Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 211: Thinking of Daniel


Day 211: Thinking of Daniel, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I found out today that a friend passed away. I knew him through music; we played in Flutissimo together and had both gone to music camp. This shared love of music was the soil in which our friendship grew. We saw each other on a regular basis at our Flutissimo rehearsals and chatted about music as well as our work together on Flutissimo's web presence. I admired his sense of humour and most of all his passion for life. Well-travelled, knowledgeable and eclectic, he shared his ideas, his experiences and his outlook. But he did not share how sick he was, so today's announcement came as a shock.

I shall miss him.

Day 210: Reflections - looking back

A trip has come to an end - time to reflect and look back as we move on to another phase of our summer time. Newfoundland has captured me. It is the least American place in Canada - holding on to its individuality. While fast food chains are found in the larger centres, the smaller towns maintain their ties to their origins. Fishing villages are still that with local restaurants serving Newfoundland food. They are there for the locals, not the tourists and cater to that palate. The language of Newfoundland is colourful - more so in smaller communities than in St. John's where spoken language is becoming more like the rest of Canada. Expressions, the accent and the grammar are unique to the place. Even the time is different - with the island of Newfoundland 1/2 hour earlier than Atlantic Time. It took as a while to realize that CBC news would be on at the half hour instead of the hour.

The scenery is rugged and beautiful, with surprises around many corners. The people are warm and friendly and they have the time to talk and tell their stories.

Would I go back - absolutely- there is still so much more to see. I think we are among the few who spent over two weeks there and did not see a single moose (but many beware of the moose signs). I wish, as my mirror says - objects are closer than they appear. Newfoundland is a long way off - you travel a great distance to get there and in much of it you feel a little bit as if you have also gone back in time.

Day 209: Place Names


Day 209: Place Names, originally uploaded by susanvg.

St-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! has to be one of the more unusual names for a place. I found out a little about its possible origin here. We passed through it driving from New Brunswick back down to Montreal. It made me think of the many places we passed in Newfoundland. The history of Newfoundland is written on its map. Bonavista, where John Cabot (sailing for the English but from Italy) landed. He is purported to have exclaimed "Buona Vista" His name is found in Cabot Strait and other places. The Grand Banks brought fishermen from Portugal (Portugal Cove), the Basques regions (Port au Basques), France (many places carry French names from Baie Verte to Notre Dame Bay to Petite Forte) and England. There are terms used in Newfoundland, I have not heard elsewhere (Tickle - a very narrow strait, Bight - a harbour) - Indian Tickle, Bumble Bee Bight.

Names carry the dreams of those who settled there - Come By Chance, Heart's Content or their disappointments - Seldom, Misery Point. The wildlife of the region is reflected in Gander, Deerlake and many more. Individuals are featured in Sally's Cove, Joe Batt's Arm and many more - interestingly enough people are often remembered by first name.

You can find many more interesting place names here or here. I know where my city's name stems from - can you trace the history of the name of your home town?

Day 208: Wind Power


Day 208: Wind Power, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Travelling home through New Brunswick we saw this wind farm on top of a hill. This was not the first windmill we passed, but the first cluster of windmills. It is encouraging to think that alternate sources of power are being tapped.

I know the perfect place for wind generation of power. On Saturday we drove from Trout River to Port au Basques. Between Cornerbrook and Port au Basques there is a stretch of highway with a wind warning and they aren't kidding. It was not a stormy day and the winds kicked up to the point that my spouse had to really grip the steering wheel. Some tractor trailers seemed to be parked waiting for the winds to die down a bit. I found this at http://transcanadahighway.com/newfoundland/Port-aux-Basques.htm

Table Mountain is a 518 metre geological oddity, visible from Cheeseman Park, is known for the gale force winds rushing down from its summit to the stunted weather-beaten forest below, with gusts exceeding 160 km/h to disrupt highway traffic and derail the now discontinued trains....
In the valley below Table Mountain kived (sic) Lauchie MacDougall, the famous "human wind gauge" who was contracted to the Newfoundland Railway to determine if the gusts were too high for trains. After he died in 1965, his wife continued the work until 1972. Today, truckers rely on CB radios and word-of-mouth for news about the wind.
What a perfect place for a wind farm - that is if the towers could withstand the gusts.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 207: The Ferry


Day 207: The Ferry, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We took the ferry back; it arrived late in North Sydney. We were told that The Vision, Newfoundland's new elegant ferry was running late so we had to wait until it left North Sydney to be able to dock. We sat in the water for some time. While the photo was taken on Day 207 - I'm writing this on July 29. I saw this article on the CBC site: It talked about the fact that on the new ferry there are more cabins and the beds are covered with duvets. It takes the housekeeping staff much longer to change the beds and clean, delaying the ferry. Sunday was bad; apparently Monday was even worse.


