Saturday 28 February 2009

reducing the gene pool

I have written previously about our friendly neighbourhood snowmobiles cruising on thin ice, if you will forgive the pun, potentially reducing the gene pool. The machines are smelly, noisy, speedy, with 400 lbs. of weight, and have been irritating as they experience the last flashes of winter. With above zero temperatures we've had a great thaw, but everyone is hot to trot this weekend.
Last night's temperatures dipped to double-digit negatives again.

I can deal with it when the snowmobiles stay on the other side of the lake. The unpredictability of the operators scares me, what with tales of drinking and driving, and the excessive speed. Eventually, the stink of the fuel wafts across the lake, but it is temporary. If you look closely, or click here, you can see four machines in a row above my husband's right shoulder. It must be fun to be out in the bush and screaming across the lake in youthful abandon. They do drag race across our lake. It is unnerving, like seeing someone do the speed demon thing along a street.

On a beautiful winter day we took the cats our for our regular afternoon walk.

The cats play about, watching in fear when the snowmobiles appear in their field of vision. They listen and stay on guard, but they seem to be able to judge the distance the noisy machines are and head for the hills when the sounds becomes too scary.

They play their little games, and do their little cat dance, pretending to chase one another.

Sady, the cat, gazes at the open water and tell tale tracks down the way. She has an excuse: she can't read the sign. I can read the tracks, though, and someone has been taking a chance.

Lately, some snowmobilers have been downright stupid. I even found a YouTube video demonstrating this stupidity! My brother tells me he has friends that do this, too.
Knowing that these people likely have mothers caused me concern.

Some cottagers run bubblers all winter to prevent the ice from heaving and destroying a dock. Legally, they need a red light and a sign to keep snowmobiles, and people away. Blame a teacher if they can't read the signs. The water is about 5' deep here. I know. I used to swim off this dock as a child. My aunt & uncle bought the property in the early 60's, and built the cottage that sits there now. It is deep water, rendered liquid by runoff from the land, as well as the bubbler.

It our victim services training meeting we spoke about the effect suicide has on a family, friends and a community. Dangerous behaviour, such as snowmobiling across open water, has an impact on all of us: from EMS responders, to OPP, to victim services volunteers who give up time away from other things to help people out.

Encourage your kids to be careful out there.
Somebody, somewhere out there, loves them. We all pay the price.

Camera Critters

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Tuesday 24 February 2009

renting your cottage

Be careful with renters. You need an agency that will monitor and weed out riff raff! Our neighbours have been renting, many are, and some have no respect for your cottage, neighbours, or property. The photo (left) shows a PWC harassing a loon. For my story, with a horror story/comment, read my Fireworks post!

One good source of info is here at Cottage Blogger. Heather writes a great blog, with valuable tips and information. There is a book for serious cottage owners who want to do this right. (She warns about guests with COLIC!) You need to educate tourists, used to the ways of city life, to the etiquette of Muskoka life.

One way to do it is to have a neighbour monitor guests, tell them whom to expect, and what to do in the event of trouble. I signed up with CottageLink, but there are many rental agencies and businesses that will arrange for renters. We had numerous phone calls, with little action last year. I took our place off of the market. Being semi-detached it just didn't work out for us.

The rental market was saturated last year: both in terms of quantity of rental properties available and rainfall! Renters had their choice of properties. They drag up high-speed PWCs for a week and zoom around - missing the beauty of a lake at sunset.

I look forward to seeing our seasonal visitors, not so much the tourists who have little respect for those of us who live here year round, work, and must get up in the mornings! I always breathe a sigh of relief in September!

A Life of Value

these lives are lived with courage and hope
each time we choose we learn to cope

easy to die before you´re gone
to give up trying and sing no songs

a life a classroom; each friend a lesson
assignments are due: here comes the next one

all those we meet they tell a story
from them we learn; aspire to glory

so listen well and listen true
as wisdom they impart to you

before too late awake we must
take on our work before we´re dust

each life is short; there´s much to do
live and learn and seek anew

spread the word; awaken spirits
tell of love: praise its merits

what we once knew we have forgotten
remember now and tell it often

Dedicated to my parents, the Salt of the Earth, mom & dadwho taught me many lessons in life, many while dying, whose spirits remain in my heart.
Read more in my Memoir: Living and Dying in Dignity: A daughter's journey through long-term care. I continue to read and research about Health Care Issues.

