High Time

High time for me to show up at my blog.

High time? It means “the time that something is due (bordering on overdue)” and alludes, I learn online, to the warmest part of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky. Which, gauging by my watch, is more or less this moment of writing, though the air is filled with smoke from British Columbia’s numerous wildfires and the sun is hidden and the light has an eerie cast.

In the steady turning of time from low to high and round again, H. and I have reached and passed a year here in Tsawwassen, and are still pleased to be here. We’ve also just reached and passed another year in our marriage, to 43, and are grateful for that.

There’s a strange eeriness in world happenings at the moment, with North Korea high in the news again, as it was just before Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey. During that iteration of tension and high time for something better than bluster and threat and “locked and loaded,” why not buy a painting? Or a good quality print, at least? I stepped into the local thrift shop, where secondhand art of various kinds adorns the walls, and was immediately compelled by a 1996 piece by Randall Lake, who to be honest, I’d never heard of. But like I say, I was compelled by the work, both price and quality higher than often in the shop, so I looked up the artist. Turns out he’s a Utah painter of fine landscapes and portraits and also searing social/political commentary with an interesting story. The print was framed in New Jersey. I have no idea who had it before it ended up in a Tsawwassen thrift store, but we have it now and I’m very happy about it, its sense of blue and serenity and invitation—an invitation that feels like the biblical psalms of trust to me for some reason—now hanging in our bedroom.

IMG_6142

About the same time I was purchasing the R. Lake print, David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic, noted on Twitter that in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his late father bought on credit a painting he couldn’t afford, figuring that if John F Kennedy could find a way to save the world, he’d find a way to pay for the painting. And, “If we’re going to die, let’s die with great art on the walls.”

edna-o-brienHigh time, yes, in so many ways, but never time not to enjoy art, pick blackberries, read a book. I’ve recently enjoyed Edna O’Brien’s The Little Red Chairs (if you don’t have time to read it, do listen to Eleanor Wachtel’s interview with O’Brien) and The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler, whose novel A Whole Life I raved about here. Both books are set in hard, high times in history.download

Time too, to walk. My brother Victor Doerksen is avid for walking, so if you’re a hiker, or prefer reading about hiking while curled in a chair, check out his new blog Beautiful Feet. I think you’ll be inspired by the photos and stories.

The pleasure of the puzzle

In his memoir Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov describes the pleasure of a jigsaw puzzle, which his mother loved:

What had seemed to be the limb of a horse would turn out to belong to an elm and the hitherto unplaceable piece would snugly fill up a gap in the mottled background, affording one the delicate thrill of an abstract and yet tactile satisfaction.

Yes, exactly that.

I enjoy jigsaw puzzles and used to allow myself one a year, at Christmas. I would take some care to choose “the right one” for the special annual ritual.IMG_6106

Now, since moving to B.C., I’ve almost always got a puzzle on the go. Mostly 500-piecers, which fit a small table I can set in front of the sofa, or move out of sight at will, many of them picked up at the local thrift stores, sometimes unopened, but generally used.

Every puzzle becomes its own event. Some are harder than others. There was one that had eight pieces missing once I’d assembled those in the box! But no big deal, it was the doing that mattered, not the product. (Gluing the puzzles together? Absolutely not!)

Another was a scene from Butchart Gardens. In the middle of it we went to Vancouver Island for several days, including an excursion to the Gardens. A bonus then, to see the scene for real.

IMG_6045

Spring 2017 garden

IMG_6087

Puzzle garden

I’m on my 17th by now. I finish one, pack it up and start another. I poke along, a little every day, while watching the news or listening to music.

I’m not sure how I ended up on this steady string of puzzling. Maybe it means I’m still in transition. Maybe it’s good for my brain, a kind of meditative state. Maybe it’s because I’ve never wanted to golf.

I’m not sure why, actually.

I suppose I could justify this activity by turning it into a metaphor, say it reminds me (as I work) of how life is accomplished piece by piece, or how eventually, patterns emerge or stuff fits together. That, after all, is what happens when I tackle an essay or some creative nonfiction. And I’m old enough to see patterns in my past. But that’s not what I’m thinking in the midst of. I’m simply looking for the next piece, challenging myself, relaxing, experiencing the “delicate thrill” of a fit.

Mom, 95 today

Reposted from Facebook, for the record.

This woman, my mother, is 95 today. Recently I came across something I’d forgotten, a line in a journal when I was 18 and she 46: “Mom and I went out into the bushes by the ball park to look for lady slippers…” It took me back to the person she was long before her current immobility and cognitive decline, never bound to domestic duty but curious, “let’s go see”, still linked by this delight in nature to her childhood spent on a Manitoba farm with its similar excursions into the woods… So grateful for her!

sc00c70117