Friday 31 July 2009

Noises in the forest

The planes are screaming by overhead - either tourists, or an accident (OPP big, black helicopter) or more rehearsals by OPP for the G8 in Huntsville. Who knew we were on a flight path?!

Actually, the over head air traffic frightens me, since I know it is often an accident if it the helicopter. Mind you, the helicopters did fly around with hydro poles during hurricane-caused repairs in 2006. They were a welcome, if bizarre sight!

The diversity of the natural world amazes me. But the planes put me in awe, too.

Just sitting around, ironically, doing my Skywatch Friday post, not really watching the sky. I heard some noises in the forest. A squawking bird of some sort. I hadn't heard it before. I hadn't a clue about what it was.

Just when I think I have seen and heard it all, the universe rewards me with a deeper love and appreciation of the world around me.

And I have learned my lessons: plug in all digital equipment overnight, and, at the least temptation, grab the videocam!

Skywatch: soaring

Look to the skies! It's Skywatch Friday, again. skywatch
I used to dream I could fly
If I could I would
I'd wait for the sun to rise
Sail above sparkling water,
Still ponds and shadowed forests.
Tolkein trees would wave at me in delight

Flying high with the birds
Rich sounds rise from their throats
Sirens who would herald me
Those who soar in circles
Seen keening by the shore
Similarly seeking sources of solace
Would sail away on the wind

I, too, seek comfort

...In the sparling waters
...In the deep richness of the land
...In the enduring beauty of nature
...In the perfume of pine and cedar
...The green of the moss that beckons bare toes

I would if I could
Fly high above the trees
The emerald teal of the mallard
The fauna sing in chorus
Spring peepers laud the journey
Wind rustles the tall grass as I pass

Fly away from the noise of
Man's inhumanity to Mother Nature
Soar, rise, fear no more
Smoke rises from afar
Sludge fills her waters
Plastic her lakeshores
We can give back her due
Honour and laud her
Stop the destruction of her lakes and trees
Respect her wisdom
She cries as winds rise


This is the kind of story that warms my heart. After 9 years, and 2000 km away, they find this poor dog, Muffy (see the video!) suffering from flea allergies, but otherwise well.

Do look after your pet, if it goes outdoors, especially in cottage country and on holiday. There are stories of losing animals in such situations.

I know what it is like to lose an animal.
What a story that advocates for microchipping a pet.

This photo is our dog, Jenny, (don't ask, I don't know, or cant recall why we'd name a dog, when I was 'Jenn'). The photo has to be about 30 years old. Great memories.

Pets were an important part of our family life. Not so for every family, I know. Some of my blogger buddies have all sorts of incredible creatures. What is ironic is that some of my kids have allergies to cats, and we have 3! Fortunately, they are all adults and have their own residences...

What kinds of pets do you have?

Thursday 30 July 2009

Summer activities

Things have changed in My Muskoka over the years. Remember Whensday, #8.

In the old days we would put a worm on a hook and fish off of our dock. Or, at least, my aunt & uncle's dock! We spent a lot of time there, hanging out with cousins. My extended family (Fred, Lill) had two other cottages, on land bought in 1960 for $2000! Many memories of times gone by have been recorded. The family adored their cottaging. We stayed up here all summer, as Mom worked part-time, and took off the summer. Every Friday night we would wait at the highway waiting for Dad to arrive. he'd drive back home for work, leaving at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning.

My favourite memory is of me, my brother and Dad, fishing. From across the way we could hear the rain coming as it did a flamenco dance across the lake. The sound was marvellous; water tapping its Spanish rhythm. Here we are on Uncle Fred's dock, Dad working to bait the hook. They had a lovely beach, we had slippery rock, no weeds, and deeper water. We often spent time there!

Jumping into the lake was the best thing ever. This is my brother, who turned the big 5-0 this year. Fond memories of gentler times.

When I was a kid, my cousins, 20 years older than I, would take me 'water skiing'. I use the term loosely, as we didn't have skiis my size. My uncle, ever the thrifty one, took an old wooden ironing board of my's and put a toe hold across the bottom. There was much skill involved in staying on it. All would cheer as I went by.

