Thursday, September 30, 2010

David Suzuki

David Suzuki, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I was privileged to hear David Suzuki speak at McGill. He was celebrating twenty years of the David Suzuki Foundation as well as launching his book: The Legacy as well as promoting the upcoming film, Force of Nature. Suzuki has been an outspoken environmentalist for decades. What I appreciate is not only does he expose the difficulties the planet faces due to man's negligence as caretakers of the Earth, but he offers solutions. We can all play a role in reversing some of the damage.

It is well worth visiting the Foundation site for pointers on the changes you can make. And then tell others.

Suzuki's CBC show, The Nature of Things has run for many years, elucidating science for all of us.

Brown Leaves

Brown Leaves, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Nature is putting on a show with splashes of colour on the trees in the city. Some wear bright yellows, oranges and reds. This one has turned from green to a rich brown. I wonder at the variety of colours that supplant the summer green. Why the variety? What purpose does it serve other than a feast for the eyes?


Wall, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Walls can keep people in, keep people out, provide security, hold back erosion... In a safe part of the world we don't think of walls as exclusionary. In other parts of the world walls can restrict freedom or create safety.

My frustration is with the virtual walls - with those many educational institutions that want to keep students behind a walled garden so that communication is restricted. Instead of teaching students to interact in positive ways, to develop the skills to be safe, they simply lock the door to global interactions. It's time to tear down those walls!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Autumn Flowers

Autumn Flowers, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I think you are born with the flower gene or not. I definitely was. I just feel better when I have flowers around. My house is full of orchids, cyclamen that reward me with their re-blooming. But I still crave more. In summer there is usually a succession of gladioli in a vase. As one bunch fades my purchases at the market always includes the next. These mums sit outside at the market now - hardy flowers which withstand the cooling evening temperatures. As my outdoor garden loses its lustre, I crave the indoor flowers even more. They just brighten my space, pick up my mood and bring a sense of sunshine into my home.

Daily shoot: Make a photograph that shows an interpretation of your favorite indulgence or guilty pleasure. (@PrimalPhil)

Symmetry - that is the question

Symmetry?, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Daily Shoot: Symmetry can be calm and soothing. Make a photo today featuring symmetry, either in subject or composition. (@logista)

We often think of things as symmetrical which are not really. The human face is a good example. Though we have the same number of features on each side, there are definite differences If both sides are identical the face actually looks odd. (I've created a couple of examples)

So my offering of symmetry is asymmetrical - same but different. I like bending the rules.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Come on in

Come on in, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I originally took this photograph because I liked all the lines, but a few things have got me thinking about gates. I like the fact that this one is open. A new building project has been approved on land that previously housed a junior college. This will be a gated community in the centre of the city. For Americans this may seem normal; it is unusual here in Montreal and it is a precedent I don't like.

There is too much of an attitude of self-protection, of closing off others instead of an attitude of inclusiveness and sharing. I am not advocating leaving doors unlocked, but there is a point when barriers become self-imposed prisons where trust has vanished and is replaced by suspicion. This open gate does not say enter, but it does not give the feeling of exclusion, of "me vs the others." It is too easy to depersonalize "others" when you give yourself no opportunity to interact and put a face to who they might be. We need to open the metaphorical gates, reach out and learn from each other.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Determination, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sometimes I wonder why we call some things weeds. Many of them flower and they certainly are persistent, growing in cracks and crevasses. My garden is a mix of planted and uninvited growth. As long as they flower, I usually don't disturb the interlopers. I'm always amazed at their tenacity and willingness to grow anywhere.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Evening Flight

Evening Flight, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I looked up and saw the golden evening light. The clouds glowed. As I always have my camera with me, I snapped a photograph. Later when I looked at it on the LCD screen, I wondered about the black dots on the photograph. It was only when I zoomed in that I realized that these birds flew over just as I snapped the picture. Serendipity - it made for a much more interesting image.

