If you live in the Northern hemisphere, especially above the 47th parallel, winter has settled in to stay for a while. Whether you hibernate, prefer denial, or embrace the season may depend on how cold it gets in your neck of the woods…
- Hibernate? You are a heat-seeker in all seasons, especially now, piling up the logs or blankets while dreaming of tropical beaches, staying indoors while waiting for winter to pass. Or you have already headed south so you can ignore winter more effectively.
- Live in denial? You walk (or run) hatless through the freezing air, relying on your car to get from one door to the next, and don’t even own a warm winter jacket or toque.
- Embrace the season? You are outdoors at every opportunity, enjoying the intensity of the winter sun and impossibly clear blue skies. You are probably a skier or skater or snowmobiler or snowboarder — or all of the above — and live for that squeaky sound the snow makes under your boots and the rush of cold air as you speed downhill or skate under the stars.
As for me, I’m all three (although my skiing and skating skills are nothing to brag about). And I will admit it: in some profound part of my spirit, I do love winter. I love the sudden joy of finding Orion watching from high overhead on dark bitter mornings. I love the sound of nothing made by falling snow on a windless night. I love how the fresh snow transforms my dull leafless city, sculpting every surface in sparkling white. I love the fact that I can witness the most wonderfully golden sunrises without having to wake at 5 am. I love that deliciously crispy ’ air which puts red in my cheeks and a sparkle in my eyes.
Now, if only I could remember all this when I wake up in mid-February in the middle of a deep freeze…!
Photo taken on Jan 10, 2015
To celebrate the new year, and in the interest of simplifying and strengthening my web presence, I have decided to prune all my neglected webpages, blogs and abandoned projects strewn across the internet. All I need is my website, and my current and archival photos displayed on Flickr.
But somehow I could not delete this blog. Tin Can Beach refused to be abandoned, despite my neglect over the past three years. Besides, I have been searching for a way to start blogging again because — as focused as I have been on photography over the past few years — I realize that I miss writing. So I’ve changed my mind; I have decided to come back, to pick up the thread of my Saint John stories and photos. After all, it’s not really that much of a stretch: I may have stopped publishing for a while, but I have never stopped exploring.
Welcome back, friends.
photo taken Jan 1, 2015
Sometimes when I’m on the verge of waking, I linger on the edge of sleep, reluctant to relinquish that moment of possibility between dreaming and consciousness. In this moment, I feel anticipation and hope, I sense that something good might happen when the day begins. The closest word I can find to describe it is “madrugada”, a Spanish word meaning dawn or daybreak, or more literally, the hour before sunrise.
On many mornings, when I open my eyes and wake up, this moment vanishes; routine and responsibility rush in, and I push my dreams aside. But if I wake up early, in that hour (or two) before sunrise, I don’t have to rush into the day. I can sit for a moment and think about my day, my dreams, my desires, my disappointments. In the quiet of this madrugada, I can listen to God and be open to my heart. And I find that if I start the morning with stillness, I am better organized, better prepared, and better balanced as I head into my day.
As I look toward the future (now that I’ve passed the long-anticipated 50th birthday milestone), I realize it is this awareness of each day that is becoming most valuable to me. As much as I enjoy getting “stuff”, acquisition is not my goal; neither is career climbing or travel or fame. None of this will ever give me any satisfaction unless I know who I am, unless I can be whole and at peace in that moment between dreams and waking.
Photo taken on November 4, 2009
Have you ever noticed how endings are also beginnings? In the Sound of Music, Maria says, “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” “When a door closes, a window opens” is a Dutch proverb. And Alexander Graham Bell is quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
As A.G. Bell says, sometimes we’re so obsessed with the ending we hardly notice the beginning. So many of us sigh over the end of summer that we scarcely notice the kids excited about the return of fall and the school year. Barely six months later, we’re eagerly pointing out the signs of spring’s beginning without giving a thought to the end of winter. Births are easy to celebrate, deaths are hard, but I think it’s important to acknowledge both; they will be the landmarks that you see when you look back on your life. Endings and beginnings are linked together, like moonsets and sunrises.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
– T.S. Eliot from Little Gidding (No. 4 of Four Quartets)
Photo taken on October 24, 2010
I grew up in Millidgeville, a suburb on the north edge of Saint John where it meets the Kennebecasis River. In the winter, we skated on the river, dodging snow drifts and cracks as we traced a path across the smooth ice. In the summertime, we swam at the beach a little way up the road. We had a good view of the river from our house, and I loved to watch the clouds, the sunsets, the early morning light change and glow as it hit the water.
I was in my old neighbourhood the other morning just before dawn, and couldn’t resist stopping for a moment to watch the river. A cold breeze was blowing from the west as I drove to the end of a nearby road. As I walked toward the shoreline, watching the rising sun redden the hills across the river, I found a small wetland next to a new housing development. I heard a hoarse call and watched a kingfisher fly swiftly across the water’s surface. As if on cue, two mallard ducks emerged from their nest in the tall grasses, wending their way toward the river. The sun rose, and the wind blew more strongly. My hands were frozen. Feeling cold, but awake, I headed home.
Taken on October 18, 2010
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