As he does.
I am mostly sitting in his favourite chair (as I do), holding my belly button with both hands and trying to take deep, cleansing, banana-muffin-scented breaths.
My hands are cupped, as if I’m carefully holding a baby chick, but what I’m really doing is attempting to keep my belly button from making a fast getaway. It’s a task that requires vigilance and dedication, even through my bewilderment. I don’t honestly know why my belly button has forsaken me in this manner. I mean, I’ve been good to the thing, over the years.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being sun burned.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being mercilessly tickled.
- I’ve never pierced it (my sister holding the waistband of her pants out for two days after she had hers done a hundred years ago, was a good deterrent).
As in most things, I am a belly button goody-two shoes.
Yet, here I sit. In full-on Belly Button Betrayal.
I got terrible books out of the library and Olympic Golf has officially come back. This is what misery looks like, my friends.
Every once in a while, I limp into the bedroom to the full-length mirror and lift my shirt to look.
Is it still there? In one piece?
Now, I’m navel gazing.
Except, not like Gandhi or Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the wildly popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love). Someone with important socio-political/existential/spiritual (Gandhi) or even spaghetti questions (Elizabeth Gilbert) on their minds.
I do have those questions but, tra-la-la, the Olympics are on.
So, I’ve been navel gazing for a week, on account of the laparoscopic surgery I had. Note to self: my belly button does NOT look like the ones on the Canadian beach volleyball team.
Actually, navel gazing and fussing. Lots and lots of fussing.
I don’t remember Gandhi doing much of that, do you? Maybe you lose your belly button when you’re fasting for important, civil rights reasons. Not that I’ll ever know. I came out of surgery after lunch, ready for a 3-course meal, since I hadn’t eaten since MIDNIGHT the night before!
I’m really more like Elizabeth Gilbert than Gandhi.
More foodie than faster.
Uh huh, that’s me.
By the way, do you think making banana muffins is a sophisticated avoidance technique? Practical Man is…well, practical. When there’s a problem, he usually has a very practical solution. And, making banana muffins does afford a brief respite from your fussing/navel gazing wife doesn’t it? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I care if it’s a sophisticated avoidance technique, so long as I get some banana muffins out of the deal.
Naval gazing and fussing. I feel like that might be on my headstone some day, darn it. Kind of sums me up pretty well at the moment.
And, while I am a talented fusser, as Practical Man can no doubt attest, I would like to stop.
Really, I would.
It’s just that I never thought my belly button could hurt quite this much. On account of, I am a documented ‘fraidy cat and I’ve never had a single baby and everyone knows (or at least, I knew with utter certainty when I was 6) that babies come out of that aperture thingy in the middle of our belly buttons.
YAWN. (That’s how I thought the aperture part opened, when I was 6. The doctor would tickle it a little, and the mama would YAWN and then the baby on the bench nearest the belly button door, would pop out.)
Uh huh. Inadvertent childbirth. That must be it.
That’s really the only reason I can think of that my belly button would feel like it’s had a grapefruit pulled through it.
Maybe not. As far as I know, there is no tropical fruit lurking in my belly.
I’m more of a vegetable–okay, carbs–girl, to be honest. With an ice cream chaser.
Good thing, too since I now know how much it hurts to get (what feels like) a grapefruit pulled through your belly button. All you women who gave actual birth to an actual human and not a grapefruit. Pfffffff. Sure, that’s cool. But, I mean, really.
Have YOU ever had a grapefruit pulled through your navel?
It’s almost time to head to the mirror again.
Watch for my life-changing memoir:
So goes the vintage saying, but actually, I scream when I see old Volkswagens (giving Practical Man heart failure, in the process) and occasionally, I scream for cows. Because, they have big teeth and even bigger, hairy tongues.
The other day, I zigged when I should have zagged during lunch and the resulting coughing fit caused my body to try to faint for nearly an hour afterwards.
Dear nervous system: you are seriously high maintenance.
But, I take medication so I can (mostly) avoid having things like this happen. That is, if along with the drugs, I live a careful, don’t zig instead of zag, I’m-basically-a-Jane-Austen-character-even-though-I-don’t-wear-corsets kind of life.
