In this sweet and sad life things never go the way you want them to. Plans and aspirations often take a road least expected and a change in direction often leads to the unexpected. This is the ying and yang of life – the light and dark – the good and not so good.
You could say these are trite thoughts, more of those interminable clichés so prevalent in today’s social media. But, they are truths so real, so prevalent that their reality can be a drain on your dreams.
Alice probably never thought of her life this way. I imagine she simply wanted to endure her simple existence and survive as best as possible. We found evidence of that in a battered old cream-coloured ‘valise’. (Valise was the word she used for her small suitcase.) Family photos, post cards, trinkets, treasures, legion flags, remnants and reminders of the war sent to her by her husband – all those things she held dear but had now forgotten were in there. The significant signposts of her life we found in a square gun-metal-grey lockbox. She didn’t know where the key was at first but she knew that her important papers and documents were safe and secure even though they were long past any relevance or use to her today. This is where she kept her past – her memories.
They are remnants of a life lived and loved ones lost. Today those moments come and go, each one struggling for a place of prominence in her mind. Recollections of her young life come rushing through intruding unexpectedly, transforming the past into the present and the present into confusion.
Still, this is Alzheimer’s and we must deal with it. It is hard to understand why but as Virginia Wolfe wrote in Mrs. Dalloway, ‘What does the brain matter compared to the heart.’
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.
We walk the beach today from the bottom of High Street to Gerry’s Fries.
The sky is an unbelievable blue. The sun is warm, the wind brisk and cool. The Big Flag is gone. A smaller one flies in its place. A strong offshore breeze stretches it straight out.
Gerry’s Fries is closed.
A fishing boat churns out of the harbor mouth rising and dipping through the white caps. The wind blows the sound of its engines churning against the waves to shore. There are no SeaDoos, sailboats or pleasure boats on the water
The beach is empty. Gulls basking in the sun have taken over. Summer ends in Southampton.
In town there are more parking spaces. Bicycles no longer use our sidewalks as their personal road. Turning left is much safer. The crowds, the traffic, the summer people are almost gone. Geese are gathering.
We still have Pumpkinfest and Thanksgiving to live through. But after that, the cottages will close. Shutters will go up on the big houses. Snowbirds will head south. And Southampton will sleep through the winter.
I like this time of year.
Most everyone who plants a garden plants tomatoes. I’m no different. Each year I’ve put in tomatoes of varying varieties and each year I’m rewarded with the same problem…I’ve grown more than I need. When you try to give them away, friends turn you down with warm thanks and a smile. They have the same problem.
This past summer I outsmarted myself by only cultivating two plants, one a yellow, grape-style and the other a meaty, yellow Carolina Gold. Again, I have more than I need. Needless to say we are including them in just about every meal, which after a while gets a touch boring. So the other night we decided to purge.
My daughter had given us an excellent recipe for Asparagus Pizza. “Why not,” I thought, “swap out the asparagus for grape tomatoes. How difficult could that be?” We got a little creative and added some ingredients of our own. Here’s the recipe.
Make or buy the pizza dough (We buy and roll our own with great results)
- ½ pound of cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (The real stuff)
- ½ pound of mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- Several grinds black pepper
- 1 or 2 scallions thinly sliced
- A few drops of lemon juice
- Prosciutto – 5 or 6 slices diced and lightly fried.
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Basil leaves – about ten, rolled then sliced
- Black olives – sliced, no pits please
- Set oven at 450.
Halve tomatoes and get rid of the seeds (which can be messy). All you need is the flesh of the tomato. Toss tomatoes, olive oil, olives, salt, pepper, red pepper and mix gently to coat. Roll or stretch your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Roll dough on to a corn meal dusted pan. Sprinkle dough with parmigianno, then mozzarella. Pile the tomato mix on top (artfully distributed) and bake 12 to15 minutes or until the edges are browned or cheese is bubbly.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, lemon juice, prosciutto, basil and slice.
Controversy is always lying on our doorstep like some tattered old doormat. Big city, small town, wherever you live, wherever you go, controversy finds a way to seep through the cracks of life drawing you into its core. It is invasive, like a weed you can’t get rid of.
I thought I’d avoid controversy when I retired to my small town. What I have sadly discovered is that it is whirling all around me like a hurricane, touching down at will, spreading chaos into every corner of small town life. Some of the damage done is minimal, some major. Some has the potential to permanently and perpetually change what we now have. In my beautiful corner of the world (Southampton, Saugeen Township, Port Elgin) controversy is healthy and destructive.
In the parking lot of their sprawling summer retreat and convention center, the C.A.W. (Canadian Auto Workers) has erected a Wind Turbine that breaks all the setback rules and stands boldly over the homes of concerned citizens. The controversy swirling around this has seen many protests, some quite bitter. The potential of hundreds more Wind Turbines on the North Bruce Peninsula is alarming both permanent and seasonal residents, spurring town hall meetings, media finger-pointing and raucous confrontations with local councils.
