Of Bertrand Russell and Linseed Oil

What I’m doing now:

I finished applying boiled linseed oil to the old fence as practice for treating the enclosed deck exterior with it. I really like how it made the wood planks look, deeper in tone. I don’t think the deck wood will become quite as dark because the wood on the deck is much newer than the fence boards. When the wood is older it seems to soak up more oil. We’ll see.

What I’m reading now:

I recently started reading Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory and Other Essays. It’s the first time I’ve read him since university, and I barely read him then. I guess I thought I had better things to do. I was wrong.

This book is available, along with other used copies, from AbeBooks.org.

“Of remoter ancestors I can only discover one who did not live to a great age, and he died of a disease which is now rare, namely, having his head cut off.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

Listen to me read this part about Bertrand Russell:

In university years ago I studied philosophy and I read the British philosopher, mathematician, serial husband, and campaigner for peace, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Not as thoroughly as I should have but enough to keep me interested all these years. That man accomplished more in a week than I’ll do in my whole lifetime!

Since we got our new computer, Pocket now pops up on my home screen and offers suggestions of articles I might like to read. Sure enough and big as day, there was a Bertrand Russell essay called “How to Grow Old” featured on the website brainpickings.org.

After reading this essay about how to age and die well (spoiler alert: the key is living well) I looked up Bertrand Russell to find out more about the man that nurtured these beautiful ideas and then grew them into words.

Young Bertrand Russell didn’t have it easy. Both of his parents, his sister, and his grandfather died by the time Bertrand was six years old. This misfortune left him and his brother Frank to be raised by their grandmother, apparently the last adult standing. Frank was sent to boarding school while Bertrand was educated at home. It was lonely, but he claims he didn’t mind the solitude, only the boring, repetitive meals in a household that could’ve afforded to feed a small village. Oh yes. Young Bertrand also loathed the strict routine including the hour-and-a-half piano practice each day. He admits his relief at leaving for Cambridge and discovering that there were others more like him out there in the world.

“If a person when adult is to be able to fit into a society, he must learn while still young that he is not the centre of the universe and that his wishes are often not the most important factor in a situation.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

Despite early tragedy and a rigid upbringing, Bertrand Russell turned out all right. Over the course of his 97 years he published in excess of 70 books and approximately 2000 articles. In 1950 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Bertrand Russell had his ups and downs. For example his first wife, Alys Pearsall Smith, was a bit disappointed when he returned home from a bicycle ride during which he made a realization. According to Wikipedia, “Their marriage began to fall apart in 1901 when it occurred to Russell, while he was cycling, that he no longer loved her. She asked him if he loved her and he replied that he did not.”

During his life of activism and of expressing his views, many liked Bertrand Russell and many hated him. Either way, it’s this philosopher and Nobel laureate that I’m researching and writing about today. The same can’t be said of some guy way back when who intensely disliked Russell. I’m not familiar with that grouchy man or his body of work. but I might have met his great grandson.

Take care and be well. ~ Lori

“Contempt for happiness is usually contempt for other people’s happiness, and is an elegant disguise for hatred of the human race.”

~ Bertrand Russell, from Portraits from Memory

A Caturday Post (About Cats)

 

Slowest ReaderLately, I’ve been dreaming about cats. The other night I dreamt that a half-grown grey cat brought a small mouse into the garage where I was working. The cat set the dead mouse down a couple metres from me (physically distancing herself) and began picking away delicately at the rodent. Soon after, another cat, older and also grey but with prominent orange stripes, carried in a larger rodent, placed in on the concrete floor near the other cat and started to feast.

I recall feeling flattered in my dream that the cats trusted me enough – a total stranger – to eat their lunch right in front of me. In fact, both cats behaved as if I wasn’t even there. I was very pleased but, at the same time, a bit grossed out because the consuming of the dead rodents was pretty graphic. In my dream, I planned how I would keep these cats without having to bring them into the house to live with me.

I pictured installing a cat door in the walk-through door that opens onto our patio and I imagined an electric heater of some type to keep my feline friends warm in winter weather. I worried that the heater might start a fire. Always thinking ahead, even when I’m asleep.

