Monday, November 29, 2010


Cobblestones, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I like the feeling of walking on history - to step where others from a different time have stepped. With our modern roads new asphalt covers over the old with history's footsteps obliterated. This cobblestone has been witness to a longer history, back in Montreal's past. As I waited to get in to a concert, I snapped this photograph. The car lights flooded the street, testimony to the layers of time in this place.

Yet even this street has only borne witness for a few hundred years. In travelling I have walked on roads much older and stepped where famous people of history have walked.

Here in Montreal, I walk in the footsteps of the people who settled here, leaving their homes an ocean away to live in what was sometimes a very hostile environment. I walk where the sailors have walked as they entered the church where the concert was held, offering prayers for safe journeys. I stroll where the merchants of Montreal walked on their way to Bonsecours Market. Each generation has left its imprint on the city and each generation has, at times, erased the past to make way for the future through demolition and new structures. It is nice to have a part of the city where we can still connect with the city's past.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Cheers, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A nice dinner before a concert - life is good. The wine glass glowed from the light of the fake candle. The Bach Festival has started with a lovely rendering of St. John's Passion performed by Arion and Les Voix Baroques. And outside the city turned white with fresh fallen snow.
Snow Fell
Back to the boots, hats, scarves and mitts. But the air smelled fresh and the snow crunched under foot. Daylight seems brighter reflected off the snow and night-time sparkles. The first snows are festive as holidays approach. Snow in March feels wearisome.
Winter Lights

So cheers to all - to an easy winter, to wonderful music, to a festive December.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cold Day Warm Soup

Cold Day Warm Soup, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Slippery sidewalks make for treacherous walking. So today I stayed home and cooked and caught up on paperwork - but the food was more photogenic than the stacks of paper I sorted through.

The house smells wonderful with cooking smells wafting up the stairs to my office. When I was small, my mother sometimes served me soup with a whole chicken leg in the bowl "chicken in the pot", but since this photo, I have stripped the meat from the bones. I love to have soups- freshly made or defrosted from the freezer. They make a wholesome meal and warm you up on cold winter days.

Paperwork, on the other hand, doesn't quite have that same warming effect. As soon as I sort through one stack, the postman brings more to the house. There is a never-ending supply. Sometimes I feel like I am a processing plant taking mail in, sorting it for various recipients in this house, then dealing with my own, with envelopes in recycling and the important pieces on the continuously growing piles. At least I made a good dent today.

Fairy Lights

Fairy Lights, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Not my best shot - I should have used a tripod, but I was passing these in my car. - yes I parked before taking this photo.
We are heading into the darkest part of the year, with the shortest day being less than a month away. Lights are appearing all over the city. They used to be "Christmas lights" which would appear in December and be gone some time in January. Now they seem to appear earlier and last most of the winter. I like the British term - fairy lights. It makes them appropriate for any season. In many countries, December is a time for festivals and holidays for which light - whether candles, oil lamps, stars... is a symbol of the holiday. It certainly brightens the season, making long dark nights sparkle.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Bus, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Montreal has a fairly good public transportation system, especially for those who live in the city core. But the car still rules. More highways are being built while the municipalities wrangle over where a commuter train should run. I do admit, I am guilty; I use my car for most outings. I am trying to walk more (this photo was taken when I walked from my home to do some errands) and to take the metro whenever I can to get where I want to go. In today's brisk 1°C plus winds, I was glad I did not have to stand waiting for a bus. And this is only the beginning of our cold season.

Daily Shoot: Illustrate the process or thought of traveling today, possibly by documenting your own travels.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the Top

Over the Top, originally uploaded by susanvg.
As I was walking today, I came upon this house. I have seen many houses decorated (too soon, I think) for Christmas, but this one is really over the top. This photo doesn't give the full effect. Some of these giant inflatable decorations are hidden by the ones in front. I am providing some other views so you can see just how excessive these are.
More over the top         Where is the house?
It becomes a case of "you can't see the trees for the forest" It's just one big jumble of stuff. Oh - just give me a few tasteful lights that chase the darkness away instead of all these commercially made apparitions!

Museum of Nature

Museum of Nature, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A trip to the Canadian Museum of Nature which was recently renovated. This new glass addition shines in the light, quite a contrast to the stone exterior. It appears, almost as an illusion - there but not quite there. You can learn more about it here. I discovered that there was originally a tower built but it had to be dismantled in the early 1900s as the soil underneath could not support the weight. I'm not sure how I feel about this addition. It certainly makes moving between sections of the museum easier.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Iron Gate

Iron Gate, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I passed this iron gate on my way to a concert. I love wrought iron. I once spent considerable time at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London just admiring the many uses and artifacts of wrought iron. Now so many fences are just utilitarian steel. They keep people out, but do not have visual appeal. This gate is in front of an art gallery which itself is in an old building in Old Montreal. This part of the city has cobblestone streets (much nicer to look at than to walk or drive on) and the oldest buildings in the city. Like many other cities, Montreal had its share of fires, so the buildings do date from a variety of eras. It is nice to see this gate enhance the building while providing security.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Belle Danse

Belle Danse, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A week full of concerts - what a delight. Tuesday's concert was presented by Ensemble Masques. They were joined by Les Jardins Choréographiques, a baroque dance group. It was an incredible evening of music from the time of Louis XIV, whose court was the venue of many grand spectacles incorporating music, dance, theatre and costume. In many ways it was where ballet started as dance masters were numerous and for the first time they notated the dance movements and gestures.

