+8C and hot – Can You Relate?

Every Canadian loves to talk weather. We are all experts about the weather we know2014 - 2 040Rszd.  West Coasters know about rain, Westerners from the Prairies know about Chinooks and floods, Northern areas know about short/long nights, long/short days and plenty of snow and bugs and the Maritimers know about it all in a way too painful way.  Its winters like this past one that has me wondering about my choices.  Of course some Canadians are still being bombarded with snow, wind and ice.  But I live in Toronto – not as warm as Vancouver but mostly the envy of other Canadians, weather wise.  It is a trade-off for the lack of beauty and fresh air.   Today I had my 1st lovely walks of the year with my Chihuahua.  Not since early December have we been out for more than 15 minutes.  Each occasion I had us both so wrapped up it was hardly worth the effort.  Most of the winter my dog would head for her bed when the coat and boots came out.

Usually I find myself commiserating with immigrants about our weather.  Toronto is full of immigrants and my area is so thick with them I often feel why bother to travel.  I’m serious – my son’s grade school offered 70 language translations and support.  I didn’t even know there were 70 languages spoken.  I grew up in Canada when our winters were often this harsh and since the ’80’s I have felt like I was telling fairy tales to the new immigrants.  We had less in common than our accents and clothes sense  indicated.

This winter I can’t connect to their looks of astonishment about all the Arctic Freezes or Polar Vortexes.  You get kind of racist about it – you look at certain people and you immediately judge how they are relating to the weather.  Being a white Anglo-Canadian I am programed to be sensitive;   to be respectful to other cultures who foolishly venture into our country.  2014 - 1 Dali in sockand Boots 001RszdI honestly have begun to judge all people from Indian, Africa, the Caribbean and the Philippians to be ill prepared or just don’t relate.  It pains me to see them walking around in the cold.  Today I was talking to another small dog owner and we both were on the same page.  She was a Russian immigrant.  If we have anything in common – it is the weather.  We both chose small dogs – we both didn’t brave the cold to take them for walks either.

Dog Days of Summer

2013 - 7 Dali-friend 154Rszd

Dali makes a friend

My Chihuahua is enjoying the summer, now that it isn’t the heat wave we had in July, and all the rain and flooding.

Flooded creek in my area - seen form my balcony

Flooded creek in my area – seen from my balcony

Dali-in-blanket 2013Rszd

Dali under her blanket

Dali has been making friends.  As you can see she isn’t the most energetic of dogs.  I find that to get her to run, I must run as well.  She enjoyed meeting this cute dog. The other dog that was there was too hyper for Dali’s taste.   Someone said that my dog is very serious. It is difficult  to capture her silly side in a photo though.

Today my son took this photo of her – lounging on the reading chair, under her blanket.  It was a present from one of my students and Dali will follow it anywhere.  Right now she is under it snoring.  Chihuahua’s love to burrow.

Presently we’re off to the weekly farmer’s market together.  It is nice to shop with your dog.  I enjoy the walk there and back.  I am looking forward to the fresh local peaches.  The last batch was so sweet and juicy.

You Can’t Go Home Again

The CBC Radio did a very poignant radio show on Sat May 25th on DNTO about how going home to recapture the old is not going to happen.  I was on my way back to my home in Toronto.  I had just left my parent’s home in Guelph and had been visiting our old home just the week before.  Here are some of the photos.

Old Farm - laneway

Old Farmhouse - C1860
Old Farmhouse – C1860

My parents left this place in 2002.  The city has kept it empty.  Vandals broke windows – original windows from when it was built in 1860.  They put a new roof on it last year.  Last year they decided to sell it – no one has bought it.  Inside it has 10″ wide cedar floors and tall windows and large open spaces.  It would have needed lots of work and now with the veranda falling down I’m not sure anyone wants the headache. I remember sweeping the veranda every day – full of brown bats by the way.  The bats kept the bugs down – being right next to a spring.

The original Orchards are gone and the fruit tress my parents planted in 1967 are in bad shape.  The Lilac trees which reached up to my bedroom, now cover the windows.

Old Orchard

Old Orchard

2013 - 5 OldFarmhouse-Lilacs-Orchard 120Rszd

I spent many summer days swimming in the pond – taking my horse for swims as well.  It is still there and the trees and shrubs are almost hiding the house now.

Old Farmhouse - pond

Old Farmhouse – pond

2013 - 5 OldFarmhouse-Pond 110Rszd

You can see the worn out roadway at the old farm and the well-kept one at the new farm.  It may seem strange to you who don’t know this land – as all the farms are the same age and my family has worked them since the early 1800’s.   Here are the dogs off on their adventure to the old farm.  The New farm is just south of the Old Farm – the land flows downwards so the new place looks down to the old and the city of Guelph.

New Farm - laneway

New Farm – lane-way

Where do You Look?

Do you look ahead or to the side or just watch where your feet are stepping?  Should you look directly at anyone and feel OK about a direct look?  Do you know when is it good or bad form?  Some of these questions hit me in the elevator last week.   I’ve debated this before.   Of course the variables change and so do the rules.  What interests me most are the checks we live with – personal rules and social protocol.