Monday 23 February 2009

laundering my karma

a young adulthood spent learning to fly
ducking over and under barriers
seeking my soul
flexing my wings to soar
feathered head held high
fledgling down but a memory
graying feathers a reality

negative vibes clinging like lint
dust bunnies dancing in the sunlight
my kin launders my karma
crying rivers till waters set me free
a youth spent wallowing
hormones & angst
preparing me for the worst
losing sight of the best
the lessons have been dear

dignity my mantle
courage my mantra
blustery north winds blew me off-course
alight and preen the plumage
set my sights on hazy horizon
a wobbly course but a beacon

a little more fragile on the inside
feathers a steelier gray on the outside
those who would dare meet her in flight
see the shadows and look deeper

I'se found a mate
with strong backbone of a knight
murmuring words of grace
gentle strong arms to enfold
a noble spirit to focus energy filled light
don´t look back, he counsels
keep your eye on the horizon
anchor yourself in the present
there is only the now

Sunday 22 February 2009

Haiku on Snow

There are some debates about the 5-7-5 framework for Haiku. A comparison and discussion on the number of Japanese symbols, vs. English syllables.

Haiku: (for more information) Please also see Michael's Ten Tips for Writing Haiku.
He says, in part:
  • Does your poem have a season word?
  • Does it have the two-part juxtapositional structure?
  • Do you use objective sensory imagery?

That said... a poem can be short/long, fat/skinny, descriptive/contemplative, rhyming or rhythmic. By all means, it should be succinct - an issue with which I deal daily!

horizontal flakes
wind driving fearful fury--
flees Spring eternal

MTM - Ottawa, Ontario

For My Town Monday, I thought I'd highlight Ottawa, Ontario. I lived there the 2nd 25 years of my life. My children live there. It is Canada's capital.

There is lots to do and see. One of my favourite sites is the representation of the Famous 5. These women, in 1927, ensured that Canadian women had equality. These statues exist to commemorate women who fought for all of us. You can read more about them in Archive Canada. The 5 bronze statues are larger than life size.

A great infrastructure supports a thriving city, with great theatres -large & small (NAC, GCTC), and much in the way of amateur sports. Our kids were soccer kids, but there is lots else going on. The canal attracts visitors spring, summer, winter and fall. One of the longest skating rinks in the world!

The canal is the hub of many festivals: Winterlude, Spring Tulip Festival, with boats in a merry parade along the canal. I can't find any photos, but I have memories of taking children for the Flotilla, having a picnic watching the boats sail away.

Canadian Tourism shot some videos of Canadian welcoming President Obama on the occasion of his first visit. We need all the friends and visitors we can find! I read poetry, like Geoffrey Philp's, Have No Fear, Brother Barack, and my faith is restored. He munched on a Beavertail (known as an elephant ear down south!), named in his honour. He took home some maple leaf-shaped cookies. There is something about breaking bread with one another that builds friendship!

This video: sights and sounds of Ottawa...

A welcome message:

weather, squirrels & snow

I have issues about our forecast. Our nearest station seems to be Port Carling. Today they said:
Isolated flurries? I cannot see the other side of the lake, low these 400 m away.

It seems all we can do is complain about the weather.

Some of us make do, fire is our friend whilst sitting on the frozen lake. However, the animals just live in it.

The cats go outside, under the cottage, coming back in to groom.

