Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 59: Shadow Play

Day 59: Shadow Play, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Looking at the shadows like white piano keys to the darker keys of the balustrade - playing with rhythm on the snow. The music sunlight plays - lifting spirits on a glorious February day. Play on sun. Your songs last longer in the lengthening days. Bring back the melody of birds as you slowly chase winter away.

Day 58: Make a Fire

Day 58: Make a Fire, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This equipment stands by my fireplace, and, as with everything, it carries memories and stories. The fireplace tools were made by an iron worker in the village near my parents' country place. Hand crafted, they carry his signature in metal. Memories and legacies are carried in many ways. The bellows are close to sixty years old, having coaxed many a fire into life at the cottage. We had a large stone fireplace and on winter nights would burn very large logs. At times, the heat near the fireplace pushed us back, but the kitchen, being far back was always chilly, to my mother's chagrin. When we would arrive on a Friday evening, the first task was to build the fire. My brother and I would carry the smaller pieces of wood up from the basement on a wooden ladder; my father hauled the logs that seemed like whole tree trunks to me. As the heat in the house had been turned down all week, the bedrooms were cold, so my father would warm a metal grate in the fire and then run to our bedrooms and slide it between the sheets, making crawling into bed more bearable. I remember it taking a long time before the bed really felt warm. When the house was sold, I brought the bellows with me. The metal nose falls out easily; the leather straps wore away long ago. But they can still pump air and fan the coals in my fireplace bringing the warmth of those memories to life.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 57: Winter

Day 57: Winter, originally uploaded by susanvg.

One of Montreal's features is the mountain in the centre of the city. Many would dispute its qualification as a mountain (height 211 m or 692 ft), but it does contribute to Montreal's skyline. It has three peaks, the main one sporting a newly refurbished cross, reminiscent of the cross planted by Jacques Cartier in the 1500s. The top of the mountain is green space. This photograph was taken on the edge of the park - an outcrop of rock that meets city streets. Melting snow trickles down leaving icy fingers that grip the rocks. The mountain is a refuge for both animals and people - a place to get away from the city in the centre of the city.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 56: Life's Complexities

Day 56: Life's Complexities, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Some days I just go from one appointment to another - meetings, workshops, personal demands - the list continues throughout the day. One thing on the list rolls into the next until I feel like I am on a highway, curving around circular on and off ramps, changing direction and speeding off again. I reached the end of a tough day, with a roller coaster of things to do, from yet another funeral, to online workshops to deliver, to dinner with friends... No photographs.

Looking around the house, my eyes stopped on this piece of needlework, done in the early 70s when there seemed to be time to sit and work on crafts, to relax over the repetition of the needle going in and out, mesmerized by the changing colours. This, oh so 70s piece somehow symbolized my day - the complexity and the changing colours of my feelings. So here is my offering for this day as I take time to look back again in time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 55: Westmount Library

Day 55: Westmount Library, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I'm giving a workshop tomorrow on Language Arts, so what better photo to represent this than a library. This one, Westmount Public Library, was built in 1898. It has undergone several renovations since that time. I am an avid reader, though I am not good at frequenting libraries. I like to buy books, and have many in my house. A neighbour, when I first moved in, looked through the window and saw all the book shelves in the family room. A child at the time, he thought it was going to be a library.

I dread the time when I move and have to part with many volumes. How can I part with the stories that have sustained me. I do "weed" the shelves from time to time and take solace in the fact that those stories will bring to others the gamut of emotions that have swept through me as I have turned page after page.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Day 54: Travelling past Farms

Day 54: Travelling Past Farms, originally uploaded by susanvg.

ViaRail - Canada's national railway. I travelled from Kingston Ontario, home to Montreal. I like rail travel - it goes at a pace that gets you there in a relaxing fashion. We passed through snow covered farms. I tried taking a few photos out the window - and this was one. I loved the red barn. When my children were young I used to keep them occupied while I drove with a variety of games. One was to spot certain objects. A red barn was frequently on the list when we drove through the countryside. When I saw this I felt like I had scored!

Sometimes rail travel is a little too slow - our train was 40 minutes late getting to our destination - the joys of winter travel.

