Sunday, April 25, 2010

I See a Bear in Your Future...

So, I get home from Rock Dunder, and decide to make a pot of coffee. I dump the grounds from the previous pot into a strainer, and lo, and behold, a portrait of a bear in high relief emerges! If this were Professor Trelawney's class at Hogwarts, I'd be terrified!

Rock Dunder!

Wow! I've gotten used to thinking of myself as a flatlander. Rock Dunder, just south of Morton off Hwy 15 is a reminder that we actually have topography. Its a great hike, (if a little challenging to the knees) up to the bluffs which line the Rideau Waterway. So nice to be on granite and quartzite after all that limestone. And so wonderful to feel the forest floor under your feet. When you get to the summit it's bare, smooth, glaciated rock with fantastic views along the river and beyond. Apparently the formation, part of the Frontenac Arch biosphere, is a pluton. A pluton is an old volcanic plug, from which the exterior has eroded away leaving the hard igneous core. Gros Cap, near the Sault, is a similar formation but its called a batholith. I'm sure all those vulcanologists out there could tell me the difference. I'll google it later. Whatever it is, it is beautiful. The smooth rounded curves of rock, the fresh breeze, being up there with the turkey vultures wind surfing. Great!

In the forest there was a profusion of wild flowers in blossom. Hepatica, saxifrage, violets; yellow, blue and white, Canada mayflower, blueberries, uvularia, dutchman's breeches, and of course, the trilliums; white and red. Needless to say, many pictures were taken.

It was hard work going down the steep descents over roots and rocks, but a great workout!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I am Amazed

We were given Task #7 for our Web 2.0 training. The task was to listen to a podcast and answer some questions. I've started back to my Spanish lessons again, so I thought I'd go back to a series of podcasts I listened to in 2008, called Coffee Break Spanish, to see if I had progressed any.

It was nice to hear the cheesy theme music again, and to be suitably impressed by the ability of the host, Mark, to switch from a fairly pronounced Scottish accent to what is, to my ear, a pretty good castellano accent. Unfortunately, his sidekick, Kara, who has a hopeless ear for language and makes other learners feel comfy thereby, wasn't present on the episode I chose so I didn't get to remake our acquaintance. I chose Lesson 50, because I knew I had progressed a little since the old days. To my astonishment, I'd improved to the extent that the progress of the podcast lesson was painfully slow, so I went in search of a more appropriate level of instruction.

I Googled "intermediate Spanish podcast", and came up with a site called They had SSL4YOU, EspanolSegunda Lengua para Todos (Spanish as a Second Language for Everyone). I listened to a podcast called Crazy Weather, and whereas once I would have been completely lost, now I could get one phrase in five. However, I realized that I was out of my depth when I realized that the screen I was staring at while I listened through the headphones was a transcription of what I was listening to. I didn't realize that until half way through the podcast. Sigh.

Now I was on the hunt for something that was not too easy, not too hard, but juuusstt right! I finally found what I was looking for at where I listened to and participated in a lesson, featuring Johnny Spanish and Cristina from Miami on asking for things in a restaurant. Although the lesson was fairly easy, it required me to construct sentences based on the theme of the lesson. That's just where I'm at! Reading and writing are getting easier. Listening is OK, if the accent is something I'm familiar with, but actually having to open my mouth and speak extemporaneously is still a challenge.

I enjoyed my little foray into the world of language instruction podcasts. Some were little mini-stories, others were expositions of word usage, like CBC's "C'est La Vie"--one of my favourite radio programs ever. Lots of them were tied into language learning systems, and used the podcast as a "hook".

Only some of these podcasts could be used in-library, since many of them require you to speak aloud. That could be a bit of a disruption. But for highschool students struggling with the subjunctive mood or for travellers looking for some phrases to take south with them, these are great resources; especially if all of our language instruction materials are out!

Hasta la vista, baby!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dramatic Monologues

In my line of work, I have witnessed some amazing performances. People seem to treat the library as something of a confessional Occasionally, it feels like I am the audience in a one-man or one-woman play! Enter Stage Left! Hold Forth! as the audience sits in stunned and wondering silence. They gesture, they fume, they sit on the corner of the desk and chat away about the vicissitudes of their lives...husbands, wives, children, erstwhile friends, illness, sorrow, tall tales of adventure. They always leave feeling better. Sometimes I feel like Lucy Van Pelt!

It would be unethical to share anything but my amazement, but I do have another dramatic monologue, delivered by my aged English cousin, Gwen, many years ago, which so impressed me with its flow and sustained length that I recorded it verbatim in my journal the evening after hearing it. My cousin died recently at a very great age, and I don't think she'd mind being immortalized in this way.

So here goes......

"I used to have a lovely clump of Jersey lilies, but I fear they've all gone now. The big willow blew over in the storm; did you hear about the storm? Terrible, it was; anyway, the branches fell into the lily bed. That and the floods....

Jersey lilies they were; I got them from a friend. She's quite a few years younger than I am; a few, well.....five or six, lets say four. She married a Jerseyman, he's a , well he's retired, but he was a farmer. We call them Gwen and John too. We went out there for a holiday. They have a lovely house, well, the son's got it now, but they have half of the ground floor. They were going to have a small cottage, at the bottom of the garden, a retirement cottage, you know, but they priced it all out and in the end it would have been too much trouble so now they have half of the ground floor with their own entrance, and the son; no , both sons share the rest. Its a long house, very French. We spent a month there. All along the wall there were beautiful flowers, some of them these Jersey lilies; masses of pink lilies.

