October Perspectives

20141018_121759

Fall is my favourite season for the simple reason shown plainly in the photo above. The colours are magnificent. The sun is lower in the sky which creates even more drama as the light and the shadow enhance the beauty of the colours. It’s cooler which encourages a whole host of activities from harvest meals with scents of cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin, to pulling out your sweaters, to fires in the woodstove or fireplace, to walks through the fallen leaves. As much as I love the freedom that summer brings, I love feeling cozy and warm by the fire with a book and a cup of hot cider. It’s just a glorious time of year, if you ask me.

This fall has been moving along pretty much as normal. I’ve been looking for a job since the beginning of September; a long and somewhat frustrating endeavour. However, I have not lost hope and I use my extra time to work on my novels (that’s right…more than one). I’ve entered the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event in which the participants have exactly one month to write 50,000 words. Gulp. I really don’t expect to write that many words. Realistically, I don’t have that much time to devote to writing. I do hope, however, that it will encourage me to form a habit of writing every day even if it is only about 100 words a day.

Although I don’t have much to complain about in my life, sometimes I do tend to feel like a hamster on a wheel. I’m sure we all do at times. It’s easy to lose perspective. It’s easy to forget, when we start to focus on our “troubles”, that in comparison to much of the world, we have it pretty good here. That doesn’t mean we should not stop trying to improve ourselves and our community, of course, but it just means that we need to pull ourselves out of our self-imagined mire and look around. Complacency is probably the worst of the problems that affects the Western world. There are so many things we take for granted and so many things we don’t bother to do because we don’t feel like it or we think we can always do it another time.

Yesterday was a horrible day in my hometown. A young man, a reservist named Cpl. Nathan Cirillo (RIP), was shot down as he stood guard at the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. The Parliament Buildings were also stormed by the gunman and the video of the echoing gunfire in the Hall of Honour as the gunman was shot down was an unforgettable image and sound. Many of my friends were held in lock-downs at work and children were confined to their classrooms at school as the police and RCMP searched for a possible second suspect. I spent the majority of the day between news sites, Facebook, and Twitter trying to figure out what had happened and what was happening. Of course, I think it will be a while before we are told anything and who knows for sure if what we’re told is actually what happened.

This is shocking for Canadians. It’s not something unprecedented, mind you, but it doesn’t happen often; about every 20 years or so. There are bad things and good things about an event like this. The bad things are obvious. The good – for lack of a better word – things are a little less easy to absorb. Although the events of yesterday won’t significantly change my life or activities, it definitely gets into one’s headspace. It completely busts up complacency. Canadians can no longer ignore the fact that Canada is not immune to this kind of violence. Many places in the world deal with extreme acts of aggression daily. At the same time, however, we have to keep the events in perspective – a very difficult task for many when fear and emotions get involved.

It is not uncommon for a shooting to happen, usually in the larger centres in Canada. The thing that makes this one different is it’s symbolism. We are disgusted and saddened by a death in the streets of Toronto, for example, but we don’t feel it personally. Although this attack in Ottawa and the attack on the two soldiers in St. Jean Sur Richelieu were localized, it became clear yesterday that the Canadian military was being targeted, and yesterday’s event brought it home with a wallop when the Parliament buildings were invaded. So the question is, what do we do next? My hope is that, whatever the plan is, it is brought about with calm heads and that we don’t forget who we are as a nation, and how we stand in the world. Intolerance and hatred are insidious and it would be a shame to fall to that level – the level of the perpetrators.

So I’ll go back to my job search, my novels, and whatever else life throws at me. But I won’t forget yesterday, I will attempt to always keep things in perspective and I will give it my all not to be complacent. As I watch the fall colours and feel thankful that I’m alive and living here, I’ll remember Cpl. Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent as well as all the unnamed people from all over the world who have died from such violence. I’ll do my part to bring about positive change and work toward peace. It’s important to remember we’re all connected.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon, Imagine

Wishing you all peace now and every day.

