Friday 24 December 2021

Saturday Photo: Sunrise on Christmas...

 Over the hump, the days will be getting longer soon..

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday.  Here's the link to our blog:

Sunday 19 December 2021

Saturday Photo: Christmas Lights

 Lots of lights around here this year.  I think people are fed up with darkness.  This is my little contribution.

Saturday 11 December 2021

Saturday Photo: Countdown to Christmas Means an Afternoon Making Sil

 This year I didn't have quite as many, but I was finally able to buy salt herring with which to make sil, the Swedish pickled fish delight. 

My hands smell like fish now, but there are four jars in the fridge to be opened when the holiday festivities  begin.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Saturday Photo: The Fraser River Flood Plain

 This is a photo I found on WikiCommons of the Fraser River flood plain in non-flood times.  You can see how lush it is, and how the river meanders.  No wonder people have wanted to farm and live near it.  But you can also see the danger.  When the big storms come, when the atmospheric rivers bring enormoous quantities of rain this land is going to flood.  As sea levels rise, the possible--no, probable--damage will mount.

What has happened in BC and to a lesser extent in Washington State these last couple of weeks should summon us all to action.  Will it?

Saturday 27 November 2021

Saturday Photo: Winter Smiles and a Little Snow

 Actually the photo was taken a year ago, but it fits today, the first morning we have snow in Montreal.  Oh, there have been a few snowflakes but nothing that's stayed on the ground. Not that there's much today either, but at least winter has begun. 

And the first snowfall is about two weeks later than it has been over the last several decades.  My bench mark has always been my birthday, Nov. 8, before which a few flakes have fallen every years since we came to Montreal in 1968.  Not so this year, another bit of evidence to confirm the climate change trend. 

Not something to smile about, but at least we've been spared weather drama around here so far this year. 

Saturday 20 November 2021

Saturday Photo: Jakarta Waterfront: Old and New

 No post last Saturday because I was deep in the final stages of preparing my new book Against the Seas for submission.

It was all done by Monday afternoon, the delivery date the publisher and I had agreed upon.  So, I never did make it to Jakarta, but the book has come together anyway.  This is a photo taken by my "eyes" in Jakarta, Aly Fauzy and Thareq M. 

Sunday 7 November 2021

Saturday Photo: Puget Sound Storm, and My Book

 Going into the home stretch with my book Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Oceans.  Spent some time yesterday looking for images, and came across this painting by Alfred Beirstadt done in 1870.  Seems the artist had not yet traveled to the Pacific Coast, and painted it from descriptions of the area.  Still it seems strangely evocative of bad weather, which is what we're all going to experience in the coming decades if we don't get serious about climate change.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Saturday Photo: Halloween Anyway

 No kids at our house going out trick or treating this Halloween, but I did buy a pumpkin.  The photo is of someone else's house, but I'm sharing it just because I like it.

Take care!

Sunday 24 October 2021

Saturday Photo: Resilience,, Times Two

 This is the Bibliothèque Mordecai-Richler, lodged in what was formerly The Church of the Ascension, an Anglican church that closed its doors something like 30 years ago.

Using the church building as a library was a great thing to do, and the fact that the library now bears the name of Montreal's legendary Jewish novelist is either wonderfully eceumenical, ironic or simply classy.  Certainlly it shows the resilience of several aspects of society: urban planning, cultural continuity, humour....

But the photo shows another sort of resilience: the sunflower growing in the gutter on the roof.  Tried to get a better photo of it, but was too far away and messing with Photoshop doesn't help.  That flowers will grow so far up is really great...

Saturday 16 October 2021

Saturday Photo: Resilience, or Something to Remember When You're Feeling Caged in

 This was taken in a new park in my neighborhood.  The plantings are all perennials, and most are native to the  region.  This has mean that they'd done very well during this hot, dry summer.

So well, in fact, that some of them have sprouted off spring, including this little flower that seems to be overflowing with life.  You can bring beauty nearly everywhere--or at least take a stab at it.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Saturday Photo: Happy Thanksgiving, Despite Everything

 This Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  The statutory holiday is Monday but we've always celebrated whenever it's convenient for friends and family to get together.  At times we have had big potluck parties (we did the turkeys and several sides, while everyone else brought something to share), but I'm afraid that is behind us, what with Covid 19 and all.

