Ontario’s forest flower

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One of the most pleasant, accessible short hikes on Ontario’s famous Bruce Trail begins here, at the end of Cathedral Drive in Hope Ness, on the Bruce Peninsula. And right at the end of my driveway too, by the way.

Depending how leisurely you want to walk, Hope Bay is more or less a two-hour hike south. Or, conversely, a two-hour hike north from Hope Bay to this point.

If you start here, about 15 minutes in you’ll want to take a side trail to the cliff edge overlooking Hope Bay, reaching out in the distance to the broad, blue expanse of Georgian Bay.

I try to walk to the lookout, which I regard as a very special place, at least once a week. A few days ago on the way I saw the trilliums were starting to bloom. But I didn’t have my camera with me. Sometimes I would just as soon let the fleeting moments of natural beauty have their freedom, rather than capture them.

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But this morning, to keep a promise, (Hi, Julie) I took a short walk in with my camera to take a few photos of the Province of Ontario’s official flower to post here. Trilliums are mostly white. But I saw quite a few of the rarer, delicately mauve variety.

Not everyone gets to live beside the Hope Bay Forest, so I hope you enjoy these few photos: Continue reading

Fear and Trembling in Hope Ness

Finding Hope Ness

cloud-979849__340 A storm clod taking shape

(Author’s note, May 23, 2017: since I first wrote and published this post, U.S. President Donald Trump has fired now-former FBI director James Comey. He has offered several reasons for doing so, including to relieve the pressure he felt he was under on account of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling into last fall’s U.S. election to allegedly help his campaign. It’s been widely reported Trump told high-ranking Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after the firing that he felt relieved the pressure was off. Turns out it wasn’t, as subsequent events clearly showed. His firing of Comey may yet prove to have been a huge blunder for him, setting in motion fateful consequences. We’ll see. Anything, and I mean anything, can still happen. Trump will not let the investigations, finish, including the one now in the hands of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.)

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In praise of living naturally

 

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Cultivating the “new garden” for planting this spring of sweet corn, squash, and beans. Yes, hope springs eternal. That’s a good-old Massey Ferguson 65, built about 50 years ago and still going strong.

The most interesting thing about the new Statistics Canada numbers detailing an increase in the number of farms in Grey County is not so much that it flies in the face of the continuing trend in Ontario and the rest of Canada; it’s that the growth in the number of small-farm operations in that part of our local, Grey-Bruce area is clearly linked to the presence of a diverse, natural environment, or “natural forage,” as a Grey County official called it.

I call it meadows full of wild flowers and critters, a spring-marsh chorus of singing frogs, lots of songbirds, especially robins and red-wing blackbirds. I call it an abundance of various insect pollinators that will soon be buzzing around, doing their vital work of keeping the natural world, and my vegetable garden, growing and healthy. Continue reading

Thoughts at Sunset

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The setting sun appears to be resting for a moment on the tin roof of an old shed at Cathedral Drive Farm before going down

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.

The Dark Hills, by Edwin Arlington Robinson

That’s always been my favourite poem, ever since I first read it as a teenager and put it to memory.

It’s a poem with more than one level of meaning, including the most obvious one that usually brings Second World War General Douglas McArthur to mind – mine, anyway. I don’t know if he was recalling this poem when he uttered his famous, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” line in his farewell address to Congress after being relieved of command during the Korea War by President Harry Truman.

If so, his sentimental reference didn’t do justice to a great poem.

Though it certainly works on the literal level, it’s always moved me – and I hesitate to risk breaking the spell by trying to explain what really doesn’t require explanation and, God forbid, analysis – on a deeper level of pathos that speaks to being alive in the world, and then the end of it. Perhaps even the end of all things.

That may sound morbid. But I sometimes find myself, like tonight as sunset approached here at Cathedral Drive Farm, reciting it quietly over and over to myself, for spiritual consolation.

It’s comforting as well to know that their was a man – an American, by the way – who once lived in the world and was so wonderfully inspired to write such a great poem, so simple and accessible, yet so utterly, and mysteriously profound.

