Sunday, August 30, 2009
I'd heard the buzz about Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, but was reluctant to pick it up because the plot focused around the First World War, a topic that's never held a strong personal appeal. But when I saw it in the bookstore it had an endorsement from Isabel Allende on the cover and I knew I had to give it a read.
This first novel was published in ten languages, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction and won several prizes, including Amazon Books In Canada First Novel Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
Xavier, Elijah and Niska tell their stories to one another while the reader listens in. Boyden says, " I was uncomfortable having these characters talking to the reader, I wanted to avoid a too self-conscious a style, and so I had each protagonist in the book tell a story to another.... hopefully the reader feels like a participant in a type of confession, a sharing and a cleansing." Works for me.
The role that Canada's aboriginals played in the First World War is not well known, but as hunters and trackers many brought skills that were highly useful to the battle. Reading some of these passages made me feel I've borne witness to the horrors of trench warfare. But it is the stories told by Xavier's aunt, Niska, that I read the most closely. Sorceress and medicine woman, she lives a life of courage apart from her people and remains a source of strength for Xavier even when she is worlds away.
I'll definitely be picking up the second book, with Xavier's children and grandchildren as central players.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
One of my luxuries during this last cruise was indulging myself by reading whatever caught my eye. When your next destination is 5-10 hours away, and your auto pilot is safely set, you have lots of time to enjoy the scenery, take your turn behind the helm - or read.
Here's the log....
Snuff, by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club. The jacket says, "... masterful job of putting all our excesses, phobias and neuroses on full display." Also, a behind-the-scenes look at shooting a porn film. Here is a quick plot synopsis: An aging adult film star, Cassie intends to cap her career by breaking the world record for serial fornication by having sex with 600 men on camera - one of whom may want to kill her. It's a fast read. I finished it. Not sure if I can say this one broadened my horizons, but I can say with confidence I'm likely not the target demographic.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I can see why this won the Pulitzer... what an amazing work of art. In each story of the collection, Olive K. makes an appearance, sometimes as a central character, sometimes only on the periphery. I started dog-earing the pages that had moving passages and noticed I was turning the novel into a piece of origami. Many of the stories moved me to tears, they were so beautifully rendered. Her descriptions of the landscape are deft; the characters' flaws are drawn with love and understanding; the way she weaves the stories together is almost transcendent.
Strout has more than met her goal:
I hope my readers feel a sense of awe at the quality of human
endurance, at the endurance of love in the face of a variety of difficulties;
that the quotidian life is not always easy, and is something worthy of
respect. I would also hope that readers receive a larger understanding, or
a different understanding, of what it means to be human, than they might have had before. We suffer from being quick to judge, quick to make excuses for ourselves and others, and I would like the reader to feel that we are all, more or less, in a similar state as we love and disappoint one another, and that we try, most of us, as best we can, and that to fail and succeed is what we do.
Art and Architecture of the Louvre helped pass the time on a day when I'd had my fill of text. The book walks through the collections wing by wing and has tons of photos of the many galleries. Snippets of text provide interesting backstory - for example, in his memoir The Moveable Feast, Hemmingway recounts how he took F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Louvre exhibitions of antiquities because his friend was feeling insecure about the size of his manhood. Apparently Fitzgerald didn't leave the exhibition feeling self-assured.
Warmed by Love (poetry by Leonard Nimoy) Some of these poems were incredibly bad and some were surprising good. I had entirely forgotten the derision he received when this book was first published but it all came back when I picked up the hardcover at the marina. I was going to bring it with me but left it behind - too bad, now I can't locate the excerpt I'm after which was howlingly bad. His editor didn't do him any favours. Nimoy is also a film director (Three Men and a Baby, 2 Star Trek movies) and a photographer.
