Author Archives: arlenedoyle

A New Year / A New Adventure

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2018 is bearing down on us and with it, happily, comes another adventure. This year I’m headed for India. For me India has an exotic ring to it that conjures images of vibrant colour, delicious food, the Taj Mahal, mesmerizing dance, incense, and transcendental yoga. I realize that for many, the ring falls flat. Probably on account of the poverty, the noise, the smell, the sheer quantity of people, the caste system, and the chaos. But one way or another, for better or worse, India is legendary. I may not embrace it all but I will experience it.

My dear long standing friend Huguette Long is coming with me. We fly out of Ottawa on January 9th and return March 7th. She has never travelled ‘my way’ before and at the beginning she was hesitant. She knows me well and wanted reassurance that I wouldn’t subject her to sleeping in gutters. She has always liked her comfy bed and her strong morning coffee hot and with cream, but she is ready and eager for a great new adventure (gutters and all). We will spend four days in London, England en route (extending the layover) before landing into the maelstrom and smog of New Delhi. We won’t dally there. My aversion to cities notwithstanding, the air quality in New Delhi is, at the moment, scary bad. Our thought is to head to the desert province of Rajesthan before working our way south. India is huge with many rich and diverse cultures! Bound by the Himalayas in the north and extending south where it tapers to the Indian Ocean in the east, and the Arabian Sea to the west, it covers an area of 32,87,263 square kilometres.

As always, I look forward to sharing the adventure and I will spare you nothing – not the grandeur, nor the grunge. I’ve gleaned from those who have been that you either fall in love with India or you hate it. I guess we’ll see. Whether this trip glides along with the gentle flow of a merry go round or is punctuated with the heart skipping adrenaline of a roller coaster, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season,

Arlene

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The Ride to conquer Cancer – in memory of my Mom

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I remember once when I was 16 years old and my mother and I were visiting my sister in Hawaii. At about 11:00 pm we received an obscene phone call. I woke up at 5 am to find my mother still talking to the caller.

“Yes, you should go back to school”, she was telling him, “you have a lot to offer”. 

I stared at her, dumbfounded. Shortly afterwards she hung up the phone saying matter of factly,

“He just needed someone to talk to”.

That was my mother. Judy Keith was three years older than I am now when she died of a brain tumour.

I have wanted to take part in a cancer fundraiser for a long time, in memory of my mom. “The Ride to Conquer Cancer” is a two day 200 kilometres bicycle ride. I have my bike and my helmet – all I need are sponsors.

So I am hosting an afternoon trivia fundraiser. You don’t need to like trivia to participate. It is played in teams of 6 – 10 people and lots of fun. You can come as a team, as a couple, or individually, and join a table. There will be refreshments and a silent auction. I sure hope you can come. And please bring your friends!
If you can’t come but would like to sponsor me, this is the link 

 http://www.conquercancer.ca/site/TR/Ride/Toronto2018;jsessionid=00000000.app216c?NONCE_TOKEN=E245248CA753FA29298EF7A2F191B72C&px=4316135&pg=personal&fr_id=1641

Trivia Fundraiser 

Sunday November 26, 2:00 pm

211 Keays Rd. (It will be held in my shop where Sabrina’s wedding was).

Entrance fee: a $10.00 pledge.

Please Let me know if you can come and how many are in your party. 

Thank you in advance,

Arlene. 😄

The Perfect Storm

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The wedding has come and gone and was everything that Sabrina and Ben hoped for, but after months of preparation, just like that, it was over. Directly afterwards we spent a few days packing up Sabrina’s apartment and loading my car with her belongings before she and I headed west where Ben (who needed to fly straight home after the wedding) was anxiously awaiting her arrival.

Our first day and a half on the road passed in a blur of cookies, scones and trees (all numbering about the same), punctuated by Sabrina’s cat Earl mewling and hyperventilating. We laughed together through a gazillion miles of Ontario’s boreal forest. Our plan to sleep rough with a tarp and sleeping bags was nixed the first night on account of the rain, so we just kept driving.