Cat Wineglass

Our housecat died almost exactly six years ago now. Here’s some solid advice: if you don’t want a cat for sixteen years, don’t volunteer to bottle feed newborn kittens for the local SPCA. How do you feed a helpless creature for weeks, waking up at 3:00 a.m. to heat tiny bottles of milk-replacement formula, and then give that kitten back? You don’t. That’s how we got Otis.

We miss her presence still, that funny little cat. She was neurotic in the most entertaining way. Otis also made a mess, especially during the last few years, vomiting everywhere and suffering from what seemed like a steady stream of diarrhea. So now you understand why we’re not in a big rush to invite another animal to live inside with us.

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George before his trials and tribulations.

Remember George? The neighbour’s cat that went missing last year and then showed up months later, buck-shot and starving? We saw George the other day trying to hoist his now-rotund body over our back garden gate. We were so happy to see him out and about.

When he first returned home after his ordeal, his owner told me that George ate all the food in his dish and then tried to eat the plastic cat food dish. While he was away on his adventure, George’s owners were offered a pair of kittens. They missed George, assumed dead, and missed having cats around. So they adopted the kittens a few weeks before George rammed his head repeatedly into the locked cat door of his former home.

Curiosity

The other day, we drove into our alley and pressed the automatic garage door opener button. Just then, we saw two startled cats, young and matching, leap into the air from in front of the magically-opening door, and dash with their bellies nearly flat against the ground and their tails straight out, across the alley and back to George’s house. The kittens must’ve been enjoying the sunshine reflecting off the white garage door onto the concrete pad in front of it. Cats are funny.

George and I hope that you have a very pleasant weekend. Thanks for reading our caturday post. ~ Lori

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A Kind Of Resurrection Story

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma & Grandpa all dressed up, just the way Grandma liked.

Here’s a re-post of a family history story I wrote a few Easters back now. A lot has changed since then but a lot has stayed the same, too. Take care and thanks for reading. – Lori

My grandma didn’t like living on the farm. Well, not most of the time. I don’t know exactly why this was. It might have had to do with her glamourous sisters and one sister in particular.

My great aunt Esther trained to be a nurse in Edmonton and then moved to California. Once there, and being a beauty, she landed a couple minor roles in the movies. Meanwhile, my grandma described to me working as a janitor in the local one-room schoolhouse and later in life, milking cows on the farm as the animals swished their “poopy” tails in her face.

Hear me read this post:

I can imagine how she sometimes felt about her life comparing it to the excitement of Hollywood. But everything that glitters isn’t gold. Grandma would have reminded me that cow poop doesn’t glitter. I would’ve liked to tell her that her life lived simply was equally as valuable as a Hollywood life, just different.

Grandma loved cut flowers in crystal vases, paved sidewalks, pressed linen tablecloths, and elegant clothing.

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Daffodils in a nice vase were something Grandma enjoyed more than she enjoyed dead calves or milk cows.

My grandma did not like gross things. That’s why I was really surprised when she shared the following story with me.

It would have been about this time of year, late March or maybe a bit on into April. Grandpa’s Hereford cows were calving, and this kept my grandparents busy day and night. One morning, Grandma headed out to the barnyard to find Grandpa. On her way across the yard to the barn, she saw the body of a newborn calf stretched out in the weak early-morning light.

As Grandpa emerged from the barn, he nodded at the lifeless calf and said, “Born last night. Didn’t make it.”

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Not Hollywood. Not even close.

She wasn’t particularly an animal lover, my grandma. They never had pet cats or dogs. Grandpa loved horses, but they were his interest, not hers. I don’t know what compelled her to do what she did – and to spend so much precious time doing it.

For some reason, my grandma wasn’t convinced that the calf was beyond hope. She fetched a tattered woolen blanket, laid it over the red and white form of the calf, and slowly, methodically, she began massaging its limbs and its body.

My grandpa had work to do. “Leave it alone, Emma. It’s dead,” he told her impatiently and headed off to do his next task. But she didn’t leave it alone, that goo-encrusted calf.

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A one-room schoolhouse similar to the one Grandma cleaned.

“I dragged it right into the sunshine where it was warmer, and I kept rubbing and rubbing that calf with that old blanket.” I remember her chuckling here and shaking her head in disbelief. “And you know, after a couple hours, that calf kicked and snorted and stood up. Clifford couldn’t believe it!”