Here comes the train

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 53: Great Advertising

Day 53: Great Advertising, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This sign should be studied by all in the advertising industry - how to get your message across. It speaks for itself!

Day 52: Nathan Phillips Square

Day 52: Nathan Phillips Square, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love it when official places are also public spaces. Toronto's City Hall is a great example of this - with a skating rink in front which is open to all. I do like the architecture of the building - the curved lines surrounding the central council chambre. Across the street is the old city hall building. It wasn't big enough to accomodate the needs of the city government. Fortunately, it still stands - put to another use. It is interesting to contrast the clean lines of the newer structure (1965) with the older building, a detail of which can be seen below.

Detail of old Toronto City Hall
There was a lot of detail put into buildings of the past, with symbols telling the story of the building and its occupants. We no longer have many of the artisans who can do the kind of carving shown here. I guess in every era we gain something and have to give something up.

Day 51: Arrived in Toronto

I have grown up with air travel, yet I still have a sense of wonder over how you can get so quickly from one place to another. At 5:00 pm I was in Montreal. An hour later I landed in Toronto.

I flew Porter Airlines, which operates a fleet of commuter planes (propeller), but which gives more pleasant service and lands at a small airport on an island just off downtown Toronto. Travel time is reduced but the variety of vehicles is increased. Car to the airport, plane to Toronto Island, ferry to mainland (less than 5 minutes), bus into centre of city. This time I walked to the hotel. Sometimes I have had to take a subway to my destination.

Day 51: Arrived in Toronto
Toronto – the business city – with tall buildings each brandishing a banking corporate logo on top. And the CN Tower – lit in garish colours – an anomoly amidst the overlit office buildings. No signs of energy problems here – by the number of lit windows, you would think the whole city works day and night.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 50: Lined with Snow

Day 50: Lined with Snow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It snowed last night. Big flakes drifted down - a wet thick snow that sticks to everything it meets. It transformed the city as the trees wore their white garments. Slowly during the day, as the breeze kicked up, clumps of snow dropped from the trees like soft snowballs in a gentle snowball fight. Walkers got hit and looked to find the culprit. No one seemed to be there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 49: Making Soup

Day 49: Making Soup, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Comfort food - that's what soup is. I rarely use a recipe - just throw into the pot any vegetables I have around. Some soups include legumes - this one just fresh vegetables. I love the aroma in the house as it simmers on the stove. I smell it now as I write. It's a great way to start a meal or can be a satisfying meal in itself. A great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts as the blending of flavours creates something new!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day 48: Spring Flowers Behind Glass

On a lovely day in February, I passed this shop. Spring flowers blooming, teasing all who passed with a burst of colour. Spring is a long way off here, but the sun felt warm today. While the February skies can be bright blue and the air feels crisp, the main colours outdoors are white and grey. So I had to stop and admire the bright reds and blues.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 47: The End of the Concert

Day 47: The End of the Concert, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Music - it sustains my life, through listening and playing it nourishes me. Tonight I went to a concert of Les Idées heureuses - a local group that performs baroque music on period instruments. The director of the group, Geneviève Soly is passionate about her discovery of a baroque composer, Christophe Graupner. He lived in Germany at the same time as Bach. I heard a concert version of excerpts from his opera, La Costanza, which had not been heard since Graupner’s time. The goal is to present the full opera in 2010.

It is wonderful to see someone pursue her passion – to immerse herself in exploration and discovery. Genevieve has discovered manuscripts, edited and published them and has recorded many of these discoveries, either as a solo harpsichordist or with Les Idées. It is a lucky person who can combine her passion with her life’s work.

Day 46: Going Back in Time

Day 46: Going Back in Time, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Another loss - another funeral - this time a former neighbour. This is our old house. We lived across the street from her for nine years. After the funeral my adult children and I went back to her house and back in time to our old neighbourhood. My children spoke of things seeming smaller seen from the perspective of their current height. For me, it was going back to memories of their early childhood, of the people who lived on the street and, of course of the wonderful woman whose laugh and smile lit up the neighbourhood. She faced a number of hardships, not the least of which was caring for a husband who became chronically ill shortly after their daughter was born. Yet she bustled through life, filling it with books, films, bridge games, travel and most of all friendships. Her enthusiasm for learning, for exploring, for wondering was infectious.

