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

follow the green arrow

the green arrow

Yesterday, I saw a green arrow. Even though I have a good sense of direction, it’s easy to lose your bearings in the woods. So there we were; we were walking through the woods and then I looked up and saw this arrow pointing the way.

Last week, I received an email from an Ontario magazine offering to pay me to use one of my pictures. I had taken this photo in 2007; they found it on my Flickr stream, and it was what they were looking for.

So yesterday, feeling optimistic from the sale of this photo and buoyed up by your warm encouragement, an idea came bubbling to the surface. I put words to that change I have been afraid to face. I said, “What I need to do is start my own business.”

I can write, I can take photos, I can create newsletters and design communication materials. I have a whole range of skills that have to do with computers, social networking, strategizing and brainstorming. Although I will still need some other paid work to keep me going, maybe I can make some money on my own. Maybe I can, for once, be able to set my own schedule and do something I love.

I have a lot of work to do as I flesh out my ideas and figure out my next steps. But here is the green arrow, it says “go this way”. I will follow it even though I don’t know where it leads.

Photo taken on January 6, 2011

step in a new direction

step in a new direction

In two weeks, it will be New Year’s Eve. There will be much discussion about the highs and lows of the past year — personal and political, ordinary and celebrity. As we look ahead to the New Year, it is a traditional time to drop bad habits and start new ones, make healthy improvements and set new goals for our lives.

Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with dropping bad habits and improving our health. There’s nothing wrong with starting something new. But the pressure to make major changes on January 1st so often results in disaster. Good habits are started and, after the first flush of success, frequently drop out of sight and out of mind until the end of another year. If you are like me, you’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions because you’re tired of the cycle of hopeful but often unprepared beginnings, followed by the whimper of a pitiful ending.

I have decided to make some resolutions, but I’m not going to wait until January 1st:

  • I will begin something new when I need to, and not put it off until I turn a page in the calendar.
  • I will be free to start again (and again and again) at any time without feeling guilty.
  • I will do my best to live in the “now”, and not in the “later”.
  • I will remember that every day is a new day, and every step in a positive direction is an accomplishment.

My first goal is to stop filing my papers on top of my desk, and find a place for everything, whether it’s trash or treasure. There, I’ve said it. Now, to start doing it!

Photo taken on December 16, 2010

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

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

walking (with dogs) in the forest

I love walking through the woods, and on a beautiful fall Thanksgiving Monday with colour still on the trees and the sky deep blue, who could resist? So I grabbed my camera and we headed to Rockwood Park, along with the dogs — we have two Cardigan Welsh Corgis — one for each of us.

Some might say dogs and cameras don’t mix. It’s true that I don’t carry my tripod or other camera equipment, and I don’t stop at scenic locations for a period of extended shooting. I tend to take the opportunities as they come, which usually means I look around when the dogs find something interesting to sniff. Or sometimes they’ll wait in one not-so-interesting spot, if I ask firmly, for long enough for me to take a couple of snaps. I suppose a part of me (the contrary part) enjoys the challenge of taking photos with a heavy dslr in one hand while holding the leash of an enthusiastic dog in the other.

So I had quite a few blurry photos. And a lovely walk in the woods.

Taken on October 11, 2010

looking toward Saint’s Rest

Today the sky is that deep blue that draws you outside. The air has that cool after-rain freshness that is perfect for taking a long walk. I feel a need to go for a hike; I’ve been too long at the computer lately, I need to stretch my legs. It’s been too long since I’ve wandered the beach, collecting seashells and watching the gulls dance. It’s time to take a day off, to throw time into the arms of the wind, and let the ceaseless murmur of the waves shut out the rest of the world.

Taken on May 31, 2009