Already it’s the end of September, and winter is suddenly close at hand. The days seem to be rushing headlong toward the end of the year. Resist the urge to get carried along with the rush. Take a few moments to breathe; stroll for a moment through the garden before leaping into your day. Feel the cool-fingered breeze at your neck. Listen as geese fly overhead, calling to each other. Look around you; see how the leaves are changing, see how they gather in drifts at your feet.
All too soon, this burst of colour will be gone. In a few weeks, you will see the cold stars looking down through the bare fingers of trees. Look well, and drink in the season. Autumn is here, and it is already passing.
Taken on September 23, 2010
Even though I missed seeing the harvest moon last week — apparently it was gloriously huge and bright — it would have been impossible to miss this week’s big sign of the times: a new government has been elected.
On Monday, New Brunswick turned Tory blue. Voters elected the Conservatives to a huge majority, ousting the Liberals who had neglected to consult voters before negotiating a tentative deal to sell NB Power. The Conservatives have promised to consult. On paper, this sounds like an improvement. Yet there are few governments who make decisions these days without sending up “weather balloons” to gauge public reaction, conducting endless polls (with high probability of accuracy), and holding high level meetings with industry leaders. So what does it mean to consult?
It reminds me of the Aesop’s fable about the man and his son walking with their donkey to town. Several opinions later, they ended up carrying the donkey. The moral of this story: “Please all, and you will please none”. Politicians who govern by poll are going in circles, flip-flopping on decisions, carrying donkeys.
I admired the Liberals for having the guts to make a bold decision, even if people decided it was a bad one. We like our leaders to be bold, don’t we? Or perhaps we just want them to be like us, telling us what we want to hear, projecting our desires like our reflections on TV.
Taken on December 2, 2009
Last night it was just starting to rain as I let the dogs out. It was dark. The porch light didn’t come on. I missed a step and fell. Aaugh! Ouch. I landed on the top of my foot and twisted my ankle. How ironic: welcome to fall.
I have fallen badly only a few times, but my first response is always fear. I don’t know why, but that surprises me. Of course, there’s pain, and anger (well that was stupid!), but mostly an intense awareness of how fragile I am, how close to breaking.
Not that I have a history of injury. I’m cautious by nature. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t broken any bones. But I have survived a head-on collision with a car while on my bicycle (because I was wearing a helmet), and a couple of years ago I had another bad fall that left me with a purple bruise on my face and dizzy spells.
I know it could have been worse. I’m thankful that my ankle is not broken, and I don’t think the sprain is serious. I don’t like pain, but I can put up with a little soreness. Still, I’ll try to keep my weight off it for a while. It’s raining, it’s cosy indoors, it’s a good day to stay home and be pampered.
Taken on October 24, 2009
Every fall I go through the same symptoms. No matter how much I avoided hot weather during the summer, I become a serious heat-seeker. As soon as the temperature drops down into the low teens (celcius), I get out my winter clothes and start layering. Today I am wearing a t-shirt, two sweaters, jeans and warm fuzzy socks (plus a few additional items). It has been cold and damp lately. I feel cold and damp.
I know that I can’t wear all my winter clothes yet, because there won’t be anything to add when it really gets cold. The temperature will drop below freezing, some days will be minus 20 or lower. I remind myself that 12 degrees celcius in mid-winter would feel balmy, but it doesn’t help. Every year, I have to wait and shiver for a couple of weeks until my body adjusts. Yes, summer is gone. Live with it!
Taken on September 26, 2010
It was foggy yesterday. This wasn’t the vanish-with-dawn kind of fog, or even the sun-burns-through-by-noon kind of fog. This was stay-all-day fog. As I walked through the uptown streets, several times the sky seemed to brighten and I thought ‘A-ha, now the fog will lift and the sun will come out’. But it didn’t. By the time I headed home again, I think I could see a little farther down King Street, but I wouldn’t swear to it in court.
