Monday, December 5, 2011

Show and Tell

I am just coming to the end of my first semester teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, known affectionately as NSCAD (pronounced nas-cad).  It has been a happy return for me, a return to teaching, that is, as I had been away from it for three years since leaving The Koç School in Istanbul in 2008.

I haven’t always taught; in fact, for the eleven years I worked as Principal at Alice Street School (four of them) and Uniacke District School (the other seven), I was a non-teaching administrator.  That meant I was free to go into classrooms on occasion, play around a little at teaching, get the students all worked up through making poems, and then leave the regular teacher to pick up the pieces and try to restore some sense of routine.  It was fun, and I did teach those kids something, but I was Mr. Field, the Principal, and I never could have that relationship you can develop by being the teacher who has worked with them over the long term.

When I retired from Uniacke in 2003 one of the parents presented me with a little memento she had made, one I have treasured ever since.  I liked that she included an apple, not just the usual apple for the teacher, but also the apple I would always take to generate sensory imagery words for making poems during my first poetry session with an Elementary class.  The tiny pencil in the blue pot was also significant for me because I am known to always carry a pencil in my breast pocket.  The bell is a nice touch for a teacher or principal, and our local of the Teachers Union gave me a real one with my name on it as well.  And I really like the little stack of books, which includes three titles: Canada, Poetry, and English.  The first was because she knew I was going to be teaching in Türkiye, and the other two were for reasons obvious to anyone who knows me.

The Mr. Field sign was on my desk for the five years of High School English I taught at Koç in Istanbul, and I have a multitude of memories of the great students and fellow teachers I worked with there.  I also have various mementoes, tangible and intangible, of that teaching time there, but the small bespectacled high-kicking little martial arts guy is a more recent arrival on my desk.   

He was a gift from a young Chinese student I have been working with for almost two years now.  It is one-to-one tutoring rather than classroom teaching, but it has some of the same kind of rewards I have always cherished in pedagogy.  This little guy was a gift she brought for me from her visit to China last summer just before enrolling in her freshman year at university.  I don’t know exactly why she chose him, but I’ll pretend at least that she wants to inspire me to be a kick-ass teacher (or maybe even thinks I am one).

On Wednesday I will meet my Design English students, many of them also Chinese, for our last NSCAD class together.  The fourteen weeks of the semester have gone by quickly and it has been consistently a treat to be their instructor.  For our last class we are going to do Show and Tell.  Since none of them attended Elementary here in Canada, I had to explain what it was.  I want it to give a chance for each of us to reintroduce ourselves, after fourteen weeks of learning together, by showing some object or image that tells something about who we are.  We’ll talk about it and ask each other questions and celebrate whatever it is we celebrate (or mourn) in our last class of teaching and learning together.

As for me, I’m happy to be back in the classroom teaching again, so I’ll be taking my two little artefacts to class for Show and Tell.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I didn’t realize when I got up this morning that today would be a day I engaged with crows.  After breakfast I did watch one from the kitchen window as it worked on the remnants of the suet cake in the rather beat-up green wire cage I put it in.  I always replenish the suet knowing that the chickadees and jays will come, but also hoping for a return of the downy and hairy woodpeckers from previous years.  No woodpeckers this year, but a problem with the crows.  I haven’t seen them do it, but they (I’m sure it’s them!) seem to have figured out how the open the cage and make off with the suet cake, a reminder of the small steak one of them stole from next to the barbecue back in the spring.  This time, however, I’ve used a twist-tie to foil their tricks, and the cake has stayed.

This morning’s crow flew up to the slender branch the cage hangs from, held onto the branch with one claw and the cage with the other, and managed to twist itself around to be able to peck at the suet from underneath.  I went to get the camera.  When I got back to the window, our neighbourhood squirrel, whom I hadn’t seen since late summer, was on the branch approaching the crow.  I wanted to catch this confrontation, but just as I carefully raised the camera, the crow flew down to the ground and left the squirrel to chip away at the suet.

Before we went for our Monday swim we stopped down by the Dingle in Fleming Park to check on crows.  Lorraine had her Bronica loaded with a roll of black-and-white in the hope of catching some on film.  We heard and saw lots in the distance, way back in the trees, and I even saw some chase a small falcon that swooped through their territory, but none came anywhere near us; the best we were able to do was attract a bunch of mallard ducks who kept pecking (if ducks can peck with bills like that) in the bright grass to find and eat whatever they were finding and eating there.

