Monday, 30 April 2012

A Lunch-Time Walk on a Difficult Day

Today was a difficult day for me at work so on my lunch break, I went for a soothing, relaxing walk with a friend. It was a lovely day, warmer than it has been, and there were many other people also going for walks.

This was a strange scene because the man and the Canada Goose seemed oblivious of each other even though they were sitting in close proximity. They almost looked like a couple that had just had a quarrel and weren't talking. Even the bicycle looks like its attention is somewhere else.

On the way back to the office, we passed this beautiful swath of tulips under a tree. The colour was amazing and really cheered me up on a rather difficult day.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

In Praise of Old Things

Every year about this time, I haul out my ancient lawnmower and wonder if this will be the year it will refuse to start. And that is just what I did this past Saturday. I dragged the poor old thing out and pulled on the starter cord - and pulled, and pulled, and pulled. But nothing happened. I thought, that's it - she won't start, I will have to get a new one. But then I gave one last pull and - amazingly - she roared into life and surprised the heck out of me. I was very pleased, of course, and I pushed my geriatric lawnmower around and cut some grass in the front of my house. This lawnmower is amazing - 20 years old and still working! 

Speaking of old - I have been looking at this abandoned house down the road from us for over 20 years, ever since Peter and I moved to this area. The house was an uninhabited ruin then and still is. I keep wondering if it will just fall down some day but it continues to stand there. I wonder who owns it and why no-one has ever done anything with it, but I also admire the tenacity of the house, refusing to collapse despite neglect and decay, after all these years.   

The abandoned house overlooks a pretty little creek that eventually runs into the Ottawa River. It could be a nice place to live if anyone ever decided to restore it. I am sure there must be an interesting story about this house. Wonder what it is?

On my way back to my own house, I stopped by the side of the road and took some pictures of the farm near my place and the beautiful Laurentians in the background. These are part of the Laurentian Mountain range, which is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world (over 500 million years old). Amazing to be that old and still standing. Hooray for old things.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

People Watching on My Day Off

This was the first sunny day we have had for a while here in Eastern Ontario, which was nice for the first day of a much needed mini-vacation I am taking from work. This morning, I went with my friend Kristen to the National Gallery of Canada to see The Clock (again). This is the 4th time I have seen The Clock - it really is one of the best shows I have ever seen. Today, I got to see what happens at noon - almost as amazing as what happens at midnight. I took this picture of Kristen as we were walking into the National.  

Later, after Kristen and I had lunch and said goodbye, I went for a walk in the Byward Market. I usually walk around the Market in the evening after work and I found that it is quite different early in the afternoon. There were lots of people because it was a nice sunny day. People were buying maple syrup products at this stand.

And of course, people were buying flowers, like these two women. 

This man was looking at all the flags and banners for sale. I love the contrast between the bright coloured flags and the dullness of everything else - it almost looks like the man is trying to escape into a bright world from his dowdy surroundings.

This is quite funny. There are lots of tourists in the Byward Market and lots of people snapping photos. So there I was taking pictures and here was this man taking pictures and I think we ended up taking pictures of each other. Craziness!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Spring Surprise

Like everyone else in Eastern Ontario, I woke to the surprising sight of snow falling this morning. And also like just about everyone else, I took photos of it. Snow this late in spring is unusual in this part of the world, so most people were grumbling about it. But I was impressed how beautiful the snow was as a background for the tulips that are just starting to bloom.

The colours of the flowers and the leaves really stand out against the whiteness, like swirls and blobs made by pastel crayon on a sheet of white paper. 

These tulips are in a park on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River that I walk past every day on my way to work. They almost look like a tulip army, marching off into a snowy field in the distance. In a week, these tulips will probably be basking in the warmth of a sunny afternoon - always a cheerful sight in an unpredictable Canadian spring.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wonderful Old Hand-made Artworks

My late partner, Peter, loved tools that were made by hand. He found these marvelous old hand-made calipers in a garage sale somewhere and they became one of his little treasures. They are not very big - about 10 inches long - and made of steel. I always liked the rough-hewn shoes on the feet and the shape of the legs. Despite their whimsical shape, they really can be used as calipers. I think this is a genuine piece of folk art.

Speaking of folk art, this wonderful little bird was made by my paternal grandfather, Hector Fortier, when he was fairly old. After he retired from a lifetime of farming, he needed to keep busy so he took up wood carving. He carved people and animals out of solid blocks of wood then painted them. Some of his pieces were very good and bought by collectors.

I have only three of his little wood carvings but after many moves and major life changes, I am glad I managed to hang on to them. They are such delicate little pieces.  

