Ice fishing with Greg

Ice Fishing with Greg

On occasion of my youngest brother, Greg, turning 52 I am posting this picture which is taken on the ice at Dickie Lake probably in 1970.  That would make me almost 8 years old and Greg almost 4 years old as we are both February birthdays.

If you look at our fishing rods, mine is straight and Greg’s is crooked like a stick, because, well… it is a stick.  Did someone tie some mono-filament or maybe the older black nylon fishing line on the end?  Maybe… but twouldn’t really be necessary as we weren’t going to be catching any fish that winter’s day.  I’m guessing that the bait was a small chunk of bacon as worms would have been scarce that time of year and we just always had dad’s bacon available.

Without any doubt we had a childhood that would be hard to duplicate in these days.  The monastic solitude of a winter day at the cottage would not be destroyed by access to the internet, by television or even a fish-finder that might tell us to save our bacon the fish were nowhere to be found.  These were the days that if you had a dad to chop a hole in the ice and some good wet packing snow to make snowmen with then you had everything you needed to keep you occupied, well at least until mom called us for lunch.

Greg, you’ve had the privilege and responsibility to be that dad to your four girls.  I’m quite sure you’ve done a good job in spite of all the distractions that the 21st century muddled our minds with.  We can’t go back to that simpler time, but if there was a time machine and we just had a day, I’d love to go back to the cottage in 1970 and go ice fishing with Greg.

eulogy

015_HaroldDettweiler_portraitat29On Wednesday morning, the day of Dad’s funeral service, I woke early and went downstairs with my iPad to write out my eulogy in full. A search for the words of the verse I had gone to bed meditating on turned it up in Psalm 116:15. I have a developed preference for quoting complete passages of scripture, whenever possible, and I saw that this Psalm had both several All-Star verses (the type we might highlight) and had an overall theme which is more than compatible with describing the life experience of one who “calls on the Lord”. I decided early to read the Psalm in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version, not because it is any stronger or says more what I’d like to say in that version but because I know my weakness and how I can become incapable of continuing to speak when Scripture slays me with its “sharper than a two-edged sword” nature. Eugene Peterson uses different words and perhaps I thought that these words would be somewhat duller to my emotions. So there I was, in a different way than usual, using the words of Scripture for my purposes.

I am a fan of historical fiction, especially when the writer has done his or her research. Much of the time that I spent sitting in Dad’s room at A.R. Goudie I needed no more occupation than to think about dad’s life. In my eulogy, I tie the dated photo [January 1948] of dad with 120 other students at Kitchener Bible School with a note that dad wrote about his “first job” which included milking Uncle Norman’s cows besides their own. When he wrote that he would hitch up the horse to the sled in the winter and head across the fields in the morning I had a romantic image that I just couldn’t resist. It is quite probable, now that I’ve done a quick Google of Howard Dettweiler’s birth year, that Dad was referring to his chores circa 1936, when he, as a 14 year-old, would be more capable of hand-milking cows than 7 year-old Howie, Uncle Norman’s only son. But a little compression of a lot of chore-doing between 1936 and 1948 is only taking a tiny bit of poetic license.

some of Kitchener bible school January 1948 studentsAmong the witty one-liners that Dad so often used in Karen’s biographical exercise book to avoid the hard work of filling out the facts, there are, in fact, a few interesting facts. It is recorded that Dad made Mom’s acquaintance (for the first time?) when he was invited to Cecil Mader’s Sunday dinner (dad’s employer from 1943 through to 1946) along with the [all-girl] Arthur Hachborn family who went to the same Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Breslau as the Maders. Mom verified [in a phone call today] that this would have been when she was 15 or 16 years old. I said in the eulogy that Hitler delayed dads life, but that God uses for good what was intended for evil. I’ve no doubt that Harold took note of the young woman, Margaret, on that Sunday dinner in 1943. I can imagine him contemplating if God was beginning to call him to the church that in 1947, after the war, changed its name to the “United Missionary Church”. A girl hardly 16 is much too young to be a wife, however, and Mom was busy boarding in Kitchener to continue her education at K.C.I. The next we hear of Dad and Mom is Christmas of 1948 when the youth groups join to go carolling. Margaret is now 20 years old and Harold is not going to miss his opportunity to drive Margaret home and begin a 4 year courtship.