My Aunt Lill (1906 - 1981) passed away 28 years ago in her cottage. Her sister-in-law at her side. Uncle Fred (1908 - 1983) had a heart attack and fell off of our deck. Mom (1925 - 2006) died in our living room. It seems to be a family tradition! The sepia scanned photo shows Lillian Forsyth, Fred Butt, and another sibling, Marion, who died many years ago, the year Mom was born.

Of course, the traditions continue, and evolve.

I must admit that I took the kids to Bala Falls to swim. Not often. But it was a change in venue. And a place where rushing water inspired. There weren't the tourists then. Things were quiet.

These days, there is little skill I see in summer activities.

Many have cable or satellite TV, as well as Internet access.
In the 'good old days', we didn't even have a phone here. Kid complain about the peace and quiet. The board games we loved- Clue, Sorry, Hands Down, and card games - Go Fish, King's Corner's, Rummy, all kept us busy on rainy days, and buggy evenings.

We had a motor boat for a time, before it rotted away. I think it was a 20 HP. These days we have our old canoe, bought when I was a teen, second hand from a kids camp. I have replaced parts, but the fiberglass hull is in good shape, with many coats of paint. I love puttering around the lake, looking for good photo-ops of sun dogs (My YouTube Sun Dog!)

I have seen a fair number of kids on the lake, screaming behind daddy pulling them omemen an inflatable rube. There is no skill in that, unlike actually standing up and water skiing, but that is a choice they make. The kids want bigger, better, faster. The skill is primarily the dad's, as they try to get some centrifugal motion going and whip the kids around, sending them off the tube. There was an accident last year, as the force of the speed broke the part that attached the tube and the mechanism whipped back and killed the child. The tourists scream by on PWCs, at warp speed, missing the wildlife by inches.

  • Police sound tubing alarm

    16 Aug 2007 ... Sean Patrick Sullivan Canadian Press. Boat operators need to be aware of the potential perils of a popular summer water activity that has ...Once you're on that tube you're relying on the good judgment ... of the person driving that boat Ed Bean , the Lifesaving Society of Ontario.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Carlos' tale WW#46

watery wednesdayThis is, indeed a Watery Wednesday. Thunderstorms, more water than we can handle, the lake has risen quite a bit in a few hours.

This is, indeed, a watery tale. I watch my birds by the water every day. They always tell me a story.

My dear visiting goose, Eva, has lost her partner, but every day she looks after her goslings. She is vigilant. She watches their every step, despite their being almost as big as she. She even provides protection the precious little duck, Carlos.

cecilCarlos. Always left out, she still seeks to be part of the group, whether it is with Eva and goslings, or the 9 ducks that gather on our rock. She follows the big geese upwards and onwards; sits on one leg and watches them.

Then, she tries to be part of the duck group. But no dice; one of them chases her off. She is valiant in trying to be a part of the group. Everyday she comes by. She eats well, she hangs out with the big kids, and she doesn't let them scare her away. I admire those who fight the bullies with dignity.

The video is a photo collage of Carlos' story.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

My inspiration

My cyberfriend, The Weaver of Grass, asked her regular readers to reflect on who inspires us. Click on her name to visit others.
I began to reflect
on this assignment. Maya Angelou came to mind: fry cook, dancer, actress, journalist, educator, television producer, and film director, as well as author and poet. But she is well-lauded elsewhere.

In adversity, my blogger friends rise above their daily lives; they inspire me:
  • A 24-year old, fighting cancer.
  • Latane, who placed her husband with dementia, whom she's loved for 60 years, in a secure LTC home.
  • Mog ("You hear some funny things when you are deaf"), who is sharing her story of hearing implants
  • Rob, who in the twinkling of an eye, was transplanted and uprooted from Canada to the UK
All of the bloggers I follow inspire with their photo images and reflections on life.
The people I follow show me that every person is special, that beauty exists in everyone, in everything, and in every part of the world. They show it is a small world.

