Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘lake huron

SHOOTING ICE

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Ice is hard. Resistant. Stubborn. Ice can withstand any single human effort to break through…especially if ice has transformed concrete steps into a glistening, smooth, intransient obstacle that should be left alone. There is no point in trying to break it down (as I did) to get a better foothold – to get a better angle on the object you’re trying to photograph.

Such foolishness can possibly lead to disaster. I sometimes hurry to get things done – and in my unfocussed haste – misjudge and make mistakes that do not end well. I am a victim of my own stupidity.

There is a millisecond between attempt and failure when you are completely unaware of what you’ve just done. In that microscopic moment between slipping and landing you see nothing. The world around you becomes blank. First it’s simply, “Here I am trying to break through the ice with my foot. Here I am on my back lying on the ice. How did that happen?” Your next thought is, “Where’s my brand new expensive camera? Did I land on it? NO! Here it is secure in my hand that’s extended above my prone body. AT LEAST I WAS CONCIOUS ENOUGH TO SACRIFICE MY BODY TO PROTECT IT!” Then it’s, “Why can’t I get up?”

Because you’re lying at the bottom of uneven ice-coated steps, stupid!

Thankfully there are no witnesses to my next ridiculous act. Camera held high, I rolled over, grabbed the ice-coated railing with my free hand and painfully pulled myself to a more secure level. It took a while. Ice does not give up its victims without making them struggle. Eventually I made it. Looking down at the frozen steps I just scaled I chastised myself for being so reckless. And stupid.

When we take chances success is usually 50-50. Clearly this was a chance I shouldn’t have taken. Any go or no-go decision is often quick and thoughtless. Spur of the moment as they say. It is always difficult to judge the wisdom of one’s next move until after you’ve made it.

Life, the pundits say, is about taking chances. “Find a Way or Make One. Just Do It. Who Dares Wins. Deeds Not Words.” Pick any current phrase that suits you. Sometimes the taking works – sometimes it doesn’t. This time for me, it didn’t. That’s just the way it is.

I didn’t get that just-right angle for the shot I was looking for. But, I hurt too much to be disappointed.

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LAMENT FOR MY LITTLE TOWN

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Eight years ago, when the thought of retirement began to creep into the routine of our frenetic city life, the idea of finding quietude and simplicity in a place close to nature became a worthy objective. We knew of Southampton. Friends of ours retired in this simple summer town spreading up from the shore of Lake Huron at the mouth of the Saugeen River. The Bruce Peninsula, with all its natural allure and waiting-for-us-to- discover trails, was full with the promise of a much simpler life. Saugeen Shores would be the ideal choice for us. Oh, we were aware of the size of the nearby Bruce Nuclear Plant. Yes, we saw the Wind Turbines at the Information Centre. But we never gave either a second thought. We found our Shangri La, so to speak. The quiet contentment we were looking for would be all around us.

Not so today.

There is a fault line running under the length of Saugeen Shores. Two tectonic plates, one the proliferation of Wind Turbines (especially the C.A.W. Turbine), the other the proposed Deep Geological Repositories (DGR) for Nuclear Waste, shift and grate against each other. This once quiet community has become a community of protestors. Concerned citizens have formed committees against both. There are coalitions, review panels, mountains of research on both sides, accusations against local politicos, a claimed lack of transparency from council and nuclear authorities and the specter of a hosting agreement that suggests that surrounding municipalities are receiving upwards of $500,000 annually to support DGR plans. It is said that these municipalities will be splitting a 34 million dollar windfall by 2034 for their willingness to back the DGR. Conflict of interest, closed door meetings, a lack of transparency and questions of resident support all add to the tremors now shaking the foundations of innocence that once bolstered this town.

It saddens us to see this happen. This kind of controversy isn’t what we expected when we retired here.

Even so, our life hasn’t changed. There is still a slow, simple pace to our daily comings and goings.

With the potential of nuclear waste beneath us and wind turbine turbulence surrounding us, perhaps the magnitude of the controversy will one day change things. Perhaps not.

Right now it matters little. The reality of the DGR, if it happens, is decades away. Past the time when we will even care.

Upcoming generations will be affected. They should get involved now. From what I’ve seen they are not.

Meantime, we will live our lives as we intended. For all of the back-and-forth, the finger-pointing, the denials, the he-said-they-said and the hand-wringing – the sun still shines – most days.

ON A WINTER AFTERNOON

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Benches at the Big Flag at the foot of High Street, Southampton

2011 is two days old. The day is gray, cold and full of wind-blown flurries. Winter is back.

It left briefly after 17 continuous December days of snow squalls that laid the foundation for a White Christmas. But by New Year’s Eve temperatures rose and snow melted leaving us looking at mud crusted snow banks, patches of green grass and moist, marshy farm fields full of swales and ponding water. Not pretty.

But, today there is the feeling of a storm in the air. Off the County two-lanes, close to the lake you can hear it building.

Rushing water-filled ditches alongside the gravel concession road send their torrents towards Huron. We drive slowly because the sudden drop in temperature creates patches of ice ahead of us. Sliding off the frozen gravel here would truly be a minor disaster.

The shoreline is ice-bound quite a ways out. We watch the white-capped waves send breakers crashing in over hillocks of frozen pack ice, their spray rising high in the building wind. It is a harsh but beautiful landscape.

