Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer, Pool Time, and a Chain of Memories

This week's Comeback prompt has to do with summertime memories. As I wrote (below) about the single memory that came to mind, my mind was led to a chain of like memories. It's funny how that works. There is nothing deep and introspective about this post — just a string of memories unleashed by the first one.

Nelson was my buddy from about grade 3 through grade 9 although we went to different schools in the last two years. After about grade 5, he no longer lived around the corner but several blocks away, but we were both on our bikes a lot back then so going back and forth was easy peasey, despite the increased distance.

For several summers, we would jump on those bikes and cycle another distance in a direction away from both our houses to a public pool — at Barrie Park. In my memory at least, we did this almost every weekday afternoon for a few summers, but possibly not in the last one or two that I lived in Montreal as we grew into teenagers and our interests evolved, or perhaps mutated is a better word.

The pool was always crowded on those hot, summer days, but that didn't bother us as splashing, cavorting and jumping in were more important than swimming.

Back in the late fifties and very early sixties, I am thinking that admission was probably anywhere from 10 to 25 cents per session, so it was a pretty reasonable rate for an hour or two of fun under the hot summer sun.

With that, I spin off into another memory, but it also links with swimming and another best friend. This aquatic memory has nothing much to do with summer, and it occurred not in childhood but in my teenage years, and it was in Toronto and not Montreal.

Once again, I'd go swimming regularly, once or twice per week with my then best friend, Stuart. I am pretty certain about Tuesday evenings and seem to recollect that we also went on most or at least some Thursday evenings as well. After swimming, we would almost invariably head to a burger joint, Sony's, on our way home where we didn't have burgers but did order fries — with vinegar. We both doused our fries with vinegar (it's a Canadian thing), and the first few inhalations, tended to induce a bit of coughing having just been breathing chlorine infested air.

Those are two good memories with different best friends in different places at different times. I am no longer in contact with Stuart but am still somewhat in touch with Nelson. We went for decades without seeing each other and even lost touch. One day before the internet really took off, yet another friend brought a CD database of phone numbers etc to a PD Day meeting. I looked up Nelson. found his address, wrote, and he wrote back.

 A few years after that, in 2000, Sue and I motored across Canada and we met up with Nelson and Shirley in Jasper National Park where we had another pool-related  activity when they took us to Miette Hot Spings. What a delight to enjoy the hot springs rimmed by the Canadian Rockies in the lingering evening dusk of the north. I absolutely loved being in the Rockies that, for me, topped even the Grand Canyon.

Sixteen years later, Nelson and I remain in contact: not frequently, but we send birthday and Christmas cards and exchange the occasional note at other times. Perhaps we will meet up once more before our times on earth are up. That remains to be seen.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Showy Lady's Slipper Orchids of Purdon

Purdon Conservation Area is the best part of an hour from us, but it has quite a colony of lady slipper orchids that reach full bloom in mid to late June. There is a boardwalk nestled into a swampy area that was not too swampy when we visited last week because it has been mostly dry here this spring and early summer.

As you can tell from the sign at the entrance, it is considered to be one of the seven wonders of Lanark County. Yeah, baby!

I am not very good at taking flower photos, or at least I wasn't on this day. Most were poorly focussed, but I manage to salvage a few shots although I was quite disappointed in myself that day.

There were a number of photographers milling about. We must be an introverted lot since most work in isolation and don't even acknowledge one another. If I am the guy making contact with others, it's really weird, since I am about the most introverted fella on the planet. I didn't say, shy, I said introverted; there's a difference.

I did take a few snaps of others, and Sue took a couple of me and I one of her.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mississippi Riverwalk Trail

When I write about living near the Mississippi River, I usually think to remind folk that we don't live on that Mississippi but the one in Eastern Ontario that flows into the Ottawa River and from there to the St Lawrence and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. No Gulf of Mexico destination for this Mississippi. No siree.

So, now that we have that settled (I know, this is a repeat for some long-standing visitors), I am here to take you onto our Mississippi Riverwalk Trail. I also ask you to excuse the redundancy of walk and trail, but around here we're nothing if not redundant.

It starts just around the corner from us although don't care to have a naming sign at this end and runs adjacent to the river for almost 6 km. For the most part, the river is somewhat hidden behind bush or swamp, but it's accessible in several spots. Regardless: whether you can see the river or not, it's a pleasant place for a stroll, and in decent weather, I tend to do a section a few times per week — which basically means that I only get there about three times per annum. Just sayin ...

Being the camera nerd that I am, I more often than not have one of my toys tools with me.  Let us begin.

One place where we can see the river, near a road overpass.
In a section of gloomy swamp, the sun hit and lit a handful of the hundreds of grass seed heads
Poor photo but bedrock is close to the surface hereabouts and outcrops right here
I don't often see fishers out there, but on Saturday I saw these three with one more out of the frame. Curiously, they were all lined up facing north.
In another swampy area, I found a few irises blooming. I don't know
if these are genuinely wild irises or cultivated escapees.
Either way, I found them delightful.