When I read the eulogy based on Psalm 116, I finished with an uninterrupted reading of verses 16 through 19. Bear in mind I was expecting to have difficulty delivering this eulogy without choking up and being unable to speak. Carol and I had prayed that I would be able, contrary to many previous experiences, to overcome my emotions, so often brought on by the word of God, and deliver this to the end. By the grace of God I had reached this point without any tears or debilitating emotion and, I must say, I was rather elated. It could be that I stretched my hands in the air as I read with the psalmist “Oh God, here I am, your servant”. Afterwards at least one person described my delivery as being “like a Pentecostal preacher”. I must say that careful listeners might have noted that I did ask that they consider these last words of Psalm 116 as the “theme song of Dad’s life”. As I entered into the character of my father addressing these words to the Lord, I just don’t see him doing it with nonchalance or with his hands in his pockets. This is not a kid struggling through a scripture passage and missing the meaning of the words. I know I get a lot of practice, singing in a gospel choir, but Dad will seize the moment when he stands before his creator and he will break forth with all the emotion that God gives him and give praise, give blessing to God.

My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentations.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

Vanity Fair

On Friday, I decided to end my work day with a walk downtown for a much-needed haircut.  It’s always a pleasant experience for me at Icone Coiffure.  Brenda Desmarais has been cutting my hair for approaching ten years now  – it’s a sure thing.

Another sure thing is that afterwards I take the Sainte Catherine street route home.  Contrary to my wife, Carol, I really like visiting the shops.  So I went that way.

I must say I was disciplined to walk right on by the audio shop where I most recently purchased a centre speaker for my home theatre system.  I considered whether I should look at the next possible addition to the home theatre system, but, like I said, I was disciplined and stayed away on the other side of the street.

Immediately after, I crossed over the street for the H & M store where they promised special one-day only bargains.  H & M specializes in cheap fashion.  When I found the men’s ware – moved from the top floor to the basement floor I thoroughly investigated. I tried on one dark green shirt – seeing if it would go with the dull green pants I was wearing and also enjoined a blue shirt and similarly coloured T-shirt.  Trying them on was a revelation.  Not a pleasant one – my belly, which Carol used to comment on as “cute” now was making me take a pledge to cut down on the food that I’m eating as well as maintaining the winter skating and skiing.  So I decided to leave H & M with no purchase.

Next block – H.M.V.  The liquidation signs in the window were real.  Montreal is losing its last dedicated music store – I mean for CD’s and now DVD movies and TV series and concert DVDs and all kinds of frivolous music and movie merchandise.  I really thoroughly looked through DVD’s.  (Why would I want to own a movie or TV series when I can stream it on demand?)  Descended to what was left of the music industry on CD’s in the basement.  (Why would I want to own music on CD when I can have anything I want for $10 per month on Spotify?).  Left H.M.V. with nothing but a mild depression about the limited revenues left to artists (like Jireh) from recorded music.

When I skate or ski, there is nothing better than to have the right clothing for staying outdoors comfortably for hours.  Decided I might need a better toque and sought to fill that need at Sports Experts.  Up to the third floor where I found where they were hiding winter apparel.  Contemplated the high prices and inadequacy of the toques available.  Looked at high quality long underwear.  You can never have too much of this stuff.  Prices in line with what I might have spent at the audio store.  Decided that the old-fashioned Stanfield long johns that I got from dad were retro-cool.  Left this store down the stairs (they were renovating the escalator) with nothing.  Woops – why do I still have this knit neck warmer still in my hands.  Back up to return it….and exit with no purchase, and no criminal record.

I had a reason to go into Indigo Books, but I don’t recall at the moment what it was.  They have some reasonably-priced books…$6 or so and I looked through those.  Remembered when it used to take a lot longer for this sale browse.  Remembered when I used to occasionally buy books before the e-books at the library became so conveniently available on my iPad.  Similar reflections about the limited revenues left to writers as I had in the H.M.V. store about recorded music.

Then I left Sainte Catherine street and went inside to the parallel underground inter-connected malls.  I can’t remember stopping much here.  Briefly in Winners – but they had no winter-ware.  Into the McGill metro station skipping the last couple of malls and then a brief last chance past racks of clothes in the men’s section at the Bay, up the elevator and north toward home.