The second night we both wanted to lay horizontal.  Throughout the month of September, Sabrina was busy wrapping up her job at Canadian Geographic and co-organizing the annual conference for the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada. She also travelled to London, On. to meet Ben’s relations and got married, all while trying to pack up her life to move west. We both wanted a good rest and were looking for either a cheap motel or a bridge to crawl under.  A motel came first and one would think that would be the uneventful choice. They would be wrong.

“$50.00 a night” the girl on the phone said, as Winnipeg faded away in our dark rearview mirror. And yes, they had a room available. Were we suspicious at such a price? – I can’t recall. There were no cars in the lot when we pulled up to the Oakville Motor Hotel on the far side of nowhere. While checking in, I noticed two signs at the reception. One said, Friday night – stripper. And the other said, Saturday night – church dinner. It was Friday night.

“Sabrina,” I squealed, “ there’s a stripper, I’ve never seen a stripper. Let’s go see!”

She looked decidedly dubious, but in the end, she humoured me. We wandered into a virtually empty honky tonk bar room and perched ourselves on stools, counting a total of seven people; three girls and two guys at one table, (a bachelor-bachelorette joint party, the barmaid informed us) and an additional two guys playing pool and that was it. That was the crowd! A little intimate for my liking. I would prefer to sit anonymous at the back of a crowded room. I didn’t notice the unobtrusive pole among the tables until a mature woman arrived, took off her coat and without any ado or ceremony, or the slightest hint of self consciousness at the small gathering, began to dance. I’ve never danced on a pole before but I can assume that what she was doing was much harder than she made it look. My eyes got big. A few minutes later they got bigger when the bride-to-be pulled up a chair beside the stripper, whipped off her shirt and asked her fiancé excitedly if she should also take off her bra. The stripper unharnessed her own lacy covering and cozied up to the bride, bosoms bouncing. Whaaat! Sabrina and I looked at each other, simultaneously nodded in silent agreement, and made a hasty retreat to our room. Sabrina said it would have been less awkward if I wasn’t there. I said the same about her. We laughed and crawled into bed still giggling, where Sabrina admonished me not to touch her and began calculating therapy costs. Minutes later we were both fast asleep with nothing lost but a little piece of our innocence.

Our third night we stayed with Ben’s folks in Edmonton before arriving in Hinton the following day where Sabrina and Ben were happily reunited to begin their married life together. It was also the day that my divorce became final.

About the same time I broke my ankles (turns out they were both broken), Jim and I broke up. We hadn’t lived together for a few years but we were an exclusive couple nevertheless. And even though our 26 year relationship was at times tumultuous and interrupted, getting a divorce was never on the agenda. While we remain on friendly terms, it hit me hard. Fortunately, I had Sabrina’s wedding at my place to prepare for and that kept me busy. Whenever I would think about the impending divorce or the fact that after the wedding Sabrina would be permanently joining Ben in Alberta, I would push it to the recesses of my mind and concentrate instead on happy things, like the wedding and the fun trip west Sabrina and I would share. But there was no more avoiding the facts. The wedding was over, the fun trip with Sabrina was over, my marriage was over, and it was now time to say goodbye to my baby girl. It was the perfect storm.

I drove home through the states and cried all through Montana. In North Dakota, I was temporarily distracted as I fought to keep my car on the road with tornado clouds looming. I pulled over to take a picture and when I tried to start my car again, it wouldn’t start. I tried again, still nothing. Fighting a kernel of panic, the wind tugged hard at my car. Maybe this was it, I thought. Was my emotional perfect storm about to collide with a literal one. I had terrifying thoughts of sitting helpless in the badlands and being swept up into the sky. On the next try my car started and, with relief, I drove away. By Indiana, I was crying again.

I had planned to sort out my jumble of emotions on the long drive home but it’s going to take a little more time. I chide myself for being foolish – kids grow up and move away. That’s the way it is. That’s what happens. Sabrina says it’s ok to cry. To let it be what it is. She’s very wise.

When I arrived home I texted my son Colin.

“Glad you’re home” he said.

“Thanks, feeling a little lost and overwhelmed” I replied.

“About what”, he’s 23, he wouldn’t understand.

