Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Art of Nonconformity....

I happened upon a page on Facebook entitled The Art of Nonconformity. I didn't realize that nonconformity was an art form or that it could be raised to the level of art. It's true that the majority of artists could be considered nonconformists. Certainly all new and fresh ideas come from people who have a different way of seeing "things," or have another point of view, perhaps, which does not conform to traditional thinking.

However, if all of us were nonconformists, chaos would reign!! How would you govern, teach, or live with masses of people, who were all doing things differently or wanted things done differently. There has to be a certain quotient of conformity to make life work - the well-oiled machine, perhaps, without being too mechanical.

I know that I often celebrate the fact that we have things to do that make us conform to traditional thinking. That is, clothes have to be washed, meals cooked, houses cleaned and families created. However, the unconventional among us, those who didn't like to iron, for example, created no-iron fabric or processed foods, for those who hate to cook or services to outsource the other mundane tasks - yes, even conception, gestation and birth can be outsourced. Ironically, though, the unconventional, often becomes conventional and the cycle starts all over again.

If the trend of original ideas is that they become mainstream, then how does one keep innovative and inspired? Certainly establishing your own code of ethics, would stop you from following the herd. Then again we have all seen people with some weird ethics. How do we qualify what is acceptable and what is not?

Maybe this is where nonconformity becomes an art - that delicate balance of hovering somewhere on the edge, to be seen as conventional enough to "fit in," when it benefits one to do so, however, to be independent enough to think for oneself, to be able to see all "things" from many different points of view and to be able to turn traditional thinking on its head, when it needs to be done.

The pictures? I had to hunt for them. I realize that I take very traditional photos, hmmmm. These were all taken in Paris - go figure!

Have an unconventional day!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Treasures of the Bruce Trail

We went out yesterday to establish a baseline for how far and/or how long we could walk in fairly rugged terrain, before we do some extended hiking on the Bruce Trail. We did this with the biking, before we cycled Le P'tit Train du Nord in June, however we were a little casual about our strengths and abilities then, and we did run into problems on the four day biking adventure. This time, we decided to be a little more exacting :)

We picked a part of the trail close to the Hockley Valley Inn. It's always good to be near something quite civilized, as a reward for your efforts!! My husband had walked a side trail to the main trail in July, as part of his company's "off site," so we were in somewhat familiar territory. There are now so many side trails in sections of the Bruce, that you could spend days in one small area and never walk the same trail twice. It's amazing and it's all FREE - even the parking.

Our itinerary -
1. Made a packed lunch.
2. Packed the trail map and hiking poles - I managed to remember them this time!
3. Packed the ponchos - it did look like rain
4. I remembered to wear my FitBit, bring my phone - charged and my health card, plus an emergency credit card. If it's all free, then there is nothing to buy, right? Well you never know!!
5. Wore long leggings and socks. There are ticks (Lime disease) on parts of the Bruce. Also wore good walking shoes.
6. Packed my Canon Power Shot. My DSLR is just too heavy to lug around.
7. Read several road maps to find the location of the parking lot on an isolated side road off number 9 highway.
8. Packed bug spray - needed it.

This is a very "hilly" walk with significant switch back climbs up the rises and fairly steep descents. If you're coming the other way, it reverses - no kidding :) We met a few people on the trail, coming and going - you are never really isolated. Though, it was very eerie to find this car wreck, at the bottom of one of the ravines. It must have been there a very long time and probably has a story attached to it.

Close to the mid-point of the trail we stopped and had lunch on the only bench we saw the whole trip! In total we walked 5.4 miles according to my fit bit and I would say that the highlight of the trail was seeing this bright orange lizard, and the fact that it really didn't rain.