Here is the culprit
The Vision

Day 206: Newfoundland Appalachians

The Appalachian Mountains skip over the water and start again in Newfoundland. This is part of the Appalachian Trail. Supposedly the "Old Man" is looking down from the mountain. We had a picnic staring up at him.
Unfortunately our trail through Newfoundland was coming to an end. We had to return and go to Toronto because of family matters. We missed some of what we wanted to see - we'll be back. Newfoundland is breathtaking, friendly and wonderful.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 205: Pitcher Plant


Day 205: Pitcher Plant, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This is the provincial flower of Newfoundland. They seem to be able to grow in all kinds of places. Hardy and able to deal with all kinds of weather, just like the Newfoundland people. The plant is an insect eater. Insects are attracted to its colour and then slide into the pitchers at the bottom. Water collects in the base; the insects attempt to climb the walls which are very slippery and they fall back. We learned that a larva of a particular fly is able to live in the pitcher. It eats the insects, digests and eliminates. The plant is better able to absorb the predigested insects so the larva and the plant live in symbiosis.

Amazing how nature lives in harmony until humans do something to upset that balance. There is an overpopulation of moose (a non-native species) in the park. How did they get to Newfoundland? I believe they were brought by humans and have multiplied as they have no natural predators here. The moose have been eating the balsam firs which are not regenerating fast enough. How can humans undo the mess they created? Here, in this incredible wilderness the damage is not yet extensive. Yet all over our planet we have created problems through our acts. It's only a little planet and we have to become its conscientious steward.

For more photos

Day 204: The Tablelands


Day 204: The Tablelands, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Today we hiked on the Tablelands. It was really fascinating. We had an excellent guide who explained the geology and the plant life. This site was one that helped geologists develop the theory of plate tectonics. This is one of only 5 places in the world where the mantle of the earth is visible and this is considered to be the most extensive site. 450 million years ago the ancient continents of Godwana and Laurentia came together forcing part of the floor bed of the Iapetus Ocean to rise. The mountains to the east of the Tablelands were formed from the earth's crust that had been on the ocean floor – they contain limestone and sandstone. The Tablelands were formed from the mantle deep within the ocean floor. It was thrust up to create mountains. When the continents again moved apart, Newfoundland was a hybrid. A section of the west (the Northern Peninsula) was once part of the ancient continent of Laurentia. A mountain range that was on Laurentia is now the Appalachians which go from the US up through part of Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The Caledonian mountains in Scotland are part of the same range and continue in Scandinavia. The central part of Newfoundland was formed by volcanic rock which erupted when the old continents met and the third part of the Newfoundland, the Avalon Peninsula was part of what is now Africa – it was part of Gondwana.

The rocks – peridotite –are full of heavy metals which oxidize in the air so they have a rusty orange appearance. These metals are toxic to plant growth – few plants are able to survive near them. Those that have are quite stunted – junipers that live hundreds of years but hug the ground, tamaracks that do not grow much higher. Flowers that reach 60 centimeters in the garden grow to less than 10 in this hostile environment. There were some small flowers which can tolerate and use the metals. So the mountains are quite barren. There are the odd boulders which were carried by the glaciers and contain calcium and other minerals which plants feed off – they have lichen and algae on them. We saw some pitcher plants – the provincial flower of Newfoundland.

Across the road are mountains that support forests – they come from the earth's crust and so are more hospitable to life.

For more photos
To learn more

Day 203: Trout River


Day 203: Trout River, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Trout River is a small fishing town built linearly along the Trout River and the coast. There is a long beach with a boardwalk. Houses are mainly quite small, some with lobster traps and crab baskets beside them. It looks like quite a depressed area – with nothing to sustain the town but fishing, which, as in the rest of Newfoundland is tenuous. There are few stores – mainly convenience stores and no sign of any industry.