She May Not Leave (Fay Weldon). I've always liked her novels, some favourites include The Cloning of Joanna May and The Life and Loves of a She Devil. Weldon's voice is witty and acerbic, her stories satirical. She definitely writes for a female audience but I'm not sure I would categorize her as "chic lit", because she is a tad too subversive. In a Weldon novel men may be the catalysts in women's lives but they are often only temporary distractions on the way to self-fulfillment. Summed up like that she sounds a bit anti-male, but not really... She just shifts the fulcrum of power. The narrator in this particular tale is an engaging 70 year-old woman who is justifiably concerned about the lengths her niece will go to retain the au pair.
Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn (Kris Radish). Great opening scene - the narrator walks in on her husband of twenty-seven years making love to another woman. In her bed. All she can do is watch. Quietly, secretly, watch. The shock is the beginning of a journey of self-discovery that includes a trip to the jungle in the Yucatan (one of my favourite places!). Parts of this book are transparently, cringingly chick-lit - but the author's voice makes it engaging. Kris Radish has a way of capturing the essence of a character with a single phrase, like, "She is right down the middle on the right brain - left brain scale and when she pauses like this this I know it is because she cannot decide if she should follow her heart or go work up a pie chart to see what to do next."
Thursday, August 20, 2009
This year, the Dream In High Park features "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare.
Brilliant casting! The sorcerer Prospero is instead a powerful sorceress, and his usurping brother Antonio is also recast as a female. Seeing the Tempest with such powerful female characters was refreshing and 'cast' a whole different light on the production, restaging the balance of power between the sexes.
The cast is wonderfully racially diverse as well, with Prospera and Ariel played by black women with a commanding presence.
Ariel takes on a whole different dimension for me in this production... rather than a separate sprite, she embodies the power of feminine spirit rather than a servant, separate to self. I'm not sure if this was the casting director's intention but it was certainly my experience.
The night we were there, the drunken fools Stephano and Trinculo actually got guffaws from the audience, they played their parts so well. Caliban was also nicely portrayed. He's always been one of my favourites, mired as he is in his animal desires.
Rob and I brought some wine & cheese, along with comfy blankets to sit on, and thoroughly enjoyed the performance - along with 600+ other audience members. Outdoors with a simple stage, this is a wonderful setting to experience the play.
Still packing houses, still relevant, still brilliant, even after 400 years.
Sue Miner directed and Dora award-winning actress Karen Robinson plays Prospera. Pay what you can until September 6.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Rob and I were riding our bikes in Waupoos and we stopped to admire a field of sunflowers... then we saw happy faces. At first I thought this was a naturally occurring freak of nature but after sunflower 5 we realized this must be the work of a local Andy Goldsworthy and carved a few of our own.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
This particular wine was one of my favourites of the trip. The taste was so delicious and the finish very long lasting. Grape varieties in the wine include cabernet sauvignon, syrah & granache. Beautiful in the glass, a deep red. The label notes the "supple, mellow tannins" that I felt, but it also says something about a "subtle vanilla bouquet" that I couldn't quite locate.
The Lake Ontario 300 is the longest annually held fresh water sailing race in the world.
Sailboats that finished this grueling race were able to cover more territory than we did on our entire 2009 summer cruise - but in just 2 to 3 days.
....and I'm proud to say that several of the winning boats hailed from BPYC. Rebellion, Sebana and Arc-en-ciel all ranked first in their class - quite an accomplishment considering the competition. We have some amazing sailors at our club!
The day started with a comfortable eight knot westerly that took the fleet on a downwind ride from Port Credit towards Toronto. Winds started building at the Gibraltar mark and some crews could not hold their symmetrical chutes in the building and shifting winds. By mid afternoon the lead boats were enjoying 15 – 20 knots of wind along with six foot swells that provided exhilarating rides for some and attempted broaches for others. more details...
Racers in the Lake Ontario 300 rely on incredible skill and endurance because no motoring is allowed. That means a lot of tacking, jibing and spinnaker. Veering even a fraction off course adds incredible delays, so you can't just go wherever or whenever if you take your standing seriously. And physically punishing - just ask Linda D. who was covered in bruises from her spinnaker duty.
