Monday, April 26, 2010

A Dream

I had a dream last night.  It is uncommon for me to remember my dreams these days; I believe it is because of the number of medications I'm on for hypertension and chronic pain. Or, perhaps, my dreams, which do happen, are not important enough for me to remember in a conscious state. My subconscious has received the message...and it appears this is enough.

But the dream last night stayed with me. I've had it once before, but it was a little different. And I knew it was a dream, because I remember thinking...oh, I've had this dream before...

I was visited by three personages.  All were draped in long gowns with hoods...I caught glimpses of their faces, and they appeared to be aged men. They were standing on a ledge above a deep, dark, Pool.  We were in a Cave...there were candles which sent off a poor, flickering light, but enough to see the undulating Stone walls.

My daughter Heidi was with me...she was still a toddler in my dream. It's been over thirty-some years since she was so young; yet I had no doubt whatsoever it was her. 

It seemed as if I was outside of my body, seeing the Cave, the personages, my daughter...all quite clearly. Since I'd had a dream about these gentlemen before, in the very same was all familiar and yet not. Dreams are like that sometimes, I've found.

But suddenly, my daughter and I were in that deep, dark Pool, which turned into a muddy stew.  It was difficult to see...I held my daughter's hand as we tried to navigate we endeavoured to return to the surface, which seemed so very far away.

Breathing was not difficult. I knew we were under the surface of the sludgy Pool, yet I could still see the three men. I did not lose sight of them as they stared down into that Pool, only watching.

For ages,it seemed in the dream, we were in the Pool. It changed from time to time to wonderful, clear Water, swirling around my daughter and I, clearing away the muck.  But mostly, we were mired in that dark and grungy Mud.

There seemed to be no purpose to our being there and to the men who watched us. What were they expecting? And how long were we to stay in the swirling, changing Water?

The previously still Pool began to churn. I tried hard to reach the surface, holding fast to my daughter's hand. All at once, I felt it was urgent that I save my baby, and I began to feel disturbed at my situation.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not swim hard enough to reach the surface.  It came to me that I was in the Pool for a reason, yet I could not fathom what that reason might be.

I noticed others in the Pool with me. They were all vague shapes and appeared to be trying to reach the surface as well. They were naked, as was I and my daughter...but our nakedness in the dream did not bother me at all.

The Pool changed into salt Water...I could taste it. We were immersed in what I thought  was Ocean Water which had churned up as if a Storm somewhere was creating huge, long Waves. I felt Sand battering my body.

The Sand began to was unrelenting and I became concerned about my daughter. But she was no longer with me...inexplicably, I saw she was being wrapped in a large towel by a woman who had suddenly appeared on the ledge with the men.

Had she been apart from me in real life, I would have moved Heaven and Earth to reach, I understood inside she had been plucked from the Water by the lady and was perfectly alright.

My attention returned to what had become a painful, watery Hell. I noticed abrasions on my skin; blood...began to mix with the swirling Water.

It seemed to take forever before my feet found purchase on smooth Stone steps. I was still under Water, yet I knew if I could only hold my balance, those steps would lead to where the men still stood, albeit without my daughter or the lady with the large blanket-like towel.

My head broke the surface of the Pool as I climbed, on my hands and knees, out of the Water.  I noticed others who had managed to already reach the ledge; they were being aided by other figures who emerged from behind the three men.

As I arose out of the Water, tingling and bleeding from various abrasions on my body, I noticed what seemed to be Crystals...mostly purple and very sharp, that grew alongside the smooth, stone steps. I grasped these, in order to give impetus to my climb.

It's a bit of a blur after I broke the surface of the Water and climbed to the ledge. I was received much the same as the others who had climbed out of the Pool, by a helping hand and sudden warmth and release from the sharp, stinging pain of the Sand.

I remember feeling welcomed. I recall hands...many hands...patting me here and there. After the Sand blasting in the Pool, my skin should have been cleansed, yet I was covered in Mud.

It felt so good, sitting on the ledge, which felt warm and comfortable. Many people moved about, far more than that ledge could conceivably hold. I noticed an opening behind the three men...and I knew I was to enter that opening.

And while I processed this, feeling anticipation, apprehension and resignation, I awoke.

As I've said, I've had this dream before, although Heidi wasn't in my first one.

After awakening from both dreams, I felt satisfaction, contentment and happiness. Even during the dream, there were no extreme emotions other than concern for my daughter. Instinctively, I must have known there was no danger, possibly because I knew I was in a dream.

