Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Aug 30/10: From the Dome Car

From the Dome Car, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My summer of train travel. This time - a train from Montreal to Halifax (though I got off in Cambellton, New Brunswick) as I have a couple of days work on the Gaspé peninsula. It's a long trip - twelve hours - and I was booked into a sleeping car.

As we were leaving Montreal, I sat in the dome car. And here we were about to cross the St. Lawrence River on the Victoria Bridge. This is the oldest bridge connecting Montreal to the south shore. It was completed in 1859. I'm happier crossing it by train. The car lanes have a metal grill surface. I know it's safe, but it makes me uncomfortable. Oh, our idiosyncrasies!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aug 28/10: Red Tinged

Aug 28/10: Red Tinged, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Despite very warm temperatures predicted for this week, there are signs of autumn. Tinges of red are appearing on leaves. A number of perennials are past their prime. And evenings (though not this coming week) get cooler requiring a sweater for the post dinner strolls. These are just hints of the coming changes.

I love the changes, the cool mornings, the bright blue skies minus the summer haze, the incredible colours at the market as the vegetables are at their peak.

Aug 27/10: Freight Train

Aug 27/10: Freight Train, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Trains are still important in Canada, bringing goods from one part of the country to another. This is a train summer for me. I was standing on the platform in Stratfod, waiting for the train to take me home when this freight train passed. Another trip next week, this time for work.

The railway is what connected our country. The last spike was hammered in to join our country coast to coast 125 years ago. The car has become king, but we need to look again at the importance of rail for environmental reasons.

"There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run" (from Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy). A new book is available illustrating this wonderful song. I've just ordered it. Let's celebrate the railroad.

Aug 26/10: Sunny

Sunny, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Nothing is quite as happy as a sunflower. The gardens around the Festival Theatre in Stratford are spectacular, with a variety of perennials, annuals and sculpture to create a feast for the eyes. Gardeners are in evidence, carefully tending to the flowers to keep the gardens at their best.

Water Lily


These men are part of the sculpture commemorating the first raising of the tent at Stratford for the first season of the Shakespeare Festival.
Raising the Tent

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Aug 25/10: Shakespeare

Aug 25/10: Shakespeare, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My parents first came to the Stratford Festival about the second year of the festival when it was still held in a tent. They brought me here for the first time in 1962 and I have been here a number of times since. I love the town; I love the theatre here. I first brought my children here in 1993 to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. My daughter was hooked and she and I have come several times together. This year we are here again and the magic of the place casts its spell over us.

We revel in the morning talks where actors share their stories or members of the festival wrestle with some of the themes of the plays of the season. We stroll along the river enjoying the tranquility. But mostly we are entranced by the quality of the shows.

The Stratford Festival is a repertory festival - twelve plays in four theatres share the schedule. Actors play in more than one play, sometimes playing in two productions in a day. Sitting through two is a mental challenge. Playing in two is both a physical and mental marathon. Today we only scheduled one play - As You Like It in the Festival Theatre. The brass will sound the fanfare calling the patrons into the theatre and I know I will have goosebumps. And then the show...

Just Resting

Just Resting, originally uploaded by susanvg.

My daughter and I adore Stratford. We soak in theatre, an intense spurt in a few days. Today was Two Gentlemen of Verona and Peter Pan. Both were excellent. The quality of acting here is outstanding. And Stratford has the money to invest in sets and costumes. In three of the four theatres, the stage is a thrust stage so the audience feels less separated from the actors. Sets are often less complex, but the staging is always creative.

Another thing we love about Stratford is the town itself - many Victorian houses and a river which widens into a lake with considerable park land. We strolled along the lake on our way to supper. Many swans were by the water's edge, either feeding in the water or preening on land. This one had obviously finished with its boudoir and was taking a rest. There are many ducks, more than I had remembered. By 6:00 in the evening, a number had installed themselves on the grass, head tucked in, ready for a good rest.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aug 23/10: Shadows

Aug 23/10: Shadows, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Where does the bench end and the shadow begin? Which is real? Sometimes the shadow is more visible than the original.

I'm in Stratford, Ontario and will be seeing Peter Pan (along with four other plays). It occurred to me as I started to write this that the play is about shadows too. Though Peter lost his shadow, it is also about the loss of childhood and the unwillingness to give up that life. Do we become shadows of that essential time in our lives?

