Sirius is my Star, Orion my wise Companion

There’s an article on my CBC News App this morning about sports fans in Halifax feeling rotten and sad because the concession stand has stopped putting that warm, wet, orange “cheese food product” on nachos. “Chefs” for the food seller regularly review “the menu”, we are told, and decided to abandon goo altogether a few weeks ago, in favour of plain old salsa.

The horror.

Now that the story has made the CBC New App, sports fans are likely to have all the melted orange gunk they can stand back on their nachos a.s.a.p. This is good. It’s a small thing, easily accomplished, and it’ll make people happy.

Heather Mallick, one of my very favourite columnists anywhere, has an Op-Ed piece in the Toronto Star today about the “migrant” “camp” that is being dismantled in the French city of Calais. Refugees. Semi-incarcerated by political circumstance in a kind of un-state. To be incarcerated. And transported. Somewhere.

There are all sorts of opinions about refugees and immigrants from various places and in various places, but I have had the privilege of teaching a number of them (for this writing: refugees in particular, of both sexes, from Muslim backgrounds in particular, and from all walks of life), and my high and optimistic outlook is coloured by the fact that all of us are in Canada.

Where the absence of orange nacho cheese at a sports venue in a relatively small but undoubtedly important and ridiculously beautiful province makes national news.

Give, is what I say.

Give a little.

Lean towards kindness. Europe, of all places, should be leaning away from camps.

How long do we repeat the monstrous and pretend we didn’t know?


Here in my new home, where I watch ships float by and find myself mesmerized by huge swaths of cloud-studded skies, I have taken up a daily, early walk with Espresso, down by the St. Clair river. Today a sliver of a crescent moon was barely visible through the clouds in the east, and I could not see Orion at all, in the south. Sirius, the Dog Star at Orion’s right heel (on the left from down here) was all I could make out, muted.

I am a city girl, and I know about six constellations. But I do know the moon and the arrangements of stars that humans configured into pictures have been up there, shining gloriously, forever. Islamic scholars studied many of them, grouped them, and named a lot of them, before Islam decided to vilify science, over 900 years ago. Much like groups of people eschew facts and free-thinking backed by empirical evidence today.

I like the ridiculous notion that Espresso and I mirror Sirius and Orion. Ridiculous amuses me.

Ridiculousness, unaccompanied by humour, unchaperoned by a knowledge of history, courts horror.

Time to donate the cost of a plate of nachos to refugee relief.

CSI, Sarnia: Animal Edition

Since I drove my car home one month and one week ago, I have become increasingly melancholy about the number of animals killed on our streets and highways. Fluffy raccoon ears might be all that’s recognizable of a varmint that just wanted to get to the other side. Skunks, ground hogs, squirrels: no wonder so many hawks and crows circle above major roads and highways.

But what was the thing in the Blackwell Trails leash-free dog field?

Two days ago, Espresso loped away to a pile of guts. He stood there so long that I went over to see what was so interesting. And it was a small alimentary canal. A wormy, long section of small intestine, a plump section full of poop, and what I guess were two lungs, from the white and pink colours. No skeleton. No skin. No head. No teeth, no beak. No limbs. No hint of feather, or fur, or claw, or nail. No blood. You’d need two spread hands to pick it up. Which I didn’t.



Gutted and laid out neatly is what I think is the weirdest thing. 

And the best thing is that my dog didn’t mess with these odd remains.

He waited until we went back yesterday and he rolled in what was left at the spot.


For a very long time in Western Europe, soap was made with animal fat and ashes. Lye, fat, ashes. Gentler, expensive Castille soap was made with olive oil, and – unlike those coarse soaps made for house and barn cleaning – was made for persons. 

Thank you, soap, gentle soap.

I performed a spot-wash, and will now hug my dog again.

Neither of us know how to explain The Guts in the Blackwell Trails Leash-free Dog Field mystery. 

I hope it was a one-off. For the little creature, and dog-rolling.

Happy Trails.

Louisiana Tuesday in Southwestern Ontario

Greetings and warm and sticky salutations from Sarnia, Ontario on this ridiculously hot October day. Espresso (The Magnificent) (a moniker awarded the morning he had not pooped in the living room of our new apartment home) and I walked in the humid breezes of the tropics down by the St. Clair river this morning before dawn. Two cotton t-shirts and capri pants were too much. I’m now in shorts. I have put one t-shirt back on. The dog may be contemplating a buzz cut; I’m not going to wake him to ask him. The ceiling fans that were in the apartment when I rented it are proving a wonderful bonus.

