Sublime Photography

I appreciate the art of digital photography very much. I also enjoy taking pictures for which I think I have a good eye but I don’t have the greatest equipment. I do what I can with what I have but I really admire those who can create gorgeous imagery. There are a lot of photos online these days and it takes a while to sort through them all to find the sites of those who have risen above the sea of mediocrity. I follow a handful of amazing photographers on their blogs or Facebook and I thought I would mention them here in a post so that you, too, can enjoy their work.

Leanne Cole from Australia who creates the most stunning black and white images.

Waves Crashing on Rocks - Leanne Cole Photography
Waves Crashing on Rocks – Leanne Cole Photography

Willie Ford (Balrath Photography) in Ireland whose HDR photos are both dynamic and serene at the same time.

Foggy Morning at the Boathouse - Willie Forde
Foggy Morning at the Boathouse – Willie Forde

Sven Fennema from Germany whose architectural shots (both interior and exterior) are exquisite.

Monumental - Sven Fennema
Monumental – Sven Fennema

Olga Viarenich whose images can only be described as exquisitely luminous.

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Olga Viarenich

Aren’t they amazing?

Until next time… Seek out the gems.

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A Walk into the Past

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I am having a heck of a time writing SciFi/Fantasy fiction right now. You see, my head is firmly stuck in the past. In fact, so much so, that several days ago I considered starting a new story for NaNoWriMo that was more suited to my thinking right now. Of course, I realized that that wasn’t the wisest of choices since November is already half over so I am still plugging away at my original choice…somewhat halfheartedly.

Unfortunately (but sometimes fortunately), I have one of those imaginations which is in a constant state of flux and greatly influenced by my day-to-day activities. I don’t watch very much TV but ever since signing up for a membership with Netflix, I have become (I’m loathed to admit it) a binge watcher. I find shows that pique my interest and if they hold it for more than two episodes, I’m off. One show which took me a while to get into, mainly because I wasn’t used to the slower pace, has taken up quite a bit of my time lately. Not only have I become accustomed to the pace and am able to focus on every wonderful moment, but I absolutely adore the characters. That show is called Foyle’s War and when it began, it was set in England during World War II. To be frank, I can’t get enough of it and have almost run out of episodes (all 8 seasons on Netflix) to my deep regret. I’m considering going back to watch the shows from the beginning again to catch anything I might have missed.

Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks)

I know there were many things about the 1940’s which were not great. To name a few: living and trying to cope with all the effects of a brutal war was very difficult, dealing with disease and sickness, that we now have the cure for or have eradicated, was heartbreaking, labour was much more physically intense, and there were deplorable human rights (including the continued subjugation of women and Blacks). I think, however, we tend to romanticise it because it seemed that much more peaceful (ironically). Pace of life was slower (there’s something to be said for lack of technology), people were more civil to one another – and their use of language was impeccable, the clothes…yup the clothes…I’ve never been that superficial but you can’t help but notice that people attempted to look much more presentable back then, and people just seemed to have their priorities straight.  I think I would do alright if you threw me back to that time – in fact, I invite it. Where are my time travelers?

The closest I ever got to time travelling was when I acted with the New Edinburgh Players (directed by Ingrid McCarthy) here in Ottawa. It was an absolutely thrilling experience – lots of hard work but so much fun. The first play I did was Enchanted April (pictured at the top – that’s me in the pink dress) in 2009 which was set in England and Italy in the 1920’s and the second was one called Busybody in 2011, set in the 1950’s in England (the original play was set in the 60’s but we changed it). What was my favourite part – aside from the actual performance? The clothes! Of course! In Busybody I had the opportunity to wear an authentic, crinoline lined, silk dress from the 50’s (pictured below). As you can see, in the photo of Enchanted April, the costumes were stunning. That photo, in fact, was my inspiration for this post today. One of the actors in the play (the fellow reclined) posted this on Facebook this morning. It took me right back to 2009 and then beyond – the 50’s, the 40’s, and the finally the 20’s.

