Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for the ‘Sunsets’ Category


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I have not paid too much attention to this Blog since well before January. Not because I haven’t had anything to say (which is partly true). But blogging, to me, becomes a tad boring (for the writer) if the writer isn’t following a personal message or cause or theme. And I, for one, don’t believe in listing or recounting all that happens to me on a regular basis.

brdfest2What I have been doing on a fairly regular basis, though, is posting a blog for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival ( Not because I am birder but because I’m married to one and she is on the Festival Committee and I let myself be talked into becoming their ‘Blog Master’ as they have titled me.

Birders are interesting people, if not a touch obsessed. Actually a lot of them have become good friends. Their varied backgrounds and varied interests make for good conversation and good laughs. The Festival is over now so more time will be spent literally rambling on metropolitanhomesickblues.

So what has been happening over the many months? Sadly our cat of 19 years has left us. 

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Miss Molly was a clawless, long hair “tort” as they say, a rescue cat my wife brought home one day. She does that sort of thing with animals. Molly and I were buddies. When she wasn’t sleeping she was wherever I was, even in the middle of the night. When she walked into a room she walked to me and demanded (in the voice of her people) that I pick her up to carry her on my shoulder or place her beside me in whatever chair I was sitting in…room for her or not.

When she had had enough of her lazy life, Molly told us. She went quietly. She is well remembered.

A short piece of the Bruce Trail became my responsibility over that period.


I am Trail Captain for a length that runs above the Slough of Despond towards Skinner’s Bluff. Its up on the North Bruce Peninsula and it’s a lovely hike. My duties are to inspect the trail at least three times a year and keep it clear and walkable as it varies from gentle to rocky to wet in the spring. Rest assured there will be words and pictures coming your way as summer unfolds.

Of course, who can forget the now legendary Winter of 2014.

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I can’t remember when it started, but it felt like it lasted forever. The Great Lakes were frozen over. The ice never left Lake Huron until mid May. Blizzards, road and town closures, endless driveway snow blowing, shovels and roof rakes were the norm.


 All of that is past us now. Just had to get it all out of my mind on to the page as an excuse to write this blog.


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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. 

snow rise2

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March 22, 2014 at 2:56 PM


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The crows are quite vocal this afternoon. They circle the tree tops in a tight crowd and in their own time light on the topmost branches, black smudges on White Birches, bare White Ash and dark-barked Black Walnut trees. All the while causing a commotion that shatters the quietude of the day. The clamor persists as more join their gathering. Then, for no obvious reason, they take flight heading down the line of trees to yet another perch to begin the process all over again. The bush behind my house is a favourite gathering place for crows.

I live on the shoulder of the Saugeen River. It is but minutes from my back door. But between the water and me is a thick forest of red tipped Sumacs, high weeds, gnarled apple trees and wild lilacs choked with wild grape vines that descends into a steep bank thick with cedars. These cedars have grown so dense that little light gets through. You must look up past their dead and dying branches to the green canopy to catch a glimpse of sky.

Somewhere along the brow of this line is a hard to detect path leading to the river. It slides down into darkness. The dead branches arch over it making the descent a sinister passage like Orpheus into the Underworld.

We seldom take that walk. We say it is because the path back up is an uncomfortable pitch for our old legs. But perhaps the claustrophobic forest recalls some deeply buried childhood fear. Why else would it attract crows?

This line of bush is different in winter, though.

Below it, the canyon that holds the Saugeen becomes a snow channel. Winds off the water charge through the harbor mouth and follow the path of the river blowing the lake effect squalls up and over our river-hill subduing the bush and trees and obliterating them under a weight of white. When the weather changes so does the view.

This is the forest outside my sitting room window.

Its tree line catches the light of the rising sun, then turns black at sunset. Green, grey, beige or white, whatever the season’s colour, there is never a time when it is boring or taken for granted. It is constant in its consistent changes.



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February 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Winter Sunset on Edward Street

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January 10, 2012 at 5:04 PM


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One of the promises of retirement was the luxury of time.

I had lived a professional life of long days and working-weekends filled with projects dictated by deadline after deadline. The allure of time, free of constraints, was one of the key reasons I left the world of advertising. In my retired world, no one would be asking “when can we see the work.” I would be the time keeper. I would do things on my own clock, on my own terms, in my own way.

One of the first was reading Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, all three, two-inch thick volumes. Six and a half years later I have plowed my way through Volume One and only half of Volume Two. I got bogged down by his complex two page sentences and rambling chapter long paragraphs. Because I had so much time on my hands, it was easy to put the book aside until another day. No doubt I’ll finish it in another six years. It really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I made that decision without fear of consequence. There were no outside mandatories hovering over my head. This does not mean that I walk away from all my home grown obligations. I simply gauge the need and act accordingly. One can think of it as Discretionary Time.

Discretionary Time is budgeted according to need and desire. The ratio between needing to mow the lawn and the desire to do so depends on the heat of the day and your energy level. The balance between cleaning out the garage and the desire to sit in the shade depends on whether you want to read more of Proust and how cold the beer is. You get the idea.

Discretionary Time allows you to spend your days wisely without waste. It is an economic model, a simple algorithm, a sophisticated process that helps you regain your sanity while letting you get away with things you never thought you could.

Everyone should ultimately invest in Discretionary Time. It pays great dividends.

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October 21, 2011 at 5:35 PM


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In Toronto, there was never anything special about the rising and setting of the sun. Where I lived made it difficult to witness either. And at that time in life it wasn’t important.

To catch the rising sun I had to walk to the corner of Avenue Road and Woburn. In summer, if I wasn’t driving. I would catch the odd glimpse of it over the trees. But I never lingered to catch the full rising because I had to catch a bus. I missed sunrise in winter because I was always at the gym by 7:00 A.M.

