Tuesday, 27 May 2014


This blog is dedicated to my Uxpool swimming friends -  Anna, Marion, Cathy, Jane, Laurie, Joan, Pat, Meik and Connie, to name a few.

Like the contorted face in Edvard Munch's famous painting, The Scream

her widened eyes and gaping mouth, as she enters the pool, say it all.  Cold!  Yup, we all smugly smile, About 76 degrees.  ( Please note that as an " Imperial Baby", I reserve the literary licence to use Fahrenheit. )

Uxpool was constructed around 1970, thus sleek and modern are not words I would use to describe her.  Cleanliness is.  In fact, Thornhill's Thornlea Pool would be well advised to adopt a few of Uxbridge's pool cleanliness policies.  Uxpool employs talented, enthusiastic, friendly staff and offers a myriad of programs for all age groups.  One would be hard put to find a moment in the day or evening when our local "swimming hole" is not in use by citizens of both the town of Uxbridge and its surrounding communities.

I love good old Uxpool, but must admit that she is beginning to show her age.  The giant furnace that heats her now breaks down with regularity.  Why not replace it?  The Town of Uxbridge has all of the plans and money in place to construct a larger pool complex on the old St. John's Boys School grounds.  Well, all the money that is, but the approved provincial grant which thus far has not been forthcoming. Hey! How about that issue, MPP candidates? Patching the furnace so it can limp along for a few more weeks until the next failure appears to be current town policy.  I get it.  We are a small town.  Why buy an expensive new furnace when a new pool is imminent?  However, I dare you to jump into 75 F degree water while through the giant side windows, you watch snow swirl and blow. Brrr!  Needless to say, the water temperature is now our daily obsession.

From my swimming pals, especially Marion, Anna and Cathy, I have learned three valuable lessons. 1. Suck it up princess. Just get in.  The first step isn't bad, to quote Marion.  2.  Move like a frenetic fiend. Do not stop. Do not tread water.  3. And best of all, find the humour in it.

The humour in it?  Although the temperature is posted by pool staff, a new game has evolved.  Watch the face, gauge the temperature.

80 F degrees.  I'm thinking about getting in!

79 F degree. Ooooo! Cool, but I can do this!

78 F degrees.  Can't you fix the *bleep* *bleep* furnace?

77 F degrees. Move, just move!

76 F degrees. I'm going to die!

75 F degrees.  No words  are required. The faces say it all.

Below 75 F degrees?  Reserved for the Polar Bear Club.

Experts state that you lose more weight swimming in cold water. Perhaps then, the Uxpool furnace is doing me a favour.  The advent of summer heat and humidity should make the cool water temperatures inviting. All this said, I am leaving nothing to chance as I prepare for next winter's swimming with specialized gear!  What do you think, ladies?

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Oh, you would be looking for 'dicentra spectabilis' she smiles and walks me down an aisle of perennials.  Just past the 'leucanthemum maximum' and 'thunbergia alata' up here, she directs, hands sweeping towards row upon row of unidentifiable green sprouts.

The what?  I quietly groan? An arrow inscribed with Perennials is the only sign I have thus far understood.  Have I been beamed into a foreign country? I wonder.  New to serious gardening, this is all Greek ( or should I say, Latin ) to me.  Thoughts of fleeing to our local Canadian Tire Gardening Centre and buying up pots of geraniums and impatiens, simply labeled as such, crosses my mind. Only my determination to finally learn this "gardening thing" in my retirement years, pushes me forward.

Unable to control my mouth ( no comments here, please ) and totally incapable of keeping the whine out of my tone, I utter, Why all this Latin?  What about common botanical names?

Latin describes both genus and species of plants for us.

Did I just sense some condescension here? my full blown insecurity now cries. I see, I say. Not really,  I think.  With my shopping list of perennials, this morning nursery visit will likely now be a day long affair.

In large, black felt-penned letters, semper ubi sub ubi adorned the majority of Latin texts in my Grade 9 Latin class. Literally translated always where under where, the phrase sounded phonetically like always wear underwear. A huge, laughter-inducing joke with my Latin-learning confreres.  Such was the sorry state of Grade 9 humour in my era.

Through five years of high school (yes, we once had Grade 13), I endured Latin Literature and Grammar, actually passing my two Grade 13 Latin courses with honours.  Sure doesn't help me now! What's that old adage about you have to use a language to remember it.  Funny thing, I never met anyone whose primary language was Latin! I believed wholeheartedly in the truth of the old ditty that also decorated our texts:
Latin is a language,
As dead as dead can be.
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it's killing me.

At this moment in time and in this very serious nursery, I discover that Latin is a language as alive as alive can be. Now where is my high school Latin teacher when I really need him?