I am, alas, a human humidometer. And after this sizzling summer, complete with life turned excitingly and yet also stressfully upside-down, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF SWEATING THROUGH EVERYTHING INSTANTANEOUSLY ALL DAY AND NIGHT.





I had a lot of great iced coffee yesterday and slept in fits and starts. It gave me time for philosophy:

1. Sarnia is a cigarette smoking town, and a great proportion of those smokers live in the same building I do, and exhale nicotine fumes in the hallway outside my apartment. From whence said fumes seep in and make me cough. How long has it been since I’ve been nicotined? Ages. A cheap partial remedy has failed. I will soon seek a different kind of door insulating strip foam tape thingy.

2. Sleeplessness creates discombobulation that leads to mistakes. I thought, for instance, and most erroneously, that a couple of random and perhaps overly-inebriated arseholes somewhere down on the street, yelling across great distances at one another in the middle of the night every night, was the most irritating thing a person could hear from the comfort of her hot bedroom, but I was wrong. The most irritating thing is a single pop can being buffeted incessantly on the rooftop parking lot surface in an unending, eddying, random wind. Just when you think the racket is over … 

3. The excellent CBC News App has used a completely hilarious photo to illustrate the discovery of some bones in a parking lot of my home town, Guelph:
Yes. It’s the exit booth. Of a parking lot. On Baker Street. From the DO NOT ENTER side.

Of all the shots from any of the devices that take images in 2016, this is what the CBC chose.

I feel so much better about my characteristically wanting pics now.

Time to go hunt me down one pop can.

Lights! Camera! Ding!

My new life is posing some scheduling challenges. I slept a lot yesterday, and so set three alarms on my iPhone this morning to make up for Saturday’s slothing. Which is unfair to the humble sloth, really; as far as it’s concerned, it’s moving like wildfire.

Mornings aren’t a problem for me, anyway.

I have been accustomed to waking at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. That’s all been shot to hell since the decision to pack up, get out, and sell the house. Then I installed what are virtually blackout curtains over my bedroom blinds here at the apartment, and if the dog could let himself out and then back in, well, when would I get up? And why?

So Captain New Life in Sarnia has set an after-breakfast agenda:

Some kind of outing BY MYSELF. Usually in the car. Then some kind of tiny chore at home. Then blawgg. Then to the leash-free dog field. In the car. Then maybe pick up something I forgot earlier. Then home to a snack instead of lunch, a tiny bit of unpacking or a very tiny chore, some reading, and a pre-supper perambulation with dog. A final walk with dog before shower and bed and a couple of hours reading. Repeat.

The lights were on in the parking garage this morning.

I have lived here just over two weeks, and today I could see quite clearly the entire interior of the parking garage.

I could see all the lines. I could see where many people do not actually use the lines or the pillars as guidelines. I could see how it was that I dinged my beautiful car a week ago trying to park, obstinately, where two separate people made it pretty much inevitable that I would graze a pillar.

I don’t feel so bad about the ding now. Which is the second ding. Much less painful than the first ding, which got the ding trauma over with. With the lights on, with the rotten parkers all around me, I cut myself some slack.

I went to Dollarama for a grabber stick. Now I can put baskets full of spices and such way up on top of my kitchen cabinets and have more room in the cupboards. I went to The Frills of No. I didn’t buy much. I’m at that stage in the house selling process where the money set aside to live on until closing is very, very sparse, and where the bills and debts are monstrous. Some people can’t sleep under that kind of stress. I can sleep all day, apparently.

There’s an unreality – a surreality – to my days since I decided that I could lift the house off me. My calculations offer an extremely modest, thrift-dependent, small-contentments kind of life, with all sorts of options for volunteer or paid activities as yet to be decided. In the meantime, the sums written against me are so uncharacteristically high that my only real response has been hilarity.

When I parked the car to bring in my groceries, the garage lights were out again.

Moving along, doing my best, enlightened on occasion.

Sprinkle of chagrin.