We house memories, closed up in our minds. Some of them transform into changes in ourselves, as we learn and try to live up to the people we wish to emulate. Clairette was one such positive example and one I followed as I learned to journey through life with my children after my husband's untimely death at age 36. She helped me laugh and she made me see that a full life was still possible.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 45: Orchid

Day 45: Orchid, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I marvel at the details on this flower. The pink veins are carefully painted on each petal. I often stop and stare, delighted each time by the patterns and complexity. Does this serve a purpose? Does beauty have to serve a purpose?

Each time this orchid blooms I am reminded of an abundance of love, so it seemed the right photograph to share on Valentine's Day. My children gave it to me a few years ago and each bloom speaks of them as unique people, growing out of the stem of our family. From the safety and strength of our relationship, they venture out, feeling supported. It is a joy to watch my children begin to blossom as adults.

Day 44: Good Intentions

Day 44: Good Intentions, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Reusable shopping bags are de rigeur now. Some stores are phasing out bags and others pay five cents for each bag of your own you use for your groceries. I'm all for saving on plastic (though I do sometimes take the plastic as I have cats with litter boxes to clean). It's just that for years I have avoided wearing clothing with labels and now I find myself carrying around advertising for a variety of stores. So hard to be politically correct from every angle.

It's interesting to see how the tipping point has been reached. I carry around a nylon shopping bag that folds into itself. I used to get eyed peculiarly when I said I didn't need a bag. Now, so often, people ask before I even whip it out, whether or not I need a bag. Little steps to save the planet - but let's hope our governments finally start taking the big steps needed. If individuals can change, so can the corporations that are the largest causes of the state of our planet. Wishful thinking.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 43: Halls of Learning

Day 43: Halls of Learning, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A meeting today at Concordia University. I was struck by the atrium - several stories high - letting light in to a place for enlightenment. Are universities meeting that goal? I would think some students leave just starting on their path to intellectual enlightenment, having obtained some tools that will help them.

We need these buildings, places where people can learn face-to-face. This atrium reminds me of the agora of Greek times where people could gather to hear speakers and talk about issues.But there were few places to sit and few people discussing. Too much of what happens here is the search for marks not understanding.

This building is full of straight lines and stairs that move up in an orderly fashion. Learning isn't like that. Disorder, recursive - not straight lines to truths and understanding. But I guess not all buildings can be designed by Frank Gehry.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day 42: The Streets are Shining

Lights painting pictures on the shiny rain-slicked pavement. It's a winter thaw. The snow and ice shrink their footprints everywhere, dripping, slipping towards the drains. Even puddles shrink as ice dams melt, releasing the water to travel with the newly melted snow. Feels like spring, but the icy fingers of winter will soon have us in their grasp again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 41: Home

Day 41: Home, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Home - despite the icy path and banks of snow beside it, what I see is a glow of warmth. It has been a long day - a second day of giving workshops - and nothing looks so wonderful as my own front door - the entrance to my haven. I know that inside I'll find my favourite spot to sit, to put my feet up. My cats will cosy up to me, providing me with a fur "throw" whether I want it or not. Here I can cast away the public persona, no longer putting out the energy a performance (aka workshop) requires. Just sit, and let my energy reserves replenish in the serenity of home.

Day 40: Sharing the Power

Day 40: Sharing the Power, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Wires – plugged in. Today was a day of presenting a workshop. We power-shared – sharing the power of online collaboration- whether for students or teachers. A network of computers – a network of teachers. And we looked at networks and who fed into us and whom we nurtured. Here we have the real plugs and wires - sometimes face to face makes for better virtual relationships later.

Wired, wireless, -relationships made can be strengthened online so when next we meet it will be not only as colleagues but as friends.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day 39: Holding Together

Day 39: Holding Together, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Preparing for a workshop, I took out my clips to hold various items together. Then I clipped together articles I had printed for later reading - priority inversion. It's amazing how other jobs suddenly feel important when there is work to be done and deadlines to be met.

