Monday, March 30, 2020

These Days: Celebrating in New Ways

This little tree is practicing physical distancing very well. Isn't it interesting how our terms are changing throughout the pandemic? We've switched from social to physical, and for the better, I think. We need to build and maintain social connection, but must distance physically. 

In 1967 the Beatles released "When I'm 64", a song that speaks about lovers aging together. In the late 70s when we were dating and married, Tim and I laughed about the song and sang it to each other. Well, here we are. Tim turned 64 this past weekend, and I sang the song to him, changing the words slightly - "Yes, I'll still feed you, Yes, I'll still need you, when you're 64." 

I had a Beatles party planned, but of course, that became impossible. Instead, I baked a cake, divided it into three, and we drove by the homes of our children who live locally, where they stood on the porch with signs and singing, while we kept ourselves distanced, other than handing over the cake. 

In the evening we got together with all three families, including the one on the mainland, via Zoom. It was fun to chat, and we played a little Kahoot game. Celebratory, but different than the norm. 

Serendipitously Tim had the day off, although he still had phone calls and emails he needed to handle. We managed a walk on the beach and a simple picnic in the car since it started raining. 

Striped stones in soft greys, 

and fresh green among the beach rocks - the world is still a lovely place. 

And it was so good to be out in the fresh clean air with the waves rolling and the wind blowing rain against our faces. For awhile we forgot the woes of the world and let the beauty of creation seep into our minds and hearts. 

Spring Break ended today. I didn't go to school, but was in virtual meetings all day as we navigate how to provide our students with learning opportunities. It's complicated, and we'll be figuring things out as we go along, but we'll get there. 

I've set up a little table/desk in the corner of the dining room and will be working from there. It's nice to be able to make a cup of tea whenever I want. 

So it begins. How are things in your corner? 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

These Days: Finding New Rhythms

Roads themselves are not very attractive: just slabs of pavement slashed through the landscape. Were it not for the utilitarian roads, much beauty would remain inaccessible and unknown to all but the most intrepid explorer. 

This was our view driving home last week from our shortened trip to the north of the Island. 

I'm thinking about how the pandemic is taking us on some new, and not well-engineered roads. Things are bumpy and uncomfortable as we steer our way through something so new. We try to find the best way to avoid potholes. Sometimes, we just need to pull over to the shoulder and give way to our feelings. 

A way to find new patterns is to look to old ones. Those Black Turnstones know nothing about our human concerns; they live as they have always done for millennia. 

This week has been challenging. Tears, loneliness, some fear, along with moments of contentment, creativity, and joy. When I think about the new reality we are all living in, where conditions change constantly and we are always trying to find equilibrium, it's to be expected that our emotions will ride the roller coaster with us. 

My husband was off on vacation last week, and was encouraged to stay off until Monday. He's working long, long days and when he comes home, we eat supper and go for a walk before he settles down to do more work for a couple of hours before bed. I realized this week that I'm self-isolating mostly by myself. 

It's important to me now, as before, to get outside each day and go for at least one walk, to spend time reading, thinking, praying. I've not set a schedule for myself, but in the morning I think about how I plan to structure my day. 

"The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend" by Katarina Bivald is my most recent finished book. Stories about books and book lovers always appeal to me, and this one was charming. 

I drink tea throughout the day, but decided yesterday that I'm going to use one of my pretty teacups each afternoon for a little tea time treat for myself. "Pandemic Pounds" is a real thing, and I am trying not to allow that to happen, so a square of dark chocolate is a treat. 

On Tuesday an embroidery book that was back ordered arrived. It's full of charming projects and I immediately chose a design, pulled some ramie linen from my stash, and started stitching. I don't have all of the threads recommended, but I'm substituting with what I have. I'm enjoying spending some time embroidering while listening to music or watching a movie. 

I've begun putting on classical music while I prepare dinner. The ebb and flow of the tempo of Chopin's Nocturnes appeals to me just now, played by YUNDI, and is having the effect of making me want to sit down at my own piano and play. 

When the first suggestions of staying at home were bandied about, I thought about all the things I could accomplish - unfinished projects, cleaning, writing, etc. However, I find myself easily distracted. Let's be kind to ourselves. Finding new rhythms in the midst of uncertainty is unsettling. 

I'd love to know what new rhythms or old patterns you are finding help your equilibrium these days. 