Later we came back, parked the car by a yellow barricade where we had seen a few crows, and made our way down to the stream hoping to catch them this time.  We had a small bag of cookies from Heppy’s (really good raisin cookies!) and decided to try to attract the crows with them.  I walked along the path, feeling like Hansel, as I broke off little bits of cookie and dropped them behind me.  The crows began to call out and follow me, and then I felt more like the Pied Piper with these wonderful birds flying from branch to branch behind me.

We both got some shots of these intelligent black beauties.  Some even came close enough to catch the bits of cookie (the ones I didn’t eat myself) before they landed. 

I loved the fact that one brave crow came to within a metre of my foot, hoping I had another piece to donate to its cause.

And after we came back from buying more film, I found a black feather on the ground where we had been photographing.  For some reason, perhaps the lateness of the day, the crows were much less interested in bits of cookie and ended up flying off into the woods, but we had our images, ate the cookie remnants, and headed home.

I do love these birds, they are so smart and so beautiful, and I’ll bring cookies for them any day if it means they’ll come and engage with me!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Sweet Music of Africville Stories

On Saturday night we had a treat.  Our friend Sylvia had told us about it earlier in the week, and I had bought tickets, but we hadn’t had time to think too much about it.  That absence of a heightened sense of anticipation or expectation made it even more of a treat and us even more ready to be transported by the event.  Which we were!

We arrived at the Maritime Conservatory and went upstairs to the familiar terrain of the Lilian Piercey Concert Hall where we had often heard wonderful classical and cabaret concerts, often featuring people we knew.  There was a good-sized crowd, but as so often happens the first two rows were pretty much empty.  We saw Sylvia waving so we sat just in front of her and her sisters in the second row and waited for the concert to start.  The stage was arranged with a piano on the left, a skeletal electric stand-up bass in the middle, and a drum kit on the right.  In front were two mikes, one centre stage and the other next to the curtain on the right.  It was a jazz setup.

After the intro by Charla Williams the band came out, led by Joe Sealy.  Joe spoke quietly about the piece, Africville Stories, based on his earlier Africville Suite, and the fact that it would be narrated by his good friend Jackie Richardson, who gave a sweet smile.  Paul Novotny, the bass player with his suit and skinny Brubeck style necktie, also smiled, and Dave Burton took his serious seat in back of the drum set.  The mike on the right side was vacant as Joe sat at the piano and Jackie started the story.

Her voice had a resonance and a depth of musicality, and she pulled us right into the narrative.  And then the music started.  Well!  There were hums and murmurs and aha’s from among us as Jackie started to sing.  The music built and her volume built and the excitement in the room built as she sang “Deep down inside” and she got deep down inside and pulled us all there with her until the murmurs got louder and the energy built and by the time she found her way to the end of the piece we were all standing and clapping and shouting.  The place was jumping like I’d never seen it jump before!

And that was just the first of the Africville stories!  We sat ourselves down and settled down for the next story and its song.  There were no vocals, but Chris Mitchell came on to pick up one of his saxophones and start singing with it, and the band took off with him.  Jackie was at the edge of the stage, hardly able to contain herself, Joe at the piano was playing back to Chris, Paul on the bass was strumming and grinning, Dave’s drums were under and over and around every move they all made, and we were approaching bliss out there on the floor.

The show went on, more stories, more great songs, solos that held you in their subtle and inevitable grasp, and lyrical lyrics where Jackie soared and rumbled and whispered, until our hands were sore from clapping and our voices hoarse from shouting out.  It was ninety minutes of musical energy filled with sadness and joy, soulful solace for the brutal loss of the community of Africville and soulful celebration of the memory of place and people and spirit, and it was accomplished through the sweet power of Joe’s composition and everyone’s beautiful music.

At the end, when we finally stopped shouting and whistling and clapping, we ended up looking around in a state of wonder.  Sylvia said she had heard Jackie before but never like this.  I said she was transported.  And she was.  And we all were.

