A Good Home, Angels, Birds, Books, Chronic pain, Dogs, Garden, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Pets, Photographs, Spiritual, Spring

The Angel

My staircase looked as tall as Mount Everest.  But there was no alternative: I’d have to climb the mountain.

My back and leg were on fire with pain.   As I’d done so many times before, I stood at the bottom of the stairs, summoning the courage.   Then I started climbing —  on hands, feet and knees — and told myself that I was a brave mountaineer.  Sometimes, you just have to lie to yourself and hope yourself believes it.

At the top landing, I sat down. The truth was that I felt exhausted, sorry for myself and not at all brave.   But it was worth the trip upstairs to my office.   An email came from my husband, who’d left for work early that morning.

“Forgot to tell you”,  he wrote.  “I heard a Cardinal singing this morning.  I looked out the kitchen door and saw a female… the male must have been nearby.”

Via vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/
Via vitalxrecognition.wordpress.com/

I smiled.  I could almost hear the bird singing. Could almost believe that spring had really arrived and winter was really over.

It was mid- afternoon and my daughter’s little dog, Mr. D., woke up and headed downstairs.  It was time for his walk around the garden.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

Together we went  out the door and into the garden, snowflakes swirling around us.

He scampered along and I followed slowly, leaning on my cane.   His fur is white, making him invisible against the snow without his sweater on.  And he’s so small that the low boxwood plants that border the centre garden bed can hide him completely.

At one point I couldn’t see Mr. D. at all, though he was standing just a few feet away, wearing his sweater.  Then I saw a blur of black and white speeding around the boxwood circle.  I smiled.  He slowed down till I caught up.

Photo by Hamlin Grange
Photo by Hamlin Grange

When we returned to the front doorway, I saw a small box, with my name on it.

I tore open the cardboard. There was a book inside.

It was Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.  I’d been wanting to read it.

There was a short note accompanying the book:

“For Cynthia, who notices things ‘close up’ and understands in both visceral and transcendent ways the ‘Signature of All Things’ and can write so beautifully even when she hurts.”

Blog Photo - E Gilbert book

It was from Jacqui, who works at the London Public Library.  How did she know? I wondered.  How did she know that on a day like today, this gift would cheer me up no end?

I smiled. The angel at work again.

Sometimes the angel is a sound: the song of a cardinal on a winter day; the harmony played by the wind chimes on our verandah; the hilariously huge snore that comes from a tiny dog’s body as he snoozes on the floor beside me.

Sometimes she’s a scruffy-looking stranger.  The young man who rushed to open a heavy door for me, his kind smile illuminating his entire face.

Sometimes she’s a friend.  Jacqui, sending me that book.   My husband, telling me that spring is here: the birds are singing.  My sister, showing a keen understanding.

The phone rang.  My sister had asked me – I forget when, exactly – to find out something for her.  I did.  But now she was on the phone, asking for the answer, and I couldn’t remember what it was that I’d found out.  Too much pain, too little sleep, for days and nights on end.  I felt ashamed to tell her that I couldn’t remember.  I tried to speak; instead of words, a disjointed stutter was all I could manage.   For just a moment, I felt as if I might burst into tears.

My sister recognized the warning signs and reacted quickly.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll talk tomorrow. Just stop everything and rest now.”

Image Via achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/
Via achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/

I imagine that if the angel ever showed up as herself, she’d look like my mother:  soft brown skin, short, silver-grey hair, the picture of serenity.  In the meantime, she takes different forms and sounds, and helps me out when I least expect it.

“How do you manage to project such positive thoughts on your blog when you’re feeling so miserable?” a friend asked me one day.  She’d paid me a surprise visit, and found me struggling to get around.

“When I write on my blog, I try to uplift my readers,” I replied.   “Not sure what it does for them, but it sure makes me feel better!” At that, we’d both shared an understanding laugh and sipped our tea.

Of course, I should also have said:  “Did I ever tell you about the angel?”

Dedicated to Merle, Jane, Joanne — and all the other angels in my life.

 

A Good Home, Flowers, Furniture, Garden, Home, Home Decor, Inspiration, Photographs

10 Pictures That’ll Make You Even Happier For Spring!

Sharing the love for Spring and encouraging her to visit soon:

10 Pictures That’ll Make You Even Happier For Spring!.

A Good Home, Homes, Interior Design, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Photographs, Prince Edward County, Renovating, Restoration, Restoring old houses

John’s House in Prince Edward County

Some weeks ago, I asked the question: Who would buy an old house, knowing it needed a lot of renovation?

John Garside replied: “I would!”

And he’s doing exactly that.  Which led me to more questions:

Why would a big-city guy, born and raised in Toronto, sell his comfortable home and move to a small town 2 hours away in Prince Edward County?

Blog Photo - Picton House Exterior

Why would he buy a rambling old house, knowing it would need years of renovation – most of it his own labour?

And why – several months into the dusty, grueling process – is John so darned happy with his decision?

John is the former editor of the horticultural newsletter that publishes some of my garden stories and poems.  When I heard about this move, I was happy for him — but very curious at the same time.

