All posts by sammee44

About sammee44

I am a West Coast Reader and Writer who enjoys the big and little things in Life. My philosophy is--if you don't enjoy those precious moments and savour the joy, then how can you appreciate the little things that crosses your daily path?

Unmasking a Friend

This pandemic has brought out a few anomalies, but the one I marvel at most is when I can walk freely into a bank wearing my dark mask, my woolie hat and my big dark glasses without being stopped or having any eyebrows lifted. I marvel at this because only a year ago—pre-pandemic—the bank had a large sign at the entrance proclaiming that anyone entering had to remove their hat, their dark glasses and anything obscuring his/her face. What a difference a year made.

During this pandemic era—the talent we all acquire—to varying degrees, is the ability to recognize friends who are wearing masks. Eyes are very personable and are usually—note, I said usually –an identifying feature of good friends.

Laughing blue eyes danced above a mask with tiny black cats cavorting against a cream coloured background.

“Hello, my Dear Friend,” was the joyful greeting. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen you!”

“It certainly has been much too long,” I replied, at the same time thinking those eyes are familiar. Is that Betsy from my sing-along group?”

“Oh my, it’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone from our group. I feel like I’ve been let out of jail and this is my first day of freedom.” The merry blue eyes twinkled above her face mask as she carefully looked me over. A slightly puzzled look appeared briefly in her eyes and swiftly passed.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen anyone from our group,” I replied, desperately searching my memory for the name belonging to merry blue eyes who likes cats.

“There’s quite a few of us living in this area and I’m always surprised we don’t meet more of our group.”

“I’m only sorry we can’t enjoy a cup of coffee somewhere,” I replied regretfully.

“Me too. You know, I always thought our bird-watching group was safe. After all, we’re socially distanced and it’s all outdoors, so I couldn’t understand why this was all cancelled until futher notice.”

“Bird-watching? I’m sorry I’m not in your bird-watching group. I thought you were in my sing-along group!”

“You know, I thought there was something different about you, but I didn’t think it would be mistaken identity!” Merry-Blue-Eyes laughed.

“These darn masks makes it hard to recognize anyone including family,” was my amused answer. “Yesterday, I met my cousin for lunch. She was wearing her mask plus a new short haircut that was hard for me to recognize her. I was commenting on her “Audrey Hepburn” hair-do when I felt this tap on my shoulder and a familiar voice said, “Sorry, I’m late but parking is terrible here. Who’s your friend?” It was then I realized I had been chatting to a total stranger.

The blue-eyes were laughing when I told my “cousin” story. “Oh my,” she chuckled, “that is so funny. Now we both have another pandemic story to tell our friends and families.”

We exchanged names so that next time we saw each other in the Village, we would truly recognize a friend and recall her name. Margaret and I parted with a wave and a smile.

How did I know she was smiling? I knew because it’s all in the eyes. . .

To Lie or Not to Lie

“Next time I agree to do something that I don’t want to do, jump in and rescue me,” I told Hubby.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Tell them something, so I don’t have to do it.”

“I can’t lie,” Hubby said horrified.

“It’s not really lying—it’s a little white lie and they don’t count.”

“Lying is lying,” Hubby stubbornly insisted. “I can’t tell a lie.”

White lies are not lies,” I insisted. “They’re just a teensy untruth that doesn’t hurt anyone and. . and. . .,” I stumbled, quickly thinking, “not exactly lying because it saves face,” I finished triumphantly.

“Save face?” Hubby echoed. “Isn’t that what my Grandmother use to say when we were kids and did something not acceptable and. . .”

“Yep–my Grandma said the same thing. I think it had something to do with family honour and looking good.”

“If I remember correctly, Grandmother did tell some untruths which she reminded my brother and I that that wasn’t lying. I’m still not sure why when she does it, it’s a grownup thing and when we do it, it’s a lie.”

“That may be,” I argued, but we’re grown-ups now and we can do whatever.”

Hubby’s eyebrows rose to the ceiling and he sighed, “That is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. We maybe grown-ups, but a lie is a lie.”

“Okay, picture this scenario. You’re at work and your boss calls you into his office. He knows someone is pilfering the doughnut supply. He wants you to nail the culprit and post his picture on the Wall of Shame. You know who the culprit is and you don’t want to do this. You tell the boss you suspect there was a break-in and the thief was hungry. That’s why there were 1/2 dozen doughnuts missing.”

