Saturday, April 30, 2016

Painting on the Trees

New Growth

New leaves appear like splotches of paint on a canvas. Art by a pointillist painter? Or dabbed on like Jackson Pollock? Mother Nature has so many styles of expression.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Etched on the Evening Sky

Trees

Looking like skeletons, the bare trees reach towards the evening sky. Their flaws are bared - wounds from ice storms and winds. They are strong and resilient.

Etched on the Evening Sky

They feel the stirrings of spring as the temperatures slowly heat up and the days get steadily longer.  They answer to the rhythm of the seasons.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Through the Metro

Art in the Metro Station

I often use public transportation. Going to dense parts of the city, it just makes sense not to bring a car and deal with parking. This time I was in the metro because of my car. Although temperatures at night lately have dipped below freezing, winter is not likely to reappear so I left my car at the garage to have my tires changed from the winter ones to the summer set. I took the metro downtown for the study group I am taking at MCLL and then returned by metro to get my car.

Access

Our stations are aging. The first metro stations opened in 1966. I remember the day before the official opening, people were welcomed to ride free. I went with friends, getting on and off to gawk at the stations, each with slightly different designs and colours. The stations are not so shiny now and escalators are often in need of repairs. On my way downtown I had to walk down to the platform - some 100+  stairs. Fortunately for those arriving, the up escalators were working. I'm glad my knees are still in good shape - the trip down would not have been fun for those with mobility issues and those with strollers or young children.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walking Along the Shore

Puffed Up

Photos: April 26, 2016

While the temperatures have been a bit below normal, the sun has graced us with its presence. A friend of mine and I walked along the water's edge from Lasalle through Lachine. We were accompanied by the song of birds.

Budding

Everywhere you could see signs of spring taking hold. There is a delicacy in the emerging leaves; they wear the lighter shades of their colour palette, slowly darkening as they grow full.

A Little Rhythm

There is a vibrancy and rhythm to spring - the very name implies action.

Lying in the Sun

While I felt energized, not all creatures did. This fellow seemed quite content to just lie there and watch us.

Action in the Tree Tops

There was lots of action up high in a tree. This squirrel hopped from branch to branch feasting on the new growth.

Looking Out

Another day I'll sit and gaze out at the water. But for now I love the feeling of walking in spring.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Left Behind

Left Behind

I'm used to seeing single gloves or a dropped hat. This pair of shoes surprised me. There was no one in sight who may have left them. And why were they placed so carefully by the tree trunk? Did the person have another pair with him/her? So many questions. I'll never know the answers. Sometimes when I see things like this a whole story forms in my head explaining what I see. Do we always try to make sense of things or can some things always be a mystery?

Symbols

On a Building

The building this graces is no longer a film studio but this vestige remains. Symbols of other cultures are no longer considered appropriate - in fact it is considered cultural appropriation. Native peoples, hopefully, will finally be treated with the respect they deserve. They have much to teach us. Why this face should be used as a symbol of a film company is baffling to me. Thomas King, whom I featured about ten days ago wrote a story called The Baby in the Airmail Box. It is a great example of looking at things from another point of view, told with much humour. Would native peoples use the head of a person of another background as a symbol of a native company? And what would our reaction be if they did? While I think we sometimes go too far with political correctness, I do think if we stop and substitute ourselves for the butt of the joke or the symbol being used and think about how we would feel, we might start to understand when humour goes to far and when cultural appropriation is not acceptable.

A few sports teams should be taking note.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lachine Fur Trade Museum

Old Fur Trading Headquarters

This lovely spot was once a centre of trade. It was the warehouse where piles of pelts would be stored and then sold. The river was not navigable by ships much past this point due to the Lachine Rapids. The fur traders travelled inland by canoe and brought the pelts back to Lachine to be traded for goods and money. This is now a museum, though I must confess I have never been inside. There is a cycling path and a walking path along the water - to be explored another day.

