Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, September 28, 2007

Arthritic Canvass, Stage I

That's clearly confusing; nothing arthritic about my canvassing style. But I am, this month, helping with a door-to-door canvass for The Arthritis Society. I've no real direct connection to their work, but I do recall my mother, in her truly old age, did have some arthritis pains in her fingers. And I do enjoy a lively Internet correspondence with a lovely woman I've never met in the flesh who suffers the truly debilitating effects of congenital arthritis of a miserable bent.

I'm one of those people who find it difficult to demur, to simply say, thanks for the opportunity, but I think I'll pass. What often happens is that recruiters for canvassing for a multitude of good causes will telephone; my name as a prospective canvasser gets around. Mostly because I've canvassed for so many different charitable, medical condition, scientific, or community assistance groups in the past.

If they suffer the ill fortune of speaking first to my long-suffering husband, they will receive a polite dismissal. Eventually, they call back, often more than a second time until they succeed in speaking with me. And then I'm locked in. I think of the need, of the difficulty of recruiting people for the unpalatable work of proceeding from door to door inviting the occasional back-handed insult, and I agree to submit to the ritual.

Because, truth be told, I do manage to collect a fair sum of contributions to all of these charities. And I consider this little enough to do for my community and the society in which I live and love. And since we're speaking of the truth, I will also have to admit that my neighbours, also long-suffering, always tend to respond kindly and generously, also recognizing their personal need to give in some way. Not all by any means, but enough.

But boy, what a balls-up this time around. When the recruiter finally succeeded in earning my agreement, telling me I would share the route with another canvasser, I cautioned I'd do my end of the street. As has happened before, doing The Arthritis Society canvass. Unlike other canvasses, like CNIB, Canadian Diabetes Association, Salvation Army, Heart & Stroke and Canadian Cancer Society where I do the entire street, it's kind of nice to just do half of it.

Glad, though, that I asked the name of the other canvasser, recognizing her as the lovely woman who lives at the foot of the street, always graciously donating to any cause herself, when I call. For when I received my canvass kit and put it away trying to forget it until the very last week of September, and finally determining to go out, I realized, looking at the instructions pasted onto the receipt book, that they were somewhat lacking.

Instructing me, as they did to "please canvass: 1779 - 1801" on my street. Two houses? Not likely. More likely that someone fairly incompetent meant to convey the information I was expected to canvass the odd numbers. Damn. I tried to get in touch with the area captain to confirm my impression, but no luck. So, all right. And off I went. At the fifth house I was informed someone had already been out canvassing, last week. Uh, oh.

Down the street I went, to speak with the other canvasser. Her instructions read even more bizarrely than mine: "please canvass: friends, relatives and neighbours" and she hadn't a clue what they meant, as for example, where exactly on the street? She also, strangely enough, had a different area captain. So we commiserated, conferred and split up the street; she'd do the bottom half, where she lived, and I'd do the top half, where I live.

Did I feel awkward, exposed, peculiar, confused, when it was brought to my attention canvass had already taken place? You bet. It's hard enough dragging yourself out there knocking on peoples' doors asking for donations. Competing with all those other monthly campaigns, some of them legitimate, some not. Along with all the neighbourhood children hawking chocolate bars for school equipment and trips.

Am I gonna do a canvass for The Arthritis Society again? Doubt it. But I've agreed to go out in January to canvass for March of Dimes. Argh.


Sure 'Nuff, It's Fall

The air is crisper and somewhat dryer, and even though we've been experiencing inordinately warm weather not truly reflective of the time of year, the deciduous trees seem to know their time has come. They haven't allowed themselves to become confused by the stick-around warm weather, and they're well into shedding their leaves, littering the ground below them.

We've had several successive nights of fairly heavy rain, and by morning everything glitters with sharp-edged, yet dewy colour. And out at night briefly, standing on the deck, you can hear the songbirds wending their way south, chirping encouragingly, softly to one another in their flight. Two days earlier, early morning, I watched a hummingbird flit from one flower to another, in the garden.

I worry lest the weather confuse that tiny creature, stimulated to remain where he is, succumbing to the serenity of the landscape, and the easy wherewithal; by all that easy slurping. And of course throughout the day, and at night time too, there are those collective arrow-shaped lines of Canada geese going south again. Inexpressibly sad, although autumn is a pleasant enough time of year, gifting us with wonderful colours.