A strange, recurring dream, this one. It is recent, meaning the first one occurred when I still lived in Qualicum Beach, just before we moved.

There are the first dream, I was not battered by that salty, sandy Water. There was no blood. I did not have Heidi with me. I don't recall seeing the purple Crystals.

But the men, the ledge, the mud in the Pool, the Cave, candles,and the others who emerged to aid the people in the Water...these were all a part of the first dream, as well.

And the feelings regarding the events and circumstances of the dream are the same.

I have the odd feeling it is a precognitive dream...but of what?

I guess time will tell.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring, Sunshine and Serenity

I am unaccustomed to having my time taken up with something other than home and cooking, writing and gardening. I have been busy with volunteering for Hospice this week, and the work I do around the home has shuffled its way to the back of the line.

And Spring has arrived in the Cariboo.  Warm days and nights have suddenly decided to visit for awhile; there will still be nights, no doubt, where Frost might rim the hardy, perennial plants which are beginning to show through the soil.

I have begun to utilize the little greenhouse Graham built last Spring.  It was built too late, really, to start seedlings and tubers and bulbs then.  But this year, I have it there...all ready in which to plant.

Its warm inside my little greenhouse.  During the days when Sun shines, but a cold Wind blows, it is beyond words wonderful. It provides a buffer from Wind, which can wreak havoc on my body. And it has the unique greenhouse scent...that wet earth and new greenery smell.

Yesterday, on the way home from another volunteering job, I stopped at the nursery.  It sounds like that might be a great, fun thing...but it's always a bad idea for my finances when I stop at a nursery in early Spring.

I don't have the huge garden I once had on the Coast; the cold and dry conditions here take care of any great ideas I might be nurturing about large gardens. Another drawback is the absence of good Soil.

And so, with the inability of the thin Soil which covers the Rocks and Boulders in this place to sustain anything other than Rocks and Pebbles, I do a lot of gardening in containers and built-up beds.

With the greenhouse, instead of waiting until night time temperatures correspond with plants and planting, I can start my containers earlier, with little plant plugs. These plugs are much cheaper, I tell myself as I stand at the cashier's counter, than if I'd had to wait for more clement weather. Because by that time, all that would be left in the nursery would be the larger, more expensive plants.

Cheaper or not, I still plunked down a fair bit of cash, for these tiny baby plants.

I picked out heavenly, deep blue Petunias, white Petunias, red Geraniums, minuscule filler plants like Bacopa and Alyssum, Osteospermum and Calibrachoa. My favourite filler plant is the ethereal Diamond Frost Euphorbia, which is rather new.  It shines with an unbelievable, Snow-flake-like glow in the early evening. And I could not forget white Pansies...the small plants grow enormous here, all Summer long.

For the vegetable garden, I bought tiny Tomato plants, Walla Walla onion sets (even though they won't be the same in taste and texture as the onions which actually grow in Walla Walla), Strawberry plants, Red Cabbage, Squash and Kale. I planted Lettuce and Mesclun seeds about two weeks ago...and I discovered they decided to pop up through the soil just yesterday.

I want to grow Carrots.  The Carrots which grow here are unbelievable for the crunch, texture and sweet taste. It must have something to do with the climate, because I have not tasted Carrots quite like the ones which grow in the Cariboo. But the Carrots will be seeded directly into the built-up ground, as will Cucumbers, Beets, Peas and Sunflowers.

Last year I planted Raspberries, Rhubarb and a Gooseberry bush.  All are doing very well. The Apple tree Graham dug in through Stony Soil looks to be full of fingers are crossed that we will not experience a deep Frost, which will surely decimate those tender pink flowers.

I plan to buy a Weeping Willow this year. It will be planted on the East side, between the house and the new Woodworking shop Graham just built last year.  It will give shade to the deck during those hot, still afternoons we experience in the Summer. I identify strongly with the Weeping bends but rarely breaks.

And even if I bought the majority of the plants required for the pots and built-up beds...there will yet be visits to the nursery, possibly each one after a volunteering visit. Nurseries calm me...there is great peace to be found wandering the aisles, smelling the good, earthy, humid scent which is so identifiable.

I still intend to buy Snapdragons, Echinacea, and Sedums. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a supply of different Grasses, mostly Carex...all do well here, once established.

I am accustomed to having an Herb garden. I don't have one as yet...all of my Herbs are planted here and there throughout the Flower gardens. But this year, Graham has plans to build another garden bed...and it will be large enough for all my Herbs to be transplanted into it. Some Herbs will overwinter, while others must be treated as annuals in this harsh climate.