The squirrels sit and feed in the wind and snow. One sits on a branch and scratches fleas (see video!).


the rising sun warms my skin
lake water laps the shore
rhythmic motions
smoothing furrows on our brows
penetrating my weather wearied soul

moss moist
fragrant with earthy smells
redolent of centuries past
comforting cycles of seasons
how firm our foundation

bird song amongst the lofty leaves
savour the smell of pine
my soul resonates in joy
reverence creeps through my being
gratitude for these gifts
the peace of this place
a beacon to guide me on
to seek truth
clarity of vision
my soul flourishes

Saturday 21 February 2009

Our Calling

The spirit yet unbroken
The work it must be done
The love it will be spoken
The songs they shall be sung

Through love and joy and gladness
Through tears and fears and pain
There´s glory in the madness
As vision clears again

The candles brightly glowing
We´re dancing towards the light
Pathways they are showing
Walk proudly through the night

Herald chimes are sounding
The wind blows on my face
We mortals firmly grounding
In this our rightful place

Our task on earth is holy
The work we do is blessed
Our higher selves nod slowly
These lives they are a test

Hockey day in Canada

This is the 9th edition of Hockey Day In Canada, 2009. It's an annual celebration of shinny, the best of what hockey is all about. No fights, just fun. Outdoors, there will be games across Canada, on 233 outdoor hockey rinks.

Rick Cornaccchia, a Torontonian, is currently coach of the Italian national hockey team. He will provide colour commentary on a Italian-language broadcast of Hockey Night In Canada. What is fun, in this global world, are Canadians who go abroad to share their expertise with the rest of the world. What a great opportunity to work with people in another country whose infrastructure does not support the kind of amateur play we enjoy here in Canada.

We only watch hockey if Canada plays.
My children are avid fans, but I can't stand the fighting!

Not that we don't have team spirit...When I taught in Ottawa it was an interesting, if thought provoking rivalry!

We had fun with hockey in the old days. I remember my father taking us to see the Maple Leafs in downtown Toronto. My brother had all the paraphenalia. The cost of attending games in Ottawa precluded the expense for me. Parking is exhorbitant, the snacks expensive and exclusive!

I cannot stand the game anymore. The fighting just revolts me. I like the finesse of gaining and keeping control of the puck on that slim surface of a hockey stick. But controlling your opponents by coach-provoked blind-sided hits is a disgusting way to PLAY a game. I am all for taking fights and such hits out of the game.

Concussions in all sports abounds. It is a life threatening, serious problem with players and coaches who do not take this issue seriously. Much discussion ensued after the death of Don Sanderson. Each year, according to a 2004 healthlink post, 40,000 high school football players suffer concussions. The symptoms are debilitating and many over the course of a life time of play must have a profound effect on a person. Even one concussion can have a lasting effect, they say.

Let's go back to a time when pick-up, shinny rinks made the sport affordable and fun. This is what Hockey Day is all about!

Welcome to Ottawa, President Obama.

What a fun video. I would like to highlight this one for my American bloggers!
Unfortunately, the YouTube comments, as usual, reflect ignorance and abusive language. I continue to wonder at the intelligence of some of humanity on this planet!

But then I read poetry, like Geoffrey Philp's, Have No Fear, Brother Barack, and my faith is restored.

I am unsure of the authors of this video, but it appears to be a tourism video. We need all the friends and visitors we can find!

Friday 20 February 2009

President Obama visits Ottawa

I am part way through The Audacity of Hope. It is an excellent examination of the American political system. I knew much, married to a political husband, but it highlights and provides much enlightenment.

I can see that President Obama's spirit will spread to others. He so clearly sees the faults and the ways that the political process has contaminated previous Administrations. His worldview is impressive. Many Canadians hold him up as a shining beacon. His visit to Canada's capital had not much pomp, but circumstance. I was impressed.

I have confidence. If not now, when? I know we have a role model. I read poetry, like Geoffrey Philp's, Have No Fear, Brother Barack, and my faith is restored.

This book illuminates the factors that confound progress. In a world of profit, at the cost of employees, bonuses and stockholders who demand an outrageous return on their stocks, RRSPs, and 401Ks, I am hopeful that sanity will prevail in this economic climate. Most Canadians are optimistic that things will turn around. I have great hope.

There are those who are skeptical, and trash the hype. E.g., Macleans pundits who are So. Embarrassed.
Or Andrew Steel: "The hype around President Obama's brief state visit to Ottawa can only be described as embarassing, overwrought and - amazingly - failing to live up to the importance of the day."