Hubby looked resigned because he knew where this was going.

“My question is—were you lying about the doughnut thief or would you classified this as a little white lie?” Pausing a bit, I pushed my point forward. “Little white lies are a necessity to keep a balance, a kind of peace, a bit of forgiveness to save face, producing a serene kharma, to. . .” I sputtered to a stop.

“I think this is more a matter of saving one’s dignity. Sometimes it’s a matter of diplomacy. If you asked me which dress looked better on you, I would be diplomatic with my answer. I wouldn’t resort to any little white lies.”

“If one dress made me look a sickly yellow and the other made me look like a ‘hooker’, you don’t feel you need to sugar-coat your answer?”

“No, because I know you would never contemplate a mustard yellow dress or pick an indecently trashy one.”

“If I wore a loose top that made me look 8 months pregnant, would you tell me?”

“Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Unless it’s an immaculate conception, a “mini-you’ is not happening. But you would tell me if I look okay before stepping out of the house?”

“Yes, I would. And because you’re my wife whom I love dearly, I won’t sugar-coat the fact that you look terrible. On the other hand, I would tell you if you look totally awesome.”

“Okay,” I said, adding softly, “I love you my Hubby. And, that isn’t a white lie but the absolute truth.”

“Okay then,” he replied, giving me his affectionate bear hug. In my heart of hearts, I knew that was the absolute truth, too.

A Wannabe Techie’s Daily War

I think I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my computer. As I learned the intricacies of navigating the daily tight-rope of techie-ville, the techie path changed again.

I don’t think it’s all Me because I swear my computer has a mind of its own whenever it decides to have its snitty-fit at the same time I need it to be working well.

I know it’s not Me but my computer, who detests changes of any kind. This is especially obvious whenever Microsoft does its regular routine updates.

I had a wonderful desktop page with the ever changing balloon theme. These were huge balloons that held passengers and each scene was over a different locale. I had all my “shortcut” programs on the page and it was great to just tap a shortcut and bing, you were in that program. Email? In it. Internet? In it. Word? Yep, in it.

Then one day, after a Microsoft update, my Balloon page disappeared and with it, all my shortcuts.

What did I do? I painstakingly put the programs I use the most–their handy-dandy shortcuts–on my taskbar. AND please don’t tell me that is not the thing to do. At the moment, it is working well for me.

I tried to tell Microsoft that I didn’t need all their updates because all I have is my desk-top—no laptops, no notebooks, no smartphones, no anything else that needs to have all my programs shared among them. Besides, I am one of the rare breed that doesn’t want or need to be kept on an electronic leash.

For now, I’m navigating a very convoluted route to access my Word program so I can access my various documents. Did I mention that there is now a newer Word and that the older version is no longer supported by Microsoft’s helpful elves?

And to make matters worse—for a non-techie, like me—my phone server that provides the email service, will be doing a “changeover” to Google because Google provides a smoother access for all the devices a person can own.

But that’s not me. I only have a desk-top.

Wait–I do have my very basic cell phone that the man at the phone store called a “senior phone..” It has a flip-top; only sends and receives phone calls; receives text messages but takes forever to type back a reply. It takes forever because my cell phone doesn’t have a proper keyboard to type out a reply—just the phone pad. But my senior phone does have a decent camera as that’s what I’ve been using to record what I see on my power-walks.

I was assured that the changeover will provide me with a gazillion gigabytes plus whatever goes beyond that. I won’t be using this mega jumbo-power.

I’m not a “gamer.” I watch my movies on my TV screen. I play my music on my stereo. However, I have used my computer to play my CDs when I finally found my music again after Microsoft did one of its updates. My basic cellphone serves its purpose of being a phone—not used for internet or games.

But I guess, like a number of us, slightly-out-of-step with the rest of the with-it generations, we will always be slightly-ot-of-step. I/m sure my grandkids view me the same way I use to look at my grandparents. My grandparents lived through a lot of changes: from the “party-lines” on a wall-phone that was “cranked-up” to get an outside line to a desk phone with a private line; automobiles that no longer needed to be cranked-up to be started; the arrival of television for home entertainment in addition to the familiar radio. In her lifetime, my Grandma did witness space travel to the moon.

I do have a toe dipped in the ever-changing techie world. Yes, I am a “dinosaur” when it comes to techie-power on my basic equipment. I would love to have the option of keeping to the basics and not being super-sized when I don’t need it or want it.

