Canadian Seasonings

Update in Time: (added July 27)

I intended to create a stand-alone blog on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, which just ended on Sunday, July 26th, but thought instead I would add a tribute note on the games here instead.

Congratulations to all the athletes who made this event a superior one and very memorable.  Here are some quotes from the official website: http://www.toronto2015.org.

– “largest-ever international multi-sport games in Canada’s history”
– “Team Canada….setting a national record for gold medals won at a Pan Am Games (78 Gold 69 Silver 70 Bronze = 217) the best showing for Canada at any Pan Am Games.”
– “highest level of participation ever by female athletes at more than 45 per cent.”
– “debut of women’s baseball (silver) women’s canoe sprint (gold, silver) women’s rugby sevens (gold), canoe/kayak – slalom (bronze), golf, return of men’s softball” (gold) – (gold in women’s softball too).
– “athletes smashed more than 80 Pan Am records.”
– “Canada’s women’s basketball team took home its first ever gold medal.”
– well over a million tickets sold to the games…

AND NOW… on to the 5th Parapan Am Games to be held August 7 to August 15th, the largest ever held, with over 1600 para-athletes participating.

Another Update – posted August 27, 2015

Some results of the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games:  (congats to Brazil’s outstanding medal showing!!!)

It was the largest Parapan Am Games in history.  There were close to a quarter million visits to Games venues from August 7 to 15, and after the first weekend, more than five million Canadians (14% of the population) tuned in to watch the unprecendented coverage on CBC TV/ICI Radio-Canada.

Team Canada had its best showing ever, winning 168 medals, including 50 gold, coming in second in the medal standings behind Brazil, the Host Country of next year’s Paralympic Games. 19-year-old Canadian swimmer Aurelie Rivard was the most decorated female athlete of the Games, winning 7 medals and smashing the world record in the 100 metre freestyle.  There were more than 300 medal events, with full stands and cheering crowds.  Ten world records were set in tack and field, swimming and powerlifting.  Omara Durand from Cuba clocked the fastest 100 metres ever by a female para-athlete, and broke the world record in the 200 metres. Jarryd Wallace of the U.S. defended his 2011 Parapan Am gold medal in the 100 metres in a world record time of 10.71 seconds.  It was the debut of wheelchair rugby, sometimes called “murderball” with rivals Canada and the US showcasing the sport in front of sold-out crowds.  (Canada won the gold….)

Oh, by the way — for both events, the weather was superbly summer……

four-seasons-wallpaper copy
I imagine that my “far south south-of-the-border” neighbours (yes, that’s how it’s spelled in Canada) think Canadians like me who love all that is Canada, (particularly her magnificent seasons), makes us kind of weird.  However, I get such a surge of pleasure from each of our four seasons, that to me it’s having the absolute best of all possible worlds right here, in any part of our great nation.  Some think we actually have five seasons, if you count “Indian Summer” (that brief, unseasonably warm period at the end of autumn), and I think that’s true.

Winter:  “It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam.  This crisp winter air is full of it.  John Burroughs, (Winter sunshine)”

Winter Title (s)

I love winter.  It is all blacks and whites and greys.  It is moody, cloudy days, almost ominous in their foreboding, dark looks.  I love it because it brings out the melancholy side of me, allowing me to wallow in self-pity and sadness from time to time, bringing out a part of me I would probably never know if I lived in perpetual sunshine. It’s the time to bring out haunting Russian music, or southern blues.

My daughter, making her usual contribution to my blogs, has found some themed music for your entertainment while you pause in your reading. “This is Enya, an Irish singer, instrumentalist and songwriter performing “And Winter Came…” from her 2008 album of the same name, accompanied by a lovely winter pictorial (bluesensation75)”

Not all of winter’s days are gloomy — so many are crisp and fresh and smelling brand-new.  It is exciting to open the door to see the first snowfall, especially when large fluffy flakes are falling softly or swiftly, drifting or swirling or dropping straight down, with the entire sky brightened.  Or the first snowfall could follow a keening, shrieking wind, straight from the bowels of madness, bringing stinging, biting streaks of white fury along with it to snatch at you, sucking the breath from you, even while making you aware of how alive you are!
1646823-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]

It could last an hour or two and then just dissolve away, or it could come with a huge tribe of flakes following it, flooding down, deciding to stick around for awhile, until inch-by-inch and foot-by-foot, the whole earth is a whiteness, on ground and fence and roof and branch — and car, of course.  It can be mushy and slushy or crisp and pristine, with little diamonds embedded in it, making crunchy or squeaky echoes as you walk on it.