“Whatever it is mom”, he wrote when I didn’t reply, “I’m sure you’ve handled worse. Breath, relax and carry on👍”

He’s wise too. I console myself that Jim and I must have done something right.

Sabrina is starting an exciting new chapter of her life with a great guy and I am thrilled for them. We each write the story of our own life. I guess I’m starting a new chapter too. But what do you do when writers block has set in? – take some time, be gentle with yourself, and then just keep writing.

Belated Blueberry update  

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My 2017 blueberry harvest was a success. My goal to have enough blueberries to thank the people who helped me plant, make all the pies and wine for Sabrina’s wedding, and eat blueberries to my hearts content, was accomplished!

The plan to stagger the ripening season didn’t happen this year, don’t ask me why. All of my varieties of berries, from early to late ripening, turned blue and were ready to pick in one fell swoop. So over the course of one weekend in early August, friends and neighbors came and we harvested 175lbs. And then it was over! But what fun it was (not to mention deeply satisfying) to see my fields (albeit briefly) washed in blue. Some of the berries were so big they looked like grapes. And sweet – so sweet!  

The rain this year was more of a blessing to me than a curse. Given the fact that I was lame and needed to redo the irrigation system in one of my fields, the continual downpour gave me some grace time to get it done (even though I lost some plants due to flooding). So thank you all for taking that hit. 

I think if the fierce God of agriculture continues to smile down upon me,  I should be able to open for business next year for family and friends and to the public for the 2019 season. Fingers crossed! 

An Ode to Jo

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“It’s a dead mouse,” Jo shrieked and leapt behind me, shielding herself from the horror. To be fair, she had inadvertently touched the corpse of the small rodent (hidden just out of sight under the edge of the couch) with her bare foot, (compliments, I assume, of Sabrina’s cat Earl whom I had recently babysat). “This just wouldn’t happen at my house”, she moaned hugging herself and rocking.
 

You have to know Jo to understand the full extent of her trauma at the incident and at her generosity in being here to begin with. Aside from the fact that we are the female version of ‘The Odd Couple’ incarnate, time away from her home and husband is usually acutely uncomfortable for her. But like the trouper she is, a week after I broke my ankle, she arrived at my house, suitcase and mop in hand, to help me until I was on the mend. A gift well beyond the call of duty, even for our 43 year-old friendship. 

Like an avenging matriarch she cleaned, disinfected, and ran my washing machine to within an inch of its life on a daily basis. In Jo’s world, sheets, towels, clothes, skin, everything, must be 100% clean all of the time and never touch the floor (if I put my feet on the bed wearing my indoor footwear the verbal lashing was fierce). By her own admission, the absolute craziest thing she did while here was to wear a pair of socks three days in a row and was aghast that she could sink to such depths. At the end of each day, two days at the most, regardless of how tired or sore I was, she declared it mandatory that I drag myself upstairs on hands and knees, drop backwards into the tub for a full bath or she threatened a work lockdown. Being the Oscar part of the couple, I usually only wash field clothes when they are in danger of becoming one with the earth and at the end of a long day in the field I may have a shower before bed but am more likely to leave the embedded dirt where it lays if I’m returning to the field when I wake up. Laundry can build up and my house suffers enormously when outside projects call (who am I kidding – my house lives with suffering).


At one time or another, my freezer has been fully stocked with venison meat labeled RK 1, RK 2, and RK 3– roadkills 1,2 and 3. For Jo, any new food is treated with slitty-eyed suspicion and eating my garden greens (as opposed to standard iceburg or romaine) was a walk on the wild side. If I was cooking, utensils were whisked away and washed before I finished using them and supper dishes were on the drying rack before swallowing my last bite.

We got a lot done over the 3 ½ weeks Jo was here, outside and in. Most jobs took the two of us six hours when it should have taken one. (Once, we drilled all the way across a wall looking for the stud and the bit kept falling out because we couldn’t get it locked in.) I’m pretty sure that any competent farmer or carpenter would feel less pain stabbing themselves in the brain than watching us do just about anything. But that’s ok, we usually ended up laughing and it was always an adventure shared. Just like when we were teenagers – we got ourselves into some crazy scrapes but always came out safe(ish) and laughing.

