Under my tree

I had a particularly good day yesterday for a number of reasons, one big one being the boost of steroids and food. But this experience I feel is worth turning on the computer to capture at 2:40 AM.

Zsolt and I were relaxing on the front porch last evening, enjoying the massive sway of maple leaves mixing with a breeze and the gold evening light. Zsolt was mentioning how his friend enjoys recording short videos to remember the feeling of a place, rather than what it looked like alone with a photo.

This made me think a little.

I think, I replied, that I like to actually be in a place that has captured a piece of who I am, rather than a picture or a video…. being there, in that spot, whether it be an evening by the lake in Balaton or sitting under the tree I have literally grown along with all my life . . . that is what is really is to remember who, and what i am. That is when a piece of what makes me, me, shines. It reminds me that life is far more than a picture, or film, or a place to sit, a thing to let happen, a bed. These experiences are pieces of what I am. They make me, and they remind me of what I am.

So, I like them best. Far better than any form of art or screen.

Places that make me:

Under my tree

Balaton in the evening

The pond in Rockliff

The lake in Jasper called Horseshoe

The pool with family on a hot day

A drive with the window down and the music blaring

Eating into an orange that drips with sweet tangy juice

Sticking my face into a watermelon on a hot day

Warm cookies that are home made, not too sweet, and mine

A cup of tea and milk

Ice water

Little mountain villages with water down the middle

Home

Travel

Love

Zsolt

Dusk

I am all of these things

 

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The First Road Trip

I’m sitting here with my hot water bottle, contemplating. It’s like those pauses in the day you used to take when looking up at the clouds. Or those big think-ins on a Sunday morning when it was just you, your bed and a slow morning. I do this thing with a caster oil pack and my hot water bottle that requires me to be still for a while. And today I’m in no mood to watch Netflix as this happens – I’d rather just think.

Anyhow, while thinking I began to consider road trips – particularly since I’m still making friends with the little blue car we bought – and my mind drifted back in time to my and Zsolt’s very first road trip.

Fade from hot water bottle scene to a bright sunny day in Hungary. We are in a car. I am eating a pastry that looks like a short and wide cinnamon bun while Zsolt is driving.

We were going to Austria, which is snug against the Hungarian boarder. The trip started off with the limp ‘bang’ as the car lost all power just outside of Pecs. It cut out as we began to drive down a hill, and Zsolt pulled it over to the side. We both got out of the car to stand by the side of the road while Zsolt called his father for help. I opened up my brown paper bag and pulled out a second pastry to enjoy.

As it turned out, the wire connected to the battery came off and that is why the car died. Sweet relief, we could still go on our trip to Vienna. One very memorable thing about waiting on the side of the road was this woman who pulled over. . .

Zsolt and Laszlo are hunched over the engine, not having a clue what went wrong but trying to magically fix the car nevertheless, when a car pulls over and out steps this woman. She’s wearing leather. A lot of leather. And it’s yellow. Fixing her driving gloves, she strides over to the group of us by the car engine, and wades in – looking the motor, pointing at things, saying stuff. It’s all in Hungarian – I don’t understand a thing. But she seems confident!

Then Laszlo (Zsolt’s dad) gets a map from the glove compartment, and opens it on the trunk. They all gather around the map, and I am wonder how in the world does a map relate to fixing a car?

It doesn’t! The Yellow leather lady is just lost and needs directions. She  had  no clue what might be wrong with the car.

So weird!

Anyhow, eventually a mechanic showed up and everything is fixed up. Zsolt and I head towards Austria, and Laszlo heads back to Pecs for lunch.

Now here is the thing about road trips – they can be stretches of very boring moments, punctuated by wonderful discoveries. Vienna was beautiful without doubt, (parks everywhere) but it wasn’t my favourite part of the experience.

The best part of my first road trip with Zsolt, was the Széchenyi Palace. This is a mansion/mini palace (more mansion than palace) where Zsolt booked us to stay for two nights. It’s right by the border of Hungary and Austria, and very useful for catching the train to Vienna.

When we checked into the palace, the fellow working the front desk said it was his ancestor who used to own the place. And he whipped out a 5000 forint bill and show us a picture of his great great great (I don’t know how many greats) grandfather. The guy on the bill and this dude really did look alike!

How utterly bizarre to know your family once owned all this beautiful property, and had enough status to be featured on national money – and now – after it was stripped away – he remained there to check in passing travellers.  It makes me a bit sad, honestly. But in any case, this fellow was very proud of his history.

The Széchenyi Palace was a wonderful discovery. The place was quiet and overlooked by tourists. So it felt like we had the place to ourselves. The hallways absorbed all sound as your walked along them, with thick carpeting and old furniture gobbling up our voices. And the room we stayed in – the room wrapped around you – huge windows – but all dark wood panelling, and a tall bed in dark wood with thick blankets. There was a small hallway with doors on either side that seperated the washroom from the bedroom. At night, to use the loo, you’d find yourself in between rooms, lost in pure pitch black while groping for an ancient light switch. It was the perfect place for ghosts to hang out.

