Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving


Much to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day.

The orange dahlias and begonias in the back a teaser for showier autumn foliage on its way. Right now the maple is only beginning to redden, only a few fallen laves on the stone.

I'm finalizing the dinner menu: Prime Rib, mushroom gravy, Yorkshire puddings, brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Choosing the wine: a 2007 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano that has been waiting too many years on the shelf for a special occasion...

Alex and Penny will be joining us for dinner. In a few weeks they will be moving into their first house! I can't believe my son has bought a house in this crazy market. Of course I shared the story of how when we bought this house, it dropped 20% in value before we even moved in. Our town is overdue a market correction, but the two of them have wanted to buy for awhile and jumped in as the prices became a bit more affordable. I am both happy and apprehensive for them, but they are in for the long game.

Long game, indeed. Almost 30 years at this address, house poor for more than half of them, Rob and I taking turns at being unemployed throughout the 90's. Time and meals spent at home together, camping vacations, working hard, making do. If it all came easy, would we have enjoyed things as much?

Now in the autumn of our lives, a harvest of life's pleasures.

Beautiful finish


Over to the island and back again. Overnite the boat was actually heeling in the wind as we were tied tightly at Hanlon's wall.

Sunday morning there were  8 kite surfers flying in the strong winds, graceful sails arcing in the sky. We watched on the beach to the sounds of waves, debating whether to stay another night or go.

The Environment Canada marine map had coloured all the bodies of water red, due to a tropical storm effect. The forecast indicated rain and stronger winds the next day, so although we'd pre-paid at the wall for two nights, we headed back to the club with a credit for next year noted on our account.



The trip back was spectacular, sailing by the jib in the autumn sun with  dazzle on the water. I was more than a bit melancholy, knowing it the last trip of the season.

We docked and stripped the jib and main, laying the white canvas on the grey gravel in the parking lot, tucking the sails away for winter.

A beautiful sunset at the end of the day offered some solace.

Yes, I am thankful for the season but greedy for more!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Full Hunter's Moon - October 2017


Alex and Penny are coming for a mid-week supper tonight and I've been staring at the light in the back garden. Life is good.

September and October have been busy. Courses (Mindfulness Studies and Drawing for People Who Can't Draw), busy with work (SIX events in November).

Still picking up my uke a couple of times a week, and lately playing  Don't Fence Me In.
Love this line in particular:  I want to.... gaze at the moon until I lose my senses...

The moon is full today, 2:41 pm
(Image: Photo by Colin Lane, Manchester)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Yoga Camp!

A weekend get-away with Liz, Anita, Denise and Chris to the Queen Elizabeth Y in Honey Harbour. Nicki was there, too, with a separate group of friends.

A few weekends a year the YMCA welcomes adults. We signed up months ago to the camp, and I'd been looking forward to it but didn't know quite what to expect.

Yes there were yoga classes, but it was just as much about the yoga of connecting with friends, walking on pink rocks, paddling at sunset, meditating at sunrise, trying Qi-Gong, going on nature hikes, eating great food, forest-bathing, swimming, standing on my head on a paddle board and tumbling into the water, trying archery for the first time, singing at a campfire, going kayaking, crafts, lichen-looking, stargazing, birdwatching...

Being a sailor it has been many years since I've spend a summer weekend with such fabulous weather in a cabin on land. So lovely! We stayed in the same bunks the kids would sleep in, narrow beds with plastic mattresses. A trough outside to wash up and brush your teeth, a separate building for toilets, the main cabin for meals.

It sounds funny but I felt busy dawn to dusk. There were scheduled activities throughout the day, with meals served at designated times. No dishes, no cooking!

One sunset we took the war canoe out for a paddle. There must have been twenty of us out for a leisurely tour, enjoying the sound of the water licking the side of the boat and the beautiful colours of the sky.

I love the pink rocks of the Canadian Shield! Sculptured by the wind. Smooth and hard. In the morning we did Qi Gong on the rocks, followed by meditation.

On the nature walks, I couldn't believe people were walking so quickly past the moss and lichen. I had brought a magnifying glass in my pocket so I could see it up close, and even tugged a field microscope along. The microscope went unused but the magnifying glass opened a window to a miniature world.

