Jack’s Walk

I think tree roots look like dinosaur toes. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Boy, am I ever glad to see the end of this week. It’s been a week full of frustration and a bit of embarrassment. I’ve been tackling the list of things that need to be done when a parent or any other person dies, only it hasn’t been going as well as I’d hope. To begin with, I completely forgot about an appointment at the bank on Monday. Then, the very next day, I managed to completely forget about an appointment with my dentist. I called both places as soon as I remembered, and they were gracious about rescheduling, but I hate to inconvenience other people. It makes me feel stupid and appear scatterbrained, neither of which is generally true.

It’s because I’ve not really recovered from caring for mom before she died, and my fibromyalgia has been acting up. In the days before mom died, I knew I was burning out. I’d had 2 months worth of 8 – 10 hour days trying to keep mom calm and quiet, which didn’t really happen until the last few days of her life, so it felt a lot like bailing out a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean. The need was constant and you couldn’t relax. Even when I came home, I could still hear her calling for help. It disturbed my sleep at night. I lost my appetite and it’s only thanks to regular meals provided by friends that I didn’t completely stop eating. I put so many of my own things off until later, that when mom did finally die I had a long list of to-do’s that suddenly needed to be done plus a list of extra things to do for the estate. I’m generally pretty chill, but I’ve been feeling rattled, and I’ve been having more pain. Then there’s the brain thing, that I struggle to describe. When I was Case Managing, I carried a large and complex caseload in a sizeable territory, and every day was full of multi-tasking and constant reprioritization, so I know that my brain used to be capable of these things. I used to read 2 – 4 books a week when I was working and a book a day when on vacation. I always found learning new things easy. Now, I struggle to read. I don’t remember characters, and I lose pieces of the plot. I’m lucky to read one book a week and it feels like work. Learning new things has become time-consuming, difficult and taxing for all the same reasons. My brain is a sieve and things just fall through. I don’t know how to describe this to people except to say that I have a terrible memory or that my brain feels sluggish – neither of which is exactly right. I feel like Algernon near the end of the book Flowers for Algernon, as things are being lost. It’s all very frustrating and when I’m tired or stressed it’s at its worst. That’s the sort of week I’ve had. Next week, I have new appointments with the estate manager at the bank and with the dentist. I hope to redeem myself and apologize to both, on time and in person. I also have a shiny, new to-do list, and I think it’s well organized to start. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. My mom left me executor of her will, and I will find the way – just maybe not the express route.

Jack’s Walk

Late afternoon at the river ©voyager, all rights reserved

The Landscape looks mostly brown and grey, but there are bits of colour here and there. The dogwood is bright red and there’s a bit of blue in the sky that’s reflected in the water and some of the grass is still green, but overall the landscape is hibernating and gone fallow. This is the dread time of year for me. There’s so little light and the days end so quickly. This photo was taken around 3:30 in the afternoon and by 4:30 it had gone full dark.

Jack’s after supper walk is now always in the dark and I have to push myself to get out. I don’t mind the cold. I can dress for that, but I do mind the dark. Generally, I feel safe walking with Jack. From a distance, he can look intimidating and he’ll bark his big boy bark if he’s feeling nervous or uncertain. He’s also very protective of me. Overall I feel fairly safe in my neighbourhood, but things have happened here just like they happen everywhere. In 2009 an 8-year-old girl was abducted while walking home from school. Her name was Tori Stafford and her home was just a few houses down my street. She was raped, tortured and murdered. I try not to think about that sort of thing when I walk, but I go past that house nearly every day and it’s hard to forget. I know I’m not a kid, but I’m small, and I couldn’t protect myself well and sometimes I get nervous. Jack picks up on that and it makes him nervous for no reason so I work to stay calm and to keep my leash skills confident. I feel it most often when a young man is approaching me on the sidewalk. Often, I’ll simply cross the street, but there are places where I don’t like to do that because of other dogs. Once, I was walking Jack at night and a car stopped beside us. I watched a young man in the back seat kick the female driver in the head and then he exited the car, hurling expletives and he then approached Jack and me, muttering about the “bitch” that was driving. I couldn’t walk past him and I didn’t want to turn my back on him, but then another fellow got out of the car and apologized to me and led the angry man away. He obviously saw I was frightened and came to help. Jack didn’t do anything except wag his tail at the angry man – maybe he was trying to defuse the situation, but I was really scared that night. It’s another month before the shortest day of the year arrives and then I can slowly see the days get longer. Until then, Jack and I will carry on bravely through the night.

