To Blog or Not to Blog

Fogo Island crooked house

When I started writing a blog, I thought it would replace the long e mails and letters I had been writing to friends whose collective age and experience spans seven decades and whose homes are spread around five continents.  My thinking, originally, was that One Blog would Fit All which was, of course, wishful thinking and as it turns out, a Fool’s Errand.  Sad political liberals and jubilant conservative friends simply do not find the same musings amusing.  Former schoolmates, now elderly and concerned primarily with colonoscopies and high blood pressure, are generally not interested in visits to cold and windy North Atlantic islands.  Young adventurers with tans, well-defined abs and a lot of self-interest could give a toss about refugees, Make A Wish, Lou Reed and Tom Petty.  And serious and frivolous readers; artists and athletes; religious zealots and crazy ass tight rope walkers did not share a passion for essays on performance art in Kansas City or scaling a fish in Digby, Nova Scotia, in equal measure. So rather than charming most of my friends and families with the same stream of consciousness blogs, I discovered that instead many friends actually found my blogs annoying and that I still had to write individual friends and family members to explain what a performance artist (or a trout) was.  Go figure.

Finally, a month or so ago when it hit me I’d actually have to live to be 154 if my tomorrows were to outnumber my yesterdays, I decided my time would be better spent blogging less and living my life more.

Which leads me to this past summer and an autumn that is only now slowly winding down in Southern California.

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The summer kicked off with a lot of visits from good friends checking in to make sure cancer had not laid me too low. A number of trips with other friends were organized to help me celebrate surviving and thriving and Fogo Island in all its sparse glory was first on my Live Your Life tour.  Ally S organized our leg of the journey to the tiny rock, beloved by Flat Earth Society members everywhere, off the coast of Newfoundland.  We were joined there by J and three teenagers, all of whom were also fascinated by the dozens of icebergs floating in the front yards of Fogo Island fishermen and celebrities paying $2000 a night for rooms with a view at the Fogo Island Inn.

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Then there was the national Canada 150 Birthday Celebration with Tall Ships and schooners floating past our own deck in Victoria Beach.  That was pretty spectacular.  More American friends arrived to watch the ships drift by and stayed to take my temperature and check the air in my tires and then, in the wink of an eye, it was time to fly to Paris for the Colloquium for Political Innovation to honor the late, great Edgard Pisani.  Although most if not all attendees were in France to draw attention to the kind of visionary leadership Pisani represented, many speakers and audience members between the ages of 18 – 80, passionately concerned about climate change, joined political progressives from a half-dozen countries at the National Assembly in Paris for a call to action.  Pretty heady stuff.

From there V, M and I drove to the South of France for a week of gluttony and en route, stopped for a night of especially decadent feasting at Chateau de Vault de Lugny, a glorious old chateau with a moat, white swans, wonderful wines from Burgundy, and more history than I could absorb in one wine-addled lifetime. Although the generous meals in Paris and at Chez Josette’s in Cornillon were Events of the first order, the 17th Century kitchen in the chateau near Pontaubert was in a weight class all its own.  If all diners did not have an out-of-body experience the night I died and went to Heaven, their taste buds must have been removed at birth.

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In a futile effort to dry out and cure my addiction to French cuisine, I returned to Paris two days early to fast and indulge in nonstop reading at a trendy and slightly socialist hotel called Citizen M and then traveled straight from the sublime to the ridiculous and ridiculously relaxing beaches of Laie.

My friend and travel coordinator, H, can no longer tolerate long, uncomfortable flights and remain healthy but as luck would have it, she can manage to fly First Class without keeling over.  Reaping the benefits of her compromise with her doctors, I enjoyed every nano-second of the large, bed-like arm chairs, the good champagne, the unusual (for me) airline cuisine, and five hours of good music and recent movies.  Again, the sublime was followed by slightly ridiculous e mail warnings from my calabash relatives in Hawaii who reminded me that our wonderful old Laie beach shack had not enjoyed any serious upgrades since I’d last been there. Actually, it had not enjoyed any significant upgrades for the greater part of a century but that’s another Tale of the South Seas. Their e mail describing a missing roof, leaky sink, damaged window frames, and a cat with fleas, all available to double our pleasure, double our fun during our ten days on the North Shore of Oahu, was taken less seriously than it might have been had we not had quite so much Proseco and chicken with Bernaise sauce courtesy the fine folks at Hawaiian Airlines.