This little elephant is one of my favourites. You can see how it was once a cube of wood that he carefully carved into body, legs, head, trunk, ears and tail. He hammered in small nails for the eyes and then painted the whole piece black, except for the tusks. There is something timeless about an object made by hand like this. Let's hope human beings continue always to make such wonderful artworks.

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Serendipity

Part of the fun of taking pictures randomly is that I never know what I am going to get. For instance, when I took this photo. I didn't see the bicyclist doing stretches or the gull flying over Champlain's shoulder. I was only interested in taking a picture of Champlain's statue from a different angle. Then when I viewed the photo on my computer, I saw that the man and the gull were also in the picture, which made it a much more interesting picture. It was just a serendipity. Cool!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Childrens' Art in the National at Midnight

I was at the National Art Gallery of Canada at midnight, seeing Christian Marclay's The Clock one more time. This is a fabulous show and I have enjoyed it every time I've seen it. This time, I watched it until about ten minutes after midnight - I really wanted to see what happens at midnight because a friend told me the movie clips with clocks all nearing midnight and then striking the hour was fantastic. And it was! Amazing! I hope everyone gets a chance to see this sometime (it is on at the National until May 21st). Anyway, as I was leaving the gallery, I stopped to look at some artwork made by children. This one was done by a 10-year old boy. So colourful!

There were several on the theme of boats. They have great classes for kids at the National and I am always fascinated by the freedom and inventiveness of the works displayed from these classes. 

This is one of my favourites. What a great sky! Viewing children's art in the National at midnight is a rather strange experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Flowers and People on a Cool Spring Evening

A nasty storm ripped through Ottawa last night bringing much colder air to the area. But despite the cool temperatures, there were still signs in the Byward Market that spring has finally and definitely arrived. For one thing, the flower vendors are leaving their bouquets outside overnight since they don't have to worry about frost. I took a photo of these flowers through a chain link fence. I was impressed how vibrant their colours were.

The layers of colours almost make the flowers look like abstract swirling patterns of pink and yellow and green and blue. Eye candy indeed!

There were a lot of people in the Market this evening as well. These young people were eating ice cream despite the cold wind and seemed to be having a good time. 

When I went into the Rideau Centre to get out of the cold, I saw this woman sitting on a bench near the cosmetic counter of a large store. I love the contrast between this woman and the woman in the poster for Lancome beauty products in the background - a contrast between reality and fantasy. Both woman are sitting with their legs crossed but other than that, they are utterly different.  

On my way back to my apartment, I passed by Zaks restaurant, which is one of the more fun places to eat. Going into Zaks is like going back in time to the 1950's because of the neon lights, the booths, the juke boxes and the menu (mostly burgers). It presents a colourful picture on a cool spring evening.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Story of Meh the Cat, and Other Things

This is Meh the Cat. I met her one evening last week when I was walking around the Byward Market area of downtown Ottawa. She was sitting atop the most amazing contraption I have seen in quite some time - several wheels supporting some large boxes covered by tarps. As I was trying to get a good picture of her and the contraption she was sitting on, the "owner" of this interesting pile of stuff came across the street with a bowl of water. He was obviously a homeless man. I asked him about his contraption and he told me that it was home for him, his cat and his dog (who was tied to the front). I told him I liked his cat and asked if he minded if I took a picture and he said no problem. When I asked the cat's name he said it was Meh and spelled it.(My picture is not the greatest because Meh kept moving around.) I would have liked to take a picture of his contraption but it seemed a bit exploitative - I didn't want to treat him like a sideshow freak just because he was poor and homeless. Then I gave him a donation to help feed his animals and left. He was a young man, pleasant to talk to, and obviously good to his pets. I wish him and Meh and the dog good luck - in this difficult world, they are going to need it.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

History Repeats Itself - With a Twist

Last year in April 2011, I posted a blog in which I talked about going to the Canadian Tire store in Hawkesbury, Ontario, to buy a simple item and instead got seduced by a display of icicle pansies in the garden centre. Well, history repeated itself this past weekend when I went to the same Canadian Tire store and again got seduced by a display of pansies outside the front of the store. They were just so colourful and cheerful and it all became a blur after that. 

And, just like last year, I noticed flowers in other places later that day. I happened to go to another part of town and saw these dandelions growing against a wall in a parking lot. 

These were the first dandelions I had seen this year. I actually like dandelions in the spring before they go to seed and get ugly - they are such happy yellow flowers. It is impressive that they can grow in the most unlikely places, like this bunch growing in a crack between the road and a concrete wall, surrounded by refuse and garbage. Such hardy little plants! 

