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Battle of The Bulbs

 THE BATTLE OF THE BULBS


I was talking with a gardener the other day and mentioned the once beautiful sight of a beautiful tulip and equally beautiful hyacinth growing in the same garden bed. I have often seen tulips on their own and hyacinths on their own, but never together. He said:


“I’d never put them together. There is something mysterious about their bulbs. Much like certain people: I love them in isolation but they just don’t belong together.”


As it turned out, he was right. A beauty that was once there, is no more. The lone hyacinth shrivelled and died, while the tulips lived on for many weeks to come.


Lesson learned. I feel a story coming on …


Once upon a time in a garden like the one in Eden, there lived a tulip and a hyacinth in the same hood. They were like neighbours in a neighbourhood where everyone was filled with awe and envy when times were good, and sadness and dismay when things weren’t.


Tulip is strong and sturdy; resilient; confident; independent and like most bulbed plants, she resurrects year after year and thrives best around her kind. 


Hyacinth, when ready, stands tall and firm. She keeps her petals close to her chest and seems to fan out ever so slightly, but forever protectively, occasionally. She has mastered poise and posture and that is what makes her so appealing to the others in the garden. But, behind that poise and posture, there is a reality that nobody can see from the outside. There is a weak gene within her reproducing bulb that shortens her lifespan when embedded with those who are not her kind. She is not a fighter, dies off prematurely, and vows to do better next year — but, her sad cycle continues. 


One dreary day Hyacinth asked Tulip: “What is your secret?”


“Lead don’t follow.”


The response was short and blunt, and caused Hyacinth to take a step back to figure it out.  Every year she sets out to search for a comfortable bed. She would look and look for all kinds of options relating to locations, feed, moisture, wind, sun, and hormones. She tried to bond with the like-minded and those shunned by all other flora. She befriended the dwarfs and the giants; the colourful and drab. She was known and noticed by many, but embraced by few. Her life had been a very sad tale.


“What do you mean by that?”, she asks Tulip.


“I have been watching you struggle once again this season and every year your life ends in peril prematurely. Try something different next year. Move to another garden with your kind. Live by their example. 


You may look well with others flora, but you don’t fit in well with them. You may come across as confident, but the end result proves you are very lost and scared. You are afraid of something when you are around others, yet you are desperate to be around them, desperate to be seen, wanted and loved.  The path you have been following leaves you alone, very alone; depressed, sad and forlorn.


Find fresh soil, good drainage, a spot with natural sunlight and a bit of daily shade. Instead of shrinking in sadness, face your memories and motives, stick with your kind and then start growing. Like in the human world, new borns and orphans aren’t farmed out until they are ready to go. You jumped ahead too quickly. Listen to your bulb.”


As Hyacinth reaches another end to her annual cycle, she feels struck by a ray of much needed wisdom from an arm’s length tulip who believes in her potential to do better. She will never again embed herself into a garden plot designated to others or for others. 


As so it was, in that garden much like Eden’s, Hyacinth lays herself to rest embracing the beat of her bulb, rather than the bulbs of others, and it's that rhythm that will lead the way to a life she has always yearned for, but never quite reached.


THE END  






Can You See Me Now?

CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?


Once upon a time on the unceded traditional territory of the Kwantlen First Nation, Tulip slips into a dream.  The banner reads: gas prices soar to five dollars a litre. Her sleepy eyes open widely and her jaw drops, as a sudden blanket of dark fog surrounds her.


She imagines a plan B to complete her to-do list for the day without the use of her car. She plots out a cycling route using only cycling paths and multi-use paths that millions of taxpayers’ dollars have supported for communities around the territory. There are four errands on the list.


Just plotting out the route turns into a mammoth task because the infrastructure for cycling is piecemeal, convoluted, and illogical, with numerous extra lefts and rights, switchbacks and backtracking. Finally the plan is in place and off she goes feeling excited and optimistic.


Those feelings don’t last long. 


