Where have you been?


Ozias Leduc: Le Jeune étudiant, 1894

In short, all over the map, literally and figuratively. After our November concert with the Edmonton Metro Chorus Brenda and I took a short winter break in Mexico, spending two weeks at the Mayan Palace on the Riviera Maya, half way between Cancun and the Playa Del Carmen. In spite of neigbouring resorts on the Riviera, the place felt fairly isolated; even within the compound one takes public transportation to get from one area to another, including the beach and the pools. What fascinated me was the fact that the property was carved out of a tropical mangrove forest. The place has kilometers of boardwalk meant to keep you dry, but on a rainy day in the tropics you ended up shin high in water pools flooding the walkway. I’ll come back to the Riviera in a bit.

I also spent a lot of time in my head or buried deep in books, reading both fiction and non-fiction where at times it was hard to tell one from the other. The reading does explain the illustration above. The Ozias Leduc painting seems to carry with it two different titles, Le Jeune étudiant used in the caption above, but it is also often referred to as Le Jeune lecteur which happens to be the title that has always stuck in my mind. So yes, I have over the last few months done a lot of reading. But I have also been doing some studying which could also justify the use of that image. I do believe in the adage that one is never too old to learn and, therefore, I have started Japanese classes with the ultimate goal of speaking, reading and writing the language. A very ambitious project indeed, but why not, I’m still alive and well, all should be possible.

Believe it or not, I started this post a month ago promising to return to the Riviera in a bit. It obviously didn’t happen and here I am less than 24 hours from my next trip to Florida and the Caribbean. Silly me. I guess that upon my return I will have to adopt some new writing strategies, perhaps give serious consideration to the 10 minutes a day approach. What I had meant to say about the Riviera was that we had a great time there, enjoying the beach, playing golf a couple of times a week on a wonderful and difficult Jack Nicklaus design, admiring nature and the local wildlife such as coatis, iguanas, and ibis.





It felt like Spring!


Really, it did. We had gorgeous weather in Edmonton today. While our distant neighbours living along the American East Coast were hoping to dig themselves out of a couple of feet of snow dumped on them by a blizzard named Jonas, in Edmonton, which some people consider to be part of the big white North, we enjoyed a balmy 1 degree Celsius. The snow was melting, and had we been children we would have enjoyed playing in the puddles found on most sidewalks.

Balmy, of course, is a relative term, but considering that on January 24th the normal temperature would range from a low of -20 C to a high of -10 C, plus 1 C does feel balmy. Now, to put this in perspective, we will add that the record low for this day reached -43 C in 1920; the record high came in at 8 C in 1892. Yes, balmy sounds right in context.

Brenda and I went out urban poling, that is walking with poles, getting better exercise as one gets to use 90% of the big muscles walking that way. We took our usual route which takes us along the path that runs above the river alley. We couldn’t just yet take the time to smell the flowers, but we did enjoy a leisurely pace, stopping long enough to enjoy a squirrel running up and down trees, jumping from one to another. Long enough to do a bit of birding. The chickadees wouldn’t stay put long enough for a picture, but with patience and skill, Brenda was able to get a decent portrait of the Pine Siskin featured above.

Tomorrow is unlikely to be as nice, but, as the poet would say, Carpe Diem.





Urban Gardens


Last Friday, the very same day I wrote my Welcome to the Infinity Dream Award, Brenda and I decided to go out for an “healthy” walk, but before we reached the front door we had already planned an itinerary toward the Duchess Bakery for our first indulgence of the day: a pain au chocolat. On the way there we ran into some irresistible gardens, such as the one featured above, and Brenda started to document them on her phone. That little sign at the far right corner was the “déclencheur” and led to a series of pictures of our excursion.

On the way to Duchess, as well as on the way back home, we entered a couple of art galleries. First stop was the Bearclaw Galleryto have a look at some of  Aaron Paquette paintings. We have long admired his work and would be honoured to feature his work in our artist of the month program at Westwood Unitarian Congregation. After our coffee break we made a stop at The Daffodil Gallery, where I personally discovered the “inspirational art” of  Veronica Funk and  am excited we will be featuring one of her pieces at Westwood in November. More about these artists in future posts. Now back to our neighbourhood urban gardens.