Retirement Tip: Bears and Coolers

I have just spent 15 minutes watching grizzly bears attempting – and in some cases succeeding – to open coolers and garbage cans and food bins designed to be “bear proof”. It’s part of an effort to keep other bears from getting into trouble and then killed for it. I know no other way to spend a Saturday morning. (I lied blatantly just there. I’ll let you know when I do that.) (Sometimes.)

I did watch bears, because that was part of a Toronto Star TOUCH (TM) iPad-friendly online publication that is not a newspaper. I want a newspaper. I will end up buying newsprint this afternoon, but Post Media’s coverage of London and my new home, Sarnia, is not the same as a full Saturday Star, or a full Sunday Star (replete with NYTimes Book Reviews and News Supplement). Should you like the Globe, I admit to reading that on newsprint this week. It is fine.

CBC News online/mobile-friendly has been keeping me informed of the big and small world as best it can since I moved here and abandoned the pleasure of home-delivered information, but there is no Heather Mallick. There is no Op-Ed page or letters to editors. There is no depth or breadth of the kind I crave. I don’t want a 6 minute read, kids. I want complexity and interconnectivity and opportunities for pondering, synthesis, knowledge acquisition, opinion-forming and opinion-changing. I want the joy of a full newspaper.

Apparently, I cannot buy it without the actual newsprint. I will look into this again, but my first foray left me puzzled. I want to pay for news, and read it on my *new! *wonderful! iPad! I am a kind of reading dinosaur, and should, apparently, be more evolving-rat-like: stealing, instead of paying for something of immense value. I don’t want the paper paper. I do want Canadian news and news with a Canadian perspective, preferably Southern Ontario centred.

It may be too much to ask.

Time to check out the webpage that shows me what ships are here, and which are passing through.

Beats unpacking.

Life, Too: Changing Everything at 55

I say to whomever it’s pertinent that I am semi-retired, but that is a lie.

I hope I’m done working for other people.

This month, I moved to a new, small town. All alone. I moved from my own house in a big city to a rented apartment in a high rise. A week and a day ago, my dog and cat joined me. This morning marks the first day that there has been no dog poop or pee, and no cat barf, on what turns out to be an excellent choice in odour and stain resistant wall-to-wall carpeting by building management. [SHAMELESS PLUG: ReSolve(tm) Powder, Carpet Spray, and Pre-laundry Stain Removal Spray are WONDERFUL. All you need is a voluminous ruffle of paper towelling to pick up guck. Apply powder to what’s left, and any accompanying puddles. Wait a day to let dry. Vacuum. Apply spray liberally. Wait a minute. Rub gently with wet cloth. Listen to your relieved heart SOAR!]

On my 55th birthday, I bought my first car. I call her The L’il Snow Queen. My Monarch Park Dog Pack Pals in Toronto bought me fuzzy dice to hang from the rear view mirror from Canadian Tire, so I feel obliged to use “L’il” – it’s as silly and fun as the dice, and makes me laugh. I love my car.

Here’s my view:Β img_0107

From my table, I see trees that will be bare soon, and allow peeps of the Seaway river park path. I see one of Sarnia’s many churches, the marina, ships moored at the wharf silos, and the Port Huron, Michigan portion of the Bluewater Bridge. I can watch tiny transport trucks coming to Canada all day and night.

It’s the sky here that has me mesmerized, though. Things have a way of floating past or flying away here. Ships’ lights glide along in the dark on the river before dawn. Crows cavort around the church steeple. Hawks abound. At the leash-free dog park on the edge of town, gaggles of geese on the adjacent pond up and form tangles of Vs that separate and exert themselves southwards in diminishing wisps of gronking. And the wide expanse of blue over Lake Huron and the St. Clair river tumbles beautiful clouds at us like a magician revealing astounding surprises. Of course these things exist in Toronto, and elsewhere. But it’s the expanse of the vista and the weight of the vast sky that makes you aware of the beauty of the place.

My friend Joyce told me to rent the best place I could for my thriftily apportioned funds, and I pass that invaluable tip on to you. Her point was to help myself make an easier transition to a new life in a place that made me the happiest. I would have been okay in an apartment building a little less expensive and further from the water, but despite the initial difficulties for Espresso and Gordie, this view brings me utter joy.

I sold my little house and I moved to a new place for joy.

Look at that amazing bridge.