Nevertheless, while I'm far from a believer, I think it's a very good thing to stop now and then to realize just how many good things have come my way.  I invite you to do that this weekend, even if I can't invite you to supper.  Doing so puts everything in perspective....

Saturday 2 October 2021

Saturday Photo: The Streams That Flow to the Fleuve

 I've always wondered at the distinction made in modern French between fleuve and rivière. For a long time I thought that one was big and the other little, but that's not it.

What makes the difference is whether the watercourse flows into the sea. If it doesn't, it's a rivière no matter how bit it is. 

A fleuve, on the other hand, goes directly into the sea.  The St. Lawrence is a fleuve  but all its tributaries are rivières.

 The photo is of a small stream that drains one of the fields along the St. Lawrence.  In this summer of drought, it was very small indeed.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Saturday Photo: Summer's End But the Weather Continues Warm, Maybe Too Warm

 Like kids in a class portrait at the end of the school year, these sunflowers stood tall a week ago when I walked by them, enjoying the amazing summer-like weather.  This is the first weekend in fall, offiically, but it continues unusually warm. The temptation is to enjoy it, which I am, but also I worry just what this very slow end to summer means. We haven't had the crazy weather that the western part of North America suffered, but who know what climate change has in store for us next...

Saturday 18 September 2021

Saturday Photo: The Salish Sea from Space...

The Salish Sea--the Puget Sound, Strait of Juan da Fuca, Georgia Strait area-- is one of the regions I look at carefully in my new book Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Oceans.  

Getting closer to a contract, writing hard...

Saturday 11 September 2021

Saturday Photo: Mangroves, Another Tool in the Fight against Rising Seas

 Glad to report that it looks like I'll be signing a contract very soon for my next book Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Seas.  Details will follow, but in the meantime here is a photo of mangroves near Jakarta, Indonesia.  The tree is one of the natural tools that should be used more and more as we learn to live with climate change.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Saturday Photo: Salt Marsh: the Answer to Our Problems?

 It looks like I'll be getting a contract for Against the Seas: Saving Civilizatins from Rising Oceans rather soon, so I thought I'd share another photo from our trip to the Bas St-Laurent.  This is the "sea" side of the batture at St. Alexandre de Kamouraska: at high tide it is flooded with salt water from the St. Lawrence estuary.

Although storm surges can cause damage along this stretch, the gradual slope of the flats and teh plentiful vegetation mean that much of the waves' energy is harmlessly expended.

Turning other seaside landscapes into tide flats may well be a key technique in cutting down damage caused be rising sea levels.

Saturday 28 August 2021

Saturday Photo: School Starts, Summer Was Too Hot and Dry

This is not this year's batch of kids going to school: you can see that there's not a mask in the lot.  But school started in Montreal this week, and will start in the rest of the province next week.  

Summer was unusually hot and sunny here--not as dry or as hot as other places, but nevertheless the weather is enough to worry about.

At the moment though it is coolish and I have decided that sometimes the better path is live for the moment...

Saturday 21 August 2021

Saturday Photo: The Batture at Saint-André de Kamouraska

Note: this was such a good trip I'm posting it twice!


 Down in the Bas St-Laurent recently to see how people there cope with rising sea levels.  This is the walkway on the top of a dike built to protect some very fertile fields--in other words, an aboiteau.

Had a great walk, and was much impressed by the way it was built.  Much to think about here.

Sunday 15 August 2021

Saturday Photo: Batture or a Walk on the Tamed Side

Spent a great few days in the Lower St. Laurent, including walks on the batturethe dikes constructed to keep back the tides and make the Kamouraska lowlands ready for planting.

It was very hot, but that meant there were few people, and we had this great landscape mostly to ourselves.  It is indeed a tamed landscaped, but very thought-provoking as the techniques used here might be used elsewhere against the rising seas the climate change will bring us.

Saturday 7 August 2021

Saturday Photo: Middens on Vancouver Island

The New Yorker had an interesting read this week about  ways to save us from rising sea levels.  The basic idea is the encouragement of artificial reefs that would be home to many sea creatures and also take the brunt of pounding waves.  Oysters will grow on them, so it's said, and I was reminded of the middens we saw on Vancouver Islands a few years ago.  The bounty from the sea can be considerable.  We just have to be better stewards.

