Waiting, But Not for Godot…..

How much of our lives is spent “waiting?” In the book, “Birds Art Life” by Kyo Maclear, she defines the act of waiting quite clearly, if not definitively (for waiting is nothing if not endless), in this passage:
“Waiting for a late friend. Waiting in line at the movies.
Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting for the mail.
Waiting at the checkout counter. Waiting in traffic.
Waiting for the train. Waiting for the plane. Waiting in
a darkened theatre. Waiting in a foreign country.
Waiting to give birth. Waiting for sluggish minors.
Waiting for elderly parents. Waiting for something to
go wrong. Waiting at the doctor’s office. The waiting of
chronic illness. Eroded public services waiting. Wait-
ing for the Messiah. Waitlist waiting. The hoping and
waiting, the waiting and hoping. The waiting of
childhood. The waiting to grow up. The waiting of old
age. Waiting to recover. Waiting for another stroke.
Waiting for the body to let go. Waiting for inspiration.
Letting-the-field-lie-fallow waiting. The thinking-of-nothing-
and thinking-of-everything
waiting. Waiting just as the storm
ends. Waiting for the sun.”
And then of course, there is Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” quote: “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful”.
Waiting by my definition is being in limbo, a time and space in which there is no beginning or end, until, of course, it is over. Then we wait on something else. I used to be the late friend that people had to wait for, which is ironic because I normally do not like to be a bother. And a “late” friend is a bother. I have amended my ways, and try not to be late. That does not mean I am not late sometimes, but I put forth the effort now not to be late.
Some of the more interesting and more innocent synonyms for “waiting” are: for the future, in the offing, pausing, expecting, anticipating, and awaiting (which seems gentler than waiting). But waiting has its annoying side, as found in these synonyms: put off, wait on, lingering, stopping, postposing, and worst of all–delaying. I find that the term “delaying the inevitable” never has a positive connotation—why does it seem that the inevitable is never good?
Waiting for many (myself included) is annoying. But as evidenced above in Maclear’s little rant on the page, it is a big part of our lives. Much of life entails waiting—so I suppose we could live little “mini” lives in the waiting periods. Because if we don’t, there is a lot of wasted time. And depending on what you are waiting for (a diagnosis, recovery, the Messiah) you will be doing a lot of thumb twirling.
Right now, many of us are waiting for spring, and in doing so, not really enjoying what winter has to offer. We are in the “letting-the-field-lie-fallow” stage, so let us enjoy it. I do not like bitter cold, or having to don my boots whenever I go out, but there are many things I love about winter. I love the snow and how it transforms our landscape into a winter wonderland; I love snowmen and women with their carrot noses, jaunty caps, and scarves. And who doesn’t find discarded branches as arms on these makeshift harbingers of jolly, charming? When I do venture out on a dark and stormy night, I feel brave, as if I have accomplished something. And you have to admit that being warm and cozy inside is one of the best feelings—add a cup of cocoa and a book, and I for one, am in heaven.
I do not particularly care for waiting in any kind of line, but when you finally make it to the front of the line, it is as if you have earned a gold medal in patience. I particularly do not like waiting on the end of a phone line—when there are 493 in line ahead of me, or so that robotic nonhuman voice tells me, between messages of “thank you for waiting”. Now that I find beyond irritating, but sometimes you have to hang in there because it is the only way to get through. Thank goodness for computers—many times we can go online and forego the incessant wait for the “next available customer service representative”.
Sometimes, if we are so disposed, we can look at waiting as a “mini-vacation” or a little time to ourselves, when we can meditate, breathe deeply, and give in to the fact that some things are just beyond our control. Other times, waiting seems interminable, but alas, it is part of life.

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Published in: on January 16, 2018 at 3:50 pm  Comments (7)  

For the Sake of Simplicity: Happy New Year 2018!

