Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 150: Dandelion / Pissenlit

Day 150: Dandelion, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I spent some time this morning pulling some dandelions up by the roots. And planted a couple of those geraniums.

We had to go to Toronto unexpectedly. The route is straight and boring. So came the dillemna of many days - what to photograph? When we stopped for supper the salt and pepper shakers posed for me - but there was no story there. The dandelion - so delicate - both ephemeral and tenacious. I guess it made me think of people - fragile but unyielding - hanging on to life. The dandelion's roots go deep and its seeds, so light, float off on the breeze, spreading far and wide seeking spots to take root. We never know the effect we have on others as our seeds - our ideas, our interactions, our actions reach out to others. Where will they take root so that we live on through new growth?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 149: Geraniums

Day 149: Geraniums, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I haven't planted flowers yet; it has been rainy and chilly for this time of year. I finally made it to the market on a grey day and purchased some of what I need to fill the holes between the perennials. A couple of these geraniums are now sitting outside my house waiting to be planted. It is hard to capture the riot of colour at the market. There is a sea of flowers outside running the length of the market and wrapping around it. One rule I follow is "no white". I figure we get our share of white in winter; in summer I want to feast my eyes on colour. So for my first foray I came home with geraniums, tuberous begonias, lobelia, marigolds, snapdragons and some flowers whose names I don't know.

Predictions are for a dreary wet weekend. I'll have to plant in the rain - but then I won't have to get out the hose to water them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 148: Stairway

Day 148: Stairway, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Industrial architecture leaves me somewhat cold. However, I liked the variety of lines the stairs and windows made. I featured this building once before - another day that I had a meeting there.

It's not that I don't like minimalism. I love the smooth lines of wood and prefer Danish modern to a more ornate look in furniture. I think it is the coldness of metal that disturbs me. An irony of this place is that part of the building is built where there was a rather ornate apartment building. The facade of the building was left, so that from the street it appears to be an early 20th century building flanked by two modern structures. Things are not what they seem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 147: Advertising

Day 147: Advertising, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This ad hearkens back to the days before billboards. You can see traces of old advertising on older buildings around the city. Often the ads on buildings are for companies or goods that are no longer in existence. Imagine the work of painting these on buildings. They were meant to last - not, as today, rented for a period of time only to be changed when the workers show up again with their paper and glue. And then there are the electronic ads - flashing on screens for moments only to be suplanted by the next one. It's the age of rapid change with anything and everything done to catch your attention, to catch your brain into craving for things.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 146: Honeysuckle

Day 146: Honeysuckle, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Walking this evening, I was struck by the intoxicating smell of honeysuckle. This bush is covered with blossoms. I was on my way to the post office to pick up my latest package from Amazon. One book in the package was "Letting Everything be Your Teacher 100 lessons in mindfulness" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It occurred to me that my daily photographs have been a mindfulness practice - stopping in the moment to appreciate whatever it is that catches my attention and holding on to it.

"Awareness requires only that we pay attention and see things as they are."

Taking the time to reflect through this blog, to write a bit, whether through story or commentary has deepened that experience. It is my moment every day to still my mind and contemplate on the photograph and where it will take my writing.

Day 145: Dream Catcher

Day 145: Dream Catcher, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As I got into bed last night, I realized that I had not yet taken a photograph. I was not about to get dressed to go out on a photoshoot. So this is my compromise - the dreamcatcher hanging in my bedroom.

I originally bought this dreamcatcher to hang in my classroom when I was the computer / technology teacher at a private school. A central part of my program, at the time, was Microworlds and my room, as a result, had a variety of turtles on display. This dreamcatcher has a ceramic turtle hanging in the centre. However, one evening the school alarm went off and it was thought it may have been triggered by the feathers moving. So, I packed it up and brought it home.

It has been hanging in my window ever since - supposedly keeping the nightmares away. I love to watch the feathers waft in the breeze - and it has been no cause for alarm in my home!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 144: Chip Stand

Day 144: Chip Stand, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Chip stands are a common site in small towns in both Quebec and Ontario. Usually open only in the warm months, they provide grease-laden fare to all who want it. The sign on the right speaks of poutine, a concoction originally created in Quebec some time (it is thought) between the 50s and 70s. It consists of french fries with cheese curds and gravy - an instant artery-clogging experience. I have never developed a taste for it, but it is very popular.

I cannot say that Casselman is known for culinary arts. We tend to cook at home more than when we are in Montreal. We have tried a few of the local establishments, but I don't think we will ever resort to this one!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 143: Gotcha!

