Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From A Land Down Under

Changing it up a little with this post by sharing a wee snippet of nostalgia and creative writing from a time and place that still remain vividly imprinted in my memory.

It's been 7 years since I last adventured off this continent to Oz. It was my home for 10 months, but in that short period of time the entire trajectory of my life shifted. When I returned to Canada, I was compelled to write and I found myself writing almost exclusively about my time in the Land Down Under. Here is one piece of writing in a series I simply titled 'Australian Vignettes'.   

Saving Wales

A kookaburra laughs at me incessantly. Clutching my mobile phone, my eyes sweep the caked-dry dirt path in front of me as I quicken my pace, the muted browns and yellows of the drought-laden landscape threatening to strike out at my exposed ankles. Tara and Jake bound ahead, their floppy ears batting away the horseflies, their pink tongues sponging up the dry, dusty air of the Australian outback they frenetically chase the promise of adventure, oblivious to the fear paralyzing their human companion.

Gravity-fed by a dam that is as parched as the straw grass that pock marks the barren valley, the water pump has gone again. I am charged with fixing it or calling a plumber. Trotting lightly along the path Jo and Jason have carved out with the Ranger, I curse self-determination.  Gritting my teeth, I push my bejewelled mauve sunglasses up the sweaty bridge of my nose and replay the practice session in my head.  Some twenty pairs of brown eyes take in my frantic trotting. A herd of curious, thirsty Welsh ponies follow along the fence line. The soft, rhythmic beat of their hooves against the hard clay is reassuring, a warning to any slithery outback creatures to stay away.

There it sits under a swaggering eucalyptus, canopied from the harsh heat of a January sun, remarkably white, its enamel smooth and its claws perfectly manicured. For one long heart beat I am tempted by the unspoken invitation to strip off my sweaty mucking-out clothes and skinny dip in the Outback’s bathtub-turned-water-trough. Self-consciously, I look back over my shoulder for unwanted voyeurs. They are still, standing in headstrong formation, waiting for their water goddess to save Wales.

Instructions on How to Save Wales:

Turn the orange valve clockwise as far as it will go. Ditto for the valve in the ground too. Slide down to the water’s edge of the neighbour’s dam. Turn the water pump’s motor switch to ‘on’ and then yank the cord hard until the motor starts. Then the black hose has to fill with water. You can tell when it does, it’ll be heavy. Be patient, watch for snakes while you wait.  Then turn everything off, close the valves and go back to the house. If the toilet flushes, the pump’s working and you've saved Wales. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gettin' My Food On

Tonight I thought I permanently misplaced one of my cats. Thankfully, I was wrong and therefore have a few spare moments to do something other than freak out and traipse around Charlottetown trying to find a black and white feline. I decided to take these spare moments to do some writing, including a wee blog post (ta da!) and something other yet-to-be-determined prose (I'm going to pull out Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way' and try diving in the deep end of the creative writing pool again. Sadly, there is no pool bar because I forgot to stock up on wine, so sobriety it shall be).

It's the middle of April and, thankfully, the snow finally appears to be melting. Today was a superbly warm and sunny day, so I took the opportunity to go for my first outdoor jog of the year. Sunday was the first BBQ of the year and my first ever scooter ride (so much fun that I immediately decided I must visit Greece and become a scooter aficionado).  I have to say, getting some Vitamin D via the sunshine really does add an extra shot of energy to the system. 

The past month has been rather crazy busy and I'm just now catching my breath and having a chance to relax a little.  On April 3rd the MEAL team hosted A Heritage MEAL at the PEI Farm Centre and it appears to have been a smashing success, based on attendance, feedback and the massive amount of food prepared and consumed. There were some bumps in the lead up to the event, namely due to the insane number of storms/blizzards PEI experienced, but we pulled it off in the end. We had some amazing speakers talking about everything from garlic growing to promoting local food through social media to volunteer opportunities with the PEI Food Exchange.  I had to suppress a laugh any time someone raved about the oatcakes or gingersnaps, because I was in charge of baking them and totally screwed up the measurement of butter. Apparently butter makes everything better, just like bacon!

So, another successful MEAL under our belts and already there is talk of 'the next MEAL'. Every time I hear those words, I am equal parts excited and terrified. Organizing such an event is so inspiring, I absolutely loved meeting and working with so many awesome people, and I'm moved by the outpouring of support and engagement that the MEALs have garnered. On the other hand, it is a heck of a lot of work and stress. Granted, wine consumption helps with both of those issues. Stay tuned (probably for a long time) to find out if another MEAL is in the works.

Tomorrow I am co-hosting a Lunch N' Learn called 'Taking Charge of Your Health'. My very wonderful friend and mentor, Robert Paterson, is the other host and has been taking charge of his health with great success for a number of years. I, on the other hand, represent the 'struggle' that most of us experience when trying to make better health choices.  I feel like I've had many milestones on my 'journey', but this last one (eliminating sugar) has been the game-changer in so many ways. So, tomorrow I will talk about how I managed to finally break the sugar addiction and we will invite attendees to speak about their own experiences, challenges and successes. Both Rob and I feel that it's really important to have a community of support when working towards better eating and living.

Burger Love is back. This year there are 54 restaurants participating. Personally, I think it's a bit much when a pizzeria and an Italian restaurant are serving up burgers, but that's just my opinion. I didn't intend to actually eat any burgers this year, but it seems that every social rendezvous must centre around burger consumption, so I've actually had 4 burgers, but ate twice at the same restaurant, so have only had three different burgers. I highly recommend both The Olympian at the Downtown Deli and M-2 at Mavor's. I was not so enamoured with the one at St. James' Gate, which is, ironically, the one I ate twice. It was OK, but not mind-blowing.

And that concludes another random blog post by moi. It is now too late to start creative writing, so instead I will give kitty cats some snuggles and then go to bed.