Wednesday, 24 October 2007

From Carleton Place to Carleton County, A Road Trip in Three Parts

Cousin Amy was scheduled for a visit from California. To save loads of money, she decided to fly into Syracuse, New York. Not too bad of a drive to pick her up, but the rub was that her flight landed at 8:36 a.m. Which meant that I’d have to forgo my favourite thing in the world to go pick her up . . .sleep.

Figuring out that I’d have to wake up at about 3:15 a.m. to make it to Syracuse on time meant that I’d have to get to sleep really early the night before. Riiiiiiight. Yeah, like that could happen.

I’m one of those people that needs my sleep. So when I finally nodded off at just past 11, I knew I was going to be a sleepy driver at four a.m. Good thing coffee is available 24/7 in our town.

I was out of the house at 4:15 a.m. Peter thought I should allow myself plenty of time at the border, just in case there was a line up or something. I felt confident if not a little muzzy-headed as I pulled onto Highway 15 to make my way towards Brockville and the 401.

The complete darkness lent a surreal cast to my drive. It’s hard to describe the utter black and feeling that I was driving on a hamster wheel, not really getting anywhere. My headlights only cast so much light, and there are so many trees that when you’re sleep deprived like I was, things started looking a little bizarre. Like the sun would never come up, that the trees were chasing me, that I was really the only one on the road.

Yes, I needed to go back to bed.

Expecting a long wait at the border, I was quite surprised when I whizzed through, the only car out at that ridiculous hour.

When Amy finally arrived, my goofiness had already kicked in from lack of sleep. Of course, Amy had it over me. Her flight was so awful that she didn’t sleep at all, and they weren’t even nice enough to bring along her luggage.

When I asked Amy if she could fly into Ottawa next time, she said probably not.

“Why not? Don’t you think I deserve sleep?”

“If I landed in Ottawa I wouldn’t be able to eat at the Cracker Barrel.”

So guess where we went?

Amy is a very picky eater, and cheese is on the no-freakin’-way list. So when we ordered breakfast, she was distraught that the only hash browns available were in a cheesy hash brown casserole.

When the server arrived, I asked if we could get the hash brown casserole without the casserole. The server blinked a couple of times and replied “No, but I can make you some plain hash browns if you like.”

Good enough.

Bellies full, we stopped to fill up the car. I approached stress when I tried to stick the gas hose in my tank and it wouldn’t fit. Panic set in as I wondered aloud why American gas hoses don’t fit in my Canadian gas tank.

Amy leaned out the window and told me that I was trying to put diesel in my car. Oops.

Ten minutes of laughter later, we knew it was going to be a good trip.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Bug Free Hammock Lovin’

In the middle of summer, I stumbled across a heck of a deal on a double wide, traditional hammock. I snatched it up without thinking anything but MINE.

When I got home, Peter was less excited than I was. Probably because he remembered the last hammock I bought, and never used. In fact, that first hammock is hiding in the shed with the evil rake, probably working out a coup to get out of their bug-infested prison.

I knew Peter was flashing back on that hammock, and therefore couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the new one. He was remembering the broken drill bits and the many trips to the hardware store to get the ‘right’ equipment to hang it.

And here I was, happy to do it all over again with a REAL hammock.

After hearing a list of what I needed to do to get the new hammock up, I ran off to the hardware store and explained to a wide-eyed employee the exact equipment I needed to make this the most comfortable, most secure hammock hanging ever. He didn’t disappoint. Soon I was loaded with six feet of chain, two carabineers and two lethally long screw thingies with a circle in the end to secure the chain and hammock between the trees.

I convinced Peter to help me put the hammock up. I used tactics such as “how many more drill bits do you want me to break, and which ones should I use to prevent this?”

Boys and their tools. It’s so cute.

We got one end up. The second didn’t fare so well. We got the screw thingie in and managed to break it off, right in the tree, right at the most critical point. I was immediately defeated, and went back to the house to add ‘stronger screw thingies’ to my list. Memories of the first hammock shrouded me, and I swear I heard it giggle and blow a raspberry at me from the shed.

That was in July, and the hammock has only been up for two weeks. But what a great two weeks it has been.

Crawling on it, scooting to the perfect middle position, my head cradled at the top by the intelligent design of intertwined rope. Kicking off the ground and swinging my leg up, crossing at the ankles. How can anything be so perfectly comfortable?

I close my eyes, enjoying the soothing feel of rhythmic rocking, with nothing but the blowing leaves in the canopy above as my soundtrack. Fighting what would probably be one of the best naps of my life, I open my eyes to look to the sky.

And there’s a racoon, staring at me from a high branch.

“Hey, I thought you were nocturnal! What are you doing staring at me?”

Incomprehensible chatter answers my question before the critter disappears.

At that moment, I am glad that it took some time to put up my new favourite place. At this time of year, there are no bugs to send me screaming back to the house, and the only thing pesky are the leaves that are falling.

Sure, they are covering me at an alarming rate, but it’s a small price to pay for bug-free hammock lovin’. I’m sure Peter will come looking for me eventually, right?

Friday, 5 October 2007

The Last Party of Summer, the First Party of Autumn

Last weekend, we hosted our 5th annual Autumn Equinox party. You could call it our way of partying away the last of summer, and thumbing our noses at the fall season and all the chores it brings.
The weather was perfect and the guests all arrived pretty much at the same time. Food was out and gone almost before the burgers and dogs were ready to serve, but we didn’t disappoint master barbeque chef Peter. We ate like the true carnivores we are.
Once our bellies were full, we women started loud demands in the general direction of the hunky men standing over the cooling barbeque. The demands are simple. Light the bonfire!
After evil growls that once meat has been consumed, the fire will be lit, we women wait patiently, standing in the kitchen, lamenting the ways of men in general. We giggle a lot and toss air kisses in their direction, secretly hoping that the bonfire is going to burst into crackling warm flames so we can move the party outside (and appropriately flash our glowing bracelets at one another).
We happenin’ chicks danced far from the fire, under the moon (completely clothed, it’s not THAT kind of equinox party), to the thump-thump beat of our own deejay, my Caliber with the drop- down party speakers.
We all danced like nobody was watching. And in the dark, all we could really see were the phosphorescent, multi-coloured glows of our bracelets as we twirled and shook our booties under an oak tree in our backyard.
As our wanton dancing faded and we gravitated towards the fire, a new atmosphere began to emerge. The music was turned off, and we gathered near the fire. Quick laughter replaced dancing, quips of “Who’s in charge of the fire? More wood! More wood!” took over the party, and we all started to mellow out.
Whether too soon or just at the right time, our guests took their leave. The fire was still pretty bright, so Peter and I decided to stay outside and enjoy it for a while.
And as it goes for so many couples that are completely at ease with each other, Peter and I lapsed into a comfortable silence, mesmerized by the popping wood and flames before us.
As I leaned my head on his shoulder, a sound travelled to us from deep in the forest that is our backyard. Coyotes. Their yip-yip barking and high-pitched howls greeted us, sending shivers down my spine and smiles across both of our faces.
We didn’t say a word, just sat, staring at the flames and listening to the wilds in the bush. And somehow, it was the perfect final stamp on the night. As if, maybe, the coyotes were thanking us.
For what? For turning off that loud music, of course.
The symphony of the wolves and coyotes out here is much better than the stuff we usually listen to. We just have to be quiet long enough to hear it.
Peter and I sat and listened to the forest and to each other without saying a word. It was beautiful and romantic as we snuggled close and enjoyed the song of Lanark County.
Parties are great, but sometimes communing with each other and nature is better.