06 May, 2008

Who's this?

You're right. It's me, under a year old. I think I may be praying for a good life. Maybe I'm still praying.

This week, through a tin-gold combination of fallen hopes and serendipidy, I've found a temporary home in the country. I may be here for only a week, but I have to tell you it's going to be one glorious one. I am in deep country Nova Scotia, in a tiny town, well more of a village, near the sea, where it's so quiet, except for the passing cars, that I can be startled by the sounds of my own body.

"What was that?", I thought last night, my first night, here, jumping up out of bed with the pair of nasty scissors I keep at my side for errant ghostly attacks.

" IS ANYONE THERE? " I demanded in my best Ken-po voice, hanging over the bannister in the dark, scissors at the ready. No reply, not even the creak of a floor or the tink-tink of the metal flue of the big wood stove in the kitchen, as it gave off its last wave of heat before settling into sleep.

At last I had to conclude that it was my stomach gurgling from the effects of a grabbed fast-food dinner on the run, as my daughter and I stopped at a Burger-King on the way here. I hate to confess this, but I like french fries with lots of ketchup. Occasionally. And who knew Burger King had Veggie Burger sandwiches? Not this long-time Japan resident. I was so pleased I've plugged them twice in three sentences, though my daughter was the one to test them. Not gluten-free, I think.

This morning birds woke me up, the light swimming thickly through the windows' winter covering of plastic. I went down crooked wood stairs and cleaned the grate of a wood stove for the first time in about 45 years. I carried the ash pan outside to the back and spread it under a tree. There was a little brook just next to it.

Then, just because it was so pretty here, and I felt like it, I swept the white painted floors with a broom, boiled water on a hot plate, so as not to start up the wood fire for such a small thing, and made coffee with a paper filter in a tea strainer put into a Japanese cup. The coffee I took to the back room where I have set up my computer on a big old wood table.

There I took a little time to look at the old family pictures I spent the last two days scanning at my mother's home. I made a Mother's day card with the two of us at similar ages looking very much alike, wearing what my Dad used to call our "Edward G. Robinson" grins.

And I thought and thought, trying to find a way to keep this wonderful house in our family. I confess I'd love to live here. This perfect life, the one I was praying for, perhaps, lurks just out of financial reach. When I was under one, I didn't know that sometimes a little money can buy happiness.

Oh well, for this week in eden, I don't need much money, just this fresh air, this quiet, this place to cook a few good meals. This sense of home, the epitome of richness. Perhaps my prayers have been answered.


Lucy said...

Welcome home.

'This morning birds woke me up, the light swimming thickly through the windows' winter covering of plastic.'


I hope your week is glorious.

Catofstripes said...

Sounds wonderful, I hope your dreams come true (but not the one about the strange noise obviously!)

Wheeler's Frozen Dessert said...

Awesome pictures!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora e hoa VJ,
I am listening to my wood stove clink clink as it burns down warming our home. It is new this year as we did a few renovations. Perhaps the only and most important item I desired was a wood stove. I love everything about them, the gathering and chopping of wood, the making of the fire, the room lit by the fires glow. Wood stoves are lovely and I am happy to read of you enjoying such pleasures.
It reads as if a few stars may be aligning for you. I say listen to your instincts, but I am sure you already know that.
By the way, it is Pohangina Pete's birthday this weekend. I am honoured to have dinner with him this Saturday evening. I sense he is a bit humble about such things, but I wonder if a little bird, such as you, dropped by his blog to wish him well if others would not get the message!
I cooked Puha, which is a native nettle like weed, kumra, and pork bones, Basically boiled the bones for hours then added kumra, then just before the finish the Puha. The meat left on the bones was succulent and tender, the kumra tasty, and the spinach like puha slightly strong but fitting. It was a fine way to be introduced to my camp oven.
Kia ora VJ, love your post, and what a cute bubba! Have a great day.

Ginger said...

i'm so glad you got some peace and quiet....may it be medicinal to your soul.

and just remember that those veggie burgers are grilled on the same surface as the beef burgers, and you can be pretty sure they don't wipe it down to keep cross contamination to a minimum. i personally dig on burger king's hashbrowns in the morning (before they dump any chicken nuggets in the fryer). not very often though, since my stomach often makes noises after that much grease.

vegetablej said...

lucy (and for all commenters, my thanks and an update):

Thank you! Nice to be home and wow, another week here, at least. The deal is it's my son's house, and it's on the market. He and family have already de-camped to the nearest city for jobs, so it's really week to week that I'll know if I can stay. Would that I had the money to buy it; it's just lovely here.

I am mastering the wood stove, heating water for small enamel tub baths and clothes washing, hanging clothes on the line, cooking on a hot plate, and spending every morning visiting the rhubarb patch near the stream, urging it to grow big enough to cut for pie.

I have to walk down the road for an Internet connection at the local Library. Lucky there's one here in such a small village. There's no grocery store or bank.

I have no phone, and limited TV.

Its quiet and great for writing.

I cooked veggie burgers for lunch which I ate with store-bought gluten free brown rice and pecan bread.

Life is good. :)

vegetablej said...


Thanks for the wish! Now used to the house's sounds and more comfortable. :)

vegetablej said...

wheeler's frozen dessert:

Usually I don't publish links to commercial sites but I'm making an exception for vegan ice cream! Only wish I lived closer. :)

vegetablej said...


