This August Tucker and I drove from Owen Sound to St. John, New Brunswick to visit long time friends that had recently moved there from Prince Edward County, Ontario.
I broke the journey up into three days in each direction, but they drove from Kingston, Ontario to St. Johns last fall in just one day. In two cars, so there was no switching up drivers. Even dividing it into three days, did I experience much of what Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick has to offer along the way, no, because I mainly drove on highways. It started to make me think about childhood journey’s by car.
I would not describe my parents as intrepid travelers, but we had a VW campervan, and the only way that we could see the world as a family of 7 was to camp. And we were lucky enough to have a university lecturer as a father. That meant we could travel for the whole six weeks of our summer vacation from school. In 1965 and 1966, yes, an age ago, we went to the south of France. It took us a week to drive through England and France, and a week to get back, which left us four weeks to play on a Mediterranean beach.
Although I was very young, I distinctly remember arriving in France. Everything was so different from England, immediately. We did not drive by highway, which, if they did exist, and I am not sure they did, we certainly did not use them. Each village had a sign indicating you were entering the village, not unusual anywhere, but when you left the sign was repeated with a red line going diagonally through it. You were out of the village. No inviting sign asking you to return soon. And the villages did not look like English villages, even apart from the style of buildings. There were women walking around, mainly older women, wearing head to toe black, permanent mourning was de rigueur . They were often carrying a baguette, a form of bread that we had never seen before. Bought fresh daily. And the vehicles, Citroen, Renault and goodness knows what else, did not look like vehicles in the U.K.
We stopped every day for lunch, often by the side of the road in a pull off, and it was very common for anyone riding by on a bicycle, yes, were were on very small roads, to call out bon appetit.
So we meandered through France, stopping to look at things along the way. One time is was the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy. It depicts the Battle of Hastings, 1066, the last time was Britain was successfully invaded. It is 70 meters long, and when we saw it it filled three rooms. Even at the time I wondered at how long it must have taken to create it. https://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/the-bayeux-tapestry/ I wanted Mom and Dad to rent one of the listening devices you carry round to hear about the tapestry, but Mom quickly dashed those hopes by saying that Dad would be able to tell us all about it. I also remember wondering why the tapestry was in France, not in England, and I have to admit that it just dawned on me that it is there because they were the victors! The Battle of Hastings is such a seminal date in British history, but I never think of it as a defeat!
More exciting was the visit to the to the Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct in southern France. We were able to get to the highest level that is now closed to the public.
It was built to bring water to the city of Nimes. It carried 8,800,000 imperial gallons of water a day (thanks Wikepedia). An amazing feat, created two thousand years ago! However, for us it was just something to climb all over, which we did. One advantage of being young back then is that a lot of things were easier to explore, now, as I said, the only part you can walk on is the lowest tier. When we visited Stonehenge, again, sometime in the 60’s, it was not fenced. We parked on the road and walked right up to it and played on and around the stones.
Dad made the journey as much a part of the holiday as he could. Not so the trips that my sisters and I took driving across France in more recent years. We definitely used the highways, and we drove as far as we could each day, making it to Provence in two days. As we drove off the ferry into France the cars were no different. Now all makes are available everywhere it seems, and they all look the same to me. Now the French are very clever. Most of their highways are toll road. They make the tourists help pay for them. And yes, if they build it, we will come. There were cars from all over Europe, and we would have opinions as to which were the worst drivers. And as we drove along we passed all kinds of signs for places of interest, but we forged on, just seeing the country immediately next to the road.
On my return trip from New Brunswick one sign in Ontario did catch my eye, and I did go and have a look. It was a lock on the St. Lawrence River, and a freighter was going through it as I watched.
It made me very nostalgic for my time on Little Star, and fueled the stirrings I have for another narrowboat holiday in the future.
Two things before I go.
Firstly, my friends Caroline and Arlene want to spend some time exploring using a camper van, and while we visited Nova Scotia from New Brunswick we went to see a 1985 (or 86) VW Westfalia, or a Westie as they are now known apparently down in Chester Basin.
Although they did not buy it, it sure was a walk down memory lane for me, and probably got me thinking about my childhood holidays. While they chatted to Jeff, the mechanic that restored it, I had lunch at the Seaside Shanty. I had previously had a lovely dinner there years ago with friends that my friend Lori and I met up with while traveling the east coast. The best scallops, and Blueberry Grunt anyone?
Secondly, I am going to be part of a Pop-Up Studio Sale at my home on Saturday, September 25th. Would be great to see you if you are in the neighbourhood.
Wow, I am really happy with the response to the creations. There are little boxes going out in the mail tomorrow. It is exhilarating to know that my pieces are striking a cord and going out into the world.
I am really glad that I am not responsible for the website of a multi-national corporation, but I am sure that they would run a beta version past lots of people first. It was just Kailey and me, and even with Kailey’s experience there are glitches to fix. It was fun today to go through them and find solutions. So, here we go again.
When you get the latest Meanderings there will be an icon you can click on to go the home page of A Meandering Mann and Made by Mann. From there you can click on Available Creations. If you just want to go to the webpage it is www.madebymann.ca I wanted to keep the Meanderings, or blog, as the first place you land when one is sent out.
Some of the pieces have numbers, some don’t. If you want to buy one quote the number and the area, e.g. Stacks, when you email me, and include your address for mailing, and a telephone number you want me to call if you want to use a visa or mastercard.
Now I will be tidying up my studio getting ready for my next endeavour. Nearly all of the Sauble pebbles are now jewellery, just a few haven’t found their home with another pebble or two yet. Some of them are lovely so I will have to think of more ideas. It will probably be a while before pebble jewellery will be on my bench again, although I do have some from the North East Coast of England and other styles of jewellery that will go up in a while. Getting the Sauble pebbles up was enough of a hurdle. But a happy hurdle. My tag line is apt, A Meandering Maker, I will be meandering from one thing to another.
