Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Hallowe'en!

 It's certainly going to be a strange Hallowe'en this year, with a lot of parties at home for kids.  No trick or treating.  And there was no Scarecrow Festival here this year either.  But a few home owners have put up scarecrow or Hallowe'en decorations which can help us celebrate the season as October blends into November's grey landscape.  Enjoy these!

Let's start with our own scarecrows right here at home, simple but fun.

Around the Neighbourhood.

Blow-up ghosts, witches and goblins seem popular.

These ones are my favourite.  And yes, that's another scarecrow reflected in the window, wearing his fluorescent orange hat.

These ones go beyond the basics - a row of scarecrows, a giant Raggedy Ann, and finally a hard-working farmer.  They had a big dying tree cut down this fall, but saved a five foot stump, which they decorated very effectively.


It's a beautiful day here, bright and sunny with blue skies.  Mrs. F.G. and our gardener are out there doing the final garden clean-up.  With almost all the leaves down they're mulching some to spread on the flower beds, and putting the final plants in pots away.  It's cold though; we had our first frost of the year this morning - finally!  Very unusual to get to the end of October without a frost, and none of the white stuff in October either.  Hope it's a mild, green winter!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Inukshuks or Inuksuit

After my post on the monumental Inukshuk in Collingwood, Georgina asked if I could provide more detail on Inukshuks.  Her request sent me off to do some research about it myself, so this is what I've learned.

First, the term itself is evolving.  The Canadian government and the government of Nunavut (Canada's Arctic territory) both prefer the spelling Inuksuk, plural Inuksuit, so those are what I'll use.  However the English spelling Inukshuk, plural simply Inukshuks, is widely used now, and the term seems to be evolving in that direction.

Inuksuit are rock cairns built in the Arctic by Inuit people for a variety of purposes, from navigation across the trackless tundra to indicators of good hunting or fishing spots to safe or dangerous river crossings or food caches.  However some are built as memorials, and any ancient Inuksuk may be venerated as a symbol of the ancestors who built them.

The actual form of the cairn is dependent on the rocks or boulders available at the site.  Round boulders simply don't pile up as well as flat-sided ones.  Rocks that split horizontally make for easy Inuksuk building.  Some date as far back as 2400 BCE.  All Inuksuit are a symbol of pride for the Inuit, something that both indicates their ancestors were here before and are unique to their culture.

The flag of Nunavut has a bright red Inuksuk in the centre, which says a lot about how these Arctic dwellers feel about their culture.  The star in the upper right symbolizes Polaris, the North Star, a vital navigational beacon for the entire north.  Nunavut itself corresponds to the land beyond the tree line, occupied by the Inuit people.  The capital is Iqualuit on Baffin Island.

However, even with this background we're still using the term 'Inuksuk' incorrectly.  An Inuksuk-like rock figure built to look like a person, with visible arms, legs and head (the popular image of an Inuksuk), is actually an 'Innunguaq' - pronounced 'inungwaw'.

This giant Inuksuk in Collingwood that I shared with you earlier is therefore actually an Innunguaq, so now I've learned something new myself.  But I don't expect that term to supplant 'Inukshuk' in popular culture anytime soon!

Regardless, the term Inukshuk is in very wide use, and both small and very large Inukshuks can be found widely in Canadian culture, in the form of everything from keychains through garden ornaments to huge statues.  A large Inukshuk adorns the lobby of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and it was used as the symbol for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.

This example of cultural appropriation by Canadians seems to be mostly, though not entirely, without controversy.  It reminds me of the tiny Celtic Cross that I have hanging at my shoulder, bought as a souvenir from the Isle of Iona in Scotland, and a real spiritual symbol for me.  An Inukshuk is widely seen as a symbol of pride in ourselves as a northern nation so seems to me to be a positive example of adopting something from another culture.  I expect most Canadians know where they originate, though most would not know that the common form you see them portrayed as is actually not an Inukshuk but an Innunguaq.

I found the best short discussion of Inuksuit was in the Canadian Encyclopedia, an article which includes a short video of Peter Irniq, an Inuit himself, explaining what an Inuksuk really is.  I thought it was very well done.  I have copied the first two images above from the internet for what I hope is a valid educational purpose.

Hope you've learned something new as I did preparing this post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


 The changing colour of the leaves on trees are really what fall is all about, but from my viewpoint at the living room window there are other changing leaves right in front of my eyes - the hostas!  Although in summer they're obscured by intervening green, at the moment they are really obvious, and hosta leaves change colour just at the same time as the tree leaves.

There are about 10 hostas in the flowerbed in front of the window, but just now two of the big ones dominate the picture.

And as I photographed them I realized how wrinkled they are.  The wrinkles really show up more with the changing colour of the leaves.

