Venturing Beyond the Walls

What happens once the siege is over?

From writing every day, then a couple of times a week–and then, you look, and over a month–almost two, when you decide to pick up the post you started nearly two weeks ago– has passed since your last post. But the desire to write just has not been present over the last few weeks; every time I thought about it, I saw it as a chore. That’s the thing with me, and one of the reasons I don’t think I could ever be a full-time blogger (at least, not as a hobby): The passion waxes and wanes. And my weeks have been full of other events and projects.

One of the most significant was the remake of my back yard. We finally got the last piece of fencing up, thanks to the landlord next door who actually approached us. It’s remarkable what a different space it became just with this simple change–and once we invoked our long-planned changes, it’s become a place I actually want to be in. It started with Hamilton’s program to give away free tree saplings–which resulted in a downy serviceberry about 2 1/2″ tall that I planted to eventually be a focal point of the garden. We covered the entire weed-infested, scraggly, patchy “lawn” with landscaping fabric to kill off the grass. We then laid down a gravel path in a T shape, before then putting down new garden soil. I had about five perennials in pots that I then planted, along with some other perennials (iris and daylillies) that a friend divided from her garden. Finally, I acquired new perennials–and here, I lucked out on about half of them by the fact that the seasonal garden centre at Fortino’s was selling off their plants at half price. I’ve acquired many favourites–black-eyed Susans, bee balm (fondly known as “Sideshow Bob” flowers), a rose bush, lupins, foxglove, a clematis vine, butterfly bush, catmint, a bleeding heart plant. I also dug out one of the cranesbills from the front yard–although it’s having a problem adjusting, it’s now showing signs of becoming established. There’s still room for a few more plants, which I expect I’ll add next year. Another surprise were the Dutch iris bulbs I got at the dollar store and planted in the front–they all bloomed, white and yellow and purple–and I plan to look for those again in the fall, along with some other bulbs, to add to the backyard. We have been helped by relatively mild weather; the result has been a feeling of lushness even at this early stage.

There were also two major SCA events, with my husband and I both begging boons to have dependents elevated to Peerages, and another good friend (and grandapprentice) having her vigil and then elevation at War of the Trillium. That event came the closest yet to feeling almost normal. The weather was fabulous (no 3′ from the sun this year), and Friday was spent at the vigil, which doubled as an all-day craft circle, with a little bit of archery thrown in. Saturday was Court, and I got to see two ceremonies I wrote carried out, not to mention just the fun of hearing people doing all the activities in groups again. The following weekend there was a pool party with a smaller group of people. All of these things were completely outdoors. I’m still being quite cautious about indoor activities.

The Museum’s Skyfest was also wonderful. I got to climb into the Lancaster and to see the museum’s Firefly in the air. There were some amazing aircraft from a few other museums, including a Spitfire, and the Canadian forces had their F-18 demo team there.

There have been three two concerts. I grabbed a last-minute cheap seat to the TSO doing Beethoven’s 9th, only to discover that the mezzo part was being sung by the same singer who played Nefertiti in Akhenaten. (I hadn’t realized she was Canadian.) There was also a KSO concert featuring Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 2, which is always a good listen, although hindered a bit by the positioning of my seat at far stage left, meaning I could barely see the pianist. And after a bit of a concert lull (I skipped a performance of Shostakovich’s piano trio no. 2 for the pool party), I attended a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet on Saturday as part of Toronto Summer Music. These performances feature young musicians mentored by more established ones, and they put on a passionate performance of the Quintet after a charming, somewhat awkward introduction by the first violinist of the work and its relation to that dastardly Stalin guy. There was a near catastrophe leading into the final movement when the question of “what happens if your copy of the score on your tablet doesn’t work?” was almost answered–I could see the pianist struggle and at one point a black pop-up blocking the score was visible, but she pulled it off just in time. The Quintet really reminds me of summer, when I believe I first heard it. There’s something in the slow movement that reminds me of dappled sunlight. That’ll be the last Shostakovich for a couple of months, but there are plans for the end of August to attend an outdoor NSO concert featuring Mozart’s Symphony no. 40.

Last week was my 31st wedding anniversary, and we spent it in Niagara Falls. The highlight was certainly viewing the new tailrace tunnel that opened in the past month under the restored Niagara Power Station that we visited last year. The tunnel is 180 metres down from the station and was once the way water flowed in from the Falls to power the the electricity-generating turbines. Now it just provides an amazing, up-close view at the base of the Horseshoe Falls. But we also visited Clifton Hill for the first time, riding the Ferris wheel, playing a round of mini-golf on a dinosaur-themed course (complete with erupting volcano!), and enjoying a Beaver Tail. The kitsch was actually a lot of fun, and we may return, given that the mini-golf had two courses and we played only one, plus there is another indoor mini-golf course as well.

This past weekend, we went to the Fergus Medieval Festival. It was cheezy Ren Faire-esque fun, but with the opportunity to see a number of friends, as well as to raid a Dutch goods shop. (It turns out that the Biscoff cookies I love come in a sandwich version!)

There are also plans for the next month and a half: Richard III at Stratford (as part of a whole group of people I helped organize), a trip through the Welland Canal on a tall ship, a Pennsic pity party, and a couple of festivals. Longer term, I have my ticket for Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in New York for the end of September, and there are a couple more tickets to buy in August.

This leads to a decision I made when it was announced that second booster shots would be opened to all adults: Although we’re hearing a booster for omicron variants is coming “in the fall,” we went ahead and got the 4th shot. It’s been seven months since our last one, and even if the new booster is available on the very first day of fall (not likely), it’ll definitely go out to older people and other vulnerable populations first. By the time it gets to us, I’m guessing we’ll be approaching the end of the year–at the earliest. We’ve had a LOT of friends get COVID in the last few weeks, and anything that might ensure it stays mild if we get it is going to be helpful. I got Moderna this time (by choice); the main side effect was arm soreness, along with tiredness on the day following, particularly apparent when our usual hourly noontime walk utterly exhausted me.

I also finished up my St. Olga embroidery. Right now, I’m in the midst of embroidering a colourized photo from the early 30s of Shostakovich, his wife Nina, and his best friend Ivan Sollertinsky. It’s by far the largest work I’ve done so far.

Coming back around to Pennsic–I’m seeing the rhythm of preparations once again in my Facebook feed, although it seems like less than half of my Ealdormere friends are going. I am only just starting to feel a little bit of longing, but it’s now been four years since I attended, what with missing 2019 and then 2020 and 2021 not happening. I do not feel like I’m missing out; more a sense of Pennsic being an old friend that maybe I’ll see again–maybe. If I go again, it won’t look like it used to in any way, but yet–I wonder.

I wonder, too, where the US will be in a year. After this year, I have no firm plans to visit, no bucket list Shostakovich works or Frank Lloyd Wright sites to see. We hope to be able to go to England again sooner rather than later, so turning off the music travel spigot will help us to that goal. But Roe v. Wade has fallen, and my home state is getting notoriety as the state where a 10 year old rape victim had to go to a neighbouring state to get an abortion. The emotions that provoked in me were sharp and painful–it is one thing to look at the US and to be happy that there are still blue states out there, another entirely when the purple state of one’s youth is now angry red.

One comment

  1. Love your adventures since I have been going nowhere once Covid came around. Am enjoying reading about the variety of things you’ve been doing – and the photos help visualize those activities! Keep posting!


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