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I’m not entirely sure where I wanted to go with this post except to say maybe it’s high time for me to write a novel set back in one of the earlier decades of the 1900’s. Wouldn’t you think? As soon as my SciFi novel is done of course. Must. Stay. Focused. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. 🙂

Bringing about Peace by Really Listening: Nonviolent Communications

understandingAt first glance, the idea of nonviolent communication to solve huge conflicts may seem naive especially when you consider all the violence in the world. But Marshall Rosenberg is not naive. Not even close. He has developed a mode of communication that everyone can learn from. It is not a communication that is reserved for high level negotiators, it is something that we all can use in our every day lives to deal more effectively with each other.

For some people, and governments, peace is not an objective. Gaining and maintaining power and dominance over others is their only concern. For some people, mental illness prevents them from the ability to be reasoned with. So, you wonder, how can nonviolent communications be effective since, in many instances, these are the perpetrators? As, Rosenberg says, sometimes force is necessary but he’s not talking about violent force or punishment, he’s only talking about force that stops the momentum of the aggressor.

Can you imagine, though, if each of us started to employ Rosenberg’s technique to disarm anger that we encounter in our every day lives? Don’t you think that the world around us would change for the better? One of the places I encounter anger a lot is in online comments. They aren’t usually directed at me, but it does give me concern when I read comment after comment where civil communication breaks down so quickly. Could we make our collective experience online better if we disarm these angry people with compassion rather than to respond with anger? I would like to think so.

What if, slowly, we subdue the anger that has built up so much in our society by simply starting to listen to each other? What if judgement, condescension, and ignorance is scrapped by finding out what is really going on behind another person’s hateful words? Unrealistic, you say? Why? Try it first before you knock it. I’m not naive either. In fact, I know how difficult this initiative could be. A man like Rosenberg has a lot of patience if you ask me. My first reaction to being shouted at is to shout back even louder and meaner. But where has that got us? Exactly where we are now.

Please have a listen to this video. It is 10 minutes well spent.

Wishing you all a good Sunday.

Pysanky

PysankyI am very fortunate to have a dear friend who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine about 17 years ago. Today we went out to her place in the countryside to learn how to paint Easter eggs the Ukrainian way. I have always admired the beautiful Pysanky (seen at left) and imagined it took great pains and skill to create them. I didn’t realize, however, until trying to paint one myself, just how much time and skill it actually took. Needless to say, I’d need about 20 years more practice to get half way good enough, but it was so much fun trying the technique and seeing what we could come up with.

In order to create a pattern, beeswax is used to preserve the underlying colour. You have to plan out your design very carefully and know what part of the design you want to be what colour. You slowly layer the colours – light to dark – and bit by bit your design appears as you drawing with wax and then dip the eggs in the dye. I tried to use the Kistka, which is a tool like a stylus, in which you melt small amounts of wax and then the wax seeps through to a point like ink in a pen and allows you to draw on the egg. I found it very difficult and switched to a simple wax crayon. Although the crayon was easier, it also doesn’t allow for much precision and fine, intricate work that the Kistka does.

It is thought that Pysanky originated from ancient times although no examples exist now due to the fragile nature of eggshells. The Christian era designs are the ones with which we are most familiar. Symbolism is at the heart of the designs combining both Pagan spring symbols and Christian resurrection elements. The more symbolic the egg, the more it is revered. As well as being decorative, certain designs can make an egg sacred and it is believed that they have healing and fertility powers. For more on the history and symbolism of Pysanky, please read this in-depth article.

Here are some photos of our morning and some examples of what we came up with.

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What a beautiful experience and great memories made. Thank you to my friend, Lena, and Happy Easter to all.

Celtic Cross and Catch Up

Happy St. Patrick’s Day readers! Sorry I went all MIA for the last four days but I’m back. I was sick Thursday and Friday and out of town Saturday and Sunday. Luckily, aside from the days that I was down and out with a fever, I still managed to take photographs. I don’t think you’ll be overwhelmed with four at once, will you? I’ll try to keep the commentary short, I promise.

