nosy neighbours

nosy neighbours

I’ve been walking to work lately, most days. I take the neighbourhood route, avoiding the busy road until the winding residential streets run out. I walk in the cool of the morning, on the sunny side of the street, past quiet houses, and listen to the birds sing. Sometimes I see other people out walking their dogs, or jogging.

I arrive at work, where the spot I used to park has been taken over by roofers, and the rest of the parking lot has been removed by the construction crew working on a large building project. We are surrounded by drilling, thumping, hammering, blasting, and digging. Sometimes we can hardly get out the door for the cement trucks, dumptrucks or other heavy equipment moving in and out of the construction site. Yet people still manage to arrive, anyway, for art classes and gallery openings, workshops and meetings.

Then I walk home again, and when I reach the quiet streets of my neighbourhood, I see kids playing in backyards and cars pulling into driveways. And people are out walking dogs and jogging. And sometimes these two yappy dogs are out in their front yard, watching, ready to scold or gossip or at least make a lot of noise as I walk past, smiling.

Photo taken on March 31, 2011

living in a snow globe

living in a snow globe

I was browsing my winter photos the other day, and actually cringed when I found one with the comment, “Yay, the snow is back!” We’ve had so much snow this year, I can hardly believe I felt that way only a few short months ago. At the same time, I’m aware that all this snow will seem as unreal as a dream in another few months.

In the last few days, I’ve been walking around our property, making mental notes:

  • the snow is over the top of the driveway reflectors
  • look how it’s drifted right across the fence
  • it’s higher than the railing on the back stoop
  • the snowbanks along the road are taller than me.

Right now, we’re inside looking out at winter and wishing it will go away. But it will go away, and we’ll be outside looking into our memories, shaking our heads as we say to each other, “Do you remember all that snow we had last winter? It was up to here!”

Photo taken on February 28, 2011

brave McAvity

Brave McAvity

Ever notice how fire hydrants look like little firefighters? Look at their red uniforms, their shiny helmets, their arms stretched out to help. Look at the way they stand protectively, patiently, ready for any emergency. They are short but sturdy, always the first to get dug out of the snowbank, but the last to get noticed in a crowd. They provide many community services, including acting as a message board for dogs and a vantage point for parade-watchers.

It’s good luck to have a fire hydrant near your home (we have one across the street), and it’s also good for your insurance rates. It’s a comfort to see their little faces keeping an eye on your neighbourhood. When there is a fire (fires do happen), that little fire hydrant could be your best friend in the whole world.

In the town of Tweed, Ontario, all the fire hydrants are painted — there is a cat, a pirate, a chef, a police officer — but here in Saint John, they wear their classic uniforms. They don’t need painted faces because they already look friendly. And they have names: this one is named McAvity. McAvity here is part of a small army of firefighters protecting our city. Brave McAvity.

Photo taken on February 24, 2011

watching and waiting

neighbourhood watch

I used to wish I could be a cat, to have nothing more to worry about than whether to sleep, eat or play. I’d watch the family cat saunter from one cosy corner to another, leaping effortlessly to the back of the couch to watch out the window, tail twitching, then on to the floor to stretch luxuriously in a patch of warm sunlight. To our current cat, playtime is as important as sleep. As I write this, I can hear him chasing his foam jingly spool up and down stairs, the floor over my head resounding as he pounces and leaps and races across the room.

One of the things I admire most about cats is their ability to watch and wait, as patient as a rock (except when they think it’s meal time). Outdoors, they will do their watching from a hiding spot — a shaded blind under a bush or the back steps — but indoors they are bold, they know the window protects them and they do not hide their curiosity at the comings and goings of the world outside. Like these cats, I spend a lot of time looking out windows, watching the changing sky, the people walking by, the wind in the trees.

I used to think that a cat looking out the window was longing to be outside, but now I’m not so sure. Like me, they are watchers; they just want to see.

Photo taken on February 21, 2011

February fears

street scene

I’m been feeling down lately — and it’s just silly, because I’m really enjoying my job at the moment, and we went to the theatre and symphony and caught up with friends over the past week — but…

But…

  1. It’s February, and the sidewalks are horribly icy, but spring is coming in the sense that today’s snow will be mixed with rain and freezing rain (yuck).
  2. I have all but disappeared from my online communities (my apologies for not coming by to visit lately) due to total lack of inspiration.
  3. I haven’t even taken any photos for a week (this image taken two years ago shows Saint John looking almost exactly as it does today, icicles included).
  4. When I was reorganizing my desk a few weeks ago, I dropped my favourite lens, a 24mm prime. Fortunately the lens itself seems to be fine, but the autofocus is no longer working.
  5. My ankle sometimes still aches where I hurt it last fall.
  6. And, well, I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not shy about claiming my age, but I am afraid of aging, I am afraid of not being able to walk, I am afraid of not being able to carry my camera wherever impulse takes me, I am afraid of not being able to see clearly.

Yes, I know these February blues will pass, that my petulant whining will magically disappear in the face of a new adventure or new accomplishment, or new month. I’ll be waiting.

Photo taken on February 25, 2009

after the storm

after the storm

After the storm had blown through yesterday, we went through a walk through the quiet streets in our neighbourhood. As we walked, we admired the sculptured snowbanks piled high by plow, snowblower and shovel, and smoothed to softness by the wind.

Walkways and driveways had already been cleared in front of some houses, and others were deep in drifts. A dog ran out to greet us as we walked by; his owner was busy with the shovel in front of his house — you wouldn’t have known he was there except for the snow flying up over the high bank. Another man with a snowblower was working farther down the street, and I could hear the sound of an ice scraper behind a running car in a nearby driveway. A taxi drove by, taking the turns carefully.

There was still a nip in the wind, and the soft snow swirled from snowbank to snowbank as we followed the tire tracks through the snow. We returned home, our cheeks red from the cold, cleared the back steps once more, and hung our hats to dry over the mudroom heater.

Photo taken on February 2, 2011

storm of the century

heading home

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