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I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

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All the walls would fall around me…..

 

One thing about living in a ‘cardboard,’ alias drywall, house is that sound travels! The drills drone, power tools whine and hammers bash. There is no relief in the never ending cacophony that resounds from the depths of our cabin in the woods. All in the name of RENOVATION. I thought that years of listening to the ‘white noise’ of my classes of children would have conditioned me to this rumble. But it is not the case! My nerves cry out but it falls on deaf ears…..

 

Our cabin in the forest....

Our cabin in the forest….

 La Ravine, as she has been aptly named, teeters on the edge of the Mission Creek ravine. She is perched elegantly on safe ground above the white water and is serenaded by the swirl of the waves that plummet down the rocks. This sound has become our indicator of the upcoming weather for the day. The density of the crash of water is indicative of whether we wear the light and pretty weather resistant raincoat or if it is time to pull out the big guns. The papa bear of raincoats is hardly glamourous but it does the trick! Donned in my sensible waterproof shoes, I am bound to add just a dash of colour with the swirl of an infinity scarf.   Oh my…this Vancouver, is wet, wet and more wet!

These never ending worries, pulling on my sleeves.

But back to the renovation……I think you all know that all our efforts are going into getting ourselves a place to call home again. I thought the first move was hard enough but little did I realise that I would have to do it all over again. What a sucker for punishment! The test has been the lack of order and stability in my life. Unpacked boxes still abound! But I do have the excitement of the unpredictable. The question being…..do I actually need this excitement in my life?

Today it is a bulldozer ,tomorrow who knows....

Today it is a bulldozer, tomorrow who knows….

 Is it furnace fitting or is this the day that the bulldozer will be taking out half the garden? I never know how it will pan out. These workmen beaver away with intent and I marvel at their progress. Thank goodness for the capable hands of Matt, Adrian and Nico. They are out there and certainly don’t shy away from the Vancouver drizzle! I wander around and record the transformation through photographs. These get fed to the family who want to be kept abreast with the progress.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it....chimney sweep's assistant today.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it….chimney sweep’s assistant today.

It’s gonna be okay!

So I am having excellent training at just living in the present. I don’t think further than tomorrow and I have got really adept at improvising. Whether it be for a make shift curtain or a quick bed for a guest.

Yes, the Morkel guest lodge is open for visitors as long as the patrons don’t mind a rather eclectic stay.

Our brave visitors.....Jon and Sarah.

Our brave visitors…..Jon and Sarah.

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We built our own house, own house
With our hands over our hearts.

Decisions are never easy to make especially when you are prone to deliberation. Buying a house is one of those big ones. It must be right up there on the scale of decision making challenges. It is not only the financial outlay that makes this a tough one, it affects the way  you choose to live and it reflects your personality. Strangely enough, it one decision that we make easily within the budgetary constraints. I either like a house or not. Distance dictated that the Vancouver house was going to be an exercise in online shopping as I was still located in Toronto.

My better half had diligently found over 300 ‘suitable’ houses in the North Vancouver area. He visited many of them and even put in an offer on one. But we lost it due to an over zealous bidder. We were so disappointed! Then one day while I was searching on line, I happened to stumble across a house nestled in its very own mini forest.  The added feature was that it had its very own creek too. I just knew that this was the one!

Our forest along with a treehouse...

Our forest along with a tree house…

The Vancouver market is crazy and houses sell in a matter of days with multiple offers. Therefore a decision had to be made promptly. I poured over photographs and zoomed over the roof of the house courtesy of drone produced aerial footage. This magical little instrument revealed the beauty of the trees that give this property its charm and privacy. Any urban sounds are drowned out by the fast flowing Mission Creek. The decision was made…….it was the easiest online purchase I had ever made.

But in case you think this tale has the makings of a bedtime story, there are challenges to be had. The big one is access to the property. The house is positioned well below the level of the road and the only access is a rather steep and lengthy staircase.

Once the euphoric online acquisition had been made, the inevitable buyer’s remorse set in. How were we going to manoeuvre all our worldly goods down that steep staircase and into the house? I could see myself somersaulting down the staircase with a large sofa hurtling behind me!
Sleepless nights were the order of my day and afterwards I gave a couple of lofty solutions to our problem ….one being to construct a wooden bridge from the garage across to the house. I had idyllic visions of me trotting across with my shopping packets swaying next to my sides. My tree walk would both be a practical solution as well as food for my soul. This did not go down well….

So the engineers and creative brains in our household are working on it. I am keeping my somewhat lofty solutions to myself. There are many ideas being banded about and much discussion has ensued. I trust that they are bound to come up with a  practical plan.

I think I will turn my attention to dreaming about how I am going to make this feel like our home

Wake up to the sun
Clouds always come undone
You give the light I need
Like water to a seed

The twins check on our shower.....

The twins check on our shower…..

