The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

11 February 2016

The sun rises

I'm watching the sun rise over a construction site.

I used to watch it rise over the ridge - the Niagara Escarpment - but the empty field across the road is being developed. I'm happy for the people who will be able to live in this wonderful, sleepy little town because of it, but I am sad that day by day my view of trees climbing the hill is turning to a view of culverts, pipes, and eventually walls and rooftops.

I'm watching the sun rise because today is the day, finally and at last, that the contractor will be here to redo the bathroom.  This sounds very grand, I know, and you are no doubt picturing glossy magazine spreads of luxe spa-type principal ensuites, and Mike the bare-armed "Do it right the first time!" man.  The truth of it is that water has been sneaking behind the tiles in the shower. When I brought it to my landlord's attention we agreed it was serious enough for a contractor and that I would have to resort to baths in the meantime.

And so began a month and a half of "It's happening tomorrow!" "Oh. No, it's not." "We've figured out the problem!" "Hang on. No, we haven't." "He'll be here Wednesday!" "Rats, the new insert is too big." (they didn't measure) and so on, until late last night, I got the call, "Tomorrow, 8:00 for sure!" Which had me once again rushing around to clean the bathroom (don't you clean before it's all torn apart?) and rearrange the kitchen as it's the direct route between front door and construction site.

For added fun, for two weeks or so since the moratorium on showers, I had to boil pots of water on the stove for bathing as the mixer had gone kerplunk.  Let me tell you, one day is charmingly old fashioned but by day three you realize that no amount of Mr. Darcy and his beautiful Pemberley could make up for hot running water.

It was the cry of "Tomorrow!" that had me up before the birds this morning. While I have reached the point beyond which I am no longer interested in the conversation (a West Wing quote), I am grateful to be sitting at my desk at this early hour to watch the glorious changes in the light as the sun came up, embellishing the torn up field with hints of soft gold and tender pinks. Even the scars in the earth look beautiful in this light.

The doorbell is ringing.  Here we go!

02 February 2016

Have you learned your something new today?

In case you haven't, I'll share these things I've learned today:

Most people set their alarm clock for 6:30 AM, but also, most people are not fully awake until 9:40 AM.  Think of the safety hazards! The excesses of caffeine! The morning meetings absolutely nobody is paying attention to!  Yikes... the somnolent driver in the car beside you on the 401! Wouldn't it make more sense to just not get up until 9:40?  Or, let's pretend to be civilized and make it 8:00.

The British are still very British, even in this post-modern era.  In a discussion of rapprochement, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and all things scary in the Middle East, the interviewee described the Saudis as being 'jolly unhappy'. Once again, understatement wins the day.

In the same vein of Britishness, a news report told of Chinese airlines resolving to fine passengers for 'boorish behaviour'.  It sounds so jolly English, doesn't it? I can't imagine an American using 'boorish'. Or 'rapprochement' for that matter.

January 23 was National Handwriting Day.  Rats; I missed it.  I've entered it into my calendar for next year, and will celebrate it with a surfeit of letter writing, fountain pens and ink.

It is common for weddings in India to have 2,000-5,000 guests.  Can you imagine?  I mean... can you imagine???  They also go on for 3 - 5 days, and can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The bride's family will even pay the airfare of their guests.  I heard of one with 11,000 people costing three quarters of a million dollars.

29 January 2016

When worlds collide

I've taken to listening to BBC world news while cataloguing at work.  I've been wanting to write about it, as it touches on a few of my favourite soap boxes including language and vocabulary but I'll leave that for another day.

At 10:30 Sohoe time BBC world news has a half hour program about sport. They begin with the footie, then cover the cricket and the tennis, sometimes the auto races and whatever else may be going on in the world of sport.  Imagine: a whole half hour of in depth sports coverage with nary a mention of hockey! Or American football!  Heavenly.

Then, as if that wasn't enough to make a footie-mad cataloguer giddy with glee, at 14:30 Sohoe time is a program dedicated entirely to world football. It's such fun, with interviews, behind the scenes transfer news, FIFA shenanigans, tournament updates, national league updates and so on.

Just now, moments ago, the world football program mentioned the English Premier League club Chelsea.  Frank Lampard used to play for them (now for New York City FC). As I listened to the program, I was cataloguing a book by Frank Lampard, and it's about soccer. It's called Frankie's magic soccer ball: Frankie vs. the mummy's menace. The cover shows three kids dressed as ancient Egyptians playing football in front of the pyramids.

Footie and cataloguing.  All is right with the world.

28 January 2016

A dull and dry chuckle

Cataloguer's humour:

From the title page:
"An original retelling"

So... a complete fabrication? Nothing at all to do with the original?
Is it ever "a word-for-word retelling of the original"?

