Archive for August 2011
My grandfather lived in a big white farmhouse. It had rooms and rooms, but the focus of life was the kitchen. On rainy days, we could play there quietly.
Sometimes we were allowed to spend the afternoon in the glassed-in porch just off the kitchen. It was whitewashed, and had filmy white curtains and wide window ledges.
On those ledges was a fastinating collection of knick-knacks and trinkets. Examining these items was very entertaining although we were not really allowed to touch anything.
I have tried to emulate this magical jumble of artifacts in my own home, but some spaces are impossible to duplicate.
glassed-in porch in rain
rainy day glassed-in porch
tall windows and white step
down from the kitchen
to linoleum wicker table a cot
never-used porch door
at the windows, white ledges
keepsakes and trinkets
‘look but don’t touch’
big clock in the kitchen ticks
red-eared slider frantic against
the frosted sides of his bowl
rain taps at the window
irresistible urge to give the turtle
respite, lift the curtain to admire
the rain, lift the velvet lid
of the purple box, Port Maitland
iron pyrite safe inside, encourage
dippy bird to tip and drink
from the glass of water, blue tulips
and a chip in its rim
nudge the red and yellow-flocked
parrot above the cot, swing him
on his metal perch, rearrange ceramic chicks
to peck at whitewashed window ledge
focus rose bowl ruby light
on china pig, puzzle out flowers
and holes on his back, turn the bud vase over
‘where is Occupied Japan?’
pour buttons from the jar, sort
and match Meteghan sea glass, marbles
in a coffee can, take a ship with scallop shells
for sails along the sill
trace paths of hesitant rain
droplets on glass
© Jane Tims 2011
Hurricane Irene is past and the skies are clearing after 44 mm of rain yesterday and a very windy night.
I feel so sorry for those who are left in misery after the storm, but our experience was rather tame. My memories will be:
…bands of rain across the yard…
…waking up to a lawn riddled with leaves…
…a clear sky in the middle of the night. A star was shining through our window, made alternately non-existent and brilliant by the wild movement of the tree branches in the wind. The star was so bright it woke me…
…our demented windchime. A mangle at the best of times, the poor thing is so tangled, it may not be possible for me to figure out the puzzle…
…everything saturated, the bird bath full of clean, fresh water and our driveway like soup…
My first knowledge of the power of a hurricane was associated with Hurricane Hazel. I was born the year it hit in 1954 (October 15), but its ‘bad reputation’ lived long enough for me to hear stories of it as a child. In its wake, 81 people in Ontario were dead due to flooding, and 4000 people in southern Ontario were left homeless.
and me bewildered
wind at the roof
rain at the glass
of the rage
described in the encyclopaedia
more like the silent eye
I turned the page
saw a photograph in disbelief
a straw driven
into the heart of a tree
today, I believe
I stand still
while fury lashes around me
and in the quiet, I
by a word
Published as: ‘Hurricane’, 1993, The Amethyst Review 1 (2)
© Jane Tims
Water is essential to my health, not only because I need it to drink. I also need to see water. Whether it’s the water of a stream, river, lake or ocean, being near water comforts and enlivens me.
I like the transitions too, the places where land and water meet – the seashore, the margins of a brook, or the shoreline of a lake. Birds and other animals love ‘edge’ – places where the food is plentiful and cover is available. We go to the lake shore to watch loons diving for fish, deer wading in the marsh grass and ducks ‘dabbling’ along the shore.
a corner torn
from the loaf of hills
red with setting
dusk and bread crumbs scattered
from the farther shore
arrows etched on glass
under wings a glimpse
of summer night
greedy for crust and crumbs
© Jane Tims 1998
I change the spaces I enter, even when I enter only for a moment. I am an intruder. I am certain feet have scurried into hiding just as I arrive. Sounds have ceased. Scents and tastes have been altered.
Once in a while, my difference can be disguised. I can enter before the space can know I am there. If I am quiet, if I walk softly, some agent will help me pass through the veil and remain unnoticed, just long enough to see and hear and taste the true essence of the place. Often, the generous agent is the wind.
It was a favorite hike, an old cart track winding up the side of a dome-shaped hill in the Elkwater Lake area of the Cypress Hills in southern Alberta. The hill had a flat top and a thick bristle of conifers along the sides. On the flat top was a fescue grass meadow, a bit of prairie perched a layer above the mixed grasslands.
The track was not much more than two ruts, worn into the grass. It curved up the side of the hill, so the approach was gentle, gradual. Then, abruptly, the hilltop. If the wind was right, I could surprise the deer. They yarded there, grazing the grasses, etching paths into the meadow.
