Motorcycles and Mama

26 03 2019

I don’t know how all you mothers out there would react if your 21 yr. old son came home from university and announced that he has purchased a KTM motorcycle. Mine did. Something inside me flipped out. All kinds of alarm bells went off in my head.

Now, I’m old hat at these things. My daughter did the same thing to me 5 years ago when she drove home in a bright red Ninja 250. My neighbour sold his old KTM racing dirt bike (with a wickedly shrill engine) to my other son. But, I shut up about that, as I did with the others. I congratulated my son and said,  ”How exciting!” and that I would love to come with him and his dad to pick it up. We can all go out for lunch.

Talk about a motorcycle Mecca! There were rows and rows of sleek Ducatis, crouched Ninjas, hard-core Harleys, and KTM’s in road-crew orange. My head was bobbing all around taking in the winking sea of smarty-coloured motorcyles.

I didn’t see the concrete step at the front door. And just like that, I was sprawled out like a starfish right at the front door. My husband came running. My son had that “Why did I bring her?” look on his face. I jumped up, brushing my stinging palms against my jeans and, gathering up any scrap of dignity that remained, walked in the store.

“You okay, Ma’am?” the men at the front desk inquired. “You really flipped out there.”   “Yeah, I replied, “ And I wasn’t even on a motorcycle!” They didn’t laugh.

After the bike, there was the jacket, then the gloves, and, what about a helmet? It took such a long time. The store was filling up. I watched a beautiful Indian woman slip on a flashy white helmet and bat her eyes flirtatiously at her boyfriend through the upturned visor. They laughed. My son pointed out a neon green helmet designed to look like the head of a monster. The wearer’s face appears to be inside its jaws. “Shall I buy this one, Mom?” A short, stocky, tattooed man was waiting his turn with the sales clerk. He chose a helmet that looked like it was used in World War 1. It didn’t look very safe and I volunteered my opinion. He explained that the helmet had to go with his Harley. Beside him was a tiny feminine woman who also was also trying on dangerous-looking helmets. “Do you ride on the back of his Harley?” “No, she replied with disdain…. “I have my own motorcyle.”  I went up to the desk and asked the clerks just what percentage of women buy motorcyles. I bet it’s under 10%. No, Ma’am. It’s 30%!

In all that motorcycle candy, my two men just vanished. I couldn’t even find them in the Ducati section. In my search, I guess I went a step too close to something sacred, for the alarms and sirens started shrieking.   I darted back like a singed cat. The men at the desk looked up from their computers with as much emotion as a herd of cows along a fence line. “Oh, just you again?“ “Yes, I replied, “I seem to be making quite a sensation in your shop. So sorry.”

The bike’s in the shed now, waiting for the snow to melt. I know it was tough for him to leave it behind and return to school without even a test drive. So, I have a few worry-free weeks yet, so I thought.

As we were getting ready for bed, my husband confessed that he’d really like to buy a bike, too. “Let me guess, I said,  “A Ducati? In that case, I’ll take a Tesla.”

 

 

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The Wolf at the Door

7 02 2019

 

Next fall, it will be 30 years that Brad and I and our two infant and toddler daughters moved to a rough, un-insulated cabin in the Muskoka woods, outside Dorset. We had quit our professions in Guelph and were starting all over, cold turkey. Those first decades were really tough. We barely managed to keep the wolf from the door.

We have tried our hand at several business endeavours. Some failed, like the water-treatment business, but others have thrived.   Today, life is a lot easier.   Our years of very hard work paid off this week when we put down the final payment of our bank mortgage. We invited friends over for dinner to help us celebrate and we burned the mortgage in the fireplace with great joy and ceremony. Now the wolf (bank) cannot seize our assets.

For a special treat, I made nutty chocolate clusters and set the pan outside on the screened in porch to cool quickly. (They are absolutely delicious and usually we wolf them down within minutes of the chocolate being hardened.) I went about washing dishes.

Then Brad and I heard it – a cat-like yip and yap at first. Then, when I opened the door to the porch, it howled a wild sound that unzipped me from head to toe. The wolf was right there in the darkness, outside the porch door!   I snatched up my clusters and ran into the house and shut the door.

It’s kind of funny that the day we pay down the mortgage the wolf comes to our door.

 

 

 

 

 





A Different Kind of Landscape Painting

6 06 2012

“All gardening is landscape painting.”

Alexander Pope

My mother grew a huge vegetable garden in which we four children had to put in a certain number of hours of planting, weeding and picking.  My favourite memories of the garden concerned peas.  I loved planting the peas.  They looked like soft green buttons  sewn on the umber-coloured shirt of a sleeping giant,  and I was the seamstress as I dropped each pea- button, one to two inches apart, into the trough.   When they grew into plump pods, I’d eat them raw, cramming whole fistfuls into my mouth.  No snack can compare to those freshly shelled garden peas.   Even the pods were delicious, once you peeled off the inner membrane.