Once on the go, obstructions set in almost immediately. From parked cars, delivery trucks, power poles, garbage and recycling bins, broken glass, bolts and debris, loose gravel and dead animals, the trip is very eventful. 


Three hours in and only 2 out of four errands are accomplished. She rechecks her route map, her watch and her compass, and starts to wonder how a life without a car could possibly ever happen.  She is hungry; her frustration level is high; her blood pressure is above normal and all the meandering routes have caused her to lose her sense of direction. She tosses and turns, and tries to tune it out, but the dream continues.


It brings her to an unobstructed cycling structure on a raised platform high above the power poles, meandering through the landmass below. It is beautifully endowed with First Nations art, framed with fir side panels and cedar shake roofing. 


At the end of this part of her dream, she looks down through the fog at the politicians and developers below, raises her arms and proudly sings: “Can you see me now?” 


She hears nothing and cannot see the faces.


Tulip jumps out of the sub-dream, smiling, and resolves to take action. She is no stupid bulb. She is strong, resilient and determined. She has risen from the dead a few times, and often brought light to the troubled lives of many. 


The next scene is the gathering of a lot of local like-minded cyclists, like a pack of wolves ready to listen to the guiding eagle hungry to devour a good fish. Some would call it an interest group but for Tulip it is to be a pressure group. The time for interest has come and gone, and gone nowhere, and now’s the time for action, real action, loud action, determined action, to feed the fish, that will feed the eagle, that will guide the wolves together to live happily ever after, as all good communities do under even the most challenging of circumstances.


Tulip pulls out her conceptual drawings and video presentation. Following the Kwantlen edict of one Nation, one family, and as believers in leadership with vision, her tireless spirit springs to life. She presses the PLAY button and the Kwantlen SkyNation Cycling Track presentation begins.


The group sees Tulip stopping short of hitting the next power pole, illuminated like a rowing paddle, on the multi-use pathway. From the sudden shock, she feels a spirit’s hand reach out to her handlebars and raises her and her bicycle up the transformed pole to a beautifully endowed secret platform, high above the morning fog. 


She opens her eyes and sees an Inukshuk beside her pointing south. The platform is five metres wide, enveloped in fir fencing on either side, and roofed with red cedar shingles, just like in the other dream. This time she also sees a clock and a compass held up by a golden eagle’s beak. To her left is a charcoal drawing of a pack of wolves encircling a route map of the risen pathway and another pack is standing around a map of the various amenities located at and around ground level. 


As Tulip continues to drift further into her dream, she mounts her bicycle, heading south as directed, and sets off on an amazing obstruction-free cycling adventure. The impeccable views to the left and to the right are breathtaking. The sides of the meandering pathway are donned with beautiful local First Nations artwork from murals to sculptures, carvings, jewelry, fashion designs, paintings, drawings, baskets, hats, talking sticks, feathers and so much more. 


Each entrance/exit station along the way includes a First Nation poet,  singer, dancer or storyteller, in person or virtually. The word “WOW” springs constantly from her forehead, as she slowly continues on in awe.


On she goes from her hometown of Maple Ridge, south to Pitt Meadows, over the mighty Fraser River, on to New Westminster, veering west to Delta and Richmond. From there, she heads east towards Surrey, Langley and Fort Langley and then north to Stave Lake where she stands still, listens to the sound of nature and watches the eagles high above welcoming her to the northern point  of the Kwantlen SkyNation track.  She feels like she has just had the adventure of a lifetime and woken up in heaven.


In that moment, Tulip feels the courage and strength of the eagle. She resolves to put an extra spring in her step much like a jumping salmon about to head upstream to spawn and bring new life to the waters.  She sees both the sun and the moon aligned in the clear blue sky, and returns to the starting point of her journey once again. 


Now the wolves have encircled the crowd below. They are watching over the gathered family of politicians, planners and builders, as well as skeptics and optimists, all still hidden under that dense fog.  