I am inspired by people, places and things: a beautiful piece of art, a photo, a precious turn of phrase, bodies of water, a reflection on life that illuminates the human condition.

Many people I see in the media have been singled out for awards and recognition after inspiring others. Everyone says nice things about these influential, public, high achievers. Of course, at your funeral you are home free. They find good things to say about you then. You're sure to win some good words, even Michael Jackson had some good press!

I am inspired by my husband who had the dignity to provide personal care for my father, while I was working, when Dad could not longer determine the function of a knife or fork. I lauded him in my book!

I am inspired by my adult children, who have made their way in this difficult world. They educate me, teach me how to be a better person. Collectively, they have fought ignorance, pollution, failure, bullies, and all found jobs in a difficult economic climate.

My heroes, too, are the single women who carry on in adversity. Alone, impoverished, uneducated, on hourly wages, no benefits, without enough money for basics for themselves, let alone their children. Yet, they get up every day and fight for their lives. I have taught many of their children and, I hope, made a difference. I remember them all.

My career over, I seek inspiration in the creatures that surround me. You can read about them at My Muskoka! I believe that the universe sends us who or what we need at the time. Every day you will find inspiration around you. You just have to open your eyes.

Appears a hero in our eyes.
--Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
--John Donne, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624

Monday 27 July 2009

My World Tuesday XLII

MWT White


Rain, rain, go away

Blackest night
Mosquitoes hide in doorways
Anxiously seeking entry
Quick, close the door

Trees begin to emerge in the glow of day's light
Dawn's beacon slowly creeps
Horizon's hope that day springs eternal
Rain does a tap dance on the roof
Nature's percussion serenades
Kids play tent with towels
Spoons tap cereal bowls
Rhythm in the music of their laughter

Parents hug their morning coffee
First we play cards
Go Fish for the young ones
Rummy for the older ones
Later we will play Sorry
Not sorry at all
Picnics on a blanket
Spread across wood floors
Fun, family, fellowship
This is the romance of cottage life

Ring, sing, love

It is all in your attitude! As I wrote earlier, it is How you frame your life.
One blogger wrote, Muskoka blogs
"Summer isn't about the weather or other factors that we can't control, it's about the experience which we create."
Telling words. I participated in Blues in the Schools, and I remember TJ Wheeler saying to us, "You sang The Blues, so you don't got the blues no more!"

I heard the thunder in My Muskoka, so, while I danced to its rhythm it helped me write a poem, indoors, while it pours rain. Then I found a wonderful YouTube video that showed me how to dance!

Dancing by the lake

Storm threatens on a dark horizon
Sun draws indigo curtain aside
Brightens the blackness
Thunder the rhythm of the dance
Hypnotizing waters paso doble
Foretelling the approaching storm
Wind-driven to a bossa nova
Loon sambas on waves
This is my liberation theology
Mesmerizing- the dancing lake
From whence my help cometh
a bell is not a bell
until you ring it
a song is not a song
until you sing it
love is not love
until you give it away

--Bill Anderson
'spiritual chiropractor'

This is how you begin a life together: you dance with your granddaughter!!!

Rainy Days in Muskoka

Blackest night
Mosquitoes hide in doorways
Anxiously seeking entry
Quick, close the door

Trees begin to emerge
The glow of day's light
Dawn's beacon slowly creeps
Horizon's hope that day springs eternal
Rain does a tap dance on the roof
Nature's percussion serenades
Kids play tent with towels
Spoons tap cereal bowls
Rhythm in the music of their laughter

Parents hug their morning coffee
First we play cards
Go Fish for the young ones
Rummy for the older ones
Later we will play Sorry
Not sorry at all
Picnics on a blanket
Spread across wood floors
Baiting a hook in the rain
Crowding under umbrellas
Fun, family, fellowship
This is the romance of cottage life

Some deride them
others embrace them - Rainy Days
It is all in your attitude! As I wrote earlier, it is How you frame your life.
One blogger wrote,
"Summer isn't about the weather or other factors that we can't control, it's about the experience which we create."