Jack’s Walk

Making mud, ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been a pleasant late fall day here, full of sunshine and about 12°c, which feels quite warm to me at this time of year. It was so lovely that I took Jack to the river again for another swim. He knew exactly what was up as soon as I took the dog towels out of the cupboard, and he started doing the watusi wiggle before I even opened the front door. By the time we arrived at the park, Jack was filled with excitement, and he began to make small woofing noises begging me to open the door for him to leap out. Because I’m a terrible mother, I made him wait a few extra moments while I checked my camera and made sure I had bags and cookies in my pocket, so that when I finally exited my seat, Jack was almost pushing me out of the car with his nose. Before I could get the words Sheesh, Bubba!, out of my mouth, Jack was at the water’s edge and already sliding in. He splashed around for a few minutes and then crept out of the water to follow me down the trail. We only did the short route today because Jack was getting tired, but he slipped into the water one more time before we got back to the car.

He made a bit of mud getting out, but he looked so damned happy that I couldn’t get upset with him. We just used a few more towels before Jack was deemed clean enough to get in the car. Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day, and then it’s due to get cold again, so Jack will likely get one more swim in before it turns icy. I hope he can handle that much fun 2 days in a row.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

That fellow up there with Jack is his daddy, Mr. Voyager. Jack was positively thrilled to have daddy along today- he loves doing things as a family and is happiest when we’re all together. If either the Mr. or I go out, Jack will fret a bit until we get back home. That’s why we take him with us just about everywhere (if it’s not too hot.)  Jack loves to go for car rides, especially if we go to a drive-through where food is involved. His favourite drive-through, though,  is the one at the Beer Store. The staff there always make a fuss over him when they put the beer in the car, and Jack usually steals a kiss and often gets a cookie. If we stop to shop, we leave Jack in the locked car with the windows slightly open for ventilation. He likes to people watch and is usually sitting in the driver’s seat when we get back. I always tell him he isn’t old enough to drive, but Jack doesn’t think that’s funny, and he usually tells me I need to get new material. He’s probably right, but there’s also an argument to be made for the sake of continuity of custom and ritual.

Today we just went to the woods and back with no stops in between and Jack had no complaints. Daddy went for a walk with him in the forest, so today everything is right with the world. I feel the same way, Bubba.  I’m also happiest when we’re all together doing things as a family.

Jack’s Walk

Who could say no to that face? ©voyager, all rights reserved

I awoke to the sound of ice pellets hitting my window this morning, telling me at once that it was colder than yesterday and still raining. I could feel the dampness in the house as I creaked and groaned my way out of bed and went to start the coffee, so next, I turned on the gas fireplace, hoping to dry the air out a bit and add a touch of cheer to the dull and dreary day. I opened the front door to bring in the newspaper and was met with a cold wind blowing freezing drizzle in my face. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to be sticking to things or turning to ice on the ground, and a quick check-in with the weather channel told me it was above zero, by 1°c.  Hey, I thought they said yesterday that it was going to get warmer over the next few days. 1°c is not warmer, and freezing drizzle, even if it doesn’t stick, is not better than rain. Just then, Jack crawled out of bed and came to ask for his breakfast. As I was getting it ready for him, I casually said that if he didn’t want to go for a walk today, that would be alright. Jack said he’d think about it and he did until 10:30 when he decided he wanted to go out. He could see his gaggle of teenagers up at the corner talking, and he was eager to go say hi. I wasn’t quite as eager to go out, but Jack gave me the face, and I knew he meant business,  so I layered up and out we went into the nasty, wet day. I don’t think Jack even noticed the weather, he was so anxious to go see his kids. About half-way up the block, he got his reward, when one of his favourite young women called out his name and started walking toward him. Jack wiggled and wagged his way up to her and they greeted each other like long-lost friends. Soon, Jack was surrounded by a half-dozen more young people, all saying his name and stroking him. Jack handed out kisses like they were Hallowe’en candy, and by the time we said goodbye to continue on our way, Jack was positively glowing with happiness, and the day didn’t seem nearly so nasty or dreary to me. Thanks, Bubba. I love the way you live in the moment.

