Blast from the Past – Down memory lane

I am on a “blast from the past” mood.  A couple of days ago my mom, niece Susan, nephew Jesse and I headed out to my brother’s farm to renew the family tradition of Saskatoon berry picking.  My mom, despite being so crippled with arthritis she can barely walk, insisted on stumbling around the shrubs to seek the perfect berry.  Alas, we all failed. It’s been a dry year and the birds beat us to whatever berries were ripe.  Nevertheless, we had a grand adventure.  Mom decided it was time for a road trip.  So, off we went.

Saskatoons are almost ready
Saskatoons are almost ready

We drove past the old haunts – the “5 hill road” named by Susan for its roly-poly gravel laden hills. Yes, hills do really exist on the prairies.  They may be few – and small, but nevertheless, they are hills – and these hills are packed with memories.  If you hit the one hill at just the right speed, you can get a stomach-dropping thrill as you rush over the peak and head down to the coulee bottom.  Of course, you have to have looked for the tell-tale sign of dust to indicate someone was coming from the other direction, as the road really is meant for only one lane.

We drove past Sherbune Hall, the now abandoned social gathering place for 3 generations of Kinniburgh area residents.  Many family reunions, family meals, family gatherings, and family fun events were held at that tiny hall.  The kids kind of grew up there – it was only a few miles from home – and it was so much easier to meet there for family gatherings than to over-run Mom and Dad’s house.  Of course the family functions also often morphed into stellar moments of family dis-function.  It comes with the territory when growing up in large families.   The hall was also the meeting place for many community groups – the TOPS group that held annual “mystery dinners”; the community Turkey Shoots and Pancake suppers, the weekly badminton games, community dances, and more.

The hall, like so many prairie places, is now empty.  The community no longer exists.  The families have moved, the farms have been sold to larger corporate entities. Many of the remaining farmyards are now owned by acreage people willing to trade a 30 minute drive to work for an endless prairie sky and solitude.  The school is gone. The Kinniburgh airport with it’s tiny runway – just big enough to land a spray plane – is overgrown and has almost vanished.

IMG_4818Although the area survived only 3 generations at best, it leaves a legacy of rural growth.  The golden years – the 1950s, the 60’s and even the 70s were a time of great growth and relative prosperity.  Communities developed and thrived. Children enjoyed freedoms impossible to be even dreamed of by today’s youth.  Swimming in canals, riding bikes down gravel roads for hours, driving farm equipment without safety training, playing on teeter totters, swings, and  metal slides  belong to our generation’s memories.   I remember snatching a few moments during recess to simply lay on the playground dirt / grass carpet of our rural school yard, staring up at the endless prairie sky, telling stories about the creatures we saw in the clouds, and dreaming. Simply dreaming.  One year Canada had agreed to be a fly-over testing site for American B-52 bombers coming from Great Falls.  During those fly-overs we tried to quickly fly a kite high enough to touch teh low-flying planes (maybe they were learning to fly below the radar?). Needless to say, we never quite touched them. But to our young minds, the planes were close enough to catch.

Anyway, I digress.  But that is what trips down memory lane do. They lead you in directions you haven’t visited for years. They provide rose-coloured glasses to view the past, and seem to ignore many of the unpleasantness that inevitably existed. And that is just what that day did for us.   For just a few short moments – we revisited our past.  We laughed as we remembered so many warm family memories.    That day was made even better because of my mom’s prankster personality.  On the way out we had driven past a roadside sign advertising fresh Saskatoons for sale.  When we drove by, we had joked that we could always go back and buy some of we didn’t pick any.  So, when we realized our pails would be empty. we decided to do just that.  On our way back home we stopped and filled two pails with freshly picked, plump, clean Saskatoons raised on a nearby irrigated farm.  We even made sure our mouths and hands were berry stained to ensure our story was believable.  I chuckled to myself as I peeked through the rear view mirror and saw my Masters Degree, College Instructor, mathlete niece and her brother shoved Saskatoons into their mouth, their eyes crinkling with pleasure.  Most importantly I watched my 88 year old mom remember and become once again my younger mom, able to teach her children and grandchildren the pleasures of berry picking – and the gentle blush of pleasure spread across her face as she realized how much we all treasured the memories she had worked so hard to build for us.

Maybe that’s part of the meaning of retirement – having the time to re-visit the simple pleasures of our youth – and watch those joys being reflected

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in to the next generation. Funny how a simple road trip can be so important.

 

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Do I have a tribe?

