Friday, May 24, 2024

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests


If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-held dream of young Anne's life to sleep in a real spare room. How excited she was to spend a night with her friend Diana and be allowed to sleep in that hallowed space. However, her hopes were dashed when, after being out for the evening, she and Diana raced in to jump on the bed in the darkness. What a shock to discover curmudgeonly Aunt Josephine in the bed. She had arrived unexpectedly and was a much more important guest than Anne. Anne's dream did come true later when she visited Aunt Josephine and was given the "sparest of spare rooms." 

While growing up we often had aunts, uncles, and grandparents visit. There was no dedicated spare room, instead, my sister and I gave up our shared room for guests. We slept on piles of blankets on the floor elsewhere. 

Spare rooms are on my mind these days as we are expecting guests - Tim's sister from Alberta, and her daughter, son-in-law, and two little ones from Colorado. I've been fluffing and organizing. This house has plenty of room now that it's just the two of us living here. We're looking forward to meeting two little great-nieces and anticipate that they will have fun times with Iris and Cora who are almost the same ages. 
A few weeks ago, work was being done in our bedroom where Cora usually naps. I told her she would have to take her nap in the guest room, aka spare room. As she marched up the stairs she said, "I am not a guest!" I suppose she considers this her second home - and I love that.

The Green Gables spare room is seen below. A voluminous crisp white nightgown lays on the bed, perhaps waiting for someone as important as Aunt Josephine. 

Prince Edward Island is full of places that L. M. Montgomery loved. Many of them inspired the settings and scenes for her books. In 2020, a scheduled bus tour could not take place because of the pandemic. Instead, a virtual tour was arranged. For anyone interested in the author and her life, it's a lovely way to spend a half hour. 

I'll leave you with this sweet photo of the early strawberries that are appearing in our garden. These are held by the little girls who were quite excited to pick and eat them. 

Do you have a spare room or guest room? Does it get used very often? Ours often sits empty, but when grandchildren spent the night, or family comes, I fluff up the pillows and ensure the sheets are fresh and crisp, and there are piles of towels in the bathroom next door. 

"The sweetest words in the English language are: 'Welcome. Make yourself at home.' " (unknown c 1949)

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Garden Musings


Gardening has this embracing quality in that it colours
the way you look at the world.
Penelope Lively - Life in the Garden

Most of the columbines in my garden are of the pale variety, but these dark violet ones popped up in a dark corner. I'll be saving the seeds to strew elsewhere in the autumn. Pink and white peonies have so many fat buds and I'm longing to see them open. Yesterday evening I watched a bumblebee going from one tight bud to another search for pollen. He didn't linger long and soon moved on to more likely fare, such as the chive blossoms.  

We planted a new fig tree last summer. The one we had was not suitable for our climate and produced few fruits on the first crop and many on the second which arrived too late to ripen. Our new tree is a Desert King which supposedly produces a large breba crop that will ripen. On the four spindly branches there are over a dozen figs fattening nicely. Figs are a fruit I've learned to like over the years. My first introduction to figs was via store-bought Fig Newton Cookies and I didn't like them at all. But a fresh fig with blue cheese, or roasted figs with honey - so delicious!

I've just finished reading Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively, featuring gardens as related to art, literature, and life in general. I especially enjoyed the section on gardens in literature in which she references Rebecca, The Secret Garden, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, among others. Lively also suggests that gardening is somewhat genetic - the desire to garden runs in families. 

I have to laugh at my attempts to grow a garden in the jungle of Ecuador. Early on, Tim found someone selling rose bushes and purchased two of them for me. I planted them in front of the covered porch of our house. They gave few blooms for whenever leaves grew, the leafcutter ants would march in and strip the bushes in a matter of hours. I soon gave up planting anything. Instead I enjoyed the wild and bright impatiens plants growing in massive heart-shape around a tree that overarched another home. How upset I would get when the hospital maintenance crew would regularly mow them down. Then I'd wait for a few weeks until the blooms reappeared. 

In my present garden in Canada, now over 20 years old, things constantly change. The yellow poppies appeared several years ago and show up faithfully every May, growing in profusion each year. The birch tree is filling out nicely, but the buddleia died over the winter, and I lost my large rosemary bush. This week I cleared part of one of my flower beds for a small asparagus patch, digging in compost and spreading out the corms with their long tendrils. It will be a couple of years before we harvest, but I can wait. Gardening is a hopeful activity, one that looks to the future. 

As Monty Don says, "A garden is not a place. It's a journey." On that note I'll end here for today, still thinking about gardens. Do you enjoy gardening? 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Of Earth and Sky


Usually, 10 pm sees us heading off to bed. With the predicted solar storm in the news, we decided to have a little adventure and hopefully see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Island View Beach is about 15 minutes away from our home and we thought that the most accessible dark place. 

We had no idea of the number of people that had the same thought. A steady stream of cars aimed in the same direction. Parking spots were sparse, but we managed to find one. All along the beach people waited. At first we saw what looked like gauzy clouds shifting slightly in the night sky. Then pinks and greens appeared. 

Looking directly above us, the curtains of light emanated from a central spot in the sky. It was an awe-inspiring sight, making me think of the verse, "The heavens declare the glory of God." 

What made the event extra special was the singular focus of the people all around us. It wasn't crowded at all, but as the colours intensified, oohs and aahs rose in unison along the shore. We were all caught up together witnessing this beautiful phenomena. The joy felt by others contributed to deepening my own delight. If only we spent more time together as humans finding our common ground. 

Did you see the Northern (or Southern) Lights? A friend from Australia sent a photo of what she was seeing. Such an event!

