out with the old

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



I love the incongruity of this. The word “smile” written as graffiti. That’s smile without a smiley face, with what looks like an anguished face. That’s smile written on an alley wall just off one of the main shopping streets in uptown Saint John. There is irony here, and humour. It made me smile.

Taken on August 9, 2010

out the back door

There is a certain style to these 19th century apartment buildings in the South End. This photo is taken from a deck behind four adjoining brick buildings that overlook Queen’s Square. From the top windows you can see out across the harbour to Patridge Island. Some of the plaster moulding and wood floors are original, along with the lovely high ceilings and tall windows. The rooms are huge by today’s standards. In the apartment we rented for six months, the outside walls (which are shared between the buildings) had been uncovered down to the brick, revealing the original fireplaces. This was the most beautiful of any of the apartments I’ve lived in, anywhere. It would have been perfect, if it wasn’t for the long walk up the stairs!

Taken on May 2, 2009

if these walls could talk

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


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

Lamp on Grannan Lane

It was noon, and the bright sun was lighting up the buildings on the other side of the alley. I turned to the shadow side, and found this symmetrical wall with its understated 19th century architectural elegance.

Taken on May 21, 2010