Category Archives: BLOG

Spring has sprung – at last!

It seems, of late, that it has taken much longer for spring to arrive. It’s as if the seasons are all about a month behind where they should be. But, that said, it’s a delight to have windows open, the sun radiating real warmth that soaks into you, and birds singing on every branch.

It wasn’t too long ago that the fields were swathed in snow and ice and branches barely showed above the banks on the roadsides. Now, when Harley and I go for our morning strolls, it’s a joy instead of a chore – for both of us. Now, if you look closely, buds are swelling getting ready to burst forth with leaves and flowers and the scents of the season. Spring truly is a time of rebirth and everyone’s mood reflects that. Walking down the street I notice that people are walking more lightly and with energy, smiling greetings at each other – no longer brief and gruff as winter winds drive the cold and damp into one’s bones.

In four days I’m off to Ireland on a Writer’s Retreat with author and workshop leader, Gerard Collins. He’s attracted an interesting group of writers to participate in the event from novices to experienced and published authors themselves. It should be a fascinating adventure and hopefully I’ll finally take the plunge on developing at least one of the book concepts I’ve been tossing around for eons. I’ll try and keep you posted from the Emerald Isle if I can. Meanwhile, get out, breathe deeply and enjoy the burgeoning spring that is just around the corner.

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Also posted in Canada, New Brunswick, photography, seasons Tagged |

Winter Sunday Sunrise

For many people winter isn’t the most joyous of the seasons. I can be one of those, whining about the cold, the ice, the aches and pains. But, since I have no choice to to head out every day for the benefit of my canine companion Harley, I’m working on retraining myself to see the beauty in all of the seasons.

We walk early in the morning, usually just before or during sunrise. Normally I take a camera, or at least my cell phone with its camera, when we walk. Today, unfortunately, I forgot to take either with me when we set out for our daily stroll down Mulberry Lane. In hindsight, it wasn’t unfortunate at all. Mulberry Lane runs between two large hayfields and the view in any direction is quite lovely. Sometimes the openness of the area is a detriment – like when the wind is blowing a gale across those fields, whipping any available snow into a frenzy that stings cheeks, eyes and fingertips.

Other times, like today, the air was exceptionally warm for late February and the fog lay heavily over the fields, obscuring both sights and sounds. For once we couldn’t hear any traffic on the nearby highway. Our view consisted of the tops of trees poking above the low lying fog clouds. So quiet, so peaceful, it made our pre-dawn walk a joy to the senses.

Once we got home I rushed to get my camera set up on the deck to capture what was left of the most eerie but pleasant feeling from our morning’s endeavours.

 

Sunny winter sunrise in Picadilly, NB

 

Winter sunrise on the hills of Picadilly, NB

Needless to say my constant companion was close at paw to oversee my efforts.

I can barely remember a time when my shadow wasn’t present for everything I do.

Harley watching sunrise

Every day is a gift, meant to be enjoyed, each moment appreciated for what it is.

Also posted in appreciation, seasons, sunrise, winter Tagged , |

The Hunger Moon

The full moon in February is called The Hunger Moon because, in times past (and perhaps not so far in the past), people’s food supplies and game for hunting had dwindled through the winter and they were hungry. Nonetheless, a full moon is always an impressive sight.

The Hunger Moon

This morning the air was bitterly cold. The thermometer read -25ºC and with the windchill the feels-like temperature was at least five degrees colder. Cameras (and photographers) really don’t like extreme cold, so I shot this image of the moon shortly prior to daylight through the window.

Pre-dawn

As the moon continued to set, the sky lightened to its pre-dawn purple hue hinting at a warmth that wasn’t there.

Sunrise

And even as the sun began to rise adding its hint of warmth to the scene across the road, the wind came up as well. For all creatures, two and four-legged, it would prove to be brutally cold for hours yet to come. No wonder it is the season of the hunger moon.

 

Also posted in Canada, New Brunswick, photography, seasons Tagged , , , |

Why celebrate? Why not celebrate!

