Monday, May 31, 2010

May 30/10: Organ

May 30/10: Organ, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Music keeps coming back as a theme in my blog. This organ is at the back of Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. I have written about this church before. It was founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys. The current church, built in 1771 over the original chapel which was destroyed by fire, it sits near the port of Montreal. By the 1800s it was dubbed the Sailor's Church as it was often visited by sailors about to go to sea.

Now, still a church, it is also the site of many concerts, especially by groups specializing in early music. The recorder orchestra in which I play was priviledged to play there as part of Museum Day, a day when Montreal museums are free and special programmes are arranged to entertain the public. Here is our group in concert - not a great photo, but a great memory.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 29/10: Flower

May 29/10: Flower, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I never seem to get tired of photographing flowers. Their infinite variety, incredible colours and details keep me captivated. This little blossom finally got planted. I hauled water and did get half my flowers into permanent positions. The others are waiting patiently but they do get watered regularly.

Tuberous Begonia
Fortunately most of my garden is full of perennials so I just have to fill in some of the holes. We expect rain on Tuesday. It will take a lot to really soak the garden. While it is delightful to have sunny days, we are experiencing low water conditions with forest fires in the northern part of the province and thirsty flowers here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 28/10: Columbine

May 28/10: Columbine, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Little steps in learning. I tried out my macro setting and got a few nice shots. I love columbines and have written about them before. It's easy to get lost in their complexity. They flower in profusion and seem to dance over the long stalks.

But this time - it is really about learning to use my camera and learning patience. I think I liked a point and shoot camera for years because of its simplicity. I could do what the name implied - point, shoot and voila! there was my photograph. I was interested in snapshots, in memories. Now I have challenged myself to try photography. I am just figuring out how the camera focuses. It's a new Zen exploration - learning photography, learning mindfulness, learning complexity...

Columbine 2

Pond - Parc des Rapides

Pond - Parc des Rapides, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Experimenting with my camera was frustrating but a learning experience. I think we need to put ourselves in the position of "newbie" from time to time to experience the frustrations, the walls (most of which we create ourselves) and the joy of progress, however small. So on my continuing journey as lifelong learner, I've thrown myself into this morass - a murky pond where I need to stop and reflect on my learning, confront the wildlife (apertures, shutter speeds, lenses...) and enjoy the scenery along the way.

May 27: Reflections on Coffee

Reflections on Coffee, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Shiny things attract attention. Make a photograph of a shiny object and post it today. Focus in on the reflections.

I would gladly reflect on coffee - in fact, sitting, sipping a cup of coffee is a great time for reflection. It's odd how a drink that can rev you up can also be a source of relaxation and quiet time. There is something to be said for a quiet weekend morning and the time to slowly sip that strong espresso and just savour the taste.
I like coffee that tastes like coffee - that intense flavour and aroma is part of the pleasure. Dark roast coffee (fair trade, of course) is a must. It's the quality not quantity of coffee that enhances the whole experience.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 26/10: Bowl

May 26/10: Bowl, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love pottery and each time I go into my favourite pottery store to buy a gift for someone, inevitably I buy something to add to my collection. This bowl reminds me of one of my cats. He is not the cleverest soul, but he knows what he wants and is determined to get it.

I keep the cats out of certain rooms because of people who have allergies. We attempt to keep sleeping spaces cat free. Basil waits for the moment a door is open and he barrels through. We have tried barriers so we can sometimes leave the doors open (such as on unbearably hot days when the air-conditioning in the hall does not reach the bedroom with the door shut). He reconnoiters the situation and then charges through, toppling whatever was used to create a gate. Then he is plucked out of the room and unceremoniously dumped back into the hall. Then his efforts begin anew. And I attempt to devise new methods to foil him!

May 24/10 Through the Woods

May 24/10 Through the Woods, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A walk through Summit Park always feels like a walk through an oasis in the middle of a city. The dirt paths lead through the woods. City sounds are muffled, replaced by bird songs and the raucous sounds of crows.