I’m sittingIMG_5135ng on my deck, sipping at a cup of tea, looking at the mountain view to the west, and listening to – of course – CBC Radio. Today’s interview with Sebastian Junger explaining his new book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” gave me a couple of ah-ha moments.  Sebastian writes about the experience of soldiers, first aid workers, emergency workers, and others when they arrive home after a traumatic experience. He suggests the sense of belonging arises from being a part of a team or sharing a common experience and ultimately results in a sense of tribalism within that group.   He posits that once we leave these situations, we lose our sense of self and aren’t sure of how to behave. He shared a story of a soldier who came home after a very intense posting overseas. He was with his wife in the grocery store, surrounded by a plethora of choices. If I recall the story correctly, the soldier was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even pick out his cereal. He didn’t know how to make that choice.  I know I haven’t captured the full meaning of that conversation, but it made sense to me. I will need to listen to it again to fully “get it”. Perhaps I will even read his book!

The interview continued to discuss people’s experiences from events such as World War II, the Springhill Mine Disaster, and more.  My first “Ah-ha”moment – that’s why I remember so many of the seniors talking so gleefully about their World War II experiences.  These were young adults, sent off to “save the world” – and fight for their country. Yet when that fight is over, what is next?  Where do they belong?  How do they fit in and find their new place?

Fortunately I have not been through any such traumatic and life-changing experiences.  But his ideas did resonate.  Do we form our own tribe at work?  Is that sense of belonging developed from being with colleagues, employers, and others involved in our massive world of work, suddenly disappear when we retire?  I’d say yes.  I miss the sense of being part of that work tribe. Perhaps  I, and others like me, stay in somewhat unhealthy work relationships longer than we should – because we see no alternative tribe to join.  Carrying that deeper – I come from a big family – a tribe of 8 children and a large extended family.  Although I cherish my alone time, I still have always felt a need to belong to some group. I do better overall when I have a group activity or event to go to, even if I need my quiet time and space while with the group.

I think this interview gave me some better insights as to  why I feel such a need to join an adventure, belong to a club, and seek out a new tribe.  All part of the journey, isn’t it!img_0405.jpg

Somethings just never become boring

Some scenes from my weekend walk around Gilbert’s Crossing.  Every time I catch a glimpse of the mountain view, I am stunned by their beauty.  I never get tired of looking.  These pictures simply can’t show the true quality of this natural beauty.  The prairies creeping up on the rolling hills, overshadowed by the snow-covered looming rocky peaks of the Castle Wilderness area.  Right now the place is lush and green, as we just had a rain and snow shower go through.  When I look at these sites, i am momentarily grateful for all I have, for the opportunity to take in these views, and breathe the fresh, pungent mountain air.

This week the Wolf Willow are in bloom. Their sweet smell belies their modest origins – a spindly bush  covered in small, waxy, sturdy leaves can’t possible emit such a perfume. But it does.  I recall the book Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner, the 20th century writer and social geographer who so profoundly captured the simple beauty of the prairies and foothills.  I think of W.O. Mitchell’s “Who has seen the wind” and his powerful descriptions of our scenery as told through the eyes of a young boy.  The smell of wolf willow permeated his story, weaving its way into a Canadian classic.   For years I tried to grow some on the farm, hoping to capture that part of the Canadian experience.  Alas, I have a brown thumb and couldn’t keep the twigs alive.   But now, the hillsides at Gilbert’s Crossing are loaded with them.  When I walk by them, I stop, take a deep breath, savour the smell and realize that just for a moment,  I have become part of the penultimate Canadian experience.  I, like thousands of other outdoor enthusiasts,  have  had the opportunity to simply savour the beauty of our countryside. My bucket list is slowly being complete.

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Curling Rocks!

Sometimes in life we made really, really, really bad decisions, but once in awhile, we get lucky and make a great one.  That’s what happened to me this winter.

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Blaine bugged me all year to join him in Senior’s Curling in Lethbridge.  I just didn’t want to the big commitment.  Driving  all the way to the city  two days a week  – that means a 45 minute drive – leaving mid-morning so we get there in time to practice, staying for 3 hours to curl and chitchat with strangers, and then driving back home arriving around 4:30 or 5:00; well, it just seemed to much of a bother.  After doing that same grind (even longer) every day for almost 26 years of work, I just didn’t want to have to say yes.  But finally, in March I agreed.

Flash forward 6 weeks.  I know we must made our best decision in years.  We are together at a social event twice a week – it’s like “date afternoon”.  We are put onto different teams so we have to meet different people during reach game. I  I have been forced out of my winter hibernation comfort zone at a time when I needed it the most.

I’m not that great of a curler, but I have picked up more tips in the last 6 weeks that I have in 6 years.   I’m getting fit again.  Take note Jenny Craig, Weigh Watchers, Herbal Magic and all you other diet businesses – I have found a better way!  Today I fit into curling pants I haven’t even dare to try for over 2 years.  Who knew that curling twice a week could put me on the path to picking up my skinny jeans again (well, not for another few weeks yet, but I still can dream). Plus, because of curling, I found a friend that I can travel with. Last week we took a grand curling adventure to Swift Current Sk. to watch the first 3 draws of the World Women’s Championship. Now, I have a whole rink full of new friends to mull over the games, each of us offering our own so-called “expert” take on the games.  What a blast!