It was a place to be.  Wish you could have been there too.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Barred Owl

On Sunday we were working with a rented chipper-shredder, chipping and shredding high piles of branches from all the cutting and clearing we’ve been doing around here.  It was a good day’s work, shared with neighbours and friends, and we were all getting pretty weary towards the end of the day. 

While it is true that the chipper-shredder does the really heavy work, chipping and shredding whatever we feed into it, our job is to keep feeding it and that can tire a person out.  Se we ended up loosening and hauling branches and small trees from the pile, aligning the butt ends, tilting them up to feed into the hopper, and then pushing and wiggling and prodding them until they had made it through the blades and shot out in a steady stream of chips and shreds.   It was repetitive work that strained our shoulders, arms, and hands, and it took up the large part of our day.

So it was important that every now and again someone would turn the key to shut the machine down so that we could have a break.  It was around five o’clock when we took our last one, and we were all sitting on the back deck, pretty tired and pretty quiet, enjoying the peace of late afternoon without the noise of the machine.

That was when I noticed the noise of the crows.  I am used to hearing them talking and calling over the neighbourhood, but this was different, a real cacophony of sound, persistent and insistent, obviously riled up about something that had interfered with their routine.  I wondered what it could be but was too weary to get up and try to find out.  Then I noticed my neighbour’s wife coming in our lane from the path, and she told us what had happened.  Of course, it all made sense -- an owl had wandered into the neighbourhood, the crows and jays had found it, and now they were determined to chase it out.

Suddenly no one was tired, we all hurried through to their lane and up toward the main road, and there were the crows.  They got quieter and fewer with people approaching, and there, high up in a tree, was the owl.  It was a dark shape, much larger than the crows or the couple of blue jays that were also harassing it, and it puffed itself even bigger when the other birds got close.  No one had a camera or binoculars so there was nothing else to do but try to get closer for a clearer view. 

By the time I got under the tree the other birds had left and the owl was looking down at me.  It had the large round head with eye circles, dark eyes, bars across its upper chest, and vertical streaks down its breast that marked it as a barred owl.  Lorraine and I used to see one now and again over on the Middle Road when we first moved here, but it’s more than ten years now since I’ve seen an owl in the neighbourhood, and I’ve never heard one.

So it was a treat, and I stayed a while, looking back at the owl, noting all of its distinguishing marks, and wondering whether it had just dropped in or was going to be working in the neighbourhood on a regular basis.  Finally we did head back and start the chipper-shredder, and about an hour later found the branch we had been looking for, the last one.  It was getting dark as we shut things down, and I allowed myself to think about a cold crisp glass of pinot grigio that would be waiting once I had showered and changed. 

And I thought about the owl, more peaceful now that the crows had gone to roost, and wished it a good night.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food Nostalgia: Gölyazı and Yalova (courtesy of the Athens)

On a recent Wednesday we were both teaching and at the end of the day needed to get something to eat before going to an artist’s talk at a local art gallery.  We decided to go to the Athens on Quinpool to split one of their calamari salads and a large draught.  I was glad we did.

We checked out the menu to confirm that the salad was what we wanted and agreed that we would have to request extra olive oil on it because The Athens doesn’t seem to think the calamari salad needed much.  We were sure about the beer but not so sure about whether we should order something more so we explored the Appetizers section.  I was intrigued by the taramosalata, a dip made from caviar, lemon juice, and potato, so we ordered it.  I was glad we did.

The dip came first, with wedges of pita.  What I loved was the fact that the first taste took me right back to Gölyazı, an island in Ulubat Gölü, a large shallow lake just west of Bursa.  Once we watched a fish auction in Gölyazı in the open area just beyond the big yellow camii where the local sellers and buyers stood in a circle around a kind of small arena where various large and strange-looking fish were dumped in the centre and bid on.  I don’t know if any were beluga, but I do remember one prehistoric looking creature with a row of large, thick spikes along its spine.  It must have weighed fifty or more kg and I wonder now if it was a bearer of caviar.

The other connection was to a medium-sized jar with a white plastic top that I bought from a compact man in a sports coat and cap in the market area in front of the camii close to where the minibus parked.  I may have paid only 5 TL for it, but it was a treasure I kept in the fridge back on campus and spread on toast whenever I needed a treat, taramosalata made by the small man in Gölyazı, a memory of a time and place and of a distinct and wonderful taste, sometimes augmented by a cold glass of beer.

