Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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Connect-The-Dots

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Travel is a ‘connect-the-dots-game’. You move, from one point to another at varying speeds, by various modes of transportation until you end up full circle – home. Along the way you experience degrees of discomfort. Airport hotels – small, noisy, uncomfortable, stale one night stands before moving on to the next dot. Airport boarding lounges full of sleep-deprived fellow travelers desperately seeking coffee. One or two night stands in strange places you previously believed would satisfy your ‘inner traveller’. In the days ahead, no matter how hard you try, your sleep clock will remain indelibly set to ‘home time’. Time zones play havoc with your head. Your biorhythms are constantly trying to correct themselves, searching for some inner landmark to anchor your spirit.

Our sleep clocks are set to ship’s time now and the ‘connect-the dots-game begins. We are cruising the Lesser Antilles, island hopping.

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First light slips through a slit in the drapes. A barely audible rushing sound like water lapping the shore of a Northern Ontario Lake lulls us awake. Opening the sliding glass doors we are slapped with heavy humidity rushing in to take advantage of a new opening. It drives us back into our equally heavily air-conditioned cabin to catch our breath.

The sea is calm. Dawn clouds dot the horizon. The ship’s wake is twisting, swirling white-foamed water rushing away from the white steel hull – dissipating then disappearing – losing its forced form – becoming waves in the softly rolling sea swells.

Boobies skim the sea’s surface. They glide between the troughs, rise up then dive deep into the wake with wings folded tight to their bodies, disappear then bob back up to the surface, sit briefly, then take flight. They repeat their kamikaze attacks again and again creating a rhythm that has dictated their lives for eons.

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Towering dark cumulus clouds dominate the horizon. We can see the rain lines falling from its gunmetal grey edge. As the ship moves steadily towards it like some jousting knight meeting a challenge, the cloud lifts itself above the horizon revealing a steadily growing gap of burning orange…a haze-fire in the luminous morning mist. Into this opening a red ball slips up from the sea line growing relentlessly. Its light reaches up piercing the cloud’s darkness etching its shape. In an effort to challenge the rising sun, the white-rimmed cloud contorts itself into multiple moguls and towering columns. But the challenge is well met. The now heated rays of the rising sun burn through the cloud’s base forcing the horizon gap to widen and claim the birth of a new day.

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And then they appear – rocks in the sea born of fire. Oceanic crust and coral thrust upward by colliding sub sea plates moulded by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, green thick-wet verdant hills running up from sea to sky, cloud shrouded peaks and lush valleys…islands. Cruise islands…more dots to connect. The pilot boat comes rushing towards us.

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Island to island there isn’t much difference. The port towns are unbearably hot and heavy with humidity. Tight streets and lanes, sidewalks of alternating degrees of narrow, crowded with bewildered tourists looking for bargains in the markets and street side stores. Frigid air blasting from shop doorways (a moment of relief) is quickly sucked up by the humidity.

Each island’s hills are laced with roads twisting and turning their way up to somewhere. There is room only for one vehicle at a time. Passing is precarious because the culverts on either side are wide and deep to carry water downhill. If you slide over to quickly to make room for an oncoming car you could be lost, swallowed up to the axel. Towns, villas, shanties, shacks, abandoned half finished homes and churches, all perched on the hillsides, jut out from the greenery.

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A rainbow rises from the sea. Rain, fog and mist hang over the deep green hills that run layer after layer into the dark clouds that blanket the mountaintops and slide between the peaks. It is a damp, dreary day. Our guide is driving us deep into the rainforest. Switchbacks, fallen roadside rocks, chewed up asphalt, potholes and washed out roads with cars parked on either side, mean nothing to him. Compared to the claustrophobic congested warren of market stalls on the harbor streets, although treacherous, at least these are open roads. There is beauty in the lush verdant hills even though rain clouds rule their peaks.

And as we drive deeper into the rainforest I wonder if we will ever find a clearing that would give us a view of the surrounding sea.