The last blog was a long one, I hope you didn’t get bored before the end. It felt important for me to write so your thoughts and responses are always welcome.
When I learned how to drill holes in pebbles and stones a couple of years ago I knew I was hooked. The idea of combining a love of searching and finding interesting stones on beaches with an end use, creating interesting and unusual items of bodily adornment was irresistible. I had owned a Dremel for years and hardly used it, now it is a favourite tool.
The pebbles themselves each have their own story that began millennia before they were picked up on a beach by me, and the exploration of their origin has captured my imagination and curiosity.
The stones in these creations are from the shores of Lake Huron, specifically from Sauble Beach. Sauble Beach is on the east side of Lake Huron and south of the Bruce Peninsula. It is the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, and slowly taken away from them in treaties that said that they “ceded” their land. Ceded always sounded to me like a reluctant action, and I think it was, they were pushed into it, but the white settlers wanted more land and their needs were triumphant.
It is likely that many of you know Sauble Beach as a summer beach destination with great distances of sand for sunbathing, building sandcastles and generally having a carefree time. Maybe you have even had a summer holiday there. I could tell from the stores that were closed for the season when I was there, that during the summer it is a very popular beach resort. The stores were full of beach wear, beach toys, gifts and other memorabilia not to mention numerous food outlets. Ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy. However, until the day I searched for pebbles there I had not stepped foot on it. And the beach was full of amazing small, flat or slightly rounded pebbles for which the coast is renowned.
The first beach pebbles that I collected for drilling were from the Beaches area in Toronto near where I used to live. I usually collected them in the winter when my dog could run around south of the snow fence as free as a bird, or at least a dog off leash. I would bob my head between keeping an eye on her and searching the ground. At the time I had this fantasy that the stones on the shores of Lake Ontario began their life way up along the chain of the Great Lakes. That they were chunks of the Canadian Shield, which was formed during the Precambrian era which lasted until 570 million years ago. Yes, lasted until 570 million years ago. Very old rock which began as mountains and was worn down to what it is today, a shadow of its former self, by glaciers.
To go back to my fantasy, I imagined the stones being moved by the currents and worn away by rubbing against each other in the water and on the beach. I imagined them flowing over Niagara Falls, traveling down in the swift current of the Niagara River, through the mighty whirlpool in the Niagara Gorge and coming to rest at my feet on the shore of Lake Ontario so that I could pick them up. Sadly, this is probably not the case, but being eroded by water and friction against other stones is true.
Very likely the majority of the pebbles that I picked up on Sauble Beach began their life as part of much bigger rocks formed much more locally. Sauble Beach is on the west side of the Niagara Escarpment that extends from Niagara Falls, to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. It arcs slightly east, getting quite close to Toronto as it travels north and then returns west to form the peninsula. I find the stone formations of the escarpment quite fascinating, especially as it relates to Niagara Falls and how the falls are eroded. However, I can’t talk about that here as it is not very relevant. Maybe when I make pieces from pebbles from Georgian Bay. But I digress.
When the glaciers advanced, and hit the escarpment, instead of grinding them down they went up and over them. Seems amazing to me that they went up and over as the glaciers can grind down granite and the escarpments rock layers are not nearly as strong as granite. So the west side of the escarpment, the Huron slope, and the Huron fringe, including Sauble Beach have deposits left behind by retreating glaciers. So my best guess is that the pebbles that I have made my pieces from are predominantly dolomite and granite, dumped by glaciers that retreated 17,000 years ago. Now, I would love some wonderful geologist who knows this area well to come along and correct or supplement my knowledge.
All in all, I find it a very sobering thought that the pebbles that I pick up did not just appear overnight, but have a long, ancient really, past. I am picking up geological history without really giving it a thought. It reminds me of my brother in law, Trevor, picking up a piece of ice in Iceland. It had broken away from a glacier and landed on the shore. As he picked it up he said “ancient ice”. As I said, sobering, and very thought provoking.
Talking about the ancient history of the pebbles makes me think that my own process of creating wearable pieces is short and trivial, but it too has a story. Little did I think when I got hooked on drilling pebbles and make wearable history, as I now think of it, what was involved. Everything seems so simple at the beginning. Get pebble, drill hole, make piece, present to the world. Getting ready to present these creations to the world has been as complex as it was setting up my previous businesses, whether a massage therapy clinic or a massage therapy products company. And it has been a challenge, and I must say a pleasure to do so. Re-using the hands originally created for my massage therapy practice business card gives me a sentimental thrill. Yes, business cards are still used, although brochures have been replaced by web sites. So I have to have one of them. Now I really thought that I had avoided the necessity of having a web site, but then again, I also remember looking through the window of the IBM store in the Royal Bank Plaza in downtown Toronto and looking at the desk top computers, $10,000 a pop, and thinking I would never need one of those. Now I can’t tell you how many computers I have owned.
While pricing the pieces I used the same process using excel spread sheets to calculate the total cost of all the components and the time involved in every process. Each pebble is washed, drilled, washed again, polished using a museum quality wax, and then assembled. And of course the stones have a shape all their own. It takes a lot of trying out combinations to get one that satisfies, that give me that feeling in my solar plexus that says yes, this is it. After all that, and the piece is made, it has to be photographed and measured and written about. I am still struggling with the photography, not a natural environment for me. Then I had to think about how I was going to ship the items. The boxes were finally ordered and are ready. And I had not anticipated all of the minute details that goes into creating a web page. The blog page had been set up professionally by Linn Farley Oyen in Toronto before I began my travels, but now it needed to be expanded for my creations to an outlet to release them to the world. I have enjoyed the process, working with the multi-talented Kelly Laing, and by the time you are reading this it will be complete and launched, and when I have something new to offer I hope it will be a much simpler process to do so, and that I will be able to do it without having my hand held every step of the way.
