Monday, September 28, 2015

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse - September Harvest Moon

Skies were overcast in our neighbourhood for the total eclipse of the blood moon on September 26th. We saw glimpses when we looked toward the sky around 10 pm on Sunday night: a silver sliver popping out from behind the clouds and then hiding again, in and out, with the clouds working mischief and adding to the suspense.
"There goes the sliver."
"It's the total eclipse!"
"Right now!"
"No, it was just the clouds."
"It's back.... no it's totally gone."
"It's not supposed to happen until 10:11."
 "Is it now?" 

Yes, yes, it is always now, isn't it?  The celestial event had not occurred since 1982 - and will not be repeated until 2033. But this now, this now, now, will never come again.

People in other parts of our globe got better views of the lunar eclipse. Clear skies in the UK, Athens, Jerusalem and Paris made for some amazing videos and photographs. Just imagine, all these souls around the world staring up toward the heavens.

The September Harvest moon is officially full September 27 at 10:50 pm.

Shine on, harvest moon!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Making Space

Today I carted a car load off to Value Village:  a chair, a microwave, winter gloves.  Rob and I have vowed to make some space in our lives, but it is tough to get rid of stuff. Lots of reasons, I guess... it might come in handy again someday, it's too nice to get rid of, but there are so many good memories etc. etc. etc.

We're still hanging on to the furniture from our living room makeover, shifting the pieces to the basement.  Now I think we may donate to  Furniture Bank. They will collect gently used pieces and will even issue a tax receipt, although you still need to pay a pick up fee. Donated articles are then cleaned up and provided free of charge to people who can make good use of them.

Furniture Bank has evolved to become much more than about a simple transfer of furniture from those who have, to those who don’t. The Furniture Bank movement is one of empowerment – of individuals transitioning out of homelessness, of women and children escaping abusive situations, of refugees and newcomers to Canada.

Last year, over 25,000 households were supported by the charity. 

I might be able to make a couple hundred bucks selling the pieces, but I'd like to think of these finding new homes with hopeful beginnings.

Don't Just Declutter, De-Own was a great little post I came across when searching for 'declutter' images.  “Owning less is far more beneficial than organizing more.”

At its heart, organizing is simply rearranging. And though we may find storage solutions today, we are quickly forced to find new ones as early as tomorrow. Additionally, organizing our stuff (without removing it) has some other major shortcomings that are rarely considered:
  • It doesn’t benefit anyone else. The possessions we rarely use sit on shelves in our basements, attics, and garages… even while some of our closest friends desperately need them.
  • It doesn’t solve our debt problems. It never addresses the underlying issue that we just buy too much stuff. In fact, many times, the act of rearranging our stuff even costs us more as we purchase containers, storage units, or larger homes to house it.
  • It doesn’t turn back our desire for more. The simple act of organizing our things into boxes, plastic bins, or extra closets doesn’t turn back our desire to purchase more things.  The culture-driven inclination to find happiness in our possessions is rarely thwarted in any way through the process.
  • It doesn’t force us to evaluate our lives. While rearranging our stuff may cause us to look at each of our possessions, it does not force us to evaluate them—especially if we are just putting them in boxes and closing the lids. On the other hand, removing possessions from our home forces questions of passion, values, and what’s truly most important to us.
  • It accomplishes little in paving the way for other changes. Organizing may provide a temporary lift to our attitude. It clears a room and subsequently clears our mind, but rarely paves the way for healthy, major lifestyle changes. Our house is too small, our income is too little, and we still can’t find enough time in the day. We may have rearranged our stuff… but not our lives.
On the other hand, the act of removing possessions from our home accomplishes many of those purposes. It is not a temporary solution that must be repeated. It is an action of permanence—once an item has been removed, it is removed completely. Whether we re-sell our possessions, donate them to charity, or give them to a friend, they are immediately put to use by those who need them.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy Pals

Kid Bastian and the Happy Pals played Dixieland at our wedding party back in '87. We were fans back then, and still are. Although it has been at least 15 years since we've been to Grossman's Tavern on a Saturday afternoon to hear them play, we finally got around to it again, taking Kaarina and Mike and Lynn and Mike along.

We listened for three hours, several pitchers of draft beer and a few greasy servings of onion rings.

The band got the Grossman's Tabernacle Choir to join in on some tunes, managing to raise almost every voice in the bar for New Orlean's jazz takes on 'I saw the light' and the 'It's a long way to Tipperary.' Also in the repertoire was Tom Waits Telephone Call from Istanbul, Bob Dylan Don't Think Twice It's Alright and Rainy Day Women, The Pogues Dirty Old Town.  Great tunes on a rainy afternoon.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dream Boats

We've been wondering for a couple of years whether it would be best to fix up Yondering or buy a new-to-us boat. With extensive engine work on the horizon and a new sail to buy, the matter becomes more than hypothetical. Maintain, upgrade, or buy new?
 The Port Credit In-Water Boat Show was a great opportunity to check out different models.

