Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mama Bean is a forest sprite

Today, I went snowshoeing for the first time with my own shoes. I borrowed a(n identical, it turns out) pair the first time, and it was so fun, I got my own. And then I was uninhibited by fears of wrecking someone else's stuff, so I had exponentially greater fun. 

The women in our (new to us) church meet every Sunday for this doing winter thing, followed by coffee somewhere close afterward. Only two of us were snowshoeing this week, the other four people walked their own route, because snowshoeing is slow, but it was cold enough that a walker would need to hustle to stay warm.

We left the duck pond shelter and headed straight to the Small River, heading east under the foot bridge, toward downtown. We walked - stomped- on crusty icy snow, punch punch punch. It felt powerful, it felt like rising above survival, it felt like conquering the snow. When we navigated the sleek steep bank down to the river, I may have declared we were the masters of winter. I may have declared it with more glee and volume than my companion expected. 

We were walking into the sun, mid morning in the sky, the perfect forty five degree angle to slant through the black branches of the riparian forest up there on the bank. It hit the pools of fresh crystal snow drifted into the pits left by previous travelers, and the river was awash in diamonds. It cast lacy shadows of branches and thin trees, tired trees, clinging there through flood and frost; cast them large, fireworks on the ground. It back lit every dried leaf and grass, turning them gold and fire-edged. The light was perfect, and my fingers twitched in my gloves, taking pictures with the camera I hadn't brought. And I reminded myself to see with my eyes, that it is enough to see with my eyes, that I can remember with my eyes, it is enough.

The light was perfect.

The traipsing was so loud -scrapepunch, scrapepunch. But I wanted to talk! I wanted to say look at that, look at this, look at beauty, look at nature, my God, look. at. nature. I felt the elf spirit bubbling up. PB will confirm I get a bit weird in the woods - a bit eight years old, a bit sparkly eyed, a bit wonder drunk. I spend too much time exclaiming over animal tracks, or dead bits of plants, or creature poop. Nature for me is very much a Fantasy of Reality - like the life I live in the "real world" is actually just the false human veneer we've cast onto everything, but Nature is the actual reality, that is so wonderful, it's just a dream. Sorrynotsorry. I'm one of the least hippie dippy INFJs in the world, but it's there. I'm a faerie child after all.

Imagine if you will, a freshly-turned-34-year-old mother of two scampering across the snow to point at a piece of ice, or stopping dead in her tracks to stare four seconds too long at the tiniest most perfect squirrel tracks in the new snow. 

We turned back and clambered up the bank at a low point, following the packed monkey trails the fatbikers use. Here I could test out my new shoes on a bit of terrain, some ups and down, some trunks across the path, some deeper hollows that required exploration. Scampering. You know. It was colder going west, into the slight wind, so the shelter of the trees was welcome, and we made better time on the groomed trail. It has snowed so little this winter, there was bare mud under the footbridge. We had time to continue west on the monkey trails, climbing over a larger tree that had stymied our progress the previous week. The hollowed end of another fallen tree held someone's collection of seeds and pods. I showed my friend the husk of a wild cucumber; their vines overtake the forest each summer. It is otherworldly walking under clouds of greenery raining down these spiky fruit; another planet, fantasy-but-real. They are an invasive species, alien by definition indeed, but. still.

We climbed back down to the river at the pump house that pulls water from the Small River up to the Moses pond in the sculpture garden. I don't know that I'd have felt comfortable, with a larger group, insisting on that route. I didn't feel entirely comfortable, but she was game? or nice enough to do it anyway? too nice to say no to this strange overly-enthusiastic woman? Regardless. 

Fewer people have walked west of the footbridge, so it was a harder slog to get back to the bridge, and up to the duck pond shelter to join our group. It was a workout, anyway. The water level has gone down since the freeze, so it has cracked at the banks, and huge sharp edges of ice are barefaced. If I'd been alone, I would have stared at that ice a full ten minutes, tracing the paths the bubbles forged. Conflicting powers, the urge of air to escape, the strength of water turning itself to stone. 

