storm and stress

stormy afternoon

Storms are like operas. At the start, you can sense the dark clouds building on the horizon, the impending doom. In the midst of the storm, there is a lot of wind and wild movement, small creatures run away and copious tears are shed. The German term sturm und drang (storm and stress) describes well the extremes of emotion expressed during the height of an operatic storm.

Then there is a lull, a deceptively peaceful period when the eye of the storm passes over and it seems that love will prevail, after all. You have a moment to lean back and take a sip of wine, but — watch out — the 2nd act is more dramatic than the first, so hold on to your seat! Again the wind comes howling through, tossing limbs and bending strong trees to the ground. Again the chorus of sirens, as lightning strikes and fire rages. Again the shedding of copious tears, the heartbreak, the tragedy of untimely loss.

At last — yes, once the well-endowed soprano has sung her final dying note — it ends. The world has been scoured and refreshed, the storm has passed on and life will continue. Catharsis, and peace. Tension, and release. Storm, and silence.

Taken on October 15, 2010


in the forest, looking up

fall forest canopy 

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

last glimpse of fall colour

last glimpse of fall

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

taking the ferry on a fall morning


When I was young, a car ferry crossed the river at the bottom of the road a few minutes walk from home. I don’t remember taking the ferry much, but I remember the ferry store, where they had penny candy (mmm… pixie sticks) and chocolate bars and chips. The ferry landing has since moved farther down the road, but you can still take the ferry across the river, and travel almost instantly from a city suburb to the rolling countryside. It always feels like an adventure to take the ferry.

On Saturday morning we took the ferry to go to a local farmers’ market. It was cold and windy — a classic fall day — with a bright blue sky and rich oranges and reds decorating the hills. When we returned (with fresh garlic, apple cider, red cabbage and eggs), the line-up for the ferry was a kilometre long. I looked at all the people bundled up in their cars as we drove by. I hope it still feels like an adventure to them as well!

Taken on October 9, 2010

fall flame

After you’ve lived in one place for a while, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all. The same architecture, the same streets, the same sprawling malls, the same old, same old. And then one day you’re walking around a corner, looking for something else, only half paying attention, and there it is: something different. Hello, says the red vine, waving brightly from its yellow wall. Hellooooo, do you see me?

On another note, I’ve decided to post entries only on weekdays. As the days get darker, weekends are getting busier and sometimes I’d rather sleep in… So now you don’t have to waste, er, invest your weekends reading my blog, but I hope you’ll keep dropping by on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And thanks as always for your excellent comments!

Taken on October 2, 2010

to everything, turn

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

fall falling fallen

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