That combination of snow and rain on Friday night made for some horrible driving. I agree that the trees look really pretty.
I arrived home safely, but then managed to wedge the car into a snowbank, and with all that ice underneath, all the wheels could do was spin. I was so relieved when my partner remembered the old rug in the garage, and between the two of us, we managed to get it free again.
That high wall of snow and ice chunks left by the snowplow Saturday morning across our shared driveway made me want to cry. I almost cried again when our neighbour’s friend drove up with his plow to clear it.
We bundled up and took the dogs to the park yesterday, but it was so cold I wanted to turn around and go home again. But once we were in the shelter of the trees on the sunny side of the lake, it was warm again, and people were smiling, and the snow sparkled in the sun.
More snow is expected today, and more rain tonight. To be continued.
Photo taken on February 27, 2011
Jingle Bells is not a Christmas carol, it’s a winter carol. It’s a song of the open air and the scent of fir trees. It follows the rhythm of the harness bells, the steam rising from the horses’ flanks as they pull the heavy sleigh, the tug and creak of the runners as they slide across the snow. It’s a song of friends and family, hot cups of chocolate held in mittened hands.
The most magical sleigh rides are at night. I remember going out with a group in my university days on a long ride across fields and through the woods. It was a clear still night, the temperature hovering around minus 15 celcius, the air so cold it made our eyes tear up. At first, there was lots of chatter, laughter, singing. Then gradually our voices died away, and in the silence we could hear only the steady stamp of the horses’ hoofs, the jingle of the harness, the creak of the sleigh. It was a moonless night, so I felt — rather than saw — the shapes of trees as we passed. I looked up and the sky was filled with stars; they seemed almost close enough to touch. As the sleigh glided through the snowy fields, I watched the sky and felt like I was flying.
I’m glad they still have sleigh rides in the park, pulled by horses instead of machines. There’s no modern equivalent to the old-fashioned pleasure of riding in an open sleigh.
Photo taken on January 16, 2011
Look at how the world has changed
a sea of white surrounds us
but look again, though all seems dead
the seeds of spring remain
Beneath the snow, the earth is sleeping
beneath the ice, the river dreams
beneath the trees the groundhog waits
to herald the coming spring.
Photo taken on January 16, 2011
One thing about Saint John: there is no shortage of hills. So if you were given a sled for Christmas, you would find plenty of slippery slopes around here to try it out.
One of the best sliding hills In the city is in Rockwood Park, just across from the pavilion at Lily Lake. When I was a child, we came here as a family and crowded on the toboggan, all five of us. I was first, my legs jutting up and over the wooden prow. My brothers were behind me, then my mom and finally my dad, his strong legs curled around us with his feet hooked into the front of the toboggan, steering with his arms. I remember the long walk up the hill, the feeling of wet wool, and the swift movement — a blur of trees and children and flying snow — on the way down.
Seeing the faces of these two girls sliding on the hill yesterday reminds me of how much fun it is to play outdoors in the winter. Maybe I’ll head out today to play in the snow before the weather turns to rain.
Photo taken on January 9, 2011
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
Change is in the air. A new year has dawned, we have turned our backs on regret and missed opportunity, and now we step forward into the future. At least, that’s our intention.
The future, of course, is always here in front of us, but sometimes it turns out to be just the past again, recycled and wearing new clothes. We think we are open to new possibility, but we don’t notice how our blinders of habit and prejudice show us only what we expect or want to see.
I have been reading Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe Notebooks, which I received for Christmas, and I was caught by an observation he makes about change. He describes how as a boy, for no particular reason, he stopped eating eggs, and “as is the way with these things, behaviour became belief, and eventually I came to believe I hated eggs.” Then someone he admired mentioned how much they liked fried eggs, and Stuart discovered he liked them too. He started eating eggs again, just like that. He concludes: “We have the desire to change hardwired into our systems. And maybe our capacity is greater than we think. All it takes is a little courage…”
If we think of change as something small, something simple and everyday like that egg, then it doesn’t seem so difficult. Old habits die hard, but they might just melt away when we are inspired to do something new or different. May we all have that little bit of courage we need as we step into the brave new year.
Photo taken on December 7, 2009
Yesterday was rainy and dull, and I desperately needed a boost of colour. So we went to the park.
