Monday, 31 October 2011

Hallowe'en At Work

Every year on Hallowe'en at my work, a lot of people decide to have fun and get into the spirit (the spooky spirit, that is) of the day. And every year, I join in by putting on my witch's hat and feather boa. 

One of my colleagues, Laura, wore this fabulous naughty mask and tiara today. She looks like she is contemplating putting a nasty spell on somebody (one of the managers, maybe?).

Since we do a lot of work on labour issues, one of the teams at work decided to wear costumes to portray occupations. There was a nurse and a doctor and a fur trapper (I kid you not) - but I thought this costume was the best. Doesn't she look great?

Here is another of my colleagues, Yves. He has very, very short hair. So I thought this was hilarious.  

At one point during the day, I saw these three people walking down the hall. I asked them to pose and they did. Very cool!

When I went downstairs to get a coffee, I noticed this witch counting her change. Great hair!

At noon, when I went to the food court, I saw many people wearing costumes walking around. This guy was just striding along, but I managed to take a quick shot of him.

This cat and angel were checking out some clothes in a store. 

In one part of the Place du Centre, a stage had been set up with three coffins and a scary man who jumped out and yelled to startle people. People in costume were getting their pictures taken on the stage. This is one of the best photos I took - the guy is having such a good time. 

After work I went home, it got dark and I went for a walk in my neighbourhood. There were a few children accompanied by their parents going trick-or-treating. And of course there were jack-o-lanterns. I liked this really traditional one. Time to say good-bye to Hallowe'en for another year.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

More About Planting Bulbs

Last week, as I was walking past Major's Hill Park in Ottawa, I saw workers in the park doing the very thing I had been doing (on a much smaller scale) in my flower garden at home. They were planting bulbs in readiness for the long winter and then, the Tulip Festival in Ottawa in the spring. Look at all the bulbs this guy was preparing to plant! 

There was a whole crew of workers planting bulbs. Quite a job. I usually get tired after planting 50 or 60 of them, but these guys were planting hundreds. Mind you, it is their job and they get paid to do it. Then I wondered, would that be a cool job to have? Would it beat sitting at a desk staring at a computer all day? 

The neat thing about planting bulbs for a living would be knowing that your work would result in scenes like this. I took this photo last May 2011 when the bulbs planted in October 2010 had bloomed. And now, after seeing the workers planting bulbs last week, I can look forward to the tulips blooming 6 months from now. What a lovely thought. Thanks guys!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hallowe'en Decorations - Tasteful and Otherwise!

Hallowe'en is such a great time of year. Many stores get into the spirit of things, decorating with ghosties and goblins and such. Everyday, I pass by a rather upscale haute couture fashion house called Richard Robinson, and even they have decorated for Hallowe'en. They have masks in the windows - I guess they are designer masks! 

They look like they are made of paper mache, bits of cloth and other mixed media. Lots of bright colours in this one.

They are so tastefully spooky. Like something you would wear to a masked ball (with your diamonds and fur and evening gown) rather than to go trick or treating. 

And now for something completely different - in a much less upscale (almost downscale, so to speak) area of the Byward Market, I saw this really brightly-lit up house with all sorts of kitschy Hallowe'en decorations out front. I thought this figure was particularly strange, with lightbulbs in his eyes. 

As you can see, the house has all sorts of lights and pumpkins and other tacky stuff. I loved it! Such a contrast to the masks in the windows at Richard Robinson. So the question is, tasteful or tacky? Which should Hallowe'en be? 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fun With Shadows

One of my favourite parts of the day is my morning walk to work. The fact that I'm going to work is not so great, but the walk itself is a pleasure, especially on a morning like this one when the sun was shining brightly (such a relief after all the overcast weather we've had) and the air was crisp and clear. As I was walking across the Alexandria Bridge, I decided to take a picture of my shadow. Just as I pressed the button, some guy passed by me, so I got his shadow in the picture too. 

Further along on my walk to work, I passed by some buildings and saw these rather abandoned-looking steps. I liked the ripple effect of the shadows on the steps.