Was he, like so many other émigrés who’ve left big cities and moved to “The County”,  planning to have his own vineyard and make wine?

Image via thecountywines.com
Image via thecountywines.com

Or produce fine cheese?

Image via kingstonherald.com
Black River Cheese – Image via kingstonherald.com

Or become a landscape painter, perhaps?

Glide by C. Pachter - via Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County
“Glide” by Charles Pachter – Available at Oeno Gallery, Prince Edward County

None of the above.

Turns out that John has had a love affair with the small towns and lakeside settings of  Prince Edward County since he was a teenager on a Grade 13 geography project in the area. Years later, he fell in love with Ann, who also loved the area. They visited often, and even honeymooned there.

Six years ago, they bought a condo in The County for weekends and summers.  By then, the area was already becoming a trendy place.  More and more people were ditching their big-city lifestyles and operating vineyards and wineries,   restaurants, cooking schools and  art galleries. Some were winning awards for their cheese and wine.

More and more artists had moved there, while others were buying weekend and summer homes in the small, lakeside towns.  Still others discovered that The County was a great place to visit.

Meanwhile, John and Ann toured an old house in downtown Picton one weekend a year ago.

“Walking through the home,” John says,  “I felt an immediate attraction, not only for the home but the property itself.  It needed a keeper, and I really felt that we were the ideal people to take on this project.”

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase

Only four families had owned the house in 100 years.  Each owner had  preserved its grandeur.

Blog Photo - Picton Staircase 2

Each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“And lastly,” John says, “the stained glass windows in every room are wonderful!”

Blog Photo - Picton Window

John sounds like a man in love – with a house.  But his eyes were wide open.  For all its good looks, the house needed a lot of work.  New electrical wiring and plastering,  for starters.   That meant floors and walls ripped open, etc., etc., etc.

John’s been doing the work for several months now.

“This project”,  he says, is “the greatest test of my skills in my life”.

For one thing, he’s doing most of the work alone. For another, he’s not a brawny guy – John weighs only 155 pounds.   And then the third thing: he promised Ann that they’d move in by the end of April.

So how’s it going?   Will John and Ann be able to move into the house as planned?

Blog Photo - Green Room in Progress

We’ll find out!  I’ll check in with John each week.  And I’ll share pictures and progress with you.

Good luck, John!

Original Photos by John Garside

A Good Home, Flowers, Garden, Homes, Lifestyle, Nature, Photographs

GUILTY PLEASURES

It had all started so innocently.  In the dead of winter — a drab, colourless Canadian winter like this one that drives people to drink, or to think of drink. But what’s a non-drinker to do?

It was then that I bought my first such magazine, and began my days and nights of sin.

Blog Photo - Red Rose 003

And now I have become a dirty old woman, the female version of the dirty old man who hides certain magazines between the mattress and the box spring.

In airports or train stations, I hover in front of magazine racks, feasting my eyes upon luscious centrefolds.

And there it is:  Beauty. Naked to the eye.

Blog Photo - Tomato

My heart beats faster.  When no-one is looking, I grab the magazine and head to the cashier.

If asked, I claim that I buy them for the stories.  And do my best to keep a straight face as I tell this whopper. Truth be told?  I rarely read the stories.  It’s all about the pictures.

But I am a very responsible leader in a very responsible organization. So – if travelling with a  colleague,  I may also buy a camouflage – one of those overly-serious magazines about overly-serious things.

Blog Photo - Daylily Pink

“Pornography for us older fellas”, my friend Les once called it.  Momentarily startled by this blunt assessment, I giggled nervously, sure he could read the guilt on my face.

But I know of what he speaks.  Oh, how well I know.

At home, and afraid of my husband’s scoffing reaction (“Another of those things?”) I hide the magazine under my robe and head to the bathroom.  In the tub,  I open the magazine and am immediately transported — to the land of fantasy.

Blog Photo - Red Poppy

Behold the beauties. The undulating curves representing the hills and valleys of my shameful desire.  Beauties of every shape and colour imaginable, originating in exotic places such as South Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Thailand.

I inhale deeply, imagining myself breathing in their heady perfume.

Blog Photo - Yellow Iris

Now intoxicated, swept away by their beauty, I am drowning, unable or unwilling to put up any resistance. Then someone knocks on the bathroom door.  Before I can hide the magazine, it falls into the soapy warm water.  My disappointment is palpable.

Blog Photo - CU Pink Poppy

In recent years, I have been tempted to break the addiction.   One year, as my resolution for Lent,  I even packed the magazines  in a box and gave them away.

But the path to damnation is littered with good intentions.  As I endure this  Canadian winter — the days of shortened sunlight or none at all,  the feeling of being trapped indoors for months at a time – my good intentions fall by the wayside.

And off I go again, to buy yet another gardening magazine.

These beautiful photographs are by Hamlin Grange.

** N.B. I wrote this many years ago when I was a very serious senior journalist at Canada’s public broadcaster, but never published it.  On this winter day, I’m dedicating it to everyone who’s ever had an addiction to gardens or garden magazines.