The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

31 October 2012

Of Swiss dots and super storms

This is where I'm sitting  right in this very moment as I commune with my laptop, intending to write.  (And watch the Chelsea v Manchester United match) Instead, I get lost in contemplating the grey sky, or admiring the Swiss dot pattern of the curtain. The rain has been falling for days, and the wind has been blowing intermittently for just as long. Today is a perfect Thinking Day. Some days do seem reflective in nature, don't they?  I sit in my cozy chair, practically in my little windowsill garden thinking about the state of the world and my part in it.  There are terrible natural disasters occurring on both sides of my country.  To the south of me, a very important election is very nearly winding to a close and I'm very concerned about the results.

New Town has been on the receiving end of only the very mildest effects of Sandy - now called Super Storm Sandy in the news around here.  It's been exciting to follow updates of storm surges, wave heights, flooded subways, freakish happenings like the side of a building falling away....  But now the reality of it is setting in.  Several days have passed, and people are having to live with the consequences of that ruined building, those flooded subways, and the lack of electricity.  The enormity of what this Super Storm has wrought is so far beyond my comprehension that is just isn't real for me.  I keep you all in my thoughts and prayers, however, and hope you are all safe and sound. For any of you on the Left Coast, I pray that God keep you and yours safe from the devastating effects of the earthquakes. As for upcoming elections - both American and our own here in Ontario... o, dear Lord, help.

27 October 2012

Casting a light

Lighting in my flat is interesting.  The living room and kitchen have those overhead lights that make the room feel like an operating theatre.  As I don't have to suture anyone, and don't particularly admire the ambience of operating theatres, I use what is known to interior designers as 'task lighting'.  More about that later.

The bedroom doesn't have an overhead light. Instead, there is a lamp on one wall with a little twisty switch on the base. It looks, cunningly, like an old fashioned gaslight fitting, and like old fashioned gaslight, it flickers.  Only when it flickers off, it forgets to flicker on.  There have been times when I have been in the bowels of my closet and the room has plunged into darkness. "Thank goodness", I say to myself, "this closet is so small, or else how would I get out of here in all this dark?"

The bathroom light fixture is wired up to the exhaust fan.  The primary function of this fan is to make a great deal of noise.  I have tried to explain (sometimes through pleading) that it should also remove the moisture in the room, but it continues to do things its own way. During the height of summer, I could on occasion take my shower, eat breakfast, wait, eat lunch, then go back to find the mirror was just about clear.

The kitchen's overhead light burned out a few months ago, and as the ceilings are roughly 30 feet high (no, obviously they're not, but as I cannot jump high enough, nor do I have a chair tall enough to reach, the point is moo.)  (And yes, I totally meant moo.  Didn't you watch Friends?)

In each room I have set up table lamps. Some of them are quite nice; most of them are cute Ikea lamps. Even the bathroom has one.  The difficulty lies in the quaintsome charm of this old house.  In the living room there are only two working outlets.  Well, three, but one of them is scary... and that's another story.  This means I use a lot of extension cords etc. in order to plug in all that needs plugging in.  It also means there is a black hole in the living room.  The arm chair is placed perfectly in the one spot not covered by arcs of light from the lamps I already owned.  So I hunted for, and found, a lovely floor lamp.  I was very pleased with my purchase.  However, once I got it home and tried to find the right place for it, nothing works.  The light either comes blindingly over my shoulder, casting great shadows over what I'm trying to read, or it looms in front of me like an ominous contraption used for interrogations.

I often wonder what people can see of me through the window as they pass by on the street. Some evenings I'm up and down like a jack-in-the-box, moving the lamp this way and that, trying to find the sweet spot where I have enough light to read by, but not so much I'm willing to divulge highly sensitive state secrets.

I'm thinking of giving up on the whole lighting scheme and going with one of those miner's hats with the flashlight stuck to the front. That way I'll always be able to see where I'm at and what I'm looking at. Think of the savings on the hydro bill! And, my goodness, talk about ambience! Might be a little rough on the hairdo, but it just might be worth a try.

