Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan 31/10 Montreal and Beyond

Jan 31/10 Montreal and Beyond, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I've lived in Montreal all my life and yet there are things I never get tired off - one is the view from the summit in Westmount. I love to see the layers, the nearby trees, now stripped of their leaves, the buildings and then the river. Montreal sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. I've always felt it was an important waterway. My mother, who was born in Russia in 1913, told me she had learned about the river in school there and was looking forward to seeing it when they immigrated here in the 1920s. As a child, this made me feel we were "on the map" - as if any place isn't on the map.

I love to look beyond the river to the mountains far in the distance and think about the peace the countryside brings, so different from the bustle of the city. Vistas like this are about the long view, the breadth of possibilities that exist in all these layers.

And I love the ever changing skies, today filled with sun and the energy that brings. The walk up the hill to get here is always rewarded by time to stand and just look before I set off downwards again.

Jan 30/10: Windows

Jan 30/10: Windows, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My father was a self-made man. His father was a carpenter and my father had to quit high school to work with him to help support the family. Working weekends and summers he later finished high school at night and put himself through university. My father always saw windows not doors - possibilities not road blocks. He had an incredibly optimistic outlook.

He ultimately became a building developer and this is one of his projects. I know from stories people have told me, he was always honest and fair. He died 9 years ago this month, just shy of his 92nd (February) birthday. He has left brick and mortar legacies, but more importantly he has passed on his vision and values to his family and friends. I try to live up to his principles.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jan 29/10: Dark Chocolate

Jan 29/10: Dark Chocolate, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Something sweet - but not too sweet - I love dark chocolate. Its flavour is intense, sensuous and satisfying. I feed my addiction with fair trade chocolate - a luxury for sure, but I know that the growers have been fairly treated.

I have read about child workers who are virtual slaves in cocoa plantations. Save the Children, an organization I respect, has reported finding children working in appalling conditions. Children are trafficked to work on large cocoa farms.

Chocolate is a luxury; I prefer to pay more and indulge with a free conscience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jan 28/10: Snowfall

Jan 28/10: Snowfall, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It was a light snow. The wind played with it, tossing it around leaving popcorn puffs of snow on the thinnest branches. Thicker branches held on to the snow as if insulating themselves from the plummeting temperatures. The snow queen is once again sprinkling her magic dust on the city.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jan 27/10: Rough

Jan 27/10: Rough, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Today's DailyShoot was "Take something common--an object, building, or landscape--and compose an abstract composition with it. "

I really questioned this one. What makes it abstract. Was it because the original object from which it was extracted was not recognizable? The bark without the tree created a study in texture; it was not longer about a tree. Is this really abstract? Or just a closer look at what is there?

I took a variety of photographs, got some strange looks as I focused on car wheels, chairs that had been stacked for the winter, a fire hydrant. Some photographs had interesting lines, but I did not really feel they were abstract.
wheel this? or this? Stacking
I toyed with playing with images in photoshop. After all, an abstract piece of art is not what the artist saw, but rather a statement or reaction. Would this then be an abstract photograph? Or does that amount of dithering with Photoshop turn it into something else?

Just musing....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jan 26/10 Amaryllis 2

Jan 26/10 Amaryllis 2, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to photograph flowers. It makes me look at them intently, trying to understand their mystery. This amaryllis whose speedy growth is astounding waves its anthers to entice some pollinators. Few insects live in my house in winter. The flower calls to me to admire it; I look, entrapped by its intense colour, I fall under its spell.

Amaryllis 1

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan 24/10: Take Two

Jan 24/10: Take Two, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I'm learning about my camera. The daily shoot suggested trying to shoot a photograph with a long exposure. I had to figure out how to do that. This is my second try - my neighbour's house with Christmas lights. Moving my camera during the shot I was able to create this image.

I have so many appliances and gadgets in my house. With most I learn the minimal controls I need to get it to function. My challenge is to learn more about my camera - to be able to operate it manually so I understand how i can take control over the results.

Jan 23/10: Melting

Jan 23/10: Melting, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Mild winter. The sun is slowly melting what little snow we have leaving crystalline shapes etched in the snow. Drop upon drop funnels into mini icicles creating ice sculptures.

The only thing predictable this winter is its unpredictablity.

Jan 22/10: Byward Market

Jan 22/10: Byward Market, originally uploaded by susanvg.

An evening in Ottawa with dinner in the market area. In summer this building would be surrounded by stalls with fresh produce. In winter activity is only inside. There are no people lingering over meals on terraces, just fast-paced walkers heading for a destination. The talk, the socializing, takes place in the myriad of restaurants on the surrounding streets.