My favourite stories are the ones that show a totally different aspect to the people I’ve loved and thought I knew. Even if the stories aren’t sweet, I like to delve into the complexity of people. I like to move beyond the pretty and into the messy. That’s where it gets interesting.

I wonder to this day why on earth my grandma, who didn’t like getting dirty or bloody or sweaty, would’ve rubbed that calf for two hours on her knees out in the chilly barnyard. All she told me about it was, “I thought if I didn’t give up and just kept on rubbing, that calf would come to life.”

Apparently, she was right.

 

Grandma and Grandpa
Clifford and Emma Knutson

Kids Survive the Darnedest Things

Hi there! Here’s a post I put together for the Amisk-Hughenden Historical Society all about a lost child and the dream a man had that told him exactly where to find her.

Kids Survive the Darnedest Things

Little nine-year-old Ethel Thorpe, caused a stir in the community that old timers will never forget. July 13, 1915, she and her little dog left as usual about 4 p.m. to bring home the cows. Her family waited, and waited in vain, for her return. It started to rain and her frantic parents, knowing she had on only a light cotton shirt and overalls, lighted a big bonfire on top of a high hill, hoping she would see the light and come to it.

They notified neighbours, who in turn passed on the word that a child was lost and soon the entire countryside from Wainwright to Provost to Hardisty was organized into a huge search party. Men searched on horseback, in buggies and on foot, through rain-soaked brush and trees, through grain fields and rolling prairie thunderstorms encumbered them, they searched doggedly on. But after four days and nights of searching, hopes that she would be found alive were at low ebb.

Westside Main Street 1912
The west side of Hughenden’s main street, 1912

The morning of July 18th dawned clear. The sun shone brightly for the first time in days. Its warmth and brightness seemed to give renewed vigor to the enormous crowd that turned out to make one final effort to find little Ethel.

Two bachelors, Jim Murphy and John Black, felt confident that today they would find her. They knew just where to look, for Jim Murphy had dreamed a dream that night. In the dream he saw the child and recognized the terrain.

They lost no time in getting started that morning. When they reached the approximate spot of Jim’s dream, he got out of the buggy and said, “I’ll walk around this side of the bush, you drive around the other. She is here somewhere.” And there she was, just as he had known she would be, huddled down in the tall grass with her little dog clutched tightly to her breast.

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A summertime view from Hughenden’s countryside.

Ethel’s first impulse on being found was to run and flee. It took a lot of coaxing on the part of the men, one of whom was a friend of the family, before she could be persuaded to go with them. It is thought that through exposure to wet and cold, and the fright of being lost, she had been in a sort of fevered stupor much of the time, for she told of how she would run and hide whenever she saw men or teams approaching.

She had lived on berries and slough water, and no doubt her dog, cuddled close to her, helped keep Ethel warm. A doctor pronounced her quite all right but rather weak after her ordeal.

~ written by Mary Burpee, from The Lantern Years


Regarding The Lantern Years: Buffalo Park to Neutral Hills

Lantern YearsThe Lantern Years is a book that covers the span of history from 1867-1967 in Hughenden, Amisk, Czar and surrounding districts. The book was compiled and edited by the Hughenden Women’s Institute. In 1967 it was published by Inter-Collegiate Press, Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba, and then this Centennial project was marketed and sold.

Here is the first note of appreciation from the front of the book:

In Appreciation

The Hughenden Women’s Institute Book Committee wish to express their sincere thanks to the following:

  • Our families for their understanding and tolerance when our work on “The       Lantern Years” seemed to have precedence over all but the most essential tasks.
  • All clubs and organizations and individuals who have given us their financial support.
  • The newspapers and broadcasting companies who helped to tell their readers and listeners about “The Lanterns Years.”
  • To all those who so willingly showed their faith in us and “The Lantern Years” by buying anywhere from one to a dozen books in advance of publication. And to those same people we say thank you too for all the kind words of interest and encouragement expressed both verbally and by letter. There were times when they meant more to us than you could ever guess.
  • To Mr. Dick Brouwer for his help and co-operation in the matter of the old pictures.
  • To everyone who has helped in any way with “The Lantern Years” we say “thank you.”