Welcome to The Infinity Dream Award

dream award

I have been nominated to The Infinity Dream Award by Soso, a French blogger I have followed and appreciated for quite a while now. In Un pied ici, un pied là-bas she writes mostly about her extensive travels, but just as importantly, she also introduces us to some of Paris’ little gems, Paris being her home at this time. The award comes with some rules, and as I am not terribly fond of rules I would normally have given the invitation a pass; however, as I dislike passing on a challenge just as much, I will play the game. For it is just a game, not unlike the very well known Questionnaire de Proust  which is often played and quoted to this day. Is this revealing of one’s personality, most likely, but as they would say in French, le jeu en vaut la chandelle.

Now, here are the rules of the game as they were passed on to me. The commentaries are of course mine.

  1. Thank and follow the blog that nominated you. (If you so wish!)
  2. Tell us 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the questions that were set for you.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers and set 11 questions for them, then go to their blog and notify them.

As I am not familiar with numerology, I have no idea why the number 11 is repeated here, however, a quick look in google raised a number of interesting possibilities:

  • “If you continually see the numbers 11, 111, or 1111, there’s a reason. The most common way that angels communicate with humans is through the universal languages of numbers and music.”
  • “A Master Number, the 11 is the most intuitive of all numbers. It is instinctual, charismatic, dynamic and capable when its sights are set on a concrete goal. The 11 is the number associated with faith and psychics.”
  • “Some claim seeing the number 11:11 means you are a member of a special group, perhaps of spiritual light workers.”

Enough said, it is time for me to reveal 11 facts about myself:

  1. I am gladly retired and thoroughly enjoy the freedom to live mostly as I please.
  2. I enjoy playing golf, practicing, however, is an entirely different story. My handicap is a highly secretive affair.
  3. I love writing but lack the discipline necessary to be at work everyday.
  4. I love blogging but can be days, weeks, and at time months without a word
  5. I practice and teach Japanese flower arranging and delight in the use of negative space.
  6. I am an avid reader and have a weakness for a good mystery or suspense novel.
  7. On T.V. I enjoy Masterpiece Theater. Lately we have been watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, an excellent Australian series available on Netflix.
  8. I can never pass on a movie that has Paris in its title or settings.
  9. Between my wife and I, we have 7 children and 14 grandchildren.
  10. When traveling I greatly enjoy unexpected discoveries and utterly dislike going down the street guidebook in hand. That being said, we have had some delightful moments from guidebook recommendations as well as with tour guides.
  11. I am not always the ideal travel companion.

We are not quite out of the bushes just yet. You might think that I have confessed quite enough,  but I still have to answer those questions provided by Soso, therefore here we go.