Saturday morning I woke up early at my sister’s house in the countryside near Belleville. I made my coffee before anyone else was up and spent my time by the large picture window. It was a while before I realised that I had company. I’d been looking out toward the Trent River when I noticed something large and dark moving out of the corner of my eye. It was a group of three wild turkeys. I watched in amazement as they waddled their huge bodies and impressive plumage around the yard. I’d never seen one up close before so this was rather thrilling. You can imagine how much I wished I had my good camera though!

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It wasn’t too long before the turkeys took off toward the treeline and I was left alone again. I went back for more coffee and when I looked out the window again, I was startled to see a flock of very large birds in the trees that were bare only moments before. I thought to myself, turkeys don’t fly, what the heck are those?! Well, they were Turkey Vultures, of course! Ugly beggars up there in the branches, at least fifteen of them, looking down on the world for their next meal.

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I only captured the 4 closest ones (the birds only look like large back dots in the wide shot), but look at the sun in the tree tops!

On my way back to Ottawa from Belleville I usually stop in Kingston. I went to university there and have fond memories of the place. To be brief, there was a place my friends and I used to go to now and then and it was located in a very old part of town near the massive Kingston Penitentiary. The Ports, we called it affectionately, or otherwise known as the Portsmouth tavern, was first established in 1863. It’s gone through many changes since then but still manages to convey character. It was strange to be there alone and only sipping a lemon water, but it was a wonderful walk down memory lane.

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Last, but not least, my photo from today is the Celtic cross. Rather appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day, wouldn’t you say? This is one of the last gifts my mother ever gave me before she passed away. I love how the green of it glistens and I think fondly of how my mom loved St. Patrick’s Day. It was right up there with Christmas for her. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! See you tomorrow folks!

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Claddagh

It’s been one of those days. Not terrible by any stretch, but just blah. Quite early in the day, I became intrigued by the rings on my fingers. On days when my hands are particularly cold (which is most days in the winter) my rings will spin on them and if it weren’t for my knuckles, the rings would fall right off. I will then, absentmindedly, fiddle with rings, placing them back straight and watching them twist out of place again. On my left hand, I have a simple gold ring on my middle finger that was my grandmother’s. On my right hand, I have a gold Claddagh ring on my ring finger. It was the Claddagh ring that gave me food for thought for the day.

I wear my Claddagh ring because I love it and I have always admired them. Although I have no Irish roots (that I know of) the idea of the ring – love, friendship, and loyalty – and its Celtic origins appeal to me. But beyond the fact that it was Irish, I really had no idea of its exact origins. Apparently it was first produced in a small fishing village in Ireland named Claddagh which is just outside the city of Galway. Interestingly the name Claddagh is from the Gaelic word An Cladach, meaning “the shore” or “the beach”, which can be found in both Ireland and Scotland (there’s a small village on the Isle of Arran named Cladach as well – but has no relation to the ring).

The Claddagh ring, first appearing as we know it today in the 17th century, developed out of the Fede and Gimmel rings of Europe. The Fede ring originated during Roman times and became engagement rings during the Middle Ages. This ring has two hands, a male and a female hand, clasped in Fede (in faith). The Gimmel ring is French in origin and is much more ornate and made of two or more separating hoops. It can be worn by both betrothed and then reconnected on the woman’s finger upon marriage.

It’s a neat history, the one of rings, and I wish I had more time to look into it. Although you see the Claddagh symbol everywhere nowadays – not just on rings – it’s nice to be wearing one based on an original. One remarkable thing about the Claddagh ring is that it often strikes up conversations between strangers. “Oh!” they’ll say, “You’re wearing a Claddagh ring. So am I.” and it goes from there. Sometimes, the smallest things can give us the greatest pleasure.