Dead trees reflecting across the water. Possibly afflicted elms?

Another view of the [unmighty] Mississippi
I recently purchased a new compact camera, partly for me when I don't want to carry my DSLR and partly for Sue to carry about whenever she wishes (the DSLRs being a little heavy for her). It has a feature that I am playing with to see how useful it might be. What happens in this one mode is that I can shoot a still, and the camera will record some video around the still. It will then magically put all of one session's clips into one longer one. I think it's potentially a great way to record a day's events without any editing.

This was the result of one outing on the trail. I went a little overboard, but I am still getting used to it and wanted to experiment.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Music and Me

When it comes to music, I am a bit of an oddball. Well, I guess we don't have to restrict my oddness to music, but still ...

One oddity is that I am frequently making music in my head. Sometimes it comes out aurally in singing, humming or whistling, but it's in my head a lot a lot. Maybe that's odd in itself, but when you counterbalance that predilection against the fact that I seldom listen to music (I mean as a constant background when I am doing other things), you might agree to the fact that I am an odd duck.

I guess my infrequent listening seems even odder to the younger set who can scarcely seem to do anything without musical accompaniment. A few years ago, we drove through a very scenic region along with younger folk. I would have been pleased to simply absorb the grandeur, but the young folk simply had to have music playing almost constantly, some of which didn't seem to jive somehow with the rest of the experience.

But to each their own. (And don't you wish that English had a third person, singular, gender neutral pronoun?)

So, if it's odd that I do music so much in my head but don't often listen, my musical tastes may seem even odder to you.

You see, the genre I like best is roots music from the Celtic subgenre: like that of this video that I took several years ago. We have had this group, The Elders, at our Celtfest celebration twice, and I link them here as somewhat representative of the genre although I could choose many other groups. This is an instrumental number featuring the fiddle (it really gets fast at toward the end), but they are heavily into vocals as well.

Back more than fifty years ago, I was exposed to a summer replacement program on TV, Don Messer's Jubilee, which featured eastern Canadian roots music, including fiddling. The toe-tapping rhythm impressed me at the time

Decades later, I was exposed to another Down East group, The Rankins, and their sound spoke to me to the point where I went to two of their concerts, and I don't go to many concerts.

Then, when we moved to the Ottawa Valley, just over a decade ago, we discovered a Celtic festival in a nearby town, and we have returned to Almonte Celtfest every year since. On our first visit, I remember sitting on the hillside, appreciating the ambiance, and thinking, "I'm home." The Elders (of the above video) were the first [main stage, big] group that I heard at Celtfest.

The genre doesn't have to just be about fiddle although the fiddle is king, and the instrument once had a status somewhat similar to the guitar today. It seems to be making a bit of a comeback even in popular music for I sometimes see it used in popular shows such as The Voice.

For a few years in my dotage, I tried to learn the fiddle, and I just wasn't very good. I did work up the nerve to post this clip back in the day. I shouldn't have, but I might as well be real and show you just how bad I was. Don't judge an older beginner too harshly, alrighty?

Phew! Do your ears hurt after that?  Just remember that it's a hard instrument and that I never made it past the beginner level. I did enjoy it though, and that's important. Oh yeah, sorry about the wordy intro.

The timing of this music theme in the Comeback group is good because Celtfest 2016 is just around the corner, and the festival is still thriving and growing. This year, it will expand into a Friday night session as well. First, it was just a Sunday afternoon concert; then it expanded to Saturday evening before growing an all day Saturday event. This year they've added Friday night to the mix.

What fun! I'm sure that I'll be posting about it in a few weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Jonathan Narrates The Black Knight

Jonathan has been in a creative mood lately. He comes in in the morning, sits at the table, and begins writing and illustrating a story. Same thing after school. He's done three of them, the latest being the longest.

Sue taped him reading his finished boot, The Black Knight. Apparently there is to be a sequel.

There are three videos below. The first is of him reading the book with him on camera. This is followed by a second reading in which you can see the book as he turns the pages and not JJ himself. The third clip is the same as the second except that in the second version, I edited out Sue's clarifying questions. The third version in unedited.

Let the record show that Jonathan is author, illustrator and narrator of The Black Knight. He is seven years old and just completing first grade. He is my grandson.

No, I don't expect strangers to follow through and watch all of all clips, but you might like to so a bit of hit and hiss here and there. Or not.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Riverside Park: Our Oasis

Nice weather (granted it's only two days a year) will often find us at Riverside Park, which as the name implies is  by the river.

This is our favourite spot to sit or at least the view from our favourite spot. Even on a hot day, we can almost always find comfort in the shade of the trees.

On most summer days, there is activity on the water from the venerable canoe club, which would be somewhat behind us in the above photo. On this day, I shot this girl kayaking through the grasses. To be perfectly clear, I was shooting through the grasses, and she was on the water. I like the semi bokeh effect of the grasses.

