Nourished by Nature

I think I am a bit nature obsessed sometimes.  Which actually puts me in my ‘happy place’.  I would definitely consider myself an extrovert, although I didn’t always feel that way.  My memories of my ‘youngen years’ is that when my parents took us to visit friends, I always preferred to hang out with the adults.  I don’t know if I was dreaming about what it would be like to one day be one… or if I was just unimpressed uncomfortable getting to know their friend’s kids.  I preferred sometimes to just observe; and sometimes I was just bored out of my mind, but none-the-less, when I think back to those moments in time I remember feeling like the ‘odd man out’ many times.  So, it could be that I ‘matured’ into an extrovert or became conditioned into one, or innately maybe I always was one.  I look back on all of the networking events I have gone to throughout my career, and I am usually quite ecstatic to just delve in there head on, make some connections, chat with people and find a common ground, but mostly, I just plain –  find people fascinating.   I love hearing their tales.  I love learning about their lives; where they come from, where they’re going and what makes them tick.  Typically an extrovert will become energized being around people… which makes perfect sense, because I do have difficulty winding down after a social event.  But I have always craved the quiet contemplation that nature offers me.  I love being surrounded by trees, the rhythmic rustling of their leaves, and listening to the water rush over the rocks; what an interesting dance it does over time as its gentle strength smooths away the rock’s hard rough edges.  I love the peaceful tranquility my soul feels when the sun warms my face, and how the moon embraces me in the dark of night.  That is powerful.  I think what I have realized about myself is that a group dynamic gives me a temporary rush of adrenaline, which can be exhilarating (kind of like being on stage, which I enjoyed immensely before adulthood kicked in), but my mind and soul can only feel truly nourished and rejuvenated by nature. IMG_2168
Photo Challenge Number 17, taken along the bike path on the Ottawa Rideau Canal in Ottawa.
April 2016

Behind Closed Doors

There is so much beautiful scenery in Ottawa, and many stunning homes along the Rideau Canal.  On any given day, there is something to appreciate and admire.  When I was a young gal my imagination circled around fashion, house design and decorating, which I guess is where my passion for all things ‘designery’ really began.

My dad was a very talented finishing carpenter, and I remember going to the job site with him on a number of occasions, where he showed me how to install spindles, baseboards, towel racks and toilet paper holders, and it is where I practiced the ‘art of sweeping’, though I will admit, I far prefer the vacuum.  I think he showed me these things for a number of reasons; to encourage my independence, build my self-confidence and to have someone who could do the mundane tasks so he could focus on his custom creations.  I cherish those memories. They nourished my appreciation for design and for the time I was able to spend with him.  Still to this day, when I walk by a house, my imagination wanders… and I wistfully dream of what is behind that closed door.

Fittingly, with these special memories etched in my mind, today’s photo challenge #11 is of a stately front door along the canal, which I was drawn to because of it’s lovely architectural elements melding so cohesively with its surround. Sometimes, it is the smallest details that can make something special, and what we may dismiss as the insignificant moments that can create such warm memories.

Front Door

Words of Wonder

I have always loved and adored the written word, and poetry in particular has always felt very moving;  like the image of tall grasses dancing in the wind.

It has been a number of year since I was so very fortunate to visit my Uncle Paul at his cottage on Chandos Lake, Ontario.  While I was growing up in Alberta as a young girl, he had already been living in the St. Catherine’s area, so I wasn’t able to see him often.  But when I moved to Ontario many a moon ago, I would visit when I could, and wait with bated breath as I clung to the words he shared of his youth or quietly ponder life as we stared out over the lake in silence.  His blue eyes, so reminiscent of my mom’s would sparkle with mischievousness as he relived his tales, and I would feel a special connection to home.   I don’t recall sharing my love of poetry with him, but I remember what a kind and loving gesture it was when he gifted me this book, and how he instinctively knew I would cherish it.  Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but I will always look back with fondness and gratitude for those moments in time I was able to spend with him.

Candian Poets book

Photo Challenge #3

Below is a poem from this book, written by Norah M Holland, a poet from Collingwood, Ontario. I thought this fitting, in my melancholy moment recalling memories of Uncle Paul… and seeing as our sweet Oreo (who sadly is also no longer with us) would accompany both Big D and I on our trips to the lake, it seemed applicable.

The Little Dog-Angel

High up in the courts of Heaven to-day
   A little dog-angel waits;
With the other angels he will not play.
   But he sits alone at the gates;
‘For I know that my master with come,’ says he:
‘And when he comes he will call for me.’

He sees the spirits that pass him by
    As they hasten towards the Throne.
And he watches them with a wistful eye
    As he sits at the gates alone;
‘But I know if I just wait patiently
That some day my master will come,’ says he.

And his master, far on the earth below,
    As he sits in his easy chair,
Forgets sometimes, and he whistles low
    For the dog that is not there;
And the little dog-angel cocks his ears,
And dreams that his master’s call he hears.

