Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I think of Nadiene

... the sunrise after Nadiene's passing ...
I am sure I slept last night, but in those fitful moments when a person turns in bed or opens their eyes to check if it is light yet, those are the times my mind was filled with Nadiene. I seemed to be remembering her at the Shuswap. When it was finally light, I got out of bed to take a picture of the sunrise.

Nadiene and Molly seemed to be the great-grandmother version of Thelma and Louise -- piling in a car together and then off on a road trip. Nothing could stop them. That they might be babysitting their grandchildren was no impediment. The kids were buckled into the back seat with snacks, the motor was turned on and off they would go – destination: Taber, Lethbridge? If they were alone they might end up in Vancouver, or Salt Lake.

I am not even aware if they ever left a note on the kitchen table to say where they were going. Totally independent women,  only to the chagrin of their more cautious loved ones.

On one such trip they dropped in at the Shuswap – which was lucky for me. That others thought they should take it easy, rest more, be more cautious ... that didn’t matter to them. Many of us can sing the old song “Sisters, sisters there were never such devoted sisters....”. Those were two women who lived the song. I can’t believe they ever got mad at each other. If there was a hurt between them, the depth of their commitment to each other made it possible for them to wash over tension – only stronger bonds seemed to be forged between the two of them.

 ... Nadiene's sunrise as reflected in the deck railing and in my heart ...
On the visit I remember, they walked on the land and then returned for dinner.

“What is in the salad?”, one asked. I told her. The other said, “It would taste better with a little onion in it.”

“I don’t have any green onions,” I replied. "I have some chives growing in my flowerbed outside."

“Oh, yes, let’s not serve dinner until we put some of those in.” 

Now years later, when I am making a salad, I go to the same chive bush, and I remember that if they were joining us for dinner the salad would be just right.

It is not just in the fitful turns of sleep at night that I think of Nadiene, but it is also during the days and weeks of living that she and her sister Molly have come to my mind.


My Aunt Nadiene

Manna on the Prairies
Favorite Johnson Family Recipes

Copyrite 1993

"Now I hear you are writing a Master's Thesis. I'd like to know more about it. Is it something you could explain to a person like me?"

I can still hear the cadence of my Aunt's voice when I recall this conversation with her.

As with other conversations with her, she seemed to need no reminders of my age or what I was doing.

She was up-to-date with my life, and interested in learning more.

I felt grown-up when I was around my Aunt Nadiene.

She was born forty years before me, but talked to me in a no-nonsense way.

She spoke to me like I was "my own" person with independent thoughts that she wanted to hear. I felt like she liked me, just as I was.

Tomorrow my son David and I will celebrate one aspect of her life by making a batch of "Oatmeal Cookies - Better than 'Dads'", a recipe she submitted to "The Johnson Family Cook Book - Manna on the Prairies".

I think that would make her smile.


Nadiene Nielsen

Photo courtesy Kerri Singh at
Nadiene Nielsen passed away early this morning. Mother to some, grandmother to others, friend, confidant, aunt, cousin, sister ... to me, a sister-in-law.

I search back in my memories, trying to find facts about her.

Instead I am overwhelmed with feelings.
Photo courtesy Kerri Singh at

I met Nadiene in 1960, long after these beautiful black and white photos were taken.

By the time I knew her, her life was in full techni-colour.

She was Kelvin’s oldest sister, she had a little family and she lived on the other side of Barnwell.

Now I can do that math and see that I have known her over fifty years – known of her, but even more, known her. She opened her arms and heart to me.

She was more than a sister (in-law). She was a good friend: frank, honest, and sometimes when I would study her face, I would see that she was guileless when she talked to me. Who couldn’t have loved that.

Nadiene and Lawrence
Photo courtesy Kerri Singh at
Mostly my life has been touched by her kind words, her deep insights, her practical sense of what to do next, her desire to make a meal, to help with a quilt, to succour the grieving or the tired and weary.

Some of this I saw first hand. But I was often overwhelmed when I would hear second hand, the facts I already knew about her.
Back Row, LtoR: Ralph, Bev, Sharon, Preston, Maurine
Front Row, LtoR: Betty, Kelvin Molly Nadiene
Photo courtesy Kerri Singh at

Knowing she would soon pass away, and on a walk with Rebecca and Bonnie, we decided to tell “I remember Nadiene” tales to one another. The beauty of the walk-and-talk was not that we told each other the facts.

