3/31/2016

One Long Week...

The last two weeks actually...that began with a tragic, untimely death of a young man who was a friend of my daughter and son. Too soon, too far away, too surreal. The fog descended suddenly while he and a buddy were back country skiing in Japan. As a veil of mist enveloped them, and reduced visibility to virtually nil,  he hit an icy patch and while trying to regain  his balance, slid over a mountain cliff and landed 600 meters below. Somewhere during that fall, breath turned to air. And for the 1000 plus mourners who gathered tens of thousands of miles and eight days later in a little church in rural Ontario, the topic of weather arose frequently. Unpredictable. Capricious. Friend. Enemy. Glorious. Ying. Yang.

In Canada, we celebrate our four seasons and welcome each of them with the same exuberance as we say farewell when their time is up. We are cursed and blessed. We have the largest wardrobes on the planet. And, we have the largest wardrobes on the planet.

We have special events that are themed around the weather: Winterlude gives over to Spring Fling, which bows out for Summer Sounds, which in turn introduces Harvest Ball, which brings us to Christmas in the Valley, and so the circle begins again. Each season plays host to special activities that are meant to seduce people into the outside. Hockey. Skiing. Nordic Walking. Snowshoeing. Skateboarding. Roller Blading. Mountain Biking. Hiking. Swimming. ATVing. Fishing. Kayaking. Canoeing.  And, of course, Birding year round.


It's a full life. We draw our circles large, and invite friends in to share the experiences. And, as I read recently, "If you're not dead, then you're not done. There are lessons still to be learned."

I take comfort, personally, in thinking that when someone dies, they have, indeed, come to the place they were meant to be. Have completed their journey, and can now move on to the next, whatever that may entail. When a young person dies suddenly, the silver lining is that they will not be left to languish slowly and alone in a long term care facility, sad, diminished and incapable of caring for themselves. No one gets out of life alive. But some have more pleasant journeys than others.

And so I arrived at today.  I walked out the door two hours ago, and was greeted by the actual demise of winter.




.





The quiet blanket of fog had crept into the woods and along the edges of the road. The silence was thick, broken only, and beautifully,  by the sweet jingling of the Juncoes, the tat-a- tat of the Hairy Woodpecker, the yanking of the Nuthatches, and the tinkling little trills of the Redpolls.
It was profoundly peaceful. The air smelled warm and rich and earthy. Nature was rolling over and shedding her wintry cloak.

This we know to be True. Spring will come.
And with it, a new dawn.


3/21/2016

Fall and Winter Have Retired.

Who'd a thunk?

Not me certainly!

When I said " So long, adieu to you and you and you!",  and tore off the shackles that bound me to a career as an Economic Developer I really had no idea what would happen next, where I would go, what I would do, when I would know I had arrived at that magical place where retired people dwell, how I would manage, what would it be like....

So I had to just LET IT ALL GO. And the night I decided that that was the best plan, this happened:


And nothing was revealed. Well, not quite true. It was a beautiful autumn evening...a Tuesday night. And while we sat around the bonfire enjoying the full  golden moon, the lovely merlot wine, the soft evening breeze it hit me! I didn't have to go to work the next day, and I was accountable to absolutely no-one but me! And so I stayed up past midnight. 

And the next morning, I slept in past 9. And dreamed of a trip to Cape May, that wouldn't be a vacation at all. I didn't have to take a holiday from anything! I just had to go and enjoy the gorgeous ocean breezes, fabulous seafood, stunning scenery, and the birds. Oh, the birds!



And so I did!
Getting used to having no schedule whatsoever, other than a self-imposed one, took about 10 minutes. And then it became a huge release from stress, worry, and time constraints! My time had arrived, without me being aware that I had been waiting for it! 


All of a sudden, I realized that I could do anything I felt like - and I didn't have to wait until the weekend to see friends, go out for dinner, go rambling around, cook, clean or not clean...time had suddenly become my friend!

Hello!

Hello cooking classes. Hello mid-week birding excursions. Hello I don't think I feel like doing anything today. Hello Netflix binge. Hello  afternoon yoga classes. 






Hello life!

Autumn morphed into winter, and even our white world became something to celebrate. Previously there had always been those moments of frustration - have to clear snow off the car, scrape the windshield, put on coats, mitts, boots, scarves moments - just to simply leave the yard. No more!
I can stay in with a book. Or not. I can, and did, go skating and had the most memorable skate of my life one gorgeous sunny day in January when water turned to ice and the magic happened.


It wasn't just one day, either. There was the day when we found not one, not two, but THREE Snowy Owls as we were taking a leisurely afternoon drive around the Valley.


There was the morning when I looked out the window, and saw deer in the yard, and then later, along the road, in the fields, and into the woods...deer here, deer there, oh deer!

There were days of wonder. Days of sleep. Moments of laughter. Time with friends. Time with family. Day dreams. Incredible scenes.


And ever so slowly, my world began to shift. It was - and is - a better place to be. And softly, winter dropped her coat, and it became easier to breathe. And signs of Spring coming appeared. 


The days got longer. And the sun warmed. 

And Spring arrived.

And so did I.


7/21/2015

Five Million Meals.