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Undaunted, and knowing full well that beauty has the power to stop time, we stepped right back into the footprints we’d left during our last beachwalk on the long, white sandy beach one step beyond the backyard of the old Laie beach house.   When half a house still has a roof, when the bookcases in that half overflow with hundreds of books on subjects of great interest, when the closets are filled with beautiful puzzles and the Pacific swimming hole is warm and inviting, it’s hard to pay too much attention to leaky sinks and flies or fleas in the ointment.  Certainly no frequent visitor to Laie would ever pay ANY attention to fleas and soggy sub floors when the enormous winter waves that regularly hit the North Shore beaches are so beautiful, so dramatic and so attractive to the world class surfers.   With the predictability of swallows returning to Capistrano, these tanned men and women who walk on water are sighted each year doing just that a few beaches down from Laie Bay.  This, too, is pretty heady stuff.

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I am now back in Southern California where the weather is wonderful about ten months out of twelve.  I plan to linger for a few more weeks to visit the dearest of friends and relatives before I head back to Nova Scotia for the winter and I am determined to enjoy every nano-second before I return happily to a Maritime Brigadoon waiting for its first snowfall. I suspect it may be easier to blog in the cozy house on the cliff when one is snowed in than it is in a French chateau with a fabulous chef or even in a Laie beach shack when every warm Pacific breeze whispers “This IS the life! Enjoy it NOW and write about it February.  Or maybe not at all.”

If I do continue blogging, I may, in the future, issue warnings that say “not suitable for crazy ass risk takers or readers addicted to Proust OR Dave Barry”.  Be forewarned.

 

https://digbygirl.wordpress.com

 

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Passion, Purpose and Pouilly-Fuisse

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Spending a week in France is often analogous to having an out-of-body experience.  Even though I was participating in a Colloquium for Political Innovation in Paris, at least marginally focused on innovative political policies that had a snowball’s chance in Hell to take the world forward, I stayed on to sate the senses with food, wine, architecture, laughter in the moonlight and the autumn warmth of the South of France. If I had to whip up a title for the week, I’d call it “Passion, Purpose and Pouilly-Fuisse”.

Colloquium speakers and experts, including American speakers, all eloquent and passionate, choreographed their moves and words to accommodate the elephant in the room and did their best not to “pile on” the dominant USA political leadership.   For the most part, the “political” innovations discussed were all focused on climate change.  Immigration, refugees, security, health, culture, fires in Napa Valley, and governance were collectively and individually framed by environmental concerns.  The most encouraging initiatives described while I was paying attention focused on the kind of work James Thornton, the man the New Statesman called one of the ten people most likely to change the world, had engaged in for decades. In brief, Thornton sues governments and corporations on behalf of his only client, the Earth, and in four decades in three continents, including Asia, he’s never lost a case. Colloquium advocates like Laurence Tubiana, the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, Dr. Susan Blaustein of WomenStrong International, and Dr. John Merson, Executive Director of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute in Australia, spoke about initiatives large and small but which all fit in neatly with China’s concept of an “ecological civilization”. Colloquium Committee Member, Titus Levi, reminded us all that when China gets something right, it gets it really right.  With a group of Chinese experts and five other westerners, James Thornton spent 18 months analyzing how to create the legal structures for an ecological civilization. The group then gave recommendations for how to create the rule of law to deliver it.

Thornton said, “The Chinese have thrown hundreds of their best intellectuals at designing the theoretical framework for each of the pieces of the architecture of ecological civilization.” These include economic, industrial and agricultural policies for an ecological civilization. Agriculture, a passion of Edgard Pisani, in particular was front and center during most conversations at the Colloquium.  Imagining what they might have accomplished if Pisani and Thornton had worked together boggles the mind.

It’s not without irony that the world’s most flagrant polluter may have come up with, arguably, the most visionary plan to address global degradation of the environment in the past century.  It’s akin to Hillary Clinton sitting on the WalMart Board of Directors. That said, a couple of years ago the Chinese said “we have a long-term vision, we want to be here in another 2,000 years and that will only happen if we clean up the environment. So we have determined that we’re going to deal with our environmental problems and we’re going to do so in a very thoroughgoing way.” And they have.  Thornton said it helped that most of the politburo are engineers rather than political scientists, lawyers or economists as they are likely to be in the West.  According to Thornton, ” when the Chinese actually decide that there is a problem – and it takes actual evidence to get them there – they define the problem and then their next question is: what’s the solution? How can we afford it, how quickly can we do it, and how can we marshal all forces in society to get there?”  This was enormously encouraging to many of the participants at the Colloquium, some of whom (not all…most were, after all, politicians, scientists, lawyers, and economists) appeared “mad as Hell and not inclined to take it anymore”.