By the time you read this, the chestnuts have been roasted, the New Year toasted, and your resolutions intact and on their way to being broken. Not a great segue into 2018? Well, let us forget the fact that by July most of us have not only forgotten our resolutions, we have broken most of them. We will carry on as if reality has not yet interceded and that this will be the year that we reach our goals, set with the haze of the holidays still fogging our minds.
Resolutions, those determined and pesky goals we set for ourselves, are to my mind a bit of a necessity as they show that the glass is not always half empty. It is our optimistic half full selves that make resolutions, and it is that very positive side of us that thinks that the glass of life is neither half full or half empty, but just waiting to be filled to the brim. (Okay, I see you rolling your eyes at my (borrowed) analogy, but stick with me. And didn’t your mother tell you that if you rolled your eyes too much they would stay that way? No, that was when you went cross-eyed…)
Resolutions are kind of high-faluting promises we make to ourselves, and when we do not carry through, generally we are only letting ourselves down. But think about it, we are our own worst critics, so we are letting down the very people we should be trying to impress. Okay, I am getting a little deep here… let’s lighten up a bit. I say we simplify things and make a few resolutions we can keep, intermingled with a few that will last until mid-year, and perhaps set one (or two or three) that are impossible but that we would like to achieve. So here goes:

Resolutions I Will Be Sure to Keep:
Read more.
Eat chocolate (and I do not mean the healthy dark chocolate. I still like milk chocolate, having accepted that my taste buds are immature.)
Have an occasional spirit.
Laugh more. (It is good for your soul. Seriously)

Resolutions I May Keep (or at least strive at keeping):
Write more (and actually finish something longer than 1000 words or the 17-syllable haiku.)
Read more literature. Reacquaint myself with the Bard and Margaret Atwood (whom I put on the same plane.)
Use social media less (a time stealer I have grown to enjoy too much.)
Cook from a recipe and not rote.
Start a petition exulting the Oxford comma (which I use when I remember).)
My Big Resolution(s):
Find myself. (I am just kidding)
Not make spelling or grammar errors. (Kidding #2)
Okay, now for real this time: Finish writing a book, have it made into a mini-series or movie (I am not fussy) and become filthy rich (as opposed to just rich.)
And, if we are really going for broke “Miss America” style: Broker world peace and make sure everyone has a roof over their heads, and meals to look forward to.
Resolutions are very personal. Many of mine are me-centric, but that is what the whole resolution making game is about. It is a reflection of us, our sense of humour (whether it be lame, witty or cutting edge), our values, and our hopes and dreams. Some of my resolutions were made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but also with the hope, the outside chance that I can carry them out. I know for sure that some of my resolutions will be easy to keep; some are a bit far-fetched; and yes, a few are impossible, but so what? They are mine and I will hold them dear.
Even if you do not put pen to paper or like me, tap them out on your laptop, you know that you will at least be considering how you would like the new year to go. You may not commit your resolution to paper, but you know that in the back of your mind you cannot resist the idea that 2018 will be your year. With that in mind, I wish you all a very Happy New Year! Cheers to 2018!
Eat. Drink. Be Merry. And do no harm.

Published in: on January 1, 2018 at 3:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Brrrr….

Cold as ice
Snow brightly white
Bone chilling

It is darn cold in my neck of the woods. Often called the Sunparlour of Canada or the bananabelt we are experiencing days on end of arctic cold (I don’t care where it is coming from–arctic just sounds cold!)

Hope those of you who are in the cold too have found a way to keep warm. I personally do not want to stick my nose outside. For those of you in warmer climes, enjoy.

I think I will go crawl under some covers and read this last day of Christmas vacation.

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm  Comments (13)  

Not Been Here Awhile

Hello my blog friends–it has been a long time, but I thought I might pop back into this world that once made me so happy. And a couple of you (Kathy and Brigitte) have inspired me to come back with your beautiful and insightful words, and proof positive that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” David has been here all along every day with thoughtful (and often column inspiring) blogs and Julie has shared her life, her grief, and her journey back from the thing most of us fear–the loss of our significant other.

Although I have been inactive, I do read a lot of the blogs I once enjoyed even though I rarely comment. The main reason for this is that I read you on my phone, but for some reason I have not set it up so I can respond. Will have to ask Son#2 to rectify that.