David Aikin, talks of The Beavertail Summit. He, however, lauds the photographers who captured the day. For official White House: "Working With Canada" photos. It is symbolic and it is important. Despite the shortness of the visit, and the limited questions, I have high hopes.

For what? I hope that President Obama understands Canada, and Canadians. With a brother-in-law living near Toronto, and a worldview that encompasses diversity and inclusion, I know that our Canadian fabric view will be respected, and understood, if not embraced. We have differences, but we have similarities.

While President Obama cites our issues, he does understand the American impact on the environment: with a population 10 times the size or ours. I have hopes. Alberta aims to make the Athabasca Tar sand process cleaner, with carbon sequestration. Ontario aims to reduce dependence upon coal-fired hydroelectric stations, and have begun putting in wind farms and hydro dams. The US dependence upon coal has a great effect, with pollution drifting our way. "We cannot drill our way out of a dependence upon oil", calls upon changes in behaviour, attitudes and R & D strategies.

Our health care issues differ.
We have gay marriage.
We are fighting to thicken our border, while keeping trade routes (upon which we are both dependent) open.

Our country he said, "one of the best countries in the world".

Our laws, our regulations, their Constitution, are a "living document", with improvements possible. All of our politicians, on either side of the border, must work together to move forward. I hope this will happen.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Tell Me...

On the date of President Obama's visit to Ottawa, Canada. I post my poem...
We are all part of the universe

Tell me where the rain ends and the cloud begins
Tell me where the cloud ends and the water begins
Tell me where the water ends and the sky begins
Tell me where the sky ends and the shore begins
Tell me where the shore ends and the beach begins
Tell me where the beach begins and the wave begins
Tell me where the wave ends and the ocean begins
Tell me where the ocean ends and the sky begins
Tell me where the sky ends and the sunbeam begins
Tell me where the sunbeam ends and the sun begins

Tell me where the petal ends and the flower begins
Tell me where the flower ends and the stem begins
Tell me where the stem ends and root begins
Tell me where the root ends and the earth begins

Tell me where the anger ends and the fear begins
Tell me where the fear ends and healing begins
Tell me where the healing ends and the body begins
Tell me where the body ends and the spirit begins
Tell me where my spirit ends and love begins
Tell me where the love ends and God begins

Wednesday 18 February 2009

My Angel

She listens in love
with heart of a dove
acknowledges fears
then dries off my tears

she scolds and she hugs
heart strings she tugs
we talk and we sigh
we laugh and we cry

embodies spirit
lived well with merit
my strength and my friend
our joy will not end

-- © Jennifer Jilks
dedicated to my darling daughter

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Ice Storm ´98

3:00 a.m.
flashes of blue green
another transformer blows
lifeline to civilization
hydro poles lean slowly
finally plummet to earth
wires snap in desperation
trees stand tall then fall
ice coats a burden
cruel twist of nature

crown after crown crashes down
remaining knights reign in fractured glory
icy clatter of frozen fingers
sentinels standing display broken limbs
stark white in the gray sky

as cold at the trees
I stand alone at my window
crews drive through bleeding streets
knights in shining armour
their steed a red charger
spotlights shine on damage
they search for deadly terror
comforting to know I am not alone

warmer months reveal festering wounds
broken arms bleed sap
wounded trunks lean drunkenly against comradesice storm 98
weight of new leaves brush the grass
families pile broken limbs
buds trying to break free
driveways sadly piled high
altars to our weekends work
healing begins

J. Jilks, 1998


Ah, glorious spuds.

It is with joy that we eat them. The Irish potato famine gives negative associations, but enrched the fabric and the culture of Canadian quilt work.

I wonder, however, who it is that puts each individual price code on each individual potato? Two of my adult children worked in grocery stores. It is good work, and helped them fund their university. I guess work is work.

Monday 16 February 2009

cracking ice

We sat by the water...OK, frozen lake, today. The birds were chirping, the breeze was kind. Snow continues to melt from the land into the shoreline. There are spots where ice no longer meets the shore. The cats had a nice trip to the end of the dock. They like following us on our daily walks down to the lake. It helps them sleep at night!

They love rolling around on the cement step at the end of the dock and sunbathing. The sun warms it and they can survey the frozen lake. They are concerned by the snowmobiles screaming by, but stay close to us.