Sunday 26 July 2009


I am so insulted by this article! There have been some great days this past month. I love the changing days. Muskoka is one of the beautiful places to be in this world.
I read

Muskoka's sodden summer of discontent

"This year, the Ontario cottageocracy doesn't deserve your envy"
Don't read it! Back away and resist the urge to click on the link! What a scathing, cynical, negative, stereotypical sarcastic diatribe, written by Leah McLaren, published in the (formerly) respectable Globe & Mail. She thinks she cleverly invented the word 'Docktails', but it is a store in Bala. Beautiful shop, with some very nice products run by a founding family (Burgess) who have put roots down for many years. Dear people, who give back much to the community.

The comments are rather telling following McLaren's article, despite my opinion of 'reader comments', as differentiated from "Letters-to-the-editor", if you get my drift. Some see the shallowness of her article. Others similarly disdain Muskokans.

Who is her target market?
  • Young 20-somethings, discontent away from the city, technology and the real world?
  • The writer's dippy friends?
  • The other bored 12-year-olds who cannot be surgically detached from their technology?
  • People who cannot afford a trip to Muskoka?
  • The very rich, those who employ citizens, entertain us on the screen, guide our investments, help us with our dreams?
Those who come from monied families have earned the right to inherit multi-million dollar properties. They do not deserve our wrath. Get an education, get a haircut, get a real job. Many visit Muskoka with a tent or trailer. Some visitors suck off their hosts, like parasites, and contribute little to the economy, like McLaren. It is a place to get in touch and heal. For 40 years we have been here in the summer.

We get some people in Muskoka who do not understand it. The citot who complained, on a Saturday, that 'locals' should be clogging grocery stores in w/e. Rural myth has it that someone hauled off and slugged him. Mind you, the one who complained about the 3-day power outage in the grocery store line-up did piss me off. The rest of us are, perhaps, chumps? As if no one else was affected - but she is the minority. And I digress.

Yes, it is a wet, cool July. But LAST year was a wet, cool July and many of us have learned to live with it. I feel badly for my friends who are business owners trying to recover from a 30% drop in tourist dollars last year. The fine men and women who staff my dearly beloved LCBO, then there is Annie who makes us feel so welcome in her cafe!

The delightful folks who welcome us and our business and make us feel good to support their establishments. The folks in Robertson's who go out of their way to order in items we refuse to look for in Cheap*Mart, phone us when they arrive, and even shipped them when we still lived in Ottawa.

Muskoka has a broad range of folks: from honest, hardworking residents who live and work here, to seasonal visitors, renters and citiots who expect perfection. Deal with climate change. It is reality. There are many issues with life outside the city. Citiots do not understand it. The stereotypes abound and need to be dismissed. What pisses me off is that some are paid to perpetuate myths and have their vague notions, not yet ideas, put into print.

My Muskoka is a place far different than this. The Globe is ridiculous for printing edutainment more fitting for a blog, and not articles and news. We are not miserable. We consider it a privilege to live here, aside from the fact that we inherited our fine abode, most of my bloggie friends understand the life. Sure you can buy mansions, but that is not the norm. We (the royal one) bought this property in 1960 for $2000. Many have inherited cottages and you can pick up a fine one for good prices, depending upon what you want. I cannot imagine that if you have a kid in private school AND a pricey cottage, that you are giving up one for the other. Times change. People move. The Muskoka cottager is changing and evolving.
McLaren complains, "The weather might not matter so much to those with oceanview cabins, but let's face it: Without the sun, most Ontario cottages are damp suburban bungalows on the edge of a weed-choked lake."

