It’s that first whiff as a wave of wood smoke wafts by your nose. It’s the lawn chairs pulled out from the back of the garage, now waiting on the patio. It’s the surprising warmth of the sun in the late afternoon. It’s the pile of brush heaped into the portable firepit, spitting sparks and sinking into coals and ash. It’s all of this that draws me outdoors, out into the fresh spring air.
That’s when the bag of marshmallows emerges, and last summer’s marshmallow sticks are pulled from their hiding place. The stick ends are whittled clean, and the familiar ritual begins. Bundled against the chilling breeze, we lean into the warmth of the fire as we meditatively twirl our marshmallows over the hot coals. Smoke tendrils spiral upwards as the white-coated sweets turn brown and pocked with heat. I lift the perfectly toasted marshmallow to my mouth. Mmm.
Photo taken on April 10, 2011
The light is changing, I feel sure
that winter’s grip is not so tight
and twilight has a touch of warmth — no more
abrupt sunsets, the sun rudely diving behind the horizon
before evening arrives — now the day lingers, looking back,
drawing curtains of pale pink and indigo across the window of the sky.
The cold still creeps under cover of darkness, encasing the land in ice,
but morning comes early — impatient now to work its own miracles —
turning snow into slush, ice into water,
warming the sleeping world to life.
Photo taken on February 10, 2011
A few snowflakes are spinning lazily through the air outside my window. I know from the weather forecast that this is just the beginning, the harbinger of a huge storm which has paralyzed portions of the U.S. from Texas to Maine. From what I’ve heard, the storm won’t be as severe here, although we are expecting heavy snow, with about 30 centimetres by tomorrow morning.
It was on this day 35 years ago, in 1976, that Saint Johners experienced our “storm of the century”. The Groundhog Day Gale was completely unexpected. The day started calmly, with the temperature around the freezing mark and a light wind. The winds rose to more than 180 km per hour, causing a huge amount of damage across the city. Windows were smashed, telephone poles toppled, cars and sheds and airplanes were flipped and crushed. At high tide, the water rose over the low-lying parts of the city, and the hurricane-force wind carried the salt water for miles inland, causing electrical failures not only that day, but even months later. The gale was followed by days of bitter cold, which — combined with widespread power outages — sent many people to seek shelter. Miraculously, the only person killed was a man whose ice-fishing shack was blown across the river.
Already, outside my window, the few snowflakes have become a steady snowfall. On the internet I’m reading about the “snowpocalypse” in the States, and — on the other side of the world — a cyclone the size of New Zealand that is pounding northeastern Australia. It looks like many of us will see another storm to remember for years to come. But if it’s any consolation, I don’t think the groundhog will see his shadow today.
Photo taken on December 9, 2009
I went uptown to go shopping on Saturday, and found the city centre beautifully decorated. But then the sun set, casting a bright wash of purple colour along the streets and making the harbour glow with reflected golden light, and that was the best decoration of all.
Photo taken on December 18, 2010
I am looking at this wide openness, my eyes drinking in the clear light, the bright ribbon of liquid gold winding to the far horizon. And for a moment, a brief instant, this is all I need.
* * *
My cousin recently returned from a two-week medical mission to Mali. Her photos show a loving community that by North American standards has less than nothing. When she returned, her mother asked her what she wants for Christmas. She said she’s realized she doesn’t really need anything.
* * *
At a Christmas party I attended last night, I was not the only who who ate more than I needed, then joked about eating too much. I heard someone telling a story about the frustration of parking at the shopping “maul”. The question “Are you ready for Christmas?” prompted conversations about family expectations, travel plans, food and gifts.
* * *
I already have so much more than I need. I am barnacled with stuff, it has stuck to me over the years like an extra layer of fat. I am holding onto unfulfilled dreams, books half-read, sweaters half-knit, materials gathered and gathering dust. I don’t need more, I need less. I need space and open air. I need to free myself for what lies ahead, to be open to the promise of a new year.
Photograph taken on November 28, 2010
I am a spur-of-the-moment photographer. I tend to take ’em as I see ’em. That’s not to say I don’t work with different angles and compositions, and I certainly spend enough time adjusting colour, crop, contrast etc on the computer. But I have to admit that I seldom plan ahead.
Last night was an exception. I had two reasons to take photos. The first was because it was Thursday, and Utata (the Flickr photo group I participate in) always has a weekly project called Thursday walks. The second is the photo conference happening this weekend in Moncton, called Foto Expo, which is also running a contest with the theme “downtown architecture”. I didn’t get out during the daytime because I was making apple chutney, and it took longer than I expected (doesn’t it always). So that’s why I was uptown with a camera and tripod at 8 p.m. last night.
I had been wanting to take a photo of this building for a while, so last night was the perfect opportunity. Finding the puddle was a bonus. I’m really glad I planned ahead and brought the equipment I needed for this photo shoot. I spent about 40 minutes in this parking lot (my car is the 2nd from the right) and took photos of this Old Post Office building from several angles. In fact, it was so much fun, I might do it again (plan ahead, that is)!
Photo taken on October 28, 2010
The universe doesn’t always unfold as it should… or at least not from my admittedly limited human perspective. Sometimes it seems like I’m always running uphill, missing the boat, swimming against the tide.
Take last night, for instance. I had been wanting to get outside for some fresh air and photographs all day, but when I finally grabbed my camera, it was getting dark. I went out anyway, because there was still some light in the sky and the clouds were interesting, but I only took a few photos before my hands started to freeze from the cold wind. I decided to take a nice hot shower, and discovered I had a big scrape on my leg (when? where? who knows?). When I stepped out of the show, all relaxed, there was a huge spider in the middle of my clothes pile. (Did I say HUGE?) Thankfully, LB came to my rescue. Then, after settling into a nice sleep, why was I wide awake at 3:30 am, and I’m pretty sure those weren’t sugar plums dancing around my head.
So, I have a few things on my mind. Besides my increasing concern over not yet finding a job, there’s a growing job list for the house, a half-started project my father is waiting patiently for me to complete, and the huge Thanksgiving feast that we need to plan and prepare for Sunday. Still, I know in a few days, a few months, a few years, I’ll look back and all this will seem but a tiny blip on the radar map of my life.
But for now, there’s much to do… must run!
And to all my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving!
Taken on October 7, 2010