I feel a bit as if I am lost in the woods as I try to understand my new camera. It's a steep learning curve. I hope I come out the winner. I'm not yet convinced!

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 23/10: Flowers to Plant

May 23/10: Flowers to Plant, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I went to the market and came home with a plan. It has been very dry here. First I would water these candidates for my garden. Then I would wait until evening and water my flower beds - give them a good soaking. Then the next day - planting!
But no.... I took the flowers out of the car and put them in the shade. I went to use the hose and..... the pipe from the house to the spigot broke creating a geyser which was aimed at me. It took a few attempts until I got the water to the outlet turned off (down into the basement, up to the side of the house, check and then all over again until it was really shut off). So with watering can in hand, I watered these flowers and tried to figure out when I could get a plumber here to fix it.
It's a long weekend - I'm not going to pay holiday rates. I have meetings all week so I won't be home in the day time except for short periods. Haven't worked my way out of this dilemma yet - but I really can't plant until I get some water into my gardens and there is no real rain in the forecast.

May 22/10: Appetizer

May 22/10: Appetizer, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes you just have to treat yourself to a nice dinner out and that's just what we did! The weather has turned hot so eating on the balcony of the restaurant in the warm evening air was perfect. We dined, not just ate - with a few courses (this was the smoked salmon appetizer) and wine. There is something special about eating al fresco. It slows life down.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 21/10: Time's Up

May 22/10: Time's Up, originally uploaded by susanvg.

There is beauty even in the end of a flower's time to bloom. These tulips, ready to shed their petals, have created interesting sculptures. Our society worships the beauty of youth, but an older person's face carries the beauty of a life well-lived - the story is etched on the skin. I do not understand those who have plastic surgery to erase these tales - the years of laughter and of sorrow. Some faces become almost expressionless. I have earned whatever tracks and sags my age has wrought. I plan to age with a flourish come what may just as these tulips have.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20/10: Iris

May 20/10: Iris, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Spring continues to astonish. New blooms call out to be admired. In looking closer I find details I missed before, lines etched in a road map to entice the pollinators.

The air is perfumed with the scents of competing blossoms.


Lilacs and spirea have taken over from the magnolias and apple blossoms.


May flowers bloom in profusion.

May 19/10: Ready to Rock

May 19/10: Ready to Rock, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In the May sunshine these chairs sit waiting for an owner. I can picture them on a veranda or out on a dock looking out over a calm Laurentian Lake as someone slowly rocks to the sounds of the gentle lapping of the water on the shore. Rocking chairs elicit calmness, images of mothers rocking babies, or older folk rocking to the rhythm of their memories.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17/10: Light in the Darkness

May 17/10: Light in the Darkness, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As the sky darkened I tried to catch the lights dancing on the blackness. The city is riveted to the hockey playoffs as our beloved Habs, after clawing their way into the playoffs, have made it to the conference finals. As I was growing up, Les Canadiens were frequent winners of the Stanley Cup. Recent years have been a period of darkness, with the team not performing strongly enough to light up the eyes of their fans. Now the city is alive with hockey fever.

Just no more drunken riots, please....

Daily Shoot: Black can be dramatic. Go for as much black in a photo as you can with lots of oomph, character, and depth.

May 16/10: Buses

May 16/10: Buses, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The new bus terminal in Casselman is open. The buses are all lined up ready for the next morning's commuter run to Ottawa. The schedule is really only for people working from 8:00 - 4:00. A bus leaves Casselman a few times between 6:00 and 7:00 - too early for anything I would do. They cater to people with monthly passes.

The fleet of buses is certainly colourful. I think they spend more time lined up here, than on the road and so keep their pristine look.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 15/10: Danger

May 15/10: Danger, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Make a photo that you think would work well as computer wallpaper, and try it out for a week!

I have tried a variety of wallpaper on my computer. I think it depends very much on my mood. Sometimes I select a soothing image - a zen image - more texture than photograph. Other times I choose something that makes me smile, like my cats.