Still, it marks summer's decline and the imminence of cold weather, eventually lapsing into winter. Now, when we amble through the woods during our daily ravine hikes our boots crush dry leaves and they crackle, sending up waves of fall-scented tannin. Despite the overnight rain, the creek is running fairly shallow.

We're surprised to see dragonflies back again. And robins, lots of robins in the vicinity of the ravine. After the apples fallen off the wild apple trees. Many of the trees are already half-bare, and there are more crimson maple leaves on the ground than on the boughs of trees. The sumacs still hold on to some of their burning leaves, but they too are almost completely shed.

There's a coral-coloured mushroom set into the base of a tree trunk, glowing warmly, almost lit into a modest fire by the revenant sun, itself shy for the most part, this day. And because it has chosen this very time to clear its way through the otherwise darkly-cloudy sky, something odd happens to my poor camera. It is refusing my commands to commit to memory the scenes we both espie.

Button and Riley linger for more prolonged periods of time at various points of ravishing sniffing opportunities. I wonder whether they have any awareness of the passing of time and the seasons, recognize a 'difference' in the air associated with another time of year.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Well, Thank You, Dr. Suzuki!

It needed to said, and he said it. Speaking nothing less than the truth. That the current mayor of Ottawa is an ignoramus. Mind, his predecessor was little better on the topic. And although some members of Ottawa City Council are fully aware of the deleterious effect on the environment and the health of people and animals with the use of cosmetic pesticides, the balance obviously are just as ignorant, setting up barricades against the banning of same.

Which leaves this city, capital of the nation, second most populous municipality in the province, odd city out. In that more than one hundred other Canadian cities have banned cosmetic pesticide use. It's only good sense to do so. The data is fairly convincing, that the use of pesticides/herbicides has a damaging effect on the environment. And all to satisfy the egotistical conceit of some home owners.

Cosmetic pesticide use has been implicated in nervous-system disorders, in cancers, and a whole host of other medical-health disasters that plague mankind. Run-off into waterways have demonstrable harmful hormonal effects on aquatic wildlife. Birds that rely on insects and worms that have become contaminated with pesticides become ill and perish. Household pets suffer ailments through exposure to chemical pesticides.

Chemical pesticides sprayed on a lawn have a tendency to stray. Over to lawns owned by people who consider this spraying a direct infringement on their health, their near environment and their morals and principles. The wind picks up and wafts about the chemical spray to areas designated off reach, but inundated regardless. Including the interiors of homes.

So when, during a panel discussion at Ottawa's Congress Centre, part of the Canadian Public Health Association's annual conference where Dr. David Suzuki, along with Sweden's ambassador to Canada, and an environmental health expert discussed the contrasting environmental policies between Canada and Sweden, (which country takes a far more serious and aggressive role in ensuring the health of Sweden's environment and the population), Dr. Suzuki characterized Mayor Larry O'Brien as "ignorant", it felt pretty good to this reader.

Sweden's environmental policy can be summed up as a commitment to the "precautionary principle", where legislators "take action before damage is done". Unlike Canada's where the official environmental policy places the onus directly on those who have become ill as a result of exposure to toxins utilized carelessly in the environment, to fight a battle to prove their contention that removal represents a public good.

Dr. Suzuki addressed the issue of responsibility of the chemical industry in Canada; the manufacturers of pesticides, and particularly those members of the industry espousing, cajoling and selling Canadians on cosmetic pesticide use. Public relations and salesmanship aside, he castigated them for their denials, and ongoing opposition of safety-use regulations and attempts by concerned citizens to outlaw the casual use of pesticides.

Doggone right, Ottawa has been cursed by a succession of environmentally ignorant mayors, and cautious, vote-sensitive city councillors. I'd like to think we deserve better, but perhaps we don't, after all.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Hampshire, 8Sept07

We enter the forest and experience immediate relief from the sodden heat, the searing sun. Button and Riley don't get too far along the finely gravelled path. Just too many compelling, tantalizing places to explore, fragrant clues to unravel. That's all right. We're glad to take our time. We're in no hurry at all. We find the atmosphere compelling too. Glad to look about ourselves, a trifle more closely than a rapid trek might allow.

There have been some blow-downs since we were last at Smarts Brook. Tall old poplars have cracked under the influence of rain and wind and collapsed to the forest floor. Taking with them slender saplings of birch and maple in their midst. This area has a grand mix of hard- and softwood. Poplar, maple, beech, birch and ash mingle comfortably with pines, spruce, hemlock and fir.