This is really the end of the line – no cell phone coverage (not that my phone worked anywhere in Newfoundland except St. John's), the road to the next community often closed in storms. It can take a week for a service person to come to repair things. People hang out knitted socks on the line for sale. They have to be resourceful to earn money. I would imagine, since the moratorium on cod fishing that many are on welfare. But the setting is magnificent. Mountains, the sea, incredible geological variety.

For more photos

Day 202: Stream near Beothuk camp

We stopped at Boyd's Cove at the Beothuk Interpretation Centre. The grounds were probably used from the mid 1600s to around 1720 by a group of up to 40 Beothuks. It is on a cove which would have been ideal for bringing in their canoes and to which the capelin come in to spawn in the spring bringing a rich source of food. A brook empties into the cove (a source of fresh water as well as fish) and the grassy meadow, which still holds the depressions where their dwellings (teepee like structures covered with caribou hides) were placed, sits on glacial gravel so the site drains quickly in rain – no sitting in mud.

It was a beautiful walk through the woods to the site (about 1.5 km), with the flora well identified with small signs. There are so many kinds of berries that grow there (partridge berries, crackberries, raspberries, blueberries and several others).

The Beothuk covered their bodies and their belongings with red ochre mixed with seal fat. The early European fishermen, seeing them called them red men or red Indians and this is the reason they have been known that way. They lived with the land, hunting caribou and other smaller animals, fishing and gathering. When the Europeans came they slowly pushed them out of their coastal land and into the interior where food was less plentiful. This, the diseases brought from Europe and the violence (on both sides) decimated them and the last known Beothuk, a woman who had been captured and brought to St. John's died in 1829. As you walk through the woods to the site you come across a bronze 6 foot statue of a Beothuk woman – a haunting reminder of their time there.

For more photos

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 201: Joe Batt's Arm


Day 201: Joe Batt's Arm, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It is incredible how the terrain changes constantly in Newfoundland. One minute you are in forest of scraggly black spruce, then the road turns and there are incredible views of the ocean and bays, turn another corner and the landscape is not much more than rocks and grass. Practically barren plateaus are dotted with sparkling lakes, which in turn are sometimes dotted with boulders left from the retreat of the last ice age. This was Fogo Island, reachable only by ferry and consisting of 11 small communities. There are even caribou there (though maybe only in winter). Small fishing villages nestle around the bays, though now few earn their living from the ocean with moratoriums on salmon and cod fishing. We saw lobster traps and crab baskets so some are still earning money from the sea.

For more photos

Day 200: Near Twillingate Lighthouse

On a slow drizzly day we drove up a winding hill to the lighthouse. A light fog hung over the water. Looking down over the rocky cliff I saw things growing in tiny cracks on on any even surface. Even small trees manage to take root in seemingly no soil. Nature thrives wherever it can. With the many outcrops of land and bays, there are many lighthouses.

Twillingate Lighthouse
For more photos

Day 199: Twillingate Icebergs


Day 199: Twillingate Icebergs, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As we drove to Twillingate the outside temperature kept dropping. A cold damp wind greeted us as we got out of the car. Too windy for boats to go out and see the icebergs, but there were icebergs in the cove. Apparently a strong storm the week before had driven a large iceberg into French cove and it was slowly breaking up. The wind was gusting up to 50 km per hour. We drove up to the Durrell Museum to get a view of the cove and the icebergs and after supper went down to French cove. Just in that time the change in the pieces was dramatic. Large chunks had broken off and now floated in the cove as separate bergs. I learned that icebergs come from glaciers that were formed over 10000 years ago. It was fascinating to see bright blue streaks in the ice – created by meltwater that thawed and refroze and seeped into cracks in the glacier.

For more photos

Day 198: Picnic

Day 198: PicnicWe drove the winding coastal roads to Terra Nova Park. The coast along Bonavista Bay is lovely, though not as dramatic as the areas we had already seen. The rocky shores sloped more gently down to the sea. The road took us up, to see lovely vistas of the many coves and down to water level. At the bottom of the bay, long fingers of water reach into the land. The road wound around them though occasionally we left the coast to cross small peninsulas. The forest changes – often mainly black spruce and lower down there are also deciduous trees – poplar, birch. We stopped in Terra Nova to have a picnic overlooking Clode Sound. Food tastes so much better outside!