Baloney. Cottaging is a lifestyle. It is a retreat. It is an escape from the big city and a chance to look around you. You beg, barter or steal a chance to be outdoors, and seek nature. Play cards, board games and visit with dear friends. We love our visitors. We can educate them about nature. It is a place to heal and rest.
H1N1 in Muskoka she complains? Yes, brought from the city by young campers. What did you expect? This is like the pioneers bringing disease to the Native Peoples. It is to be expected. It is a pandemic and predictable. BTW Our population is composed of 15% seniors, and they seem to have some antibodies that prevent them from getting the bug. Live long and prosper!
No, there is no great rush to sell off property up here due to some rain. Town is busy. Yes, temperatures have been 4 degrees below seasonal temperatures. And, yes, we had 72 mm of rain yesterday. But many got into the lake for a swim, went for a walk, appreciated nature and supported local businesses. Those of us who adore the lifestyle, far from the madding crowd, are quite happily living out our lives here. Go home, McLaren, leave us be!
  1. Read: Dos & Don'ts of cottage life!
  2. What to bring to the cottage.
  3. What to do.
  4. How to be 'a good guest' or didn't your Momma tacher you manners?

Saturday 25 July 2009

Bearly there: feast, fowl and famine

Camera Critters

You'd think this were the end of my tail, but it is not. It is just a heads up about the latest bear tails in Bala...
The bear has not disappeared, despite people trying to educate neighbours - seasonal tourists, speeding drivers, visitors, guests, and the like.

The MNR has guided us in being more vigilant about taking care with our garbage, putting it out on the day of pick-up, rinsing out recycling, taking down bird feeders, and cleaning our BBQs.

But the Bala bear is still here. S/he left a deposit near where it was spotted earlier this season.
But, the news is that some nutjob has still been feeding his wildlife: raccoons...What is he thinking? Or is he? The bear turned up and he shot it, too. My goodness.

In the meantime, folks around have been upset that the OPP have shot at a bear who was visiting a play ground. I would hope that my police would protect us and our kids as best they know how. Sometimes an immediate response is necessary. Who knows how quickly the MNR could get there.

The MNR staff do hope that by stopping feeding the bears, they will cease to visit regular stopping places, but I think this a wish. The bears are not as common in remote cottages, where cottagers look after garbage. The bears have instincts and habits. I watch our wildlife and notice that they make regular stops to feeding grounds.

Our geese feed regularly on the water hyacinth, but do not take all the food, grazing and returning later , sort of 'rotating their crops'. Some species have learned this trick. They make regular stops in a regular pattern. Once set, it is hard to break them of it. It is what has ensured their survival. For this reason I think we are doomed since people have been inadvertently feeding the bears with bird feeders and garbage.

Lately, as I walk my property, I noticed that the blueberries and the raspberries are nearly ripe. I wonder how much this will keep the bear around this area? You'd think the bears would prefer natural sources of food, and now that we have some - look out!

The geese and the ducks do a regular rotation of our clover, too. (I have given up on grass!) They never over feed, and graze in different spots.

But back to the bears... the MNR, after many sightings, have chosen to set a bear trap, since the bear is a frequent visitor in these parts.

It is tourist season, and some are thinking that the tourists are fair game. The geese just do not understand them!

Our Toronto visitors have been leaving garbage around in local parks since the Toronto garbage collectors are on strike, they think it a great way to dump their trash. Just ask the folks who live across from the park. They are not amused. Their cat disappeared for two days last time it saw the bear. I fervently hope that Torontonians settle the contract soon. We have to learn to live with the wildlife, and live our lives that shows respect for the environment. Please, tourists, respect us, as well. We live here and really do not bears wandering like this.

The animal life can learn to get along with one another, if only they could show respect. Except, of course, for the poor old chipmunks, they are fair game...and haven't learned their lessons.

You should see me chasing the little twerp around trying to save the chippies. I feel so badly about it, but they keep coming back.

It is a quick and certain death. They really are Dumb as a brick...

Gates-Crowley saga

There is no question that there is prejudice in historically troubled relationships between the authorities and visible minorities. President Obama intervened, and called the event 'stupid', when a friend of his was arrested for breaking into his own home. His friend, black, was arrested after being confronted by police. He subsequently proved it was his home, but words ensued. I can imagine how resentful I would be! A white cop and a black man, a prominent scholar of African American studies at Harvard University, who would be aware of all the red-necked bigots who have done physical or emotional harm to people over the years.