I make no promises this time about keeping up my blog–it is a habit I dropped for life reasons, and many of those reasons still abound. But we shall see.

I feel very uninteresting of late, not even publishing my weekly newspaper column, so maybe that is where I will start. The paper takes a week off at Christmas, but my New Year’s column is in the hopper awaiting January 2nd so I will share it with you when the time comes. I have made a few resolutions–and one that I made but later erased as many who read my column are not really aware of the blog kingdom is that I am determined to “try” and keep up my blog this year.

If you see this, let me know you are still here. Just drop by and say hello….

Published in: on December 28, 2017 at 9:39 pm  Comments (23)  

Parlour Games

Dedicated to David and Janet–the inspirations for this column:

I have a great parlour game for you to play at your next party. Even if you don’t have a parlour. Today we have living rooms, recreation rooms, dens, and “great rooms”, but we tend not to have the more gentile parlours of yesteryear, where you apparently played civilized games such as the one I am about to describe. According to my muse, David Kanigan of the Live and Learn blog, the Proust questionnaire “has it origins in a game popularized (though not devised) by Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.”. Kind of like Truth or Dare for adults I guess. (Dare I answer the questions truthfully?) Kanigan takes the Questionnaire which consists of 33 Questions. What it reveals about him is that he is an interesting, sometimes quirky, urbane, and kind man who loves gadgets.

I will provide the questions for you in case you want to liven up your next soiree, or just do a little self-reflection (which admittedly, is not all that much fun.) I found it quite interesting that when I tried to answer some of the questions, I did not have any readily available answers (or answers I would like to reveal). Without further ado—here are the questions, and my answers, where I deign to give them in brackets.

What is your favourite journey? (Any trip that takes me to a bookstore or to visit loved ones)
What is your idea of perfect happiness? (That everyone I know is safe and sound)
What is your greatest fear? (Too many to recount)
What is your most marked characteristic? (Shyness)
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? (Impatience)
What is the trait you most deplore in others? (Dishonesty, arrogance)
What is your greatest extravagance? (love books and eating out)
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? (feigned humbleness)
On what occasion do you lie? (mostly to save others; sometimes to save myself; very uncomfortable with lying)
Dislike most about your appearance? (Trying to come to peace about getting older)
Which living person do you most despise? (No good will come from revealing that)
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? (just, really, cool)
What is your greatest regret? (hurting someone)
What or who is the greatest love of your life? (husband, sons, my bigger family, my friends.)
When and where were you happiest? (past: university; present: with family and friends and books)
Which talent would you most like to have? (play the piano, be an artist, be an accountant)
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? (I would give myself the ability to talk in front of a crowd, or even two people)
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? (They would all cook)
What do you consider your greatest achievement? (my kids)
What is your most treasured possession? (great books)
What do your regard as the lowest depth of misery? (that there is suffering of all kinds-disease, poverty, mental illness, war)
Where would you like to live? (with people I love)
What is your favourite occupation? (writer—but I would like to be a rich writer)
What is the quality you most like in a man? (grace)
What is the quality you most like in a woman? (grace)
I define grace as kind, decent, merciful, dignified and honourable.
What do you most value in your friends? (Loyalty)
Who are your favourite writers? (too many to recount)
Who is your favourite hero of fiction? (Thor—not really but he was on TV this morning)
What is it that you most dislike? (domestic chores)
Who are your heroes in real life? (the last Governor General and Queen Elizabeth—because no matter what their flaws are, they personify grace to me)
How would you like to die? (I will copy David’s answer: I wouldn’t)
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? (a better version of myself). David wanted to come back as Bruce Springsteen or a golden retriever.
What is your motto? (This too shall pass)

The good thing about this game is that your answers will in large part depend on the type of day you are having, your present emotional temperature, and what you just watched on TV.

Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Comments (15)  

Happy Halloween ~ No Matter How You Celebrate…

Okay, the Grinch gave back Christmas—but now he stole Halloween. At least in Bathurst, New Brunswick where the Council of the day is expected to pass new rules governing trick-or-treaters this month. And I thought I was not the merriest of Halloween revelers! Anyone who has read this column knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the festivities, but at least I have not tried to limit them or banish them altogether!