Thinking about how the indigenous people of this area, the Saugeen Ojibway, were pushed onto and smaller amounts of land until there are now two small reservations and restricted fishing rights made me think about this in a larger context. Here in Canada there was a concerted effort to kill indigenous people, and if not all of them, then their culture. The children were taken from their families where they lived a traditional lifestyle, trapping, fishing etc and put in residential schools, largely run by religious orders, forbidden to use their language. They often did not see their families for many years, if they did not die at the school, so family life and traditions were completely disrupted. In the sixties was the famous Sixties Scoop, where children were removed from their parents and adopted by non-indigenous families, against their or their families wills. Horrific actions that have taken place in my lifetime. So much damage. Now, however, there is resurgence in first nations peoples reclaiming their language, traditions and culture and building on it. The languages were almost lost, but now they are being spoken and taught again. It made me think of my own original country, England and Great Britain and what is going on there. Growing up, Gaelic was almost a lost language, almost treated as quaint. Now it is thriving, and the Gaelic culture is being nurtured, taught and celebrated both in the original Gaelic countries, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany, and in the diaspora. Ireland has made Gaelic its second official language. The 2011 Canadian census found there were 7,195 speakers of “Gaelic languages”, 1,365 of them in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward island, mainly Scottish Gaelic. Thank goodness for Wikipedia to be able to confirm knowledge that is vague in my brain.
In Britain, successive successful invaders imposed their language and culture on the population. It amuses me that we are called Anglo Saxon as the Angles probably came from the Angelne peninsula, part of the Jutland peninsula, today northeast Germany, Schleswig-Holstein. And the Saxons came from the south Jutland peninsula, Westfalia, Lower Saxony. (https://about-history.com/history-of-the-saxons-and-angles/)
And that is only part of the British heritage, before the Angles and Saxons there were the Romans, and mixed in with this morass were the marauding Vikings, and the rule by the Danes. And the final successful invasion, the Normans, from Normandy in 1066. Each invader imposing their own language and culture. The winner takes all. And who knows who I have forgotten, picts, for one, and Queen Boudicca, the Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe who tried to defeat the Romans. There is a wonderful statue of her on her chariot across from the Houses of Parliament in London, but no postcards of her that I could find, only punks with mohawks.
The Romans, I know, had a clever trick of relating a local god or goddess to one of their own. They would give them a double name for a period of time, mollifying the locals, and then eventually dropping the local god. So the Celtic goddess Sulis, of the hot springs in Bath, became Minerva over time.
So we Brits, and Europeans in general, are not of a single bloodline, we are mongrels, a common term for mixed breed dogs when I was growing up, from all over the world as people now immigrate from the four corners of the planet. How a round planet has four corners I am not sure. I have a suspicion that although there is some mixed blood in indigenous people and some European blood thrown in occasionally that they will have a much less mixed up genome than most Europeans. But I am not recommending 23 and me testing to find out. And I may be wrong.
Language and culture are important to us, and with the resurgence of both in Great Britain, there is a growing desire to break it apart. The Scottish people will probably have another referendum, there are rumblings in Wales, Ireland is getting antsy again. Soon it may not be Great Britain, but four different countries, and so history rolls into the future.
Phew, that was a long one. I hope you enjoy perusing my creations. 10% of the sales of these pieces will be donated to the following charities:
I think it is safe to say that we humans are afraid, maybe too strong a word, perhaps hesitant, about change. Especially if we do not choose it voluntarily. It is easier to stay with what is known, certain, comfortable, than to embrace, step into, leap into, a new job, new town, even a new country. We do take a chance when we give up the familiar. I did choose to give up the familiar, and after a year of traveling in the UK on a narrowboat, and studying leather work in Florence I moved from Toronto, where I had lived since 1976 to Owen Sound, where I knew only a handful of people. And what happened next? A pandemic, leaving me feeling very alone. Not so bad when everyone was staying home, but when six people could meet I was sunk. I hardly knew six people.
But despite knowing so few people at the beginning of the pandemic I now feel embedded in this community. In fact I could call it several communities as mini communities exist within the larger one. For instance Owen Sound has a fishing derby (in non-covid times) but you will never see me on the river bank with a fishing rod. Just not my thing, but you will see me at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts, taking a course, having lunch in the Palette Cafe (otherwise locally and affectionately known as the Bingo Cafe as the bingo sign is still outside) or doing a couple of hours of volunteering. I call myself a GBARTS groupie, not sure they approve of that. It is inspiring to be around the centre at close to its earliest beginnings. Every week something is re-arranged, cabinets added, working spaces more formalized. What a challenge they have had, opening just before Covid, but they have pivoted and pivoted to keep themselves going. They have pivoted so much it is almost a pirouette. A cafe/restaurant was not part of their original plan, but there it is.
So I have become embedded. I was going to draw my version of a ven diagram by hand, and then thought, I should be able to do that in Word. Oh, how I have forgotten my skills, and oh how frustrating that I can’t just ask a colleague. Between us all we could usually figure out how to bend those word processing programs to do our will. Then I had to figure out how to put a word document into a wordpress blog. Not as easy a task as it should be. Yes, should be. It involved screen shots, and cropping and a lot of frustration all round. Longer than this whole piece will probably take to write! I am quite impressed and not a little surprised by how many little circles I had to make as I thought of all the ways in which I fill my days and spend my time, and I didn’t put one in for my time creating in the studio. The community garden kind of happened by accident last year, begun by someone asking permission of the city to change a small unused parkette (a word I first saw in Toronto, not sure if I like it) into a vegetable garden. He was given permission and I saw the sign inviting people to plant it up. Now this year it is more formalized and I have visions of canning tomatoes in the fall. There will be a committee, which is usually enough to make me run in the opposite direction, but happily there are competent and knowledgeable people getting involved so maybe I will be the minute taker as I am for the group listed below.
