Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day 31: Taking the sun

Day 31: Taking the sun, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My cats are heat seekers - both Cornish Rex (not wrecks) - their fur is not very thick and they follow the sun around the house. I visited a blog this morning and saw two cats trying to stay cool by sprawling on the floor. I think my two would have been in heaven. Nothing seems to be too hot for them. They lean against my hot radiators, snuggle under a comforter, perch on my computer - wherever there is warmth - there they are.

Cats know what they need - they listen to themselves. And they make their needs known. We, people, have distanced ourselves from understanding our needs - especially with the frenetic lives many of us lead. I think I should start observing my cats more and learn when to eat, when to take the sun, when to stretch and when to curl up and enjoy a good nap.

Day 30: Feeling Blue

Day 30: Feeling Blue, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My eyes are now trained for looking and the result is sometimes frustrating. I was driving through the city today with my son - doing messages and passed so many photo ops, but could not stop. So, once home, I looked around for something that reflected my mood - a little bit blue.

However, in looking at the photo I saw an inner glow and peacefulness. The bowl is one I love - the crackled glass reaching up to the smooth rim. Taking time to look also gives time to reflect. The blues don't have to be down. Blue winds through many moods from the exhilarating brightness of a February sky to the serenity of a still lake. Taking time is what this project is all about - time to look, time to stop and time to think. Feeling blue is not bad at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 29: And then the sun came out

I love to see the silhouettes of trees in winter. The fractalled branches, laid bare, stand out against the winter sky. Details that are hidden by the leaves are revealed, from nests to the nubbly texture of the branches of the larch.

I love the contrast between the leafless trees of winter, which let the light and view through and their summer counterparts, canopies creating shade.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 28: A space for the car

Day 28: A space for the car, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Ah winter. Snow has been falling for most of the day, first light flakes and then denser flakes - almost ice pellets that stick to the car making cleaning it an aerobic adventure. I dashed out to move my car so my spot could be cleared, but with 50 km winds and more snow expected overnight, this may be a losing battle.

Winter is always a challenge. Everything takes longer. Clothing is heavier and we hunker down inside it, trying to keep the warmth in. Boots, coats, hats, gloves, scarves all slow us down - time to dress, weight to carry, even with the lighter weight newer fabrics. Cars need to be brushed and scraped and the snow-clogged streets slow us down some more.

So tonight I will hibernate in my house, reading, working and eating a winter meal of soup. And that is one of the pleasures of winter - that feeling of home as a warm haven, safe from the whims of Mother Nature.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 27 Meeting online and face to face

Three meetings in one. In order for our group to meet, 4 came in via videoconference, 2 by Live Classroom (audio and chat only) and the rest of us face to face. Our screen brought us all together. It takes some getting used to, but we all manage to function as a group whether our presence is real or virtual. And who is virtual and who is real? The top quarter of the image on the screen is actually the real people in the room reflected back at ourselves.

All of us were working together, co-constructing, sharing our ideas on a google doc. Was that real? A document in cyberspace. A great way to work though - and lots of food for thought that we can go back to, each from our own spot in Quebec.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Day 26: Garlic

Day 26: Garlic, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I can't imagine life without garlic - that incredible flavour! I remember once serving a meal and every dish had garlic to a greater or lesser degree - and then I discovered that our guests did not like garlic. Travelling I was shown a restaurant in Talinn, Estonia that served garlic in everything, even the desserts.

What is astonishing is how much the flavour changes in cooking. The pungent taste of raw garlic permeates bruschetta and then seems to spread through every pore in your body. Yet roasted, you can smear the smooth, mild cloves on meat or potatoes with scarcely an effect on the local vampires.

Chicken with 24 cloves of garlic - bring it on!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day 25: Watching the world go by

Day 25: Watching the world go by, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Often when I walk, I pass this house with these two "ladies" watching all the passers-by. No matter what the weather or time of day, they pass judgement as the world goes by. The stories they could tell....

I live not from from a high school. Most of the students are well-behaved; a few use their lunch hour to find any unlocked cars and steal what they can. I am sure these women have been witnesses.

We have a local dog walker - no matter what the weather he passes several times a day with an ever-changing pack of dogs. They know he is the alpha dog and all walk obediently around him. This too they have seen.

I wish I could know their story. They have certainly witnessed some of mine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day 24: Interpreting the Signs

Day 24: Interpreting the Signs, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I came upon these signs when I was out shopping. Sometimes it's fun to imagine what icons mean. ArrĂȘt was no problem - Stop, but stop for what or stop what? So here are some of my ideas.

Stop - female shopper. Does this mean you keep going if the shoppers are male? Do only females carry parcels? There is nothing in the mall for the men?

