Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Memory

Although this photo was taken in the fall, a sunrise seems appropriate for Easter Sunday. In his younger days, my father would sometimes (maybe often, for all I know) would head to Mount Royal in Montreal for an Easter Sunrise service commemorating the resurrection. He told us how cold some of those mornings were. Even in my religious days, I never made it a such a service, but I don't think they were quite as popular in my day.

Forty-five years ago, however, I was involved in my own, unique Easter experience. I was at university but came home most weekends, and the church choir, to which I had once belonged, asked me to be the narrator for their Easter Cantata. The choir and I would take turns. I would narrate some of the Easter story and the choir would then perform an appropriate song. And so on ... until the resurrection.

It was quite a large church for its time although certainly not like a modern, mega church, but I don't recall being at all nervous, and, all in all, it was an interesting experience. Early on in the performance, I remember lifting my voice much more than I had in the two rehearsals by putting much more expression and enthusiasm into my narration. I guess that's what performers do.

I don't remember anyone telling me that I did a good job, so I suppose that I didn't, but it sure felt different from the rehearsals, and it is a bit of a pleasant memory.

Here is another sunrise. Both are from the cottage which we visit from time to time.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Zugzwang. In knew that I knew the word, and I knew that it had to do with chess. I just couldn't quite remember what it meant.

They used it on two episodes of Criminal Minds, explaining it but not very well — at least not in a way that twigged my memory.

It's not like I thought about it very much, for if I had, I easily could have looked it up.

Anyway, sometime after the second episode, but I don't think it was on the same night, I rolled over at 5 AM with an Archimedes-like epiphany. Although I wasn't inspired to run naked around the cold, winter streets (thanks goodness) shouting Eureka!, I believed that I had the solution.

My somnolent mind had somehow deduced that zugzwang meant that it would be better if you didn't have to make a chess move because whatever move you made would put you in a worse position. Unfortunately, moves cannot be declined, so it's a real predicament.

I turned over and went back to sleep but googled the word in the morning, just to confirm that my epiphany had been correct. Miracle of miracles: it was correct.

The minds is a mysterious place. Why the meaning would come to the forefront in a somewhat wakeful moment in the middle of a night's sleep is hard to fathom, but that's what happened.

I am at the stage where words and meanings are more difficult to retrieve from the memory banks than they used to be, but it is somewhat reassuring to know that they're still rattling around in there ... somewhere ... deep in there.


Although I hadn't meant to add this chess-related anecdote, it has come to mind, and it more or less illustrates the point.

I was playing a student after school one day. I wasn't playing much chess in those days, and he had beaten me handily previously by playing an opening that flummoxed me.

We had got to the endgame, and he had a slight upper hand. He checked me once, and I moved out of check with the only viable move that I had. He checked me again, and I repeated my move. Now, it was up to him. If he checked me one more time, and I repeated the move, it would have been stalemate — because that's the rule. I would have settled for stalemate because I couldn't make any other move without losing the game.

At this point, not wishing a draw, he demurred and made a different move. That was his downfall because he was really in a zugzwang position although he didn't clearly see it. For that's all I needed to turn the tables and checkmate him in short order, and there was nothing that he could do to stop me once I had gained a tempo, which my memory tells me is another chess term. Vaguely.

I guess we were both winners, Greg because he had defeated a teacher (in the first match), and me because I had regained a shred of dignity by barely winning the second match. That was the extent of my playing for a number of years, and Greg died shortly thereafter: just a year or two later, I think. I can't remember the circumstances, whether the cause was an automobile accident or an illness.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Year Better

The Beloved One turns one digit short of assuming the dreaded 666 today. But since she probably won't last for another 600 years, I don't think we have to worry too very much. She's a great lady: truly my better half.

Here are a few pics from our little family party yesterday.

Happy Birthday Sue

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Schoolyard Memories

Why does the mind work the way that it does? Why was I one day suddenly thinking of schoolyard incidents and activities that took place about 55 years ago? But I was. I can't recall which of the following occasions came to mind first the other day, but I'll mention all three memories that camwe to mind in any case.

There was the time when I found myself getting up off the asphalt without knowing how I got there. It was my friends who had to explain to me what had occurred. As I pieced the story together, we had been playing British Bulldog, and I had gone for a tumble trying to elude some tackler. They saw me roll over a number of times before staggering to my feet. Although I could remember playing thr game that day, I was never able to remember falling or even starting on that particular run. My eleven year old self found it quite distressing.

I went home for lunch glad of the comfort I expected to receive only to realize that my mother was out working that day. I was quite distraught by this time and didn't want to go back to school, but I rejected the notion of just staying home without permission, so I headed off. Unhappily. I think I settled in as the afternoon unfolded, but the emotions returned when l told my parents about it at suppertime. I confess to spilling a few tears at the table. And that's where that story ends.

That's the only traumatic story, but I do recall a few other schoolyard games.

One was a version of volleyball where we just caught the ball before sending it back over the net. We played this game for many a recess, and somewhere along the line, I was seen to be good at it and was always chosen early when they were picking up sides. Being chosen early was not something that I was used to, and it was a nice feeling.

I also recall a softball game, perhaps on field day, against the other grade seven class. Our class was winning, and I don't know if it was my first at bat or not, but I swung and missed. Some guy chided me, but another took my side explaining that I just wanted to hit it too. This chatter that I overheard seemed to spark my determination, and I managed to connect with the next pitch and wallop it mightily.