Tulip stands high above on the magnificent elevated cycling track, as the fog slowly lifts and the sun shines brightly on everyone.

 

“Can you see me now?”, she asks.


The loud echoing reply from the once muted crowd awakens her from her dream, as she sits up straight in her cozy bed and wonders what just happened.


She writes down her story and prepares to use it in renewed efforts for reconciliation between cyclists and motorists; cyclists and pedestrians; cyclists and city planners; as well as cyclists and politicians. The track would also forever be a lasting legacy symbolizing one small embracing effort of reconciliation with Kwantlen First Nation peoples.


And so it was, in the land of strife and stubbornness, and a lack of willingness to take bold new steps forward in an environmentally damaged world, a farfetched dream greased the squeaky bicycle wheels and put them up against the once dominant automobile and the pressures of developers. 

 

And, above all, the inclusion of the Kwantlen people in the discussions and final planning, brings the viable project to an even greater level, as the whole of civilization works together, inclusively, from this day forward, to make the region a prototype of excellence in safe cycling travel and lasting reconciliation between all, for ever and ever.

The End


Postscript:


 To my cycling friends reading this story, let’s keep the dream alive and look forward to better, safer cycling days ahead.


As unrealistic a dreamed up solution might be the first time hearing about it, the Trans Canada railway was a pipe dream once too, and look at what happened with it!  And, what about sending a human to the moon? In the end, didn’t the tortoise beat the hare?




 

Run Towards The Danger: Book Review

 Run Towards The Danger

Written by Sarah Polley


This Canadian authored book is amazing! Basically she unravels a lot of her anger and anxiety about life experiences during her youth as a child actor and later as an adult experiencing a mystery condition. 


Sarah Polley tells those of us who remember The Road to Avonlea as a most delightful family television show on CBC, that the stories were delightful; but, getting them to the release stage for all of us to enjoy, was HELL for her. She talks about some of the behind the scenes mismanagement, disorganization, and lack of communication, on top of the pressures of some parents pushing their own anticipated glory ahead of the thoughts, concerns and feelings of the children. 


From the tv screen, she went to the stage at Stratford where she experienced personal challenges with anxiety and a lack of self confidence leading to ultimate stage fright. She desperately tried to hide those challenges to the point of getting very sick. It, too, became HELL for her and she had to stop prematurely.


She later found joy and personal satisfaction in film making and discovered her comfort level was being behind the scenes.


Later in the book she talks about her direct experience with a guy named Gian Ghomeshi — a name in the news during a terrible time in the lives of other women who had a similar story to tell. It is a moving and very emotional account of ‘should I or shouldn’t I” and her decision to do what she did, when she did.


The other of her six essays I want to highlight is the last one entitled “Run Towards The Danger”.  It is about the horrors of getting a concussion.  Initially she thought nothing of it, until she became an almost completely different person. She felt mixed up and messed up at the same time. Went to various specialists, many contradicting the others, all giving her conflicting advice, until one day, she was in the right place at the right time, and someone with a similar experience, guided her to a potential solution. The results were life changing and life enhancing, bringing her to a point she never imagined to ever be. She finds her spirit and embraces her being.  The best way to explain it is by saying don’t live backwards, live forwards.


I really enjoyed this book. It took blunt honesty to pull her from dark waters and a gloomy attitude, to get her to her happy place.  We can all learn a lot from her journey from Avonlea to blissful glee!





Bright Pink Bicycle

 THE BRIGHT PINK BICYCLE


Once upon a time, Tulip spent a sunny Saturday in Earth Ville, neighbouring Aqua Ville, in her home community of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.


It is International Earth Day and the Town Square has been transformed into mini planets — each representing a different aspect of the environment and/or the impacts of climate change in our lives, our communities, our world. Everywhere people walk, they can see words like recycle, refurbish, reuse; preserve, protect, prepare; cycle, commute, plant, bake, cook, fix, repurpose, and celebrate sensible progress.