Saturday 31 July 2021

Saturday Photo: To Bee or Not to Bee...

The bees are out, thank goodness.  In this time of so many things not going right, it's a pleasure to see them at work in the 'hood.

It helps that there are several bee hives hidden around, so in addition to the native bees we have some honey bees.  It also helps that gardens tend to be of two types.  One has no pesticides because the owners don't care for their yards.  The other has none either, because the owners more or less have bought into organic gardening. 


Saturday 24 July 2021

Saturday Photo: In Memory of Everyone Who Died before Their Time

My sister Laurie died suddenly in July 2002.  She was beautiful, as well as being smart and exceedingly concerned about justice.  Here is the day Lee and I got married: a good memory.

In this period of far too many premature deaths, I offer my condolences to those who loved, and who now continue living.  The hole in the heart never fills...

Saturday 17 July 2021

Saturday Photo: The Rapids Where the Going Gets Tough, If Not Impossible

 Spent a lovely few hours last Sunday at the Parc des rapides on the St. Lawrence.  These rapids and the St. Mary's rapid to the east effectively blocked sailing ships from going up the great river.  The first canal around the rapids was built in the late 18th century, and since the 1950s all ships have avoided them by using the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Living in the middle of the island of Montreal, it's easy to forget just how powerful the river is.  Standing next to the rapids and watching the terns fish in them was a good reminder of that.  There are forces bigger than us, even if we try to get around them.

Saturday 10 July 2021

Saturday Photo: Wayward Grass....

 The view at the Technoparc last Sunday: grasses and clouds and birds.  There was a time that we did a lo of bird-watching, but kids and dogs got in the way.  Now that we have neither in the house, we've gone back to a little low key bird-watching, which has led to the discovery of a number of interesting places that we wouldn't have visited otherwise.

The Technoparc is a a parcel of land that some would like to develop but which so far has lain fallow.  It's tucked right up next to Trudeau airport, which would at first glance seem to be not the best place for a bird santuary.  What's more, there must have been times in the not to distant past when parts of the ponds were partially drained for some kind of project.  But at the moment, the 215 hectares are a refuge for a wealth of bird life.  Some animals also call it home: we saw a lot of rabbits last week, so many that I wonder if the ecosystem couldn't use a fox or two.

The grass and reeds are as tall as I am right now, and the mosquitos are as big as my fist--no, that's an exaggeration included only to warn the wary. Great space to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning.

Saturday 3 July 2021

Saturday Unphoto: From Bloomberg Green on Wild Fire


By Linda Poon

The worst day for human-caused fires in the U.S. is July 4. That’s a particular problem this year, as a historic heat wave and record drought have exacerbated the risk of wildfires.

That’s why more than 150 fire scientists signed a letter this week urging people in the West to skip fireworks this Independence Day, just as the U.S. enters peak wildfire season. Blazes are already raging in several states, with some spreading through tens of thousands of acres in California, Colorado and Arizona. 

In response, some cities and counties in California, Oregon, Arizona and Utah have canceled public displays, and imposed restrictions or outright bans on the use of personal fireworks. But it won’t be easy to tamp down that bombastic American tradition.

Some places like Aspen, Colorado, are trying out alternative flashy displays. At the popular “Old Fashioned Fourth of July'' festival, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association is hoping to dazzle attendees with a laser show instead of traditional fireworks. In 2018, the association tried a choreographed drone display. “You have to evolve,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg CityLab that year — but smoke from a wildfire that broke out just a day before the holiday canceled that show, too. 

Other places are cracking down on personal use, which can be especially risky and became a more popular hobby during the pandemic. In the San Francisco Bay Area, sheriffs confiscated 15,000 pounds of illegal fireworks, along with $1 million in cash, from two residents who were also operating illegal sales out of a warehouse in Oakland. In a dramatic twist of events in Los Angeles Wednesday night, police who were seizing homemade fireworks caused an accidental explosion as they were attempting to safely detonate the explosives. Seventeen people were injured, including police, in the blast that destroyed the specialized bomb truck containing the fireworks. 

L.A. is also using incentives to dissuade people from setting off their own fireworks. The police department launched a buyback program on Wednesday, receiving some 500 pounds of fireworks in exchange for gift cards. And police are sending cease-and-desist letters to online marketplaces like Craigslist that were hosting illegal sales.

