Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Random Reflections

Trespassers will be eaten

As I write this, I'm sitting at what used to be called Dorval: the main airport for Montreal, and I'm waiting for my flight back to Calgary. It's been ten weeks on the road (and rail, and air, and bus, and car) and I'm looking forward to getting back.


I've seen the leaves change from green to red, yellow, brown, and most shades in between, and then fall down, to be swept away in the winds of Hurricane Sandy.


Faced down challenges, discovered long-dormant talents, and realized that while life will never return to the "old normal," the "new normal" isn't so bad.

Sir John, eh?

Visited with old friends and new, found my heart and a vision, several new projects, and dusted off some old skills.

Pour me another

And had more than a few beverages.


The soundtrack has ranged across musical styles, and I'm glad to be getting the opportunity soon to change out a lot of music on my iPod.

And to be back in a familiar bed, and city, once again.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

From the sound of Mount Royal's chimes

Dessert #2

My dessert, concluding a great lunch at Kitchenette (sadly, their website is currently down, or I'd post a link) last Wednesday was the first salvo in what has become a glut of good eating here in Montréal. (The rest of the meal, for you foodies, included Maryland crabcakes and an ivory salmon tartare with the most exquisite waffle-cut potato chips, accompanied with a single-malt "Scotch" whiskey pot-stilled in Oregon.)

Philippa Brock show at MCCT #3

Along with food for the body, there's been a lot of nourishment of my creative soul: this is a detailed shot from the Philippa Brock textile installation up at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles.

Really amazing work, with some of the pieces woven with fluorescent fibres, so that when you shine a black light on them, they glow in strange colours. My favourite of those pieces looks like a lovely, although plain, piece of silk organza under regular lights, but the most amazing moiré pattern appears when the black light shines on them.

L'ange vagabond

Such a glorious day here last Friday that on the way back from the MCCT, we stopped downtown and walked up rue Parc to Jeanne-Mance Park. This is the angel on top of the statue of Georges-Etienne Cartier, the visionary Quebec leader who brought the province into Confederation.

A walk through the woods

More visual delights awaited walkers through the park, as the breeze caught the falling leaves, cyclists crowded the bike lanes, and classes from nearby McGill University took time to have one last gathering outside on the grass.

Allez au marché

Saturday morning saw us go to Marché Jean-Talon, not far from the MCCT. So many wonderful microbrewed beers and ciders available -- I did my part in selecting a few! -- and they have all been terrific to drink. The box on the left middle is a suckling pig/duck tourtière (meat pie): it was Saturday night's dinner, and so delicious it was that we had roasted duck breasts on Sunday as well.

I don't think I've put on weight during this adventure, but I certainly haven't lost any more either.

Friday, 26 October 2012

L'ange vagabond

There's nothing finer, on a beautiful autumn day, to take the train through eastern Ontario from Toronto to Ottawa. Can't help but put a spring in one's step, creativity in one's soul, and a song in one's heart.

I had this song L'ange vagabond (Vagabond Angel) swirling through my mind from the instant I walked into Union Station in Toronto. Although Richard Séguin is a singer/songwriter from Montréal, I first discovered him when I lived in Ottawa, and got to listen to francophone rock and roll for the first time. There were a lot of great bands around in those days, like CANO and Harmonium.


And I knew the first half of my time in Ottawa was going to be filled with music as well, as I was going to be staying with friends who are professional classical musicians, and I had been given permission to photograph them in rehearsal with the community orchestra they play for.


The first half of the evening was spent on Love from Antonin Dvorak's Nature, Life and Love suite, and I gently crept around the outer edges of the orchestra in the back, shooting them without a flash or a tripod, and with my camera set on the highest ISO equivalent and the shortest exposure possible. Tricky stuff with just a point-and-shoot camera!


It was a lot of fun, and I'm glad that a fair number of the shots turned out as well as they did. At the neighbourhood pub where several members went after rehearsal, we had a great discussion about art, both visual and musical, and the role of creativity in life overall. I love participating in evenings like that.

Fall reflection

Most of the rest of my time in Ottawa was taken up with going to a lot of galleries and walking around Centretown, the residential area just south of Parliament Hill, where I used to live, and where I was staying for the second half of my week. Visited several of my old haunts, discovered a few new ones, and enjoyed the sunshine and changing colours around town.

A week like the one I had there that almost makes me want to move back. Almost is the operative word, however: spring, with the tulips along the Rideau Canal, and autumn, when the leaves glow with colour and the crisp smell of change is in the air, is great. Summer, with heat and oppressive humidity, and winter, with damp cold and slush, remind me I'm happier elsewhere.

In a flap

And after a week, it was time to head to my last stop -- Montréal, so with Richard Séguin playing in my headphones, it was back to the train station.

Dans ta mémoire
Y'a des tiroirs
D'amours brisés
D'canucks fuckés
On the road again.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Turn around and walk away


In the realm of everything in the world can be related to a RUSH lyric meme, I offer up what will be the last such posting to contain any on purpose. Photos from the first show in Toronto on Sunday, October 14: my first, and likely penultimate, live concert of theirs.

Video from "Far Cry"

When last year's horribleness struck my life, and I couldn't listen to any music, I rediscovered the boys through Beyond The Lighted Stage. At the time, I had no ideas about my future: if someone had told me then what the next eighteen months were going to be like because I used the band as a crutch to get me through many of those days, I would have accused them of smoking contaminated drugs.


First, the good. I can listen to music again, of all styles and genres, and the majority of it without getting hysterical. I have made new friends around the world who also like the boys, and who are smart, funny, and like a good nip of single-malt from time to time. I found that returning to the land of the living was extremely possible, and that grief is something you just have to let run its course.

