Category Archives: Time and Space

Salisbury Horses

“Outside this lovely home, drive down the circular driveway covered by mature trees and be greeted by an old barn and about 3 acres cleared ideal for horses.”

3063 main street salisbury mikedoiron.caThus reads the real estate listing I found online for a 5.6 acre property in Salisbury NB. It is now owned by the Dangremond family. They bought it so they could keep their horses Misty and Reiner at home instead of having to board them. A barn and cleared pastureland – ideal for horses!

Then, while putting up fencing last year, they were told that the property is zoned RU, Residential Use. They appealed for rezoning, a variance, or even a temporary permit to keep the horses there for even just a year. Denied.

Following the story on CBC NB news, I’ve hoped, even believed, that the town council would wind its neck in and allow the horses to stay. But the news report yesterday was that the horses must move.

Reiner and Misty beside barn
Beside their barn, from “Help Misty and Reiner the horses” gofundme page

A neighbour has offered to board the horses – yes, a neighbour. A distance of 150 metres, CBC says. Not a big distance for the Dangremond daughter to walk to see her pets. Also not a big distance for the town council to make whatever variance is needed so those pets can stay in their own barn.

I realize municipal planners must do what is best for their region now and in the future. Evidently, the town foresees residential expansion in the area where the Dangremonds live. But, if houses are not going to be built in the immediate future, why not make an exception for the Dangremond horses with as many caveats as the council deems necessary?

location of propeerty google maps
Location of property in Salisbury area – click for larger view

Zoning Labyrinth

This sad story reminds me of when we were still in Ontario, hunting for a small farm in Elgin County. John Blake of Elgin Realty warned me that what looked like a farm might not be zoned one. So I started phoning municipal, township and county offices to get an overview of the zoning basics. No generalities, only a labyrinth.

One side of a road might be agricultural, the other – just as distant from a street light or a Tim Horton’s – is not. A township line at the edge of a property means another set of rules. Animals and farming may be “grandfathered” in after a zoning change, meaning they can stay only as long as those owners stay. Other times you can bring in new animals as long as the presence of farm animals is continuous. So, if the existing animals move off before the sale closing date, you can’t move new ones in. The planners told me to ask about each and every property.

Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC
Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC

That said, Salisbury has the chance to make a statement that matches its lovely rural-looking appearance. Let the Salisbury horses stay at home.

Misty and Reiner have a GoGetFunding page (updated July 7/17). You can also check the Facebook page Power in Numbers for Misty and Reiner.

Christmas Stable

Their stalls are decorated, the horses snugged in. Wintertime at the stable, and Christmas approaching. Stockings soon will be hung on stall doors.Fletcher in decorated stall photo dorothy stewart

The riding students who decorated the stalls will come to the barn on Christmas Eve, so one told me, to have a Christmas party with the horses. They will fill the horses’ stockings and give them their presents.

Samson aka One Kid CoolOne horse is getting a lot of stuff from his Secret Santa. I know because she told me. Whispered it, actually, so Samson couldn’t hear. And they are practical things that horses need but that he will also enjoy. A lot of thought went into choosing his gifts. (Amazon links below give you a clue)

I’m sure his Secret Santa has made a Christmas wish list for herself. She’s a girl in her early teens and she has a wide range of interests. But the only gifts she has talked about to me are those she is buying for the horses. The special, big presents are for “her” horse but she’s been shopping for small things for all of them. She’s very excited about it, about the shopping for them and the giving to them.

“Her” horse is not actually hers. He belongs to the stable. The other horses being shopped for are the stable’s lesson horses. The details of ownership don’t matter. We all have a special bond with our favourite horse, no matter how many others may ride him or her. The horses feel the same way, I think. They have their favourite riders too.Willie in aisle beside decorated stalls

I don’t know what they think of their decorations. Well, I do know what “my” horse thinks. When I was leading him to the cross ties, he tried to eat the holly off a stall door. So that is his opinion: food!Butternut Stables doors with wreaths

Therapy Visitors

“A woman was here today, a long time. I don’t know who she was. She had a dog. I don’t know if she was lost. But she sat right here, with the dog, talking and talking. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had things to do.”

mom and charlie dog 2012My mother told me this one day at her assisted living home. She didn’t have anything she had to do. She had Alzheimer’s. I doubted that this woman and her dog really existed. But to be sure, I asked the nurse if anyone had been to see Mom. “Today is the day the therapy dog comes,” she said.