Fires are not the only environmental concern. Cities in China have banned fireworks before to prevent spikes in air pollution. In the U.S., fireworks release 42% more pollutants into the air than on a normal day, according to a 2020 study.

But as the effects of climate change worsen, wildfires loom large as an urgent reason to rethink the explosive pastime. “We're getting to the point where we need to think seriously about restricting the use of fireworks,” says Jennifer Balch, a fire ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “Frankly, we're asking too much of our firefighters who are probably hunkered down waiting to see where the wildfires are going to start.”

Between 1992 and 2015, humans started 7,000 wildfires on July 4, according to Balch. Of all the fires reported that day from 2014 to 2018, more than half were sparked by fireworks, according to a separate analysis from the National Fire Prevention Association. Experts warn that extreme hot and dry conditions enable sparks and falling embers to more easily ignite trees, shrubs and other vegetation. The slightest breeze can carry that fire far and wide.

In 2017, a teen sparked the massive Eagle Creek Fire by throwing two fireworks into the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. It raged for three months, blowing some into Portland and burning through nearly 50,000 acres of land. And in 2020, a smoke-generating “pyrotechnic device” set off during a baby gender reveal party ignited the El Dorado fire, which tore through more than 22,000 acres of San Bernardino County, California.

The percent of wildfires caused by humans has inched up over the last few years. “That's something that's also very much related to our development patterns and our settlement, in that we are building more and more homes into flammable landscapes," Balch says. 

Despite the warnings, the show must go on for some Americans — with some calling the city bans “anti-American” and at least one state’s legislative leaders refraining from any statewide action. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has been pushing the Biden administration to allow fireworks at Mount Rushmore, after the National Parks Service denied the state’s request in March. Fireworks there have been halted since 2009 due to safety concerns, including fire hazards. They resumed for the first time last year under Donald Trump’s presidency. 

But with large swaths of America already on fire, and 2021 setting the perfect conditions for yet another intense wildfire season, perhaps the most patriotic thing for those in the American West to do is lay off the pyrotechnics. 

Saturday 26 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Gate to Where?

Lots of changes in the world.  Sad news about the past coming out.  Pandemic easing here, but raging elsewhere.  All of this, plus drought and heat waves  come to mind as I wander my neighbourhood.  This is part of the lovely installation off Van Horne boulevard where sculptor Glen LeMesurier displays some of his works made from the castoffs of industrialization.

The gate in the photo is closed, and who knows what lies on the other side?  Not I.  Like everyone else, I go forward, hoping for the best.

Saturday 19 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Gypsy Moths....

 This week I went for a walk in one of my favourite places, the Mount Royal Cemetery.  This time of year it usually is full of flowers and fruit like crabapples setting on.  But, to my great dismay, great swaths of the trees were completely denuded of leaves.

The culprit is the Gypsy Moth caterpillar.  We saw them all over the pavement, and jogging friends have said they've been covered with them after running through stretches where the beasts are munching away.  

Dreadful things, but, I'm told, not quite the disaster that they appear to be.  Most of the trees will survive, many will leaf out again, and this kind of infestation cyclical.  Not quite the 17 year cycle of the cicada, but nevertheless something that comes around every 5 to 10 years.

The fact that we're in a very dry spell won't help the trees' recovery.  Rain last night was encouraging, but the jury is still out.  So is my desire to go walking in the cemetery--just too disturbing to see, perhaps.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Mangroves, the Key to Sea Rise Control?

 Firsts installment of the photos some friends in Jakarta took for me, as I try to research what's happening there for my new project, Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Risking Oceans. Mangroves have and could continue to save many shorelines from erosion.  Just one of the things I'm learning about.

Photo by Alya Fauzy

Saturday 5 June 2021

Saturday Photo: Adventure in the Middle of the City

Last weekend we spent a glorious Saturday in Parc Agrignon with some young friends.  It's a very large park by urban standards, and has a Métro station at its edge.  When we arrived in late morning people were arriving with picnic baskets and barbecues, ready to enjoy the first weekend when gatherings were allowed outside in Montreal.  