Friday, 16 May 2014


Few would argue with Jim and I when we say that the home we purchased in Uxbridge in 2012 was in sensational structural shape. But the lawns? Well, that was another matter.  Dire is a word that immediately comes to mind.

The Dandelion Wars of 2013 will no doubt be found in Canadian history books; they were epic in scope. Warrior Jim was a madman, racing in a frenzy onto our lawn, jagged-edged knife in hand, at the pop-up of any little yellow blossom. Madame Guillotine had nothing on my husband in his full weed- kill mode.  I should have taken up knitting.  Nervous neighbours observed from the safety of their yards.  I confess to moments of indecision - continue with the seemingly endless battle on the yellow blanket or admit defeat and open Uxbridge's first winery.....for dandelion wine, that is! I can picture the cute little bottles even now.

Thankfully, those dreaded little yellow flower faces ultimately dwindled in number. I like to imagine that word of a crazed dandelion murderer at #21 spread amongst the dandelion population.  The end of our lawn wars?  Hardly....hostilities simply moved!

The new theatre for war?  Our rear yard. With attention focused on the front theatre, another menacing enemy, unnoticed, invaded our back lawn.  Ever heard of "Creeping Charlie"?  Yup!  That would be enemy #2. This pesky, stubborn creeper, as rapidly as reproducing rabbits, sent out runners spreading with alacrity, strangling our grass and heading for our flower beds.  

Knife abandoned, Jim's new weapon of choice became our steel lawn rake.  Where is DDT when you need it?  Endless hours of aggressive raking, mangled steel tines and bulging biceps eventually saw the end of Charlie. 

Another victory!  Exhausted, but relieved, we entered this past winter gleefully anticipating golf course worthy green lawns this spring.

Did I tell you that my husband loves to feed the birds in winter?  Forget skiing; this is his winter passion. Nothing gives Jim more pleasure than to spot pinesiskins, cardinals, house finches and blue jays, beautiful against the winter backdrop. 

A plethora of photos are taken.  Word has it that Jim, single-handedly, kept H. H. Goode & Son in business this winter with his massive seed purchases!  

But herein lies our new problem.  The best feed for the winter bird population are black oil sunflower seeds, extremely nutritious and a source of high quality protein for our feathered friends.  Do the birds feed on our deck?  Sometimes.  However, they are far more likely to carry seeds to their nest.  And that means....you got it!  

No Creeping Charlie this year.  We now enjoy sparse grass interspersed with thousands of sunflower sprouts.

And so I now ask myself, do we engage in the Sunflower Wars of 2014?  Or should we simply allow the sunflowers to overtake our rear yard?  I envision a wood-fired outdoor oven, a glass of wine and fields of sunflowers.  Who needs Tuscany? Pizza anyone?

Saturday, 3 May 2014


Were it not for the complete absence of choking black smoke, so blazing are the Arizona sunset colours as they consume the vast canopy of Sonoran Desert sky, that one could mistakenly fear they are witness to a conflagration, a firestorm destroying all in its path.

Justifiably, Arizona sunsets are renowned for their spectacular beauty.  Never have they failed to leave me breathless and eager for an encore.  I have watched diners stop mid-meal, friends cease to speak mid-conversation and evening strollers halt mid-step to gaze mesmerized at the glowing panorama.  Each evening's brilliant colour storm is quite simply awe- inspiring and like snowflakes, no two shows are the same.  Meteorologists claim that the intensely clear, dry desert air crystallizes and saturates the vibrant magentas, corals and ambers.  Wispy clouds floating by high in the atmosphere apparently act to reflect and amplify the changing colours of each burning sunset.

For me, a glass of wine, caressing desert breezes and a comfortable perch by the pool offer the best way to enjoy this magic Arizona kaleidoscope.  Nightly, I take my seat and instantly become lost in the powerful beauty of this evening spectacle.  Like a finger painter's rosy smudge on the horizon, sunset first exposes her blushing beauty.  Wasting no time in revealing the true drama of her personality, she quickly alters her palette to one of smouldering reds, yellows and oranges, setting the horizon ablaze.  The once turquoise swimming pool turns into liquid fire.  I wonder if when the surface is touched it will shatter into shards of shimmering glass.  As if needing to admire her own appearance in a mirror, sunset casts her hues on the casa windows, reflecting her own grandeur.  Now a pulsating, flaming orb, the sun begins its graceful descent beyond the horizon until all that remains are lava-like glowing embers.  Light dusky purples and deep blues link day and night until night's black curtain, studded with millions of shimmering stars, descends in a hushed silence broken only by the occasional lonely howl of a coyote.  Giant saguaros, now dark imposing spectres set against the moonlight and blue black ink of the sky cast strong shadows, majestically standing as our nighttime sentinels.

The show over for another night, I am once again reminded that I am but a speck in this incomprehensibly vast and beautiful desert.