Tulip is an active member of the HUB Cycling Club and their planet at the exhibition is close to the sunny center. It is a vast open area with a large tent, two tables of helpful information and a wide span of 19 donated and refurbished bicycles for all ages. They would all be given away via a draw at 1 pm, making 19 people very happy, and leaving a few a bit sad. Tulip is assigned to do security watch around the bicycles and to explain the draw format to anyone who is interested.


Flocks and flocks of people come and go. Some stop to chat about their memories of cycling, their hopes for cycling and their interests in helping the Club. Others just drop by to enter the draw.


As Tulip paces between the rows and rows of bicycles, she cannot help but notice the regular presence of a young girl standing by the only pink bicycle in the group.  She stands there and stands there for what seems like hours, talking to herself and imagining how this bicycle will soon be hers.  Every so often she shakes and does a bit of a skip dance on the spot, feeling more and more sure that this bike is meant for her, and that she is going to win. 


Her mother shows up, now and then, to check on her and to entice her to come along to look at other planets around the area. She mentions painting, colouring, tracing, worm digging, tree planting, tadpoles, free cookies and cake, clowns, balloons — nothing worked.

Finally the little girl agrees to go look at some free toys and clothes, and says she needs to use the washroom too. Tulip assures her not to worry about the bicycle; it would still be in that exact spot when she gets back. That was the clincher, and off they go.


An hour or so later, the happy little girl returns to her post right next to her favourite bicycle. Tulip starts to wonder about the two possible outcomes and dreads the latter.  She asks one of her club mates to relieve her so she could go check out the Walmart next door to see their selection of children’s bicycles.


Sure enough Walmart has a bright pink girls’ bicycle and it is on sale. She asks the store clerk to set it aside for two hours and explains why. The clerk agrees.


As Tulip returns to her HUB planet, the draw is about to begin. The pink bicycle is number 9 and for the little happy girl, the wait is painful. She keeps her fingers crossed and eyes closed. At times it looks like she is holding her breath. Every so often she jumps on the spot, crosses her legs, and reaches out to hold her mommy’s hand.


Finally the moment comes and the little girl’s heart sinks with a sudden thud. Tears pour from her glowing eyes, silent tears, as her mommy crouches down to console her devastated  daughter. She guides her away from the crowd and they sit on the soft, green grass. Tulip follows them and whispers something into the mother’s ear:


“Meet me at the Walmart cycling department at 2:15 pm. I have a surprise waiting for you.”


And so it was, on this very special earthly day, a day to be mindful and helpful to our planet, our sub-planets and to each other, that a whole lot of people went home with a lot of new knowledge, awareness and appreciation of humanity and compassion and, best of all, knowing the power of hope, help and humility goes a long way in making the world grow into a much better place.


THE END


Tulip's Bullying Tale

 TULIP’S TALE OF BULLYING IN AQUAVILLE


Once upon a time in the warm water Aquafit pool at the AquaVille Sport Centre, the water got very hot. Very hot.


Tulip was happily situated in her usual depth of 1.4 metres. A 70 year old woman named Muffin was in her usual spot a metre and a half away.


As the first upbeat tune blasted through the sound system, the warm up exercise was a simple loosening of the arm and waist joints, with arms stretched at water level, ready to do a circular twist to the left and then to the right.


As the exercise progressed, Tulip feels the light touch of Muffin’s left arm. She turns to her and says: “oh sorry”, and continues to swirl. Muffin says nothing.


At the next turn, again her arm was hit considerably harder, along with a significant swoosh of water hitting the side of her head. She ignores this and after the third even harder hit, Tulip says: “What’s your problem?”


“I want that spot. It’s too deep for me here”, she says angrily.


“You’ve been at that level for two years! What’s changed? Please move back because I can’t move left without being in Holly’s lap.”


Again, she swooshes another splash of water into Tulip’s side and mutters a few choice words, before retreating.