Here are the BAD things about being a fainter:
- I am not, actually, a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although, I can play the pianoforte (as they called it in Jane Austen’s time) and recite long-winded poetry (okay, Alice’s Restaurant is a vintage song not a poem, but it sort of counts). Not being a Jane Austen character is unfortunate because my waist would look much smaller if I had to wear a corset. Or, if I stopped eating Wispa chocolate bars, which I obviously can’t because being a fainter, one has to have some compensatory perks in life. It’s a yin-yang sort of thing. So there. And, I’m pretty sure Jane Austen would wholeheartedly approve (and subsequently write about how a true gentleman brings offerings of “delectable sweeties”, which everyone knows–well, at least Practical Man does–is Jane Austen-ish code for: Wispa chocolate bars.)
- I have landed with my head on un-glamorous things: like toilet bowls and berber carpet and my boss’s lap. Um, yeah.
- I got a large, oozing, rug burn wound on my forehead the last time I fainted, from fainting off our pillow-top mattress–which is tantamount to Olympic diving. Have you seen how high North-American beds are these days? I tried to tell people that the cucumber slice-sized mess on my forehead was from stealing jewels in my alter-ego life as a cat burglar but, apparently fainting goes hand-in-hand with fibbing and tall tales.
- There isn’t a frequent fainter’s club where I get sent free stuff. Y’know, an “every fourth time you faint, you get a trip to Paris” club, or something. I think that should really be a thing. Instead, it’s “every time you faint, you lose your driver’s license“. That club is not tra-la-la at ALL.
- When people compare you to a FAINTING GOAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Hey, aren’t there goats on the internet or something that faint?” and get to marvel at being compared, yet again, to a farm animal that went viral because that’s just so very flattering and sweet. And, we already know how I feel about farm animals…like scary, scary cows. Jane Austen would not approve of my being lumped in with that feral lot. Neither would Mrs. Bennett. Think of the disastrous consequences to my marriage prospects!
- No one ever picks me up and carries off my teeny-tiny, waif-like, unconscious body, the way they would in a movie. I am 5’9″ and I eat Wispa bars whenever I can get my hands on them so, it’s completely sensible, of course, that people don’t try to heave me over their shoulder, because one doesn’t want to cause other people to have hernias but, I really think the faint-and-go-to-Paris (maybe, with Mr. Darcy) thing should be a thing, don’t you?
But, like other annoying life stuff, it’s not all bad. Here are the GOOD things about being a fainter:
- I feel very tra-la-la when I’m not fainting. As in, since I started taking medication, I don’t spend nearly as much time whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. Um, yeah. Even better: I don’t spend nearly as much time WONDERING if I’m going to be whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. This leaves my brain time to think of pithy banter I can exchange with Practical Man, a la characters in a Jane Austen novel. And, for him to roll his eyes, but never mind about that.
- When you get your driver’s license back and then Practical Man suggests that you buy the vintage car of your dreams, it is THE BEST DAY (even if there are no Wispa bars around.) Insert an ugly cry here (but don’t cry too hard because you may not know it, but, crying leads to fainting, which in turn leads to losing driver’s license and, well, this lovely circle of drama is how things go when one is afflicted with the tendency to swoon.)
- Fainting seems vintage, somehow. As in, the manner of swoony women from times gone by. This sometimes makes me feel vintage and lovely (a la Jane Austen) and sometimes makes me feel vintage and pathetic (a la Jane Austen). When it’s pathetic, I console myself with images of highly-trained, stoic male and female soldiers standing on parade and keeling over. Or, that guy from The Wiggles. I remind myself that fainting is a non-gendered, training and stoic-ignoring, international activity. Plus, in the hierarchy of diseases, this is pretty darn minor. I could be allergic to chocolate – quelle horreur! There, I’ve found my happy place again.
- I get to be sanctimonious in the manner of ex-smokers, ex-wheat eaters, ex-aerobic exercisers: because no doctor ever harasses me about high blood pressure. In fact, when they’re finished looking alarmed at how low my blood pressure is, they proceed to order me in a stern voice to “eat more salt”. Obviously, I can’t be in the middle of ages, because what chubby, 40-something human from a G10 country is told to “eat MORE salt” in this day and age? A woman living the faint-y life of a Jane Austen character, that’s who. I am also grateful that my neuro-cardiogenic syncope syndrome hasn’t been diagnosed as “female hysteria” or “neurasthenia” which, if I lived in Jane Austen’s time (or even mine, in select locales), would be a certainty.