I told Mom the names of the dog and woman, and explained. She kind of remembered. But why were they coming to see her, she asked. “He was a cute little fella. But I’ve got my own dogs!” She meant mine who came with me.

Another time, Mom was even more distraught. “A kid was here all morning. I don’t know where her parents were. I thought maybe I was supposed to be babysitting her. But I’m too old for that.” I asked where the kid went. “A nurse took her, thank heaven.”

The nurse told me what I suspected, after the therapy dog incident. School kids visiting nursing home residents. It’s good for the kids and good for the elderly.

Therapy or confusion?

I’ve seen the joy dogs can bring to nursing homes. The residents in Leo being therapy dog at Glendale Crossing 2012Mom’s home were always so happy to see me. When I went alone, I found out who they really wanted to see. ‘Where are the dogs?’ Those who usually smiled and came over, even if they couldn’t speak, didn’t even notice me. It was the dogs they wanted.

Bearing in mind Mom’s opinion on unsolicited visits, I kept the dogs away from residents who kept away from them. For Mom, the staff made notes on her preferences. She did not mention any more perplexing visits.

Social contact is good therapy for people in long term care. It breaks up their daily routine, the boredom, keeps them connected. Staff do their best but they have the nuts and bolts of care-taking to do. So waverley-resident-cat-2009visitors, of all ages and species, help. But they can also be confusing, especially for those with memory loss. Like for Mom – wondering who is this, do I know them, why are they here.

“Do-gooders!” Mom spat when I told her why the young girl was with her, “why don’t they ask you first?” Words to keep in mind. Maybe they did ask and explain, and she forgot. Alzheimer’s can cause memory and perception of reality to wander. Frequent cues might help lessen confusion, at least for the moment, about the “who” and “why” of visitors.

Annabel

Michael Crummey wrote of Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel, “a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom.” That’s on the book jacket. It’s true. This is a beautiful love story – of two young people, a family, friends, and a big land.

Amazon link for Annabel
Amazon link for Annabel

It was one of the books chosen for 2014’s Canada Reads on CBC Radio. Despite (or because of) the praise it received, I decided to avoid it at all costs.

Its Labrador setting interested me – but. It sounded too much like it was good for you. “Diversity” and “inclusiveness” were used to describe its story. These are words that I used to like but now make me gak like a cat with a hairball. Hearing them now used too earnestly, too combatively, too often, too everywhere.

Last time I was at the library, there was Annabel in a display rack. I stopped and looked at it, went on, then came back. I took it, reasoning that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to finish it. Too quickly I finished it, even reading and rereading as slowly as I could. I wanted it to go on forever.

People and Places of Annabel

It took a few pages to overcome my resistance and hook me. I still feared it would be a misery of a read, filled with horrible, heartbreaking things happening. And there are those. But, as the characters do, you get past them somehow. It’s how Kathleen Winter tells the story, I guess. You care about the people, and they all have something very good in them (well, all but a few of them). I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot. You’ll have to take my word that it is a rare and joyful experience to read.

Annabel - Sunset-NWRiver-WikipediaYou move into the story – into the houses and the towns and the landscape. And the story moves into you. I realized just how much when I said aloud to the book “You’re up by Bannerman Park!” when a character, lost, describes what’s around him to another character over the phone.

Books can make you laugh out loud and cry. Rarely do they make you simply smile as you read passages that are so lovely you want to imprint them on your mind and memory. Annabel is one of those books. You want to know what happens after the story ends, and you also just want to remember what was in the pages.

Heaven

When my dog Jack died, I believed in heaven. After his burial, my mother-in-law gave me a card with a little story in it. It’s about a Heaven - Doug with Jack in Outer Battery, St. John's 1998man and his dog walking along the afterlife road looking for heaven’s gates. At the beautiful golden and pearl gates with a sign saying Heaven, they’re told “sorry, no dogs allowed.” They continue walking. At a rickety gate in front of a small farm, a sign also says Heaven. The man asks if his dog can come in and is told “Of course he can.” So in they went.

