Thursday, December 31, 2009

365 Days

Day 365: Rising Sun
The sun rising - viewed through my window.
Actually I started just after the new year but I have posted more than 365 photos. Here are a few statistics.
I have had almost 5000 visits to my blog (that one shocked me).
Official count from ClusterMaps

Statistics updated 31 Dec 2009@09:16GMT: 4,962 visits
Total since 7 Jan 2009: 4,962.

That includes visits from 6 continents (none from Antarctica!) and hits from over 70 countries. I imagine many were surprised by what they found - not at all what they were looking for.

My photos on Flickr have been viewed over 8000 times.

A photo I took at the request of Tim for his brother's 50th birthday has been visited over 700 times!

I have had comments on almost all my posts - most from my wonderfully supportive followers whose input certainly kept me going.

Some comments that I received included:
I posted a photograph of a stained glass piece from my house - I had a note from the artist's son.
I posted photograph of the Hurtubise House - a had a note from someone who said her aunt was involved in saving the house from demolition.
I posted a photograph of the Russel dry bridge - I was contacted by CBC who wanted to use the photograph in a documentary - I didn't see it - but understand I got credit for it.

But those are just the statistics - I have connected with other photographers / bloggers and have so enjoyed visiting their blogs, learning from them and with them. Can I stop this? Not a chance - I'll continue, with less intensity, but the photographs and stories will keep coming.

And now - I'll go downstairs and lift a glass to the year that is passing - to the incredible trip this photo journey has been, to the virtual friends I have made. Then on to the future and the next leg of the journey.

Day 364: The Forum


Day 365: The Forum, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Once the home of the famed "Canadiens" the old Montreal forum has been transformed. It houses a multiplex movie theatre, shops, restaurants and sports bars. Little remains of the original structure. Scattered here and there are some of the original seats reminding us of what was once there.

So much of our past has been torn down to make way for the new. It is nice when buildings are put to new uses. This is not one of the more successful transformations as there is not much to remind us of what was here before. The exterior is changed as has the interior. No echoes of its former glory; I find this new rendition soul-less.

Day 363: Fabric


Day 363: Fabric, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Back to Aux Délices for more food and friendship. We stopped in at Maison Calico which is attached to the cafe (it's actually the cafe that is attached to the old building which houses the quilt shop. I love the many colours, shades and patterns on the fabric.

The building itself is over 250 years old. It once served as an inn. The broad wood floors creak a bit, reminding us of their age. It is fittting that this old building houses a craft that was so prevalent at the time of its construction. Quilting was a time for women to gather together to share their stories and their lives. The building still brings people together, for food, for quilting, for connections.



IMG_5271

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 362: Lonely Bench


Day 362: Lonely Bench, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The cold air has chased away the bench sitters. Even the homeless search for warmer spots to rest. No more lunch time tete-a-tetes over a sandwich while the birds hover hoping for crumbs. No more stopping to catch a few minutes of sunshine. This bench sits, snow-covered waiting for spring.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 361: Relaxing


Day 361: Relaxing, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A favourite for an evening of relaxation is to do the crossword (NY Times Sunday crossword a week later in our newspaper). My spouse and I sit down, pencil sharpened. We zigzag around, finding the clues that we can easily solve and then go back to try and fill in the blank spots. I admit we resort to help at times. My laptop comes to the rescue as we check out a few answers (neither of us are up on popular culture, so help is sometimes essential). Years ago I used to haul out dictionaries, atlases, whatever I needed. Now the Internet makes life so much easier.

We solved this week's without too much intervention and solved some of the other puzzles on the page. Neither of us feels ready to tackle the cryptic crossword. Our minds just don't seem to work the way the puzzle writer's does.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 360: Icicles


Day 360: Icicles, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Freeze and thaw - so typical of Montreal winters, causing havoc on the roads as water enters the cracks and pries them open as it freezes. My icicles come and go as the water drips and freezes. Then all comes crashing down when the thaws take hold.

As a child we delighted in breaking off icicles and sucking on them. Now, in our sanitized society we think only of the possibilities for transmission of dirt and disease. Sometimes I think we overfill ourselves with fears of strangers, of answering doors, or dirt, of viruses. I will try to recapture the carefree feeling of childhood when possibilities were to be explored not avoided.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 359: Christmas Lights


Day 359: Christmas Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Lights, lights everywhere. Chasing away the winter's darkness. They flicker, they shine. Web-like they wrap around trees. They herald the Christmas season - a time that speaks of peace.