For more photos

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 197: Crow's Nest


Day 197: Crow's Nest, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A trip in to Bonavista where we saw the lighthouse – a style which seems to be unique to Newfoundland. It is right near here that John Cabot is said to have landed on June 24, 1497 and discovered the Grand Banks teeming with fish – this was what lured the British to North America and was essentially the beginning of British North America.

We went to see the replica of his ship (or what they believe his ship looked like). It was built to commemorate 500 years since Cabot's first voyage (he never returned from his second voyage and it is unclear whether he perished at sea or after reaching Newfoundland a second time. The ship is not large and would have had 3 officers and about 20 men. It is difficult to imagine what life would have been like aboard a vessel like this as it heaved over the Atlantic – cramped, cold, uncomfortable with poor food (hard tack, salt fish, salt meat and peas), poor quality water and for the men – a dirt floor to sleep on if they did not sleep out on the decks. The decks themselves, would have been constantly washed with sea water making them cold and slippery. Apparently the voyage to Newfoundland took 30 days; many died en route and with only half the crew remaining, they returned to England in 15 days due to favourable winds. Most of the crew had been taken from jails; they had only the clothes on their backs – no shoes, no coats. They would have scaled the ropes to the crow's nest on the seaside (it was considered safer) to stand watch for four hour intervals.

Interesting to see – and a reminder of how fortunate I am to live with heating, electricity and indoor plumbing.
For more photos

Day 196: Bird Islands


Day 196: Bird Islands, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This is a magical place – a place to watch nature and listen. We sat at the end of a bluff near a cliff watching the small islands right near us. On one there were puffins and seagulls, including some gray downy juveniles ((if you view this image in the largest size in flickr, you will see the puffins on the left). This rocky island was a perfect perch for the gulls as they watched the water for fish. Not far off was the iceberg we had seen the day before. And occasionally we saw the spouts of whales coming up for air. Our attention drifted from one to the other. The puffins are comical birds, waddling on their big orange feet and ducking into their nests. They fly – little round things with madly flapping wings and occasionally flew right near the area where we were sitting.

For more photos

Day 195: Elliston


Day 195: Elliston, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes you just get lucky. We were unable to book a cabin in Bonavista, but the owner recommended a cabin in Elliston. What a surprise to see a modern cabin with this view: an inlet on Trinity Bay. Sitting on the porch, the only sounds are of nature with the waves splashing down below and gulls shrieking above. Elliston, a tiny town, sits on the windswept shore where no trees seem to take hold. We arrived on time for the Puffin Festival, a local festival celebrating community and local talent. Something to experience later this week..

On arrival in Elliston we saw an iceberg off shore – the first I have ever seen – tall, majestic and very white. We can't see it from our window – but maybe it will be in sight tomorrow. Evening in Bonavista, a fishing town, the fishing boats in the harbour and many cars parked near the fish packing plant.

For more photos

Day 194: Music and Beer


Day 194: Music and Beer, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Newfoundland is known for music and drink. A custom, of which we did not partake, is to kiss a cod and drink Newfoundland Screech (a strong rum). Barring that, beer is the next best thing (I didn't partake in that either – I'm more of a wine person). Newfoundland has several breweries; one microbrewery is featured in the background of this photograph. Music is a big part of Newfoundland with live artists in the pubs and bars. Buskers can be found on street corners, the young ones hoping this will be the start of a career, the older ones just hoping for some cash to keep going. Whether out on a boat, in a restaurant or pub, folk songs from Newfoundland's past (strongly influenced by Scottish and Irish music) and songs from current groups can be heard. And music is important to me – I bring one or two of my instruments when I travel and take time to play.