Leaves Emerge

Nearby the bushes are sprouting. Soon the landscape will be transformed.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Roles Reversed

Maker Day

There is nothing like being contacted by a former student to be told that you made a difference. He is now a computer engineering graduate and I brought him to a makerspace day where I work. He shared his work with those who were interested - products for students to help them learn about programming, electronics, sensors, feedback... You can learn more at EveOne.org .

Our roles reversed with him being the teacher and me the learner, though in truth, we always were  and are both learners. Good conversations, good connections, good creations - as we both move forward.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A New Project

Next Project

Here's my new project. I'm going to start making a sweater. I have knit many things that don't have to fit (afghans, scarves...) but have only knit one sweater and that was many years ago. Of course, once I got the yarn home and went through my knitting needles, I didn't have the right size - so the yarn will have to wait until I find time to purchase them. Hoping to have a sweater finished before next winter. We'll see...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Sun is Back

Reassembling the Sun

Photos: April 20, 2016

Spring brings longer days. In some parts of the world it is literally the time when the sun is back. Our sun - the one by Chihuly is back, too - or at least in the process of coming back. As I walked by it was slowly and carefully being reassembled.

From Top to Bottom

The rays are being added from the top down. Next time I walk past it will be shining in all its glory.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring Takes Hold

A Splash of Yellow

Daffodils really signal spring to me. Their sun-soaked colour broadcasts warmth. My eyes feast on their bright presence.

A Patch of Blue

The blue of the scylla complement the bright, yellow daffodils. They run wild over lawns, multiplying each year. Spring rushes in here, no gentle progression from one flower variety to the next. Warm weather speeds growth and each flower vies for our attention.

The Leaves are Coming

Branches feel the pulse of sap rushing up them, setting buds. Leaves will soon overshadow them. Already leaves are bursting out of bushes.

Another Daffodil

Spring - that magical season of growth and change. Each day provides new delights and feeds me with the energy of the season.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sometimes It's About the Story

Granola Bars

I like to keep a protein bar in my purse for those times I am desperate for a snack. I used to like one which was only 130 calories and had 10 gm of protein. I have not been able to find it recently. I was in an unnamed store in an unnamed location looking in vain for my favourite bars. A white-haired woman was there supposedly offering free samples of a particular bar. Instead she stood there, her tray empty and she was calling out "320 calories".  A rather portly older man approached her. She explained that he could have a bar but he probably only needed 1300 calories a day and this bar represented 320 calories. She was not recommending it. He took it. She went back to her refrain, "320 calories!"

I went over to her and told her she was not exactly encouraging people to buy the product. "No," she said. "These are for athletes, not regular people." She went on to let me know she knew about nutrition. I left empty-handed. I didn't want her bar, but I am now on the hunt for a healthy protein bar that is not loaded with carbs and calories. Ideas anyone?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Back in the Past

Former Religious Building

The building in this photo (it looks like three buildings, but is actually one) was built in 1847.  Interestingly that is the same year as the typhus epidemic which came with the "coffin ships" from Ireland. Much of yesterday's walking tour discussed the plight of the Irish who arrived and the fever sheds where the many sick were housed. This building was built for the French order of nuns: Bon Pasteur. Part of this complex houses the Chapelle-Historique-du-Bon-Pasteur which was renovated in 1987 and now serves as a small concert hall.

Today's concert featured fortepiano and winds playing a Mozart quintet followed by one by Beethoven. The instruments (oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon) were all reproductions of historical instruments (other than the horn which dated from 1810)- the instruments Mozart and Beethoven would have heard their music played on. Music from the past played on instruments of the past in a building built just twenty years after Beethoven died.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Good Walking Day

Art in the Subway

A good walking day starting by taking a subway to Old Montreal. I love the play of light on the anodized steel sculpture at Vendôme metro station. I went on a walking tour of Irish Montreal - part of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival (as was yesterday's event).

Wall of the Old Hospital

The tour took us past the original general hospital (more of a hospice) in Montreal. The Hôtel Dieu was where surgery happened. This hospital took in the elderly, the disabled, - men and women. It was run by the Soeur Grises (an order founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys. These sisters were the first to help the many Irish immigrants arriving in 1847 already ill with typhus.