Next we had our calamari salad, which the Athens is very good at making, as long as you remind them of the need to add the olive oil.  Here the connection was not so immediate and direct, unlike the taramosalata whose sharp and immediate taste put you right there in Gölyazı.  Instead, the Athens salad reminded us of the kalamar we always ordered at Unsal Balık on the waterfront in Yalova where the ferries from the islands always tied up.

You can read here a detailed account of the great fish soup and salads they serve there.  What we also loved about kalamar in Türkiye was the fact that it was always fresh and always served with a thick white sauce, maybe made from yoghurt and bread crumbs.  We have enjoyed it at Unsal on the Yalova waterfront and from the high terraces of the fish restaurants overlooking the harbour and beach at Şile as the sun was setting into the Black Sea.  It was consistently a treat and often a sign that soon we were heading back to the school and getting ready for another week of work.

So the good old Athens, Halifax’s favourite family restaurant, I’ve heard, provided us with a nice treat for supper after teaching and a nice hit of nostalgia for places and dishes we love and for the good people we shared them with   

Afiyet olsun, they would say over there.  Here it is simply Enjoy, and we do.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September Evening

This September evening was quiet, and the air was still.  The crows were calling from Irene's roof and chimney next door to other crows on treetops and power poles throughout the neighbourhood.

The harbour was calm where the small container ship headed into port along the inside passage.

You could still hear the faint sound of swells breaking just beyond the lighthouse as the sun dropped in the sky, but the reflection was steady in the water.

The light was lovely enough to get Lorraine out on the deck with her camera.

The bright white Carnival Glory started to head out to sea.

And the growing moon appeared from among the clouds with their hints of pink above the grey band of fog as the evening continued to drop away into nighttime.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Life Well Lived

Last Friday morning I received a phone call from the 2nd floor nursing station at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home to tell me that Mother was suffering some distress and that we should come in.  So we did, those of us who could, and held her hands and talked to her and met with the people in charge of her assessment and care and embarked together on the final phase of her long life.

From that point on someone was with her the whole time, either a son or a daughter-in-law, and we sat close to her, spoke to her, and watched over her.  On Saturday afternoon I came in to take over from Nick.  He told me about monitoring the rate of her breathing and using the spray if her mouth seemed too dry, and I began my vigil as he ended his. 

While I was there, a St. Vincent’s volunteer who had grown to love Mother dearly came in to see her and tell Mother her thoughts and prayers.  Then a tall, handsome man, her first ever boyfriend from way back in Bermuda, appeared in the room with a potted flower and a card.  He spoke to Mother and gave her a gentle kiss on her cheek.  I stayed at her bedside after he left and thought about the richness of her full and active life.

It was Peter who came in to take over from me and Peter who had been at Mother’s bedside in the hospital the Tuesday before when she asked him whether it was OK for her to stop trying.  He told her it was.  I showed Peter the card and plant, and he decided to read Mother the message in it even though she was not showing any signs of hearing what we said.  I am glad he did.

When Chris came at seven, he brought a copy of The Book of Common Prayer and decided to read to Mother the Supplications for the Dying.  So he did.  I imagine the kindness and comfort in his voice as he read.  And I know that when he read the last line, “God is waiting for you” Mother was listening as she let go of  her last breath and arrived at the ending of her life on this earth that she loved so well. 

I believe that she left this world knowing that the sons she had raised and loved so well were able to carry on without her and that she could have her final rest.  It was a life well lived and a life well ended, in quietness, in love, and in peace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

There’s a bear in this picture (for JE)

This time there is a bear that you can actually see.  It was, like the one we saw the evening before, a black bear that was in its brown coloration, and we encountered it just before we reached Chief Mountain border crossing on our way to Glacier National Park in the U.S.  The reason the image is so blurry is that my hands were shaking as the bear looked right across the road at me with my open car window. 

It wasn’t as close as the one that sniffed around Jon Eben and the other tree planters nicely parboiled in their outdoor hot tub a few years ago, but, like that one, my bear also walked away, after crossing the road right in front of our car and starting to browse or forage (whatever it is bears do in roadsides) on the other side, where Lorraine had both a steadier hand and camera.

