Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Celebration of Life

Last New Year's Eve it was a Foodie Feast. Between 2010 and 2017, we feasted twenty times together. November 11 we were to be back at High in the Sky but it was cancelled because Dick came down with a bad flu. Within a few weeks we'd learned it was a very aggressive form of liver cancer.

Dec 30th, BPYC held a Celebration of Life for Dick, who died December 14th.

Dick was a kindred spirit. I first met him thirteen years ago when Rob and I joined BPYC. Anytime the yacht club had a function or party, you could find Dick and Maureen mixing and mingling. The last time I saw Dick we were both dressed as pirates at the Halloween party. We shared a drink and when he left, we hugged and I said "see you in a couple of weeks for the Hoe Down at High in the Sky."

I enjoyed reading his weekly blog, the views of an octogenarian, until he stopped posting in October 2016. He was a vibrant person and I could see him starting another blog when he turned ninety, publishing his the views as a nonagenarian.

His favourite point of sail was wing on wing, wind at your back, 6 knots.

He was an inspiration to me in many ways. Having learned to play guitar when he was 75 he joined the house band. He had a wonderful speaking and singing voice, which he had lately applied to learning French.

The clubhouse was filled with people for his Celebration of Life. Caroline and Wendy took charge in the kitchen and prepared a groaning board of delectable morsels for the crowd.

Rob was emcee and delivered a beautiful eulogy, followed by many people who shared their stories and memories of a life well-lived.  Grace performed a violin solo, in the style of a Scottish lament, the Ashokan Farewell. Maureen's nephew Kerry Stratton read the poem Sea Fever.  Liz Ford sang the song "I Did It My Way," acapella, (I'm not sure how she managed singing so beautifully when so many of us had difficulty just speaking so choked up). I sat beside Maureen on one side, Caroline on the other, while one hundred plus raised their glasses in a toast to Dick.  As it was one of his wishes that members learn and sing the song he wrote to commemorate the club, that is how we ended the formal ceremony, singing "There's a place down here, at the foot of the hill...."

I will think about Dick tonight at midnight when we welcome in the new year, and I know I will think about him in the year and years ahead.


Rob's eulogy:

I first met Dick Grannan when Diane and I joined BPYC 13 years ago.

I was impressed with the genuine warmth he extended in his welcome and for making the two of us feel as if we belonged. He had a sparkle in his eye, a firm handshake, and carried himself with the energy and stature of a much younger man.

If someone had told me that Dick was 75 years old at that time… I wouldn’t have believed them. And knowing Dick …I’m pretty sure he barely believed it himself.

There’s a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I believe mirrors a major theme in Dick’s philosophy on life:

‘It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old…. they grow old…. because they stop pursuing dreams.’

Dick never grew old…. He never stopped pursuing dreams…never stopped learning….never stopped loving….and never stopped challenging himself.

He refused ‘old’.

If Dick found himself slipping into ‘old’ …he would quickly admonish himself and move on. He fought a fierce battle with the concept of ‘old’. He observed it…Was fascinated by it…. Was even amused by it…. But would never embrace it.

This can be attested to in how he led his life and is reflected in his writing. And that fight to not accept, ‘old’ in his life, began many years ago.

I’d like to read from an article he wrote about skiing many years ago in Quebec:

“Returning by chair for a second run I met a man who had started down the hill a few seconds before me early that morning. In the course of our conversation he asked if I would ski with him. I had seen him going down and recognized a good skier. We ended up skiing the hill in tandem the rest of the week. One day, when I got to know him better, I asked him his age. He replied seventy-two! When I returned home to Toronto I immediately went to the nearest ski shop and purchased new skis, boots and clothing. Until I met him thought I was through and that I was enjoying my last days as a downhill skier. Because of that chance encounter I have enjoyed over forty more years of downhill skiing!”

Dick lived a very full life. A lifelong sailor… an athlete (who could have played professional hockey)….a scholar and educator …( graduate degrees in philosophy and education)…a novelist with two published books, ‘It Ain’t over Yet’, and ‘An Unintended Journey’, and a musician who learned to play the guitar at 75…and then joined a rock and roll band. And these are just a few of his life’s accomplishments.

