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We have been stuck indoors for 3 weeks now and it feels like an eternity! Some days drag especially with inclement weather. We had some snow again today and I almost cried! Fortunately the sun has come out again and we can get outside and into the forest. There at least we don’t concern ourselves about the 2 metre rule as we seldom come across anyone else.

We humans have an amazing sense of survival and adaptation or so I am led to believe. We get through these long confined days and are slowly developing coping mechanisms. The forced stillness has also allowed us to hear our ‘little voice’ in our heads once again. We go inwards and ponder the things that are important to us…..our family, friends and keeping healthy. It has brought much joy to be connected to family and friends. Keeping healthy has required a bit of extra effort on my part. I have tried to devote some time to it each day.

One of my favourite activities is the recent virtual Pilates class that I join twice a week.  I used to be part of this group, with Nancy as our teacher, when we lived in Oakville. Through internet connectivity I can bend, breathe and contort all the way from the West Coast. It is almost as if I am transported back to the Pilates studio minus the chirps from my fellow participants.

Chester lending a supportive paw….

As the lady of the house I am obliged to keep the cupboards stocked and the fridge full. The men in the household are working from home. During these escapades I arm myself with my homemade mask, alias scarf, and my rubber gloves.

Did I ever imagine that grocery shopping would be the highlight of my day? I waft around and examine the different items on the shelves. I try not to allow my vivid imagination to envisage the dreaded lurgies which are out there too! As a senior, I hate to admit this fact, I am allowed priority shopping times which is an added perk.

So this is life for the next few weeks. Hopefully we can all find some joy and hopefully some humour during this closeted time.

Vacuuming with an added stretch put into the mix……

 

 

 

 

 

The virus has arrived in Canada!

The reptilian side of our brain is triggered and fear and panic is evident. This is fueled by the bombardment on television with constant statistical updates.  While I realise the severity of the situation, I have decided to limit my intake in an effort to curb my primitive instincts. All safety measures have been put in place within our house. We seldom venture out, mostly to replenish our food stocks. Instead of worrying myself silly, I have decided to do what I can and then to just enjoy each day for what it is. In the ‘do what I can’ category I have offered my grocery shopping skills to elderly neighbours. So far no one has taken me up on it but at least the offer is out there.

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Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in

“Mom, do you really think you should take that flight?”

My trip across to Toronto had been booked weeks before the world became exposed to this threat. I armed myself with all the necessary protection and climbed aboard. What can I say? This decision did not go down well with certain people but the family and I had a wonderful week. It was certainly different as we were confined to the apartment for most of the time. But we were able to cement our bonds as the Morkel tribe yet again and for that I am most grateful.

Toast each sundown with wine

What is important here? It might sound trite but to live each day to the full is vital. A closeted lifestyle is not conducive to a healthy mental state. We are all going to have to work at keeping connected and finding things to occupy ourselves in a confined space. Some of us have forgotten what makes our heart sing. It is time to explore our options. So in the ‘enjoy each day’ category I am determined to make the most of this change of lifestyle.

Our internet connectivity allowed me to explore some activities this week. I had high tea with a friend the other day complete with the china tea cups. My granddaughter and I also had a virtual video catch up. We were able to while away an hour as we played hide and seek and read stories to each other.

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My body is weathered and worn

I bare my virus battle scars proudly. My fingers are cracked from too much hand sanitizer and my cleaning spree. My hair is slowly revealing my true hair colour. Eek!

Can we not allow hairdressers to be classified as essential services?

 

I close my eyes and I can see a world that’s waiting up for me that I call my own ……

The rain was endless and it filled our stream alongside the house. The deep vibration of the water pounded on the river rocks. I peered down into my garden and reflected on the hours of contentment my summer garden had provided. I reminded myself that I had to be patient as there was still a winter to endure. It was time to enjoy the Christmas lights that twinkled up from the garden. The tiny soft white bulbs softened the harshness of the bare plants and provided a contrast to the bright green cedar trees.  It is a source of such comfort to look down on that bit of sparkle when you are held up indoors for days on end. But this morning was different…..the rain had eventually stopped. It was time to get outside.

Our first snow…..

A vision of the one I see…..

The first stop was a morning latte and croissant at my favourite haunt. It is a cosy bakery and it is filled with Christmas ambiance.  This obviously has an effect on the patrons as a young boy leaned across at his dad and sang into his ear. “You better watch out, you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town.” The conversation then ensued between dad and son was what Santa might be delivering down the chimney that year. The debatable question was how ‘naughty or nice’ he had been throughout the year. This private exchange that I had eavesdropped on really brought home some of the magic of Christmas.

A touch of Christmas….