Jan 21/10: Knitting

Jan 21/10: Knitting, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was at a party over the holidays and I saw someone who was wearing a scarf that spiralled. Her mother had provided the pattern and my interest was piqued. I haven't really done any knitting in almost thirty years. My knitting motto was always to knit things that didn't have to fit, so I made afghan after afghan. All my friends received one as a gift at one time or another. I'm getting somewhat fed up with this scarf - not finding it very inspiring.If my daughter doesn't want it, it's going in the bag for the homeless. Someone will make good use of it. But it has inspired me to go back to knitting. Next up - an afghan of course.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jan 20/10: Abstract

Jan 20/10: Abstract, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The daily shoot today was to photograph your camera so I decided to play with reflections. We have two panes of glass; Montreal gets cold, so the reflection was more distorted - a bit cubist. I boosted the exposure and saturation.

What story does the camera tell? So often our memories are variations on the truth. We each boost the moments that were important to us so that over time two people's memories of the same event are very different. As we photograph, the camera freezes certain memories. And sometimes the photograph becomes the memory with new stories created each time we revisit the photograph. Photographs can surprise us; we may have focused on one thing, but in viewing the picture see something else. A photograph can bring clarity; it can reveal; it can distort; it can be manipulated. Much like this photograph.

Jan 19/10: On the Move

Jan 19/10: On the Move, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot was transportation - just a late shot on my way home. Caught the movement, which is, after all, what transportation is about.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan 18/10: Time

Jan 18/10: Time, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Measuring time. My analogue clock's hands go round and round each day meting out the minutes and the hours. Funny how sometimes time seems to stand still and other times it flies. The years go quickly; my son soon turns thirty, an impossibility when he just turned twenty. Yet today the minutes seemed to take forever as I waited to hear that people had arrived safely at their destinations.

On my wrist I wear a digital watch. My clock shows times in fives, my watch in minutes and seconds. No longer do we live by the sun and moon, but by our artificial measures. Far too rarely I shed my watch and try to find the natural rhythms of life.

Jan 17/10: My cousin

Jan 17/10: My cousin, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It would take a lifetime to tell the story and stories of my wonderful cousin. Although we are more than 30 years apart in age, she is my first cousin. Our grandmother had three children, the oldest of whom was N's mother, before being widowed. My mother was from her second marriage. N grew up in Romania and when she found herself an orphan at 16, she stayed one more year to finish high school and then immigrated to Canada to be with our grandmother. N and my mother were only 5 years apart in age and soon became very close and over the years as I became an adult our relationship became one of friendship too.

My cousin has always worked in jobs that brought her in touch with people and at 91 continues to volunteer and brighten people's days. A story teller, avid reader, caring person - she is a role model for aging well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan16/10: Taking a Bow

Jan16/10: Taking a Bow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am passionate about music and early music in particular. A concert with one of my favourite groups, Ensemble Caprice, with Daniel Taylor as the guest was certainly a highlight. I have watched the careers of both the ensemble and Taylor for a number of years. I first heard Dan Taylor in about 1989 when he sang at CAMMAC, the music camp I go to most summers. He was a student at McGill and came up with some other students to do a concert. It was my first introduction to a counter tenor and I was smitten. His voice had and still has a purity that I find moving and remarkable. Since that time I have heard him in many venues (often in this church) and with a variety of groups. He now has an international career, singing all over the world with many early music ensembles and opera companies.
I first met the members of Ensemble Caprice at CAMMAC, as well. The wonderful part of the early music community here, is that the musicians and audience have many opportunities to interact. In many cases, these are not just performers for me, they are friends.

They should all take a bow for their many accomplishments. I know my life is far richer each time they share their talents.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan 15/10: Working Dogs

Jan 15/10: Working Dogs, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I went with a friend to a nursing home to play music for her mother who is 101. While we were there the weekly visit of these dogs happened. I was told that they belong to Zoothérapie Québec, an organization that arranges visits by dogs to a variety of long term care facilities. (The website is only in French). The dogs live with families, get evenings and weekends off, but otherwise work during the week. The effect of the visit was obvious. People who had been sitting expressionless broke out into smiles. Maggie, On Mme D's lap enjoyed the attention. Elvis, calmly waited his turn to be the centre of attention. The dogs patiently sat on laps, nuzzled with the patients and brought a sense of joy and calm. What a pick-me-up on an otherwise grey day!


Thursday, January 14, 2010


Computer?, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A little extra
Daily Shoot: Play with contrasting scale today: juxtapose something small with something big!

Back when I was teaching in the late 90s,I had a Mac G3 with a matching monitor that sat on my desk. One of my students appeared on day with this clock which so closely resembled the monitor. They sat on my desk together at work. Here it is on my latest Mac - a MacBook Pro.