Here is the treat of the whole outing: I think I found the beaver dam! We had swapped stories earlier of people we'd recently brought (on)to their first frozen river. When JCM went biking with PB, it completely tripped him out to be on a frozen river. Something we'd never think twice about, I mean, we drive trucks on the lake out to the fishing huts! It was also new for JCM to see trees beavers had chewed down, I'm not sure he believed us at first that we could recognize the distinctive teeth marks and pyramidal cutting pattern. The cutting we saw was still clean white heartwood, so it was recent activity, but I couldn't see where they would/could have built their den. The Small River is not actually Small (just smaller than the Big River) so they were not damming it. But the wide bank represents a sort of secondary creek bed, flooding every spring, lasting well into summer during wet years, so that the monkey trails are often underwater or unrideably muddy. I wondered it perhaps this made the lip of land between the river proper and the muddy creek a sort of island, and they dug/built into that.

I came up from the river over a relatively smooth hump of ice, snow and brush. The sun perfectly highlighted a six or eight inch crack in the snow crust, lined by an inch or so of delicate frost feathers. Something under that fissure was releasing heat and moisture - beaver breath!- through this vent, where it immediately crystallized in the cold air. I wish I had a picture of the joy on my face at the discovery :D I'm going to go back with my camera and find it again; although I had my phone with me, I sensed my companion had run out of energy and/or patience. I hope I see the beavers in Spring, too! 

I'm hoping to head out again on Thursday morning. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mama Bean misses that goofy giraffe

When a young person dies, it is a theft
of the time they will not now live
of the family they leave
on earth or in ether
of the potential not realized
of all the love they had yet to give
and receive

When a young person dies, there is little comfort
in pain defered
in suffering and disease avoided
and there it is
the selfishness
we would have them live it all
if it meant they could live

When a young person dies, we are weighed down
by sorrow, yes
and new questions
of what is right
and what is enough
what could possibly be
for their legacy

When a young person dies, all that love
not lived
comes to us
the living
and we must spend it


Friday, October 25, 2013

Mama Bean was driven to poetry (!)

On this windy morning
this Arctic wind
pierces your breath
drives out any thought
but the next immediate task
get inside! then fold
face the very centre of
what's real
(the need for warmth)
while anything else
you thought real
is blown away

On this grey morning
when the sky pulls down
like a helmet
leaving a band of pale light
just an inch over the horizon
life condensed again
just a ribbon
clinging to the road and trees
over there a patch of
vaguely brighter haze
where the sun
may be rising
but why would it

On this morning which,
in short
(too late, too late)
insists on being melancholy

give in

let yourself fold down
like a helmet
against the wind
and give in to
that broken place

or if you must unfold
look up at that grey
look! it is empty
and waiting
to be painted
with your memories
or your dreams about

but curling inside
one could simply
carry that grey sky
like a swath of cotton
and mist
carry it pressed to the wound

the wind has polished you
cleaned the surface
who would know
what you painted
and held
(so tight)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mama Bean is pretty pleased with her garden this year