At the supermarket just 2 blocks from home I refreshed my memory of my earlier belly-reduction resolution and didn’t buy the 10 lb. bag of potatoes for $2.49 or any of the clearance baked goods.  A bag of quick oatmeal and a can of coconut milk (Kayin’s rice cooked in coconut milk made an impression) and I was on my way home.

skate

This Saturday morning, January 28 I set out, not quite “bright and early” but [cloudy] bright [skies of winte] and at an hour that was just slightly before the Lebanese green grocer on Avenue de Parc opened.  I set out with good intentions to make myself a Saturday-style good breakfast.  That meant finding a dozen eggs, and, you know, when I go out, I always like to accomplish two things, so…[productivity boost]…I had done a major closet cleaning three weeks ago and then left the culled clothes obstructing the closet space and our best clothes basket.  This would be the morning the odd assortment of clothes is released from my hoarding ownership.

The eggs accomplished, I dressed for another sure-way-to-make-it-a-good-Saturday….and here I am writing a Saturday morning blog, now in the Old Port of Montreal and at my favourite winter place,  the skating rink.  Pieces falling into place….I see the skating regular who recommended “L’artiste du patin” to me [see my blog on that – when it comes out there would be a link HERE]….On the ice and, may God be praised, there is not only excellent ice and few people, there’s this guy, Chris, with hockey skates [I think I’ve seen him here before] and I love his skating style….I ask him [he has to take his music out of his ears]….I say, “I like your skating style.  Can I take a short video?”

You know, that all went so well, and I spoke to Chris shortly afterward, getting his name and asking what kind of music he was listening to [Reggaeton – something with a beat].  Went back to skating to the rather mellow Harmonium [I LOVE it when they play quality Quebec music] and then quite soon they announce that they are bringing out the Zamboni to resurface the ice and so I grab the laptop [new, with a solid-state drive and battery life to boot] buy a cookie at the cafe, and starting putting down the blog in my head.

At about the point where the last paragraph started, I thought I might check just how good the video was….I really have to remind myself that I have to press the red button twice….I have nothing but Chris skating away after I [thought] I stopped the video.

Ice resurfaced….I skate….Oh, look….Chris is back doing his thing!

Image

Me and the food business

This week at my 5 à 7 group (Bible study and prayer group meeting in a home), I received a compliment on my cooking, featured weekly in this venue.  “You should start a restaurant, Ted.”

While I always appreciate the intent of this comment, I am never tempted in this direction for these particular reasons:  1) To make outstanding food it takes hours of prep work.  No restauranteur simply buys the best of Costco prepared foods and warms them up for their customers.  Working with the best ingredients you create within a culinary tradition – French cooking with lots of butter, Italian with attention to the vegetables.  Without a doubt the tradition that I would draw on would involve meat.  There are a half dozen meat dishes that I do well and then there are a bunch of casserole, one-dish comfort foods that mostly draw on my smoked sausage as a star ingredient.  If you start with the best ingredients and you don’t mess it up along the way somehow then the result will please the palate.  All of my cooking is a labour of love, which starts at the fact that I like eating this kind of food.  But would I cook to earn a living?  Unqualified no.  2) Montreal is a city of so many good restaurants and yet on any given night you can visit one and find only one or two tables occupied.  I always do the math if I’m eating in an empty restaurant.  Is my $40 or $50 restaurant bill enough to pay the rent in this place, let alone earn a living for the owner?  I’m afraid the answer to that is another “no”.  My restaurant would undoubtedly be one of these that fails to make ends meet.

One of my favourite supermarkets in Montreal featured grain-fed capons in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  I was fortunate to buy one and bring it home, where Carol set to Googling to find if that bird was a small turkey or a large chicken (yes, to the latter).  Then, as I so often do these days, I went to the internet and came across a restaurant recipe for cooking the capon that I thought made a lot of sense.  In fact, this chef-owned restaurant in Manhattan had produced an entire 400 page cookbook that may possibly cover everything that an aspiring copy-cat restaurant owner would need to put on their menu to have a restaurant serving outstanding food.  The chef owner, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Restaurant, also wrote an autobiography which I recently finished reading (see my Goodreads for a few of my comments).  This afternoon I set to browsing through the Prune restaurant cookbook and by the time I completed this I was psychically exhausted from all the detail of running an outstanding restaurant.  I’d counsel anyone who would have their own restaurant to read these two books authored by Gabrielle Hamilton. At one point in her life Gabrielle pursued an education in writing as a way out of the cooking business.  While it turned out that this was not to be her calling, she put her writing skills to work in describing her own life and the result is an education in food and its preparation (and much more).