I'm definitely a fan of these incredible and amazing racers... but I am a cruiser at heart.
Almost half of that time was spent sailing at 6 knots, often at a 20 degree heel - some of the best sailing of the trip!
When we got to Bluffers we dropped anchor at the beach and went for a refreshing swim. Truly, this is one of the nicest spots on the lake and it is just around the corner.
Then it was into BPYC to join the party that was in progress to celebrate the BPYC regatta... dancing to steel drums and the warm welcome of fellow Bluffers. The perfect finish to an amazing holiday.
Ten years ago I didn't picture myself in my own sailboat - now I can't imagine spending a summer without one!
Friday, August 14, 2009
Set sail from Sandbanks at 7 a.m. and arrived at Cobourg for the Ribfest by 3 p.m. After the quiet and solitude of 3 days at anchor it was almost startling to see such a crowded beach and jostle against the sweaty crowds.
The ribs & roasted corn were delicious; so was the bloomin' onion.
Even though Cobourg is not a big city, the night lights here are enough to considerably dim the view of the stars. We are cheek by jowl with other boats in the marina, not much of a breeze. Sticky. Hot. Perfect conditions for watching a DVD with the fan on.... and maybe a chilled Waupoos Cider.
Early start tomorrow... destination still undecided.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
What a treat it is to be bobbing here and gazing in toward the shore, enjoying this inverted perspective. The breeze is keeping us cool.
I wish Alex were here with us, he'd love it as much as we are loving it!
Conditions are not always favourable for anchoring here but we are optimistic the winds will stay light so we will extend our stay overnight.
No other sailboats joined us at anchor, but we did have a kayaker paddle by to warn us that when he anchored a few years back he was dragged almost into shore by a strong wind. We also had two young male, adventurous swimmers kick out to the boat wearing fins - when they got close enough to see a middle-aged couple on board they promptly turned around and said something about "giving it the old college try."
At night there was a military exercise, planes dropping flares in the distance. Very eerie.
When we woke up in the morning the wind had shifted the boat but the anchor stayed firm.
Flat and windless again today, but sunny, and lots of sights to look at as we motored through Telegraph Narrows, Deseronto and the Bay of Quinte. There is one point, around Belleville, where there are these massive waterfront homes with huge lawns, all nicely mowed and manicured. There doesn't seem to be a love of environmental gardening or adherence to pesticide bans. Later on the shore there is an old cemetary that seems to be accessible by dock.
Problems at the Murray Canal had us rafted to a 38' "Cat with No Name" from Oakville. I had visions of being stalled overnight while maintenance fixed the bridge, but we were only delayed long enough to raft up. As soon as the lines were in place they called from the bridge to let us know we were "good to go".
Couldn't get diesel, water or pump-out in Brighton but enough was enough and we decided to stop for the day and anchor. Thunderclouds had been chasing us down the lake since Belleville and seemed to be getting closer.
Had a swim off the boat but it was a bit weedy - I have to admit I don't like the feel of the weeds against my limbs. It makes me feel fish are probably close at hand. Don't they bite off toes when they get big enough?
Sunset tonight was silver and pewter, with the sun shining from a break in the clouds above, outlining the tops of the clouds with golden edges.
After dark we laid flat on our backs on the upper deck to watch the meteor showers. Although the shooting stars didn't seem to be very frequent I still spotted 3 that had flaming comet tails.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Of course the marine radio has issued squall warnings but this time we appear to be out of bounds. The main trouble tonight sounds to be between Kingston and Cornwall.
WoW. Fabulous day! Warm enough to wear a bathing suit and loll about on the deck looking at the clouds. Very entertaining - dragons and mermaids and knights and damsels in distress. Shape-shifters all!