Mary Burpee

Tena Parke

Viola Wight

Ester Mellemstrand (our helper from Amisk)


Whenever I’m doing local research, The Lantern Years is often open on my desk as it is right now. This book offers a unique take on the history of this area. The book is a goldmine of stories often told in the voice of the storyteller. There are old photos throughout the book, and an especially good collection in its back pages, including these great pictures:


Here’s another note of appreciation found in the front pages of The Lantern Years from Mrs. H. H. Carson on behalf of the district:

In Sincere Appreciation

Our sincere appreciation is extended to Mrs. Clarence Burpee, Mrs. L.S. Parke, Mrs. I. Mellemstrand, and Mrs. H.S. Wight for the devotion, time and effort given to the writing and assembly of material for this history so that it might be an authentic record of the pioneers of this district.

A grateful thank you is extended to each and every member of the Hughenden Women’s Institute who have contributed to the history and promoted the sale of books.


Hughenden PicnicTowed Behind Horse

Thanks for dropping by! If you’ve enjoyed this little bit of history, please consider sharing it. Have a really good weekend.

~ Lori

 

 

The Cat Came Back

Hi there! Thanks for joining me today. Come and read my happy, heartwrenching story about the neighbour’s cat whom I love.

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Ever since I returned home from a trip to Puerto Vallarta last May, I’ve been a little blue. Before we left on our vacation, my feline friend, George, was helping me in the garden. I really enjoyed his company. In fact, I enjoyed him even more than when he came to assist me the spring before. That’s when George first came to live in our neighbourhood. Since his arrival I’ve grown quite attached to that cat.

How did he get to my neck of the woods? I suspect he was born locally as so many cats are. We don’t need to import them. There are an abundance of cats produced right here. Then, when he was sick and still only a few weeks old, someone left him on my neighbour’s back step, thin and wrapped in a blanket.

My neighbour has a really soft heart for animals. I think the dropper-off-er knew this and that’s why she was selected as the lucky winner of the Who Wants a Cat? draw.

Compassionately, my neighbour drove the cat to the veterinarian clinic where he was hooked up to an IV for a couple of days to ward off dehydration and infection. That fluffy kitten survived, was christened “George”, and then, when he was old enough, George came to my backyard to get to know me.

A Stealthy Hunter

George is a stealthy hunter of birds and a clever remover of belled collars. The afternoon I saw George up in the next door neighbour’s tree and lying on the roof of the birdhouse mounted there and waiting patiently for a feathered head to emerge, I called George’s owner.

“George is quite a hunter,” I told her and gently suggested, “Maybe he needs a bell on his collar to give the birds a fighting chance.”

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The next day, George strolled into my yard sporting a collar with a bell. By suppertime, George had rubbed that collar right off.

But, the following day, he wore a brand new collar, a blue one with a larger bell. This, too, soon disappeared.

And in May, when I returned from Mexico, George had disappeared, as well. The backyard was a lonely place all summer and on into the fall. My heart felt heavy every time George crossed my mind.

Good News

 

The other day, my husband and I were working in our backyard. George’s owner swung into the  back alley, jumped out of her car, and told us, “George came back!”

“When? How?” I wanted to know.

My neighbour explained that as she was doing dishes that Saturday evening, suddenly something started ramming her locked cat door, pushing on it hard from the outside. She undid the latch (something I might not have done as we have muskrats and skunks in the neighbourhood, and sometimes feral cats, too) and in came George!

The poor little guy was worse for wear. He had been shot several times with BB pellets and he was starving. Before my neighbour began removing the pellets she could get at, she fed George. He gobbled the food and then began eating the plastic dish before my neighbour took it away.  Then he threw up what he’d eaten.

CuriosityWhen Thanksgiving weekend was over, my neighbour took George to the vet’s. He stayed there again on an IV drip to sustain him and the veterinarian dug out the remaining shotgun pellets from George’s skinny body.

“He doesn’t want to go outside now,” the neighbour confided. “He sleeps in his carrier and hasn’t moved around much. My husband’s going to build an outdoor run for him.”

I thought that was a really good idea. My heart is glad that George is back and, at the same time, it is sorrowful that the world is so darn hard on the creatures who roam it.

Thanks for reading! Drop by my site anytime. It’s nice having you here with me. ~ Lori

“The Cat Came Back” is a comic song written by Harry S. Miller in 1893. This short film is from Canada’s own National Film Board. It’s pretty dark! Give it a view.

