Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Weekend in the Country

This past weekend, I was invited to spend the weekend at a friend's cabin on a small lake about an hour out of town. I am not really an outdoorsy person, especially if the weather promises to be hideous. Sunny, hot weather, or sunny, snowy weather, I'm all for being outdoors. Cold, wet fall weather, not so much. Despite all of this, I allowed myself to be lured into nature for the better part of two whole days, and of course had a lovely time, despite the odd snowflake blowing around on the drive out.

Unlike some cabins, where you basically drive up to the door, this requires a bit more work. First, one drives down a two-lane packed dirt highway for about an hour. Then, you unload all your gear in the parking lot at the top of the hill, with the able assistance of two keen, but elderly and arthritic, large dogs. Said gear must then be packed down a trail and rather steep staircase to a long dock, at which point your host putters over in an aluminum fishing boat to pick up guest, gear, and dogs. There ensues a complex calculation about who should sit where and what gear goes where to ensure the boat is stable for the ride over to the cabin, which is at the far end of the lake.

Here, Jake waits for her ride. Note the brilliant weather. It is about one in the afternoon, approximately two degrees above zero, and threatening to rain or snow. Neither the dog nor I am impressed. That is our host in the distance.

Given the weather, it perhaps comes as no surprise that most of Saturday is spent puttering around doing winterizing type things - stacking cordwood, covering up equipment, taking down screens and putting up windows, etc. There is a moment when I see a fairly round hole dead center in the pan of a winter shovel, and jokingly ask if it got shot during hunting season, but that moment passes when I am informed that the hole comes not from a bullet, but a bear claw. We are not in the Laurentians or Muskoka anymore.

At the end of the day, though, safely ensconced inside the cabin, you stoke a nice warm fire in the woodstove, pour some wine, and a great evening of chat ensues.

OK, there was the wee incident around 4 a.m., when Jake and I got really very interested in the sound of little footfalls on the back stoop, but no bears crashed through the door, so all was well, and we soon went back to sleep. Perhaps it was a wolf, or a lynx - definitely smaller than a bear, but bigger than a wolverine or badger. All I can say is, it is very friggin' dark when you are on a lake an hour out of town and there are only 4 other neighbours, and it is the middle of a cloudy, rainy night. Very, very dark.

Hallelujah! By the following morning, the sun has come out! OK, the wind has picked up, so it remains rather closer to zero than I might like for September, but at least the fall colors are popping. This is the view off the dock:

THIS is a reason to trek out into the country. Unfortunately, shortly after breakfast, my host has to go visit a neighbour in order to obtain some assistance with an uncooperative piece of equipment we can't get started. I get to stay back with the dogs. Normally, this would be great, except for the part about Sam not liking to be left by his person. Make no mistake, I am but a pale imitation of his person. Despite a short trek up the hill behind the cabin so we can both see where she and the boat are going, Sam gets upset. So upset in fact, that he proceeds to howl like a wolf. For an hour. He howls until he practically loses his voice, and all that comes out are rough little bleatings where a vigorous growl used to be. He even poses like a wolf to do his howling.

Jake on the other hand, wants nothing to do with her embarassing brother at this point. She has found herself a comfy spot by the lake, and is happy to keep as much distance between us as possible.

Far too soon, it is time to repack the boat and head back to the parking lot, and the realities & responsibilities of the city. We never do see any bears, or the family of eagles that nest on the lake. Maybe next trip.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Captain Canada? I think not

So the guy who brought us the GST and Free Trade with the U.S. is still miffed, 20 years later, with the actions of the guy who brought us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the War Measures Act. The former, we'll call him "Mulroney", is promoting his "memoirs", which are apparently the big lump of dark something or other under the massive pile of steel filings from all the axe-grinding he's been doing in our lapdog national media this week.

"Mulroney" has had the audacity to pontificate on the suitability of "Trudeau" to claim the mantel of "moral leadership" for the nation, which is amusing, since "Trudeau" hasn't been claiming much of anything for the past 7 years, as he's been dead all that time. In asserting his apparent own suitability for the job, "Mulroney" has pointed to "Trudeau"'s well-documented disdain for conscription during World War II, only he's helpfully re-cast it as a failure to support the war on the Nazis.