It took me many years to have a vegetable garden of my own.  But now I have one and it is a miracle.   Two years ago, my husband and I purchased the  land on which my husband’s business sits (Portico Timber Frames).   The soil itself is mostly sand and rock – fill that had been dumped into a swamp.   But  the site has sunshine and it is flat, both rare features in Muskoka and the Haliburton Highlands and I began to dream of the possiblility of growing a garden there.    Since the soil grew scruffy weeds, I wondered if it might just grow vegetables, too.  I could just see that desert bloom.

After reading Patricia Lanza’s Lasagna Gardening,  I went to work trying out her no dig, no till, no weeding system of gardening.   After mowing down the weeds and grass, my husband and I built long rectangular boxes with wood from Portico’s scrap pile.  I lined the bottom with 4 sheets of wet, overlapping newspapers to kill the growth.  On top, I dumped layers of manure, coffee grounds from Tim Horton’s, peat moss, chopped leaves,  straw, top soil, compost, anything I could think off that might make a good soil.  Then, I sowed my seeds, flowers and veggies all mixed in together.

Today, it is a verdant, bountiful garden that feeds my family all summer long and provides a quiet and refreshing place where people can stroll and rest in.  Much more has grown up in this garden.  My daughter opened a wood-fired pizzeria in my garden (mypizzaonearth.com).  My new studio opens out onto the garden.  My husband and nephew built an English-style brick pathway and patio in the garden.  My little garden developed further to include a burgeoning Dorset community garden where members meet to garden, trade plants and gardening tips and to socialize.   Birds love to visit the garden, too.  Miracles do happen. Deserts really can bloom.

As I dropped the peas into the soil this afternoon and was transported back to my mother’s garden,  I looked up at my own beautiful garden with is tall spires of garlic, its deep blue irises, its bright yellow-green lettuce, and fragrant herbs. I realized that, while I paint for a living, I now live in a painting.  My surroundings are also my canvas.  Gardening is just another form of landscape painting.   No wonder I am totally absorbed by it.





The ART of Living

28 03 2012

My friend Cathy loaned me a book called Provence Interiors.  With the weather turning cold again, I get to sit down by the fire, wrap up in my wool shawl, and turn page after page of this gorgeous book and dream.

The French are masterful artists, even in the way they live.  Their interiors have a worn, carelessly thrown together look that is spontaneous, inviting and homey.  The rosy-coloured plaster may be chipping and the white slipcovers a little bit loose-fitting, but in the hands of the French, the imperfections somehow add to the charm.  Life slows down in these rooms.  I want to walk right into them.  Is it that the French have been immersed in art for so many centuries that the artistic flair has become a national birthright?  Art exudes from their hands, and from every little crack and cranny of their homes and of their lives.

Once, I was an au pair girl in Paris. Browsing through Cathy’s book brings it all back with a whiff of nostalgia.  That was well before cell phones and PC’s invaded our silence and strained our relationships.  For me, at 18, the French devotion to art came through in the way fresh flowers bloomed on Madame’s paper-strewn desk.  It was visible in the presentation of delicious food, splayed out on large platters and in the dinners which were long, and lazy.  Art was everywhere in the streets of Paris: in the cafes and in the little parks and gardens, where carefully dressed people just enjoyed the sun and chatted to each other or watched passers-by or pigeons.  People sauntered through Luxembourg Gardens and stopped to watch the children sail the brightly painted boats in the pond.  Art was in the way the French greeted each other.  Even shopping for food was a slow, daily ritual as the shoppers pulled their plaid canvas shopping bags on wheels from fromagerie, to epicerie, and to the divine-smelling boulangerie.  (Oh to sink my teeth into a croissant aux amandes!)

As I look back from the vantage point of 34 years later, I don’t doubt that I am romanticizing the French experience.  Nonetheless, life seemed dignified and slower in their art-permeated culture. There seemed to be time to constantly rediscover the world and to be enchanted with it.   I think the French would agree with me stating that art is not necessarily something you can touch or hold.  Art is a way of seeing the world.    It is having a deep, appreciation and reverence for the simple things in life.  It is the opposite of busyness and noisiness.  It is taking the time to see that even “A mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.” (Walt Whitman)

I have found that a very good way to start cultivating the art of living fully and creatively is to pick up a pencil and a sketch pad and just start slowly and silently drawing whatever surrounds you, giving it your full attention.  You don’t have to be an artist.  In fact, don’t even think about what your drawing will look like.  The more you do this, the more staggering the simple things in life become.  Life springs wide open with endless possibilities, and you, like the French, will respond with surprising creativity in all aspects of your life.