But I was born here. I grew up with fog. I like fog. And most folks here don’t seem to mind it, to judge from the number of people strolling through town and passing a pleasant afternoon in the park. If you need sunshine to enjoy your day, you’d best move to Fredericton. But if you live in Saint John, and it’s foggy, that usually means it’s not windy. It’s calm and mild and easy on the eyes. And sometimes that’s just what you need.
Taken on September 25, 2010
It’s been rainy this week, and the forecast is for more rain next week. When the weather is grey and drizmal, I have two choices:
1) curl up on the couch and catch up on my sleep/reading while I wait for nice weather
2) put on my brightest clothes, look for some eye-popping colour or play some snappy music, then go out for an adventure
An adventure is going places. It could be a walk in a nearby park or an unfamiliar neighbourhood. It could be a shopping expedition, or a drive out in the country. It could be a visit with a friend, or going out to dinner or a movie.
Whatever it is, an adventure is something to look forward to, something to do right now instead of waiting for Mother Nature or the Ship of Opportunity to ring your doorbell.
This photo is loud. It’s a wake-up alarm, a call to action. Because I really need to be a little more active. And, you know, I can’t resist red.
Taken on May 29, 2009
Although most of us think we follow a 12-month calendar, practically speaking, that’s not how we follow the year at all. Kids will mark time by birthdays and holidays, Hallowe’en and Christmas, school start and school finish. Gardeners follow the seasons — frost free date, planting, watering, harvesting, frost date, dreaming, and seed ordering — though I suspect flower gardeners have a completely different calendar. Other common calendars revolve around specific sports, or dog shows, or fashion. There is the “Hallmark” calendar, the “red letter day” calendar (international religious festivals and holidays and other special events), the liturgical calendar (with colour coding, eg. red for Pentecost, blue for Christmas), the wiccan calendar (solstice celebrations and Beltane), the birder’s calendar (migration season, nesting season, etc) and many others. If you put all these calendars together, you would have more than enough to celebrate every day of the year!
What calendars do you follow?
Taken on September 23, 2010
It’s officially autumn. Overnight, it seems, leaves have started falling. Patches of yellow and red are appearing on the green hills. The market smells like fresh apples.
I remember a greeting card I was given a long time ago. “Stay out of the park: the squirrels are gathering nuts for the winter” it said. And so they are, we are all gathering in, picking the last of the produce from the garden, making green tomato pickle because the tomatoes have not ripened, buying squash and pumpkins while they are cheap and plentiful, storing what we can of summer’s bounty for the cold months ahead.
Taken on October 17, 2009
The old Paramount Theatre was only one of many in Saint John when it was build in 1948, a glorious example of art deco sculpted plasterwork in the luxurious and large auditorium. Saint John, the hometown of Louis B. Mayer — a founder of the Hollywood studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer – had become the film distribution centre for all the movie theatres in eastern Canada. It was movie central here in town, but only for a brief time.The number of movie houses in the city had already started to decrease by the time this theatre was built. In the 1930s, it is said that were movies playing on every block, but the number of venues had reduced to 10 by the mid-1940s and by 1960, only four remained.
The old Odeon Theatre, one block away, was demolished in 2000. Now there is a surge in public interest as the theatre (re-named the King Square Cinema) faces the wrecking ball. It is just across the park from the Imperial Theatre, a beautifully restored and well-used performing arts centre. In contrast, the old Paramount has little left to work with — renovations in the 1970s split the theatre into two smaller cinemas, and much of the plasterwork is gone. When describing the building’s value, a local historian waxed eloquent about the staircase and bathroom tiles.
Could it be used as a live performance venue, or returned to glory as a movie theatre? It remains to be seen whether there will be enough public interest, or funding, to save the old Paramount.
Taken on September 5, 2010
This is the back door of the Baxter’s Dairies milk processing plant. I really should say Saputo, although the milk still carries the Baxter’s label. Baxter’s grew out of a milk route started in 1924 and expanded to buy out many smaller dairies in the region before being acquired by Saputo in 2001. (The ice cream side of the business was bought out by Scotsburn.)