Sometimes we are so intent on seeing one thing that we miss what's really there. We see what we want to see. But this photo allowed me to look anew.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Montreal Recorder Festival

Renaissonics, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Four days of musical adventure, from lectures on playing Renaissance music to concerts, to classes... Astonishing concerts by the Renaissonics, Ensemble Caprice with two violinists from Rebel and a new find for me - Horacio Franco. Virtuosity, originality and wonderful, personal interpretation of the music

And the festival is about connecting and reconnecting with people who love music the way I do. My Toronto friends come to stay and we enjoyed the festival together. And this time I reconnected with a teacher who had once come up to coach us on playing Renaissance dance music. It's always good to learn and relearn. Each time you are exposed to ideas the understanding is deeper and more can be integrated. As a result of the weekend of workshops I have new goals and musical ideas to work on. It's amazing how you can feel tired and rejuvenated at the same time.

So here are my new resolutions
- spend some time improvising on simple melodies or chord progressions
- spend some time practicing patterns for ornamentation so they become part of my repertoire
- play around with music more
- play more Renaissance music and look at the words and phrases - let the recorder speak the text
These are thanks to John.

But mostly - play, play and play as music is a language that transcends other languages and lets us speak from the heart.

If you haven't heard the Renaissonics click here and select a piece.

Sept 17/10: Eggplant

Eggplant, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The colours and shapes in the market this time of year astound me. As the air gets cooler I feel this need to cook and bake - like the animals that are putting aside food for the winter. A busy work schedule is making it hard to find the time for the hours I would like to spend in my kitchen, filling my house with the aromas of autumn - vegetable soups. apple desserts, spicy zucchini bread.

Here's a feast for your eyes

Garlic and Peppers Little Tomatoes

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lasting Impression

Lasting Impression, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's always fun to come across the unexpected. This mural is quite new. I checked out Google streetview and there was graffiti on this wall. Funny how a physicist has become an icon - his image recognizable by many people. Today it is the popular culture icons who are recognized by most people. Who are the people you would like to see remembered from today? How can we raise the profile of the thinkers so that they reach the radar of today's youth?

Starting to Decay

Starting to Decay, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The garden has lost its lustre. Many of my perennials are past their prime with fewer blooms and more dead heads to prune. But I like the cooler temperatures, the blue skies and the crisp mornings. It's that in between time when the mornings are fresh and the afternoons balmier. If you leave the house in the morning, you have to dress in layers, that peel off as the temperature rises.

Soon it will be time to cut some of these flowers way back and make room to plant some tulips for spring blooming.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just Two Weeks

Just Two Weeks, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Eating and sleeping - that's what babies do best. This little tyke came into the world just two weeks ago. He's finding his way around life on the outside. It will be fun to watch him grow. And it is delightful to see his parents grow into their new roles.

Children change you forever. You never stop being a parent.

Welcome Matteo.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept 11/10: Cavorting Horse

Sept 11/10: Cavorting Horse, originally uploaded by susanvg.

As a city person, I enjoy driving through the countryside and gawking at all those things we don't see regularly in the city. I pulled over by the side of the road to snap this horse cavorting in the sunshine. It struck me that for the people there this was just a mundane scene, but for me it was special.

When country people find themselves in a city they gawk at all I consider normal - the buildings, the traffic and all the other features of city life. Unique to one is mundane to another.

Sometimes it is fun to look at things afresh from another person's eyes such as when you have visitors to your city - showing the city makes you look afresh. Sometimes it is better to look through your own eyes and discover all that makes you wonder and enjoy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept 8/10: International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Sept 8 - International Literacy. I marvel at my good fortune to be born where I was - where education is valued and most children learn to read. And then my good fortune to be born into a family that valued books - with both parents being avid readers. My house is full of books - fiction, non-fiction, adult books and books for children. I love to read and hope my children, now adults, will continue to pass on this passion to others.

We all know that literacy raises the standard of living of people. I particularly admire Greg Mortenson who has helped build schools in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan where literacy rates are low and where women are often denied education. Literacy begins at home. How can we then help it spread?