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Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion…..
My hand works skilfully up and down the clear window pane. A stray hair blows across my face and I stop and gaze out towards the river. It lies dormant with its thick ice cap and dainty snow crystals that cling to the surrounding trees. As with all tasks that are repetitive, it helps to keep in the rhythm. Up and down the soft cloth soothes…..it will be the last time. I reach down low to the small finger prints of the twins. I falter and then continue with my stroke. One swish and the sticky marks have been erased. It has begun. I have begun the process of cleaning, sorting, throwing out and the packing of boxes.
My power is turned on……

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week.....

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week…..

The Groot Trek Mark 2 will be a mere 3500 km from Toronto to Vancouver. We rush around and get our house ready for the inevitable Show Day. We replace light bulbs, make lists and run backwards and forwards to donate accumulated ‘things’ to the thrift store. Personal items like our cherished family photographs are all safely packed away. The house needs to appear to prospective buyers like a blank canvas. What a hard task that is! It is as if Maison de Morkel never existed. In our hearts it still does and I remind myself that it is healthy to visit all this sentimentally. The downsizing has begun…..
This is my fight song…….
“I can do this.” I tell myself as I round the corner on my way back from the lake. It is strange……the other day I was priding myself on my exceptional navigational skills. I know all the short cuts and seldom get lost. The monotone voice of my SATNAV used to be my constant companion but her job is in definite jeopardy. I finally have a sense of belonging here in Oakville. It has taken almost 5 years for that wonderful state of ‘I belong here’ to kick in. But as life has it, one must never get too comfortable or feel just a tad complacent. Immigration has certainly taught me to accept change and CHANGE I must….. It does not help to fight this new state but rather to channel my energy into preparing for our new life in Vancouver.
Starting right now I will be strong….
We leave behind our 2 sons and our dear friends. My heart feels heavy at the mere thought of it. One gets used to keeping your family close when you do this ‘country hop.’ It is going to seem strange not to have them popping in for a chat, dad’s steak or mom’s pasta. We are so grateful to the friends and neighbours who have been there for us. They have shared all our trials and tribulations. It is a bitter sweet move as the rest of our family awaits our arrival on the other side. I see 2 little faces running up our driveway.
No doubt Jack and Kate will make new finger prints on our Vancouver abode.

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Christmas with the family in Toronto 2015.

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The vision of the snowy coy wolf played over in my thoughts. It had slunk through our garden that afternoon and played havoc with our resident squirrels. It was 3 am and besides my lupine visions the anticipation of the family visit made sleep impossible.

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Our resident coy wolf

“That’s it, I give up!” Sleep was not about to quell this excitement. My hand turned the door handle and I crept out of the bedroom.
I might have mentioned before that the men in my house are phlegmatics. Thank goodness they are made this way, as it keeps this mother in check! But it has its drawbacks…… in that there is always another day to get something done. The word ‘hurry’ does not exist in their vocabulary when it comes to certain things. Wave a cricket or rugby ball in front of their eyes and we have a whole different story! I must add that when they do get to the ‘difficult jobs’ they are all done in record time. But I have to be patient and to wait for the spirit to move them. This is indeed my repeated life lesson!
One of the ‘difficult jobs’ that I needed help with, was to move the contents of the guest room down 2 flights of stairs to the basement. This was all in preparation for the arrival of the rest of our family which included our 16 month old twin grandchildren, Jack and Kate. It was count down as there were 4 days to go before their visit. This somewhat impatient Nan had plans that were not about to materialise without drastic action. So I began to softly move what I could. The side tables, bedside lights and bedding were part of the cargo. I crept up and down the wooden staircase. I was not deterred by the announcement by my now awake- family that they were going to call the ‘WHITE COATS’ to come and fetch me. Apparently this 4am furniture removal around the house was enough to signify that this mother was losing it. This Nan was on a mission! All it needed was a couple more trips down the stairs. The downstairs suite was taking shape….
I sat down with a steaming cup of coffee and admired my handiwork.
The larder is full, Christmas lights are strung up, stairs have been made twin- safe and all the relevant furniture has been moved. We await touchdown at Pearson Airport with 2 little scally wags as part of their precious cargo. These grandparents are ready for action!

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Kate and Jack up to mischief….

This comes with warm wishes for a special holiday season with your family and friends. May you be restored and ready to jump into the New Year with renewed vitality. This Nan is going to lie on her back for a few days in the New Year to recoup!