The area, in fact, seems a nursery for the spontaneous nurturing of hemlock and maples, in particular.

The understory of ferns, false Solomon's seal, striped maple and dogwood also appear to benefit from the deep compost of the forest floor, the constant dampness of the mountain stream tumbling raucously over the creek bed's boulders - large and larger.

Mosses and lichens thrive in this atmosphere, as does a variety of fungi; colourful, clinging to rotting cellulose. A sawn log, once a noble tree, hosts a fascinating ruffle of bright pink, flowery-fringed fungi circling its raw circumference.

Mahogany-coloured shelf fungi furnish the trunk of a beech. A cluster of bright white, rippled mushrooms have installed themselves at the foot of a maple. Ample reasons to click one photograph after another, engendering a lot of enthusiastic attention-tugging between us to share these visions of unique growths.

A bright tangle of red berries dangles at the end of a Solomon's seal. Berry clusters festoon dogwood, its leaves also turning a patterned auburn. Starry-white asters litter the area. A butterfly flits lazily in and around, over and about the wildflowers.

Large ancient erratics ornament the hillsides, the trail, the creek bed. There too colour abounds from grey to shades of taupe and iron-oxide red. Sprayed by the loudly energetic flow the colours glow with a life and light whose origins we newly apprehend.

We diverge from the trail from time to time, to amble closer to the brook, to stand on its bank, our hiking boots cradled by the softly yielding generations of needles and decomposed leaf materials. The water hurtles recklessly over granite outcroppings, rounded boulders, shouting triumphantly on its way, shooting spumes of spray over nearby dogwood and us.

The waters roar as they thrash their environment; music to our ears.

On we trek, slowly ascending the gently-led rise. Button and Riley pattering before and after, respectively. Photographs are taken at signal moments, to freeze frames in time and memory. Pale substitutes for the reality of being there, surrendering to the moment.

No wind. the sun sears through the interstices of bough and leaf canopy. Brief exposure is sufficient to elicit a sense of oppressive air density. The atmosphere already close, stifling. Relief found when clouds gather once again to obscure that burning orb. This is the kind of weather that encourages sudden and violent electrical storms.

We access the pine flats, see the remnants of spring's orchids, trilliums. The area is dense with miniature copses of hemlock, pine, spruce. They converge busily upon one another in juvenile competition, under the near proximity of the mature of their kind.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

New Hampshire 7Sept07

Never tried the Indian Head trail to Pemigawasset Mountain. As good a day as any. No threats of rain. Warm and sunny, but the forested mountainside would present us with shelter from the sun and allot some cool mountain breezes. Height: 2664 feet, 1.8 miles each way; ascent/descent.

And, as we learned, a relentlessly ascending clamber over stones, rocks, pebble-encrusted dirt, and gnarled tree roots. No volunteer handiwork to enhance the climbing experience here. All as nature intended; a rough-hewn mountain ascent, however relatively modest beside its 4000+ft. neighbours.

Approaching the trailhead, we looked up...up...up. Before dipping into the highway underpass. Admiring the spire high above us, only slightly cringing at the bulk, the height, the presumed ease of access.

The forest understory of ferns, dogwood, jewelweed and Queen Anne's lace. Hawkweed, white, mauve, purple asters, goldenrod and pussytoes. The backdrop of maple, pine, beech, made for a lovely forest snapshot. Monarch butterflies flitted about the wildflowers. The sound of highway traffic filtered through the leafmass, and so did the sun, but barely.

The day was heating toward its predicted high of 85 - 90-degrees. the trail dipped, then began steadily rising and we passed a number of rough footbridges, switching across a barely-there creek.

Two thirtyish shorts-clad men, each carrying two hiking poles descending, their shirts sweat-drenched, their faces leaking perspiration. We briefly stop, exchange pleasantries, forge on. A very long way for us to go to reach where they've come from, clearly exhausted. Wimps.

We're feeling pretty good, our little dogs obviously interested, ready for adventure. Progress is fairly steady. Up, up and onward. Not stopping to rest too often. Guide book gives an estimate of an hour and a half to reach the top. We're good to go. Whoops. Forgot the hiking stick in the trunk of the car.

Crossing another rock-infused stream. There's some fallen beech branches and out comes the trusty old Swiss Army knife, replete with saw blade. No time at all to sever a portion cut to length. A tad heavy, but it'd do.