What I Learned From Steve Earle

 

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Photo from Associated Press

The other night, we went to see Steve Earle and The Dukes. Because it is the 30th anniversary of Copperhead Road’s release, they played all the songs from the album from the first one, Copperhead Road, to the last song, Nothing But a Child, in order and Steve Earle even told us when they started to play side two. “Because that’s how we used to record ‘em,” he explained.

 

We were lucky to enjoy the concert in a theatre with a maximum capacity of 550. The Vic Juba Theatre is as comfortable as it is beautiful, and it was an intimate, memorable show from every seat.

Listen to me read this post:

By the time I left the building, I realized I learned a lot from Steve Earle that night.

It’s necessary to blink.

Here’s one thing I learned during the performance. We had third-row seats and for two hours, I stared at Steve Earle. I was so star struck that I forgot to blink. It’s necessary to blink. At the end of the night, my eyeballs felt like I’d washed them with sand. This discomfort was very worth it, though. I didn’t miss a second of seeing Steve Earle.

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Copperhead Road was released in 1988.

Good storytelling is crucial.

Steve Earle’s opening act was a couple of singer/musicians who also perform with his band. They are very talented musicians and the woman has an extraordinary voice perfectly suited to bluegrass music, but they are not storytellers. Because of this, they are not exceptionally great songwriters and, that evening, they had a difficult time engaging their audience.

Strong storytelling makes for good song writing and it draws people in. If you’re a performer to whom nothing interesting has ever happened (as seemed to be the case with the opening act), just lie to me. Make something up. I’m okay with this. I do it all the time. I don’t need a true story from you; I want to be entertained. That’s why I bought a ticket.

Steve Earle, on the other hand, is a fine example of a songwriter and storyteller. The first lines of his songs pull us right in, as in Copperhead Road:

Well my name’s John Lee Pettimore
Same as my daddy and his daddy before
You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here
He only came to town about twice a year
He’d buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line
Everybody knew that he made moonshine

~ lyrics written by Steve Earle

The first few lines tug us into the narrative and make us want to hear the whole story. He made moonshine? That’s so bad and so awesome! Tell me more!  It’s hard to hook an audience this way, but it’s what skilled songwriters like Steve Earle do.

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Photo from countrymusiclife.com

Respect is sexy.

Throughout his concert, Steve Earle conveyed respect for women and minority groups. He showed respect for Canada and for Canadians. This respect was both refreshing and attractive.

Play to your audience.

Of course, when Steve Earle and The Dukes left the stage the first time, we all stood up and clapped to see if we could get some more. Steve Earle came back to centre stage alone with an acoustic guitar. In a spotlight, he picked and sang Ian Tyson’s Summer Wages, an iconic Canadian song. When it was done he told us, “That’s to remind us where we are.”

Steve Earle understands the importance of making an audience feel like we’re not just like every other audience he’s seen every other night on the tour. He knows how to make people feel special. I don’t think this would be easy when every day he faces a new group of people that look and sound astonishingly like the crowd of people from the night before.

Life on the road takes a toll on your personal life.

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Photo from daily.co.uk

 

Steve Earle confessed that he’s a romantic. He told us about his own parents who were married for fifty-three years. “Now that’s romantic.” He also confessed that he’s been married several times. Personally, I don’t care if he’s been married twenty times or who he’s been married to. His life is his life, and it’s none of my business.

But I could tell he did feel bad that he never attained that long term marriage like his folks had. The thing is, though, his parents weren’t performers who were on the road all the time and who experienced some pretty heady success in their careers. That’s difficult. We admire fame and success in this western culture, but they aren’t blessings. They’re obstacles to peace and contentment.

Steve Earle seemed a bit heartbroken, all right, and he expressed disappointment with the way his personal life turned out. I admire what he’s made of it. It’s hard a road, but he’s walked it honestly.

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The concert program cover.

Say thanks and give credit. 

Steve Earle was careful to give credit to the Oakridge Boys for supporting the recording of Copperhead Road. He went so far as to say, “Without the Oakridge Boys there’d’ve been no Copperhead Road.