Day 143: Gotcha!, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I loaded the geocaching software on my phone and discovered that there are a few caches near Casselman. We set off on our bicycles to get some air and exercice and realized that one of the caches was close by. There is a small chapel which seems to be used just for weddings, Chapelle Marie Reine des Coeurs (Mary Queen of Hearts). My GPS software led us there and I found our first cache!
At first I felt discouraged and thought - this snooping is not for me. It is amazing how my attitude changed with success. We added our names to the log book and once home, I logged my find on the geocaching site. Admittedly this was listed as an easy find with easy terrain, but I'm hooked. Maybe we'll find another one tomorrow.

Chapelle Marie Reine des Coeurs Chapelle Marie Reine des Coeurs

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 142: Dressed for Timmy's

Day 142: Dressed for Timmy's, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I pulled up at Tim Horton's on my way to Casselman. A woman in a bridal gown stood outside. Was she picking up refreshments for the wedding reception? "Several dozen Tim Bits and some jelly doughnuts, please" Her friends were dressed casually, many with cameras hanging around their necks. The bride wore flip flops with her gown - quite the sight to see her trouncing around, a friend holding the train and her flip flops flapping with each step. I guess you can never be too dressed up to go Tim Horton's

Note - for the non-Canadians - Tim Horton's is a coffee and doughnut shop

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 141: It's Love

Day 141: It's Love, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It may not look that way - but Elmo is purring away. He has two favourites in life, my daughter and myself. As I write, he is sitting behind me - a living heating pad against the small of my back. Life is good when he is getting affection. He is 14 years old - a gift for my daughter when she was 13. Hard to believe that so much time has passed and she will be celebrating another birthday on Monday. I marvel at this beautiful young lady who is finding her place in the world.

I see signs of Elmo's slowing down, a measured gait and less spring as he jumps up onto surfaces. But his purr remains loud and appreciative as he loses all dignity getting his belly rubbed. There is nothing quite so relaxing as stroking a cat. He and his buddy, Basil, wreak havoc in the house at times, but all is forgiven as we settle in for a cuddle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 140: La Ronde and the Bridge

Day 140: La Ronde and the Bridge, originally uploaded by susanvg.

After a day long meeting at the Ministry of Education in a windowless room I stepped into the sunshine. The ministry is located near the river. The Jacques Cartier Bridge can be see here, crossing to the south shore. On this side of the bridge on an island is La Ronde, our local amusement park. I have never been a fan of amusement parks as I suffer from motion sickness; my idea of fun has never been to twirl, race, hang upside down or any other activity that brings on nausea. I am always amused by the juxtaposition of the bridge and the rides as I think of some drivers who treat their cars as rides in amusement parks, speeding, winding in and out of lanes and peeling around corners.

Which is the ride? - the roller coasters or the bridge?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 139: Virtual Geocaching

Day 139: Virtual Geocaching, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was at a workshop on geo-caching today. We did not actually look for any real caches - but had to find items from clues based on the location. This fellow (Era - What period is this fellow from?) answered the clue. We traipsed all around the neighbourhood, attracting curiosity. What a great way to spend the morning. We found one actual cache (we were given the coordinates) - you can see the photograph below.
GeocachingLater we discussed the educational possibilities of this activity. I think I'm hooked. It's a great way to have a reason to go out for a walk. You never quite know where it will lead you and may encourage exploration of one's environment. And that's a way to find new photo ops!

Day 138: Water for Horses

Day 138: Water for Horses, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A water trough for horses with fresh water spewing out can be found as you walk through Mount Royal Park. A plaque dedicates it to someone who was a lover of horses. The only horses you see on the mountain are those ridden by the police. They patrol the mountain on horseback. Their stable is located just off the road that cuts through the mountain.

Occasionally the caleche drivers come up to the mountain to offer tours. Perhaps their horses take advantage of this ready supply of water.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 137: Looking Downtown

Day 137: Looking Downtown, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Montreal has a vital downtown - safe, walkable and lively. This photograph was taken looking towards downtown from the south. The building on the right is Place Ville Marie, one of Montreal's first skyscrapers, built in 1962. It was also the first to house an underground shopping mall. Now Montreal has an underground life - miles of tunnels connect buildings and underground shopping centres - a boon to winter shoppers, movie goers, office workers... As they are also connected to the metro (our subway system) people can accomplish a lot without going outside.

We do not have huge skyscrapers as there is now a law regulating the height so that they do not overshadow our mountain. You can see one view of the city here - taken from the mountain looking slightly east of these buildings.

Montreal I

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day 136: Mountain Equipment Co-op

A rainy day is perfect for shopping for a raincoat, so we went to Mountain Equipment Co-op. It feels good to shop there as the values of this venture are admirable. This is one of the greenest buildings - with much of it built of recycled materials. Rain water is collected for toilets; heating and cooling are done mainly through a geo-thermal system. Learn more here. And this attitude continues through ethical sourcing of goods.
The store is full of clothing and equipment for all kinds of outdoor activities - today's purchases included hiking boots, the raincoat, socks and long pants. But we forgot to stock up on fairtrade chocolate. Guess I'll have to go back.