We climb Mount Sage the highest peak in the British Virgin Islands for a change of perspective. But clouds shroud the land beneath us. There is no sea. There is no island. No dots can be see. There is no connection to landmarks of place or spirit to settle you.

And it is still raining.

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

July 11, 2015 at 5:17 PM

SPRING DAY SUN

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Stone

Sun shadows fall on the diminished snow and wind wicks away whatever white grains remain as the contradiction of sun and cold conspire to sacrifice only the surface, revealing nothing but more of the same. Winter is not yet done with us. 

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 22, 2014 at 2:56 PM

EMPTY BEACH

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We walk the beach today from the bottom of High Street to Gerry’s Fries.

The sky is an unbelievable blue. The sun is warm, the wind brisk and cool. The Big Flag is gone. A smaller one flies in its place. A strong offshore breeze stretches it straight out.

Gerry’s Fries is closed.

A fishing boat churns out of the harbor mouth rising and dipping through the white caps. The wind blows the sound of its engines churning against the waves to shore. There are no SeaDoos, sailboats or pleasure boats on the water

The beach is empty. Gulls basking in the sun have taken over. Summer ends in Southampton.

In town there are more parking spaces. Bicycles no longer use our sidewalks as their personal road. Turning left is much safer. The crowds, the traffic, the summer people are almost gone. Geese are gathering.

We still have Pumpkinfest and Thanksgiving to live through. But after that, the cottages will close. Shutters will go up on the big houses. Snowbirds will head south. And Southampton will sleep through the winter.

I like this time of year.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

September 9, 2012 at 5:22 PM

CONTROVERSY

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Controversy is always lying on our doorstep like some tattered old doormat. Big city, small town, wherever you live, wherever you go, controversy finds a way to seep through the cracks of life drawing you into its core. It is invasive, like a weed you can’t get rid of.

I thought I’d avoid controversy when I retired to my small town. What I have sadly discovered is that it is whirling all around me like a hurricane, touching down at will, spreading chaos into every corner of small town life. Some of the damage done is minimal, some major. Some has the potential to permanently and perpetually change what we now have. In my beautiful corner of the world (Southampton, Saugeen Township, Port Elgin) controversy is healthy and destructive.

In the parking lot of their sprawling summer retreat and convention center, the C.A.W. (Canadian Auto Workers) has erected a Wind Turbine that breaks all the setback rules and stands boldly over the homes of concerned citizens. The controversy swirling around this has seen many protests, some quite bitter. The potential of hundreds more Wind Turbines on the North Bruce Peninsula is alarming both permanent and seasonal residents, spurring town hall meetings, media finger-pointing and raucous confrontations with local councils.

Saugeen Shores Council has decided to enter the competition that could result in the burying of all of Canada’s high-level radioactive waste somewhere in our community. This waste would be buried in a Deep Geological Repository (DGR),  in an estimated area of 930 acres below ground and 250 acres above ground; deep enough to hold up to 144,000 metric tonnes of used nuclear fuel bundles that are still radioactive. And if you talk to people on the street, read the flyers, attend the SOS rallies (saveoursaugeenshores.org), council meetings and listen to the interviews, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) aren’t helping to bring a balanced perspective to the situation. The NWMO is totally funded and its Directors appointed by the nuclear industry. They answer to no one except the PMO.

Vilification is in the air. Accusations of ‘who said what and lied to whom’ are part of every conversation. The negative impact of a high lever nuclear DGR is evident people who live here. They worry that this DGR is too close to Lake Huron, they fear quality of life; tourism and property values will suffer. They say we already have the Bruce Nuclear Plant just down the street where they already store low/medium level fuel bundles…why do we want more.

This controversy is far from over. It will rage on for years as people and politicians grapple with the pros and cons, the right and wrong, the morality of the situation. The damage this will do to relationships will probably have a half-life of a generation or two.