The fact that I'm sitting here and writing these words is proof of all that.

More of Howard's Handiwork

Now the not-so-good. I also met some seriously weird people, who have sacrificed themselves to a cult and would kill anyone who disagreed with them. Ones who thought that without direction in my life, I would take some from them, without complaint. (As a family member said about these folks they sure don't know you very well, do they?) Several who complained endlessly about being broke, but who managed to go to multiple concerts, rent limos, and claimed that they were "with the band" but who still had to buy tickets.


Going to the concert would, as I've known for awhile, mark the end of this chapter of my life: a time to reflect, move on, and resolve, if not chase, bad memories away. At one level, I hoped the show would have let everyone do that on a high point and with their respective dignities intact, but, as I've discovered from reading about escaping from cults, it, ah, didn't quite end up working out so nicely. Oh well.

On top of everything else, or perhaps because of all of this silliness, I didn't think it was all that great a concert either.

By pointing out all of this, I guess this means I'm handing back my magic decoder ring and secret password. And I can live with that....

The boys

It was, if not fun, a learning experience, and one that I'll remember, for good and bad, for a very long time.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Autumn in Ontario

Upstream approach

Part of my adventure this year has been spending a lot of time -- six weeks worth, in all -- north of Peterborough, Ontario, at my sister-in-law's summer house. Between being given free rein in the kitchen, consuming as much local microbrewed beer as possible, touring around, and just hanging out, I've also spent a lot of time in the nearest town, which is home to Lock 26 on the Trent-Severn Waterway.

View of the lock

I took these pictures on Canadian Thanksgiving, October 8, the last day the waterways locks are open, and prime time for the leaves changing colour. On the downriver side, Wendy, the lock-keeper, set up this lovely planter to brighten up the tie-up area.


It's been fun paddling to the south of this lock, on the Otonabee River, watching the wildlife: in three trips, I've seen an adult loon with chick, and an adult great blue heron -- the latter has shown up every time, in fact. And the reason I don't have pictures of these is because I haven't taken the camera along: my paddling technique found its groove pretty quick, after being unused for far too long, but my ingress and egress need, um, some work.

Changing season

The sky alternated between dark thundery clouds and flawless blue, depending on where you were and which direction you were looking at.

Sun and sky

Just north of the lock, there's a small local beach, a campsite, and a marshland to visit: I only made it to the beach before the weather again started to look rather nasty.

I'm on tippy-toes!

But the wind gave the gulls a chance to flap away in the wind, and I was lucky enough to catch this one. Then it was time to go pick up our other guests for Thanksgiving dinner, and pack up for my adventure in Toronto: seven weeks of peace and quiet out in the Ontario countryside was about to be replaced by three weeks of busy city adventures.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Watch the birdie!

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Female
Female black-throated blue warbler. The little white patch on her wing is how you tell her apart from all the other little warblers out there.

There was a bit of an extended detour on my trip from Spark Box Studio back to my sister-in-law's home to go birding at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, and what a worthwhile trip it was!

Ruby-crested Kinglet, Male
Male ruby-crested kinglet.

I added several species to my life list, including the two above. Tried to get a good picture of the little ruby-crested kinglet's ruby crest, which is hidden on top of his head, but was unsuccessful. Cute little guy though, isn't he?

Bird nets
Bird nets.

We then took a bit of a walk through the nature preserve, where we were assaulted by mosquitos. The first trail we took led us to a series of nets where the birds are captured. This one has had the birds removed from it already -- they are placed in fabric bags and then taken back to the banding station -- and the net is rolled down to retrieve them easily.

Birds waiting to be banded.

A still picture can be wonderful, but for something like this, you really need to see the video. The birds have been collected from the nets and are waiting to be banded, but if you didn't know this before hand, you might get a little creeped out wondering what the heck is inside those bags!

Eastern garter snake
Eastern Garter Snake.

Not just birds call the reserve home. This eastern garter snake slithered past us and I was suprised to actually get a good picture. For something the size of an ordinary pencil, they move really fast.


We saw this osprey fly into the tree with the fish still wriggling in its talons, and stood and watched as lunch was quickly devoured.

Wish we could have been there in the evening, as October is the prime time for banding the northern saw-whet owls that pass through, but that gives me another great excuse to go back to Prince Edward County.

Bombs away

Detail, Orange/Red

When we had Knit Night at Spark Box Studio, I had said that I thought I would do a small temporary installation, and started knitting on a few intimate pieces of basic shapes and size to place in the park next to the Shire Hall in Picton. Little did I know I was going to end up spearheading a full-fledged yarn bomb.

First, of course, was the all-important permission to be acquired: although I did my early installation works sub rosa in parks, quickly documenting them and removing them before the strange looks started or the police were called.


But then I began sending such installations in for various calls, resulting in the solo shows I had last year at the EPCOR Centre for Performing Arts and the Fish Creek Provincial Park Environmental Learning Centre, and this past March to the Transforming Spaces exhibition in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Bike rack

My initial stop in Picton was in the Shire Hall, next to the small park -- they call it a parkette -- and talked to a lovely woman in the Mayor's office. While she was unable to say "yes," she did refer me to the Business Improvement Association. Between that office and the Arts Council, I ended up at the office of the Parks Manager.

Toting my trusty netbook along with my dog-and-pony slide show, I showed fifteen slides, all of which have graced this blog in the past, and the excitement was palpable. Two hours later, we had permission to install for a week.


So four days later, thanks to Spark Box Studio and local knitters, we had a great yarn bomb installed. And two days after installation, on my last day in Picton, and while we were being interviewed for one of the local weekly papers, the Parks Manager walked by and graciously gave us another week.

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Framed Blues

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