On the nature hike, I did learn how to recognize the call of a phoebe and got a good view of a millipede. Too short a walk though, and too many people scared away a lot of the creatures. On another walk, they came across a rattler and a hognose snake. There were sightings of porcupine and fox, but not by me.

The weather was unseasonably warm, so I finally got to jump in the lake. I tried standing on my head on a makeshift paddle board - didn't last very long but it's something I've always wanted to try. A few other firsts as well - archery, kayaking.

So much fun! Hope to go again next year with the same group of gals.

Sailing holidays 2017

For so many years we have been sailing east to Waupoos for our holidays, but this year was different. Due to high water levels, some of the eastern reciprocals were unpredictable. So we went West, stopping for a few days at Toronto Island before tugging on mooring balls at Smuggler's Cove, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Lots of great sailing, and plenty of summer storms to keep our eyes turned up to billowing storm clouds. No swimming for me this year, the water was too cold when it was clean and too high with e-coli when it was warm.

Weekend get-aways were often literally just around the corner, admiring the chalky bluffs..

Hope to get in at least one more sail before the end of the season!

.......

First time we ever stayed at Smugglers Cove. The US border was close enough to swim - but the current way too strong. The little clubhouse is actually a trailer on a dock - so charming, and the members welcoming. Wineries and plays at the top of the hill. This year we saw The Madness of King George, and tasted wine at Reif Estates and Two Sisters. A great holiday, only 5 or 6 hours away.
I always admire the Bluffs, but often as we are passing by on our way to somewhere else. High waters meant we felt more confident bringing our keel boat closer to the bottom of the Bluffs, but we also used the dinghy to get closer to explore.  Less than a half hour away from the dock!




It still blows me away, coming into Toronto Harbour at sunset, with the tall glass and metal on one side and a natural green haven on the other. A place like no other.









Stormy weather is always a source of entertainment, especially when safely tucked into our slip. In August we moved to L dock, a whole different view.





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Full Harvest Moon - September

Late summer days, sudden storms. 

Such abundance - bursting red field tomatoes, nubby dark green cucumbers, peaches the colour of a sunrise, bright yellow corn.


officially full September 6, 3:04
Harvest Moon, Painting by Samuel Palmer

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Nova Scotia

We traveled to Nova Scotia the first week of August for a family reunion on Rob's side.

Most of the time we spent in Halifax, a short walk from the harbour.

Tall ships were in! We managed to visit these gorgeous boats four straight days, including the parade the day of their departure. What a view! The layout of the harbour meant we were only a few hundred metres from the ships under sail, as they dipped their flags and shot cannons. More than 25 vessels took part in the regatta. Favourites were the German Alexander Von Humboldt II (3 mast bark), Spanish El Galeon (galleon), American Eagle (cutter), and of course the Canadian Bluenose (schooner). One of the highlights was being on board the U.S. Coast Guard training vessel 'The Eagle' just as they were orienting young recruits: expectant, hopeful, scared, confident expressions in a sea of faces.


The Bank of Nova Scotia on Hollis was impressive, with massive gates, bronze embellishments and a soaring ceiling. We never did manage to get inside during banking hours, but it's still open for business.

The Maritime Museum was full of exhibits. A major portion of the space was given to the Halifax Explosion that occurred in 1917. I stood for a long while in front of a window with a small telegraph key. Vince Coleman died as he was using it to warn a coming train of the pending explosion, "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys."[6]  Exhibits of wrecks at sea were fascinating.

The works of Maud Lewis were on display at the gallery, including the tiny house she lived in while she produced her work. Her paintings wallpaper the tiny room. It took hours of effort to remove the layers of wood smoke, nicotine and grime to return them to the surface. Such bright colours and cheerful subjects, painted by someone in pain, poverty and an abusive relationship. How she managed is truly an inspiration.

Downtown Halifax, there was construction everywhere and it wasn't easy to drive around, so we walked. Not much luck with restaurants. When I asked one server how long we would need to wait for a table, they said, "How should I know?" and I suggested they might be able to tell by whether the customer had been served or started their meal. At another place they had us wait more than a half hour for the fish and chips, but forgot one of the four orders; the batter was chewy and fish was mushy. Uggh. Best meals were at Murphy's the Cable Wharf Restaurant, where I had lobster and on another visit, bacon wrapped scallops. The Chickenburger, outside Halifax in Bedford was probably the most fun to visit, with its retro diner feel and neon chicken blazing on the roof.