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Canadian Thanksgiving: Not much to do with the Pilgrims

mayflowerI never really thought much about the history of Thanksgiving. When I was a kid I learned about the Pilgrims and the Puritans in Plymouth, Massachusetts and I coloured pictures of the Mayflower and turkeys wearing puritan hats. I watched my mom hang corn on the door, ate a big plate of turkey, and recited what I was thankful for but I had no idea of the real facts of our history. Have you ever wondered why Canadian and American Thanksgiving are more than a month apart? Ya. Me too. Now my middle-aged self, who tends to be a little more curious about such things than my younger self, has finally looked into the history of Canadian thanksgiving. Clearly, my whole life has been a sham! I had no idea that Canadian Thanksgiving has very little to do with American Thanksgiving. Why were we never taught our own history? No idea. Maybe it’s because the Puritan hats were so cute. Maybe the story of the Mayflower was much more romantic than that of the Ayde and her 14 sister ships but really, we would do well to make our own history a little better known.

What’s the Ayde, you ask? Well, let me tell you…

frobisher faceThe first recorded formal thanksgiving on what is now Canadian land happened in 1578, long before Confederation. Back when our country was just being discovered, an explorer named Martin Frobisher, was making his third voyage on the flagship Ayde with his fleet of 15 ships from England to Greenland and then through the dangerous and icy waters up the Hudson Strait in search of the Northwest Passage. After nearly losing half the fleet, the ships finally came back together in Frobisher Bay. Frobisher had meant to make a settlement but had lost his ship, the Dennis, which was carrying the building supplies. Considering the odds against them and that they had managed to rendezvous almost unscathed, the chaplain who had traveled with them, Robert Wolfall, gave the first Anglican Eucharist on the new land in celebration and thanks for the safe delivery of the fleet.

sevenyearswarI’m not sure, however, we can truly draw a link from the Frobisher expedition to our current tradition.  It seems more likely that the tradition developed after the Seven Years War in 1763. This war encompassed a large portion of the world and was a major struggle, simply put, between the French and English (for more details on the war see here). At the end of the war, the British were victorious in taking New France. In Nova Scotia a large Thanksgiving celebration was held by the citizens of Halifax. Then, in 1799, in Lower Canada a Thanksgiving observance was held “In signal victory over our enemy and for the manifold and inestimable blessings which our Kingdoms and Provinces have received and daily continue to receive.” In the years following, Thanksgiving celebrations were held without regularity and all times of the year for various reasons – ends of wars, battles, and rebellions, the cessation of illnesses such as cholera,  and simply for God’s mercies.

Queen_Victoria_by_BassanoAmerican traditions of the feast entered Canada with the influx of Loyalist refugees after the War of 1812, which ended in 1814. Turkey, pumpkin, squash, and the bounty of the harvest began to be incorporated into the feast. However, it wasn’t until 1859 that “abundance of the harvest” was officially celebrated. Finally, after Confederation in 1867, the first Thanksgiving celebration of a united Canada was held on April 5, 1872 for the recovery of the Prince of Wales. Subsequent “abundance of the harvest” celebrations were held in the fall, usually late October and early November unless there was a significant event to do with the Royals. For example, in June 1887 thanksgiving celebrated the “50th Anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to Throne” and in June 1896 the “Diamond Jubilee of H.M. Queen Victoria”.

After the World War I, starting in 1921 Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada on the Monday of the week in which Armistice Day (November 11th) fell. In 1931, parliament separated Armistice Day (renamed Remembrance Day) and Thanksgiving and each year, until 1957, held Thanksgiving by proclamation usually in early October. Finally, in 1957, Parliament fixed the holiday to the second Monday in October for “…general thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings with which the people of Canada have been favoured”.

And here we are in 2013, nearly 500 years after Frobisher, still giving thanks for our many blessings, eating lots of turkey (thanks to our American friends), and generally enjoying the bounty of the harvest, the closeness of family, the beautiful fall colours, and the freedoms hard-fought by our ancestors. Of course, none of us would be here if it weren’t for the brave and heroic adventurers who, either on purpose or mistakenly, landed here and began the exploration of this huge uncharted land. Although our history of Thanksgiving is a lot more chaotic than the well-formed folktales of the Mayflower, it is our history to embrace. This Thanksgiving, I think I’ll raise a glass to Martin Frobisher! Who’s with me? Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thanksgiving 2013

Sources:
The Canadian Encyclopedia
Canadian Heritage
A Brief History of Canada
Wikipedia