While it would be nice to go back to the innocence of childhood, it is nice to live life larger - to travel through the greater world and have the independence and life experiences to see and learn and keep growing.

Aug 21/10: Giant Milk Bottle

Giant Milk Bottle, originally uploaded by susanvg.

This giant milk bottle, once a water tower for Guaranteed Pure Milk Co, has been a landmark in Montreal since it was erected in 1930. When the company moved from the site, the bottle deteriorated. Until recently it was badly rusted and covered in graffiti. Heritage Montreal started a campaign to save it and money was raised to restore it to its former glory. Nice to see that public pressure can save part of our city's heritage.

You can read more here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Aug 20/10: Theatre in the Park

Aug 20/10: Theatre in the Park, originally uploaded by susanvg.

An evening spent outdoors in the local park watching Romeo and Juliet with Repercussion Theatre. It's a wonderful way to spend a summer evening. People of all ages spread blankets, sit on lawn chairs and, as the light fades, the action begins.

Old Bones

Old Bones, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We spent a fair amount of time at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. It is devoted totally to paleontology. It has an extraordinary collection that is extremely informative. A visit to their web site is essential. In addition to the many dinosaur skeletons, the exhibits go back to much earlier life (both plant and animal) and trace the changes and causes as the Earth continued (and continues) to evolve.

Open Wide

Many of the specimens were found in Alberta. The badlands is prime hunting ground for old fossilized bones.

We made our way back to Calgary to fly home, but first a drive near Drumheller to cross the Red Deer River on the ferry that is pulled by a cable and up to get a view of the incredible sculpted mountains.

Badlands Scenery

and the valley below

Look into the Valley

And so the trip ended - back home, back to work (unlike this fellow below)
Hard at Work

Friday, August 20, 2010

Last Chance Saloon

Last Chance Saloon, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Driving from Brooks to Drumheller is a trip through the old west. Towns that once thrived are now practically ghost towns. Coal mines which provided many jobs are now shut down. Wayne is off the beaten path, across nine single lane bridges (there are two more past this saloon) along a winding road. The Last Chance Saloon is full of an eclectic collection: bottles, photographs, animal heads, antlers, tobacco tins and all kinds of memorabilia. Beer is served in canning jars.

Inside the Saloon

Another village, Dorothy has only a few houses an abandonned grain elevator and what looked like two out of use churches. Perhaps one or both are still in use, but they look quite lonely in the Badlands landscape.

Church in Dorothy

One place everyone stops is at the hoodoos. Their odd shapes are other-worldly. Carved out of the sandstone, they are slowly eroding.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Constantly Eroding

Constantly Eroding, originally uploaded by susanvg.

We went to Dinosaur Provincial Park in the evening on an organized tour. It's odd to approach it on grassy plains. The canyon lies below. Only a small part of the park can be viewed on your own. The bus took us into fascinating areas with sandstone canyons, buttes, mesas and coulees. The area was formed at the time of the dinosaurs, millions of years ago. Many dinosaur bones are found here.

Dinosaur Fossil

The sandstone has been sculpted by water, weather and time. Rills mark the hills which are striped from the time the sand deposits and mineral deposits were being pushed in and down by the formation of the mountains to the west. Streaks of iron-laden rock seem painted on.

More Badlands

Hoodoos are constantly changing, eroded by rain and wind. The capstones sit like umbrellas protecting what is underneath. Eventually the capstones fall off and then erosion happens quickly.


It is extraordinary landscape - in places not much grows as the sand and dried mud cover much of the ground.


It really looks like another world.

Natural Sculpture

On the Road

Livestock At Large, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A drive from Banff to Brooks is an extraordinary experience. The day starts in majestic mountains, rocky, craggy and snow capped. We drove down through the Kananaskis Mountains. We stopped for a short hike only to see goats on the road.

Kananaskis Mountains

A Columbia ground squirrel made its presence known with high pitched squeaks.
Some livestock are free to range in the along the way. Texas gates keep them from going past certain boundaries. We had to wait while they crossed the road.

Columbia Ground Squirrel

Eventually the mountains turned to hills and the forests gave way to farmland. Oil wells look out of place in the middle of fields.