I am reminded of my favourite moment in music, a few minutes into the first movement of Sergei Prokoviev’s last piano sonata, the 9th. I first heard that too as a teenager listening to a recording of it played by Sviatoslav Richter. Prokoviev dedicated the work to Richter.

I am approaching an age now where the poem is becoming more meaningful for me, and the state of the world, which I confess I find depressing. But that’s not helpful, either for me or the world. So I’ve got to do something about that.

And one thing I do, perhaps too often, is bear witness here to the reason why I, and, I think, a lot of other people are also feeling discouraged about hopeful prospects for the future.  Continue reading

My little climate-change reality

Now, this much is for sure, in the wider world a whole lot of people are having a lot worst experience with climate change than I am here in Hope Ness, southwestern Ontario, Canada.

Hundreds of homes near Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River waterway systems in parts of Ontario and Quebec have flooded in the past week as a result of unusually high rainfall amounts in the the past month; and then on top of that a storm system bringing several days’ more rain to make those matters even worse.

Extreme wet and unseasonably cold weather has also descended as the deep south states in the U.S. where the turbulent weather has already spawned a lot of destructive and deadly tornado activity.

So, I have to put my little climate problem in the proper perspective and count my blessings.

But I’ve been growing vegetables for a lot of years in this area and I’ve never seen anything like this. Continue reading

Searching for hope on rainy days

This question is often asked by historians, and others who take an interest in such things:

How did one of the most civilized, cultured nations on earth fall victim to takeover by a ruthless, mass-murdering, dictatorial tyranny? How was the nation that gave the world the music of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart led into a world war that killed many millions of people and left much of Europe in ruins, including Germany itself? Continue reading

In memory of Mom

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My Mom and Dad, circa 1948

I’ve wondered since my Mom’s passing a few days ago, indeed struggled with thoughts about whether or not I should say something here about it.

Uppermost in my thoughts are what she would want; and on top of that now is the realization I’ve come to fairly recently in life that she would be well aware of whatever I might say about her, and others – especially family members now long gone – who had an important, formative role in her life.

I will not dare try to express an understanding of the after-life being a human spirit has after worldly death. That would be foolish and more than likely only diminish the wonderful truth others more attuned to such things have known and experienced first-hand.

But based on what others I know and trust have experienced, I will say I have absolute faith my Mom knows what everyone she loved in life is doing and saying – and, in my case at this moment, writing. Continue reading

Trump takes aim at Canada

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Cows being milked on a modern dairy factory-farm

Oh-oh.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, in the midst of worsening tensions with North Korea and the risk of a major, possibly nuclear war that entails, U.S., President Donald Trump took aim at Canada and fire what sounded an awful lot like a trade-war shot across our bows.

But of all the things Trump had to pick as an excuse to get bigly tough with Canada on trade, why did it have to be dairy? Continue reading

The carousel

 

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A little girl was out walking with her Grandmother. It was December, 31, 1923, some time in the early afternoon, and it was her birthday. She would be three years old when the big clock in the downstairs parlour of the Thompson home on Melville Avenue in Toronto struck midnight.

The little girl looked up at her grandma several times as they walked toward Christie Street, and then turned right toward Bloor. She wondered why she was so quiet, quieter than usual. The child had seen that look before, many times lately, with all that was happening; and it frightened her.

She had seen what happened to poor Lila, poor, beautiful Lila, never to be the same again, as time would tell. Continue reading

Let’s make a miracle

 

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Cathedral Drive Farm homestead

It’s a lovely spring day here at Cathedral Drive Farm. The sun is shining in a clear, absolutely cloudless, blue sky.

I walk around making mental notes of all there is to do: a big pile of scrap wood to sort out and do something with; new eavestroughing to put on the new roof I built last fall for the extension on the house; a big barn-door to rebuild after it got blown off during a winter storm; and last but by no means least, garden-ground to cultivate when it’s dry enough, maybe by the end of this month. Continue reading