Here in the Okanagan the fruit blossoms are not out yet, much as the impact of the pandemic has not struck us as hard yet as in some places. Ali has written so well about how this touches us all though, and she offers a lovely perspective we can consider, even if we have no gardening desires.
I hope everyone out there looks to the resilience of the spring shoots they see and remembers we are in this together. And for those “shoots” leading the way – all the front line folks – I add my applause and virtual hugs.
I struggled to write last weekend’s post. I manage a team of NHS Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Therapy Assistants. On Friday evening I had been given the instruction that we would start redeploying staff to adult services on Monday morning.
I knew that the team were already frazzled after a frantic week of reorganising our service so that we can continue to meet the needs of our service users. I didn’t want to plunge them into uncertainty and doubt on Friday evening, when their questions may not have a readily available answer. The conversation would wait until Monday.
Last weekend felt quite lonely. There was a fair bit of introspection. I hovered over things, but didn’t get stuck in. I flitted from one thing to another.
I noticed the pear tree was about to burst into blossom.
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That R.E.M. song lyric keeps playing through my head. I heard it on the radio during a comedy show doing its best to make light of the current state of world affairs. It sums up nicely the surreal nature of world affairs at the moment.
I remember the song coming out in the 80’s, and back then a pandemic wasn’t even a topic for a sci-fi movie. (It wasn’t until the 90’s that we saw Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “12 Monkeys” using diseases as the villains in apocalyptic films.) Now of course, end-of-the-world scenarios have been played out with numerous plot-lines, and a sense of doom is much more pervasive in pop culture. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.
What does make me feel better is remembering to laugh amidst the absurdity of this new reality. Watching the silly people fill their shopping carts with toilet paper, Hubby and I calmly proceeded through the store stocking up on perishables. Being people who cook real food on a regular basis, we have a running stock of canned food, pasta, baking supplies.
I am happy I began a new sourdough starter (great series of videos through Northwest Sourdough if you’re interested). We also have our Tower Garden which allows us to have fresh herbs and lettuce indoors even in winter. If we won’t be working in the next short while then I might as well be busy cooking!
My heart goes out to all my friends in the hospitality biz right now. People are scared to go out at all, and many health officials have said they should avoid any contact except with people they know. Dining out is way down the list of reasons to disregard the advice, and staying in hotels is even scarier for most.
I’ll do my small part here and say please do your best to support your local businesses. Corporate chains have a much larger capacity to weather any kind of business storm, and this one is a doozy. Your neighbourhood bakery, butcher, greengrocer, coffee shop and even restaurant need your help to stay afloat.
If you aren’t comfortable going out or can’t, consider buying gift certificates to local places. They won’t expire, so you can use them sooner or later. If you can get out, then do. Follow necessary precautions and don’t panic. Remember these are your neighbours, the businesses you trust to help you live well. They will be doing their best to maintain that relationship, and they are hoping you will, too.
Once you’re back home, relax. Catch up on those things you’ve been meaning to do but forgot with all the hustle and bustle of regular life. Board games with the kids, reading a book, creating that photo album, contacting a far-away friend… there are all kinds of activities on that “never got ’round to it” list we all have. Not to mention all those recipes you have bookmarked?
Oh, and don’t forget the humour. The Sirius comedy channel, YouTube videos, a funny movie on your streaming service… or even a funny book. I humbly offer a few of my favourites below.
- Stewart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, a classic CBC radio show
- Ellen’s “Relatable” comedy tour, on Netflix
- for something kid-friendly (although I still love them) – any of the Muppet movies or episodes of “The Muppet Show”
- if you want a funny read, try a classic and read something from Erma Bombeck
- for those not minding a bit of naughty British humour, Ricky Gervais’ bit on the funniest leaflet ever made
Whichever way you manage to spend your days, remember there are plenty of quotes to keep us going:
“Just keep swimming.” – Dory, Finding Nemo
“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
“It will be alright in the end so if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” – Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
And for us foodies:
“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” – Peter Clemenza, The Godfather
March is a mixed up month. I never know if spring is really here or if winter is just gearing up for her grand finale. The days get longer but if it’s grey they can still seem gloomily short, in my opinion. As a result, one day I feel like eating salad for dinner – celebrating the sprouting tulips and sunshine – then the next day stew is on the menu, to ward off the damp and cold of a frosty day.
