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Archive for September, 2010

Peace

A casual observer, especially one from some lake-less area, might stand along the sandy pebble-strewn shore of our Lake Ontario, note the suspicious condition of the water — “utterly polluted” some say — and frown at the mottled brown hue beneath the waves.

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But wait: No frowns, man, no frowns here, just sea;

Heart-deep in silence, just the sea and me.

Did I say “sea”? Yet so it seems; so vast,

The smallest of the five, by seas outclassed;

At twenty thousand kilometers square,

Comparatively tiny, yet so fair.

Lake Ontario. The Atlantic seaboard and Long Island are seen at right. *

So fair, so fair. As one born and raised on the Pacific shore, the vast beauty of our lake is a constant joy.

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Hot sunlit skies, immense and almost white,

Fall singing to the line of lake and light.

Let others turn to business and that lot,

To Wall, and Bay, and bucks, and God knows what.

Who needs it, man? The lake alone, and peace;

The sun? Costs naught! The wheeling gulls and geese?

Warm sand beneath your feet? Costs zip, ma cher!

Not one thin dime, and man, it’s always there

To rest your soul, inspiring gently then

A kinder view of undeserving men.

Lake Ontario west of Toronto.

A million shades of green invest the lake,

Bright ribbons blue within its magic wake;

A sparkle flashes, ripples ’long the strand:

A wavelet curls, and diamonds burst on sand.

So many colors all in silence reign!

A gull calls, twice; two notes, then peace again.

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The pervasive peace, that always seems to take my hand, to join me in a stroll along the edge of my peaceful lake.

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* Map © Digital Wisdom Inc.

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Mouse

What is the answer to an unwanted house mouse? (“Unwanted”? Are mice ever actually desired?)

Most of us turn to the old fashioned mousetrap. Simple mechanism, and — when it works — 100% deadly effective. But often, as in the case of my mouse, the mouse will take the bait, but not trip the trap, due to faulty placement of the bait (or a cunning mouse).

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Then there are the mice with PhDs in Advanced Trap Avoidance.

My mouse took the trap away with him!

"Oh come on now, do I look like the fine, upstanding young chap who would steal a mousetrap?!"

That’s right! Took it away. Gone. No sign of it anywhere. Kind of frightening, really. What manner of mouse is this?! Six-foot-four, 250 pounds …? What’s he going to do with it? Maybe bait it with a bottle of beer and try to catch me?!

For us human mouse hunters, Mother Nature is slightly on our side. Nature has given the mouse a superb sense of smell. Unfortunately, as so often happens in dealings with Mother Nature, she gives with one hand and takes away with the other. No matter where you put the mouse trap, the mouse’s nose will lead him unerringly to the bait — and the final broad jump into eternity. It may be Nature’s way of controlling the mouse population, but mice, if asked, might not subscribe to that theory with any kind of enthusiasm.

I’m of two minds about mouse traps; they work, no two ways about that (ask a mouse, in that final second), but … well, mice aren’t really offensive like flies or cockroaches. Quiet little guys, cute to some, go about their lives without stepping on anyone’s toes.

But (sigh), give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, so I guess we have to draw a line, don’t we?

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Cheeses

Fat — in all its current transmogrifications — is apparently seen with distrust by many who are supposed to know. And this goes for cheese, too. Strange. I always thought cheese was good for you. And it is, of course. Wonderful flavour and topnotch nutrition. I mean, it comes from milk, the very basic food.

And try getting by without salt (sodium) in your diet. I suppose it is, as usual, a matter of quantity. A little goes a long way, so watch it. We should all observe the old maxim: Moderation in all things. (Frankly, I like to qualify that, especially when it comes to cheese. “Moderation in all things” — including moderation. Come on, let’s have another slice of cheese, eh? A nice big slice).

Cheese market in Holland, displaying rounds of Gouda cheese.

It may help you in planning your fat and salt intake to consider fat and sodium content in various cheeses:

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Percentages of fat and sodium in cheese are generally based on a specific serving of a three-centimetre cube — maybe a couple of tablespoons (30 grams) — which is not very much. Anyone who really enjoys cheese would easily consume three times that.

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There are few plates so attractive as a cheese plate. Most cheese retailers will happily make one for you. Go ahead, don’t wait for a party, get one just for you! (Think of it as your fat and salt quota for the day …) *

St Agur: fat 14% sodium 9%

St Paulin: fat 12% sodium 8%

Boursin: fat 20% sodium 9%

Havarti: fat 8% sodium 11%

Gouda:  fat 12%  sodium 6%

Gorgonzola:  fat 14%  sodium 10%

Roquefort:  fat 14%  sodium 18%

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Fat-wise, see Boursin and Havarti. And compare the sodium in Roquefort and Gouda. I wonder why the marked difference? Can anyone explain that?

You can’t help but think, regarding fat and sodium, that with some brands you might be wiser to eat the packaging instead.

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* Photo: D. Andress

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The New Names

I believe that in Québec married women now retain their maiden names. That, at least, is the way I understand it, though it would not be the first time I’ve been wrong. Let me know if I’m off base.

But let’s say I’ve “read the manual” and I’m correct in the matter of maiden name retention.

Does this mean that when Marie Tremblay marries Henri Boisvert she becomes Marie Tremblay-Boisvert? Sounds acceptable; Mayflower descendants have been doing it for generations. However, comparatively speaking there aren’t that many Mayflower descendants around; but there are millions of people in Québec.