26 October 2012

It only took a second...

... of not paying attention, or so it seems, for the house to take on a neglected air.

I'm not a messy person, you understand. I am, however, perfectly capable of walking past the same pair of shoes for five days before putting them away, or leaving a glass on the desk for a full week before bringing it to the kitchen. (Don't get too grossed out, it was a water glass.)

It's been a busy week at work, with more busy days ahead.  I'm ever so grateful for the extra hours, but something's gotta give. Apparently what gives is the usually tidy state of my apartment.  I'm pretty sure I've been awake every day for the last week, so I should have noticed when it happened, and yet, here I am in the middle of, well, a pig stye, frankly, and I didn't see it coming.

Leaves falling off the trees have taken to blowing into the kitchen when I open the door; they now make a nice decorative statement on the floor. Laundry is drying on the rack - or more to the point is dry on the rack and needs to be put away. I've got slacks and tops hanging from hangers in the doorways. Odds and ends of dishes I haven't washed are stacked on the counter. A pile of shoes I've worn this week haven't moved from beside the door to their bin in the closet. Books are in unsorted piles on the table, my desk is covered in notebooks and paper, and cables. The bathroom is cluttered with tubes and pots and jars I haven't put back in the cupboard. The recycling is sitting out in the kitchen because when I brought the bag back inside on garbage day, I couldn't be bothered to set it back up in the pantry.

The house isn't exactly dirty. It certainly isn't unsanitary.  But it is disorganized and slightly chaotic, which makes me feel disorganized and slightly chaotic. I keep losing track of what day it is, and what I'm supposed to be doing. I think the confusion at home has something to do with it.

It only took a second.

24 October 2012


Politics.  Does the word make you weary?  Frustrated? Angry?  Indifferent?

The word and its reality cannot be avoided, these days.  If you live here in Ontario we are about to undergo a provincial election, with the prospect of yet another federal election threatening the near horizon (once the Liberal party sorts out its leadership) and to the south of us, the great battle royal in the US – the seemingly never ending presidential election.

I admit I’m tired of it all.  Not politics itself, but the posturing, the speechifying, the tattle taling/name calling scandal broth of it all. I’m frustrated beyond measure at the irresponsible way the press has of covering the news – and I mean this about both sides of the political spectrum. I’m disappointed in the way people have of talking about and writing about politicians, as if the fact that they are politicians gives us permission to shred their character.

When discussing politics and deciding how to cast our vote, it isn’t necessary to turn nasty. We may not like the candidate we aren’t voting for, but let's remember the dignity inherent in every human being, the respect each person deserves. Let’s challenge the argument, and not attack the person. The "other side" may think - and live - differently than we do, but that doesn't make them stupid. I'm tired of wild, inflammatory talk. The issues at stake are far too important to be treated so carelessly.

Have you noticed how little public discourse there actually is about the important issues?  Instead, we trade insulting quips, and slurs, and try to one-up the other side with rumours and ‘gates’ (White Watergate, Benghazigate, etc.)

This is the thing: both sides believe the other side is lying, and misguided.  In reality, both sides are.  Egos get in the way; desire for power gets in the way; the need to be right gets in the way.  The real issue gets overlooked: governance, in service of the people.  We need stewardship and leadership, not rhetoric and posturing. And along the way we have fallen into the habit of scandal mongering. It's perfectly right to disagree with a person's ideas when they differ from your own, but to malign the person for having those ideas is ineffective and can be destructive.   

Differences of ideology are important.  We’re meant to challenge and temper each other from either side of the political spectrum. Being socially or morally opposed to another’s ideas is not a bad thing. It is in fact invaluable to the system – it keeps the government moderate, which keeps life running smoothly, regardless of who happens to be in power. There has been enough evidence in recent history of what departure from moderation means for society. Having moderate government should allow the very conservative and the very liberal to coexist without infringement or compulsion.

The important distinction is the emphasis on questioning ideology or policy rather than attacking the individual. I'm challenging myself here as well: from now on, to respect the man (or woman) and discuss the ideas instead.