And as so often happens (why do I so easily forget?), our walk turned into an adventure. We had the dogs with us, so the walk was energetic. After walking around the lake, we decided to follow a path that I’d often wondered about, an unsigned path that disappeared into the woods and up a steep bank. After a couple of wrong turns, we ended up at the top of a rocky hill with a fabulous panoramic view over the city. There was the colour I had been seeking, the inspiration and the energizing hike, all rolled into one.
Most of my photos were blurry, but I don’t mind. I found a fresh outlook, and stopped to admire the view, and that was exactly what I needed.
Photo taken on December 2, 2010
So here we are, on the road of life. Something good may be “just around the corner”, and “turning the corner” is a sign of hope. Yet “going around the bend” can be “a turn for the worst”, perhaps because a sharp bend in the road often precedes an accident.
But no matter how we look at it, turning corners and going around the bend is movement, it’s not sitting still wondering which fork in the road to follow. Right now I’m trying to decide whether to take the safe road of employment, if I can find work that meets the minimum requirements of my household, or taking a new road, trying my hand at freelance writing and part-time work instead. It’s a question of security versus freedom, working for someone else or being responsible for my own keep. I suppose there might be a third route, before the roads diverge: I might test out the freelancing idea while getting my main income from another source, just to see how it works out. I’m not sure if I will “go around the bend” living hand to mouth, but I have to admit that after being home for five months, I’m feeling reluctant to get back to “the daily grind”, working 9-5 for somebody else.
Who knows what’s around the bend? I’m looking forward to finding out!
Come on the rising wind,
We’re going up around the bend.
- Creedance Clearwater Revival
Photo taken on November 1, 2009
Today is Remembrance Day. I have mixed feelings about this day. On one hand, I think of the awful cost of war, the sacrifice of so many lives, when dreams are crushed and lands laid waste. I think of the war movies I have seen — ranging from Gallipoli to Das Boot — and the almost daily news stories of ongoing conflict, the death of soldiers and civilians, and the hurts borne by those who have returned. We remember them.
On the other hand, I think of the machinery of war. The frequency of violent clashes around the world guarantees a thriving market for weapons and all the supplies needed to maintain conflict. Our culture continually markets war games of all kinds and models violence — and winning by violent means — as desirable and praiseworthy.
How can we remember the sacrifice of war without praising it? How can we work for peace and conflict resolution without dishonouring those who must fight on our behalf when words are not enough? I don’t know the answer, but think it would make a difference if leaders and ordinary citizens could resist the paranoid “us” vs “them”propaganda, begin to recognize strangers as neighbours, and find a neutral space where we can look into each other’s eyes without fear.
Let there be light,
let there be understanding,
let all the nations gather,
let them be face to face.
– Frances W. Davis
Photo taken on October 11, 2010
In New Brunswick, the spruce tree dominates the forest. At one time, the white pine was plentiful, but these tall straight trees were highly prized for use as ships’ masts — shipbuilding was an important industry here during the golden age of sail — and now the spruce trees grow where the white pine once stood. The white spruce has now reached new heights, as a packet of 24 seedlings from New Brunswick were used for an experiment at the International Space Station last April.
I don’t know the difference between the white spruce, black spruce, red spruce and Norway spruce. All I know is that they are by far the most common tree I’ve seen in this province. When you land at Saint John’s airport, you can see spruce trees in every direction, with a few houses and wetlands to add variety. When you drive North to Fredericton, or in almost any direction, spruce trees line the road for hours, broken by occasional stands of birches, maples, oaks and poplars. There are lots of pines and cedars, tamacks and balsam firs, but when you go for a walk through the forest, the trees you are most likely to bump into — fighting those tough lower branches that catch at your clothing — are spruce trees. I read somewhere that New Brunswick is almost 90% covered by trees, and I believe it. Forestry is still a thriving industry, and with 5.9 million hectares of forest, plus about 30 million new trees planted each year, the province isn’t going to run out of trees anytime soon.
Taken on October 11, 2010
October is half over, autumn’s colour is fading. Frost has touched the forest, turning the fiery red and yellow leaves dull and rusty. A wild wind dances through the trees, and the leaves dance with it, twirling and tumbling through the air. Many birch and maple leaves have already fallen, leaving bare gaps between the spruces and pines. We can see the sky through the poplar now, while the oak — that strong-willed spirit — is slower to relinquish its crown.