Summer Vacation 2014 – Fourth Leg – Riviere-du-Loup

Okay. So I lied. I am not going to stick to chronological posts. I just can’t. As beautiful as PEI is – which I will fully cover in my next post – nothing can top my experience from yesterday and I just can’t wait to write about it. The quick version of the story is that I went whale watching. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway because a few details would be helpful. A few months ago, when our summer vacation was in its early planning stages, I thought that while we were in PEI we could go whale watching. What I didn’t realize, until I did some research, is that whales don’t really come by PEI. It’s either Newfoundland or on the St. Lawrence River. After some searching I discovered that from the South shore of the St. Lawrence, there are many whale watching cruises leaving out of Riviere-du-Loup. As luck would have it, we had to drive right by there on the Trans-Canada highway between Quebec City and PEI. I found a company called AML Cruises and (somewhat blindly) booked tickets. I thought well, at worst it will be a nice 3 hour cruise of the St. Lawrence. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any whales, right?

Wrong. I went out on that cruise thinking, if I’m lucky we’ll see some Belugas but not much else. Belugas were actually the only whale that I knew for sure traveled in pods down the St. Lawrence and could be seen very far West. I really, really hoped – especially for my kids’ sakes – that we’d see at least one Beluga. Well…the irony was that we didn’t see any Belugas…but we did see whales. Oh yes we did. The most numerous whale types that we saw were the Minke whales. According to the cruise director, who was quite knowledgeable about whales, Minkes tend to usually stay below the surface for up to 20 minutes between breaths. He was surprised to see them spending more time at the surface. It was fine with all of us on the cruise, that’s for sure. Minkes are smaller whales and reach up to about 24 feet (on average). We actually mistook them as Orcas at first but were quickly corrected. We watched them as they came up for breath and then dove again in an arch. They don’t, however, bring their tails out of the water. Here is the best shot I got of a Minke. It was swimming not far from our boat.

Minke Whale

On the cruise we went East on the St. Lawrence and reached the Saguenay River where the fresh waters of the St. Lawrence mix with the salt waters of the Atlantic. There was actually a visible line as we moved from one water type to the other. The salt water was a deep, dark indigo whereas the fresh water was more of a green/blue. The Minke whales were in the fresh waters closer to the marina but we were in for a surprise once we reached the salt water. There were several smaller cruise boats (Zodiacs) already there and they were watching something. Suddenly we spotted and heard a huge spout as a very large whale surfaced to breathe. I was actually surprised as to how loud the sound was as it blew the water out of its blow hole.

Blue Spray

The cruise director excitedly announced that what we were watching was a BLUE WHALE! Apparently it was an adolescent, so smaller than a full-grown Blue…but who cares? At the very same time, the director also spotted a Humpback further out. Where the heck was I supposed to point my camera? I decided upon following the closer whale, the Blue, and hoped for it to dive and raise its tail out of the water. Dive it did and it brought that glorious tail high into the air as if it were performing for us. My kids were screaming and jumping up and down with delight. You could hear the entire cruise “Ohhhhhhhh!” at the exact same time. It was an absolutely amazing experience! What a majestic creature!

Blue Whale

As if seeing one Blue whale wasn’t exciting enough. We couldn’t believe it when the cruise director announced that there was another, larger Blue in the same waters that was full-grown. He estimated it would be about 30 metres (98 feet) in length given the size of its tail. It gave us the same show as the smaller Blue. I could have died right then and there. My life was complete. :)

Blue Whale Tail

If you are ever in a place where you can take a whale watching cruise, DO IT!! Do not miss this experience.

