Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 180: NECC Exhibits

Day 180: NECC Exhibits, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This conference is huge - the exhibit floor goes as far as the eye can see. It is overwhelming and very commercial - much more so than Canadian conferences. I took a long walk through and found an excess of booths featuring ways to pigeon hole students. No plans on going back.

I have had some wonderful conversations with people like Helen Barrett, Sue Waters, Angela Meiers, Cheryl Oakes, Alice Barr and many more. It is proof that although relationships develop through our many virtual activities, it is often the face to face that strengthens them. I plan on exploring Second Life tomorrow, but have really enjoyed living in my first life today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 179: NECC09

Day 179: NECC09, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Crowds - 18000 people are registered in this conference. Sitting in the keynote in a sea of people makes one feel small. How can you make contact, to make connections, exchange ideas, so essential as part of the conference experience in such a large mob?

I spent the evening at the Edublogger's Cafe - putting faces to the words I have read and heard via blogs and webcasts. And I met my fellow webcaster with whom I had been presenting webcast shows for almost two years, but we had never met. I love my virtual life; it has provided and continues to provide ideas, challenges to my thinking and connections - but it is so nice to have personal conversations and meet face to face. Among this community the essential conversations can happen. How to make a neighbourhood within a larger context.

Day 178: Da Longa

Day 178: Da Longa, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Music in the cafe is such an integral part of the Montreal Baroque Festival. Sometimes groups are scheduled to play here as with this group, Da Longa who played Turkish music. The rhythms and seductive melodies had me moving in my seat.

Here is a closer look at the performer who was playing an instrument that sounded like a cross between a recorder and a clarinet. It has a reed, which gave it the clarinet sound.

In the evenings impromptu groups of young musicians play through a wide variety of Baroque music - sometimes audible, sometimes drowned out by the lively conversations about the festival. The established professional musicians mingle with the up and coming players. Audience members chat with them all, frequently expressing delight with the just played concert. There is a tremendous sense of community among all - the early music family.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 177: Susie

Day 177: Susie, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A full day of music and discoveries. The Baroque Festival has led me to explore places, some quite hidden, in Old Montreal. Each year, Susie takes advantage of a variety of locations to showcase the music and the theme. A concert was held in the Royal Bank of Canada (while business was going on as usual) in a magnificent building dating from the late 1800s.

Bank Ceiling
The ceiling above is only a tiny sample - the marble, the brass, the incredible bronze doors of the elevators - this is definitely worth visiting. The concert, itself, was given by a group of young recorder players - a delightful programme of early music mixed with some contemporary offerings. A master class held in the house once owned by George Étienne-Cartier (one of our fathers of confederation). To hear music in a drawing room is to hear it in the setting for which it was composed.

An incredible concert by the Flanders Quartet in my favourite church followed. The four recorder players play as one - their sounds blending to give the impression of listening to a pipe organ. Their collection of instruments is extraordinary with matched Renaissance instruments, Baroque instruments and all sizes from sopranino to contrabass. Here is just a sample (those played by one of the musicians, not including the larger recorders).

An English Country Dance was then held in Musée Chateau Ramezay built 300 years ago. For my American friend - Benjamin Franklin slept here. You can read about his connection to Montreal and our local English Newspaper here. A large portrait of him hangs in the museum. Many people came to the dance in costume and danced to the live music of Rufty Tufty.
In another room the Quatuor Franz Joseph played in a setting so appropriate for the music. And presiding over it all was Susie - the brains, the inspiration, the creator of this incredible festival. More tomorrow....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 176: Viola da Gamba Head

Day 176: Viola da Gamba Head, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The Montreal Baroque Festival has begun, launched at City Hall with music by Les Voix Humaines played on viola da gambas. This is the head of one of the period instruments, part of a collection from Hart House in Toronto. Some people mistakenly think that gambas are the ancestors of the violin family, but they are really quite different. They have frets, are all played in a similar position to the cello and are bowed underhand (you can read about them here). Susie Napper, the creative force behind the festival, discovered this chest of viols; they had not been played in about 70 years. She arranged to have them refurbished and brought them to the festival. Les Voix Humaines, of which Susie is one of the founders, played at the launch and then later played a full concert. The sound was rich and glorious.