My mouth is watering already at the thought of fresh Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm and Dill. Parsley is already planted, has come up well, along with Chervil, which has seeded itself. I am going to try to grow Lemon Grass...a first for me.

I intend to be in the greenhouse all weekend, planting the Window boxes in order for them to be ready and full for their debut outside. Perhaps there will also be time for seeding.

And in so doing, I will find strong serenity...even if laundry has piled up and the bathrooms need cleaning. Those jobs will wait.

They must wait, because my itchy, green fingers need to feel granular, moist Soil, Water and  tender baby seedlings.

And my mind, body and soul require the serenity I will surely find in the little greenhouse...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Great Day

Every once in awhile, the Universe sends me a day that is filled with happiness, for no good reason, really. I treasure these days. I love that there is no reason for a great just is.

On Friday, it was easy for me to forget that there are good days like today. On that day, my body was wracked with agonizing pain; my brain felt as if it were enclosed in a deep, dark and ugly Cloud. On that day, if a reason came up to be happy, I would immediately have found the negative side of it.

On that day, I cried.  I rarely cry, unless the ending of a book or movie has me in thrall. On that day, I shook my fist at the Heavens, at the Powers-That-Be. I was enveloped with anger towards Whoever decided that I was to live the rest of my life like this. What lesson must I learn from it, I yelled...I am not stupid or dull...wouldn't you have thought by now I would have got it? 

There was no answer. I felt as if I had been forgotten, as if I was of no consequence. I felt alone, without the strong faith which has sustained me so well throughout this damned disease. Which is strange, because I surely was shouting and yelling at Someone...

Barometric pressure, when it changes drastically, has a huge bearing on the really bad pain. And on Friday, the weather patterns changed hourly, cold, sunny and windy one minute, cold, windy and snowing the next. My body reflected each change. There was no getting accustomed to the changes...they were like Lightning. My little weather station, which tells me what the barometric pressure is, went up and down like a yo-yo.

On Friday, even though there was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me the excruciating way my body was reacting would change again, I thought this would be forever. I could not wrap my mind around any positive thought.

I wrote, that day.  The words I wrote will never see the light of day...they will be stored with the rest of the long essays I write when I am really, really, really in pain. It is difficult to read them...especially when I feel relatively good...I shy away from them then. I prefer to forget the really horrible times, when my mind is dark and I am writhing in shooting pain and throbbing cramps.

On Friday, I tried to laugh. Laughing is good for me, strong, belly-laughing makes pain lessen. I watched the comedy network...even it, even people who can make me laugh without hardly trying...could not rouse a single giggle out of me.

I'd understood the trip to the Island would precipitate an attack. It would be unusual not to have one. I accept that, I am prepared for it. The trip is always worth it; I would not take a minute back.

But the punishment on Friday was over the top. Not one drug I have in my arsenal worked. Not one. I may as well have been taking candy. That might have worked better, actually.

I have a doctor's appointment next week. He will hear, he will watch me cry, he will tell me it is alright to cry, that I have reason to do so. He will change medications once more. He will offer, again, to place a standing order at the hospital for injections, stronger drugs to keep the pain at bay. He will send me for tests yet again, and he will offer to send me to another specialist. 

And today, I am of the mind that perhaps someone, somewhere will know how to treat this unbelievably traumatic torturous disease. There must be someone...

Surely, through the ages, someone must have discovered a way to live with mind-bending chronic pain. Without mind-bending drugs...

I could not think in this hopeful way on Friday. On Friday, even heat would not work...what felt like an almost boiling water bath I prepared actually made it worse. My body, even as red as a cooked Lobster, still insisted on  twisting and turning with pain.

A epiphany, if you will, popped up. During hospice training, as I tried to hide the fact that I was feeling pain, someone asked me why I would. Why would I hide it, why was I ashamed of it?

I've been thinking about that question a lot. Why am I so intent on appearing normal, whatever that may be, when to whomever looks at is so apparent that I am not? It takes a lot of effort and energy to appear pain-free.  

I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror in a store the other day. Who was that woman whose face was screwed up, whose mouth was turned down, whose back was bent? That was me. In a moment when I was intent on something other than pain...that was me.

I'll have to accept there will be times when my mask recedes. I am accustomed to placing myself in other's positions when I am stumped on something like this. Would I want to speak with a lady who looks embittered, as I do, when I fight the pain? The answer is...probably not. 