It's soon obvious that beech and yellow birch are king here. Specimens of super-sized trees dot the forest interior. Some old birch giants have fallen, their impressive, deteriorating girths hosting peculiar-looking, colourful fungi. Lots of white birch, modest in size. Mostly deciduous, with the exception of various-sized firs stippling the forest floor. The understory a combination of ferns, dogwood and striped maple.

The too-heavy beech stick is abandoned in favour of a more slender, still stout, length of striped maple. A more comfortable fit. A peeling process proceeds as we do.

Faint voices drifting from above, steadily approaching. A young couple. He bald, she prettily not. She's intrigued with the dogs' exploit, making the hike. Her own little Boston bull terrier, she says, can't manage that level of exercise. She also whispers to me that her companion proposed marriage as they sat on top. She glows, I respond and we chat.

Her husband-to-be busy in conversation with mine. Finally, best wishes all around, and we forge on. Forge it is, with some degree of terrain-inspired difficulty and a growing sense of effort for us. The ascent seems interminable, a steady effort, one rise seeming more steep, rock-bound, treacherous than the last. We're breathing more heavily, perspiration dripping from brows, stinging our eyes.

Button and Riley stop when we offer water. We stop also, not for water; to regain physical ease and perspective. Before trudging on again. And again. Finally, ahead we espy blue sky and stunted-appearing trees fringing the near horizon.

Now I notice the leafy remains of lily-of-the-valley, Ladies' Slipper, wood sorrel, around the trunks of trees, siding the trail at this height. On we stumble, a last steep push forward - and finally emerge, the trail giving way to broad, grey bedrock.

Up there, we see short, lush spruce skirting the area between the bush and the granite overlook. The landscape drops precipitously, an arras of mind-boggling sweep and grandeur. Assertively taller peaks beyond our own. Heavily treed below, grandly bald above. The drop is sudden, immediate, amazing.

Our little dogs sniff and snuffle about with great curiosity. We're exposed now to the sun and it's hot. We've leashed the dogs. It would be impossible to attempt retrieval were they to venture too edgewise and slip. They're soon busy, in any event, with doggy biscuits and water again.

It's a long way down from where we marvelled at the height of the mountain. Full to the sun, a hazy mist hangs over the backdrop of the distant yet near peaks. A cooling breeze mediates the heat of the day and our newly-exposed sun experience.

The vastness of the depth and height and complexity of the geological features before us are compelling, absorbing, commanding and daunting. We take photographs. Bake in the sun, yet revel in the wind-sharp contrasts, like the conundrum of two earthbound creatures surveying an infinite scene of inhuman proportions.

One misted, mystical promontory folding into another, into another.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Hampshire, 6Sept07

We're at the Welcome/Visitors Centre for our state permit to make use of the White Mountain recreational opportunities for visitors. A modest enough sum of $5. Free for senior citizens, but only if they're from the state, and we're not. I sit waiting in the car, with Button and Riley, while my husband enters the neat little building where he'll also pick up any number of pamphlets.

There's an orderly cluster of birds, starlings likely, sitting on an electric line, with the mountains as a persuasive backdrop. Lush green everywhere, punctuated by the web-grey diaphanous nests of web-worm. Week-day traffic on the nearby highway is sparse.

We took the dogs out at 7:00 a.m. to pee. The horses were already out in the pasture, roaming about. The green-tinctured apples fallen from a tree nearby the cottage inspired my husband to toss them, one after another, over to the horses. The treats were promptly accepted and, once devoured, the horses looked at him expectantly, but there were no more to be had that day.

A sudden burst of thunder heralded a cloudburst and it was all hands to the cottage and breakfast. Soon afterward we proceeded south on Interstate 93, along the Pemigawasset River, the mountains advancing alongside. Toward Campton, en route to our destination. Plenty of ferns along the highway have already packed it in for this season; sere and shrivelled. Sumac, pine, birch, oak and poplar. Here and there the granite rockface.

On the 175 to Holderness, the sky pewter, soon devolving to blue-white patches; clouded and clear. Past the genteel architecture of Plymouth State College; 17th century Georgian brick homes. Further on rude cabins for rent. Wood-frame ranch-style houses set deep into the verdant woods.

We pass a paintball range. White pine, blue spruce, maples and junipers. Trailer homes strung out along this quiet backcountry road. Hydrangeas and phlox out front and centre, and garden pots of blowsy petunias. There are boats bobbing at moor in Little Squam Lake. Motels, an art centre at Holderness. We turn off the side road beside the Natural Sciences Centre at Squam Lakes.