There were fireworks every night we were there as part of Canada 150 celebrations, and we saw one of the best shows ever, that lasted more than twenty minutes and filled the night sky with smoke and colour.

We managed a day trip to Peggy's Cove. The further you got from the parking lot, the fewer the number of tourists. We spent at least an hour on the rocks gazing at the sea, and watching the waves crash and white foam froth. We also joined a small boat tour for a bumpy ride along the coast.

Lunenburg was lovely and not too busy during our visit. Colourful houses, quirky galleries, and a row of restaurants facing the sea. The Bluenose II wasn't in port though, she was in Halifax Harbour. We returned to the capital in time to watch the schooner sail out to return with the entire fleet  to Lunenburg.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Finding inspiration


I've been book binging on self-help & mindfulness books. While very informative, I am going to cut waaaaay back and stick to one or two chapters of a book a week.

More digestible that way, and probably more productive in the long run!

In the last month I've read or dipped into:
- The Beauty of Discomfort (Amanda Lang)
- The Ripple Effect (Geoff Wells)
- When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Pema Chodron)
- The Okinawa Program (Wilcox)
- Unplug (Schwatz)
- Savour (Thich Nhat Hanh)
- How to See Yourself as you Really Are (Dalai Lama)

As I was searching for the photo to go along with this post, funnily enough I came across this study "Reading Self-Help Books Can Make You Feel Worse." The research put self-help into two categories and found problem-focused self-help books often have the opposite of their intended effect. The books I've been devouring are focused on nutrition, mindfulness, and positive thinking and fall into the growth-oriented and inspirational category. Good books, good advice, and good reinforcement.


---

Turning to self-help books for guidance might seem like a good idea when you’re feeling down about life. But a new study suggests it probably won’t make you feel a whole lot better — and it could even leave you feeling worse.
The research, conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Montreal, found that people who read self-help books show more depressive symptoms and higher sensitivity to stress than those who don’t read such literature.
For the small pilot study, the researchers tested 30 people for personality and mental health traits such as stress reactivity (the tendency to respond to a stressor, measured by stress hormone levels present in saliva), openness, self-discipline, extraversion, compassion, emotional stability, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms.
Half of the participants said that they read self-help books and half did not. The self-help consumers were divided into two categories based on which of two broad classes of such books they read: 1) problem-oriented books that discuss the nature of personal challenges, such as divorce, as well as means of addressing these challenges, and 2) growth-oriented books that promote “inspirational messages about life and happiness.”
The results, which appear in the journal Neural Plasticity, show that readers of problem-focused self-help books had significantly elevated depressive symptoms, while those who read growth-oriented material had greater stress reactivity than non-readers.
However, as the authors note, there’s a big “chicken or egg” problem here. In other words, we don’t know whether high stress reactivity and a tendency towards depression lead people to read self-help books, or, alternatively, if reading self-help books makes people more stressed out and depressed.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gardening is a fine teacher

The maple tree was here when we moved in 26 years ago, and it has tripled in height. I love looking at its branches and leaves as the seasons change.

For the last couple years those leaves have been browning. Closer inspection proved a major branch would need to be removed. Better to have an arborist do it than to have it fall onto the house.

Still, I can't quite get used to the sight, it makes me wince a little every time I see the raw cut. Even with the one limb removed, we will likely need to take another. And next year, another, and eventually none of the branches will be left. Just a standing trunk. What to do through these next few years of transition? Maybe a few sculptures or birdhouses would help things not look quite so savaged.

As the crew took down the branch, they ended up also trampling the nasturtiums by the pond and quite a few favourites in the native corner (ferns, blood root and the Jack-in-the-Pulpit).

My shady backyard won't be so shady anymore, so some plantings will need to be re-thought.

And just when I was getting to the point of enjoying the garden and not thinking it needed any major changes...




Monday, August 7, 2017

Full Sturgeon Moon - August








Cloudy skies have hidden the glow, but the moon looked full even two nights ago.

August 7, 2:11 pm, the moon was full, and we were coming through fog on the lake back to BPYC from the island. A passing ship suddenly emerged through the cloud, just a hundred feet or so in front of us, a ghostly visit in the afternoon.