- When you get your driver’s license back (I can’t quite emphasize this one enough) for the umpteenth time, it is THE BEST DAY AGAIN, even if there are no Wispa bars or vintage automobiles around. Although, as every frequent fainter knows, this losing/getting back/losing thing gets old really quickly, so maybe some Wispa bars will be required in the future. Or the get-a-free-trip-to-Paris thing. Yes, that one, pretty please.
- I am medically required to have regular ice cream. I am not medically required to have Wispa bars but, lucky for me, the doctor told me that ice cream is apparently loaded with sodium. Sodium: as in “eat MORE salt”. I am pretty sure that means that ice cream counts as first aid and preventative medicine, for me. Not only that, but, I’m positive that eating ice cream WHILE IN Paris WITH MR. DARCY (aka Practical Man) will cure me of fainting, forever.
I’m almost sure of it.
Today was all rusty and sweaty and full of (luckily, not too many) deer flies and one magnificent wild strawberry.
Yes indeedy, I love me a vintage junkyard.
Or, scrapyard, as Practical Man calls it.
If you are like him and call a junkyard a scrapyard, be sure to convey the word with all the enthusiasm that Practical Man uses when he utters it. My usually reserved, strong-silent type guy can barely contain his glee when it comes to scrapyards. With those mere two syllables, he manages to morph into someone who looks and sounds exactly like a 7 year-old boy on Christmas Eve.
In other words, he kind of resembles…well, ME.
Minus a little of the tra-la-la. But only just.
Not that I mind his enthusiasm for the world of auto wreckers. I am a big fan of old-school scrapyards myself.
Y’know, like most women in their middle of ages.
Well, maybe not.
Anyhoo, ever since my favourite junkyard, Minakers, closed for business, I have been somewhat bereft. Bereft of real-for-true, old-school junkyards, that is.
Minakers was even better than a regular junkyard because it had been around a long, long time and was chock-a-block with antique cars. Wanderers there were hard pressed to find anything newer than about 1970.
It was scrapyard nirvana.
There were 1940s bread vans with trees growing through the engines. Sedan deliveries and original Beetles and ’30s gangster cars with swoopy running boards. I spent most of my time there running around, stumbling over thing-a-ma-bobs from 1953 and squealing, from one wreck to the next.
What? You’ve never heard a grown woman squeal in a junk yard before?
Maybe that’s because you’ve only ever darkened the doors of a modern-day junkyard. You know the kind (or maybe you don’t, in which case I’m here to help): there is no “wandering” amid the wreckage. You have to know what you want before you go in! Then, they go and FETCH IT FOR YOU.
Junkyard Joy Stealers: that’s what they are. They rob you of every little bit of the tripping and squinting and dreaming and squealing.
There is no squealing in a modern-day junkyard. Only safety vests and liability clauses and steel-toed boots.
And, people who call you “ma’am”.
It’s tragic, really.
But, we spotted what looked like an old-school, rural junkyard on a recent trip and today was the day to go and explore. Our vintage Boler travel trailer could use a few bits and bobs and we have a derelict boat that needs a windscreen and who knows what other treasures we might find?
Yes indeedy, I love the smell of broken safety glass and grease in the mornings.
First, I put on my lucky socks. It’s very important to have lucky socks on when you are wandering and tripping and squinting and squealing.
Also, some hole-y, derelict, work boots circa 1991, which I still happen to have for occasions such as this.
When we got there–to my very own version of Canada’s Wonderland–I said hello to my first love at the gate:
After I bid my first love a tearful goodbye, we went in. We were armed with bug juice, hats, water (not nearly enough for a junkyard extravaganza, it turned out), a gigantic toolbox and an additional bag of tools (and some socket sets and a first aid kit that we left in the car “just in case”.)
I was with Practical Man, after all. Who needs safety vests and liability clauses when I have him?
Soon enough, I found my second love:
Soooo pretty, pretty.
And then, my third love:
How can my second love compete with my third love? Third love is really a Colin Firth kind of truck and you know you don’t find those trucks every old day of the week. I think our vintage Boler travel trailer really needs a vintage truck companion, don’t you? A Colin Firth kind of vintage truck companion (I hope I’m not getting above myself).
Then, there was a very exciting PILE. You have to have a heart of stone, not to love a junkyard PILE.
We were looking for trailers so that we could source a screen door (to re-make into a teeny, tiny Boler-sized screen door) and maybe even some outside cubby doors. There were lots and lots of cars. There were only a few trailers and they were scattered far and wide through the junkyard.
All the better to ensure the tripping and wandering and dreaming and squealing.
