Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22/10: Food Cart

July 22/10: Food Cart, originally uploaded by susanvg.

In Toronto you see a lot of food carts - most are selling sausages of many varieties. This one stood out, both for its name and its offerings. We don't have these in Montreal - there is no selling of food on the streets, other than on terrasses as part of a restaurant. Part of the fun of going to a different city is to see how things are done differently.

Our stay in Toronto has been a time of catching up with family and friends. Tonight we meet with our fellow travellers and tomorrow early we take off for Greenland. We'll be spending 10 days on a ship with wildlife, photography and cultural experts. I'm pushing myself a bit out of my comfort zone. We'll be spending part of our days in the Arctic on zodiacs. We're repacking our bags, putting the clothes for the heat at the bottom of the luggage and preparing our carry on baggage with warm clothes for arrival. Once in Greenland we will be boarding zodiacs to get to our ship, so warm, waterproof clothes are needed. As we won't see our main luggage until we get into our cabin, we need to have our warm clothes ready to put on. Although temperature on land is forecast to be a pleasant 17C (about 62F), temperature travelling in the zodiacs will be quite different. So my hand luggage includes a hat, gloves, neck warmer, waterproof pants sweater and jacket. This adventure will take us part way up the coast of Greenland, across to Baffin Island (in Canada) and up north as far as Resolute Bay. (74°42'N. ). Then we get flown to Edmonton and on to the next leg of our adventure. I'm apprehensive but mainly excited. I plan to write every day – photograph a lot – after all, we'll have 24 hours of daylight and will probably be posting everything only when we get to Edmonton. I'm expecting to see many beautiful sights. I hope I'm up to the challenge of getting the photos.

July 21/10: Show of Power

July 21/10: Show of Power, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I came across this statue in Queen's Park and was struck by the sense of aggrandizement. I didn't stop to read the name - I've seen this kind of statue before. It's almost always a man, larger than life, placed so we have to look up to him. It's one way people strive for immortality. As I walk through Toronto (as in other cities) there are buildings named for major donors. Here too is a quest for leaving a lasting legacy.
While it is interesting to see from a historical perspective, I wish there was more celebration of ordinary lives. Social history intrigues me more than learning about monarchs and wars and the indescribably rich.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20/10: Subway Art

July 20/10: Subway Art, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We took the subway up to meet Paul's father for dinner. At the Bayview station we came upon some interesting art work. At first it looked like splotches of black on the tiles. Viewed from the right spot the splotches formed images – a dog, an insect, a ladder.... The work is by Panya Clark Espinal. According to a plaque, 24 images were projected onto the architecture. Viewed from the spot at which they were originally projected, you can see the form; viewed from another angle – just playful splotches.



The distorted image on the right is the dog.

Perspective is everything.

City smells – traffic and smog and other malodours. The sky wears a hazy coat. The fresh Arctic air is beckoning – not long now.

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19/10: Via Rail

July 19/10: Via Rail, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Dreaming of travel, reading the brochures, imagining the trip. It's hard to believe we are en route. Slowly the train pulls out of the station en route to our first destination: Toronto. Since we got to the station, the sun has broken through the clouds and shines on our departure. We pass familiar landmarks as we pull away from Montreal. I've taken this train before, but this time Toronto is only a stop on a great adventure. Both of us dreamed of travel to the Arctic before we became a couple. Now we are both about to live our dreams. Travel is so important to broaden our horizons, to understand other cultures, to see how interconnected our world is. Each trip changes us a little. And the memories sustain us throughout our lives.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18/10: Porgy and Bass

July 18/10: Porgy and Bass, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Title thanks to my daughter. She is a Gershwin fan.

Sometimes birthdays last a day, other times they extend over several days as one celebrates with friends and family. Tonight my family was all available so we went to a restaurant to enjoy good company, great food and some wine. Molivos is a Greek restaurant with great appetizers and fish that is grilled. There was a nice selection, A few of us shared porgy and bass (Mediterranean bass not endangered Chilean bass). No singing other than singing the praises of the wonderful food.