Julie H. commented on my last blog and I am unable to reply to her, so Julie, if you read this, please know that your words encouraged me, and that I will be thinking of you as you work as an RN through this crisis. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

These Days

The strangeness of these days really hit home on Saturday morning when I went to the grocery store and saw a line up of people waiting to get in. Only 50 people at a time are permitted in the store. When I stay home, and keep the news off, I go about my daily routine with little difference than before. The pansies in the pot beside the front porch are blooming their hearts out these days, purple and yellow in endless blossoms (as long as I pick off the faded blooms). 

My sourdough starter needed feeding and I hated to throw away any of it, so last night I made a pan of sourdough biscuits to eat with the beef stew that simmered throughout the day sending wonderful smells throughout the house. 

Many people are freely sharing resources for staying busy during these days at home. I find no lack of things to do, in fact, I'm not accomplishing very much beyond the usual. Charlotte Lyons, on IG, shared this idea for a simple card. I thought it would be fun for the grandchildren to make, so I made sets, sketching quickly in pencil, then using a fine black liner before colouring my set. I'll pop them in the mail, or drop them off in a mailbox and perhaps that will keep the grands occupied for awhile. I had fun with mine, and the various elements can be rearranged as desired. 

I recently learned about Britain's Mass Observation Project that chronicles thoughts, opinions, and experiences of ordinary people. The current iteration began in 1981, but in 1937 people were invited to participate in creating "an anthology about ourselves." Those who participated sent their observations to a central location. This continued through WWII until the 1950s. 

I have always kept a journal, sometimes more regularly than others, but decided about a week ago that recording my thoughts during these strange days would serve as a record of the time for myself, and also help me to work through some of my emotions. I don't often write about current events in my journal, but I am doing so now. 

Over the weekend I baked some lemon shortbread with a lemon glaze. Crisp and buttery, with a melt-in-your mouth texture, they were shared with friends, and the last two remaining were sent to work with Tim this morning. 

Daffodils, hyacinths, and muscari vie with the pansies for colour in the garden. I cut a bouquet for the house and the sweet scent wafts when I walk by. 

I watched this bee for quite some time, busily going from flower to flower, and thought about how lovely life is just now, with spring popping out everywhere and the earth coming alive with flowers and insects. 

How important it is that we find the beauty and the joy in these days, and remember the sweetness of life. How are you faring in these strange times?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday: Through the Forest to the Beach

Good morning on the first full day of Spring. We are enjoying a spell of beautiful sunshine with some real warmth pouring down. These clear days mean chilly nights, and a bit of frost, but I won't complain about that. 

Tim and I had a week of vacation planned that was curtailed by the global situation we are all in the midst of. We did manage a couple of days away. Vancouver Island is 460 kilometres in length (290 miles). We live in the very south of the island, and we traveled northwards to Port Hardy, very near the northern tip. 

We visited San Josef Bay and that took a bit of time. From our hotel we drove 2 hours on an unpaved road that crossed the island from east to west. The road grew rougher as we neared the parking lot for San Josef Bay and we were glad to have a sturdy vehicle (Tahoe) and not my small car. 

Before arriving at the park, Tim asked me how many cars did I think would be there. My guess was 2 plus ours, his guess was 1 plus ours. We were surprised to see 6 vehicles in the lot - a popular place in spite of the distance. After putting on our hiking boots and loading our backpacks we set off through the woods. The trail is beautiful, mostly level, with small bridges and boardwalks over soggy areas. 

This is a remote area that was used by First Nations peoples for fishing. Two groups of settlers tried to establish communities here in the early 20th century, without success. We followed a small trail to where a homestead once stood. There are a few pieces of rusting metal stove in a clearing, and clumps of snowdrops that bear silent witness to someone planting a bit of familiar beauty in the wild. 

The forest trail opens abruptly onto an immense and beautiful wide beach. The tide was falling and white ruffled waves rolled up the shallow sand, then fell gently back. Gulls rose above the blue sea, bright against the dark forest, circling and crying before settling again onto the pale sand. 

On a headland to the right, rugged sea stacks, carved out over time by sea and wind, stand like sentinels in rough formation separating two beaches. Exploring them reminded me of wandering through some of Europe's magnificent architecture as they evoked the same sense of awe and of my own smallness. 

The irrepressible nature of life is seen on the top of each stack where small trees flourish in spite of the harsh conditions. 
Because of the brilliant day, photos were difficult. If you do a search for San Josef Bay online, you'll see some much better ones. 

We ate our picnic lunch enjoying the warm sun and stunning view.

Our rambling route back took us to Winter Harbour where tall ships once overwintered and where 7-12 people now live year round. It's a destination for sports fishermen and the population swells during the summer to several hundred, according to the woman who sold us a few snacks at the local store. 

