees emerging from their wintry rest, all foreshadowing our spring to come. Spring brings life and I am blessed to witness her return.

Snoopy was right when he so wisely said, Keep looking up....that's the secret of life.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Although it was sentimental fluff, I freely admit to loving the 1998 movie, You've Got Mail, in which the little independent bookstore, Shop Around The Corner, battled valiantly but eventually caved to competition from the big bad mega bookstore chain, Fox Books.  The plot strongly resonated with me at the time.  Our son, Christopher, had worked part time in our favourite Thornhill book nook, Edwards Books and Art.  In 1997, Edward Borins' small chain sadly suffered a similar fate, succumbing among other things, to increasing competition from Chapters. It was easy then to point fingers at the so-called big bad wolf. The introduction of big box bookstores had forever changed the face of the booking selling industry. Does anyone now even remember the highly respected Britnells or much-loved Pages?

It was thus with alarm that I read this weekend about the closing of three Toronto landmark bookstores - the World's Biggest Bookstore, Book City, and The Cookbook Store. There is no superstore boogie man at which to point this time. Even the mighty Chapters/Indigo has been forced to reposition itself to a "lifestyle store for book lovers", offering home decor products, gift items, and oh, lest we forget, books! Can it survive? Not with a simple bookstore business model, according to Heather Reisman. Only time will tell. The death knell for many bookstores is now being rung by ever increasing numbers of consumers opting for mobile readers over physical books, clicking online over perusing book-lined shelves.

All of this strikes fear into my heart.  Our little independent and award-winning bookstore, The Blue Heron, is a community treasure.  Exuding charm with its creaky floors, wooden shelves, and well informed staff, this Uxbridge hub is all about relationships offering a plethora of book readings, art shows and studio courses to its clientele. Can it buck the trend and meet the challenges of the future? I pray that the expert knowledge offered, the innovative ongoing activities and the sheer pleasure of shopping in this unique, atmosphere-filled little shop will suffice.  I cannot imagine our town without The Blue Heron at its core, but herein lies the crux of my inner turmoil.

I love to read.  Jim has long joked that Chapters, like a casino luring in a heavy gambler, regularly sent limos to escort me on book buying sprees. The veracity of that I will leave up to you!!  Stacks of books piled high beside my night table, stored cartons of books already read, and suitcases laden with books when travelling, I can only assume were what ultimately drove my darling husband to gift me in 2009 with a Kindle.

What a truly inspired gift.  I am totally hooked.  Piles and cartons of novels have vanished.  No longer do we slog around a stack of books when travelling.  In a light weight tablet smaller than many paperbacks, I carry my virtual library.  If I wish to purchase a book, I simply push "BUY".  Thirty seconds later the book has arrived on my tablet.  Long wait times for library books or bookstore orders are a delay of the past. I have morphed into an "instant gratification junkie".  Books can even be pre-ordered ahead of their release date, at which time they are delivered magically by wifi to my Kindle.  So deep is my current addiction that, when reading, I now actually prefer the compactness of my Kindle over the bulk of a book. I am a goner!

So how have I rationalized my conflicting love of our little local bookstore and my Kindle addiction? I confess, I haven't.  Guilt ridden and horribly torn, I strive to strike a balance between my personal impact on a treasured local business and my "instant gratification" demon. Where is the simple black and white of my childhood? I am destined, it appears, to remain torn between my nostalgia for the familiar and my desire to embrace change.

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Vivid memories of my first ride remain firmly etched in my mind.  I was all of eight years old. Feeling my child's hand within the loving grasp of my Father's always provided me with great comfort; I felt protected, safe. And so it was, hand in hand, that we approached the waiting horses.  So many choices paraded before us.

The chestnut mare, I remember thinking, must be quite friendly.  Friskily moving around the track parallel to another horse, traces of a grin graced her beautiful face as if she was smiling at an amusing comment made by her counterpart. Perky pricked ears added to her cheery, friendly personality.  I liked her; she looked like fun.

But my child's heart fell in love with the old gray.  Ears lazily laying backward, head hanging low with eyes half closed, she calmly watched her world as her beautiful silvery tail swished to and fro. In my heart I sensed that she was a gentle soul. I could trust her.

