Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things I have lost (and sometimes never found)


A to Z challenge 

Day 20: T is for Things I have lost 

Things I have lost (and sometimes never found):
  • a very important phone number
  • my favourite earring 
  • my innocence
  • directions to the wedding
  • my temper
  • my dignity (again)
  • my lipstick
  • my job
  • that well connected business card
  • my passport
  • my new glove (again)
  • my sock
  • the remote control
  • my wallet
  • my virginity
  • my willowy figure
  • my place in the book that was going to change my life 
  • my judgement
  • my faith
  • my final five dollars
  • my glasses
  • the combination to the bicycle lock
  • my bank card
  • my confidence
  • certain friends
  • my cat
  • my rhythm 
  • the big opportunity
  • my stupidity
  • my youth
  • my memory 
  • those god-damned keys (again)
  • you

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Surrender to serendipity

A to Z challenge 

Day 19: S is for Surrendering to serendipity 

Serendipity doesn’t happen with a GPS. When your entire route is planned, every turn decided, there is no room for happy accidents. You will never turn right instead of left to discover a cove where dragon flies dance. You may arrive on time but there will never be the pleasure of meeting that favourite person because you got lost.

Sometimes chance happenings in life are what we have been waiting for all along. Being in the right place at the right time usually involves some wrong turns along the way. Serendipity reminds us that discovery and invention still need a bit of magic. We need to stay open to intervention from the gods and hints from angels. You just can't plan for that.

Surrender to serendipity.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ricky Rincon comes home

A to Z challenge 

Day 18: R is for Ricky Rincon


Ricky Rincon arrived in Montreal on April 10. It had been a long journey for this little dog.

I rescued Ricky from the streets of Puerto Morelos in January 2011. I was back visiting my previous home and my friend Dinah had taken me up to the new development to show me all the changes. While she was in the local corner stone, I wandered out to the corner. 

Out from the shadows came this tiny, beaten up dog. I've seen lots of sad dogs in my travels that I felt compassion for but I've never acted before.

This tiny dog stood before me asking me to act. I saw a brave, smart dog who was taking a big gamble. Dinah had just started her sterilization clinics and rescue shelter. I asked her to take Ricky as one of her first dogs.

Ricky's first meal
When we went back to the corner and he had disappeared. We asked around and were told he was like a ghost since he would come and go without anyone seeing him.  We came back the next day, armed with tortillas and chicken, we lured the dog into the back of Dinah's truck.

He was in sad shape. Bleeding paws, missing hair, skinny and The first vet we visited took one look at him and told us to put him down. The second vet took him in and we gave this little dog a bath. The first time he had ever been touched. He had a look of amazement as we gently washed him. Obviously he had never been touched before. It took three baths before we realized he was actually a pure white dog with brown spots.

One month after rescue
We still hadn't come with a name for him and were in the waiting room of the Cancun vet who would become his primary doctor. 

Living La Vida Loca was playing on the radio when the receptionist asked for his name. The dog was hopping from one foot to the other in  time to the music.

"Ricky," I said.
"Ricky Rincon," said Dinah. "Because we found him on the corner. He let himself be led into the consulting room where it would be spending a lot of time.  

Ricky was in bad shape: Infected ears, nail grown so long they were embedded into his pads, open sores on his legs, fur infested with ticks and fleas, mange on his back legs, a badly healed break on a back leg and paw, heart filled with worms, and general poor health from chronic starvation. I went back to home thinking Ricky would be following soon.

It took three years to get him to Canada. Dinah kept Ricky and showered him with love and affection. She also brought him to his many vet appointments and nursed him through several operations.
Throughout his long convalesence, Ricky remained patient, gentle and loving. He developed some of his own tricks, like holding his own leash. He still tap danced when he got excited.

Ricky at the airport

Finally I was ready to have Ricky with me and he was healthy enough to travel. Some kind vacationers offered to fly Ricky to Montreal. He was coming to his forever home.

Ricky was calm at the airport. Dinah said he seemed to know he was going someplace else. He got into the car and then into his cage without any prompting. The plane ride must have been loud and frightening but Ricky never barked. He didn't wet his cage.

When I picked him up at the airport, he looked at me through the cage, calm and waiting to see what would happen.  In four hours this plucky dog had gone from living on the beach in a tropical country to the snow covered north.

Ricky on the couch

I wheeled him through the airport into the parking lot. An April snow storm was starting and there was light snow on the car. Ricky stayed silent while I pushed his cage into the car.

We arrived back at the house and I brought Ricky inside and opened the cage. He put one delicate paw out of the cage, stuck his tiny snout of the cage and then stepped out. My older dog, also born in Puerto Morelos, sniffed his ears. Ricky jumped up on the couch.

Add caption

He was home.

Dinah still has other dogs looking for their forever homes. If you're vacationing in Cancun, Puerto Morelos or Playa del Carmen consider becoming an escort and bringing adopted dogs to their forever homes up north. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quatre Vents

A to Z challenge 

Day 17: Q is for Quatre Vents

Quatre Vents Garden is a bit of magic in Charlevoix Quebec. Located on a hill, two hours north of Quebec City in the small hamlet of La Malbaie, this garden seems improbable.