Stop Shopping - or you may land up in the gutter. That arrow is obviously pointing down somewhere. Excessive shopping can pave the road to hell - this is a warning.

Stop - there is a woman in high heels with too many parcels and she may trip as she steps down from the sidewalk. Does this warn against the high heels? the too many packages? not sure.

What meaning do you see?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 23: Which Way the Wind

Day 23: Which Way the Wind, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This weather vane sits atop my house, just a decoration not functional. By now it is fixed in one place, pointing out the directions in the city. This may seem simple, but Montreal's north is not really north. What we think of as East West streets really go from NE to SW.

I was exploring Google Maps one day and was shocked to find out that downtown Montreal, which I thought was south of my house was really north. It was very hard to wrap my mind around that.

So my useless weather vane turned out to be not so useless after all, as it straightened out directions in our lopsided city.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day 22: Overlapping Holidays

Day 22: Overlapping Holidays, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Today I thought it would be fun to photograph store windows and saw the overlap of holidays and seasons. In one window there was a display of rubber boots, which may be great for spring. However, with our frigid weather, they would result in freezing toes followed by the terrible tingling as they unthaw once back in warmth.

And here - in this photograph, the crossover from Christmas to Valentine's Day. The outside of the window, with the snowy flower boxes and evergreen wreaths hearken back to December. Leafless trees, reflected in the window fit in with the usual monochromatic whiteness of winter. I think here in Montreal, we keep the Christmas lights lit much of the winter to brighten our evenings and add a little colour to this whiteness. Inside, a heartshaped wreath looks forward to February and Valentine's Day. Pink and red blossoms, the tradtional colours of love, are ready to deliver their message.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 21: A promise of things to come

My house is full of flowering plants. Each December I plant an amaryllis and marvel at its speed of growth and then the bursting forth of the trumpet-like flowers. My amaryllis is on the brink, a promise of future glory. But I know there is a danger that the heavy blossoms may cause the plant to topple, as it sits in a pot of light soil, with which it was packaged and sold. The pot does not quite counterbalance the flowers.

Beautiful, ephemeral, its blooms last only a few weeks. Each day, I take time to focus on its beauty. Flowers demand that we stop and take moments of reflection. Through them we can cultivate our inner gardens.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 20: Snow Fort

Day 20: Snow Fort, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Walking through my neighbourhood, I passed the schoolyard. Children were building a snow fort near a tree. A few things struck me about this - we call it a snow fort, not a snow house. This brings with it the idea of keeping safe inside and keeping others out. When I was teaching in school, this was so often the case. What started as play - let's build - turned into possession - let's keep people out.

It has been a momentous day. Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States. I watched with tears in my eyes to see and feel the hope for change in the air. Having lived through the 50s and 60s, I saw the evolution that brought the U.S. to today.

It is a pleasure to see children playing. Can Barack Obama help eliminate the racism and other impediments to mutual respect. In the future will children be building houses instead of forts?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 19: Grey Day

Day 19: Grey Day, originally uploaded by susanvg.

View from the 11th floor - Montreal branch of Ministry of Education

Just the church steeples add a splash of colour to a grey day. Mark Twain once said of Montreal "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window. " How times have changed! While church steeples still punctuate Montreal's landscape, their numbers are dwindling. Some churches have been amalgamated with others; some have been converted for other uses from apartments to a new wing of our art museum. The domination of the Catholic church in Montreal has diminished. Schools based on religion are no longer except in the private sector.

Yet the church structures are part of our heritage - and that we must preserve. I go to many Early Music concerts and have been in many of Montreal's churches for that purpose. It is incredible to see the structures, the artwork and the influences of the different waves of immigrants who have come to make Montreal their home.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day 18: Breakfast

Day 18: Breakfast, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Taking time - how rarely we do that. But Sunday morning is often the slot in the week when I can dawdle over breakfast. Time to sip my coffee, time to savour the food, bite by bite. Breakfast sets the tone for the day. I think of many breakfasts and the food I have eaten, devoured, wolfed, munched and sampled and it is those I have taken time over that are the most memorable.

The food I eat represents different parts of my life. Today's croissant - so Quebec (or French) just had to be served with espresso which begs to be sipped. Growing up, my adopted grandmother lived with my family for several years. With her Scottish background, she delighted in serving us porridge in the morning. To this day, I cannot eat porridge without thinking of her and each spoonful feeds my soul as much as my body. On cold mornings when I make myself a bowl of hot cereal I hear her voice telling me, "it sticks to your ribs" and as I go outside I know that I am warmed from the inside out. Montrealers are convinced we have the best bagels. Several places make them in brick ovens heated by wood fires - a legacy of the Jewish immigrants who brought their techniques and recipes. Toasted or eaten hot from the bag on the way home, they too bring back the flavours of my childhood.