Here’s a great electro-swing version of “Winter Weather” sung in 1941 by Peggy Lee and remixed by Jazzbox in 2013 with great archival vintage and cartoon footage (cartongfilms)”

I love the bright blue sky days of winter when the bark of the leafless trees are black and beautiful with winter white in sharp contrast, but in harmony nevertheless.  I love the stillness or the howling.  I love waking to see animal tracks in the backyard, and try to guess what’s been running or hopping there.  I love watching winter sports – (mostly, I confess, on tv or computer from the comfort of a chair, indoors, warm and cozy).

1272375-1536x864-[DesktopNexus.com]

But I have curled, people!  I have ice-skated.  I have played street hockey with my brothers.  I have created snowmen, some pretty original, and some pretty big.  I have had snowball fights. I learned which snow makes the best snowballs – which ones dissolve on contact, which ones are icy enough to hurt a bit.  I have watched ice sculptures being created, spectactularly beautiful and yet only temporary works of art, making their creators very special in my books.

Winter 1

I have skiied down hillsides.  I have gone sledding.  I have gone tobogganing.  I have gone ice fishing.  I have dared to test the ice on river or lake when it was either coming at the beginning of winter or going at the end.  I have cracked through that same ice and scrambled to safety, feeling daring, and alive, and wet and cold. I have put my tongue out and captured snowflakes.  I have marvelled at the beauty and originality of each snowflake.

Robert Duncan, A Grand Day

Robert Duncan, A Grand Day

I have smelled the sweat of horses pulling a hay-baled wagon through the snow on a farm outing.  I have come in from the cold to sip hot apple cider or cocoa. I’ve dunked for apples in a barrel of water. I’ve enjoyed hearty winter soups on a frosty day.  I have tapped maple trees, collecting their sap to boil down into delicious maple syrup and maple sugar.  I have dropped hot syrup into the snow and eaten maple snow cones.  I have watched dogsleds mushing on the trails, eager, eager, eager to win.  I have snow glided on the ice.

“This is a favourite song of mine from Simon & Garfunkel recorded live on TV in 1967. Here they are harmonizing on “A Hazy Shade of Winter” (pupovac zlatko)”

I have also endured sleet and ice storms which knocked out power lines, leaving us without heat or electricity, sometimes (but rarely) for many days. I have read by candlelight at those times, and used a hand-cranked radio to get the news.

510512-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]

I shivered a lot when that happened, bundling myself up in much that is woollen.  I have held a little bunny close to my chest to keep him warm and felt him snuggle close.  I have driven a car on black ice (exciting! terrifying!) and through ruts on roads covered with a foot of snow (but that’s rare, I admit – we have the best winter road snow plowers in the world.)

1245967-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]
And three inches of snow NEVER panics Canadians!  (Ashamed to admit, but for a friendly, caring Northern Neighbour, I admit I find it kind of funny to see panic-stricken drivers in the deep south experiencing their first inch-and-a-half snowfall on sidewalks and roads, but I do sympathize, yes I do… I would never snicker…). Oh yes, we have adventures on icy roads, and white-outs, and black-outs sometimes, but that’s what they are – adventures!  Things that make us stronger. Situations that encourage us to be good neighbours to each other. I’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of family, friends and strangers at those times. Yes, it is sometimes a nuisance to have to clear our cars, driveways and sidewalks of snow. But we also get to see the magic fingers of Jack Frost etching designs on our windows that are amazing, and we get to see icicles hanging and catching the light with diamond clarity, and see the arms of the trees covered in snow or ice, dressed up in formal attire for winter dancing. We get to breathe that wonderful fresh winter air.