The pictures in today’s Sunday blog are some self portraits that I happen to like, taken in mid-December 2008.  The equipment is all washed up and I am bundled up against the cold, as it was my preference, for the good of food I was preparing, to work in a chilly shop – just above 0 degrees Celsius.  I’m nostalgic for those days, but it’s a comfortable sort of nostalgia that knows I’ll never be going back down that road of having my own shop.

Nature will succeed

…with or without my help.

MapleTransplant

    Much of my garden work (serenity therapy) in the spring season involves taking the life that is already happening and arranging it so that it might have a future.  So far in May / June 2015 I have moved around plenty of sweet pea and today I played God with a maple seedling which had established itself in the wrong neighbourhood.  My street is lined with maples and all the cars, sidewalks and fertile soil that happens to fall under those maple branches were littered with billions (my block alone must account for millions) of maple keys.  Some windy day brought keys into the in-ground planter in my back terrace that the wall-climbing vine happens to draw life from.  It’s not a spot that has resources to expend on anything other than said vine, but the maple sapling that sprang into life here had already 8 fully-developed leaves balanced above its crooked trunk before I took notice of it.  I imagined a future for it, but certainly not there – a mere 4 inches from the brick wall.   I called into service a rather large pail, cut some drainage holes in the bottom, got a spade under the still compact root ball and introduced the maple to its new interim home.

I don’t have a history of tree-sapling transplantation, but my father, while he owned his two acres of Waterloo Township (to become South Woolwich eventually) transplanted many maples, many pines, willows, fruit trees and a black walnut tree or two.  He loves elderberries and I believe he even imported a bush or two to grow at the edge of the backyard swamp, hoping that he would enjoy better access to his beloved pie-berries.  I seem to remember that the elderberry bush took in the damp soil there, but no person was fortunate enough to enjoy the wild fruits as the sometimes pond / swamp neighbourhood was the delight of many birds and one or more of those species enjoyed the elderberries while they were still green.  By the way, happy father’s day 2015, dad!  I’ll be calling you before supper tonight and comparing my elderberry memories with yours.

This spring I’ve been transplanting like never before.  It’s been 5 or 6 years since I planted my first dollar-store Life_from_a_crackpacket of sweet pea seeds.  Since then I’ve been reaping dividends on that investment as the vines which climb the fence bordering my planters hold their seed pods through the winter and then self-seed the following year. Last year McGill put up a huge trellised barrier between the driveway running past my garden and the little-used terrace area of the student residence.  My imagination soon populated the barrier with the surplus sweet pea plants that literally sprang up out of the cracks between paving stones, but the reality that I had to overcome was that, on the McGill side, there was 12 inches of concrete at the base of the trellis and on my side there was the driveway and then 30 inches of concrete before the trellis structure began.  I called into action some discarded corrugated plastic drainage pipe which I cut open and tucked one side between the top of the concrete and the bottom of the trellis.  This hanging planter could hold plenty of soil for the sweet pea vines that I foresaw taking over this huge trellised square footage.  The trellis panels, all greenish-yellow treated wood, were not entirely an eyesore, but the sweat peas, if they could wind their way up and eventually dominate the structure, would definitely improve upon my terrace view.  I succeeded in this plan to a small extent, but the drainage-pipe planters didn’t hold up so well and soon looked shabby so I’ve decided to take a different tack this second year.  It involves a bit of guerrilla gardening as I am placing small planters sitting on the 12 inches of concrete on the McGill side of the wall.  I see that the sprinkler hose has been set up by McGill (not in use yet due to almost daily rain this spring) so my vines, still crouched at the bottom of the trellis wall will enjoy consistent watering through the heat of the summer.  Some of the candidate sweet pea vines that I am using to conquer McGill’s wall sprang from seeds that took root between the paving stones on my garden terrace.  Left alone these vines would never get to the stage where they climb the adjacent fence as when the heat of summer comes the vines would be scorched off, having very little root to draw water from.  I’ve found that when I pull these plants from the cracks they have enough of a root structure that they can be transplanted into the planters which, once proven, will make their way to the base of the wall.  It takes a special kind of will-to-live to spring up in a crack and I’m counting on that same vitality that nature has in spades to be put to use to improve my neighbourhood.