Above is the morning view from our hotel room in Port Hardy.

Spring comes later on the north island, but bright robins flitted everywhere, a sure sign of warmer days to come. 

Listening to the news reports had us longing to be home, so we cut our trip short and drove home on another beautifully sunny day. I've been working in the garden, taking some solitary walks, and have many plans for things to do here at home. 

I've posted two videos of San Josef Bay on Instagram. You don't need to join to view them, and here's a link to my page Lorrie.Orr.Creative. 

I hope that you are faring well during these strange days. These are days to think of what's important in life, to gather strength for the days to come, and to lean heavily on God, if you are a person of faith. Check in with your loved ones, and with those around you. I spoke with my neighbour across the fence. She has a compromised immune system, is elderly, and is self-isolating. For now, she says she needs nothing, but is rather bored. If she needs a few groceries we've offered to help. We will get through this. The world may look very different on the other side, but by God's grace we will make it through.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Finding Beauty in the Everyday

"This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before."
Maya Angelou

 Outside my window this morning two trees, one blooming in pink, other other in white, toss in the wind, and the occasional petal flies through the air. 

Friday morning. I have an unexpected day off. Spring Break was to begin today after school, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision was made to close school a day early. It was done out of an abundance of caution. 

And so, today is wide open, and I wonder how I shall spend it? I began by making a pot of Paris Breakfast Tea, delicately flavoured with lavender. 

Throughout this week, as the news of the pandemic continued, the anxiety level of our students increased. Some were worried for themselves, but most were concerned about parents and grandparents, or those with chronic illness. Helping students navigate this very real and new threat is exhausting. In addition, illness hit several staff members hard - colds, not the virus - and I was called in to cover classes in addition to teaching my own. More exhaustion. So this extra day is a gift, a time to breathe and relax.

"Cooking and baking is both mental and physical therapy."
Mary Berry

Attempting the classic French Madeleine has been on my mental list of things to try for some time. I purchased a pan, but the time was never right to make the little cakes. Until this morning. 
First, I made granola and while that baked, made the batter for the Madeleines. Click on the link to go to the recipe I used. I followed Sally's advice to do everything slowly, with delicacy. While the dough rested in the fridge, I spoke with my mom on the telephone. 
The Madeleines turned out very well, tender little cakes with a hint of lemon and a buttery crisp edge. Perfect with a cup of tea. I ate a few. 

As we in Canada, and in other places throughout the world, are encouraged to limit social contact, I find myself quite content to stay at home. I have plenty of projects, reading material, even housekeeping, to keep me busy for a long while. I'm thankful for modern communication - in addition to speaking with my mom, I Skyped with my daughter and little Iris. When Iris hears the skype call, she looks at the computer and when she hears Nana's voice she hoots and waves her arms like a windmill, and smiles such lovely toothless wide grins.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable,
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Those blossoms are so, so beautiful. I took that photo with my phone while playing with my grandchildren on Wednesday afternoon in their back yard. 

There is plenty of advice out there these days on how to stay healthy and how to practice "social distancing". I think we also need strategies on staying calm. Here are some things that I'm doing or not doing.

* I'm not watching the news constantly. Once or twice a day is plenty. 

* When I do feel anxious or stressed (like when I come home from school) I make a cup of tea and sit and read a book for a few minutes. I call it escape therapy and it works wonders for me. 

* Find the beauty. Anne Frank says, "I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that remains." Clouds scudding across the sky, a single flower, a smile on the face of someone you love, artfully crafted phrases in a book - beauty exists in a thousand places.

*As a person of faith, I pray, and I entrust my day to God. 

* Treat myself just a little - take time for a face mask or a self-manicure, make a cup of tea and eat a cookie (or a Madeleine), use some of that precious fabric I've been saving, plan my spring wardrobe, watch a good movie.

* Practice kindness. Write a note to a friend and walk to the mailbox to post it. Check on neighbours who may be less mobile to ensure they have what they need. 

*Eat well, get enough sleep, go for walks or just get fresh air my garden. 

Stay well, my friends. 

Sunday, March 08, 2020

A Sunday in March

In the late afternoon light of a sunny day in March there is a bit of warmth to enjoy, particularly if the wind stays away. The potted daffodils on my outside table are fully in bloom, and the hyacinths are just opening. 

I just didn't want to stay indoors on this mostly sunny day, so after some texting and some face to face chatting after church, three-quarters of our family (the other quarter lives on the mainland) made a quick plan to have lunch together and go for a hike to Witty's Lagoon. 

