Pandemic Puppies

At least half the dogs in our neighbourhood these days are less than a year and a half old.

The pandemic puppy phenomenon did not pass us by around here, and every day as we go for our walks in the rain, shine, epic heat or brutal cold, we encounter so many other of these pandemic pups in the park.

Pups who have neither care nor concern that the very pandemic that forged virtually every aspect of their lives to date still has a lingering subtle effect on their human companion’s day-to-day.

Some day, maybe even soon, things will go back to normal… ish.

But maybe not quite yet.

Snow Spotting

It’s hard to say whether dogs are philosophical observers of the universe around them, wondering at the world as it flits past their existential mindset … or if they are simply easily distracted.

I think I’d like to think it’s the former.

My dog and I go on three walks a day lately. This time last year, just as the snow was starting to fall, she was a two-month-old puppy and was limited to exploring the world on a short leash in the containment of our backyard.

A year later, and we’re touring the neighbourhood by foot with regularity, often meeting new people and new dogs, stopping to sniff virtually anything … well, she does most of the sniffing.

I’m not oblivious to the world around me, but after forty-five years something as mundane as a patch of grass sticking from the snow or a blue jay sitting on the branch of a tree is ordinary enough that I think my brain just naturally tunes it all out.

But not her.

Everything is a curiosity. Everything is worth stopping and savouring. If that’s not the definition of existential delight at the world … and if we can’t learn a even just little bit from that .. I don’t know what else there is to say.

Houseguests & Hobbled Pursuits

Long-time friends travelled from a neighbouring province this past weekend and used our basement guest room as a free hotel suite while they were attending their son’s sport tournament in our city.

Six hours of driving from their house to ours has not been a particularly restrictive barrier for more routine visits previously so much as a global pandemic gave everyone pause for such travel over the last two years. But as the outbreak wanes (even temporarily maybe) and as such things go, our little bubble grew to six people and two dogs for four days, and glimpses of normal peeked back into our lives, however briefly.

Much conversation happened. And as he is a creative-minded soul, much of that much conversation swirled around our respective creative pursuits both planned and paused.

I’ve been drawing. A little. Not so much as I used to, but a little.

For those who have dug deeper into the archives of this site and clues bread-crumbed throughout, it may come as no surprise to learn that for three years prior to this blog I drew a small web comic chronicling the based-on-real-life adventures of a dad and his pre-teen daughter. A weekly comic peppered with kids-say-goofball-things and bad-dad-puns swirled around a stick of light-hearted family humour.

Our houseguest was one of my fans, and since we’d last spent any quantity of time in the same room two things have happened:

a) I’ve stopped drawing said comic, and

b) he’s started writing (but not yet drawing) his own.

“I was hoping you could walk me through how you make one.” He asked over dinner the first night. “For example, show me how you put a comic strip together and publish it online.”

“Yeah, sure.” I agreed, stuffing another mouthful in between thoughts. “I mean, I can’t teach you how to draw in a weekend, but I can walk you through my workflow. Sure.”

Putting together something as complex as a web comic series isn’t a single skill after all. Ideas turn into stories. Stories are mapped out against art. Art is compiled and refined into panels and spreads, which themselves are output as files. Files are posted and promoted and shared and enjoyed. And every one of those steps breaks down into fifteen, twenty, or maybe five-hundred individual steps and skills and practiced abilities that have been honed over decades and are yet are somehow still too rudimentary to be called expertise.

“How do you know all this stuff?” He asked as I later walked him through the multitude of files on my computer, whizzed through the act of compiling a simple strip and exporting it as a web-friendly file. “And why did you stop?” he added, mostly pondering aloud why someone who could, no longer did, while he who yet couldn’t, struggled to begin.

“Time.” I offered. “Inspiration. Priorities. Hobbled motivation.” It all rolled off the tongue far too easily. “Honestly, I don’t know.” I said conclusively. “Sometimes you just lose momentum, I guess.”

“You shouldn’t have stopped.” He shrugged. “You’re so good at this.”

And I, being terrible at taking a complement, merely laughed awkwardly and continued the tour of the comic strip factory on my computer.

Sometimes, perhaps, maybe, hopefully even… it takes a detour through an old, familiar neighbourhood, like spending the weekend with old friends, to bump one out of a rut. I don’t know if I have been yet, but …

Backyard: Clean-Up

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

It’s always striking to me that we live in a deeply seasonal place.

I’m sure that other parts of the planet go through their own share of seasonal variation, but living in one of the more northern capital cities on the Earth also makes places us in a group where vast differences exist between the heart of winter and the edges of summer.

Today I sit in my backyard in spring and enjoy a mild temperature, barefoot kinda day.

Four months ago I hardly dared open the door to the brutal cold.

Four months from now I’ll be picking fruit and veg from trees that at the moment seem barely alive and from soil that is little more than a crusty brown patch in the corner of my backyard.

I’ve been busy spring cleaning for the last couple weeks.

Grass to be raked. Leftover leaves that didn’t get sorted out before the snow last fall were starting to rot on the lawn. Flowerpots are full of crusty dried remains of last year’s greenery. Weeds are emerging and poking through the lawn and garden beds. Winter dust and the bits of residue from the long-melted snow needs to be wiped down. And that’s not even to mention the various bits of fence, deck or furniture that need a touch of paint or a tightened screw.

My lawnmower died as well, and neither wanting to see it dropped into the landfill nor having the patience or skill to repair it myself I hunted down a guy online who takes them as donations, fixes them up, and gives them a new life. But of course that meant a big clean-up of the shed, and rearranging all the various things I’d stored in there over winter, all to extract a broken tool and roll it out to the curb.

Spring cleaning is a real thing here, not because it’s a good time to get it done but simply because the season ticks over and that it needs done becomes obvious.

The trees are budding with their baby leaves and blossoms.

The grass is turning from a pale yellowish-brown to a vibrant green.

The bees are buzzing through the air and investigating the spring-waking world.

A few weeks from now it will all be just another summer, but for the moment spring is in clean-up mode, as am I, and the passing of winter feels like a barefoot kinda day in the backyard.