Saugeen Shores Council has decided to enter the competition that could result in the burying of all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste somewhere in our community. This waste would be buried in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR), in an estimated area of 930 acres below ground and 250 acres above ground; deep enough to hold up to 144,000 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel bundles that are still radioactive. And if you talk to people on the street, read the flyers, attend the SOS rallies (saveoursaugeenshores.org), council meetings and listen to the interviews, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) aren’t helping to bring a balanced perspective to the situation. The NWMO is totally funded and its Directors appointed by the nuclear industry. They answer to no one except the PMO.
Vilification is in the air. Accusations of ‘who said what and lied to whom’ are part of every conversation. The negative impact of a high lever nuclear DGR is evident people who live here. They worry that this DGR is too close to Lake Huron, they fear quality of life; tourism and property values will suffer. They say we already have the Bruce Nuclear Plant just down the street where they already store low/medium level fuel bundles…why do we want more.
This controversy is far from over. It will rage on for years as people and politicians grapple with the pros and cons, the right and wrong, the morality of the situation. The damage this will do to relationships will probably have a half-life of a generation or two.
Controversy always leaves scars. Unfortunately.
If only folks would take a deep breath, wander down at sunset and read the advice posted on the side of the Range Light at the harbor mouth of the Saugeen River…
Words to live by.
When I was a kid, my last name was the reason why I always found myself involved in schoolyard fights.
I was constantly called, ‘nanny goat, granny nanni, nanny no no, ninny’ or whatever variation of NANNI they felt was funny enough to their buddies laughing and chanting the insult in unison. At first I laughed along with them, but after a while, my temper got the best of me. It was tough being Italian in Toronto in the forties.
The end result of my frustration varied between broken glasses, scrapes, bruises, torn t-shirts and the occasional bloodied nose. At recess the schoolyard monitor shadowed me because my frequent outbursts had branded me a troublemaker. There wasn’t much else I could do but fight to show the pack that I was no push over. They had to know that messing with my name had consequences. Eventually it worked. Eventually my surname became by badge, my tag, my nickname, and my reputation that I was a kid of honour. After a couple of months, when I came out for recess or after school they would shout, “hey NANNI, we’re playing Red Rover…you’re on our side.”
Retribution! Besides, it was a lot better than, “hey Wop!”
The NANNI name is a derivative of GIOVANNI. At some point it was shortened to VANNI and somehow became NANNI. There is also a stream of thought that says it might be a derivative of BONANNO – which became NANNO – which became NANNI. Take your pick. Whatever its origin – NANNI is my family’s surname…pronounced NANN – E.
The NANNI men came to Canada pre World War Two. A good number of them settled in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Our surname faced a major challenge when the NANNI men began working at Algoma Steel and the pulp and paper mill. The English foremen and bosses addressed everyone by their last name. And for some reason began emphasizing the last letter or our name making it NAN – EYE. This annoyed my family to the point where they changed the I to E to coincide with the pronunciation they were hearing every day.
Which brings me to the photo below.
Notice anything? It appears the change in spelling has stuck with some. Or the newspaper people are making the same mistake as those foremen at the steel plant. I asked my cousin who is building the family tree if he knew why this happened. He had no idea.
Even today, especially in the Soo, there are two spellings to our last name. Even in my own family. I still adhere to the original N-A-N-N-I.
My brother goes by N-A-N-N-E.
There is no doubt about it, Toronto the Good, The City of Trees, Hog Town can also be call Condo Town. Given the amount of condo construction in every part of the city it clearly deserves the name. Approaching the city on the Queen Elizabeth Highway the towers line either side of the 8 lane black top. In the distance you can see them rising above and through the haze and smog covering the downtown core. As you exit the Queen E. and slip on to the Gardiner the skyscrapers now begin to intrude into the Expressway’s space. Creeping close to the guardrails and butting up against the roadway condo balconies lean out and over the speeding traffic. The sound must be annoyingly intrusive as it permeates the glass and steel skin of these buildings filling the smallish living space with what must seem like constant white noise. From early dawn to late evening Commuter traffic in Toronto is relentless. Along the lakeshore freight trains, passenger trains and Go trains add to the never-ending din.
And here I am on the 12th floor of one of these condos overlooking Toronto Harbour feeling the cacophony drifting up towards me. As I look around the complex I can’t help but notice the profusion of balconies. They jut out from building to building like the openings in cliff dwellings from ancient times. Then I realize that balconies are the only access cliff dwellers have to the outside world. This is where they find fresh air – where they can throw open their sliding doors to admit whatever breeze might be out there. Besides that, balconies are the storage bins, the sheds, the backyards of high-rise living. There on that narrow, concrete slab is where they store their stuff. Outdoor furnishings, potted plants and trees alive and dead, bikes, boxes, wooden clothes dryers are just some of the things you see. Some balconies are hung with bamboo privacy curtains. Others double as smoking rooms. Strings of lights or photocell lamps glow in the dark, mixing with the blue TV light that seeps out creating an eerie ambiance that frames whatever stuff is stored out there. Spring summer and fall balconies are an extra room. Come winter they are abandoned. But how different is that from those who own a home?
Sitting on this balcony looking out, spying actually, on the others across the way I feel like a peeping tom.
The thought fades, though, as I recall the day when I left home and started living life on my own – in an apartment – with a balcony that looked out over a busy main street with never ending traffic – and I smile.