The theme of this year's festival is Death by Chocolate in honour of Henry Purcell. One theory of why is died is a surfeit of chocolate. So each concert is named for some sort of chocolate delicacy and a sample is served as you exit the concert. This is the seventh year of the festival and each year Susie's creativity in terms of theme and programming is extraordinary. And the lines between performers and audience are blurred by encounters in the festival cafe where all intermingle, chat and celebrate the joys of music.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 175: Lily

Day 175: Lily, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Today is the "Fête Nationale" here in the province of Quebec. The fleur de lis flags are flying everywhere, so I thought I would feature a lily from my garden to honour the holiday. There is debate over whether the heraldic fleur de lis is actually an iris but I don't have any in my garden at this time of year so this tiger lily will have to do.

This holiday, originally St-Jean-Baptiste Day (when the Catholic church played a dominant role in Quebec life), feels like the real beginning of summer. It is our first official day off. Schools conclude the day before and the weather is usually sultry. There are outdoor concerts, fireworks, a parade - all the things you associate with summer events. I try to ignore the political overtones as Quebec is a place of controversy over language. I have to admit to not partaking, but tomorrow is the opening of the Montreal Baroque Festival - that's when I immerse myself in concerts and festivities so I have to conserve my energy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 174: Shoes

Day 174: Shoes, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's that time of year, when schools close and people go off on vacations. These shoes have already done a fair amount of travelling, to Prince Edward Island, to Budapest, Croatia, Paris, London and more. This summer they are going to Newfoundland.

At a conference a few years ago I heard a speaker talk about a retired teacher who after a number of years away from the classroom still did supply teaching. When she had been assigned to a particularly difficult class, the principal decided to check on how she was handling things. He arrived at the class to see her lying on the desk. Her shoes were on a shelf above and the students all had their heads down as they listened to her story of where her shoes had taken her through life. She challenged them to imagine where their shoes would take them.

I 'm looking forward to more adventures in these shoes, and in any shoes that take their place. Where are your shoes going?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 173: The Bank

Day 173: The Bank, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Architecture has changed. Banks used to be built in imposing styles, columns thrusting up to the name carved above. But times change and there is no more Bank of Toronto. Its descendant is the TD Bank, an amalgamation of smaller banks. And banks are often located in rented spaces in building, so there is no longer "bank" architecture.

You can see the spectre of a modern building looming over the bank. There are no curlicues, no columns, just clean lines. Which architecture is more admirable? Each speaks of the age that spawned it, monuments to a time.

Day 172: Book Club Site

Day 172: Book Club Site, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Some days inspiration for my photograph just doesn't strike. I spent much of the evening editing and fixing up my book group web site. It always ends up taking longer than you expect as each change leads to other little things that need fixing. Minutes add up and before you know it they have turned into hours. And then you look at the clock! Fifteen minutes left to take a photograph to keep up with my goal of a photo a day. The lighting in the room turned my computer a bronze colour; the batteries in the camera needed changing.... So this is my offering. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 171: This is not a Flower Bed

I have been stalking this B&B every time I come to Casselman, waiting for the flowers to be planted - but obviously, this is NOT a flower bed.

This is one of the more charming buildings in Casselman. I hope the beds inside are more comfortable than this one. Sleeping on this one would not be a bed of roses. Sleep tight - don't let the bed bugs bite. Perhaps, not, but the mosquitoes and black flies may.

Day 170: Repertory Theatre

Day 170: Repertory Theatre, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I went to a film at the repertory theatre in Ottawa. Every city needs at least on repertory theatre which shows a variety of movies, often not found in the mainstream theatres. The Bytowne runs a combination of mainstream films, foreign films and independent films. It is the antidote to the blockbusters playing in the cineplexes.

In my experience, and the Bytowne is no exception, repertory theatres are often housed in old, somewhat rundown theatres which were once the neighbourhood theatres. The seats have long ago lost their resilience, causing you to sink into them. The theatre is a faded copy of its former glory. But that is all part of the experience. Thanks to repertory theatres we have the opportunity to see a film that makes us think, instead of just entertaining us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 169: Raindrops

Day 169: Raindrops, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A rainy day - finally my garden has been well-watered. Some garden work I enjoy. Planting brings such a feeling of hope, knowing that there will be growth and change. Weeding can be relaxing or invigorating depending on my mood. Sometimes I just enjoy being in the garden so the weeding is part of the experience. Other times it is my way of getting out my anger at a situation, with weeds taking the brunt. As I pull off the dead heads, I can stop and appreciate the nearby blossoms. But watering is just a bore. I hate dragging the hose around and dancing around the spray as I move it to the next spot. I let my flowers send down deep roots and hope they will thrive. It's ecological, I tell myself. I don't waste water. But secretly I hope the rain clouds will come and do the work for me. So I appreciate the rain.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 168: Elmo has a Bath

Day 168: Elmo has a Bath, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Cats have such different personalities. Elmo, our 14 year old cat has always been more skittish. He loves his cuddles and will ask to be held several times a day (and sometimes several times an hour). Basil, almost 13, is a more adventurous cat. His favourite perch (when on a person) is right on your shoulder. Maybe there is a bit of parrot in him. The two are best friends who sleep curled up together, cuddle, play and tussle. Tonight, Elmo lay back while Basil washed him.