Sunday afternoon saw us in a very different setting. Friends had purchased a new motorhome and were trying it out at a local campground. They invited to stop by and we all went for a walk. One single rail line runs up Vancouver Island, but it has not been used for a number of years. I rode the train just once and found it very rickety. Going over a curving high trestle bridge was nerve-wracking as the train slowed to a crawl to maintain stability. These days the rail line is good for walking on an afternoon filled with dappled light. 

Scotch Broom (cytisus scoparius) blooms just now, bright yellow against the green forest. The story goes that the plant was introduced to Vancouver Island by homesick Scots. Gardens were "sweetly reminiscent of home" according to Margaret Ormsby, a Canadian historian. Broom flourishes in disturbed ground such as the cleared land along the rail line. Now considered an invasive species, the plant crowds out native species and is taking root in more and more places. There are those who love the plant and those who despise it. The roadsides are pretty when the flowers bloom, but the plant itself is wiry and, to my mind, not particularly attractive. 

Leaving the rail line we followed a trail and descended 199 steps (I didn't count them, there was a sign) to a small river. Here a waterfall splashes down into a pool lined with fern-covered rocks, and ringed with tall cedar and hemlock trees. The water is clear green and very cold. Two people were swimming and someone joked that they must be Finns. On a hot summer day the pool would be a cooling spot. However, there are those steps one must climb to get back to the trail. 

I'm working hard to get my garden in these days. I planted out the tomatoes started under grow lights. Radishes and carrots are sprouting along with onions, lettuce, and spinach. A week of warm sunshine has heated the soil and everything is flourishing. 

Wishing you moments of delight and beauty. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

In the Evening Light


The light behind the waving trees I see through my window is pale yellow. The kitchen is tidy; my tasks for the day are complete. I love this time of day when I do just what I please - mostly reading.

Masses of pansies bloom on the front porch. I planted them last autumn and they puttered along through the winter, but now they are outdoing themselves with blossom after blossom. I love their sweet and friendly faces. My maternal grandmother loved purple pansies and I think of her when I see them. 

A small dragon sits on my kitchen windowsill, created by a granddaughter who spent the weekend with us while her parents celebrated their anniversary. He's a friendly fellow, I think. As she ran out the door with her parents on Sunday, Sadie called back, "There are six more dragons hidden upstairs!" We've found five of them and it took some searching. We'll ask for another hint for the sixth one. 

My days have fallen into an easy routine. I try to write for a couple of hours in the morning on the memoir of our family's years in Ecuador. I'm at 47,000 words on the second draft, just over half way. Some days it's harder to write as I deal with difficult times, and I find it emotionally draining.

Yesterday afternoon I spent outdoors working in the garden. What a tonic that was! There is always something to do and I am reluctant to return indoors. I did make pesto - I planted basil 6-8 weeks ago and it took off like a flash. The plants needed trimming, hence the pesto. It will stay nicely in the freezer. 

The flooring and stairs were completed several months ago, and I asked Tim to build a narrow cabinet for the hall. We looked in stores but couldn't find anything suitable. Shelves in the cabinet hold my scarves and baskets with gloves and hats. Most of my house is in cool tones, but I decided I wanted a bit of a punch in the entrance hall. This red makes me smile when I walk through, and picks up some of the red in the rug. 

Columbines bloom in the garden, mostly pale violet. Just visible behind them are tight peony buds. There are plenty of these pink ones and even more on the white bush. Something to anticipate. 

One rhododendron lives in our garden. It was here when we moved in over 20 years ago, but we moved it from the front garden to the back. Rhodos have never been favourites of mine. I long ago read a murder mystery where the murderer hid in the rhodo bushes under the window and that affected my feelings for them long before I ever knew what a rhodo looked like. I do admire the bright colours and the gold-tipped stamens. 

As I've been writing this post, the light fades. Time to close the computer and pick up a book. I'll make a cup of tea - peppermint, I think. May your evening be a pleasant one. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Rain and Sunshine


When the rain stopped late yesterday morning, I pulled on my jacket and shoes for a walk. We are so privileged to live in a town where there are many trails and parks for walking and/or hiking. I mentioned Camas Lilies in my last post, and here they are en masse - a lovely swath of blue among mossy rocks. 

Pacific Dogwoods (cornus nuttallii) are currently in bloom. Raindrops still cling to these flowers. I'm noticing dogwoods more this year - is it an exceptional year for their blooms or am I just more aware of them? 

Here's a tree full of them. I also saw a fat American Robin pulling a worm from the grass and taking his time eating it bit by bit. How funny he looked with the worm dangling on either side of his beak. My presence didn't bother him in the least. 

Along a fence this lovely apple blossom clematis is opening. I stopped to take a sniff, but couldn't smell anything. Since my bout with Covid over a year ago my sense of smell is greatly diminished. Very sad. I keep hoping it will return. Nearby a crow flew overhead with a stick in his beak to land in a tree - nest building? 

I love the acid green of early spring leaves, maples here. Such lovely contrast with the dark branches that will soon be mostly hidden. 

Closer to home, a gentleman planted a variety of tulips, in a variety of pink shades. They are so pretty just now. 

Days are full of happy things. I try to spend a couple of hours writing each morning, followed by home-keeping and sewing or gardening. The gardening is taking the back seat these days as it's been quite cold. My tomatoes are doing well - I started them over a month ago - and I've been putting them outside during the warmer days. One night recently I awoke at 4 am realizing that they were still outside. I got up and brought them in right away. Often it's in the early hours of the morning that we get a touch of frost. I'm happy to say that the tomatoes are still thriving. 

How is Spring coming along in your corner? I wish you days full of happy things. 

Days Not at Home

  Last Wednesday morning we boarded a plane for The Netherlands, landing midday on Thursday, Amsterdam time. After figuring out our e-sims a...