There were fallen-down trees (this junkyard was kind of in a forest) and tall grass (all the better to hide lyme-disease carrying ticks in) and lots and lots of poison ivy.
But, there were also beautiful sparkles of broken safety glass:
And lace-like patterns shining in the sun:
There were old soul vehicles: the ones that rest quietly among the trees and grass, like silent guardians over a sacred place.
We finally settled on our donor vehicles and got to work. Practical Man’s modern-day tools made short work of the harvesting of parts in this old-timey junkyard. No aching wrists from manually unscrewing scores of rusted hardware. Just a few short bursts from the cordless drill and we were victorious: two cubby doors and an RV screen door for our Boler!
And in this place where beauty and ruin are best of friends, I found the unlikeliest of treasures:
One succulent explosion of summertime flavour.
It’s strawberry season at the scrapyard.
It’s early Spring in south-eastern Ontario and oh, wait, what?
This just in: the flowerbed is trying to kill me.
Based on how I feel about The Nature, you might have already guessed that I am not really a gardener type. In fact, I’m rather a grey thumb. That is, when plants get anywhere near me, they turn a sickly sort of grey and hang around, torturing me for a while with their droopy leaves and browned-up flowers and unrequited dreams of a life spent being watered, before finally expiring and leaving me with a plastic container thing-y that I don’t know what to do with.
I can’t just throw it away. Those plastic plant containers take about a zillion trillion years to compost down. Not like my poor, dead plant, which was composting (drama, drama) in the plastic container thing-y, long before it officially died.
Usually, I give the plastic container thing-y to Practical Man and he puts another plant in it.
Yep, he’ll plant a seed from the apple he was eating at lunch. Or, the stem of the celery we have in the fridge.
Not to give back to me, oh no.
He’s not stupid, that one.
He does, however, have a very green thumb. He can grow sticks, that man. Not to mention, bits of kale from the grocery store that I cut off before chopping up some to put in the oven.
Anyway, my point is that I don’t grow stuff. So, I’m not quite sure why there is a flower bed out to get me.
But, there is. Right along the front sidewalk (which no one ever uses because we live in the country and in the country you always enter people’s houses through the open garage door), it lies in wait. It and its companion on the sunny side of the house.
I have to confess that there are no windows overlooking the second flowerbed on the sunny side of the house so that one gets largely ignored because I can pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not as if I wander around the perimeter of the house and see it all the time.
That side of the house is out in The Nature people. Don’t you read my blog?
So, I can see where the flowerbed on the sunny side of the house would feel put upon and maybe even downright hostile towards me.
But, with four windows facing directly out on it, the front bed gets a fair bit of attention.
It spends most of the day in the sun so it’s a little micro-climate of its own (that sounds like I’m all official and garden-y, doesn’t it?) that doesn’t require much intervention to keep things alive. That is to say, Practical Man no doubt revives it while I’m at work, but, full of perennials, a couple of bushes, and no annuals, I can pretend it’s just magically growing on its own. We mulched it last year with that store-bought stuff that looks seriously artificial and probably leaches chemicals into our water table, but I desperately wanted to make the flowerbed feel loved so that maybe, maybe, it would play nice.
I have viewed others’ gardens, replete with chemical mulchiness and they look lovely. Tidy. Weed-less. Just like I thought ours would look.
So, I don’t quite understand how when the blanket of snow came off and the softly-rounded heads of daffodils, pasque flowers and grape hyacinth started poking out of the ground, mere days ago, this source of Springtime pleasure and much celebration turned so very very quickly to Yes Indeedy, This Flowerbed Is Trying to Kill Me.
More on that in a moment.
In other gardening news, we pulled out two giant clumps of bushes in the lawn last summer and Practical Man has put down repeated layerings of grass seed, only to have the spots – a year later, still look like male-pattern baldness in our lawn. Now, the baldness doesn’t really matter because seeing it would require me to go out in The Nature, to fume over that which some suburbanites would find an atrocity, but I really don’t understand why grass won’t grow very well, even for a green-thumbed Practical Man, when you want it to.
Except if it’s in the flowerbed.
The flowerbed, which has only been “awake” (that’s probably not an official, garden-y term) for a little over two weeks, is full. Full, I tell you, of evil, extremely healthy and prolific G-R-A-S-S. Several, virulent country types, no less.
All that green stuff? GRASS!
All that straw-looking stuff? More GRASS!
