Thursday, September 30, 2004

Cardboard and Cobwebs

Yes, I am still in the middle of my sorting and cleaning tasks and they have been consuming most of my time and energy. Yuck! We have made time each sunny day for a walk or a bike ride, but not much else. I have been in the cardboard and cobwebs for long enough though. I need a break!!!

I still have a ton of stuff to go through, but will put things on hold for now and come up out of the rubble in the basement to prepare for a little get-a-way to Riverwood for a couple of weeks. I so need a walk in the woods, the smell of wood smoke, the sound of the Loon, and the sight of the autumn leaves.

Riverwood is a 117-acre piece of property up North in the Kawartha Lakes that belongs to my sister. It has a river running through it, lots of old logging trails to walk along and open fields to saunter over. In the fall we crunch leaves under our feet as we walk along, and in the winter we snowshoe over the snowy fields and forest paths. Ahh, a little piece of heaven on earth in any season. Well, maybe not black fly season, but even then we have special bug jackets and pants that allow us to walk in the woods and enjoy the great out doors.

An old cozy farmhouse with a big country kitchen, offers a cool retreat in summer and a warm haven in fall and winter. There is nothing like going out for a walk on a cold autumn morning and coming back into the fragrant warm kitchen of the farmhouse. The smell of fresh brewed coffee and wood smoke greet you at the door and wrap you in a warm embrace. I absolutely love it there.

We not only get to enjoy the great outdoors while we are there, but also find time to read and write and just plain relax. We have dial up access to the internet, so we take our laptops with us and keep in touch with family and friends and the outside world that way, but there is no TV and when the phone rings, it is never for us. We can completely get away up there. Yes, heaven on earth indeed.

So, up from under the cardboard and cobwebs in my basement and off to Riverwood next week for a Canadian Thanksgiving celebration in the country. Delicious. I can almost smell the turkey cooking already. Pumpkin pie anyone? Everything tastes so much better eaten around that big old farmhouse kitchen table. Must be the love added to each dish when we gather together up there. MMmmmm good.

We had a bike carrier put on the car yesterday, so this year we will take the bikes with us and add that pleasure to all the others at Riverwood.

Must run now and get this house and garden ready to leave for a couple of weeks. The sun is shining today, but it might be cold and rainy by the time we get back, so time to put the garden ornaments away and get ready for winter.

I hope you get a chance to walk in the sunshine today and crunch a few leaves under your feet as you mosey along. Enjoy the day.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Confessions of a Pack Rat

As you can tell from the lack of writing these days, I have been up to my ears in a major, time consuming, project. Rainy cold weather is just around the corner, but for now, the sun has been shining every day and the weather warm and mild, so bike riding has been number one on the agenda and the major project number two. Alas, reading and writing have been neglected. I simply must take a writing break this morning though and put something down on “paper” while I relax with my morning coffee and plan my day. “A day without writing is like a day without sunshine.” Isn’t that how the old saying goes?

First thing on the agenda today is writing, second is cleaning the patio furniture and putting it away for the season and the third is to head out on the bike trails. MMMM, sounds good to me.

In my last Blog I wrote about contemplating our next move, and the emotional upset it would be. This week I have been faced with another major consequence of eventually moving to a smaller place. Downsizing!! The very thought of it sends chills up and down my spine. Why? You may ask. Because, I am a pack rat!!! Yes, I confess – a pack rat.

I come by it honestly though. My father was the king of pack rats. The absolute, all time King! He couldn’t throw anything away, and he even collected stuff that other people had thrown out in case he might need it some day. Oh the stuff he had in that house. Yikes!

Anyway, back to the present. We have lived in this house for over 20 years, and I am up to my ears in stuff. When my mom died, I moved some of her “stuff” in with my stuff and when John’s mom died we cleaned out her house and – yes – you are right. We now have her “stuff” here too. Groan!

It is so hard to get rid of something someone else has considered a treasure, so I just added it to my treasures and packed it all away. I also have stuff that I am storing for Ladybug who is still in school and stuff I need to give to Butterfly. So, the time has come to unpack all the stuff I have stored in every nook and cranny of this house, look at it and deal with it. Oh dear. What a job.

