Friday, January 24, 2020

A Visit to Leith

On that nice sunny day it was tempting to go for a drive, so we turned off the highway just east of Owen Sound and took the road to Leith.  I'm sure you remember what Leith is famous for, the burial place of the famous Canadian artist, Tom Thomson.  We've been there in the summer to visit his grave, but never in the winter, and we thought we might get a good view of the bay in the sun.

I think the tiny United Church is probably the reason most tourists might come to Leith.  It does still hold Sunday services, though it's not the church but its graveyard that most come to see.

But we actually drove down to the bay first, hoping for that view over the water, but the only place we got a lookwas while crossing the bridge, not a very good view.  The entire shoreline was blocked by cottages leaving only glimpses of the bright turquoise bay through the trees and between homes.  I call them cottages, but undoubtedly mostly these are permanent homes, this close to Owen Sound.

I've never really paid attention before, bit it's Bothwell Creek that flows into the bay right at the 'downtown' corner in Leith.  We cross that creek much further upstream every time we drive into Owen Sound.

So then we did our pilgrimage to the church and stopped to get some pictures.  His grave is just to the right of the tree in the distance.  In the summer people often leave coins or a paintbrush after visiting.

In my mind Thomson is perhaps the best known of Canadian painters.  Though not born here he grew up in Leith, and was buried here in 1917 after dying tragically in a canoeing accident in Algonquin Park where he loved to paint.  A forerunner of the Group of Seven, he painted dramatic pictures of the Ontario wilderness.

Here's a reproduction of his famous painting, 'West Wind'.  The Owen Sound art gallery is named after him, the Tom Tompson Gallery, and has a small collection of his original work.  This one, which has been compared to the work of Vincent van Gogh, is held by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sunny Day!

We don't seem to get nearly enough sunny days in mid-winter.  In fact the entire darkest period of the year from November through to March, seems mostly cloudy and grey.  Even by mid-February we'll see more of the sun.  So when a nice sunny day comes along it's best to pay attention!  And for those able-bodied folks who can get out and enjoy it, you have no excuses!!

The other day we had a glorious sunny day with deep blue skies, all day long!  It really does perk up your spirits, and when I sit at my favourite window lifting weights, it makes my day.

These folks, who are new to the neighbourhood, walk their two big dogs religiously twice a day.  This one must have very short hair and needs a winter coat.

One of my grey squirrels is often checking out the bird feeder and then dozing on a branch in the sun.  A surprising amount of red in his fur.

And for only the second time this winter we had 3 or 4 American Goldfinch visit, even showing a bit of brightish yellow.

I increasingly think of not only the seasons and the weather, but even the time of day making a difference in the world outside.  The shadows mark the time slanted to the left and to the right as the sun moves across the sky behind me.

I was surprised the other day when one of my faithful readers and commenters said she had never had a butter tart, so here they are, just for you DJan.  I was surprised to read that butter tarts are apparently a "quintessentially Canadian" treat, but we certainly do enjoy them, decadently sweet as they are.  They're made with butter (obviously), corn syrup, brown sugar, and egg.  Then you can add raisins, pecans or other sweeteners (as if they need sweetening at that point).  My favourite is having them plain (so you can focus on the sugar), or just with raisins.  People even add chocolate chips!  But adding maple syrup is the best in my opinion.  My mother made the best butter tarts in the world, so I've been enjoying them for a very long time!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Lincoln Alexander Day

Did you know that today, Jan 21st, is Lincoln Alexander Day here in Ontario?  I'll bet you don't even know who Lincoln Alexander was, but he's certainly a citizen, politician and simply a person who deserves to be remembered.  The decision to celebrate his birthday was one of those rare occasions when all three political parties came together unanimously.

I knew Lincoln personally during the years when I served on the University of Guelph Board of Governors, and occasionally stood in as Acting Dean at convocation.  For Lincoln served as the University's Chancellor for an unprecedented 5 terms over 15 years.

I remember his penetrating questions at Board of Governors meetings.  I remember when at convocation as he was handing out diploma after diploma, he would always say a few different personal words to each and every student - I was close enough to hear him.  I also knew him as the Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust, just one of many boards he was on.  And I remember how he personally greeted every one he met, including me.  He had an uncanny ability to make everyone he talked to feel that you were the entire focus of his attention.

Many who got to know him just called him 'Linc'; to me he was 'Sir'.

Lincoln Alexander's parents were poor immigrants from the West Indies.  They worked hard to give him a good education.  He worked hard in return, serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and graduating from law school in 1953.  Fifteen years later he became the first black Member of Parliament in Canada, and later the first black federal Cabinet Minister.  And in 1985 he became the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the first person of a visible minority to hold such a position in Canada.  He became Chancellor at the University of Guelph in 1991.