I fear I've been remiss in my garden posts this year :( It's been a good year, the whole process is starting to feel more natural, more fitted into our family culture. I don't overthink or overplan or overworry as much, I mean, I think all gardeners do these things, but I hope my concerns are less n00by now... I must say, however, that the magic of growing still touches me daily. My yard doesn't look exactly as I'd like, I can never do all the chores (and weeding) that I need, but every day I see the beauty I helped coach into the world. And every day it surprises me - by having its own mind of growth, by being more beautiful than I imagined, by asserting its otherness, by forcing me to breath in that I am not in control. Breath in, breath out, look what magic happens all by itself... [The picture is of my fairy garden, the perfect white flowers are on the Scottish moss.]
I planted the cucumbers on the south end of the beds this year, learning from last year's north end/shaded by potato plants disaster. The vines did much better, though the dilapidated chicken wire trellis is not sturdy enough for cukes as it was for peas. I may source a cheap futon frame on kijiji and build another trellis like the north bed's for cukes next year. Although in principle I'd like to rotate the crop into a different location next year, the south end is the best place for them. I will have to amend the soil to replace what they took out.
A forgotten carrot from last year sprouted (well ahead of when I even seeded carrots this year, which goes to show how early I probably can seed in the future) and flowered this year. There are eight or nine 'blossoms' which are large discs of hundreds of tiny flowers. Carrots and baby's breath are related. Each tiny flower will become a seed. I won't have to buy as much seed next year. And I will leave one carrot from each of the types we grew this year to seed out next year. And that makes me very happy :) [The types we grew this year are a few purple haze, a few sweetness III, a package of red atomic, and a package of atlas. The red atomic seeds only came up sparsely. Considering how well everything else came up, I'm attributing this to the quality of the seed, and won't be buying from that company next year.]
There are eight different kinds of foliage in this bed this year, it's like a green rainbow. I am terrible at spacing rows. In fact, there were two rows of soy that should have also been in this bed (where? where did I think it would fit??) but the rabbits ate every sprout down to the dirt. The kale grew ridiculously well. Unlike every other brassica I've tried to grow, it had no bugs. Papa Bean asked to grow it this year. Then he made kale chips. Then he declared they 'still taste like vegetable' Then I blended and froze half the harvest. Maybe I'll make some more chips for myself and the kids. I may grow it ornamental-style next year. It's a very pretty plant.
French fingerling potatoes. We have repurposed the recycling boxes for potato growing, now that we have a big autobin for our cardboard, etc. What I hate about root crops, and potatoes in particular, is that I have no real idea how well the harvest is going. The plants are large and healthy, they flower like crazy, but there could be no potatoes under there. I fear we have not hilled/mounded/added dirt enough :( This is one crop I consistently fail at, I may just give up next year. It's not like potatoes are expensive.
I often feel like I have my yard/garden, and it occupies this slice of my mental pie over here, tucked away. And then I have my tomatoes, and they are like my children, and they take up the rest of the pie. I don't weed, I don't monitor, I may not even look at my whole garden every day, but I visit my tomatoes two or three times a day. I talk to them. I check their blossoms. I pinch off extra leaves. It's amazing, really, that I haven't created some sort of chart for them. I know I'm getting the hang of this gardening thing because my neighbour, who has gardened for decades, who got us hooked up with the community plot when we first started, who grows copious amounts of food for fun, asked me what magic love songs I sing to my tomatoes :D So I know I'm doing something right...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mama Bean is doing push ups

About a week ago, I volunteered to be in a group for our local CBC morning show, trying out a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise program touted in the NYT as The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. Our "Fit in 7" group agreed to do the program daily for two weeks and report back. The first day, we visited a trainer to teach us the steps. Papa Bean and I had tried it a couple days before to get a feel for it, so I knew the steps, knew they were simple but *NOT* easy - but being the first day and being a wee bit competitive, I pushed pretty hard in the studio. Enough that I sort of growled at the very nice reporter covering our progress (sorry Trevor!), and promptly felt like vomiting afterward. The nausea lasted the morning. The soreness set in while I was working that evening. It made me realize how much I use my calves, lower back, and obliques to do my job, when my body twinged every ten seconds with every patient lol.

This initial taste confirmed the reasons why I thought this would be a good program for me to try. The program is very simple - you can tell what the exercise is from a picture, more or less. They don't require buying extra equipment - a chair, something to step on, comfy clothes... The difficulty of the steps is self-inflicted; it's as hard as you push yourself. And it is a complete body work-out; every muscle is used, especially trunk/core muscles that almost anyone would benefit from strengthening (to save our lower backs from compensating for weakened cores.) And it's scientifically-backed, which means I should see measurable benefits relatively quickly.

These are the 12 exercises: jumping jacks, wall sit, push ups, crunches, step ups, squats, tricep dips, plank, high knees, lunges, push up rotations, and side planks. The second day, PB and I did it together and counted the countable ones, to compare after the two weeks. Surprisingly, I was kind of on par with him on most things except the upper body things - I did 11 modified push ups (from my knees) to 15 of his full push ups (from his toes) and 9 modified tricep dips (with knees bent/feet flat) to 23 (sigh) of his full dips (legs straight/toes up). After that, my knees were stiff/swollen and my lats/rotator cuff/obliques were tender/achy. I slept like the dead. By morning, everything was stiff and my left SI (my weak point) was pinching. I self-adjusted the SI and stretched and felt fine in a couple hours.