19 October 2012


Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add...
but when nothing else needs to be taken away.

Words to write by.

(Quotation ineptly lifted from Fr. Newfoundland's homily today)

18 October 2012

A tippy kind of post

When trying to save yourself a little time and think you are being clever... don't do it!  Invariably whatever time saving scheme you have devised will cause trouble, snafus, confusion, and inconvenience you never would have thought of, costing you more time than the original plan would have done.  New and improved isn't always better or smarter.

A little rain never hurt a soul. As it was sprinkling a little on my way to work, and I really felt like I needed a cup of heaven to help me through my evening shift (steeped tea, 2 milk, 1 sugar from Canada's favourite coffee-pouring hockey player) I decided to use the drive through (drive thru, for my American friends).  I was trying to save my delicate self from melting in the rain, you see.  That is how I found myself sitting behind one of those people who very thoughtfully let cars in the other lane go ahead of her, apparently oblivious to the wildly gesticulating woman in the car behind her. The moral of this story illustrates the handy tip posted above: looking for an easier/quicker way seldom works out the way you imagined. If I'd trusted my hair to survive a few raindrops, I would have had time to enjoy my cup of tea.

Ladies, I'm sorry to tell you this, but no matter how cute are the shoes, if you can't walk in them, don't wear them. There are few things as awkward as a woman tottering or clumping in her high heels. I may have mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating.

I was orginally schduled to work on the main floor tonight, with a colleague I really enjoy being teamed with.  However, the assignments were shuffled and I found myself slated to work a desk I don't enjoy as much. I  moaned about this (mostly inwardly) quite a lot because I'm here at this desk for four hours three days in a row.  That's a tough assignment.  Not as tough as three tours of duty in an active theatre of war, I understand  that. It was tough enough that I pitied myself, even though only for a little while.  Do you know what happened?  There is a large picture window at the far end of the room up here, overlooking a rather nice view, mostly missing the rooftops of the city between me and the far distance, but framing trees and a vast expanse of horizon. We've had rather dramatic weather today, and there was a stunning display of saturated blues and greens stretching as far as I could see.  Against this backdrop I was able to watch the sun go down.  It was a stunningly beautiful sight, filling me up with the goodness that comes from experiencing something beautiful.  The tip I offer you is this: when something isn't going the way you would like it to, be on the watch for something wonderful to result from the unexpected.

Tip number five: always have gum or breathmints in your pocket.

17 October 2012

Rusty silence

Have you missed me?
It occurs to me what a ridiculously egotistical thing it is to keep a blog like this.  If I were writing social commentary, deep political insights, or providing hard to find information about button collecting, there would be some point for me to keep writing, and you to keep reading (provided you were intrigued by social commentary, deep political insights, or button collecting).  As it is, all I give you is the ramblings of my rusty mind with the occasional bit of deeper reflection thrown in.  Thank you for being here!

Seems to have been an age since I wrote anything, and the longer silence reigns, the harder it is to break it.  I've been hampered somewhat by ongoing technical issues and a small personal tsunami that must be dealt with before I feel intact enough to resume sharing those ramblings.

In the interim, I have begun to reread The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) in preparation for the upcoming and long-awaited movie adaptation from Peter Jackson and his ever so brilliant team that brought us The Lord of the Rings at the turn of the millenium.  Are you a Tolkien fan?  Have you seen the trilogy?  Will you go to see The Hobbit?  How excited are you to see Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, and how sad are you that there will be no Aragorn to lead them all to safety?

12 October 2012

Days and days

Tis Friday once more. Why do some days have a golden glow solely because they are what they are? Do you suppose we also have such a golden glow, simply because we are what we are?  If so, are some of us then Mondays, rather grey and gloomy and half-hearted?

May you always be a Friday.

03 October 2012

Adventures in the kitchen with Tess

You may have gleaned, dear Reader, that I am not a shining star when it comes to the culinary arts.  Try as I might, things just seem to go slightly wrong -  from overflowing, unset grape pie, to pans that catch fire.

