Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Drops by susanvg
Drops, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Drops of water
to drip down
on unsuspecting heads


Stairways by susanvg
Stairways, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
As Montreal as outdoor staircases. This is so typical here, despite our snowy winters. I've written before about why they exist. The staircase to the third floor is indoors. I don't envy those who have to navigate these daily with packages, babies and other items in their arms. They are quite steep and despite anyone's best efforts, snow and ice accumulate. But such are the challenges of our climate and our city!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Spoon Man

The Spoon Man by susanvg
The Spoon Man, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This man has been sitting outside Ogilvy's department store in Montreal for many years. He plays the spoons - a traditional percussion "instrument" in Quebec. People originally used kitchen spoons; now you can find wooden spoons that are attached at the top. At one time the store tried to get rid of Mr Spoonman as you can see in this article from 2004, but people rallied to his support and he is now quite a fixture.

At this time of year, he faces the Ogilvy's Christmas window - a long-standing tradition. It is full of animated Steiff animals - a whimsical scene. You can learn more about the history of the window here.

Ogilvy's Window 1

and more here.

Ogilvy's Window 2
This doesn't do it justice - as you cannot see the movement here. But here is a link to YouTube video that shows them in action along with Spoonman.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Night Lighting

Night Lighting by susanvg
Night Lighting, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I love it when care is taken to light up the architectural details on a building. This used to be a fire station. It was converted into a library / community centre. The recorder orchestra I play in rehearses there.

Recently it was in the news as the borough was looking at cutting the adult division of the library to save money. It got a last minute reprieve, but citizens of the area are working to ensure it stays open.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gamba Head of Young Charles I

Gamba Head of Young Charles I by susanvg
Gamba Head of Young Charles I, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This head of Charles I as a young man sits on a new tenor viola da gamba made for Les Voix Humaines. He has not yet witnessed much music but he has a long illustrious concert life ahead of him.

More and more has been written lately about music being so essential to life. In fact, in one article I read it said that music may have come before speech. I know, for me, music has played many roles in my life. I have gone to music for solace, for joy, for relaxation, for stimulation and it has never disappointed me.

Musicians (other than those few pop stars) have a tough time. Instruments like this are very expensive to buy and expensive to keep. While sports figures get sponsors, advertising contracts to pay for their equipment, musicians are self-financed and their earnings are nothing like what a sports player earns.

I would hate to see Charles wear a company scarf to advertise a sponsor, but there has to be a way to make it possible for more musicians to have fine instruments. I had a chance to hear this viole played and it has a beautiful rich sound.

Shakespeare said, " Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?"

This viola da gamba will speak for its players, communicating in ways mere words could never express.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Theo by susanvg
Theo, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I played music today with a good friend who has three cats. This is Theodore (Theo for short). I have featured his "brother" before, Noël. Theo is not as musically inclined. While Noël usually comes to play audience, Theo and Yuki remain aloof. After a few years, they no longer run away when I arrive. They sit, each on their favourite chair and tolerate my presence.


Five years ago, Yuki, pregnant and quite bedraggled, came from the SPCA to my friend. Since her kittens were born she has turned into quite a beauty - very regal and conscious of her place in cat society. Noël is one of her offspring.

Yet again, they kept their distance while we played music. Noël came and checked out our rehearsal. When we play in a student recital next month,  I will be picturing Noël as my audience to help allay performance fears. He has never complained yet about my playing.

Christmas Cactus in November

Christmas Cactus in November by susanvg
Christmas Cactus in November, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I'm cultivating my indoor garden as the dark of November closes in. No more orchids flowering (I had to dispose of a few due to aphids), my Christmas cactuses decided to flower. I need flowers.

They nourish my soul as I revel in their quirky shapes and bright colours. I particularly love it when plants re-flower. It's like winning an award for keeping them. But each year I get seduced by yet another flowering plant. Not a big price to pay to chase away the November blues. Who knows which one it will be this year...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Surprise Visitor

A Surprise Visitor by susanvg
A Surprise Visitor, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
My daughter called me outside to catch this visitor. I barely got this shot when he flew off. It's the second time I've seen a pileated woodpecker near my house. I hope this one comes back again soon.

The Internet - the pot of gold

The Internet - the pot of gold by susanvg
The Internet - the pot of gold, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
On sunny days the sun hits the bevel on a mirror on the wall and splits into a rainbow of colour. It fell across my computer and I thought about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Not so many years ago we simply didn't have access to the information, the virtual relationships, the virtual conferences, the many ways of connecting and learning. My computer really leads to the pot of gold.

The Global Education Conference is taking place this week. I managed to participate in a few sessions. It is amazing what I can access from my home at no cost - a pot of golden ideas, and gems to ponder and share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Near Beaver Lake

Near Beaver Lake by susanvg
Near Beaver Lake, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
With early sunset, the end of the day has turned into night. I went walking with a friend near Beaver Lake - an artificial pond on Mount Royal. This building serves as an equipment rental place, a cafeteria, a bistro, a warming up place on a cold winter day.