If I won the lottery...There was a brand new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349. This is the kind of boat to take down south and live aboard. It won the 'Best Cruising Award' in 2015, not just for good looks but because of the way it  handles at sea. The bright interior was extremely roomy (tri-cabin!) with a well organized galley. Additional side windows bring in natural light and help you from feeling too closed in. The engine is easy to get at, there is in-mast furling, and two wheels in the cockpit to make it easier to helm on rough water. These are European boats, with not so many seen in North America. Show special $229,000 (plus tax).

The used boats certainly didn't smell as good as the Jeanneau but they are a lot more affordable. Some were particularly musty, the odour of mildew and mould lurking beneath a top note of lemon pledge. Still, there was a 31' Beneteau, 1991 that was quite appealing. Around $60K, likely negotiable. Great layout, sparkling clean. Unfortunately this particular boat had 18HP engine, likely a bit under powered. (At 30', Yondering has a 23HP).

We also checked out 30' Catalina's to see what they were selling for... there were two for between $22K - $30, but neither had the all-weather dodger/bimini set up.

A couple of trawlers caught my imagination. I could see myself enjoying their spacious quarters and relaxing rain or shine in the docks. Tie up at Toronto Island Marina and you have a waterfront cottage!

One in particular: a 50 foot restored 1953 Novia Scotia Classic. 2015 surveyed replacement value of $110K, asking price $69K. I talked to the owner about how much it would cost to sail from Port Credit to Toronto Island and back and he said about $40 in diesel fuel. He also kept meticulous records of how he'd spent $149K on upgrades and additions over the last 27 years. This was obviously a well-loved boat. I could see myself sitting on the top deck on a moonlit night. It seemed like a great buy for someone willing to take on the upkeep, but I'm not quite sure Rob and I are ready to give up sailing just yet.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project

I saw many of the musicians from The Silkroad Project on stage in 2009 and was more than happy to see and hear them again at Massey Hall this week.

The ensemble performed to mark the premier screening of the documentary The Music of Strangers at the Toronto International Film Festival.

It was a joy to watch and listen. Not only are they all virtuoso, they revel in each other's company and the energy emanating from the stage almost created a fifth dimension. The end of the performance brought a standing ovation, pleading for an encore that was generously given.

the gaita from Northern Spain, played by Cristina Pato
Some highlights for me were watching the tabla player carefully tune his drums during intermission by tightening the skins. Seeing an amazing green-haired woman play bagpipes that originated in Northern Spain. Hearing the vocals of Aynur, a contemporary Kurdish singer, as she evoked an incredible range of emotion in the piece Layers of Lonliness, based on three love poems. Being mesmerized by the bass, the clarinet, and of course, Yo Yo Ma with his cello.

Such a fusion of sounds and presence. Can't wait to see the documentary!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I saw the movie before reading the book, and it did justice to the memoir. The film brought some amazing images to the screen. In fact, the author made an appearance early in the movie, as a driver wishing her younger self luck on the trail. Images that stuck with me from the film were losing one boot in the middle of her 1,100+ mile hike, and then throwing the other straight afterward. The quizzical fox cocking its head and looking at her in the snow. How small she was in the vast landscape. Trying to load her heavy pack. Packing the wrong fuel. Comic moments with dire consequences.

The movie used some narration and quotes to help hear the interior voice of the hiker, but with the book you get more of a feeling of being along on the journey.

Reading about the grueling endurance needed to hike the Pacific Coast Trail will likely be the closest I come to the experience of a long trek. Strayed made me feel as though I were along with her on the journey, without having to suffer under the heavy weight of a pack or the pain of losing toenails, building callouses, and missing meals.
Strayed brought books along on her travels, and as she was finished the pages, she tore them out and burned them to help keep her pack lighter. One of the exceptions was The Dream of a Common Language, a book of poetry by Adrienne Rich. She didn’t read it on the path as she’d already memorized so much of it, but she didn’t burn any pages either. I'm still mulling over what that might be symbolize. The ties between some of Rich's poems and Strayed's journey are obvious.

Strayed is causing a bit of a book-buying flurry at Amazon, as people who purchased her novel  are also likely to put this book of poetry in their cart.

