Maple Keys

Despite having a week to catch up on myself, it still feels like my house is filled with clutter. I have visitors coming on Sunday. I am very thankful for this because I know what it is like to not have visitors. Besides, it’s my reason for cleaning.

Since I retired almost two years ago – and yes, will someone please tell me where that time went – a major part of my life has been putting things away. I moved twice. I’m trying to downsize. Hah!

Yesterday was a rotten day, a low cloud, grey, depressing day. Wet. Rainy. Today the sun forgave us and came out in it’s autumn dress, casting orange over the trees.

Yesterday, I took Mrs. Stepford up to the hairdresser and we had time to look into the second hand furniture shop across the street. Then we parted ways – she to the hairdresser, I to the gym. When I saw her firmly ensconced in her hair dressing chair, the beautician clipping away at her curly hair, I went back to the car to drive away to the gym. R_R_R_R_R_R


On the third try, I shook my head, took the key out of the ignition and went back into the hair salon.

“The car’s not starting. It did this once before. I waited for half an hour and the next time it just started up.  I’ll walk to the bank and do a couple of things and then I’ll try it again in half an hour. I’m not going to go to the gym.” I said to Mrs. Stepford as the scissors snipped at at steady pace at the back of her neck.

“Where will I meet you, then?” she asked a bit anxiously. We have our routines. Stepping outside of routines is upsetting.

‘The car’s not going anywhere. I’ll meet you at the car. I’ll be back before you are done. If I can’t get it started I’ll have to call the towing company. I’m sure your hairdresser will let me use the phone….” The hairdresser paused for a half second, looked up at me and nodded.

Half an hour later, when I got back to the car, it started as if nothing were ever the matter. Blasted vehicles! They are supposed to be dependable. But this one was beginning to be finicky. I had no choice but to fix it. You couldn’t sell a car that was not working unless it was greatly discounted. I wasn’t brave enough to drive the car far away without knowing it would start back up again to come back home.

But now I had a dilemma. I couldn’t leave the car running and go get Mrs. Stepford too. So I stayed in the car, got out my book selection that I would have used as a companion to my mindless aerobic cycling at the gym. It was Gabrielle Roy’s short stories about her grandmother – a charming recollection of childhood.  Eventually I saw the hairdresser stick her head out the door and I got out and waved Mrs. Stepford towards me.

The whole day was beginning to be a bummer.  One. It was pouring with rain. It was grey and wet out. Two. The car was broken.Three. I hadn’t been to the gym.

I’d lolligagged around the house all day on Tuesday as my first day alone in the house since early July. Then I’d done it again on Wednesday, only going out to put the recycling and garbage by the sidewalk for collection at six a.m.  and then, much later,  to bring it back in when the rain abated. I had a cup of coffee, looked at my e-mail and then went back up to sleep. I didn’t get up until ten and then didn’t leave the house all day. On Thursday, I stayed in and worked in the studio trying to get it operational. I did a bit of laundry. I didn’t go out at all. Not one bit. I was beginning to feel the effects of sitting too long. Sitting at the computer. Sitting to paint. Sitting to have dinner. Sitting to watch TV. I hadn’t seen anyone in three days and by Friday, had needed this outing.

I was looking forward to exercise on Friday, but that did not happen. Instead, I came home to call the dealership service department to get an appointment to fix my car and to call my friend who was going to meet me at the Langley Bead Show on Saturday. I wouldn’t be able to go.

All that grumpy stuff to say that, today I wasn’t going to take the car out, so I took the bus instead. I had to go take my paintings to the 1 for 1 show, a pre-Christmas, yearly exhibition at the local municipal art gallery. The title means that you can buy one painting for one hundred dollars, All paintings had to be priced between one and two hundred to be eligible for the show.

I found a cardboard box and put in the three paintings that had been accepted. There was lots of room left so I found an old feather pillow and put it in too, to keep the paintings from rubbing against each other. Then I sealed the box with packing tape and used a little black folding trolley with bungie cords to secure the box to it. I was ready to go.

It being Saturday, I waited half an hour at the bus stop before the bus came. It only took five minutes from my house to Haney Place, and it stopped only a short block from the gallery. I left my paintings, signed the contract then left my box and “wheels” in the curator’s office while I went over to the gym.

I had to be back before the new assistant left in an hour, so I upped the ante on all the machines and did half as much, time wise. I had another deadline. I could go back home on the same ticket if I was within the prescribed time limit and I was aiming to take advantage of that. For two measley dollars, for one Canadian Toonie, I could go up to Haney Place and come back too!

