Sunday, December 30, 2012


I've had the flu since December 20th.  Christmas came and went, and I made it through.  Most of my planned preparations, the ones I'd taken time off work to enjoy, came to nothing.  It left me feeling angry, especially since I got the flu from a trainer at work who would have done us all a favour by staying home.  We could have had the training some other time.

I've hardly even had a chance to enjoy my new camera.  But today I decided, dangit, I'm going outside.  I just caught the last of the light on the freshly fallen snow.  There is a surprising amount of colour in a winter landscape!  I have much to learn about this camera, and I'm enjoying every minute!

Sunday, December 16, 2012


We walked down to the Point this morning to check on the ice conditions. I noticed a big, and I mean, big, grapevine shedding its bark.  The section in the photo is thicker than my arm.
What gorgeous curves!  If we didn't know  from whence the Art Nouveau stylists drew their inspiration, we would now!  You wouldn't want to eat the grapes from this vine until after a good frost, and even then only with loads of sugar in jelly.  The birds love them though.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Ottawa is a grey place. The native stone is grey, and so are the natives (except for my friends, who are anything but!).  I get a sense of limitation when I'm there; a feeling that people aren't looking much beyond their three bedroom three bathroom two car garage big box store served artificial neighbourhoods.  This is troubling since it is the capital, and policy is made here.  There are sparks of life; Bank Street has nice shops and interesting restaurants.  I walked to the market looking for some colour, but apart from some Christmas greenery and mass-produced Andean (sic) hats and mitts, there wasn't much to be found.  Still, I did my best to look for some.  I found it in a bead shop just off the market and in some frozen crabapples hanging on for dear life to stark black branches.

As I left the city, the skies were leaden and snowflakes were starting to swirl about.  More grey, but an entirely different feel.  The clouds made great sweeping patterns across the wide flats.

 Thousands of geese were hunkering in the stubble fields, gathering for their southward flight, their grey backs touched with chocolate.  Great stands of grey trees tossed their branches in the wind.

  And for colour?  A husky and a hound tearing at the ribs of a deer, freshly killed on the road.  A reminder that we are flesh and bone.  That is something one might forget in the cubicles of power.


On the second day of my mini-break, after dropping my friend off at her course, held in the urban industrial sprawl, I headed out into the hinterland to take a look at the past.  For the first hour or so, there was nothing much to see except the road in front of me, on account of a thick fog.  Just as well, actually, since the alternative would have been to look at the fungal explosion of development.

Eventually I got out into the country, where the grey blanket lightened somewhat, revealing fields and copses transformed into an impressionist landscape; softened edges, muted yet saturated tones, very harmonious.  I forced myself to stop and take some photos this time.

I was heading to the final resting place of some of the ancestors.  Around nine o'clock, I headed into Carp (here, they call it Cairp, in that distinctive, Irish-influenced Ottawa Valley drawl) to see if the library was open.  I'd consulted some histories there on a previous visit a decade or two ago, and had forgotten to get a reference. But the library didn't open for another hour, so I went straight to the cemetery.  Or almost.

I headed out of the village looking for the Panmure Road on the left.  Things seemed to be taking longer than they should to appear, and when I got to the turn to Kinburn, I realized I'd somehow gone too far.  So, I thought I'd go round the square and work back.  I soon discovered that the road, at this end had been renamed for a local politician. This made me grumpy; another piece of history down the drain.

Back in 1825, my fifth great grandfather and his family arrived in Ontario, part of the wave of migration from County Down, Northern Ireland.  The Lowrys were a colourful bunch, and legends and stories of them abound.  There's the one about the proud Lowry man who refused to sell a fine black horse to Lord Hamilton but gave it to him as a gift. Soon after that he received a grant of land.  Captain Hamilton Lowry, a retired sea captain, was said to have left his fortune at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River when a shipwreck gave him the choice of sinking or swimming.  He and his family of strong sons made it to Canada and he commenced his second career as a farmer and  log house hotelier.    Apparently, no guest was ever turned away for lack of money, and what money did change hands was thrown into a bushel basket.  When the basket was full it was taken to the attic.  These guys had a fine disregard for money, it seemed. Fittingly romantic for an Irishman.

As I came down the Diamondview Road, over the creek that had cut through their farms, I could see nothing of all they'd striven for.  Thick tangled woods covered the valley on the one side, and an unimpressive vinyl sided bungalow stood where once the log hotel had been.

When I arrived at the cemetery, I was pleased to see that behind the iron railings all was in good order still.  In fact, the cemetery is still active.  They're still burying Lowry folk there. I went over to the large    red granite and limestone monument where Hamilton and his son, Savage, are commemorated.  I felt moved to give the old guy's tombstone a hug.