August 8 we anchored in "Little Baja" and watched the sun set and the moon rise. We were the only boat, a rare occurrence. Cool weather is keeping most boats in their slips but we are on holiday and making the most of it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tonglen


Pema Chodrin touched on the meditation practice of tonglen in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, and I've tried it at moments throughout the day when I find myself facing the chronic and quotidian.

Jealousy, anger, aggression.... breathe it in, acknowledge it and then breathe out peace and compassion.

Here she is with a lesson on You Tube


Monday, July 17, 2017

Reju-vacation

 A fantastic holiday and total refresh.



A weekend getaway with Rob in Stratford enjoying theatre (HMS Pinnafore + 12th Night).Yoga in the Heart of the City in the mornings from 8-12. TBG Garden Party I saw my old boss Tony Gagliano, said "hello" and "thanks for Luminato!" Summerlicious  Cibo Wine Bar + La Societie + Indian Street Food Co + Tabule. Fox Theatre Film Noir Double Indemnity  Fringe Festival. Am I Pretty Now  ROM Blue Whale Tale. Art Gallery Georgia O'Keefe! Gardening Managed a lot of transplanting and digging and dirt under my nails Pampering Bubble baths and mani-pedi and massage Sailing An incredible sail over to Toronto Island, heeled at 20 degrees and me at the wheel for a couple of hours. Exhilarating! Stayed overnite, watching the night herons fishing, without any other boats for company Dinner at Alex' and Penny's with Alex cooking chicken korma and Penny making raita and Rob mixing mojitos... a nice finish to a wonderful week...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Thunder Moon! July


The Thunder Moon is officially full July 9, early Sunday morning, but we watched a fantastic storm on the lake from the safety of the dock on Yondering this Friday night, and then came home to wonder at the full moon overhead.

I love a good summer storm!

On the way up the hill a deer popped into view... a lovely coincidence for what is also known as the Buck Moon.

video

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Canada Day!

A party at BPYC on Canada Day, with clubs from the basin joining in the festivities. Dancing with Linda D. on the deck to the band Greystone (Mike P. on percussion and harmonica). Fireworks in the night sky and a campfire sing along on the spit. Happy 150!

Sunday we were out with Kaarina and Mike for a shake-down sail. Finally! July 2nd may be our latest date ever. A giddy afternoon.

Monday Rob and I had a fantastic sail over to Toronto Harbour Our mission was to see the giant duck that is taking a tour of Ontario during this milestone year. I'm not certain of the connection, but it definitely makes the skyline playful.

After a month at the marina, we cautiously returned to our home slip. The docks are still covered several inches in water, and I wasn't sure how we would navigate. We had friendly neighbours to greet us, and fortunately winds were light. I stood starboard with a stick to grab onto the dock for purchase. Rob jumped off and tied the lines. Home again, home again.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Babes AGM 2017


What a fantastic AGM! The first time Nicki hosted was 2007. Early days there were many late nights, and way too much food and drink. As we grow older we are more relaxed and there is a bit less excess. This year we went in June instead of May, so the trilliums weren't out yet, but the lake was warm and we were able to take a plunge under blue skies.

Great food! A lovely brunch at Louise's and dinner that included Liz' Morrocan Chicken with spices from Marakesh, and Laura's home baked bread and dessert. 

I drove up this year as my intent was to leave early for a Wang Dang Doodle Ukulele meet-up on Toronto Island. Unfortunately a flat tire delayed my departure. My "donut" spare is only good up to speeds of 80 km, so I took backroads all the back from Haliburton. It was mostly an enjoyable drive, very scenic. I also led a few parades, and there was lots of honking!! Those stuck behind me really seemed to appreciate the fact I was protecting them from any speed traps that may lay ahead.


Book Babes Booklist 2017-2018


Sept: Are you somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolian (Virginia)
October: The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Laura)
November: Martin Sloan by Michael Redhill (Nicki)
December: Are we Smart Enough to Know how Smart Animals are? by Frans deWaal (Nicolette)
January: The Wilds Oats Project, by Robin Ronaldo (Liz)
February: Poetry night (Pat)
March: Seven Stones to Stand or Fall... Short stories by Diana Gabaldon (Debra)
April: Canada Reads choices (Diane)
May: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Miriam)
June: Still Life by Louise Penny (Louise)



Honourable Mentions
  • Crooked letter, Crooked letter by Tom Franklin 
  • The Children's Act by Ian McEwan 
  • The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphries 
  • Slouching towards Bethlehem - Collection by Joan Didion 
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben 
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See 
  • Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Griffin Poetry Prize

Liz and I went to the readings of the shortlisted poets this year and heard seven of the world's best. The voice that I most connected with was Alice Oswald's - both for content and timbre. When the winners were announced the following evening, she had captured the International category.