It sparkles at night. There is something special about walking at night. We could hear sounds - the ducks quacking, the swoosh of their wings as they took flight, but could only see shadows.

Our "mountain" offers something for everyone - even the solitude of an evening stroll.


November by susanvg
November, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photos: November 13, 2011
November - that month when all turns grey. I sometimes feel we are all being pulled into a vortex of shorter and shorter days and more darkness. I fight November blahs each year - trying to focus on positives.

Photography pulls me outside to notice all the beauty - even as the world around me goes dormant. I find even when I don't have my camera handy, or can't get to it while I drive, I notice so much more. What some people call a dull drive turns interesting as I imagine the photographs I could have taken.

It's For the Birds

Walking, we passed a house with many bird houses. The woman there told us she decorates for the birds, placing berry laden branches around so they will have sustenance on cold days.

Gone to Seed

I'm always intrigued by the milkweed, gone to seed - each pod a delicate sculpture. And I think of the butterflies that may find their start on the plants that grow next spring from these seeds. 

On the Wing

And always the geese, whose haunting cries fill the air as they gather in ever larger flocks flying south. Nature exhibits such strength and resilience. It sets my mind wondering about so many things.

Photography makes me look, it makes me see in new ways and it makes me appreciate the many things around me. It opens my eyes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barn in the Evening

Barn in the Evening by susanvg
Barn in the Evening, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
The golden hour, when the sun lies low on the horizon and casts its warm glow on everything is the perfect time for photography. I was lucky to be out walking and catch the magic. What may seem mundane becomes beautiful

Golden Field

You can look up the golden hour here.

Early Morning

Early Morning by susanvg
Early Morning, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: November 9, 2011

The clocks have changed with the sun coming up earlier in the morning, but setting too early in the evening. I'm preparing for winter. I rose early to get the first appointment at the garage to have my snow tires put on my car. No snow in the forecast, but I'm treating this like an umbrella. If you have an umbrella with you, it doesn't seem to rain. Maybe my snow tires will stave off the snow ;-)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Drying Up

Drying Up by susanvg
Drying Up, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
The clocks have changed; sunset comes earlier. The low sun cast a rosy hue on these dried up plants. Everywhere, autumn is sapping the colour out of the landscape. Once vibrant greens turn sepia.


These feathery grasses drop their dried up seeds to wait out the winter. Promises for a new season.

Fly to the Moon

Each day more flocks of geese fly over, their constantly honking calling to others to join them. I wonder how long geese live and how many trips like this they take.

Low Sun

The sun sinks down and we head home. A chill is in the air as the darkness settles in.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Long Horn Cattle

Long Horn Cattle by susanvg
Long Horn Cattle, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Driving back from a walk in the woods, I noticed these cows. They are not a breed usually seen around here and reminded me a it of the highland cattle we saw in Scotland, but their faces weren't covered with hair. The babies had more hair covering their bodies.

Young Ones

We started to hear the sound of geese and soon flock after flock flew over on their journey south. The setting sun caught their underbellies, painting them gold. I thrill at their sound, watching in awe at the thought of the distance they will travel and how they find their way back and forth each year. 

Caught in the Glow

Night time temperatures drop below freezing. Autumn is waning.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Burst of Seeds

A Burst of Seeds by susanvg
A Burst of Seeds, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Walking in the woods in autumn - even decay has its beauty. The milkweed has sent out its seeds: promises for next year.

Autumn Reflections

Reflections in a pond - it is easy to imagine another world at  the bottom with the Lady of the Lake living there.

Last Daubs of Gold

A few late leaves cling to the branches, though most of the trees are bare. They shimmer with the gold of the low lying sun.

Fallen Tree

Dead trees lie on the forest floor. Fungus takes hold helping to break down the old wood to bring new life. 

Designer Potatoes

Designer Potatoes by susanvg
Designer Potatoes, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Have you noticed how many foods now come in designer "models". Coffee is labeled not just be the kind of roast, but by country of origin. Packaging describes the taste and aroma with words like fruity, spicy and nutty. Wine claims to have hints of citrus and after tastes of whatever. I have seen olive oil and chocolate with flavours attributed to them that have nothing to do with the ingredients. Now I have found designer potatoes. Some adjectives here include: creamy, sinfully smooth, deliciously different, refreshingly rare... And, of course, there is a designer price to go with these things. The more adjectives there are, the higher the cost.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Changing Colours

The Changing Colours by susanvg
The Changing Colours, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
The last colours are left in the garden. I delight in the hydrangeas which hang on even as the cold nights defeat the last of the flowers. November, that grey month is slowly taking hold. While many of the trees stand bare, these bushes defiantly display their autumn finery.