Before his death in 2012 at the age of 90 he had 7 honourary degrees.  Numerous schools and even a highway (in Hamilton) are named after him.  His public funeral attracted 1500, including several Prime Ministers and Premiers.

Lincoln faced serious racism growing up in Toronto in the 1920s, learning to stand up for himself and never running away.  He was of course the only black child in his classes, in a time when black families were rare in Ontario.  His mother was the one who pushed him to get a good education, as he recounted in his memoir, Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy.

Years later he stood up in a class of 200 at law school and told the Dean that using the term 'nigger' was inappropriate, though he'd often been called that himself.  As a leader he told the professor that he should be setting a good example.  Lincoln later said, 'That day made me a man'.  Perhaps the fact that at 6'3" he was dominating presence in a room helped.

Later in the federal Parliament he rejected his own Conservative party's line and voted with the Liberals in favour of anti-hate legislation.  Sixteen other opposition members voted with him, one saying 'I'm not going to let Linc stand alone on this.'

In the late 1940s he had difficulty getting a job as a black graduate, turned down by various companies and offices.  He ended up going into partnership with two other lawyers who had set up their own office after also failing to get job offers.  Needless to say Lincoln became a lifelong fighter against racism.  As the Toronto Sun once quoted him saying (in an article entitled 'Lincoln Alexander the Great'):

"I like to help the ordinary people.  That's my claim to fame - being ordinary.  I help the hungry, abused women, young children, those with disabilities and those who are ignored.  They are the forgotten people and I'm a people's person who hasn't forgotten where I've come from."

Alexander never lost that common touch, but also pushed people to do their best.  He would have said to Canadians that it's you duty to work hard, and give back to your community.  He is often quoted as saying, 'It is not your duty to be average'!

So pause a moment today and remember a great man on Lincoln Alexander Day.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Snowy Day

This time the weather forecasters got it right as they told us we'd be getting heavy snow making driving a nightmare.  It started snowing early in the morning and when it got dark 10 hours later it was still snowing.  Altogether about a foot I think, and it's snowing again this morning.  If the world outside was white before it's really white now!

Looking out over the golf course yesterday during the heavy snow you couldn't see far at all.

The big Sugar Maple was a ghostly haze through the huge falling flakes.

Closer to home snow was accumulating on the evergreens and the big deciduous branches.

Our resident Christmas reindeer was looking cold.

And yes, our ostrich sculpture does have its head in the snow now.

Taking pictures to show the depth of freshly fallen snow is notoriously difficult unless you can find something that will provide contrast in the snow.  Here you can probably see the shaded foot of snow on the deck just because of that contrast. 

It's actually nice to have some proper winter finally, 'cause I know we have to endure at least some of this snowy weather that makes getting out in a wheelchair so difficult.  Sooner we get it over with the better!  And it gives our friendly neighbours a chance to demonstrate their willingness to help.  Last night one neighbour came and blew out our driveway halfway through the storm so our caregiver could get in (never mind that he never got here because they hadn't plowed the roads, we were ready for him)!  And this morning another neighbour came and blew a path up our driveway since our own snowblowing man hadn't got here yet.  Small town friendliness.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

White-breasted Nuthatch

I felt like it was time; my hands are getting stronger.  So I got out my trustworthy old Nikon with its zoom lens and had it ready by the window.  As luck would have it, a few minutes later a White-breasted Nuthatch flew in to our feeder, one of the first interesting birds in a month.  Then it hopped over to the suet feeder right outside the window, and I was ready.

Of course it dashed off in a flash of wings to a tree before I knew it, and headed up the trunk - up and up and up.  But I followed it and got a few distant pictures.  I was pleased that I could hold the heavy (to me) camera steady with both hands.

Then I spotted another flash of white out of the corner of my eye, and soon found a second bird.  They;re probably travelling as a pair; this is typical for these nuthatches all year long.  Up the trunk and then down the trunk they explored for tidbits of food.

For several moments one sat still on a branch, apparently just resting.  From this angle you can clearly see why it's labelled the 'White-breasted' Nuthatch!  In my experience these nuthatches usually travel with a small band of Chickadees during the winter, but I saw no Chickadees this morning.

Once, very briefly, I captured them in the same shot.

And this is the very first shot I took while the nuthatch was on the suet feeder.  One of those pictures shot against white snow that left the bird a dark shape, so I lightened this significantly, turning the snow bluish.  I also cropped all of these a little and one heavily, but with the Nikon the focus is good enough to allow for that.  I'm pleased to be able to get these pictures at all!


