Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Geese, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Walking this morning, I heard the haunting sound of geese. There they were overhead, heading north to nesting grounds, a sure sign of spring. It's funny how spring brings a new clean feeling, but also exposes the dirt - the accumulation of sand that had been put down to prevent slipping, the leaves that were not removed before the first snow, and in the country, mud season. Despite this, I relish each new sign that signifies the renewal.

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat, originally uploaded by susanvg.
While I enjoy cooking, the day to day regularity gets me down. So it is always nice to meet a friend and enjoy a meal cooked in a restaurant. Both of us can relax, select what we want and leave without having to deal with the cleanup. I always enjoy a meal that combines lots of vegetables with whatever protein I choose. Add some fresh ginger and my palate is pleased. This Vietnamese restaurant provided just what I wanted. Pleasure on a plate and good conversation.

Waiting for Spring

Waiting for Spring, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Photo March 28
Slowly the snow is retreating. The sun's rays feel warmer, but still not warm enough to enjoy a leisurely sit outdoors. These benches watch the wading pool, filled with mini snow hills. Spring will come.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Great Bass

Great Bass, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The Montreal Recorder Society holds a concert day each year. Each of the groups perform and members who play in small ensembles that get together on their own also play. The group I play in, Flutissimo performed. Our main spring concert will be in late May. Pictured here is my great bass recorder. When it is assembled it is close to my height (a paltry 5 feet when I exaggerate slightly). Because of its length, you need to attach a tube (bocal) to blow into it. You can see the top of my friend's recorder here (his recorder is the same make).
One thing I like about playing the recorder is that I get to play many different recorders. This gives the opportunity to play different voices in a piece and to understand the different roles of the different voices. Sometimes I play the higher voices, often the melody line; sometimes I love the feeling of playing the low voices - the support for the piece. And sometimes I really enjoy playing Renaissance music, where all voices are fairly equal - so the technical challenges are similar.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coffee Anyone?

Coffee Anyone?, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I'm planning on moving in about a year and have to think of downsizing. Every item in my house has to be examined - keep? throw out? give away? try to sell? This crazy coffee set was bought by my late husband for his parents. I don't think they ever used it. Yet it travelled from Montreal to Florida and then back to Montreal. It came to me several years ago. My spouse and I have had coffee in the cups, though we have never filled the coffee pot. Which box should this go in?
Throw away?
Give away?
Try to sell?

Still deciding....

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring, originally uploaded by susanvg.
March is fickle. One day she sends warm sunbeams our way, the next snowflakes. These hardy shoots soak up the sun then huddle under a new snowy blanket. I feast my eyes on them when I can, but they are in my neighbour's yard. The front of my house faces north, so my garden waits patiently to be revealed. The back garden is surrounded by bushes and trees so it, too, takes time to escape winter's embrace. But the signs are there - spring is coming.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Through the Window

Through the Window, originally uploaded by susanvg.
At my photo course this evening we were asked to go around the CEGEP (a junior college) and take photographs of each other with existing light. I can never resist taking photos of other things I see. This window just needed to be photographed.

The CEGEP is partly located in what was once a religious building - the mother house for a sect of nuns. However, most of the interior of the building has been totally stripped of any past architectural details. Florescent lights glare over nondescript hallways which branch out like a maze. Lighting was a challenge for our photographs as was finding backgrounds of interest. Too bad students have to spend their days in such lifeless surroundings.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Morning After

Morning After, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Early morning skies were dotted with cotton clouds. Morning temperatures, still cold, let the snow-painted branches keep their ermine trim. Later in the day drips and plops fell from the trees leaving branches naked once more.  It's that in between season.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Spring?, originally uploaded by susanvg.
March throws every kind of weather at us - the warm spring breezes that seem to melt the snow before your eyes followed by heavy flakes of snow that coat everything. Today it fell, damping sound and creating a quiet wonderland. I can appreciate this beauty much more in November or December. Now I feel the pull of spring, longing for colour and that feeling of lightness as heavy winter apparel is discarded. But this is Montreal and it is still March, so despite the calendar, here it is still winter.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Small Town Barber

Small Town Barber, originally uploaded by susanvg.
We went for a walk in another small Ontario town - this time Alexandria. The town has some older buildings. This little barber shop was located next to the swankier Esthetique and Spa. Not far from here was a mural depicting a barber shop - but it looked much larger than this building could hold.
Barber Mural

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tapping the Trees

Tapping the Trees, originally uploaded by susanvg.