I have the benefit, I suppose, of having learned about exercise physiology through my career and fitness-oriented colleagues, but I haven't lived it out practically with this intensity before. It helps that I know my musculo-skeletal anatomy. I can self-examine and stretch or adjust whatever might be ailing from whatever exercise I do (same thing happened when I was doing the Couch to 5K program.) I know to ice my knees, I know to hydrate. Although I feel like a fitness n00b, in terms of actual fitness level, I'm glad I had the background knowledge to support my efforts and success.

Most of the time, I do the workout at home. We tried it last night outside, on the soft grass in the fresh air, but it wasn't actually that great :( We spent our 10 second rest times rushing to the next spot (to the vestibule for step ups, to the garden box for tricep dips, to the grass for crunches) and the grass was itchy on hands and slippery for feet (my plank ended abruptly.) I also did it once at my gym, but I didn't enjoy really givin' her around other people - I felt embarrassed. I think the ability to do it at home in private is the best part, in a way. I can breathe like a dying horse and roll around in exhausted agony, and flop/jiggle without shame - and burn and sweat and feel stronger for it.

I have felt stronger every day - that kind of immediacy with results is exactly what this easily discouraged, chronically overweight lady needs. I don't get sore (DOMS) as much, nor am I as stiff. I sleep like the dead every night and wake up feeling more rested. I'm in a better mood. I can do 15 push ups (vs 11) and 15 tricep dips (vs 9), my two weakest exercises. After only seven days!

When the CBC show posted about this segment on their facebook page, there was this weird pushback in the comments: "it's not really a 7 minute workout, you're not being journalistically ethical" "it's not as efficient as my workout" "a healthy lifestyle is a bigger priority than potential strain/injury" "my current workout is enough." There is nothing more discouraging to the person trying something new for their fitness than to have an experienced, already fit person tell them, "No, that's not enough/won't work/isn't perfect." Really? Do you workout perfectly every time?! Don't. be. that. person.

Just because some research (quite a bit of research) has detailed the benefits of this style of exercise, doesn't mean that your workout is scientifically invalidated - that's a logical fallacy. If what you're doing works for you, then great, keep doing it. If what you're doing isn't working, or you have Exercise Ennui and like bright shiny things, or you're doing nothing and want to start something, science has found a lot of good reasons why this could be good for you. And if you are starting from nothing or almost nothing, then this workout for 7 minutes is more than enough. (After all, my professional knowledge was a considerable asset to my ability to keep up with this; I might have injured myself or given up without it.)

Here's the thing: you don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Obviously an overall healthy lifestyle should be the ultimate goal; maybe, for us n00bs, this workout is a nice, simple first step towards that ultimate goal. Starting with 7 minutes a day, and seeing the immediate improvements and benefits I've logged has boosted my confidence - now I'm motivated to make even more positive health changes and not feel hopeless about it.

I'll be back in another week with the Final Count (lol) but I think I'll be incorporating this into my life on the regular. (It should be noted, ideally there'd be rest days, but I think for two weeks, doing it daily won't be the end of the world.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mama Bean went to Target

As I was driving into the parking lot, Death Cab's I'll Follow You Into the Dark (Cowtown represent!) was playing on my iPod, and so that was stuck in my head as I perused the aisles. Which is fitting because the last time I visited Target with any kind of regularity was when I lived in the US, during which that song was featured heavily in several of my favourite, sad-sack, college-life-is-hard (what the fuck did I know?) playlists. It was a good throwback moment.

To be honest, the last time I was in a Target was on our August trip to my alma mater, both kids in tow, buying 'hotel dinners' - things that can be eaten direct from the back or box, in a semblance of healthfulness, for less money than a restaurant. Sprout was 18 months on that trip. The difference between then and now in her behaviour (mental and emotional faculties) is astounding to me. We took a baby on that trip - she is not a baby now. The difference in Bean is beyond mind-blowing; he's like a fully formed human compared to the 100% Id-based toddler last summer. Well, that may be overstating it. He's down to, like, 65% Id tops now; he's got that Super-ego operating at minimum 10%, which is just what we need for potty training. Let's be honest, as an adult, I probably operate at 10% sometimes (often), too... (and that trip alone would disabuse me of the notion that anything about college life was hard /sigh. Youth is wasted on the yada yada yada...)