  Overhead, a raven and crow were having a cawing/croaking contest.  I tried to get a shot of the raven, but he was preternaturally canny, and would fly to another tree each time I got close to getting him in focus.

On the edge of the ravine on which the graveyard is perched, I noticed a pile of discarded silk and plastic grave decorations; more throwaway history.

  I thought about all those ticky tacky boxes I'd been spared the sight of this morning by the fog, and hoped that when they were gone, these stones would remain to remind us of the fact that the men and women who came before us and opened up this country were giants, clearing and building at a human pace, living and dying in community.  You can't create that with a backhoe and a plan of subdivision.


I'm having a little holiday; taking some time off work to visit my daughter and three other friends in and near our little capital of the tundra.  I always take the backroads.    I can't bear major highways.  That much adrenaline for that long is not good for me!  And so, I have become adept at finding the back way to...well, anywhere.  There are two things I value when planning my route, and these are directness (the shortest distance between two points) and lack of obstacles; traffic and traffic lights.

Today I decided to take the Richmond Road, since I have never to my knowledge been TO Richmond, though perhaps I've gone through it.  I took the county road to Perth via Westport, and from there the former military road (practically dead straight-- so straight that the Romans might  have laid it out, had they been around in 1815) to Franktown and from there to Richmond.  After that I took old concession roads and sideroads to the western fringes of Ottawa to meet my daughter at her college.

As I drove through the early morning mist, admiring the lakes on either side of the road, like mirror with the breath of God rising from them, I reflected (ha!) on the fact that the car is no way to see a country, at least not if you are interested in photographing it.  Countless gorgeous photos appeared to my eye: muzzy purple, blue and gold landscapes seen through a screen of ruby topped sumac; chestnut cows in the mist amongst split rail fences in the rough country on the way to Perth, frost spangled stands of reeds, brilliantly backlit.  But not one of these made it to a photograph.  Why?  Because in a car, one is on the way to somewhere.  Stopping is counterproductive, and besides, no sooner does the perfect vista appear than one is by it, and going back is not a thing I do lightly.

Even the sometimes endless fields around Ottawa, laid out in the bed of a prehistoric sea, looked fantastic today.  The faded corn stalks were brilliant gold in the sun, and the frosted furrows with their quiet tones of mouse and fawn were soothing.  How different in winter!  Then the wind blows fiercely across the open ground and everything is white and grey and bitterly cold.

I did force myself to stop and take some pictures of the old Anglican church in Franktown with its drive sheds still in place.  I had to check the map anyway, so a stop was warranted.

 What must those first settlers have thought of the place they'd come to; flat limestone plain just below the surface, covered with impenetrable cedar thickets?  And yet, one of the first things they did was to build a church!  They must have needed faith to start over in such a demanding land, and they must have needed the community they created by undertaking such a venture just as much as a heavenly hand.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I have a thing about pomegranates.  I've talked about it before.  Since I bought some new acrylics in deep mysterious tones last week, I've been itching to paint some.

 So, since it is November, when pomegranates are cheap.  I splurged on three of them, and got started.  I'm fairly new to painting with acrylics, and I'm still learning techniques, so I didn't expect my paintings to be something I'd be pleased with. I'm not pleased with number one, but I can see that improvement IS possible.

  What does please me is the feeling I get when I'm painting; the feeling of being wholly absorbed in what I'm doing, that only that exists, and that the only reality is now, this instant.  That is the closest I get to being in a Zen state.  I get the same feeling at an auction when I'm bidding; sometimes on a long walk, and sometimes on horseback.  Its like the feeling runners talk about of being one with the road.  I've had that feeling too, but I no longer run. However you get there, its a high worth seeking.  So no matter how poorly they turn out, my paintings make me happy.  After a while, once they've lost their instructive value, I'll likely slop some medium and gesso over them and make a new painting on top.  But for now, they are my precious jewels for the joy they give me in the doing of them.

Tomorrow, I'll start another painting, probably employing some other techniques.  Did I mention I also bought some glass bead gel?  Scrumptious.


I had some errands to do downtown this morning, so I stopped by the market to see whether there were any hardy vendors braving the below zero temperatures.

  There wasn't the usual panoply of choices, but there were some lovely and interesting things, all the same.  I managed to avoid buying any of them, though I was tempted by this tiny spinning wheel.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Today, I decided to expand my horizons by walking along the waterfront trail.  I've lived near this town for thirty years, but have never walked this section of shoreline.  Now that its hunting season, and I need a dryish place to start breaking in my new boots, (I'm not kidding about Camino III), it seemed like a good choice.

I wasn't expecting much.  It was a gloomy morning, and the pink tinge out over the island portended rain.  Still, I took the camera with me because you never can tell what you might see.