Squabbles usually happen in a certain order. Basil wants to play. He chases Elmo. Elmo starts to run off followed by Basil. Elmo gets cornered; he lashes out. Basil gets hurt. The actual cat fight can last 15 seconds - long enough to result in a trip to the vet and a course of antibiotics. Fortunately, it doesn't usually come to that. They bring joy, delight, exasperation, warmth and much more to the house. And they think they own it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 167: Stained Glass

Day 167: Stained Glass, originally uploaded by susanvg.

When I bought my house over twenty years ago, it was really by fluke. I wasn't looking for a house just in this area. However, my brother-in-law, who was 25 years older than I, was a friend of the owner and had always raved about it. Coincidentally, I had gone to high school with the owner's son. When my real estate agent suggested seeing the house, I jumped on the chance, more out of curiousity than because I thought I would buy it. When I saw it, it just seemed right. The owner was thrilled that someone he knew was acquiring his beloved home.

Mr. E. had an extensive art collection. This piece of stained glass hung on the wall in the dining room. He left it for me, saying that the dining-room would just not be right without it.

I subsequently learned more about the artist, Eric Wesselow, an innovative glass artist, whose technique of layering glass instead of using lead became known as the Eric Wesselow System. He phoned me once, wanting to come and photograph the work, but unfortunately, he passed away before this could be arranged. Lovely as this looks in my dining room, I don't think I'll be leaving it behind when I move.

If you are interested in learning more about Eric Wesselow, read this article.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 166: Steel Rails

Day 166: Steel Rails, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The railway stations in many small towns have closed. Here in Casselman, if you book ahead, the train will stop, no longer at the station but at a small hut. Otherwise it barrels through blasting its horn at every level crossing. The station is being transformed into a tourist centre.

The railway is what stitched Canada together, crossing from Atlantic to Pacific. In the past it was the main mode of traffic, linking remote centres to the larger centres. Cars, trucks and planes have become dominant. I still love train travel - it's fairly comfortable, much less of a hassle than plane travel and I can sit back and let someone else do the driving.

Day 165: Gibbys

Day 165: Gibbys, originally uploaded by susanvg.

On my children's birthdays, they get to choose the restaurant for a family dinner. My daughter, ever sentimental, chooses Gibbys (click if you want to know the history of the building) because we always went their with my father for her birthday. Gibbys is located in what used to be the stables in a complex that served the Grey Nuns. Part of the structure dates to the 17th century and part the 18th.

Inside the ceilings are fairly low, with large wooden beams. The inside walls are stone. The restaurant is known for steak, with sizable portions. So good to be together as a family which is not easy to arrange with varying work schedules and family members living out of town. We only celebrated three weeks late this year.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 164: Morgan Arboretum

Day 164: Morgan Arboretum, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes you just want to escape to the country, to smell the forest and escape the sounds of the city. We went to the Morgan Arboretum at the end of the island, and, though we were still on the Island of Montreal, it was a real rural oasis. The arboretum belongs to McGill and research is carried out there on native species and forest management.

Walking through the woods is a calming activity. We stopped to admire the dragon flies and the black flies stopped to admire us. The vegetation changed as we walked. There were stands of coniferous trees, open meadows, a variety of hardwoods and wild flowers all over the place. This odd-looking structure was in an area with blossoming trees and shrubs.

The country slows you down - an antidote to a busy week.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 163: Columbine

Day 163: Columbine, originally uploaded by susanvg.

How does a flower become a favourite? Sometimes it is its incredible complexity - certainly that is one reason I love columbines. There is so much to look at and examine when you view the flower. However, to me, the way a flower becomes a favourite is often because of the stories attached to it.

Growing up, we had a country place and my mother loved her garden. I can still picture the patch of lupins near the front door. The soil in the area is sandy, so the garden had to be nurtured, with good soil added regularly. In the back of the house there was a row of monarda whose bright red colour attracted hummingbirds. I have never had much success with either of those flowers. Right near the house, my mother had several columbines.

