beauty overshadowed

 

Sometimes I feel that beauty has gone out of fashion.  All around us beauty sits waiting to be discovered, to be noticed, to be appreciated.  We are busy getting annoyed at some political wrangle, getting frightened over threats beyond our control, getting apathetic because we are overwhelmed.  Beauty sits waiting for a glance and in return she lifts us up, makes us draw a quick breath of joyful surprise. So, even if she is out of fashion, I present her today in two forms.  One is the just opening flower…plumeria or frangipani or as I sometimes call her ” Hawaiian girl’s ear flower” .  She smells like vanilla and as you see, she has kept me waiting all summer in hopes of this cluster of blooms.  The flowers are formed as twists and they slowly unfurl in hot humid weather.

The other picture is of a sunset over Georgian Bay.  I have never seen one quite like it.

Woody Woodpecker

 

Ladies and gentlemen… here he is, fresh from Hollywood, just as raucous, cheeky and impudent as ever… your favorite and mine, Woody Woodpecker! It is very hot and sunny in Muskoka.  Confused birch trees are gently dropping their small brown leaves in the still air. Not a breath of wind disturbs the bees as they gather the last of clover nectar.   All is tranquil until Woody appears on the scene.  With a series of screeches he flaps around the property, examining the bark of various trees.  After a few half-hearted pecks he immerses himself in the leaves and branches of a choke cherry tree and makes a feast of the ripe fruit.  He hangs upside down, his red poll conspicuous in the leaves.  With a squawk he flies off to the next fruit tree, cackling as he goes,.  He flies very low from one tree to another so that I sometimes get the impression he is dive bombing me. The white underside of his wings make a show as he flaps around from one tree to another.

I always loved  cartoon Woody Woodpecker for his naughty ways and loud voice.  Well, here he is in the flesh and feathers! He hung out in our back lot all afternoon and probably went off to scare up a little feminine companionship with his cackling laugh and pesky ways.  Never a dull moment with Woody!

Urban beekeeping

 

 

I live in a pretty densely-populated area of Montreal. Three years ago I noticed many bees congregating in my garden around a dripping hose I had been meaning to fix. Groups of twenty or more were quite common. My small city garden is not very well manicured. I planted some wild rose bushes a long time ago and they certainly have thrived. Add to the mix, clematis, peoney bushes, black eyed Susan and some cone flowers and I concluded that the bees were not just coming to drink. There was pollen in this jardin anglais!. My back yard is bordered by a city lane that is part of the Montreal initiative, ” Les Rouelles Vertes”. That means our lane is not paved but rather left to grow green and wild.  Golden rod, milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace flourish there. Add a little judicious planting by the city of Saskatoon berry bushes and elderberry along with orange day lilies, and you have an urban paradise for pollinators.

The high number of bees was puzzling though. A stroll down the lane revealed that one of my neighbors had bravely taken on a new project. She had set up two small hives. She was glad to hear her charges were getting plenty of water even though she had a supply set up for them in her own yard. Perhaps it was a case of, ” the water is wetter on the other side of the fence” ?

How interesting it was to meet my neighbour and learn about her enthusiasm for her project but also to wonder at her courage.  We always think about intrepid bee keepers brandishing their smokers, and kitted out in impenetrable gear. However, imagine the first time a novice beekeeper opens the hive! A scary moment, no?

As you can see, this year our neighborhood bees outdid themselves. Production was over one hundred kilos. I bought a few jars and even got a freebie in honor of my watering hole! After all, it never hurts to spread your wings and try new places….especially if you’re a city bee.

 

 

 

 

Modesty

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A friend and I were shaking our heads over the antics of “president” Trump the other day and he made an unusual request. He said, “write about modesty”. Right away I knew he didn’t mean anything to do with bikinis… or burkinis. The idea simmered in my mind for quite a while. After all, even writing for public consumption is hardly an act of modesty. Do I believe I have something interesting, enlightening, amusing to say? Surely that rules out the modest approach. Modesty is not much appreciated these days.  All the advice columns tell us how to “sell” ourselves, how to “boost” readership, how to “be best” – oops, can’t keep that family out of anything!

How long ago was I taught in what seems now like a medieval Catholic….and British…ethic, not to boast, not to draw attention to one’s own accomplishment, not to be “vain”, “proud”, “a show-off”. Those reproaches were among the worst that could be levelled against anyone.

Then I thought about nature. The way the seasons repeat, the way plants follow a natural progression of what looks like death, rebirth, blooming, seeding and retreat into a mysterious slumber is inexplicable. Animals, that look at us with a certain understanding, an understanding that we, who boast of being the highest form of life, cannot fathom. The sea, wind, stones, planets and stars, simply go about their business without drawing attention to themselves, in their modest way. Even in its most spectacular moments such as volcanic eruptions, tornados or blizzards, nature just is. There is no heralding that “This is the greatest eruption, folks, trust me!” There is, in these great demonstrations of nature’s power, an inherent modesty.

