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“one for the road”

That expression, “one for the road”, has only been in use since about the 1930’s. It usually refers to someone having one more drink before departing a bar or party, which is not recommended just before getting behind the wheel of an automobile. In this situation, one would hope one’s friends would prevent that drink from being consumed.

One for the road” by Graham McKean

The broader concept of being able to enjoy a cherished pastime once more before an occasion ended is perhaps more desirable, but also far more difficult to achieve. We often don’t know when good times will end, so guaranteeing a bonus round of fun is tricky at best.

The best philosophy, of course, is to live life to the fullest. “Carpe diem”, and all that. I am so glad I can say I’ve tried my level best to Carpe the hell out of every diem.

Eating seasonally is one simple way to employ the spirit of carpe diem: “ seize the day”. If you’ve tasted fresh garden tomatoes you’ll find it hard to buy them in the grocery store in winter.

Stopping to smell the flowers is another good practice. I don’t mean this figuratively; stop to enjoy a new blossom, a buzzing bee, a sunrise or sunset, or even a scent on the breeze. You won’t regret the time spent, I promise you.

Having a dog is the best way to make this philosophy part of your daily habits. They are masters of living in the moment, seeing the cup half full, and making the most of love – both in the giving and accepting of it.

I have been blessed with dogs as companions for most of my life. I am partial to Chocolate Labrador Retrievers, who are gourmands in addition to being zen masters. They have done more for me than anyone in ensuring I make the most of my life as it happens.

I had to say goodbye to my best brown girl of 13 years this week. Ella, my bunny bear, my silly monkey, my number one pal… she fell ill last week and just couldn’t recover.

We had a deal: she would give me a sign when it wasn’t fun anymore. After the scare we had this summer with her almost-drowning, I knew we were on the same page.

By Thursday she could hardly move on her own. Her breathing was shallow. She was on medication but I was doubtful it could fix that kind of malaise.

I got her somewhat comfortable in the living room, with a view to the field and the patio door open. I worked on my chores and checked her every few minutes. She was maintaining, but that was all.

I came to sit with her and she wagged her tail. She was panting, and shivering in places. That’s when I knew for sure that it was time.

When you care for someone, you want them to be well taken care of. If I was going to be trusted with sending my girl over the Rainbow Bridge, I wanted to say a proper goodbye. This was not by sending her away on her own.

Oddly enough, despite the fact that animals are not any significant factor in the transmissions of Covid-19, our neighbourhood vet won’t allow people into the clinic for any reason.

I am so thankful we knew a holistic vet who has a fabulous clinic in Kelowna. Dr. Moira is semi-retired now, but Pawsitive Veterinary Care is a top notch team of folks who care for animals and people. I can’t recommend them enough.

I have said goodbye to three Brown Girls in my life. It does not get any easier. The only redeeming part of the experience is knowing I was there to send them over to the other side.

Ella and I didn’t get “one for the road”. There was no chance for a last walk in the orchard or a last wrestle in the yard. But just a few days earlier we made time to go for ice cream at Paynter’s Market and I got some great pictures of her amongst the pumpkins.

We shouldn’t need a pandemic to remind us life is precious. If that’s what it takes to motivate you, so be it. But I can say even from something that just happens in any life, it’s worth your time to do the things you want to do.

I miss my Brown Girl. She was, quite literally, half my life. She got me up to go walking, she cheered me on while I worked out, she reminded me to drink my water, she helped me taste all my recipes, she listened to all my rambling… all the things my Hubby doesn’t do ( he is my other half, literally and figuratively).

It sucks to be left behind, to lose a friend. I hope Ella is with her old roommate, Simon the German short haired pointer – biting his tail the way she used to when they had the run of Rabbit Hollow. Me, I’ll just have to find my way forward.

As Time Goes By

Twenty years ago, my life changed forever.

I woke up and started the day much as I have for most of my adult life – by taking my Brown Girl for a walk. I’ve had a few furry friends over the years, but all of them have been the same loyal companions day in and day out. There is something wonderfully grounding in starting the day with a creature that stays by your side and loves you no matter what.

