Day of Remembrance 2014

I just got home from attending a Remembrance Day ceremony. I usually try to get out to one if it’s at all possible. Quite often I attend the assembly at my children’s school but this year the weather was so gorgeous I wanted to be outside. I chose to avoid the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. I knew that it would be very crowded this year and there would be all sorts of hype surrounding it. Although I can understand why people want to remember en mass – I believe it makes them feel connected – my own preference is something more subdued. I had thought about going to the Canadian War Museum, but I figured it, too, would be insanely busy. So instead of braving the crowds, I went to the Beechwood Cemetery where the National Military Cemetery is located.

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I couldn’t have made a better choice. The cemetery, although busy, was not at all crowded. In fact, even with all of the military personnel and those who came for the ceremony, the enormous cemetery managed to remain beautifully peaceful. Before the ceremony I wandered the part of the cemetery where those who fought in the two World Wars were buried. Surprisingly it was relatively empty of visitors. Most people went directly to the area where the ceremony was being held; the burial place of anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was happy, though, to be there alone with my thoughts and the beauty of the day. I took photos and read the inscriptions on many of the headstones. I thought about the two world wars and the many, many young people who enlisted and never came back home to be able to enjoy Canada as it is today.

The ceremony, itself, was low key but respectful. There were veterans there who were applauded upon arrival. All of the required musical pieces were played and sung. Two minutes of silence was bookended by artillery fire.There were prayers and dedications, the laying of the wreathes, and the reading of In Flanders Fields. Toward the end of the ceremony two military jets (CF-18’s?) flew over adding a bit of excitement to an otherwise reserved affair. What always amazes me is the hush that falls over such a large number of people. All you could hear during the two minutes of silence were birds singing, leaves and flags fluttering in the breeze, and the low hum of traffic beyond the cemetery boundaries. It really was, to me, the perfect Remembrance Day ceremony.

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fall graves

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October Perspectives

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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 – Third Leg – Prince Edward Island

Finally, I have some time to get to writing about Prince Edward Island which was, after all, our ultimate destination this summer. We stayed there for three days. I’ll say right off, it is a lovely island – very scenic and quaint. Getting there across the 12.9 km Confederation Bridge is quite an experience as well. I’ve never seen such a long bridge! We stayed on the West side of the island not far from the North Cape which, although very nice, was not the most convenient place from which to see the island. The furthest we traveled East was to Charlottetown – a two hour drive. This means, of course, that I need to go back to see the East. I was most drawn to the area around Cavendish (not Cavendish proper as I found it too touristy). It reminded me a lot of Southwestern Ontario with its rolling hills and valleys. We did stop to visit the home where Lucy Maud Montgomery was born and we also went to Green Gables which, I think, was the highlight of my daughter’s visit to the island. Cavendish was a one day trip. The other two days we spent one in the North Cape and the other in Charlottetown. The North Cape was very rugged with beautiful red sand beaches and lots of lobster trapping. Charlottetown is a beautiful and historic city – it was the birthplace of Confederation – with lots to see and do.

My favourite photo from my trip to PEI is the one below. It was taken near the cottage I stayed at on a small inlet off of Cascumpec Bay. The land on which the boat is resting in the photo is covered with water when the tides come in.

boat on shore

The rest of my photos are a combination of the North Cape and of Charlottetown – and, of course, a shot of the Confederation Bridge. I forgot to bring my camera memory card when I went to Cavendish (oops). Enjoy. 🙂

Summer Vacation 2014 – Second Leg – Quebec

After leaving Georgian Bay, we headed to Montreal. The drive there, according to Google, is about 6 hours. I think we made it in 8 or 9 hours due to stops and highway construction. Now, I like Montreal. The old part of the city is particularly lovely and there’s great shopping on Rue St. Catherine. However, our sole purpose for being in Montreal was to take the kids to the amusement park, La Ronde. They were so excited they could barely breathe (except when they were sleeping soundly in the back of the car as we bounded down the less-than-exciting 401). So, we stayed in a hotel on St. Catherine St. only minutes from the Ile Sainte-Helene where La Ronde is located. There was no sightseeing. We got to the hotel, slept, got up and went to the park. I did get a coffee at the Presse Cafe, which makes fantastic coffee and croissants, so that helped me feel a little more enthusiastic (very little) about spending hours and hours at an amusement park. Needless to say, I took very few photos at La Ronde, just one of their beautiful Ferris wheel. The kids absolutely loved the park and I enjoyed watching them have fun.