I do welcome changes but please, not now when I have a finicky computer who loves to throw tantrums.

The Good Points

The pandemic is both good and bad. The bad part–we are all aware of and know how to protect ourselves against the results. The good parts are where we find out what kind of person we are to cope. Does that make sense?

I find that under stress conditions, I bake. I can cook too but if I ever went into the profession, I’d be the one who produces the desserts and baked goods. My sister is the true cook. She can make anything— I mean anything taste great and that probably includes sprouts and old boots. But back to the good points of this pandemic.

Google search makes available a number of very interesting recipes with fascinating stories behind them. And reading mysteries, murder and mayhem, there are often baked goods I never heard of. One such pastry originates from Poitou-Clarentes, now a part of Novelle-Aquitaine. Broye du Poitou is a buttery shortbread-like ginormous cookie. The dough is rolled or pressed into a 1/2 inch thick circle, brushed with a beaten egg, sprinkled with sliced almonds and baked on a cookie sheet. When this pastry is ready to be served, the honoured guest is the one who thumps his fist into the centre so the Broye du Poitou is broken into different size pieces. Here is the website https://www.tarasmulticulturaltable.com/broye-du-poitou-poitiers There is another version that calls for Apricot Brandy https://fortheloveofbutter.blog/2020/08/30/broye-du-poitou

Because most of my doughnut sources had temporarily closed due to you-know-what, I felt I had conquered my doughnut addiction. Not true. One of the coffee bars down the street from me had continued with their window service of fresh roasted coffee and one day, provided the delectable Yonni’s doughnuts. There is nothing worse than flaunting Yonni’s in the showcase window. It is impossible for a doughnut addict to not kook in the window when passing by. It is even a worst fate to read in the mysteries, murder and mayhem books about “Castagnole.” What is that, you may ask. Castagnole is an Italian fritter made especially at Carnival time. By the time I had finished reading this book, Yonni’s was forgotten as my brain had fixated on Castagnoles. Here’s a recipe for the delectable little fried round balls that reminded me of upscale doughnut holes. https://www.recipesonthego.com/recipe/castagnole

One final delicious “treasure.” This one was mentioned briefly in a radio interview and prompted me to do a search. “King Arthur’s Almond Flour Brownies” is a delicious gluten-free recipe with the most chocolate-y flavour. To a full-fledged chocoholic, this recipe was one that will forever be part of my chocolate recipe collection. I wasn’t sure if almond flour was the same as ground almonds because this was what I used. The brownies turned out to be a dark chocolate, light as a feather, moist cake-like brownie. (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/almond-flour-brownies-recipe) However, if you’re looking for a dark chocolate brownie that’s more dense, this recipe isn’t for you. For the final decadent touch, I scattered a few mini-Lindt dark chocolate pieces on top of the brownie as it cooled on the rack—spread when melted. Try not to devour the entire pan and remember to share with those in your safe bubble.

I grew up in a house that had a huge kitchen. Family, food and friends were always a huge part of it. As adults, it is no surprise that our family and friends still gather in the kitchen. During this time of pandemic, things change but we humans adapt. Eventually we will return to a life before Covid-19. For now, we’ll cocoon and stay safe in our small social bubble—a bubble that allows us to enjoy the Broye du Poitou, Castagnoles, King Arthur Almond Flour Brownies and whatever other tasty treats that pops up in books we read, things we hear or unfamiliar pastries we see on our screens.

THE SCALES

In these crazy and uncertain times of Covid, we all have special worries and thoughts that we try to stifle–mine is my scales.

I always had the thought that if anything drastic happened, my first instinct is to grab my Hubby and grab my scales. It would be a close race but both are easy to grasp quickly.

Hubby is special. But let’s talk about my scales, that have moved with me from place to place and suffered through my agonies from doughnuts, pizzas, chocolates, fresh baked breads, cookies stuffed with dried fruits and walnuts, cakes, pies, tarts—the list goes on.

It hasn’t been easy.

I’ve had my scales for decades—well, maybe not that many decades, but it served its purpose of displaying my sins in large numbers. The numbers goes up and eventually goes down. It all depends what was happening in my life at that particular time.

When I was working—that is, working initially as a blood bank technologist at a large and busy hospital–the sheer energy and medical emergencies were enough to curb anyone’s appetite. Lots of blood and messy accident scenes will do that. I was a feather-weight, but then, I was much younger then. I did my share of shifts and on-calls. At that time, Fate seemed to know I was new and nervous, so it seemed I worked 24/7 and had no time to eat.