There is Syrian food available at the weekly farmers market in Owen Sound. The hummus is the smoothest I have ever tasted. Question, do you taste smooth? Maybe I should say umami, a pleasant savory sensation. The Syrian stall holder was sponsored by a group in Meaford, a neighbouring town, 5 years ago when Canada accepted a large influx of Syrian refugees. Prior to the pandemic there was a list to sign at his booth for those interested in helping to sponsor his brother, and I signed it. Of course nothing happened during the first lockdown, but I asked him how things were going when the market opened again and became involved in the sponsorship group. It is one thing to hear of the thousands living as refugees on the news, it is another to know the brother of one of them. It kinds of brings it home in a human way that it is no way to live, and certainly not with children and for a long time. So here I am, part of a sponsorship group. In some ways it seems such a small drop in the ocean of the numbers of refugees, and it sure takes a lot of paperwork, fundraising, and volunteer hours to get them over here and settled, but I have to remember that every little helps. So if you can help, the info is all available above.
Living in a small community “cross fertilization” happens between one group of friends and acquaintances to another. I met a couple in the sponsorship group when I was Contra Dancing, and another friend helping out with Sue’s guiding group, and yet another at a covid approved gathering around her fire pit.
If you enjoy hiking here is the place to live! There are endless trails, and of course the Bruce Trail and all of its side trails. And the hikes are beautiful. Escarpment walks with views over Owen Sound, the water, not the town, and Georgian Bay, or through the forests. I am learning more about the geology of the place, so in the future will be able to say what kind of stone forms the ground we hike on, and why there are deep crevasses in the escarpment. For those not familiar with Ontario geology, what I already know is that the escarpement that the Niagara river flows over creating Niagara Falls extends all the way up to Tobermory at the very top of the Bruce Peninsula.
Working with putting a Word document into a blog post has been one frustration, another has been taking pictures of my newly created stone jewellery to be able to post pictures. The end game of which is that I hope to sell some of them, so the colours can not be distorted. Sounds easy, right? Well, I have spent hours trying to make it work. I have referred back to the meagre notes that I took when Jeff, a neighbour on Hastings gave me a lesson, but that was two years ago now and I have no memory. I have taken a very good class with Kate Civiero, a wonderful glass blower, https://www.infiniteglassworks.com/ through the Business of Art course offered by the Southampton Arts Centre, but doing a class is one thing, but doing it yourself, on your own, is another. I find arranging the necklaces and jewellery fiddly, and the lighting a nightmare, and editing is beyond my present skills, but I am getting there. Who knew there was so much involved in launching my new endeavour. Well, actually, if I had thought about it for a minute I would know, because as a small business owner I was chief cook and bottle washer, and developed skills in many areas not related to doing a therapeutic massage. I thought that was all behind me, and was glad I would never have to tackle having a presence on the web, but here I am, working it all out. Including how to easily convey what size the piece is. Thank goodness I like problem solving.
And talking about creating a new endeavour, the products of being an artisan, a maker, a craftswoman, not sure which title fits, I am using the hands that appeared on my massage therapy business cards on the cards for Made By Mann. I am so delighted the keep on using them in this new incarnation.
I am surprised at how quickly I have become comfortable in this community, I even gave directions to the Jubilee Bridge the other day to a lost soul. So if you are thinking about big changes in your life be assured that if you are willing to explore your interests in the new community you will begin to feel comfortable in a reasonably short length of time.
When I set up my blog a couple of years ago the woman guiding me, (actually doing the technical work), Lin, was pretty insistent that I also secure the domain of my yet to be realised artisan company, Made by Mann. I wanted Mann Made but that was already taken, and Lin came up with Made by Mann. So you can get to my blog site, A Meandering Mann by madebymann.ca. The idea being that at some point in the future the two things, my blog and my artisan site would work together. For the life of me I couldn’t see how that would work, they seemed so separate. How could my thoughts about life and all its quirks, and my experiences meld with what essentially would be the sale of the things that I created. Now I realize that they are intertwined. So how does that work you may well ask?
In my mind, here’s how.
All my life (and this does not just apply to only me by any stretch of the imagination) I have collected stones. And beach glass. It was a bit of a tradition that we went to Seaham Harbour on Boxing day, a shore on the north east coast of England on the North Sea. As soon as we hit the beach down went the heads and we started to pick things up. Mom loved to pick up glass, always looking for the illusive red pieces. At the end of the day we carted our beach finds home. And I have been carting stones home ever since then. From Italy, from Iceland, from France, from all over England and Canada. Some of them quite sizeable. To do what with them? That was always a pretty unanswered question. At my last house I made a small waterfall and stream bed so that was a place to deposit many of my collection, and an excuse to find many more.
And then I took a course in drilling holes in stones and making them into things, like earrings, and pendants. A whole new world opened up for me. I could transform my finds into something else, something I would enjoy wearing, and something I hoped other people would enjoy wearing. And where I found the stones added to the story for me.
This was my first offering, and it could have said, Great Lakes Collection, Shores of Lake Ontario. My friend sold all of these in her studio in Prince Edward County while I was traveling. And I made the stones I collected on Seaham Harbour beach into another collection which were eagerly purchased by my sisters friends.
The stones have different characteristics depending on where they come from. The ones from Seaham Harbour, above, are very hard, and vary greatly in colour. I wish I had the knowledge to identify what kinds of stones they are, but I know some others are concretions, solidified mud or sedimentary rock and some are igneous, cooled lava, such as granite and basalt.
Essentially, where the stones come from is as important to me as transforming them into something else and I think it will be for other people as well. It makes the pieces personal.
So my experiences are entwined with what I create on a fundamental level and it is important to me to express that.
I have also had to work through another issue. I like to do many things. I was quite surprised that it took a while to get my dremel back out and begin drilling things. I bought a dremel drill press in England and shipped it back to Canada. I don’t know how many lovely stones I drilled at an angle so that they were unusable, and the drill press gives me more control. But instead of drilling, I pursued other interests, and went down other creative alleys.