Mystery Fluff

Every June in Ottawa (and probably most of Ontario) you will see areas of sidewalks and lawns covered in white, fluffy puffballs. I’ve always wondered where they came from but wasn’t curious enough or in too much of a hurry to find out. Today, while spending time at the park with one of the little people, we came across a huge patch of fluff. Kids are wonderfully curious and when you spend time with them, quality time, you tend to slow down too. You take time to rediscover a curiosity you forgot about since childhood. We picked up the fluff and felt it’s softness in our hands. We noted the little seeds they carried inside. We searched the nearby treetops for the origins and found one tree, in particular had quite a bit of fluff in it’s branches. I was having difficulty telling whether the fluff had been caught in the tree while blowing through the air or whether it originated there. This is where technology comes in handy. We Googled “trees with white fluff” on my phone and found that Poplar trees are the creators of such curious seed pods. Indeed, the tree we were eyeing was a Poplar. Fascinating things you discover when you stop to look.

Poplar seeds

Surprise Encounter

I was at the park this morning with one of the boys in my daycare. As I walked through the grass, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. And there he was! Mr. Ribbit. The little boy and I were both thrilled to see him. I really wanted to take his photo but worried I’d frighten him if I got too close. Surprisingly…he let me get close enough to get a really good shot on my phone. These three shots are not cropped photos…they’re just the progression as I got closer and closer. Thanks, Mr. Ribbit. Stay safe buddy!

Bits of Today

I am POOPED! I spent the majority of the day outside and now I could easily put my forehead on the keyboard and sleep. It’s amazing what fresh air and sunshine will do to you. With all my time outside, I did manage to take some photos. One in the garden with my Giant Red Poppies and several at Mooney’s Bay here in Ottawa. Hope you enjoy themzzzzzzzzzzzz….

100 Words

The other day I was talking to a friend about writing. As he told me he’d just finished 200,000 words, my chin hit the ground. I haven’t even reached 20,000 yet, I lamented. Do you have a routine? he asked. I had one when I wrote 10,000 words in a month but since then my routine has pretty much gone down the toilet, I muttered. And the self-loathing began? he looked at me and nodded.

Yup. The self-loathing began.

It’s a vicious cycle. You don’t write, you loath. You loath, you don’t write…at all…ever. Okay, well, maybe a little. The problem now is that it’s gotten so disjointed because I’m away from the story line for so long between bouts of writing. However, writing a little has got to be better than not writing at all. My friend says, just 100 words. That’s enough to keep the loathing away.

Good. I’ll give it a go.

—–

Last evening was a glorious one. I went for a walk in the park and watched as everything was dazzling in the golden hue of the late-day sun. It was warm but not hot with a mild breeze. Children were playing, dogs were running and barking, couples were walking hand in hand. If I could capture those 20 minutes in a bottle and save it for a dull day, I would have in an instant.

A woman sat on the park lawn on a small blanket. She was facing out toward the water and clearly soaking up the beautiful atmosphere. She looked so at peace. Beside her, lying on the blanket, was an open novel and in her lap she held a notebook in which she was writing. It could have been a diary, but it made me think of my own writing notebook that I carry with me often in hopes of having a moment of inspiration.

Suddenly, I saw myself as this woman and knew that I had to get back to writing. There’s no room for self-loathing, as is evident in this picture, only contentment, creativity, and peace…And writing.

womaninpark

Stone, Glass, and Skies

I’ve published numerous posts with photos of the Victoria Memorial Museum (aka Canadian Museum of Nature). It’s kind of one of those places that deserves to be photographed from every angle. Also, since I started running the daycare, going to museums has become a weekly activity…and we all agree that this museum, in particular, is our favourite. Today is one of those days of variable weather. It goes from beautiful sunny skies to dark and ominous. I captured the outside of the building (the front and the back) at different times during our visit and was pleased with the results…although I had a heck of a time choosing between the shots. I decided to post them all. Which is your favourite?

Aptly Named

Many, many years ago I’d seen a very mature Bridalwreath Spirea, probably one that was about 50 years old, in full bloom. It arched gracefully over a path into a beautiful garden – almost as if it were waiting for a bride to walk beneath it on her way to an outdoor alter. It is, indeed, aptly named. Two summers ago, I got one for my garden. It is still small but this spring it is very pretty and adds a dash of elegance to my backyard.