Daily Shoot: Find something that's out of context today, natural or staged, and make a photograph.( The lobster was live - walking over the fish.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July 17/10: Dog Days of Summer

July 17/10: Dog Days of Summer, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The heat continues, punctuated by some heavy showers. Today, again we have a severe thunderstorm watch in the weather forecast. The hot sun is obscured by clouds now and rumbles can be heard. If you want to know about the expression "the dog days of summer" click here.

This morning we had brunch at a restaurant and tried to stay cool indoors with no air conditioning. The coffee did not help cool me down. This dog was on the outdoor terrace (photo through the window), happily munching on ice from a bowl.

I am not a fan of the heat, especially with the high humidity. Maybe munching on ice is the answer - or at least on ice cream.

In the space of writing this - the rains started, pelting on the roof. It will soon pass, hopefully leaving cooler temperatures behind it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 15/10: La Gargote

IMG_6884, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A milestone - one of those birthdays that launch you into a new decade. I look at it as a beginning - time to re-prioritize. I've done that thinking - July 15 was just the day to celebrate.

On a too hot evening we decided to eat outdoors on the terrasse of La Gargote, a French style bistro in Old Montreal. The terrasse is across the street from the restaurant, so the waiters have to watch the traffic as they fill the orders. Sometimes noisy with traffic, other moments more tranquil, we sat under trees appreciating any small breeze. Often a caleche would come by, the horses plodding on the pavement as tourists gawked.


Many summer plans this year to celebrate this new decade. I'll be writing and photographing, but posting only when possible. In a week this sweltering heat will be a memory as we head up to Arctic. A great adventure awaits...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 14/10: Bigger than it Seems

July 14/10: Bigger than it Seems, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Make a photo from a low point of view. Go for a dramatic effect by changing the appearance of the size of your subject.

This lily seems to be towering over the building behind it. It's all a matter of perspective - and sometimes we lose perspective. Small problems seem to be big ones as we let them take up too much space in our thoughts. Funny how we sometimes let the negativity take over, when there are so many positives to focus on. So my new challenge is to let all the beautiful things in life take over to tower over those negatives - put the negatives in their place. So much to celebrate in life - we need to concentrate on that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 13/10: Summer Rain

Summer Rain, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Distant rumbles announce the coming storm
The sky darkens
Rain, first light then pounding
A waterfall rushes from the roof
Cascading to the ground
Splashing into the pool that wasn't there before
Rivulets race downhill to the street
Summer rain

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 12/10: Lily

July 12/10: Lily, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Focus on a fragment of an object today. Make a photograph that only shows part of an object, not the whole thing.

As I shot this I thought about how one focuses changes one's perspective. If we want this world to flourish and bloom, we have to focus on both the detail and the whole. When we see only details, we forget how everything is interconnected. Pesticides used to kill mosquitoes to eradicate certain diseases caused other issues, equally negative. There is no useless creature or plant.

Our society is driven too much by economics with a look to short term gain and not enough by a sense of the future. How do our actions now affect the future of this planet? It may be costly to convert to more sustainable energy , but if we don't we will have more environmental disasters on the scale of the BP oil spill. Some risks are just not worth taking.

This may be one flower - it nourishes the bees which pollinate our fruit trees which provide food for the birds around here .... As the human population increases we carelessly slash and burn acres of forest, we pave over living spaces, we extract resources. We need to look at the details - what are we trampling on?

Details or big picture - it is never one or the other to get a full understanding.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11/10: View from the Studio

July 11/10: View from the Studio, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sunday - the day to leave CAMMAC. I like to stay and take advantage of the setting. On Sunday morning throughout the summer there is a concert series followed by a brunch. Without classes, there is time to chat, sit by the lake, take a swim, or as I did, play some music. Most of the studios are named after composers. We went to Telemann where we played music by Sammartini and Telemann, of course. With windows on three sides, you have the sense of playing in the woods. Fortunately, most of the mosquitoes don't make it into these huts, though occasionally playing is punctuated by slapping sounds as people swat at these pests.