And not the male pattern baldness kind either. This is full-head-of-hair-and-lots-coming-out-the-ears grass. Clever, clever grass that sneaks its way up the middle of a single iris stalk, barely out of the ground. If I didn’t hate it so much, I would admire its sneaky tenacity. To remove the grass root means digging up the entire bulb and painstakingly teasing away the grass. Painstaking is not in my vocabulary (unless it’s painstakingly licking every last drop of chocolate off the tinfoil it arrived in) and I can’t deal with more plant murders on my record, so I’m not doing that.
This weekend, while Practical Man installed the mower deck on the tractor in preparation for acres of lawn mowing over our male pattern baldness areas, I decapitated grass shoots in approximately 3% of a square foot in our front flowerbed and tried not to get all fainty (from the bending over and standing up) or spinny (from the turning my head recklessly looking for sneaky grass shoots) or fall down, weeping hysterically, every time my eyes accidentally swayed to the right or left of my “section”.
It was like doing hard time. Like I was on a chain gang, except with grass and fainting and spinning.
Okay fine, there may have been some Feels Like Jagger music to help me cling to my sunny disposition. A girl can only take so much murderous intent from a flowerbed before she has to find her flowerbed anthem–What Doesn’t Kill You (Makes You Stronger)–and sing along with Ms. Kelly C.
It was at some point during this torture with a peppy soundtrack, that I remembered something.
Something wise and scientific and mostly, probably, almost certainly true. I recalled what my former colleague and (this is an official and garden-y designation) Master Gardener friend used to say:
“Perennial gardens are meant to be looked at from a distance.”
That means: keep far, far away from the flowerbed that is trying to kill me.
If you do, I might just get out alive.
My mom gave me a box of pictures recently. She was divesting her house of some of the photo albums that she’s carted around for nearly 50 years.
You know how it is: there comes a time when you’re overwhelmed with the desire to remove evidence of hairstyles and wallpapers past.
Not me, because I’m all vintage-loving and collector-ish, but, you get the idea.
Anyhoo. I was the first child for my parents and I was also the first grandchild for both sets of grandparents. There are a LOT of pictures of me, The Golden-Haired Child (as my uncles named me, I think euphemistically). There are a LOT of pictures of my younger sister, too.
That’s her, poking me, in case you were wondering. I was apparently not adverse to some slight poking.
The two of us were kind of rock stars in the family for a while on account of we were the first grandkids and nieces. Life was good in those black-and-white (or matching hippo dresses) years, let me tell you. We had ALL THE FUN PEOPLE to ourselves for quite a long time before any competition in the cute-ness arena came along.
In addition to the black and white extravaganza in the box, there are also colour photos, of course. And, small squares (2×2?) and 4x6s and 5x7s. There are ones that look like Polaroids and others that look as if they were taken with Grandma Helen’s brownie camera from the 1950s.
There are snaps of Grandma Verna in her glamorous hair and ones of my mother with her mini skirts and impossibly-long legs. My dad, sporting his PhD-length beard and assorted, motley snow creations from those Canadian March Breaks where the grass and mud came up with the snow when you were trying to roll a beautiful, pristine snowy ball to make a snow Bionic Woman.
Then, there are the alarming, giant, 8x10s of me (those came with the package we ordered from the school picture day each year). Some curling slightly at the edges. Others bearing the scars of tape that held them down firmly for decades. The one where I curled my own hair for the first time, in grade 6 (that was a crispy mistake). Some have dates typed on their edges–something automatically done by the camera or the processing at the time.
There are even some that I took during my early teenage, artsy-fartsy photography phase and processed myself, in my dad’s darkroom at his work. Snow on a lamp post. Roses up close. Under exposed roses (dimly lit) up close. Over exposed roses (brightly lit) up close. The sort of thing that, equipped with developer and fixer and a red light in the darkroom, I could wax artistic with in the shadows, like the geeky adolescent I was.
All of it, evidence today of ancient, ancient photographic history–and wallpaper and hairstyles past.
To be clear, these are actual photos in the box. Not the kind you scroll through while sipping your frothy drink-du-jour in a high-priced coffee shop. It’s sort of a big old box of ME. And, not–let’s face it–a big old box of carefully curated me.
Nope, these are not the kind of photos where you can take 257 pictures and delete the ones where your finger was over the lens or your horrific “perm” looked blurry (thank goodness) or you looked like a cross between Shawn Cassidy and Annie Sullivan, in her dark spectacle years.