We had a great time, and our friends, who had to check out everything, particularly liked the wilder side of the lake.  It had woods and places where you could get close to the water, plus grass and weeds to pretend to get lost in.  Their game was some adventure drama that they concocted, vaguely inspired by Star Wars.  A down-to-earth pleasure for all...

Saturday 22 May 2021

Saturday Photo: What to Read...

 We've just set the list for the 2021-22 season of the Atwater Book Club.  Here it is, if you want t get a head start!

September 1
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel Prize for literature 2017)
Klara and the Sun, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. The book offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?

October 13
Who DoYou Think You Are? Alice Munro (Nobel Prize for literature 2013)
Rose and her stepmother Flo live in Hanratty -- across the bridge from the "good" part of town. Rose, alternately fascinated and appalled by the rude energy of the people around her, grows up nursing her hope of outgrowing her humble beginnings and plotting to escape to university.
Rose makes her escape and thinks herself free. But Hanratty's question -- Who do you think you are? -- rings in Rose's ears during her days in Vancouver, mocks her attempts to make her marriage successful, and haunts her new career back East as an actress and interviewer.

November 10
The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh
Off the easternmost corner of India, in the Bay of Bengal, lies the immense labyrinth of tiny islands known as the Sundarbans, where settlers live in fear of drowning tides and man-eating tigers. Piya Roy, a young American marine biologist of Indian descent, arrives in this lush, treacherous landscape in search of a rare species of river dolphin and enlists the aid of a local fisherman and a translator. Together the three of them launch into the elaborate backwaters, drawn unawares into the powerful political undercurrents of this isolated corner of the world that exact a personal toll as fierce as the tides.

March by Geraldine Brooks
From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March. Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Pulitzer Prize 2006

February 9
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo--until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

March 9
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
As an Armenian American living in San Francisco, Armanoush feels like part of her identity is missing and that she must make a journey back to the past, to Turkey, in order to start living her life. Asya is a nineteen-year-old woman living in an extended all-female household in Istanbul who loves Jonny Cash and the French existentialists. The Bastard of Istanbul tells the story of their two families--and a secret connection linking them to a violent event in the history of their homeland.

April 13
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
This story within a story follows Charlie Marlow, whose job was to transport ivory downriver, and who develops an interest in i an ivory procurement agent, Kurtz, who is employed by the government. Preceded by his reputation as a brilliant emissary of progress, Kurtz has now established himself as a god among the natives in “one of the darkest places on earth.” Marlow suspects something else of Kurtz: he has gone mad.

A reflection on corruptive European colonialism and a journey into the nightmare psyche of one of the corrupted, Heart of Darkness is considered one of the most influential works ever written.

May 11
Indians on Vacation by Thomas King
Inspired by a handful of old postcards sent by Uncle Leroy nearly a hundred years earlier, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace Mimi’s long-lost uncle and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe. By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

June 8
Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady
With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian's family's wishes--hard to say what it is, but there's something about Jack that they just don't like--and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack's family...





The painting, BTW, is Lübecker Waisenhaus by Gotthardt Kuehl

Saturday 15 May 2021

Saturday Photo: The Animals of My Neighborhood...and Jokes

When this Covid business started and I was effectively cut off from our grandchildlren, I looked around for ways to keep in contact with them.  Sending letters was a partial solution even though we live in the same city.

 Last spring I wrote a series of stories about our extended family, which included tales of the Spanish Flu epidemic a hundred years ago.  Then, having covered the bases there, I looked around for more things to send in the mail.  These include a series of photos of the strange animals around our neighborhood, like this urban wolf that howls not far from the Outremont Métro station.

But, the kids tell me, nothing beats jokes, so I've been looking for suitable ones in both English and French.

Here's favourite of the youngest (4 1/2: Two mothers are talking  while their children play in the sandbox. 

"My baby has been walking for three months now," says one.

"You better go looking for him," says the other.  "He's probably a gone a long way in that time."

Well, I guess we have a new category to join the "Dad joke" one: it's the Kid joke.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Saturday Photo: May Afternoon at Giverny





Twice in May we visited Monet's garden at Giverny, north of Paris.  It was a lovely experience each time, with the flowers in full bloom and the weather wonderful.  The second time we walked back to the train station at Vernon along country roads that were equally splendid.

 How nice it would be visit again.  Not this year for sure. 