The dancers were delightful, costumes were sumptuous and the music was lovely. Altogether - a feast!

Coloured Bush

Coloured Bush, originally uploaded by susanvg.
More and more trees stand bare but autumn is still adding some colour to the landscape. This garden reminded me of an impressionist painting. Funny to think of reality imitating art rather than the other way around. There were so many shades of reds and golds on the bush, it was like small brush strokes of many different colours.

Wispy Grasses

But colour is disappearing. These grasses have lost their vibrant greens and now, faded and bleached, they wave in the breeze.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Metro Art

Metro Art, originally uploaded by susanvg.
When this art work was first created, it stretched the length of the station, unprotected by this reflective glass cover. Then the vandals got to it. The whole thing had to be dismantled, cleaned and then those parts that were salvageable were remounted under glass. The vandals are at it again.
I am all for good graffiti artists who create art in the city, but spray painting tags on someone's property, whether it be a piece of art, a monument, a building or whatever is not creative, is not art and is not cool!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

For Pedestrians

For Pedestrians, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Montreal is slowly becoming more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. There are now many kilometers of bicycle paths. And our Bixi bikes are well-used. This street, which runs through part of McGill University, used to be filled with cars. Now only service vehicles are allowed up it, and that only during a few hours of the day. Benches, bicycle stands and space for people has now replaced the parked cars.

Now if only we could improve our public transportation so fewer cars would be on the road. Cleaner air - and some nice places to sit and enjoy it!

Another Autumn Walk

Welcome Birds, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Each weekend walk goes deeper into autumn. The blazing colours are gone, replaced by sepias and browns. This bird house, and others nearby were decorated for Christmas - too early as far as I'm concerned. We are barely over Halloween.

Autumn Remnants

There is beauty in the dried out flowers, colour-stripped and bare. The dried leaves rustle as the squirrels forage, filling up for their winter hibernation. You can smell the drying leaves, a crisp autumn aroma.  I love to hear the honking of geese overhead as they travel south, their wide vees crossing the sky.

Heading South

The sun sets early now that we have changed the clocks. Darkness settles in. Time to hibernate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Enjoying the Sun

Enjoying the Sun, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Despite morning frost, the daytime temperature has been a little above normal with magnificent sunshine and bright blue skies. We know what is coming so people take advantage of whatever warmth the sun provides. It's wonderful walking weather as the cool air is energizing. I'm not sure I would sit still for long periods outside, but this man was busy catching the rays while doing paperwork.

Frost has appeared on several mornings but these hardy mums still brighten the scene.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moon Rise

Moon Rise, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I looked up to see the crescent moon and I was brought back to my childhood. I loved to listen to stories on the radio. Every Saturday morning I would sit by the radio and listen to a storyteller. One of my favourite stories was Many Moons by James Thurber. The story was about a princess who was languishing. She said she would only get better if someone brought her the moon. The wise men each tried and failed, but the court jester succeeded. He asked the princess about her perception of the moon. She said that the moon was only as high as the tree because it sometimes gets caught in the branches.

Last Saturday I was privileged to be part of a storytellers event in honour of a friend of mine. There were three storytellers. I added music to the stories as well as between them. We plan to try this again. Maybe I can convince one of them to tell Many Moons...


Beautys, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Shot from my car while stopped at a red light.
Beautys is a landmark in Montreal. It was opened in 1942 by Hymie Sckolnick. You can hear him on YouTube They are known mainly for their breakfasts (served all day). On weekends people line up to get in for brunch.  Eat in a booth or at the lunch counter. I have to admit, I have only been there once, but family members from out of town go on a pilgrimage there when they come into town.

Note: if you are wondering why it is spelled without an apostrophe, it is due to our language laws in Quebec. Signs have to be in French so we have many places with names with absent apostrophes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trees are Bare

Trees are Bare, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I've been thinking about my experience with photography and photographs in general.
From The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels "...when we take a photograph - we're looking at only a few things, half a dozen or even a dozen - and yet the photo records everything in our frame of vision. And it's those thousand other details that anchor us far below what we consciously see."
Interesting that in this photo I am there in shadow form - watching. I do find in looking at photos after taking them that I see things I did not know were there (e.g. my shadow) and find ideas to think about that were not the original intention for the capture. Photography brings those things into focus.