It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Canada those little lambs aren’t the ones eating ivy, though, for the snow could still be on the ground.
A silly aside here – does anyone else remember the old song, “Mairzy Doats”? The story goes that one of the songwriters was inspired when his 4 year old daughter came home singing her version of a nursery rhyme, simple cute jibberish to his ear. He wrote:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
The lyrics of the song’s bridge provided a clue to undoing the code:
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”
Then we can translate the final line as
a kid’ll eat ivy, too; wouldn’t you?
But that’s a matter more for the month of April, don’t you think?
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the month’s maelstrom of emotions, I decided to focus on the gentler lamb image and find something “springy”. More light, more new things – that’s what was needed. I found it in my Tower Garden.
Now I plant lettuces and herbs inside and get to watch them grow in the wonderfully cheery tower brightened by LED wands. It’s a delicious sort of magic being able to eat homegrown lettuce in the month of March, without having to brave the whistling winds and half-frozen dirt that comprises my garden plot at the moment.
It’s still a bit early to plant my seeds for the outdoor veggie garden. Experience has taught me that I’ll end up with leggy shoots that can’t stay up in the continuing winds of later spring. Their stocks will mold or break in the damp outside world and I’ll have to start over. For now, I am just plotting out my plan, choosing which seeds will be featured and how everyone will fit in the space.
In the meantime, at least I can feel nourished by what is to come; I don’t have to subsist solely on the stock of the winter larder, or my winter spirit. Having a bit more colour in my diet helps me notice the colour in the world. It cheers me and brings back my sense of humour.
On that note, I’ll close with the other quote I found about March. It sums up my sentiment quite nicely.
March is the month God created to show people who don’t drink what it feels like to have a hangover. – Garrison Keillor
Okay, here I am, with February in full swing. As I look out the window today I see blue sky and forsythia buds. The tulips sprouting have pushed over a few of my garden sculptures overwintering outside. It doesn’t seem like stew is what I should be thinking of for dinner, but that’s where my head is at. Am I giving in, or is it right to be wary of winter’s deceptive nature?
Most of the year I am an optimist, but in February I need a boost. The chocolate of Valentine’s Day helps, and donuts or pancakes at Mardi Gras generally carry me through till the Girl Guide cookies arrive in March. As these bones get older however, they feel the cold more often and don’t warm up as fast.
Maybe I’m moping because I’m missing the wonderful Wine Festival this weekend. Vancouver hosts the International Playhouse Wine Festival at the end of February, and it used to be one of my yearly calendar appointments. I had hoped to get back this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. I shall be drinking my French wine at home this weekend.
So, that’s settled then. I’ll dig up a few old favourite recipes in my French folder and open something suitably decadent and heartwarming to pour in a glass. If all goes well, my pairing will not only warm the cockles of my heart but also the tips of my toes.
Got any French recipes that you want to share? I’m always looking for a new classic to add to my list… Have a favourite wine? I’d love to try something new.
Ideas so far:
- Soupe à l’oignon (Decadent French Onion Soup) with a bit of Champagne
- Pot au Feu (Beef Stew) with an aged Bordeaux
- Poulet Chasseur (Hunter Chicken) with an elegant red Burgundy
Or maybe you’ll try one of these recipes, and if it’s your thing, a glass of wine to accompany it. In which case, Cheers! Thanks for virtually joining my table.
(I’m feeling a bit like the Galloping Gourmet on television, looking for some unsuspecting audience member to join him for the meal. Ah well, virtual company is better then no kindred souls at all.)