Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 334: First Snow

Day 334: First Snow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Through the window the first snow of the season settled on branches turning the world white. Still ephemeral, as the day warms up the branches shed their ermine stoles. Each year the first snowfall is enchanting, a window into the fairytale of the snow maiden. December is coming.

Here is the same view at the beginning of the month.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 333: Change of Seasons

Day 333: Change of Seasons, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to come across good street art. As we are transitioning from autumn to winter (some snow is expected tonight) it was fun to come across this representation of our seasons. The air felt crisp and I was glad to have my winter coat on as I walked. It's funny to think that as the trees shed their clothing we start to add more. Getting ready to go outside just takes longer as we don heavier coats, hat, scarf and gloves and soon boots.

Each season has its charms. This year November was sunnier than usual, but it is usually quite grey. Then I welcome the fresh white snow which sparkles in the sunshine adding brightness to the short December days.

Day 332: Under Wraps

Day 332: Under Wraps, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This photo is dedicated to my friend, Jen, in PEI. She opened my eyes to the whimsical nature of bush wrapping. Here in Montreal we have cold, snowy winters and many people wrap up bushes to protect them from the weather and the salt that is spread on the roads. When you let your imagination go you can see beyond the wrapped bush to see figures, animals and much more. I think this bush actually has a face. Is this "man" carrying sheaves of wheat to the mill to be ground? or is this a Native American with feather plumes decorating his deerskin outfit?

Jen has taken a whole series of photographs of these "creatures." It is interesting to see the change in shape as the snow helps to reshape them over the winter. I'll be photographing more as the seasons change.

Day 331: The Rocket

Day 331: The Rocket, originally uploaded by susanvg.

After a concert we walked to the metro. It was the first time I walked through the plaza near the Bell Centre since the 100 year celebrations for Les Canadiens. I came upon this sculpture on Maurice Richard, a Montreal legend. He was larger than life in my childhood - the player who more than any other epitomized hockey in our city. Even though I was quite young when he retired from hockey, his name was always said with awe.

A few years ago I saw the film made about him, The Rocket, and was once again struck by the struggle he had to be valued as a player and as a French Canadian. It is a far cry from there to our overpaid athletes of today. I am glad to see him honoured here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 330: Orchids

Day 330: Orchids, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My daughter inherited the flower gene. She went out today and brought back these orchid stems. As the colours fade outdoors, we both enjoy having flowers indoors. Their lively colours brighten our surroundings. I love to have plants in my home - it feels less sterile.

I do have several orchids, but the only one flowering right now is one I bought recently. A couple of my others have buds, but it will be a while before the blossoms open. My Christmas cacti have dropped their blooms as they go back into a more dormant stage.

I am enjoying this bunch though I am not convinced that this is their natural colour - I think they have sucked up colouring through the water they were in. Funny that we even think of tampering with their natural beauty.

Day 329: Wild Thing

Day 329: Wild Thing, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My son, now an adult, created this in his early years in high school. I always thought it looked like it could have walked out of "Where the Wild Things Are". It sits in my living-room, a source of amusement and of pride.

I have always honoured the work my children did, displaying it for all to see. Some works have slowly been delegated to less conspicuous places or have been filed away. Others have kept their prominent spots as they are not just the creations of my children, but are really pieces I enjoy long past the time of assuring their egos are intact. This whimsical fellow definitely fits that category.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 328: Warmth

Day 328: Warmth, originally uploaded by susanvg.

When the day is coming to a close and there has been little opportunity for a photograph, there are always the cats. My two senior felines, know how to get their needs met. They burrow into blankets as if in a sleeping bag and survey the world from their cosy nest.

As they get older, they spend more of their day sleeping, finding all the warm spots in the house, be it under blankets, in a sunbeam or under a lamp. They frequently curl up together, sharing their body warmth. I think there is nothing quite so relaxed as a sleeping cat, nor so relaxing as curling up under the blanket with them for warmth and a rhythmic purr.

Day 327: Resilience

Day 327: Resilience, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We are well into November and I came across a rose budding and flowering. The trees stand bare, their leaves drying and decaying, but this resilient bush has taken advantage of our unseasonably warm weather. We have had frost, but no extended cold weather so some hardy flowers have hung around daring the cold to vanquish them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 326: Kettle

Day 326: Kettle, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A new kitchen - a new kettle. I discovered my old copper-bottomed kettle should not be used with this stove. I know this will serve me well, its boiled water leading to those comforting cups of tea, tissane and coffee.