Some of the vignettes were pull from memories that are so far in the past we no longer know the truth from the fiction. “Did this really happen?”, someone asked. “I know I have some of the facts mixed-up, but those are the memories I carry about her from my childhood.” Whatever our memories have coloured, or remember in black and white, what seemed to wash over us was the incredible warmth the three of us felt towards her.
Family Home
Photo courtesy Kerri Singh at

My own mother died before I was 30. I have always looked to the generation ahead of me, to find the pattern of what is expected of women in the decade ahead of me. Nadiene showed me that there is no slowing down as the years go by – that life can be lived as richly in one decade as in another.

Will I miss her?


Today the words I want to say can’t seem to get passed the lump in my throat and be richly articulated.

That always happens when I lose someone I have loved so much.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Picking Cherries

... does a divot mean there is a worm in this cherry? ...

 a bucket and cherry and a question about the worm hole

... a cherry here and a cherry there ...
This year Glen told me that all of the cherries on the trees his family planted, belong to Dave Wood.

Dave sprayed the ground around the trees in the spring so that the fruit would be perfect. And the fruit was.

 I walked by the trees many times, eating cherries long before any of them were ripe.

... surrounded by goodness ...
My perfect summer memory is the time I ate cherries for two days straight.

I must have eaten something else that year, but I can’t remember anything but the cherries.

... cherry earrings ...
The taste of a warm cherry, right from the tree, the juice spilling out and having to be wiped from my chin.

So I thought of that this year,  practising again the spitting skill.

How far can a pit actually be spit?

... will both of these twin cherries stay on my ears?  ...
I watched a cooking show on how to make the perfect cherry pie.

The pulp of 3 plums, pureed and strained was to be added to the blended cherries.

Half blended and half still whole. I was taking down copious notes, as well as recording the programme.

Now I know it is much easier to go to the web and find someone else who has done this, and put the recipe on their blog – attributing it, of course, to the cooking show where they also were trapped by the beauty of that recipe.

I was torn between wanting to eat all of the cherries and making a cherry pie with some of them.

... on the ladder and in some shade ...
Rebecca said, “If you want a cherry pie, just go buy the cherries at the store and make it.”

 I don’t know what put me off about that. I had to think – do I really want a cherry pie at all.

Or is it the fact of picking them from a tree and putting them in a pie – the fact that no money changes hands.

Is that what interests me in the pie idea?

The cherries were picked.

We ate what we could.

We didn't pick enough to make a pie this year.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Camp Fires

 ... the view as evening falls at the campfire ...
Bonnie has been looking for a perfect place for a hammock.

Her friends bought her one and put it up in a tree at their house.

Now she has an open invitation to be there. But it is a twenty minute drive to Marla's and sometimes someone needs a quick quiet spot, just a small time opens up where one could swing under a canopy of leaves.

Bonnie has been out looking for a perfect place for a hammock. She is observing one rule. Find the place for the hammock before she buys it. Knowing the exact perfect spot to choose will make the size and shape of the hammock easier to choose

Ceilidh roasting a super-sized marshmallow.
When I go outside, I look for the right spot for her as well. I am choosing all of the spots I love: up by the raspberry bushes where there is a view of the stream framed by two trees; over in the clump birches where Michael likes to play in the sand; down by the portable campfire pit.
Twin flower vines tumble down the embankment.
A new huckleberry bush has been discovered on the hill.
Let the coals die down.
Let the evening ghost stories begin.

The latter has become my favorite spot when I have an extra twenty minutes and I want to work in the yard.

Just a small increment of time opens up and I am down there with a rake and a shovel, trying to make the ground smooth around the fire pit.

Or I am cutting out the salmon berries that obstructing the perfect view.

Or I am arranging the cedar table and the patio chairs so that there is a circle big enough to include everyone around the fire. So much land.

So many perfect places.


Catching Minnows

... I can get this one with my net ...
The Dollar Store?

Well, I usually think of it as the Fifty Dollar Store if I carry a basket around while I shop there.

One thing I haven’t bought at the Dolar Stoare is fishing nets. I see them there, fine nets on coloured bamboo sticks.