I would have liked to have shared a cheese plate at the Hockley Inn afterwards, but there was none on their menu, in spite of having a temperature controlled glassed in display case of some wonderful cheeses in the waiting area. They were also too busy with a wedding to notice some sweaty hikers, so we left and decided to pack our own cheese plates in a cooler the next time :) The Hockley Inn is a lovely spot and although they technically allow hikers on the part of their property that includes the Bruce Trail, they strongly discourage the walks, because the paths cross a part of their golf course. I would suggest that, if you book a room there and plan to hike, make sure that you can access the trail from the inn, before you book or else you will have to walk a mile or two on a very busy road before you even get to the trail!!

For some, green really just means money!!

Style on the Bruce Trail
Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Surprise!!! Surprise!!!

My husband threw a surprise birthday party for me last Sunday and I was really surprised!! I had no idea, when we left the house, supposedly to go to a small office function hosted by one of his staff, that it was actually a birthday party for me. I am so glad that I didn't have a clue, because then I would have been worried, become very anxious and been a wreck by the time I got there. Ignorance really is bliss, sometimes!!

Anyway, it was a wonderful affair, he had spent weeks contacting neighbours, relatives, old friends etc (which he found in my address book.) There is something to be said about not having everything on-line. He had reserved several dates and worked around other people's schedules to make sure that as many people as possible could be there and they were. Even my sister came, with my nephew, all the way from Guelph, which was really a nice surprise.

The venue was the patio of a lovely French restaurant very near the subway, for those using transit. However, it was not that far from our street, so neighbours could walk, if they wanted and we did. The food was delicious hors d'oeuvres, served almost continuously through out the afternoon from 2:00 to 5:00pm and the wine flowed freely :)

I got to spend 3 hours moving from table to table, just enjoying everyone's company. It was a very special occasion. How my husband and kids managed to "pull this off" without a hitch and without my even suspecting that there was something "happening" was amazing.

It was an afternoon, I will never forget and I have 5 years before I have to do one for him!!

Have a surprising day!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Packet of Pictures....

I enjoy the words associated with groups of "things," such as, "a gaggle of geese" or "a pride of lions" and I really enjoy making up terms to apply to groups of "things," which maybe need a little more recognition.  These "collection" phrases are like miniature poems. They are shorter than Haikus, but they are still a distillation of the moment.

A radiance of Rudbeckia

This is also a bit of overkill, in the sense that I don't seem to be able to kill Rudbeckia. It is, as the catalogues suggest, a hardy, vigorous bloomer. All the colour in this picture started with just one plant, which expanded rapidly and was easily transplanted.  We used it to fill every nook and cranny in the garden, not only because it was free, but also because it was brilliant and bloomed into October!! Rudbeckia even blooms in the shade - what's not to love - maybe just it's over abundance :)

A collection of Coleus

We planted Coleus and Begonia because of the Impatience blight this year and we have been rewarded.

A rush of Roses

This is the David Austin rose - Mary Rose - one of my favourites!! Flowers like children or the days of summer, leave us too soon.

I know that Spring "springs" eternal, however, every year is one less - how about a "yearning of years."

Have a summer's day!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Vortex Knows........

The cold and rain this summer is matched only by last winter's -24C temperatures and its blinding snowstorms. Sigh!! We had planned an outing Saturday with the kids at BMO field and guess what? - it rained!!

Canada is hosting FIFA's International Women Under 20 Soccer Cup - or something like that. Next year we are hosting the Woman's International Soccer Cup!! I didn't know either of these existed. However, children can teach you a lot and since my kids are big soccer fans, as is my husband, we got tickets through my daughter's soccer club, at a reduced price - $16.00 down from $22.00. Well, it is "woman's" soccer or more correctly "young women's" soccer. Tickets to a men's world cup would require a second mortgage on the house :) Some things never change.