There is a lot of traffic on our small lake. There are people who travel across bringing back...something...wood? Who knows. People walk across, taking dogs on walkies. What with our recent thaw it is really sheer ice, and it is easy to walk now that the deep snow cover melted leaving skating rinks. I did snowshoe across a few short weeks ago. Now it is a bit rough and slippery.

Some cottage owners have bubblers that run all winter. They prevent the ice from shifting the docks. I presume the expense is less than a new dock, but it seems a colossal waste of energy to me. The law requires they post signage to prevent snowmobiles from ending up in the drink!

I am keenly interested in the ice and freeze and thaw patterns. The ice moves all winter. You can hear it talk.
After our big thaw and refreeze, we went from above freezing temperatures to below, I walked out onto the deck one night and could hear the ice rumbling and cracking. A deep, low bass boom.

On our afternoon walk in the sun, I could see the cracks. There are a couple of reasons for this. The water level is going down, and the ice that floats on top of the water has to crack as it lowers. Underneath this crevass, it is a couple of feet long, is a rock that we swim to in summer. You can see the heron flying over it here. The water is about 8' deep, and the boulder pokes out of the lake, dumped there during glacial action. What is cool is that this is where the ice has cracked as the lake level lowers.

In the meantime, traffic continues on the lake. All day you can hear the rumbles as the ice shifts. One afternoon, a truck came out on the lake. They unloaded a canoe and a few people built a fire on the ice and dug a fishing hole. Two men fished for a bit, while the truck drove up and down the lake, with apparent glee.

The ice wasn't too happy, though. In front of our property the ice cracked, rumbled, groaned and shifted with the waves that rolled under the ice. The lake is a constant 4 degrees above zero all winter, and the ice might be a couple of feet thick floating on top, but the lake let us know that it wasn't happy with this traffic!

They built a fire in some container, fished for a period of time. Sometime, after dark, they put it out and went away. At least I think they did. There doesn't seem to be a hole in the ice!

pain body

the tumour ate your words
your agony acid in my wounded heart

your pain changed us all
my pain body changed me

dementia weighed us down
agony clouded my mind

all of it needless
much of it needleless

my heart so full
your heart voiceless

as your messenger I took up the sword
even as your pain song rang through the halls

losing the battle
you won your freedom

still I fight, weapon in hand
health a victory yet to hold


Some health care practitioners do not understand modern pain management. My father, whose brain tumour caused him to lose his language, was unable to name his pain. Not a cost issue, we were paying for most of his medications, staff hesitated to manage his pain. You can read pain symptoms in the body language and the spirit of those we love. Caregivers, professionals, need to listen to us.

You Will Be Happy When...

as a child I always knew
happiness will come to you
all you need: the perfect life
one day to wake and be a wife
dreams are made: truth not told
lies were all I could behold
forever after is the cry
without a love you´ll surely die

a life I´ve led: husband and marriage
afterwards a baby carriage
a second child, then number three
true happiness I then could see

but the picture changed with my rebirth
no longer content to sit at hearth
my hopes and dreams, fears and wishes
all have changed -so screw the dishes

I want to live to make a choice
to boldly go, to find my voice
each friend I meet becomes a dove
I feel that God has sent such love

for peace I feel now that I´m free
a better time I know I´ll see
let go the chains, break free of boxes
security flies, throw out galoshes

take a risk, break down the door
I´ll find my life will show me more
I´ll free my kids, they too will fly
we reach together a mountain´s high

their future lies in brighter visions
where dreams are dreampt without collisions
in praise of love we´ll grow alway
in harmony that´s lived each day

Sunday 15 February 2009

MTM - Rick Mercer in Gravenhurst

winter steamship
For MTM aficionados, I post two videos. The first shows our famous Gravenhurst steamships.
The second is about Canada, for the US MTM readers - to give a better understanding of our fair country! (Tongue in cheek!)

Who could resist that funny man, Rick Mercer?! Gravenhurst is a couple of hours north of Toronto, a half hour south from our place. I go back in time, when the water was open and warm. We had a dinner cruise for our August Anniversary (our 6th!). A cute young thing picked up my husband - I am glad to share! But, here is the CBC Rick Mercer Report video- who knew you could wakeboard behind a steamship?