Others must buy them for there are always some in my garage. I don’t know who purchases them – rods with the fine mesh hanging from wire loops.

 ... so small I can hardly see them ...
I have been party to teaching children that rocks don’t do well in those nets.

 I also spent time trying to fix the nets with a thread and needle – some children just think carrying rocks is more fun that catching fish.

Usually it is easier to buy another net – if someone is going to town.

... goggles on / goggles off ...
This year there was a perfect net in the garage ... one with no holes. I don’t know if that is the one Ceilidh was using the day I watched her in the water.

She was patient for hours, standing over by the dock, her bucket safe on the wooden platform and her goggles on her eyes, then back to the top of her head, then readjusted to her eyes, dipping into the water again.

Pretty fun!  my choice of a great afternoon.
At one point she brought the bucket over so I could take a look at it. Either I have forgotten how small minnows can be, or I need new glasses.

 She had to show me exactly where they were swimming in the water, trapped until her task was over.

 “I can’t believe it. I spent the whole afternoon doing that, ” she said, slipping them back into the water.


Cherry Picking Gone Wrong

organic cherries ... no herbicides ...  grown on local cherry trees
I wanted to make a cherry pie.

Not any cherry pie.

But a pie made from cherries on the lots next door. I had the lard in the fridge for the crust.

 I had plenty of plastic buckets to hold the cherries.

 I had the manpower: the whole Jarvis family.
Can I reach it?  or maybe that reach will be a little far?

They were willing to pick that many cherries.

At the very least, pick enough for one pie.

And there were ladders for everyone, or so it seemed.

But one little person was still on the ground, a few cherries hanging down from her ears, but no ladder for her.

She could see that the real fun seemed to be up in a tree.
My bucket is not getting very full.

Now I don’t know how it happened. But something made her foot kick the bucket of cherries that was on the ground, which did get her some attention, but not the attention that she was wanting.
I felt like this once, too, Hebe.

Here is a place on my shoulder that might help.  Lean into it.
Some tears ensued – both under the cherry tree, on her walk home, and the tears continued out on the front of her grandma’s porch.

The tears continued probably long after the memory of why she was crying had gone.

The tears couldn’t be stopped.
All's well that ends well
I was reminded of the number of tears ahead of her (if she lives to be as old as me), and I wondered if they any of the future tears will have the same deep effect that the accidental turning over of the small bucket of cherries by that tap of her foot seemed to be having now.

By the time she got to the beach, the incident was long gone for her mind.

 Not for mine.


On Addressing the Fear of Knives

Is a pizza cutter a good spatula?
I can remember that my dad always carried a jack knife with him. A red Swiss Army Jack Knife, complete with a toothpick, a screw driver, a pair of scissors, a nail file, and of course a blade. It is the blade I remember – Doral sitting at the breakfast nook, taking out his knife and using it to clean under this fingernails. I can also remember Doral playing mumbley peg on Sunday mornings. After Sunday School the 12 year old deacons would gather around him, and those with knives would join in the game with him. Who could do the most steps in the game with their jack knives? That was the purpose of the game. I didn’t ever want to have the priesthood, but I did want to have a jack knife and I thought the two were inextricably combined. So I resigned myself. Jack knives were only for boys. I can remember Doral saying, when a boy gets his first jack knife, he should also get a box of band-aids which is the first thing I thought of when I knew the boys were going to get one.

It was Rebecca, thinking that Ben, Duncan and David were old enough to have whittling skills, and so she gifted each of the boys with a set of knives. A small one. A larger one. It is summer. They are in the woods. It all seemed to work for her.

Our training with them began in the kitchen – using them on their individual pizzas, cutting sausages, making pineapple spears. One pineapple each to begin with. When the pineapple was finally cut the boys had juice up and down their arms and all over their clothes ... from where they had wiped their hands. As well, the kitchen needed a thorough cleaning of the island, a wiping down of the cupboards and a mopping of the floor. I didn’t know two pineapples could slip so many ways.

Is a square pizza as good as a round one?
The knife training continued to the garage where they were collapsing the cardboard boxes to lay flat in one large box to be carted off to the recycling depot. A third time the knives were used was when a plastic-netted pack of chocolate gold covered coins were to be used at the some-more bonfire.