Here's a sample:

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
By Adrienne Rich
My swirling wants.  Your frozen lips. 
The grammar turned and attacked me. 
Themes, written under duress. 
Emptiness of the notations. 
They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds. 

I want you to see this before I leave: 
the experience of repetition as death 
the failure of criticism to locate the pain 
the poster in the bus that said: 
my bleeding is under control. 

A red plant in a cemetery of plastic wreaths. 

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor. 
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight. 
when I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time. 
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever. 
I could say: those mountains have a meaning 
but further than that I could not say. 

To do something very common, in my own way. 


"Rich's poems do not demand the willing suspension of disbelief. They demand belief, and it is a measure of her success as a poet that most of the time they get it. . . . The affirmation and the occasional moments of pure joy in these poems are quiet but fully earned."--Margaret Atwood, New York Times Book Review 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quote collecting

I picked up a 'quote-of-the day' zen calendar Jan 1, and when there is a quote I particularly like, I snip it out and tack it up... pretty much wallpapered the spot behind my desk with these gems.

Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
-       Hafiz
What is truly a part of our spiritual path is that which brings us alive. If gardening brings us alive, that is part of our path, if it is music, if it is conversation… we must follow what brings us alive.
-       David Steindl-Rast
You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some if it with you.
-       Joseph Joubert
At one time you were a mountain, you were a cloud. This is not poetry, this is science.
-       Thich Nhat Hanh
Know that joy is rarer, more difficult , and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.
-       Andre Gide
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
-       Ernest Hemingway
People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.
-       Dalai Lama
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,
-       Steven Covey
We take things very personally. The more tightly we hold self, the more problem. No self, well… no problem.
-       Hima-Tyana Dhamma Loka
When you can laugh at yourself, there is enlightenment
-       Shunryu Suzuki
Attention is the rarest and purist form of generosity.
-       Simone Weil
I live in the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything.
-       Mary Oliver
This very moment is the perfect teacher, and lucky for us it’s with us wherever we are.
-       Pema Chodron
Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time.
-       Hermann Hesse
Every situation – nay, every moment – is of infinite worth, for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
-       Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Right now a moment of time is fleeting by. Capture its reality in paint! To do that we must put all else out of our minds. We must become that moment.
-       Paul Cezanne
All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of inner stillness.
-       James McNeill Whistler
Conceive of nothing while I give you heaven.
-       Jack Kerouac
Though I do not believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.
-       Henry David Thoreau
Reality continues to ruin my life.
-       Bill Watterson
I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in a past life.
-       Paul Krassner
If you understand — things are as they are. If you do not understand — things are just as they are.
-       Zen saying
What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The greatest revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark…
-       Virginia Wolf
Be careful how you interpret the world: it is like that.
-       Erich Heller
Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place… Nothing outside can give you any place…. In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.
-       Flannery O’Connor
I am larger, better than I thought! I did not know I held so much goodness!
-       Walt Whitman
You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.
-       Rumi
You deal with your crap by sitting with it. By breathing right into it. You don’t try to ignore it with pleasant thoughts or lofty ideas, and you don’t try to bury it with solutions. You deal with it, work with it, one breath at a time. You hold it right there, in your hara, or breathing centre. You don’t try to breathe it out; you don’t try to breathe it in. You keep it suspended in your diaphragm like a burning-hot coin. Your problems won’t change; only you can change. That’s the point.
-       Shozan Jack Haubner
- this one is not from the Zen calendar, but it could be -
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day: you shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
-       Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.
-       Hunter S. Thompson
Everything we do is futile, but we must do it anyway.
-       Mahatma Gandhi
Just try to be a good person. That’s enough.
-       The Dalia Lama
Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?
-       Sigmund Freud
Nowhere, now here!
-       Soen Nakagawa’s word play

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Toronto Urban Strolls

Many of the strolls featured in this book are familiar territory, but I've already been able to uncover some new nooks and corners.

Scarborough Bluffs, for instance, talks about the bluffs, marina, gardens, and beach... and says you can do a 7.5 km 'stroll' in 2 hours. I get a bit distracted though and like to pause to enjoy the sites. The beach itself is a full day for me.

With the cooler weather, I'm looking forward to these walks. The City Hall Green Roof Stroll meanders through the waterfall garden at the Sheraton Centre and the Podium Roof at City Hall. I spend a lot of time in this neighbourhood but never really knew either of these green spaces existed.

Cabbagetown, Kensington, the Distillery, Riverdale... Gotta get out my comfy walking shoes!

Waterfall Garden

Monday, September 14, 2015


I'm looking forward to hearing Linden MacIntyre speak about his novel Punishment at the Heliconian later this month.