But perhaps I speak only for myself.  We are each inclined to be delusional when we believe in something passionately.

Informal conversations also resonated about the heightened activism of states like California who may have learned a thing or two from Texas when they sued the Obama Administration 48 times.  More than half of those lawsuits were based on damage to the climate change and clean air and water movements. California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, directed a challenge to the feds last year when he said” If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us.”

Bring it on, Mr. President.  Shades of George W.  Miss him yet?

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SO, jumping from saving the world, or depending on where you’re standing, destroying it, to ancient cathedrals, forts, castles, and good, no, THE BEST food and wine, the out-of-body experience continued post colloquium as I moved South from Paris.  Together with and enabled by the lovely Margo, colloque Muse, Vanda, and longtime Pisani admirer, Michel, I ate my way through Burgundy and Cornillon, and had perhaps the best meal of my life at the Chateau de Vault de Lugny.  Although the generous meals in Paris and at Chez Josette’s in Cornillon were Events of the first order, the 17th Century kitchen in the chateau near Pontaubert was in a weight class all its own.  An out- of- body experience?  It has to be.  How else to explain one week that paired a colloquium organized to honor the spirit of a philosopher/ warrior/ poet; an ecological civilization; and a state in the USA both fired up and tragically on fire with borderline gluttony and a wine tasting conducted over seven days that left all tasters prepared to smash lesser wines (described as pipi de chat).

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An out – of – body experience or a marriage of hedonism and Purpose?  Should Purpose be a full-time job?  I will mull this over as I have another glass of Chablis from Chablis and just a bit of that fabulous ashy goat cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

France, Food, and Reflections on a Life Well Lived

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In Paris, this passes for an ordinary meal at an ordinary bistro.

 

I don’t want to obsess about food but Wednesday night I had a many-course meal at the Chateau Vault de Lugny that was nothing short of magnificent.  We started with pate that was served almost like a creme de brule with a caramelized crust.  This was followed by risotto with truffles and pumpkin soup with hazelnuts.  My main dish was an unrecognizable but delicious rolled and parsleyed chicken with mashed potatoes that tasted better than ice cream.  The chef must have invested a month’s supply of butter, cream, garlic and other spices in just the mashed potatoes.  Following that, we had a cheese plate with France’s best cheeses, and finally a poached pear coverchateau chicken IMG_5461ed in chocolate.

Other guests had wild boar, a few had steak that melted in the mouth, and one person had crispy duck as a main dish.  Everything was served in mouth-watering sauces, including the poached pear and rolled chicken. Every course was served with wine chosen by the chef although we started the evening with two bottles of excellent champagne that almost made us forget that two of our party were leaving at 4 a.m. to fly back to Napa Valley to search for their dog, Charlie, and to assess the damage on the house.  While the fires raged on, we feasted in a surrealistic atmosphere that would have made the participants at Babette’s Feast pale with horror.

Should we, I wonder, actually eat, drink and be merry if, in fact, tomorrow we (and others) may die?

This delicious decadence all took place at a 13th century chateau with a tower for ancient miscreants or pushy challengers to titled properties in a park patrolled by white peacocks and grouse. The inside pool built in the past ten years in a man made cavern attached to the main house had a constantly changing light show.  Our room was as big as the bottom floor of my Nova Scotia house and the bathroom, complete with a tub the size of a small pool and a dressing room, tiled sink and backlit mirror, a bidet and a hidden toilet, was about the size of my bedroom.  It was all pretty grand for a Digby Girl and a great treat for those that had worked for almost two years on the Colloquium for Political Innovation.

In my experience, volunteer work always pays off.  Most good causes benefit from the work of dedicated volunteers and it’s also good for the volunteer’s soul and complexion.  Typically, effective volunteers attached to a heartfelt and strategic project move humanity, over time, at least a half-step forward.  It’s unusual when their pay off comes with risotto and truffles and digs in a chateau but hey, I will be 78 in two months and I, as a friend’s aged aunt used to advise, “take tarts when tarts is being passed”.