Some years ago during an insommniac night I went down to the kitchen and put on water to make a chamomile tea. As I waited for the kettle to boil I went to a nearby room to play solitaire on my computer, something mindless enough to calm my overactive brain. My cat came up to me, whining. I gave it a pat and continued my game. He returned, patting my leg and when I reached for him he ran towards the kitchen. I continued my game. On his third attempt to lure me to the kitchen I followed him. The kettle was glowing red hot on the stove. I snatched an oven mitt, grabbed the handle of the kettle, ran to the front door and flung the kettle into a pile of snow where it hissed back at me. The cat is still with me - a well-loved feline of almost 15 years. He earned his keep that night!

Day 325: Petits Chanteurs

IMG_5044, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This building sits on the slope leading up to St. Joseph Oratory. It is the school for "Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal" a boys choir. Boys are accepted after second grade and thereafter follow a rigorous musical training in addition to their academic studies.

I do like the sound of a boys choir, but have reservations about funneling children into something so demanding at such a young age. The choice is the parents' not the child's and it leaves minimal time for trying other activities that may have been of interest to the boy.

Some years ago I was in St. Paul's Cathedral in London at Evensong. Listening to the boys choir in that setting was ethereal. The reverberation of the Renaissance music they sang stayed with me for a long time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 324: The Kitchen

Day 324: The Kitchen, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Now I feel at home. My kitchen renovations are almost complete and I have moved back in. Kitchens are so much at the centre of our lives. The food we cook nurtures and sustains us. Through daily life, celebrations, sad events, we create the dishes that honour the occasions.

The family is gathering and my kitchen is once more the centre of my home.

Day 323: Candlelight

Day 323: Candlelight, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Candles serve so many purposes in our lives. It has been a year of losses, this time my spouse's mother. We sat in candlelight thinking, being and quietly remembering.

Candles light our celebrations and our losses. They brighten birthdays and set the mood for romance. They provide solace. They give us light when our modern utilities fail us. Candlelight casts its glow and embraces us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 322: Doorway

Day 322: Doorway, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This giant doorway at Union Station in Toronto speaks of another era - a time when train travel was an adventure to faraway places. It was the railway that tied our country together. People got dressed up for their voyages and stations "spoke" of the importance of the event. Now commuter trains are a daily reality for many but the long distance trips play a lessor role as airplanes have taken over. Today we left Toronto by train; no-one wore their "travel clothes." There was no formality.

The theme for this month is doorways and windows. Exits and entrances. I rarely write highly personal information in my blog. But November 18 represents a life altering change in my life. My first husband died 27 years ago. His exit was the beginning of a new life for me as I walked through the doorway into single parenting and singleness. I had to learn to really stand on my own feet, to become (as my father once put it) fiercely independent. It was a long journey as I grew to be who I am today.

This is always a day when I take stock of my life, where I take some time to reflect on the trip I have taken. Sometimes we are forced through doors into unexplored territories. The challenge is to make these unexpected voyages into adventures where we expand our horizons and grow through new knowledge. While the trip so far has had its share of fear, discontent and discomfort it has also been replete with new friendships, joy, discovery and opportunities. Many more doors to go through, many more trips to take.....

Day 321: Clean!

Day 321: Clean!, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A day spent in hospital visiting... You can not walk very far without passing another of these hand sanitizer stations.. With the increase in hospital spread infections it is important. However hand sanitizer stations are now prominent in gyms, schools, offices where they have never been found before. After a week of my daughter and the flu, I too, have succumbed to this new craze, but soap and water is still the best.

Day 320: Night Flight

Day 320: Night Flight, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We had to go on an unplanned trip to Toronto as my spouse's mother is in failing health. We flew in clear skies and were able to enjoy the city lights as we took off. I often think about city lights as I live on a hill and regularly see parts of our city spread out below me (though not at this height). They seem so magical and festive, yet I think also of the amount of electricity needed to light all these lights. I know that I have to train myself to be more conscientious about closing lights that are not being used. Our politicians in Canada seem to be willing to delay making and commiting to environmental policies. After all, what is more important the economy today or the future of the planet! We, as individuals have to do what we can to change and push those in power to face the reality of what we have done to the planet. Some changes just can't wait.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 319: November Farm

Day 319: November Farm, originally uploaded by susanvg.

