Friday, March 22, 2019

The Ice Comes and Goes

One of the biggest changes on Georgian Bay over the seasons is the coming of ice cover over the winter season, followed eventually by its disappearance.  But the change does not really match the actual dates of the seasons and it comes and goes quickly when it does.

Cold temperatures only built this year toward the end of February as the surface temperatures of the water dropped.  These cold dark waters were in the end of that month.

The water close to the shore froze first, spreading outward in these strange ice pancakes.

We were coming back from Owen sound three weeks ago when suddenly there it was, the entire bay nearly frozen over. 

Down at the snore it was white as far as you could see.  It never did get more frozen than this because as soon as the ice reached its peak, it started to retreat.

The gulls were able to find a wet spot throughout the 'freeze'.

And with relatively solid ice close to shore the fishermen were back, heading out with their supplies.  For those of us who thought this was unsafe, he's headed toward a shallow sandbar off the mouth of the river.  One of them wrote on a local website that the spot where they were fishing was three feet of solid ice.

But almost the next day, just ten days ago now, the ice started its retreat, softening into slush.

And on Monday of this week, we drove over the hill and there it was; the ice had vanished across the entire bay in just three weeks.  The coldest part of winter is over.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

First Journey into Spring

Spring officially arrived just a short while ago, at 5.58 EST, when the Spring Equinox rolled across the planet.  It's never actually been a sudden switch from winter to spring; the seasons are a continuously unfolding tapestry of change.  But it's a marker of sorts, telling us that warmer weather is on its way.  Birds will return, snow will vanish, and in about six weeks leaves will unfold, turning the world here to green.

I celebrated by getting out for a ride on my chariot in the sunshine.  It wasn't very long, just down the street and back, but it was wonderfully refreshing.  Sure felt like spring.

Don't tell me you can't see the yellow in this Goldfinch's feathers.  This was a long time ago, in early February I think, but it shows how the natural world is continuously changing, looking ahead to the next season.

The snow evaporates and green patches of grass emerge, getting larger and larger.

We've had a lot of squirrel activity suddenly, as they chase each other in spiral racetracks around the tree trunks - this after two months of mostly hiding away from winter.
And inside the house we've had Hyacinths and now Daffodils bringing a splash of bright spring colours to the kitchen table. Spring is well and truly here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trapped in the Elevator!

I've saved the highlight of our visit to the Tom Thompson Art Gallery for the end.  The gallery is on two levels, with actual gallery rooms on the second level.  So we had to take the elevator to the second floor.  No problem.  We enjoyed the displays for awhile, ran into a friend, and eventually were ready to leave.

Back to the elevator we went.  Now I don't know if you've had the pleasure of riding in one of these tiny little elevators that are commonly found in small towns, but they are tiny!  Public buildings, including quite old buildings, were required to become wheelchair accessible some years ago.  They squeezed the smallest size elevator available into whatever corner they could find.  I was actually trained on how to use the elevators at Parkwood Hospital before coming home - using a elevator wand for buttons you couldn't reach, turning around inside to avoid having to back out.  There were four sets of 2-3 elevators each, so I got lots of practice.  But they were normal sized elevators.

I have so far encountered 3 tiny retrofitted elevators here.  There is barely room for one wheelchair to drive straight in, and one person to turn on the key and hold the button.  Yes, you have to hold the button to make it work.  It is downright claustrophobic!

So you can imagine my thoughts as I drove into the gallery's tiny elevator, rode down to the main floor, and the door would 't open to get us out.  It was a little disconcerting!

The second time it happened, the claustrophobic feeling reverberated in my mind a few seconds longer, but of course there were library staff on both floors trying to help us.  We would not be left alone.  I did think that if we were well and truly stuck we could call the firefighters to come and rescue us.  (I had this vision of the jaws of life  crunching around the elevator door and ripping it off).

Third try lucky though and we were out free.  Another of our little adventures.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tom Thompson

After visiting the Tom Thompson Art Gallery for the first time I feel I owe you a few comments about who Thompson was.  To keep it simple, Tom Thompson was in my mind Canada's greatest artist.  Often mistaken as a member of the Group o Seven, Canada's first art school, Tom was actually the chief predecessor of that group.  He grew up in the village of Leith, just a few miles down the bay from Owen Sound, hence the gallery's name and presence in Owen sound.

The Gallery has a small permanent gallery of Thompson's art (though none of the big pieces like 'The Jack Pine' or 'The West Wind', each worth over $1 million).  This is a bust of Thompson in bronze.