We can live in a world that we design……

It is the time when the ‘little girl’ in me is ever present. Memories of childhood African Christmases abound. Although so different in many ways, the spirit was the same. It was a time to rejoice in our family and friends. So many of those traditions have continued. Instead of bright African sun warming us as we gathered around our braai outside, we huddle around a crackling fire with the snow covered mountain tops in the distance. We still eat the turkey but instead of salads we have roasted sweet potato. This year the turkey will be cooked outside, very slowly on our barbeque. Some things don’t change! For my own sanity I try to spice things up in the culinary department. Only to be told by the family that they want the ‘tried and tested’ recipes. Not sure what that is supposed to tell me. It does not dampen the spirit…… I rush around and collect greenery from my garden and a nearby forest. Decorations are brought up from the storeroom and deliberated over for the right effect. The Christmas tree is up and the twins have added the finishing touches. It is time to reflect on the season.

The twins add their final touch to the tree.

But it feels like home…..

This year I have tried to be mindful and to keep things natural and simple. I am so grateful for the wealth of nature that surrounds me ……even though it is sodden with rain!  I find such joy in preparing my home for my family and friends. This lead up to Christmas and the anticipation of the whole family sleeping under our roof, keeps me inspired.

May your Christmas be filled with special moments with the people that you love.

 

 

Our Earth

Click on the link for superb drone footage of Canada.

Listen to the Scientists!

What is the point of going to school if we have no future?

Our earth is burning!
The posters flashed their messages as we drove through Vancouver’s on Friday. 120 thousand people took to the streets, many of them children. They swarmed out from schools and colleges and eventually gathered at the City Hall. Many took the day off  to let their voices be heard and this certainly sent an earnest message to us adults. The message was clear. We need to get serious about protecting their future!
It was with a heavy heart that I drove back to the north shore over our scenic Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancouver is beautiful!
The mostly calm sea with the islands in the distance, the majestic mountains that frame the harbour and the forests that stretch into infinity. These children had really hit home and I valued my beautiful surroundings as I pondered its future.
This theme continued to plague my thoughts over the weekend.  I came across a research scientist from the UK who was expounding the merit to your health of spending time in the garden. Francis Williams used a term called ‘forest bathing.’ Don’t you just love that term? I think I fantasize about the other kind of Forest Bathing!

My Lady Anne Barnard moment…..

 While at school I came across the character, Lady Anne Barnard, who supposedly partook of this rather scandalous act of  bathing in a forest pool in Cape Town, South Africa. She was the wife of an English governor during the British occupation at the Cape. She was somewhat older than her husband and was not too concerned about being a demure Georgian wife. This was in the late 1700’s! But I am getting off track….
The ‘forest bathing’ that Francis referred to was the practice of spending time outside surrounded by nature. It did not have to be a forest walk. It could simply be a stroll through a park or time spent in a sunny spot in a garden. In expounding on the merits of this activity, she added that you get to experience all the senses…..the smells, the sounds and even perhaps the feel of the breeze. Just 15 minutes of being outside daily can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure and your cortisol levels  It can be explained like this…… by being present in your experience you relax your cortex,. that is your thinking brain. It is no wonder that this has become a popular practice in Japan. Doctors even prescribe ‘time outside’ to their patients who struggle with various ailments including stress and pain management.

Forest bathing at the bottom of my garden….

My garden continues to draw me in. I play in it and tend it for hours. While I might not be adding much to climate change, I can take care of and manage my small piece of this magnificent world here in Canada.

♫ Let’s Go Vancouver♫

This video brings home the fact that here in Vancouver we have a tremendous amount of rain. So excuse us when we wax lyrical when we get the odd dose of sunshine…….

There was much excitement today when 2 massive cruise ships sailed and docked on our north shore. We are used to watching them disembark with all the usual hooting and fanfare across the bay. This was different as it was right on our doorstep!

A local company were refitting this 27 000 ton, 680 passenger liner in 16 days. Each cabin was to be gutted and remodeled as well as the hull stripped and repainted along with updates to the propulsion system and rudder. As you can imagine this is a tall order and it would require a large workforce to complete this scale of job. It proved to be no problem to the organisers. I can imagine there was some bright young spark on that team……the second boat was drawn alongside that could accommodate the 2000 strong band of workers. How ingenious is that? Imagine falling out of bed…. a quick brush of the teeth and then a walk across the gangplank to the office. Once the day was done you could meet on the deck for a quick sun downer with a view across the Bay. Not too shabby for a day in the working life of the crew!

A surprise on our North Shore…

I had to smile as the company doing the refitting apologised for the noise that the locals would have to endure during the fitting out of the boat. How amazingly polite we are as Canadians and conscious of our environment.

I took this all in on my walk down to the quay last night. As the sun was setting a resident tugboat pulled in right next to me. A ship’s pilot shot me a greeting over his shoulder and then jumped aboard. He was obviously going out to one of the tankers to bring them into the port.

