I’m been feeling down lately — and it’s just silly, because I’m really enjoying my job at the moment, and we went to the theatre and symphony and caught up with friends over the past week — but…
- It’s February, and the sidewalks are horribly icy, but spring is coming in the sense that today’s snow will be mixed with rain and freezing rain (yuck).
- I have all but disappeared from my online communities (my apologies for not coming by to visit lately) due to total lack of inspiration.
- I haven’t even taken any photos for a week (this image taken two years ago shows Saint John looking almost exactly as it does today, icicles included).
- When I was reorganizing my desk a few weeks ago, I dropped my favourite lens, a 24mm prime. Fortunately the lens itself seems to be fine, but the autofocus is no longer working.
- My ankle sometimes still aches where I hurt it last fall.
- And, well, I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not shy about claiming my age, but I am afraid of aging, I am afraid of not being able to walk, I am afraid of not being able to carry my camera wherever impulse takes me, I am afraid of not being able to see clearly.
Yes, I know these February blues will pass, that my petulant whining will magically disappear in the face of a new adventure or new accomplishment, or new month. I’ll be waiting.
Photo taken on February 25, 2009
Today is the first of February, the loneliest month on the calendar. There are no holidays to look forward to as we shiver through another 28 days of winter. Of course Valentine’s Day brings its own particular warmth mid-month, but if you don’t have a Valentine, you are left out in the cold.
And there are a lot of lonely people out there. Sometimes you notice them, people who seem impossibly needy, or so brittle and afraid of being hurt that they’ve grown dragon scales. Other people seem quite ordinary, just like the neighbour across the street who you’ve always thought has got it all together, then in a chance conversation you discover she’s lonely, too. I’ve had a chance to talk with a lot of strangers lately, and in conversation — past complaint or concern — I’ve discovered that what many people really need is a friend.
This is in no way an attempt to belittle people’s legitimate complaints or concerns, worries and anxieties. I just feel compelled to point out how a little warmth and an understanding smile can really make someone’s day. I think February should be a month for friendship, not just romantic love, a time that we share some of our warmth and make this cold month a little less lonely.
Photo taken on February 21, 2009
When I was young, we often went on hikes together as a family. My dad has a collection of topographical maps of this area, scratched with pencil lines marking the trails he has found and followed. Many of these trails are unmarked; following them was always an adventure.
I remember one hike, in winter. We were walking beside a frozen lake, skirting the edge of the woods, and we could not see the path; only the trackless snow lay ahead. I was feeling cold, and I wanted to go home. Then my dad told us a story about Robert Scott’s expeditions to the Antarctic, and the challenges he faced in exploring its permanently frozen landscape.
Somehow, hearing that story made all the difference. As I imagined being in the Antarctic, I began to feel like an explorer, and I started paying more attention to my surroundings. And I decided that, if this was an adventure, I could put up with a little cold and inconvenience.
One of these days I might make it to the Antarctic to see it for myself. In the meantime, I can have one adventure after another, right here.
Photo taken on January 5, 2008
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
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
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
Another wet day. Another dreary grey day. A day for staying indoors, for working, for listening to good music. It’s a good day for making bread, for knitting, for rearranging the living room furniture, for catching up on your reading. Will you play lively music to energize you, or soft music to soothe you? Will you linger at the windows, looking out at the wet world, or busy yourself with all the things you’ve been saving for a rainy day? It could be a good day for being productive, or it could be a good day for being contemplative. What will you choose?
Taken on November 15, 2006
In the Maritimes, we’ve become used to hearing about fisheries quotas, disappearing species, the threat to livelihoods that depend upon the sea. A warm dry July has even brought a (temporary) end to salmon fishing in New Brunswick, as the fish need to stay cool in the deep pools, and they may overheat if harrassed and driven to shallower water. Of course it’s not as bad for us as for Newfoundlanders, who lost 90% of their livelihood when the bottom fell out of the cod fishery. But there are reminders all around us of how vibrant the fishing industry used to be here. This weir, its net bedraggled on the rocky shoreline, is one example of a rich resource people used to take for granted. No more.
Taken on May 31, 2009
Walls are seldom glamourous, architecturally speaking. It’s usually the windows or doors that get all the attention, enhancing their good looks with curtains or fancy plasterwork. Not walls; you don’t look at them, you look for a way around them. But walls have stories, too. You can tell how a building has evolved by noticing different brickwork where a window has been blocked off, or a different style of decoration where a new storey has been added. The quality of stone or masonry or brick says something about the skills, material or money available at the time. I don’t know a lot about these historical details, but I can tell that this wall has been here for a long time, and that these stones would have an interesting story to tell, if only walls could talk.
Taken on May 24, 2009
Today the sky is that deep blue that draws you outside. The air has that cool after-rain freshness that is perfect for taking a long walk. I feel a need to go for a hike; I’ve been too long at the computer lately, I need to stretch my legs. It’s been too long since I’ve wandered the beach, collecting seashells and watching the gulls dance. It’s time to take a day off, to throw time into the arms of the wind, and let the ceaseless murmur of the waves shut out the rest of the world.