Now, I usually left the gardening to my mother; in those days, I didn't know a weed from a prized plant. I learned the hard way. One summer, I wanted to try my luck at planting a few vegetables. My mother was so delighted with my interest in gardening that she agreed immediately. So my new husband and I looked to see where the sun might help produce a good crop and we dug and planted. To my mother's horror, we had dug up some of her columbines. Our vegetables did not thrive, but, fortunately, we had not pulled all the columbines and they did thrive.

Long after that, when I was planting my own garden at the home I am in now, I planted columbines - and they flourish and spread. Each time I stop to admire them, I think of my mother and that is why they are special favourites of mine. Their beauty and complexity bring back memories of her - and the beauty of her character that always shone with love for those near to her.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 162: Wagon Wheel

Day 162: Wagon Wheel, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This old wagon wheel sits in front of my house - it was there when I moved in. No longer useful, its sole purpose is decorative. It's interesting to see how many artifacts that once had a use are now almost objets d'art. Spinning wheels sit in people's homes, various objects hang on walls. Restaurants use old cooking utensils and crockery for atmosphere.

I wonder what will be seen as decorative in the future. Will people have old computers as conversation pieces? mice hanging on the walls? hubcaps decorating a garden? Will restaurants want to use our outdated tools to provide the theme for their decor?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 161: Canadiens Fan

Day 161: Canadiens Fan, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I went to a movie this evening in what used to be the Montreal Forum, home of Les Canadiens. The building was gutted and turned into a multiplex movie theatre. A few remnants of the old building were placed in it as a reminder of its former purpose. These seats used to be filled with avid fans, rooting for their team. This sculpture is reminiscent of this.

It saddens me to see the graffiti scribbled on it. There is no respect for the artist nor for the public who enjoy it. I have often seen people having their pictures taken sitting beside the sculpture. Now the face looks garish, the hands out of place. What was once a playful reminder of the past is now a testimony to the needs of the individual to satisfy him/herself without thought to the effect on others.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 160: Highways

Day 160: Highways, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was at a meeting today at a school - here is the view as you walked out. This spaghetti of roads was built in the 60s. The interchange is slated to be completely rebuilt, with more at ground level. People in neighbourhoods close by are concerned about the noise and dirt of the construction phase. I wish the city would invest more in public transportation and less in highways. We have to learn to rely less on cars. I'm not ready to give mine up, but I do try to use public transportation more than I used to. Change is hard and it will take a long time to wean us of our dependence on the almighty automobile.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 159: Flour Mill

Day 159: Flour Mill, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Coming in to Montreal by train brings you past some downtrodden areas. The tracks swing around near the canal and the port. Before the St. Lawrence Seaway was built, Montreal was the main port for the Eastern half of Canada as ships could not pass the rapids in the river. There were grain elevators as trains arrived with wheat from the west. This building housed the Five Roses Flour mill. A large sign still sits on top of the building (visible from another angle). The word "flour" was removed when Quebec pushed for more visibility of French.

The sign has been a landmark in Montreal (though the text has changed over the years). It is very visible as you drive in to the city from the south shore. Since the building has been sold, there are rumours that the sign will be removed. You can read more about it here.

This is the sign in the day time - as it faces two ways, it is not as legible as at night.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 158: Meandering

Day 158: Meandering, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Another long drive - Toronto to Casselman. What a difference once we got off the 401. The country road meandered through farmland and little towns, some more picturesque than others. We could slow down and admire the scenery, open a window and hear a bird, not just the hum of traffic and whoosh of the air at high speeds. And we could stop a moment to photograph this horse.

The sun was setting and though it was sometimes in our eyes, as we turned we were caught by the ever-changing light as it turned from yellow, to gold to orange. When we stepped out of the car we were aware of the fresh smell of the air. Sometimes it's good to get out of the city - but tomorrow I will be back in Montreal.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 157: Lawn Ornaments?

Day 157: Lawn Ornaments?, originally uploaded by susanvg.

There has to be a story behind this, but I certainly don't know what it is. We pass this house in Toronto frequently when we are there. Each time I gawk at the odd assortment of statues on the lawn. I try to imagine what went behind the choice but have yet to come up with a plausible answer. Anyone out there? Would you group these together on your lawn? I would love to know the story.