Wellington Tower

Not all landmarks were related to the Irish. They were most of the labourers who were hired to build the Lachine Canal. We walked along it. This old switching station is slated to be renovated and repurposed as an art gallery, cafe and studio space for artists. We walked beside the bicycle path which goes along the canal - at some points it runs on both sides of the canal. Across the canal is where the fever sheds were located - scenes of horror as people lay dying in the most appalling conditions.

Black Rock

This rock commemorates the death of these immigrants. It now lies in the middle of a road leading to Victoria Bridge (many of the workers who built the bridge were Irish), but also in middle of what was a large Irish cemetery. Our guide was from the Montreal Irish Memorial Park Foundation. Their goal is to have a park in this area which would have a small museum where people could learn about the Irish Famine and the many immigrants who came to Montreal and succumbed to typhus on ships or on their arrival.

Thomas King

Thomas King

Photo: April 15, 2016

I had the privilege of attending an event featuring Thomas King. He was interviewed by Rosanna Dearchild and then read from his latest book, The Back of the Turtle: a novel.

If you don't know Thomas King - he is an aboriginal author who grew up in the U.S. but has lived in Canada for many years. His books are quite humorous - but they deal with serious subjects. He spoke a bit about the importance of humour to get people thinking - to deflect the anger and to then be able to look at a difficult subject.  You can listen to his Massey Lectures. He writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Rosanna Deerchild is an author and broadcaster. She hosts the programme, Unreserved on CBC.  The banter between the two was delightful and insightful. Time well-spent.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Subtle Signs of Spring

Buds

I know I may seem obsessed with searching for spring, but for those who don't live in an area with long winters (even with this year's most unusual winter) - the lack of colour for so many months can be depressing. The grass is slowly greening up and I spotted these buds - a hint of green.

Subtle Signs of Spring

While the sight of the trees beginning to flower may not be greeted with joy by those with pollen allergies, to me it heralds the beginning of growth and green.

More Crocuses

I'm still seeing mainly crocuses but there is promise of daffodils coming soon. The weather is heating up. Spring will go into fast forward.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Stream of Consciousness

A Wall of Graffiti

This graffiti seemed a fitting way to illustrate stream of consciousness - ideas popping into the artist's head. I've just come from a study group at MCLL on "From Modernism to Absurdism: Joyce and Beckett." It takes me out of my comfort zone. I am usually a low-risk person - forgoing skydiving, bungie-jumping for much tamer pursuits. But when it comes to education - I take more risks. When I was teaching I got involved in online projects long before the current trend (my first online exchange was pre WWW in 1986 when I organized and helped facilitate an exchange between a class in Montreal and one in Puvirnituq. I got students involved in robotics back in the 1990s. These kinds of risks I can handle

I love to read and I love to go to see plays. I've enjoyed some Joyce in the past (though not his tomes),  but Beckett!  - I just didn't understand him. So this study group is definitely a risk for me - a place where I feel confused, that I have a lack of expertise, that I don't know how to read despite my love of reading. I've jumped in - in a very supportive setting, where laughter and wit accompany discussion and dissection of the texts. Who knows, I may come to love Beckett. I'm waiting to see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

First Signs of Spring -again

Lone Crocus

Our on again off again spring has appeared again. First signs - take 2. After the polar vortex and another brief reappearance of winter yesterday morning, spring is once again trying to take hold.

First Scilla

I always like the appearance of scilla. They are tentatively showing their colour, not yet blanketing lawns.

Winter Morning in April

Woke up to Winter

Photos: April 11, 2016

It's that time of year when we seem to have several seasons in one day. The morning was winter with everything covered with snow. By the time I took this photograph around 9:15 rain was falling. By mid-day the snow had virtually disappeared.

Bird Apartments

These bird apartments encourage purple martins to set up house. They help keep the bug population down. This area is next to the St. Lawrence River and is a favourite spot for shad flies.

