Sunday, 5 July 2015

Saturday Photo: Where are the Nighthawks and the Ducks?

This photo was taken a couple of years ago at a pond in Parc Beaubien, a rather civilized neighborhood park near us.  For several years ducks had been nesting at this pond or in another a short flight away, and one of our summer pleasures was to watch the ducklings.

However, this year the only ducks to show up were three males.  Don't know what happened to the females, but it looks like the guys were checking out the place where they were born. Unfortunately work on the ponds-which originally were natural but which have been tamed--emptied them in early spring this year and last, so there was no place for nests.

Similarly, for the three decades that we've lived in this house, one of the delightful summer sounds was that of nighthawks hunting in the early evening and morning.  I'd heard from friends a few years ago that nighthawk numbers were crashing, but until now the plague hadn't hit here.  No sounds of the hunters this spring and summer, although the swallows have been swooping around a bit.

Yes, here were are at the Sixth Extinction.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Goodreads Results and a Nice Review

In the flurry of activity around here, I forgot to post the Goodreads Giveaway results.  The lucky three are:

Barry Kazimer of Campbell River, BC, Kelley Burrow of Morenc, MI and Caitlin Wardle of Adelaide, SA.   The books will be in the mail in a couple of days. 


And the latest on the review front:

Ian McGillis writes about River Music  in The Gazette. "Swept up by River Music: Mary Soderstrom's new novel charts course of pioneering pianist.:

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Saturday Photo: Yellow Flowers, Like the Sun

Think I probably posted a similar photo in the past, but at the moment I can't find it, nor can I remember the name of this marvelously invasive flower that is in bloom in our front yard right now.  In a garden of perennials, it does wonders since it provides a splash of yellow for a couple of weeks right after the tulips, daffodils and violets of spring have past.

Bees like the flowers too, and so there's constant coming and going of the beasties.  Good to see them at a time when there is so much bad news about how bees in general are doing.  When you look at the particular, though, some things are doing all right, such as beehives in urban areas.  Not being doused with pesticides makes a big difference.

Just Hours Left in the River Music Giveaway

Don't forget to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for River Music.  Three copies are available.  Enter here.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Saturday Photo: Emerald Ash Borer and the Sixth Extinction

Lots in the news about what climate change and human intervention in the natural world lately: the Pope's encyclical on the environment is a case in point.  
I thought of that this morning when out walking and saw, once again, these signs on several large ash trees on Mount Royal.  Unfortunately the treatment against the emerald ash borer, which was started last fall, didn't work for several that didn't leaf out this spring.  They have become sad ghosts. 
Earlier this week, the city took down several younger ash trees on our street as part of the attempt to contain the disease.  The trees had been planted in the last five or six years to replace aging maples.  All of them appeared relatively healthy, but the strategy is to create a cordon sanitaire around  affected areas, apparently.  
They're supposed to be replaced in the near future, but with what I have no idea.  Once again the balance of nature has been upset by the introduction of something.  As Le Devoir reports this morning, we are in the midst of what appears to be the sixth great extinction of life on earth, with consequences that were not even imagined only a few years ago. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Where is the NDP When It Comes to Extrabilling?

What is happening in Quebec under the Couillard Liberals is extremely discouraging.  Step by step, under the banner of fiscal rigor, the government is privatizing the supply of all services offered to the citizenry.  The evidence is clear as witness the cuts to public education which are not accompanied by similar cuts to financial support to private schools, and the pressure on day cares to reduce their reserves, meaning that they will have to rent facilities from private enterprise, not acquire their own.

The latest thing is the institutionalization of user fees charged by doctors practicing in private clinics.  They are paid by the public system for the care they give, but argue that they can't cover their office expenses  if they don't charge extra.  Of course, any other professional has to figure out how to pay basic costs, and certainly doctors are just as smart as lawyers and accountants so certainly they should be able to do the same.  But that's not an argument I want to get into here.

What does bother me terrificallyis  that under the Canada Health Act which set up the framework of our health system, charging extra fees is not supposed to be allowed.  The idea of eliminating financial barriers to access underlies the whole idea of our Medicare set-up.  Extra billing is contrary to that principle.

To be sure, health is a provincial responsibility, and the cuts in transfers to the provinces from the Federal government gives the Feds less leverage.  But why isn't the NDP, which led the fight for Medicare, protesting the increasing charging of extra fees throughout the country?  Given the desire not to appear to impinge on the provinces,  it might be too much to expect Thomas Mulcair to condemn  extrabilling in Quebec, but there is no reason why he and his team in Quebec can't come out against extrabilling on principle.

The photo, by the way, is of Gaetan Barrette, Quebec's health minister.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Saturday Photo: Now We're Deep into Spring

Perhaps because winter closes down so many things, the odors of spring are particularly poignant here.  Oh, there are days when people say "it smells like snow" and there are others when someone's fireplace sends wood smoke into the air. But at no point is the air as full of fascinating smells as spring.

For a while the delicate perfume of tulips and daffodils floated in when I opened the door in the morning.  Then came the heavier smell of lilacs.  Now Russian olives are in bloom, sending a sort of mock orange fragrance everywhere.  At the same time, Japanese maples are at their loveliest.  The combination of gray green leaves and magenta ones is striking.

This sunny morning after a night of more rain, it smells so good that I just don't want to stay inside.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Beauty out of Disaster: And the Birds Rained Down

Last night my bookies in Kirkland discussed Jocelyn Saucier's Il pleuvait des oiseaux--And the Birds Rained Down in English translation by Rhonda Mullins-  The story has haunted me all day.

This is not a long book, but it is filled with vivid scenes, intricate relationships, a couple of mysteries and a love story that gives hope to anyone who feels time at his or her back. Saucier says she started doing research on the great fires that swept northern Ontario, Minnesota and parts of Manitoba 100 years ago. Between 1910 and 1920 thousands of square kilometers were burned by wildfires started as mining, logging and settlement moved into formerly lightly settled country. Saucier's heroine, a photographer, is trying to make a record of the survivors and goes looking for the legendary Ted Boychuk, who was rendered temporarily blind yet managed to wander for months, searching for friends and family.

The photographer arrives at an encampment of old geezers two weeks after Boychuk's death, and so never hears him tell his story. She and his friends do discover, however, that he has exorcized his memories by making more than 300 paintings of the time. A woman who also has terrible memories of mental illness arrives on the scene, and the small community changes in a way that no one expects.

Clearly Saucier was inspired by some paintings by members of the Group of Seven: none of them experienced the fires first hand, but several painted the ravaged landscapes. Yet Saucier's story is original and moving. It's success cuts across age groups: even though it has more than its share of very old people, the novel has twice won prizes awarded by college students. Definitely worth reading.