It made me feel better to think of Jack in that heaven, met at the gate by my dog Jamie and cat Cedric who died before he came to me.  I knew they would recognize him as one of the family.  Doug, the German Shepherd who had ‘mothered’ him when he was a pup, would be there too.

They would take him to Heaven’s Porch, where my dad would be George Anger and Jamie dog 1991sitting with his brother and brothers-in-law.  Dad would pat his side and say, “well hello Jack, so you’ve come to join us.”  Dad’s brother would say “so you’re the sonovabitch she named after me, are you?”  Jamie would run around in front of the porch, barking and tail wagging, legs dancing.  No trace of the arthritis that had crippled him up.

That’s what I pictured the night Jack died, thanks to that story in a sympathy card.  It comforted me.

I had read the story aloud to Jack’s mourners and, of course, I cried. My mother looked askance, and said “dogs don’t have souls.” I put the card away. That was a debate I wasn’t taking on right then. Neither was my mother-in-law, a church-going woman of strong faith. But a different church.

It has famously been said that there are no atheists in a foxhole.  Of course there aren’t!  Why, when you are in danger or great despair, would you not cling to anything that gave you hope or solace?  Part of that solace is that you can make it anything you want or need.

You can picture your enemy burning in hellfire, screaming and clawing at the walls of the pit.  You can even picture it before he dies, and enjoy the anticipation.  If you reconciled yourself with him by the time of his death, perhaps you’d see him being welcomed into the arms of Jesus.  Jack at Man o' War's grave, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington KYEven if his sins hadn’t changed, you can see what you want his afterlife to be, and believe it to be reality.  You can maybe see yourself going beyond the white light to “a better place”.  If you picture yourself in the pit of hellfire, you might find yourself looking for a way to avoid that place.

Heaven needs Hell

The afterlife, being something we can’t know about, is pretty much whatever you believe it to be.  Different faiths have different pictures of it, some more detailed than others.  In the fundamentalist Christian belief system in which I was raised, one of the truths is that animals have no souls and therefore are incapable of sin.  Their death is final with no afterlife, either good or bad.  Heaven cannot be an option if Hell is not also a possibility.  If my dog Jack cannot go to hell, he also cannot go to heaven. Thinking of him in heaven is misinterpretation or blasphemy.  It’s nothing personal toward the dog; it’s just the “reality” of the world we don’t yet know.

I don’t like thinking about a heaven without dogs. So I’d rather stick with my fuzzy and situational spirituality and comfort myself with the Jack beside Kettle Creek, St. Thomas winterpicture of Jack on the Porch of Heaven with my other animals and my dad and Uncle Jack and other family and friends.  That gives me comfort.  If I were in a foxhole, I’d be praying non-stop to God to keep me alive or at least ensure that I go to the Heaven where I can sit on the porch with Jack.

James Herriot wrote a lovely story about dogs’ afterlife. “Prince and the Card Above the Bed” is in a small, beautifully illustrated volume entitled James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories, New York:  St. Martin’s Press 1996.

If you haven’t seen this, Church Wars is a concise little debate on the question of dogs’ souls.

This was first posted July 31, 2010 in Stories on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. This Saturday, Jan. 30th, marks the eighth anniversary of Jack’s death.

The Tao of Horses

“If you knew a horse, you could depend on him and if he was going to do something bad, you could depend on him to do that too. I always understood horses better than I did people.“

This opinion on the staightforwardness of horses is from retired US Captain Thomas Stewart. His story is in The Tao Of Horses: Exploring how horses guide us on our spiritual path by Elizabeth Kaye McCall. At the end of WWII, Capt. Stewart and Dr. Horse stories Lipizzaner 2002 London ONRudolph Lessing, a German army captain and veterinarian, got 200 Lipizzaner stallions and broodmares out of Czechoslovakia before it was given to Russia in the Allied division of territory.