Originally the bylaw was slated to make it illegal for teens over the age of 14 to “parade door-to-door dressed as ghosts and goblins”, with a cut off point of 7:00 p.m. The new rules are a little less rigid. They “forbid anyone older than 16 from trick or treating and extends the curfew to 8:00 p.m.”. Anyone caught with a “facial disguise” in public after curfew, like a zombie mask or witch’s veil, “or anyone over 16 found roaming the streets for treats can be fined up to $200.” So, any adults (which apparently takes in anyone over 16) put away the pillowcases if you reside in Bathurst.

The Deputy Mayor of the city thinks that the whole thing is “silly” and makes several points that the by-law does not address. In an interview with the media (Canadian Press and ultimately a CTV site where I gained my information), Kim Chamberlain called the whole thing “an overreach for city councillors to impose Halloween rules.” She says, and I think quite rightly, that you can “turn out your porch lights if (you) don’t want trick or treaters past a certain hour.” She also made the point that some parents do not get home until 6:00 and would have trouble feeding the kids and getting them into their costumes before the initially proposed 7:00.

City spokesman, Luc Foulem, admits the rules are a bit “kooky” but says that “no one will be running after kids on Halloween.” Which begs the question of “why have the by-law at all”? He said that the reason the bylaw is being considered is that older residents are concerned about “troublemakers”. As someone who unwillingly falls into that category, I do not want to be painted with that brush.

I am not a Halloween fanatic. You will not find any menacing décor at my house other than my little sign that reads “The Witch Is In”, which I do admit sends a message I hope will make the residents of this house, if not tremble in their boots, at least think twice before crossing me. And the fact that I have a witch’s hat and some green and black socks should not make anyone shudder (too much). Halloween is supposed to be fun, and if some us get our jollies from conjuring up our inner darker selves, then so be it. (As long as no damage to heart and soul takes place.)

I was listening to the Lynn Martin Show on AM800 (in Windsor, Ontario) the other day, and she was discussing with callers the “vanilla-izing” (my made-up word, not hers) of Halloween. Lynn asked if there should be an age ban on trick-or-treaters and admitted that she still likes to dress up and go trick or treating. To Lynn, I say, do not go to Bathurst! One of her callers said that she planned all year for Halloween—I am thinking that it is her Christmas in October—and she was quite distressed that her favourite celebration was being messed with.

Apparently different schools and organizations deal with Halloween in a variety of ways—some have tie and scarf day; some orange and black day; and some either banish it altogether, or celebrate it traditionally, with costumes and candy and parties. If I remember correctly, we did not dress up at school for Halloween, but the last period or two of the day in public school was dedicated to a party with refreshments and games. My kids were allowed to dress up early in their school careers, but by the time they reached mid-way through school I believe Halloween was somewhat curtailed.

What I do find particularly menacing at this time of year is not the debate about Halloween but those ominous little chocolate bars. We have already eaten 120 of them and I have to get another supply, but I think I will hold off, both for the benefit of my waistline and the trick or treaters who may show up on the 31st.

No matter how you celebrate Halloween, whether you are a “dark night of the soul” aficionado, or pixie dust is as hard core as you get, enjoy the day. I, myself, can be found on a park bench, reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” precisely at midnight on the festive eve. I will be in the Witch’s hat and robes with my striped stockings on, broom at my side, and Kitty Bob (my multi-coloured cat) dyed (non-permanent, organic) black.

Published in: on October 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Comments (5)  

What About Us?

“What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
Oh, what about love? What about trust?
What about us?”