So part of my dilemma was, what am I going to focus on. And I realize I am not going to focus, because I don’t have to. Or not totally. I am interested in doing too many things. So I am not going to push myself to do just one thing over and over. That sounds an awful lot like work, and not creativity, and not fun. So who knows what else will pop up on these pages!
And talk about luck. The Southampton Arts Centre is presenting a series of workshops called Business of Art. It is very timely as the previous course I was going to take at Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts did not happen. By the end of the course I know I will feel more confident to take the next steps in the process of getting my work out into the world. Or my little world at least. I can’t wait.
There are very few building taller than three stories in the old downtown area of Owen Sound. I live on the south end of main street, 2nd Ave E, the main business district is north of me, and as you can tell from the above picture it is largely buildings that are not very big. The streets and sidewalks are wide so there is a feeling of spaciousness when I walk downtown. A bit like Bloor Street West in Toronto. And it is easy to feel connected to the activities taking place in the town. Not long ago a subcontractor was tasked with stripping the old paint from all of the fire hydrants. (I would have wanted a really good mask for that job given how often my dog throws up his leg and pees on them.) Then they painted them grey and then back to yellow. I watched then do it over a series of weeks as I walked Tucker. When they were yellow again along came city workers and re-numbered them, and did something else that I had no previous knowledge of, they put a coloured disk on the side. One close to my house is blue. Of course I asked about it, and apparently it tells the fire department how strong the water flow is at that hydrant. Blue is strong flow. Amazing the coded messages we live beside and have no clue!
In Toronto all of that activity would have gone un-noticed by me, or largely so, lost in all of the other things happening on the streets. Noisy road repairs, pressure of traffic, house renovations, endless on Hastings Ave. Not that we don’t have those things here, but less so. Although I have been surprised by the number of sirens, maybe I am noticing them more because Tucker reacts and will howl along with them. But there is a Tim Hortons downtown that is known for drug dealing, and there have been an increase in overdoses during this plague. So if there is an ambulance in the Timmies parking lot it is likely that. Human sorrows are everywhere.
Close by my house is the Mill Dam, and alongside the dam is the fish ladder. Salmon returning from the ocean climb the ladder to spawn in the upper Sydenham River. During the height of the fish migration you can see the massed dark shape of the fish under the water and the fins breaking the surface. Quite a sight. Some of them attempted to try and get up the dammed area and wriggled ferociously to try and get to the top, but always to no avail. It was hard to watch them attempting it and being rebuffed by the force of the water, they tried so hard. A local group, I don’t know exactly who, yet, catch some of the fish and milk them for their eggs, and I guess sperm as well. Ok, I don’t know if the eggs are pre-fertilised. Another thing I have to learn.
The eggs are taken to a fish hatchery and released in the spring below the Mill Dam. The men identified the fish that they were catching as fish that they had released four years ago. They mark them in some way. You could tell how happy they were to see them returning. These pictures were taken on a sunny day, one day they were there in the pouring rain, we have had A LOT of rain. Dedicated men. The Mill Dam is to the left of my house on the bend of the river, as seen on the first picture above.
Most of the fish were able to go up the ladder un-molested, and it lasts for weeks, it is just beginning to taper off now. Then they will lower the level of the river above the Mill Dam for the winter. Not sure why, yet.
If I was surprised at the number of businesses that clear snow in the winter from people’s driveways here, it is nothing in comparison to my surprise at how many people here pay someone to look after their lawn in the summer. Never mind the broadleaf weed killer that produce immaculate lawns, but also the lawn cutting. I am sure it is a lot of the same people doing both things, snow and lawns, but there are a lot of property maintenance companies here.
Large cities, and Toronto is no exception, have huge numbers of cultural events, music venues of all kinds, art exhibits, theaters by the oodles. It is easy to feel that you are missing so much, and to feel overwhelmed by it all. What to do, what to do, how to choose. Here it easier to get the measure of what is going on. Of course all the choirs are on hold until this plague is more under control, and Summerfolk went online, pretty successfully, but there is live music outside the market from Wednesday to Friday for a few more weeks. We are pretty spoiled for choice here, but not too much that we feel like we are missing out if we choose A over B. As I like it, a city on a human scale, at least to my way of thinking.
Fall is in full swing here in Owen Sound, and I can’t resist including some pictures. These are my favourite colours in nature. Sad that they portend winter. Winter would be fine if it wasn’t so darn long.
I love getting to know the neighbourhood, the cafe’s, the library, the Tom Thompson Museum, The Roxy Theatre, the Saturday Farmers Market, now reopened. The Bruce Trail, kayaking (next summer), cross country skiing, snowshoeing. And it is all manageable.
I loved all the responses to my last post, many talking about creativity. It may look as though I am ranging wide and deep into various new mediums, but it is made very easy by attending organized workshops. The three hour (or so) workshops at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts are structured so that you follow their general directions based on the art or craft. It is structured so that you get a taste of the art or craft but do not have to commit to learning it in detail. That would be a much longer process as I am attempting with silversmithing. I feel as though I can dip my toes into many different things without committing. But always end up with a finished product
gbarts.ca has a selection of great fall workshops, and I may just take:
But there are many others that are tempting. Almost too much choice! Even for a town built on a human scale!
Now, I could have been writing this during the early covid period, but somehow I just didn’t have the heart. I felt lost, and definitely lost for words. There was too much swirling emotion to be able to write a fun and breezy blog post. But that was then, and this is now. We are stepping into a regressive lockdown as the second wave really gets going, but somehow my emotions are more stable and positive (except for that thing which will happen on November 3rd).
These are pictures of my wonderful new addition, the enclosed porch I wrote about in “On the edge of lockdown”.
