Thursday, October 28, 2010

HIBERNATION (or, Hi-Bear-nation)

Yes, it is getting to be that time of year. Colder temperatures; the arrival of snow. I'm very sleepy, and I'm getting foggy-brained.

Hibernation time. 

I've got a really nice den picked out. The foxes used it over the summer for their family home, but they have moved on. This is good. I've tried it out, again, and it's good!

Unlike some other animals, Bears are not "true" hibernators. We don't really pack it in for the whole winter. Like other animals who go into hibernation, our whole bodies (metabolism) slow down, and we live on stored energy. But, on nice days, we come out of our dens, to stretch and enjoy the sunshine, and maybe grab a snack.

So if you don't see me around as much, don't worry; I've just gone into hibernation. And if I show up at your place, don't panic; it's just too nice a day to be sleeping.

And, lest you be concerned, I've made contingency plans for Her Ladyship, Miss Sadie. She will receive excellent care; no question. She may even come to my den to sleep for the night.

See you in the spring, or perhaps earlier. I hope you have a good winter!

Not only is everything covered with ice and snow, this is the first day on which the high temperature for the day will be zero°C, or less.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I do believe I heard that; and saw it too
(earlier this morning).
As did Her Ladyship, Miss Sadie.

'Tis that time of year all right.
Temperature -1°C (30F).
Wind chill -8°C (18F)
Ho. Ho. Ho?

The snow kept up all day.
By supper time it was getting seriously dark and dismal.
Not only that,
front steps were covered,
same with the front sidewalks,
even the back yard.
And the streets were getting icy.

Of course, that didn't stop me
from going to our annual Ward meeting
to hear what the Mayor and Ward Councilor had to say.
Great turnout (as always) even on a bad night.
Included some semi-useful information.

At bedtime,
-1°C (30F)
with the wind chill
-8C (about 18F).

We'll see what its like when it gets here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

PHOTO OF THE DAY/Photo du Jour

Ou est la ville?/Where's the city?

Sadie and I went for our morning walk, as per usual today.

Normally when we get to the park where the sanatorium used to be, we can see right across the river to the buildings on the east side of the city.

Not today.
We've been having quite a bit or rain over the last couple of days. Sadie and I walked in the break between the showers. It's quite humid, and the temperature is only 4°C (39F). You can see the result.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


cleaning up the yard and getting ready for winter. Which I was doing this afternoon at our micro-holding. (For those of you who are not familiar, I think our property is really too small to fit the classic definition of a "small holding"; hence, it's a "micro-holding.")

When I work outside, Her Ladyship, Miss Sadie, comes with me. First we play a bit. Then we light a fire, into which I can toss odds and ends of stuff that need to be removed and can be burned.
Then I get down to work. And Miss Sadie waits for me to be done with the work silliness, and come to play — which is the important thing to do outside.
When I need to take a break, we play.

There was a lot of brush to clean up at the back. I didn't take a picture of it, but you can see where the leaves are. That's where the brush was.
And there was some other stuff to clean up, too. Like garbage that blows in from the back lane. (The automated garbage pickup isn't always that thorough.)
It has to be bagged and returned to the garbage, along with bits of glass and metal which uncannily pop up to the surface of the earth from time to time. And I need to do something with Miss Sadie's "leavings" (otherwise called, by some, "doggy-doo").
Then, the wood pile. It was a mess. Now we've got it organized, and partly tarped. The one challenge is that there are mice living under there, somewhere. I only know about them because Miss Sadie keeps trying to find the mice, even climbing up on top of the wood pile.
Last job, cover the rose bush with fallen tree leaves, to protect it over the winter. (This was the first year since we transplanted it to our yard that it actually bloomed.)
We had beautiful magenta roses. I hope we get them again next year.
All in an afternoon's work. Or play (if you see it from Miss Sadie's perspective).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


 The sun is high. The sky is bright blue, with no clouds. 

The air is warm (about 10°C, or 50°F). 

The Elms and Poplars have lost most of their leaves. 

 Even the Larches are shedding their needles (leaves) on cue. 

(Larches are the only coniferous trees to loose all their leaves
at one time.)

While I can usually walk only about a kilometre at a time,
Sadie and I have done three today,
two this morning, another one this evening.

Too nice a day to be inside.

I hope you had a wonderful day, too!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DEPRESSION HURTS (5) Five and a Half

Outside, the Elm trees are shedding their yellow and brown leaves in advance of winter’s icy blast. It is mid-October. After the soggy summer, we’ve had a dry, warm autumn. Farmers are making progress in harvesting throughout much of the province, though in some places the fields are too soggy, still. But in the places where waterlogged fields have dried, crop quality is poor. Very poor, indeed.

I sit at the upstairs window of my daughter’s house, for which I am caring, along with its lively contents — two small dogs. I look out on the re-built and repaved street — a major traffic artery — lined with ageing Elms. I am here while she is holidaying in Europe; she gets home tonight. The house is quiet, except for occasional barking of the dogs, and the furnace; its fan provides a gentle background ruffle of blowing air. Rather like a pervasive, almost calming, “white noise.”

Yesterday I received my annual flu shot, as well as an injection to combat pneumonia. This year they are free. It is a public health activity; preventive medicine. The goal is to slow or stop the spread of both the seasonal forms of influenza, and the dreaded H1N1. And the commonest forms of bacterial pneumonia.