If only... we could each be a little more aware of those around us who have less, we could think beyond our own borders, whether those borders surround our neighbourhood, our city, or our country. Peace comes when all have what they need - food, water, shelter, health care, education and possibilities. I've given two microloans to Kiva to help people trying to be self-reliant. It is but a small gesture. But many small gestures together become big. Just ask Greg Mortenson who collects pennies for the schools he is building and staffing in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. May we all find ways to make this a more peaceful world. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 358: The Market


Day 358: The Market, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Atwater Market the day before Christmas was a bustling place. I, too, was getting my last minute delicacies for the holiday table. I had already been to Les Délices du Marché earlier in the week. There you can find any kind of oil, vinegar, spice, rice, you name it. It is owned by a couple of men who always have a smile and a suggestion of what to buy. My first stop this time was to the Fromagerie du Marché Atwater. My spouse eats a lot of goat cheese and I stocked up on some new varieties from creamy, flavourful to a hard, cheddar. Here too, service is friendly and informative. I don't know how they can know so much about so many cheeses.

I next went to the organic butcher for a turkey. The upstairs of the market is lined with butcher shops, some with meat, others with many varieties of sausages. I had already filled my refrigerator with vegetables, but made a stop at one of the flower stalls - two bright red cyclamen to liven up the table.

Finally a stop at the liquor store for just the right wine to go with the turkey.

I don't know why shopping at the market doesn't feel like work, but shopping at a supermarket does. Perhaps it is the fact that you actually deal with people who help with decisions, who remember you from previous visits and who greet you with a smile. Perhaps it is the variety of colours and possibilities - no rows of similar boxes with prepackaged foods. Or maybe it is the constant seasonal changes. Whatever, I smile as I go through the market, enjoying the atmosphere.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 357: Dancing Lights


Day 357: Dancing Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.

On my way home from a many stop shopping trip I noticed this home with its Christmas lights. It seemed like the epitome of peace. When I uploaded the photo I saw all the reflected splotches dancing off my car windshield. They seemed to match my bleary eyes. I've come down with a cold. Aside from an evening of dozing cuddled up with my cats (always an excellent remedy for whatever ails you) and regular doses of ColdFX, I refuse to give in. So with wads of tissues filling my purse, I'll go out and finish the holiday preparations.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 356: White on White


Day 356: White on White, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Snow covers rooftops like marshmallow frosting turning this suburban area into a vanilla town. So many houses here have white or cream coloured siding - homes that were erected all at the same time. I'm a city girl. I love the diverse architecture found in a city as the decades wrote their stories on the buildings. Here in Casselman there is little diversity, not in the homes and not in the inhabitants.

I spend time here because my spouse works in Ottawa and as this is part way to Montreal he rented a place here so our travel time is cut down. Finding something to photograph here is often a challenge as the landmarks are those of anywhere in Canada - Macdonald's, Tim Horton's and Canadian Tire. Some small towns have a unique look; they have preserved the flavour of their beginnings. While there are some buildings that date back to other times, most in Casselman are of this homogenized architecture providing homes with little personality.

Day 355: Caroller


Day 355: Caroller, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to go to the market any time of year. Each season has its charms. In spring it overflows with flowers for planting. The riot of colours and variety of flowers always make me linger longer. In summer the local produce appears with mouth-watering possibilities. Refreshing offerings to compliment the heat of summer. Autumn brings still more treasures. Pumpkins piled high in every shade of orange and barrels of apples of every variety.

And now, with Christmas almost here, there are stands of trees "growing" out of the snow. The air is scented like an evergreen forest. Poinsettias, wreaths and boughs are available to bring the festive feel to any home. And these whimsical characters add a touch of humour, reminding us that this is a time for joy and laughter.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 354: Marché de Noël


Day 354: Marché de Noël, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Flutissimo played another concert, this time in Vieux Longueuil as part of the Marché de Noël. Little cabins surround Parc St-Marc, housing stalls selling all variety of crafts from food to toys to other gift items. It's nice to see the unique items - not the mass-produced "Made in China" items found in most stores.

There is a variety of festivities which take place both outdoors and indoors from dancing to train rides for children to concerts. This is patterned on an open air Christmas market which is held each year in Strasbourg, France. It can be quite cold, but there were small fireplaces set up where people could warm themselves. Looked like fun, but I was lugging all my instruments, so there was no time to really look around.

Marché de Noël

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 353: Long Shadow


Day 353: Long Shadow, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Winter casts long shadows
The sun lies lower
close to the Solstice
Providing light
But little warmth
Scarf, hat, mittens
Layers
Stave off the icy air
As I walk through the city.