Jan 14/10: Recorders

Jan 14/10: Recorders, originally uploaded by susanvg.
From left to right: garklein (in C), sopranino (in F), soprano (in C ), alto (in F), tenor (in C) bass (in F), great bass (in C)

Thought I would share some of my recorders. The smallest, a garklein, I only bought for fun - I have yet to play it with others. It is very high-pitched; I think it could be used to call every dog in the neighbourhood. The others I use regularly when I play in Flutissimo, Montreal's recorder orchestra. Some recorders are in C (C is the lowest note) and others in F (F the lowest note). When you play all these recorders, you have to be able to read both treble clef and bass clef with both C and F instruments. This mental gymnastics is probably a good anti-Alzheimer activity.

Most of you are probably familiar with the soprano - that instrument that tortures most students and parents as children shriek on it. Recorders are easy to play as a beginning instrument. Because of their simplicity, they are a challenge to play really well.

This is only part of my recorder collection. I also have renaissance recorders; they have a cylindrical bore ( the hole that goes through the centre) whereas these recorders taper towards the bottom. Only the wood flares out. Then there are my recorders in 415 pitch (sometimes called baroque pitch) and regularly play a voice flute - a 415 recorder in D. I'd be happy to answer questions about the instruments - just leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jan13/10: Warm

Jan13/10: Warm, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Each time I go out I pile on the layers from winter undergarments to my indoor clothes to the jacket, scarf and hat you see here. Sometimes my jacket hood is up with the snug collar velcroed shut leaving just my face exposed. We complain about the cold, the ice, the sleet, whatever there is. It's easy to complain when there is really little to complain about.

I watched the news with the devastating images from Haiti. I saw our Governor-General, Michaelle Jean, herself from Haiti, cry as she spoke of the tragedy. I sit in my warm home, with light and heat and clean running water and am reminded how good my life is. I will go to a warm bed tonight, in my well-built house and sleep under as many blankets as I want while so many suffer in Haiti and have always suffered from lives of extreme poverty.

Tragedies like this bring out the best and worst in people. Many donate money. On twitter someone posted that his son was being deployed to Haiti. Countries are sending resources and people to help.

Also on twitter someone said that it was good people died - it would ease the poverty as the "wealth" could be spread among fewer people -as if that is what will happen. A religious woman I know felt God was passing judgement on Haiti. I don't understand this attitude.

The inequalities in this world are enormous. How fortunate I am to have the clothes I need and more to keep me warm when the mercury dips down, a sturdy roof over my head and to live in a country where my medical needs will be taken care of.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jan 12/10: Music Feeds the Soul

Jan 12/10: Music Feeds the Soul, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I cannot imagine life without music. I play music regularly and go to many concerts. Music is a language which speaks directly to the soul and for the soul. Nietsche said, "Without music life would be a mistake."

When playing music written by someone else, in the interpretation you can say many things. Somewhat like Cyrano de Bergerac, using someone else's text you can say what is in your heart. It is another form of communication, another language. Music can draw tears, incite, provide energy, pump you up and calm you down.

My next challenge, shown here is to learn Corelli's La Follia, play it with my friend, a cellist, and find the "words" and meaning of it to converse with her and to say something to others.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jan 11/10: Cobalt blue

Jan 11/10: Cobalt blue, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The Daily Shoot's theme today was your favourite colour. My thought was favourite for what? I have always loved this cobalt blue, but would not paint my walls this colour - too confining. I need light airy shades around me. I love the dramatic oranges of yesterday's sunset but wouldn't dress in them; they would make me look sallow. I love bright clear colours to wear, but wouldn't upholster my furniture in them. Every colour is a favourite for a different purpose.

But blue does work well in flowers too

More Blue

Daily Shoot: What's your favorite color? Make a photo dominated by your favorite color today and share it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan 10/10: Sunset

Jan 10/10: Sunset, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Colours painted on the sky
change moment to moment
as the brilliant sun
The sky is spilling
onto the ground
Cutting a swath of pink
Across the frozen field
Ephemeral art
painted by nature
More photos 1 and 2

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jan 9/10: Drying the Boots

Jan 9/10: Drying the Boots, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The Daily Shoot assignment was newspapers which many say are a dying entity. I started to think of the many ways I use my daily newspaper after it has been read. Some, as in this image sop up the wetness of boots from outside. Newspapers are great for starting a fire in my fireplace. I crumple up sheets and stuff them under the grate. Newspapers are the perfect material when washing windows. Despite their inky text they polish the glass to a shine. And when short of wrapping paper, I have certainly wrapped gifts in the coloured comic section. What will we do if newspapers disappear?