Just as we were flying out, we were in the house packing up; I was still in me underslip, and the bell rung. A fellow came in with a bag of new potatoes and a great bunch of these plants. As we were driving along the road to the airport, John said to me:"I don't know if we'll be able to take them back in; I shouldn't think so." I looked at him and said "I've got them now, and if you think I'm going to dump them out on the roadside...."

So we brought them home. But they've gone now.

I don't know, maybe you had to be there, but this just guts me every time I read it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Creative Re-Use

My neighbour has an amazing outdoor rink on which his two hockey-mad little boys, their cousins, and all the neighbourhood kids spend every winter evening using to the fullest. While the more couch potato type kids are inside watching the Simpsons, these little tykes are out perfecting the upstairs shot under the kleig lights. My neighbour faithfully smooths, waters, scrapes, until that rink shines like a mirror. Its a wonderful addition to our neighbourhood.

When spring came early this year, I thought how disappointed he must be to see all that work come to nothing so prematurely. I thought that until this week's heat wave, when the neighbourhood kids all gathered. The rink had become a community wading pool. There was always someone's mom sitting on bench nearby just in case, but everyone was having a whale of a time. Pretty soon the liner will be put away and the boards taken down for another year. But for now, the kids have decided to seize the day!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quilts of Various Sorts.

I've been known to be a quilter. Not a "quilter" in that sense of having a lovely sewing room with all my fat quarters (look it up, non-quilters) arrayed in precise prismatic order, and all the latest gear for machine embroidery. I like scrap quilts. The ones I grew up with, with printed cotton broadcloth cut either cleverly or economically into kaleidoscope patterns. When we were kids, we used to like to look up through them in the mornings and admire the stained-glass effect of the colours and the seams that became visible through the backing.

I like the idea of quilts that use up every scrap of the useable. "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without" is a saying that could have come out of the mouth of either one of my grandmothers. One had a tinfoil drawer, a ball of elastics, and scads(to use her word) of string. The other was the quilter. I have on my bed, sometimes, the quilt she gave to my husband and I as a wedding present (lo, these many years ago). I had it on my bed for every day of my marriage while she was alive. After she died, I thought I'd better take it off, to better preserve it, but its pretty tattered now anyway, so whenever I feel the need of it, I put it on the bed again. It is a masterpiece of conception and construction. Grandma used the remnants of housedresses, doll clothes (which were probably remnants when I knew them as doll clothes), aprons, curtains, and combined them into pinwheels, masked off by ribands of multicoloured solid strips, on a pristine white ground. Despite being composed of a multiplicity of colours, the whole is perfectly balanced, allowing the eye to wander over the entire surface without distraction. The corners match, the seams, some of which are now visible through lifting patches, are arrow straight, and look as if they'd been cut with a razor; this long before the handy dandy rotary cutters which are the only way I can do this kind of thing. The quilting, done by hand on a frame built by my grandfather, is at least 8 and more often 10 stitches to the inch, and as I can recall from working with her, if the needle didn't make it through all layers, you went back and tried again.

My quilts are more, Yes, let's call it that. I try to keep things on the straight and narrow, but if a seam edge flips over when I'm sewing it, I leave it. My stitch length depends on which needle I'm using and if the television program in the background is interesting or not.

Both Grandma and I learned the hard way that the recycling ethic has a downside. Remnants are ok, but using much loved already used garments can be disastrous, as that patch will wear out before any of the others. Using cheap material can also sometimes let you down. So it is with my quilt. That, as much as anything is why its tattered. The stitches have held, but the fabric has not.

While I was thinking about Grandmothers, I remembered a photo I'd once made for something called Self-Portrait Tuesday, which was a kind of web "happening", which started as blog, became an interactive website, and now, renamed Self-Portrait Challenge, seems to exist only asa Flickr group, though it still maintains its thematic nature. If you Google it, that's where you'll end up. There was a monthly or weekly theme and photographers from around the world would post their interpretations. I made two that are quiltish. One, I called Quilt of Days, and was a nine-patch of images I made of myself and what I was up to for a space of time. I wanted it to look like a crazy quilt.

The other was a collage of images which I called something like "remembering the grandmothers" or "thinking about the grandmothers" or some such thing. Genetics is a bit like quilting really. You take a bit of this and a bit of that, an eye colour here, a quirky smile there, some stature, or not, a laugh, a predisposition to this or that disease, and stitch them together. There's a pattern, but you can change it up a bit. GATTACACGATTA. You know.

And you just never know how the whole thing will come out until its finished!

What next?

I've been pretty busy this week. At various times I've thought, Oh, I'll blog this or that, but have forgotten along the way what was so amazing about whatever it was I'd seen. So I'm working back closer to home. Today's offering is a couple of photographs I took in the newly open yard. That newly open yard which is so full of other blog-stopping things to do. Ai ai ai!

Here they are--a rust spiderweb on the base of an old canning kettle which has been used in the last couple of decades as a flower pot, and the unfurling of the unstoppable rhubarb.