Day 352: Frosty Ferns


Day 352: Frosty Ferns, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A cold snap. Once more my window is painted with feathery ferns. Nature, the artist, delights with her ephemeral creations. The crisp air outside holds little moisture. The snow squeaks as I walk. Icy weather brings bright blue skies drawn on by the chimneys' smoky breath.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 351: Inuit Sculpture


Day 351: Inuit Sculpture, originally uploaded by susanvg.


The Copenhagen talks are going on about climate change. Politicians are haggling about carbon credits. Instead of taking a leading role, our prime minister prefers to be a follower, reducing targets to those of the US to accommodate the oil sands - the dirtiest process for extracting oil.

This is an Inuit sculpture of a polar bear. How long will these majestic creatures be able to exist if the arctic seas open up? How long will the Inuit people be able to live in the lifestyle of their ancestors?

I had a tshirt which had the Native American proverb, ""We do not inherit the earth from out parents. We borrow it from our children." printed on it. We are stealing our children's future by making decisions based on short term gain - propping up the economy. What kind of Earth will we be giving our children?

We cannot wait to act. Each and every one of us has to be willing to change our lifestyles, even if in only small ways, to become better caretakers of the Earth so we can look honestly in our children's eyes and say that we have cherished and nurtured the planet they entrusted us with.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 350: Place Ville Marie


Day 350: Place Ville Marie, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Place Ville Marie, built in a cruciform shape is Montreal's first really tall building, and the first to build an underground shopping mall. Now the downtown buildings and malls are connected through underground passageways. This is particularly appreciated when the mercury dips down and the winds crank up.

I walked about ten minutes from my house to the nearest metro station. From there I was able to take the metro to Bonaventure and walked underground to Place du Canada where I had a meeting. I chose to walk outside to my next destination (hence the photograph), but could have walked the few blocks to Place Ville Marie underground. There are over 30 km (20 mi) of climate-controlled tunnels - bright, often lined with shops - so that weather does not have to limit shoppers, movie-goers, museum lovers, diners.... I still prefer the above ground routes, but have appreciated this underground alternative on many occasions.

For a map of the Underground City

Day 349: Not a Poinsettia


Day 349: Not a Poinsettia, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to look closely at flowers. The incredible detail fascinates me and I start to wonder why they have evolved the way they have. This gerbera seems to have a bull's eye, letting insects know exactly where to come to collect its pollen. It is the vibrant colours that make gerbera so spectacular.

When I photograph flowers, I often think of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings. Her flowers were so sensual and intimate and often full of passion. I can only capture what I see; she could capture the emotional component too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 348: Meeting Friends


Day 348: Meeting Friends, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes we get so caught up in work and the myriad of things to do in our lives we forget to set aside time for friends. A colleague and two former colleagues of mine have made a point of meeting a few times a year for lunch as friends. Today we met in Aux Délices, a small restaurant located in a building over 250 years old.

I first discovered this building when I had gone to Pointe Claire Village and, being early for an appointment, wandered around. My eye caught sight of a quilt in the window all blues, purples and turquoise - truly magnificent. I had to go in and look more closely. The building housed a quilting store with fabrics on the main level and room for classes upstairs. I enrolled in a quilting class and learned to painstakingly create templates, trace them onto fabric, cut and then piece the shapes together to create a sampler of quilt squares. I naively planned for a queen-sized quilt for my daughter. Five years later I still have the 15 squares I made, waiting to be pieced together. I keep planning to get back to it, but....

I used to say that about friends. When I have time we'll get together. But as I get older, I realize you have to carve out time for what is important. And there is nothing more important than people. My friends and I have already planned our next meeting, this time a supper. Together we piece together the fabrics of our lives and sew our lives together in a friendship quilt.

Day 347: Winter Lights


Day 347: Winter Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I played a concert in a museum that used to be a church - an interesting conversion. Snow had started falling as we went in and when we came out the magic was complete. It was really a winter wonderland with Christmas lights dancing on the snow.

There is silence in a snowy world as the sound gets muffled. There is nothing quite like a walk on a snowy evening; the world is pristine and everything sparkles.

Day 346: Holiday of Lights


Day 346: Holiday of Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As the days get shorter and darkness comes early, I crave light. I don't think it is a coincidence that so many religions have festivals / holidays that embrace light as part of the festivities. While I appreciate the historical symbolism of the lights on the menorah, I also appreciate the warm glow the candles cast.

Hannukah commemorates the retaking of the temple from the Assyrians after years of subjugation and then the resanctifying of the space. As the story goes, there was only enough oil to burn for one day, but it burned for eight giving the Jews enough time to make new oil. To me it is also a celebration of the freedom of worship, to allow diversity in religious practices, or for that matter, to practice no religion. What is important that one way is not imposed on others. So whatever holiday you celebrate: Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, or no holiday, find warmth in the lights of the season and in the friends and family who gather with you.

