Month: August 2014

Summer cleaning

How is this different from the proverbial spring cleaning? It definitely feels different, partly because of the heat, which saps my resolve, draws me with the slightest excuse down to the main floor where it’s cooler than the top floor of my 100+ year old row house. One tiny excuse more and I’m down in the basement where it’s actually cool enough to stop the sweat that makes my t-shirt stick to my skin like a grotesque piece of clinging, strangling, oh get this thing off of me, piece of over-sized seaweed. No exaggeration intended.

 

But the basement isn’t the summer cleaning target; I can meander down there quite legitimately from time to time to put on a load of laundry but then I have to go back up. And the heat hits me in the face so I feel like someone’s turned the pore-tap on and in less time than it takes to say, “this is ridiculous” I’m (re)covered in a most unbecoming sheen of sweat.

 

So what’s the urge for a cleaning now? Clearly it’s not for the fun of it. I think about this question as I take a much-deserved break from the action to flop into a chair on the back porch. And I see that it’s a double-bind thing, the lurching toward lethargy of hot summer days that leaves laundry folded but not put away, floors gritty but unswept, blueberries moldering in the fridge and never quite making their way into a pie. Now I can say lethargy has indeed arrived: messy build-up has relentlessly taken over the house. Languid summer swelter created this mess, and, from where I sit (on the porch, in the shade), it looks like it’ll probably remain status quo until autumn.

 

postcard story

today i received a postcard from a friend. in the mail. you know. the mail.

i don’t know how long it took to reach me. i wondered about that question for a moment, as i held the card in my hands, and it took me longer than i like to admit to remember that little old the thing, the postmark, that gets stamped on things that go through the mail, recording what day it was picked up by the post office from the mailbox (which may not be the same day it was put there, by the sender, particularly if it’s mailed from a rural location), and roughly where that mailbox was. or where the nearest post office to that mailbox was, or is, anyway.

so i ceased my bemused admiration of the picture of long grasses, a lake, and a sunset, and turned the postcard over. the postmark was no more than a smudge on the k.d. lang commemorative stamp. a big enough smudge to spoil the picture, but smudgy enough to be completely illegible. you wouldn’t actually know that something was supposed to be written there.

the post office appears to be determined to hang on to what little remains of its power over human communication, through the tool of mystification. i am barred from discovering, via crown corporation authority, the mailing date of this card.

but just so you know, my friend has been home from her holiday for more than a week.

so the postcard’s journey was…long.

this differs remarkably from the length of time it takes an email to reach me.

i’m just sayin’.

the message my dear friend chose to send me by this (what might appear to some to be grotesquely slow) method is this:

i wish you didn’t live so far away…”

this message, when i read it, made me laugh so loud that the dog woke from her nap and slunk out of the room with a most reproachful look on her face. at the same time, tears that were not laughter came into my eyes.

so close and yet so far away. the funny thing is, my friend lives very close to me; i could, if i wished, drive to her house right this minute and (assuming she is there) see her in less than 5 minutes. or maybe exactly 5 minutes. certainly a very few minutes. but at the time that she wrote the message on the postcard she was far away, in rural ontario. i was still where i always am, 5 minutes (or so) away from her house.

i wish you didn’t live so far away…”

…she writes, and i think, “i wish i didn’t, too.” and i don’t really know what i mean by that or what she meant by that, but it makes me feel sad.

one bucket at a time

it’s late at night, late summer; the temperature, even at this hour, is in the late 20s. 

it’s been hot and dry for days on end; here in the rainforest where i live this is a relatively rare thing.

i have complex system of watering thirsty plants that involves buckets in the sink to catch all the water from rinsing hands or potatoes or plates and i carry the buckets full of water out to the plants on the porch and in the yard. it’s time consuming. a hose would be faster and less tiring. but i am committed to my own little contrivance of water conservation.

one less litre of water down the drain. one more living growing plant in the city.

i call it my ‘grey water system’ because once at a fair–one of those big ones with livestock in barns and a building full of hawkers, “ladies come close, look at this cheese grater, have you seen a better one?” –there was a building, a really big one with a full-sized house in it, the house of the future and to show all its fabulous features the walls were clear plexiglass (i’m elaborating just a bit, to sound like i know what i’m talking about; i confess don’t know the type of plastic it was, something see-through. could be plexiglass, right? sounds good to me). the point of all this is that this house of the future featured a grey water system, meaning that water from the sinks was re-used in the toilet and laundry water was used on the garden. no buckets required; it was all accomplished with pipes connecting things together. i fell in love (or maybe it was lust).

not having the resources to re-pipe a house that i didn’t own anyway, i began the bucket odyssey.

my family resists it, i’m not sure why. i catch them washing lettuce and allowing the water to flow down the drain. they pour cooked pasta into the strainer and let the water escape. i think of my thirsty garden and wince, just a little. i avoid being obsessive or nagging, but just barely.

and now, late at night, a sudden downpour. water, water, everywhere. and lightning, and distant rumbling. i hear a girl shriek and run down the street outside, no doubt seeking cover.  i wonder where the dog is; she doesn’t like thunder.

but then it stops. it’s kind of weird, all that rattling, pattering, booming, roar of the rainstorm suddenly stops and the space it leaves takes a moment to fill. a moment before a helicopter growls its way overhead, a car hisses by on the wet street. and in through the window, the smell of wet. wet dust after days and days of heat and dryness. the smell of wet asphalt.  a surprisingly good smell. 

birthday(s)

my mother and my grandmother shared a birthday.

i say shared but the family story is that Mid, my grandmother, did not like sharing her birthday with her daughter. it could be that she didn’t think that spending her birthday labouring and straining and finally in agony and shit and blood producing a squalling, dependent infant was much fun.

what, no cake?

the truth is, i don’t know what she really thought. was she sullen every time august 6th rolled around, knowing she’d have to produce some kind of kids’ party with balloons and hats and usually some hair-pulling over who got to ride the pony first (was there ever a pony?) and why must the cake be homemade in the heat of summer and look, oh great that kid in corner is barfing up, probably the cake. next year…next year she probably rolled up her sleeves and did it again.  put on a party for her daughter, i mean.

but Mid might have liked it, that’s possible too, family story not withstanding. it’s just possible that Mid said once in jest, oh i hate sharing my birthday with you, my daughter my love, and when she said it she swung her daughter high up in the air and then held her close in her arms and they both laughed and knew that Mid was joking. the best birthday present that Mid ever received was the gift of a daughter, delivered right on time, no ‘sorry i missed your birthday’ card was required. that might have been it.

but i’ll never know. Mid died before i was born, during the time my mother was pregnant with me, and my mother died 9 years ago. their stories are mostly gone.  i am left guessing, and remembering what i can.