The chief visionary and volunteer for the Colloquium for Political Innovation was the formidable Vanda Vitali with whom I had been privileged to work at the National History Museum in Los Angeles and at the National Museum in Auckland.  Vanda had also spoken at an International Water Conference I had put together in China a few years back so when she rallied the troops to organize a colloquium to honor the late, great French statesman, Edgard Pisani, I could hardly turn down another chance to work with her and her international band of believers in the Pisani Protocols.

She and her remarkable support team, notably Barbara Fillion, Peter Gale, and Phyllis Tanaka from Canada, Gail Chadwick from Arizona, Bruno Guichard and Anne Duvivier from France, and an engaged and engaging Advisory Board, brought together a fabulous group of speakers to not only talk about the influence of a remarkable man but to explore ways in which the Pisani Protocol might guide a new generation of leaders to and through a brighter future.

In addition to a large group of college agricultural students, representing one of the four agricultural colleges named after Edgard Pisani, it was heartwarming to see friends and Pisani admirers, some of whom had flown in from great distances just to attend the Colloquium for Political Innovation.  Dr. Titus Levi and Dr. Maria Christine Muyco came in from Hong Kong and Manila, and Dr. John Merson, a prize-winning journalist and noted environmental leader from Australia, joined Laurence Tubiana, the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, and Roland Lescure, the President of the French Parliamentary Committee on Economic Affairs at the day-long discussion on issues ranging from climate change, carbon reduction, and the critical need for global governance to address global challenges ranging from responsible environmental policies  to causes and responses to terrorism.

Heather McGhee, President of the think tank, Demos, weighed in (eloquently) on the need for a true democracy in which everyone has an equal voice and an equal chance in (specifically) America’s economy.  And Dr. Susan Blaustein, the Founder/ Director of WomenStrong International spoke movingly about ending extreme poverty in impoverished urban settings where WomenStrong worked, primarily Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, India and Washington, D.C.

On the whole, it was not a good day to be an American in Paris although it was lovely to see Pisani admirers and old friends Eliza (Greben Callow), Betty (Sedor), Bob (White), and devoted fans Bob, Noriko, Margo, and Pat from California, Dr. Alan Brown and his family from Arizona carry the flag with dignity and pride.   On the other hand, it was great day to be a Canadian.  Bob Rae, Queen’s Consul and Ontario’s 21st Premier; distinguished University of Toronto academic Paul Perron, and former diplomat and Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa, Robin Higham, were each a credit to Queen and Country and gave the Colloquium’s young audience a peek at a gentler, kinder and more thoughtful kind of political spokesman than they were accustomed to hearing.  Together with a host of French political leaders that included legislator Roland Lescure, and Daniel Soulez Lariviere, formerly Charge de Mission in the Pisani Cabinet, the Colloquium speakers not only represented the values and principles of Edgard Pisani but were among the best and brightest thinkers of their respective generations.  Thanks to Kira Perov and Bill Viola, the colloquium wrapped up with a viewing of Bill’s haunting installation, “Inverted Birth”, a fitting tribute to a man for whom art was an inspiration and a necessity.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a Pisani-esque gathering if it didn’t also end with good food, good wine, and birthday toasts to the late diplomat / politician / philosopher and his youngish (55) friend from Los Angeles, via Manila, Titus (pronounced Tee-TASS), as well as a toast to Heather McGhee and her husband who were happily celebrating their first anniversary in the City of Lights with 150 new friends.  The farewell banquet allowed the dialogue about a new kind of global leadership to continue (a few decibels louder than we experienced at the National Assembly) and for partnerships, old and new, to explore a new and improved kind of governance for a wounded world.

 

If You’re Wrong, Am I Right?

Most of us in the liberal camp probably don’t want to think or talk about it but many of us have friends and relatives that voted against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.  I am not sure if they would vote the same way today and I have no immediate plans to ask them how they feel almost eight months into President Trump’s first term.  However, one of his most visible and ardent supporters, an intelligent and compassionate woman I’ve known for almost 40 years, recently posted a statement on Facebook confirming her commitment to the President and his policies.

While we each may find it difficult to recognize long-time friends that now appear defined by enmity toward or advocacy of the current President, I certainly support friends’ right to form and express views that differ from mine.  I am not in total denial about their motives for supporting a man who appears to me ill-fitted to lead the “free” world. I do know, however, it’s entirely possible to separate his actions and words from decades of demonstrated and consistent love and loyalty provided by friends I see too seldom during these troubled days.  If I didn’t reject friends that lauded President Obama when he deported record numbers of illegal immigrants, often separating parents and children, dilly-dallied on environmental and gay rights reforms, continued the banking bail out and brought electronic surveillance of US citizens to an all-time high, I am not likely to reject close friends and beloved relatives for voting for President Trump.  And as I recall, few rejected me (although a few scolded me for refusing to drink the Kool Aid) for bringing President Obama’s shortcomings to their attention.