There were animals scouring our campsite for crumbs and morsels the next morning, but they were not any kind of threat (like bears, cougars, or wolves) and not much worried about our presence as we sat there drinking our tea.  They turned out to be Columbia ground squirrels.

It wasn’t until we got to the Conglomerate Cliffs in Centre Block of Cypress Hills Park in southern Saskatchewan that we encountered its cousin, the thirteen-striped ground squirrel.

On an evening walk at Writing on Stone Park back in Alberta we watched from up among the hoodoos as mule deer grazed on the flood meadows down by the Milk River.  When one doe crossed the river a young one came bouncing out of the bushes, reminding us why they are known as “jumping deer”.  We also saw quite a few individual males hanging out in fields at dusk as we drove on back roads between Eastend and Centre Block in southern Saskatchewan.

We saw pronghorn antelope a couple of times but didn’t get pictures so I thought that this one in the Eastend Museum might be the only image I’d have.

However, on our way back to camp from Leader a few days later we did catch some beside the road where the lead male was trying to get the rest of them to take cover.

We did see these bison at Waterton, but it was when we drove through their huge and beautiful paddock rather than out on the open plains where they used to roam.

We also saw these “wild” animals one day at the Medicine Hat Rodeo.

But at Esquimalt Lagoon this was a wild sea otter, just a young one, with its mother swimming along just off the shore and keeping a close eye on us all.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Our good friend H. has often told us that she loves camping.  So do we, but it’s been a while, so it took our trip out to Alberta and Saskatchewan to help me remember what I actually do love about camping.  We did camp in Greece and especially enjoyed the fact that some of the campgrounds we stayed in had cafes, and one even had a nice dining room overlooking the Aegean, but that was Greece and it was not Canadian camping.  Our daughter E., who has been a hard core serious hiker-camper in her day, has said that what we do is really “wussy camping”; by that she means that we load our gear in the car, drive to the campsite, and set up.  We don’t argue with her designation because, after all, that is what we tend to do.

The difference with this “wussy camping” trip is that we had to fly to Calgary to get started, so there was no throwing, or carefully stowing, our gear in the back of the Fit and driving somewhere; instead we had to pack according to Air Canada standards, which meant one suitcase for each of us, with neither weighing over 23 kg.  This was not, to my mind, an easy feat, but Lorraine took it as her assignment and accomplished it with both finesse and panache, neither of which is my strong suit in packing.  In that one camping suitcase she fit our Eureka Stormshield tent, two mummy bags, two small air mattresses, two thermarest-type mattresses, two Thermarest pillows, a wool blanket, our folding Coleman stove, a tarp, dishes and cutlery for two, our stacking cook set, and a piece of heavy duty plastic cut to fit under the tent and fly.  It was a seriously good job of packing and just enough under 25 kg to squeak through the baggage check.  There were things we needed once we landed, like the folding Canada chairs and a Styrofoam cooler, plus some odds and ends from Dollarama and the Goodwill, but then we loaded everything into our rented Versa and headed for Waterton for our first night of camping this summer.

If you read carefully you will have noted that there were two different kinds of mattresses packed into that one suitcase.  This is important.  If you don’t sleep well, then you can’t love camping, so Lorraine devised our two-tier sleeping system, with a firm thermarest-type mattress on the bottom to keep your hip and shoulder from touching the hard ground and a less firm air mattress on top to provide just enough give that the shoulder and hip mentioned above can nestle in the cushioning down as far as the thermarest.  Her key innovation was the terra cotta coloured cotton sleeves that she made to keep the two mattresses properly lined up and not sliding sideways in our tiny tent, which had little margin for sidesliding or error and seemed to be the smallest in any of the campsites we stayed in.

So one thing that I love about camping is going to sleep and waking up in a tent.  Snuggling into your sleeping bag, getting it zipped up around you, choosing which side to sleep on, and then drifting off in the mountain air is akin to bliss.  And waking up on a cool morning with sun lighting the tent, or even lying there listening to the rhythm of steady rainfall on the fly, is something wonderful that you can never experience in a house, or even an RV.