The Lipizzaner story is in the chapter entitled ‘Peace – The unequivocal ambassador’. This book has many such horse stories – individual people and horse breeds that are particular noteworthy in the equestrian world. It’s a small book and it covers a lot of ground. Each chapter focuses on a few people and the breed of horse with which they work. You get the story of the breed, including individual horses, people and their philosophical musings on what horses and their particular branch of equestrian activity gives them mentally and physically. The author adds her own thoughts in short sections at the end of each chapter. She includes a physical or mental exercise as well as travel tips and internet search suggestions.

I stay well clear of any book with ‘Tao’ in its title, too New Age self-helpish for me. But when I found a copy in a thrift store – why not? I’m very glad I bought it.

Horse Stories

Before I read it, I did not know the singer Wayne Newton is a well-respected breeder of Arabian horses. I did not know that the drummer of the 1970s band Three Dog Night, Michael McMeel, was inspired by the movie City Slickers to set up an equestrian programme for Los Angeles “at risk” kids. The book tells the horse stories of people you have heard of. It also tells about those you probably don’t know of but are happy to learn about.

Tao of Horses
Click for Amazon link

This book is what its title says, a look at the way of horses.  It discusses them and their relationship with humans in all ways – practical, emotional and psychological. You get an easy to understand overview of breeds and equestrian arts. As well, there’s a lot to think about in terms of how horses and humans connect at the heart. Ms. McCall shows the art of dressage, for example, and also explains some technical points of it. You also read about a family who have spent their whole lives in pursuit of this dance between human and horse. You are moved to think about that expression of balance and fluidity in terms of your own life, with and without a horse to share it.

It is a self-help book but it doesn’t outline steps to fix your life. It gives you something better. Food for thought about yourself and your emotional interior and about creatures – human and equine – outside yourself. It also teaches you about horses and equestrian disciplines from reining to racing. A lovely book, and well worth its full price for horse- and non-horse people alike.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Nov. 10, 2011

 

Coming Home

Coming Home Talbot-St-to-east-photo-D-StewartComing home after an absence, you see it differently. When you leave one home to visit another, you get it both ways. Going back to Ontario after a year in a new home, I was both visitor and resident simultaneously. I was surprised St. Thomas looked the same, but how much does anywhere change in one year?

St. Thomas at night

Talbot-St-to-north-dorothystewartMy eyes had changed, though. I saw beauty in things I’d never really noticed for a long time. Waiting for a pizza one night, I looked at the main street – the buildings themselves and the details of architecture we often forget to look at. Chef Bondi Pizza, in business since the early 1970s, next door to Your Fish & Chips, in business for even longer. Both with signage I’ve known all my life. At 10 p.m. the street was empty enough to stand on the middle line. Yet cars are driving somewhere, people singly or in pairs walk home or to the bars, dogs and their people are out for their late night constitutionals.

Talbot-St-to-south-dorothystewart

Aylmer, Ontario

Being in Aylmer at a Scottish-surnamed, German-speaking family-run Mexican food shop, The Tortilla Store, buying corn Tortilla-Store-Aylmertortillas in bulk to bring back to NB. Looking at the parking lot of The Bargain Shop across the side street. A horse and buggy parked alongside the cars and minivans.

Teary-eyed outside the John Street Tim Hortons in Aylmer. Waiting for my coffee, I automatically nodded to people at the tables. They nodded back. They may well be the same ones I’ve seen for years at the same tables at the same time of day. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know the other outside this common meeting ground, we always nod hello. Then again, maybe I’ve never seen these particular people before. Doesn’t matter, we always nod hello.

horse-and-buggy photo D StewartMissing Aylmer; the complex mix of peoples in a small town, there long before the term cultural diversity became common parlance. Stores and restaurants that have remained exactly the same since I went to high school there.

I hated Aylmer and all small towns then, thought the big cities had it all. Eventually learning that, really, big cities become living in your own small neighbourhood for the most part and that getting away to see fields and forests requires a Clarkes-Aylmer photo Dorothy Stewartmajor expedition. In Aylmer or St. Thomas, you drive only a few minutes and you are in countryside with cows and horses or woods.