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The city next on our agenda was far more my speed as a vacation destination. We left Montreal late in the afternoon and headed to Quebec City. We had a beautiful hotel walking distance from the Old City, the Hotel Royal William. After a wonderful dinner at La Piazzetta, we slept, and then got up refreshed and ready to spend the day in Vieux Quebec. We walked from morning until evening and enjoyed every moment. It is a GORGEOUS city, it is historic (400 years), and it is bustling with activity. There are shops, cafes, street performers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and tours everywhere. I must have taken a photo of every darned street in the old city but I just couldn’t stop myself. Don’t worry, though, I’ve chosen just a few of my favourites to post here. In the end, I was really sad to leave and am already planning to spend more than one day in Quebec on my next vacation…more like a week.

European Evening

People in North America are kind of obsessed with Europe. Probably partially because many of us have roots there and partially because it’s so old and beautiful. We don’t have old here…well, our old is several hundred years. European OLD is several thousand or at least a thousand years. Although I think many of us can appreciate good, modern architecture, I don’t know anyone who would scoff at – in fact most would embrace – the overwhelming and distinct historic architecture and culture of Europe. I remember being in Greece and realizing that I was walking the streets that people had for nearly 7000 years. That’s quite a feeling.

If any part of Canada is ever mentioned worldwide, or particularly in American magazines, it’s always either Montreal or Quebec City. Why? Because the old parts of the cities are like walking into an old European town. Here in Ottawa we have a little bit of that. Ottawa is much smaller than the above mentioned and has a lot of mixed architectural styles crammed into that small space. However, the Byward Market area – down near the Chateau Laurier – is where you’ll get most of the old European feel. Most of the buildings there date back at least a century or maybe two.

Last evening I had the pleasure of dining down in the market. I went to The Grand Pizzeria which is a nice little spot on George St. – with an outdoor patio – right across from a beautifully done, two-story pub called The Aulde Dubliner Pourhouse. I took this shot from my table which happened to be right under a lovely Elm tree. I actually felt transported to Europe. Can you see why?

The Grand Pizzeria

The Demolition of the Sir John Carling Building

Anywhere you look in the local Ottawa news and social media you’ll see this story. Everyone who witnessed it has their own story and I thought I’d jot down mine and share it with you here.

First, a little history. The Sir John Carling building which was located on Carling Avenue near Dow’s Lake in Ottawa opened for government offices (Agriculture Canada) in 1967. It was vacated in 2009 after years of neglect and concerns about asbestos. In subsequent years it has been prepared for demolition. Although many objected to the demolition because it was considered to be a heritage building, only a small portion of it was saved.

Location of Sir John Carling Building

A specialized team came up from the United States to set the charges and do the demolition. The building was prepared to be brought down by a series of explosions (362 Kilograms (800 pounds) of explosives) which would create an implosion and reduce the building to 40,000 tonnes of rubble. 1

WELL…

When I read in the paper that this would be happening today, I decided right then and there that I HAD to be there to see it. It was, after all, going to be the biggest demolition in the history of Ottawa. How can you miss that? The only issue was that the demolition was planned for 7 am which would mean that our family had to get up at 5:30 to dress, drive over there, park, and claim our viewing spot. And we did it!

Sir John Carling Building
A spot of sun shone on the building about 20 minutes before detonation.

We and a whole bunch of other people! I was surprised by the crowds.

The crowds I could see from where I was sitting but there were many more on all sides of the building.
The crowds I could see from where I was sitting but there were many more on all sides of the building.

Of course, about 10 minutes before blast off time, it started to pour. But that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Everyone was pumped and BOY we were NOT disappointed. Without further ado, here is my own video. 🙂 Enjoy!

Orthodox Icons

Back when I was studying Interior Design, I found one of my favourite subjects was Art History. It was fascinating to see how art, of any period you can think of, is so reflective of the society at the time. Some of my favourite art and architecture is associated with religion. The divine inspiration of artists, stonemasons, glassblowers, woodworkers, and metalsmiths is clearly visible in places of worship. Because I grew up in an Anglican household, up until my late 20’s, my only exposure was to Western style churches. My first time in a Greek Orthodox church was at Easter and it literally blew my mind. The iconography, intricately carved woodwork, and sparkling gilding was incredibly beautiful and exotic. Years later, I have become accustomed to the interiors of these churches but I still admire the artistry. Today I was at a baptism at the church and I got an opportunity to capture the iconography in the apse. Impressive isn’t it?

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