Tulip laughs and tries to make some sense of it all, while continuing to enjoy the fabulous music and exercise routine. Nothing can diminish her self confidence or her resolve to enjoy the class as much as always.


Fifteen minutes later, Tulip feels another swoosh across her right side. She turns and sees Muffin to her right, but back about a metre. At this point, many of the other aquafitters in the area are tuned into this outrageous behaviour. Their heads are shaking with shock and Tulip says: “can you believe this? I feel like I’m back in Grade 4?”


All heads shake left to right; all eyes roll. The confirmation is all she needed. The lyrics “Don’t Look Back” echo across the pool and Tulip is in her glory.


How can this tale end happily ever after — as most tales do? In a way it already has. Standing up to a bully takes courage and confidence. Standing back from a bully merits the highest honour.


This proud Tulip, true to her name sake, is a bulb made of genes second to no other bulbed plant in the nursery. Just as tulips helped the Dutch survive famine during the War, their strength and determination to survive, and to survive well, dances within her. 


And, because of all of that, Tulip will forever enjoy the warm water Aquafit classes in AquaVille, occupying that exact same spot, each and every class, and live happily ever after. 



THE END

912 Place -- A Fairy Tale

 912 Place -- A Fairy Tale



Once upon a time in the magic mirror outside of 912 Place, in Victoria, British Columbia, there were four tired retirees yearning to finally put their big city lives to rest, in favour of a more serene, slower paced, environmentally friendly region of their beloved country — Canada. 


Scotty, Nino, Ezma and Toine all met in Victoria in the late 1990s where they lived comfortably in a turn of the century basic stucco apartment building, along with a steady flow of transients and silver fish aplenty.   


Scotty and Nino were a couple in love and living together for the first time in their romantic life. 


Ezma was and still is a happily single, curious, bold, flamboyant, colourful, psychedelic artiste extraordinaire. 


Toine, also happily single, was an inner circle government executive staffer whose political leanings made the others feel ill at ease. She behaved like a fifth wheel, guarded and watching from all directions mindful of the damage the disgruntled or misinformed can cause a political staffer who had to be self protective and polite in all circumstances. 


Their home-based lives intersected occasionally at first — a wave from the windows they passed by to get down the driveway to the entrance doors or to the garages out back; a few polite words when they met at the waste disposal bins, around the postal boxes or in the laundry room. 


In the early Spring, they would engage in small talk on the front lawn overseeing Beacon Hill Park, along side the grove of the beautiful pink blooming Japanese cherry tree blossoms on trees as old as the apartment building. On good weather days, there would be a steady flow of chats at Toine’s ground floor kitchen window, where people would be drawn to the scent of freshly baked chocolate chips cookies, hoping for a sample.


Over time Ezma, Scotty and Nino interacted in-house more frequently with short and long visits, meal sharing, story telling, and discovering mutual interests. 


Toine stayed at arm’s length because of the nature of her 24-7 career, limiting her free time and minimizing any hope of any level of quality bonding.  She was in a line of work that is surreal to outsiders, especially those who have no interest whatsoever in politics or in knowing how a political machine works. 


Every time she looks into the magic mirror, she sees the Toine who hailed from a very small and isolated hamlet in the Upper Fraser Canyon. There she was sitting on the front porch overlooking the TransCanada Highway and saying: “To where are all of those people going? One day I will find out and never come back!” 


It took a while to meet that goal; but, it did eventually happen, along with a lot of post secondary education and involvement with an intriguing political party. 


Toine was diagnosed early in life as ‘structured sequential’ and her life choices followed (and still follow) a logically set pattern leading to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Hard work and determination turned out to be effective life choices for her. She is often referred to as that person who sits on horseshoes. Luckily the mirror has never cracked from too much ego or shame. From one page of her own story follows another and another; the adventures are rarely regretted, sometimes challenging, and always character building. 