Looking back upstream a little later, here are two paddlers turning around where the river begins to widen into the lake or, actually, where the lake begins to narrow into the river.

This gentleman caught me trying to sneak a picture of him fishing. We waved and chatted a bit. He knew he was out of season and threw his catch back — not that he caught anything that day but he had on the previous day, or so he claimed.

This couple was also enjoying the shade, so I surreptitiously snapped a photo when we were leaving.

It was even hotter the next day, so back we went to almost exactly the same spot. There were more clouds in the sky, but it was still lovely.

The local high school is just behind us, and a gym class was out canoeing that day. Here they are coming into shore at the end of class. Not every high school has a boating option outside its back door.

We went for a little stroll on this day. This is the path that winds through the park. It is wide enough for grounds crews to drive on, but otherwise it is just for strollers and the occasional cyclist.

At the far end of the park, we found this couple sitting in the shade. A few years ago, the town planted shrubbery along the edge of the river, and it has grown too tall, so the lady had to stand to see what was happening on the water. They really need to trim these bushes.

We visit the park with some regularity, and I don't always take photos because they are pretty much the same every time, but sometimes I click away anyway.

Oops: I forgot this photo of a gull taking off. I lucked out as I took it from my chair.

Friday, June 17, 2016

When I Was Gone

While I did manage a few posts during both my sickness and the computer's, there seems to be a big gap. So, here we go with some updates, muchly in pictures.

Although my computer had been acting up for several weeks, it really went AWOL a few days before our long weekend on which we celebrate Victoria Day, which is celebrated on the Monday before May 25. For this reason, it has become known as May 24th weekend although I can't seem to remember it ever occurring on May 24th. At some point in time, the kids took to calling it May two-four because they like to go camping and drink cases of 24 brewskies.

Back in 1969, we got married on the Saturday of May 24th weekend: on May 17, with Victoria Day being on the 19th that year. So, we try to do at least a little something to commemorate the weekend every year. This year, we went to the cottage — for just a day because with both blackflies and mosquitoes in their ascendancy we would be kept indoors, so a day to catch up was all that was needed.

It was Heather with whom we wanted to catch up. You may recall that she is my soon-to-be-published, sister-in-law author. She had just attended the big Booksellers Convention in Chicago where her book received quite a lot of buzz. It is almost unheard of for a new Canadian author to get invited to this major America trade show, but she was and while there, received many invitations to visit American cities once the book comes out.

Here we are, Heather and me on the tiny screened-in sunporch: open to breezes but barricaded from the bugs. I am holding her publisher's fall catalog where her book made the cover. Good stuff.

Occasionally, I stuck my head out the door, just long enough to snap a few photos. I pretty much take these same shots on every visit, but it was certainly all I could get to this time. You just don't want to mess with blackflies. For those who don't know about blackflies, they come out in spring by the ever-luvin hordes, and they are small enough to get everywhere such as in your eyes, ears and mouth. They can bite too.

Garage/Repair Shop with the red barn in the background. We did see an unusual sighting in the area to the left in the photo, just across the lane from the sunporch. A moose visited for a little nibble. Sadly, we didn't get a photo, for a passing truck soon scared her off.

Another standard shot: pretty much out the back door, looking past the back yard to the old barn.

The red barn again, through the gate.

We went on Saturday, and came back on Sunday, and that's when I first felt a twinge in my back — while unloading the car. However, the next day, holiday Monday, is traditional gardening day in these parts as you can almost be sure to escape a late frost. Almost. It worked out this year.

We did our bit by going to the garden centre — two garden centres actually. I and my back stayed on the sidelines for the most part (but probably not enough) while Sue searched giddily for flowers for her pots.

Sue looks happy enough on this winter's over weekend.
This is what our front garden looks like on May 24. The tulips are still blooming, the forget-me-nots are flourishing, and the ground phlox are in full vigour. Of course they are all well done by early June, and we wait for the early summer flowers to bloom. They're a bit slow coming this year because after one hellishly hot weekend, it has been rather chilly around here.

As an afterthought, I add this photo of the backyard. It has always been such a mess back there, that we have covered the whole yard with layers of cloth superimposed by mulch. It's a small yard, and with a tree, lilac bush, birdbath, flowerpots, chairs, deck and some rock arrangements (not seen in photo), there is enough to make it interesting.

The kids had a PD Day somewhere in there, with their main activity being learning how to make a lunch at the local grocery store. They seemed to enjoy it. Sue took this pic when she dropped them off. We had some of JJ too of course, but this one of Danica was the best photo.

Along with my previous posts, I think we are more or less up to date, but I will post this one photo strip which was taken on an outing to Montreal with their dad. They found an old-fashioned photo booth that seemed pretty doggone awesome when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and this is the result.

What a pair of monkeys!