For more photos


Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 193: Murres and Puffins


Day 193: Murres and Puffins, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Birdwatching and more

There is nothing like a ride on a boat to slow time down. The ocean was calm, the air warm – perfect weather to take in the wildlife. It was wonderful to be out on the water. The first destination was Witless Bay Ecological Refuge – a series of small islands where thousands of sea birds nest in the summer. As we got nearer we started to see puffins zooming over the water. They are really like little windup toys with wings going at quite a speed. It was quite something to see the island – the bottom part rocky, where the murres lived along with some seagulls. The top part was grassy and full of holes – the nests of the puffins. There were thousands of birds. We also saw one black backed gull, which apparently eats puffins – up to 6 a day.

Later we saw humpback whales – such graceful creatures. Two spouts came up at one point and a double breech as the tails rose into the air. Here and there, the whales came up to breathe – no hurry, just a slow breath and then under the water again. The gently rocking water and their slow, calm movement brought a great sense of peace.

The coastline is incredibly beautiful, rocky, with constant inlets. The waves wash over the rocks causing little waterfalls as they retreat.

Finally a visit to Cape Spear – hailed as the easternmost point in North America. It may be the easternmost tip of Canada – but last I heard Greenland was part of North America. Funny how everything tries to be the “est” biggest, farthest, - something to make it unique. But each place is unique – it doesn't take superlatives to make it so. Cape Spear and its lighthouse from the 1800s was a lovely place to be. We spotted a whale offshore. After climbing to the top where the lighthouse is located, we stayed a while and enjoyed the view and the serenity. You could hear sounds from below – the waves, a flock of birds passing near the water and occasional muffled voices. A very peaceful place to be.

For more photos

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 192: Quidi Vidi


Day 191: Quidi Vidi, originally uploaded by susanvg.

At one time there were several tiny coastal villages near St. John's – now they have morphed into one city of about 150,000. However, on the edges you can still find vestiges of what once was. This is on the edge of Quidi Vidi, a few fishing homes. Fishing has been curtailed in this area because of the decline in cod stocks, but it is still the way of life for many people here.

St. John's is part picturesque, part depressed, part new. In the centre of the city there are some brand new office buildings and some older ones that are boarded up or badly in need of repair. Just up from the main streets is a residential area with colourful homes. Each street looks different as the colours of the houses is so varied. No two neighbours have houses the same colour. St. John's is built on hills so you can see the coloured houses marching up. Lots of walking and lots of climbing – I'm getting in better shape.

St. John's Newfoundland

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 191: Looking Down


Day 191: Looking Down, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Signal Hill, known as the place Marconi received his first transatlantic wireless communication looks over St. John's and the ocean.

The view at the top was breathtaking – you could see the rocky coast, a series of coves and spits of land reaching out to the sea. We hiked down to St. John's on a path that led down (and up) many stairs, along rocky paths looking over the ocean, narrow paths that hugged cliffs (my heart was in my mouth). At one point the path is so narrow and the drop so steep, you have to hang on to chains as you walk. Each time we stopped to take in the views, we marvelled at the many varied sights –
wild flowers abounded – wild roses, buttercups, flowers I recognized from Laurentian walks but whose names I don't know and flowers I had never seen before
incredible sea vistas out to the ocean and in to the harbour, with sea birds squawking
cliffs reaching down to the water
rocky landings near the water, smoothed out by the waves with gulls sunning themselves before the next dive into the water for food

Sometimes you have to challenge yourself to do more than you thought you could – this hike was just that. But I did it!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 190: Arriving at The Rock


Day 180: Arriving at The Rock, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Newfoundland is known as “The Rock”. An island of many contrasts, its ground is rock with interesting geological areas to visit. Coming through Placentia Bay to Argentia, we passed these rocky islands, small echoes of the much larger island.

Newfoundland and Labrador have only been part of Canada since 1949. We changed our watches to Newfoundland Time (a ½ hour different from Atlantic Time). As we drove from Argentia to St. John's we passed through areas with differing ecologies. The landscape changed as we went up and down the hills. There were many beautiful lakes and ponds. Most of the trees were softwood – spruce, some stunted as we got to more open areas – probably affected by winds. We passed one area with no trees, which looked like a boulder farm – fields with random boulders and not much growing. The soil is thin here – the rock takes precedence.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 189: North Sydney to Argentia Ferry