It certainly doesn't shy away from asking big questions, even if it doesn't fully answer them. The characters are criminals, victims, jail guards, policemen, lawyers, social workers. Everyone seeking some form of justice.

The main protagonist has retired after a career as a jail guard, and returned to the village of his youth. This is no quiet corner: there is a murder, a suspect, an old love, a former nemesis.  Our hero is quickly pulled into events that strongly test his morals.

Punishment questions the nature of justice, and man's often futile attempts to put things right. Yes, it is about the justice and corrections systems, but also about how we punish ourselves, judge others too quickly, and make history for ourselves.

One of the great things about this book for me is the dialogue. Blunt, direct, revealing. If and when this is made into a movie I would cast to hear the maritime accents.

"So what do you think? Tony, here we sit, just the two of us. Two old guys with a lot of history an a little bit of future. Not a lot we can do about the history. But what are we going to do about the little bit of future we got left?" (p. 136)

"There can be no going back. There's only going forward now. The issue isn't what happened. It's what's going to happen." (p. 174)

"Nothing can be worse than what has already happened. Nothing can make it un-happen." (p. 178)

"It was suddenly so sad and funny. It was a victory of sorts, Tommy's miserable capitulation, the new spiritual Tommy, his abject surrender to such pathetic needs. I felt suddenly sorry for him: he's been punished and I could punish his again. But I knew I wouldn't. Even Tommy Steele deserved a new beginning." (p. 316)

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Here I am, blissfully unaware of transmissions as the world spins.

Then in the space of a week, I find out that two of my nearest and dearest machine friends are failing because of their transmissions.

One in the boat, and one in the washing machine. Both transmissions were about 30 years old.

The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear the word transmission is radio signals, followed by car transmissions. Now I am aware transmissions whir in many machines, doing their good turns all around.

Our Maytag washer, for instance, which has served us well for 25+ years. Two or three visits from the repairman over the years, but other than that, no issues. This time, it didn't take the serviceman long to pronounce he couldn't repair it (or if he did, it would cost as much as a new machine). He showed me the evidence: fused machine parts, rusted bits, and burnt casings. He asked if we had smelled anything burning before it stopped agitating. Yes, indeed.

With Yondering, we had been noticing it was difficult to get the boat into forward gear, so Rob replaced the shift. Sometimes when it was in forward it would slip into neutral. We continued to have occasional problems, nothing major. But you can't really let little things go if they have such big implications. Upon investigation, it will be no easy fix. Right now the engine is entirely out of the boat and in the mechanic's shop. We are waiting to hear the details about what we'll need to do to make it safe and reliable.

In the meantime I've learned a little bit about engine transmissions.

..... defines as machinery:
  1. transference of force between machines or mechanisms, often with changes of torque and speed.
  2. a compact, enclosed unit of gears or the like for this purpose, as in an automobile

The washing machine transmission turns the drum of the washer and helps transition the washer through its cycles. Removing the transmission can be a daunting task, and the repairs can be as expensive as buying a new washing machine. Signs and symptoms signal that the transmission in the washing machine is going bad, so look for these discrepancies before throwing out the washer: noise, smell, agitator, spin cycle.

So your boat’s marine gear has three functions that are completely different from your car’s transmission. One is to engage and disengage the engine from the propeller—in other words, to provide neutral. Another is to provide reverse rotation so that you can back your boat into your slip. The other function of the marine transmission is to set the ratio between engine rpm and propeller rpm. The marine transmission performs one other vital function: It is the most convenient location from which to drive an auxiliary device, such as a hydraulic pump.
Everything You Need to Know About Your Boat's Transmission

Friday, September 11, 2015

Another year older

It's four days past my birthday. Not a 'big' birthday this year, but a very pleasant one, spent hanging out on Toronto Island, sailing home, and then heading out for a nice dinner with Rob, Alex and Penny.

My birthday coincided with going back to school as a kid, and I always liked the fresh start in the air. Clean white pages in notebooks and the feeling that anything might be possible.

I was walking past Ryerson University on the way home from work today. What a commotion! A parade, Mutual Street blocked off, a flatbed truck with a bunch of kids dancing and the music loud. All week, frosh activities. There was a graffiti board with people saying what they wanted to happen in the coming year and one word stood out from the rest: succe$$. It made me wish more for the person who wrote it, hoping they would fall in love or find a passion,  as well as their succe$$. 

I think my 20-year-old self would be pretty happy with the life we've made. Maybe not quite what we set out to create, but in many ways even better than imagined.