Last Sunday was our friend’s birthday. Chester McMackin turned a youthful 84. So, Judi and I (and Lola in spirit!) decided to celebrate the occasion with our Facebook buddy – face to face rather than keyboard to keyboard. We got together at his favourite coffee spot in Hampton and shared stories, laughter and, of course, cake!

With twinkling eyes and the lilt of laughter in his voice, Chester regaled us with tales of his childhood and more. In other words, life in general.

His dramatic reading of the cleverly written (and dictated by Murphy the horse) tribute from Judi, accompanying the lovely framed portrait, had us and everyone else in the establishment in stitches!

And then the cake appeared – chocolate upon chocolate – causing the recipients (us) to ooohhh and aaahhhh appropriately in anticipation of the sweet delight – such are our peccadilloes.

Armed with a potentially lethal weapon, Chester divided the booty among us – and the party continued!

Not to be outdone by the ladies’ gifts to mark the occasion (framed photo from Judi, fresh homemade shortbread cookies from yours truly!), Chester presented each of us a treasure trove of fudge to take home. Who could resist?

Yep, it was a very good day. We wish our buddy “Chesterkins” a very Happy Birthday and hope we can all celebrate many, many more!

 

Also posted in accomplishments, appreciation, family Tagged , , , |

Keeping spirits bright

 

The holidays are over and keeping spirits bright through the dismal days of January and February is far from easy. For me it goes back to my vow to slow down and become more consciously creative.

I’ve played the violin since I was about three years old. I grew up in a house full of music. My mother, a former concert pianist, taught music lessons in our home. My father was a piano tuner and an accomplished pianist himself. Games consisted of listening to musical notes and learning to identify them, or the types of chords etc. I grew up studying various instruments, but the violin was my primary focus.

When I was 16 my parents bought me this violin. It has been in my then-boyfriend’s family for quite a while, fiddled upon by his grandfather. It didn’t seem to be anything special, but it had a lovely tone. Wooden, and particularly stringed, instruments mellow with age and use and the sound becomes deeper, more resonant and warm with time. Even though it hadn’t been played in decades, I could feel it the moment I first drew a bow across the strings.

That violin travelled with me through years as Concert Mistress with the then-fledgling #NewBrunswickYouthOrchestra, through a term at the #RoyalAcademyofMusic in London, England, and through my music studies at #AcadiaUniversity upon my return. Practice wasn’t hard for me; it was an emotional and creative outlet.

Then things changed. Life happened. Instead of pursuing that creative career I turned to teaching school, marriage, having and raising a son. More life happened. More career changes and suddenly I realized that literally decades had passed during which I had rarely even touched my violin.

When I met my birth mother and greatly extended family 24 years ago I learned that my grandfather was renowned as a fiddler. Who knew?

I make my living as a photographer and writer now. In planning for an upcoming creative writing workshop in Ireland this spring I talked to #Dr.GerardCollins who will be leading the event. During the past couple of years we’d become friends, frequenting the same cozy coffee shop in downtown Sussex. In the course of our conversation about the workshop, I happened to mention that, in my youth, I played the violin. He went on to say that he dabbled with the guitar and some of the other potential workshop participants also played an assortment of musical instruments, or sang or both, and that I should bone up in preparation for some inspiring musical evenings.

Challenged, I came home and dug my old violin out of the closet, tuned it up and began to play – albeit badly. But it was fun and after just a few minutes I began to feel that ‘vibe’, that connection between the violin and me. And from that was born my commitment to a year of creativity – both visually and verbally.

So, while I am playing away a little bit, I am also working on my photographic techniques, combining two of my passions – music and visual arts.

The music and this old instrument have become my bridge to greater creativity.

The sound pours out of these worn holes straight from my soul.

New pegs clash with the old wood on the scroll but were needed to hold the strings in tune.

Not unexpected in an instrument that was originally crafted in 1731 in Paris by a luthier named Gavinies. Yes, my violin really is that old!

Gavinies’ violins are reputed to boast a sweet sound, and mine does. It’s deep, and rich and mellow with a vibrance that belies its battered appearance.