This is one of the poems she read:

A Short Story of Falling

Related Poem Content Details

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water's wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

Heliconian Series 2016 / 2017









Every time I go to a Heliconian lecture I learn something new.

The organizers line up great lecturers, authors and books, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what's in store next year.


WHENSPEAKERAUTHORBOOK
Tues, Sep 13Sandra MartinSandra MartinA Good Death
Tues, Oct 25Peter BehrensPeter BehrensCarry Me
Tues, Nov 22Kim ThuyKim ThuyMan
Tues, Jan 10Ian BrownIan BrownSixty
Tues, Feb 7Terry FallisTerry FallisPoles Apart
Tues, Mar 7Nazneen SheikhNazneen SheikhThe Place of Shining Light
Tues, Apr 18Cecilia EkbackCecilia EkbackWolf Winter
Tues, May 9Suanne KelmanAnthony MarraThe Tsar of Love and Techno
Tues, Jun 6Ann Y K ChoiAnn Y K ChoiKay’s Lucky Coin Variety
Sandra Martin spoke about the struggle of many who are diagnosed with incurable and painful diseases. Individuals and families suffer under the burden of costs and intolerable pain. Canada has made some changes in Right to Die legislation many see as progress, some see as timid, and others see as chilling. If you suffer with an incurable disease, the debate becomes less theoretical. Even after legislative changes, many people leave the country for assisted deaths and others plead unsuccessfully for an end to their suffering.

Peter Behrens spoke about concentration camps in England during the second world war, something I'd never heard of before. And at the end of the war, many Germans were deported, even though they didn't speak or write any German whatsoever. The author drew on his own family history to create the work of fiction, Carry Me

Man was such a lyrical book, thin, but very 'heavy' in its themes. What a surprise to see Kim Thuy present. She was hilarious in recounting events in the story and could have done stand-up with her bitter-sweet humour. Such a contrast. The same stories but with such different flavours.

Sheikh was interesting to hear, because she spoke of optioning the book and poking international producers with suggestions for directors and actors. From Afghanistan to Pakistan, the novel braids the story of three men in the pursuit of a stolen Buddhist statue. The author was quite a character herself, with a flair for the dramatic and an air of privilege. I'm more inclined to read her memoir than the novel.

Wolf Winter was a fabulous story. The blunt ending frustrated me and delighted at the same time. I was so looking forward to seeing Cecilia Ekback, but she opted out of the arrangement, and organizers looked for a substitute. We were lucky to have Margaret Cannon, the mystery writing critic at the Globe and Mail step in. Although she liked the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she didn't appreciate its sequel and refuses to read any book with 'the girl' as part of its title. Margaret reads at least five books a week in order to produce her monthly reviews, and is well qualified to set the novel in context. Her verdict is that Ekback's debut novel reveals an astonishing talent.

Suanne Kelman was the guest lecturer for  the Tsar of Love and Techno, and played the music tracks referenced in the book. This was a first for me at the Heliconian. I really appreciated the effort and thought of the many books I read that reference music - how fun it would be to find or make a playlist to add another dimension to the experience.

Ann Y K Choi was charming. I really liked the book Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety.  Choi revealed her struggles with depression, and how therapists encouraged her to write as a way to heal herself. She grew up hating being Korean but is now learning to reclaim her heritage. At the Korean Authors' Association, she needed a translator because her Korean was so poor, so now she is trying to learn to speak the language she spurned in her childhood. She recently found herself in a Korean language class surrounded by young white kids who wanted to learn Korean because it was 'cool,'  and couldn't believe how times had changed. Her editor, Phyllis Bruce, had come to offer support and sat in the audience. Bruce is a recipient of the Order of Canada and has edited many outstanding novels - she even had her own imprint at Simon and Schuster and was a publisher at Harper Collins. Which makes me want to explore the Bruce's titles all the more....