As we were approaching someone radioed a warning, "to the boat entering Grassy Point, it is very shallow!" There was no one else there, either, so the call did spook us out a bit. But it doesn't seem too bad - 12.4 feet, perfect for anchorage and well-noted on the charts. Maybe it is a cottager trying to discourage transient traffic. Anyway, there is another sailboat now, likely to be more tucking in before the night is through.
Seriously hoping the night sky clears enough for us to get a view of the Perseid Meteor Showers. Peak viewing is August 12. We can expect 100 streaks of meteor light across the sky each hour. The spectacle is caused by earth passing through the rock and dust fragments left behind from the comet Swift-Tuttle.... the reason this is dubbed Perseids is because the showers seem to originate from the constellation Perseids. For the past few years Rob and I have been timing our vacation in part to see the show. Last year it was so stormy we didn't see many, except for the night we anchored in Hay Bay. I swear I saw some that looked to be the size of comets!
Sipping a Riesling Kabinett from Studert-Prum (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) and contemplating jumping in the lake. I'm not quite hot enough to take the plunge but these pesky deer flies may drive me to it...
Wine has been made in this style for centuries. Some notes from Wikipedia:
- The term originated with the cistercian monks at Eberbach Abbey in Rheingau, where the first recorded use of the term Cabinet occurred in 1712. The abbey's best wines were set aside to be stored in a special cellar built in 1245, and it was later known as the Cabinet cellar, or Cabinet-Keller.
- The lightweight elegance of these wines are the most pronounced in Kabinett from the colder German wine regions, such as Mosel, and in wines made from the grape variety Riesling, which dominates many of the coldest German regions. Typically, a Riesling Kabinett from Mosel shows a high acidity and flowery aromas together with hints of slate and minerality. For semi-sweet wines the alcohol level can be 7-8%, and for dry Kabinett perhaps 10-11%.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Should I go or should I stay?
The question was the weather - and whether or not we'd be able to sail six hours straight to Picton without coming into the path of a thundershower. There have been so many in the past 48 hours; and as wonderful as they are to watch from the dock neither Rob or I want to be awestruck by the lighting on the lake.
We set out at noon, the terns laughing at us from their perch on the break wall.
And we actually managed to get some sailing in - through Adolphus Reach, tacking back and forth. Then when we saw dark skies ahead we dropped the sails and started the motor. Lightning was on the horizon and thunder rolling in the distance, just as we came in to Picton. As soon as we tied up to the government docks in front of the Prince Edward Yacht Club, the rain poured down. Talk about timing!
Today I felt like looking at pictures instead of text, so I pulled out my 'guidebook' to Art and Architecture of the Louvre to help pass the time. It walks through the collections wing by wing and has tons of photos of the galleries and collections. Snippets of text provide interesting backstory - for example, in his memoir The Moveable Feast, Hemmingway recounts how he took F. Scott Fitzgerald to the Louvre exhibitions of antiquities because he was feeling insecure about the size of his manhood. Apparently Fitzgerald didn't leave the exhibition feeling self-assured.
It's really amazing how timelines converge: me in the sailboat, leafing through artworks produced centuries and even millennia ago. The command 'be here now' with the potential to take on almost limitless dimensions of space and time.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Rob said my risotto tonight was better than Joe C.'s - previously voted as "the best risotto I have ever had in my life". I made it with wild mushrooms, truffle oil, sundried tomatoes, parmesan and toasted almonds. The fact that we ate it after a long bike ride at the end of the docks with a fabulous wine probably contributed to the WoW factor. Wine was 2004 Ghemme DOGC from Piedmont, Italy and it definitely enhanced the meal. This was the bottle I bought as a treat for this trip, to serve specifically with the risotto, and I am very happy with how it all came together.
After dinner a hot tub, a jump in the lake off the dock, and sitting at the back of the boat doing some storm watching. Lightning shows are awesome in the true sense of the word!