(You young’uns might have to look those up.)
It’s a ride down memory lane, I tell ya.
Some of them give me pause. Like this one:
I’ve had a thing for swings since I was a teenager. Not the pinch-y bum swings, as my friend Grover calls them. The real-for-true, comfy on the bottom, board swings. Oh yes, I’d put on my Sony Walkman (seriously high tech) and stomp to the nearby park to swing out whatever teenage angst happened to be plaguing me that day. The music was always the same: it was my anthem. Every teenager needs a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song.
Or, specifically, Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song.
Probably my mother (I was a teenager, after all.) Or, Graham McSweetie, who was smart and had melty brown eyes and was, naturally, completely oblivious to my existence.
I’d tell you the name of my Somebody-Done-ME-Wrong-Song, but that’s classified.
Besides, everybody needs their own Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song for the swings. Trust me. It doesn’t work unless you have your own.
The song needs to be something that makes your heart swell with indignity and injustice and…well, kind of a YESSSSSSSS that spells vindication in your head. Vindication for all that has been plagued upon you by the oblivious hotty in your French class at the forsaken age of…16.
For me, the Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song was also a very important coping mechanism so that I could actually swing out my indignity and injustice and stuff.
Swing without vomiting, that is.
Because, more than 30 seconds of swinging makes me vomit, dontcha know. Sorry for the detail but if you, like me, are plagued with this unfortunate swinging disability, I encourage you to get yourself a Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song and try it again.
There’s some kind of magical inner-ear, motion-sickness thingy that the music does for nauseous and dizzy and fainty people like moi.
(I can’t imagine why Graham McSweetie wasn’t falling all over himself to date me.)
Not only that, but I encourage you to forgo the gnashing of teeth and that secret internet Troll behaviour you’ve been exhibiting. There is nothing like swinging high, high, high when you’re filled with indignity and injustice or you’re incredibly shy and you’ve just agreed to live halfway around the world, in a foreign country, for three whole months and you have to live with a strange family and eat strange stuff and speak a strange language where “I love you” sounds a lot like “Go do the washing up” and you are wondering what kind of crazy thing you’ve gotten yourself into and your heart is filled with a combination of excitement and dread.
To get back on point: THIS is the moment for the swing.
Or, in my case, about 4 moments, because that’s all the time I get, even with my Somebody-Done-Somebody-Wrong-Song, before I start to feel as if I might vomit, again.
Which brings me back to the big box of photos. Look at me swinging, wildly and with abandon, not a hint of inner-ear, dizzy-fainty-ness apparent, at the ripe old age of 4. How wonderful is that?
There’s just a Thing About Swings.
And now, you know.
Last week, I traded maple syrup for mold.
What, what, what?
Yep. You see, around these parts, it’s maple syrup season. I wrote about the details of this rural Canadian pastime last year. Basically, it means a whole lotta:
- gathering of sap
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap flow
- collecting sap into barrels and piling snow from around the yard against them so the sap won’t spoil
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap boiling
- spending from early morning until evening standing over a giant, homemade, sap-boiling extravaganza while sticky steam gives you a sort of reverse facial and, if you’re me, you somehow get a sunburn on your legs, even though you’re not really an outdoor girl and you probably only helped for a grand total of 15 minutes AND you were wearing two layers of clothing
- skimming and scooping and skimming and scooping and thwacking the thing that you used for skimming to get the sludge off and then some more skimming and scooping
- and so on and so on…for about 4-6 weeks
Practical Man l-o-o-oves this time of year. He is in his element. That is, out in The Nature, that I love not quite so much, and making something out of mostly nothing.
What could be better?
He looks cute in his lumberjack shirt and he smells of yummy wood smoke after a day of boiling sap, so I go along with it.
What can I say? I am weak for wood smoke and plaid clothing.
Anyway, the whole maple syrup thing, while quaint and stereotypical for some of us rural Canucks, is a LOT of work. There are many more bullet points I left out of my list above, because I thought you’d get tired of reading them (and I know I get tired just writing them) and I definitely get tired doing more than a few of them, so I am pretty much only a sporadic cheerleader, inept and inconsistent skimmer, lunch runner and such.
I’m basically maple syrup middle management.
Luckily, Practical Man is not a complainer by nature. Even though he’s married to a person who is a complainer about The Nature.
During one of the sap boils this season, I realized I had a bonafide excuse for getting out of maple syrup work and I gleefully embarked on it.