Cataloguing may seem a dull and dry task to many people, but I spend most of my day in silent dialogue with authors and publishers, quietly chuckling to myself at flowery praise and implausible plots, or muttering under my breath at the librarian who chose to purchase such a book.

Just the sort of thing I enjoy.

23 January 2016

The week that was

On Sunday: Cooking rice and yet again scorching the bottom of the pot.
A scorched pot sitting on the front step in a snowstorm takes half an hour to completely cool down
The lingering odorous effects of scorching a pot takes a good week to dissipate.

On Monday: Remade rice dish leapt out of the container at lunch and landed in nooks and crannies of the armchair at work, and playing no favourites also all over my lap. While duck walking to the garbage bin  I left a rice trail much like the bread crumbs of fairy tales. Alas, no Prince Charming or helpful forest animals to be seen. Just me on hands and knees, picking individual grains of rice off the carpet.

On Tuesday: Cataloguing is dangerous work. I notice papercuts too numerous to count (because I can't be bothered to) (facts ruin a good story) and the development of a perma-claw, the result of hours of scrolling and clicking of the mouse.

On Wednesday: Day three of The Bathroom Saga.
Due to faulty grout and really old tiles, the wall around the tub is absorbing moisture. My landlord called on Sunday to let me know the contractor would be there Monday morning to start what should be a two day job. I spent the evening packing up all the personal stuff one has laying about in one's bathroom and preparing an overnight bag in case I needed to stay with the Nuts. I got home Monday to discover he hadn't been there at all, Tuesday was the same, and by Wednesday I'd given up rearranging the kitchen and rolling up the rugs to make way. I found out on Thursday that he probably won't be here until next Wednesday. Or Thursday.  So I've decided to leave my stuff about, and if he actually shows up, he can deal with it.  A girl needs her stuff!

Thursday: Taxes.  I have a woeful ineptitude when it comes to understanding numbers. Also a paralyzing fear of phoning official people in order to make appointments, gather information, or get bad news. (It's ok... I'm in therapy)  A recent kerfuffle with last year's taxes led to a pressing need to phone a scary government agency to confess my numerical sins. Utter relief to have it dealt with, a plan in place. I have confronted the monster under the bed, and by shining a light upon it have discovered it is no more than a paltry dust bunny.

Friday: Speaking of dust bunnies: what's with the drifts of dust all over my apartment?  Maybe all those phone calls for duct cleaning weren't scams after all. Huh.

17 January 2016

Snow falls to earth

One of snow's great charms is when it drifts and swirls out of the sky, landing softly on the ground with a gently increasing icing-sugar effect. The atmospheric delight of it, how it sets the scene of picture-postcard perfection, and how it enhances the warmth and coziness of home very nearly makes enduring the reality of snow possible.  It's snowing?  How pretty!  Time for a cuddly sweater, hot cocoa, and a book in front of a roaring fire.

I sat looking out the front door as I ate my morning oats (slow-cooker oatmeal... delicious!) and thought maybe my retinas were detaching. I've heard when that happens it's like dots floating in front of your eyes.  I was seeing dots, but only barely... a suggested whisper of dots. The dots took a straight line to the ground, like they were pulled by gravitational magnetism, and in lonely singles, as though they'd been let go one at a time from above. There was no physical evidence of them on the ground, but as I approached the glass door to look more closely, I could see that the dots were in fact snowflakes. Wee ones, to be sure, but weighty enough and determined enough to not waste time on their downward journey with drifting and swirling. They must have landed with enough force that they disintegrated into nonexistence.

In the time it took to rinse my bowl, text mom about Carmelites and almonds, and open the laptop, the singles of snowflakes have multiplied. They're now falling with purpose from the sky in clans; so many of them that their shattered remains are now evident on the ground. It may takes many hours, but there will eventually be actual drifts of snow and people will leave footprints as they walk the road beyond my window.

My understanding of how snowflakes come to be may be on the fanciful side: drops of moisture typically fall to earth as rain, but colder temperatures makes the drops playful. They leap and swirl, and gambol around in the upper reaches of the sky. Their time spent twirling and dancing alters their crystal garments, making them resplendent, telling a story of their adventures.

These snowflakes of today are too purpose-driven and time-pressed to spend any time at all on their crystal garments. They're falling to earth in their every-day wear. They might have been in the midst of gardening or folding the laundry and said, "We've got a lot to do, Esther, so no dilly dallying. Let's just get there.

I want to live my life in such a way that my garment is chock full of sparkles.

12 January 2016

Of winter roads and Canadian bridges

The Lighthouse is in Canada, as you know. As you probably also know, Canada does, from time to time, get winter. Not even Sohoe, where I live, escapes entirely.