We left Sodus Point this morning so bright and early I didn't have a chance to do my morning yoga. For much of the day we were surrounded by sky, water and clouds. We spent close to 12 hours with the motor droning as we passed the border back into Canada, dropping anchor at Wapoos. The silence now is welcoming.
Sheep dotted the island shore as we approached, a very pretty pastoral scene. Very timeless.
Dropped anchor and shared the space with about 13 other sailboats, right across from Wapoos Marina. Although there are lots of other boats around it doesn't feel at all crowded, there is a generous amount of space between.
At night the boats floated cast reflections of their lights into the water and the moon peaked in and out of a cloudy night sky.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We went to Captain Jacks for dinner and drinks and watched the full moon rise... it looked huge, and a shone a tropical pink. Later we danced on the rooftop to a great live band that specialized in 80's music - lots of fun!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon,
a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
Cherokee called it 'Fruit Moon'
Chocktaw named it 'Woman's Moon'
to the Medieval English it was known, 'Corn Moon'
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Parts of the shoreline reminded me of of the Grand River that snakes its way through Kitchener-Waterloo. Other parts brought up Rouge River. I guess it depended on the size of the cliff.
Turned off the motor and rowed for awhile, trying to sneak up on some of the wildlife. Lots of turtles dotting the shore - I counted around twenty on one little log. Also saw a blue heron, king fishers, red-winged black birds, swans, osprey and lots of swallows. And an otter sticking its snout just above the water.
Not many other boats for company, which suited us just fine.
Got back home and made a nice pasta for supper. After dinner the birds gave us a show, swarming after the bugs in the marsh. Like kids in a skate board park, it's amazing they didn't crash into each other.
A few motor boats went by, complaining about the lack of fish. Ten minutes later, a huge fish splashed in front of the boat and made me laugh.
We'll take another run at Rochester tomorrow.
Monday, August 3, 2009
When we got up in the morning to head out, there was a bit of water in the engine so we had to dry it out a bit before heading east. Must remember to close that valve when the engine is not in use! To help pass the time I started the novel Too Close to the Falls, which is set in Lewiston, New York, just west of here. So in a sense I get to travel both east and west.
We motored, sailed and motor-sailed for about 7 hours and docked around 5:30. Didn't realize how much sun I was getting, so I'm a bit burnt tonight, and can feel the heat. Lots of aloe is in order.
Oak Orchard Yacht Club is high on a hill, overlooking the boats and finger docks on the river below. Towering oaks everywhere. The club has this absolutely amazing screened-in-porch, like Wilson did... wonderfully shaded from the afternoon sun.
Hope to motor down the river a bit tomorrow before setting sail for Rochester; maybe check out the farmer's market Annika told me about....
Time for some star-gazing!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
The artist, Claudette Abrams, calls this Shiva 2007.
I loved it from the first time I saw it on display at The Rectory on Toronto Island.
Could be a moonlight swim, could be undulating waves. Could be...
Even so, we were back at Island this morning joining Bluffers for a great breakfast buffet and asking for insights to help us to plan the route for the rest of our vacation. Go east to Rochester or west to Niagra-on-the-Lake? Very hard to decide, but right now the idea of east is very appealing. Sounds a bit less-travelled.
In the early afternoon drizzle we watched Extras, The Extra Special Series Finale, starring, directed and written by Ricky Gervais. A satirical look at chasing fame.... funny in a tragicomic way and well worth watching. The Celebrity Big Brother scenes are especially poignant.
Sharing dinner and after-dinner drinks with Bluffers, I realize we likely won't have such good company for several weeks - but there is always the chance of coming across a fellow Bluffer in another port.
On my way home the sky is clear, I find the big and small dippers and try to see Casseopia, but I'm still unable to locate her anywhere but on a star chart. Fireflies light up the bushes at foot-level, making me feel part of the night sky for an instant.
Tomorrow we are heading east to Oak Orchard.