Spring is coming - it is just taking its time to really settle in.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fact into Fiction

Books

I am currently reading Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar. The other books are on my "to be read" pile. I like books that make me look things up, to learn more about the subject - whether it is finding out more about historical situations, learning more about a country in which the book takes place or finding out about people who were included in the story. Vanessa and her Sister is a fictionalized account of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf - the Stephen sisters. The many characters in the book were real people - part of the Bloomsbury group. I have searched on the internet for paintings done by Bell that have been mentioned in the book, checked on the lives of some of the people in the novel and I feel this enriches my experience of the book. So far I am enjoying it, but a piece of me wants to know how much is based on truth and how much veers from reality.

I read Us Conductors, by Sean Michaels, which is a novel about Leon Theremin. I enjoyed finding out more about who he was (the inventor of the theremin among other things) but was put off by some events in the book that were far from the truth of Theremin's life. While Michaels makes it clear that this is a novel, it bothers me that people reading it may believe these events; I had to research to separate the truths from the fiction.

At what point should an author just be writing fiction and not use the names and lives of real people - a question I ask myself as I read.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Architecture

Lopsided Architecture

When I walk, I gawk - at flowers, at public art, at architecture. Today it was the latter. This neighbourhood has houses of every vintage. The original homes had large lots and, in this case, a second house was built onto the first (its entrance is at the side). It just doesn't work for me - the architecture is obviously of different eras; the bricks don't really match. In some cases, parts of lots were sold off and homes of a totally different vintage and style were squeezed into the smaller space between the original homes.

Two Homes

But it is not just homes from different eras that feel mismatched. This, too is not one but two homes. The one on the right also has its entrance on the side, not totally unusual for this street. From the front it looks so insignificant compared to the home on the left with the massive front porch and overhang. It feels off balanced to me.

I think of the architecture of the Renaissance where emphasis was on symmetry and balance. While I don't necessarily want to go back to other aspects of the Renaissance style - I would like to see a little more balance. Am I being too critical?

At the End of a Day

At the End of a Day

A long day of being mired in paperwork - preparing all my papers for tax time. It's enough to put knots in anyone's belly. I made good progress, but dinner followed by a decaf cappuccino was a fitting end to the day. Time to forget about numbers and details and just relax.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bonsai Trees

Chinese Peashrub

Photos: April 6, 2016

Yesterday at the Botanical Gardens we walked through the greenhouse that holds a number of bonsai trees. It is hard to imagine the care and expertise needed to nurture these specimens. This is a 40 year old Chinese Peashrub.

Gingko Maidenhair Tree

This Gingko is just coming into leaf again. I'll have to make a point of going back to see what it is like when the foliage is full.

Japanese Maple Bonsai

(Above - a Japanese Maple - 65 years old)  I'm fascinated by the art of bonsai. It takes a lot of skill and patience. This site has a lot of information. It's interesting to see the trees undergoing seasonal changes.

Bald Cypress Bonsai

This Bald Cypress is also 65 years old. How many people have been responsible for its care? On the site mentioned above, there are photos of bonsais that are 800 years old and older. It is hard to imagine the succession of people who have nurtured them - through all kinds of upheaval (political, weather...) until now. They are works of love and devotion.

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As the above photos were taken yesterday (as were my butterflies, I figured I should include one photo from today

April Snow

We have had snow and rain since our visit to the Botanical Gardens yesterday. It is April; it will melt, but in the meantime I prefer to sit with my back to the dreary weather and think again of butterflies and bonsais.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Butterflies Go Free

Tailed Jay Butterfly

A delightful afternoon spent at the Botanical Garden's exhibit of Butterflies Go Free.
It is simply magical to enter this space and be surrounded by butterflies flitting around.

Blue Morpho

These butterflies are hard to capture as most of the time they are resting, their wings are closed. Their blue colour is spectacular.

Butterfly on the Flowers

Some pose, staying in one spot for a long time. Others seem to be always on the move.

Monarch

Some perch daintily as they feed. Others flap their wings madly to stay in place.

Golden Birdwing/Small Troides

But each is a thing of beauty. I try to imagine why they have evolved the way they have with their intricate colours and patterns. It was not just to be admired.

I am sure I did not spot all the varieties that were in the greenhouse. Here is the pamphlet that describes them all.