There is a building I pass by every morning that has some sort of privacy film on the windows so people outside (like me) can't see in. It is quite reflective and I can see myself in the window as I am rushing along toward work. The sun was so bright this morning that it was like a mirror and I could take a picture of myself in the window. Not a shadow, but certainly an effect from the sunlight. 

When I left work this evening, the sun was waning but still quite bright and I was able to take this picture of my shadow on a courtyard outside the office complex. 

The sun was getting ready to set and the shadows were getting very soft by the time I walked past the Museum of Civilization. I liked the effect of my shadow against the red-orange grasses in the gardens outside the museum. Just as I took the picture, somebody whizzed past behind me on a bicycle. 

Going back across the bridge in the opposite direction from this morning, the shadows were now in a different direction too. The sun set shortly after I took this picture and it was time to hurry home, my fun with shadows done for the day.

Monday, 24 October 2011


This yellow daisy is the last plant to flower anywhere around my house in the country. It is not in my flower garden - it is actually a "volunteer", a plant that has gone wild and seeded itself down in the front yard. I have enjoyed its bright cheery colour at this increasingly dark and cold time of the year. I took this picture of it on Sunday to record the last gasp of autumn.

It is always hard to say goodbye to all the flowering plants in my garden. But I have certain rituals that help me. Last weekend, I spent a lot of time digging up the flower beds, pulling out weeds, cutting back perennials, turning over the soil, preparing for the months ahead. 

This is the part I like the best - planting bulbs for the spring. I dug several holes after turning over the soil and placed the bulbs in groups at the bottom. 

Then I covered them over with earth saying, bye for now - go to sleep - see you in six months. I planted about 40 of them on Sunday.

During the coldest and most brutal part of the winter, it is comforting to think that the bulbs I planted last fall will be coming up in a couple of months and blooming - as they did last spring when I took this picture of some of the tulips in my garden. I look upon this as an investment in the future, my annual ritual of Hope.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Norman Konlup (d. Oct 20, 2011)

I didn't know Norman well. I wish I had known him better. Several of my friends were very close to him and told me about his death last Thursday (October 20th). I dug out this picture I had taken of Norman several years ago (3? 4? I wish I could remember) when I bumped into him at the Vankleek Hill Farmers' Market on a Saturday afternoon. He was a marvelous cook and bought fresh vegetables there. I remember talking with him that afternoon. He was intelligent and widely read and interesting to talk to. 

This afternoon, I visited Norman's house. My friends have to organize all his belongings and take care of everything (a phenomenal amount of work). I was impressed, as I guess everyone is, by all the plants in the house. The living room has very high ceilings but it is almost filled by the plants. 

Most of the plants are mature, and huge, like this giant in the kitchen. 

Apparently, many of these plants are rare, not the kind of plants most people grow, and all very healthy. 

They are everywhere, in every room, hallway, nook and cranny. 

This group of plants is on the landing of the staircase. They looked beautiful in the light of the window. 

I thought this plant was in a pot with a face carved on it, but it was actually a mask sitting on the floor in front. It seemed appropriate for this plant, which is some sort of palm (I guess).  

Norman had many beautiful objects in his house, like this wonderful bass wood instrument (not sure what kind it is, but it is long!) that Holly is holding. 

Mac is holding more of the musical instruments from this amazing collection of objects. Organizing and sorting all these things will take a lot of time. But it is part of the process of saying farewell.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Walking Home This Evening

There are often interesting things to see when I walk home after work. This evening, after I left the building complex where I work in Gatineau, I saw this wonderful figure standing by the side of the road in front of the Museum of Civilization, waving at traffic. I asked the woman wearing the costume if I could take her picture and she stopped waving to pose for me. Her sign says "Harper: stop the slaughter of seals." Isn't that a great seal costume?

I crossed the bridge to Ottawa and walked to the National Art Gallery. I was struck by how beautiful this golden tree was in front of all that grey of the building. I want to enjoy the colours as long as I can - they will be gone so soon. 