I was never blessed with either great speed or much athletic endurance but always seemed to manage moderately well in games that centered around eye-hand coordination. In later years, this came in handy at the ping pong table and on the tennis court.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Memories of Ten Years Past ... and More

This morning's CBC documentary flashback to the SARS epidemic of ten years ago, took my mind back to my mother's last days. It was just about this time of year when we were visiting Shauna and Eric here in Ottawa, having left my mother in Sarnia where she still lived alone although I visited often. We knew that she was losing some steam in recent days, but we didn't realize just how much.

She had a fall while we were away and couldn't get up. She managed to reach the phone and call some friends who came over to help. They phoned us, but there was little we could do as we were across province with our vehicle stuck in repairs for a few days.

By the time we got home, Mom had been put into a home and was spending most of her time sleeping. They would take her down to the dining room, and she would even nod off during the meal.

After some finagling with her next-to-useless doctor, we had her admitted into hospice care. The SARS scare was on in full force in Toronto, so hospitals were also being very careful in Sarnia — to the point where she was permitted to have only family visitors.

Several weeks later, she passed away in the wee hours of April 12 2003. I had visited her earlier and was surprised to get a call that evening that she was failing fast. I headed to the hospital and waited for Sue, Shauna and Eric to join me. Since we had known that mom was fading fast (just not that fast) the kids had already made plans to visit and were well on their way.

Mom passed away shortly after they arrived. She regained consciousness for a few seconds shortly before the end and looked at us with apparent recognition but was unable to speak. She heard a noise from Eric shuffling on the other side of the bed and made an effort to turn and look, but she didn't have the strength. She closed her eyes again and soon took her last breath.

80th birthday: seven years before she left us
Mom and me: 1948
Mom and Shauna: mid-1970s in St Catharines
Mom and Allyson: elementary school graduation, 1991
Mom and me on my birthday one year. I have a note that she was 82 at the time, but that would put me at ~50, I seem to have
a lot of hair (comparitively speaking) and a really dark beard for that age. Mind you, at 66 the hair is still pretty dark
and the beard is still 50% dark, so the note may be correct.
Edit: I just took a closer look at the chairs and the lack of a deck, so she was definitely not 82, and I was sure younger than 50. I think it would be closer to 72 and 40.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What We Did On March Break

Another March Break has gone into the record books. Most years, we seem to get one or two delicious weatehr days. This year, the very first day, a week ago Saturday, fit the bill pretty well as this barefooted girl will attest.

Not to be fooled, however, it was still winter as the next shot proves. Oddly enough, it was the scene directly behind me as I took the photo of the girl.

The weather didn't stay terribly nice. We did have some snow as well as some pretty cold weather. We did get out to Temple Sugar Bush with our neighbours.

The next day we drove into the city to spend some time with Lorna and Dave. It had been a year since we had seen them, so there was much to chat about. And they served a nice lunch.

And dessert.

At the end of the week, we had two days with Danica, including a sleepover. Some time ago, we purchased a grade one workbook for her. I thought we would use it this summer and that it might last for the summer. Well, she ripped thru 3+ chapters in no time flat. She's really quite amazing.

She tried on my cap.

And enjoyed an ice cream cone at McDonalds.

She helped Sue bake muffins.

And even helped washing up afterward.

It was a pretty good week.

Back to the routine tomorrow.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Danica Moments

After posting pics of the boy, it's the girl's turn. We have time with her every weekday before before and after school, and, on Thursday and Fridays, she's here by herself.

On Thursday afternoon we settled into to watch the girls on America Idol that we had recorded on the previous evening. Soon, we were having a bit of a snuggle.

From the same session, you might be able to tell how much I adore this creature.

But sitting still is not her forte.

Next morning, she was colouring at the kitchen table before she decided that my lap was a good place to be.

After school, it was time for more Idol, but she was even squirmier than usual.

It's March Break this week, so we will be kidless until Thursday when we will have two full days with Danica ... which may leave us rather exhausted.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Jokingly, I refer to JJ as Mee'un as in Me and my Shadow (Mee'un my Shadow). He seems to track me down wherever I am, except when watching tv or playing on the computer.

He considers me a playmate.

He was downstairs, so I took the opportunity to recline and read. Suddenly, there is another body in my chair.

Someday, he will grow up to ignore me, and I will miss this. At least that's what they tell me.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Late Great Snow

I would like to write, The Last Great Snow, but it probably wasn't We'll likely get a few more dumpings. The difference is that they fade quickly at this time of year. Even this one, as significant as it was, was largely gone by the next day. I don't mean that the piles disappeared but that the snow was gone from the trees and streets, and life pretty well returned to the same basic, drab, winter look. But I did get some shots while the getting was still pretty good.

Our street on the morning after.
I went for a short drive to the park to see what I could see. On the way there, I stopped at a stop sign, saw this vine-covered wall, and decided to take a picture. I just rolled down the passenger window and clicked.

There are still Christmas decorations in the window.
I continued on to the park, but just stopped by the roadside and made a few clicks.

A loan walker talking on her cell phone.

The boathouse across the river thru the trees.

A lonely bench with no one to use it.
There is an old, log house at the end of the park opposite the community dock. I have trouble taking a decent photo of this place, but converting it to b&w seemed to work. I like it well enough and am willing to ignore the overheard wires.

I wonder if this will be my last winter series? Then follows the bleak time between the snow and the regrowth of vegetation.