Anyway, I decided to go along, since it was a family event and diner was going to be in the Amsterdam pub at Harbourfront. All I had to do was sit for 90 minutes in the rain and watch the USA play North Korea. We would have had to go to Edmonton to watch Canada play Germany. I guess this is an example of my tax dollars well spent. I wasn't sure about North Korea, I thought that there were sanctions against them? What do I know? Ignorance aside, I did get to -

1. Cheer for the US, something I rarely do, because they are usually playing Canada.

2. Use my $5.00 poncho from Canadian Tire for the third time - money well spent.

3. Eat a whole box popcorn!

4. Walk through the "EX."

BMO field is right in the middle of the exhibition grounds and hey, the EX was on, so I could also revel in a little nostalgia. Even though the sky was wet and grey, the EX still shone as the "route 66" of summer entertainment. The grungy midway, the sleazy carnies, the tacky toys - these were my childhood and I even remember going to the EX on my own, as a very young girl, when I couldn't find a friend to go with me. It was always an adventure!! (Today, I would never let my kids do what my mother let me do years ago.)

Plus tonight, I did get to enjoy the atmosphere of a city with many public places, some cultured, some not, but it didn't matter, everywhere was full of people and the excitement that only crowds can generate. Yes, there was traffic, congestion, construction and chaos, but there was also an élan, a joie de vivre. There were places to walk, bike, idle, eat, talk, or just "hang out." This, I think, is an example of tax dollars well spent!! Now, if we could only do something about the weather :)

Have an awesome day!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Am I my brother's keeper...?

Maybe that should read, "Am I my son's keeper?" Two night's ago our youngest sat down to dinner and asked with great annoyance, "How come you guys didn't tell me Robin Williams had died?"

I was stunned. This is a 21 year old who lives on his computer, iPhone, and any other electronic device available. In fact, if he could, he would live "in" his computer. I reminded him that he is on FaceBook all the time. Did he not see any notices? (I then began to worry about his friends on FB. Maybe they were not that mainstream and if they weren't, who were they?)

Then I worried that maybe we had "spoon fed" him too much, when he was younger and now he is completely dependant on us for all knowledge - dream on :) It was a bit of an eye-opener, though. I now worry about the sort of world he inhabits on a daily basis. Fortunately he works in mainstream retail and work has a way of making us wake up to reality. Unless, of course, you disappear into your own world just to get through the day.

This then begs the question, "What is reality?" Is it our daily escapism? Then what is our real world? Is it what we escape to when we are not working? Philosophers must die young from brain hemorrhages. Too many questions with too few answers must lead to lives of quiet desperation. There is a reason why we wash floors, sew on buttons or change the oil in the car. It reminds us that there are real "things" that have to be done and they keep us grounded. They keep us from escaping into fictional worlds of make believe!! Now where is that broom? There's work to be done :)

The picture? My youngest in Monet's garden - another escape!

Have a wonderful day!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What will your verse be...?

In my blog post yesterday, remembering Robin Williams, I referred to a passage from "Dead Poet's Society" on the power of poetry. It's worth repeating -

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."

Trust Apple to have brought these lines to life. Yes, it's a "commercial" for Apple's iPad, but it does add some amazing visual imagery to the words and Keating's comments on the poem, "O me! O life!"

"To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

And it does remind us of the challenge of the poem, to add our own verse. Here's the poem -

O Me! O Life!

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

At the moment my verse may just be this weblog and its pictures my visuals, however, I am working on refining and expanding the entries, albeit - slowly, very slowly - Maybe an iPad would speed things up :)

The picture - Nuit Blanche 2013, where people come to contemplate (and capture) the visual verses of others.

Have an awesome day!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good Night Robin Williams

I know that I should write today on the passing of a great entertainer, Robin Williams. However, I am almost too sad to write. I can't believe that we have lost Mrs. Doubtfire, the magnificent English teacher, John Keating, an alien, Mork...the list goes on. At a time when the world needs humour more than ever, a great humorist has left us, adding to our pain.

The movie closest to my heart is "Dead Poet's Society", because I spent fifteen years of my life as an English teacher and poetry was my favourite genre. These lines from the film are so true -

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."

He ends by saying -

Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

There is an irony here. In the end no poem could save him and we have to wonder if he lived his life in quiet desperation and now he has broken free!!

The picture? A sunrise that is almost a sunset. Carpe Diem!