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I caught a vision of you
I peeped into your room and there you were. Sitting at the tangled mass of wires and electronic equipment that stood piled up on your desk. This was hallowed ground and a place where I did not venture unless I was invited. After all he was my big brother and someone who I looked up to as a child.
I’d always wanted me to follow where you walked.
The call came out loud and strong, “ZS1MJ…….calling ZS1MJ.” I sqeezed through the opening and made my way across the room to the voice beaming from the speaker. My brother was a HAM radio enthusiast, a hobby which he began as a young man. This was before the internet boom and when radio played a huge part in our entertainment and leisure. I edged closer and he gestured towards a chair. I was always thrilled to be part of this action and to be able to connect with him in this manner. I was so much younger than him and I was still in my doll- playing phase. Hence the lack of common interest! It fascinated me as he spoke to people all over Africa. He even assisted in relaying messages during a disastrous flood in the arid Karoo in South Africa, when all normal forms of communication had broken down. Some stranded farmers were able to get messages out via their shortwave radios. My brother picked up these calls for help and passed them on to the relevant authorities.
The sand it falls away into the hour glass.
My interest in the radio activities was soon to change direction as I moved into adolescence. There was an upbeat radio programme that used to beam out from Mozambique. It was known as LM radio and those of you that are old enough would remember it! It played all the magnificent 1970’s music late into the night. Before my brother moved away to go to university, he set me with a huge old submarine valve radio which was able to pick up this station loud and clear. I still recall the big black box with the name HALICRAFTER emblazoned across the front. My favourite for the week was The Top 20 programme. The problem was that it went on till the wee hours on a Sunday night. It called for ingenious methods so that I could break my bedtime curfew.

My brother with me on the end.

My big brother…..

The years passed and we went our different ways as young families do, but he was always there. We kept in touch even after he made a move over to the United States with his then young family. We did manage to catch up on visits back to South Africa and we made the trip over a few times too.
We may have built a life away in other towns. But blood is thicker than the water in the ground.
Little did I realise that we would make that trans Atlantic move too but ours was to Canada. He was a pillar of strength especially in those early years when everything was so new. He had walked that road with his own family.
Some things in life were made to last, like brother when I see you, no time has passed.
So today I want to wish and honour you. May you continue to grow as I know you will…..there are not too many people who go back to university in their 60s to get their Masters Degree and who read and widely as you do. I am proud to have you as my brother.
Happy birthday!

Out exploring in Toronto with my Boet....

Out exploring in Toronto with my Boet….

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Every generation blames the one before……

It is just a rusty old tin. Inauspicious with its peeling paint and dented sides.  It once held the weekly cookies and young hands manoeuvred the lid off as quietly as possible to avoid the eagle eyes of a vigilant mother. It has an important portfolio now even though it appears insignificant. It perches alongside with all the grander inhabitants of the work bench. The shiny drill and the sharp saw compete for the honour of being just ‘the right thing for the job.’   But this revered receptacle has tradition on its side and is aptly named The Poppie Tin. It began out of necessity about 30 years ago when The Honey Do List was initiated in the Morkel household. A few ‘jewels’ handpicked by my dad started off our collection and it has been added to by the engineers of the family that never miss a valuable find. It contains screws that fit, bolts that are just the right size and bits that I have not worked out yet. One thing is for sure that it comes to the rescue of my ever increasing list of Mr Fixit chores!

I know I am a prisoner to all my Father held so dear….

Do I really have to do this again this year?

Do I really have to do this again this year?

As with everything here in Canada there is a time and a ritual to the different seasons of the year. The pumpkins have been thrown out to the bottom of the garden. Halloween is over and this mother witch has packed away her broom for another year ….that’s what they think! The witch and her wizard of course……have been busy with the ritual of winterising the house and surrounds. Piles of leaves stand ready for collection, water pipes are drained and the larder is filling up with Yuletide delights. There is a strong feeling of Christmas in the air. My neighbour has even hung his Christmas lights! Clever man that he is! I can see us shivering along the roof as we hang our strings of sparkles. But one thing is for sure, come rain or snow……those lights will go up!

A winter Christmas.....

A winter Christmas…..

Say it loud, say it clear you can listen as well as you hear….

Gone are the bright annuals from along the side of the road. Instead coloured piles of leaves decorate our walkways. The change is evident and the feeling of expectation reigns. As we change our clocks back to daylight saving time, we move into the final ritual of the year. We will celebrate Christmas. I reflect on all my past Christmases especially my earliest memory which was when I was 3. I remember waking up at some ungodly hour. I dressed myself in my new Christmas dress. What a feat that was as it had buttons going down the back! I crept down the passage and proceeded to wake Mother and Father Christmas. Need I say that my zeal and a 4am wakeup call was not well received by my sleeping parents. Broken hearted, I crawled back down the passage and jumped into my bed. Note to self……remember this incident when the twins decide to do an action replay of this event on their Nan.

Mother and Father Christmas get in some early party fun.......

Mother and Father Christmas get in some early party fun…….

One feels your roots and recalls so much of your long forgotten childhood when traditions and rituals are followed. Some might seem insignificant but there is comfort and pleasure in repeating history, knowing full well that it is what makes us all unique. Whether it is the Gluwein served on Christmas Eve or the Ice Hockey Game that is part of the proceedings on Boxing Day……it is a time for us to practise those customs. Need I say that I love Christmas! Preparations are well on their way in this home. We have the added excitement that all our family will be with us here in Canada. It has to rate on the scale of happiness as being right up there!

The toddling twins.....

The toddling twins…..

 

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

 

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