I remember drinking Baxter’s chocolate milk in elementary school. At home, Baxter’s milk arrived on our doorstep once a week, in exchange for coupons left out for the milkman in an old glass milk bottle. In fact, I was surprised to realize not long ago that my parents still get their milk delivered by a milkman every Tuesday morning.
However, I rarely buy Baxter’s milk products now. I want to support local producers whenever possible, and Baxter’s is no longer local. Oh sure, the company tagline now reads: “New Brunswick’s Oldest and Largest Dairy.” But I’ve been buying milk from the Northumberland Cooperative Dairy instead — their tagline reads: “The only dairy that’s pure New Brunswick.”
Now that’s good advertising.
Taken on April 22, 2010
There are a few memories I’d like to take into winter with me. I’d like to remember the hot breeze on my forehead, the warm sun against my back. I’d like to remember the whispering of the pines and the tinkling of the poplar leaves as they dance in the wind. I’d like to remember the hot sand beneath the soles of my feet, and the soft grass tickling my bare toes. I’d like to remember this: standing (carefully) in the dappled shade of a thorn tree, hearing the buzz of flies circling lazily in the noonday sun, gazing at the wide open field under blue blue skies.
Taken on August 11, 2010
It’s so easy to live a nomadic life, here in North America. People change jobs, change cities, move clear across the continent from one ocean to another, or continue moving from one country to another. You might grow up in Omemee and end up in Shubenacadie or Pongapong or Novosibirsk. My dad grew up in Auckland and ended up here, in Saint John, halfway around the world. Why here? Well, there was this girl he met on a boat in the middle of the ocean… but that’s another story.
So this is where my story started, here in Saint John. And even though I left — and eventually returned — this place was always with me. I think that’s the way it is sometimes, the way we carry a place with us, rooted in our psyche. No matter where you are, you will always be here.
Taken on August 26, 2010
Did you hear about a teenager who refused to use her cellphone? Apparently her mom cut off her texting minutes, so the teenager said her cellphone was useless and left it at home.
It seems that telephone lines — that is, those black cables strung on bare poles for millions of miles in every direction across country — are now useful only because they carry fiber optics. Gone are the days of party lines and operators, phone extensions and rotary dials. I suppose it won’t be long before people dispense with cables altogether in favour of radio and satellite coverage. But if every electronic and communications gadget now being produced depends on wireless connectivity, why is it that those “wires” don’t get crossed? How do I know what really happens when I send an electronic signal into the ether? I guess I should have paid more attention in physics class!
Taken on June 15, 2010
They say that you have to dream something to make it real. That you need dreams to have a future. That through dreaming you can overcome difficulties and work your way around psychological obstacles.
Yet you’ve also been told that dreamers are not doers, that dreaming doesn’t make it true, and dreams are the opposite of reality. I don’t believe it.
Maybe I was born with rose-coloured glasses, maybe it’s just that I’m an optimist, but I’ve always thought that — for most things — if I can dream it, I can do it. I’m not talking about fantasy; I’m talking about dreams, about having vision and seeing the paths that might open up to you around the corner. When you dream, you see not only your potential, but what you truly want, and who you truly are. And let’s face it, reality can be pretty grim unless you know how to dream, unless you know that it is possible (yes it is) for your dreams to come true.
Taken on May 24, 2009
When I was in my teens, I had a great idea for a story featuring Walter Snafflegrass the pigeon. Walter, having a bird’s eye view of the city, would have had all sorts of interesting observations. Unfortunately — or fortunately — Walter’s story remains unwritten, except in my imagination (where it keeps excellent company), but the idea of Walter remains with me. And sometimes I think I can hear the pigeons talking: “Coo…coo…could you come a little closer?” “Coo…coo…cool it, Romeo.” “Coo…coo…come on over.” “Coo…coo…ooo, you’re encorrigible!”
…or maybe they’re just talking about the weather.