As I set out, words like spare and sere were in my head.  From the cold grey prison walls, to the hidden sun gleaming  bleakly off the aluminum surfaces of  a sculpture at the marina,  to the lake, already looking like molten lead, as it does when you just know its nearly gelid; everything spoke of limitation, of decline. I walked past the sometimes spooky, reputedly haunted, and empty asylum, hoping for at least a frisson.  But instead I saw a broken window transformed into a darkly beautiful mirror.

Form and texture have become pre-eminent, and everything is quite still. 

 This makes the colour that is left, wet green algae, duck feathers of impossible brilliance, garlands of  persimmon- hued bittersweet, all the more precious. 

 A strangely coloured squirrel stands out against the grey water.  We have black and grey squirrels aplenty, but sometimes interbreeding produces a redhead!

 The view out to the Island is like a Japanese meditation garden, and I could stand and look at it for a long time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Solvitur Ambulando.

We had our first hard frost of the season last night.  So, when I suited up for my walk, I had to find hat and gloves and some layers.  I'm in training again, as of this morning, for my next Camino, whenever that might be.  I was tired of being a slacker.  I've been pinned to my office chair for weeks now, which makes me feel creaky and stiff.  I had to walk on the road rather than in the bush, since its hunting season, and even though I have a jaunty red jacket, I've heard enough horror stories about stray shots and people going off half-cocked that I thought I'd take a walk on the tame side.

What a gorgeous crisp sunny day.  The frost rimes made it evident that even the humblest roadside weeds have fantastic sculptural forms. Now that the leaves are down, I can see the cloud banks which form daily over giant Lake Ontario, 20 km to the south, though capturing them effectively on film eluded me this morning.

I didn't overdo it.  I let myself walk at the pace which was comfortable. In the spirit of Making Time to Live I tried to notice every sensation in my body; the fingertips tingling with cold, the nose running, the tightness in my hips, the pains in my knees.   I wasn't fussing; just paying attention and trying to accommodate what was going on  with me.  I tried to stand up straight and tall as I walked along, trying not to look like a chicken with my rear end stuck out, on account of my tight back.  Pretending that I had a 15 kilo pack strapped on helped with that.  By the 3km mark I was walking more quickly.  None of the stiffness had gone, and my left calf had added a new note to the symphony of discomfort but I, the me that lives in this body, was feeling fine!  I decided to take a detour down a new road they are building in the neighbourhood, for some new houses.  The second my feet hit the gravel surface, everything lightened up.   The last half of the walk was much more enjoyable, as my gait had to open up and soften in response to the shifting, uneven surface of the clay and gravel base.  As if I could have forgotten how hard pavement is on a body!

Even though I'm a total NIMBY* about this new subdivision, there were some things I liked about the road.  I can see a new vista through to the big old farmhouse on a hill about 5 km away and ,right now at least, the disturbed soil in the ditches on both sides of the excavation has been colonized by some large, rough member of the mustard family, so there are banks of yellow on either side all the way along. There aren't any houses on the road yet so its a nice place to walk alone in a meditative sort of way.

Now that I'm home I can feel how the cold has seeped into my arms and legs.  It's invigorating!  I have stretched dutifully, and now I'm ready for another six hour stretch at the desk.  And I have a new vista on my mental horizon also.  In there, Camino III is underway.

* Not in my backyard

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Makes me believe in luck.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


All the leaves are down, thanks to the outer bands of wind from Hurricane Sandy.  We battened down all the hatches and made sure our emergency supplies were in order, because the prediction was that we'd be on the track of the storm, but a windy night gave way to a lovely morning.  We're waiting for the rain.  I have a funny feeling that there will be some drenched Halloween goblins and sprites out tomorrow night, trick or treating in the rain.

It is probably no accident that one of the mandalas I made at a workshop yesterday turned out to resemble the eye of a hurricane.  But it was representing order out of chaos, how individual waves (like snowflakes, I suspect no two are exactly alike), create a regular pattern, and are a constant.  Waves can be experiences, trends, mutations, but the overall impression is a comforting order.

And what I was thinking of while I was drawing was how I fell in love with the Cantabrian sea in Ribadisella ; sleeping with the windows open so I could hear the intake and exhalation of the breath of the sea on the shore.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Yesterday was a beautiful example of what makes Indian Summer precious.  Balmy; about 20 degrees celsius, sunny and cloudless.  A perfect day to be outside doing things which you love.  We took the dog for a walk through fields of milkweed gone to seed.  We go for that walk almost every day,  but the idea of impending winter when those fields will be hidden under a white blanket heightened my enjoyment of the beauty of the silky white fluff bursting from the seedpods, a harbinger of snowflakes to come.

After that, I went to the farm to see my apple loving pal, Chester; and audit a natural horsemanship clinic, with Neil McLeod, from Manitoba. Watching him make contact with horses in a way which made sense to THEM was inspiring.