It, like everything else, was put on hold during the early part of the first lockdown. Luckily I had my building permit, and I had ordered windows on the last day it was possible to order them, and they were ready. Now there are back orders for windows as it is hard to get some of the parts. The supply chain is disrupted, one of the many results of this plague and its effects.
As soon as it was possible, Sawchuk Carpentry got to work, and it proceeded at a rapid speed, something anyone who has had construction work done on their house will appreciate.
Interestingly one of the crew members could not return to work immediately as his wife was working from home. He was responsible for their child.
Every day more progress was made.
The trades all lined up beautifully, the electrician spent a day installing all of the rough in fixtures, and the insulation company came by to pump in the insulation foam on top of the cement floor of half of the old deck in an orderly and timely fashion.
It would be an understatement to say that I am happy, I am delighted. I love being able to go into my workroom for a few hours and not have to unpack everything before I start, and to be able to leave it at the end of the session. It is not completely sorted out, I guess that will happen never, but things will find their homes as I use each station and figure out where they need to be. Interesting to me is the fact that it was unpacking my aromatherapy library that finally got me going. I am sure some of those books will never be read again, and they take up a lot of space, but it was obviously important to me that they be there. Go figure.
You would be forgiven if you didn’t know that there were as many aromatherapy books in the world as their actually are. And this is not an exhaustive collection.
Now it was up to me to finish all the projects I had dragged my feet on. Years ago I found this bench in St. John’s Norway Cemetery.
A church in downtown Toronto was closing and some of the benches were brought to the Cemetery for disposal. This is just a bench from Ikea, but it was FREE. I have since put many hours of work into it, sanding all those nooks and crannies. Way more time and effort than it was really worth, but it was FREE. I have discovered I can sew for days on end, knit till the cows come home, but I do not like sanding. But I am glad to say that it now looks like this.
A first for me, I made the cushion cover. Had to figure out the pattern. I used fabric bought in the market in Chester-le-Street, Durham. I paid 2 pounds a metre. Well worth the weight to bring it back to Canada.
The table you see was completely re-built. I had purchased it for Beaches Therapeutics when we moved to a store front location in 1989. Then I loaned it to my glass artist friend Caroline who used it for 20 years in her studio as a wrapping table. Now it is back in my possession but it was too big. Each of the two planks on either side were 14.5 inches wide. A huge tree. With a 5 inch plank in the middle. The 5 inches had to go. I was the apprentice helper to Sue who took it apart, re doweled all the joints and put it back together. I cleaned it up with wire wool and beeswax and oil polish.
It is full of life nicks and character and I love being able to finally use it.
As we came out of the first lockdown, Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts, www.gbarts.ca ramped up their offerings and I feel as though they have become my home away from home. This was an afternoon workshop, transforming old silverplate trays into jewellery. The bangle is from a tray celebrating a marriage that took place in May 1964. Clearly no one wants silver plate as part of their inheritance. Then on to this:
One of the founders is renovating their house and they have piles of old lathe. Why not make it into art?
What blessed relief to spend time with other people doing something new and creative. Here I am socially distanced, hence no mask, but it is close by.
Just two weekends ago I did my fourth or fifth workshop, this time with Albert Cote, fabric artist extraordinaire. One day we dyed fabric with acrylic paint and the next we made layered quilted rugs.
They are not finished, but well along the way, and a really fun technique.
We sat like three ducks in a row, wearing our masks and working like demons. There is tremendous energy in the workshops, lots of focused attention.
I know we are in a second lockdown, and visiting is again restricted, but if you are interested in creative things to do I recommend signing up for their mailing list. It is a mini Haliburton School of the Arts, run all year. Staying with me may not be an option for the next while, but there are many inexpensive motels here. This coming weekend I am taking a “How to sell online” workshop. Two and a half days in a mask!
I wistfully call the second addition room my Muskoka room. But as you can see the view is not expansive, nor over water, but at least I have my fireplace……….
Yes, it happened to me. It began innocently enough on Sunday, April 19th. A tummy ache during the day, not usual for me, then diarrhea and throwing up late in the evening. Now my stomach has strict instructions to never throw up so I should have guessed that something was up. Thought I would be better in the morning, but I wasn’t. Thought I would be better as the day wore on, I wasn’t. Same goes for Tuesday when I really thought I should be over this tummy bug. My body had other ideas, throwing chills that had my teeth chattering and my arms and legs sooo cold while at the same time clutching a hotwater bottle and covered with my faithful old thermophore (moist heating pad) from my massage days. My friend Sue suggested the hospital on Tuesday night but it was so cold outside and I was in so much pain that I could not do it. So she ordered me there on Wednesday, and my downstairs neighbour Dianne called the ambulance.
So now I feel what it is like to be THE person whom the ambulance is sent to pick up. I felt that there was a Gladys Kravitz behind every curtain on the street. I have no idea why that bothered me. And I still felt that this should pass.
It didn’t. Into the belly of the Covid 19 beast, the hospital. The emergency room doctor ordered the relevant tests and by early evening it was irrefutably established that it was appendicitis and I had surgery around 10.30 pm. All praise to surgeons that can complete intricate operations late at night, probably after a full day. My brain is shut down by then, and my body tired. The appendix had burst and apparently it was quite a mess in there.
Recovery has been fairly smooth except one hiccup where I revisited emergency for a pain med adjustment and antibiotics. Recovery does include many many many visits to the bathroom, night sweats, exhaustion, oh, and of course, pain, but hopefully it is well under way.