Private cottages, piers skirt the lake. Farms trundle up the low-grade mountain slopes. Horse ranches coast up the near slopes adjacent the mountains to the left; cottages and the lake to the right. Jewel weed and goldenrod, white asters brighten the understory with towering pines, maples providing the backdrop. Beside the road, hemlock, oak, pine, yellow and white birch. A small flock of juncos flits through the trees as we pass.

We're approaching the Rattlesnakes. No rain this time around. It's dry and bright. Noisy, however, as a roads crew is repairing the highway. Took no time at all for us to leave the heavy-machinery creaks, groans and air-thundering behind once we began our ascent at the trail head. Ascending steadily, calm and quite soon engulf us. The area is dominated by rockface, and a dry, yellow clay underfoot, along with gravel, rocks and interminable roots.

Regional interests have altered the naturally-endowed ascent by dint of hard work. No doubt much of it accomplished with the assistance of eager area volunteers. Rocks and gravel cleared away. Dirt levelled; an ongoing succession of broad "stairs" installed. Cleared-off logs set into the dirt at regular, ascending intervals. All this hard work dedicated to improving the quality of the climbing experience.

And so dreadfully ill-considered. The effect misplaced; unfortunately completely contrary to the intent. We do our best to ignore and bypass the carefully installed steps in favour of the narrow, natural terrain. far easier to negotiate rocks, roots, withal. Even our little dogs find it easier to bypass the painstakingly-groomed ascent.

Lots of ferns of various types, and striped maple, goldenrod and asters in the understory. Even white-flowered wild turtlehead; first time I've ever seen it growing wild. Oak and hemlock are predominant here, with white and yellow birch filling in on occasion. The ascent is gradual and kind, sunbeams making their way through the thick foliage.

Two elderly pairs of hikers come abreast of us on the descent. Each bearing a pair of hiking sticks. the women on this side of stout, the men lean, white-haired and pot-bellied. We stop, chat, enthuse about the trail, the weather, and move on. They descending, we on our way to the top ledges. We're glad there's no bugs, only a few sulphur butterflies flitting about.

Lots of fallen acorns. Some appear nibbled, but no sign of squirrels. We do see a pair of juncos, though; slate-backed and white-flashed wings.

At the top, several memorials raised to one-time denizens of the locality by members of a seniors hiking club. The views over Squam Lake and the many islands as tranquil and lovely as always. Water and doggy treats for the dogs. A brief rest for us. Just time enough for a few photographs. then we trek back down, satisfied with our day's adventure. Two hours of rewarding activity.

And on to other interests in the area.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Well, Good On Her

Isn't it long past time for people living in that great social experiment called the United States of America to be assured that they are each and every one of them as valuable to the state as the next one? Which is to say everyone has a vested interest in the quality of life in a country that prides itself on being the wealthiest, most influential, justice-ensured country on the globe. This is what Americans believe of themselves; their social and intellectual and values-driven superiority.

This is the American Dream, to be domiciled in a country that offers the opportunity to succeed, to advance one's own interests while similarly, or in the process, advancing that of the country as a whole. Americans are, without doubt, high achievers. They are innovative, creative, and capable. Which is why, the assets of national geography and primary resources aside, they are a great country. And with greatness comes responsibility.

America is a country of conscience. They express great empathy for others. While at the same time believing themselves to be a bastion of enterprise and capability, faith and intellectual probity. Which is why, in a sense, it is so surprising and disappointing that they still embrace the "I'm all right, Jack" individualism, that tendency to look after themselves while leaving the more unfortunate or deprived among them to look after themselves. Which they cannot effectively do, since they are deprived of the economic means to do so.

Hilary Clinton already attempted once to propose a plan for America that would ensure no family, no individual, would be without health coverage through a social system set up to embrace all Americans. The horror that greeted that attempt, with accusations that she was flirting with a socialist ideal to transform the American ideal of self-sufficiency is legendary. Now, as a presidential hopeful, not merely the president's wife, she is once again attempting to persuade Americans they have an obligation to self and to those unable to speak for themselves.

Over 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Health problems go unaddressed because people simply cannot afford to seek treatment, nor to pay for the pharmaceuticals that illness or disease require in a healing protocol of treatment. Why does it cause such a collective shudder of distaste when a political candidate for office offers a socially progressive alternative to the current situation which beggars the middle class and victimizes the poor?