Last year, when I saw the pansies at the Canadian Tire store, I resisted buying any. This year was a different story since I bought a bunch and brought them home. They are now happily planted in my garden.

Since it has been quite cold for about a month, the plants in my garden are coming in very slowly. But the crocuses are now at their prime and will soon be all done for the year. It is a good thing I got the pansies to provide some colour in the garden after the crocuses are finished and before the rest of the bulbs and perennials bloom. Spring is such a wonderful time of year, especially in a cold climate like ours, that it is easy to cherish these small wonders that seem to happen every day.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A Sparkling Spring Day in the City

The sun seemed extra bright today and made everything look so sharp and clear. As I was crossing the Alexandra bridge from Hull to Ottawa, I noticed how it sparkled on the water. The buildings were just silhouettes on the horizon and the sunshine made a rather abstract shape on the river.

In this close-up, the sparkles on the water look like a swirling dancing figure made of lights.  

In spring, as the poet says, a young man's this case, a young couple's fancy.... turn to thoughts of love. 

This old tree with two huge trunks in Major's Hill Park is quite twisty and gnarly. In the background, you can see the American Embassy (sometimes referred to as "the Fortress"). I like the contrast between the earthiness of the tree and the sterility of the embassy building. 

The sun made everything so warm. This person was taking advantage of the beautiful weather, lying on the grass on the side of a hill in the park. 

Everywhere one goes, one sees people with cell phones in their ears. But I liked the way this young woman was also holding a bouquet of flowers as she stood on a corner waiting for the traffic light to change, in the bright afternoon sun in the city.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Visiting Family in Toronto

This is my grandson, Charlie, who is 2 1/2. This past weekend, I visited Charlie and his brother, Max, who is 4, and my son, Brian, and daughter-in-law, Michelle, in Toronto. On Saturday morning, Brian left the house early to run in a charity race - Harry's Spring Run-Off in High Park in downtown Toronto. Michelle, Max, Charlie and I went later to watch him cross the finish line. It was a cool morning and Charlie put on this wonderful hat when we left the house.

When we got to High Park, we put Max and Charlie in this wagon to take them to the place where their Dad would be crossing the finish line of the race. There were thousands of people in the park so this was a good way to keep everyone together.  

Despite the huge crowd of people, we did get to see Brian cross the finish line. Later we found him among all the runners who had finished and I took this picture of the family together. 

And here is the conquering hero! Brian ran the 8km race in about 40 minutes and was quite pleased with his time. 

That evening, after Max and Charlie were in bed, Brian and I met my daughter, Sarah, at a restaurant called the Keg. We had a wonderful visit and a great dinner together and Brian took this pic of me and Sarah together behind plates of salad and nachos.

Just before I left Toronto, I took this picture of Charlie. His favourite toy is a plush elephant, which he carries around, takes to bed, and so on. As you can imagine, the toy elephant gets quite dirty. For this reason, he has 10 of these elephants, all exactly the same, so he never has to live without his favourite buddy while it is in the wash. When I took this picture, Charlie had been walking around with 4 of the elephants at once. You can never have too many friends to hug!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

All Dressed Up for Spring

This photograph was taken a long, long time ago (so long ago, I don't want to count the years). My sister Marilyn is on the left, my mother in the middle, and I am on the right. We were all dressed up to go to Sunday Mass and I am quite sure it was sometime in the Spring, just by looking at the white stockings and the hats. Those were different times - we would get all dressed up for church and special occasions, and I remember how much I enjoyed wearing a new hat on Easter. It was always a wonderful time of the year. Happy Easter weekend and Happy Passover, everyone. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

More People Watching

As I was walking home from work this afternoon, I saw these two girls sitting together, talking, while they were waiting for a bus. I really like the way one is wearing a red hat and a red shirt under her jacket, while the other is wearing a blue hat and a blue shirt under her jacket. Great colours!

Later, I was passing by the National Gallery when I saw these two young guys. For some reason, one of them decided to climb on a cement trash bin so he could read the sign beside the Gallery's front door. No reason to do that because the sign is quite readable just standing in front of it. But after all, he was young, and young guys seem to like to do things like that. I thought it was funny!  

By the way, one of the reasons I walked over to the National was to look at this large banner, which they just hung up today. It announces the Gallery's big summer blockbuster show - their Van Gogh exhibition, which will be starting on May 25. A must-see for fans! I love the painting on the banner - so organic and wild against the sterile grey columns of the building. It brightened up a rather dull, cheerless afternoon.