The Tapestry of a Day

Our place is now, tomorrow will come.

Ours is a mill town, its history well rooted in textiles and the power of a river to create the warp and weft of lives. Yesterday was my tapestry of a day – tightly woven with the delightful demands of the day, high temperatures and the waning of winter. A day bursting with tales to be told and a season of change on so many fronts.

And just as every tale is tempered by a larger story, so we began the morning marking the first pandemic year. A year to the day it was – only a year?  Now vaccines and variants joust with each other on the news feed and in casual conversations as we attempt to wrap ourselves in comfort.  Upon the memories of brutal losses worldwide and new ways of being that are not quite yet ready to end, we attempted to untangle the knots of our time and then, relinquished ourselves to the day. 

In front of the seed trays soon to be filled, I received an email oozing with the promise of sweetness and spring.  We sensed a beginning and it was sublime. A friend had tapped the maples and invited orders for syrup, offering the temptations of enjoying a walk through the sugar bush soon.  Here in the Ottawa Valley, maple sap runs in copious amounts when the temperatures swing between highs in the day and lows at night – as do the visions of calories pouring onto pancakes and, oh my, beans and French toast!  It’s going to be a tasty month.

The temperature hit 15 degrees Celsius and broke records – I’ll worry about that longer-term implication later – but then it meant a focus on the garden-to-be, or not-to-be if I didn’t get going on it.

Hundreds of seeds, may have been thousands, were planted.  Using cutting edge technology – an old pen – I poked holes in rooting soil, used eyebrow tweezers (why use them for anything else right now?) to deftly place each seed into its dusky home and poked name-tag-popsicle-sticks in each.  The tags will get lost at some point, it’s a well-honed tradition, but at least for a moment or two, I felt like a competent gardener.  

Even the smallest seeds had stories. Some were purchased online – a key strategy these days – from favoured provisioners and horticultural clubs; others from friends who will enjoy spending time sitting near the plants and exclaiming later in the year; and then our own stash which had been stored and patiently waiting, in envelopes and mason jars.  A veritable smorgasbord of blooms, herbs and veg just waiting for germination.

Every beam of sunlight was now a welcome garden co-conspirator.  Every drip of water, life. Every bright window ledge – bathroom and bedroom included – is now festooned with pots, trays and green potential. And yes, there was already colour as cuttings taken from last summer’s mother plants were placed just so – a foil for those containers that might be mistaken for just some soil. Ha – just wait.

And the water dripped, dripped, dripped from eavestroughs and branches as when outside without jackets, just sweaters and loose scarves, we breathed in the complex scents of early spring. Drip, drip, drip – we eyed the upturned rainbarrels – not yet. 

Needing to further enter this perfect fabric of a day, maybe to imagine the time ahead when spontaneity will again rule the day, we took the time to visit the opening bay.

There the waters swirled and eddied by as the ice changed its solid state back to liquid, twisting like a chameleon flowing down the river. The two Canadian geese had braved the winter here on ice and snow,  and were now swimming in opening waters and joined by a third.  Overhead the V-shapes of spring migration had begun and perhaps old friends were now reacquainted. No doubt our small support group of geese feeders heaved a sigh of relief – the beasties made it through! And so had we.

No doubt we all thought of times ahead when we too will weave our own stories together again, side-by-side. Maybe on the river, the street or in the garden; building on what we have learned. Our place is now, tomorrow will come.

Thanks-be-given

The holiday is an embracing of a successful harvest, community and gratitude. How could this not appeal this year in particular, and indeed every year?

Here in eastern Ontario, Thanksgiving Day opened onto a cool, bright morning. The farmer across the road was bringing in the soy crop and we were treated to the dust of a good harvest wafting over the hedge, the sun dancing gleefully through the haze.  There is no Hallmark card for the moment. 

Pumpkins and gourds on table

Thanksgiving is my favourite celebration. No festooning of trees, no retail mayhem, no incessant saccharine music in every store.  There are no pressures of gifting except the most essential gift of time and companionship – easily shared. The holiday is an embracing of a successful harvest, community and gratitude.  How could this not appeal this year in particular, and indeed every year?

The shadows of this pandemic and political time were swept aside by the chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and blue jays on the feeders, by the perfection of a morning, by the choice we made to focus this day on the greater garden around us. 

The ways of sharing felt different this year – electronic pulses more than elbows nudging over a good joke. Early morning there was a crop of well-wishers on social media – the newer, electronic garden where words replace touch and proximity.  Only a brief sadness settled in when the distance between sender and sendee was thought about, even as we smiled at the 10 – 100 joyful words on laptop and phone screens. To be read and re-read again.

Sunny day with families safely distanced
Wood piles with hay and pumpkins

Next was a road trip to a local tree farm.  There pancakes were expertly flipped to order on the outside porch and maple syrup from this year’s arboreal haul was poured liberally – much to the delight of the small swarm of wasps entranced by the sweet temptation.  But no garden is without bugs, birds and blooms – they are all intimately interconnected. Children played on hay bales, flew through the air suspended on a line from one pillar to another to the delight of a puppy who stared and stared, parents stood by masked and sharing plans for the dinners they would have later.  We watched it all and warmed to the companionship of others – a garden of fellows on this holiday in isolated times.

We left with treasure stuffed deep into a paper bag – homemade jams and a huge bottle of local maple syrup, ‘cause knowing the maker just means a sweeter experience all around.  Three would be for friends – strawberry jam to a senior neighbour on the street who has treated me to tea and stories of a life well lived; Toe Jam to a friend who shares humour, politics and furry companions; and Middle Age Spread (lemon and orange) that waits on a sideboard for another who shares many adventures with us. Sweet delights to cultivate the garden of friendship.

Crystal vase filled with maple leaf branches

The dinner table – set for we two – was festooned with maple leaves on their woody stems placed just so in a crystal vase from my mum, now gone, while the meal was an amalgam of delights from local entrepreneurs.  It was a decision to fill the table with all that was tasty from those local business owners who have had to navigate this unique year in new and different ways. Roasted veg, garlic mashed potatoes, lentil loaf, hand pies baked resplendent with mushroom filling and turkey with stuffing. All this nudging up against red and green lettuce from our garden that keeps on giving even in the cooling air, whose leaves mark the plenty that was grown. And to end it all, a perfectly seasoned pumpkin pie from our local baker, complete with a pastry pumpkin placed precisely in the very centre allowing thick whipped cream to encircle it in a caloric hug. This meal was not the first where we celebrated the gifts of others, nor would it be the last. We raised a toast and gave thanks for living in a vibrant, creative community which will make it through whatever times are ahead.  

Throughout it all, each hour of this day, we thought of times shared with friends and family, so glad for those moments stored deep inside to be looked at and relived, whenever needed.  Our personal garden of memory and an appetite for more!

Painted signpost against a tree saying: Enjoy a season of change!

And as it must, so the day ended and the sun began to sink behind the cedar hedge in the west. 

The silver and red maples in front of our dining room seemed to stretch out each leaf before they tumbled to the ground in a glowing curtain.  A fitting moment, nature saying time is right to face a change in season and to be grateful for this day – this thanks-be-given day.