It was different with sunsets. Two of the towers I worked in gave me great views, one over the lake and the Gardner Expressway, the other over the low-rise buildings of old downtown. Again, though, I never took the time to savor those sunsets, because I was either working late or simply rushing home to put as much distance between me and the day’s problems as quickly as I could.

That was then. This is now. Where I’m living now gives the rising and setting of the sun a wonderful new perspective.

Come morning the sun pours into the front of our home with glorious light. We’ve hung small prisms in the front windows. When sunlight hits them tiny rainbow spectrums move across our walls in beautifully bright red, green, blue, indigo and violet patches. The trees behind the house catch this morning light and shine like blazing gold in the fall and candy apple red in the spring and summer.

Come evening the sun sends its setting light into our kitchen. Sometimes it is so bright we are forced, reluctantly, to adjust the blinds. A flood of colour paints the evening sky. The canvas changes each night depending on cloud formations. And as the seasons change we watch the sun’s transit from one corner of the house to the other.

While the sky behind us is variegated with light, tree tops out front brighten with the fading sun so no matter where you are in the house you can’t miss the playful tints of the sun’s last light.

Now that we have nothing but time we look forward to the sun’s day-long path over our home.

We bought this house on a gray cloud filled November day. At the time I was filled with fear and trepidation at the enormity of what we were doing…leaving the big city for a house on the outskirts of a small town on the shores of Lake Huron, and a three hour drive from Toronto.

What I didn’t realize then was that our house sits in the middle of the rising and setting of the sun. And the light of sunrise and sunset has burned all our misgivings away.

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November 19, 2010 at 3:49 PM


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The moon at dusk from the Doll SIde Road

I went to the harbour to catch the sunset. It was brilliant. Clouds drifted in front of the big red ball that sat just above the horizon almost touching the lake…your usual shot. That’s when I realized I left my zoom lens at home. As I raced back to get it…the moon sat big in the sky…orange and so much more enchanting than yet another sunset.

Thankfully it just sat there…high, orange and erie. I chased it out of town to get as much of a clear view as I could. Past the town dump to the openness of the Doll Side Road until I couldn’t go any further. And there it was.

Perhaps not the greatest shot in the world. But not bad for a beginner’s first moon rise.

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July 26, 2010 at 4:53 PM


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The setting sun lays its light on the ice-locked shoreline.

TV meteorologists say we are in a period of solar loading.

Warm days and cold nights lull you into thinking spring is nearly near.

On lawns and curbs retreating snow feeds into this fantasy.

Even though the sun sits higher in the evening sky one only needs to look at the lake at sunset

to judge how far off spring just might be.

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March 8, 2010 at 8:45 PM


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images3 Now that the days are longer, now that spring  has announced its intentions, the crows are  happier. They like the tree line above the  riverbank, which puts them right in my  backyard. It’s their starting point, their meeting place. They wake us in the morning and serenade us after dinner. They congregate at first light and before sunset, their gathering telegraphed by their cawing chorus calling every crow within earshot to join the clan.

Dark clusters of crows swirl overhead in perfect arcs diving for the trees with a cacophony of calls. They light momentarily, then with unsettled haste, fly off again, the beating of hundreds of wings sounding like the winter wind that ushers in a snow squall. Flock after flock, like a reverse of stars in a black night, black dots against a terra cotta evening sky, follow an invisible flight path that takes them from treetop to treetop, again and again. There is agitation in their flight, an aerial helter skelter, with seemingly no point, no plan and no apparent purpose. Just a lot of noise and a lot of energy wasted going absolutely nowhere. Stragglers struggle to catch up with the main crowd. And when they do, they dive and tumble, somersaulting in mid air as if celebrating their acceptance by the others.

Sometimes interlopers appear. Uninvited bands of crows flying in from all directions intent on intruding on territory already claimed. This is when the sky blackens as all flocks merge into a monotone mélange of movement. There is no telling who is who… who is welcome or who is being told to go. That’s when they land in the treetops to settle the battle by squawking loudly at each other until somebody leaves. Is it the winner or the loser? Hard to tell with crows.

And what does it matter? Tomorrow they will repeat the pattern, obviously never tiring of the routine. Crows know how to have fun.




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March 19, 2009 at 9:00 PM

Southampton Sign

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In my January 21 blog – Gateway – Signs of the Times I lamented the state of sign design in Saugeen Shores.  What concerned me most was the fact that the current design project initiated by Bruce Tourism for the two test communities, Port Elgin and Southampton, did not understand the long-standing image of either town.

I was concerned, mostly, for Southampton because that’s where I live. I, and many other residents, believe that the existing sign says it all. Simply take what is there and redesign it for the times and the flexibility of today’s media. In that blog I also suggested that,” the lighthouse defines the town.”

There were others, with more influence than a lowly blogger such as I, who felt the same. The challenge fell into the capable hands of Mike Myatt, Director of Community Services for Saugeen Shores, and Brad Smith who has lived in the area for the past two years.  Their collaboration has produced the perfect result.

The Oldest Port on the Bruce Coast

The Oldest Port on the Bruce Coast

Their proposed Southampton logo emulates the old and existing sign. It is a fresh new outlook…and it conveys the character of Southampton perfectly.

The Chantry Island concept with lighthouse and keeper’s house silhouetted against the sky with birds flying overhead catches the essence of Southampton’s main attraction.  All it needs now is the addition of “The Oldest Port on the Bruce Coast” line and their work is done. 


The Saugeen Times ( reports that the design will now move forward to Town Council and then to the signage designers, Corbin Design, to be incorporated into the signage strategy.

If they want my opinion I’d say “approved!” Now, let’s move forward with it. Summer is just around the corner.