Cold nights, warmer days - perfect for collecting the sap from maple trees. We passed this small stand of maples as we drove through the countryside near Casselman. Most commercial maple syrup makers use tubes that bring the sap to the sugar shack for cooking. Here the trees have been tapped in the traditional way - spigots and buckets. There is nothing quite like the aroma of sap being boiled down. Maple syrup, maple toffee on fresh snow, maple sugar - all have a heavenly taste.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ready for Children

Ready for Children, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I volunteer at the Montreal Children's Library one morning a week. In the mornings local daycare classes come to the library. They listen to stories and then come into the library to look at books. This table is ready with some books ready to tempt some inquisitive minds. It is so delightful to see the children - to watch them turn the pages, explore the pictures and talk to each other about what they see. It's a step on their road to literacy.

The teachers go off each week with a new pile of books to share in their classrooms. The books in this collection are well used.

Monday, March 14, 2011

And then there was one

And then there was one, originally uploaded by susanvg.
This little guy is feeling quite out of sorts. His buddy had to be euthanized. I don't know how cats feel grief, but he certainly is avoiding the spot he loved to curl up in with his pal. Each of my cats had its own personality. Elmo was terrified when I brought him home. I had to finally haul him out of the cat carrier and held him beside me that first night he was here. He bonded with me because of it and was a real cuddler. A year and a half later we decided to get a second cat. Basil, seen here, marched out of the cat carrier as soon as I opened the door and went exploring. He bonded with Elmo, once Elmo got over the shock of having another cat in the house and the two of them could often be seen curled up together and grooming each other.

Since Friday, Basil has spent more time on my lap than usual. He still is making the rounds of the house to find the sunny spots, eats his food and waits patiently by the dinner table in case there is anything to scavenge. I know he is missing his buddy. In the meantime he is getting lots of attention and love.

Musical Window

Musical Window, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I often go to concerts in Redpath Hall at McGill, but usually at night. An afternoon concert allowed me to admire the stained glass windows. This is the top part of one of three long windows. Music has had a place in universities since the Middle Ages when music theory was taught as one of the liberal arts. The men under the musician are composers - the names that can be seen are Pergolesi, Purcell, Palestrina and Monteverdi. I suspect, the white wigged gentleman is none other than Bach.

Should that be true, he was looking down on a concert of music by his son, C.P.E. Bach whose music has echoes of his father's, but in a very different style. A young harpsichordist, Mahan Esfahanis directed the orchestra from the harpsichord and then played incredibly.
Learn about him here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Feeling Blue

Feeling Blue, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I took this photograph on March 10, the day I knew that I had to let my 16 year old cat go. His kidneys were failing and his quality of life had diminished.
The next day we had him put down. My daughter and I held him and cried. The loss of this animal was very painful. Yet on the other side of the world, in Japan, chaos and devastation of great enormity happened and I did not cry for them. We just can't relate in the same way when we do not have the personal connections. I don't mean to say I am not horrified by the devastation and tremendous loss of life. It's just that it is still too enormous to comprehend.

My heart goes out to all the people of Japan whose lives have changed in a split second.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Snowy Gate

Snowy Gate, originally uploaded by susanvg.
A weekend with every kind of weather. Snow decorated this gate while other objects were coated in ice.
Coated in Ice

It looks pretty, but the ice weighs heavy on the branches. Snow and wind compound the problem. Falling branches caused sporadic power outages - including at the restaurant where we had breakfast.

By evening the tree branches were bending low.

Ice Tree

And Sunday morning's snow and wind whipped the branches around. Walking, driving - all challenges.
You may have to look carefully to see the buildings behind these trees.

