the song of the open sleigh

jingle bells
Jingle Bells is not a Christmas carol, it’s a winter carol. It’s a song of the open air and the scent of fir trees. It follows the rhythm of the harness bells, the steam rising from the horses’ flanks as they pull the heavy sleigh, the tug and creak of the runners as they slide across the snow. It’s a song of friends and family, hot cups of chocolate held in mittened hands.

The most magical sleigh rides are at night. I remember going out with a group in my university days on a long ride across fields and through the woods. It was a clear still night, the temperature hovering around minus 15 celcius, the air so cold it made our eyes tear up. At first, there was lots of chatter, laughter, singing. Then gradually our voices died away, and in the silence we could hear only the steady stamp of the horses’ hoofs, the jingle of the harness, the creak of the sleigh. It was a moonless night, so I felt — rather than saw — the shapes of trees as we passed. I looked up and the sky was filled with stars; they seemed almost close enough to touch. As the sleigh glided through the snowy fields, I watched the sky and felt like I was flying.

I’m glad they still have sleigh rides in the park, pulled by horses instead of machines. There’s no modern equivalent to the old-fashioned pleasure of riding in an open sleigh.

Photo taken on January 16, 2011

this beautiful country

Gardner Creek

I love the fact that the country is right on our doorstep. In less than 15 minutes, you can drive from Saint John’s city centre to the country. I love driving in the country, following the roads as they wind up and down the hills, looking at mailboxes and barns, wondering about the dirt paths that disappear into unexplored territory.

The road out to Fairfield, just past the eastern boundary of Saint John, is a familiar route. My aunt moved here as a war bride when she married a Canadian soldier during the Second World War. It was quite a culture shock to move from the outskirts of London, England, to a small rural community, but the warm welcome from her new family made her feel at home. My mother and her parents followed, building a house and settling just down the road. Although that was many years ago now, my aunt and her extended family still live in the same area — just over the hill, around the corner and up the road from where this photo was taken.

To the casual eye, it looks like a scattering of houses and farms, far apart and disconnected, but I know it is a tight-knit community, where everyone looks out for their neighbours. Just last week, a new bridge was completed on the main road at Fairfield. My aunt loves to tell the story of how she and her late husband were the first to cross the old bridge. When we were visiting her yesterday, she told us that a neighbour brought her to the new bridge before the official opening last week so she could be the first to cross it again.

This may look like ordinary rural landscape, but love makes it beautiful.

Photo taken on March 15, 2009

going around the bend

autumn road

So here we are, on the road of life. Something good may be “just around the corner”, and “turning the corner” is a sign of hope. Yet “going around the bend” can be “a turn for the worst”, perhaps because a sharp bend in the road often precedes an accident.

But no matter how we look at it, turning corners and going around the bend is movement, it’s not sitting still wondering which fork in the road to follow. Right now I’m trying to decide whether to take the safe road of employment, if I can find work that meets the minimum requirements of my household, or taking a new road, trying my hand at freelance writing and part-time work instead. It’s a question of security versus freedom, working for someone else or being responsible for my own keep. I suppose there might be a third route, before the roads diverge: I might test out the freelancing idea while getting my main income from another source, just to see how it works out. I’m not sure if I will “go around the bend” living hand to mouth, but I have to admit that after being home for five months, I’m feeling reluctant to get back to “the daily grind”, working 9-5 for somebody else.

Who knows what’s around the bend? I’m looking forward to finding out!

Come on the rising wind,
We’re going up around the bend.
– Creedance Clearwater Revival

Photo taken on November 1, 2009

which way?

which way

Last night I dreamed of being happy. We were living in a house and there were other people around and there was laughter. And I realize that one of the things I need is interaction with other people. I love my partner, and we do have a lot of fun together, but I wish we could make new friends more easily. Of course it’s great to invite my parents over for dinner & scrabble, but that’s not the same. We’ve been in this house now for just over a year, and in Saint John for six months more, but how do you start from scratch when you’ve left your friends in Ontario?

It’s been 20 years since I moved away, and in that time my interests have changed. I have changed. If I meet someone from the “old days”, we are strangers to each other. I know we could make friends more easily if we become involved in something, so we have been trying to figure out where to invest our time, which organizations or clubs to join, what charities to support, and how many events to attend. The local naturalist club might be a good fit, but we haven’t yet made it to a meeting — it’s daunting to walk into a room of people who all know each other well, not knowing if you will like them (and they will like you). For me, an obvious choice is the local photo club which meets monthly, and a group of local Flickr members. But I’m not a joiner unless I can be a participant. I’m not satisfied with just sitting in a chair at a monthly meeting; I want to be part of what’s going on, otherwise I lose interest. So I’m hanging in, hoping to get to know people better.

Looking for a community “match” is darn difficult. It feels like dating again. No wonder we’ve been staying home!

Photo taken on November 1, 2010

the road ahead

the road ahead

Who’s driving? Well, I am. OK, let’s ignore the fact that I may or may not be so foolish as to take photographs while driving down the highway at 112 km/hr (you must promise to never try this, ever). The point is, I’m driving. It’s my choice. Or fate, perhaps. But even I can’t be lucky forever.

The point is, it’s my life (long may it continue). And I’m realizing that there are a lot of choices I could be making right now if I wasn’t waiting for other people to make them. I’m waiting for other people to decide to hire me, or the right opportunity to come along and slap me upside the head. In the meantime, while I may think I’m the one in the driver’s seat, I’m going nowhere fast.

If my life was a map, and I could see the route I’ve taken so far, which would it be:

1. going in circles
2. heading off madly in all directions, or
3. a tour of interesting landmarks and the occasional breathtaking vista.

If I could actually see the map in advance, I’d take route number three, every time. Maybe it’s time to stop spinning my wheels in the fast lane and explore a winding country road. Maybe there’ll be something interesting around that next corner.

Photo taken on October 30, 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

storm over Highland Road

I’m fascinated by the variety in weather patterns as the seasons change. The rainy days of spring give way to the hot dry days of early summer, and now — in mid-August — another pattern has emerged: heavy fog lifting in the mornings, sun and showers in the afternoons and thunderstorms overnight. It’s not exactly a predictable pattern, but it has seemed that the weather forecasts lately have been all mixed up, and the skies have been really interesting.

Yesterday we set out to do some berry picking under a warm blue sky. By the time we arrived, we could see heavy dark clouds and long curtains of rain coming quickly toward us. We drove to a different location, the sun came out again and we got out to pick berries. Two more light rainshowers and a lot of hot sun later, we had gathered 2 cups of raspberries and 6 1/2 cups of blueberries.

I’m glad we didn’t bother going home again when we saw that raincloud. As they say: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!

Taken on July 29, 2010