Monday, November 29, 2010


One of the things that people do when they get older, is hang out together at each others' medical appointments. Today I went along with my boyfriend/partner to see how well his broken ankle is healing. (He sure looks a lot healthier than most of the people hobbling around the hospital.) Progress is good, though that's another thing about aging. It takes longer to heal, so he's a while to go yet before he's back to hale and hearty. But he gets to start physio, which means one of these days he'll get to stop using crutches.

Anyway, while he was in with the doctor, I was regaled with gruesome tales by a retired fireman. He told me of his radiation treatments, which followed his throat cancer operations, but assured me he'd never smoked. His speech was a bit challenged, because part of his tongue was gone. He showed me the scars from his skin grafts. He also filled me in that his two sisters have battled cancer too. I heard a lot about polyps and ostomy bags. He'd had a colonoscopy as well, which is recommended for people with a family history like his. I declined to tell him I've had one too (interesting procedure) though I did contribute that colon cancer is what got my mother.

For a while he stopped, because someone sat between us, but when they left, we talked about how many firemen have throat cancer (this is anecdotal, I have no idea whether it's true, though all that smoke can't be good...). I wondered whether they mentioned this possibility when he was recruited into the job, and he had words to say about compensation. Anyway, if you're young, and attracted to those buff young firemen who show up in calendars, remember this as a cautionary tale.

On Wednesday my sweetie gets to return the favour. He's going to come with me when I go to get my gall bladder removed, though my sister will be the one who drives us home. (It's hard to shift gears with a crutch.) My gall bladder's been malfunctioning for years as it's packed full with pebbles, but the attacks never lasted more than a half hour, so I would forget about it between times. After all, what's a few bouts in a year?

But this spring it gave me serious grief, lasted the whole damn day, and I spiked a fever, and that sure got me to the doctor, which got me into the specialist chute, and soon I saw the surgeon (he had a cancellation, so I slipped in early). He suggested that my gall bladder wasn't contributing anything it was supposed to contribute, because it was so full. I know when I had an ultrasound some years ago, I felt like a fraud. But the evidence is there, lots of stones.

Aand so I agreed it should go. That got me on the wait list for surgery. (I imagine a lot of people have emergency gall bladder surgery while they're on the wait list, because it's about six months.) I've been very careful about what I eat since then, because I know what usually sets it off, so it's been an all right wait, though it certainly interferes with forward thinking. I've felt it a few times though, just a hint, a reminder, which keeps me on my toes, metaphorically speaking. Most unpleasant. Nice by-product though: watching what I eat caused me to lose some weight, which has to help as there's less for the doc to dig through. And I like the view in the mirror better.

My body will have some adjusting to do after I subject it to this trauma, but I think it's probably smarter than waiting for when I'm even older, and it does become an emergency surgery, as that can be much more major. Right now it's a day-surgery, a procedure, in the pamphlet.

I'm grateful that I feel so healthy heading into this though. (Thanks to all that Grouse Grind hiking. It was so nice to have the trail stay open late this year.) Fingers crossed I bounce back fairly quickly. My crippled boyfriend is going to stay with me for a few days. We'll be quite the pair.

Friday, November 26, 2010

a change in the weather

Bonsai fir, caught out in the snow.
It happens occasionally. Vancouver has winter. It's not why we pay the big bucks to live here, and fortunately it doesn't happen often. But this past week has been winter, even though it's still officially fall, and for some reason it's been wintery in my spirits too.

It certainly hasn't helped that we've recently gone back to Daylight Savings time. (Or is that Daylight Losing time? I can never remember.) The essential thing is, it's dark around here most of the day. This will go on for almost another month until things turn around and the days start to grow longer again, though that seems always to need a lot of encouragement. You know, lots of gaudy decorations and frivolous shopping seems to do the trick. The gods are fickle and need cajoling, though why this works is beyond me.

Usually I'm quite entertained by snowfalls in the city, happy to bundle up and go see things looking pretty. I didn't get farther than outside my patio today though, to snap a picture of the little bonsai tree. Somehow this bit of snow coincided with one of those times, when things just seem, well, bleak. I didn't even cheer up when I was outside shoveling the stuff. Imagine. All I could think was bah, humbug, and bring on the rain.