This year, I was especially looking forward to hearing Ian Brown and Terry Fallis. In fact, they were the reason I chose the Tuesday night series. Unfortunately, those were the two nights I had to miss. For Poles Apart, Rob and I were in Hawaii, and at Sixty, I had a work engagement. Rob ended up going to see Ian Brown as Kaarina's date, and took my copy of the book for Ian to sign. Rob also ended up being my date on two other occasions... I got a kick out of seeing him in this hall of older women and seeing them sneak a sideways glance.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Full Honey Moon - June 2017


The full Moon for June 2017 is a being called a “minimoon” because it will appear as the smallest Moon of the year as it’s furthest from Earth. What will be more apparent is that it’s the lowest Moon of the year. Because of that, it’s color may look amber-colored so it will truly appear as the “Honey Moon” that’s also a common name for this month’s Moon. Farmer's Almanac

officially full June 9, 9:10 a.m.

illustration design: Enkel Dika and Evan Ferstenfeld

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sailpast 2017

The sun was shining and the breezes were light. The temperature was a bit cool, and everyone looked fresh in their blue and white.

Rob was Master of Ceremonies and his speech was a great mix of humour and ceremony. Of course he worked on it diligently, but made the whole thing look effortless.

Most of us don't have our masts up as the water is still covering the docks and preventing power being turned on to the slips and mast crane.

This year, it was the Board of Directors that sailed past the clubhouse. As club tradition calls, there were strawberry mimosas and a toast to the sailing season. Later in the afternoon, a band and cocktails on the deck. A tasty dinner with good friends. Really a wonderful day!

Sunday, friends Mike B and Mike P, along with Commodore Bill helped Rob tow Yondering over to Bluffers Park Marina, which we'll call home for the month of June. We'll hoist the mast, hopefully get the engine fixed (finally!!) and enjoy a sail before the month's end. Better late than never!



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Doors Open 2017

So many sites to see at Toronto Doors Open this year. I love the opportunity to explore inside spaces you normally can't visit and learn more about the city and its history.

It was once a major jail in Toronto, but now the 152-year-old facility serves as a hospital administration building. The site of so many public executions, it's no wonder the Don Jail is the host to so many ghosts. The imprint of the gallows on the wall is testament to the public hangings, and the last execution in Canada. Although I've been meaning to visit for many years, this year's Open Doors finally brought me inside. All the walls are painted white and windows let in lots of light, but it's not so hard to imagine this place dark, dingy, and crawling with rats and cockroaches.

The Arts and Letters Club was on my list because we tried to gain entry a previous year, but they weren't 'open.' So, of course it made it all the more tantalizing!  The club's address has been 14 Elm since 1920, with past members including the Group of Seven, Frederick Banting, and Robertson Davies. A welcoming space! Although women weren't allowed until the mid-seventies, they now outnumber men. I''m tempted to join myself, and may drop in to the bar some night after work to find out more.


There were two highlights at the Masonic Temple for me. The first was the snooker table Mick Jagger had built on site when he stayed there four months in the 70's. The thing was too massive to fit through the door, so lives there still. The other highlight was a section of floor, with the masonic star and tiles of white and black - symbols of the Great Architect and the struggle against good and evil. I've been to a few concerts here, and always enjoyed the vibe, but didn't realize there was so much more here on the upper levels. The current inhabitant, a tech company opened it up for the day. Murals from previous tenants Much Music and CTV still colour the walls.


My niece Emma was baptised at St John's Church Norway, also known as St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church, but I haven't been back siince. We drive by the stately Kingston Road landmark frequently. Perched high on a hill, it becomes a metaphor for the humble to approach a state of grace as they climb upward. Beautiful stained glass windows on the interior, and lots of pale wood. Lovely to just sit and breathe.

We weren't really planning on stopping, but as we were driving by we noticed the Door's Open sign at Scarborough Arts. A walk was in progress, but just coming to an end; unfortunately we'd missed the tour of Birchcliffe murals. Rob started chatting to one of the artists. Berg turned out to be the original painter of the rainbow bridge - a much loved landmark in the Don Valley. He painted it as a memorial to a homeless person. He's done many of the murals in the area, some commissioned like the one on Iki Sushi, and others done simply for the cost of paint.


Fool's Paradise
was the home of artist Doris McCarthy. If I were an artist I would apply to become an artist in residence, a privilege granted 4 times each year through the Heritage Trust. An inspiring view at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, there was nothing here when Doris bought her acres in the wilderness. Over time, she built it to suit herself - including small proportions for her 4'10" frame. She built a pond to reflect the changing sky and placed it outside her windows for constant view.