Toine proudly ended up working for the leader of her favoured political party. Her 24-7 position required the utmost of professionalism and the highest standards of conduct both at work and elsewhere at all times.  Her job entailed a plethora assignments from public relations, communications, problem solving, office management, staff morale, and mentorship to event planning and execution. It was always understood to be temporary and it always had to be a top priority over her family, friends and personal calendar.


Living in the same apartment building as Scotty, Nino and Ezma became something like what respite is supposed to do — a therapy of sorts. The experience actually created a delightful casual relationship between ‘those three’ and her. She always referred to the apartment acquaintances as pleasure while it lasted, because she knew that ultimately the political tide would change, her job would end and her life would go back to almost where it left off on the mainland of British Columbia.


Ezma grew up in a northern Ontario hamlet that no longer exists today. 


As most young small towners with aspirations for more, she could hardly wait to finish basic schooling and head south to where the action was!  Her amazing typing skills got her a job right away and she eventually became a lifetime public servant based in Victoria. 


She was astute enough to know, early in life, the importance and value of a government job, and she was definitely one of those keeners who dug into her assigned jobs, no matter how mundane some tasks would be, and gave them the utmost of attention to ensure accuracy and appreciation. 


However, her personal passion was art and that is where her head would be outside of her 8:30 to 4:30 shift. Her very colourful and swank apartment at 912 Place was filled with her art and craft work — paintings, drawings, sculptures, murals, batik, tie-dying, needle felting, knitting, book design, photography, cards, story writing, journaling, and even origami. Her whimsical pieces catch the eye of everyone she invites in for a tour of her self made studio apartment, and the diversity of her talents were and still are most impressive.

 

Like Toine, Ezma’s life story flows neatly from one page to another. Her carefree adventures are not regretted, her artistic skills are self-created and embraced by her and by many with whom she freely shares with confidence and pride.  


Scotty and Nino are free spirited guys who got settled into the working world later in life, when they both realized that at retirement it would be nice to receive a pension. They are both avid outdoorsmen and very keen about cycling, hiking and travelling. They also love to cook and entertain. Scotty is particularly good with the handyman jobs that benefit all homeowners and Nino has a multitude of artsy and design talents that seem to require no effort at all. Eventually Scotty joined the provincial government public service and Nino became a Montessori  Kindergarten teacher and art class specialist.


It has now been almost four years since retirement and the connection between Toine and Ezma continues via phone and FaceTime calls. Surprisingly to themselves and others, they have become good friends. The connection between Ezma, Scotty and Nino has always been strong, even when the guys got married and lived in a free standing home significantly far away from 912. It truly is a lovely tale.


In life people come and go; personalities jive or clash; there are understandings and misunderstandings; busy times and quiet times; successes and failures; genuine people and not so genuine. 


Sometimes we go out on a limb and gamble with our life choices — success is not 100%; but, holding on to a sure win and holding tightly to the magic mirror that will forever hold you to account, is what ultimately shapes happiness.


So now the time has come for Ezma, Scotty, Nino and Toine to look deeper into that magic mirror and directly say to themselves  “Where do we go from here?”


Well, when looking carefully at that reflection, something amazing  happens. They become the image in the mirror and find themselves looking forward not back. They see what an ideal future will look like and realize it is the ideal time for all four to embark on a new adventure of a lifetime — together.  


As many can attest, there was once a need for big city life for young, aspiring youth — especially young, aspiring small town youth. But, that was then and this is now and beyond. Feelings change; dreams change; and, a need to go back and bring all of it together for that final stretch of the finite lifespan, drives some people away from dead ends or ruts, in favour of living the dream — a new dream.


Nino and Ezma lived in small town Central Canada during their younger years; Scotty is originally from the Maritimes and small town Toine absolutely loved her many visits to that part of the country.  


They have all aged and aged well. Personal and professional goals have been accomplished; the family members and friends have either passed on or they have disbursed all over the globe; and, the original need for the big city experience has come and gone.