2012 - 10 037

family – no flash – lots of movement

Last week – There was this girl who stepped into the elevator and faced perpendicular to me.  I could see out of the corner of my eye, that she was short, 20 something with long, straight, dark blond hair held back with an Alice band.  Her face was long and pale.  The band wasn’t able to hold the hair well and the cotton shapeless outfit spelled youth, arts student and earth child.  She gazed up at me, to ask me something.  Normally people are not so direct.  I’m not too comfortable with gazing although I am very good at looking.  I noticed her eyes were open really wide and they looked directly at me as I talked.

I only managed a few seconds of returned gaze.  I wasn’t able to keep my thoughts together under this gaze.  The intensity was startling.   The 1st issue was because of this internal running commentary going on about looking at people and secondly it was about participating in her reality.  It was too personal.   I chose to look sideways.  Unfortunately I started to laugh at myself but she interpreted it more with what I was saying and the conversation was lightened.   I think I saw amusement being sent back at me, as she noted my off-center gaze.  Perhaps she too has the same internal conversation.

Through a certain amount of personal shyness I am sure I have rarely looked anyone in the eye, most of my days.  Contrarily,  I am also a starer.  As an artist I stare very intently.  My husband and friends, in our early acquaintance, found those stares a bit uncomfortable.  Our art class model used to comment on my stares.  I stare at all sorts of things when I’m listening or looking.

Some days I become very bold and just stare – however it isn’t without risk.  I once was shouted at – “What do you think you are looking at?!!” by a very large person.  I thought it was obvious and even though she was alarming in her reaction, I found the situation very funny.  Perhaps it was rude but in all truth I was having a great old time looking at her, watching her walk towards me.  I wasn’t critical, I was just looking.  When I was a young person I often walked along looking at the ground!  When I traveled to and lived for a bit  in California that all fell away – thankfully.  It was unexpected – nowhere else had that effect on me.

As an artist I look at everything.   Colour, shapes, movement, negative space – they are all food for thought.  One of my most common looking strategies is when I let the visual image come in uncensored.  This is a distancing strategy.  I manage to look without engaging in details.  My work is very detail oriented and critical in nature.  It can be that work  and the social looking are not always played  properly.   They can be misinterpreted in kind.

In the end I will continue to look and monitor my behavior.  Looking is fun and maybe a bit dangerous.  The alternative is too depressing.2012-6-1-BowlCrpdRszd

Hoar Frost

I was up at the farm last weekend and the Hoar Frost was amazing.  I was so happy I had the camera with me.  Initially it seemed a waste because it was such a grey day.  It got greyer as I drove up the escarpment.  There is often a 3 to 10 degree difference from the city to the country, where the farm is. When I get to the farm there could be black ice and snow.

Alongside the road, the woods and farms looked spooky in the fog.  By the time I turned off the highway the temperature had plummeted to create the hoar-frost.  Our car has a  temp read-out of the ground.  It was +2C in town,  0C on the highway and -5C on the side road.

Trees on Roadway - Frosted

Trees on Roadway – Frosted

Old Maples

Old Maples

Hay Field

Hay Field

Lane entrance

Lane entrance

2012 - 12 066Crpd

Hoar Frost

Hoar Frost

In the photos with the ‘fog’ – the frost is disappearing into the air – this was over so quickly – I am glad I wasn’t late for lunch. . Once at the farm I bundled up my Chihuahua and took her and my parent’s collie for a walk.  Dali always has a good time but damp cold and snow aren’t a Chihuahua’s favourite.  When we turned around to walk home she was charged and that excited Adam the collie – who in turn hoped they would play.  Dali was up for a race but not a wrestle!

2012 - 12 097 2012 - 12 099  2012 - 12 100

Play!

Play!

2012 - 12 098

Running – don’t stop

     Running is all about the experience.  Walking is more meditative.  When I walk I tend to think about things in a dream-like way.  Sometimes I forget about my posture which leads to some pain or twinge.  Walking allows me to reflect on my surroundings and all I see, hear and breath.  Running is very different for me – although the pauses and the blood pumping do heighten the visual.  When I’m running I am very focused on my form.  I have weak ankles and must stay focused so as to stay upright.  I also suck in my gut and hold my spine up to protect it from my not so elegant running.  I hate running like a girl.  I work on that too – trying to power up my stride and form.  The results are all good.  I am finally rediscovering my waist and a firm musculature to my legs and but.

I haven’t run in years – many years.  I remember running as a youth – just for the fun of it.  Surprisingly it wasn’t  very fun in gym class.  I can only say that gym made it a chore and I hate chores.   I would run down the gravel road or the dirt lane-ways with abandon. When I lived north of San Francisco I got into running – ran for 10 then 15 minutes at a time until I built up to a 1/2  hour.  I never got higher than that as it was a good amount to stick to.   My son was another motivator when he was quite young – we’d run a lot.  Two years ago I got  a dog to get me out of the house and to be a companion.  When I’m alone I tend to read or paint – neither exercises anything but my eyes and hands.  It is working.  Dali and I go out every day – multiple times.