The name of this post comes from another blog.  Making Time to Live is an initiative of a pair of friends living in Spain, the point of which is to remind people of how great it is to get out into the world and use their imagination and creative powers to create a richer life for themselves, and by extension, everyone who reads their posts and/or hangs out with them. If you read my blurb in the header on this page, you'll see that's close to the reason I started my blog.  So, I'm joining them!  Maybe you'd like to?

Making Time To Live Network

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I'm homesick for my blog. I miss writing, but I haven't experienced anything SO amazing that I wanted to tell you all about it.  I've seen amazing things, like a great rendition of Pirates of Penzance, at Stratford, the view from Rock Dunder, (which I've talked about before), the amazing colours of the autumn leaves; a convoy of eighty flatcars of military vehicles stranded on a siding, all because one of the gun turrets on a tank was swinging freely, posing a hazard to other trains on the adjacent tracks.  For want of a clevis pin, an army was lost??  But there has been nothing that really said to me--Yes, this is something I want to share with everyone.

I'm tempted to believe this:

But what I really want is the return of the ability to see the amazing in everyday life.  Although.....maybe an amazing adventure would jump start things?

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I was working downtown the other day when I heard a voice behind me; a woman just back from a trip talking to her neighbours....she'd obviously had a great time....

As I alphabetized the books on hold, my ear was caught suddenly by a phrase..."She wants me to do the Norte, but I'm thinking about the Via de la Plata"  Ah! I thought, no wonder she sounds so happy.  She's just been on the Camino!  Sure enough, when I turned (surreptitiously) I saw a stocky middleaged lady with a recent tan which spoke more of wind than sun; fleshy, freckled, strongly proportioned calves, and a t-shirt bearing a shell motif.  She was a pilgrim, alright, and a newly minted one at that.  I could practically see the nimbus round her head.    Later that day, a couple of books came across my desk, destined for a woman at another branch; one a favourite Camino memoir, and the other, a complete set of maps of the Camino Frances.  Another one, I thought.  I smiled happily to myself at the idea of another adventure launched, another challenge accepted, another lifechanging experience in the making.

This past week I've been sharing my home and environs with two friends from Oz whom I met on my first Camino in 2008. We've been talking non-stop, not just about the Camino, but I can't deny that its still a major topic of conversation, as we pick up the threads of the past, and actually have time to talk about things we saw, people we met, and the fun we've had together.  We've managed to enjoy ourselves in the present too!

 I heard a miraculous story the other day from a woman whose life has been changed by the walk, and she hasn't even left home.  Her family situation is a difficult one, and while her husband took some time to reflect by going on the pilgrimage, she prepared to leave him.  Now that he's back, she's guardedly optimistic.  "He's different", she says.  Long may it continue, I say.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I always love it when my attention is drawn to patterns in nature.  Everything fits together so perfectly. 

Dances of the Planets
Take the orbits of any two planets and draw a line between the two planet positions every few days. Because the inner planet orbits faster than the outer planet, interesting patterns evolve. Each planetary pairing has its own unique dance rhythm. For example, the Earth-Venus dance returns to the original starting position after eight Earth years. Eight Earth years equals thirteen Venus years.  Note that 8 and 13 are members of the Fibonacci number series.
Earth:     8 years * 365.256 days/year  =  2,922.05 days                   
Venus:  13 years * 224.701 days/year  =  2,921.11 days (ie. 99.9%)
Watching the Earth-Venus dance for eight years creates this beautiful five-petal flower with the Sun at the center. (5 is another Fibonacci number.)


 Recently, I discovered the beautiful spirograph pattern created by the spatial relationship between the orbits of Venus and that of the Earth over an interval of eight years.

 I have to thank Dan Brown's book, the Da Vinci Code,  for teaching me something about the Fibonacci sequence which describes many of the governing structural principles of the natural world.  And I do love a fractal.

Most of us humans are simple creatures.  We know when a thing looks right and in harmony,

 and some of us know when it does not.

  Very few of us understand why.  But when we are in the presence of harmony, we feel complete and at ease.

   I'm just beginning to learn about the underpinnings, and I am fascinated, humbled,  doubtful of my ability to understand, and exhilarated all at the same time.

Metropol Parasol, Sevilla

Metropol Parasol by Paul Hagon
Metropol Parasol, a photo by Paul Hagon on Flickr.
This beautiful photo is by Paul Hagon. It seems to be available to share. Thank you!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Here are some photos of this year's feature performers

Here's what all the fuss is about.
I swear these cedar waxwings like to pose for photos.
A somewhat impressionistic shot of young raccoons
A female hummer at one of the feeders

Raccoon mama was displeased with us and growling