Talking to Trees*

It was a cloudy day and so it was later in the afternoon when I ventured out for a walk under a light and intermittent sprinkling.

light sprinkling

And the scent! Glorious! I’m not sure what it is … poplar trees?

poplar scent

It’s heady, anyway. I used to attribute this sweet scent to the wolf willows in bloom, but am having another think.

The first time I noticed this smell was in Stewart, B.C., back in 1979. How is it I’d never noticed it right here in Saskatchewan? There were poplars all around the farmyard and everywhere else. Probably I was never paying attention till I actually left the province and began to appreciate it.

***

Bev visits her mom in the local hospital every afternoon, and has also been “doctoring” with her vehicle at the GM dealership. She found a few minutes the other day to stop at a garage sale in town.

“You’ll never guess what I found!” she exclaimed, coming into the house with a very large plastic bag. “Come and see this!”

She pulled out a home-made quilt and threw it onto the bed in her room. “I thought it would fit perfectly and match the rest of the bedding, and it’s even reversible.”

quilt close

There was a $15 tag attached to the bag.

“And you got it for $15?” I said. “That’s a steal of a deal for a handmade quilt.”

“Ten,” she said.

“What?” said I.

“I bargained her down.”

“From $15?” said I.

“Well, it was a garage sale!” she said.

I washed it and hung it on a clothes rack in the basement to dry.

***

Twelve years ago, right about now, Mom had just passed away in a hospital bed that had been brought into their condo in Kelowna and placed in her bedroom.

I was having tea a while ago with my aunt, Shirley, and we were talking about funerals. I said I don’t like them because they seem a great ordeal for the bereaved, when another ordeal is the last thing they need. Mom wanted a funeral, though, in our hometown Margo, because her mother still lived there, attended church every Sunday, and to her it would matter.

“I know some people find funerals comforting, healing. I don’t,” I told Shirley. “But I was deeply touched that day by the kind things people said to me about Mom. I was surprised by the distances some travelled in order to be with us, to show that they cared about our loss and to tell us how they felt about Mom and what they remembered best about her.”

“That’s because your mom was one of a kind,” Shirley said. “Everybody loved her.”

Grace high school158

Mom, probably in high school.

Twelve years gone by and I’m tearful writing this, and if I stop for few moments they will turn into a sob session whose sharp vehemence always comes as a shock. That deeply felt grief will never really pass, Shirley says; her own mom’s been gone a lot longer and even coming across her handwriting in an old recipe book can bring on the weepies.

I hope that wherever Mom is (I hope she is somewhere), she can know that her husband and children have made it another 12 years without notable suffering and with general contentment. I figure she’d be pleased to know that Dad didn’t “give up” but is still going through the motions that keep him healthy even if not 100% happy, because he can’t be, because he misses her still — and terribly, I suspect.

I might not think of Mom every day but nevertheless it’s often, and when I do it’s with the greatest affection, gratitude for all she was and did and gave, and longing. When it’s my turn to die, it’s likely I’ll be hoping death will put me into her presence once more. Meanwhile I await her ghostly appearance on this side of the veil. Since it hasn’t happened yet, I’m not too optimistic.

***

The second lemon pie thickened up in the fridge and the four of us (Emil is here for the weekend) ate it after supper last night. My crust was pronounced “flaky,” so that’s a win, considering I rolled each crust out twice. Today I read that you’re supposed to patch up rips in the dough, not roll it out a second time. Okie doke. I’m baking another one right now for a hamburger pie we’re having in tonight’s meal. Christ, pie pastry is messy. Maybe that’s why I never make it.

I’ve added three more recipes to the Stubblejumpers Café Recipe Collection. There is also a link in the column on the left; just click on the orange bar and scroll down to the photo of Mom’s mottoware dishes (Aunt Alma’s, right, Reta? Everything nice came from Aunt Alma?), and click on the photo. One recipe is a master pastry mix that keeps for months unrefrigerated and is used to make numerous other dishes; I’ve also added the recipes for biscuits and a quiche made with it.

***

*Another one of those “title” ideas that never went anywhere to speak of.

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8 thoughts on “Talking to Trees*

  1. Still reading …. and given the warmth and beauty of this town we’re in, Annecy, that is a sign of how I count on your posts.

  2. We always get that smell in the air this time of year and it is powerful. I think it is the choke cherry flowers just coming out.

  3. Ralph,
    Maybe that’s it! There are saskatoons in flower right now, plus the crabapple trees, and I’ll have to look-see if there are chokecherries too, but I think Scott mentioned them as well. Whatever it is, it’s heavenly. -Kate

  4. GrandmotherWisdom,
    So many of us are uncomfortable being the centre of attention in a large group, and that’s some of it for me if I’m part of the bereaved family. But also, formality doesn’t fit me, or I don’t fit it. It feels phony. I remember being about 21 when my Grandpa J died, and at the cemetery the undertaker picked some plastic roses off Grandpa’s casket and handed one to each of us granddaughters. I wanted to slap him with it! He meant a kindness, of course, but to me it just didn’t touch my grief; it felt too shallow, too fake.
    Each to his own. There are good things about funerals. In recent years there is a lot of storytelling and laughter, and that’s pretty cool.
    But I’ve told He Who Must Not Be Mentioned that if I go first and he lets anybody preach churchy crap over me, I’ll “hant” him to the end of his days. -Kate

  5. Secret Agent Woman,
    This quilt isn’t large so it fit into the washing machine with no problem. As far as I know, fabric is pre-shrunk before it’s used in a quilt, so I wasn’t expecting any problems washing it.
    It must be hell on wheels to attend the funeral of a sibling. My uncle didn’t come to Mom’s, and I’m pretty sure it’s because he wouldn’t have held up during it, and I don’t blame him one bit. I’d rather not have been there, myself!
    -Kate
    -Kate

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