Even the plan Mrs. Clinton espouses doesn't completely address the problem, since with it would come the need to advance insurance premiums. And those too poor to be enabled to adequately house themselves and purchase nutritional foods will be shut out of this system too, incapable of paying for health insurance premiums. Still, the plan is to make it mandatory for all Americans to have health insurance. Of course, it's mandatory for all drivers to have accident insurance, and many don't. But it's a start.

Medicaid would be expanded, employers would have greater obligations to their employees in the provision of health insurance coverage. Insurance companies would not have the option of denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. "Here in America people are dying because they couldn't get the care they needed when they were sick", she observed. "We can no longer tolerate the injustice of a system that shuts out nearly one in six Americans".

And good on her. About time.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gardening Chores Diminished

It's been weeks since I've felt compelled to go out daily into the garden to ensure that everything is in order. That fallen, blossom-heavy stems are properly staked to enable the flowers to be observed in their full splendour. That aged flower heads are dead-headed to encourage new blooms.

To make certain that nothing becomes too dessicated; too dry, necessitating that on full-sun days, or windy days the wonderful annuals we grow in garden pots are adequately hydrated.

Because it's now so much cooler, and summer is most definitely waning into fall, there is less of a requirement to water on an almost-daily basis. The garden, now confidently mature, has become capable of looking after itself, with a minimum of interference from me, its caretaker. Even weeding is far less of an ongoing duty. The garden has settled into its peaceful dotage. We've more leisure to just sit back and admire it. And we do.

Yesterday we watered all the pots in the front garden and the backyard. That takes at least an hour out of the gardening day. And it was time to do some vital cut-backs, of perennials that were well spent. Cutting back the tickseed, no longer in their long period of golden glory to give greater opportunity to the turtlehead patch close by. Faded and spent roses cut back; the miniature ones tend to retain their blooms; they slowly fade, while others fall, one petal at a time, to the ground below.

I've decided take some late-summer photographs of the garden, to download them to the computer so I can visit the garden from time to time throughout the winter when I begin to really miss its ever-changing, always-surprising presence. I see a large and colourful spider sitting exactly in the centre of its web that stretches from a patch of dinner-plate-size dahlia blooms to nearby equally large-bloomed zinnias.

The sun is hot and bright, and there is no angle I can attempt that will permit the camera's eye to adequately reflect the details of that complex little body. I must be satisfied with the glory of the garden's other inhabitants, captured for my later viewing delectation.


The Autumn Garden

Summer's on the fading end of its trajectory toward autumn. Another day, and pouff! it's gone. To be repeated certainly, next year, but completed for this year of 2007.

I have a habit of scrutinizing gardens wherever we happen to be travelling in the car, whether it's down the street or across the city. This city or any other we might happen to be in. I am fascinated with the appearance of gardens and occasionally I experience the great good fortune to espie one that seems a divine admixture of colour, architecture, texture and presentation.

Truth be told, more than occasionally. I delight in these travelling garden adventures. It makes me feel so good to see how capable people can be as casual gardeners. How important it is to so many people to become involved with nature's eccentric bounty in this ancient cult of the garden. I'm seldom disappointed, in actual fact, on any given trip, since I do see many gardens of note, for one reason or another. Subtle garden presentations, or flamboyant, classical or casual, I love them all.

So when time comes to gradually close down the growing season, it's rather a sad expectation. On the other hand, autumn too has its many attractions, and there is much to admire in the changing of colour in deciduous shrubs and trees. And the last succession of wildflowers that present themselves so confidently, year after year. Above all, the perennial succession in my own garden, the very last to make their presence known and admired.

From the Japanese anemone, to the cone flowers and black-eyed Susan, the stalwart, still-blooming roses, and chrysanthemum and asters - to the peculiar yellow flower wands of the ligularia, and the toad lilies. They all add value in their time and place in the garden. We've had three successive days of frost thus far, and fearing that tender annuals might succumb, I anticipated the worst. But it didn't materialize; the earlier heavy rain had helped to protect tender flowers.

So that, we still have ample begonias, million bells, petunias, verbena, flowering maple, lobelia, and so many others that the garden depends on for seasonal colour, stubbornly willing to remain as long as possible. A feast for the eyes.