These words are the bridge or the refrain, if you will of Pink’s latest big hit on her new album “Beautiful Trauma”, which pretty well sums up what life is all about. Now if you are wondering what the bridge is, I will tell you. I took a half a day song writing workshop a few years ago from John and Michele Law and learned two things: the lyrics of a song is poetry in action; and a bridge is “often used to contrast with and prepare for the return of the verse and the chorus.” (Wikipedia)
We all know what a physical (even metaphorical) bridge is. It connects two things and makes them whole. And that is what Pink’s bridge is in her song “What About Us?” She was on Good Morning America this morning and said that she does not like giving a song meaning, because the words speak to each person individually. She said that the song was originally about how the government has let people down, but that a friend of hers thought it bespoke of love. (Obviously not a happy ending to this love story.)
I have had a few more decades on this earth than Pink can claim, and I understand the misgivings, the disappointments, and the loss of trust. But then again, I no longer really expect that the government of any country, state, province, or even municipality has the answers—nor do I depend on them for those answers. Call me a pessimist, but I think I am pragmatic. I think that government officials want to provide the answers, want to do their best for us, and give us what we need. But they cannot. And they cannot for many, many reasons—some good, some bad.
I think that “broken happy ever afters” and “plans that ended in disaster” are part of life, but I am not one of those people who is content to believe that “it is what it is.” Sometimes, yes, we have to accept “what is” but we get to work with it, around it, or through it. I understand that our hands are tied on occasion, but we have to find a way to unknot the “ties that bind”. This may seem foolish, and at times there is no going back— but we have to keep moving forward or we are stuck.
I have been stuck in the muck and mire and have attempted (with varying degrees of success) to pull myself out of certain situations. Some situations are of my own making, but we have all had to contend with situations that we really did not have a hand in, but have to deal with anyway. And that Sucks, with a capital S.
We can look for outside help, after all “no man (or woman) is an island”, but we have to recognize that we cannot always be rescued by someone or something else, at least not on this plane of existence. I am not a big believer in “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” as I am aware that bootstraps can snap. But faith, if you have it, can be a great thing to fall back on. I have a faith in something I cannot see, verify, touch, or avoid questioning, but for some reason I still maintain it.
I have trouble advocating faith in something greater than I am but that does not mean I do not have faith. It is an uneasy coupling. My rational self cannot quite be convinced, but my self that wants to believe, believes. I know there are people who have an undying and unquestioned faith. I am not among your ranks. I am from the “what if” school of thought, not willing to close the door.
How I ended up talking about faith when I started out talking about “bridges” is perhaps cyclical in nature. Bridges are connections, and I guess my imperfect faith is how I stay connected to a beautifully traumatic world. Anyway, I promise to lighten up a bit in my next column. Thanks for listening….

Published in: on October 18, 2017 at 2:00 pm  Comments (3)  

The Elephant in the Room

 

It is all a matter of perspective. Or shining a light on the matter. A Sufi “teaching story” says it all:

“Some Indians kept an elephant in a dark room. Because it was impossible to see
the elephant, those who wanted to know something about this exotic beast had to
feel it with their hands. The first person went into the darkness and felt the elephant’s trunk and announced, This creature is alike a water pipe. The next person felt the elephant’s ear and asserted, No. It is like a giant fan. A third person felt the elephant’s leg and declared, That is not true. This animal resembles a pillar. A fourth person felt the elephant’s back and concluded, Not at all. It’s like a throne.
Different points of view produce different opinions. If someone had brought a candle,they would have all felt like fools.”

           
Whether or not you put any credence into Sufism, it can be simply defined (from my cursory reading of the subject) as an effort to get at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (or was that Perry Mason?) The little parable teaches a lot of things. The first is a rather tongue in cheek interpretation which mirrors my rather pessimistic personal philosophy that life is just a series of humiliations. This is witnessed in the concluding words of the story where “they would have all felt like fools” once the whole animal had been revealed to them. There was a simple solution to their buffoonery (light a candle to reveal the truth) but then we would not have had a “teaching story” would we?

Without my rather cynical take on the story, what it also teaches is that we need all the information available to come to a conversant (as in knowledgeable) conclusion. Paul Harvey, renown radio broadcaster of yesteryear made his bread and butter by telling what he called “The Rest of the Story”. Bold and brash (in order to keep his listeners’ attention) he strived to tell the part of the story that no light had previously shed. Were all his stories true? I will leave that up to you and urban legend, but he had a formula, and it worked.