It's always hard to leave but I know next year I'll be back for another "family" week.

More photos

July 10/10: Singers in the Evening Concert

Singers in the Evening Concert, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Saturdays at CAMMAC are very busy. Classes go on as usual in the morning. In the afternoon the children who have participated in the children's program do a concert. I admit I missed that and spent the afternoon in the water and then playing music.

After supper the student concert takes place. This year it started a little differently with a procession by all (singers and instrumentalists performing a round, followed by some performances in the boathouse. Then this boat came with two singers. The rest of the concert took place in the main concert hall. It always ends with a choral performance, this year accompanied by the orchestra. Not all classes perform (thankfully - as some years the concert has gone on endlessly) - and this year's version was over before ten.

As I have been going to CAMMAC for over twenty years, I have friendships that go back. A wine fueled conversation near the lake, under the stars is de rigeur before we all head home on Sunday. There are so many stars visible without city lights. I love to see them accompanied by the song of the bull frogs. Later we heard loon calls - such an iconic sound of Quebec lakes.

July 9/10: Staying at CAMMAC

July 9/10: Staying at CAMMAC, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The heat broke today with a sudden rain shower. It was wonderful to feel a cool breeze blow in through the window. It's amazing how much more energy I have.

Here's a little CAMMAC history.

CAMMAC was founded in 1953 by George and Madeleine Little and Carl and Frances Little. They had the idea to bring together amateur musicians who would enjoy spending a week immersed in music in a country setting. At first the camp ran in rented space for a short period. When a fishing lodge became available it was bought along with some nearby cottages. Now a winterized building has been built so activities can run in different seasons, but the main program is the seven week summer season. Learn more about CAMMAC's history.

Madeleine Little still spends part of her summer in a cottage nearby. All three of her children have taught at CAMMAC. Her grandchildren and now her great grandchildren spend part of their summers here. Many grandparents bring their grandchildren to spend a week here. It is a wonderful place for families.


While most people stay in the main lodge, some stay in the older Lake House. Others camp. Much depends on people’s budgets. The new Main Lodge was built to strict environmental standards including using geothermal energy, a green roof and radiant heating (definitely not needed this week!).

In the afternoon today I played lots of music. One of my favourite places to play is in what years ago was a boathouse - now Studio Gaby. There are windows on three sides looking out on the lake. A balcony on the three sides has chairs for those who want to spend time near the lake. When we play in there, every so often a head pops in to see who is playing and to express their pleasure.

Inside Studio Gaby

Some people play in the practice huts in the woods.

Practice Huts

Days are long - packed with things to do - music to play and hear, conversations and friendship. It doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 8/10: Thursday Concert

July 8/10: Thursday Concert, originally uploaded by susanvg.

An important aspect of CAMMAC is the teachers. In Early Music Week (one of seven weeks each with a different focus), most come from Montreal. As Montreal has two universities with Early Music programmes, there is a wealth of incredible teachers to draw from. Many come back from year to year. In this atmosphere you not only benefit from their musical expertise, but you get to know them. This week I have classes with Francis Colpron (director of Les Boréades) a marvelous recorder player and flutist, Sophie Larivière co-director of Ensemble Caprice, who also directs Flutissimo (the recorder orchestra in which I play), Hélène Plouffe – a wonderful violinist / violist (member of Les Boréades and Quatuor Franz Joseph) and Matthias Maute, co-director of Ensemble Caprice. Through the years I have had the opportunity to get to know the many teachers as well as their families. I go to many concerts in Montreal (as anyone who reads my blog knows) and it is always a pleasure to see my teachers perform. It is an added bonus for me – to see them put into practice what they have been conveying to me as well as on a personal level. And they know they have a knowledgeable (and friendly) public when they see CAMMACers in the audience.