Monday, September 17, 2007

On Our Way, 5Sept07

Feeling plenty ambivalent about setting out once again; just not into it, but feeling committed, made all the arrangements, packed, so off we went. Survived manoeuvring ourselves through Montreal; tedious, time-consuming, but still the quickest way.

On Highway 20, the Eastern Autoroute, hit the Eastern Townships, Mount Orford humping above us, broodingly. Pass the town of Magog, then Mount Orford Park, and finally Lake Memphremagog. Just love those names. Before we ever saw them we knew them all from the prints contained in that old 19th century publication, Picturesque Canada.

We've passed the green and craggy towering bulk of the mountain. The sky is clear, runed by jet contrails swooping the western sky. There's signage for Coaticook, Stanstead, Vermont. We've been there, done that. Many years ago, when our children were young, and everything we did was a grand adventure with them.

We're listening to National Public Radio, glad to be able to tune in. Not all that sorry to leave the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation behind with its now-weaker signal. Truth is, we're more appreciative of the quality of programming on NPR, where once we derided American-style radio programmes and were inordinately proud of the CBC's. How things have changed, what a turn-about.

North Hatley. Stanstead, Ayer's Cliff. United Empire Loyalist country. Lush green bush, farmed fields, solitary homesteads. Granite outcroppings alongside the highway. Traffic is nicely sparse here as is usual. We glide along the grey macadam. Tamarack, spruce, fir, maple, oak, poplar and ash. Tall ornamental grasses here and there.

And there! cattle; while here! there's horses. Farms and ranches. Neat houses. Nicely delineated fields. The conjunction of 143 and the border. Tomifobia River. Duty-free shops. The U.S. border inspection station. "Stop Here!" "Have I.D. Ready". Derby Line, Vermont. We're in luck, a cheerful U.S. Customs agent who, nonetheless, frantically keeps asking "where's your papers?".

We're the only car in his lane: "where's your papers?". What, after all, is the hurry? Our papers, nicely in order, containing identification and rabies vaccination certification for our pups are stashed in front of the back seat, so my husband steps out of the car, and the now-frantic agent repeats, unbelievingly "where's your papers?". Finally smiles, relief broad in his smile as he accepts the dilatory identification.

The usual questions, a few light-hearted quips, and we're off. Thank you very much. We don't, in fact, go very far, intending to stop to have our picnic-packed breakfast at the gray-stained, shingle-roofed rest stop with its manicured sweep of lawn, specimen trees and picnic tables set among the cut-leaf oak, maples, viburnum and ornamental crabs.

Beyond the galvanized fence, wide green pasturage, absent cattle at this time. The Green Mountains of Vermont form a jagged backdrop. Although they've had their breakfast much earlier in the day, Button and Riley are eager to share ours. They've no interest in the clementines (um, did we declare no citrus with us?) and bananas, but the almond-nut slathered rolls are in high demand. The hot, sugary-lemon tea is welcome, because it's a windy day, and cold.

On Highway 91. Colour changes in the softwoods are already evident on the far distant hillsides. A hawk soars over us, a keen-eyed observer of the steadily passing scene, with picked-up traffic, including tractor trailers. Steepled spruce rise above their leafy companions. Convoys of lumber transport past us. Canada to its U.S. customers. And across the divided highway, another lumber transport headed from the U.S. to Canada.

Spruce, sumach, towering pines. St.Johnsbury. Milkweed, Queen Anne's lace, birch, goldenrod. Hay-stubbled fields. A golf course, and cedars. Vermont 18 to St. Johnsbury. Fall webworm festoons deciduous ghoulishly. As we progress, fall colour intensifies; flaming red maples, yellow birch. The White Mountains heave into view, top of the road.

Cross the Connecticut River, into New Hampshire. Buckle up, under age 18. Rest of you live free and die.

On Interstate 93 into the White Mountains and Littleton. Strung out along the horizon, the foothills, the discrete peaks. Adventure! Over the Wild Ammonusic. Toward Franconia Notch. A transport signals tardily, swerves in front of us. As we view his back end, I'm able to read on the back panel: "Congratulations to our National award-winning drivers!"

There we are. Glorious. Breath-taking. Franconia Notch State Park. First off, Cannonball Mountain, then Echo Lake, Eagle's Cliff, Mount Lafayette. (We've climbed them all!)The Basins, Pemigawassat River. Kankamangus Highway. Mountain tops fold into one another, lightly reach upward to touch the sky. Or at least the clouds scudding by, hanging in there, those gathering wispy-white clouds.


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