Next week, my granddaughter turns 1 year old! I hope you will like these photos and reflection of a first-time grandmom. Thanks to the editors of The Journal in Time of Pandemic and Lockdown for including my post:
I laughed so hard that the chickadee birds on a nearby tree stopped twittering, the two eating at the feeder flew away, and a chipmunk racing along the pool deck stopped so suddenly, it nearly fell into the water.
It was early evening and I was in the warm water of our backyard pool, doing a version of swimming. “Warm” at 88 degrees, which my husband calls “a hot bath”. And “swimming”, though not what anyone would recognize as such. I always hold on to a foam ‘noodle’.
I know I may be overdoing the precaution, but the trusty noodle calms my fears of drowning by keeping me afloat when my damaged limbs fail.
My left leg does almost all the lower-body work. But I feel so light and free in the warm water that the discovery that my right leg is not moving is always a surprise. What I always remember is the sudden stab of pain in my left shoulder that will almost knock me out. These are long-term injuries from a car accident of more than a decade ago.
This early-evening ‘swim’ was my last time in the pool before we closed it down for the winter, and I was already missing it. The warm water, the low-stress exercise and the sights and sounds of the natural world were a balm for my body. Sometimes, I just stopped moving, floating along with the clouds above.
And that’s when the memory surfaced, making me laugh out loud.
I was at a mineral bath in the Caribbean.
This trip was yet another costly “therapy”. But my hopes were high – or as high as they could be after years of disappointment.
I hadn’t given up the search for magic elixirs offering instant healing.
My sister, my ‘guardian’ on this trip, was the first to notice the sign limiting visitors to only 15 minutes in the water each time.
That’s when I realized that, to get full benefit, most people would arrange to stay for a few days. The facility is, after all, a positively-reviewed “Hotel and Spa”.
We’d already made another crucial mistake. We had foolishly taken a ‘quicker’ route over what turned out to be storm-damaged back roads with potholes as big as bathtubs. By the time we arrived at the baths, even my sister (who wasn’t recovering from an accident) was groaning.
Still, the place was clean, the service competent, and we were, after all, privileged to be here — at a facility that we had both heard about since childhood and read about in books. For more than a century, these baths have been famous, their healing benefits acclaimed.
We changed into bathing suits and sank into the warm mineral water, determined to eke every ounce of benefit from our 15 minutes.
Then, by tacit agreement, we stretched the time out, sure someone would turf us out at any moment.
At 20 minutes, we reluctantly got out, showered, toweled off, dressed and got back in the car, smiling as we started the journey back to the place where we were staying.
That’s when we discovered that even the ‘good roads’ had been damaged by the storm. The potholes weren’t bathtub-sized, but numerous.
I returned home to Canada hobbling, wincing, groaning and swearing — in worse shape than when I left.
The sheer irony of it all, I thought, as I floated in my backyard pool, laughter bursting out of my body.
Of course, our pool has its limits — it’s closed now until May next year. But in those five warm Canadian months — without a 15-minute limit, without the pain and expense of travelling on airplanes and storm-ravaged roads — the warm water of my pool is excellent therapy. Right here in my own backyard.
I’ve been waiting impatiently for Laurie Graves’ third book in the The Great Library series.
Out of Time is due this November.
The first two books and their main character Maya are enthralling. There are big themes in this series, but the main story is about a teenager who, with the help of a magical book, faces adversaries from a different time and a different realm. With the guidance of the Book of Everything, Maya travels between present and past just in time to prevent certain events from happening.
Having lived in fascinating old houses for most of my life, I have often stood in a room, wondering what it would be like to be able to revisit the house in an earlier century. And yes, I have wondered what it was like to be an adolescent or teenager during those times. Through Marie Prins’ The Girl from the Attic, I was able to do a bit of time travel myself.
The Girl from the Attic tells the story of Maddy, a feisty young girl who, with the help of a mysterious cat, finds a door to the past. She finds herself in a time when bath soap is made the old way (with dangerous lye), there are no antibiotics, and people still die from diseases such as tuberculosis. Maddy makes desperate attempts to prevent certain events from unfolding.
Kudos to Marie Prins for skillfully creating the two worlds of past and present — both taking place in the same home. In Maddy and her friend Clare, the author presents us with two likable, believable characters facing realistic challenges of their times.
Marie says there are similarities between the book and her own life:
“I too have American roots and now live in a historic, octagonal house that once was a farm house. I was intrigued/inspired by the idea of a portal that would allow someone to discover who lived here and what life may have been like a century ago.
“A bit of research gave me many ideas for the 1901 part of my story (there really was a soap factory across the street). In the 2001 part of the story, my protagonist reflects some of my own feelings of displacement when I moved here.“
But getting the book written and published was no easy feat. Inspired by an assignment in a workshop led by Canadian author Ted Staunton, Marie worked at it over ten years.
“It was rejected by many Canadian publishers, but then in 2019 it won silver in Common Deer Press’s Uncommon Quest competition. Of course, there were more revisions to do after I signed the contract, but I had a great editor who helped me make the novel a better book.”
Marie calls working with Common Deer “a happy collaboration”. Among other things, publisher Kirsten Marion was open to artist Edward Hagedorn doing the illustrations. Edward is Marie’s husband.
Congrats, Marie and Edward!
Congrats, Laurie Graves!
I kid you not: I could get lost in a room.
So – naturally – I got lost while coming home from an appointment in a nearby town.
The key to getting lost graciously is to act as if where you’ve ended up is where you’d meant to go all along. But I was too agog at where I’d ended up to even pretend to be gracious. My mouth fell open.
In no time at all, I’d gone from modern streets and brand-new neighborhoods to this old country road and a feeling that I’d time-traveled into the 1800’s. Beautiful old houses flanked both sides of the road.
And I knew, without being told, that some of these homes had belonged to certain local families for generations. It was that kind of place.
Most were surrounded by expansive grounds with big old trees…
Sweeping lawns and glorious gardens.
On the lake side of the street, were more gardens, houses and infinite vistas….
Parkland and beaches and families at play….
Boats at the marina…
Where on earth was I?
Not one to panic till I’d run out of options, I kept going… and thought I’d seen that enormous old tree just a minute or so before I turned…
So I turned around again and kept going…..
And discovered a sign…..
Historic Bond Head.
I’d never heard of it.
Later, I’d learn that Bond Head, formerly known as Port Newcastle, was once a thriving harbour, with ships ferrying cargo to and from Quebec, Toronto to the west, Kingston to the east and various American ports.
In 1856, Bond Head and the neighboring village merged under the name of Newcastle. The overall region is now known as Clarington.
But right now, I was just busy being lost.
And then I saw a strangely beautiful old house. Spellbound, I stopped, turned off the engine and stared.
For a long moment, I forgot that I was lost. Questions flew through my mind as I sat in my car, gawking at the huge house on a country road.
“Who would have built such a grand home?” I wondered.
This house must have a great story, I thought.
This is how I ended up having tea in a stranger’s kitchen with a man named Ron. And that was only the beginning.
Dedicated to lovers of history everywhere, including residents of Bond Head and Newcastle in Ontario.
© 2008 CSR