But it happens, this kind of weather change (and it has changed again; the snow is melting now, hurray) and so I know, my mood will also change, already is. Last night I sat and stared at my computer screen, and not a coherent sentence would fall from my fingers. (Now don't tell me none of these are coherent either...) I deleted what I'd typed and went to bed early.
Sadie has the winter blahs too.

Can't say I felt much better today, certainly not an hour ago, when I started to try and make some sense of my funk. So it's one of those mysteries, no answers here. I don't know what my story is, or where it's actually going. I just know I need to live it and somehow it involves writing.

There is one silver lining to all this winter stuff I suppose. Having a week of actual below-freezing weather and a couple of snowfalls makes us Vancouverites (this Vancouverite) remember that we like rain. Warm, balmy rain. I think even my cat would agree.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Often I hike the Grouse Grind trail alone, which on any other trail is probably foolhardy, but on the Grind is fine, given it's occasional resemblance to a traffic jam. But this time of year, if the trail is still open, I hike with someone, because the numbers of hikers is definitely way down. My hiking companion lately is my fortunately-also-obsessed younger brother. When we can, we go together. We have a semi-ritual of talking for maybe the first quarter, and then falling into our own rhythms. Usually he leaves me behind. Once or twice I've managed to reverse that, but usually because he was out cycling 20 kilometres up some hill the day before, or something like that. I console myself that I am much older. (Well, two years.)

We went again this week in what looks to be my last of the year. Coming up the mountain you travel through several climate zones. Winter is on at the top of the mountain. The trail was still clear, if wet, but coming out on top, there was snow lying in patches. Some had melted away from last weeks snowfall, but not all. There were skaters on the ice rink. And I rather suspect that it's snowing up there right now, because outside my window it's raining and it's cold, and across where I should be able to see the mountain, there is only grey cloud, and I know it will be colder under that canopy.

I think I slipped under the last wire for this season, and I'm very glad. The sun kept trying to cut through the clouds, and finally, as we sat on top and had our visit and his tea and my non-fat latte, the clouds parted enough to see across to Point Grey and on to Vancouver Island. It was brief, because soon we were back in fog, but it reminded me of one of the reasons for doing this hike, and it's one I often forget to indulge in.

I mean, the benefits of this activity are tremendous. It's a tremendous aerobic workout, and there's no getting out of it, once you're started. I mean, you can stop hiking to rest, but you're going to have to go again if you ever want to go home. Sometimes you see deer, which is pretty fine for a city kid like me, though usually it's only squirrels or chipmunks. Or ravens; really cool birds. Often though, and especially if I'm alone, I'll come out on top, and just head straight for the gondola and the ride down. I forget to look.

We sat and drank our drinks and looked out at the view, and I thought, perspective. That's why I come. There are a million people down there, give or take a few, and they're all busy in one way or another. Everyone has problems, worries, stress. If not today, then tomorrow, because that's how life is. But they're all so small. I'm so small. Look how big the world is. Just look.

So what am I worried about today? I'm trying to sort the bureaucracy in my office, the piles of paper. Isn't that funny? I mean it is necessary stuff I'm digging through, and getting clarity in my office will give clarity to my days. I know that. But I think I'll go for a walk in the rain just now anyway. It'll make the paper easier to deal with when I get back, and heck, it could be snowing tomorrow, and then where would I be? (Yes, yes, back here finishing up this task. Don't worry.)

But while I look forward to the new season on the Grind, months away, still, I can take myself down to the path by the sea, and do it regularly. Because that's just over there, five minutes from my apartment, and that could keep me exercised till the mountain is a walk-in-the-park again. And isn't it true that the view over water gives that same perspective of distance, space, possibility? I think so, as long as I don't forget to look.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

rules, consequences, concrete and zen

My brother talks about a rule of threes. Usually he's talking about things like renovations, where whatever you are doing will take three times as long, or cost three times as much, or both. This is a good rule to keep in mind.

I think maybe the rule of threes is working in my own life. I had an uproar around here when I decided to sell my apartment. Then when sales suddenly fell off, I took it off the market, and took a good look at my own personal life, to see why I wanted to move so much. Then I initiated a second uproar, by asking my partner to move out. This of course solved one problem I was having but opened up several others. (This isn't an indicator of the rule of threes, but of the law of unintended consequences. In this case, some emotional fallout, among other things.)