So I thought, wouldn't it be great to have clips to put our lives in order. Life clips - making order out of the chaos of living. A way to get my life organized. Put things aside neatly (so nothing changes) while I put my priorities elsewhere. But oh- life sure doesn't work that way!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day 38: Dreaming of a café

Day 38: Dreaming of a café, originally uploaded by susanvg.

On a cold, grey day it's nice to imagine being in an outdoor cafe, slowly sipping an espresso or Greek coffee. This little set sits on the mantle, beckoning one to dream of warmer climates and a slow pace. Whether on these woven chairs on a Greek sidewalk, or on rattan chairs in a Paris bistro, this is about lingering. No quick - pick up your coffee in a paper cup - this table is for a ceramic cup, and perhaps, a newspaper, or just for sitting and watching the world go by.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Day 37: A winter mountain

Day 37: A winter mountain, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This is not a mountain range. Newfallen snow is so white and clean, but even in a small town it gets moved into mountains after a fall. Here in a parking lot a snow mountain has grown, pushed up not by volcanic forces, but by plows. The temperature and sun change the texture which looks, in places, almost coral-like.

Living with seasonal change, there are so many ephemeral things - mountains that grow and melt, leaves that go through their cycle. It is the same from year to year - and yet always different. It is this ever-changing landscape that demands its moment of attention - even if it is just dirty snow!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 36: Each Scarf a Memory

Day 36: Each Scarf a Memory, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Today I needed some colour - so here are the scarves in my drawer. Each has a story - a memory of its past. They come from people, some now gone, represent places where they were bought and some were owned by others before. When I put on a scarf I am adding not only the colour of the fabric to my outfit, but all the memories and connections woven into it.

Today I lost a dear friend. My story is woven with the many memories of music played together, concerts shared and many lively conversations. She added much colour to the fabric of my life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Day 35: Old Hands

Day 35: Old Hands, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Old hands - they have lived 100 years - performing the myriad of tasks hands do. And now they feel purposeless with no future. I sat with my late husband's mother today and listened to her. At times she spoke with incredible clarity - of feeling that emptiness of nothing to look forward to. At times she drifted into the timelessness of old age, blurring the past and the present.

These hands have washed babies, cooked meals, held cards and caressed. They have scolded, steered a car, selected items while shopping and counted out money. And now they sit idle - except for the wringing of despair as confusion washes over their owner.

As I age will I still be able to focus on moments? Will I be able to find the positives that are left to me as my life diminishes? Perhaps that is what this exercise is all about - learning to live in the slower lane, so when complexity is no longer a choice, I'll be able to live in now.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 34: Reaching to the Sky

Day 34: Reaching to the Sky, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Catching the moment - I glanced out the window and saw the sun was setting so I grabbed my camera and went out. Not content with the view from street level - I went up on my roof (not as hard as it sounds except for the snow) and watched as the sky changed from moment to moment.

Beauty is fleeting and ever changing. The trick is to recognize it and stop and appreciate it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 33: A golden glow

Day 33: A golden glow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

You never know when a photograph is going to work. I was just leaving work, the office I was at is in an industrial area - not exactly picturesque. The sun was setting and the flashing at the top of the next building caught the golden glow. Here is a perfect example of the unique in the ordinary. It's all about the moment and how a moment can change everything. For that moment a non-descript building became a thing of beauty.

Day 32: The old and the new

Day 32: The old and the new, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My spouse and I went snowshoeing - his snowshoes are a traditional pair, wood frame with gut webbing. The harness and straps are leather and the snowshoes are worn with leather mukluks. He loves the connection with the original users of snowshoes - the first peoples and later the settlers of Quebec. Snowshoes were a must to get around in deep snow, whether for travelling, hunting, trapping or logging. You can read a bit more about snowshoes here. I understand this feeling of connection. My snowshoes are modern - aluminum and modern materials - no history there. They are made as sports items. It's true that I use them that way. As a child I had a pair of traditional snowshoes and I could feel like a pioneer as I trudged through the woods or on the frozen lake. While I enjoy the newer design (cleats so as not to slip, slightly narrower shape), I have taken a step away from the tradition for which they were made.