 

Walking

walkingOne of the best features of the winter that is now drawing to a close is that there has been a higher amount of sunlight than usual.  Today, in the last hour of sunlight, I decided I needed a walk in said sun so that I could not be accused of despising it.

Moi, j’habite dans l’arrondissement Plateau Mont-Royal.  Puis, quand je sors de la maison pour prends du soleil et un peu d’exercise d’ailleurs j’ai tout un choix des routes.  Aujourd’hui j’ai eu comme but le Parc Lafontaine, donc j’ai suivi rue Prince-Arthur jusqu’a Carré St-Denis et après avoir mangé des steamés et des rondelles d’oignon chez Lafleur j’ai monté St-Denis un peu pour atteindre le parc par le moyen de Roy.

aVapeurBy this, I don’t mean that I took the King’s highway – no, there is a pleasant neighbourhood street in the lower Plateau known as Roy (say ooWah, like the famous Canadiens goaltender, Patrick Roy).  If it was further advanced in the spring, I might have gone earlier to Parc Lafontaine with one of the books that I am reading and soaked in the sunshine and the book on a park bench.  That day will come soon  enough.

En cours de route, j’ai résolu de suivre ce route régulièrement, ça veut dire que je dois continuer  d’avoir cette marche intégré dans mon quotidienne jusqu’au date quand je peux commencer de  monter le montagne (Mont Royal) sur vélo.  À ce moment je peux interposé les jours de vélo  avec les jours de marche dans le cartier.

The walk down Prince Arthur, past St-Louis Square (home of my favourite Montreal fountain)  and on to Parc Lafontaine with return by Duluth is nothing if not quirky and interesting.  The  laundry (fond memories of when I needed one of these) on Duluth whose window I’ve pictured below makes clever usage of the Québec term which might be translated “undies” –  des bobettes.  They will pick up (cueillir) and deliver (livrer) your “bobettes” (undies) via the Bobette express.  Knowing the neighbourhood, this is more likely to be done by bicycle than by car. And the books in the window – de riguer – that is if the real-time social networking that came before wifi existed is having a slow day.  For “buanderies” like this, their numbers aren’t going to increase, but it’s a nice reminder of a world that once was, or once might have been and still finds a way of existing in the Plateau.

Bobettes

Winter

Viewfrom_theCross

When winter weather reports talk about ‘miserable’ weather, snow storms and adverse conditions, it is all so much given a negative slant.  The real disaster for me is never ‘more snow’ but rather when the snow gets soggy and rain falls to destroy it.  We get less of those mid-winter thaws in Montreal – a good thing in my books.  New snowfall means I’m out skiing – a run up Mount Royal – in the company of so many other joggers, skiers, snowshoe-ers, tobogannists and dog-walkers – the cream of Montreal society.  Hang with the positive people.  Let the car-driving commuters commiserate sourly about the weather – I’m among those that know what to do with snow.

Ted_WinterPaintbyNumber

Felt quite stiff in the bones after a hard-day’s work packaging sausage yesterday, but I followed through on the previous night’s good intentions of going up-mountain and got out of the house before 8am for the couple blocks walk to the park where I put on my skis and rejoin (I think this is a French usage) the ski-trail along Olmstead Way.   I can see the elevation that I am going to climb, but the grade on Olmstead Way makes it the best of X-country skiing experiences. In about an hour I’m at the cross – la meillure oeuvre de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, érigé en 1924.  This is the best place to take my small collation (snack).  This morning it is half a dried fig and the water that is left in my small water bottle.  Whether it is nuts, chocolate, raisins, dried blueberries or cranberries nothing ever tastes so good and yet just a bit is all I need.

From the cross – everything is down-hill and very fun-going. On est gaté ici dans une ville faite pour les sportifs d’hiver.  Jésus, soit loué.  Tes oeuvres sont magnifique.

The following is Psalm 86:10 from ‘The Message’:

Ready to put your beauty on display,
parading your greatness,
And the great things you do–
God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!

Jan4 view

The view from my window this Sunday is quite monochromatic but beautiful, nonetheless, for the ice and snow.
Of course, I vector traced it – so much quicker than learning the skills of pen and ink.
There is really nothing more relaxing than a Quebec storm and its aftermath especially when one is inside and has no pressing destination.
Hope my reader is ensconced (??) in a peaceful place and has found beauty in grayscale if not CMYK.
God is good!
Jan4_15
Snow and ice on a Sunday