Controversy always leaves scars. Unfortunately.

If only folks would take a deep breath, wander down at sunset and read the advice posted on the side of the Range Light at the harbor mouth of the Saugeen River…

DEAD SLOW

NO

WAKE

 Words to live by.

 

 

THE SOUTHAMPTON RANGE LIGHT

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DEAD SLOW

NO WAKE

Lighthouses inherently inspire all manner of allegory. The symbolism we read into them creates a multiplicity of meaning. There is one, among many, on the Huron Coast and specifically in Southampton that that has touched me from the first moment I saw it. Look out to the lake driving in or out of town and you can’t miss it.

The Southampton Range Light sits sentinel-like peering outward over the vast expanse of Lake Huron to the empty horizon. Rising like an exclamation point at the extreme end of the concrete long dock, a man made extension of the Saugeen River’s north shore, The Light points the way to safe harbour.

There is a sister Light upriver just past the bridge off highway 21. The Saugeen River Light sits about 2300 feet from the Front Light. It is a smaller structure, only 31′ high. But because of its hill location, it rises 61′ above water level with a fixed, electrically powered, automated signal.

Sailors and boaters line up the front and back Range Lights and stay the course to reach the river channel.

The Front or Southampton Range Light is a square tapered wooden building, painted white with a red top. It is electrically operated. Like all great lighthouses it has a working foghorn. A signal from a marine radio turns it on. Its bellow can be heard well into town.

DEAD SLOW. NO WAKE. These four words on the side of the Southampton Range Light greet everyone sailng into harbour.

DEAD SLOW is in red, bold face, all upper case letters. It is shouting to get your attention…a warning to watercraft to throttle down. NO WAKE is a confirmation of the initial request. What they are saying is simple…the uncertainty of Lake Huron is behind you. You have reached the shelter of the Saugeen River shoreline.

I started taking pictures of The Light the week I moved here. Each season lends it’s own unique, hypnotic ambiance. From high on Scubby’s Point, from ground level on either side of the harbor or road, at sunrise or sunset, there is always something dramatic in your viewfinder.

Whenever I’m shooting The Light, I always find myself drawn to those four words. There is a life lesson in their simplicity that goes beyond any maritime meaning.

If the lake represents the unpredictability of everyday existence, perhaps the message The Light is trying to convey is this: we must all live with cautious purpose (DEAD SLOW) and do no harm to anyone (NO WAKE).

But that’s just me.

 

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

May 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM

Winter Sunset on Edward Street

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 10, 2012 at 5:04 PM

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

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If you’re a summertime visitor to Southampton and you don’t know your way around town – all you have to do is look up – look waaaay up – and we’ll point you in the right direction.

There are big blue signs – WayFinding Signs – as the municipality calls them – strategically placed at the side of streets in town and roads leading in and out of town, showing you the way to all of our fabled attractions.

And while these WayFinding Signs are probably helpful to first-time tourists, some locals and summer people are not happy with the way they’ve suddenly popped up all over town. Words like ‘ugly,’ ‘unnecessary,’ ‘waste of our tax dollars,’ ‘can’t read and drive at the same time,’ have appeared in the Letters to the Editor column of our weekly newspaper.

Some folks who live here full or part-time are insulted at the insinuation that they might not where the town dump is. In fact one letter-writer was upset that council approved the idea while he was spending winter down south…the cheek of those public servants getting on with business and not waiting for his return. Truth is this WayFInding Sign concept has been on the books for a while. Public meetings have been held and Southampton media outlets have filed stories. You would have to be blind, deaf, illiterate or just not here to miss it.

Anyway, it is my observation that small town folks like to have their say at the strangest times. Reacting after the fact will never convince council to take the signs down. Money has been spent and that’s that.

So, if you’re up our way this summer you can still stop and ask someone how to find the beach.

Or you can just follow the signs.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

June 1, 2011 at 4:43 PM