November has leached the colour from the countryside. All that was green has faded to straw. November paints with a monochromatic brush. Warm temperatures for this time of year coerced us to cycle out of Casselman. Later in the day the sun was hidden and the gold of the afternoon turned to grey. It is a time for moving indoors, for soups and hearty meals to warm the dark evenings.

Day 318: Imported Sunshine

Day 318: Imported Sunshine, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As the days get shorter, duller and darker I look to the grocery store for a dose of sunshine. While it would be wonderful to eat local, some things just have to be imported. These clementine oranges from Morocco have always felt like a burst of sunshine to me. Their sunny colour, lively flavour and sweet liquid taste bring a feeling of warmth. Apples speak of crisp fall days but oranges bring that semi-tropical glow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 317: Frosty morning

Day 317: Frosty morning, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Morning dew has changed to morning frost. Fallen leaves, waiting to be picked up for composting by the city have been painted with Jack Frost's brush. Warmer than normal days quickly erase his handiwork. Each night he stealthily returns with his spray paint to remind us of colder weather coming.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 316: Silhouettes

Day 316: Silhouettes, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Once leafy trees are now stripped bare.
Their branches etch lines into the sky.
From each limb grow more limbs
Like ever thinner fingers
There is grace in these skeletons
That dance in the wind
Perhaps they feel free
Unencumbered by leafy clothes

Day 315: Snow Tires

Day 315: Snow Tires, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's that time of year - snow could happen at any time, though we have been experiencing some beautiful warm, sunny days. My snow tires are now installed so I am ready. We now have a law that everyone has to have snow tires by December 15, but we usually have snow before then. The first snowfall seems to take everyone by surprise and drivers seem to forget everything about how to be safe in slippery snow. Driving in snow is an art - you have to work with the snow, not fight it. Aggressiveness is not a good approach.

I'm trusting these tires to get me through the bad weather.

Day 314: Talking Bear

Day 314: Singing Bear, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This may look like a cute little bear - smiley, with a little heart for a nose. But I will tell you a story of how it caused pain and suffering to both myself and my cats. This took place some years ago - so you can rest assured that this imp is still thriving.

It was sitting on my bed when I inadvertently sat on this fellow. Until then, I had no idea that he talked. He is a Valentine bear and he suddenly started making smooching noises followed by "I love you". One of my cats, who until then had been napping quietly on my bed, launched himself straight up in the air, landed on the floor and grabbed the first thing that moved, which, unfortunately, was my ankle. Now cats' claws are very sharp and they have been in rather unsanitary places. So claws digging into your flesh is like getting several vaccinations of bacteria. My ankle got infected but after a heavy dose of antibiotics it healed. When a second incident happened a couple of years later (not caused by the bear), this time on my arm, I had to have the cats declawed. This solved the problem. The cats are still thriving and the only vaccinations I have had since have been recommended by my doctor (including a recent H1N1 flu shot).

The bear has not lived on my bed since then. He sometimes sits on my stairs as Valentine's Day approaches. And, I certainly don't push his tummy to make him talk when the cats are anywhere in hearing!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 313: Sunrise

Day 313: Sunrise, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As I drove up over the hill and caught the sun just after it rose (today's sunrise was at 6:45 a.m.) it was one of those moments to just stop and appreciate. The naked trees have opened up the view so that I saw the sun glint on the river in the distance. Much is revealed after the leaves have fallen. A nest - once inhabited, is exposed. Some of the larger nests are made by squirrels; I wonder how they can protect them all winter.

Life is made up of these moments which we have to make time for. My Internet friend, Barb, wrote about finding the good in everything. Getting up very early and heading out certainly gave me something good. So much better to focus on that than on the negatives that can crowd our brains.

Day 312: Preparing for Winter

Day 312: Preparing for Winter, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I took a walk in the neighbourhood and noticed all the different ways people protect their bushes and small trees for winter. These two are just a sampling. I am not a proactive gardener - if something survives in the garden I appreciate it, but I don't pamper it. I let nature take its course. I rarely water and don't wrap things up. I figure it has to be hardy and my garden does thrive.

My preparation for winter consists of taking in the garden furniture and cutting back the perennials. And with an unseasonal warm spell, I haven't quite tackled those tasks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 311: pumpkins

Day 311: pumpkins, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Some people buy commercial decorations, others use the beauty of our autumn bounty. I loved this idea of displaying all these little pumpkins. Nowadays you walk around and are confronted with a clash of holidays. Some people still have autumn displays: pumpkins, scarecrows, wreaths with coloured leaves. Then across the street, or hanging over the street are Christmas decorations.

