ottawa wedding bells

Another spectacular wedding, this time in Ottawa: my son Forrest Pass married Manon Labelle yesterday in a beautiful ceremony by a lay chaplain of the First Unitarian Congregation. Every detail was lovely.

Here are Forrest and Manon saying their vows (our Brendan is a groomsman!):

ImageAnd here is Angelica reading The Good Morrow by John Donne.


Indigo fish, blue water, red frame

I spent the morning finishing the salmon quilt top. In June I batiked fish onto cotton squares, applied a shibori pattern with thread, and then dyed the squares in indigo. Not really with a plan in mind, I submerged the remains of the old cotton sheet I’d cut the squares from in the bucket of indigo dye and left it for a few days. I was surprised and delighted with the marbled pale blue results. So I cut squares out of that cloth and alternated fish blocks with squares of marbled blue. I used 4″ strips of deep red cotton between the rows and then framed the whole thing with 6″ sashing of the same red cotton. I’m really happy with this top and look forward to sandwiching organic cotton batting between it and a backing I haven’t yet decided on, basting it all together, and then beginning the actual hand-quilting, which is probably my favourite part.

Here’s a photograph of the top hanging on the clothes line. The colours aren’t quite right. The indigo is deeper and the paler marbled squares are richer. But this gives the idea and I’ll add progress reports as I go along.

Their chair

I looked out just now and saw their chair by my bedroom window, in rain. Part of the patio set they won from a radio show, made of dark green webbing with textured green cushions. We brought it back from their apartment after my mother died and it’s the one my husband sits on when we have coffee on the upper deck, the deck that surrounds three sides of our second-storey bedroom and his study and our bathroom. Three sides of weather and tree tops and the mountain. Usually the chair is over by John’s study but a few days ago I moved it to the small area in front of the sunroom door where the dog rose climbs around the bedroom window, along with trumpet vine, wisteria, and deep pink honeysuckle. The sun travels lower on its trajectory from east to west, from Hallowell to beyond Texada each September day, filtered more densely through Douglas firs than even a week ago; in high summer it passes directly overhead, clear of trees, from its rising at 8 until its setting at least 12 hours later. I moved it to take advantage of the pocket of sun by the door.

I sat in the chair for half an hour the other day, in-between watering and making tomato jam, re-reading Portrait of a Lady. And then returned to work, because sitting felt too much like indolence. The chair still smells of them. Passing it that day, after its few hours in late sunlight, I could smell my parents as though they were both out there, taking the warmth of an afternoon, talking quietly, not noticing me in my old skirt and tank top, hair wrestled into a knot to keep it from my face as I reached into the tomato vines for more fruit for my jam. I never knew I would miss them as much I do now, smelling them in the coarse green cushions, my book abandoned across the seat. There was so much I never told them. They didn’t want to know about books (“Henry James?”) or lofty thoughts or travel plans for Europe. They hoped I’d share ideas for stretching a dollar, ways to shop thriftily, to use up odds and ends from the fridge. Varicose veins and sore teeth. Stomach acid or the wisdom of generic vitamins or difficulties with the bowels. They wanted me to prove I was theirs, that I’d paid attention to their lessons, their advice, that no one else meant more to me than them. It’s taken me so many years to learn that there is some truth to this. I look at my hands and see hers. My slow metabolism and sluggish blood-pressure, which came from him.

This morning it all seems impossibly sad. His head touched the green vinyl strapping. Hers, too. On the shabby deck of the house on Mann Avenue, they sat in their chairs – this one, and a kitchen chair brought outside through the sliding doors which they locked after each use, bolting down the extra Plexiglas panel at night against all those who lurked, wanting to break in to steal their hifi, their clock radio – waiting for the seagull who came some days for old bread. Willie, they called it. Also a neighbour’s cat. The heavy foot of the mailman as he trudged up their stairs.

Stars of the tomato season

Most evenings we have a platter of tomatoes, sliced, with a sprinkling of red wine vinegar and a scattering of torn basil leaves over the top. The tomatoes are at their peak and every day I pick a wonderful selection of them. Here are a few of my favourites:

Clockwise, from upper left: a single Jaune Flamme, a beautiful persimmon-coloured tomato; peeking out is a single Orange Strawberry — these are rich and meaty, shaped like ox-hearts; then a Purple Cherokee, lumpy, with a profile like the late John Diefenbaker; a big yellow one whose name wore off the little tag I’d so carefully labelled in May; three Alicante, which are so prolific and so delicious; and three Black Plums which I like to eat warm off the plants. We have many others — Brandywines, Yellow Pears, Ailsa Craigs, Romas, tiny cherries, larger cherries, and some Orange Zebras.  I grew most of them from seed but bought a few because there are always ones I see in the garden centre which look tempting. On the weekend we had pizza made with the Black Plums and lots of Red Russian garlic I grew from heads bought last October in Grand Forks and basil of course and dappled on the top, the wonderful fresh mozzarella from Natural Pastures on Vancouver Island, made with milk from Fairburn Farms water buffalo. I could happily eat this daily for the rest of my life.

September aria

For the past week or so, this Pacific treefrog (Hyla regilla, though there’s some debate about this name now and it’s been suggested that these are more properly Pseudacris regilla. It’s a bit like nit-picking* to me. All my field guides call them Hyla regilla!) has been in residence in and around a pot of chives on the deck. In this photograph, it’s on a honeysuckle leaf (pot of chives behind it) and those little holes in the leaf are evidence of sawfly larvae, I think. And there are ants around too. The other day I saw this little frog stick out its tongue and capture an ant which it seemed to relish.

There’s another larger treefrog on the upper deck. And another, the tiny one shown in my post of August 25, as well as one we hear but don’t see in the ferns by the patio. What’s interesting to me right now is their voices. In the spring, you can stand outside at night and all you hear is a huge loud chorus of treefrogs calling to one another in the great mating hullabulloo in the nearby water sources. Such large voices for such tiny creatures! Deep baritones, rich tenors, even the odd mezzo-soprano. Right now, though, the treefrogs close to the house are singing individual arias. It’s not about mating. Wrong season. So what is it about? Yesterday I watered the potted herbs on the deck and as soon as I’d finished, the little frog in the photograph was singing loudly. Was it joy? Irritation? Field guides talk about the “rain song”, the premonition of changing weather. But it’s been lovely here for the past week and we’re promised good weather for the rest of September, and still the treefrogs sing. And who knows, maybe we’re hearing arias from Handel’s Hercules: There in myrtle shades reclined/By streams that thro’ Elysium wind,/In sweetest union we shall prove…”

*i.e., it doesn’t change the essential qualities of the treefrog…

Morning, the moon

This was what I saw, looking to Mount Hallowell in the east, when I got up this morning.

So clean and elegant, like the lines of Sappho (in Anne Carson’s translation): stars around the beautiful moon/hide back their luminous form. . . The image has stayed with me all morning as I prepared bread dough, cut some sweet peas to celebrate Angelica’s arrival this afternoon.

Sappho again:

But for the one who has hair yellower

than a pinetorch


of blooming flowers