I hope friends, liberal and conservative, now grant me the same latitude and respect my right to have views that are different from theirs.  I also hope my liberal friends don’t burn me in effigy for my reluctance to kick my friends, in-laws, and various nieces and nephews, off the Friendship Bus.  A fair number of my “moderate” friends, from both side of the political aisle, have alarmingly rigid social and political views and often mimic the tactics and even the venom of the most rabid Trump followers.  I know I can trust them to vote for policies I admire but I am uncertain I can always count on them to be tolerant of people who express views they find disagreeable or even despicable.  Which in some ways negates the more inclusive and tolerant policies they espouse.

No sane person condones violence or people that foment, even welcome, violence.  But speaking up and speaking out on behalf of our beliefs does not require us to be as hateful as the people we oppose.  I loved being at the Women’s March in Washington, DC, in January. protest art Caroleducks-in-cboston

 

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I loved knowing I was part of a protest that was replicated across the country and enabled everyone, including the Women for Trump delegation with whom I spoke at the DC rally, to express our political positions in a non-violent, even joyous way.  I also loved being part of a tiny, engaged group of Canadian citizens in Annapolis, Nova Scotia, that spoke up last April for our vulnerable planet.  With the exception of a couple of celebrity nutcase speakers at the DC March (who, like the President, also blamed the media for reporting their remarks “out of context”) and those (unrelated to the Women’s March) cowardly masked and reckless vandals that smashed windows the day before the Women’s March, almost all marchers and speakers demonstrated loving enthusiasm, intelligent activism and discipline.   Marchers rallying around the world in January were as different from the white nationalists in Charlottesville as it is possible to be.

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We are so lucky in North America to have protected freedom of expression.  We can express ourselves as I am doing now on Facebook, Word Press, on editorial pages, and at public rallies. It’s a freedom and right that separates us from much of the rest of the world.  If we use this right too often and too freely, our words will lose their impact.  If we abuse it by wrapping our words in vitriol that provokes violence, our rights will be curtailed.  We should not become less active or encourage silence when our leaders or our citizens misbehave but we would be well-advised to exercise discipline, restraint, and kindness when we try to persuade others that they are wrong and we are right.

 

Just a Small Town Girl in Search of a Tall Ship

 

 

Small town life provides almost more excitement than a former Los Angeles – Zhengzhou – Phnom Penh – Digby Girl can handle. And by small town life,  I mean small town life.

I once lived in a village in China with over a million people.  In Nova Scotia, ten full-time residents might qualify a community as a village. If Halifax, our provincial capitol, can identify a million residents, it probably means 500,000 new mothers gave birth a week before the most recent Census survey was completed.

Annapolis Royal boasts 500 residents plus a designated Town Hall, a handsome singing Mayor, a Chief of Police, a Librarian, a slew of fair to great looking elected and appointed officials, a large and engaged Council of Churches, and a Queen.  It also has galleries (both fine and folk), a theatre, restaurants, exquisite B & B’s, a firehouse, a smattering of retail establishments, an annual modern dance festival, a half-dozen choral groups, a lot of historic sites, a brand new amphitheatre, and a popular graveyard tour.  That’s right.  New Orleans has nothing on Annapolis Royale when it comes to communicating, in French and English, with the dearly departed.

Annapolis meets all criteria for a Town in Canada and if you don’t believe me, you should have been around over the August Natal Day weekend when fireworks, a parade, a large contingent of cadets, a half-dozen cannons, a Teddy Bear Tea, a Street Dance, a Beer Garden and a Coronation thrilled and delighted Annapolis’ 500 residents and as many as 60 – 70 tourists.  We expect a statistical showdown with New York sometime within the next few years.