Day 135: Marché Bonsecours

Day 135: Marché Bonsecours, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This beautiful building was built in 1847 as a market. Situated next to the port and in the centre of the old part of the city, it was the perfect spot for trade and commerce. It has served many functions and is now a centre for local art, handicrafts and restaurants.

There is a large room on the top floor. As part of the Montreal Baroque Festival, I attended a concert which concluded with an opportunity to learn some baroque dances. What a fitting place for this event!

Below you can find two more views (from other side) of this heritage structure. Learn more about Bonsecours Market here

Marché Bonsecours at nightNight shot taken from St. Paul Street

Marché BonsecoursDaytime - taken from St. Paul Street

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 134: Changeable Skies

Day 134: Changeable Skies, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The wind blew all day, rapidly changing the weather. The morning sun was soon covered by clouds, first light then ever darker. Later the rain, driven by the wind, pelted down, sometimes almost sideways. By 5:00 these dark clouds hovered, threateningly, but the sun came through some thinning patches. I love the contrasts in light this created. Everything light-coloured was highlighted, everything dark seemed to grow darker still.

Spring storm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 133: Crab Apple Blossoms

Day 133: Crab Apple Blossoms, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The evening air is heavy with the scent of blossoms. Each day new fragrances make their presence known: crab apples, lilacs and blossoms whose names are not part of my lexicon. Walking is an olfactory experience.

These trees are wearing their finery. The magnolias have cried their tear shaped petals; the trees look bereft as their pale green leaves have not yet grown enough to cover their nakedness. Each year they cycle through the phases of growth reminding us that outer beauty is temporary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 132: More Ephemera

Day 132: More Ephemera, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I don't know if this spring is longer and more lovely than others, or if my eyes are more open to its wonders. I have always loved spring: the new growth, the delicate colours, the constant changes. So often, here in Montreal, we go quickly from winter to summer. This year it seems to be hanging on longer.

I passed these lovely flowers as I was walking. I have a smaller bush in my garden, but it isn't flowering yet. It took me a while on the Internet, to find the name, but I believe it is a Prunus cistena. The flowers are quite small and delicate. I marvel at the details in each - the bright pink stamen and orangey anthers. They seem to be calling to the insects to pollinate them quickly before they fall off. Spring ephemera - here and soon gone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day 131: Green?

Day 131: Green?, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's hard to make green choices because the choices are not clear. This compact fluorescent light bulb is touted as energy saving, but it contains a small amount of mercury. Recycle, the city says, but they don't pick up these light bulbs. Consumers have to take them to the "eco" centres. How many people do this? We leave a cleaner carbon footprint and then pollute our landfill.

Green is in - corporations try to paint themselves with the eco green brush - but often it is lip service to a serious problem. And if I really look at myself, I know that I do the same. Waste and wanton consumerism are part of our North American culture.
I love the native American saying
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our grandchildren."
We need to all become more conscious of being keepers of the earth.

Day 130: Preparing for the Concert

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours - I go to so many early music concerts here, I have dubbed it Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Musique-Ancienne. Today was our turn for a concert - Flutissimo, the recorder orchestra in which I play. We have played here before, but each time I feel privileged to be part of the musical scene of this extraordinary church.
Our programme included works from Medieval times to the 21st century - a challenging repertoire. Our director, Sophie Larivière, has been with the group since its founding ten years ago. Making music with others, being a part of something larger than yourself, requires listening, collaboration, knowing when to bring out your line and knowing when to let other lines shine. This is not about the individual but about a group working for the music, to bring it to life.
It was, on the whole, a good concert for this group of amateurs. In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, we were in "The Element".

Panorama view of church
Photo from the concert below...
Flutissimo Concert

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day 129: Trillium

Day 129: Trillium, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Spring is the time of changes. Flowers blossom and fall off trees to be replaced by leaves. Leaves change from the delicate spring green to their darker full grown shades. Before the leaves are full, magic happens in some forests. The trilliums come out, sometimes so dense, they blanket the forest floor. These ephemeral flowers last a short time before the forest canopy fills in to shade them.

Trilliums - Summit Park

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 128: Hurtubise House

Day 128: Hurtubise House, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This house has stood here for 270 years (built in 1739). Once a farm house, built by the affluent Hurtubise family, it now sits in the middle of a residential section of Montreal. No longer surrounded by fields and orchards, its barn sits behind, an anachronism in an urban landscape. With the division of the original farm happening over time, houses from different vintages sprang up around it. This, to me, is one of the charms of my city - with architecture representing different time periods and different uses, from the homes built for the affluent to the homes built for the many people who worked on the infrastructure of our city, from building bridges to working on the railroad.