Taken on August 24, 2010
The sun is up, and the air feels fresh. Light is streaming between buildings, casting bright reflections from one side of the street to the other. Walking through the cool shade, you suddenly emerge into blinding light. There is a fluttering of wings as pigeons scatter through the park. Looking down King Street, you can see the sun sparkle on the open water at the bottom of the hill. A seagull calls as it soars high above the bridge. You might stop for a coffee, or maybe meet a friend along the way. The thing is, to get moving. The rest of the day beckons.
Taken on September 14, 2010
Deer are common here — so common that they are considered a nuisance. Gardening columns and nurseries contain lists of “deer resistant” plants. Newspaper articles talk about the pros and cons of “deer culling”. When people mention “the Millidgeville herd”, they’re not talking about a social clique. My parents used to be able to grow bulbs and shrubs in their garden, but now the few plants that survive are protected by chicken wire. Our tulips were destroyed before they even bloomed this spring, and yes, there were deer tracks in the ravished garden bed. In the field behind our house, we often see two or three deer, and the dogs know they’re there even when we don’t. Not even the experts can agree on why the city’s deer population keeps growing, so it seems that we have to learn to live with them. I still think it’s a treat to see them appear… as long as they stay out of my vegetable patch!
Photo taken on July 16, 2010
I used to have a t-shirt that said “Canadian seasons: winter and construction.” It sure seems that way this year in Saint John — everywhere you look, there’s construction. Sometimes the construction looks more like destruction. It’s hard to hold off on judging whether a project is worthwhile when you see only the mess and inconvenience. But the hardest part isn’t the chaos, it’s the letting go.
Construction projects need to start with a clean slate, which means razing whatever was there before and building a new foundation. Even home renovations require hard choices: you can’t get new stuff unless you make room by getting rid of the old stuff. While I think new building projects and renovations are exciting, I still find it hard to see landmarks disappear and beloved items go out with the trash, even if they are well past their useful life. And let’s not even get started on people!
When an old church is closed, a liturgy is held to “desanctify” it. I think we need a small but significant way to ceremoniously mark a change, and leave the past in the past. We need a way to properly say goodbye. I know I could use the practice.
Taken on May 24, 2009
The nights are cooler now. The sun is setting earlier. The curtains are closed and the lights are on when I go for an evening walk. With the turning of the year, the fading of summer, the last light of day is more precious than ever. Don’t go inside just yet. Look up to see the sky turn from blue to indigo. Wait for the night. Watch for the first star to appear, just there, over the horizon.
Taken on September 9, 2010
When I take my camera for a walk, I tend to see differently. I notice light and shadows, lines and shapes, small personal details that tell a story. When I take Fergus as well, my walk is less predictable. We’ll linger in some places and rush by others. We might investigate the bushes at the side of the roadway, or run exuberantly up a steep hill (both of us panting at the top). He’s an energetic walking companion, ensuring I get more exercise than I would without him, and he’s mostly good at sitting and staying while I’m taking a photo, except when there’s a cat. Yesterday evening when we went for a walk, there were five cats… or maybe four cats and one Something Else. I only had time to take three photos, but what interesting stories we had to tell when we arrived home again!
Taken on August 5, 2010
Virginia Woolf wanted a room of her own. I think that even a corner, your own special nook, would be enough. When you’ve had a bad day, a hot day, a busy day, a dull day, a stressful day… whatever the day, whatever the weather, your cosy corner will be waiting for you. There’s your favourite chair, and a well-thumbed book, and a cushion. And there on a sunny shelf is a cat, or perhaps a pot of African violets, or that piece of folk art you bought on impulse at a yard sale, that always makes you smile when you look at it. Sometimes you read, and sometimes you watch people walking by, pushing strollers or pulling bundle buggies, caught up in their own lives and their own worlds. Sometimes you close your eyes and watch the sun dance through your eyelids. This is all you need: a few moments, a little time all to yourself.
Taken on August 23, 2010