Water Lilies

Recently I have used a photograph I took at Kew Gardens of giant waterlilies. They always remind me of the astonishing variety in nature. But sometimes, just sometimes, I go for the oddball image, the one that sends my brain into alternative thoughts. Danger - you are spending too much time on this computer. Danger - deadlines are looming. Danger - photography can be adictive. Danger (you fill in the blanks).....

May 14/10 Shadows

May 14/10 Shadows, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Find an interesting shadow--any shadow--and make a photograph of it. Consider your framing as you shoot.

The sun came out at the end of a very grey day, casting long shadows. Some were crisp and clear, others blurred. The long images, distortions of the original, show us aspects we may not have noticed.

I love the play of light and shadow, the way the shadows are drawn on the pavement, transitory, illusory - there to be appreciated for a short time and then they are changed and finally disappear. It is a reminder that we have to stop and cherish moments, take those images into our minds, to play with them later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12/10: Soap

May 12/10: Soap, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Pick an everyday subject and get as close as you can to it. Make a photograph and post it!

Soap now requires decision-making. I well remember the days of the thick, white cake of "kitchen soap" which always sat by the sink in my mother's kitchen. It served the purpose. Now we have to decide between hard soap and soft soap. Soap comes in every scent, for every skin type, and ready to fight bacteria. What is touted as a boon to fighting disease, is then exposed as a threat. Anti-bacterial soap may increase the incidence of bacteria mutations. The additives may also interfere with our hormonal systems.

I do like using the soap in the kitchen - I don't feel I am leaving raw chicken residue on a bar of soap - but is this really the right choice? I'm not sure.

May 11/10: Tools

Tools, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: What tools do you use and appreciate on a daily basis? Make an interesting photo of one such tool today.

Ok - it's more than one tool - but this pot of tools sits next to my stove and gets used regularly. I have always wanted to be one of those people who has clear counters and other surfaces - but I am a much better clutterer than a cleaner. This pot helps things somewhat organized.

May 10/10: Ferns

May 10/10: Ferns, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Ferns unfurling, their gentle green lace is revealed. Now they are young, not yet giving off their cool green aura of summer. As they fill in, their dense folliage will hide the earth, providing havens for the garden insects.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 8/10: Trillium

May 8/10: Trillium, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The sun shines
On the rain-washed flowers
which carpet the forest floor
I look in every direction
And see their bright white faces
Dotting the ground

They call me to the woods
To honour their brief stay
I must linger a while
To smile back at them.


May 7/10: Hockey Fever

May 7/10: Hockey Fever, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Montreal is a hockey city and though our fans are ardent, I think many are delightfully surprised at how well the "Habs" are doing in the playoffs. I was near the Bell Centre where there are large statues of some of our best known players of the past. This is Guy Lafleur's foot!

The series with the Penguins is now down to a best of 3. The man who has really made the difference for the Canadiens has been Halak. His steady nerves and fast reflexes have kept many a shot from entering the net. So tonight many Montrealers will be glued to the televisions, at homes and in bars throughout the city. Can the team get to the next level? Go Habs Go!!!

May 6/10: Nature Wins

May 6/10: Nature Wins, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Find a grid pattern somewhere-maybe a brick sidewalk or ceiling tiles-and make a photo of an interesting slice of it.

We people think we can conquer nature. We pave it, poison it, drill, dam and do all sorts of things to prove we are masters, but the forces of nature win (and sometimes lose as a result). It has been proven lately with the results of the volcano in Iceland which now controls air flights at its whim. In the Gulf of Mexico, the pressure of the underground oil has had devastating effects.

In a small way, nature is taking over my walkway. Little plants take hold wherever they can. I secretly delight in their tenacity hoping that man's naive notions that we can dominate the planet will change and we will start to try to live in harmony.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 5/10: Walking by the River

May 5/10: Walking by the River, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Montreal is on an island, but it is sometimes easy to forget that. As I go through daily life I only catch glimpses of the river as I drive. Today I walked by the river in René Lévesque Park in Lachine. There are many sculptures in the park from these odd legs (there are 5 of them) to a whimsical picnic and many others. This sculpture, Site/Interlude is by David Moore. Situated beside the river they demand a stop to not only look at them, but to sit for awhile and admire the river.