Dressed to kill, as you can see:
We have recently met some new Boler Buddies–people who are in love with the cute, vintage, marshmallow-shaped trailers known as Bolers in Canada and Scamps in the US–and we have offered to fix up their trailer a little, so they could try camping in it this summer.
Having two Bolers on our property made me as giddy as a Practical Man, boiling sap.
So giddy, that I didn’t mind at all the first job involved with the little jewel: scraping the un-adhered interior paint, applied by a previous owner, where it had been disguising some fairly extensive surface mold.
And you thought my breathing apparatus getup was just for fun.
I was scraping with a cool, rounded scraper thingy that only a Practical Man would own. It didn’t damage any of the interior insulation (called Ensolite) but it niftily scraped off the loose paint.
From outside the little Boler, it sounded as if a very large rodent was trying to claw its way out. But really, it was just a very large rodent who was not helping with the sap boil, whatsoever.
Inside the Boler, there was lots of flaking paint. Lots of surface mold. But, the definite bonus was that I could pretend I was Darth Vader with a sunburn.
I do recall he was pasty like me, when they took his mask off.
Anyway, my arms jiggly from the scraping (yep, that’s why they’re jiggly), I then got to use one of my favourite tools: the shop vac.
Wee-whoo! I love me a shop vac.
Lady Gaga and I shop vac’d the flaking paint up a storm (and chipmunk droppings accumulated during the Boler’s 14 years bravely surviving The Nature). There may have been some gyrating hips, I do confess.
What happens in the Boler, stays in the Boler.
Tra la la. It’s finally happening: the heady days of March in southern Ontario.
Oh sure, there have been blizzard warnings (and worse–actual blizzards!) the last three Wednesdays in a row, but that can’t drag me down because I know, with a cheesy song in my heart, that Spring is just around the corner.
That mythical, magical time that we collectively fool ourselves into thinking is in March–when actually, let’s face it people, it’s really May–but no matter, it’s time to start psyching ourselves up for it. Watching for any sign, no matter how teensy-weensy.
Is that an above zero Celcius breeze I feel tickling my neck?
Is that the asphalt/gravel on my driveway peeking through already?
How time flies (when one is pretending one is on vacation with the rest of the country, in the Caribbean)!
This is how we Canadians survive the winter: we pretend we live in Victoria, BC. We pretend winter only lasts from after Christmas until late February, unless of course that pesky rodent–friend to no one but The Weather Network (I mean, how can they lose?) on February 2–dooms us to what we all know is inevitable anyway:
that is, It’s Still Winter.
But, let’s not go there.
Surely, Spring is on its way. Just around the corner. Past that eight-foot high pile of dirty snow in the parking lot.
I can tell that Spring is nearly here by the way the complaining from my fellow Ontarians gets louder around this time in March. Even though we’ve barely had three weeks of real winter this year, it’s already begun with a vengeance. Yes indeedy, we love us some complaining about the weather.
It’s too CO-O-O-O-L-D! (Only Rolling Up The Rim appears to provoke any joy when it’s cold outside.)
Too much S-N-O-W-W-W-W-W!
Then, a few short months later:
It’s too HO-T-T-T-T!
It’s so H-U-U-U-U-MID!
No wonder Mother Nature is confused.
I can also tell it’s nearly Spring by the way the light changes. The changing light signals my urge to compulsively start sewing things for our vintage Boler travel trailer and our vintage, Fiat 500.
Useful things, like bunting and flowery pillow head rests.
I’m like a pregnant woman in her third trimester (or a Canadian on the brink of March).
I’m nesting, yep. God knows there are no birds doing that yet, even though, it’s practically (insert hysterical giggle here) Spring!
And, lest you think this is some sort of vintage-inspired female hysteria, men are not immune, either. Practical Man has been sniffing the air for weeks now. Air sniffing and more recently, hole drilling. Nary a maple tree in these parts is safe from his scrutiny.
It’s March after all. The season of joy, the season of nature’s bounty, the season of MAPLE SYRUP!
Oh sure, you need an ideal temperature of 3-4 degrees above zero during the day and 3-4 degrees below zero at night to produce the sap flow necessary for nature’s bounty.
No matter that it’s still -9 plus a windchill.
That doesn’t stop Practical Man from obsessively clicking over to The Weather Network and wielding his trusty tools until there is a tidy sap line just poised for a thaw.
Tra la la Spring: we are READY for you.
See you in May.