Saturday 1 May 2021

Saturday Photo: Making Book Lists for Next Year--and Maybe Summer Reading

I love this painting called Couch on the Porch, Cos Cob, by Childe Hassam.  Painted in 1914, it captures the feeling of summery days, pre-airconditioning.

 Would love to have your ideas for summer reading, or for book groups next winter.

Saturday 24 April 2021

Saturday Photo: More Whimsy

Last summer some kids near Parc Molson spent some happy time making a little scene in front of a tree in the strip of greenery between the sidewalk and the street.  You'll see what it looked like below. Then came winter and snow and all that and I hadn't thought about the whimiscal setting until this week.  That's when I was delight to see that they had recreated the scene, only this time with a bear coming out the door!  Bravo, kids!


Saturday 17 April 2021

Saturday Photo: Am I Blue? No, How Could You Be with This Kind of Display

 Garden escapes in the woods last Sunday!  Just gorgeous.

And there there's this couple:

Saturday 10 April 2021

Saturday Photo: Ahead of Time, But the Flowers Are Up

 The bees are buzzing around the scylla and other early plants in the front yard, about two weeks earlier than usual.

People are enjoying the weather (even though we're about to go back to an 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal tomorrow night) but it's rather scarey.  Sucha warm, dry, early spring is very unusual--but it's entirely possible that will become the norm. 

Climate change, of course, to add to our pandemic woes!  The temptation, which should be resisted is to enjoy what we can get when the gettings good.  Not a wise choice, I suppose.  This afternoon it will be back to work on a project that possibly may help show our way to a better future.

Saturday 3 April 2021

Saturday Photo: (Very) Urban Agriculture

 This year's crop from the ornamental orange tree. Have had up to 23 in the past, and this year it took months for these to ripen (they'd set on during the summer.) 

But I'm pleased to see them and will use them to cook a duck recipe for Easter supper. Sadly, it will be for the old guy and me only.  We do hope to take a walk in a park with the kids and grandkids though, which is better than last year when we weren't going anywhere in that first lockdown.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Saturday Photo: Chartres, Light at the End of the Tunnel

 This is about the time of year when we might start talking about what to do and where to go this summer.  Probably won't be doing that this year, again.  Which means that I am turning toward the past to satisfy my itchy feet.

This is one of  many photos I've taken on one of our several trips to the cathedral at Chartres.  It's just an hour by local train outside of Paris, through suburbs and farm land.  Lee loves Gothic architecture and Chartres is his favourite example, so no trip to France is complete without a day at Chartres.  

But given the current situation the photo seems particularly relevant.  We have been going through dark times, and perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just as the mid-day sun floods through the south windows of the cathedral on a spring day.  

Saturday 20 March 2021

Saturday Photo: Snowdrops, and Spring Is on Its Way...

Well, actually the snowdrops in front aren't as far along yet--this photo was taken a couple of years ago--but there definitely are little green shoots coming up.  In addition, we woke up last Sunday morning to the scent of skunk: another definite sign of spring.

Heaven knows we need all the good signs we can get!  The authorities keep telling us that the light is showing at the end of the tunnel.  I must admit, also, that we had our first Pfizer vaccine almost two weeks ago.  But given that Covid-19 variants which might escape the vaccine are swirling around, I guess we'll have to look to the those things which make us smile that have nothing to do with pandemics!

Saturday 13 March 2021

Saturday Photo: The Frozen St. Lawrence a Year Ago Before All Hell Broke Loose

 On March 9, 2021 we got our first Covid-19 vaccinations, which was very appropriate since on March 9, 2020 we had our last carefree escapade.  That was the day we took the train from Montreal to Quebec City: two night, three days, much good food, great walks and a visit to the Musée national de beaux arts du Québec.  We came home on Wednesday to find things turning upside down, and we haven't ventured out of Montreal since.

This is what the St. Lawrence looked like from the heights--beautiful and cold.  This year we had a winter full of snow and ice with little rain or freezing rain which meant that getting outside around here was great for walking and (for those younger than me) skating.  Thank goodness for that!

As the light appears at the end of the tunnel, I still find myself looking back to that lovely little trip, though.  It has sustained me....

Saturday 6 March 2021

Satuday Photo: Light at the End of the Tunnel

 The photo may not look like much, just a column of light falling on a bedroom wall, but it means that spring is almost here.