Just to add to your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of shots of the larger beds of hostas at our former home.
Just another element of the changing seasons here.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Lichens Flashback

My post on the cemetery yesterday took me back 3 years to some photos of lichens I took in the last months when I could still walk.  And to some great photos of leaves last fall, when we were there on a sunny day about a week earlier in the season.  When I think of photographs that are actually good, these are among the few I think of since moving to Meaford.

The leaves were glowing almost fluorescent in the sun last year.

Surprisingly, oly a few tombstones have any interesting lichens.  Must be related to the type of stone used.

The big old maples are another story.  It took a lot of years for the lichens to achieve this!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Lakeview Cemetary

 Yesterday after church we picked up a sandwich and hot chocolate for lunch.  In search of a quiet place to sit and eat we drove up to the Meaford Cemetary, a very nice peaceful place where we've both driven and walked around in the past.  The fall colours were still pretty good, though we were a week later than last year.

The woods along the west side of the cemetary is very pretty, just looking straight into the trees.

There's a long straight road into the area, which we've walked down in the past.

And just now there are lots of fall colours off to the sides.

There's also a nice pond, surrounded by woods on three sides.  In a different life I'd love to go exploring!

 A few nice reflections in the quiet water yesterday.

And a raft of fallen leaves floating in one corner.

I think this will always be one of our favoured places to go for a quiet drive.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Tornado Warning!

Yesterday we had a sudden tornado warning, ringing very loudly on my smartphone!  It was mid-afternoon and we prepared to hunker down in an interior room, while I checked out the radar to see the location of the rapidly moving thunderstorm cell.  It was already east of us, and moving rapid;y further east, an entire line of storms crossing the province.

It had been an unusually warm day here, over 20°C, and I headed downtown for a ride keeping an eye on the radar.  But a storm arose out of nothing in a matter of about 3 minutes and it started raining (lightly, thank goodness) just as I was at the farthest point of my walk.  I headed back a block and sheltered under the front entrance of the museum. and Mrs. F.G. had to come and pick me up.  It was awhile after that that we got the tornado warning.  

They've only implemented the emergency warning alerts here over the last two years, and it doesn't happen often.  Most of those we get involve the abduction of a child in a marriage dispute somewhere in the Toronto region.  So it's unusual to get one for a tornado warning.   

In the end there was no tornado reported, just a bad storm with lots of very dark skies.  Facebook had lots of pictures of dark shelf clouds rolling in from the west.  And friends who live to the east of us reported heavy hail and green skies that are certainly a sign of danger.

Tornados are rare in southern Ontario, but one or two do happen regularly every year.  Most are very minor and don't do much damage, but I remember 5 significant tornados in my lifetime - including the one that hit Goderich, damaging my sister's house, which was right in the path of the tornado.  It heavily damaged the downtown square (actually an octagon), the salt mine and the grain elevator, and destroyed some homes.

We had actually been in town for our niece's wedding the day before, and their children and partners had stayed the night.  So when a giant chestnut tree crashed down in their yard, and windows exploded into the house, they had lots of help to clean it up.  They all retreated to the basement during the storm.

So we breathed a sigh of relief, and woke to no apparent damage.  The temperature is almost 20° colder, but it's sunny out at the moment.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Collingwood's Inukshuk

 We drove to Collingwood the other day, to get the car rustproofed.  Apparently this is important for a vehicle that's been adapted for wheelchair use, with the floor lowered 10".  Afterwards we turned off through a short residential street to see if we could see the shoreline east of downtown.  Much to our surprise we came out at a large public park along the shore.  Collingwood actually has a lot of public land along the shoreline both east and west of the downtown.

It was a dull gray day, so the pictures are no great shakes, but here is Blue Mountain in its October colours, a lot of evergreens on the upper slopes.

And here is the park we discovered, known as Sunset Point.  the paths were all concrete, so it was very easy access for me, right out to the point.  Somehow, these sidewalks weren't bumpy!

A look east along the shore, towards Wasaga Beach.  Lots of room here for picnics during the summer.

And a look more or less north out into the bay.

To the west you could see the Collingwood grain elevators, a monument to its busy past life as a port.

A closer look revealed a giant Inukshuk!  We headed over to get a closer look.

Nottawasaga Island in the distance, site of the tall lighthouse that used to light the way into Collingwood.   You can barely make it out on the right hand side of the island.

The Sunset Point Inukshuk was erected in 2003 in memory of a local man who drowned in a boating accident, donated by his family.  However, this monument is now recognized as clearly cultural appropriation, and the town is pursuing a 'gathering circle' to discuss diversity issues and how better historical content can be provided for this and two other monuments.  Genuine inukshuks were used by the Inuit in the Arctic, particularly for navigation across the trackless tundra, and they would obviously never be such massive out-of-proportion monuments as this.  The fact that they have also spread in a much smaller form as garden ornaments raises a similar challenging issue for those concerned with appropriate respect for indigenous peoples and their traditions.