Saturday, 18 June 2016

Don't Forget the Bacon

Sometimes I feel as though my life is a senior version of the delightful children’s picture book Don’t Forget the Bacon by Pat Hutchins.

In this book, a mother sends a boy to the shops to pick up groceries: “6 farm eggs, a cake for tea, a pound of pears, and don’t forget the bacon.”

Every morning, when I get up, the RS says, “So, what’s on for today?” and unless there are appointments and meetings, I recite the same things that are always on the top of  my wish list  – making  art, writing and walking in the woods. Oh, and don’t forget the garden.

The little boy in Hutchins’ book goes off to fulfill his mom’s order, but along the way he gets distracted, and his list keeps changing. When he finally enters a junk shop, he asks for “six clothes pegs, a rake for leaves, and a pile of chairs, please.” And of course, he forgets the bacon. 

Yup, that’s my life, too. Take yesterday, for instance. As I was on my way upstairs to the studio, I realized I was out of gluten-free flour mix and granola, both staples in our house and both of which I prepare here at home. Well okay, then, I’d do those first. In the meantime, the RS came in from the garden with a bowl of fresh strawberries which need to be hulled and frozen, and oh, by the way, he asked, “What do you plan to do with those garlic scapes I cut the other day?”

Garlic scapes, for those not familiar with them, are the curly flower tops of the garlic plants which need to be removed so the plant puts all its energy into the bulb. Scapes are a gourmet delicacy – you can saute them in a stir-fry, pickle them, turn them into pesto, add them to salad dressings and soups, etc. etc. I couldn't just let all those 60 garlic scapes – organic, no less –  go to waste, could I? One thing led to another, and then it was noon. No art. No writing. No walking in the woods. And forget about gardening.

This is the story of my life, and I’m guessing it might be the story of your life, too. The things you love to do get crowded out by “stuff.”  It’s been two months since I wrote about Project UP (Unclog the Pipes). My lofty goal was to rid myself of all unfinished projects and clear the decks so that I would have a clean slate upon which to practice my renewed creativity. Instead, the last two months have looked like yesterday, filled with the everyday stuff of living -- cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, along with some pretty special stuff to sweeten the pot: visits to our kids and grandkids, a big birthday weekend, a trip to family in Ontario, hanging out with friends.

Hanging out in Ottawa with my favourite youngest grandgirl plus her parents and my sister and her hubby.

At the Famous Five memorial on parliament hill with my sister

I was lucky enough to hang out with my aunts and cousins for a morning. How cool is that?
It's all good, but I was only able to snatch short bits of time for art and writing. Our walks involved a stroller and dog parks. Gardening was limited to essentials.

As I write this I remember something from years ago. I was a reporter at the time, interviewing a chaplain at an institution for people with severe developmental disabilities. I sat in his office and began asking the first of  my carefully prepared questions, but suddenly the door burst open. A distraught young man poured out his sadness to the chaplain, who listened compassionately and prayed with him. After he left, I began again, but – you guessed it – the same thing happened. In fact, it happened  over and over. As I left, the chaplain said to me, “You must be frustrated that I couldn’t answer your questions. I used to be frustrated, too, by the interruptions to my carefully planned work day, but then one day I realized that the interruptions ARE the work I do here.” The interview notes are non-existent, but the lesson was sublime. Now if only I could remember the lesson when I'm frustrated about my frustrated plans.

In Hutchin’s book, the boy eventually realizes his mistakes, and rectifies them, trading in his clothes pegs for farm eggs, his rake for a cake, and his chairs for pears – but he still forgets the bacon.

Sometimes, I too realize things are out of whack, and then I rearrange how I spend my time. No matter how many distractions and interruptions, how much “stuff” gets stuffed into your life, you just have to put first things first. But nothing’s perfect. I still forget the bacon. But in the end, I realize that the art, the writing, the walks in the woods and the gardening wouldn’t be so wonderful if there were none of the other things going on in my life.What would I have to write about, to blog about, to create art about if I didn't have the everyday stuff of life to challenge me and get me thinking?

Project UP has value, but then again, every moment has value. Be where you are.