Team Canada
Team Canada enters the arena at the Opening Ceremonies – World Women’s Championship 2016

The best part – watching happy seniors stay physically and mentally well.   Sometimes I can look across the ice and see the kid in us all, no matter our age. It’s fun to laugh over a mistake, worry over a shot, and  high-five over a success with my new team mates.

I wish that more younger people could see the joy in our eyes – and see that life after 55 doesn’t mean we are out to pasture. Instead, it means we are still full of vitality! Unlike those of you younger beings, we now have the time to revisit our inner child and be a kid again, despite our creaky knees, saggy boobs, and thinning hair.

Rock on my senior friends – and Hurry Hard!

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Opening Ceremonies for the Word Women’s Championship – Swift Current, 2016

Christmas revisited

During my last massage, my massage therapist chatted excitedly about her  Christmas plans.  She told me of their traditional orange-in-the sock, the 11:00 brunch and gift-opening at her parents, the 3:00 a.m. attempts to open presents, and her overall joy for the holidays.

As I was paying my bill, I realized she was me.  Her story was my story – my bottomless pit for the love of the family traditions.   I was the Christmas tyrant who insisted my sister and her 5 kids and (probably very hung-over) husband stumble out of bed as early as possible, race through their own Christmas, then pack everyone up and rush over to our place.  I loved buying them presents and watching them unwrap them. One of my favourite Christmas memories is of the year Cathy and family came home, and we had we were all so  loaded with presents that half the living room was taken over with gifts.  I was the one who insisted we cuddle in one evening just before Christmas, start the fire, and watch Sound of Music, White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. Then, we all had to get dressed up  to Midnight Mass so we could hear the choir sing – especially the years when Mom sang the descant for Silent Night.

As the years went by, and it became more and more difficult to follow every single tradition, my frustration with the season grew.  If it wasn’t going to be perfect, I was depressed and anxious.  I spent many late nights crying to myself over my perceived lost of this very precious time. .  Twenty years ago I was the first to put up a tree, wrap the presents, and put on the Christmas carols.But each year I started to prepare later and later.   And now that I am retired, I can see through the thick fog of expectations that blankets us in December, and blurs our view of the real important parts of Christmas.

Lately, I can’t make myself get excited about the trappings.  I don’t need to stay up all night just to watch the Christmas lights glitter, or see the latest sappy Christmas show. The “things” of Christmas are in the past.

I am thankful I have so many wonderful memories of Christmases past.  I wish I could go back in time to when we were all young, excited kids or twenty-somethings still able to chat excitedly about the traditions.  But I don’t have the energy for it any more.  I now long for a quiet day, just a few us of playing some silly game, enjoying a simple but tasty turkey dinner, and getting lots of rest.

Yikes – I really sounds like an old fart, especially with the “rest”.  But what I mean is a rest from the expectations of more, and the peace of mind knowing that I can be thankful for what I have, and more importantly, who I am with.

40 below 4 of us

Pay the Piper

Ok, I guess I really am 55+, and my feet know it.   Unfortunately, along with freedom 55 comes my new friends – arthritis, low thyroid, thinning and greying hair, etc.  All the fun parts of aging.  Sigh.

A summer filled with tons of hiking and small adventures, combined with my walking the streets of London,   flared up my planter’s fascias so much that I can now barely walk. I am taking treatment, and have done all the proper precautions but still have been unable to stop the clock.  In our 50’s , the term biological clock has a new meaning.  It’s not about having a family – it’s about doing the things we want before our bodies defeat us.

So, note to self:  Do as much as I can in the next few years before it is too late.    I guess the quilting, cleaning closets, re-decorating the house and other more sedentary adventures will be put off a little longer so that I can grab the physical adventures NOW!

I never thought it would be my big toe that would be the source of such annoyance.  Alas, what can you do except keep trying.  Here’s to my feet:)

I always find something Canadian - wherever I go
I always find something Canadian – wherever I go

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Our Great London Adventure

Our great London Adventure has come and gone – faster than a Lamborghini on the autobahn.  Speaking of fast cars – they were what impressed Mackenzie the most.  He pointed out to me all the Mercedes Benzes, the Lamborghinis, the Bugattis, and more.  I have never seen so many high end cars; some makes I had never seen before, let alone in so many numbers.

Me – I loved spending one whole week with my son, exploring a new place, visiting museums and exhibits, and talking about the rich history of the region.  Most importantly, I found common grounds for discussion with him. We both loved the war museums, especially their displays that brought the impact of war on ordinary people into focus.

We took some wrong turns on our explorations, but it just didn’t matter.  Sometimes those wrong turns opened the gate to an even better adventure.  You never know what you will find around the next corner!aa

Gates at Buckingham Palace
Gates at Buckingham Palace