I didn’t have the scales yet.

Fast forward through the quieter, calmer years–until we reach now. And my treasured scale.

It’s only a number I tell myself. After all, a power-walk, abstaining from the toasted fruit bread and eating lots of green salads usually worked in the past. However, the problem of getting older is that one tends to reason very logically the pro’s and con’s of doing all the above. I love my power-walks so that’s no problem. One has to sustain energy to do a power-walk so the toasted fruit bread is a perfect source to provide energy. As for salads, if humans were meant to eat greenery, then we all should have been rabbits.

For the past year—and I can track it to the beginnings of the pandemic—my trusty and accurate scales have only moved in one direction. Up. It could have been the grandkids who discovered it and did this jumping jack thing just to see the numbers leap, jiggle and skip. However, that was decades ago too. The scales no longer stayed at the number. It seemed to bound to the next line and then the nexst line until you looked to see if someone had added their foot on the scale too.

In my defence, I can only state that if we didn’t have to self-isolate and/or stay in our own small bubble, I wouldn’t have this scale problem at all. Google-search can burst forth with a ton of recipes if you’re idly searching for meal or dessert ideas. Pop in an idea and bingo, an avalanche of recipes appears on your screen. And in case the text recipes don’t make sense, the cook/chef thoughtfully provides you with the Youtube version so you can actually see the results. Unfortunately, being a dedicated foodies I have that talent of reading the recipe and knowing what it would taste like.

So my advice is this. Don’t step on any scales. In my case, it brings unwanted news. Find an exercise you enjoy–mine is power-walking or just a leisurely long walk. My brain tells me to avoid bakeries and coffee bars with their displays of goodies, but my feet haven’t caught on yet. All the walking routes go past delicious places.

Thinking positively, I’ve decided that as long as I’m feeling good, am staying healthy and keeping safe, the scales should be the least of the worries. Keeping to that positive note, perhaps by Spring, the numbers on the scale have dropped and moved in the other direction and that this pandemic has almost disappeared. Besides Winter is approaching and like the bears preparing for hibernation, humans need a source of extra fat to survive too.

As BC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry often says: Be Calm, Be Kind and Be Safe.

AND toss out that darn scale.

KALEIDOSCOPE

Life is often a kaleidoscope of events, images, thoughts, duties, happy moments, gentle touches and even not-so gentle touches, scary moments and unforgettable moments. At the end of the day, these bits and pieces somehow come together like a continuous giant puzzle. This puzzle has no ending in sight—merely additional pieces that fit somewhere in the giant picture. I see my walks in the same light.

As I move down neighboring streets and beckoning lanes, I know there may be something phenomenal around the next curve.

Perhaps, an impressive entrance

or intriguing piece of garden ornament

It always lifts the spirits when a plain gate offers Oriental lanterns. . .

Or the stone birdhouse perched on its own wall

A ritzy Elf’s home complete with teeny barbecue, mailbox and teeny lawn chair

Or a miniature windmill on a quiet neighbouring street.

Strolling through the Village, the Oak Bay Artists have each contributed their version of the Covid Hearts to liven up the planters and boulevards. Here are two examples:

The unexpected treasure of a bi-plane made from strips of coco-cola cans–suspended from a tree. . . .

An artistic “Welcome” and “Farewell” at the foot of a homeowner’s entrance to his home.

BUT sometimes there is absolutely nothing but an enjoyable walk. . . .

just enjoying the peace and quiet from a hectic pace.

FREE BOOKS

My part of Victoria must have an enormous amount of book lovers. No matter which walking route I randomly choose, there are usually one or two free-lending libraries tucked in a corner of someone’s drive-way or on the edge of someone’s property. These are libraries that encourages people to leave a book and/or take a book. And, in my neighbourhood, there are many readers who enjoy a good story and don’t mind searching for one.

In my walking jaunts I’ve noticed that some free libraries are set up in certain areas by a local organization. But there are many others that were crafted by interested neighbours who want to share their love of books. I like the unique libraries that are entertaining and eye-catching such as the Snoopy above.

Other free lending libraries are colourful, may be a replica of the Owner’s house or simply an inviting book cupboard filled with possible “treasures” for browsing readers.