Steady fairly heavy snow here today, though it's only up to 3 or 4 inches yet.  We're expecting a good deal more by tonight.  One of the heaviest bands on the radar is just getting to us.  I think we should be thanking Texas or someone for this!

Great pictures of the snow that hit Newfoundland on the Weather Network.  Drifts 6-8 feet deep, sidewalks just a canyon through the snow - one for the history books!

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Foggy Drive

Last week we were out and picked up sandwiches for lunch.  Looking for someplace to sit and eat them, we drove to Thornbury.  But then Mrs. F.G. felt like a longer drive so we headed on to Collingwood.  But just before we got there we turned off and headed south; we just ate our sandwiches  the way.  Eventually we found ourselves on the winding road up through Pretty River valley.  As you can tell, we were just wandering.

And it was foggy, not a good day at all for pictures!

We did come out at the former Rob Roy schoolhouse, now part of the Osprey Township Museum.  It is quite interesting to step inside and see what an old one-room school was like.  Did you catch the Scottish reference in the name?

Most barns were too far from the road to catch anything but a foggy outline, but this very sad one was close by.

We passed the old stone Kolapore church, long since a private residence.  I was there for a meeting once, to discuss a book we were writing.  Mac Kirk was a champion conservationist in this area.

And then we stopped at the Ravenna General Store for butter tarts.  They have this great mural on the outside wall, representing all the folks who stop by for lunch (or butter tarts).  I think it is more of a lunch spot than a store.

Cycling is popular on area roads, with relatively little traffic.

And families of tourists or skiers.  I'm not sure whether this is meant to welcome them or chase them away!


Still snowing gently here today, though we've only got 4 or 5 inches.  We are getting some quite cold temperatures, -21°C at night (-25 with the windchill.  And we're supposed to get 4-6 inches of the white stuff tomorrow.  After all it is winter.

The Scottish reference is to the famous Rob Roy McGregor, the best known of Scotland's outlaws. 1671-1734.  Must have been some early Scottish settlers in this area.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Gentle Snowfall

It's snowing gently outside, though it hasn't accumulated to any depth yet.  The dedicated fellow who shovels our sidewalk was here shortly after 7, scraping away outside the front door.  We never speak, but I hope he knows he's appreciated.  Now the world just looks white with a nice coating of tiny hexagonal crystals.

I've had a new caregiver the past two mornings.  It seems really remarkable if I think about it, but here you can have a complete stranger come into your house and become a sort of friend very quickly.  It's partly the expected roles of course; I'm the client and she's the Personal Support Worker (PSW) and we both know what we need to do.  But still compared to my past life the situation I'm in now makes us adapt quickly.  I become the instructor again and guide her through what she has to do.  At least all my 5 main caregivers are nice people, even though they have quite different personalities.

My wheelchair needed a service call yesterday, so I had to stay home from coffee.  The right arm felt about ready to fall off, but the tech was able to tighten things up and it should be fine for another few months now.  Given that it costs as much as a small car (though our government picks up most of the tab - one of the few home care things it does right), I guess I should expect to need occasional service.

Our resident Ostrich with its head (almost) in the snow.

I'm working on writing another article these days, and vaguely planning another couple.  So if you were to see me sitting in front of the big window staring out vacantly for awhile, I'm actually working hard.  I usually spend a lot of 'mental time'  thinking things out before setting fingers to keyboard.  This one is a second article on geology in the valley.  A friend thought so well of my last newsletter article that he recommended to the Bruce Trail Conservancy that they publish it in their magazine, in preparation for the next annual meeting which will be held here in the valley next fall.  I'll have to share it with you sometime.

I add this picture just to show you that I can learn from my mistakes.  I explored my simple editing program until I found the 'straightening' function.  I posted this yesterday with a very crooked horizon; today I have it about right I hope.

I also brightened up all these pictures except the first one.  That's one thing you get used to quickly when shooting pictures in a snowy landscape.  The camera automatically tries to damp down the exposure, but this usually leaves pictures of snow looking a little too dark compared to what I actually see.


Very sorry to read last night that George, of Our Awesome Travels has passed away.  He learned of his cancer just this October and moved into the hospice in Stratford in late fall.  He or Suzie kept posting in his blog right up to the end, and you can find funeral arrangements there today.  I was very impressed at how he kept being his cheerful self throughout this ordeal.  Our thoughts are with Suzie and their family.  We met George and Suzie three years ago; he is one of 4 Ontario RV bloggers who I've followed, heading south for the winter and back home each summer.  George was a chef and you can access a long list of great simple recipes on his blog.  Rest in peace George.