This is not the end of autumn, as some think, but the heart of it. The show of colour gives way to the fall itself, to the crunch of leaves underfoot as they break and scatter and enrich the earth. Walk, walk now as the fields turn brown and the leaves fly. Drink in the last mild days as the colour fades, before the wind sweeps us all into winter.
Taken on October 11, 2010
Someone drowned at this beach. It happened just over a month ago, when there are no lifeguards on duty — the beach had officialy closed for the season the weekend before — but it was a warm sunny day and the beach was crowded. The Fisher Lakes are deceptively deep, and you can get in over your head if you go far from the beach. He was only under for 5 minutes before other swimmers pulled him out, but it was too late.
As I’m remembering this incident — this tragedy that happened so quickly — I’m watching the live feed of the Chilean miners emerging one-by-one after having been underground for 69 days. It is a miracle that they survived and have lived to see this day of freedom.
But some do not survive. That is the tragedy: that what might be possible does not happen, that someone drowns so close to shore, that 25 people died in a West Virginia coal mine, that so many accidents cost so many lives.
I would like to hear that safety comes before profits. I would like news reports to say a tragic death could not be prevented, that the safety record is 100%, that the season of fatal injuries has come to a close.
Taken on November 1, 2009
I love walking through the woods, and on a beautiful fall Thanksgiving Monday with colour still on the trees and the sky deep blue, who could resist? So I grabbed my camera and we headed to Rockwood Park, along with the dogs — we have two Cardigan Welsh Corgis — one for each of us.
Some might say dogs and cameras don’t mix. It’s true that I don’t carry my tripod or other camera equipment, and I don’t stop at scenic locations for a period of extended shooting. I tend to take the opportunities as they come, which usually means I look around when the dogs find something interesting to sniff. Or sometimes they’ll wait in one not-so-interesting spot, if I ask firmly, for long enough for me to take a couple of snaps. I suppose a part of me (the contrary part) enjoys the challenge of taking photos with a heavy dslr in one hand while holding the leash of an enthusiastic dog in the other.
So I had quite a few blurry photos. And a lovely walk in the woods.
Taken on October 11, 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
I have been wandering through Rockwood Park for more than an hour, taking long-exposure photos of the forest in the pre-dawn light. The birds are singing, the sun is rising, and it is time to go home. I woke up at 4 am to go on this adventure, but now I am beginning to feel tired. I stop for a moment by a small lake to watch the changing light. The dark water is calm, waiting for the morning’s first breeze. I set up my tripod on the grassy bank. One more photo.
Taken on July 31, 2010
This wilderness view shows Owen Lake, part of Rockwood Park in the heart of Saint John. Rockwood Park, one of Canada’s largest urban parks, has been in the news lately. The city is considering new housing development along the park’s borders, and local citizens are concerned about losing green space. (For more on that issue, see this excellent Spacing Atlantic overview).
When you look at Saint John, parks and wild areas seem to take up more than half the city. A recent immigrant, quoted in the local paper, said she loves this city because it feels like living in a park. While that is a gift to its citizens, it’s also a burden to a city administration that is already struggling to provide services for a population less than half of what was expected. We need to encourage people to live here, in the city, rather than moving to the outlying communities. Making room for more people in some select areas would boost the tax base and, in turn, help us take care of our public parks and wild places like Owen Lake.
Taken on April 11, 2010
Ever since I can remember, there have been horses at Rockwood Park. This huge park — spanning a vast acreage of mixed forests, lakes and trails from Mount Pleasant to Millidgeville — has something for everyone: horses, paddleboats, swimming, skating (in the winter), golfing, a zoo and a dog park. I remember how much I enjoyed the sleigh rides and the whole family out on the ice, my mother leaning on my father’s arm — as we skated to the sound of waltzes piped from the Lily Lake Pavilion. There was even a ski hill, but it closed when the winters became too mild. I loved all these outdoor activities, but I would have liked to ride the horses as well. I think I was drawn to the romance, the idea of the freedom and friendship that typified girl-and-horse stories. But I suppose my parents didn’t love the idea of paying for riding lessons, or the possibility of broken bones (doesn’t everyone fall off at least once?). Still, I think I would enjoy riding… maybe I’ll visit the horses in Rockwood Park one of these days and sign up for lessons.
Taken on November 1, 2009