How can something this lush grow in the harsh northern climate with a short growing season? The small miracle here is the moderating influence of the St. Lawrence River creating a  micro-climate allowing plants to bloom at the same time.

Photo: Suzanne Rivard-Day
Charlevoix is a wondrous region in itself. It’s one of the few inhabited meteorites on the planet, created by a celestial accident 350 million years ago. On one side of the 56-km wide crater is the village of Baie-Saint-Paul and on the opposite side the village of La Malbaie.

This is where the legendary horticulturist Francis H. Cabot settled.

Photo: Suzanne Rivard-Day

He named his garden for the winds that seem to come in four directions at once. The entire garden is a combination of framed vistas, intimate spaces, whimsical follies, hidden nooks and woodland gardens.

Each of Cabot’s 24 gardens evokes a different emotion and sensory experience. Nothing has been left to chance with meticulous detail yet Cabot has not subdued nature. He has nurtured it, enhancing natural lines and shapes so his landscapes don’t feel artificial or stilted. The garden flows into the surroundings creating a profound serenity.

One of the original garden, first planted in 1928, the White Garden was inspired by the classic English garden. Only white flowers bloom here. Cranesbill, lupins, lamium, hostas, peonies and phlox are just a few of the flowers found here. Cabot has placed a shallow oval pond with water-inked jet black to reflect the foliage of the various shades of white.

The Goose Allée is a narrow corridor with two magnificent perennials beds on either side set within a majestic double herbaceous border. The hedges have a dual purpose: they frame the colours but also protect the plants from harsh winter winds. This is a passage of purple delphiniums several metres deep bordered by blue aconites and violet campanulas offset by fluffy white astible and ornate peonies.

Photo: Suzanne Rivard-Day

Photo: Suzanne Rivard-Day
The Thuja Rondel is a circular collection of white cedar. At the centre of this great hedge is a round garden where an ancient millstone has been fashioned into a sundial. A series of corridors lead off into smaller garden areas with either a panoramic view of the landscape beyond or an intriguing statue such as the Chinese goddess of flowers.

Photo by Suzanne Rivard-Day

Cabot created his Watercourse corridor as a passage between the other gardens. A series of rectangular fountains flow from one into the other with their trademark dark waters. In order to break up the monotony of texture created by the sculpted cedars, Cabot planted beds of massed rhubarb plants.

Quatre Vents is blessed with a river on the property. In 1961, Cabot’s mother put a dam across the stream at the end of the Tapis Vert, creating a small man made lake that was nicknamed Laq Libellule for the dragonflies that danced over its waters. The moon bridge that passes over the natural river on the property was inspired by a visit to China. The arch has been designed to form a perfect circle when reflected in the water below.

Photo by Suzanne Rivard-Day
 The medieval-styled Pigeonnier is the signature building at Quatre Vents. Tucked away at the back of the garden, it appears unexpectedly as if out of a dream. In front, there is a long rectangular pool with its still black water acting as a mirror. The reflection motif continues with mirrors placed at the end of an Italian-styled corridor lined with trees and flowers.

Gardens close to the family home are both practical and beautiful. Fragrant herbs are planted just steps from the kitchen and the baker has been given her own garden where the outdoor oven is flanked by cedars groomed into the shapes of loaves. Beside that garden is the quirky sitting room, one of the newest gardens created in the 1980s, where hedges and trees are sculpted into the shapes of couches, armchairs and lamps. 

Cabot believed humour and whimsy were important elements for gardeners. He placed his follies (unexpected elements in a garden) throughout the garden. His musical frogs are found behind the Pigeonnier at opposite ends of a corridor. When you approach them, they break into music. Look closely and you will find other follies in the most unlikely places. 

Photo: Suzanne Rivard-Say
A series of paths lead to the Woodland garden, where Cabot has planted seven species of meconopsis (Himalayan blue poppies) and over 100 species of primroses—one of his favourite flowers. The garden also includes one of the best collections of Canadian woodland perennials, reflecting Cabot’s ongoing work with the Garden Conservancy.

Cabot’s final masterpiece was transforming the entire ravine area into a Japanese garden. Created by the designer Hiroshi Sakaguchi, the area took seven years to complete. Traditional Japanese structures include a viewing pavilion that faces the mountains, a sheltered bench, middle gate and a traditional tearoom constructed directly on the water. A stone walkway leads through the garden to the gigantic ostrich ferns and the man made waterfall of great granite boulders.

Emotions and sensuality are what a garden is all about. We should be transported from our regular preoccupations. With an open heart and soul we can be receptive to the images, scents, sounds, spaces, and views that surround us, as well as to the touch of the wind and the rain, to the peace everlasting of the “genius of the place.”
Francis Cabot, A Greater Perfection

Quatre Vent is only open to the public four days a year during the summer. Put it on your bucket list.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Pyjamas in Public

A to Z challenge 

Day 16: P is for Pyjamas in Public. Busted!

Pyjamas are comfortable clothing. I have trouble taking mine off even when going out in public. Every time I get caught, I promise to stop wearing jammies in public. I keep breaking that promise.

