A Good Home, Cold winter, Ontario winter, Snow, Winter

Fifty Words For Snow

It’s said that Inuit people have between 20 and 50 words for snow. 

Some say there are even 100.

Blog Photo - Trees and snow 2

Well, we in the rest of Canada have 50 words for snow and cold right now.

But they’re not printable.

Don's Studio - Photo by D. Corbett
Photo by D. Corbett

How many kinds of cold can there possibly be?

My friend from Manitoba says theirs is “a dry cold” whereas our Ontario cold is damp because we have so many large lakes – and the damp cold goes ‘straight to the bone’.

Blog Photo - Arbor in Winter

Huh?  On a day like today, there could be 50 kinds of cold and it would make no difference to me.

Cold is COLD in Canada.

~~

Blog Photo - Snowed IN

The saddest story to come out of the extreme cold weather this winter is about a 3-year old Toronto boy – Elijah — who wandered out into the cold at night and froze to death yesterday morning.

The very thought hurts.

We pray for his family.

~~

"Snow Cones" on Spruce Branch - Photo by Hamlin Grange
“Snow Cones” – Photo by Hamlin Grange

Two strangers, in two different places, said the same thing this morning as we parted: “Stay warm”.

Blog Photo - Snowy path

I don’t know if this has become a winter greeting — or if we’re all thinking of that sweet-faced little boy — but it struck a chord with me each time.

Canadian Wool Blanket
Canadian Wool Blanket

Stay warm.

~~

A Good Home, Animals, Art, Artist, Country Living, Farm house, Garden, Gardening, Gardens and Wildlife, Home, Life in canada, Nature Paintings, Rabbits, Spring, Wild Rabbits, Wildlife, Winter

It’s A Wild Life

It is a truth universally suspected that a family in possession of a wildlife painting must be in need of some wildlife.

**

Years ago, my husband’s family had a farm and he and I became custodians of it. The farm was on a hilltop so we cleverly named it Hill Top.

Husband, children and I summered and weekend-ed there. I loved that farm and wanted a name sign for our front gate.  So my husband commissioned a local artist to make one for my birthday.  Author-illustrator Beatrix Potter – she of Peter Rabbit fame and a farmhouse named Hill Top — came to mind.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting wide shot

The moment that sign went up, Peter Rabbit, his parents and all their friends took up residence in our gardens.

They ate us out of home and land. As soon as we planted vegetables, herbs and flowers, they ate them.  There was soya and wheat growing in the fields. But why travel so far, when there’s good stuff nearby?

My husband couldn’t bring himself to hurt them — not with that sign out front. So there we were, hoist on our own petard.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Mushrooms

When our family moved to another home, there were no rabbits — we thought.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Mushrooms2

And then two auspicious things happened:

We visited the old farmhouse.  Our daughter noticed that the new owners had removed the Hill Top sign and begged them to give it back. They graciously agreed.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting CU of Rabbit Face

Soon after, our resident red fox – a predator of rabbits — upped and died. It might have been the sight of the sign that did it.  But there was his carcass, lying across our stream.

It took gallons of expensive fox urine to protect our gardens that year. (If you want to learn more about that inauspicious episode, you’ll have to read my next book.)

And now?

Years after moving to our current farmhouse, we’re besieged by wild rabbits — again. Squirrels too, but they don’t eat shrubs, herbs,  flowers and vegetables.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Squirrel

Last winter, the rabbits were so starved for food that they ate all my clematis vines, plus the barks of several tender young trees and shrubs.

My husband did a very manly thing: he shouted at them.  The rabbits ran  — and immediately returned.

We decided to sympathize. Wild rabbits, too, have to eat.

But soon it was spring — time to plant vegetables.

Husband decided the rabbits should be moved to a nearby nature park.  He set a humane trap filled with things that Beatrix Potter said wild rabbits love: carrots and lettuce and cabbages. But we might as well have posted a sign saying: “This is a rabbit trap.”

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting Medium CU

Truth is, these particular rabbits mostly eat grass and clover so far this spring.

Blog Photo - Rabbit cleans self

Truth is, our daughter has named them Fred and Penelope. (At least, she thinks there are only two. But where there are two, there are — or soon will be — a dozen.)

Blog Photo - Rabbit thinks he's hiding

And truth is, my husband has put the sign up again.

Methinks it’s a sign of surrender.

Blog Photo - Rabbit Painting CU of Rabbit Face

 Photos by Hamlin Grange.

A Good Home, Fruit trees, Garden, Winter

My Fig Tree in Winter

Our fig tree will make it through winter

With the help of a neat little trick

Or else it will have to dash indoors

Before winter gives it a lick

*

The first time we buried our fig tree

Uncertain that it would survive

Was October,  weeks before winter

And the fig tree was still much alive

*

Google Images
Google Images

We covered her up with earth matter

Top soil and leaves and some twigs

And buried her into the garden

In hopes that next spring we’d have figs

*

All winter we looked through the window

At the spot where the fig tree once stood

Hoping she’d survive the cold weather

With ice, snow and soil for a hood

*Blog Photo - Fig tree

In May we uncovered her branches

Lifted her out of her trench

So shocked by her clear resurrection

We sat ourselves down on a bench

Blog Photo - Fruiting Fig Tree*

This winter has been a tough business

The snow is determined to fall

And just when I think it is over

I find it’s not finished at all

*

Snow stands in piles out my window

Blows in when I open my door

It sticks to my shoes like a layer

And deposits itself on my floor

*

The fig tree and I are both immigrants

From lands that are sunny and bright

Though fig did not come here willingly

While I chose this country so white

*

But fig will be sheltered this winter

Protected and ready to bear

While I slip and slide on the sidewalk

And try to pretend I’ve no fear.