Which is to say, Target, and stores like Target, what I call I-didn't-know-I-wanted-that-but-now-I-need-it stores, are best enjoyed sans children. I spent over an hour in there today. It. was. glorious. There was nothing surprising, it was exactly as I remembered it. Prettier and better quality things than Wal-mart, or the Zellers it replaced for that matter, with commensurately higher prices, but not department store level prices. Target-level prices. Groceries are about Safeway-priced, but it's Archer Farms, so who cares? Archer Farms is the shizzle. I don't go to Target for groceries. I go for bowls to replace the pasta bowls we keep chipping/breaking, lamps that fit the aesthetic and small surface area of my bedside table, birthday presents that are light enough to mail to nephews and nieces, books 25% off the cover price, divided storage boxes in a gorgeous cranberry red that'd be perfect for holding my kids' thousands of socks (Why does every other member of my household have more socks than I've had in my entire life?) I go for the things I didn't know I wanted, but now I completely and utterly need. 

Full disclosure: it was the same story when I went to our new IKEA store the first time. What can I say? My love language is CONSUMERISM ;)

But can we talk about how useless melamine dishes are? They aren't microwave safe. Cute, brightly coloured children's dishes that I can't put in the microwave are functionally useless to me. I don't care if they're only  $1.49!

And next time I won't wear a bright red sweater. Two employees asked if I worked there. Um, no? But I kind of wish I did?

When can I go back? :D

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mama Bean is exhausted by seven different technologies

Mary: I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work so I called him at home and then he e-mailed me to my Blackberry and so I texted to his cell and then he e-mailed me to my home account and the whole thing just got out of control. And I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine and that one answering machine has one cassette tape and that one cassette tape either had a message from a guy or it didn't. And now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.
(The movie trailer is tangential. I do feel Drew Barrymore was under-utilized in that movie, but then again, I hated her character. I do like that quote, though. I haven't been in the dating arena for a decade, but that quote still applies to my life. To wit: the rest of this entry.)

I have spent the past few months preoccupied with failing friendship. I've even written about it already. And yet, I can't seem to stop thinking, in the back of my mind, about these friendships I just can't seem to get the swing of. I can't get it together! Where in my schedule does the Magic of Fellowship happen? How do I effectively use the communication tools available to me? Is there a way to balance my preferred habitat (Teh Interwebz) with my very real need to have a very real life? Why is social media determined to so abundantly demonstrate, with seven different technologies, that the people I want to like me, don't? How do I redirect my efforts - how do I stop investing in toxic people - without feeling bad, guilty, like I've failed, like I should have tried harder or done more? Why can't I stop feeling so fucking angry? What is this "thicker skin" I've been told since childhood to acquire and how exactly do I procure it?

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point

How do I reconcile my online and offline worlds? Or how do I reconcile the authenticity of friendship I desire with the limitations of whatever media I have to communicate that desire? Because it's not about where the friendship takes place anymore (in flesh or in the ether or in both). We don't do that anymore, though I do still relish the safety of Internet anonymity as much as the next Troll (lol). I have all the skills to build lovely, authentic relationships purely online, so it's not about the medium (sorry Marshall), it has to be about the people... right?

When I want a phone call, an email forward leaves me cold. When I want a email, every facebook like is an irritation. When I want facebook banter, mindless re-tweeting feels inconsiderate. When I want to be the special snowflake in your life that you are to me, and who can explain why you are, the heart has its reasons - when I'm trying for something Real, the meaningless chatter of thumbs ups and lols makes my stomach sink.

Sometimes, I try to comfort myself that the clickety clatter of social media interaction, as meager as it may feel, is still better than nothing at all. Better than being phased out entirely, fluidly (am I over-romanticizing this?) the way friendships ended in the Olden Days. It's got to be better than that era when we just wistfully turned the pages of our yearbooks, right? But maybe not. It is a little pinprick each time - as social media brings into my consciousness, repeatedly, these faces for whom I mean little when they mean a lot to me. 

Fuck it. I probably just need to leave the internet for awhile. It's only gotten worse since I got a smart phone - I thought it was going to keep me more connected. Turns out it just makes me feel more alone. Thank you for engaging in my pity parade today, please don't indulge me. There is no meat to this threat, trust. I couldn't quit the Internet on my best day, and these days are far from that < insert appropriate sardonic emoticon > < i guess >