Brenda MacDonald, the 2017 Queen of Annapolis, was crowned during the Natal Day festivities and was subsequently driven through town by a formidable high school art teacher known as The McGowan. Former students scattered as she pointed her vehicle in their direction and the Queen waved winningly at her subjects along the parade route.  Enthroned on the back of The Old Town Pub’s pick up truck and surrounded by a court of future royal wannabe’s, she was sponsored by an unlikely business in a seaside “town” of other unlikely businesses run by fishermen, farmers, artists, entrepreneurs and citizens known as CMAs or Come from A-Ways).  Far-Fetched Gallery Antiques and Art Gallery, first among equals in the categories of sponsorships and Asian art, had decorated the Queen’s regal carriage with hand-woven rugs, flowers and artifacts fetched from places as far-fetched as Myanmar and Vietnam.

Although visually impaired, the 2017 Queen’s sights are set directly on the 2022 Winter Paraolympic Games in Beijing.  Seeking to add more medals to her already impressive collection of Gold for ski racing in downhill and slalom events, she’s ready to not only represent Annapolis as its Queen but Canada as an athlete.  Like former teen Queens, she will spend this next year pursuing advanced education and representing Annapolis at County events whenever she is called upon.

The selection process for identifying royal candidates for Queen OR King is extremely democratic.  Any high school graduate with good grades and a sponsor can compete for a scholarship to further his or her education and to represent the town for a year.  Chosen primarily for their leadership qualities and poise, teen royals receive a scholarship if they move from Prince to King or Princess to Queen.  Everyone else is feted and recognized for their accomplishments, gets to wear fancy duds, ride in a parade and enjoy presiding over teas, luncheons and suppers. This may appeal to Princely candidates less than to Princesses and some  young men would clearly prefer to drive the backhoe or pick up transporting the Royal Court than be driven around town as the soccer team directs rude remarks in their direction.     

To my knowledge, no Royal candidate has ever been asked to wear a swimsuit or to answer questions like “How would you advise the Prime Minister to balance the national budget?”  Or worse, “What do you really think of Michael Buble?”

But just in case Street Dances, Modern Dance Festivals, and beer failed to float all boats, Canada 150 brought The Tall Ships to towns and cities throughout the Maritimes for the viewing pleasure of an appreciative public.  Without moving beyond a deck that overlooks the waterway from the Bay of Fundy to the waterfronts of Digby and Annapolis, our friends and families, with schooners of cold beer in their hands, could watch different kinds of schooners as well as pirate ships from New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Portugal and countries from around the world pass us by.  A blast from the past en route to cities of the future.

Sampling nachos and sushi followed by gin tonics and ginger beer, we may have had better front seats for the waterfront show than Johnny Depp’s ex wives and lovers had when he premiered “Pirates of the Caribbean”.  At least until post-sunset mosquitoes the size of dive bombers drove us inside the house to grab tubes of Anti-Itch, food, friendships, desserts, and good conversation reminded us why so many of us choose to be Small Town Girls (and Boys).

Ghost ship in search of Jack Sparrow.

Many Mahalos!

Over the past two months, friends and family have sent gifts of words, flowers, cards, small artworks fetched from afar, cash, humour, dreams of future travels, food, fashion, books, memories, painted rocks, yardwork and housework, handmade jewelry, and Time, always precious, always the right size and colour.  And oh, yes, I must not overlook delicacies like cookies that elicit an enthusiastic “Wow!” Even a prayer or two has drifted my way.

I am grateful today and I may be grateful forever for the encouragement, laughter and, on so many levels, the nourishment.

The following poem is a gift from a new friend in Annapolis Royal, an island girl filled with joy who speaks with an echo of St. Vincent (the island in the Caribbean, not the Holy Man.  He probably also spoke with an accent but it may not have been quite as musical as the island girl’s).

Gratitude List

Praise be this morning for sleeping late,

the sandy sheets, the ocean air,

the midnight storm that blew its waters in.

Praise be the morning swim, mid-tide,

the clear sands underneath our feet,

the dogs who leap into the waves,

their fur, sticky with salt,

the ball we throw again and again.

Praise be the green tea with honey,

the bread we dip in finest olive oil,

the eggs we fry. Praise be the reeds,

gold and pink in the summer light,

the sand between our toes,

our swimsuits, flapping in the breeze.

Laura Foley

When the Cure is Worse Than the Curse, Drink Better Wine!

 

Happy Days Are Here Again!