“How am I going to open this package,” Duncan said.

“I know how,” said Ben as he reached for his pocket.

 “I never thought of that,” said Duncan, reaching into this own pocket. I told them that the knife is never to be brought out for people to see for some people think that knives are weapons, though we know that they are tools. I never see the knives and wouldn’t know the boys are carrying them, until one is brought out.

All to myself?
“Let me see your new knife,” said Rebecca. “Sorry,” said Duncan. Grandma said that we are not to show them to people.

“I would like to see your new knives,” said Glen. “No, you aren’t gong to trick us.” “Knives is the one thing I never joke about,” said Glen and then on a chance to take a good look at their, he commented, “Nice balance and weight.” “A good knife needs to be sharp,” he continued. “Come and see me when it is time to sharpen your blades and I will show you how. Now, can you show me where the safety mechanism is on this knife?”

The boys obliged. They are comfortable carrying a knife in their pocket and having a back up in their camping pack.

Margaret Falls

... Catherine and Eric stop for a moment ...
Doral and Anita had their family ready to go to Maragaret Falls. 

Getting two other families to finish breakfast and pile into other vehicles was a job carefully orchestrated by the driver’s of the vehicles.

How to get cousin constellation just right?

 ... Arta changes her camera setting ...
Who rides shot gun?

Where can grandfather sit comfortably?

Who even wants to go to Margaret Falls at all?

 If now now, when?

Hebe and Bonnie work on taking a selfie.
The vehicles now peopled with cousins, aunts, mothers, fathers, grandparents and snacks we drove out ... all following Doral.

The snacks were monumental.

Doral demos the correct way to wear cherry earrings.
Purchased and then mixed in a large silver bowled, and then doled out into baggies so that everyone had a specialized trail mix of about the same proportion each.

The left over went to Anita, the Keeper of Trail Mixes, as well as the person who thought we should bring one.

I have never been to Margaret Falls. Doral has been. I was lucky enough to be in his vehicle.

Apparently the falls was just on the other side of the lake, but we had to go into Salmon Arm and then around.

The drive was lovely.

The other vehicles followed us.

Anita in front of the falls.
We commented on seeing places we had never seen before.

Though the time was long, it seemed to go fast until Anita had her GPS in hand.

She was saying to Doral, “Look. Here is where we are. Here is where we are supposed to be. We should be arriving in that place shortly, but the GPS is showing that we are separated from it by one lake, one mountain and about a 45 minutes drive. And that is not counting the drive we will have to take home from there, should we be so lucky as to get there now.”

The two vans following behind us were not willing to give up and go home. Margaret Falls or bust!


More Margaret Falls

 ... a quick picture in front of the falls ...
Margaret Falls
I haven’t been to Margaret Falls. David Camps-Johnson has enjoyed multiple school trips there.

He knew the way down the path, through the river canyon and up to the falls.

The Jarvis Family were new to the trip. Grandfather stayed back in the parking lot – a few too many hills for him.

But those with mobility could scamper over the bridges, situate themselves on benches for photos, run up and down the paths, find places for good family photos and enjoy the spray from the falls ... that fine mist, the roaring sound of the water, the geological phenomena of a water fall cutting through stone until it recedes back from its original path.

 ... cousins rest on a bench ...
LtoR: Rebecca, Catie, Duncan, Meighan, Tom
I liked the dark walls of the canyon, the light breaking through the trees at some points, the stories from other from times they had been there when whole rock wall was in bloom with tiny flowers ... all of that seems to deepen my pleasure.

Other visitors came and went.

Our group seemed to linger longer, not a bad idea when surrounded with so much beauty.

TtoB: Tom, Rebecca, Catie, Eric, Catherine, Hebe
The miracle?

That falls is only across the lake from us and a few miles down.

 It would be possible to stop the car and get a sighting of our place from there.


Highlights of the Jarvis Shuswap Vacation 2014

... railroad repair vehicles at rest ...
Notes taken while sitting around a campfire.

Dalton was reading ghost stories from his IPad to us.

The rest of us were busy roasting marshmallows and listening to terrifying ghost stories.

1. Pancakes / Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.

2. Storm on the Larch Hills Mountain Top with the sunlight breaking through from the evening west.

3. The wind blowing through my face while I was looking at Bastion Mountain on the other side of the lake.

... purple clematis under the porch...
4. Helping to make cinnamon buns and eating butter horns.