Unfortunately we have lost much of our older architectural heritage through city expansion, decay and lack of vision. This house, now owned by Heritage Canada, will be here to attest to a time when farms covered much of our island.

Learn more about the house here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 127: Multi-tasking

Day 127: Multi-tasking, originally uploaded by susanvg.

One of those days - trying to get work projects and personal projects finished. And then - distraction. My doorbell rang and the netbook I ordered arrived. So I wrote a report, edited a webcast and installed open source software on the netbook, rotating between the tasks. Multi-tasking between operating systems - as my netbook runs on Windows. Tonight I accomplished quite a bit, but some days multi-tasking means no tasks get done.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 126: The Dog Walker

IMG_3455, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Martin is our local dog walker. As an owner of cats, I have not used his services, but have often chatted with him. He has an incredible rapport with the animals. Like a dog whisperer, he makes even the most unruly dog walk happily along with the rest of the pack. You see him passing with up to about 8 dogs at various times of the day. His double role is that of neighbourhood watch. He knows the patterns of our community and keeps an eye out for changes. His presence adds a level of safety (not that it is particularly unsafe).

Martin has keys to many homes as he picks up and delivers dogs on his route. The dogs know he is a dog's best friend.

Day 125: Recorder Builder's Workshop

As an avid amateur recorder player, I own a number of instruments of all sizes. Close to Montreal is a recorder maker, Jean-Luc Boudreau, who makes hand-made instruments as well as part machine-made instruments (his Aesthé line). I have a few Aesthé recorders as well as a voice flute (a recorder in D) which is one of his hand-made instruments. It needed a bit of work so I went to Jean-Luc's workshop. He filed the windway and the block and now the sound is once again pure and flexible.

I admire people who are so good with their hands, who can make something so beautiful out of a chunk of wood. I love to wander around the workshop, to see the unfinished recorder blocks ready to be finished and plugged into recorders, to see the half-finished recorders, well on their way to becoming instruments. Oil, files, a small alcohol burner, woodworking tools are just some of what is needed for the process. Most of all what is needed is the maker, whose passion, precision and practice nurture each instrument to life.

Once finished, these instruments live - providing years of pleasure to those who play and (hopefully) those who listen!

Day 124: Ready for the Flowers

Day 124: Ready for the Flowers, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The market is opening up to the air. Window protection has come down and these temporary structures have been erected. Within a few days they will be full of flats of flowers, pots of perennials and many varieties of vegetables. Montreal's gardeners will converge on the many gardening centres to make their yearly selections.
Today I purchased fruit and vegetables, most of it grown far afield. Soon the stalls will feature local produce, the taste so much richer than the well-travelled goods here now. The changes of seasons always bring welcome delights.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 123: Leaves Unfurl

Day 123: Leaves Unfurl, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Another day and spring continues its advance. Some rain has primed the flora for growth. The pale green flowers, covering the trees with a spray of colour are being replaced by a new growth of young leaves. It's a season of promise, of new beginnings.
As someone in education it is also a time of endings, as school years and projects make their final push to summer vacations. It is the tension between the two that make this time so alive - new growth in nature bursting forth and growth in learning coming to fruition.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 122: Shadow Play

Day 121: Shadow Play, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I've got wheels - perfect day to go out on a bike. I gingerly mount my wheeled steed, not yet steady. After years of not riding a bicycle, I dusted off my almost brand-new bike last season. Getting my balance and confidence again- not as easy as the years mount up. Here in the flat countryside is the perfect spot for a trial run. We meander through quiet streets and explore parts of this community we had not seen before. I've got wheels - and they start to feel more steady.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 121: Chinese Lanterns

Day 121: Chinese Lanterns, originally uploaded by susanvg.

These lanterns hang in a Chinese restaurant in Casselman. This town, mainly French-speaking and Catholic, lies in a farming area. Yet even in towns like this there is often a Chinese restaurant. I admire immigrants, who leave their homes and start over in the midst of a foreign country, with a foreign culture. There are almost no people of visible minorities in this area, yet the owners of this restaurant had the courage to set up their establishment here. That is one of the hallmarks of Canada. Unless one is of First Nations' extraction, we all come from immigrants, some came 400 years ago, some arrived today. Our major cities are becoming a colourful mix of cultures and smaller towns are learning to embrace the differences new immigrants bring. There is sometimes friction; change always requires adaptation. In the long run, we are all richer as we learn about and explore each others' culture.