I live in an urban area that can get boring after a year of walking in the same parks or streets.  I have used the baseball field for running as it is kept really smooth and has a stone-chip outer edge to the field, like a lane-way. After 2 years, even the dog is not too motivated some days.  Out of desperation one day I took to running in the soccer field.  For some reason it is more fun – perhaps because it is full of surprises [holes] and it is something new.

At first my running was pretty sad.  One trip from goal post to goal post just about killed me.    Now in the soccer field I feel elation. I can run up and down and across many times just trying to keep my legs pumping and staying upright.   A few days ago I thought I instantaneously sprained both feet when I was in a real sprint.  Humbled I limped along until I could try again.  There is a sort of stiffness that has settled in to my tendons as I have aged – probably due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Naturally my dog loves the running.  I trick her when she’s sniffing at something and not paying attention – I sneak away as fast as I can.  Naturally she’s at my side in no time.  It is fun to look around and see her ‘flying’ across the field.  She loves the challenge of not losing me.  Running with her off leash is best for us both.  With the leash she seems to think she has to win the race so it may look pretty funny with me running behind a Chihuahua in full-out running mode.  It is even better to run around in the country.  My parent’s collie thinks so too.

I turned 60 recently.  It has really made me think about aging and taking your body for granted.  I love going to the soccer field and  running around like a nut while the local kids are playing nearby.  They don’t seem to take any notice of me but they love the dog.  As I look around I can see that I am the only adult having fun.  Perhaps I am a less mature individual – I’ve always been a bit different.   It shocks me that as we age we think we can’t be exuberant.  Is there a rule?

All the dog-walkers in my area stand or stroll – no power walks or running.  Their dogs must be very upset.  Their inactivity makes me want to scream. Any adults I’ve asked have declined the idea of running with their dogs – they say, ‘they can’t run any more’.   Of course you see runners in the park – if they have dogs they seem very happy.

Walking all Summer

It was a very hot summer.

Happy Dog on the Baseball Diamond

I had planned to walk 2 – 3x’s a day.  That didn’t happen.  I did walk at least once a day – early in the morning.  Some days I managed a short walk in the late afternoon.  Now I want to share these lovely urban walks.

Joy of Dog Walking

Leaving the Cool – into the Hot

I took photos for painting reference and because it was so wonderful.

We have a fair bit of fog and the mornings can be quite wet.  That was the only thing that kept the grass from dying with the lack of rain in July.  When we finally got the rain it transformed the parks in a few days.  People were out and lying on the fresh grass.  I’ve only seen sunbathers do this in the parks.  I did it too and the grass was like spring – so new and like a freshly laundered rug.

Graffiti Untouched

The Graffiti that you see under the Railway Bridge was cleverly framed.  The city employee must have run out of paint at that point and made this decision.  So far the kids have left it alone and painted the other walls.

Leaving the city park one morning I noticed the local sparrows having a bath and as a large family flock their happiness was wonderful to see.  I was only able to capture this in one photo.  They don;t seem to mind that the busy street is inches away or that they are resting on a metal guard.

Happy Sparrows

City and Country Walks

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I love to walk.  That’s why I got a dog 2 years ago – for a walking companion.  It may sound kind of radical but she is a great motivator.  Yes I need motivation sometimes.

I live in the city, mostly.  Luckily we have many green spaces in my area and that is why I am still living in the same area for so long.  Unfortunately you can’t take a dog everywhere.  I can take her to the library, the pharmacy, the bank and to the park.  I wish I could take her shopping.  I bet Paris Hilton gets to take her Chihuahua anywhere she wants!

In the country, at my parent’s farm,  my dog is extra happy.  She has a friend there and she can go around ‘naked’.  I see some dogs that like to wear a collar, scarf or sweaters ~ not my dog.   We have laws in the city that require her to be on a leash at all times.  naturally I am a rebel and let her off the leash to race after her ball – usually at the baseball diamond as she loves the dusty red grit on the ground.  She loves to swim in the creek as well.

Dali with her pal Adam

Having a buddy at the farm is a plus for Dali.  In the city she has a few favourites in the dogs we meet.  Recently she has fallen in love with a beautiful big Alsatian type dog, named Rusty.  Rusty is very tall and is red all over except for his black muzzle.   Dali throws herself at him and wiggles and dances all around him.  He is very gentle and loves to play.  Unfortunately he is leashed.  Dali loves my mother’s collie as well and plays with him in the same manner.  Strangely she rarely likes other small dogs even if they too are Chihuahuas.

Meeting a friend in the park

Now that winter is long past, Dali and I are out every day.  We are both getting fit and trim.  I had to put her on a diet.  I’ve never had a small dog before and I just kept offering largish meals and she is happy to eat them.  Having her on a diet has made me cut back too.  I can’t be snacking around her and not feel guilty – she makes sure I am.