Winter Storm

Monday, March 7, 2011

Snow in Quebec City

Snow in Quebec City, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Mon pays c'est l'hiver - Gilles Vigneault (my country is winter)

A snowy, rainy, slushy, freezing rain day in Quebec City - but the weather did not dampen my enthusiasm for the architecture. Much of old Quebec has been preserved and their are strict rules as to what can be done to buildings. Some date as far back as the 1600s (Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608).
Vieux Quebec

The Catholic Church wielded a lot of power over the people of Quebec for many years. Churches are prominent in all parts of the city.

Vieux Quebec

Quebec is one of the snowiest cities on the planet. Many homes have steeply sloping roofs, but snow still accumulates. It is not unusual to see ladders set up for the roof cleaners. In milder weather, walk far from the houses as snow and ice can drop unexpectedly.
Vieux Quebec

Gabled windows are a common architectural feature in Old Quebec.


The houses are often made of stone. Everything looks so solid.


Mural in Quebec City

Mural in Quebec City, originally uploaded by susanvg.
The shadows of scaffolding left from Quebec's winter carnival cast patterns on the mural. But the mural itself has layers of history - like shadows of the past visiting the present. While men in 19th century garb look out from a balcony, a young couple from today kiss passionately just around the corner. Sometimes I feel that way as I look at a place and see it through the eyes of my past.

Mural in Daylight

In daylight, the physical shadows disappeared, but the layers of time remain. Many things happen in one place over time. Imagine the astonishment if these figures of the past could see the present.

Art Gallery

Art Gallery, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Quebec City - so full of charm. We passed this art gallery which displayed paintings in their windows. Framed by the stained glass, the paintings looked like stained glass themselves until we were up close to them.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pottery Planters

Pottery Planters, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Daily Shoot: What kind of other art do you appreciate? Make a photograph that celebrates it today.

What kind of art don't I appreciate?! I think I am a bit of a culture junkie. Music is my passion - playing, going to concerts - especially baroque and renaissance music. I love to go to the theatre (not possible to photograph today). I am lucky to have a collection of art, mainly inherited from my parents. But pottery has a special place in my life, because it is both art and utilitarian. I love to use handmade pieces to serve food. My plants look even nicer when they sit in handmade pots.

Ballet, modern dance, theatre, music, art, museums - can't think of better ways to touch the soul.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Playing with Motion 1

DSC02863, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I've been taking a photography course and this week's assignment has to do with capturing motion. Two different exercices - one to keep the background in focus and show the motion, the other to try and pan as you take the picture to show the background going by.

With longer shutter speeds, I seemed to be creating ghosts. Can you see all the skaters?

My panning shots give a very different feel.

Not sure I'll want to use these techniques a lot, but it was an interesting exercice. Freezing fingers seems to be part of this course as the exercice requires multiple images at different shutter speeds. Oh - the pain as the fingers thaw. I need to find a pair of hunter's mitts (they are gloves with a mitten top that can flip off).

The Joy of Reading

The Joy of Reading, originally uploaded by susanvg.
I love to read, especially well-written books. Barbara Kingsolver is a wonderful author. I found the book had a slow start but then I just got into it and loved it. Her books always send me off to learn more about the era in which they take place. In this case, I was busy not only reading the book, but learning more about Frida Kahlo (there was a wonderful exhibit of her work in London in 2005 at which I spent an afternoon.) , about Diego Rivera and other artists of Mexico, of the post war era in the U.S. I like that - when a book sends me to other sources to expand my understanding.

Anyone out there read The Lacuna? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Cross on Mount Royal

The Cross on Mount Royal, originally uploaded by susanvg.
Photo: February 26

A landmark in Montreal is the cross on Mount Royal. At night it is lit up. It commemorates the cross the Jacques Cartier was said to have erected when he first came to Montreal Island. Here it just seems to be part of the forest.

As I have written before, Montreal was once a very Catholic city and churches and religious symbols were everywhere. The province is now quite secular and Montreal, in particular is quite pluralistic. These religious remnants of the past remain entrenched. I don't like to erase history, so I don't mind this structure. I am more uncomfortable with crosses that remain in public buildings including the National Assembly as well as in many non-denominational schools.