I get quite fed up with the commercialization of every holiday. But Christmas is the worst. It now takes over two months of the year with decorations, television ads, fliers all talking about buying, not about caring. Then, as the holiday approaches, everyone pays lip service by donating to shelters, bringing food to food banks and then they forget about other people's problems for the rest of the year.

I, too, get sucked in by the frenzy. This year I hope to keep it simple.

Day 310: Papineau House

Day 310: Papineau House, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This was the home of Joseph Papineau, a notary and politician who lived from 1752-1841. The house remained in the hands of the Papineau family. Joseph's son, Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871), was a politician and leader of the Patriotes who objected to British rule. He had to go into exile for a number of years before he was pardoned. You can see a winter photo of Papineau House. I had the pleasure of attending a concert in the house's gardens. It is wonderful when our historic buildings are put to many uses.

For more information about the building (in French) click here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 309: Thinning Out

Day 309: Thinning Out, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I have always loved this larch tree which stands in front of my house. It is an anomaly - a conifer that loses its needles. It waits until the flash of the reds have passed and then changes from green to golden brown. The needles drop, covering the space beneath. Many years the snow falls before all the needles have fallen and they pepper the whiteness with their golden sprinkles.

There is always action in this tree, with squirrels chasing each other up and down or birds feasting on the seeds inside the cones. Down the street, a large tree was cut down. It's moving time for all the creatures who depended on it. Perhaps some will chose to enjoy the embrace of this venerable tree.

Day 308: Through the Window

Day 308: Through the Window, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The early morning sun washed out the view a bit. The leaves, once green, then orange have faded. Only the oak hangs on to its bronze leaves, determined to be the last to reveal its naked limbs.

It's wonderful to have an office with a view to watch the changing seasons, to see the squirrels cavorting in the trees, to see the light change as the day goes by.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 307: Interpretation

Day 307: Interpretation, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In Quebec, where French is the official language, signs are often an issue. While most of the province is French-speaking, Montreal and its suburbs is a mix of French, English and the languages of its many immigrants. I guess in an attempt to have signs understood by all, but keeping with the Quebec sign law which requires the predominance of French, people have resorted to symbols which are meant to be understood by all, yet may be understood by none.

I realize this probably means the spot is reserved for people with babies, but there is a subliminal message here as to what a family is made up of. Is the spot reserved only for this kind of family? Pictures don't necessarily convey what the designer intended.In our politically correct world what would you come up with to designate this spot?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 306: Fading

Day 306: Fading, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The leaves that have fallen are losing their colour and fading. I remember as a child, we tried to preserve leaves to keep their vibrant colour all year long. Sometimes we would melt parafin wax and dip the leaves in. It certainly slowed the drying, but eventually the leaves became brittle. Other times we pressed leaves in books or ironed them between two pieces of waxed paper. When my children were young, we made placemats with clear "mactac". We peeled the backing off the mactac, carefully places the leaves and then sealed them in with another piece of mactac. We enjoyed using the placemats, but the leaves slowly faded.

I guess the best way to preserve the colour is through photography and through memory. And, unfortunately those too may fade. But fortunately, each autumn we get to experience, once more, the glory of the changing leaves.

Fallen Leaf

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 305: Geese

Day 305: Geese, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Nothing says autumn quite like the flocks of geese flyng overhead. We saw this large assembly near Casselman. It was the first time I had seen snow geese and there were many mingling with the Canada geese. I imagine they fly in separate flocks, but they were all enjoying the pickings from this farmer's field.


It was a beautiful sunny day, the kind that celebrates the beauty of the changes as the plant life dries up and the last of the milkweed scatter its seeds. In this area, the trees have lost their foliage, exposing nests that once sheltered. These geese will be off soon, looking for more hospitable places, where food will be plentiful over the coming winter.


Day 304: Building...

Day 304: Building..., originally uploaded by susanvg.

A bus station is being built in Casselman on the outskirts of town. I find it interesting to see how the town is changing. The main street looks quite depressed, with a number of stores closed. The centre of activity seems to be moving to the outskirts with two large chain hardware stores, a big pharmacy and a large supermarket. There is talk of building a Walmart which will finish off what is left of the local stores.

Part of Casselman is simply a bedroom community for Ottawa and as such, residents seem to want the suburban life with big box stores rather than the rural life of a small town. I wonder if it is possible to have both.