This morning, my arm hurts. The one in which I received the pneumonia injection. Not a deep ache; more “nuisance value” than anything else. The other one, in which I received the flu shot, is just fine.

I am no stranger to pain. I carry scars from fairly minor surgery, and from a traffic accident of long ago.

Those are the visible scars. The invisible scars are more numerous. And more troubling.

It has been almost five and a half years since I began the extended disability phase of my life. That has changed somewhat. Instead of collecting disability allowance I am now retired and drawing several pensions — government and private. We are not going to be poor, but we will be careful with our money.

What has not changed is my overall health. The initial shock and devastation of betrayal and “crucifixion” have passed — they were largely gone in the first year. But the perpetual greyness continues, punctuated by occasional bursts of light, but far more often fading long to black (and staying there). It is something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, though not quite as intense. I tend to drag myself through days, though I prefer to sleep.

I sleep a lot. Day and night. I wake up to eat; to walk the dog, play with her, or clean her up; to visit with my beloved; to have tea, occasionally, with a friend; to attend a meeting related to bioethics (though those are becoming more rare). Yet, sometimes, the pain keeps me awake at odd hours, especially the early hours of the day.

I spoke with my doctor earlier this week. I took four pages of notes with me; two for me, to for his file. The list of symptoms is long and detailed. And boring. Physical ailments. Emotional upsets. An overall lack of interest in living, but certainly not suicidal thinking or action. A gnawing malaise.

In simple terms, I’ve really not made much progress towards recovering real health. And I have come to realize there may not be much improvement at any point in the future. Indeed, when my condition was re-evaluated a bit over three years ago, my chances for improvement were described as "guarded."

So I remain a scarred soul. That I have survived is a testament to both faith and persistence (some might say “orneriness”). That further progress appears limited, was predicted. That I have two resident “black dogs” — Sadie and chronic depression — is a continuing fact of life.

And, that’s the way it is. Today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



I thought I could smell something strange, unhealthy, foreboding. I've smelled that smell before. Like something rotting in a wooden basement — maybe even the basement itself.

Now I can see him. He's lying there. Right in front of me. On the carpet. Big, and shaggy; unkept, filthy. Like a very over-sized wolf, but far more muscular.

His nails are like serrated knives. His teeth are like ice picks. Long and sharp are his claws and teeth. And ready. Ready for me.

Now is NOT the time for this sort of battle. I'm already tired. Very tired. So, so very tired. I don't have the energy for this fight.

He starts to slink around, moving this way and that. Circling around me. I back myself into a corner, for protection. But I know that won't work. He can come right through the walls and get me. Get me from any angle. Get me anywhere I stand, or sit, or lie, or climb.

So now it begins. The way it always does. I have to keep circling, keep my eyes on him. He fakes an attack, then falls back. He does it again. And again. And keeps circling. He's trying to wear me out. He is succeeding.

Sadie cannot see him. She cannot sense him in any way. She wonders at my behaviour. I call her to come to me. But there's something different in my voice. She stands motionless, confused. She cannot help me now.

Aaaaaahhh! He's got me. He's taken the first chunk out of me. I feel the deep, throbbing pain; I see the blood. No one else can see or feel any of this. Just me. While I was focused briefly on Sadie, the other Black Dog got me. Got me good.

But he's not really eating my leg, that other Black Dog. He's eating my heart, and my soul. Little by little, hour by hour, he keeps at me. I get weaker, more confused, less steady.

I do not know what to make of this. Why is he here? Why now? Why, when I could be doing so many things — interesting things, good things?

Slowly I shrink in his presence, as he chews the life out of me — bit, by bit, by bit.

Will this be the time he finally does me in?

I hope not! I hope not! I really, really hope not!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

DEPRESSION HURTS (3) Being Positive

Often, people who are depressed are told to "keep a positive attitude about life."

If only.

I'm reminded here of a little bit of repartee between John Wayne and Frank Shuster, of Canada's iconic comedy team of Wayne and Shuster. (Sadly, they're both dead; we could use their talents today!)

John:  Only fools are positive.
Frank:  Are you sure?
John:  I'm positive.

Well, so much for a positive outlook on life.

That said, however, I keep looking for positives in my life. Mostly, I force myself to do as much as I can every day. That's the bit about walking Sadie and cooking supper in my earlier blog piece about depression. Even if it's only chopping up some wood in our wood pile and lighting a fire, or cleaning up in the yard, or doing something in the house. My concentration isn't good enough to do some serious reading, and there are some things I want very much to read. (I really do enjoy reading.) It is far too easy for me to simply get up, feed Sadie and put her out, have something to eat, and collapse back into bed. Especially when every muscle in my body hurts, and I feel like I'm crawling through life. Literally crawling. As in going as fast as I can, and still losing the race with the tortoise.

The situation isn't helped when I sleep so poorly at night. My doctor has given me some medication to help with that. But it doesn't help. So we'll have to find something else. Otherwise, I'll keep getting up, going through my morning routine, and going back to bed until noon, then getting up for lunch, and trying to do some additional things in the afternoon, or into the evening.

It's not a great way to live, but "I'm doing the best that I can" for the time being. (Humble doesn't even register in my mind; humble, as in Mac Davis' song "O Lord, it's hard to be humble," with its line about "I'm doing the best that I can.") I would so much like to do more. But when simple tasks feel like they require moving a mountain, things are a bit challenging.

This morning's question: Will I make it to Church of Morning Worship today?

P.S.: Yes, I did make it to Morning Worship, and I'm glad I was there.