From that early and ordinary start, my day would be like no other I had. It was to be full of symbols, however. I felt linked through time to so many moments in history, so many places in time. Wedding days are rife with symbols.

I’ll admit, I geeked out on traditions that exemplified the spirit of a happy wedding. I had my “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” I looked up the tradition behind certain flowers and I wanted good omens, positive vibes, moments to connect the day.

We got married on the same day as my parents. I wore my mom’s dress. My dad and I walked down the aisle to “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and Sleepless in Seattle. I was so proud to walk with my dad, as his health had not been good at all and I was grateful he was there to hand his princess over to the next guy taking care of her.

My mom carried daisies, just as she did on her day. I even had my cousin throw confetti down her dress after the ceremony, just as he did all those years ago. (He was only 3, and was disappointed he missed throwing his handful with the adults as my parents left the church. She bent down for him just before she got in the car, and he tossed it right down her dress. I remembered her showing me the envelope of it, one day as she was reminiscing.)

We incorporated personal symbols too. Our first connection, our first date, was with our dogs. It was important they be a part of our celebration, so they played key roles in the ceremony. His Doberman was our ring bearer, walking with my stepdaughter down the aisle; my Chocolate Lab was my flower girl, led by my goddaughter.

My hubby had no one from back east able to come out to Vancouver. We had a picture of his mom on a reserved seat right up front, in her honour. His best friend was busy with young kids. His sister was moving that weekend in Montreal. And yet he was all about me having time with my people.

  • My longest-standing girlfriend came all the way from Ghana with her family so she could be my Matron of Honour and her daughter (my goddaughter) could be a bridesmaid. She brought a coin for me to carry in my shoe as a token of good fortune.
  • my best girlfriend in Canada designed T-shirts for our family to wear that weekend, and delivered them personally from Calgary.
  • all my aunts and uncles were there (it turned out to be the last time that my dad would be with all of his siblings)image-4

Everything was done outside, at Brock House in Point Grey, Vancouver. Thankfully Mother Nature was kind and we had a pleasant day. We didn’t spend money on a photographer as we were keeping expenses low, but a friend took a beautiful group shot and my dad thankfully couldn’t resist snapping a few frames. This was before the days of smart phones – we had Instamatic cameras for guests to be put out on the tables, but no one remembered to do that. (I didn’t have a wedding planner, either.)

Dancing was another big part of our life, and our wedding. Hubbie and his daughter did a lovely cha-cha, and my dad and I danced to the Platters. For our dance together, I changed into the dress I was to wear on our destination wedding in Jamaica (I wore it there 13 years later).

It all went by too fast. I remember moments, but wish there were more. A few people had to leave before I had much of a chance to chat with them. And of course Hubbie and I hardly had anything to eat. The buffet looked lovely, though.

We did get some cake, and we took the remainder back to the hotel and had some at midnight. I wish there were more photos of that cake – the best one we have was when it was in our fridge before the wedding, as Hubbie decorated it.

Our wedding day didn’t go quite as planned. Neither did much of the twenty years that followed – we learned very quickly to roll with the punches the Universe threw at us. There were hard times, and sad times, and plenty of happy times too. The best part, the part for which I am most grateful, is that we had each other throughout all of it.

I am so very fortunate. I have a soulmate. My guy is someone who committed twenty years ago to stick it out with me, and he has been true to his word. I had no idea then just how much I could love him for it. I’m beginning to get an idea now.

Not to mention… boy, have I had a lot of great cake!


*One final note:  For anyone reading this who has yet to be married, here are my top tips:

  1. If you don’t hire a wedding planner, get someone reliable who isn’t in your wedding party to be your point person for the day and keep things on track.
  2. Tell your photographer the shots you want – people and moments you want to have pictures of. Then tell them they need to stay on time with the schedule, so your guests aren’t kept waiting.
  3. Make yourself a “bucket list” of moments for the day with your partner (each and together) and keep it handy on your day – a hug from Granny, a moment just the two of you, etc.
  4. Don’t try and include everything in one day – it’s impossible. If you have the luxury, spread the festivities over a few days. If not, go back to your bucket list to narrow it down.
  5. Stop, at least twice during the day and just breathe. Take it all in, and be grateful.