I first got caught in my pyjamas on the 401 just outside of Toronto. We were on our way to Ottawa. I had not gotten all the Vaseline out of my hair, rubbed into my scalp by my toddler daughter while I lay snoring on the couch. We were late to hit the road. My crappy apartment-sized dryer had not done its job and my clothes were still wet. I threw them into a garbage bag and then into the trunk alongside my daughter’s small suitcase. We were going to drive straight through where a dryer and home cooked meal waited for us. The tow truck driver was very kind not to say anything about my fleecy knee sticking out from my coat while I borrowed his care to call the auto club and renew my membership. He was very kind about the vaseline I left on the headset.

The next time I got caught in my jammies I was out grocery shopping. I was working at home on a deadline project and had been up all night while my daughter had her first sleepover. There was absolutely nothing to eat in the house. Not even a can of beans in the cupboard or some questionable yogurt at the back of the fridge. I was heading right back to the computer so what was the point of changing? I zipped out to the local grocery store without my keys. The landlord was an hour away. I lived close enough to the out patient clinic that the coffee shop staff assumed I was one of the psych patients with a day pass. They even put my melting ice cream in their fridge.

You think I would have learned my lesson after getting arrested in my jimjams. It was supposed to be a trip to the video store to pick up my daughter at the end of her shift and then back to bed. I wasn’t expecting the bored rookie cops to run my license plate and come back with an arrest warrant. They were taken a back when I refused to go to the police station on the grounds I was a middle-aged woman wearing pyjamas and no bra. I was serious when I warned them they would have to shoot me first. The evening ended with the rookie cops inside my home playing with our pets while we waited for their captain to call them back with instructions on how to reboot their computer. It had crashed when they tried to re-enter  my license plate with the correct numbers.

My grandmother was onto to me by then. She knew I wasn’t going to reform. Each birthday and Christmas she started buying me sets of beautiful lounge wear. “Wear some lipstick and comb your hair. No one will notice the rest,” she said. I also took a page from my friend Barb's fashion tips. When she threw on her black mink coat no one noticed what was underneath that glossy fur. My fake fur almost worked as well.

Fashionistas complain about the pajamafication of the nation. Teens might be making a statement wearing theirs in public but for adults this is a sign of our deep weariness. We are unconsciously missing the days when feeling vaguely sick meant Mom kept us at home.  After a day lounging in front of the TV in our PJs, sipping flat ginger ale, we would be miraculously cured.

In a few years, wearing public pyjamas won’t matter at all. As I get older I notice all my clothes are slowly morphing into pajamas with their elasticized waist, loose fitting legs, roomy arms and loose necklines. I’ve already got my wardrobe for the nursing home.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On to the beach

A to Z challenge

Day 15: O is for On to the beach


Photo by

On to the beach move.
No phone
No hot water in the kitchen.
My family is horrified.
My daughter afraid,
until she saw the frigates on the beach.
“I wish I could hang on the wind like they do,” she sighs.
“Soon,” I repl

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Neatness leads to perfection

A to Z challenge

Day 14: N is for Neatness


Neatness has always meant perfection to me. It was just within reach. If only I try a bit harder. Oh, to be able to colour perfectly between the lines. Oh, to be the girl with perfect ringlets and crisp dressed instead of the one with flyaway hair and wrinkled that wrinkled the minute I put them on.

I was the kid who spilt pencil shavings on the floor, who knocked over the painting water, trailed breadcrumbs from her lunch, and who said the wrong thing. Oh, the shame going through the whole day with my cardigan buttoned the wrong way. Somebody had noticed. So, that’s what they were laughing about during recess.

Most of all I wanted to be emotionally neat. I wanted to stop my tears and hide when I was angry or upset. My mother was so controlled she would not call out when she burned her hand while cooking. Silent, she would run water over her hand. My youngest sister had inherited this ability to cover her feelings. “Still waters run deep,” said my grandmother to my mother one afternoon when they were watching my sister doing her printing for school. I wanted their admiration for being still and silent. Instead I felt like a silly, babbling brook. Stupid and messy.

Being neat meant being reliable. Being neat meant pleasing people. Being neat meant not taking up too much room. Being neat meant being loved and accepted. I decided neatness would begin with my room. I spent hours each night folding everything in my drawers, making sure everything lined up perfectly. I would not be able to sleep unless everything was in place. Neatness on the outside would seep inside and I would stop losing control and finally be accepted by my mother.

The plan worked for a while but I forgot about my hair. Not my whole head, just the back of my head. What started off as a small knot of tangled hair grew to the size of a grapefruit. I covered it up for awhile but eventually it was too large to hide. It was itchy as well and one day my mother noticed my scratching. I cried when my long hair was turned into a “pixie” cut. I hated my hair but my mother was right. It was neat and easier to look after.

I began to cancel out activities. No more colouring – too messy. No more baking in the kitchen – too messy. Reading was ok since nothing would be disturbed. I would practice my perfect hospital bed corners instead. I created a schedule for improvement in intervals of 15 minutes. Most of the time I didn’t keep to it.

The neat room did not stop the madness of my family or my own. It proved a great distraction until I was old enough to escape.