I cleaned our mezuzah case yesterday, a beautiful glass piece made by Marcela Rosemberg when she lived on PEI. A much more poignant task this year in the middle of this plague.
We have subscribed to both of PEI’s daily newspapers for as long as I can remember. This morning we only received The Guardian and a letter explaining that the Journal Pioneer has been “combined” with The Guardian. Most of our neighbours only receive the Journal as it has always been the paper for the western end of PEI and The Guardian for eastern areas, so they will be very surprised and possibly upset by this change in routine.
I also found out this morning that I am now a member and not a subscriber, which I suppose is to give me the sense that I was part of this business decision and approve it, rather than being a customer who paid for a service that I’m not going to receive.
In the Saltwire Network CEO’s letter, they say their advertising revenue dropped by nearly two-thirds almost overnight, so they have been forced to temporarily lay off 40% of their workforce, including journalists. Instead of publishing nearly three dozen papers today across Atlantic Canada, they published four.
Other than being quite a thin paper, today’s edition doesn’t really seem much different from recent ones. Both of PEI’s dailies were already carrying heavy amounts of content from the other Saltwire Network papers and the Postmedia Network and were starting to look like each other, save for different local advertising and obituaries (one of the big reasons we kept The Guardian). When you read one, you had almost read the other as much of the local content in each was shared.
We were already seriously considering dropping our subscription to The Guardian this spring because the price for each was closing in on $400 a year. My mother does not use digital technology so receiving the newspaper is a big thing for her, but the content duplication was becoming very obvious and we couldn’t justify spending nearly $800 a year anymore. I think that decision has probably now been made for us, despite the assurance that this is a temporary measure.
When the Journal Pioneer stopped being an afternoon paper many years ago and moved to morning delivery, and since both papers have been owned by the same companies for many decades, I was always amazed they didn’t amalgamate the two publications years ago. This time of crisis could be the time this decision is finally made. I’m sad that other than the concern I feel for those who will lose their jobs, I just don’t care.
As I watch all my volunteer and social activities dwindle away due to the COVID-19 situation, I have been trying to find ways to keep busy and not obsess over the news and the break in routine. There are many projects around home I kept saying I would get around to doing if only I wasn’t so busy, so now, alas, I have my wish.
The projects I have been tackling seem to all involve wanting to put things in order, to have a feeling of control at a time when everything seems very out of control. I am cleaning corners of the house that haven’t been touched since we moved in 17 years ago. I emptied a dish that held last year’s beach walk treasures and also some Rescue Remedy I had forgotten that will come in very handy right now!
I’ve started to tackle putting my shop building back in order after a new concrete foundation and floor was added a couple of years ago, which raised everything six inches, often out of easy reach for 5′ 2″ me. Hoes and spades have hung in the same place for 60 years, placed in their spots by my parents, but I have pulled out all the nails and hooks and started again. It’s a big building with a lot of stuff just thrown in after it was emptied for the construction work, so this will be a long project.
A week ago today the Prince County Hospital Auxiliary reopened our newly-renovated Wishing Well Gift Shop that had been closed for three months of renovations and restructuring. We had a great day, laughing about bumping elbows instead of shaking hands, getting used to the cash register, chatting with the hospital staff who were happy to see us back in business. I made a quick sign for our used book section. It was a busy day in a busy hospital. Beyond remembering to clean my hands more often than usual, I didn’t think much about the coronavirus.
Today I drove to our veterinary clinic to pick up cat food. I called ahead, told them what I wanted, and paid in advance by credit card. When I arrived, I called them again to say I was oustide and the receptionist unlocked the door, waved at me, and set the bag on the porch. I got out of my car, carefully picked up the bag, put it in my trunk, and used hand sanitizer when I got back in the car. I washed the bag off when I got home; it is drying in the laundry tub.
I was in Summerside yesterday when our Acurite 5-in-1 weather station recorded a 255.9 km/h wind gust just before 2 p.m. Just glad the house is still standing and the chickens didn’t blow away. What powerful spirit could have flown by and gave the anemometer a spin? Maybe the gitpu (eagle) I spoke to earlier this week as she flew over our house checking out our hens. Message received.
While sitting quietly before a yoga class this fall, I thought of the enormous privilege I had being in a warm sunny room with nothing to do but breathe and think only of myself.
I looked down at my hands and realised that no matter how hard some days can be, I am at the easy end of a line of women who worked hard and had difficult lives, a line that reaches back and back beyond what I can imagine. I can name many of these women six or seven generations in the past, but beyond that, the women fade away. But they do exist in the lines and size and shape of my hands.
When I hold my mother’s hand, I can reach back to 1848, when her great-grandmother Martha (Ellis) Sharpe was born. Here they are together, likely around 1927, a year before Martha died. My mother, Vivian, would be about five.
The woman standing on Martha’s right is my great-grandmother, Eva (Sharp) Hardy. Eva’s son, my grandfather Wilbur Hardy, is the fellow in the back. His wife, Thelma, died in 1927, and my mother and her younger brother went to live with Eva and her husband, Ernest.