Many times throughout the show he thanked his musicians and his crew. He gave credit to the folks who helped him to write songs and enabled him to record those works. Steve Earle constantly referred to the talent of the couple who were the opening act and members of his band. Respect is sexy and so is saying thanks.

I had nothing new to say to him.

After the show, we ventured up to the concourse level where they were selling T-shirts and CDs. Steve Earle had told the audience twice during the show that he would be out to sign merchandise and anyone’s girlfriend. We bought a CD but we didn’t wait with the other hopefuls. I knew I had nothing to say to Steve Earle that he hadn’t already heard a million times before. I would’ve said the same thing as most, “Thank you, Steve Earle.”

 

If you haven’t followed my blog here on WordPress or through your email yet, consider doing it. My posts won’t always be visible in your social media feed, but if you follow me, you won’t miss a post. Thanks for reading and listening! ~ Lori

 

More Like Her

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She is patient. Image from aboundingwisdom.com

Patient and selfless, she’s everything I want to be. I met a lady this summer that made me want to change my life, to slow down, and to focus on what matters. I suppose I met a hero, someone I aspire to be like.

I’ve watched her work. She set up her workspace efficiently and unhurriedly. She didn’t rush and she didn’t panic. I never saw her stressed or annoyed. Even now when someone enters her office, she gets right to work, quickly and without argument and with minimal discussion. She works long hours, too, but you never hear her complain. She accepts what her job demands.

Hear me read this post:

This one understands who she is and is comfortable in her own skin. That being said, she’s not afraid to change and to shed her skin if needed. This gal’s adaptable. She can deal with what life sends her way, and deal with it she does.

Sunset, Anglin Lake, Saskatchewan. Photo credit Dale Clark
She works calmly. Photo by Dale Clark

We’ve all heard it said, “You’ve got to hustle and go after what you want. You’ve got to chase your dream!” I have seen that work for people, and some of them did get what they wanted. They experienced success and reached their goal. Sometimes that works and it’s great when it does.

This, however, is not the strategy used by this exceptional lady. She doesn’t hustle and she doesn’t chase. Still, she gets exactly what she wants without running around. And she’s satisfied working from home. I’d like to work like that, relaxed and yet productive.

Even though she works from home, her professional life doesn’t destroy the peace of her domestic life. She lives simply and quietly. She seems very happy that way.

Peaceful home
She works from her peaceful home. Image from home-designing.com

You might say, “Well, if she’s that happy she must be very self-centered.” You’d think so, but no. This gal’s work provides her a good living, sure, but it’s a very altruistic path she’s on. Most of her work benefits the world. That’s another one of the things I admire about her. She works for herself and she works for others.

Talk about focus! For someone who spends so much time on the web, this lady isn’t distracted by much. Unlike me, she’s not always checking her e-mail or checking her notifications. She uses her technical connections for work, not for entertainment. The web enables her without ever keeping her from work. I wish I could be this disciplined.

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She is strong in her solitude. Image from stockvault.net

I don’t think she has many friends, but she doesn’t seem to be lonesome. Sure, she has company over once in a while, but visits are pretty infrequent. Someone this self-sufficient and independent doesn’t need a lot of external support. I envy her confidence and her content solitude.

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to meet someone who changes the way we look at our own lives. It was a real pleasure to spend time with her this summer and I’m glad to have had her as an example of how rich and satisfying my own professional and personal life can be if I just follow her lead.

I gratefully acknowledge her willingness to let me share several pictures of her here.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

 

 

 

Avoiding Writing About Anthony Bourdain – A Summer Morning Photo Blogpost

A barn roof at dawn

This photo blog is lovely, but it is also a cop-out. This is me still avoiding writing about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide that took place on June 8th in a hotel room in France. Many of the pieces I’ve read about the incident state that Bourdain was staying in a “luxury” hotel, as if it’s impossible for dark despair and self-loathing to seep through luxurious walls. As if wealth and fame can prevent cruel suicide by hanging. They can’t. Of course they can’t.

Hear me read this post:

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I’m dodging chronicling a suicide that somehow touched me a little personally. For now, I’m avoiding putting on paper words that can’t come close to describing the depths of hopelessness that cause suicide. I’ve visited some of these deep, desolate places, and I suppose that in reality, I’m avoiding my own pain. I’m avoiding telling what Mr. Bourdain’s story reveals about my own story.