There are also younger teachers who join the staff. This year Vincent Lauzer is teaching. I have seen him perform in Montreal from the time he was barely a teenager with the group Flûte Alors! Now he is on the brink of a career. He is starting his masters at McGill and is already a very accomplished musician. In September I heard him play at the Recorder Competition ( part of the Montreal Recorder Festival) where he won first prize. Here he has the opportunity not only to teach, but also to perform and to perform with his teachers (Sophie Larivière when he was younger and Matthias Maute at McGill).

I have always found the teachers encouraging and welcoming. They bring out the best in all the participants. And each year I go away feeling I have grown as a musician (and vow to practise more until life gets in the way).

And what a treat to hear concerts at CAMMAC . From Wednesday to Friday evenings the teachers perform. There have been many memorable concerts – from virtuosic to humorous. These are high caliber concerts by high caliber musicians.

Studio Gaby

Studio Gaby - one of my favourite places in which to play

More photographs

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 7/10: Low Sun

July 7/10: Low Sun, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I started coming to CAMMAC in 1988 when my children were small. During morning classes there is a children’s programme for children from 4 ½ to 11. They do some musical activities (Orff, choir, recorder, the possibility of chamber music) as well as other activities – sports, swimming and a variety depending on the staff that week. It can be anything from woodworking, arts and crafts, folk dance or other forms of dance. During evening classes the children have some kind of game activity. This was part of why this was an ideal vacation for me. While I enjoyed my music classes, my children had fun, made friends (some of whom they still are in touch with) and had the opportunity to learn something new.

I, too, have made lifelong friends. Each year when I come back, it is like coming back to family and new people find their way in. After one season at CAMMAC they are part of this extended family. s

Situated about 1 ½ hours from Montreal, CAMMAC attracts both English and French speaking people. Participants come from all over Quebec, Ontario, other parts of Canada, the US and some have come from as far away as South Africa and Japan. People move in and out of English and French (but unilingual people can manage while having the opportunity to learn a bit of the other language) and range in age from the very young to seniors. Music keeps us all young. No one cares what people do for a living – just about what we all live for – the joy of music.

Despite the busy schedule there is always time for good conversations – over meals, which can be eaten in the dining room or outside on the porch. With afternoons free, it is delightful to play music with others or just chat – this week in the lake as we all try to cool off. But even the lake is warming up and each day is slightly less refreshing. You have to swim further out to find the cold spots..

The bugs are hungry this time of year, too. Going for an early morning or evening walk can feel like being the buffet table for the local insects.

To see more photographs click here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 6/10: Evening

July 6/10: Evening, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We are grappling with the heat – fans are on in most places and the main concert hall is air conditioned. Bedrooms are like steam rooms – thank goodness for fans. A dip in the lake provides temporary relief but the high heat and humidity soon are felt and the feeling of coolness quickly past. Classes go on and we laugh, play music and make new friends.

Studio in the Woods

Many classes take place in practice huts in the woods, with windows on three sides. It is wonderful to play and look out on the trees . This year I have no classes in those studios, which in one way is good as they are getting very hot. My classes are in studios in the basement of the main lodge. The atmosphere may be less interesting, but the temperature counts for a lot this week.

Tuesday night is always a student concert with everything from singing to instrumental work and some energetic drumming by some of the teenagers.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 5/10: Early Morning

July 5/10: Early Morning, originally uploaded by susanvg.

What is a day like at CAMMAC? It is not for those who want a restful vacation –stimulating, fun, musical and full of friendship, but not relaxing.

At 7:00 am one of the participants (self-selected) goes around and plays a bit of music to wake people up. By 7:00 we are lined up to get our breakfast in the cafeteria. Food is basic, but OK. At 8:20 announcements are made along with a 5 minute concert by participants. By 8:30 it’s time for classes – 3 classes of 1 ¼ hours each morning with a break for snacks. I joined two different advanced recorder groups. My third class is a small ensemble with 4 recorders, bassoon and harpsichord. We worked our way through some easy and some challenging music. All takes place with a sense of humour and friendship.

