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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Life's a Beach?

After having practically a heat wave at Thanksgiving the weather has since returned to more seasonal fall temperatures. This means we've broken down and are actually turning on the furnace - even during the day - not just in the evenings when we are being couch potatoes. That was when it hit me that summer really was over. What alarmed me about that though was that I hadn't been swimming even once! This is the first time in my life (and I'm no spring chicken) this has ever happened.

So what did happen? Why didn't I go swimming this year?

We hit the road shortly after summer arrived. Our first main stop was the historic old city of Quebec. It was hot. Really hot. A swim would have felt good after climbing all those hills and steps around the old city. Above right: Staircase at the Rue du Petit-Chaplain)


But where do you swim in this busy city on the edge of the St. Lawrence River? As you can see from this picture (left) I wasn't even bright enough to wear shorts all the time let alone something more appropriate for swimming. But diving off this dock with ferries and other boats nearby would not have been safe. And we were too busy touring the city, sampling the food, and shooting to look for public beaches or even a pool in our hotel.

After Quebec City we headed off to New Brunswick's Kouchibouguac National Park. There we would take the boardwalk across the lagoon to Kelly's Beach and the dunes on the Barrier Islands in the Atlantic (below). Ron did go in swimming, but I found the wind too strong and cool for me to swim let alone to expose much skin and risk a sand blasting.

From Kouch we moved on to Inverness, Nova Scotia. Yes, that's another beach on the Atlantic and we've even swam there before. But this time both the water and the air were still too cool for even Ron to swim, although we did have to wade across a small cold stream to get this picture below.
Further North we would camp in Cape Breton Highlands National Park on a cliff overlooking a rugged beach like this one below:
Still, it's not a good spot for a dip.

Newfoundland being an island means it is of course surrounded by water. However it is in the North Atlantic, its beaches are mostly rugged, and although the weather is sometimes warm or even hot it is almost always windy. The thought of swimming didn't really cross our minds once we were beyond the lovely sand beach at J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park. Since photographing the Endangered piping plover is one of our pet projects (we are practically plover stalkers) we spent a day at the park checking the beach for nesting plovers. We didn't find any though, perhaps because we could barely open our eyes against the sand-blasting wind. If we had found some would we really want to take out a camera and big lens and risk giving it a sanding? Probably not. Later, when the wind finally died down enough to get this picture below it was much too chilly to even contemplate swimming.

Besides when the light is good we are supposed to be shooting right?


So we would photograph many rugged beaches in Newfoundland:


Right: Cape Ray, Newfoundland ->












Above and Below: Green Gardens, Gros Morne National Park, NL



<- The Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland

Sometimes the problem wasn't just that the landscape was rugged, but that there were icebergs and bergy bits nearby. That would make any swimming more like a polar bear dip.

Below: Icebergs and bergy bits off the shore of Straitsview, near L'Anse aux Meadows, NL
In Labrador there were many potential beautiful swimming spots like these below:
Above & Below: Port Hope Simpson, Labrador, NL
Above: Near Cartwright, Labrador, NL




But they didn't entice us to swim because we were already wearing what Ron calls "Labrador Evening wear". (See image right)












But even if there hadn't been any bugs, to swim in water with icebergs like this one below:
would really require a nice layer of blubber like this minke whale below.
On our way home we stopped along the Bay of Fundy to shoot the huge flocks of shorebirds that gather on the Bay's shores on their way south. I must admit taking a mud bath was tempting!

But only Ron's sandals really got to test it out.

Once we were back in our home town there were still plenty of warm days when a swim would have been nice. We live near a nice looking long beach along the Scarborough Bluffs (below) and will occasionally even eat a picnic lunch there. But swim? No. Unfortunately out of the 10 Toronto beaches it is one of the two that still regularly close because of high bacterial counts. Perhaps the erosion of the clay bluffs cause silting into the water and is contributing to the problem.
I hear that the weather over the next few days is supposed to be around 20C, or "beach weather" as Ron would call it. So what do you think? Should I find a nice lake somewhere and take the plunge just to break this non-swimming record? I just might - but first let me go find my wet suit.

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Thanksgiving

It's hard to always feel thankful. I must admit that I wasn't feeling very thankful exactly one week ago today when we were saying our final farewells to Ron's Father. Then there was that other sudden phone call about my Mother being in the hospital. But there is something about Thanksgiving that makes one really stop and think about things - take another assessment. This year I find my mind keeps returning to last Thanksgiving which we spent with Ron's parents in Brockville, Ontario.

It was beautiful weather all weekend in this historic old Loyalist town on the St. Lawrence River that was named for Sir Isaac Brock - Canada's hero in the War of 1812. It was the way it should be at Thanksgiving - cool enough to wear jackets but sunny enough to have blue skies behind those beautifully coloured leaves. That contrasts with today which is incredibly hot and muggy with hazy skies.

The first morning in Brockville we got up early enough to catch some rowers in the mist on the St. Lawrence silhouetted against the rising sun. We walked around Blockhouse Island - which was one of Ron's Dad's favourite spots to watch the boats and the ships going down the river.
His Dad also took us on a driving tour of the area and we ended up watching ships go through the locks at Prescott, Ontario.
His Dad's fascination with ships probably goes back to his Navy days in WWII. Later he would talk about those days and the many adventures he had while assigned to a harbour patrol boat in Sidney, NS. One evening we also would play a friendly game of Euchre and wagers would be placed. At the end of the tournament Ron and I found ourselves up a Loonie in spite of the usual cross table talk by our opponents - such as when his Dad would ask or perhaps state, "Now if I order my partner up I have to go alone right?". We would laugh when he would then decide to pass and Ron's Mom would pick it up, and laugh even harder when his Dad would complain about us getting into his whiskey - something he rarely touched himself. We were always told it would be added to our bill which we would get in the morning - and of course which we never received. No doubt also over the weekend Ron's Dad and I would have one of our "discussions" - a sort of debate of the politics of the day as he took his role as a Senior seriously with its requirement to complain about the government full-time. But in these debates he always let me be who I was too, and let me have my own opinion - seemed even to appreciate that I had one. No doubt I've missed an interesting discussion about this week's Ontario election and referendum. Last Thanksgiving wasn't our last visit with Ron's Dad but it was one of those memories I am savouring and am extremely thankful to have.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for last Thanksgiving and having had 27 years to get to know Ron's Dad. Of course I am also thankful for the same things I always have been - the love of a wonderful spouse, our health, and family. But as we mourn my Father-in-law and worry about our Mothers it hit me that I should be thankful for the fact that I'm part of TWO wonderful families! That's a lot to be thankful for!

Some images from the way home:


- Swirling water in the Jones Falls Lockstation on the Rideau Canal, Jones Falls, Ontario














St. Barnaby's Catholic Church, Seeleys Bay, Ontario

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