I am bound and determined to de-clutter my life though, so each day after our bike ride we have been down in the basement or up in the den, sorting through boxes and de-cluttering. So far this week, three or four huge loads have gone to the Goodwill and another one will soon follow. We put out our paper recycling garbage yesterday and the boxes totally lined the curb in front of our house. AC and I went through an old file cabinet and found teaching notes from 30 years ago. Sheesh! We marvelled at how times had changed since he first started teaching. He used to spend hours typing out lesson plans and class handouts, on an old manual typewriter, using ditto paper. The old typewriter would punch out the centre of each “o” on the ditto paper and I would find them all over the place. What a mess. Now everything is done on a computer and Xerox machine. What a difference.

OK, back to the present again. Even though we have cleaned all this stuff out, it doesn’t look like we have gotten rid of anything. I am not kidding. What is going on here? I got an email from my sister this week that helped explain this to me. Let me include part of her note here...

Greetings dear de-clutterer:
I have been on the de-cluttering path for about a year now, so I know what you are going through. The scary thing is that box upon box has gone out yet I'm not seeing empty spaces. I swear stuff breeds more stuff and if you give it any room it just expands to fill the space.

I remember when I worked in Ethiopia, Peter, the nurse I worked with, said that he may be late coming back from lunch because he was moving. I spent the siesta worrying about how I would manage at the clinic by myself. I wasn't ready to solo on treating a tropical illness or removing a spear (the barbs were very tricky as I recall). It turns out my worry was for naught. Peter was back right on time, from noon to 2:00 PM he had moved his wife, four children, 2 goats and all their belongings on foot (and head), he had also squeezed in a tasty lunch and a wee nap to boot. We definitely are drowning in useless stuff here aren't we?……

We are for sure drowning in stuff and I am coming to the conclusion that we don’t own it, but it owns us. Once we have something, we have to dust it, or oil it, or paint it, or clean it, or polish it, or brush it, or feed it, or pack it away or - something. It takes our time and attention in some way and therefore our energy. Do I really want to waste my precious time and energy on all this stuff? No!!! No, I really don’t! I am going to de-clutter and simplify. I am.

I can remember going to my parents' cottage when my girls were young and spending a large part of the summer there. We had no running water and the cottage was just a rough cabin really. We would go into town for our drinking water, and all the other water was taken out of the creek. We washed our hair in a bucket outside using cold creek water and had a wash in a little basin in the kitchen each night. We had no indoor plumbing, so the spider infested outhouse was visited both in early morning rain and late night clouds of bugs. Ohhhh, creepy! We even had mice and other wild things think that they lived in the cabin and we were the intruders! The nerve.

We absolutely loved it there though. I would come home at the end of the summer and feel strange in my house with running water and indoor plumbing. I would long to go back to the cabin in the woods and be free. In time though, I would settle back into a routine and get used to all my kitchen gadgets and appliances and be convinced that I couldn’t live without them and eventually, I actually thought I needed more. How do we let this happen to us?

There is a place of balance somewhere between the cabin in the woods with no water and the place full of clutter that I now have, and I am going to find it. Wish me luck.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Last year we were offered a piece of rural property at a very reasonable price. That started us thinking seriously about a move to the country now that we are retired and free to go where we want. We have contacted many a real estate agent and put numerous k’s on our car trekking around the land looking at houses in various nooks and crannies of this province. Alas, we haven’t found a perfect spot for us yet. We keep looking each time we travel though and always wonder as we wander, if we will find “the” house this time.

During our last trip away, we did find a house that tempted us to make an offer, but it wasn’t perfect and the price was a tad higher than we wanted to go. It did make us wonder though and seriously think about making an offer on it. What to do? What to do?!

Sleepless nights and hectic days have been my companions for the past little while and have me feeling a bit frazzled these days. The other morning I got up rather bleary eyed after a night of tossing and turning, and puttered down to the kitchen to feed the little furry guy meowing for his tuna. I stumbled around the kitchen mindlessly making coffee and getting the juice and cereal out. My body was in the kitchen, but my mind was on the other side of the province thinking about that house. I stood at the kitchen window and looked at the familiar scene just outside and was instantly brought back to this city and all the history I have here. We have lived here for over 30 years. My children were born and raised here and I have wonderful neighbours and good good friends in this area. Why would I even think of leaving this place?

The smell of fresh brewed coffee woke John up and he came sauntering into the kitchen and stood behind me. “So, what are you thinking about this morning?” he asked. As if he didn’t know. We have both been tossing and turning at night and thinking about nothing else but this house and what we should do.