Jack’s Walk

There’s still a bit of colour…if you look down. ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been raining here most of the day, and the landscape has gone back to looking like bleak autumn instead of the deep of winter.  There isn’t a speck of snow or ice left, and I’m grateful for that. It sure makes walking Jack less fraught with danger and not nearly so physically demanding. Jack has mixed feelings about the weather. Today, for the very first time, Jack didn’t want to go for a walk. We stepped out on the porch, Jack raised his head and looked slowly to the right, then to the left, and then he turned around and asked to go back into the house. Sheesh! 2 days ago he was swimming in the frigid water of the river, and today he lets a little rain put him off. He’s a water dog for Pete’s sake.  It’s even in his name. Officially, Jack is Wasserhund’s King Jackson Brown, and Wassserhund means ‘water dog’ in German. So my water dog didn’t want to go out in the rain.

I fixed that, though. I put Jack in the house and set out across the street to check the mailbox. I could see him watching me through the window as I made my way down our sidewalk, and then he started to howl, a loud, pitiful howl like the coyotes that we hear down east. I had no idea that he could even do that! I think he thought I was going on our walk without him. By the time I got back a minute or two later, Jack was eager to go out despite the rain, so we stepped out on the porch again, and this time Jack didn’t stop to take measure. He just went down the stairs with his tail wagging: Sehr gut,  meine wasserhund.

Jack’s Walk

The Imp House? ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack and I happened upon this assortment of oddities just off the path, down by the river. We found a small hubcap, a bicycle tire and a little house together in a group. The house looks like a birdhouse set upon the ground and not in a tree. Jack tells me it’s a house for Imps and wanted to leave quickly.

“Why so nervous, Jack?” I asked him.

“That’s an Imp house, mommy. We need to get out of here.”

“Why… I’d like to meet an Imp.”

“No, you wouldn’t mommy. The Imps aren’t nice. They like to play tricks. Nasty tricks”

“How do you know these things, Jack.”

” I Pay attention to what goes on. You don’t see or hear much, mommy. I know it’s because you’re only a human, and your senses are dull.”

“My senses are not dull, Jack. I have excellent hearing, and my eyesight is fine with my glasses on.”

“Silly, mommy! You never see the Pixies and fairies or even the elves and the trolls!  Humans scare the little folk, so they stay away from the paths and hide in the forest.”

“Well then, how could I see them if they hide from me?” and then I added, “Silly, Jack!”

“Mommy, let’s get out of here. I’ll tell you about the little folk later. I don’t like the Imps!”

“How do you know about the imps, Jack?”

“Mostly from the Fairies and the Elves, but I met a few Imps last spring. Remember when I got stuck in the mud on the other side of the river?”

“Oh yeah, Jack, I remember. I almost got stuck in the mud myself, trying to get you out. We were both a mess.”

“Well, that was the imps fault. They promised me a cookie if I went to visit their camp. And when the mud got too deep for me to go farther, they sat there watching me…and then you…and laughing. That’s what they do. They sit around all day eating mushrooms and getting silly, and then they play tricks on the other little folk. And the bigger folk when they come by.” Jack was getting visibly antsy, looking over his shoulder and shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“How do you know this house belongs to Imps?” I asked, ” Maybe we should look inside to see what’s there.”

“NO, mommy. They’ll poke you in the eye or bite your nose. I can smell the Imps. Please, let’s go.”

“The house is right on the pathway, Jack. ” I thought you said the Little Folk stay away from humans, so why would they live here?” I said, getting down on my knees for a closer inspection.