Winter landed on us with a thud overnight. I woke to a winter postcard tableau outside the front door, meaning the front steps needed clearing and the car needed scraping.  Ahhh... scraping the car... every Canadian's favourite winter hobby.

In most of the rest of the country, folks deal with winter enough - the arctic temperatures, freezing rain, mountains of snow, slick and slippery roads - resulting in sensible, practiced drivers.  In my neck of the woods, a wee bit of snow is enough to make people lose their minds, outraged at what nature hath wrought, huddled in layers, and utter menaces on the roads.  Probably because of brain freeze.

I think Those Who Decide decided to hope that noon-time sunshine would melt the snow, and so did not send plows out to clear all the roads.  Where I live the roads are swoopy and windy, through gullies, up hills and down hills. The swoopy and windy roads are also narrow, leaving no room for error. Or for skidding on ice.  Or for getting out of the way of a fish-tailing pickup hauling a trailer with his baby snowplow in it. Those Who Decide didn't count on it continuing to snow beyond the appointed melting time, making getting home as much as fun as was getting to work.

As someone who used to live in the land of Winter before making good her escape to Sohoe (where 'winter' is a charming concept we dabble with now and then), I spend the first few days of winter driving every year encouraging other drivers under my breath with "it's only snow, you can do it! It's only snow, you can do it!"

Here are some winter car facts you may not know:
~ winter requires a whole 'nother set of special tires. That's why we don't spin out all over the place when we drive on slick roads.
~winter also requires a brush/scraper contraption, supposedly designed to remove ice and snow from hood, roof, trunk, and windows of car, but always seems to cause said ice and snow to make itself at home on my coat and trousers, and inside my boots.
~salt.  Salt everywhere. Salt turning the side of the car grey and then rubbing off on the calf of your leg. Every single time.
~pushing the seat back to make room for Big Winter Coat bulk.
~remembering to factor in an extra 10 minutes to warm up the car. If you live a litter further north, you actually plug in the car overnight to keep the battery warm.  If you live even further north, you bring the battery into the house overnight, and when you get to the store you leave the car running.
~you know it's cold when you sit in the car and the seat doesn't give one little bit. It's like perching on frozen cement.  Nice, eh?

Thinking of being Up North brings to mind a story that's been in the news the last couple of days.

The story takes place in a little town called Nipigon, It isn't the sort of place that would be known of, in the general way of things, but it just happens to be the place where one half of Canada meets the other half of Canada.  Not because it's the middle point, or where some political breakthrough took place. It is literally where the eastern and western portions cross over to the other. It happens on the Trans Canada Highway, which in that part of the world, is the only highway.

Canada is a large country - the second largest, in fact. In population, though, we are quite small (a tenth, I think, of the US) and  much of our land makes for very uncomfortable living. This has resulted in the bulk of us living within a hundred miles of the 49th parallel and the rest is left to wild, wide open space. That, combined with unendingly long and unendurably harsh winters, means we are not building roads far and wide.

And so it is that there is but one road that skirts Lake Superior, and but one road joining Ontario to Manitoba and that one road passes through Nipigon.  Every Canadian who has made the trek across country knows Nipigon and the bridge over the Nipigon River. No matter where you start from in Ontario, more than half of your journey to reach that bridge is going be be through the North Country... Canada in it's wild state, unpopulated, unsettled, largely untouched still, making it easy to imagine what it was like for the first settlers as they battled nature for survival. It's a full day's driving to cross the province, 12 hours from Toronto, 13 from Ottawa, and 13 from Sohoe.

Imagine then, that you have planned your trip. You are appropriately provisioned, and you are mentally prepared, for the isolation you will experience requires hardiness of mind. You've left in the weakest morning light and arrive long after sundown because you are now so far north that the sun gives up earlier, curling up somewhere warmer before trying again the next day. Then you find out the bridge is broken.

That's right, the bridge is broken!  This happened for real.  It's a new bridge, hardly driven on and it heaved. Or buckled. Whatever it is that bridges do when they break.  It seems it was made with Japanese bolts.  Japanese bolts don't like the cold, apparently, and they, like the sun, decided to give up early.

If you consider the transporting of goods, the travel of tourists, and the daily lives of folks in Nipigon, that bridge is vital. The nearest alternative route is at least six hours away in Sault Ste Marie, and that route takes you through the States, meaning you need a passport, and a change of currency - a painful thought in this time of the below-70-cent-Loonie.  How this happened I do not know but I truly do feel for all those who found themselves stranded in Nipigon just as winter is hitting its stride.

The mayor of Nipigon was on the radio, talking about how the residents of his town were throwing open their homes, providing food, shelter, and fellowship to stranded travelers. Isn't that lovely?  It might be colder than cold up there, but the people are warm and kind.