Taken on May 31, 2009
This reflection in a window shows two Saint Johns. You can see the port facilities across the harbour where two giant cranes wait to unload container ships. And the cups and saucers, reflected against the wood of the boardwalk, are resting on a table in the Hilton, where you can enjoy a leisurely meal overlooking the water. But the longshoremen and the tourists, the sailors and the business travellers are perhaps not so far apart. For as long at they are here, they — and all us who live here — are touched by the sea, by its abundance and its moods, by its tides and its fogs. What matters is that we are here, on the bridge between history and the future.
Taken on May 24, 2009
My second cousin is a fisherman. He heads out on his boat at the turn of the tide, often in the wee hours of the morning. I can only imagine what it’s like to be out on the water when it is still dark, to work in drenching rain or blustery winds, thick fog or bitter cold. I can only imagine what it’s like to be out all day, the burn of rope and salt water, the constant waves against the hull. I can only imagine the return home, aching eyes from squinting against the sun, anticipating the sudden silence of the motor, the rough rope looped around the pier, the empty hold, and the road home.
Taken on June 15, 2008
Consider the front door to your house or apartment building. Consider how your door presents itself to strangers, how it is decorative or plain, with windows or without. Consider how inviting it is to guests and discouraging to burglars.
Consider this door, double-wide and tall, made even more impressive by decorative brickwork, raised up a few steps from the street. Consider what it would be like to walk through this door, the weight of the wood as it swings open. Consider how much work it would have been to scrape away the layers of paint that once coated this door, to reveal its marvelous woodwork. Consider what it would be like to leave through this door, pick up the newspaper, and walk to work along the shady street.
Taken on November 16, 2006
I have had the privilege of travel from a young age. When we were children, we travelled with our parents, and I have taken a few “big trips” since then. Somewhere along the way I developed a love of maps and a strong sense of direction; I can often orient myself instantly in a new city. There are two keys to that skill: one is having a good map, and imprinting the main thoroughfares and landmarks on my memory; the second is having a sense of the city centre. Almost every municipality that I’ve been to has a city hall at its heart, usually with a nearby business district and some kind of public square. The effect is even stronger when there is water as well, whether fountain, lake, river, or harbour. And in uptown Saint John, the harbour, city hall, King Street and King’s Square are all together, perfectly aligned.
Taken on May 31, 2009
One of the first things you notice when you fly to Saint John is the water. Not only is the Bay of Fundy a constant presence, its strong tides alternately hiding and revealing the shoreline, but local waters also include the St. John and Kennebecasis rivers, meeting at Boar’s Head just upstream from the harbour, and a myriad of small lakes and rivers, wetlands and brooks scattered in every direction. The strong impression of green and blue, forest and water, makes it hard for a moment to spot the city itself. With so much water surrounding us, it’s no wonder the land is so green. There is so much potential for life here; life is full of potential.
Taken on July 12, 2008
The south end of Saint John is a peninsula. It separates the deep-water harbour — the mouth of the mighty St. John River where container ships and cruise ships dock — from Courtney Bay, where Marsh Creek flows out to sea. At the point of the peninsula, tucked between the barracks and the former site of the Lantic Sugar Refinery, is a small rocky beach. The remains of wooden piers still stand where fishing boats once docked. At low tide, you can walk past the jagged rocks and low forests of seaweed, and find a smooth sandy beach. And then you realize, standing on that beach, with the sea water lapping at your feet, that your head is under the high water mark. Breathe deeply. You are standing on the ocean floor.
Taken on May 31, 2009 & July 11, 2009
There are two kinds of Maritimers: those who stay, and those who leave. And of the people who leave, there are those who return, and those who want to return but never do. I was part of the outward migration in the 1990s, when Saint John lost almost 14% of its population. The recession had hit the city hard, many businesses closed and times were tough. I returned, but it took a while to be convinced. I had to see the city for what it was, not just as I remembered it. I had to realize that this city had weathered many recessions, many boom-and-bust cycles, and survived. And I had to believe that this could be a place where I would not only survive, but thrive. Since I’ve been back, I’ve met many others who have also felt the tug of home. I’m pleased to be one of the Maritimers who returned.
Taken on May 24, 2009
When I lived in Ontario, I missed the fog. There was smog, yes, but it’s not the same. The fog has life to it. It moves and hunkers down, opens up and closes in. It creeps up from the cold Bay of Fundy, cooling the air, muffling the sound of traffic, softening the shadows. It can move surprisingly quickly, slipping into town the moment you’ve turned your back. I always knew, growing up here, that a day at the beach is not complete without a sweater, because you never knew when the fog would come in.
Taken on May 31, 2009
I heard the fog horn sounding last night, and woke to fog blanketing the city. I like the way fog muffles the sound of the construction crew down the street, and softens the edge of buildings. In the summer, when it is hot and sunny upriver, it is often cool and foggy in town. I don’t mind.
Taken on May 31, 2009.