5. Art’s rented boat, Wyona’s snacks, water fight extra-ordinaire, kayaks in the water, Ceilidh catching minnows, Hebe with her flippers on – all in the same hour.

6. Eating fresh cinnamon buns in the morning.

 ... Thomas in a quiet moment of reflection ...
7. Making breakfast / dinner with grandma, early and late in the evening light

8. Log rolling and staying on for 30 seconds

9. Making a fire with grandma and dad.

... cooking at the island, this time cutting pineapple ...
10. Telling scary stories around the fire.

11. Loved having the teens, the teens, the teens around

12. Dinners on the porch while watching the sunset.

13. Pop!

David using his watergun to say goodbye to the Jarvis Family
14. Going in the kayak with Hebe, hot pizza on the countertop, and thoughtful conversations into the night

15. Diving into the lake (the cold COLD LAKE!)

16. Seeing the view?

17. Tubing with Uncle Art. Driving the boat.

 ... CPR cleaning up after road repair at the stream ...
18. Loved the ten flavours of ice cream

19. Log rolling with cousins

20. Water tubing

21. Swimming and king of the dock

... hot brown bread on the counter ...
22. Spending time with cousins

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fast Fun Breakfast

eggs were originally presented on a long fish dish
we changed dishes to use one of Rebecca's dishes.
now the eggs are blog worthy
There is so much interesting going on.

It is always a conundrum.  How much time to spend on blogging and how much time to spend on having fun.

“Take a picture,” Bonnie said. “At least then, Mary will know we are having some fun at breakfast.”

Yes, even breakfast is fun. Bonnie has taught us how to make 6 ½ minute boiled eggs – just perfect.

. nutribullet drink - spinach, banana, orange
delicious unless you believe someone has sneaked spinach into your drink
She watched how to do it on Cooks Country Kitchen and then she worked on the method until she pulled it off for us when we were together in a Paris flat.

 Now that sounds pretentious, but no ... it is just witnessing that a miracle like that really happened to us.
3rd banana cream pie
apparently boys can only eat 2 1/2 pies  per night

 Now it was my turn to make the 6 ½ minute eggs.

 How many to make – this is a question answered best by Glen’s pancake recipe.

N is the number of people.

N x 2 = number of eggs. That is the number of eggs to use.

Someone was busy making toast – simple whole wheat bread toast.
Rebecca takes phone call
Arta captures the new ring Rebecca silversmithed

 I added to my job list, cut the cantaloupe that Kelvin wanted to cut last night.

I prevailed on him to wait for a day thinking it would be best chilled in the fridge and eaten when I wasn’t full.

Ben likes to use David's new egg cup
Now take a picture about our breakfast?

That involved running downstairs for the camera and then changing the serving bowls so that you, Mary, will think this always happens to us.

A nutri-bullet drink for all who want their vegetables blended.

There were jobs for everyone.

Even for Ben who learned how to take out the compost, how to put earth on it and how to water it down. S

ucks to have him learn that the day before he leaves.

What was I thinking about?

He could have been the one to keep the beautiful black earth going right from the day he arrived.
Arta documents the perfect 6 1/2 minute boiled egg
as served on whole wheat toast

Not all were up for breakfast.

Not the skinny dippers.

They are afraid to go down to the water on their own, so David, Duncan and Ben have been getting midnight rides down to the beach.

 Bonnie bought them flashlights yesterday, ones that you can use underwater, apparently.

Sabre flashinglights.

A big hit!

And the flashlights have a secondary use – to get them to the water in the first place. Joaquim was in charge of the skinny dippers last night.
 ... inspecting the spectacular moth by the window frame ...

 ... wide shot of moth ... and other diners ...
LtoR: Bonnie, Ben and Rebecca
Bonnie prepared a white board to get them out the door.

1. Flashlight

2. Shoes

3. Towel (not optional)

4. Robe

5. Mosquito repellant.

I didn’t get a detailed report from the event but I did get to see the 3 boys go through the checklist and then run off to get whatever it was that wasn’t in their pack yet.

I had no idea skinny dipping was so much trouble.

Nor that breakfast could be so much fun.