I received a straight A report card when I visited the smart, young and thorough oncologist (SYTO) in Kentville this week.  “My” cancer was very small, a Grade One and less invasive than its name implied.  The eight lymph nodes that had been dissected and analyzed showed no evidence of cancer cells and the other four areas oncologists view with suspicion didn’t warrant even one wrinkle of the doctor’s unwrinkled brow.  Best of all, the chemo treatments I had been anticipating are now not on my agenda in the foreseeable future.  For a cancer patient, other than an “Oops!  I thought it was cancer but it was really just acne”, my report card was just about as good as it gets.  I’ve never been a B student (just F’s and A’s) but I really, really appreciate high marks from the SYTO.

I am a little concerned about the alternative therapies that were recommended but reports that begin with No Cancer and No Chemo always, in my view, deserve a Page One headline.  Daily doses of Anastrozole or Exemestane may decrease the possibility of hormone sensitive tumors and recurrence so if I pop pills for ten years, I may reach the age of one hundred absent future cancer scares.  Or I may not. It’s apparently a crap shoot.

But living to one hundred has never been a major personal goal of mine.

I’m told that Canadian centenarians receive a letter from the Queen which would be fine if, when I am eligible to blow out a hundred candles, I am not only cancer free but can still distinguish THE Queen from Queen, the Band.  Frankly, I think I’d prefer to receive a remastered copy of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Freddie Mercury’s “Killer Queen” before I hit one hundred when, in point of fact, the English Queen will actually be a King.  (Not through transgender surgery that would prevent her from serving in the American military services but simply because in twenty years, she will be WAY older than a mere centenarian.)

Anyway, both recommended drugs have a daunting list of possible side effects that some people never experience and other people find tortuous.  They include but are not limited to nausea, headaches, brittle bones, depression, aching joints, sleeplessness, vaginal bleeding, swelling, an increase in cholesterol, weight gain, vomiting, hot flashes, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and constipation or diarrhea (presumably not both).

Since I currently feel healthy, albeit absent a body part, have no trouble sleeping, am not constipated or  swollen, have relatively thick hair, no noticeable bleeding, osteoporosis or aches and pains and am as chipper as an old broad with one boob can feel, I have to question why I should take pills that expose me to a whole bucketload of sorrow and woe. If I live for another twenty years, do I want to voluntarily initiate a regimen that comes with a ten-year supply of swollen ankles and hot flashes?

I understand the SYTO may still persuade me that wishing I was dead is preferable to actually being dead. However, right now I am inclined to sign up for Misery Pills for no more than two months to see if I am one of those people that get a free ride on the Health Canada Cancer Express.  If I experience more than even three of the more onerous side effects, I think it may make sense for me to roll the dice, skip the cure that’s as bad or possibly worse than the curse of cancer, and exit the train at the first station with interesting architecture.

I really don’t have a death wish but I know a dramatically diminished quality of life sometimes takes away the will to live.  Ten years can go by in a flash and other than the health and happiness of my family and friends, a library card and having fun are my top priorities.  Diarrhea, vaginal bleeding, and a decade of brittle bones are only marginally more attractive to me than breast cancer.

The regular indignities of old age, sometimes occurring gradually and sometimes appearing suddenly, like lightning on a warm summer night, are burdens we must each face if we don’t have the bone structure of Sophia Loren or the lifelong wit of a P.D. James.  An unsightly mole in the middle of a forehead, a gift of support hose at Christmas, a neck that reminds us to buy a turkey when they go on sale before Thanksgiving, the occasional need for a cane and the diminished hearing and sight that make driving with an aging spouse a thrill ride are all inevitable.  We can amuse ourselves by using the support hose to strangle the gift giver or by weaving the errant hairs surrounding the mole into a decorative design.  The cane can best be employed by inadvertently (sure!) tripping a well-meaning but patronizing young person and a scarf, at least in winter, can always cover up your turkey neck.  Although I’d prefer to be relevant, respected, and mole-free, such actions do have great appeal.

I’ve given it a few hours thought and I truly think the money I would spend trying to reduce the amount of estrogen my body will produce may not be money well-spent.   Call me crazy but chasing sunshine, scheduling yearly mammograms and purchasing good white wine seem like more appropriate activities for old age than  purchasing drugs that legally must warn users about side effects that may spell misery.  Or that require  even more drugs to combat the nausea and high blood pressure Exemestane and Anastrozole may produce.

Call me in ten years (assuming that by then I haven’t been run down by a semi or if I stay in Nova Scotia, an out-of-control moose) if you think I’m wrong.  You could call before but the line may be busy.

 

Oh, and if you have a turkey neck, pose with care and if that doesn’t work, invest in silk scarves.