And I know, when at length his master waits
    Outside in the dark and cold
For the hand of Death to ope the gates
    That lead to those courts of gold,
The little dog-angel’s eager bark
Will comfort his soul in the shivering dark.

My father’s love lives on …

sherri with dad 1972 cropped and adjusted It’s crazy to think that 15 years ago today, the life of one of the most important people in my world, was suddenly over. Gone. Just like that.

I remember getting the call that he had almost died. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the fear. The tears. The anguish. And, that I was here. In Ottawa. Sitting in my little cubicle. Living my life, while my dad was fighting for his, and I didn’t even know it.

I look back on that time as though I was watching a movie in slow motion. I can hear the sob escape my lips, and see the desperation in my tears as deafening silence engulfs the office. Sixty people stop cold. No movement, no sound as the heavy hush falls. In my movie, I see my good friend rush over, grab my hands in hers, and my voice shakes as I tell her. Silence. Gripping fear. Real, desperate heartache. I hear my voice talking to the doctor, to see what shape he’s in now. And hear his deep soothing tone tell me “You’ll never regret coming, even if he was to get better”. breaking_hearts blog And… it is at that split second… that very specific moment in time, that I feel the ‘crunch’ of my heart cracking; it’s jagged tear echoing in my ears. I will never experience life the same. He won’t be getting better. This the beginning of the end. A piece of my heart will always be broken. Forever.

In a blur, I take the next flight home to Edmonton, where my best friend is waiting to take me to the hospital. I remember sitting outside in her car, sobbing. Again. Trying to muddle up the courage to see him. The hollow “click clack” of my shoes resonate against the linoleum floor of the empty corridor as I sneak into his room after visiting hours. I remember holding his hand in mine, the raised purplish veins under his skin, and the familiarity of his kind, gentle, warm touch. I can close my eyes still today, and see the same hazel eyes looking back at me, and hear him tell me “I almost didn’t make it today”. How the words hurt to hear, but the relief of being with him, even for a few minutes, hours or days were of comfort. He must’ve made a joke, because I remember smiling a real smile, not a sad smile. He had that way about him. That charm. That gentle soul. The one I still miss.

As the days passed, and we were all around him, I felt the warmth of his love mixed with the fear of losing him. Of never being able to see him again. To ask his sage advice, to sit with him in silence and watch the squirrels on our deck, to lay beside him, match his breathing and hear the ticking of his mechanical mitral heart valve pumping the blood in and out, or to hear the unexplainable joy in the sound of his laughter and telling of witty jokes.

dad alesiaThe day he died, my sister and I were trying to coax him into eating his lunch. My niece was just a baby (the apple of his eye), and my sister and I were both on the verge of bursting into tears, because it was just too hard. It was – too hard. It was hard for each of us, in the same ways, yet differently.  But mostly… it would’ve been the hardest on him;  in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend… or face.  My mom and brother were talking to the doctor… my sister had taken my niece to the lounge… and I sat with him, and tried to convince him to eat something. I heard the rasping of his shallow breathing, saw the very distant far away look in his flecked hazel/brown eyes, and knew something was… wrong. I remember desperately trying to press the nurse’s call button – and choking out a plea for help – and then running down the hall as fast as I could to find a nurse. I could feel the pounding in my chest, the panic and the feeling of wanting to scream as loud as I could; but not being able to.

By the time I had found everyone, he was with my brother and had taken his last breath. And … I had missed my chance to say goodbye … to hold his hand and reassure him so he wouldn’t be afraid and to tell him how much I loved and admired him. In my heart, I knew that he knew all the love we each carried for him, but… my heart’s regret is that I didn’t just stop and hold him… that I ran to find help… and that for a fraction of a second he may have been alone.

On the way to his funeral, we were all sitting in the car, and I can’t remember which one of us said it, but it was his classic line. “I’m okay… you okay?”… And I remember looking at my mom, and I think that was the first time we were all able to smile. And it was because we felt him with us. That he would always be with us, in the big and small ways. And that in moments such as this, we were reassured that he would always be a part of us.dad alesia and me

It took at least 6 months of deep hearted sobs every day, which tapered to every few days, then weekly, monthly and now, fifteen years later, in moments when I least expect it. The tears will trickle, and I can feel the ache of that hairline fracture that remains in my heart.

In our culture, we celebrate the lives of the people who have passed. At a young age, I was introduced to open casket funerals. I was five when my dad’s dad passed away, and I was scared to view his body at the funeral. My dad gently took me by the hand, and reassured me that everything was going to be okay. He led me past the pews, up the long red carpeted aisle to the coffin, where we stood in front of my grandpa’s body. My dad reached out and touched his hand, and took my hand to do the same. Nothing happened, and I remember distinctly that any fear I had , dissipated. We had annual gravesite visits at Provody; where baskets of food and Ukrainian bread lit with candles are laid on the graves, and they are blessed. The baskets are then given out, in memory of our loved ones, and the lives of those who passed are celebrated. As a young child, I knew that death was a part of life. And to this day, it brings me comfort knowing that each and every day my father’s life is celebrated in everything we do.

dad in boat croppedThe crack in my heart is still there, but it is healed by his memory; filled with joy from the time I spend with my family, and blessed with the love I see in my son’s smile when he laughs and expresses himself in ways that remind me of my dad, even though he passed before Mouks was born. It makes me think that my dad lives in more than just my memory, that he really is a part of each of us.