  

The magic mirror says it is time to move on, to move forward, to move elsewhere away from the hustle and bustle of big city life and on to the glorious serenity of small town Acadia — a very quaint cultured and historic region of maritime Canada, where the roots and interests of all four friends fit, and can nicely and easily continue to blend into an exciting, intriguing and delightful final leg of a great life. And so it was …


Their first look at the real estate listings manifests a wide range of options, but none more beautiful than the seaside triplex character home, on acreage, overlooking the Bay of Fundy on the west coast of Nova Scotia. The center unit is the bigger of the three and ideal for Scotty and Nino; the left of center will suit Toine just fine and the iconic mahogany framed fireplace of the third unit and spacious bathroom would be the clincher to aspire Ezma to agree. 


And agree she did, as did Toine. Scotty and Nino could hardly wait to pack up and go, to get there first, so that moving in would be easy and seamless for a final celebration of four lives well lived.


And so, as it was dreamt and written on this 22nd day of the second month in the 22nd year of 2000, at the tail end of 22 months of the world being turned 


upside down by the COVID-19 virus and all of its variants, it came to pass that this diverse group of four free-spirited, distinctly different people with different personalities, skills, likes and dislikes, regrouped and learned to live together comfortably, and happily, committed to each other, for as long as they each would live.


THE END





ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Antoinetta (Netty) DeWit is a retired provincial government public servant who worked away from her home base for 28 years to serve in a unique working environment, second to no other she ever had. 

That experience turned her life around and into a fairy tale come true.


This story is for Ezma, Scotty and Nino!


MARCH 2022























My First Senior's Moment

 MY FIRST SENIOR’S MOMENT


There was a Facebook ad on one of my group Facebook pages a few weeks ago inviting me to attend a free showing of a movie called A Christmas Story. It was billed as a special event for seniors and a fundraiser for the local FoodBank. The sponsors were the Cineplex Odeon theatre, the Pitt Meadows Seniors Society, Starbucks and the BC Association of Community Response Networks. This would be my very first seniors’ event.


Upon arrival, I was greeted at the door by a young lass who checked my credentials and led me to the first of three welcome tables. One was to check my name off a list, the second was to collect swag such as a key chain, notebook, pens, eraser, screen wipe cloth, calendar, magnet and pillbox.  The pillbox really through me into a spin, but the other stuff was much appreciated. The third table was Starbucks where I got a nice sized lemon danish and was offered coffee and tea. 


As we sat and waited for the movie to start, the volunteer coordinator was at the front with a microphone thanking us for coming and telling us why the event was taking place — to raise awareness of the work being done by the Seniors’ Centre and the community during this COVID-19 era, and expressing appreciation of our support for the Food Bank.  Following the speeches there was a door prize draw.  


With a crowd of 200 people and about a dozen door prizes, I felt sure I would win something.  After six draws, I was beginning to feel sceptical and then the next draw was announced as something from the HandyDart service.  “Oh, great”, I said to my self. “I hear my name coming!”  Sure enough — my name was called. Suddenly that pillbox came to mind making this senior life too close too soon.


The lady behind me said if I cannot use it, she knew of someone who could.  I replied by saying well let me open the envelope just to be sure I didn’t misunderstand.  I carefully opened the envelope and there was a note saying compliments of The HandyDart service and attached was a $25 grocery gift card.  I sat down and smiled.


This was a great way to start my life in the world of seniors!


THE NUT CRACKER'S TALE

 THE NUT CRACKER’S TALE 


                                                






[The challenge in cracking a nut is to extract it in its whole form, as we do when forging a friendship. If we fail, it is such a disappointment.]


I can remember at Christmas time a family tradition was the unique presence of a big bowl of unshelled mixed nuts on the living room coffee table, along side a nutcracker.