Stories my mother tells of life with her grandparents are a big part of my story. Eva died in 1952, 14 years before I was born, but if she walked through my door right now, I know I would be able to start up a conversation with her as though we had been together forever.
She lived a simple and humble life and didn’t have many possessions. Eva and Ernest had a small house with tiny closets, really just a couple of hooks behind a door. Her two or three everyday dresses would always be covered by an apron. She cooked every day, of course, baked bread, fed hens, gathered eggs, kept a wood range filled, so an apron was necessary to keep those precious dresses clean.
In trying to live more lightly on this earth, I am really just trying to live more like Eva. It has been a long process. I do not live her simple and humble life, and have far too many possessions. I’ve never been hugely into fashion or having lots of clothes, but I once had many more than I do now. My goal is to only have what I really need, take better care of what I own, and buy clothing either used or, if new, produced ethically, sustainably and locally, and only when necessary to replace what is worn out.
I happened to be in Summerside before Christmas on a day when Emily and Amanda, the lovely women who are Ureshii, were having an open studio. I have gotten to know Amanda from another one of her ventures, and we have followed each other on various social media for years, but this was the first time I had looked at their beautiful clothing.
I bought a lovely t-shirt with a block printed strawberry on it, and a pair of their famous (and very comfortable!) underwear. Then I asked if they made aprons, describing what I wanted without using the actual word of what it is: a pinafore. Yes, they did, and after many measurements were taken and fabric options discussed, an apron was in the works.
As busy as they are, the apron was finished in just a couple of weeks. I popped by to pick it up a couple of weeks ago, and it fit beautifully, perfectly. Emily, who is the seamstress of the pair, noted that she had sewn and not serged the edges, thinking I would appreciate it. I certainly do.
After a bit of guidance on how to don the apron, I managed to pull it over my head and they stood back and checked that everything was just right. We all declared ourselves pleased, and off I went to run my weekly errands.
I put the apron on when I arrived home from town, and begrudged taking it off that night to put on my pjs to go to bed. I wore it while I made soup the next day and have worn it every day since. It has a beautiful big pocket ready to hold some eggs from the nesting boxes or a tomato or two from the garden, to shove my hands in when I’m pondering something, to hold some scissors or a little snack. It feels timeless, like I could be here in 2020 or back in 1820. It is perfect.
Unexpectedly, it wraps lovingly around my back. The apron hugs me, keeps me warm, and when I put flour-covered hands on my hips to consult a recipe, the apron is there to keep me clean. Unlike a chef’s apron, there is also no tie to cut me in half (and to be a tut-tutting gauge of how large or small I am at any time!).
My mother and I talk often about her grandmother. We wonder what she would make of this modern world that is so convenient, where laundry isn’t an all-day affair, where you are free to spend your time doing yoga if you feel like it.
Aprons aren’t really necessary now as fewer people cook at home, laundry is a daily occurrence for many, clothing is cheap and almost disposable. But maybe we need aprons, a practical costume to ground us to the tasks at hand, to help us make better decisions about the clothing we wear.
Eva wouldn’t recognize many things in our house if she did walk through the door right now (oh, how I wish she would!), but she would feel very comfortable with this beautiful apron. It connects me to her, and to the women of my past who allowed me to be here, wearing an apron just because it is beautiful and I want to. Thank you Emily and Amanda, and Eva and Martha, and on.
As a former dairy farm worker (I always called myself a milkmaid so I could be a maid a-milking), I enjoyed this article that gives a great overview of PEI’s thriving dairy sector in Salty, PEI’s monthly food paper. The tip that code 3610 on a package of cheese shows it was made on PEI is one I’m going to test out on my next grocery trip.
I’ve been recording precipitation amounts for CoCoRaHS since November, dutifully recording rain and snowfall and entering it on their database every day around 8 a.m. I told my mother this morning we received over 7 cm of snow in the past storm. This evening she told me that the CBC PEI weatherman had included the snowfall total for Foxley River in his report, and sure enough, here’s the proof from his Twitter account. Proud weather nerd here!
My mother, Vivian, says her time serving in the RCAF Women’s Division during the Second World War was one of the happiest periods of her life. That might sound bizarre to us now, but even those veterans I knew who fought in Europe only told stories of the funny things that happened, both to keep buried as deeply as possible the horrible events they saw, and knowing those who hadn’t been there could never understand what they had been called upon to do and witness.
Before enlisting, my mother had never travelled more than a few miles from home, grew up without running water or electricity, had been keeping house for her father and brother, and working hard on their farm. She served in Canada and Newfoundland, far from the battlefields, so the war really gave her adventure and freedom from drudgery. There were dozens of other women in her group, and she made lifelong friends.
Amazingly, my mother is still in contact with one of the women she trained and served with, a lady named Vina Trowsdale who lives in North Bay, Ontario. They write to each other frequently, sending long letters and newspaper clippings on things the other might find interesting.
I was just searching to see if there was anything online about Vina and found this great interview from 2015. I just showed it to my mother, and she said this is basically her story, too. Thanks, Vina!