In a London department store, the young sales clerk who waits on us isn’t busy so she starts chatting. She’s counting the months until she graduates from university and can leave the small-town dust of London behind her for the Big City. She can’t wait. I remember being you, I think as I listen to her talk about what London doesn’t have. But she will do well in Toronto. I can see the virtues of Hogtown, but London Ont is big city enough for me now. I was born and bred in real small town Ontario and I have grown old enough to appreciate that.

Home to NB

coming home, field-walk-photo-Jim-StewartThen returning to New Brunswick and what is now home. No take-out pizza close enough to get it home still warm. No Tim Hortons without a 20-minute drive. But the stars fill the sky as they cannot do against the lights of any city or town. The fields and woods beckon us to come for a walk. Silence other than the songs and squawks of birds.

Hampton Court House

Hampton Court House 5-Feb-2013 D StewartThe 140-year-old Court House in Hampton, New Brunswick has heard its last case.  Court cases for Kings County will now be heard in Saint John.  The town knows a new purpose for the building must be found, something befitting its beauty and its position as centrepiece in the town.  But.

They already have a museum and library.  The building needs extensive refits and, of course, public money is in short supply.  Please, Hampton, don’t let this magnificent structure and its grounds become derelict.

There are too many beautiful old buildings left to moulder beyond the point of any reasonable possibility of renovation or maintenance.  Such buildings are markers of our heritage.  When we lose them, we lose our collective history.

nb-castle-manor-cbc.ca-22jun2012In Moncton recently, I saw Castle Manor for the first time.  The huge stone building with good-sized grounds looks pretty bedraggled.  Plywood covers all the ground-floor windows.  Originally built by the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1900s as a seniors’ residence, it has also been a school and orphanage.  Vacant, it was bought in 2012 by a local builder.  He says vandalism has been a problem.  He didn’t say what his plans are, but it sounds like he values its historical and architectural significance to the city.  I hope he can do something beautiful with it before its story ends sadly.

Coming from St. Thomas, Ontario, I know that architecture, and the recognition of its value, can be defeated by real and bureaucratic vandalism.  Alma College was the pride of St. Alma-College-discover-southern-ontario.comThomas.  Built in 1878, it was a private girls’ school from 1881 to 1988.  It then passed through several hands and, like Castle Manor, became pretty sad looking.  Windows were boarded up after the glass had been broken.  People slept in the building and used it as a hangout.  It had provincial status as a historic building but status and a plaque cannot protect against the predation of weather, time and vandals.  It deteriorated to the point that rehabilitation may have been impossible, no matter how much money was available.  Battles about whether to restore or demolish went on for years. Then somebody torched it.

Alma-College-Fire-Credit-Robert-Chaulk,-Sun-Media-Corp-heritagecanadaMay 28th 2008, smoke could be seen all over the city. I drove toward it.  Alma College in flames.  Pretty much every firefighter and piece of firefighting equipment in the city was there, huge crowds gathered on all sides to watch and cry and pray but it was too late.  All that’s left are the outdoor amphitheatre and the music building.

Please do not let this happen to the Hampton Court House.  The building, still usable Main-Street-Hampton-5-Feb-2013 D Stewartnow, has given grandeur to downtown Hampton for well over a century.

I am sorry that it will no longer be an active court.  I will miss the reportage from it in the Sussex Kings County Record.  Every week there is at least one full page of proceedings.  Shoplifting, drunk driving, assault – lengthy and detailed accounts that give a wonderful window into society and jurisprudence in this area.

That Good Night

I have always loved Dylan Thomas’ exhortation to his dying father:  Do not go gentle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Nightinto that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas on cover of poetry bookYes, I thought, “old age should burn and rage at close of day.”  But Dylan Thomas knew something I didn’t, I think, even when he wrote those words.  He was still a young man, but he knew something that becomes apparent with age:  sometimes it’s time to hang up your hat and say goodbye. Evidently, he never showed the poem to his father.  He wrote it for himself – the child pleading to, and for, the father.  He knew, maybe, that what his dad wanted was to go peacefully and quietly.