So this sunny Friday morning, I’m writing about the riotous birdsong that woke me at 4:30. Instead of cursing it, I rolled out of bed, pulled on my yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and I grabbed my camera and headed out the backdoor. During the summer, time lets me do that.

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It was just dark enough still for the light mounted on the garage to detect my movement and flood the backyard with light. It was dark enough for the decorative solar lights in the garden to still be glowing.

No wonder the racket woke me up. The birds were going crazy! Groups of four to six magpies flew by low and directly ahead of me, squawking and zig-zagging, still drunk from last night’s party and making their crooked way home. Wrens were singing songs sweet enough to make love by, and sparrows were tweeting to friends and neighbours today’s local gossip.

The train’s whistle, the steady creaking of its cars, and the thrum of its wheels, steel on steel, joined me as I walked up the hill. Already the weather warned me about the daytime heat to come. I wore two shirts on this adventure. I could’ve comfortably worn one.

When I got home, the itching notified me that an early-rising mosquito had bitten my rearend, sneaky little insect. I didn’t see any bugs out this morning, and yet somehow a mosquito found me. Truthfully, mosquitoes always bite my butt when I wear my yoga pants out walking. Note to self: Don’t wear yoga pants when going for a walk.

 

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I crawled back into bed feeling sleepy and satisfied. I’m sorry that Anthony Bourdain will never again have to worry about a mosquito biting his butt in any region of the world. I’m sorry that he will never again wake at 4:30 a.m. to hear birdsong sweet enough to make love by.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

A Kind Of Resurrection Story

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma & Grandpa all dressed up, just the way Grandma liked.

My grandma didn’t like living on the farm. Well, not most of the time. I don’t know exactly why this was. It might have had to do with her glamourous sisters and one sister in particular.

My great aunt Esther trained to be a nurse in Edmonton and then moved to California. Once there, and being a beauty, she landed a couple minor roles in the movies. Meanwhile, my grandma described to me working as a janitor in the local one-room schoolhouse and later in life, milking cows on the farm as the animals swished their “poopy” tails in her face.

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I can imagine how she sometimes felt about her life comparing it to the excitement of Hollywood. But everything that glitters isn’t gold. Grandma would have reminded me that cow poop doesn’t glitter. I would’ve liked to tell her that her life lived simply was equally as valuable as a Hollywood life, just different.

Grandma loved cut flowers in crystal vases, paved sidewalks, pressed linen tablecloths, and elegant clothing.

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Daffodils in a nice vase were something Grandma enjoyed more than she enjoyed dead calves or milk cows.

My grandma did not like gross things. That’s why I was really surprised when she shared the following story with me.

It would have been about this time of year, late March or maybe a bit on into April. Grandpa’s Hereford cows were calving, and this kept my grandparents busy day and night. One morning, Grandma headed out to the barnyard to find Grandpa. On her way across the yard to the barn, she saw the body of a newborn calf stretched out in the weak early-morning light.

As Grandpa emerged from the barn, he nodded at the lifeless calf and said, “Born last night. Didn’t make it.”

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Not Hollywood. Not even close.

She wasn’t particularly an animal lover, my grandma. They never had pet cats or dogs. Grandpa loved horses, but they were his interest, not hers. I don’t know what compelled her to do what she did – and to spend so much precious time doing it.

For some reason, my grandma wasn’t convinced that the calf was beyond hope. She fetched a tattered woolen blanket, laid it over the red and white form of the calf, and slowly, methodically, she began massaging its limbs and its body.

My grandpa had work to do. “Leave it alone, Emma. It’s dead,” he told her impatiently and headed off to do his next task. But she didn’t leave it alone, that goo-encrusted calf.

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A one-room schoolhouse similar to the one Grandma cleaned.

“I dragged it right into the sunshine where it was warmer, and I kept rubbing and rubbing that calf with that old blanket.” I remember her chuckling here and shaking her head in disbelief. “And you know, after a couple hours, that calf kicked and snorted and stood up. Clifford couldn’t believe it!”

My favourite stories are the ones that show a totally different aspect to the people I’ve loved and thought I knew. Even if the stories aren’t sweet, I like to delve into the complexity of people. I like to move beyond the pretty and into the messy. That’s where it gets interesting.