And just for fun, here Rick explains what Canada is all about. He is a hoot.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day working as a teacher can be painful (competition, grief, tears). We eschewed it for Random Acts of Kindess week. I taped students singing, reading their own work or reciting their own poems. My JKs even recorded love message for mommy and daddy. Those were the good years!

I remember my worst Valentine's Day ever. One can only laugh years later!

A single mom, I had ordered in some wood to supplement the expensive electric heat in my rental house in Manotick. It had been delivered on a cold February 14th afternoon, covered in dirt and snow and ice. Home after work, my daughter and I stacked as much as we could. We broke for dinner. In the dark, I went back out to slog away some more, the kids went to bed. Eventually, my boyfriend of the time came over. Between husbands, I had learned to take the celebration for granted. Boyfriend came over while I was out in the cold and the dark stacking wood. He thrust a bouqet of roses in my hands, there might have been a card, I do not remember! Then, he left me to stack my wood - alone, in the cold and the dark. I was furious!

We look on the day with a bit more realism in our old age, me and my second accountant husband. I did get a lovely bouquet of flowers, which is simply a bonus. We exchanged cards; the cats even found him (AKA, Dr. Dolittle) a card! We chose to forego a dinner out: 35 km to the next town with an open restaurant.

It is a beautiful day, is it not? The sun rises on the horizon. The cats get antsy as they watch their tree rats scurrying about their deck searching for food. The cats love their walks on the dock. They roll around on their backs on the cement pad at the end. They play hide and seek with each other as they squeeze under the dock.

What a beautiful day. How glorious to embrace daily rituals: breakfast coffee, reading the paper.

There is pleasure and joy in the simple things. We sat out on our bench in the afternoon sunshine. The birds were busy, cats were happy playing.

We anticipate spring, as the melting snow melts the lake at the shoreline. The warmth of the sun warms the soul, through to your marrow.

Life is good.
We're all worthy.
We each have value.
We are all perfect.
We are all allowed to make mistakes.
God don't make no junk.

Remember, somebody out there loves you.

4:00 a.m.

another sleepless night
the dark before the dawn
worries, fears and sorrows haunting the shadows
they sit lurking in the corner
bedside lamp banishes the ghosts

dawn arrives
sun´s soothing fingers massages the corners of my aching room
ghosts flee as the grace of daily obligation calls
cat burrows deeper into blankets

-- © Jennifer Jilks, 2008

reprinted in: Living and Dying With Dignity, A daughter's journey through LTC

Friday 13 February 2009

Tree of Knowledge

The night envelopes me with dark wings
For eons now I have seen my possibilities
dropping like decaying fruit from my tree of life
One by one they plummet
bound by the gravitational pull of this 4th dimension
becoming impossibilities
broken dreams
crumbling over time.

Yet, as I open my eyes,
I perceive fireflies flickering amongst the trees
There is a shadow,
An elfin creature waves a wand of magic
His eyes twinkling in the dark
as he sprinkles pixie dust
in this my dreary night.
The flickering spheres have risen
from the ashes of despair
transformed from impossibilities into probabilities.
They arise, like the Phoenix,
Glowing with energy
precariously positioned in the branches.

Once, Was it only yesterday?,
I let my heart rule my head
But my vision has cleared.
I see the dawn peering hesitantly over the horizon.
The winds of change have risen with the sun
They embrace me, comfort me
Then they rustle the leaves
to add harmony to the rising octave
sending me to the higher sphere.

The chains I chose have loosened
and set me free
with the knowledge
that we are free to choose;
a prison or a palace,
a serfdom or a queendom,
despair or glorious works,
anger or peaceful promise,
my douleur vanishes with the dawn
His golden fingers caress me
as I shed my mourning clothes
My higher self rises to sing
and dance with the angels.

My tree is now laden with fruit
The possibilities ripen on the branches
just waiting to be plucked
The sun rises in penumbral fashion
The fireflies rest and wait for the night.

--© Jennifer Jilks