So I must be vigilant. A little less, “fantastic, amazing, incredible” in my writing, and in my thoughts. Let’s have a big round of applause for modesty, folks. After all, it’s the greatest quality!

 

 

 

 

Good Furniture

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I never thought about how sturdy furniture has to be until I started to demolish a couch. Why demolish it? It came into the house through the good work of two wonderful movers – a guy and a woman who worked wonders. I actually wrote a poem about the miracles these people performed. It’s on this blog in the distant past posts and you can have a look if you search for Moving a Washing Machine. I need to get this couch out of my house now because I bought what I know is a much inferior couch. The feature that sold me, however, is that it converts to a bed for when my grandkids visit.

People have tried to get this couch out of my house before to no avail. My little duplex was built in 1960 when furniture was not mammoth and on occasion I have even had to take out the living room windows to get other  pieces in or out. The last time was just after a raging snowstorm and my miracle workers had to wade through two feet of snow with my mother’s antique sofa. The legs of antique sofas do not come off. The prospect of taking those windows out again – and worse – getting them back in properly was not to be considered so through the doors we must go.

My 15 year old grandson and his best friend agreed to carry the darned thing out to the curb if I could be sure it would fit. Hence the need to bash the legs off. Easier said than done. When I bought this couch in the 1980’s (God, how old am I?) it was a high ticket item. Over the years I had it reupholstered and to be honest, it has held up well. After wrestling with it today I understand why.

Four legs – four blocky pieces of wood well upholstered and attached to the frame by nails, screws and staples had to come off! Screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer and most important a steely determination to get those damned legs off the sofa – – and still it took me two hours. The boots? well after the first block of wood  flew off unexpectedly and landed alarmingly close to my bare toes, I figured I’d better put on my version of construction boots.

What really surprised me was how sturdy this sofa really is. I am sure the replacement one will not be half as good. However, it was painlessly paid for with money collected  from a cash-back credit card I have been using for two years (plug for Tangerene here) and the kids will sleep better.

Too bad I have forgotten the name of the maker of my old faithful. I remember I paid a lot of money and bought it in Ogilvy’s. I’m sure it’s the only thing I ever bought in there!

In this throw-away era it was somehow satisfying to discover that my furniture was really well made. It took knowledge and skill to make that sofa. But brute force and a stubborn attitude won the day!

 

At Last

Today in my garden.

HARD SPRING

Spring in Montreal

is a breech birth.

We can feel it coming.

We can feel the earth groaning,

absorbing the ice and snow

of months of frigid darkness.

The sun, it’s warmth

no longer faint, fickle, theoretical,

coaxes, wheedles the first snowdrops, crocuses.

These are never picked.

Now come the shoots of daffodils and tulips

and grass, that universal miracle

appears.

The sound of hardy birds, but still not a leaf.

A few closed buds along a twig

and heavy rain – the waters breaking

cold and painful.

The brave yellow blooms

stand against a meager unkind frost one night

and then, sap drips from a vine

and the whole city knows

a long warm day

with magnolias, pink or white like waxy cups or earth

stars opening on the leafless branches.

The moon rises soft and silvery

over the city blessed by newborn Spring.

 

poem from ” Northern Compass” available on Amazon

 

 

 

Homesick for my garden

 

  
How strange to be homesick for a grey sky. I was under an unfailing blue sky for months this winter – never shovelled a flake of snow, didn’t have to battle ice like my dear friends and relatives here in Montreal. Yet, in April I got restless. I longed to hear the sound of geese returning, to see frail green shoots breaking through the wet cold ground of my little garden. The Spanish camellia bush full of pink blossoms was impressive. The purple bougainvillea tumbling over a wall made a great photo op.  Yet, the yellow mimosa made me long for forsythia. Yes, there is nothing like the humble snowdrop to make you realize how strength resides in the delicate things. The crocus that is the first draw to bees is a sign of hope. How can the victory be worth anything if there was no battle.

The downside is that I have a very ambitious fritillaria  that is almost ready to bloom and I heard rumours of sleet tonight. Time to make a little newspaper had for my darlings that waited so faithfully for me.

Mysteries – Do you know?

OK this is my week for asking my readers questions. I am posting a few pictures that have me scratching my head. One is of a tile depicting a saint – well, he has a halo! He seems to have a falcon on his hand as he rides his horse. Any idea who he is? Then there is a weird rock formation. The picture was taken looking at a cliff face. Obviously water has worn a channel down the rock but I wonder why it is that pink color. Next is a lovely plant that is blooming everywhere.  Is it Mimosa? Finally, this machine on the beach had me puzzled. I presume it is to haul boats up the beach but ….is that a car engine? Curiouer and curiouser as Alice would say!

Mystery plant

Those of my readers who love plants will know the frustration one experiences on finding a plant and having no idea what it is. Perhaps someone out there knows? It is shown here at the end of March in a mountain environment in Spain. So, it is able to thrive in cold snowy mountains and very hot summers. Please comment if you know what it is. Thanks