Thompson spent many of his great painting years in Algonquin Park, camping and canoeing as a true woodsman.  Sadly he died there in 1917, only 39.  There is some controversy over his death, whether from drowning or a bash on the head.

Most of Thompson's work was on small wood panels.  These ones were on display at the gallery.  I may well return to the theme of art, and tell you the story of the whole Group of Seven.

 April in Algonquin


 Here is the Historic Plaque and gravestone at Leith Church in memory of Thompson.  Note the paintbrushes left by an admirer.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Art in Front of the Hocky Net

Owen Sound is a hockey town, make no doubt about it.  The local team is the Owen Sound Attack, one of 20 teams in the Ontario Hockey League.  It ranks last in terms of market size (mainly the town of Owen Sound), but first in terms of attendance at home games by percentage. That has to say something!

Anyone who has played goalie, even taking a turn in a pick-up game in the neighbourhood park, knows the value of a hockey mask in terms of 'saving face'.

I personally remember the night goalie masks started in the NHL  Playing for the Montreal Canadiens the great Jacques Plante was hit in the face by a shot from the equally great Andy Bathgate on Nov. 1, 1959.  After getting stitched up, Plante refused to come back on the ice without the mask he had been using in practice.  With no other goalie available, the coach Toe Blake, another NHL great, had to allow Plante to play with the mask.  Although that first mask was very simple, just plain white, Plante never looked back and Montreal won the cup six of the next 10 years.  (Those were the days of the 6 team league when I watched the games every Saturday night with my dad.

But hockey masks have come a long way since then, and someone got the bright idea that an exhibition of goalie masks showing off their art would be a good idea.  With the main sponsorship of McArthur Tire (J.D. McArthur was a popular semi-pro player and coach for many years here) this exhibit was put together).

The helmets in the background show the steps in creating a modern helmet, and those in front illustrate today's artwork on goalie masks.

To create a little interest and draw the crowds, McArthur Tire sponsored a giant goalie mask which was huge.  You need to see me beside it to show the scale.

One illustration on the helmet, very appropriate for the Tom Thompson Art Gallery, was Tom Thompson himself, shown in his canoe in Algonquin Park.

As part of the exhibit the gallery sought suggested mask designs from public school students.  It's interesting that students have to reach a certain before they can relate the side perspectives to the front view, perhspa a more difficult spatial task than we think.

Finally, a well known graffiti and street artist, Billy Goodkat painted a full size wall mural, from the perspective of the goalie.  Goodkat is from Ireland, trained in England, and has a B.A. in Fine Art.  He moved here in 2011 and has been painting large murals ever since, often involving school children in the process.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Salt of the Earth

For the first time we went and visited the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound.  I knew it had an exhibit of photos of people in the area, mostly from the rural side of Grey and Bruce Counties which I wanted to see.  It was entitled 'Salt of the Earth', which seemed very appropriate once we saw the pictures.  After checking to see that pictures were allowed, I took a small sample to share with you.

Willy Waterton was a photo journalist for the Owen Sound Sun Times, and over a 40 year career he met many of those rural residents who make up the backbone of this region.  The photos here are only 6 among 40.

The Mackeys are apple growers near Thornbury.

 The Ward sisters farm near Bass Lake.

I was struck by how much this picture inside their chicken barn mirrored my Great Aunt Hannah, who kept 40 chickens in a very similar old barn.  My Aunt passed away in 1975.

Migrant workers brought from the Caribbean to help with the apple harvest.

Hugh cut and split these 140 cords himself.

Jack Vaughn was the Lighthouse Keeper for the well known lighthouse on Cove Island.

The more I looked at these the more I realized that I had the chance to meet people like these in my earlier life, including my Aunt Hannah!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


March is the in between month here, still largely winter, but rapidly changing to spring.  Officially spring arrives on the 21st, but winter is largely gone by then.  And then we have another snowfall!  The main signs of spring outside our window are the expanding patches of grass and those beautiful warmer blue sky days that simply suck the snow off the landscape.

No leaves in March of course, so it's the bare tree trunks that strike me at this time of year.  With sunshine on the white snow it makes an interesting pattern that most of us probably ignore.

The branches in the canopy provide clear patterns on the snow, but because they're at eye level, they're really noticeable.

The snow disappears first around the base of trees, under evergreens and reflected from the walls of small buildings like our shed.  March brings these wonderful sunny days that are the real promise of spring.