“Silly, mommy. The Imps aren’t afraid of humans. They’re fast, and they have camouflage, and they like to steal from humans and play tricks on you. That’s why the bicycle tire and hubcap are here. They stole them from people. This house looks like a trap to me, mommy. Please, let’s go.”

“Alright, Jack, let’s go,” I said, standing up and brushing the dirt off of my pants. And so we left the river and made our way home with my curiosity left unsated. Camouflaged Imps? Pixies and Faeries? Elves and trolls??? I know Jack is typically taciturn, but it seems he knows a lot more about the forest than I do. I hope I can convince him to tell me more since it seems my human senses are a bit dull after all.

 

 

Making Marmelade

Avalus has been making jams and jellies and he’s sent us some photos from the project.

This late summer I set about using the old orchards and hedges around my home. To make marmelades and gelée, to be exact. Here are some things I found while picking fruit

Tasty blackberries! Oddly enough, in German these are called Brombeeren which translates literally to bromine berrys. But the name does not have anything to do with bromine, it goes back to the old high german word brāmberi which means thorny bush and is the root for the word english bramble.

Brombeeren ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Then there was this beautiful golden beetle, enjoying the sun and an apple at the same time. It did not mind me picking up fallen apples around it.

golden beetle ©Avalus, all rights reserved

golden beetle 2 ©Avalus, all rights reserved

This hedgehog on the other hand did very much mind my company.

Igel ©Avalus, all rights reserved

In the end, I made many glasses of yummi sweet stuff with different flavours. Testers favourites were apple-coffee and apple-meade*, apple-cinnamon was deemed too Christmassy for September. Pestering every one I knew for empty glasses really paid off here as I gave most of these full glasses to friends.

gelly good time ©Avalus, all rights reserved

 

*I made meade two years ago and still have some left. Pretty strong taste and not too sweet, but I drink only very little.

Thanks for sharing, Avalus.

Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been about 4°c all day, and most of the ice has melted from the sidewalks, making it safe for Jack and me to go for walks around the neighbourhood again. This is excellent news, and we will walk around our area tonight, but today, I wanted to give Jack a treat, so I took him to the river. We haven’t been there in a while, and Jack was asking for a bit of adventure. It was a bit muddy in areas, but the path itself was clear and easy to walk. As expected, Jack went into the river. I told him it was cold, but he laughed and dashed in any way. He didn’t stay in long, though, and only went in once. I’m not surprised – Jack still hasn’t grown his undercoat and the only insulation he has is the extra bit of fat he’s carrying. He got a good towelling off when we got back to the car and actually stood still for it today. Usually, he’s all wiggles and wanders, but today he even let me clean his feet without complaint. I think he liked the warmth of the rubbing. He was quiet all the way home, and once we got inside, Jack climbed into his bed and asked for a blanket. He’s been crawling under blankets a lot lately – something that he’d never do when he was young. I think my baby boy is growing older, and it worries me a bit. Maybe, though, he just needs to grow a bit of hair. I like that idea much better.

Jack’s Walk

farewell, fall ©voyager, all rights reserved
We had quite a bit of snow last week, making walking difficult and a bit treacherous. The sidewalks are full of tramped down snow, which in places has turned to sheet ice forcing me to walk/shuffle slowly and carefully. Last year I bought cleats for my boots to make waking on ice safer, but they do not make me safer because you need to high step with each step and then forcefully plant your foot. You need to march in the damned things, and if you don’t pick your foot up high enough, they ‘catch’ and can propel you face down quite suddenly and forcefully. Learning this was an unpleasant experience and caused my worst fall of last year. Besides which, I looked like I was from the Ministry of Silly Walks when I used them, so I don’t use them anymore. Instead, I’ve started walking on the road, which has its own risks, but Jack and I both wear flashing lights so we can be seen. There isn’t much traffic in our neighbourhood, especially at night, so overall I think it’s the safest option. It confuses Jack a bit, though. I’ve always made a big deal about staying away from the road, and Jack won’t step onto the street until I tell him it’s OK, so he’s been staying on the sidewalk, but he continually watches me, wondering where he’s supposed to be and I have to keep telling him to stay where he is. Last night was better. Jack is a thinking dog and he’s figuring it out. We’re supposed to have a bit of a melt over the next few days, and I’m hoping all the snow and ice will vanish. Sometimes a melt can turn snow into ice if it isn’t warm enough or long enough. Today the temp is 3°c, and by Thursday, it’s supposed to climb to 8°c, and if it gets there, we’ll be good to walk on the sidewalk again – at least until the next snowfall or ice storm.