I told him that I felt like I was on a high-flying trapeze. I had a firm grip on this familiar bar and was swinging through life quite nicely right here and now. I knew the feel of this old trapeze, the weight of it, the height of it, the length of rope holding it, and I was comfortable. The air that I was swinging through was warm and I felt quite safe and confident. I had developed a certain skill and had a good rhythm going. I also knew that my hands were getting weaker and one day I would have to let got of this familiar old trapeze and grab hold of a new one. Maybe a smaller one, a lighter one, a lower one.

The timing has to be right though. I can see this new trapeze flying towards me as I arc in the air and start to move toward it. All sorts of questions spin through my mind as I swing through the air. Is this the time to let go and clasp the new one? Do I have the right height? Is it close enough? Should I take one more swing back before I let go? Back and forth, back and forth I go.

I have been doing this since we were offered the property last year and I still don’t have the courage or strength to let go of the old comfortable well-known bar and grab the new one. It is the letting go of the familiar and the few seconds of terrorizing yet exhilarating free-fall before I clasp the unknown that has my fingers firmly clamped around the old trapeze.

I am reminded of this quote that I have given to many people over the years,
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

Goodness, it is so hard to let go of the known and reach out to the unknown isn’t it? God give me courage and wisdom.

Well, I am swinging along here in this beautiful autumn sunshine and I will continue to work on my courage and hopefully know when the timing is right and have the wisdom and strength to let go of the old and clasp the new when it is time.

In the meantime I will enjoy this well-worn trapeze of my life and maybe head out on my bike to pedal off some stress and clear my head. Life is good. All I really have is today, so I must determine to experience it and not waste it worrying about tomorrow. Enjoy the present, focus on the positive and keep moving forward in joy.

Listen carefully and you might hear my faint humming today “She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring old woman on the flying trapeze!!” Wheee, here I go. Come join me for the ride. It is bound to be a blast!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Sound of Feathers

Ahh, how nice to be back home and have some free time to write. We were away for 10 days, and things have been a tad busy around here, since we got home, so my time at the computer has be limited.

I am still trying to recuperate from Ally's move too. That on top of all the driving wore me out. To make a long story a bit shorter, let me just say that she moved into a third floor apt with no elevator and everything had to be carried up an outside fire escape type staircase. We had to drive a 16ft cube van in rush hour traffic in a busy downtown area of a major city and then navigate it down narrow laneways to get to the parking lot behind the building. We felt squeezed in just getting the CRV back there the night before the move so we wondered how in the world we would get the tuck in there in the morning. Sure didn’t make for a sound sleep that night let me tell you. I did a lot of tossing and turning and the others seemed restless too.

We got up around 6am rather bleary eyed and fearful but stoically set off to pick up the monster truck. We made a stop for some Tim’s coffee and fortified with that we continued on to face the day. At 7 am, we walked slowly into the rental office and waited our turn for a truck. Two or three people were ahead of us, so we stood quietly and sipped our coffee while we pondered what lay ahead. Finally the man at the counter turned to us and asked.
“And you are…….?????”
Before we could answer with our name, John blurted out the word “Tired!!”
We all burst out laughing and that helped us relax a bit. We signed on the dotted line for the truck and set off on our big adventure. Ally drove our car and John drove the tuck. Good old dad comes to the rescue again.

As we pulled out of the parking lot I breathed a silent prayer to the God of the Universe to help us get there safely and be able to park this monster. Seemed like prayer would be the only thing that could help us manoeuvre this giant in downtown traffic. Help!

After a harrowing drive, in heavy traffic along the main street, we managed to get there in one piece. We even got into the parking lot without too much trouble, but were stupefied as to how to back the truck around all the parked cars there, so we could unpack it. As we stood there looking at the situation, the landlord came over to us and asked us if we wanted him to back the truck in for us. We all fell at his feet and thanked him profusely for his kind offer. He jumped in the cab and manoeuvred the truck as if it were a little sports car and had it in position in no time. He handed us the keys with a smile and wished us a good day as he returned to his work. I think I saw a glint of a halo above his head and heard the rustle of feathers as he walked away from us that day. What a relief to have that task taken off our hands and be able to drive the truck straight out when it came time to return it to the dealer. The best things in life really are free even though they are worth more than words can say.

I hope if you need one, you encounter an angel along your path today, or maybe you can be an angel to someone else. Listen for those feathers, or spread those wings if called upon to do so.