Another is the food.  I found myself (uncharacteristically) noting in my journal what we ate, in particular the evening meals.  On the one night we spent at Elkwater Lake, our supper consisted of bacon & onion omelette with tomato & cucumber salad and sourdough toast (plus a cold Kokanee that we sheltered from the Hutterite clan camped next door).  The only seasonings were salt and pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice (remember this is wussy camping), but the taste in the high clear air of the Cypress Hills was a real treat.

Lorraine said that she loves the systems you end up developing or organizing when you are camping, the small efficiencies that ensure that you can eat and sleep well, that there is dry firewood, that the tarp and chairs are well-placed, and that your site is clean enough to not attract critters.  I do too, and I also love the tallness of the trees, the bigness of the sky, the feel of the air, the way you sleep after being outside all day, and the simplicity and freedom of just being there.  And I love the glow of the tent when she has gone in to light the little LED chandelier to do a little reading before sleep while I’m sitting at the table catching up on another day in my journal and listening to the night.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Post #144: There are three bears in this picture

A couple of weeks ago we came home to our campsite at Crandell Mountain in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.  On the way up to Crandell we stopped where many vehicles were parked and saw a bear that was feeding in a meadow just below the road, my first ever clear sighting of a bear in the wild.  Ten years ago on a small road on Manitoulin Island I did glimpse a large-ish dark shape that ran across the road ahead of us, which Lorraine told me was likely a bear, and one was spotted on Beattie’s lawn in Maitland years before that, but not by me, so this bear, a rich golden brown, was truly my first confirmed sighting.  I was excited, and even more so when the young women in their Parks uniforms, who informed us that it was in fact a black bear despite its coloration, said a mother with two cubs had been seen farther up the road.

So we watched this bear mosey around the clumps of bushes and then headed on up to camp to cook our supper.  I was boiling water for pasta on our little Coleman when the brilliant, hawk-eyed Lorraine, who as an Albertan has much more bear experience than this effete Easterner, pointed out bears, a mother and two cubs, on the slopes across the creek from us.  It was hard to believe that she had picked them out, this medium-sized dot that moved on the mountainside with two tiny dots that kind of bounced around behind her, but she did, and we watched as we waited for the water to boil.

All of the camp and picnic sites in Waterton had signs with strict instructions about wildlife proofing nailed to the picnic tables.  If you left anything – dishes, scraps of food, coolers, cookstoves – out on the site, you risked both attracting bears, cougars, or wolves and being evicted by Parks staff.  I recognized their seriousness and took it seriously, not wanting any of the above, and especially the bears, sniffing around our site and our tiny tent.  So I kept checking the progress of the bear family down the slope towards us, wondering what might happen after dark, and drained the pasta water very carefully, not wanting a single piece of macaroni left on the ground.

As we ate and as the light dropped, the bears disappeared into the woods at the left of the picture and, I hoped, headed up the little valley instead of down towards where we were, perhaps the closest campsite to them if they chose to follow the course of the creek our way.  I wondered about them as we crawled into our tent, after assiduously cleaning every speck of food remnant from the table and the site (and hoping the other campers were as careful), and hoped that they wanted to keep their distance from us as much as I wanted to keep mine from them.

We did survive, and I did have a great night’s sleep on Lorraine’s patented two-tier seniors’ sleeping system and woke up to another day when my bear experience would be increased incrementally by a much closer encounter; however, that will have to be the next instalment in our camping/exploring adventure in the great West.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Entering the Zone

Yesterday morning our friend L. drove Lorraine and me to the airport to enter the zone, or, in other words, to embark on a journey by air.  I hadn’t really believed until this morning that we were actually leaving, though the weighing of suitcases last night and last minute check marks on the task lists suggested it was really happening.  However, it’s not until you enter the zone that you actually understand the fact that you are going.

Once you are inside the zone there is little that you actually decide for yourself; basically you do what the people in charge of your travel tell you to.  It can be a bore, and it can be exhausting, but there can be moments of magic inside that zone.  I think part of the reason for it is that you are transported out of your quotidian existence, where the list of tasks you need to complete can weigh on your time, into a zone where there’s not much you can do except relax and free your mind to explore.