Jack’s Walk

 

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack is a very social dog, and he likes to stop and talk to people when we’re out strolling around the neighbourhood. He has his own fan club of high school students who call out his name and run to see him as we advance up the street. It’s the reason we take our neighbourhood walk at 12:30. Jack loves the adoration. After the high school, we usually see Nick out on his porch having a smoke. Then we often meet Leo, who is Jack’s best friend, and his person Kevin.
Today, we met no one. Not a single teenager was standing on the corner, smoking or vaping. Jack didn’t want to go on. He kept dawdling, looking longingly toward the front door of the school Hoping, that someone would come out to say hi. But, no one did. Poor Bubba.
Nick wasn’t out smoking, either. Nor was Leo out in the yard. Bubba dawdled at their houses, too, to no avail.
He was a bit mopey when we got home, so I played a few rounds of Let’s Chase Pig-Pig, which is a ridiculous game that involves a rubber pig that honks like an angry goose. It’s totally silly, and it wasn’t long before Jack was his usual cheerful self. Tomorrow morning I’ll arrange a play date with Leo. And in the afternoon we’ll visit Bambi and Bailey, 2 small white Lhasa apso, miniature poodle crosses who live with one of my friends. Jack needs a social life and I guess it’s down to me to take care of that.

Note to self: Winter fun requires more planning and less serendipity.

 

Jack’s Walk

The Armada Arrives ©voyager, all rights reserved

The swans stop by to say hello ©voyager, all rights reserved

Well, for once, the universe listened to me. Late yesterday we had a small dusting of snow that decided to stick around. It’s just enough to make things pretty, but not enough to need shovelling or make walking difficult. It’s perfect. I can see Jack at night again, and sure enough, it was easy to find his poop, even in the dark. It’s cold anyway, so there might as well be a bit of the white stuff around.
Jack and I decided to go to the park this morning, and it was reasonably quiet when we arrived, but we hadn’t been there long when we hear a loud, sustained honking overhead and looked up to see an entire Armada of geese flying in. A hundred or more birds were circling the pond. They finally landed in teams, and it took several minutes for them all to get down. Once they were all on the water, they continued to make noise for several more minutes, and boy howdy was it loud. It seemed to upset the swans who managed to get away from the crowd to come and say hi. Jack was quite rude and barked at them, but they didn’t care at all. The geese are permanent residents at our park – they don’t fly south because the living is comfortable here. The swans have an even easier winter ahead – they live in an indoor pond and have a keeper. Once the weather is warmer again in the spring, they’re driven back to the outdoor pond, happy, healthy and ready to have a new family.

Jack’s Walk

Hosta La Vista ©voyager, all rights reserved

We had a lovely bit of sunshine this afternoon, but it didn’t warm things up one little bit. Except perhaps inside the car where I started to sweat underneath all of my layers, which today included a pair of silk long johns and undershirt, a sweater and yoga pants topped off with a puffy winter coat, tuque, scarf and mittens, but not yet double socks. I really dislike feeling cold and have a tendency to overdress. Jack wondered what the heck was going on when I pulled over to take off my coat and then put it on again once we stopped. Jack thinks clothing is a human vanity, which is true, but clothing is also a necessity for a naked Canadian ape like me and he doesn’t get that part. He says silly things like “you’d stay warmer if you didn’t shave your legs” or “you need a little more fat to insulate.” Bubba, if I never shaved again and gained a hundred pounds I’d still want the long johns and winter gear. “Bah,” he says. “Humans are soft.”