These are a few examples of more free libraries to entice book-lovers to stop and browse for a minute or two.

THE GOLDEN YEARS

Harry Goldman and Walter Young carefully carried their big mugs of dark roasted coffee to Charlie Swanson’s corner table, already covered with sections of the daily newspapers. Charlie hastily pushed the newspapers into a wobbly pile to make room for his coffee-mates.

“Well, you two are early today,” he greeted them with a smile.

“I just came from a visit to my doctor and decided I needed a large cup of caffeine,” declared Henry.

“Uh-oh,” Charlie commiserated. “Was this the visit where you found out you had to stop eating whatever it was you enjoyed and eat more of whatever it was you detested?”

“Not quite, Charlie, but very close,” Henry sighed.

“I noticed you only got coffee this morning and skipped your Apple Danish,” Walter added sympathetically.

“Is that why you refrained from getting your Almond Croissant?” Henry smiled. At that moment, Muriel Long and Charlotte Pickles plonked their cups of cappuccino along with a side plate containing two dark chocolate fudge brownies beside Henry. The ladies each pulled up a chair from an empty adjacent table and made themselves comfortable.

“Would anyone like a piece of our fudge brownies?” Muriel offered. Henry reluctantly shook his head. Walter sipped his coffee and eyed the brownies, then slowly shook his head as well.

“Charlotte and I just finished our energetic class of Golden Zumba at the rec centre. Our instructor is someone my granddaughter’s age and very good at getting all the senior ladies revved up and moving!”

“That’s why Muriel and I are building up our sugar reserve since we danced it all off in the class!” Charlotte laughed as she took a bite of her brownie. “More for us to enjoy since all of you refused our generous offer.

“Henry was telling us about his doctor’s appointment this morning,” Charlie explained.

“Oh no,” the ladies chorused in sympathy. “Is this where you get that dreaded news that you have to stop eating. . .” Muriel began, but was interrupted by Henry’s huge sigh.

“I always thought that ‘retirement’ was our Golden Years, you know, like those cheezy commercials we use to see when we were still working,” Walter commented.

“I know what you mean Walter,” Charlotte agreed. “I bet far too many retirees end up with health problems that takes care of the rosy picture of a carefree retirement life.”

“So, my friend, what joys do you have to cut to prolong your life?” Walter bluntly asked. Before Henry could spew forth the list, Muriel interrupted.

“Is this a low salt/no-salt diet? Or is it no red meat and no breads and no. . . .”

“Oh my god,” Charlotte exclaimed, “what’s left to eat that’s palatable?”

“Not much” Henry said glumly.

“Now, it’s not that bad,” Charlie pointed out. “The best thing to happen would be you’d lose a few pounds which is always good for the heart. A visit to a reputable dietician would set you on the right path with the kind of herbs and seasoning you can use that’s not salt and other sources of protein that doesn’t have to be red meat. But you have to remember one thing. Cutting back on certain foods doesn’t mean never eating them again. It just means you eat it occasionally like once a week instead of every day. You’ll probably notice a drop in your grocery bill as well as a boost in energy but you’ll be too busy to worry about snacks and bad eating habits.”

“Even I can live with that,” Muriel murmured. Charlotte and Walter both nodded their heads in agreement. Henry thought about Charlie’s wise words and voiced his opinion. “It’s the thought of giving up so much of what I enjoy, but small amounts rather than an excess is a good start. I like the idea of consulting with a dietician as that would steer me along the right food paths.”

“Nikki can walk you three times a day,” Walter grinned mischievously–Nikki being the Goldman’s energetic cockapoo.

“Oh my, Henry–you’ll be a healthier, thinner person in a few months,” Muriel encouraged cheerfully.

“I read this article in the Huffington Post about all these people who switched to a healthier lifestyle and after six months were able to reduce the amount of meds they had to take daily. That alone would be a great incentive to live healthier,” Charlotte reported to her coffee-mates.

“Well, we’re all here to cheer you on, Henry.” All his coffee friends lifted their cups in a toasting motion, sipped the last drops of their coffee and made moves to gather their things to leave. Charlie packed up the sections of his newspapers he wanted to keep and bundled them into his shopping bag. He paused and spoke, “Retirement is still fun but who said it would be easy? Life moves along its own mysterious path with its usual bumps and pitfalls. I suspect it’s to ensure a person enjoys what he/she has and not get too complacent about it.”