Thank you, Gerard, for nudging me back to my first love – making melodies sing.

 

Also posted in photography, winter Tagged , , |

New Year and new focus

The door closed on 2016 and the sun rose on a new year a couple of days ago. We are conditioned to think that as one year ends and another begins we should reflect back on the happenings of the prior year and plan for changes in the new one with an emphasis on improvements and perhaps doing more.

I’m not immune to such thoughts. In the new year I will have a new focus as well – a focus on slowing down to allow myself more time to be creative. Slowing down to make time to think about what I want to create, and how, and in what medium. A new photograph? Something written? Some music played on my recently resurrected violin? Who knows? But, without slowing down and thinking about it, how can anyone truly be creative?

Although we are now in the midst of winter, the solstice has passed and the days are already becoming longer and brighter, although at a glacial pace so far, and it’s noticeable. For those of us that crave light, this is an unimaginable blessing. Although the coldest two months are still ahead of us, sunshine and more light in the morning and late afternoon makes it bearable. Even our dogs have to bundle up at this time of year!

So, with plans to write more, photograph more, make more music, the new year has begun with a focus on creativity. What do you have in mind?

Happy New Year!

 

Also posted in creativity, photography, writing Tagged , , , , |

’tis the Season for Sharing

It is the season for sharing – every television program and advertisement says so. And by their definition, sharing also means caring – or showing that, in fact, you do care one way or another.

There’s a story going around on Facebook right now and it says:

“My child, each year ask me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I’d give you my real answer:

What do I want for Christmas? I want you.

I want you to keep coming around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help.

I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries.

I want you to continue sharing your life with me.

Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don’t care. Hearing you laugh is music to me.

I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how, and I’m not bragging, but I did a pretty darn good job.

Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work; I’m pretty proud of it.

Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I want you to spend your money making a better life for you, I have the things I need.
I want to see you happy and healthy.
When you ask me what I want for Christmas, I say “nothing” because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. I want you !!! I love you dearly xoxo

When your all-grown-up children and their families live far, far away, some of these things just aren’t possible. No small hands raid my cookie jar. No little people sit on the couch to watch Christmas movies on TV with me. That is life in the world as we know it. Sad, but reality.

The media builds the hype of the season – blissful families sharing tender moments of joy and peace together around a festive dinner table. While I wish that for one and all, the reality is often quite different. Whether it is due to distance, finances, loss of loved ones or just the inherent ‘busyness’ of life, many people are lonely at this most festive time of year. Despite access to amazing technology like Skype, FaceTime, or even a simple telephone call for keeping in touch, far too often time goes by with no connections made.

Since it is the season for sharing we all have choices to be made. Do we wallow in self pity and loneliness? Or get up and out and join the festivities?

We are, indeed, responsible for our own happiness. If we depend on others to make us happy we are doomed to disappointment. Instead, enjoy the myriad of wee things that happen every day, those little moments of joy that are too easy to overlook. Be kind to others. Surprisingly when you go out of your way to make someone else’s day joyful, your own improves too.

So, my wish for those who read my words is that you do, indeed, share and have a happy and joyful holiday season – whatever it is that you celebrate. Enjoy the little things that give you pleasure – bright coloured lights in shop and house windows, sweet treats on a pretty plate, a good meal – whether alone or with friends and family. Give hugs and receive them with pleasure. Pat the dog, stroke the cat, nuzzle the horse. Inhale the wonderful scents that make life sweet.

Merry Christmas to one and all and as the New Year rolls in, lift a glass and give the toast favoured by my Jewish friends, “l’chaim – to life!”.

 

Also posted in caring, Christmas, emotions, family

Making friends – making smiles

I met a new friend today by happenstance. One of my friends on Facebook shared a link to this artist’s blog and it totally resonated with me. I posted a response to her #makeamakersmile blogpost, and she responded to me. We share a philosophy and a deep appreciate for art and landscapes, although we work in different media.

costa-flower-_l2h0700

Do check out her blogpost at https://www.janehunterart.com/blogs/news/make-a-maker-smile. While you’re there, poke around on her website. I hope you’ll enjoy her creations and perhaps even make a purchase. Who knows, this could become an international movement! Meanwhile, here on this side of the Atlantic pond there are many artists as well, several of them living a stone’s throw away. With the madness of Christmas gift giving upon us all, why not give a hand crafted item, book, image, painting or whatever that will be sure to delight the recipient and support a local artist as well.