Day 345: Flash


Day 345: Flash, originally uploaded by susanvg.

There are days when you just know you are not going to get that photo or find that story. I have a large mirror which the sunlight hits in the afternoon sending rainbows off its bevelled edges.I liked the way this one seemed to streak out of the radiator like a flash of lightning.
I admire Sheherezade ever more with her ability to weave her stories each night for 1001 nights. Now she had strong motivation; my motivation to photograph and write is self-imposed. I suppose the flashes of ideas would be fleshed out and the need to find suitable subjects would push me no matter how tired I was if I were under the threat of execution.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 344: Fish


Day 344: Fish, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Tropical fish in neon colours
you swim in your small box
looking out through the window
at a world so foreign
to your own
Stores flash their neon lights at you
pale imitations of your tropical hues
while on the other side
people dance to pulsing sounds
Can you find peace in your watery home?
Ignore the outside events
or does it invade your haven
bringing you the stresses
of the twenty-first century?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 343: Let it Snow


Day 343: Let it Snow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The first real snow storm of the season blew through Montreal today. While predictions were for up to 30 cm (12"), I think we got about half that. Driving was slow but I have certainly been in worse. It's always a test of drivers: some feel they should drive as if it is summer (and still have summer tires on their cars); others are more cautious. On my way home from a meeting, I passed a couple of trucks that had gone off the road. While it was frightful outside....

Inside it was delightful. I sat by the fire and so did my felines. Tomorrow it will be back in the snow, cleaning off the car, navigating through snowy roads, but for now I'm cozy and warm.


Warm by the Fire

Day 342: Chocolate


Day 342: Chocolate, originally uploaded by susanvg.

For years I savoured my friend, Monte's chocolates. I finally got the nerve to ask him how he created his incredible morsels. I had the privilege of watching him in action. This chocolate bark - dark chocolate with mixed nuts was just one of the varieties he produces. We (really he) slowly melted chocolate (most of it 70%) over water and then dipped everything from caramel coated pecans (he prepared that ahead of time) to halvah, cookie pieces, a mixture of cranberries and toasted almonds.... He makes many varieties - ginger, apricots, pears each dipped in chocolate, chocolate coated almonds. My mouth is watering.

Melting the Chocolate
Melting the Chocolate

Chocolates are prepared, put in the freezer briefly and then packaged and kept in the refrigerator. I have my list of ingredients, I'll be making chocolates soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 341: Buy a Jar


Day 341: Buy a Jar, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Supper at a restaurant in Toronto - buy your fill of soup. The first snow has fallen and I have already cooked two pots of soup since my kitchen is once again serviceable. I love to make soup as I rarely follow a recipe - just throw in what is in my refrigerator and hope for the best. This is not quite true - I do sometimes plan ahead and buy the vegetables I want for my latest concoction. After trying "green" soup at my friend and colleagues, I made my own version with broccoli, celery, leeks, dill and spinach. It was quite a success. This is not always the case as my spontaneous combinations do not always yield savoury delights. But even short of perfection, a warm bowl of soup on a wintry day hits the spot.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 340: Reflections


Day 340: Reflections, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This year is coming to an end and I thought I would stop and reflect on the experience.

There have been days when it has been difficult to take photographs - those days when the monotony of every day life doesn't seem to provide opportunity for finding something unique. Like others, I would go scrambling around my house looking for something I had not yet shared and a story to go with it.

I found myself often, in Walter Mitty style, drifting off into stories as my eyes focused on an interesting sight (sights I might have overlooked in the past). Yet sometimes it was only as I sat poised to write that the story actually made itself clear to me. I have enjoyed the writing which has somewhat surprised me.

As the year went on I felt more and more comfortable trying on different genres of writing, from fact to fiction to poetry. I don't think I would have gone public with some of this writing in the past. The encouragement of my audience and the sense of having an audience made me more willing to share and dare to write in new ways. I thank all of you who made that possible.

I have built relationships with new virtual friends and feel both through your responses to my photographs and work and through reading and viewing your posts I have grown to know you and treasure what you bring to my day, visual feasts, surprises. Through your eyes I have learned new ways of seeing. Through your words I have savoured your use of language to express ideas and feelings and have had much food for thought. I never quite expected to care so much about people I have never met.

My life has been made richer by opening my eyes to see the unique in the ordinary, to look beyond the surface and by making each moment an adventure in seeing. I have found stories I thought I had forgotten and learned from what I saw as my interest was piqued to look for more information to share.

