thankful

Welsford brook

Here in Canada, it’s just another Thursday, but in the U.S. it’s “Turkey Day” (aka Thanksgiving). It’s hard to escape references to the American holiday — it’s everywhere in the newspaper (especially the comic pages) and we even have our own “Black Friday” sales happening tomorrow to mirror the annual shopping attack south of the border.

Even though I am not celebrating Thanksgiving today, I have a lot of reasons to be thankful. I’m thankful that we have a warm dry house while the cold wind scours the ground outside. I’m thankful that we have enough food to eat, and plenty for our dogs and cat, and the chickadees and nuthatch taking turns at the feeder. I’m thankful that I have a loving family and good health. I’m thankful that I can travel, and go for a walk in the woods, and enjoy photography.

Maybe I’ll go and get some turkey from the freezer. Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

between seasons

Hammond River, late afternoon

The days are getting so short. It’s still dark when I get up in the morning, and the sun has set by suppertime. Autumn’s spectacular display of colour has been swept away by the November storms, and now the trees stand bare and waiting.

Autumn is over, and winter has not yet begun. We have feasted in celebration of Thanksgiving (except for our friends in the States), the ritual of Hallowe’en has passed in a shower of candy, and the season of Advent will soon begin. Before the last-minute Christmas panic sets in, before the cold weather arrives to stay, there are a few precious days. This is the time for looking back and planning ahead, reflection and preparation, as we anticipate the miracle of Christmas and the gift of light.

Photo taken on November 13, 2010

of place and memory

the tire swing

Memory works in mysterious ways. We can’t remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday, but we can remember who hit the final home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1992 World Series*. I occasionally forget my phone number, but I have never forgotten the phone number sung by Stompin’ Tom Connors in the radio ad for PEI++. Childhood memories are the strongest of all.

I’ve been thinking about memory lately because I’m helping my dad with his memoirs, which he would like to have published in some form. The most interesting part of his life story (in my opinion) is the period between school and marriage, when he had many adventures and met the love of his life. But in order to get to this story, a good third of what he has written is about his childhood — home and family, boats and cows, fishing and stamp collecting, school teachers and neighbours. The sights and smells of those early days are still so fresh to him, but more recent years run into each other, their details blurred.

And it’s not just the debilitation that comes with age, because I’ve begun to realize my memories are the same. The memory of hurts and high points from my youngest years are stronger than those in more recent times. I can walk around my parents’ back yard and say with absolute certainty: here is where I fell and cut my hand on the broken bottles; here is where I found Trixie; here is where my dad hung the swing; here is where I hid and cried for my mother to find me. Whatever happens between age 6 and 16 is written in stone; anything after that is malleable, edited or erased by the passage of time.

*Joe Carter
++ “eight-double-zero, five six five, seven four two one…”

Photo taken on November 1, 2010

through the window

through the window

New England has sent us a storm today; the forecasters predict upwards of 50mm of rain. I heard it beating in waves against the windows last night, along with a wind that howls up from the valley and thrums under the eaves. The city is dark, and the black-paved streets and deep puddles swallow light and create bizarre reflections; down the street I see a bright yellow school bus leading a parade of cautious cars. Drivers hunch over their steering wheels, their windshield wipers just out-of-sync with those of the car behind.

I am heading uptown in an hour, knowing the rain will drive sideways as I scurry around tall buildings, knowing the water will pour in rivers down the steep alleys and my feet will get wet. I will wear my yellow rain jacket and walk quickly. When I come home again, I will run inside, dripping, rain-tossed and bedraggled. My glasses will steam up from the warm house and there will be fresh homemade bread and baked beans. And I will be grateful that it is not yet winter.

Photo taken on October 24, 2009

liquid sunshine

liquid sunshine

Our attitude toward weather is clearly biased. Despite the fact that we need precipitation to survive, wet weather is always bad weather, and sunny weather is fair and fine and good. Popular culture mostly reflects this. Think of the classic Harold Arlen song, Stormy Weather: “Life is bare, gloom and misery everywhere/Stormy weather, just can’t get my poor old self together…” Compare Rainy Days and Mondays (always get me down) and Sunshine on My Shoulders (makes me happy). Oh sure, you might hear Laughter in the Rain but you’re much more likely to be Walking in Sunshine.

I don’t know the origin of the term “liquid sunshine”, but I know when applied to rain it sounds much more pleasant. It’s a perfect illustration of the power of language to change how you feel about something. I’d rather drink from a glass which is half-full rather than one which is half-empty. Sure, I feel just as gloomy as the next person when the skies are dark and the rain is coming down in buckets, but maybe I need an attitude-ectomy. Maybe next time it rains, I’ll get out my jungle umbrella and go for a walk (instead of just standing on the front porch, like I did to take this photo). I don’t need more excuses to stay inside, I need more motivation to get out of the house. Would you like to join me? Come on, let’s go “walkin’ in liquid sunshine, oh yeah!”

Photo taken on October 27, 2010

rain, again

rain, again

It’s a wet day today. The sky is grey.
Car tires “slissssh” on the pavement.
I watch the rain against the window pane
As chickadees queue at the feeder.

The leaves are forlorn, scattered and torn,
Their autumn fire has faded.
The bare trees wait for a sunny break
And I am waiting, too.

Photo taken on October 15, 2010

raking in a starring role

autumn leaves

Yesterday I spent much of the day outdoors. Only a light breeze was blowing, so it was a good day to rake the leaves and tidy up the fallen branches from the recent storm. I did my best to mulch them as I raked, filling up the garbage can with leaves and then using the weed whipper to break them up and speed the decomposition process. All the leaves were piled in a mesh enclosure in the back of our garden to await the spring, when they will be dug into the garden to enrich the soil.

As I was working out in the front yard, a CBC van pulled up and the driver asked if I would be willing to be on TV! Of course I said, “Sure”. He filmed me raking the leaves, and then I looked at the camera, identified myself, and then asked Peter what the weather would be like tomorrow. Apparently it was to be used as a lead-in to the weather forecast, and Peter is the local meteorologist on the evening newscast. I didn’t get to hear how Peter answered me, however, as we don’t have a TV. I hope somebody saw me in my brief starring role! If everyone has 15 minutes of fame, I wonder how many minutes I have left?

Photo taken on November 6, 2009