The family would gather mid-afternoon or after dinner, and take turns cracking nuts. We would watch each other carefully as we sometimes struggled to get the right crack or to get the sometimes tightly packed nut out of its shell. We would laugh when a piece of shell would go flying across the room or into someone’s hot chocolate drink. We would smile at our successes and frown when a robust looking nut was empty, dried up or rotten. Sometimes the nut just wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Sometimes we conquered the challenges alone and other times we accepted help.  There is a lot to learn about life from a bowl of nuts.


When I look at my list of friends, acquaintances, former teachers, classmates, cohorts and employees, neighbours and family members, I see Macadamias and Pecans at the top and Filberts at the bottom. Everyone else fits nicely in between as Cashews, Brazils, Almonds and Walnuts. Each has its unique and welcome qualities.


Every nut and every person is different; some easy to like and others take a bit of an effort; some are hard to fully embrace and others you can only take in small doses or not at all. There are those you like or like for a while, and then you move on believing someone else will take those on. I lean towards the more obviously reliable and predictable, with the occasional dab into the unknown or unwanted. 


A diversity of choices and decisions are what spice up a beautiful bowl of anything.  Sometimes surprises can be good but then there are the times when we get totally blindsided by a filbert that has been disguising itself as a macadamia. Imposters! Those folly experiences can leave us with a very bad taste in our mouths for a while — I have had one or two of those in this past decade; but, eventually, I step back, shake my head, and jump forward to better options. Imposters aside, each authentic nut has its qualities.


A Brazil nut, for example, is the most stubborn of all — tough shell, tight fit, tough to crack and tough to unload; but, with perseverance, and a lot of patience and confidence, the effort to get there can be worth it. Some people like that kind of challenge and don’t give up. Others may give them a try but, ultimately, just walk away. 


A Walnut, with all of its quadrants, can be complicated to crack, bitter to eat and difficult to figure out, especially if you don’t approach the crack or the reassembly of the nut strategically. Somehow it tastes better when after the crack, the nut is intact. They are a lot of work!


The Almond is pretty basic and widely appreciated. It is easy to get along with (with a bit of practice), unless you press it too hard. Whole or half — it is always delightful , mellow and satisfies a hunger.


The Cashew, lightly salted, is always the most cherished and comforting. After all who doesn’t go for the cashew first! They don't disappoint.


The Macadamia and Pecan are consistently good and they are few and far between in our bowl of nuts (life)— hard to find, but worth holding on to. I savour and guard them very carefully.  


Although the actual Hazelnut, sometimes mixed up with its cousin the Filbert, looks nice and slick from the outside, its looks can be deceiving. Be very careful and ready — of all the nuts in the bowl, its inside is occasionally dry, rotten or empty. But, every once in a while you get a really good one! As in life, picking a hazelnut can be a bit of a gamble, but it can be a prize too.


The moral of this story is this: Every type of nut has its own character, shape, style and taste. Each attracts different audiences. Some I can either take or leave behind. 


Others I just have no desire to try or try anymore. Now that I am 65,  I look for quality in my life — things like reliability and trust in a mixture of options. 


As a child sitting around that coffee table, I was not allowed to be picky. I had to take what was there and no new nuts were added until the bowl was empty. Over time, I learned that not every nut stands the test, and being picky became okay. What you initially see or think is not always what you expected. The mystery could be a pleasant surprise. If not, spit it out and walk away. It is okay to take charge; it is okay to change the goal posts and it is okay to be flexible..


So at this year’s Christmas table, I am enjoying the Macadamias, Pecans, Cashews, Brazils, Walnuts and Almonds with a happy heart and mind; in the New Year, I will still take a chance on the occasional Hazelnut because they do remind me that nobody can be perfect all of the time — and that is okay too. 


I have become a pretty good nut cracker over the years. I have survived the disappointments and thoroughly enjoyed the successes, and am looking forward to another carefully navigated year ahead within a handful of delightful mixed nuts.


Happy Nut Cracking … and may your New Year nut bowl be filled with the finest variety of mixed nuts from this day forward. 


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