Mom holding dog Feb 2012Four weeks ago my mother, my remaining parent, died.  I know in my sensible brain that it’s good that her death was quick and peaceful.  But there’s another part of me that says no, you should have fought to stay, you can’t leave me.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, when you lose your final parent, you feel orphaned.  What will you do without parents?  Driving through our hometown, my brother tried to remember the name of people who used to live in a house near ours.  “There’s nobody to ask now,” he realized, “I’m the one they’ll come to now for answers and I don’t know.  Mom knew.”

You lose your family’s corporate memory when your parents die, all the little bits of information about whose house was whose, where the neighbours moved to, what their dog’s name was.  Does it matter?  Ruby-1939-Pine-StYes, in the history of a community or family.  No, in the continued existence of that community or family.  Other families become the old neighbours who moved away, the next generation become the family elders.  But, like with photocopying, with each generation there’s a loss of the depth and colour of the original.

My mother had Alzheimer’s for the past few years.  She still knew us but didn’t remember many other people.  I hated the disease.  I hated seeing her sharp mind shut down; cried, after leaving her, when she asked “who’s X?” when X was a family member.  Cried even more when she stopped asking, stopped trying to figure out who people were.

However, as she accepted her dementia and came to terms with it, so did I.  Often I’d wonder about something and think I’ll ask Mom, then would remember she wouldn’t Ruby Grace Burwell Anger obitknow any longer.  After her death, I caught myself taking pictures because “Mom will want to see this,” only to remember she was gone.  But it wasn’t the huge shock to me that it would be if she’d had her mental faculties intact.

Maybe that’s a gift that Alzheimer’s gives survivors.  You’ve had to come to terms with losing your loved one before she or he is actually gone from this life.  It is a gradual process, thereby maybe gentler at the ultimate end.  Maybe, as Dylan Thomas’ dad knew, that’s what we all wish for at the end, going gentle into that good night.  My mother went gently, and for that I’m glad.

House Deconstruction

Three weeks in our new house and slowly it’s coming together.  A new house is like a clothes on line and fieldRubik’s Cube:  frustratingly impossible to figure out the parts but hit the right one and somehow the rest fall in place.

I haven’t moved in over a decade.  That’s too long, I’ve decided.  Move every five years so you don’t have time to accumulate too much, or never so that someone else will have to deal with your lifetime’s worth of stuff.

We moved to a smaller house.  So even after fairly extensive pruning, a lot more came in the door than could be accommodated.  Furniture was arranged several times before a workable solution was found.  You start with a preconceived idea, based both on your perceptions china cabinet with cat in houseof the space and the way you had things before.  Then you see it doesn’t work or feel right, there’s too many pieces left over, or what you need doesn’t fit and what fits you don’t need.

Throw it all out and start over’ was followed by ‘We paid to move this stuff halfway across the country so it’s all going to fit come hell or high water’.  Then a midpoint of sanity:  you have to see something in the space to know if it’s needed and rejigging can make things fit.  And if something really doesn’t work, replace it.  Life is indeed too short to settee and table on house porch photo D Stewartlive around your furniture, accommodating it instead of it accommodating you.

So a settee and coffee table sit on the porch, no place inside for them.  Kind of looks like the Clampetts moved in.  They probably will go to the attic or garage, or I might leave them there until winter.  They just beg you to ‘set a spell’.

The countryside around here is beautiful:  farmland with hay baled or cows grazing, woods.  I’m enjoying just looking at my own flower bed and grape arbourland – rosebushes, tiger lilies, grapevine-covered arbour, field with the potential of being pasture, woods.  A deer out in the field late one afternoon, turned her head when she heard a voice and meandered on.

An old farmhouse, it’s very different than our previous new-ish suburban house.  But this house, with old softwood floors and a renovation job of pine cabinetry, tile and soft sea colours, is of the lineage of houses I have lived in and loved the most.  I could line up photos of rooms from this and three inside houseother ones and they could all be the same house.  That’s not to say I haven’t missed my St. Thomas house.  I liked its space and convenience and straight walls and floors, and I enjoyed just looking at the rooms.  But my soul is back at home in this house.