Also posted in appreciation, Christmas, photography Tagged , , , |

Coping

Everyone has his or her own way of coping with loss or drastic change. For me it means grabbing a camera, putting a leash on the dog, and going for a walk on a country road just to stretch and breathe slowly, letting the stress out with each deep breath.

Last vestiges of fall foliage

Last vestiges of fall foliage

Sometimes if you take the time to peek into the ditches you’ll find remnants of the amazing fall foliage colours the Maritimes are famous for – and it will make you smile in spite of yourself.

Not letting go

Not letting go

And at the edge of the road a loan leaf clings to the naked branch of a bush, its comrades blown away by the last strong wind.

After two weeks of travelling in to the hospital to sit with my mother, brothers and sisters while her life ebbed away, and another week of frantic activity after the not-unexpected 6:a.m. call, the hubbub has slowed and the exhaustion has set in. When you are sad it is hard to get motivated to bundle up against the cold and go outside, but Mother Nature offers solace, encouragement and the rejuvenation needed to keep coping and moving on.

 

Supermoon (Beaver moon) Rising

Supermoon (Beaver moon) Rising

Last night I had intended to go out and set up my gear to capture the rising of the Supermoon over the local hills. One of the side effects of grief and attempting to cope is the inability to remember things properly and motivate yourself in a timely way. Instead of preparing, I sat down and ate dinner with my husband, only realizing after the fact that I’d missed that moment of the moon appearing over the crest of the hill. The best I could manage was a quick snap of it rising rapidly through the naked tree branches across the road.

Supermoon setting

Supermoon setting

My alternate plan, since I’m an early riser anyway, was to get out this morning and capture the giant orb setting over the Town of Sussex to the west of us. Mother Nature played a cruel joke on my plan and hid most of the moon behind cloud cover, showing just enough to taunt me!

Look closely and you'll see the lights of Sussex at the bottom of the photo.

Look closely and you’ll see the lights of Sussex at the bottom of the photo.

Everyone has different coping strategies. For me it will be more walks with Harley and perhaps a camera over my shoulder too. It’s been a long several months and no matter how prepared for someone’s death you think you are, you aren’t. A death brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others. Hopefully those who cope by striking out against others will find their way back to those who support each other in coping with the loss of the linchpin that held it all together.

Also posted in appreciation, Autumn, caring, death, emotions, Fall Foliage, family, New Brunswick, photography, rural living lifestyle, seasons, writing Tagged , , |

Farewell to a brave soul

Marjorie (Butland) Snow 1933-2016 RIP

Marjorie (Butland) Snow
1933-2016
RIP

My mother passed away this morning taking her brave soul to wherever such souls go. Like the rest of us, she wasn’t perfect. But she tried her best to be a good person, especially in the face of tragedy after tragedy throughout her life including the loss of a baby to SIDS, an adult daughter to an accident, her first husband to an accident, a beautiful grand daughter to illness, her second husband to cancer, her own mother and two sisters, friends and relatives, and repeated battles with her own cancer. Through it all and much more she just kept going, doing her best. And what more can one ask of anyone?

She left a legacy of family members across the country – four generations at last count.

There were many moments of joy too. The thrill of finding a daughter given up for adoption 42 years previously. The delight in the marriages of her grandchildren. And later on the birth of her great, and great great, grandchildren – populating the country from coast to coast! In the 24 years that I’ve been a part of this family I’ve collected a few photos at various event. Many are just snapshots grabbed with a point and shoot camera or a cell phone, but they are just a few of the tangible memories of laughter and smiles I will carry in my heart. Rest in peace, Mum.

https://youtu.be/Z7KBvXSY0bc

Also posted in appreciation, family Tagged , , |