One writer published:
Although race was what caught President Obama's attention, the confrontation between a Black Harvard professor and a White Cambridge police officer is not about race at all.
It is about citizens' rights. When you look past the argument over race, you can see that a homeowner's rights were trampled on by the investigating and then arresting officer.
There is no question that racial profiling continues in this day and age, despite efforts to educate those with power. I hope that this necessity will stop, as we create a more diverse body of police forces. Only as we learn more about one another will we truly be free. As Hanaia said,
Historically, only Black people who are, in principle, stopped in expensive cars are asked "Is this your car?"
Somewhere else I read: "I refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. " Instead of defending the police officer, the authorities need to understand that it is only in talking about these things that we will improve society. Police do not have the right to be arrogant. Respect goes both ways.

Racial profiling in Canada: challenging the myth of'a ... - Tator
Protecting Equality in the Face of Terror: Ethnic and ... - Choudhry
Stories in the time of cholera: Racial profiling during ... - Briggs

The Ontario Human Rights Commission, as quoted in a CBC article, took a broader approach, defining it as
"any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment."
The OHRC gives some non-police-related examples of what it considers racial profiling:

  • School officials suspend a Latino child for violating the school's zero tolerance policy while a white child's behaviour is excused as being normal child's play.
  • An employer insists on stricter security clearance for a Muslim employee after the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • A bar refuses to serve aboriginal customers because of a belief they will get drunk and rowdy
A study of police statistics in Kingston, Ont., (May 2005) found

  • that young black and aboriginal men were more likely to be stopped
  • that police in the predominantly white city were 3.7 times more likely to stop a black as a Caucasian,
  • and 1.4 times more likely to stop an aboriginal person than a white.
I have a dream...
"- they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."
--Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963.


hands that held me the first time
handed me my life
hands changed my diapers
held my hands when I learned to walk
comforted me when I was hurt
put on band-aids when I fell off my bike
lit my birthday candles
propped a book up to read to a willing kid
gave me away when it was time
held me close when I mourned a marriage
helped me hang a drapery track
after handing me a down payment

hands that held glorious grandchildren
as lovingly as various dogs, cats and pets
or handled a trowel held as respectfully as a shovel

hands that placed a pencil in a pocket protector
as expertly as a hammer in its place
a baster handled as carefully as yeast
a BBQ as well as a sherry glass
hands that made lists
created plans left on his laden workbench
hands chopped wood
created, repaired, made working again
hands that meticulously organized his life
but did not communicate his thoughts

beautiful hands
holding tight to all he could remember
as he began to forget who he was
or what his life was like
the joy he handed us all
the folks he helped up and out
the goodness he created with his loving hands
his loved ones both two- and four-legged
his cottage and home
all forgotten
some who forgot him

his hands then slammed the table
when no longer able use his fork
when neither body nor brain as nimble
when chair and bed were all he could stand
hands gripped a tea mug
as desperately as his wheelchair
trying to manage drug-induced tremours
when brain and hands lost their connection
hands railed against the dying of the light
hands in which he placed his head
when the dementia and debilitation were too much for him

my hands held his
I washed his face and hands
when food did not make it to his mouth
my hand soothed his brow
my hands fixed his broken finger nail
catching on the blanket in aggravation
such gratitude for a simple act
keeping a perpetually cold man warm

the tables turned
I could give back what I had received
my only regret
that my mother never allowed me to do the same for her
that last night I held his hand
as long as I could
'till sleep called me
his hands motionless in his coma

my hands now grasp a grandchild
they have handed the reigns to me
I now hold the family in my hands
memories held now in my heart
rituals, routines, values and traditions are mine
I only hope my hands are up to the task
do unto others
as loving hands have held fast to you

his hands now at rest
my hands over my heart
he who dies with the most tools wins
Dad won hands down
too many tools to name
too late for you to tell me
too late for me to hold your hand
I nod in love and honour
I have to hand it to you
your love was more than I could have prayed for
I am so glad I was chosen
held so lovingly by your huge heart