At the beginning of the covid 19 lockdown, Leslie, Sue’s partner, asked if I could make her a scrub hat, which I set about doing. I was therefore interested to see what was happening inside the hospital in the various departments around PPE. I found out that each specific role in the hospital has their own PPE requirements, which makes sense. She is an emergency room doctor and they have to wear a mask that makes them look a little like Spiderman. The scrub hats come in handy when two buttons are sewn on them. The buttons hold the ear elastics for face masks, therefore relieving pressure on the ears, and stops the ears being pulled forward. If you wear glasses the ears being pulled forward means the glasses have to be adjusted to stay in place. So they are a practical and comfort thing. I saw every kind of scrub hat in all kinds of patterns in every department I was in. It was the radiographer that answered my question about PPE. It was not, you need to wear these coverings, it was very specific as to what kind of mask, eye covering etc for each job. Sadly, I know a nurse on a covid ward in the U.S. and they are issued one N95 mask per shift, and each patient has a gown next to their bed that the nurse uses to give care. Re-using a mask, who can go all shift, probably 12 hours, without food or water, and re-using a gown kind of defeats the whole point of PPE. Another downside of for profit healthcare.
I did notice my dreams were really interesting post surgery, and they intruded into my wake time. As I was reading my phone it would be surrounded by very shiny black ostrich feathers. If I closed my eyes I would be transported to elegant rooms or beautiful vistas. Story lines were intricate and interesting. Eventually as the effects of the anesthetic (that is what I think it was) began to wear off, when I closed my eyes rich fabrics would appear in front of me, a lovely side benefit to this experience.
First coming home had some funny twists. I was woken in the night by my right leg falling out of bed. I needing to pee and was drenched in sweat. And I could not move. I was pinned in place by Tucker, very comfortable between my legs. I called him to move, but he saw no good reason to. I was trapped in bed, and so began the great bed escape. Sue had fitted up a rope that I could use to pull myself up in order to get out of bed, so I groped around for that but I couldn’t find it. On went the light. I had to wriggle to get the rope, haul myself up, persuade the dog that he had to move and maneuver my legs over the side. Quite a process. Repeated many times, but without the dog as extra entertainment.
This whole covid lockdown event has me musing about all kinds of society divides, and I am sure gobs has already and more will be written about this. I am part of the stay at home masses. I am not working from home unless it is my own projects, I am not in healthcare, I am not a single mom working at a low wage but risky job dealing with the public such as a cashier at a grocery store, nor do I live in an apartment with a family and no balcony. I don’t live with an abuser (how I dread the statistics that will come out about domestic violence deaths). The nearest that I can think of my role is that of the society women of the Georgian and Victorian era. Think the women in Jane Austen novels. If you were rich you were expected to do nothing. Nothing. Unless it was one of the womanly arts, needlework, singing, dancing. I remember the character who played Mary on Downton Abbey being interviewed and saying that she would have gone mad with boredom due to the strictures on the life of a woman of her station.
I am so glad that I am retired. I have been speaking to colleagues and the pressure is on to put courses online. It is not a simple matter of taking the classroom lesson plan and plonk it on a delivery platform. Creating an effective, pedagogically sound course with effective and fair evaluations takes a lot of time and a lot of thinking outside the box, not to mention learning how the delivery platform performs. And that is what my colleagues are being asked to do, double quick time. They will be doing it without expert help for the most part, so trying to re-invent the wheel without much support. So sorry for all you teachers who are going to be doing this over the summer, you have my deepest respect and sympathy
Last but not least, this has to be in this blog because it is about snow, and it is almost May. Snow clearing in Owen Sound is quite an industry. Walking Tucker on residential streets after a snow storm it was quite usual to see three or so different companies out with their trucks and trailers clearing the driveways of different houses. Then they load up their snow blowers and off to the next customer. My snow clearer marked the edge of my drive way with plain stakes, but some use them as advertising tools.
I was surprised to see that no one cleared their sidewalks, a big no no in Toronto. But after a few days, or a week, then along comes the city sidewalk snow plow and plows on through. My street is done early as I am on the main road.
And finally, the city goes around in the fall and add a pole to each fire hydrant so that it can be seen even when there is deep snow. I know I have a picture, but I can’t find it. It is somewhere deep between the videos and humorous pictures now taking up space in my photo albums!
If the wheel of the bus represents our world, we ourselves would be the hub at the center of it, and the structures in our lives would be the spokes. This is a concept that my friend Sandra talked about during her recent visit with me. As usual, I was drinking up her amazing insights and practical approaches to life’s challenges. We had a short visit slipped in before social distancing was strongly mandated. The irony is not lost on me, as I am sure it is not lost on you, that we live in a time where many people are already socially isolated and many programs have been set up to counter act it. In fact, the UK created a Minister for Loneliness not that long ago. A good idea, but something that would have seemed more normal in a Harry Potter book rather than stiff upper lip Britain. But it is real, and this is a real problem.
Now the powers that be have just done a complete turn around. Social distancing is a must to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
What are the spokes in your life, the structures that support your wellbeing and for many, your mental health? Mine were just beginning to grow here in Owen Sound, and this week they were to blossom some more, lectures at the Grey Roots Museum, and last week I went to a book club at the library. So what to do, what do we all do?
So how do we maintain or support those structures in this new era when we can not actually get out of the house to go to the gym, get together and knit, go to work, go out for a meal? I think it is important for us to keep connected in other ways. So here I am, writing this blog. One of the things that I really enjoyed about writing the blog during my year away was its call and response nature. Something in what I wrote would strike a cord with someone and they would comment on it. Sometimes as a comment on the blog and sometimes as a private email. It was a great way of staying in touch, and of keeping me in touch with important people in my life, with some of the spokes of my wheel that were not actually on my year away with me but were still important. So I am hoping that it can be that again. We are all isolated (except those providing services out there keeping us fed, secure and healthy, thank you) but we do have each other. So my goal is to stay in touch with as many people as I can during this time. In no small part to keep my motivation up. I have joked to friends recently, during the last dregs of winter, that I had to go and look for my motivation because I couldn’t find it. So part of my communications will be to see what you have been doing, and tell you what I have been doing.