So there I was, waiting for the bus to come. On Saturdays, the buses are only scheduled every half hour. I got to the bus loop early, I thought, to be sure to be able to reuse my ticket for the return. The sun was shining, for which I was very, very grateful. I couldn’t imagine dragging around the paintings in the wet and trying to balance an umbrella at the same time.

While I waited, I looked about and took a few photos of electrical wires.

I have this thing about electrical wires. I find they act as  very interesting compositional breaks on a cloudless sky.  Then I took out my sketch book and drew a lad who was hunched over, sitting on the brand new black-enameled benches that had been installed at the bus loop. As time drew nearer, I put those things away. It would be too difficult to manage my largish box on wheels, a loose camera, a carry all and a sketch book if the bus came. But the bus did not come. And just in case, I fished out two dollars and fifty cents in case the bus came too late for my ticket. I let it jangle in my otherwise empty coat pocket.

There were buses, surely, but not mine. “Meadowbrook.” the driver had said.  when I asked him what the return bus was called. Now, there was the  big 701 that came from Coquitlam. There were several smaller ones, for Ruskin, Albion and Whonnock, but no Meadowbrook. Time began to be long. Buses came that were marked, “Not in Service”. It was getting late. I’d waited forty minutes, standing with my cumbersome bundle.

Finally the C43 Meadowbrook came. I got in lugging my parcel, punched in my return ticket and it spit back out rejected. The driver looked at it, turned it over and sympathetically asked, “Are you a senior?”

I confessed I wasn’t. ‘Never mind, it’s only five minutes out. The buses don’t go so often on Saturdays” and he let me get on. The ticket went into a trash bin by his right hand.

I settled at the first seat behind the driver. I knew there was a stop just before Mrs. Stepford’s door, so I checked. Did this bus stop there?
“No,” said the bus driver. “The closest stop is at Laity Street.”

“Laity Street!”
“Well, is there a bus that does stop there?” I asked. “Laity Street is much too far for me to walk.”

“You need the C44 Meadowbrook,” he answered. ”

I sighed. I had been waiting for the wrong bus. I’d just missed it when I first came. I thought it was just the bus coming up and that there was different number going back. Moreover, there wasn’t a loading station for it. I got off the bus and started to look for the place it would stop. I’d been standing at the wrong bus bay. I never did find the little bus schedule on a standard for the C44 – those little grey  displays that look like modernized  Tibetan prayer wheels waiting to be spun as people pass.  I never did find a bus schedule or sign for my bus. I saw the bus coming and had to run after it, box and chariot bumbling and clattering behind me as I ran like the aging penguin that I am.

When I got home, I was glad to have a cup of tea and a biscuit. Then, for pleasure, I went out into the garden and trimmed branches for the Maple Ridge chipping program that comes and looks after tree yard waste once a year. It was relatively warm and sunny. I didn’t need a jacket. It was therapeutic after my bumbling afternoon, to cut masterfully into branches and stack them into the three by three by nine pile of branches that we are allowed to have chipped. I cut back the lower branches of the Magnolia. I kept the boxwood hedge at bay – it’s really aggressive  in it’s growth. I downsized the limbs of the Japanese Maple that Whistler had sawn off while he was here cutting them into regulation lengths.

I brought in a beautiful branch of maple with little red keys of an exquisite colour. I photographed some leaves with light pouring through them. I wrapped up the soaker hose and put it away for the winter.

Sunshine does wonders for a day. Especially an autumn day with the lengthening light in the late afternoon.

When I went in, there was a message from Mrs. Stepford and I phoned her back.

“Well,” she demanded, ” how was your first bus ride. Did everything go alright? It’s easy, isn’t it? It just takes five minutes either way.”

“Easy as pie,” I lied, brightly.

“What took you so long? I thought you were just going to go there, give in your paintings and come back.”

“Oh, I went to the gym. I had a chat with the curator. I took some time to get a good look at Christine Christie’s paintings that are up. You know….”  I trailed off.  I wasn’t going to let her know that I could barely manage a first bus trip on the easiest route in town.

“Why don’t you come for dinner? I’ve made my turkey soup now.”

And she did. She’s on her own for a few days while Mr. Stepford is away. And that was dinner, a fine end to a busy day – a glass of wine and turkey soup.


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