We were told to be at the ferry between 6:30 and 7:30 (with the ship scheduled to leave at 9:00) The wait for the ferry passed by – looking at the license plates from all over (BC, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Texas ….) and chatting with some others who shared their past experience with the ferry. Finally we drove into the gaping mouth of the ferry. It is unbelievable how many vehicles fit into this ship – from huge 18 wheelers with full cargo to passenger cars, motor homes, motorcycles, school buses, trucks towing boats... It took over and hour and a half just to load them all on. The ferry, itself is quite large with lounges, areas with seats that recline, a cafeteria, movie theatre, lounge with entertainment and sleeping cabins. We had been on the waiting list for a cabin and were fortunate enough to get one once we were on the ferry. Neither of us relished a night sitting up (no matter how far the seats reclined or that they had foot rests). Our cabin was well equipped with 4 bunks and a bathroom with a shower. Once the lights were off it was very dark and that plus the slight rocking of the ship helped us sleep.

The crossing is supposed to take 14-16 hours – it really makes you feel you are going somewhere far away. In this day of jet travel, we sometimes don't appreciate distances . Moving at a slower pace and through the territory makes you realize how vast our country is and how it is possible to have regions with such varied cultures – born of the different environments, different immigrants who settled there and different realities.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 188: Train Station Inn


Day 188: Train Station Inn, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As we neared Tatamagouche, on a bay from Nothumberland Strait, we saw signs for the Train Station Inn, so we decided to see if anything was available. The inn consists of an old train station and about 10 old train cars. There are a number of cabooses and a box car which serve as bedrooms. They have been completely refurbished inside to include a delightful bedroom, with adjoining bathroom. We ate dinner in a car that has been repurposed to be a dining car. Its first function was as a third class passenger wagon; it carried immigrants from Pier 21 in Halifax to far flung destinations across Canada. Later it served to bring troops home after WWII. Attached to the dining car is a lounge, in a car once used by Edward VII and Princess Alexandria when they visited Canada. It is marked “Governor General” and may have been used by previous GGs on their Canadian travels. It is odd to see it here.

It's always good to go off the beaten path – it is certainly more fun to stay here than in a generic motel. And the location is certainly more delightful than the edge of a small city where many motels are located.

Day 187:St-Jean-Port-Joli


Day 187:St-Jean-Port-Joli, originally uploaded by susanvg.

St-Jean-Port-Joli is a picturesque town. The town dates back to the 1700s (the church was begun around 1771 - its architecture is still representative of the style of that time, though it has been redone since) Known for wood carving, local sculptors carved figures of farmers, fishermen, women baking – local life. Some became accomplished artists and carved magnificent friezes for churches as well as sculpture on religious themes; others chose to honour the more prosaic – the local carving museum boasts life size carvings of some 20th century politicians as well as Harry Potter.

Standing in front of the church manse, this tree trunk has become a sculpture . It is a tree of life, from birth to death just as the tree was born, grew and died and has now been reborn as a piece of art.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Day 186: Packing


Day 186: Packing, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Ah the joys of packing - tomorrow we are off to Newfoundland. My daughter will hold the fort - caring for the cats, the plants and the house. It's going to be a road trip, so I have a devil may care attitude - pack what I want - it will all be in the car.
I am leaving the kitchen sink at home - but camera, instruments, clothes, hiking shoes, binoculars... the list has grown.
I'll be keeping up with my daily writing and photos, logging in when I can so the posts will be sporadic. Off on an adventure.

Day 185: Taste Carries Memories


Day 185: Taste Carries Memories, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We went to a Thai restaurant and shared a couple of appetizers - one of which was satay. I took a taste and memories of Indonesian rijsttafel were triggered. My late husband's family spent many years in Indonesia and, although he left as a very young child, he still had his memories of elaborate rijsttafels being served. After we were married, he decided to attempt to prepare one for family and friends. A rijsttafel is a banquet - based around rice with many dishes.

I remember one rijsttafel, in particular. His parents were staying with us - cooking became a family affair. In those days you could not get tinned coconut milk. We would pour boiling water over dessicated coconut, let it sit and then pour it through a sieve to capture the liquid. I can still see my late father-in-law, squeezing the coconut with his hands to get as much of the liquid out.