The elephant, taken in parts, is mistaken for a water pipe, a fan, a pillar, and a throne. This is telling in ways other than the obvious. How many times have parts of your personality been taken by themselves and cast you in a light that you do not recognize? I have come to realize (particularly from being more a reader of Facebook than a participant) that things can get out of hand rather quickly when someone puts their opinion out there and invites others to comment. Some comment in kind; some comment because I am convinced they are bored and want to start some drama; and others get downright nasty. But each comment should not really stand alone. Each individual has a history. They have experienced things that are unique to them. But little of that comes out in the comments.

I find Facebook commentary is a lot like road rage. Road rage seems to come out of nowhere and escalate beyond all reason. A step or two (or in some cases a thousand) back is all it would take to diffuse a situation. So much goes into our reaction to an event—a bad day at work, an insult, a bad break up (are there good break ups?), money problems, and just the every day hassles of living. We are a hodge podge of emotions yet we do not shine a light on all of them. We tend to be oblivious sometimes, and walk in “the darkness”. Now, I know that it is exhausting to take all factors into account—but the realization that the cashier at the counter is not exchanging pleasantries with you is deeper than the fact that he or she is just a jerk.

I will leave you with an interpretation of this “teaching story” by Melissa Pritchard, author of “A Solemn Pleasure”. She believes that the point of the teaching is that “each person in the story, and by extension, each of us, is limited by (our) own experience, (our) own vantage point and perception,” She says that “were a candle or a lamp to be lit, each person would see her own position, its humility, humour and restraint.” Once the whole picture is revealed, you would then understand “the foolishness, or limit, of (your) own fixed opinion.

So, take that candle out from under your bushel (I don’t know about you but whenever we sang This Little Light of Mine at Sunday School, I always thought that hiding your light under a bushel was a fire hazard), and let it light up what is hard to see in the metaphorical dark.

Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm  Comments (3)  

The Park

A few weeks ago I proclaimed myself the Poet Laureate of Kingsville–this column was written to justify my crowning:

 

As the self-appointed Poet Laureate of Kingsville, it is incumbent upon me to write some poetry about Kingsville before my title is taken away. That, along with some encouragement by my Writers’ Group (19 years and holding), I have decided to (try to) entertain you with a little of my prose poetry. It is resplendent (good word, eh?) with memories of our beloved Lakeside Park, a gem back then, a jewel still.

 

The Park

 

We used to run down the stairs

(my sister and I)

near the Pavilion at the park—

There were two sets of steps side by side

That converged at the top–

We would race down, and

I always won ‘cause I was older and my legs were longer.

 

We would walk out on the wooden planks

That made up the boardwalk

That seemed to go halfway into Lake Erie

It really didn’t, but it seemed to…

We would change into our bathing suits at the “Change House”

*After walking over the old stone bridge with lanterns guarding each end

And wade into the lake without fear.

 

There was roller skating at the Pavilion then–

I remember watching from the sidelines,

hiding behind the big stone pillars

The constant breeze from the lake coming in the paned windows,

held open at the top by a rusty hook and eye,

hovering over the screens that were ever on guard,

keeping out the biting bugs and stinging bees.

 

The lake sometimes smelled briny, sometimes of fish, always of adventure

It was warm in the summer, washing away the sand we had collected on our wet bodies

from the white-washed beach,

where we buried our toes in the hot sand to reach the cooler earth.

We loved to feel the sun on our bodies, the water washing away the heat,

And sometimes we stopped to watch the dazzling fairies

as they sparkled across the water.

 

A freighter would sometimes float by,

noiseless because it was so far away

While the buzz of motorboats filled the void.

There was always laughter, voices chattering, babies crying–

Picnic food fixed by attendant moms,

balls and baseball gloves brought by hopeful dads

to play on the open diamond at the bottom of the hill.

 

The rough barked trees were huge then,

sweeping the sky with their leaf laden branches–

And people—there were lots of people:

Dressed for summer–the men in loose white pants and short sleeved shirts

undone to the waist; the women in pastel pedal pushers and sleeveless blouses.

We were all happy: the adults in spite of their worries–

The kids, haphazard in their merriment….