My dad worked hard, laughed heartily, enjoyed life, and loved deeply. He lived his life with integrity, joy, humour, trust, kindness, generousity, optimism and enthusiasm. It is my wish that I can live my life with the same abandonment. That any obstacles I am faced with, I can rise above them, and see the hope for tomorrow, the beauty in the moment I am in, and appreciation for the life I have been given. And to know, that no matter what, we’ll all be okay.

“I’m okay…..you okay?” Johnny Huculak

dad collage 2

Doggy Days…

Once upon a time there was a beautiful hound dog named Oreo, that snored her way into our hearts. (a.k.a Roar’eo, Snor’eo, Big O).  When the Big D and I got our first apartment (after a brief stint in his bachelor pad;  yup, those were close quarters;  we MUST’VE been in love!), we saw an ad in the community paper for some puppies that had been abandoned in a knapsack on the side of a road; 2 had suffocated, but 10 survived.  (Yeah… I know… it breaks my heart, disturbs me, and makes me so sad and mad all at the same time.  We said all the same bad words, so don’t hold back on my account)!  Anger aside, we opted for a visit, and there was one itty bitty black and white pooch left, named Oreo, who was about 8 weeks old.  We went to see her, she sniffed us, gave us slobbery kisses and showed off by  ‘peeing on the potty paper’.  It was love…. we brought her home the day after Valentine’s 1997.  She immediately made herself at home, flopped down on a floor cushion and proceeded to saw some serious Z’s.  Even though she was only the size of a football, her snores echoed throughout the apartment (and down the block).

We took Snor’eo everywhere.  One year we packed up my little red Festiva (ya-ya-ya-ya!!!) and drove to PEI for a bit of October car camping.  Okay… so we didn’t put a lot of forethought into how cold it would ACTUALLY  be and “yowza!” it was c-h-i-l-l-y!  In our little 3 man tent, Snor’eo kept us warm and she loved to chew on freshly cut firewood and hang out by the campfire in the hopes that a few dropped marshmallows would roll her way.   We explored the island and had a great trip.

Confederation Bridge

I remember being terrified to drive over that crazy long Confederation bridge that connects PEI to New Brunswick.  So, there I sat, petrified, as the Big D calmly maneuvered the car onto the bridge for the trek back home…. and then, as the car was gently rocking back and forth in the wind, I noticed it.

It was quite faint at first, actually.  I gave the air a quick ‘sniff’, and then it increased in pungency, creeping its way from the back seat, engulfing the car with its wicked stench.  It was the overpowering smell of terror that had escaped from Snor’eo’s bottom side.   She must’ve ‘passed wind’ in fear, and the stench was even more ferocious than her bark!  So, in true smacki fashion I made up a wee song to ease her nerves and mine, which I sang until we reached the other side safely…

“Your bum’s as big as PEI… as PEI… as PEI”
“Your bum’s as big as PEI.. and it smells like ocean fish!”

Some days, like today, I get very melancholy, especially when I remember her fondly in her heyday. It’s been just over nine months, since she passed on to the big doggy bone heaven in the sky, and not a day goes by in our house that we don’t miss that big ball of burly love.

She died the week before Christmas, 2011;  just shy of fifteen years old. It shook us all, even though we knew the days we had with her were getting shorter.  On that fateful Saturday, she faithfully followed the Big D into work, hoping to get her share of pepperoni from the pizzeria next door, and maybe some extra crust, as she did on most days.  It was there, later that morning, that she had her last bite of roasted chicken, and took her final breath in the Big D’s arms.

We all miss her.  Mouks had a really hard time, especially for the first few months.  He was nine at the time, and would lay in bed on many nights, write her name in the air, and cry;  deep hearted sobs of loss in the darkness, over the dog he loved so much.  It is one thing to lose your beloved pet, and to have to cope with that loss.  It is another, to see your child in despair, as he mourns the loss of his cherished pooch, and to watch him struggle to try and comprehend what happens when one dies.

I remember crying (well, more like bawling, with gushing tears and wet boogers) to the Big D one night and saying that I didn’t want to get another dog (EVER), because I didn’t want to feel this overwhelming sense of loss again.  But now, 9 months later, I feel differently.  A void is still left in our little family from the place she held in our lives.  We all know that big ball of love can never really be replaced, but we are getting closer to the stage where we can imagine another exuberant hound dog becoming part of our clan.   NOT, that I’ve been scouring through all the Ottawa rescue sites on a frequent basis, searching for the right ronker to live with us in Smackiland, or anything like that….   But, secretly, in my heart, I know that Roar’eo would like us to save another furry soul and open our hearts to loving another pooch one day.