It's not a long trail, but it heads down alongside a stream, then beside a waterfall, down some more, and levels out to follow a meandering shoreline that indents deeply in places. We cross plenty of squishy muddy spots, some with boards laid across, others without. In a couple of places bridges of various sizes span creeks. We wind in and out of the forest that smells so fresh, and notice the tiny green leaves sprouting everywhere. The children race ahead, then stop to examine something fascinating and we pass them, then they run to catch up and pass us again. 

Once through the trees, the forest opens onto a short walk across the foreshore with its tall brown grasses and a few deciduous trees, to arrive at the sandy beach where the sea beckons the grandchildren to play. Sticks of all sizes and shapes are scattered for the picking, good for prodding, digging, and trailing through the water. Miraculously, no one got wet.

In spite of the sunshine, the air was chilly enough that we were all glad for jackets, mittens, and hats.

While the children played, the adults stood around and chatted. Driftwood lies all along every beach on our shores, tossed up by the storms from the Pacific. I find it endlessly fascinating. Carved by time and water, driftwood comes in a myriad of sizes and shapes. 

Back into the forest for our return trip. Native arbutus trees stretch over the water to create a shadowed canopy.

Sitting Lady Waterfall is best seen from a distance, across the lagoon. Now in the spring there is plenty of water, but that trickles to very little in the dry summer. 

European settlers once farmed in the area, but the only remaining evidence of that are the old fruit trees that bloom beautifully in the spring, and rotting fence posts. The earliest farm, Bilston Farm, established in 1851, was left to grow wild for some time before being purchased and converted into a modern farm where lavender thrives.

And so we head back through the forest, up alongside the waterfall, and arrive at the parking lot. The drive home is a mellow one, and our minds and bodies are glad for the fresh air and exercise.

Now it's evening. Did you enjoy the longer lighter evening? I did. Roast chicken for dinner, and now a quiet evening of reading, and getting this blog post finished. How was your first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time? Or does your area not change time?

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Life with Books, Flowers, and Good Things to Eat

"She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live"
Annie Dillard

Many years ago I stayed in a home without books. None. Zero. Not one book visible anywhere. There was a single magazine in the living room, about car racing, I think. It struck me as surprising, and rather sad. Books add such richness to my life, and are present in every room except the bathrooms. 

Here books litter tabletops, fill shelves and baskets, and are continually moved from one spot to another. There is a stack of four beside Tim's reading chair, a selection on the coffee table that belongs to me, and a pile on the piano still to be read. 

A couple of years ago, while boating for two weeks, I lost my glasses over the edge. Plop. I watched them sink and my heart sank with them. Although Tim hadn't known the Annie Dillard quote above, he said, "I feel so sorry for you, for I know that for you, reading is like breathing." Indeed. 

My sourdough starter has been lounging in the back of the fridge since early January. It had a layer of hooch on it that I poured away before feeding and coddling the starter over a couple of days. It's bubbly and active now, and I made a batch of bread on the weekend. The texture is a little weird, as you can see, but the taste is wonderful. 

Books are a uniquely portable magic.
Stephen King: On Writing

 I took these photos of my bookshelves without any tidying up. I can see that they need to be organized, dusted, and neatly shelved. Perhaps a project for a rainy morning. The trouble is, I'd fall down the rabbit hole reading a snippet here and a snippet there, dustcloth discarded as I sit on the floor among piles of books. Best to allow a full day of organizing, then. 

In my previous post I mentioned the chocolate mousse I was planning to take to dinner with friends. I served it in teacups, with a strawberry sauce on top. Teacups proved to be the perfect size for a serving. In the garden, the mint is beginning to grow. You just can't keep mint down! I picked a few sprigs and tucked them in as a garnish. Delicious to nibble on, too. 

Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?
Henry Ward Beecher

On top of the piano I keep two stacks of books - one for the library books, and one for books borrowed from others, or my own that I want to get to soon, or books that I'm currently reading. Some books are devoured in an afternoon or evening as I rush to the end of an exciting story. Other books are savoured chapter by chapter. I read a little, then go off and do something else while the words I've read settle into my soul. 

The tulips I brought home from the grocery store a week or more ago become more beautiful as they age. Translucent petals twist and turn so wildly, exposing the star at the heart of the flower. 

I'm off to school on this sunny morning. This afternoon I'll pick up two grandchildren and spend a couple of hours with them. They've come to think of Nutella and apples as Nana snack, and always ask for it. So we'll have some of that and maybe play some games. 

Books, flowers, good things to eat - what does your world hold lately?

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