I find it ironic that I carry my reusable bag to the grocery store so as to save the environment only to buy plastic bags for my kitchen garbage can and to clean my cats' litter boxes. Better to pay for bags that won't fall apart than to pay the grocery store 5¢ to wrap my groceries in one that may spring a leak and will not be able to be reused.

I hope to continue to have my daily paper delivered to my home (a job for a person) and to reuse my newspapers in as many ways as I can.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jan 8/10: Focus

Jan 8/10: Focus, originally uploaded by susanvg.

While glasses help to focus my eyes, it takes more than glasses to focus my mind. Since I started taking photographs regularly my eyes have been focused on seeing things differently. I notice more and look longer.

When I was teaching my mind would be focused on particular topics the students were studying. All of a sudden I would notice in reading, in the world around me, ideas and objects related to them. One year the grade five class was studying the Middle Ages. On a trip to England all I saw were gargoyles, old churches, winding streets that were laid out so long ago. My photographs reflected this focus and I happily shared them with my students.

My mind's focus changes as I read, listen to music, work and talk with friends. Each of these activities can lead me off into unexpected tangents as curiosity gets piqued and I have new ideas to explore.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jan 7/10: Snow

Jan 7/10, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The snow is climbing up; bit by bit it is covering the bushes as it piles higher. This wagon wheel, which sits in front of my house was once the backdrop for greenery. Now it slowly disappears in the snow.

It's winter time here in the northern hemisphere. Make a photo with snow, frost, or ice as the theme today. ds#53

Jan 6/10: Cooking for Friends

Jan 6/10: Cooking for Friends, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Last night I had friends over for dinner. Once they were colleagues; now they are friends. Three bright ladies - conversation is always interesting and laughter accompanies every meeting. We usually meet in a restaurant, but last night we celebrated my new kitchen with a home-cooked meal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jan 5/10: Looking In?

Jan 5/10: Looking In?, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Windows can give a glimpse into people's lives. Today's reflection rendered this one opaque, giving viewers a rearvew mirror. Different cultures have different customs regarding window covering. Some intentionally leave windows uncovered as a sign of welcome. I like to close my blinds as darkness falls, especially in winter; to hibernate in the coziness of home.

Daily shoot: Find a pool, puddle, or other body of still water and make a photo of a reflected subject today (none available so glass will have to do)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jan 4/10: Burner

Jan 4/10: Burner, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My new stove has a double burner, the inner one for low simmers, the outer one for hotter cooking. It has already had a workout. I love to cook on gas; its fast response as you turn it up or down makes for fewer disasters! When I first moved into my home more than 20 years ago I was nervous about gas. There had been a major explosion in an apartment building because of a faulty natural gas connection and the memory of the event had coloured my feelings about gas. I soon got used to my stove and grew to appreciate it. And during those power failures, it was always nice to enjoy my coffee!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jan 3/10: Snowy Wall

Jan 3/10: Snowy Wall, originally uploaded by susanvg.
For two days the snow
has been gently falling
Flurries of flakes
Float down
Then nestle in cracks
They pile flake upon flake
creating new forms
The crystal dust
speckles all that moves.
A pristine white duvet
blankets the city


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jan 2/10: Dining

Jan 2/10: Dining, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This is one of my favourite restaurants, one of the first Sechuan restaurants in Montreal. It originally opened in a depressed part of downtown Montreal some forty years ago. I first went there with my brother-in-law, George, who grew up in China. He was considerably older than I. Having been born in Austria, his family fled to China as the Nazis took over. George introduced us to dumplings and Peking duck. He held a big banquet there when his mother turned 75 - dish after dish came out of the kitchen, each a culinary treat.

Later the restaurant moved to a more affluent area. They still prepare food well, but have tempered their recipes to please North American palates. I learned to love spices here, but now I have to request spicier versions of my favourite dishes. My children learned to use chopsticks as we dined. Many memorable occasions have happened here from dinners with friends to lunches with colleagues. While I love to try new places, I am always happy to come back here; it's a bit like coming home.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jan 1/10 - Happy New Year

Jan 1/10 - Happy New Year, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Another year begins with good intentions. I refuse to make resolutions as we all know what happens to those. I look forward to a year of more photographs and writing and honing both. I hope to find, or should I say make the time to learn more about photography. Any pointers are welcome. I also look forward to cultivating my online relationships, and to continuing to see the world with my newly focussed eyes.

My blog name no longer made sense - so today is day one of Through My Eyes. It will probably cut down on my hits as many seemed to be in response to a search for 365 stories. So as the new year starts I welcome those who stop by to share my world as I look through my eyes and mull over what I see.