Here were some of my highlights from inside that zone:

The July 4 issue of The New Yorker (my chosen zone reading) had some good Talk of the Town pieces, including one on Afghanistan, which took me back to the conversations I’ve been having over the past week with F., a doctor from there who has left the country he loves because of the danger and corruption and heartbreak that he has witnessed there.  Then I read a piece on Jeff Nunokawa which made me want to read his short literary essays and commentaries on Facebook and another on Kirsten Hively and neon signs that made me think of a few noteworthy ones in Halifax I might want to photograph.  The EDL article made me glad not to be in England, and the one on Han Han got me wanting to check out his blog.

I interrupted this reading periodically to look out my window, which was on the south side of the plane, and wrote in my journal:
the world outside my window is a dream
green forests blue lakes
farmland and rivers in the clear air
two shining bays on the far horizon
then the blue blue Fundy straight below

I examined the slightly freckled male pattern baldness of the man in 28A.

I listened to Lorraine in 29B laughing out loud at something in Morning Glory.

When I got tired of reading, I listened to Janis J.singing Cry Baby and thought about the summer when Cream, The Doors, and Janis all played Vancouver, and I had money for only one concert.  I still regret my choice, though I did get to see Morrison take a dive on the stage at an "intense" moment in one of his songs.

After Toronto the air was hazy and I watched Unknown, kind of a waste of time with a couple of annoyingly impossible car chases, but held together with some interesting plot twists, a cute and clever Diane Kruger, and a very nice scene between Bruno Ganz, formerly of Stasi, and Frank Langella, member of “Section 15”.

Bright sun over the Prairies so that I sneezed when I lifted the blind – reminded me of a Quirks and Quarks show years ago where a Swedish researcher determined that a neural pathway in the nose can be stimulated by sunshine and cause that reflex.

Clouds floated out to the horizon over flat farmland, green and brown fields, and dark patches that looked like woodlots but turned out to be cloud shadows.

I listened to Clapton Unplugged and thought of my good friend K. who has loved Eric deeply for much of his life.  Then we came to Running on Faith as I sat next to my partner of 41 years and thought of our good fortune in this world, to love and to be loved.  Try listening to it here.

And finally we landed, picked up our bags, emerged from the zone into the bright light of western sun where the air feels just a little thinner and a little drier, and embarked on the next stage of this journey, once more outside of the zone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hirtle’s Beach

Anyone who lives on or near Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coastline knows about the fog.  It’s the reason Environment Canada’s forecasts in June and July often say things like: “Fog patches dissipating in the morning. Wind becoming west 30 km/h near noon. High 27 except 21 along parts of the coast.”  This is tomorrow’s forecast (tonight the fog has crept up the harbour and hidden everything but our neighbours’ lights), and the projected 6-degree difference between us on the coast and those who live more inland is caused by the fog bank that lies out on the horizon through the day and the breeze that blows from it to us.  Sometimes it is pleasantly cooling; sometimes it’s damned cold!

So when we drove with our friend G. toward Lunenburg County and Hirtle’s Beach on Sunday afternoon, we knew that the sunshine we were in might not last, and sure enough, when we passed somewhere near the Head of St. Margaret’s Bay, a huge plume of fog drifted over the highway and turned everything damp and grey.  Fortunately we drove out of that and Lunenburg town was sunny, but we knew that heading out past Rose Bay to Hirtle’s was likely to put us into the fog again.  And it did.

However, Hirtle’s is one of the most beautiful beaches on our coast, and it’s always worth a visit.  The waves were not much, and the wind and fog were really cold, but it was great to be there.

There was fog around the trees on the other side of the lake back of the beach (where the water was much warmer).

The wild roses seem to thrive above the tide line, and the foggy air helps make their colours brighter.

I always like the tumbles of boulders on our beaches.

And the real treat, after G. and I searched all of the boardwalks, was finding the board we were looking for, the one we had dedicated back in 2002 to the memory of our Welsh terrier who died that fall. 

We remember him well, our dog Griff, whose spirit was large..

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Celebrating a Birthday

Last Saturday our middle granddaughter turned four, and on Sunday she came to our house with her big sister to celebrate.

We went exploring and she climbed up on their favourite rock next to the brook.

They both dressed in the pixie costumes Lorraine had found and discovered Pixieland under the big apple tree where the hawthorn petals had been falling.

She showed that she has learned how to really pump a swing high.

Because she doesn't especially like cake, they decorated chocolate chip cookies for the event.

And we all blew out our cookie candles.

A very good time was had by all!