And my mother-in-law taught me how to make rice in a bed. Our stove, having only the usual 4 burners, was not big enough to cook the number of dishes we were making (satay, Indonesian meatballs, hot spiced eggs, fried spiced beans, curried beef....). We started cooking the rice in a very large pot. Once it came to a boil, my mother-in-law wrapped the pot in blankets and tucked it into bed - it cooked itself to perfection.

Food is such an important part of our lives. It carries the memories of events, occasions and places. A taste can make us travel through time and space.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day 184: Looking Back


Day 184: Looking Back, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This photograph hangs in my office. Dating from around 1913, it was taken in Russia. It is a photograph of my father long before I knew him. Rippled and slightly faded, it gives me a glimpse into the culture of his time as a young boy. Posing for a photograph was a serious thing; cameras were only in the hands of the professionals. Just as today, parents dress their children up for the formal portrait at Sears, he was dressed in clothes, I am sure he rarely wore. A prop was put in his hand.
He did not come from a wealthy family, so this must have been quite a special occasion. And this portrait travelled a year later, across the Atlantic to Halifax and then by train to Montreal. My father told me he was on the ship when war was declared.
I wonder what will happen to all our digital media, stored on disk drives, pocket drives, flash drives, CDs and DVDS. Will the storage devices change and no longer read our stored images (jaz drives, zip drives, floppy disks can not be read by our current machines). Will we lose our past as we race to the future?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 183: Washington


Day 183: Washington, originally uploaded by susanvg.

365/2 = 182.5 - half way today was half way through the year. Time to take a bird's eye view of this project. The photograph was taken as we left Washington, left NECC to head back home.

I started this project to challenge myself - could I stick with taking a photo a day. So far so good.
  • I have changed how I see, heightening my visual observing, noticing more and delighting in what I see.
  • I have been writing daily; some days it comes easily, others not, but I enjoy it more.
  • I have seen many wonderful photographs, read interesting reflections and have learned from what others are doing.
  • I am slowly coming to know people in this circle and feeling like I have new friends.
  • Sometimes I have looked at things closely, sometimes pulled back to get a wider picture.
Vacation time is starting - time to slow down, to reflect, to recharge, to venture out and see new things. I plan to photograph and write daily. Posting may come in spurts when my travels take me out of wifi range. I look forward to the next half year, to explore ideas and find ways to interact more with those who stop here for a visit and whose words have encouraged me to keep going.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 182: Walking through History


Day 182: Walking through History, originally uploaded by susanvg.

At conference end, my colleagues and I went on a walking tour of the monuments on the mall in Washington, DC. The Lincoln Memorial touches me as I remember events associated with it as well as what it represents - more than Lincoln and his efforts to unite his country and emancipate the slaves, but also the role this place has played in terms of continuing that work.
I went to a session this morning by Bernie Dodge, who talked about PuzzlePlaces - a new tool he is developing to encourage the use of maps. This reminded me of an old friend who talked of "The map is not the territory". It is only when we get into the territory that we begin to understand it - we can represent it in a map, but that is only the abstraction of the reality. The territory reveals so much more. Bernie spoke of how compelling uses of Google Maps and Google Earth can help us learn so much more through mashups, making connections to history, geography, literature, to better understand the territory.

Today we walked the territory, with a guide who filled in pieces that made the experience come alive, through stories. Through him, the mall filled with soldiers' tents as they bivouaced there during the civil war; a baseball player stood poised waiting to catch a ball dropped from the Washington Monument, soldiers died as they fought in battles in the Pacific, in Europe and in Viet Nam. And for me, Martin Luther King stood looking over a sea of people and inspired a nation to dream. From that vantage point where he stood, you can see across to the Capitol where, not so long ago, another step was taken on that road to freedom and dignity for all people when Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

History speaks through this place, its stories echo through to all who will listen.

Day 181: Public Art


Day 181: Public Art, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was really impressed with the art in the Washington Convention Center. This is only one example. There were lovely paintings, photographs, installations - some more traditional, others quite quirky - a circle of guitars hung from the ceiling, large painted animals. What is important is that art is valued. In Quebec there is a requirement that public buildings spend a percentage of the budget (I think it is 1%) on art. It says something about a city when it displays its culture and honours its artists.

Being in this large building, with thousands of people, it was nice to stop occasionally and enjoy - to escape, for a moment, the hum, the hype and the crowds.