Soggy Dogs and Mucky Boots Call for Wine

I’m sorry to be a complainer but I hit the wall today. Not once but twice I walked with Ella in the pouring rain. This was no pitter patter, it was a steady downpour. The ground was already waterlogged so there were rivulets and puddles in the mud. Even the birds took most of today off, not chirping their usual spring notes. My gumboots worked overtime. In short, it was a miserable day.

Ella is the best companion in the rain. With a fur coat like that, she doesn’t care if it’s wet. The rain really does run off her coat like water off a duck’s back (they don’t call Labradors water dogs for nothing). Not only that, but the wet weather seems to make all the smells in the field even stronger. She trots around our usual route with an extra skip in her step, like someone turned up the volume. She was definitely soggy by the time we got home, though.

Simon, our other dog, is not so keen to be in the rain, especially at the grand old age of 14. His hair is shorter than Ella’s so he gets cold, but he has never been keen to listen to me. As a result, he’s torn between just going out for a moment and wandering off into the field alone. His compromise is usually to dash out and wander back at a good pace, but not before finding a really mucky spot.

can you tell how much mud is stuck between those toes? It’s like gumbo!

Usually Ella’s good temperament can win me over, but a second soaking in the afternoon was past my limit. As I muttered my way along the only thing that kept me going was the thought of spending the evening with another liquid.

Piccini FIasco – a tasty Chianti (“fiasco” is actually the name of a straw-covered bottle)

I can highly recommend this remedy. An evening with neighbours having a couple of glasses of wine and sharing homemade pizza was just what the doctor ordered. By the time I got home a couple of hours later, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared, and not just in my head. There were even stars in the sky as I let the dogs out for an evening stretch.

Forget the fact that most of the neighbours were too young to know what I meant by “pizza wine” when I brought what I thought was a ubiquitous bottle. They were intrigued when I told them it would look great with a candle burning in it. We all toasted to everyone’s good health, and I felt not nearly so soggy.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

Winds of change

sunrise - this one was taken at Parksville

Okay, so the holiday season is officially over. The New Year has begun. There are no more excuses for lolly-gagging around; we should be moving along with things. Why can’t I get myself in gear? Why can’t I break the bonds holding me back?

I think I am having problems because Mother Nature can’t seem to decide what season it is, and as a result I can’t get clear on what it is I should be doing!! I thought I would be cooking stews and soups and maybe taking up knitting or at least finishing a good long book, but instead I feel like I need to be pulling out my seed trays already and tuning up my scooter. My morning walks with the dogs are slogs through the gumbo mud in the orchard, tripping over already-pruned branches… I am supposed to be doing that in March! Instead of clean dog toes through the door, I have 8 mucky feet to wash and wipe every morning. I feel like Madge with her Palmolive, only I am standing on my front porch in rubber boots and a sweatsuit. If I could come in and think of having my breakfast on the deck because it is warming up, then all that work would not be for nothing. Weeks of this when I am still thinking of hot porridge and scrambled egg sandwiches is crazy.

I used to live in Calgary, where they have warm winds that blow through the region in winter called “Chinooks”. They have proven that these winds also blow in confusion and sometimes depression for some people. I don’t know if I was one of those, but I do know my body expects to be exposed to the traditional four Canadian seasons, in the usual order. I like the foods and clothing and habits of each season in turn, not swirling together like some kind of tornado in my front yard! Perhaps that is why in Calgary the food scene has developed so eclectically and the fashions allow all kinds of variations. It’s a sort of Cowtown evolution that allows people to survive in environmental chaos.

Since I can’t change the weather, and I can’t make spring veggies materialize in my kitchen, I thought perhaps a dose of something from the freezer might at least keep the global warming demons at bay… so we will be enjoying some light-hearted trifle with angel food cake, Greek yogurt and pear and peach compote tonight, after a bit of chicken with Meyer lemon salsa (thankfully fresh cilantro is still available). Maybe I’ll even open a bottle of Rosé to close the deal.

What is winter food like where you live? Are you having wacky weather this year? I would love to hear comments and suggestions on how to overcome the whirling winds of change.

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