And during the day, after crossing the manicured garden out front, there was this gorgeous walk – it stretched straight out from the palace and far, far, back into what was now a farmer’s field (though I imagine once, before the land was seized by ‘the people’ it was all wooded), a corridor of field lined with tall trees – all the way down to a memorial. This was where the original Széchenyi honoured his wife.

It struck me as fascinating that a grave should be placed so far from the palace, but also very understandable. In walking between the home and the memorial, there is nothing to do except contemplate – to look at the clouds and trees, to look at the stone marker far away, to think and reflect.

What better way to remember someone than to create a passage where all a person can do is remember and reflect?

So that was my first road trip with Zsolt. We made it to Vienna and had a lovely visit. But what I really remember are the unexpected moments, the women in yellow, my cinnamon pastry and this palace where the history seeped from the floors, walls and rooms.

Now we have this little blue car here in Canada. Canada doesn’t hold the mysteries that Europe does, and yet . . . we will see. I hope to be surprised by unexpected discoveries. If nothing else, I’d like another pastry.

 

A week of things

This week was a good week. It’s nice to have them occasionally. I honestly didn’t expect it would be all that wonderful. But it was pretty chill, and productive, and somehow visiting with my radiation doctor made me feel less dismal and more . . . just . . . steady.

Boo!

Boo!

Here is what happened. It’s almost so unremarkable that you really needn’t read another word in this post. But I feel like writing it out, so there you go.

This week I saw Margaret Atwood for the second time in my life. I’m editing/recording a mini podcast feature for the Ottawa International Writers Festival and Foment Literary Magazine. It’s a nice thing that gets me out of the house on the rare evening, and lets me talk about events with other literary loving minds. Margaret Atwood wore skeleton gloves for the event, which she picked up at a gas station. Throughout the evening I know everyone in the audience was wondering why she wore those gloves. And I know this because during the Q&A at the end, someone ask her why and everyone clapped. Then when she explained it was a spooky season and she bought them at a gas station, everyone clapped again. Two rounds of applause for the skeleton gloves. And Margaret Atwood. And her new book Hag-Seed, which sounds really entertaining.

Also this week, we have had a bunch of pumpkins populating our home. Tomorrow I’m hosting a small gathering of family and a few friends, and we are carving these pumpkins up. This is really an overly elaborate plan to make other people carve pumpkins so I can enjoy the benefits of roasting pumpkin seeds later. Mmmm, I adore salted roasted pumpkin seeds.

Furthermore, I made a rather excellent cheesecake.

As well! It’s always a satisfying week when I’m able to make progress at work. It seems to me there is always another big project that needs attention. In general, it feels like having this massive piece of ice I’m meant to turn into some lovely sculpture. But the only way to accomplish this gleaming sculpture is to slowly scrape and scrape at the ice till it finally takes forms. The  scraping is emails, phone calls, writing texts, experimenting with ideas, sending newsletters and such. And in the in, you get something wonderful. This week, I could move that sculpture along. But next week, of course, there will always be more to do. This is okay. It helps me. By the by, the Amnesty International Book Club is having a Readers Choice vote – go vote! It closes on the 31st.

Counter that above point: this week I worked mostly from home. I just could not handle it otherwise. Firstly, it’s a post-chemo week. Secondly, I received shitty news about my treatment last week, which got me down down down – and so incubating myself, in a way, helped me cope with all the ice chips I needed to scrape off not only my work sculpture, but my life-in-general sculpture too. And I could cry whenever I wanted. Plus stop to take naps. And watch the end of Star Trek Voyager.

Next: My art class was attended by only two people this past Wednesday. While that sucks for our lovely instructor, it wasn’t at all bad for me. It was useful to have  a little extra input into my impossible-flower-painting-that-is-driving-me-crazy. Oil paint is an interesting medium, but my goodness does it require patience. Patience is not my strongest point. And so, I am reminded to slow down in life.

We cleaned. This is why you invite people over, in additional to harvesting their pumpkin seeds. It forces one to finally clean one’s apartment.

We had sushi. That was fun – it’s this roll-it-yourself sushi that Zsolt and I really enjoy. After finally finding sushi rice at Bulk Barn, we ate our hand-rolled sandwich style sushi. It made us both quite happy.

So you can see, it was an unremarkable week that was nevertheless good.

Last week was terrible. Apparently while other areas in my body are stable’ish’ in regards to the cancer, my liver spots just keep on growing. Fuck buckets. This terrible disease is terrible. However, there are areas in my body that seem mostly stable, and that is good. Dr Canada is working to see what alternative treatments he can find me. I hate cancer. And this is a shitty way to end this happy blog post.

Therefore I will add this! I booked a ticket to go on a trip. I’m excited. Extra excited because I’ll be traveling with my Dad, and we haven’t done anything like this together ever. Not that I can remember, anyhow. It’s gonna be one long plane ride of him saying crazy things, and me taking the bait every time. FUN!

Last thing, it snowed!! Holy moly.

Happy Halloween 🙂

Catherine