Original Photos by Hamlin Grange

A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Art, Birdfeeders, Birds, Childhood Memories, Coping with Chronic Illness, Country Living, Courage, Daughters, elderly Parents, Family, Family Matriarch, Family Stories, Homes, Inspiration, Laughter, Life Challenges, Mothers, Nature, Storms, Winter

Every Day, A Gift

A couple hours north of Toronto, the winter has been harsh. For days on end, my friend Deb and her family were snowed in.

Blog Photo - Snowed IN

“This week it was minus 36 degrees celsius,” she wrote, “not counting the wind chill! It was so cold that the trees sounded like they were exploding; like shotguns firing nonstop.”

But something sacred is taking place inside this home.

Deb’s mother Gladys, who lives with her, is declining in health. Week by week, something else fails. Two weeks ago, her feet swelled to the point where her shoes couldn’t go on. Gladys is getting weaker.

“Every day is a gift”, Deb wrote recently.

I know what this means. When time is limited, when every day is a gift, one uses time differently.

Every day, mother and daughter try to create – or simply appreciate – moments that bring joy.

Joy comes in many forms.

It comes from listening to music that Gladys enjoys. “We try to fill the house with her favorite songs from opera to Frank Sinatra.”  She particularly enjoys  Maria Callas and Andrea Bocelli.

Blog Photo - Gladys Painting 2

Doing things together brings a special kind of joy. Gladys, an accomplished artist, still loves to paint.  “Sometimes,” Deb says, ” Mom has enough energy to sketch with me or show me how to paint a picture. Sometimes it means just sitting quietly together in front of the fire and reading.”

Blog Photo - Gladys paints

Joy comes from simple things like deciding what to cook. “I pore over the recipes and ask her opinion. Then I try to tempt her to have a little, though her appetite has waned.

“I still offer her a glass of wine or a hot chocolate spiced with something special.  And Mom still enjoys her peanut brittle, though she has to suck on the pieces rather than bite them (90 year old teeth)!!!!”

Blog Photo - House overlooking Lake

They take joy in nature. Gladys often sits in a comfortable chair beside a large window. On the other side of that window is a bird-feeder and beyond that, acres of woods and a snow-covered lake.

Blog Photo - Bird at Feeder

“We watch for the many different birds that come to the feeder right by her chair,” says Deb. “We watch the snow swirl around the house and whistle through the trees. We are amazed at the snow sculptures — also known as snow drifts!”

There’s also joy in laughter. The two women watch funny movies together.  Like “The Heat”, with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. They laughed so hard, they cried.

When friends drop in, they enjoy tea, cookies  – and laughter.

Blog Photo - Tea time

And then there’s the kindness of others. “The nurses that come every second day have been so kind and are gentle in spirit.”

Gladys faces each day with a mixture of hope and acceptance. She points out that the doctors are experimenting with a new injection that seems to be helping to give her some strength back. And she also says: “My bags are packed and I am still waiting for a clearance on the runway of life…… That is what snow blindness can do to you.  Illusions??? Think positively! Spring is coming!”

Indeed, there are signs of rebirth in the air. Just days ago, a new baby was born – Gladys’ third great-grandchild.  It’s a joyful occasion, and Gladys looks forward to meeting the newborn soon.

There’s much sweetness in this time. And sadness. And wonder.

Deb notices that, whatever they’re doing, Bailey, the family’s pet retriever, “spends a lot of time at Mom’s feet as if he knows something.”

Blog Photo - Bailey in Snow

As her mother nears the end of her life, Deb finds herself reflecting. “I take Bailey out for a walk every day to breathe….to catch my breath, and pray. To find solace in nature….. to marvel at the snow. I spy two moose in the forest, a mink sliding across the driveway. I tell myself that all I can do is my best. The rest is up to God…the when – and the how –  of how this will come to an end.”

Blog Photo - Moose in Snow

She says Gladys is “calm and brave”, her sense of humour and memory still sharp.  She surprised Deb recently by reciting a quote from a book she received on her tenth birthday, 80 years ago:

“Deem it not an idle thing

A pleasant word to speak

The words you use, the thoughts you bring

A heart can heal or break”.

It’s moments like this that bring tears to Deb’s eyes.  Some days, all it takes is “a word, a song, a story Mom tells.”

But there’s a lovely sense of grace in this home, perhaps reinforced by the words from a prayer by St. Francis which Deb frequently recites: “Make me a channel of Your peace”.

Dedicated to Gladys and Deb, and to all those who’ve had a similar experience.