May 4/10: Thieves

May 4/10: Thieves, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This photograph looks like it's about tulips but actually it is about the tulips that are not there. You may notice that two have been decapitated. There are thieves in the neighbourhood. I saw one from my bedroom window. It cut off the bloom and went off with it.

I used to puzzle over this. I knew these thieves were squirrels and was always angry that the petals of the flower would be strewn around as if the squirrel vandalized my garden, decided it wasn't to its liking and left the evidence to taunt me. Today I saw that it ate the heart of the flower (usually only the red tulips), leaving the petals. I am a little more forgiving as I see the damage, knowing some of it went to nourishment.

May 3/10: Bagels in Quebec City

May 3/10: Bagels in Quebec City, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I had to make a quick trip to Quebec City (Sainte-Foy, actually - a suburb of Quebec) for work. I drove there in the morning and worked with a colleague. We took a break for lunch and went to the local bagel place. It was a surprise to me to find a place that actually makes bagels much the way they are made in Montreal - even baked in a brick oven, heated by a wood fire. We Montrealers take our bagels seriously. We have several bakeries which have their ovens going 24 hours. I featured one bakery a while ago in this blog. Although some make designer bagels with ingredients like blueberries or sundried tomatoes, most feature the standard poppy seed or sesame seed bagels. And there is nothing like carrying home a bag of bagels, still hot from the oven. It is rare that the number bought is the same as the number unpacked at home.

May 2/10: Bleeding Hearts

May 2/10: Bleeding Hearts, originally uploaded by susanvg.

From one day to the next spring works her magic. Flowers grow in fast forward, not there one day and in full bloom the next. My eyes go from one new bloom to another as the garden fills in. Spring is the time of fastest change with daily surprises.


Flowers on bushes and covering trees - their presence fleeting. They demand that you stop and look and breathe in the aromas.


Spring flowers splash colour in gardens across the city.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 1/10: Welcome Home

May 1/10: Welcome Home, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Much to learn about photography. I am trying to understand how to use my camera on manual - I set the f stop and shutter speed for this (and many others) in an attempt to see what the different settings provide for me. I'm going to have to keep a notebook and mark everything down, so I really understand what is happening. Right now I'm working with my Canon PowerShot, but am working towards growing my knowledge, so when I buy my DSLR camera I won't by completely stymied.

The path this photography has led me down .....

Apr 30/10: Through the Doorway

Apr 30/10: Through the Doorway, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Coming out of the metro, we approached this doorway into the lobby of Salle Pierre-Mercure where the audience was lining up to go into the theatre. Anticipation for the concert of Arion Baroque Orchestra, led by guest conductor/violinist, Stefano Montanari.

What a concert! Montanari demonstrated his incredible musicality and virtuosity and the orchestra played superbly. I had the privilege of watching Mr. Montanari give a master class in Toronto which enhanced my enjoyment of the concert. I could really hear how he put his ideas into practice. He knew what he wanted to say, musically and made sure the orchestra understood his ideas and motives. We heard an extraordinary version of The Four Seasons, by Vivaldi, played as a whole with much liberty taken with tempo, improvised passages and short pauses - while I may not have agreed with absolutely everything in his interpretation, it made for an incredible evening. You could hear the brightness of spring, the sensuous summer and brittle winter. I hope to hear him again soon - he is a musical wonder.

Apr 29/10: Magnolia

Apr 29/10: Magnolia, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Every year I am enchanted by the magnolias. I have discovered this year they are hardier than I thought. Our snow of two days ago which brought down branches of trees assaulted these flowers too. But the shook it off and with the sun shining once more, they reach up towards it. Ephemera - these delicate-looking blooms last but a short time, but their yearly visit takes my breath away.