This exhibition of drawings has just opened at the National and I decided to visit the show. 

The light was gorgeous this evening as the sun was setting, lighting up the buildings in the background behind Louise Bourgeois' wonderful sculpture, "Maman". The people in a group underneath were listening to a guide explaining about the sculpture. 

The light was also beautiful coming in all the windows in the great entry hall. I have always liked the soaring architecture when walking up the ramp to the hall. There were lots of people here, all dressed up for some special event. I wended my way through them and into the exhibition. It was a marvelous show for anyone who likes neo-classical drawings. Very inspiring. Made me want to go to my studio and pull out my pencils and do all that fine detail and cross-hatching and the kind of stuff we did in art school. 

By the time I left the National, the light was gone from the sky and it was a typical autumn night. I liked these spires in the cathedral, all lit up against the dark sky. Very gothic, almost spooky - perfect for getting in the mood for Hallowe'en.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Signs of Autumn - Fallen Leaves of a Different Kind

When I opened the door to go out on my side deck one evening last weekend, I was surprised to see it almost completely covered by long needles from a pine tree nearby. It made such a great picture because of the rhythmic yet random scattering of the needles, like short golden sketch marks over the brown boards, I had to take a photo of the scene. I love it when Nature gets all artistic on us!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mannequins Modelling Hallowe'en Hats and Horrors

This mannequin is in the window of an upscale boutique in the Byward Market where they usually display pricey trendy clothes. I guess the store owners wanted to get in the spooky spirit of things and so put a black dress and witch's hat on her. I actually liked this outfit better than the ones they usually show!

This rather somber-looking mannequin is just standing in the middle of the cosmetic section of a pharmacy wearing a pirate's outfit. At least, I think it is a pirate's outfit... Very strange!

But this one is even stranger - downright creepy as a matter of fact. She looks like she was partly decapitated and is waiting for someone to finish the job. A real Hallowe'en horror!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Child Haven Dinner 2011

This past Saturday, I attended the Annual Child Haven Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction in Alexandria, Ontario - one of many such events in various cities across Canada. Child Haven is a wonderful charity and I am really pleased to support them in the terrific work they do assisting women and children in India, Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. A lot of people donate funds and time to Child Haven, including these beautiful young women dressed in saris, who prepared and served food at the dinner. 

While waiting for dinner, people looked at the items for auction on two long tables down the centre of the room. 

Each item has a yellow bid card beside it. You write your name and phone number and the amount you bid. Someone might come after you and bid more, so you have to keep checking and decide if you want to outbid that person. There were a lot of beautiful Buddhas like this one. 

I really liked this funky wooden painted truck. Also, the carved walking stick in front was quite beautiful. 

A lovely brass Buddha. I bid on several items - some earrings and a painted tray.

If you didn't feel like bidding on things, there was another table with items for sale - things like saris, scarves, jewellery, pillow cases, cloth bags and so on. Looking at the tables with all the goods on them made me feel like I was at a bazaar. I bought a beautiful pair of earrings and a necklace.

Then it was dinner time and we went back to our tables. Here I am, wearing my new necklace, sitting with two of my table-mates - the artist John Sims on my right and my friend Mac on my left. John's wife Margaret took the picture. 

Dinner was fabulous - butter chicken, naan bread, mango chutney, some wickedly spicy curry vegetables, rice. Yum!

There were lots of lovely ladies in saris walking around. Here is one of the organizers, Susan Joiner, looking particularly beautiful in her sari. 

Child Haven International was founded by Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino, who are truly remarkable people with a remarkable story. They have raised 21 children, including 19 from many countries around the world. One of the highlights of the evening was when they made a presentation about the work Child Haven is doing in India, Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. At one point in the evening I asked Fred if I could take his picture and he stuck a pose for me - then he admired my new necklace.

At the end of the evening, the silent auction was declared closed. I was outbid on a couple of earrings, but no-one went higher on this pretty little tray I bid on, so it is now mine. I love the colours in it.