Who absolutely terrified me was the shiny blue-black stallion.  His neck was arched, his nostrils, flared and his large teeth, bared in a wide whinny.  I didn't like his wild, wide-eyed expression, either. Was he taunting me? I dare you, he seemed to say. Watching him partially rear and then take flight solidified my negative feelings.  Not you, I thought.

Time moves far too slowly for a young child; the wait for a ride seemed interminable. Minutes felt like hours.  Then suddenly, it was my turn.  Held in my Father's protective arms, we moved forward to the horses.  Wait!  Not the stallion.  But Daddy, I began to protest.  Before my terror could find words, I was lifted into the saddle and reins were placed in my trembling hands. Father's instructions were a blur.  Silent screams choked in my throat.  Tears rolled down my fear flushed cheeks.  And then....

....lights glittered, sweet, cheery music played and the carousel began to move. Wonder and joy instantly replaced fear.  Lost in my imagination, I was no longer riding in circles on a man-made platform.  My champion dancing stallion and I were speeding through the fields, his mane and my hair gaily blowing in the whistling wind.  Like steeplechase champs we jumped up and down over any and all obstacles in our way while. My trusty steed and I were one. I love you, buddy, I proclaimed, patting his mane.  Such exhilaration!  Oh, how I wished that ride, my first ride, would last forever.

The date? 1955! The location? The CNE! 

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Suitcases and piles of clothes are out as we prepare for a short trip to Arizona.  Surgeries have kept me in Uxbridge this year while all the while I pined for the Sonoran Desert.  Packing today, I thought back to our first Arizona trip in 2010.


Defying gravity, our lumbering jet gained altitude leaving below my diminishing view of turquoise sea and frothing surfline.  Caribbean blood in my veins, Jim and I had journeyed south to 'my' Barbados sun, sand and sea for over thirty years.  I could imagine no more desirable escape from our Canadian winters.

Cathy and Dave, dear friends who winter in Arizona, had long attempted to lure Jim and I to their winter home for a visit.  Just come, Cathy insisted. The desert flowers will be in full bloom.  So passionately delivered was her invitation, that we accepted. Thus, in five days we would yet again board a flight - destination Arizona, this time. Leaning my head back on my seat and closing my eyes, I mentally juxtaposed the tropical Barbados beauty falling away behind us with a mental image of monochromatic desert sands and scrubby vegetation, devoid of life.  From snow topped mountain vistas, to lush green rolling farmland, to turquoise shores dotted with palm trees our planet offers a myriad of stunning landscapes, mind boggling in their diversity.  Warm, yahI mused. But why the desert? I just don't get it.

As our rental car exited Phoenix traffic congestion and escaped the golf course sprawl that is Scottsdale, I became uncharacteristically quiet.  You all right? Jim glanced sideways, concerned.  Hmmm! I muttered, truthfully not wishing to be further disturbed.  My eyes, mind and heart were struggling to fully absorb the eerily beautiful panorama unfolding before us. 

Desert blooms displayed their radiant springtime colours. Vibrant yellows, oranges, purples and pinks dotted the dense pastel carpet of bushes hugging the barely visible desert floor.

Scattered across the terrain were small groves of palo verde trees. Trees?

So varied were the different cacti lining our route that I lost count.  

Majestic columnar cacti of every conceivable shape stood erect like giant punctuation marks emphasizing how incorrect were my preconceived notions of a desert wasteland.

Quirky quail displaying their flapper-like fascinators dashed alongside the road as if racing our car.  

A black-tailed jack rabbit with insanely oversized ears darted between patches of undergrowth. 

In search of prey, menacing hawks circled and swooped on the desert thermals. Devoid of life?  Hardly, I thought. Row upon row of stratus clouds streaked north in the azure sky, to ultimately be stalled by the distant range of sage green mountains. Dramatic ancient granite rock formations, monolithic in size,  hauntingly rose from the desert floor.  What giant placed these here? I mused.  I was mesmerized.