On another note - I am learning how hard it is to photograph food - those cookbooks with the incredibly mouthwatering photos were produced by expert photographers. Unfortunately, when I realized I didn't have the perfect shot - I had already eaten the subject.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 17: Same but different

Day 17: Same but different, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to see how people make houses their own and this row of houses is a reflection of that. Although this is a row of 4 identical Victorian homes, the choice of colour has made each stand out as an individual statement. However, each has made a statement in an identical way - with the splashes of colour being different in hue, but not in location - conforming non-conformists.

So often we make our statements inside our homes - while the outside projects a more uniform facade. In summer we are able to add our personalities through our gardens - in the flowers we plant (or not). But that is more ephemeral. In winter, our houses stand exposed to the elements, dusted with snow and without the benefit of the vibrant colours nature brings in summer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 16: Going Up

Day 16: Going Up, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Actually it was going down, but I was staring up after walking down. So often the down escalator in this very deep station of the metro is not working. Great place for an aerobic workout in the cold weather - a couple of times up and down the stairs and your heart is happy.

I only walked down, music wafting up at me from the busker's spot. Today it was a guitar player. Often I have seen a few Hare Krishna devotés chanting and drumming. Or the man with the cello who plays a few notes and stops and looks angrily, sometimes shouting out at the passing commuters. Public transport provides a lively landscape - so different from being in the protected bubble of a car.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 15: Frost

IMG_2505, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We are in the midst of a period of intense cold - but there is beauty in every kind of weather. The window was painted with frost this morning. The fern-like patterns are always so beautiful - a winter garden on glass.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 14: Canadian Authors

Day 14: Canadian Authors, originally uploaded by susanvg.

There was an article in the paper saying that most Canadians could not name even one Canadian author. Here are just a few of the ones living on my book shelf. I see Rohinton Mistry's, A Fine Balance, a tale set in India, so well written I read for three days straight. And Donna Morrisey from Newfoundland, who describes the lives of ordinary people living in outposts. Michael Ignatieff, now the leader of the opposition in our government, wrote a novel, Scar Tissue, about Alzheimer's which resonated with me as I had watched my mother's decline. And Yan Martel's, The Life of Pi, which explores many philosphical issues through an engaging tale of a boy on a small boat. Michael Ondatje has woven many wonderful books - Anil's Ghost is one that stands out for me. Canada's literature is so enriched by the people from other countries who have settled here and who write about their immigrant experiences as well as stories set in their countries of origin.

Two more Newfoundland authors sit on this shelf, Annie Proulx (Shipping News) and Wayne Johnston who writes a fictional account of Joey Smallwood, the premier who brought Newfoundland into Canada. The multi-talented Anne-Marie Macdonald writes about disfunctional families in a sensitive yet devastating way. And I have spent time with so many more authors: Margaret Lawrence, Timothy Findlay, Robertson Davies, to name a few. Their turns of phrase, insights, word paintings and compelling storytelling have delighted, saddened and touched every one of my emotions and through my time with them I have grown.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 13: Gas Patch

Day 13: Gas Patch, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was walking in a parking garage and saw this rainbow effect from a patch of gas on the pavement - just an abstract effect. I'm not pleased about the whole composition in terms of the patch of light. But I also like the texture.

The photograph as abstract art. I explored a bit on the internet and found some interesting examples. We usually think of the photograph as a representation. In fact, once photographs were possible, many painters lost their livelihood - painting portraits. But photography is just another medium through which we can express ourselves and exploring colour and texture is one way to do that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And an extra: Patch

And an extra: Patch, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Cats have such a sense of entitlement. As I worked at my colleague's house, Patch joined us at the table (and sometimes on it). A dog knows its place. A cat would like us to know ours.

I have two at home and often think about what I can learn from them. Independent yet dependent, they know how to get their needs met. My cats know how to relax and stretch and often know which stranger has a kind heart. Once they trust someone, they open up to them and are not afraid to expose their underside. They are never afraid to look silly and always know where to find a comfortable place. There is no pretense - a cat is who it is.

I started my participation a couple of days late - so this makes up for January 2.

Day 12: Recycling Travels

Day 11: Recycling Travels, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Here's a photo that is really about the story - the picture is not artistic.

I travel regularly between our place in Casselman and our place in Montreal. Today I had a different passenger - our recycling box. As our apartment is slightly off the street, the town of Casselman wants to charge for recycling, so we have decided to have our recycling travel.