Whoa, sugar. There's a big difference between supporting those evil Nazis, and asking a few good questions about Canada's version of the draft.

"Trudeau" was barely 20 at the outset of WWII, and he had spent his entire life up to that point nestled in the bosom of Jesuit intellectuals, who were widely regarded at the time as being rather fascististic and anti-semetic. (Sadly, this was hardly a unique perspective in the era, as Canada's own government closed our borders to boatloads of itinerant Jews fleeing Nazi Europe in the late 1930s, desperate for a safe haven. This, just before we rounded up Canadians of Japanese and Ukrainian heritage and placed them in internment camps across the country for the duration of the war, but that's an outrage for another blog).

"Trudeau" - far from perfect. Ironically, "Mulroney", also far from perfect.

"Trudeau" - actually conscripted during WWII. "Mulroney", not so much.

"Trudeau" - served in the Army, "Mulroney", not.

"Trudeau" - blacklisted during the 1950s "Red Scare" in the U.S., because he was an avowed socialist, had attended a conference in Moscow (and thrown a snowball at a statue of Stalin), and subscribed to lefty publications; "Mulroney" - a young Conservative who cultivated political alliances with Diefenbacker, among others, and later forming the international embarassment/spectacle of those Irish singing dudes with Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Mulroney, if the best weapon you can draw again a political enemy dead seven years is what he did in his early 20s, I guess there really isn't as much dirt there as you'd like, is there? This guy "Trudeau" was a prominent politician and Prime Minister for two decades, and THIS is what you come up with?


I won't even deign to discuss how this muckraking pretty much guarantees no one is ever going to press the title of "moral leader" upon you, Mr. Mulroney. Class Act? Elder Statesman? Captain Canada? I think not.

Attacking long dead enemies in public? Tacky, tacky, tacky.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Foggy Day, Not Quite London-Town

We don't often have fog up here. Not like the West Coast, or London, or even November in Montreal. Something about the weather conditions just don't line up properly most of the time.

So, you can imagine my surprise this morning to wake up and look out on a lot of...nothing, really. Just a lot of bright grey fog where my neighbourhood should be.

Normally on a Sunday, my inability to see my hand in front of my face outside wouldn't pose much of a problem, as Sunday tends to be a "stay inside and do chores around the house" kind of day. But, given that I was supposed to be heading out for a going-away brunch on this particular morning, the fog was a bit more of an issue. Thankfully, by the time I was actually ready to go, it seemed to have lifted enough to at least drive safely. That was all good and fine uptown, but once I started heading down the hill to Old Town...not so much.

Originally, I thought it might be a good photo opportunity, fog over the lake with some houseboats or something. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick one could barely see the lake, and certainly not the houseboats. In fact, you couldn't see past the first row of boats in the local marina. The houseboats are a couple of hundred metres further out...there.

Still, driving around for a bit did allow me to find some good photo ops of things other than houseboats. Regular boats, for example.

Fog can be a photographer's best friend, or their worst nightmare. It all depends on the look you're going for. For example, normally three boats tied to a dock wouldn't be my first choice of subject. It's kind of blah, the boats are shiny aluminum, there's not much going on. On a foggy day though, when the sun is to one side, most of the colour gets drained out of the picture and it becomes a far more interesting subject. Here, the stillness of the water adds to the effect. Overall, I have to say I really like this one.

Now, in most places, the fog rolls in, it sticks around for a while, and then it clears out for the rest of the day. In...Out. Today though, it kept coming in, moving out, blowing around - generally being unpredictable every five or ten minutes. This constant shifting allowed for some interesting visual opportunities. For example, this morning the shot below wouldn't have been possible, because the sun would have been behind me, so all the camera would have seen was fog, and nothing else. By early afternoon however, the sun had swung around so it was between me and the island. Combine that with the fog being caught midway between blowing in, and rolling out, and we have a sharply focused foreground (love that dock!) with pockets of fog obscuring the island in the middle ground, and a clear sky in the distance. Sweet.