Day 156: AGO-Frank Gehry

Day 156: AGO-Frank Gehry, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I spent much of the day at the Art Gallery of Ontario admiring both the art and the architecture. The original structure was enlarged by Toronto born architect, Frank Gehry and I was curious to see what he had done. I am not crazy about what it looks like on the outside - too much mirror and steel, but inside was full of the warmth of wood, with an organic staircase spiraling up, beautiful flowing wood benches where you could sit and admire the work (and they were comfortable too). This galleria was beautiful. It felt a bit like being in the hull of a ship under construction. The only art in there were wood pieces of sculpture.

I loved the way Gehry incorporated windows into some of the galleries. It was almost like looking at an ever changing piece of art.

As to the art, I lingered over the Impressionists and spent a lot of time in the Canadian art galleries. The Group of Seven is extremely well represented. Their landscapes speak to me. There were discoveries, some contemporary art that puzzled me and some conversations with other visitors to the gallery. And finally, in a state of visual overload, I went back out onto the street.

Gehry Chairs

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 155: Up and Away

Day 155|: Up and Away, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Yet another trip to Toronto - this one planned. I flew on Porter Airlines, a small regional carrier that gives wonderful service. As I sat back in the leather seats, I was served a complimentary glass of wine in an actual glass. The planes are all turboprop, so they don't fly as high as the jets, which means, the view on a cloudless day is quite lovely. Shortly after takeoff, I took this picture looking down on the north-west part of Montreal Island.

As it happened my seatmate was also in education so the wine (and sandwich) was accompanied by good conversation. Flying in to Toronto I caught this shot.TORONTO

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

DAY 154: Market Trip

DAY 154: Market Trip, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Another trip to the market. My garden is almost all planted. The weather has been slow to warm up this year so the garden is off to a slower start. Each year my flowers surprise me as the perennials spread and pop up in unexpected places. My columbines are just starting to flower; the hostas are spreading their leaves, taking their place.

So hard to limit buying when faced with the plethora of flowers. But limited space and consideration for the amount of sun on the garden are realities so I feast my eyes and then go home just with what I need.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 153: The Little People

Day 153: The Little People, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was walking down the street when I came across this tiny garden populated by tiny people and gnomes. You may have to look at a larger version of the photograph on Flickr to see them well.

It fascinates me what people put in their gardens. I inherited a couple of oriental ornaments from the previous owner (a stone temple, a stone block with a sundial - there used to be a fisherman on it whose fishing rod cast a shadow). There was a ceramic frog which my neighbour's young son smashed. His mother, feeling somewhat abashed by his behaviour appeared with a ceramic chicken. I have never felt compelled to populate my garden with things - the flowers take up my attention and admiration. But these little folk caught my eye and I guess that is what the gardener wanted - a bit of whimsy on an otherwise busy street.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 152: The Phoenix

Day 152: The Phoenix, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It was one of those days, when photography was not on my mind. Scan the house - what story is there to tell? This bird is on a small, wood, carved table from Indonesia. My father-in-law was in the Dutch civil service (a good colonialist) and served for many years in Indonesia - from 1929 until about 1951. He, his wife and their growing family moved to different parts of the archipelago as he achieved higher status, eventually becoming governor of a province. As they moved, they would sell a lot of their furniture and buy some more in the next town, often at auctions. My mother-in-law recalled that this table came from one such auction.

They did not bring a lot with them when they left Indonesia. After losing most of their belongings during the Second World War (they were interned in Japanese camps), they re-established themselves. When Indonesia became independent, they returned to the Netherlands and soon after moved to Canada.

Like the phoenix who rises from the ashes, they were forced by circumstances in the world to remake their lives several times.

Day 151: On the road

Day 151: On the road, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A lot of driving over the last few days - a quick trip to Toronto and back - 500 km (about 300 mi.) each way. The 401 has to be one of the most boring highways around. Every so often there is something interesting so I decided to try "drive by shooting" while I was the passenger. One thing I love is when the scenery opens up and I catch glimpses of Lake Ontario. There is something amazing about the immense size of the Great Lakes - with water stretching to the horizon. The field, not yet planted, stretches to the water. Once vegetation grows it will obscure the tiny strip of water.
I am reminded of Jane Urquhart's book, Away, much of which takes place not far from here. I try to imagine the wilderness the characters in the book encountered and contrast it with what exists now. Reading the landscape I see farmland, cleared and settled, crisscrossed by roads and highways, a far cry from the dense forest in the early 19th century. The highway, straight, flat, cuts through it all, a twentieth century improvement for the cars and trucks to bypass the nooks and crannies of small town Ontario.