After lunch is quiet hour – a badly needed hiatus in the day with no music or talking. By three, people may choose to take part in a music appreciation class (this year I’ll drop in on the history of Christophe Graupner). Then I’ll be playing music with friends. Many people spend time at the lake – a must in this hot weather. It’s about 31C (almost 88F) here and more hot weather is predicted for most of the week.

Supper is followed by another class – either choir or an instrumental ensemble. Then each evening there is a different activity. Tonight it is dancing – not sure if the focus will be Renaissance dances or country dances. One year we had a power failure and the dance (accompanied by live music) took place by candlelight – so fitting for the era. After the evening activity there is another snack and then quiet by 11:00. Those who still have energy (I’m not sure how) congregate in one of the basement rooms and play quiet games like scrabble.

It may sound exhausting, but for me it is also energizing – with new musical discoveries, a week by a lake and time for friendship.

I do apologize to my fellow bloggers. Between the heavy schedule and the very poor and unstable internet connection – I’m lucky if I post much less comment on other people’s photos and writing. It will be that kind of summer with the adventures I have planned.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4/10: Lake Macdonald

July 4/10: Lake Macdonald, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Even the sight of a lake makes me feel cooler. The summer heat has even reached cottage country. Loading my car and then unloading the many bags of clothing, instruments, music, computer, cameras.... was like going on a major trek - no porters available.


But now I have my room, with the air circulating with the help of a large fan and with the work of putting things away finished, I am practising the art of slow motion.

There is something about CAMMAC - each time I turn off the highway (a secondary road) onto the road that leads to CAMMAC I can feel my stress dissipate. So for a week young children to seniors, English speakers and French speakers live together to make music and enjoy what the countryside has to offer. We have registered for our classes - tomorrow we begin in earnest.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 3/10: Outdoor Dining

July 3/10: Outdoor Dining, originally uploaded by susanvg.

"Dining is and always was a great artistic opportunity."
Frank Lloyd Wright

Dinner in a lovely garden with flowers artfully arranged on tables, good food, good company, beautiful surroundings. A picture perfect way to spend an evening - at my neighbour's. A beautifully set table, some chilled wine added to the mix.

What is it about eating outside that makes a meal feel different? Gentle breezes made a hot evening comfortable. The sounds of birds added atmosphere. Conversation wended through travel plans, past voyages - gentle topics to complement the summer evening. As the sky faded, candlelight added a warm glow. Outdoor dining - the world slows down just for a while.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 2/10: New Orchid

July 2/10: New Orchid, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Two new orchids joined my indoor garden. My daughter knows how much I enjoy these flowers and surprised me with two new ones. Right now I have (including these) seven flowering and two more with shoots, one of which will be flowering soon. I didn't have any that looked like this one - a saucy combination of yellow and pink. These flowers seem to thrive no matter where you put them.

Meanwhile my outdoor garden is thriving with new flowers making their appearance. My lilies have started to open - velvety orange and yellow flowers. This yellow flower returns each year. I don't know its name.

Yellow Flowers

The feathery astilbes have opened up. Their delicate stalks and quiet colour add some subtlety to my garden.

And the echinacea have shown their faces. Still more surprises to come as the garden changes with the season and weather.

Echinacea Purpurea

I never get tired of photographing flowers. It gets me close to them, to examine their inner workings and be aware of the details of colour, texture and complexity.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1/10: Oiling Recorders

July 1/10: Oiling Recorders, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Summer is really starting. On Sunday I am off to music camp, CAMMAC. I'll be playing music several hours a day. These are some of the instruments I'll be taking with me - freshly oiled to keep the wood in good condition. I haven't oiled my large recorders, but they will be coming along.

I've started packing as I have much to bring: instruments, music, clothing, towels.... And of course my camera(s). Then, as there is now wireless, I bring my computer so I can keep up with my blog - though I may not be able to post as connections are not always robust. But once ensconced in my room, I will enjoy a week of music and friendship in a beautiful setting on a lake. You'll see once I get there.....