But there are days, like today, when my mouth is turned up, more often than not. My back doesn't seem as bent and all those wrinkles matter not. And it brings to mind the idea I might take a look at how I see others.

And I might garner my resources, as they say, and take a look at why I might feel shame at feeling chronic pain.

Today, all that is in the past. I am happy right now, just because. Pain is around, but muted and manageable. There are knife-like stabs here and there; it makes me happy I am so accustomed to them. It's an odd thing,perhaps, but for me, it's huge...

Just as huge as having a great day!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gourmet Food, Love and a Recipe

The Easter holiday has come and gone. But oh! what a great, busy and joyous time we had.

We arrived late on Thursday...Graydon, my grandson, was in bed and close to Dreamland.  Brianna was celebrating an early Easter dinner with her father's family and came home shortly after our arrival. I never thought it possible that a girl could grow so much in only three months...but the young woman whom I cuddled close as a young child has surpassed me in height by many inches.

She bends down now to hug me. It's the oddest sensation...I have begun to feel as if I am a little, elder lady. It's  different  from when my daughters outgrew me...obviously I was much younger then, but that point it was cause for celebration. This time around, it feels as if Time is moving much too fast.

Graydon...ahh, our Graydon. I have long felt since I live so far away that the closeness I enjoyed with Bree could not possibly be the same with my grandson. But I was wrong.  When he saw me, early the next morning, his body shook with joy and his arms opened for a hug. I will remember his hug for as long as I live.  He wrapped himself around me, kissing my cheek, my mouth...wiping my tears away with his soft, pudgy hands. He said...Why are you crying, Nammy?

I could not speak...I had not expected such joy at my appearance from him, but thankfulness flooded my heart and the tears continued for just a little while.

My daughter, a middle school teacher, loves to cook.  Each meal was a delight.  She manages to cook like a gourmet, all the while keeping her home in amazing order, even with a three year old and all his accoutrements...even with a fifteen year old and all her diverse interests...even with Graham and I and what seemed like half the town visiting her home.

Bree, when she was a toddler, received a ride-on vehicle. She enjoyed it so much, I knew I would have to find something similar for my grandson. Now, Graydon does not easily accept new things...he is wary and takes his time in becoming familiar with whatever the new thing might be. But the Mighty Wheels which sat on the living room floor became an instant hit.

He's not so great at remembering to fact, he's not so great at even keeping his hands on the steering wheel, preferring to let me keep the toy vehicle on track. But his cousins, who are seven and four years of age, certainly had the knowledge required.  I have no doubt at all the next time I come, he will be able to drive it all on his own. Even at the highest speed, which is 5 km/hour.

That doesn't sound very fast, but when one is chasing it for an hour...that little vehicle seems really fast, indeed.

Bree was so happy with her little refurbished camera.  I believe she is a little like me in that she becomes attached to her cameras. I have almost every camera I have ever owned, from the Model D Brownie to the Canon I now own. 

The only problem was that I had forgotten to enclose the cable to download photos. Since I don't know what I've done with it, I ordered a new one upon my return home. A small glitch, which my granddaughter took very well. She's fifteen, after all, you know.

Bree worked on Saturday, the day of Graydon's birthday party. She works at Canadian Tire...when she arrived home, the battery on Mighty Wheels had run out, requiring a charge. She wanted to ride, her weight being well under the 135 lbs. limit.  But again, she took it in stride, only grumbling a little under her breath. She makes me laugh...I was only too happy to see the child in her who still loves to play.

My daughter had planned a string of appetizers for the Birthday party. Among at least a dozen others, there were these little squares of puff pastry with cream cheese, cherry tomatoes, olives and other ingredients which went down so easily, along with curried cheese squares...and my son-in-law's smoked Salmon.  I believe that smoked Salmon could win any cooking contest...I ate myself silly, knowing I would not have these tidbits again until my next visit.

By the time Easter Sunday rolled around, I was still full from the previous day. It was a day of lolling around, resting until the time came to make dinner, which consisted of the Easter Ham, three cheese scalloped Potatoes, creamed Succotash, Spring Asparagus in vinaigrette, and Garlic bread. I can't find the words for the taste favourite was the Spring Asparagus, and I know I will be making this dish very soon.

During Graydon's nap, that Easter Sunday, my daughter, granddaughter and I watched the movie New Moon. Bree is a huge fan of the Twilight series; I've watched the first movie, read the first book and am on the second.  I am enjoying the granddaughter loves them. She knows each line the actors speak and has very strong opinions about the story. I made the huge mistake of disagreeing with her about the outcome of the movie.  I was told I could not possibly make up my mind about New Moon until I'd read the whole set of books. A clash of strong minds and wills...but she and I never forgot the respect and love we have for one another.