  1. How do you start your Sunday morning? I would love to say with coffee in bed but that would be a lie, furthermore, I don’t even drink coffee. I know, I know, some would consider that a sin. I do enoy a great cup of tea.  Truth be told, no two Sundays are alike. I will go to church when I am attracted to the topic offered, or for sure when the choir is singing as I am part of it. Such a lovely baritone voice… (;-).  The service is usually followed by brunch with friends. But there are times when Sunday is a golf day. One can always meditate on the green.
  2. What’s your favorite reading(s) of the last six months? I have read lots of mysteries by authors like Louise Penny, Donna Leon, and Val McDermid. Of late, I have been somewhat into soul searching, trying to balance who I am with where I’m at. Big words I know. Two authors have pushed me in that direction. The first one is Richard Wagameseand I have to admit I was hooked as soon as I had read Ragged Company (see Richard’s page for details on his books). This was certainly a tough read, but there is no way one can put that book down. One might not identify with any of his characters, but one can’t help but feel for them while questioning oneself. Powerful book, we all have a story, we are the story, I have learned that much from that book as well as from Keeper’n Me, and For Joshua, both by the same author. The second author I mentioned is Cathryn Wellner, and her book Feisty Aging has encouraged me to review my own aging and compare it to the many characters portrayed in her book, a very valuable exercise.
  3. What’s the kind of attitude you hate the most when travelling in public transportation? The lack of consideration given others by certain passengers who will push people around, take seats reserved for those in need, speak loudly etc.
  4. Who changes the toilet paper roll at home? Whoever needs paper at the time.
  5. How many (really) good friends do you have around? (be honest!) As you might expect, they are not legions. After reading Feisty Aging I did give the subject some consideration. When I was in boarding school, for 5 years of my life, I had one good friend. In graduate school, one good friend again. During my teaching career, one good friend. Today, in retirement, half a dozen good friends. I’m still working on this.
  6. Your best treat ever? A year in Malawi. Great safaris and a weekend at Pumulani Lodge, at the time, and perhaps to this day, one of the best resorts one could wish for. Keep dreaming…
  7. What’s your favorite quotation? That changes every day. Today I will quote Richard Wagamese: “As parents and teachers we need to tell our children this — that you can never be less than you were created to be. You never have to qualify. You never have to prove yourself. You just need to be.” 
  8. If you could relocate right now, which would be the city or country of your choice? I would like somewhere warmer, safe and affordable. Any suggestions?
  9. “I quit my job” or “I fired my boss… Which personality are you? Tough one. Over the years I banged lots of doors behind me. In the end, I chose early retirement.
  10. What could make you want to stop blogging? Nothing really. I only have 68 followers, including myself (I don’t know how I managed that one), but truly, I would do it just for me, as a personal journal. But who am I kidding? The more the merrier.
  11. Oops! There were only ten questions.

My questions for the people I am nominating:

  1. What is the most interesting place you have ever lived in or visited?
  2. In that same vein, which is the most challenging place?
  3. Who or what inspires you?
  4. What does a good day look like to you?
  5. If cost and travel time were not an issue, where would you want to spend a weekend?
  6. What would you plant in a garden of your dreams?
  7. What inspirational quote speaks to you today?
  8. Tell us about a random act of kindness you have given or received.
  9. What is your favorite indulgence?
  10. What authors would currently be on your top 3 to 10 list?
  11. What are you grateful for today?

And my award nominees are:

Joe Fafard sculpture in front of Udell Gallery.

Sculpture in front of Udell Gallery, Edmonton AB.

Demonstration at Animethon


Floral interpretation of fireworks.

The Summer holidays have come and gone and we had an enjoyable time travelling to Creston, British Columbia, to visit with family and friends. We had our granddaughter Ella along for the ride as part of her 11th birthday celebration which is an event often carried over a couple of weeks. At times, some family birthdays were celebrated over a whole month, just ask our grandson Mylan. Enough digression.

I had hoped to write earlier about our flower arrangements, but weeks went by without any being done. We were to attend an ikebana workshop in Saskatoon at the end of July, unfortunately, the event was cancelled at the last minute. Not to despair, we had been invited to do a demonstration during Animethon 22 which took place this past weekend. During this festival, thousands of young people come to Edmonton to celebrate the popular arts of Japan, most notably, the anime, and many come dressed as their favorite character.


Yesterday, August 9th was the last day of the event, and for the second year, we offered a demonstration of ikebana.  The free style above was one of the arrangements done for the occasion. Other arrangements have been posted on our EJCA Ikebana Club website. To have a clearer picture of that event, please visit our contribution to Animethon 2014.

Texas’ Chapter Anniversary Exhibition

The two arrangements above were contributed by visiting professors from Japan who, along with the Headmaster Sen’ei Ikenobo, honoured the attendees by their presence, their arrangements and their teaching, which will be the subject of another post. I wanted to offer an extensive coverage of the exhibition but, unfortunately, my photography was not good enough and, therefore, what follows is a mere selection of what was on exhibit. On this occasion, I did miss my official photographer.