Built in the 1950's,  the Smith Falls Rideau Regional Centre (Ontario Hospital School)  once accommodated 2600  special needs children with cognitive and physical disabilities. The kids could be placed there by their parents or guardians, and they were cared for by approximately 2400 staff. This included a hospital with operating theatres and a morgue, full service kitchens, laundry facilities, a school complete with a gymnasium, swimming pool, theatre, and of course, rooms. Lots of rooms. 
So, on any given day, in its heyday, 5000 meals would be prepared three times a day. Times 365 days a year. Times almost 20 years. Good God! 109,500,000 plates of nutritional sustenance served up.
That's a shitload of food. Literally and otherwise.
And that doesn't include seconds, or popcorn, on the occasional movie night!
Everyone was cheery on cherry pie Fridays.
The Centre slowly closed its doors over a period of  years, phasing out some services, outsourcing others, and eventually, turning out the lights and sending the last of the residents back from whence they came about 15 years ago. About that same time, the homeless population in Ontario began to swell noticeably, schools began to change their curriculae to be more welcoming, diversified, and inclusive, and Special Education became a commonly accepted term. Just as "mentally retarded" and "crippled" became politically and socially incorrect descriptors of human beings with special needs.
It was all well and good.
Making approximately 600 pies and 500 loaves of bread daily
required some mighty heavy duty batter beaters.

Except that the massive school cum hospital that was once a force to be reckoned with, and a major economic driver in Eastern Ontario in its own right, sat languishing while unemployed caregivers, social workers, teachers, medical professionals, custodians, cooks and cleaners all went shopping for new jobs. 
The services required to run such a massive institution were no longer required, so add plumbers, 
electricians, carpenters, gardeners, and food growers to the list, as well as wholesalers of bedding, linens, shirts, shoes and toothbrushes...pretty much anyone who provided any service or product that might be needed by a village of some 5000 people on a daily basis.
My, oh my. What a fun time that must not have been!

I had no idea Mercedes made hot dog cookers?
Fast forward to 2015. ...what do you do with a vacant village?

Among the many thousands of ideas, that includes everything from condos to private business, high tech secure research campus, cute little shops, emergency evacuation centre, old parrot rehab and palliative care centre (yes), theatre school, fitness training centre, and hair salon, the idea I like the best is one of the ones that is actually working.
All that stainless steel cooking equipment has become the focal point of a local food hub.

Now it's artisan loaves of crusty baguettes, slathered with hot blueberry jam
and served with a side of vichyssoise.  Take that gruel and grog!
A new venture in collaboration between farmers and foodies, chefs and personal support services, the (now) gleaming kitchen that once fed hordes is once again cooking with gas.  Meals on Wheels uses the kitchen to prepare its delivery dinners, market gardeners rent the prep space, coolers and ovens to process their crops of berries, garlic scapes, tomatoes and all things delicious.
It's a menu for success that creatively re-uses, re-invents, re-purposes,  and re-minds us, that:

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.










7/13/2015

Where Have You Been?

Hello, it's me.

It's been one year, and fifty weeks since I last felt compelled to share my thoughts with you. My last post was on my Mother's birthday in 2013. I wrote about letting the light in. And then I went dark.
As an inveterate writer, communicator, viewer, sharer, and introvert, this method of being part of a group was an absolute blessing, allowing me to be me - from a distance, with complete control.
I am not really sure why I stopped...why my muse was no longer amused... But I just felt like I  had nothing more to say.

I did start writing a weekly column for Bird Canada  and I enjoyed being part of the greater birding community. However, I have never reacted well to having to submit something on a weekly basis,whether I felt like it or not. So I fulfilled the promise I made to myself to do it for one year, and then I stopped that too.

And then I wasn't writing anything.

The funny thing, or not so funny thing, is that when I stopped writing, I began to feel  angry and negative. I think I had unwittingly shut off the vent to my feelings, and I  found myself exploding inside. So here I am.
I certainly didn't think I would get this urge to call on my old friends in the blogosphere this evening, but  I did, and I think I will just roll with it.

Hello!
I have a new camera, and many shots to share ... So I think I will just post a few to provide some context and texture  to what I have seen in the past while. If you're out there, and seeing this, welcome back!

As "they" say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's a short little 43,000 word book.







Out on a Limb

Long Beach

Sea Lions in Tofino, BC

Roses in Victoria, BC

White Crowned Pigeon

Antiqua


Sigh.


Bird thoughts.

The Landing



Maine is awesome.

Birds' Eye View


I won a free copy of Richard Crossley's book with this!


Reading Market in Philadelphia



Sisters

The Two-rodded Fisherman

Roatan

Morning storytelling.


Roatan

Our new neighbour.

Haloomi and Tomatoes. If you haven't you should.


Homemade goodness.


It's never too cold for a Caesar.

First we feast with our eyes.

A huge flock of Snow buntings - REAL snowbirds

It's been almost two years, and during that time I have travelled throughout Canada, the States, the Caribbean and Honduras. I always keep my camera with me, and I took great pleasure in taking a good, long, look around at the things I enjoy most...a bird in song, a captured sigh, the wind in the water, 
food so good that you feast with your eyes, friends and family 
and all the little bits in between that make us who we are.