Every year about the first of March, the rising sun swings far enough north to shine briefly in our back bedroom.  Not for long, and then just a sliver, but it means that in a month there will be a much longer period when the sun peeks around the buildings outside and shines in the back of our house. 

Of course, this week has given us deep winter conditions, but it's nice to have a glimpse of what is coming.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Because We Need a Smile..

 It's up to you to choose which smile, of course!  Came across this smiley-hat wearing gargoyle this week.  It seems to embody the crazy back-and-forth emotions of this crazy time...

Saturday 20 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Waiting for a Bike Ride...

 Or maybe it's winter storage for bikes!

Days are getting longer, this winter of our discontent will be over sometime....

Saturday 13 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Winter Biking, and Valentine's Day

Yesterday, February 12, was this year's Winter Bike to Work Day.  I'm not a cyclist (no way, hit by one age 5, finally learned how age 50, and now wouldn't even try.)  But since the pandemic began more and more people who are actually going into work, are using bikes, it seems.

Really, even in this climate!

Here's a photo I took this morning on my walk (of course, walking is what our two legs were made for!)  Obviously someone has things all set to go when the spirit moves her (or him.)  The other, skelatal bike raises more questions.  Left here certainly since before the snow got deep, and without its seat which suggests its owner wanted to make sure that it wasn't taken before it was wanted for use. 

But also, tomorrow being Valentine's Day, an idea popped up my devious mind: is this the way little bikes are made?  At the end of the winter will we find two or three kid's bikes chained to the post?  

À suivre... 

Saturday 6 February 2021

Saturday Photo: Funeral for a Dear Friend, a Fine Man


Today a few of us will be celebrating the life of Michel Lizée who died just shy of his 70th birthday after a long illness. As a tribute in the CUPE newsletter put it: "an exceptional activist who worked all his life to make workers aware of the importance of planning and financing their retirement."

 The tribute continues: "His achievements include the implementation of the innovative FTQ wage-funded pension plan for workers in community and women’s groups. In 2010, this plan won the prestigious Plan Sponsor Award from Benefits Canada in Toronto. He was also one of the major architects behind the implementation and development of the UQAM Community Service, which now dates back more than 30 years, whose objective is to support the work of unions and community groups in Quebec.

"An economist by training, UQAM hired Michel Lizée as a research officer back in 1972. Four years later, he joined the SEUQAM (CUPE 1294). He was initially a union representative in 1978 and sat on the Conseil régional FTQ Montréal métropolitain, on the Retirement Committee and was then elected president of the SEUQAM, an office he held from 1983 to 1988.

"A member of the Université du Québec (RRUQ) pension plan retirement committee for more than 30 years, Michel Lizée was one of the most high-profile experts on pension plans, which truly were a passion of his. It was important to him that all employees, whether unionized or not, enjoy a retirement befitting the term. "

Because of the Covid-19 state of emergency, the gathering will be small, but like the sun  on this wild flower, the light that he shone in this dark world illuminates us all. 

Saturday 30 January 2021

Saturday Photo: Time to Get Outside...

 Snow and cold temperatures must not keep us inside in this winter of our discontent.  Here are footsteps in the snow, showing that a lot of people are fed up with confinement, but have chosen to get out safely...

Sunday 24 January 2021

Saturday Photo: What To Do on a Snowy Sunday

 It's been a remarkably mild winter until last week.  Sunday we had a spectacular, wet snowfall, and peple enjoyed making all manner of snow creatures.

And then there was this solitary woman reading on a park bench Sunday afternoon.  Obviously it wasn't all that cold, but also obviously she wasn't going to waste such a beautiful winter day by staying indoors.

Good on her!

Saturday 16 January 2021

Saturday Photo: Let's Do Lunch at the Atwater Library

Construction goes on despite Covid-19, concrete and cement continue to be made--with all that implies for global warming and quality of life.

I'll be talking about that and about my new book Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future at 12:30 p.m. EST Thursday, January 28, 2021.  It'll be one of the Atwater Library and Computer Centre's lunchtime series--by Zoom, of course.

If you'd like to join us, contact the library's tech wizard at for the Zoom link.  You also can get a 15 per cent discount on the book by ordering through the University of Regina's website and using the code CONCRETE15.