How about their offspring? Would the Tremblay-Boisvert’s little girl, Gisèle Tremblay-Boisvert, perhaps marry an Aristide Leblanc-Courtois and produce a little boy called René-Tremblay-Boisvert-Leblanc-Courtois, who later marries his childhood sweetheart Annette Robillard-Groseillier-Bélanger-Bonnard (even though he can see what’s coming)?

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Imagine, a couple of generations later, a little kid in grade one is going to be asked by the teacher to stand and tell the class his name, and the kid is going to say, “You got ten minutes?”

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Illustration: © www.ClipProject.info

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Sea Birds

At day’s end the birds once more fill the skies. Whether it’s the last warm days of summer, or the cool days of spring, at the end of the day the birds are there, not quite as regular as clockwork, but close; you could almost set your watch.

Homeward, at day's end

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The high white sky bears geese whose lonesome call

In time with slowly beating wings, does fall

And echo down though waves of summer heat,

A higher counterpoint, a distant beat …

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Then, as afternoon grows older and the Canada geese have passed northbound overhead, the seagulls — in loose groups unlike the formal Vs of the geese — the gulls glide southward to the lake as the sun’s light fades.

The gulls have arrived, but the geese are still procrastinating, all those last minute things …

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A golden accent on the clouds: the sun’s descent.

Within the lake a gleam of sunlight spent;

It’s passing now; deep blue o’ershadows me;

Great flights of gulls, returning to their sea.

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Geriatrics

So long as time keeps passing, malgré nous,

and hair grows grey as hair is wont to do,

our thoughts revert to what has gone before:

Unhappy trips to memory’s distant shore.

Too often they are thoughts of what we lost,

reminding us so sadly of time’s cost.

Despite my muttering, senior citizenship can be a happy time.*

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Expensive are the memories of a year

that only tell us now our loss was dear.

Belief that senior citizenship is fine

is but the politician’s line, not mine.

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Still, I’m better off than most people: I started with nothing, and I still have all of it.

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Only a poet can look at old age and consider it calmly, academically, and compose a line or two on the subject. The rest of us, on the threshold of really serious years — lips pursed to kiss 79 goodbye — the rest of us look bitterly at the calendar and watch the weeks slip by. I tend to think what I’ve thought more than once: “I’d give ten years of my life to be 40 again.” Pretty good odds: Give 10, gain 39. I wish I could get those odds at the track.

After looking at the calendar I might try to laugh …

… but physical constraints do rise and vie

with what my optimistic mind says “Try!”

When “might” replaces “can” within my mind,

and “cannot” conquers “will,” I’ll often find

my second nature now a checklist needs,

and always serious thought precedes my deeds.

It’s body’s bitter contest with the heart:

When heart says “Go!” and body cannot start;

when heart and body both do long for bed,

but heart seeks joy, while body sleeps instead.

My body is to age a natural prey,

And years don’t listen to what hearts might say.

"Remaining hair" isn't a problem for these guys. And we think some of today’s customs are crazy! Really, these wigs: Whether for ceremony or to hide baldness, they’re the last word, and that word is a four-lettered one.

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Some friends, once firm like me in all their views,

now tolerantly change and take their cues

from brash intolerant Youth, and there they err,

dress smart, look “sharp,” and style remaining hair.

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Yeah, well, I consider myself pretty tolerant in most things, but I’ve never liked the idea of fighting the bitter fight against Time’s irrevocable incursions by striving to be forever young. That fight is lost before you start.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas does not entirely agree with me. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” he said. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Well, that figures; Dylan spent a good part of his life ranting about one thing or other, but I don’t think he spent any time combing his hair across a growing forehead, or shopping for clothing in the children’s department.

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* Photo: D. Grez

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Retrospection

The morning sun that leaps through trees outside

Palace Living Room, Near East. Not quite my living room, and those multi-million dollar Turkish carpets are miles away from my hardwood floors.

Will laugh at drapes half-drawn, and boldly play

Across my golden hardwood floors, and hide

In dust, and glowing, hold the dust at bay.

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I’ll have to do something about that dust …

Mid-September, and already there’s a winter sun pushing its way through the living room windows. The two front yard maples, though they still have most of their leaves, do little to cut that hard light, those brash rays that have a heavy substance, tangible, aggressive.

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Sunset with clouds, over Pacific Ocean. Get out your magnifying glass.

The sunlight lapping at the walls today…

Did this, the same thick yellow sun, once grace

My childhood walls, when I had years to play?

The same, but worlds away in time and space.

Now comes to mind once more that smiling place,

Whose broad Pacific skies above the sand

…broad Pacific skies above the sand

The gliding gull and wide-winged tern embrace,

And turn me, one more time, to that warm land:

To ride my friendly sunbeam back once more,

And walk, a child again, along that shore…

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Pleasant but pointless thoughts, really; the kind that generate equally aimless retrospection. Someone who’s big in algebra, or some kind of formula-based math, could probably come up with a snappy algebraic expression like “The square of one’s years is equal to pi times the lack of common sense plus vivid imagination to the nth degree. Then multiply the answer by two.”

But willy-nilly, retrospection remains, brought to life by that hard sunlight, and the old guy sitting at his desk is carried back in time, to gentler years, and a mind attuned to simpler pleasures …

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