He had an inquisitive mind, always learning, always asking and always involved.

And he used his time well… To quote from another article in his blog on what to do with time:, and I quote:

“Time to appreciate art and music, time to acquire new skills, time to enjoy the wind in your face or the colour of the late evening sky. Time once again to adjust and be open to what lies ahead, and to embrace it with all your might. Time to stay engaged. And in the words of the poem by R. Tagor “Let me pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.”

Dick has no regrets on how he used his time. He wrote in an article while ruminating on life and aging… about a story he came across of an Australian nurse who gathered the regrets of her dying patients. Things like… regrets that they worked too hard… did not stay in touch with friends…not telling someone they loved them…or not letting themselves be happy.

Dick goes on to recollect his life choices and concludes the piece by writing what he’d say… when the time comes… if asked his regrets… and he writes:

“I don’t have any regrets about the path I have travelled, just sadness that there are so many questions that will never be answered for me”

Dick passed away at the age of 88. Not at the ripe ‘old’ age of 88, but passed away at 88, as a fighter who lost a battle to cancer.

We’ll greatly miss Dick Grannan at Bluffers Park Yacht club. He has been a cornerstone to our foundation, an integral part of the community, and some would say the face of our club. But as great as the loss is to the membership, and to those who knew Dick, it pales Maureen in comparison to your loss of a man, a husband of over forty years who deeply loved you. However… take comfort in knowing that Dick will always be in our hearts, a role model for fellow members, and will be remembered for many years to come.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Absinthe Tasting - Winter Solstice Celebration

It is the ritual of absinthe that drew me. That, and the attraction of writers and painters through the centuries... Baudelaire, Van Gogh, Degas, Hemingway.

Earlier in the year, Kaarina had gifted me with an absinthe spoon she picked up in Paris. I thought it would be fun to use it to prepare green fairies using the ritual of ice water, fire, and sugar cubes.

Then Rob gave me my Christmas gift early. An absinthe fountain!

The fountain became the centrepiece for the party.

To make a green fairy, place the sugar cube on the spoon, on top of the glass, and drip the absinthe slowly. If done with patience, the absinthe itself can melt the sugar into the glass. Then ignite the sugar cube and watch it carmelize. Swish the sugar into the glass and then slowly drip in the ice water to dilute the absinthe two to five times. Doing this slowly helps activate the essential oils and allows the aroma to develop. The anticipation flavours the drink as much as any ingredient.

The ritual has all the elements - fire, water, earth, air. It appeals to all the senses - touch as you make the drink, smell as you release the aroma, sight as you watch the cloudy louche develop, sound as you hear the drips, and taste when you sample the dose.

It is also a drink of contrasts - sweet and bitter - freezing and burning.

A powerful concoction.

I greeted guests with Death in the Afternoon, an absinthe cocktail invented by Hemingway: 1.5 oz of absinthe + 4 oz of champagne + lemon twist.

Later, we drank corpse revivors, equal parts gin, cointreau, lillet, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe.

Sushi was the perfect food accompaniment.

The licorice flavour fit the winter holidays, but I think I'd like to repeat the menu in the summertime, in the garden, and see whether any real green fairies appear.

At this year's tasting: Kaarina, Liz, Laura, Virginia, Nicki, Nicolette, Irene.

Loved reading about the history of absinthe at Absinthe Fever and the preparation at Absinthe Spoon.

L'Absinthe / Degas

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Long Night Moon - December 2017






          for the world.
Long nights, indeed. November was a challenging month at work and home and also brought so many pleasures.

Yoga intensives and silent retreats helped feed my spirit, and visits to the art gallery ignited energy as I absorbed the colours and beauty.

Food to nourish and satisfy. I prepared a feast for Alex' birthday and later indulged myself with a 5 course, curated dinner, enjoying Painting Poetry.

The splendour of Niagara Falls at night, under an almost full moon, brought calm and wonder.

Gratitude for it all.

The moon was full December 3, 10:47 am