Spring has arrived on the Island. I was able to wander outside to find Flowers to grace the house...a thing I have yet, this season, to be able to do in the Cariboo. I had a huge hankering to help myself to the neighbour's pink flowering Japanese Plum Tree...but I resisted that urge, to my family's relief.

I will remember the beauty of the green Grass, yellow Daffodils, many-coloured Tulips and the heartwarming shades of the pink-flowering Trees...until such time as the Cariboo bounces with its own Spring loveliness.

I know it will only be a month or so. Plants and Trees are beginning to show the luminescence that occurs just before full leaf growth. And some of the perennials in my garden have returned, making my anxiety over them and the cold Winter weather superfluous. And it will not be long before I have my own pink Crabapple blooming beautifully...

We had a long trip back.  We left my daughter's home, amidst much hugging, kisses and promises of a return visit very soon, at nine AM.  After visiting son Scott's new surfing store and a cup of Tea with Graham's mother, we caught the noon ferry to the mainland.

We arrived home at eight PM. There were a few times during the trip where I did not believe I would ever be able to walk again.  Our small commuter car is not made for comfort during long trips, especially for one who has problems with chronic pain.

There were no piles or puddles from the Dogs...we arrived and they toddled sleepily towards us. Dogs grow old, as well as humans, and seemingly they did not feel the need for bathroom duties during their long incarceration in the house. I believe our dog sitter Faye keeps them busy while she's here, possibly busier than they are accustomed to, and sleep was very welcome for Lucky and Nate that last day...

Just as it was for me and Graham.

But today, after two days of rest and sleep, I am already planning for my family's  visit in a few short months. I am looking forward to repaying all the visits to the Island, where we are treated like royalty.

Tiredness, pain and Summer heat notwithstanding, I know it will be a very extraordinary, loving time...and who could not look forward to that?

Besides, did I tell you my daughter loves to cook?

Recipe for Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

2 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 minced cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
3/4 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. For sauce, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, cook until tender.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once, stir and cook until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat.

Place half of the sliced potatoes in a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Top with half the sauce. Sprinkle with smoked Gouda and cheddar cheese. Add remaining sliced potatoes and remaining sauce.

Cover dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or more until potatoes are tender and golden. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until cheese is golden. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.  

Taken from Best Comfort Food~~Better Homes and Gardens

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter Blessings!

Most holidays for Graham and I are spent on the Island, and Easter is no exception.

It's 4 AM on Thursday morning, April 1, 2010. April Fool's Day...and our travelling day. So far, everything that can go wrong has...our primary travelling vehicle bit the dust yesterday and won't be fixed until today sometime...but we will have taken our little commuter vehicle and will be long gone.

I booked the Dog sitter.  But I screwed up the dates, and we'll have to return a day early. So Lucky and Nate will have a long day in the house on the day of our return on Monday. We will hope for no accidental pools and piles when we enter the house, but with Nate's kidneys and his age, we can't be too sure of that!

No matter.  We're off to visit the family.  My daughter and her husband have planned a full weekend for us...Easter dinner and Graydon's birthday party.  Graydon just turned three on March 27 and he has graciously decided to wait until we arrive to celebrate.

I have a surprise for Bree. The camera we bought her for Christmas a year ago had broken. I'd bought her another, but she was attached to the little underwater camera and so we had it fixed.  But she doesn't know and I am looking forward to her reaction when we give her the old one.

I am looking forward to the Easter Egg hunt.  This year, I plan to find more than anybody else...but then, each year I plan to do this, and I haven't won yet...

I have offered to make Scalloped potatoes for Easter dinner. I found a recipe which uses smoked Gouda cheese and Parmesan and one other cheese, which at this early hour, escapes me.

Graham has a second cousin who is visiting his mother. Nineteen years of age, he has decided to travel the world. I shall look forward to meeting him and enjoying his Scottish accent.

It will be a weekend crammed with people, food and most of all, love. 

My dearest wish is for all who read this blog to have a very Happy Easter, one that is filled with people, food...and great love.

May the Easter Bunny bring all of you much joy, in this season of renewal and rebirth.

And, on my return, I will let you know how the scalloped Potatoes turned out...the one with the smoked Gouda, Parmesan, and that other cheese.

A blessed, joyous Easter to you all!