I visit the grounds of the R.C. Water Filtration Plant several times a year but have never been inside. What an impressive structure! Marble, steel and built to last. Functional, but with art deco flourishes. A few water fountains were placed throughout, and I couldn't pass without taking a drink of the fresh, cool water. There were also photos of R.C. Harris, I'd always pictured a bookish character, but there he was, all big and burly. His physical size must have been an asset as he pushed his projects through from idea to completion. A man with vision and insistence on investing in infrastructure for the future, I wish he could influence some at City Hall today.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Evergreen spring

Sadly, the cypress fernspray we planted last May suffered extensive damage this past March. It survived the bitter winter, and then shrivelled to brown in the spring, after warm days were followed by a cold snap. 


The damaged cypress was taunting me. I thought I would replace it with some kind of dogwood shrub, so went off to the TBG plant sale to find something. Instead I saw a gorgeous dwarf white pine, and realized I'd really wanted one of those all along. 

The white pine looked a bit lonely, so I dragged Rob out to Sheridan where we picked up a beautiful bonsai juniper, calculating optimistically that it will get enough of the full afternoon sun to keep it happy.

Of course, two evergreens cried for a third. Tried a golden tipped cedar, but it wasn't quite right. So off to Sheridan Nurseries to find a blue star juniper.

Now there is a trio of slow-growing dwarf evergreens: white pine, blue star juniper, and bonsai. The blue star has a mounding habit and should grow to a maximum of 2' high by 3' wide; the white pine similar dimensions, but conical. The bonsai won't grow any further, just requires clipping. Hopefully these will fare better than their predecessors.

Of course, as I was searching for evergreens, each stop brought new temptations. At TBG I picked up caladium, two hosta, ligularia, siberian iris, choral bells, tovara, Irish moss, Japanese anemone, goatsbeard, astor, herbs... At Humber, more herbs, wooly thyme, and 12 pots of euphorbia. Blood grass at Loblaws.

One plant that I couldn't resist, but should have, was moonseed. A native woody vine meant for sandy soil. The name was irresistible, but it isn't really something you'd want in your garden.

Good thing it is a holiday today and garden centres are closed!! 

Everything is now in the ground, and I also did some transplanting, placing the false cypress, enoki and daphne in more prominent places along the side. Good weather for it, with grey skies and wet earth from rain.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Treated myself to the Women's Workshop for Mother's Day and spent the day designing nourishing and personalized sequences.

Every body is different. Bodies change over a lifetime, and even day to day. Each asana has different effects on breath and internal organs. So it makes sense to tailor sequences that respond to individual requirements.

Each time I go to a workshop I surprise myself with my ignorance and am simultaneously comforted by what I know.

I was looking at a simple diagram of internal organs and was surprised by the location of the spleen (#5 on the right). It was where I'd thought the diaphram was, but the diaphram is so much bigger. This insight has already changed the way I observe my breath, such a crucial element in asana and pranayama.

At one point, Marlene was talking about how the physical body is a way to reach the physiological, and moments later I opened a nearby book randomly and read that "yoga is a path for the body to the mind, and from the mind to the body." The book was Yoga: A Gem for Women, by Geeta Iyengar, who helped to codify her father's teachings and became a respected guru herself.

In the morning we talked about monthly cycles and life cycles, and explored how different asana may help relieve or aggravate physical symptoms; then we designed our own sequences for specific purposes.

In the afternoon we had 1.5 hours to do the practice we'd designed for ourselves. It was great to look around the room and see such diversity in bodies and ages, experimenting with so many different poses.

I designed a core 1.5 hour practice but then also adapted it for a shorter time in the morning, with another version for evening.

An hour and a half! What a luxury! Usually I have a timed practice in the morning, and am acutely aware of minutes passing, with one eye on the clock. I don't want to be late for work; I want to see how long I've been in headstand; etc. etc. It was so nice to just BE in the poses and lose track of time. When Marlene came around to tell us we only had 10 minutes left, I was a bit surprised but actually right on track with the timing of the sequence.

As a result of the workshop, I've added some new poses into regular rotation, as well as taking time in the evening to do a few rejuvenating postures.