Saturday, August 05, 2023
|11 August 2023|
From the very first time I met Rosemary in 1967 a bathtub
was of supreme importance for her. In those days she wore contact lenses and
without them she could not see anything. She avoided showers and swimming.
That first time around Christmas, when I took her to show her
off to my mother in Veracruz, she had a hard time coping with the heat. My
mother had no tub so Rosemary was extra careful. and seemed to take showers all day.
Once we married we lived in an extremely narrow little
apartment in the not yet fashionable Zona Rosa. It had no tub. But in our next
move we had one and I remember that we would put our first baby daughter Alexandra in
the tub when we wanted some privacy and no crying. The photograph here is from
that house in Herodoto (also in the Zona Rosa). In the little house we bought
with my mother’s help in Arboledas, Estado de México there was a beautiful tub with
Mexican tiles called azulejos.
It was in that house that one day we arrived and our live-in
housekeeper told us that Ale had swallowed a bottle of carbon tetra-chloride
(Carbona an upholstery cleaner). She looked terrible. I called our doctor who
told me to immediately take her to the hospital after inducing vomiting.
Because I had been a boy scout in my youth I remembered that with corrosive
poisons you did not do that. I put her in the tub and ran cold water on her
face. Her eyes were up there and you could not see them. I then took her to our
neighbourhood doctor who pumped her stomach. I believe I may have been
responsible for saving her life.
When we moved to Vancouver we always had a tub. In our
townhouse in Burnaby, because the bathroom with the tub was so important (for
Rosemary!), I laid a parquet floor.
It was in Burnaby with its shaggy carpets that Rosemary’s
contact lenses became a terrible problem. It seems that as soon as we were
going to the theatre she would drop one of her contacts and I would have to
look for it. A few years later a laser treatment of her eyes eliminated those
slippery contacts. But we always
insisted in having tubs in our hotel rooms when we travelled.
In Kerrisdale we had two tubs, but one leaked. In our little
house in Kitsilano we had and have a very nice tub and bathroom. The toilet
seat is heated and the tub has some water action but we never did use it.
I have written here before that Rosemary and I liked to take
tub baths together. Or she would say when I was in it, “Leave the water for me.”
And there were some shenanigans when both of us were in the tub that involved
the use of toes.
Tonight when I was running the tub for my bath I had that
same empty feeling that I have when I get into bed and note the side of the bed
where she slept. This empty presence (as I call it) follows me wherever I go.
A.E. Houseman - When I am dead and gone
Tuesday, August 01, 2023
|Rosa 'A Shropshire Lad' 1 August 2023|
I Hoed and Trenched and Weeded – A.E. Houseman
I hoed and trenched and weeded,
And took the flowers to fair:
I brought them home unheeded;
The hue was not the wear.
So up and down I sow them
For lads like me to find,
When I shall lie below them,
A dead man out of mind.
Some seed the birds devour,
And some the season mars,
But here and there will flower,
The solitary stars,
And fields will yearly bear them
As light-leaved spring comes on,
And luckless lads will wear them
When I am dead and gone.
The above poem is the last poem (number 63) in Houseman’s
collection A Shropshire Lad. The poem is not a happy one but then these days I
am not a happy lad myself.
The poem, nonetheless is most appropriate to illustrate
this scan of my English Rose, Rosa “A Shropshire Lad’. It blooms profusely and
with Rosemary no longer around or anybody visiting me to see my garden I had no
compunction in snipping these 8 blooms. This rose is a healthy one and of all
the roses I have ever had it is the one with the most handsome new leaves which
are a reddish maroon.
I never did meet A.E. Houseman but in our Noon Thursdays
at the Railway Club there was a poet dear to me called Peter Trower. Some knew
him as the logging poet. He had a fondness for Houseman and for A Shropshire
This blog on this sad Tuesday I dedicate to that man I
appreciated and loved – Peter Trower.
Dignity in a Pair of Boots
Monday, July 31, 2023
I have a distinct memory of when I became aware of death. It
was 1950 in Buenos Aires and my mother had taken me to visit my grandmother
Lolita who worked at the Philippine Legation (not yet an embassy) on Calle
Florida in the same building as the American Embassy. The American Embassy in
conjunction with the United States Information Service (then an arm of the CIA)
had a novelty in Argentina. This was a lending library where the miracle was
that you could take a book home with you.
My mother left me in the library and somehow I found a
magazine called American Heritage. Inside I saw photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan
that showed Confederate soldiers of the American Civil Wall dead on the field.
These dead soldiers, in stark black and white, looked like the many people
walking in the mall that was Calle Florida, outside. I stared at the pictures and
thought, “These men were alive many years ago and then they were dead.”
In 1959, in our religion class with Brother Edwin Reggio,
C.S.C, at St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas, we liked to waste time (or
we thought we were) by asking Brother Edwin questions that we thought were inane.
In that day the events are indelibly recorded in my memory. We asked, “Brother
Edwin, are Hitler and Judas in hell?”
His answer was startling. “Class, when we are born part
of us is an indelible (that word again) and inherent quality I call human
dignity which is part of our distinct soul. We are born and die with it no
matter what we do or not do with our life.” “No I don’t know if Hitler and
Judas are in hell.”
So no matter what Trump does I still have an inkling of
respect for him because of the fact that he is a human being born with that
Brother Edwin when possible, stuck to his version of
religion, which was an Aristotelian theology. He rarely mentioned God and opted for "the unmoved mover".
Today I saw this photograph on the cover of my daily
delivered New York Times. I was shocked, more so than in 1950, because thoughts
of what Brother Edwin told us of dignity are in direct contradiction with this
photograph. I might have preferred a photograph of a bloody mess of a man but
the presence of those boots somehow show for me how a human being (a Russian no
different from a Ukrainian or an Italian) lies in the detritus of a road devoid
of all the dignity that even in death he deserves.
Is his sole humanity those boots?
A Revived Posthumous Gift
Sunday, July 30, 2023
|Rosa 'Olivier Roellinger' & Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher' 30 July 2023|
Because in my “Dear Diary” blog I can write about
anything I want, it also means that I can repeat whatever appears in my mind
even if it happens often. Of Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’ I have written and
repeatedly scanned it obsessively.
Today I notice that there are two special roses in bloom.
One of them, the single tea rose, Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’, I have written a
lot about since it became Rosemary’s favourite as well as mine for its
connection with a photograph I took of our granddaughter Rebecca.
|Rebeca & Rosa 'Mrs. Oakley Fisher'|
We were never able to figure out why it was so hard to grow.
When we moved from Kerrisdale to Kitsilano 6 years ago Mrs. Oakley Fisher died.
Our repeated purchases went the same route.
About a month before Rosemary died on December 9, 2020 she
told me, “Alex we are going to need 3 large terracotta pots and some dirt.”
There was not further explanation.
On the first of February 2021 the doorbell rang. When I
opened the door there was a large package containing three roses. One was our
delightful yellow rose and the other two I had never heard of. One was Rosa ‘Escimo’
and the other Rosa ‘Olivier Roellinger’. I looked them up and they were also
single roses resembling Mrs. Oakley Fisher. Rosemary had ordered these when she
told me about the terracotta pots and the dirt.
The yellow rose, almost predictably died. So did Escimo last
year. Last year I found a nursery in Oregon (Rogue Nursery) that had Mrs.
Oakley Fisher and I ordered three. Two died but the third one is doing just
|Rosa 'Escimo' 9 July 2021|
When I saw the two roses today, which I call Rosemary’s
posthumous gift to me, I smiled but was saddened at the same time. It is almost
like the missing rose is my missing Rosemary.