There is so much to see if we just take the time to stand and stare.

A tugboat greeting along the pier….

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing –half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame

Wind in the Willows

 

 

 

 

I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.

 

This rendition sung by Colin Thackeray hit me hard!

As I listened and watched his delivery it evoked so many emotions. The regal red figure   stood there straight and proud, happy to display his vulnerability with honesty.  He wore his 89 years of age well and his few minutes on stage made us reflect on what is important in life! It also brought back wonderful memories of my dad who sang to us all the time. He also served proudly as a bomber pilot in the World War 2. I could imagine my dad singing this song to my mom who was the ‘wind beneath his wings.’ I miss them both and was reminded of the legacy they have left behind in their family.

Dad during World War 2

 

But I’ve got it all here in my heart

The last 18 months have been a test for us as some unpredictable factors affected the security of our life here in North Vancouver. We wondered if we should sell up and downsize. Forego the responsibilities of having a home with a garden……

I know this is JUST a garden but the thought of losing my forest garden filled me with utter despair. I love this piece of Canadian soil and have spent hours toiling in it and bringing it back to its former splendour. But the reality was that we might have to leave this all behind.

Was this a First World problem? I think not. When you leave your home country and move far away, your home becomes your security and your refuge as a family. My parents left the UK and settled in South Africa. We were very conscious of the fact that the move had been hard for them, especially for my dad. But he never let it get to him. This is when the GRIT kicks in. Thanks for the genes, mom and dad!

 

I can fly higher than an eagle.

Sh..t happens, and when it does you fight back and regroup as a family. I am so grateful for the family that we have and for the support and love they have shown us. Life just seems so worthwhile when I have ‘my tribe’ around me. Colin Thackeray showed us too how he appreciated his family. It has inspired him to keep up his enthusiasm for life. So much so that he competed and won the recent Britain’s Got Talent competition. How amazing is that? For those that watched the attached video, you will have noticed that along with family members in the audience, there were his two friends. They were also dressed up in their red regalia and were with him every inch of the way.

 

For you are the wings beneath my wings.

As you can see, Mr. Thackeray reminded me this morning of the people who have influenced who I am (mom and dad), those who love and support me (my family and friends) and those who form part of my tribe.

So as the sounds of music float through my kitchen I am reminded that…

You are the wind beneath my wings.

The Morkel family

 

 

In the mirror of your eyes…….

My rugged African pot stood sheepishly at the foot of my driveway all decked out with its hessian bow. It had to endure the humiliation along with the many other corners of my house. There is much to celebrate….the Winter Solstice heralds the fact that our days will slowly become longer and our nights shorter. Then we have my favourite time of the year. Need I say, it is Christmas.  The wonder and joy of the season here in the northern hemisphere is magical.

A delicate twist to my African roots!

I can see it all so clearly…..

The steep pathway down to the house is lit up with fairy lights. They have a double function; both to illuminate the slippery staircase and to add a flickering twinkle to the arduous task of getting up and down to the house. Although when your arms are piled high with copious bags of groceries and replenishment stocks to the bar fridge, the lights are the last thing on your mind. But it is so worth the effort!

Like an image passing by……

The twins made a quick pre-Christmas visit to drop Leo off for a few weeks while their parents had a well-deserved family holiday. Leo is the much loved golden retriever. While the dogs got reacquainted, the twins helped decorate the Christmas tree.  There is much to be said for having your family traditions and I sat back and lapped up the scene. Deliberation reigned as the two placed the carefully chosen ornaments on the branches. There was much teetering on the chairs and discussion. Both of them are fiercely independent and I had to restrain myself from intervening in their creative activity. I watched and listened as the two repeated history.

Katy added her magical touch…

Christmas finally arrived and we all gathered together to celebrate. Stuffed turkey, glazed ham and red cabbage cooked in apple juice and topped with cranberries was on the menu. Dessert was a homemade salted caramel ice cream topped with meringues. These were made from scratch too. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year!

Christmas traditions with Jack …..tartan and pajamas.

Like reflections of your mind……

Besides all the preparation that goes along with Christmas, it is a time of remembrance and soul searching for me. I was continually reminded how my mom managed a house full at Christmas with such grace. There was always delicious food and all were welcome at our table. I missed them both and found myself reflecting back now that I am ‘the nanny’ and all the kids descend on our house at Christmas. There is much music, laughter and plenty of food.

So now we will go our separate ways…..

So another New Year is about to begin. We all need to go out and carry on with our lives. I will bathe in the love that I feel. This was brought home to me when my granddaughter said goodbye at the car. I was securing her seat belt and she tilted her little head forward and said: “Nanny I will dream about you.”

Best wishes for 2019 go to all of you and may you always have something to look forward to.

Christmas Cousins