Friday, August 08, 2014


I love stamps. Unfortunately I don't collect them. I often tear them off envelopes and collect them in another envelope and then manage to lose that envelope. I have had albums before, but I always found them messy, with packets of stamps that had little of anything interesting about them.

I do remember that the US did a series of famous musicians once and Canada did one of cartoon characters. Years ago Britain had a series of famous portraits of their many monarchs, but that's pretty much it, as far as my interest in stamps is concerned. I do, however, love it when photographers get recognized on stamps. Apparently there is a new issue coming out featuring the work of various Canadian photographers. The article is in today's Globe and Mail and it is wonderful. It does, however, mention the decline of stamp collecting and that's so sad.

Now, forgive me if I post a few stamp worthy pictures of my own :) Hope springs eternal!!

I call this one "Fish Chair." Maybe it needs to be taken from another angle - ever the angler :)

Here is another from the Brickworks. It's a shy water lily, that reminds me of the story of Moses. It's amazing what can be found among the reeds.

This is an Algonquin morning. It might need a little more colour to be actually considered for a stamp.

I'm really not sure what to call this. For the most part I dislike graffiti, however, this is a very good comment on the wonders of the wilds, except that it is everything that the wilderness tries to avoid!!

I know some of the best photography shows "tension" and offers succinct comments on the human condition. Could this be one of them!!

Have a wonderful day!!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tea as Theatre

My daughter bought me a tea cup "set" for my birthday recently, OK yesterday. The boxed gift was from David's Teas and it's just lovely. It also came with a specialty tea called "Midsummer Night's Dream" - what could be more perfect. If the name sounds magical the ingredients are even more so - apple, gooseberries, spearmint, marigold blossoms, safflower petals, and rose petals - too lovely for words!!

The tall orange mug comes with an infuser. Add a teaspoon of the the above dream mix to the stainless steel sieve, pour in boiling water, wait for a moment and the scene changes!! The lovely palm trees on the mug fade from black to silver. Tatiana should be so lucky!!

The tea is delicious too. Who would have thought that you could create a business by raising the common cuppa to a refined art form? Well tea making (brewing) is a ceremony and ceremonies are theatre. Add to the mix a little magic and you have a performance!! All that's missing is the music  (my kettle doesn't whistle.) Maybe I just have to recite my favourite passage from the play -

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:

Or put it to music! Not quite the ingredients of the tea, but close.

Have a magical day!!

Lessons learned in the wilds.....

I didn't post about it at the time, however, I did learn a lot by being away from the city and all its amenities. (I may have learned a lot of these lessons before as a Girl Guide, but I'd forgotten many.) By accident or by design (not mine) I learned that....

1. You can live without coffee especially if you have forgotten to pack it (it was on the list) and buying it up north means that what costs $4.00 or $5.00 in the city costs $8.00 or $10.00 up north and you may have to actually pay $15.00 for a huge tin of Maxwell House which could last you a whole year at home.

2. A bundle of band aids held together with an elastic is essential. We never needed the band aids (good thing), however the elastic band was used inventively more than once!

3. You can wash ziplock sandwich bags and re-use them, especially if you have forgotten to bring a box of sandwich bags.

4. Fires don't like rain.

5. Small ants live in little cottages in the country all the time. Large ants live in the city and come into houses on rare occasions.

6. Matches don't like wind.

7. If the current is with you, the wind is against you and you may never arrive, if both are against you :)

8. All BBQs are not created equal. Some take 30 - 40 minutes to cook a chicken breast or two.

9. You can still hike without hiking poles - I forgot mine and my husband doesn't have any to lend.

10. There is always a kind stranger on the dock to help you in and/or out of your kayak. They haven't invented winches for that purpose yet - maybe they should.

11. Wine is an essential and should be part of every car's safety kit.

12. Loons are tricky creatures. We either saw one Loon pop his head up 12 times or twelve Loons pop their heads up once, but not all at once.