 

There were no thoughts of the future–

Beyond the day in the sun at the park.

 

*(I have a cherished painting of that bridge painted by a local artist, Kevin Lucas, in a place of honour in my living room now.)

The park is called Lakeside Park in Kingsville, Ontario, on Lake Erie.

 

Published in: on July 21, 2017 at 8:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Picnic On!

 

Okay, I saw an ad this morning about buying back to school supplies. This morning was Saturday, July 1st. Canada Day. Two days after the kids got to call it quits for the summer. One day for the teachers. Seriously? No time for summer? I want to lodge a complaint right now—especially because it cuts into that favourite activity of mine and Yogi Bear’s—pick-e-nicks, or as the more serious among us say, picnics.

I like the summer when the weather co-operates—when it is nice and sunny, and you do not feel the temperature on your skin. It is neither too hot or too cold; too cool or too warm; too windy or too rainy. It feels like, well, it feels like nothing. And it is on these “nothing” days that a picnic is just the right summer activity. Of course, I have a book to call on to enhance the experience. My mother did not need a book to pack up the perfect picnic—she knew exactly how to do it, and exactly what to serve. Her fried chicken will live on as one of my favourite memories ever—it was crispy and juicy and quite simply the best fried chicken ever. No other piece of fried fowl will ever compete. I, on the other hand, am somewhat domestically challenged, so of course, I turn to a book for advice and inspiration.

The book is called “The Picnic” by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson. There is no beating about the bush here, the book is named for its subject—with absolutely no pussification (my word for no pussy footing around, in case you were wondering.) I think they chose the simple title for three reasons—it was much shorter than the authors’ names; it does not imply its subject, but conveys it without being too cute; and the illustration on the front of the book is really quite gloriously summery and worth every dollar of the four I paid for it.

The contents of the book are broken into just a few chapters called “From Basket to Blanket”; “Bites”; “Sips”; “Salads”; “Plates”; and “Sweets”. But what really enamoured me with the book was the philosophy laid out in the Preface: “Picnics are a silver bullet for summer entertaining—they take the stress out of parties and leave only the fun…. (and) bringing the party to the park makes it possible to gather any number of people, with less effort than it takes to find a restaurant to accommodate a large group.” But here is my favorite part: “Picnics require a lot less fuss than hosting a party at home…since you can forget about cleaning the house or washing a single dish.”

There are quite a few recipes in the book which I find all well and good, but what I found really fascinating was some of the quirkier advice and hacks. Like the two-page listing of 99 Ways to Use a Mason Jar. Some of the uses were no brainers: utensil caddy, dip dish, shot glass, toothpick holder, olive oil jar, butter keeper, and nut jar. Some were more exotic: caviar cooler, chopstick holder, citrus zest keeper, saltcellar, and mortar. Some were sporty: badminton boundary markers, spin the bottle bottle (a sport of sorts) and firefly catcher. Other uses were more whimsical: charades clue holder, moonshine distillery, message in a bottle bottle, time capsule, and small hat. For the life of me I do not understand how a mason jar can be a small hat. That use has me totally stymied. My favourite use they listed though is hummingbird bath. Really? A hummingbird would use a jar for a bath? Who knew?

They also provide us with the “definitive packing list” which includes all those things that make “you ready to picnic on a moment’s notice”. I come from the “take only what is necessary” school of picnicking. Marnie and Andrea and Jenn (the authors) obviously come from the “be ready for anything” school—which my husband John belongs to when it comes to camping (he takes everything and anything “just in case”—and you would be surprised how many times we have had “just in case” scenarios.) Anyway, I digress.

A picnic to me occurs anytime you have a plate of food and eat it outside. Barbeques, cook-outs, wiener roasts, camping, and even taking your evening meal outside are all under the purvey of picnic. As is picking up a takeout bucket of chicken with all the fixings and finding a picnic table at Point Pelee or Lakeside Park, or even your own backyard. Summertime is for living easy, and what could be easier than having an impromptu picnic on the back porch with your loved ones?

Picnic on!

Published in: on July 5, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Comments (7)