It continues.

Several weeks ago now, I purchased four adorable little peppers - cute as buttons they were, from the local farmer's market. They looked like ordinary peppers your mother might have stuffed with an interesting ground meat mixture in your childhood.  I also bought a basket of seedless coronation grapes (table grapes or concord grapes, depending on where you live).  I was so looking forward to a week of yummy goodness fresh out of a garden nearby (this is what you always imagine with farmer's markets - that Joe has just that morning plucked the pepper right from his own fields and lovingly transported them into town just for you.  Sadly, some vendors purchase their goods from the local grocery store just as I might have done, and are reselling the produce from their booth.  Still, I prefer to keep the dream of Farmer Joe alive in my mind.)

The next day I settled in with a bowl of beautiful, freshly washed seedless grapes - tiny blue jewels of sweet juiciness. I spit the first mouthful out. The seedless grapes had seeds. Not just a few seeds, but at least 32. In each tiny grape. Multiplied by a hundred grapes, that's a lot of seeds to have to spit out.

So I decided to be clever.  I mashed the grapes by hand into a sieve so I would be able to enjoy the fabulous juice without the annoyance of seeds. It was quite a lot of fun, actually, though it took some doing.  By the time every grape was squished, I had precisely one cup - 8 oz. of grape juice. The basket of grapes had cost me $5.  A pretty expensive glass of juice, wouldn't you say? And for all my effort, my palms and fingers were faintly stinging. I learned later this was probably from the tannin in the grapes. I have a whole new sympathy for grape stompers.

That same evening I cooked up a big batch of spaghetti sauce, using most of that week's allotment of vegetables - including one of the peppers. When chopping the peppers I noticed my fingers felt a little raw and my eyes felt a little filmy, but didn't pay it any mind.  On adding the peppers to the sauce, I began to smell a slight scorched aroma, but on stirring things around didn't notice anything sticking to the bottom, so I carried on with other things.

After the sauce had bubbled away for some time, it was with great anticipation that I took out a spoon to taste my creation.  And discovered I had bought hot peppers. Dry your sinus mucous, equivalent to volcanic lava kind of hot. My taste buds ran screaming out of the house in abject refusal to have anything more to do with what was in that pot. So I tried everything I could think of - I added cheese, plain yoghurt, tomato paste, lemon, water, sugar, testing each time to see if it made an appreciable difference.  I finally got it to the point where I could eat it - tears streaming down my face - but by that point it surely did taste... interesting.

It took me a week to get through it all.

Now, I wasn't going to bring this up as some of you have been through this drama with me via a social networking site I wont name, and I do apologize most sincerely for the repetition... but Reader, it happened again!  Oh, not the peppers.  I'll never be conned by the cuteness of a tiny pepper ever again.  It was the grapes!  I bought another basket of grapes two days ago, and it very clearly said right on the basket SEEDLESS.  I even tasted one in the store (why is it you can't taste the oranges before you buy them?  How disappointing is it to bring home what you think are going to be beautiful, juicy oranges only to discover they are mealy and dry?) There was a suggestion, ever so faint, of a seed in the grape I tried and considered that worth it for the gorgeous grapey juice that comes with it. So I brought them home with me, and the next day to work for lunch.  Well, imagine my shock when I ended up with a mouthful of seeds.  Again, I'd been had by false grape advertising.

I'm off grapes now. It'll be a long time before they're able to convince me of their seedlessness.

Anyway.  It's a laugh-a-minute in Tess's kitchen.  If you'd like to stay for supper, I've got some nice sauce simmering away on the stove....

01 October 2012

Of Alfred and his cheeks

I ate lunch with a chipmunk today. He sat beside me the whole time – possibly because I fed him scraps.  Chipmunk-safe scraps, I assure you. He was full of quick, nervous movements as he filled his cheeks so full they were wider than his belly, his beautiful brown eyes watchful. I tried to call him Chippy or Chip or Dale, but he assured me his name was Alfred. We arranged to meet again on Wednesday if the weather is fine.