It is a contradiction. Everything is still except for the wind. The wind shuts out all other sounds. You can see the water break on the ice crusted shore but you can’t hear it. You can see the swirling ditch water pounding through culverts under the road and disappearing beneath ice-covered rocks on the shore but you can’t hear it. You know Huron is out there but the horizon has vanished.

It is both a wild place and a perfect place…a tranquil place in spite of the weather around us. It is the ideal place to stand and watch a New Year whip its way into our lives.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 2, 2011 at 2:58 PM

SUNRISE. SUNSET.

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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.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

November 19, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Things I Learned from Knowing Nothing

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Observations and Impressions Gathered During The Huron Fringe Birding Festival.

  • Everybody is really happy to be here.
  • Everybody is friendly.
  • All Birders carry binoculars. Obviously. Some are slung with intricate harnesses that look like straight jackets
  • Most Birders wear vests. Most Birders carry backpacks or fanny packs.
  • Carabineers are a popular piece of equipment.
  • Everybody carries water in eco-friendly containers.
  • Tilley Hats have not gone out of style yet.
  • Identifying birds by sound/song/call is a skill all Birders aspire to.
  • Nature photography is more fun than birding.
  • Serious hobby photographers have serious stuff.
  • The most serious have scary lenses and tripods of various shapes and sizes.
  • All serious hobby photographers think they’re pros.
  • All serious hobby photographers see something in your shot that you never saw.
  • Every serious hobby photographer’s idea of the perfect shot is different from every other serious hobby photographer.
  • All serious hobby photographers think they are creating “art”.
  • Real professional nature photographers will to anything to get the perfect shot.
  • Doug Pedwell, Kerry Jarvis, Carol Edwards and Ethan Meleg are passionate professional Nature Photographers and great teachers.
  • I need to study my camera manual more.
  • I know nothing about Nature Photography.

Week one is over. The wonderful weather repeated itself. Except for the last day, which started hot and humid. We were up at Cabot Head on the North Bruce when thunder boomed somewhere in the distance over Georgian Bay. First came the wind and waves. Then clouds turned gunmetal grey and it rained. But not for long.

Back at MacGregor Point Park seated on a gray driftwood log a few metres from the shore I watch as a light breeze raises a slight chop on the lake. White crested surf breaks on shore. Its repetition creates a white noise that can lull you to sleep if you let yourself relax.

I thought about what I learned. I thought about the impressions left by people who were not only great shooters, but also individuals who knew the Latin names of the birds, plants and flowers that were their subjects as well as the habitat, history, geography and landscape that is their inspiring natural studio.

And the best thing about it was – they genuinely wanted to share their knowledge.

 

"Dragonfly" patterned leaves on the surface of Turtle Pond

Rock formation found off Dyer's Bay Road

Ram's Head Orchid in Singing Sands National Park, North Bruce

Split Rock on shoreline of Huron, MacGregor Point

Cancer Root in Singing Sands Park. Very small. Needed macro lens.

Pitcher Plant - not mature. Singing Sands Park

Wild Rose - Singing Sands ParkWaterfall on the road to Cabot Head

Waterfall on the road to Cabot Head Lighthouse.

LIVE BAIT IN A STEEL BOX

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Early the other morning I went to Macs to pick up my usual paper.  High on their pillar just below their big logo was a sign that caught my eye – Worms & Spawn 24 Hours – it said.

Now Macs has just recently decided to stay open 24/7. And I guessed, given that it is the favourite stop for local fishermen, that they were well in tune with their market and decided to stock bait somewhere inside the store as an added revenue souce. Perhaps in a cooler next to the coffee machine. Thats where most of the guys head when they pop in at 6:00 AM before they hit the water.

But as I stepped out of my car I discovered otherwise. There, just beside the door, was a new vending machine. The words – LIVE BAIT – closely followed by a smiling worm doffing his Top Hat beside the line – Guaranteed Fresh -immediately got my attention.

Now, I know that vending machines or ‘automatic retailing’ is capable of putting just about anything up for sale anyhere that’s convenient. These machines run the gamut from simple to surreal. You can get anything – french fries, ramen noodles, Buddist prayer beads, condoms, snacks, drinks, and anything in between. The Japanese lead the world in this area. They even have vending machines that will wash and blow-dry your dog. Google tells me that the very first recorded reference of a vending machine was in an Alexandrian Egyptian Temple. It accepted a coin and dispensed a small amount of holy water.

How far we’ve come.

Today we have dew worms living in a steel rectangle. And with the right coin it will dispense 8 of them…or 8 bags of spawn…or 1 Mr. Twister Jig Head plus 9 assorted heads. I stood looking at this thing and smiled. Only in a small town I thought.

And why not.

The boats are meandering at trolling speed up and down the Saugeen right now. Fishermen at Denys Dam are standing in their waders knee deep casting into the slower water. Cars are line up at Fisherman’s Park. Others fish from the shore on either side of the bridge. The big white trawlers are lined up in the harbour.

Spring is here. It is time.

What could be more right than a vending machine for live bait in our little town. And full credit goes to the folks at Macs for thinking of it!



FROZEN SUNSET

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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.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

March 8, 2010 at 8:45 PM