I wonder to this day why on earth my grandma, who didn’t like getting dirty or bloody or sweaty, would’ve rubbed that calf for two hours on her knees out in the chilly barnyard. All she told me about it was, “I thought if I didn’t give up and just kept on rubbing, that calf would come to life.”

Apparently, she was right.

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Grandma and Grandpa
Clifford and Emma Knutson

On the Nazareth Tour Bus

Nazareth Very Best
The Very Best of Nazareth

Years ago, I owned a pair of black, shiny pants. Nazareth was coming to the city where I lived at the time and in preparation for the show I put on those black, shiny pants and Nazareth’s albums. Later on that night when the bunch of us arrived, the place was already packed, but somehow we managed to secure a tall table with six stools right close to the stage.

I can’t remember if there was an opening act or not, but I do remember that the speakers sitting on the floor on either side of the stage were taller than me – and that’s pretty tall! (It isn’t, really.)

Finally, the lights went down and Nazareth was on the stage. I knew every song they played and sang along boisterously. The nice thing about the racket generated by a rock concert is that no one can hear anyone sing except for the people holding the microphones. This means that those of us who cannot carry a tune are at liberty to not carry it as loudly as we like.

The band seemed pleased enough with my so-called singing along (or with my black, shiny pants) because at one point during the performance, the lead guitarist beckoned to me between songs and handed me his guitar pick. It was fantastic!

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I was thrilled when Nazareth’s lead guitarist gave me his pick!

The evening seemed to last for mere moments and then the show was done. The band had made their exit, but shortly after, a roadie dressed all in black walked across the floor and right up to me. “The band wants to meet you.”

“Uhhh,” I articulated smoothly. “Can I bring a friend?”

“No. Just you.”

 

I was invited to Nazareth’s secret club? I hoped they didn’t expect me to know the classified handshake because I didn’t know any rock’n’roll handshakes, none at all.

“C’mon,” he urged me in his Scottish accent. “They just wanna meet you and give you a poster and stuff.” It wasn’t getting the poster I was worried about. Still, I was very curious and so off I went, following a complete stranger, a little more than rough-around-the-edges roadie, through the backstage doors and out to the bus. As we walked, he asked, “How old are you anyway?”

Fender Stratocaster
My favourite guitar: Fender’s Stratocaster. I don’t play enough to deserve one of my own.

“Thirty-four.”

He seemed mildly disappointed by the fact of my age. Now we were even as I was mildly disappointed by his lack of personal hygiene. He scoffed and told me, “We thought you was @*#%ing eighteen and you’d listened to all your mom’s records.”

“Nope,” I explained, “I’m the Nazareth fan. Not my mom.”

When we got outside to where the tour bus was parked behind the building I was surprised to see fifty or so people clamouring around the bus doors. My gruff escort elbowed his way through the fans, the bus door swung open, and in we went.

Nazareth Greatest Hits

“Here’s the girl you wanted to meet,” the roadie said flatly. Then he turned and left the bus.

I swallowed hard and tried to look relaxed. From over a huge platter of fruit, cheese and meat, the lead guitarist stuck out his hand to me and warmly said, “You knew all our songs! What would you like to drink?” He handed me a big bottle of water and

then the lead singer invited me to sit down with him on the padded bench seat. He told me, “You know the words to our songs better than I do! Whenever I’d forget the words, I’d just look over at you to see what you were singing.” Funny and flattering.

When I asked exactly where they were from, they told me Glasgow. I remember asking how they brought their tour bus over to North America and I remember being too nervous to hear the answer. I suppose the band members flew over and the bus was transported by cargo ship or they rented a bus on this continent.

Nazareth the Anthology
Nazareth: The Anthology

We had a pleasant enough visit although I could tell that I wasn’t the wild child they were hoping for. That’s okay. They weren’t the untamed rock stars I’d thought they might be, either. They were obviously hardworking guys, playing the music that their fans still loved, and not getting or feeling any younger as they traveled from venue to venue.

I knew it was time to go when they handed me my signed poster, as promised, shook my hand again, and told me good night. The roadie mysteriously reappeared and was there to lead me through the dwindling crowd of fans and back into the bar. By the time my friends and I departed at the end of our evening, the tour bus was gone. Nazareth was already back on the road.

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