Then there is the issue of memory. The photos sometimes become our memories. Each time we view them it reinforces that moment, that image of the event. The things not photographed lose intensity compared to those we revisit through these images. Does this distort our memories? making moments more important than others out of proportion to the experience?

I also look at photo as memory in another way - as a marker of little events. When did it first snow last year? When did the first flowers appear? I find myself looking back at the historical record. With photography we have all become social historians whether capturing events, daily life or just the change of seasons. There will be lots of fodder for future PhDs as they sift through the mountain of material we all produce and share. I wonder whose PhD will be based on the notion of 365 photos shared with others.

So photos let us see, before, during and after the photo is taken. Just a few thoughts I've been mulling over.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


SAQ, originally uploaded by susanvg.
This may not look like much - a store front, that's all (it's a liquor store). But to me it represents how things change. Now I don't want to be seen as someone who is against progress. After all, I have embraced computers (bought my first one in 1983); I post photos; I blog. But some change I find harder to adjust to. Now, growing up, liquor was sold in the Liquor Commission. Even when I became old enough to buy liquor, I went to the Liquor Commission where a clerk stood behind a counter. You had to look in the book and select what you wanted and the clerk would get it for you. As Montreal became less Catholic and more secular these outlets changed and customers could finally browse the shelves. They also changed the name to the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec). Sometimes I still slip into the old nomenclature and then face the derision of some people around me.

Well this particular SAQ outlet is on the corner of Queen Mary and Décarie. I grew up within a bus ride from here and as a teenager remember well going to this area to shop. Here, as in many places, people like to name streets after dead people who were influential in the city. To do this they rename streets, thus erasing former history. There is talk of renaming Queen Mary after Brother André who was recently sainted. Now I have nothing against having a street named after him (there actually already is a small street Frère-André which already bears his name), but why do we have to erase names and memories to replace them with others. Will I one day be telling yet unborn grandchildren how I would take the bus to Queen Mary (now known as St-André) and that their great-grandfather's office was on Dorchester (now René-Levesque). He was a property developer who put up a building on Burnside (now de Maisonneuve). I hope I will be able to find my way around the city then - I'll have to navigate by visual cues rather than by street names.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Birds and Berries

Birds and Berries, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The small crab apples cling to the tree. The leaves have fallen. On a rainy day the birds swoop down to feast on the fruit. This is a great source of food through the winter. Sometimes some of the fruit lasts until spring at which point it has started to ferment. I can remember in my childhood, seeing birds flying erratically after they had feasted on some. I don't think there was permanent damage - it was amusing to see these drunken fowl.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just My Size

Just My Size, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Confined spaces, private places - that's what this cat likes. This isn't the brightest cat. He has been known to go off into a room and then start whining as if to say "where is everybody?" When you call him he then comes trotting happily forgetting that he was the one who wandered off in the first place. But he has personality, a cocky cat who is now sitting on my shoulder like a pirate's parrot.

Road Work

Road Work, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Taken through my rain-streaked car window (I pulled over to get the shot). It's not easy to plot your route through the city. In our climate all roadwork has to be done after the ground thaws and before it freezes again. So we are often confronted with bright signs warning of work ahead. Highways, city streets both suffer from lane closures and detours. In the city our aging infrastructure needs replacement with streets torn up to replace water pipes. The freeze and thaw of the winter months also take their toll so roadwork is a constant. Oh well - might as well stop and enjoy the scenery.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fiery Skies

Fiery Skies, originally uploaded by susanvg.

I love the surprises nature brings. A smattering of rain followed by a low setting sun brought incredible intense colours to the sky.

Intricate Carving

Intricate Carving, originally uploaded by susanvg.
October 31, 2010: While the ghosts and goblins were prowling the city streets, I went to a concert. I have gotten to know many of the city's churches as they are often venues for concerts. The Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal (aka SMAM) often performs at St-Léon Church. It has some incredible church art from the ornate carving in marble that you see here to the frescoes on the celing by Guido Nincheri (this link will redirect - wait and then it will take you to the site).  Lots to distract the eye as I listen to the heavenly music. SMAM is an early music vocal ensemble which is often joined by instrumentalists. The music they sing is mainly religious from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. It is nice to hear it within a church, though it is now performed for secular purposes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oct 30/10 Birthday Celebration

Birthday Celebration, originally uploaded by susanvg.
We went out to celebrate a friend's birthday. The restaurant was cosy, conversation convivial, food was fantastic. A perfect setting for the daily shoot's challenge - Today, let's illustrate the emotion of being happy. Make a photograph that represents happiness to you.


Meanwhile, outside the restaurant we had our first snowfall. While I enjoy some nice winter days when I can get out on snowshoes or walk in the crisp air; winter in the city is not so alluring. The snow didn't last, but it was a reminder to get all the things done which need doing before it comes for good.
Hmmm... turn off the water to the outside tap, bring in the patio furniture, get the snow tires on the car, put the brush and shovel into the car........