13. Butter Tarts are Canadian. This isn't really a wilderness "thing"....or is it ?

14. You could wear goose down all year round - just sayin'.

15. There are no poisonous snakes in Algonquin Park, however, it is black bear country. Never "play dead" if confronted by a bear. You should, however, try talking to it, very loudly!!

16. People from Oshawa are very friendly - semi wilderness lesson :)

17. There is such a thing as single ply toilet paper!!

18. Given a choice between margarine or butter, pack butter.

19. Whatever coffee filters you pack will be the wrong size and shape and will never work, especially if you forget to bring the coffee.

20. Pack either paper towels or paper napkins. One will be redundant.

21. Bug spray left at the cottage does not repel bugs found on the trail.

22. A two seater Kayak is cheaper than two single kayaks to rent, however, the cost of the ensuing divorce negates the savings!!

23. There are some inanimate objects that actually have minds of their own. 1. smouldering fires - they burst into flame when everyone has gone to bed. 2. tandem kayaks - they tend to steer themselves and blame it on the occupants. 3. keys - they are actually inhabited by spirits that like to hide in mysterious places :)

Someone else's cottage

24. Thick "German" bread also gets mushy in a warm backpack.

25. Mosquitos rule!

Have an awesome day!!

Monday, August 04, 2014

A Few Days in Algonquin.....

It's an ill wind that blows in cold and rain for July. Sigh! Well, we packed the ponchos that we wore in June for the bike trip. We may have to use them in the kayaks this week. Did I say that we were planning a few days hiking on the Bruce Trail in August, too? I'll post those dates, when I know them, so you can avoid planing a vacation in the rain, because, of course, it will rain then too!!

Well, it did clear up a little as the day progressed and we headed North to cottage country. In fact the sun even came out at one point, but the wind was still fierce and the temperature, well below normal for this time of year. I would say, with the wind chill, it may have been 10C brrrrrr!!

Ragged Falls

The cottage we booked, sight unseen, was OK. We were 20 feet from the shores of Oxtongue Lake and the resort itself has a small sandy beach with a few canoes and kayaks etc for guest use. Although the view was pretty, the cottage itself was just marginally better than camping :) However, we did have a small kitchen, clean bathroom and shower and a Queen sized bed, with only one side against the wall - my side :) After unpacking, we took a walk around the area, to see if the other cottage resorts were any better. Some were, however, these took bookings for full weeks only. There is a reason why we "lucked out" with this one for just a few days.

Misty Morning

On the positive side, there's nothing like a few days up north to make you feel really Canadian!! Although we were not as adventurous as the "other people," who were packing up wilderness gear to head out on camping trips with just a tent, a canoe, a stove, some provisions and a whole lot of "let's go for it spirit," we did enjoy watching them. I will overlook the fact that these were families taking young children and even babies in backpacks - now I really know that I failed as a mother!! Sigh!!

Cosy Evening

Still we did kayak up the Oxtongue River to Ragged Falls and back. It took about two hours and it was lovely. So lovely, in fact, that we did it both Tuesday and Thursday morning. Wednesday we did some Loon spotting from our kayaks on Canoe Lake. For the most part the rain held off until the evening, so we could do a 2km hiking trail every afternoon. We might have taken on something a little longer except those black clouds were everywhere and we just didn't feel like getting as soaked on this trip, as we had on the last.

Kilarney Lodge

For all it's wilderness charm, Algonquin park does have a very civilized side to it. It has three first class restaurants with resorts attached. On the afternoon that it did rain right at lunchtime, we decided to abandon our picnic sandwiches and have a three course meal at Kilarney Lodge. (This is why I never lose weight!) Unfortunately, none of the restaurants in the park can serve alcohol, however, they do let you bring your own in. Luckily, my husband had a bottle of wine in the car - part of the safety kit, no doubt :)  Kilarney didn't even charge a corkage!!

After lunch the skies cleared, the sun came out and we got a hike in - not long enough to wear off the butter tart I had for dessert, though!!

Have an awesome day!!