Looking back on my past year it was a great one for travel (London, Paris, Antigua); new beginnings (job, ukulele, an art class or two); and keeping on enjoying the book clubs, my garden, sailing and yoga. Of course it would not have been as much fun without Rob, Alex and friends to spend time with. I feel blessed. 

Here's hoping for another great year ahead! 

If You Were Born Today...
You have very strong values, and others know it. Your persistence is the major key to your success, but good money management is also a big contributor. Extremely sensitive to your surroundings, you pick up signals that fly over others' heads. You are generally quite organized. You are competent, hard-working, and very proud of the work you do. Some may find you critical and tough-minded. On the inside, however, you are passionate and emotionally sensitive, and you don't always show your more vulnerable side. You tend to attract relationships in which there is an imbalance of power - either you are controlling or dominating, or your partner is. Power struggles may be a theme or pattern in your love life until you learn to demand equality. Famous people born today: Grandma Moses, Buddy Holly, Chrissie Hynde, Shannon Elizabeth, Michael Emerson, Evan Rachel Wood.
Your Birthday Year Forecast:
With the Sun and Moon in harmony in your Solar Return chart, the year ahead should be satisfying and balanced overall. You are in comfortable demand and personally popular, and you are able to achieve a decent balance between work and play; personal and professional life. For the most part, you are on top of your game this year, and positive connections with others can be made fairly easily. With the ability to handle your emotions successfully, there is less stress on both your mind and body. Your self-confidence and positive attitude will reward you!
Until June 2016, Jupiter transits conjunct your Sun, bringing more awareness of moral issues and long-term goals, as well as a stronger than usual desire to improve and learn this year. This is a feel-good transit that boosts your popularity and your confidence. Optimism is with you, and you are able to attract fortunate circumstances into your life as a result. Problems are easier to resolve this year. You are more sociable and might meet especially helpful people during this period. Travel opportunities are more likely. Your broader perspective on matters this year keeps you from getting lost in details or overly frustrated by everyday stresses and strains.
However, Saturn squares your Sun from February 2016 forward. Saturn asks you to be responsible, hard working, and dutiful. This transit will have you reorganizing your priorities. You'll be working hard at disciplining yourself. As you face obstacles to your goals, you begin to see the tools with which you have to overcome them. A dose of realism may seem forced upon you from time to time during this period, but your efforts to measure up to expectations can ultimately increase your confidence in your ability to be responsible for yourself. You are likely to have new or increased responsibilities, and it might take some time to get adjusted to them. The need to re-structure and re-organize your life will be apparent. You may lose yourself in work and responsibilities and take yourself too seriously! This is a time for working hard, but it's important to make time for relaxation and meditation as well. Your ego may be a little frail at this point, and, as a result, you may be harder on yourself than you should be. Much can be accomplished during this period. Although you may not see immediate results for your efforts, important groundwork can be laid for the future.
Bursts of creativity and energy emerge at seemingly perfect times, and help you to further your goals. Healthy risk-taking is likely this year, as you are more able to spot an opportunity when you see one. It is easier than usual to break free from habits that have previously held you back from going after what you want in life.
Your love and social life should be exciting in the period ahead. You are especially creative and expressive this year, and you might often act on impulse. Your love life may be especially animated. You succeed best in fields or areas that allow you to make something beautiful, attractive, and/or entertaining.

Personal magnetism is tremendous this year. You are playfully competitive and might win a major competition, if applicable. This is a good period for creative projects and joining with others in pursuing a common goal.
Creative pursuits are favored and personal magnetism is strong. Your social life can be especially animated this year. You could find that what and who you value changes or becomes clearer this year, and goals can very well adjust along with these discoveries. Permanent alliances can be formed during this period of your life, although you may be reevaluating some existing ones. Increased responsibilities are likely, but you're also finding new ways to enjoy yourself. You may need to watch for provocative commentary.

2015 is a Number Six year for you. Ruled by Venus. This is a year of relative contentment. It is a time when love is the easiest to attract, and partnerships formed under this vibration have a better chance for longevity. You are able to attract others, and material things as well, this year. This is a good year for establishing harmony in the family and in the home. Advice - develop existing relationships, be positive and receptive because these kinds of energies help you to attract what you desire.
2016 will be a Number Seven year for you. Ruled by Neptune. This is a year of preparation, chance, and refinement. It is not a time of dramatic changes. Instead, it's a year when reflection on the past is helpful, and when refinements to your life path should be made. It's a good year to study and analyze. Unexpected twists to your life story and "chance" meetings are probable. Advice - take stock of your life in order to prepare for more exciting years to come, examine the past and plan for the future, get in touch with your deepest needs and uncover your personal power, don't strain yourself or actively try to expand.