This one hit me in the heart today. So rather than write about it, I am simply going to post it.
Words have always been a passion of mine. I can remember penning poems before my age was in the double digits and I loved to lose myself in books at a young age as well. Having said this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that words affect many others the same way they affect me but today I was shown a glaring example of how words, my words, had a greater resonance than I ever imagined.
On August 30th, I wrote this poem (click here) about a dear friend who had gone into hospital the previous night. Writing, especially writing poetry, is very cathartic for me and allows me to deal with my emotion on a level on which I feel very comfortable. I had given the poem to the companion of the woman who was the subject of the poem hoping he could read it to her in the hospital.
Sadly, a week after she went into hospital, she passed away from a virulent bacterial infection that her body couldn’t fight due to the aggressive chemotherapy she had been undergoing. I never found out if he had read the poem to her while she was still conscious.
Today, I drove to the city with my friend and co-worker to attend the celebration of life for this dear woman we both had met at the lodge and absolutely adored. When her companion, Sandy, saw us at the golf club, his eyes welled with tears and we were both met with a warm embrace. He invited us to sit at his family table and treated us like we were a part of his family. After a toast to Joan and some funny stories, I found out that Sandy had read my poem at her funeral service. I was moved to tears.
As I write this post through many more tears, I can take great pride in knowing that my words fell onto the ears of so many others who loved her as well. One simple night of pouring out my emotion into a blog post turned into a tribute that hundreds of people were able to hear and know how much she meant to me. Words have connected me to her friends and family and for that I will be forever grateful.
There is a palpable energy in the air in my small town – a feeling only locals can understand when we are within arms reach of getting our town back. The Labor Day Long Weekend is upon us and, for those who are fortunate enough to have today off, that means a three-day weekend. The multiple-lane highways that once allowed travelers to reach our vacation destinations in Muskoka are already becoming congested in the Southbound lanes and the stress levels of those trapped in their cars in slow-moving traffic is escalating exponentially.
But as the tension increases in those turtle-paced vehicles leaving our little piece of paradise, the stress in the minds of the locals slowly abates. Faces that have not been seen during the summer daylight hours slowly peek out of their windows, tentatively gauging the right time to emerge from their summer hibernation and engage in the life we left behind a few months ago.
The summer is over. We have survived the tumultuous invasion of a population that we graciously accept for two months, although their civility leaves much to be desired. We have overcome the barbarity of those who demand instead of ask, of those who expect instead of request.
And along with the manners of our city guests, my writing brain and my spare time to read have been held hostage but the window of those long-lost opportunities has finally been cracked open. The breath of rekindling those passions has been blown into the stale air that I have been breathing the last few months and the breeze of creativity has begun to churn the dead leaves in the corners of my mind. There really is light at the end of our summer tourism tunnel.
I hope you all had a great summer and I look forward to greeting the many faces, and blogs, I have missed over the last couple of months!
I don’t profess to know much about history. I spent more time trying to avert my eyes from my high school History teacher’s unpleasant gestures and I unfortunately did not absorb any of the assumed knowledge he had bestowed upon us. Instead, I doodled, wrote poems and passed notes to my friends. I narrowly escaped with a passing percentage from my tenth grade scholastic year because of the embarrassing grade I received from that History class but my outlook on the past has recently changed.
I have been asked to help with a project for our local library. They would like to create a book that details the photos and the memories of our senior residents, learn what brought them to Muskoka and what the area was like when they first arrived. I knew I would enjoy the journey but I didn’t know how much I would love it until I did my first interview on Wednesday.
This area has been home to my family for many generations. I have been fortunate to live here for most of my life and have many photos and stories of family members who walked these paths long before my grandparents were born. It has been a part of my soul for longer than I have been on this Earth and I now get to hear stories of how Muskoka has been the love of many other people’s lives.
My first interview was with a delightful 82-year-old woman who was born in Cork, Ireland. She moved to England with her family after the war and bravely left the safety of her home to move to Canada with a friend when she was 23 years old. As I listened to her detail the moments of her life, I became absorbed in her words as she described her passion for her early days as a cottager and subsequently as a summer resident. Her words moved me. I felt the same strong emotion she did as she described how she felt more than fifty years ago when she first came to the area.
Perhaps history is subjective. The stories of our past may be told in different ways but they will always hold a special place in our heart. I am looking forward to joining a few more of our long-time residents on their journey down memory lane.
If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank. We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food. The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes. It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.
After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well. We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations. The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.
I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen. But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.
After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals. Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry. I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.
I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college. Before I went to college I worked in restaurants. And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage. Hospitality staff are trained in food safety. From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines. Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves. This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.
Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on. One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down. I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.
I am going to be on television. It will be a fleeting interview about a subject I feel very passionate about but I am now starting to sweat the small details. Can I remember not to curse? Will the 10 lbs the camera adds make me look like a beached whale? And what the hell do I have in my closet that will help me not look like a road beacon or a clown?
I am that much of a self-professed nerd that I actually Googled what to wear on a TV interview. It was actually quite helpful so I’m glad for my nerd-ish tendencies. The cursing is another subject, all things considered, but I’m certain I can hold it together.
One of our local news stations is coming up to Muskoka to do a brief segment about the Crockpot Freezer Meals I have been organizing for our local food bank. The news personality coming to do the interview actually did a four-day challenge to eat only the food provided by her local food bank and her struggles were palpable, to say the least. She photographed her meals along the way and the results were far from appetizing. There is only so much you can do with processed, no-name pasta, canned sauce, tuna and canned fruit.
I have always loved cooking. Perhaps I have taken for granted my access to fresh meat and vegetables, but this project has made me truly value my good fortune and my goal is to help create some of the same good fortune for those who struggle through the winter months.
Our town is very seasonal with respect to many things and jobs are at the forefront of the shortages. And some families who may find success in the booming summer months are left to visit the local food banks in the winter months to help supplement their supply of necessary items to make it through the tough times. That, to me, seems egregiously unfair and the reason I began http://www.gofundme.com/dollarsfordinners
So, regardless of whether I look like a street clown or Shamu on a good day, I will face those TV cameras. I will tell my story of Crockpot Freezer meals in hopes that other communities may recognize the possibility of doing the same thing in their small towns.
It takes a village, not only to raise a child but, to empower a community so we can all say we were an active part of making it a success.