Oil at the Farm

Still later the land flattened even more - fields of grass, bales of hay, reaching out to the sky. Brooks is in the Badlands of Alberta. Coming.... a trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Mount Rundle

Mount Rundle, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Look down any street in Banff and you will see a mountain (you can see a wire across this picture - it was taken right in town) - a towering rock-faced giant. Mount Rundle is one of my favourites - its curved side appears to me. When the Rockies were first formed Tunnel Mountain was part of it, but at a certain point they split apart. If we think there are a lot of earthquakes now, I can only imagine the period when these mountains were pushed up from the sea as being exponentially worse.

We took the gondola up Sulphur Mountain for a view from the top - simply breathtaking to look at the peaks from their level instead of looking up.

Looking Out

And to look down at the town of Banff with the Bow River snaking through the valley.

View from Sulphur Mountain

We took a raft trip along the river, past the hoodoos (Sandstone that has eroded; a rock - capstone - on top shelters it so that the sides erode, but the top does not), proof again of Mother Nature's art work.

Banff Hoodoos

Even mist covered, Mount Rundle captivates me - its graceful sweep, and craggy top - a lovely form.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rockies

Morraine Lake 2, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I've been home for a week, trying to sort through the myriad of photographs. Our Arctic trip ended with a flight from Resolute Bay to Edmonton, so we spent another 9 days in Southern Alberta - first time in the Rockies. I had been before, so the mountains and lakes were not quite as astounding as the first time, but their beauty and grandeur are incredible. Glacier fed lakes and rivers are every shade of turquoise and green.

Although we didn't see a lot of large wildlife, we did see some delightful smaller creatures.

Ground Squirrel Tern
Lake Louise is breathtaking with the mountains towering over it and the glacier perched on the craggy mountains at the far end. Red canoes dot the lake dwarfed by the peaks.
Lake Louise

As these splendours are in a national park, preservation of wildlife is paramount. As you drive the highway through the park, you pass under overpasses built as animal crossings. Cameras have proven their effectiveness. Some of the deer in the area are so tame, they come to feed in the town of Banff. Once made a meal of the flowers in front of our hotel.

Animal Crossing Dining at the Hotel

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nature's Gallery

Painted Gold, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Slowly we glide through a living art gallery
the work of Mother Nature
Sky and sea seamlessly meeting
on the glassy waters
An impressionist painting by Monet
Ice Sculpture
Sailing past the sculpture garden
with icy creations crafted by Henry Moore
Chiselled and smoothed into a myriad of forms
Constantly changing as they travel in the currents
Moon Rise
A Japanese print hung behind the ship
The moon peered down on dark water
Ice floes instead of white caps
The sky painted with pastels
Now I know that Lauren Harris
Painted what I saw
Polished towers of ice
Sculpted by the ocean waters
Golden Glow
The golden yellow sun
Drenched the hills on Devon Island
A surreal landscape by Dali
The moon hung overhead


The light paints this open canvas
With an Arctic palette
Ever changing
Ephemeral art of the moment.

Adventure Canada trip July 23 - Aug 2, 2010

For more photos: click here

Through the Fog

Through the Fog, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Adventure Canada Trip: July 23 - August 2 2010

When P and I met we shared our dream of going to the north, of visiting Baffin Island. We sailed into the bay, got on the zodiacs and set foot on the land. Andrew Qappik, who designed the Nunavut flag told us that the gold colour was for the land which was like gold to them. It provided food and a place to live.

Arctic Mist

Before we went out an advance party always went ashore to check for danger - whether it was the amount of ice or to see if polar bears were present. We were accompanied by staff who had rifles in case of unexpected visitors. Fortunately these were just precautionary.


Moraine left by the retreat of a glacier

The farther north we went, the more barren the countryside - but each area had its beauty - the mountains on Baffin Island with glaciers, the flowers, the cliffs of Bylot Island with the bird colonies, the exposed rock on so many mountains as growth was sparse. Mountains were carved by glaciers, by erosion. The constant in the Arctic is change, though change is slow.

Walking on Sphagnum Moss

Sphagnum Moss - it offers a spongy, uneven surface on which to walk.

Will it always be slow? There are signs of change due to the climate, of sparser ice, of permafrost melts in some areas, of polynyas not forming. Then there are the mining and oil and gas companies who see profits, not the fragile environment. If the Northwest Passage becomes more accessible will increased shipping lead to oil spills and contamination. Cleanup in this area would be near impossible, with harsh temperatures, ice and such slow decomposition. The more I travel, the more I understand how inter-related our planet is, how what happens in one place affects others. We have to take our stewardship of the planet seriously.

Barren Hills

For more photos: click here