Sept 7/10: Rainy Reflections

Sept 7/10: Rainy Reflections, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A late night - I caught yet another photo of lights reflected on a rainy road. I have a painting by Sylvia Ary, a Montreal artist which is a street scene on a rainy day. This photograph brought it to mind and I am including a photo of it here. It is interesting to see how different media can portray similar subjects. Each are abstract in their own way - yet each gives the feel of the rain at night.

Rain - by Syvia Ary

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sept 6/10: Time to Sit

Sept 6/10: Time to Sit, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The Secret Bench by sculptor, Lea Vivot always makes me smile. One thing I love about art in public spaces is the way people interact with it. While I was enjoying a public photography exhibit, a couple of people sat down on the bench and posed for photographs. Meanwhile across the street, someone was posing with another sculpture. Instead of the "do not touch" mentality of museums there is a sense of touch, enjoy and participate.

Sept 5/10: Double Rainbow

Sept 5/10: Double Rainbow, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's so important to stop in those moments to appreciate the ephemeral events. Rainbows are special for their fleeting existence.

I think as I start the school year with its frenzy of work I have to remind myself to stop and just enjoy the moment. There may not be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but there is a golden moment when you take the time to appreciate it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sept 4/10: Almost Home

Sept 4/10: Almost Home, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love to travel, as anyone following this blog must realize. But there is something special about coming home again. This photograph was taken through the train window as we approached the station. I love the feeling of recognizing landmarks whether by plane or train as I get closer to the destination. By now, I know that planes approach from the east; if you are on the left side of the plane you can see the Olympic stadium, the oratory and eventually the highway near the airport. I watch for this. On the train from the west I know the area as we approach Montreal Island and each suburb has its landmarks that mean we are getting closer. This time I approached from the north east (though with our crazy mixed up directions in Montreal we came over the bridge from the South Shore) and headed into downtown. The tall office towers greeted us.

I'm home. And ready to enjoy the life that offers: a cat on my lap, food cooking in the oven, and friends nearby with whom to share my many travel stories.

Sept 3/10: Church in Gesgapegiag

Church in Gesgapegiag, originally uploaded by susanvg.

A lot of time to kill before a train home, I meandered through the coast, stopping for photographs, to stroll, to explore. I stopped in Gespapegiag, the Mi'kmaq reservation. Most of Canada's aboriginal people are Christian, It is nice to see that they have made way in this to celebrate their own way, to bring their culture to their spiritual home.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gaspesian Sunset

Gaspesian Sunset, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Minute by minute the colours in the sky changed, at first a fiery orange then moving through mauves and pinks. Moments of magic as darkness descended.

More photos 1, 2, 3

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sept 1/10 New Richmond

New Richmond, originally uploaded by susanvg.

The southern side of the Gaspé peninsula sits on Baie des Chaleurs. While the French were the first Europeans to settle here, the Mik'maq were already here. Bonaventure, the town in which I'll be giving workshops is celebrating its 250th anniversary. The Acadian flag is seen everywhere (Acadians are the original French settlers).

Some towns have larger English populations. Unfortunately, there is high unemployment in the area as the fishing industry has suffered a decline, the forestry industry is also facing challenges and mining, too has seen mine closures.

But as a place to visit - there are many charms as you drive the coast.

Aug 31/10: Fossils in Miguasha

Fossils in Miguasha, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I managed a short visit to Miguasha - here is one of the fossils from the museum. This is a World Heritage site - with some of the best fossils found in the world. Dating from the Devonian period and later there are splendid examples. What is really remarkable are the fossils they found that had fins with bones like precursors to hands and feet - the tetrapods. They are a step from fish to the vertebrates that came onto land.

Fern Fossil

Fern Fossil

I'm fascinated by the movement of our land masses. Last year's trip to Newfoundland whetted my interest as I learned about its geology. This year's visit to the Badlands and now Miguasha has only piqued my interest further.