Somewhere between Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and the charming little Arizona town of Carefree, the Sonoran Desert yanked at my heart strings.  It was love at first sight with a world that continually now beckons me to return. How unprepared I was for the emotional punch of this hauntingly unique natural landscape. One thing is for sure -  I got it!

Friday, 7 March 2014


A staggering 115,000 people per day with destinations to the sunny south or famous ski resorts are expected to pass through Pearson from this Friday to Sunday.  Visions of sparkling seascapes, luxurious pools and resorts, Mickey Mouse and his pals, or stunning snow-covered mountain vistas occupy their thoughts. Amongst that throng of excited travellers will be my sister.  Indeed, Jo-Anne is also headed to the sunny south.  Flying American Airlines, she will jet into Tegucigalpa, Honduras. 

Sounds exotic, doesn't it?  Exotic until one reads the U.S. or Canadian Travel Avisories which state that travellers should exercise a high degree of caution due to violent crime.  Honduras holds the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate of any nation in the world.  In general, no one in Honduras will intervene during a crime for fear of reprisal. Carrying anything of value makes one a target for crime. Tegucigalpa ( referred to locally as Tegus) is the Honduran capital known as a city of urban sprawl gone amok.  Unbelievably, it is into the slums of Tegucigalpa that Jo-Anne is headed.

Lovely in appearance on her exterior, my sister, Jo-Anne, exudes even more beauty from within.  She, quite frankly, is the kindest, most caring human being I personally know. Jo-Anne is a physiotherapist by profession; to observe her gentle ministrations to the elderly is to reduce one to tears.  If I were asked to name a truly "good" person, my sister's name would be the first to come to mind.  Not satisfied to sit idle during her retirement or to allow donations to Kiva and Plan Canada salve her social conscience, she applied for and received permission to work with a group assisting in the slums of Tegucigalpa.

And so on Saturday it is into a different world she will journey.  A world where medical care, dental hygiene and cleanliness do not exist.  A world where most homes are one room shacks constructed of wooden posts and scrap metal.  A world where North American style home refrigerators, stoves and sinks are unheard of.  A world where running water can be blocks away.  A world where many youth spend their days getting high by sniffing glue.

Jo-Anne and the crew will work the this home ( shown below) which currently houses a family of six.  They will attempt to both enlarge it and secure it against Mother Nature's capricious elements.  I am again reminded of Diane Steumers, A pebble can start an avalanche.

I cannot begin to imagine what emotions will be stirred in my sister.  I do know that they will be complex. I just pray that she remains safe and that she knows how inspiring are her actions.  I love you, Jo!  You are my hero.

Thursday, 6 March 2014


The wall is white. Boring white.  Sterile white.  Thank God for that colossal clock.  It rivets my attention - oversize numbers, giant hands, black on white face.  Do they know the second hand pauses and then jerks into place with each passing second?  It is as if this hand reluctantly let's go of the past to move on to future seconds and then jumps into place just in time.  I wonder if this jerking reluctance slows down time.  I'll just check my - hell, where is my watch?  I'm so tired.  My arm is just too heavy to lift.  Can't remember where I left my watch.

Sounds behind me sporadically invade my groggy consciousness.  Muffled footsteps.  Not the click of high heels or leather soles on hardwood or terrazzo, but footsteps definitely with a purpose.  Do they know that the second hand does not move smoothly, that it doesn't want to move forward? I should tell them.

Hushed voices I can barely hear.  Extreme fatigue - I want to concentrate enough to listen, but oh, my heavy eye lids want to rest.  Concentrate!  I'll concentrate on that second hand - count it through sixty jerky seconds.  Will it to move forward.

The slight clink of metal behind me.  Beep!  Beep!  Someone turn off that microwave.  I am parched.  What I would give for a cool glass of water.  How many seconds will it take me to attract someone's attention?  Did I watch that clock move through sixty seconds?  Can't remember.

From behind, a firm hand gently squeezes my shoulder.  Ah, now I can tell them about that clock.  Mrs. Lockett, we are ready.  I am going to administer the anesthetic through your IV tube.  I'd like you to breathe deeply and count to ten.

One, two.....ah, there are three