Giving them a jaunty wave, he gave his usual parting, “Enjoy your day, my friends,” then added impishly, “remember to ease up on the red meat, the salt, the pastries and all the other good stuff. . . . .”

                            ” Good coffee is a pleasure.  Good friends are a treasure.”—-Anonymous

What I Learned From Cowboy Movies

I blame it all on John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson–may as well throw in Jason Robards Jr, Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Stewart too. All these super Hollywood stars played memorable roles in the Old West tales.

Hubby and I are avid Western fans. The setting has to be the the Old West with the cavalry, cattlemen and train robbers. Throw in a few gun-runners, Commancheros, Apaches or Commanches plus a wagon train guided by Ward Bond with one of the feisty new settlers being character actor Edgar Buchanan, who is either a doctor or a dentist or saloon keeper. We don’t like modern Westerns–too much convoluted angst. The old West had it but it was much more fun fighting cattle rustlers and gunfighters among all that tension.

We have been watching a lot of movies during the period of self-isolation and staying safe. Two of our fave movie channels, Turner’s Classics and Silver Screen have been tossing out old Westerns like they were cleaning Granny’s attic. Hubby and I have been watching so many that we know our character actors and like the old stars who play the leading roles.. We had already seen many before but after a lapse of 1-2 years, the movies appear familiar but still enjoyable. This is what we’ve concluded watching these wonderful Hollywood and Italian westerns such as Fort Apache, The Searchers, High Noon, A Fistful of Dollars and Tombstone, naming a few. 1) Old Westerns are the best. “Old” meaning a setting in the old horse and buggy days with crooked, greedy ranchers pitted against the “little guys.” The land and water rights are the biggies. Stage coach robberies, gunfights and crafty saloon gamblers are all part of the excitement. 2) The little guys always win especially when Clint Eastwood, William Holden, Gregory Peck or Sam Elliott are fighting on your side. 3) There’s always a beautiful woman who is either the daughter of the rival big rancher who loves the son of the little rancher or the daughter of the little rancher who loves the son of the big rancher. In the end, love wins especially if the good guys are led by Clint, Val Kilmer or Jason Robards Jr. 4) If you have seen “Tombstone” starring Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell and Sam Elliott, then watched it again a few years later—did you spot Charlton Heston playing a cameo role of a character called Henry Hooker? Hubby and I have watched this classic western a number of times and still didn’t recognize the star famous for “The Ten Commandments.” 5) “Tombstone” is considered a classic western because it has endured. Others that falls into this category are Clint Eastwood’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “For a Few Dollars More,” “The Last of the Mohicans” with Daniel Day-Lewis, “High Noon” with Gary Cooper, “Major Dundee” with Charlton Heston and our all-time favourite, “Once Upon a Time in the West” with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards Jr. Just check the website for the greatest “Hundred Best Westerns” and these would be among the top of the list.

Now I’m sure you’re asking yourselves—what exactly did I learn from the old western classics? First of all, the Villains may wear white stetsons and the heroes black ones, but the good guys win 99.9% of the time regardless of what colour hat they wear or how ratty it looks. The beautiful woman doesn’t always get her man as we witnessed in at least 3 of John Wayne’s westerns–he rode off alone at the end.

The westerns made by Sergio Leone were realistic with grey, dreary towns, harsh survival with only the hardiest and most determined surviving. And, like Oriental movies, Sergio’s had an elaborate story plot that eventually worked out in the end. This was seen in Clint’s spaghetti films also directed by Sergio Leone as well as “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Attitude gets you somewhere. Charles Bronson in “Once Upon a Time. . .” played a stoical character with few words; had a poker face when confronted with trouble; played a haunting melody on his harmonica; could outshoot the villains and got the lady in the end—-well, I think he did as it sort of faded out with the credits rolling but he was heading back to where he had left her.

History is supposedly depicted in these classic westerns—the fall of the Alamo; the fight for Texas statehood; the Earp Brothers against the Clantons at the O.K. Corral; Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday—how much is really true? Whatever grains of truth are in these movies, let me say they make entertaining stories and in western movies, that’s what counts.

MOTHER NATURE

I think Mother Nature is an awesome being to have such a conglomerate of living beings inhabiting this Earth and navigating its many obstacles each and every day.

