Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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Archive for January 2010

STORM END

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Long shadows lie across fresh snow. If you look closely you can see them stretching out as the sun moves slowly down behind the trees on its way to setting. Its as if they are reaching out to touch the tracks left behind by wandering deer. Its as if they want to erase the imperfections on the surface by hiding them in lines of grey.

Last night the moon lit up the dark sky as if it was dawn. Folklore says wolves are hungriest in late January, which is why their howling sounds so sad. That’s how the first full moon of the New Year came to be called The Wolf Moon.

The squalls are over now. From out of the bush birds sprint in irregular flight patterns. Their fast is over. Finches, Juncos, Chickadees and Nuthatches swarm the feeders. They peck and dart at each other with a ferocity that suggests they are frantic that the seeds will run out. This break in the weather is a chance for them to fuel-up, to store the energy they need to keep them alive through the cold nights. A pair of Cardinals waits patiently in the tree watching for a break in the ongoing melee. Their colour gives them a certain distinction, but the others are not impressed.

Snow crunches under foot. It is cold. Ice has taken over the river’s surface all the way down to the harbour mouth. Usually brown, the Saugeen’s water is now a solid white. Solid enough, at least, to support some animal that left its tracks crossing from one bank to the other. There is ice floating in the still open water of the lake. Far out towards the horizon, drifting on the wind, you would think small icebergs are heading for shore. But, the shore is a line of peaks and valleys now. Incoming surf freezes and builds on the pack ice, creating a miniature mountain range of ice on the once sandy beach.

Rising wood smoke hangs in the crisp air. Breathe in and the scent of cedar makes you smile. The sound of the snow plough sweeps through the stillness of the day. Snow blowers churn, spin, scrape, swallow and spit out wide arcs of what clogged the driveways for the last four days. Their sounds belong to this time of year but seem so out of place with the portrait I’ve been looking at.

Winter’s touch is everywhere, on everything and contradictory at the best of times.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 31, 2010 at 8:26 PM

WINTER APPLES

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I left Bruce Road 10 and turned down the River Road where the Saugeen River runs through a slight valley with farm fields rising up on either side. The nights have been cold these past few weeks and I wanted to see if ice had taken over and slowed the usually fast-flowing water. Sometimes this ice builds to such an extent that it heaves itself up the banks on to the edge of the shoulder. Thick frozen chunks, slabs, branches, even huge tree trunks end up stacked along the roadside…nature’s traffic barrier. It isn’t wise to drive this road in early spring, especially if there’s a melt. Mud and water usually turn the unpaved surface into a quagmire. That’s when they close the road. The ice is building. But it will be some time before things turn dramatic.

As I approached Smith’s Apple Orchard ( www.smithsapples.com ) I noticed  that the entire area was fenced off…perhaps to keep the deer away…for there  were tracks everywhere. Then the colour of his dwarf trees caught my eye.  Hanging languidly on the bare branches in the cold afternoon sun, like winter  blossoms, were apples, not quite red, frozen and obviously abandoned. The  lush summer-fall reds had faded to a rusty hue. The winter had frozen the life  out of them. Without the contrasting green of the leaves the orchard was a  barren, desolate sight. Tree after tree supported the shriveling fruit on  branches drooping slightly to the snow. Nature exacts its toll on what we leave  behind.

What does Steve Smith do with these when he comes to prune sometime in February, I wondered. Perhaps these apples were left dormant for a winter harvest. Perhaps he’s copying the vintners of Niagara and plans on making ice cider this year. Perhaps not.

Looking on the bright side, the orchard’s colour broke the monotony of the winter white that lay all around me.


LEARNING

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What do you do with yourself when you have all the time in he world?

Ghandi had some good advice – Live as if you were to die tomorrow ~ Learn as if you were to live forever.

Learn! Discover! Re-educate yourself! An old U.S. advertising campaign for education use to sign off with these words ~ a mind is a terrible thing to waste; to which I would add ~ especially when you retire.

Of all the idiosyncrasies that come with old age, the closing of your mind, in my mind, is potentially the most debilitating. Retirement should not mean the retirement of your thirst for knowledge, your curiosity, or your quest for an understanding of what the world is all about. The meaningful learning opportunities that exist for the inquiring mind suddenly open up to the one who has the time and the desire to pursue them.

You would be surprised how easy it is to put yourself in a learning situation. In my part of the world I was happy to discover a small cottage industry of seminars and lectures conveniently available for a small fee. Most are offered by not-for-profit, volunteer managed organizations.

If you live in Grey/Bruce County check out The Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning www.bluewaterlearns.com. In Collingwood there is the Georgian Triangle Lifelong Learning Institute http://gtlli.ca. Saugeen Shores offers The Chantry Institute Lecture Series www.brucemueum.com .They also feature recorded seminars with world renown scientists in The Perimeter Institute Public Lecture Series http://pirsa.org.  And there is so much more if you look for it. All of these lectures are delivered by active and retired teachers, university professors, artist, writers, scientists, and highly placed working professionals who unselfishly share their time and knowledge with those who want to learn.

Winston Churchill sarcastically said ~  I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like to be taught. Well, the pressure to learn now becomes the pleasure of learning. There are no questions other than the ones you want to ask. There are no exams. You control the curriculum. Topics you never had time for, those subjects that were once a mystery, everything you ever wondered about, is spread out before you. The hardest thing you have to do is pick and choose.

Enlightenment, inspiration and information are out there for the mind open and curious enough to seek.