If the wind stayed in my favor, the deer would linger, chewing their cuds, watching me, but not registering my difference. As long as the wind blew I could watch, but if it settled, my scent would reach the deer. They would lift their heads and tails and be off in a few zigzag bounds.
on a flat-topped hill
below the hill is the distant prairie
speargrass and grama grass
and the sweetgrass hills of Montana
the grass at my feet is different
fescues of the Cypress Hills
flat-topped remnants of the Great Plateau
untouched by glacier scour
bless the wind
it sorts the grasses
lifts each hair
ruffles the limp and fine
wind nudges the stubble
the artist’s bristle
the tail hairs of the doe
the chop of fresh grass
her gentle cud
her watchful eyes
wind in the spokes
of the mule deer wheel
the trampled paths
a game of fox and geese
or the part teased by wind
into sun-blond hair
if the wind takes a breath
if the grass or the hair
settles on the shoulder
of the hill
seeks the safety
of the downslope
curious on this flat-topped hill
its rightful place
the ancient prairie
Published as: “deer yard on a flat-topped hill”, 2010, Canadian Stories 13 (76)
© Jane Tims
My husband and I love to go for drives in the countryside, and we often turn these trips into ‘expeditions for collection’. For example, in 1992, we began a project to see all the covered bridges in the province; of the more than 60 covered bridges in New Brunswick, we have ‘collected’ about three-quarters. Recently, we began a quest to see as many waterfalls as possible (the state of my arthritic knees puts the emphasis on the ‘as possible’).
This spring, we set out with a very reasonable goal, to see the three lychgates at Anglican churches in the Diocese of Fredericton (all of the Parishes in New Brunswick are located in the one Diocese). This idea came from a short article in the New Brunswick Anglican in 1997 by Frank Morehouse (‘Only three lych gates remain in the diocese’). The three lychgates are at St. Anne’s Chapel in Fredericton, St. James Church in Ludlow, and St. Paul’s Church in Hampton.
Lychgates are an architectural remnant of past practice, dating back to the 13th century. They were used as a part of the funeral service, a place for the priest to meet the body of the deceased on its way to burial, and a shelter for the pall bearers to stand out of the rain. The word lychgate comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lych meaning corpse.
A typical lychgate is made of wood, and consists of a roof supported by a framework of two or more posts, and a gate hung from the framework. Lychgates usually stand at the entrance to the church property or the graveyard. They can be architecturally ornate.
Today the lychgate is a picturesque feature of the churchyard, but they also create habitat for wild life. Spiders tuck their webs in the rafters of the structure where they are safe from wind and rain. The shingled roof of a lychgate is often a place where lichens and mosses can grow without competition from other plants.
Our collection of lychgates at Anglican churches in New Brunswick is complete. We found the lychgate in Fredericton on a rainy day in April…
… the Ludlow lychgate on a hillside in early July…
a place to wait, out of the rain
as if the rain matters
all of us drenched in tears
best for this to be
a grey day
for two way passage
the Sentences encourage me
to lift my eyes
and in the rafters of the lychgate a spider
spinning its web
as if it were a tale that is told
about a roof that protected me
the sun shall not burn thee by day,
neither the moon by night
neither the rain
(quotations in the poem are from The Book of Common Prayer, ‘The Order for the Burial of the Dead’, Canada, 1962)
© Jane Tims 2011
“My grandfather’s farm was like a community itself, a miniature village of buildings. They included the main house, the big barn and various out-buildings. In my memory, there were about eight buildings in all, each with its own purpose, and its own sights, sounds, smells, tastes and stories.” (August 1, 2011, on my grandfather’s farm)
Below is a map of my grandfather’s farm, as I remember it.
The buildings were in a setting of the spaces around them – the orchard, the pastures, the barn yard and the garden.
Some of the buildings, the barn, the house, the mink pen, the garage and the bird loft, I remember very well. Other buildings, the wagon shed, the machine shed, and the shed beside the pasture, I remember only a little. Since my brothers and sister don’t remember these last three at all, or remember other configurations, perhaps these buildings are part of a manufactured memory.
As a result of my work, I have been privileged to see some remote, very special places in New Brunswick.
One of these is Clear Lake, a pristine lake in the south west area of the province. To reach Clear Lake, we canoed across Sparks Lake and made the short portage from Sparks to Clear. The portage crosses the narrow divide between two watersheds – Sparks Lake eventually flows into the Magaguadavic River, while Clear Lake is part of the Pocologan River system.
Clear Lake is a deep lake with remarkably clear water. Lake depth measurements from the New Brunswick Aquatic Data Warehouse show the maximum measured depth to be 29.6 meters (97 feet), although deeper depths have been recorded. Stones on the bottom of the lake look like they are only centimetres away, but when you put your hand into the water, you quickly realise they are far out of reach.
dry leaves settle
waves on Sparks and Redrock
silences our chatter
reeds and aluminium
group of seven trees
rim the shore
bristles with conifers
tangled in the surface
plunge eighteen fathoms
to a cove
gathered in arms
of granite and pine
a cabin perched green
over the edge
sudden and silent
caressed by crescent suns
cast through ripples
only a touch away
through the mirror
numb fingers search
out of reach
in the clear lake
Published as: “Clear Lake”, 1999, River Revue 5
© Jane Tims