My neighbour has a bird feeder on her patio. It gives her great enjoyment to watch the many species of birds come to nibble their meals congenially. This particular feeder only allows smaller birds to find their way to the trough, so my neighbour would only need to fill the feeder once a week. Bigger birds cannot access the feeder. One day she spotted a Papa Robin, Mama Robin and Baby Bird flying about the feeder. It was obvious the parents were too large to grab any seeds. A few minutes later, Baby Bird was able to flutter his wings to the little railing outside the feeder, settle on it and begin grabbing beakfuls of seeds—seeds he dropped to the ground to his waiting parents. Several beakfuls later, Baby Bird managed to feed himself, then flapped down to the ground where they all flew off together. My neighbour laughed as she continued her story. “I only fill the feeder once a week but since the bigger birds figured out how to get the seeds, the feeder was empty after 3-days. The other day, I went out to my patio to enjoy my morning coffee and all these little birds were lined up waiting for me to refill the empty feeder. I tried to ignore them but there were all these tiny eyes watching me and against my better judgment, I refilled the feeder. Now I ask you—who taught these little blighters to put the guilt on me to feed them and who taught the bigger birds to use the smaller ones to get them seeds?”

Didn’t I say that Mother Nature is amazing?

Many people in my neighbourhood have a “deer” story or two or three or. . . .My building has a fabulous garden that serves a supremo buffet for any deer. Last year there were a pair of young deer who were taught by their Mom to walk to the crosswalk, look both ways for cars and then cross the street—actually, they barely got to the other side before they nimbly jumped over the rock wall, nibble their way across the lawn and work their way to the back where the tastiest ornamental bushes are. Nothing is guaranteed “deer proof”. whatever that is. The young teen-agers looked out for each other and proceeded to test-taste the camellias and the rhodos; munched on the pansies, lavender, daisies and bachelor buttons; tried the cone flowers and thoroughly enjoyed the roses carefully avoiding the the thorns. I don’t think anyone ever told these deer that some things were not good to eat. I suspect that being teenagers and away from parental control, they were enjoying everything that was supposed to be bad for them.

When Hubby and I had our house, the strip of lawn between our house and the neighbours, had a large ornamental bush that burst into tiny green leaves and tiny pink blooms by early spring. We named it the “Condo Bush” because, from our breakfast table, we could watch the many tiny wrens build their nests somewhere inside the vastness of the dense bush. We never knew how many families of wrens lived in there but one day, two curious robins decided to investigate and within 30 seconds, a massive flock of tiny birds had chased the intruders away. The survival instincts had kicked in when it came to protecting their families. And, somewhere along the way, the commune of tiny wrens had learned about “safety in numbers.”

Across the street was another neighbour’s house that had a humongous prize-winning rose bush outside her large living room window. This bush just dripped large lush red roses by mid June. We were walking past when a large male deer with spectacular antlers and his dainty doe ambled across the neighbour’s lawn. The big buck went right up to her large picture window and carefully scrutinized the interior. Satisfied there was no one home, he nodded to his mate and both proceeded to nibble at the bounty of delicious red roses before they moved away to check out another garden.

I guess this is another “bird” story but this time involving a seagull. Grandparents and their little grand-daughter were spending a fun time at the Marina. They had stopped for lunch on the patio deck and were obviously enjoying every moment with each other. Grandpa dipped a French fry into the tiny cup of ketchup and popped it in his mouth. The toddler watched wide-eyed. Grandpa dipped another French fry into a bit of ketchup and passed it over to his granddaughter. Before she could take it, a watchful seagull flew low and without pausing, snagged the French fry in his beak, leaving behind a feather. He flew up to a tree and shared his “catch” with his mate.

While on one of my strolls through the Village, a tabby cat with black, reddish brown and cream coloured markings, appeared beside me. He had obviously injured his left hind paw as he was gingerly limping on he grassy boulevard, heading in the same direction I was. Suddenly, out of one of the wide driveways, Jonah, the neighbourhood’s large St. Bernard went over to the tabby cat, nudged it with his nose and then crouched on the ground. The tabby paused and then, as if doing it all his life, jumped lightly onto Jonah’s strong back and allowed himself to be transported to his own yard, three houses down.

Like humans, birds and animals have a strong sense of survival. Like humans, birds and animals develope strong bonds of friendship—friendships that exists between the unlikeliest of friends. We can learn a lot observing the animal and bird kingdom around us. The bonds of family and friends; caring and sharing; safety and survival exists even there. As I said at the beginning, Mother Nature is an amazing and awesome being. . . .