Jo was one of the first people I met when my family moved back from the North West Territories. We were 14 years old and in the same church youth group. We clicked immediately and have been fast friend ever since.

She is incredibly generous. Mindful of my lack of income she would trick me into letting her pay. One time she ran off laughing into the grocery store with my crutches tucked under her arm, leaving me stranded at the car. With infantile determination, I crawled across the parking lot on bare knees muttering expletives. When I finally reached the curb (after weathering startled looks and shredded skin), I sent her a strongly worded text. When she arrived back to the car, she said in a small, contrite voice, “Don’t be mad, I was just trying to help”. “I’m sorry” I said, and started to cry. It’s hard being helpless and dependant.

Jo is not an outdoor girl. She is allergic to weeds, dust, grass, pollen, animal hair, generally everything outside of a sanitized bubble. Her nose itches and her eyes water. She doesn’t like bugs or anything that crawls. Mosquitoes swarm to her, eager to tear out hunks out of her tender skin leaving bruising and welting in their wake. Yet she trudged through the blueberry fields weeding, spreading nutrients, sulphur and laying irrigation lines with only the occasional whimper (or curse, depending on her mood). I on the other hand happily sleep rough wherever the mood strikes me, cohabiting with nature and all it’s inhabitants. Yep – Felix and Oscar.

Our whole lives we have each lived on the extreme – but opposite – side of what is considered normal. The Odd Couple, Laurel and Hardy, take your pick. Like two misshapen puzzle pieces, together we just fit.

 Curve Balls

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The wonderfully productive past two months have come to a crashing halt!

Since returning from my winter wandering I have been busy digging out broken 100 year old fences, clearing away 30 year old junk piles, taking out dead trees and building new gardens. Sabrina and Ben’s small wedding celebration is being held here in September and I want things to look lovely. It’s a great opportunity to get my neglected grounds cleaned up as I hope to be open for business in 2019, and next summer I will be well occupied getting another 1000 blueberry plants in the ground. There is much to do and my focus can sometimes get a little manic, so I am often outside chipping away at the task at hand by dawn. Last Monday was just such a morning. 

 I was working on repairing the yawning hole in my back deck left by the retired hot tub. I don’t really know what happened. One second I was walking toward the hole with a tape measure in my hand and the next second my legs had buckled, somehow twisted together, and I found myself sprawled face down in the hole on the concrete blocks. I heard two cracks and couldn’t move either leg. Not good! Eventually, one leg recovered somewhat, but not the other. With my phone safely stowed upstairs on my bed, I managed to drag myself out of the hole backwards on my bum, across the deck, and into the kitchen where I weakly hollered for my youngest son Max (who could conceivably snooze through armageddon). Fortunately, some primordial instinct woke him up and in short order, I was in an ambulance headed for the Perth hospital, where it was confirmed that I broke my left ankle in three places. Fortunately, my right ankle is only sprained.

It’s never fun to be knocked off your game but it really makes you appreciate things that are often taken for granted. Things like being reasonably pain-free, having mobility, being able to go to the bathroom without help, being able to do anything without help. Needing help is not easy but one thing is certain – everybody needs assistance sometimes and learning  to accept it with grace is a good skill to acquire. Like my good friends Kathy and Dave say – just say thank you. So, Thank you! 

I’m grateful for many things. It’s only one broken ankle and I’m grateful for that. I don’t think we can ever truly understand what others go through until we go through it ourselves so this gives me a tiny glimmer of understanding  for those who have suffered far worse. And I’m am especially grateful and blessed for the dear friends, family and neighbours in my life who are there for me when I need them. Again, thank you!

So I am grounded for the time being. My long to-do list lays untouched, I have zero income until I’m back on my feet, my blueberries need attention, and I’m dealing with a couple of unrelated but coinciding emotional adjustments. But I know that everything will work out one way or another. It always does. Who knows why stuff happens but I like to think there is a reason for it. I believe in the old saying; when a door closes, a window opens. I’ll just try not to fall through it.