It may be true that this wasn't the best time to decide, given my state of mind, but what the heck. Now that I was staying put in my recently more spacious apartment, I decided it was time to change the bathtub. It may just be that I have some kind of mental illness that shows itself in renovation-type behaviours. I'm not sure. But the bathtub in this place was okay, if I moved. But staying, it finally wore me down. It is (or was) 30 years old, and a jacuzzi at that. Whenever I ran the jets, to clean them out, strange black things floated out. I wasted a phenomenal amount of water refilling the tub, and running it again, to get the pipes clean. Alas, it seemed futile. I did still use the tub, but couldn't help thinking about the used bathwater always sitting in those pipes. Yuk.

Anyway, this week my friendly renovator came to take out the old tub. It turns out that, while the uproars came in threes, there is also the rule of three within each event. When this building was built, for some reason, the builders decided to pour their leftover concrete around my tub, after it was installed. This meant that the old tub had to be chopped up to get it out. Then the concrete had to be broken up in order to haul it out, so that some kind of level floor can be created in the space where the new bathtub will go. What a production, you say. Noisy too. (This is only two things, so there's got to be one more glitch coming, but maybe the fact that the 'trim' (what we laypeople call taps) won't arrive until about a month after the tub is installed will suffice.

Anyway, yesterday I was kicked out of the house so as to not breathe in fibreglass as the old tub was ceremoniously dismembered. Today, for the concrete, I kicked myself out. I went for a hike up the Grind with the aforementioned brother. I know, it was raining, but sometimes you just have to go. We had a perfectly fine hike, talking all the way.

In the last quarter the rain turned to snow. We both kept very careful attention on the moment, indeed on where our feet were at each moment (what he calls zen-grinding) but every now and then I stopped so I could look around. I did not have my camera, so I can't show you, but it was profoundly beautiful up there. Believe me. Fresh snow in the forest. And so quiet. Not a single sound of pulverizing concrete. And then my brother spotted two deer stepping through the trees. A doe and half-grown fawn. Their colouring was perfect. They were the same colour as the trees, and their white bellies matched the snow. Light and dark, shadow and snow. This, I guess, was a rule of two. Definitely some kind of zen.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

space and time

Once upon a time I was a very little girl living in Vancouver. Time stretched out in front of me in a manner that was, well, timeless. I remember waiting, for instance, for Christmas to roll around. Remember that? It took forever. The end of the school year and the start of summer holidays? Eons.

Today I sat down to write in a café, and asked my companion, what date is it? November 3 she said. And I thought, how can this be? A blink ago it was Hallowe'en, just before that, Thanksgiving. I'd swear that Labour Day was just last week.

It's a cliché, or a tautology: Time flies. (Wait, I'll get my dictionary, yes, tautology 2. a statement that is necessarily true.) It used to crawl, time, but the older I get, the faster it flaps by. When my children were babies and toddlers (delectable and delightful, mostly) time crawled with them. They were infants for the longest time. Then they were teenagers, and though it was intense, what with all the hair-pulling and teeth gnashing (by me) it was also very brief. Decades have gone by.

This awareness is what drives me today, this week. Time flies, and I've still got lots to do. I could be 80 tomorrow. So, this week, I am working on setting up my office to function better. Stuff is going to be tossed. There are oodles of scraps of stories flying around in my office, unfinished, and I want to finish them, or delete.

Last year I was digging through my father's scraps and detritus and saying "oh, dad, what were you thinking." Twenty odd years ago I did the same thing with my mother's stuff. Now I can imagine my own children sifting through the debris, saying things like, "this paragraph's not too bad. Hey, if she'd finished that sentence, this might have been a story. Oh, here's part of her novel. I wonder how it was supposed to end?" And probably, "why's she still got this junk?" That'll be the baby clothes...

It's not fame or fortune I'm after, though that'll be nice, once I get some stories and a novel or two finished. Right now I'm just concerned that the kids not sit around saying "oh, mom, what were you thinking."

Whatever motivates, eh?