Looking in the box I have to think about how packaging has changed over the years. Eggs in plastic instead of cardboard, multiple packaging for one item ... Then there are the new ways of packaging with things that cannot be recycled - styrofoam. Thank goodness for recycling! At least our garbage contributions have lessened.

I came home to a week's worth of mail and despite the sign on my door for no junk mail, I have a pile of envelopes, packaging and solicitations to recycle. I guess the Casselman box will have a Montreal partner beside it tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Day 11: Goat Cheese

Goat Cheese, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Before I met Paul I had no idea there were so many kinds of goat cheese. Now I peruse the cheese store at the market to see what I can surprise him with. Here is a sampling - cheese with white truffles, raw milk cheese with an ash covering and a goat camembert.

Not only can anything be the source for a picture but anything can be the source for curiosity. I am always full of questions. And today's photo sent me to the Internet to learn more about white truffles. They are found only in Italy and the Istrian peninsula of Croatia where we were fortunate enough to spend some holiday time last May. I love the connections, from our travels to our table - a taste to bring back the memories of other places.

Day 10: Peppers

Day 10: Peppers, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Grocery shopping adds a burst of colour to a snow-white day.I love the colours of peppers - so vibrant. Grocery shopping in winter brings colour to anotherwise white-grey landscape.

Sometimes I think back to my childhood and the availablity of fresh produce in winter. While we had the standards - iceberg lettuce, celery, green pepper... there was not the variety that comes to our supermarkets now. But what is the cost and what is the gain? When we talk about carbon footprint are we thinking of the distance our food has been shipped? Asparagus from Peru. Peppers from Mexico. Funny how vegetables are now guilty pleasures.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 9: Horses

Day 9: Horses, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I'm a city girl, but because of my relationship, I spend time in a small town in rural Ontario. It was a cold crisp day - one of those beautiful days after a snowfall when the snow is perfectly white and the sun shines, showing every nuance of the windswept snow. I took a drive from Casselman to the next town, Embrun to get some groceries. My newly focused eyes, always on the lookout for something to capture saw these horses. Even they needed winter coats. But the sun was bright. I stopped by the road and took this from my car window - focus isn't great, but for a city girl, it's a novelty to see horses. Sometimes the picture is not about the great shot, but about the story behind it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 8 Homage to Telemann

Day 8 Homage to Telemann, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Music - an essential part of my life.
A baroque flute and voice flute (recorder in D) sit drying after a session of playing. Telemann looks down with the hint of a smile. His music has come down to us from the past and still feels fresh in the present. Telemann still lives through all whom he has and continues to touch.
As teachers we touch people every day through our words and actions. Will some small thing we have done get passed on and touch others? Will the music of our craft continue to be heard?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 7 Really Day 7

Dressing for the weather

I don't often take pictures of myself. I guess I always think of photographs as looking out from my eyes, not into them. Yesterday I was out walking. The wind was blowing and snow swirling around. I took this picture near one of those authentic Canadian sites (Canadian Tire). My walk outside didn't last long - but it was warmer here in Casselman than it was out west. The scene was bleak, with not much of interest to photograph, so I turned the camera on myself. In winter when outside, we huddle inside our clothes - barely outside - covered as much as the Islamic women in fundamentalist countries, with just an open space for the eyes. Here it is not modesty, just necessity. On cold days you realize how much clothing restricts - like bears ready for hibernation, we lumber encumbered by the extra bulk. Even turning ones head to see oncoming traffic sometimes results in seeing the inside of your hood. We hunker down trying to keep the wind off what little of our bodies is exposed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day 7 and earlier

As I am just starting (and a few days late), I'll post several photos here.
I blogged about being part of this adventure

Day 7 January 7
I posted 2 photos today (and cheated a bit - both were taken yesterday).

I went to a recorder orchestra rehearsal last night. There is a skating rink nearby and a neighbourhood pick-up game of hockey was going on. What could be more Canadian. So I decided to include this image.

I also visited my mother-in-law (my late husband's mother) who is 100 years old. She is often angry about life and the difficulties of aging. So I tried to capture her expression of displeasure and confusion.

Day 6 - January 6

I have about 9 orchids which I love because they always surprise me. Their flowers, so detailed and magnificent last a long time. Once dormant, I put them in a small room off my kitchen. I never know how long it will take before they send out new shoots to flower again. I have no set watering schedule and don't feed them. They flourish under my benign neglect. This orchid is one of my favourites - the veins are so clear. In this photo I love the fact that this burst of colour is in front of the snowy window - a feast for the eyes in contrast to the white landscape.

Day 5 - January 5
(inspired by a photo by Lucy Gray)

I took this through my bedroom window, through the ice that had built up.