Going back to that concept of motivation, Sandra and I talked a lot about structure. It is so much easier to get moving, to get to work, to the gym, to choir practice if it is a structured part of the day. No structure can equal no motivation. So what is your structure? Mine is not really in place yet, and when it does happen it has to have some physical activity on it. How I loved going to classes at the gym. The teacher told me what to do and I passed that message on to my body which did it to its best ability. And it was getting better at it. I don’t want to loose that. So here goes, time to build structure.
Breakfast and write down one or two things that I want to accomplish that day from my to do list.
Do something physical. Yoga, tai chi. Perhaps a swing fit class from Joo Lee. She teaches in Durham, UK and I loved her classes. I have to make myself do this even though I will feel a bit self-conscious doing in my living room by myself.
Do the tasks on my to do list
Dinner and relax.
So, my call to action at the end of this blog, contact me. I would love it, and I need it, we need it!
It is a beautiful sunny day here in Owen Sound, but the temperature is hovering at 0C and there is a distinct nip in the air from a slight breeze. And the world is gripped in a pandemic that is even touching the lives of those of us who live in this somewhat remote town. On Saturday I took my weekend guests to experience the long established Owen Sound market and it was closed to help prevent the spread of the Covid 19 virus. So we had to go the Zehrs, the big supermarket in town to buy food for dinner. I don’t quite get the logic of that even if I understand the principle!
Saturday, on the cusp of perhaps a complete shut down of Ontario, was a new first for my life here. I hosted my first workshop, about fermenting food. It was lead by my friend Sara and I hope she adopts the name we came up with when we were first cooking up this idea, yes pun intended. Sara’s Gutsy Stuff. She designed an amazing poster (she used to be my graphic designer for Beaches Therapeutics and Plant Life). This is a new venture for her, and if you want your very own workshop, let me know and I will pass on your name !
The workshop took place at my dining room table, just a few people, and everyone went home with fermenting kit full of delicious food that will ferment and be ready in a week. And it marked the first of what I hope will be many more workshops on a whole lot of topics. It has been a bit of a winding road to get here, and more will be put on hold for a bit, but you will hear about them as they evolve.
One of the reasons I bought this house was for the one and a half story garage. I dreamed of turning it into a workshop and studio space where I could do leather work, jewellery, felting, both upstairs and downstairs.
Well, that long held dream was demolished in less than an hour this winter by being told that the footings were basically non-existent in a great deal of the garage. I have to admit, it never even crossed my mind to check them! It is a brick garage and I automatically thought that it would be solid. Apparently not. The second person who looked at it reluctantly agreed. He said that he would always prefer to use an existing building rather than build a new one, but it couldn’t be done. After discussing the cost of pulling it down, having the rubbish hauled away and rebuilding I said I had one other idea. Enclose the back porch.
He immediately thought this was a much better idea, but I had to obtain a permission for a minor variance from the city of Owen Sound. Then I had to wait until the neighbours decided to object to the enclosure or not. They didn’t, thank goodness. Every neighbour within 60 meters of my property had a say, that extends to the far side of the road behind me! So now a permit can be obtained and when the builder is free, shortly I hope, it can be built. Assuming of course that I can afford it now that my investments, along with everyone elses, have tanked because of the panic caused by this darn virus.
I have started thinking of settling into my new home as a combination of peeling an onion, and log jams. The peeling the onion consisted of dealing with boxes of belongings, such as my kitchen at the very beginning, or sorting and finding places for my clothes. The log jams are when I can not proceed with a project until other things are cleared away. Some things have been moved multiple times, and I am trying to avoid doing that any more until the deck is enclosed and things can finally find their place. The last major log jam. At the moment I have cream (body and face etc) supplies in my bedroom and jewellery, sewing, knitting and felting in my living room. Along with boxes of old electronics, computer stuff, old ipods and speakers, old modems and routers and old cords. I seem to be immobilized by them!
Anyone who enjoys dealing with the detritus of moving please stand up. I am down to the last dregs of sorting my “stuff” and in some ways it is the most difficult for me to deal with. Where does that basket, piece of paper, electronic cable live? What is the vessel that holds all those important business cards that you pick up that you think will help with this or that in the future?
At last, my home really began taking shape when when the pictures were put up. It was a daunting task for me sooo….. I invited friends to help. My cousin Cathy and I opened all the boxes that held the pictures and made a list. That night I had a dinner. Cathy numbered the walls and guests were asked to put wall numbers next to the paintings on the list. Lots of great ideas were sparked, and the next day we put a great deal of them up, especially in the living room. Then the next day after that Cathy and I drove to Brampton and picked up the new man in my life, Little Mann Tucker.
An Owen Sound Curiosity
Originally all of the streets in Owen Sound had names, not numbers. 2nd Ave E where I live was originally Poullet St. It says so on the lot number on my survey, as well as moulded into the sidewalk downtown. Now there are numbers, Streets and Avenues. I live on 2nd Ave E, but it is a street that runs north and south. I assumed that at some point it joined up with 2nd Ave W. But it doesn’t. Very off. It was very confusing to follow directions until it was explained to me that 2nd Ave E is the second avenue east of the Sydenham River. And there is a 3rd, and 4th and 5th Avenue going up the east side of the river valley. Equally, there are avenues going up the west side of the river valley. Now we come to the streets. The streets start at the south end of the town, just as they do in New York, and work their way north, but again, there are twists. There is a 10th street east and 10th street west and yes they do meet, on the bridge over the river. That part is easy. But what if a street does not go all the way from one avenue to another? Well then it will be called, for example, 10th St A E, and if there are two streets that do not go all the way through next to each other the second will be 10 St B E. The next street that goes all the way through will be 11th St E. You have to admit, it certainly is original! I can only imagine the comments and language at city hall when Councillors discussed this. How did they even explain it so that everyone understood, and what was the reasoning for thinking this was going to be easier than names. It may even be interesting to see how close the vote was and who the personalities were that were involved.
Well, the Y is closed, the library is closed, the museums are closed, eating out is discouraged. I may have to resort to more blogs during this social distancing! I hope you stay well.