I have been thinking of my participation in 2010. Here are my thoughts - I will continue to photograph, though I don't think I'll pressure myself to do a daily photo. If the day is such that nothing presents itself, there will be no more 11:30 pm treasure hunts through my house. I will try to write at least once a week. I cannot give up this experience or the network of incredible people this has led me to.

And for now - as the days get shorter, my camera will always be handy -25 days to go.

Day 339: Master Class


Day 339: Master Class, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I had the tremendous fortune to be in Toronto on the day that Stefano Montanari was giving a master class. Two professional violinists played sonatas by Italian composers from the early baroque times. Mr. Montanari played a sonata by Castello. All were accompanied by the Toronto Continuo Collective.

Toronto Continuo Collective
Part of the Toronto Continuo Collective

I think this was the best music lesson I have been to - as Mr. Montanari shared his musical ideas through explanations, playing his violin, singing and gesturing in the most expressive and eloquent way. I was so moved by his playing, so amazed by his pure pianissimo passages, and astounded by his virtuosic fast passages, all played to tell the story of the music in a convincing and elucidating way. His clear communication transformed the playing of the two violinists as they questioned their motives in interpreting various passages and experimented with alternate ways of expression.
Stefano Montanari

I felt I had been in the presence of some musical magic. I know I, in my own way, have been transformed. Though I can never reach the heights of these players, I will be questioning more my musical interpretation and trying to go further from just playing the notes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 338: Oh Canada


Day 338: Oh Canada, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Once more I was going through a train station - this time Central Station in Montreal. On the north and south walls, up high, there is a frieze with words from our national anthem (the south end in English, the north in French). It depicts the many activities and jobs Canadians participated in at that time (the late 1930s to early 1940s) - everything from families reading to loggers to cowboys.... People at leisure and people at work.

I was struck in this photograph by the difference in values between that time and ours. People are actively doing not passively sitting watching others do as happens now with television. The mural, juxtaposed with the Macdonald's sign - to me the epitome of the shallow values of today - where it is not quality that counts, but speed and gimmick, where everything is predictable with no room for creativity - a cut and paste society.

Time to stop and admire and hope that we will once again value the ordinary people and stop our cult of celebrity and consumerism.

I tried to find out who created this mural and believe it is Charles Fraser Comfort.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 337: Memorial


Day 337: Memorial, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I knew I wanted to photograph this park, It is a memorial to the women who were slain on December 6, 1989 by Marc Lepine in the École Polytechnique (the engineering school) at Université de Montréal. Their only fault was that they were women. Lepine stated in his suicide note that he was fighting feminism. He specifically targeted women in his rampage and fourteen lives were lost. This event is commemorated each year, and as I won't be in Montreal on the 6th I thought I would feature it today.

The event remains a horror to all who remember. I find it hard to think of it with dry eyes. The only positive is that Canada has enacted a gun registry (which is in jeopardy under our current prime minister).

The rain was pelting down as I stopped to take this photograph, fitting weather for the subject. The memorial was created by sculptor, Rose-Marie Goulet and is called Nef pour quatorze reines (Nave for Fourteen Queens). Each woman is represented by the large marker and her name in stylized writing.

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Detail of memorial
We will not forget
Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 336: Curiosity


Day 336: Curiosity, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Mr. Curiosity (aka Basil) checks out every flower and plant in the house. He tests them for taste (with not always happy results) and checks their smell. Today he jumped up on the table (uh oh) and brushed against the lilies that were there. He now has a few swaths of yellow dye from their pollen. I wonder how long it will last.

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The Guilty Flower

He is always curious. In 1998, during our infamous ice storm we were without power, but my trusty gas stove worked. He jumped up on the counter to check on what was cooking and didn't notice that his flank brushed the candle that was providing the light by the stove. I grabbed him and swatted at the smoldering fur. It was singed, but the flame had not reached his skin. The mark on his fur lasted quite a while but he was none the worse for wear.

We'll see how long he sports his yellow fur - just a little funky to go with the times.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 335: Spider Plant


Day 335: Spider Plant, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This spider plant is one of many plants in my house. I read years ago that it helps to rid the air of pollution. I like to think that my plants and I both have something to offer each other. I offer them water which they "exhale" as oxygen.

I read the spider plants are "a popular plant with beginners, as it is easy to grow and propagate and is very tolerant of neglect..." I am afraid mine has had to put up with being nibbled on by my cats, being under-watered when life goes into overdrive and yet it continues to grow and send off shoots. Life is tenacious.