Thanks for the advice! If I followed my instincts, I'd stay here. But finding a financial way is not so easy.

Aren't wood stoves great? I agree with you in everything except splitting the wood. I need to get in better shape before I try too much of it. Luckily it's a big stove and the logs come split already. :)

Your traditional dish sounds tasty but what is kumra?

And how about Pete's birthday? Hope you all had a great time! Was there music?

I'll be over to visit your site soon.

vegetablej said...


It's good for not only my soul but it's cleared the reverse culture shock right up. I'm feeling more grounded than I have since leaving Japan.

Yeah, it's always chancy to eat from a fast food place. But once in awhile, it seems inevitable.

Thanks for the good wishes. The same to you!

Autumn Moon said...

I see you are safely back in Canada! Le me know whwn you want to start quilting!

Ruahines said...

Tena koe VJ,
I trust you enjoyed your stay in Serenity, and I wish for you a way to find yourself such a place, if not this one.
Kumra is basically a sweet potato, though the many Kiwi varieties take on different forms, and tastes, than the traditional sweet potato of my American days. They come red, orange, and gold here, red tasty but more utility, gold very sweet, and orange the tastiest, a sweet delectable treat in my opinion.
Pete's bday was a fine evening. Dinner in a little country pub, and then back to Pete's place for a wonderful home made trifle. Just a lovely and interesting music.
No live music, but I was quite taken by Pete putting on at his place leo Kottke, a Minneapolis based 12 string acoustic guitar story telling maestro, whom I have never seen anyone have in Aotearoa. Music! I love snooping in peoples cd collections, and Pete has a fine one.
Have a great day VJ. Rangimarie.
Noho ora mai ra e hoa VJ!

Cha-chan said...

I wish that a fairy brings a pocketful of money to you so you can keep the house!

If I had a pocketful, it would be yours! I wish we all could find (and afford) such a place to settle and be happy.

pohanginapete said...

I think most of us are praying (or hoping) for a good life. Except the Nietzsche fans, I guess ;^) Bertrand Russell, in The Conquest of Happiness (old but timelessly relevant) suggested there's a threshold of income above which more dosh makes no difference to one's happiness, and I'm pretty sure he's right.

Sounds lovely there; a beautiful and contemplative place. I see Miguel over at Laughing Knees seems to be headed in a similar direction, too. I'm not ever likely to be able to afford a house of my own — but that's just further incentive to make my home wherever I am.

(Yes, it was a very good day; met up with Robb and Tara and other friends; lots more, too.)

vegetablej said...

autumn moon:

Sounds intriguing and I _would_ like to do a bit of quilting. I see by your site you love quilting and are very good at it.

Right now I'm trying to get some supplies for primitive rug hooking, but quilting would be great too. There's something so soul-soothing about making things of real worth with your hands, isn't there?


vegetablej said...

Hi Robb:

Thanks for telling me about New Zealand potatoes. I confess I love all potatoes whether red, gold, orange, purple, anything that isn't green.(light-burned) In Japan they have giant-sized (they must be almost half a kilo) red-skinned sweet potatoes that are roasted and sold off trucks that go around the neighborhood advertising their wares with a particular haunting song, somewhat atonal, recorded by an old man. Once you've heard it you can never forget it and the potatoes are cooked so well that the insides are creamy and sweet, are eaten plain and loved by everyone, including little kids. A big treat at about 5 dollars each!

So glad to hear that Pete, and you, had a great time at his birthday. Coincidentally, I just had a birthday and spent it camping" with family, including my grand-child. It was the very reason I came back here and I absolutely loved it! It was a place on a lake in the middle of deep country near a national park, so I was privileged to be able to see many 75-100-foot old pines. Beautiful!

And I cooked my family their first fried tofu and for breakfast, cornmeal and brown rice flour pancakes with local maple syrup. Such fun!

The music, around a fireplace, was provided by my two sons, one of whom is an actor, and my step-grandson, who is an extremely promising up and comer, so that was more fun than a raspberry pie with double-whipped cream in a hail storm.:)

vegetablej said...


Thank you so much. I was extremely moved by your kind message, and I wish the same for you, a home where you feel all the warmth and safety you deserve.


vegetablej said...


So glad you had a nice birthday!

You know, I agree about the income, and I guess I don't need that much, but I haven't achieved that level that would make security possible. I think when we talk about happiness we are really talking about enough money for a person to survive and feel a bit of security. That probably differs with the person, as I'm sure people like Bill Gates didn't feel that way even with his first billion.

There are so many of us at the level of just being able to survive, and many in the world without even that security. If I had my way, I'd have everyone with enough, not just some of us so wealthy we can live with a house in several countries. I mean a more equal distribution of wealth to places like India and Africa, and I'd be willing to cut down a lot for that to happen.

I've been staying at the house and heating all my hot water, washing by hand, with no telephone or car. Most people here can't even imagine living that way any more, but it helps me remember both how lucky I am to be in this place, and the life my grandparents led. I remember as a child fetching water from the well, and my grandmother with a hand pump in the kitchen. That was the place I learned to cook, with her and I at a big wooden table, and a wood stove burning for heat and baking.

I think you have a wonderful gift if you can make home wherever you are. I guess I've also learned to do that a bit, and I know that, when we come down to it, the only real home we have is inside this wall of skin and heart and brain we call ourself.