Spring:  “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. – Bern Williams”
Spring Title (s)

Then there is Spring.  The time of the lifting of the heart.  Renewal of life.  Not just Easter, which is always a wonderful time for me, but in the boldness of the first snowdrops or crocuses shoving their way through the snow, shouting “We’re coming through!  We’re bringing Spring!”  We recently visited family in Peterborough, and although there was snow on the ground, they had boxes and boxes of pansies sitting on tall stands outside so that passers-by would see Spring was coming. What a heart-warming, friendly sight!

1395241-1088x919-57r
So what if they had to bring them indoors at night!  They were being hardened.  They will become Very Tough Canadian Pansies, and nothing will destroy them!  In fact, I think that Canadians harden themselves every winter, to just become more and more worthy natives of this absolutely magnificent, wonder-filled country of ours. It makes us more appreciative of the joys of all the seasons.

“I’ve picked the light-hearted “It Happens Every Spring”, with music by Josef Myrow and lyrics by Mack Gordon, and sung in 1956 by Gogi Grant.  If you’re a baseball fan, there’s a 1949 movie with the same title. (MarkGallagher)”

But, Spring! ah, Spring!  The trees sprout out with buds in what seems like just one day. The blackness of the twigs and branches fuzzes out a little, looking more brownish, almost hazy. A few days later, the first little bright yellow-green leaves appear, and like the crocuses they urge themselves to grow.  They are not afraid to unfurl themselves, something beautiful to see in its own right.

1962987-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]

The colours are light and bright greens, the first of their magnificent displays to be shown throughout the year. Spring flowers are gentler than summer’s, but lovely in their crisp yellows, purples, mauves, whites, blues and pinks  The robins come hopping along, cheerful and happy, feeding on berries until the ground is suitable for listening for and then pulling out worms.  They are forced to listen to the haughty cardinals and sparrows who have soldiered through the winter, and who probably call them “sun birds” because they don’t have the stamina to stay….

1380297-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]

Spring is also daffodils, bicycles, motorcycles, nest building, yard cleanup, painting, preparation of deck and barbecue.  It’s a time of walking deliriously happy dogs, so pleased they no longer have to wear those woolly coats and hats and boots their owners forced on them all winter (the pampered ones, of course).

Spring 1

Spring brings forth lilacs, forsythia blooms, hydrangeas, dogwood, magnolias and, of course cherry and crabapple blossoms… and their scents drift through my doorway, as I breathe in very deeply, absorbing spring into my very being.

“From the 1967 TV special “Movin’ With Nancy” here’s Frank Sinatra making a recording of “Younger Than Springtime” while daughter Nancy listens in (fabtv)”

Spring is a time of planting flowers and vegetables and strawberries.  The backyard has a generous sprinkling of deep purple wild violets and I fill my eyes with the sight of them. Spring brings a yearning to leave the city, take a little countryside trip, searching for a teahouse, a new store, a new restaurant, a new park. Everything seems new in Spring!  What spring would be complete without a thunderstorm or two, moody days, electric days, dazzling sunshine, nourishing rain, impressive clouds… How could anyone not love Spring and it’s massive renewal?

Summer: “It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!” – Kenny Chesney

Summer Title (s)

Just when you’re getting quite used to Spring, it subtly becomes summer.  More blooms of deeper colours, richer, darker greens, more birds, and sounds of laughter, play and joy from the children. Now is the time for the ice cream trucks to arrive, and the knife sharpening vendors.  A sort of relaxation blankets each day, although there is an abundance of summer energy coursing through a Canadian’s veins, in anticipation of the incredible activities available.

1509945-1280x800-Baseball

Baseball, water sports, car races, golfing, tennis, swimming, hiking, picnicking, barbecues, weddings (yes, we tend to have more of those in the warm seasons), holidays, beaches, and throughout it all the sense of community, of people soaking up the sun, traveling and enjoyment.

This is American duo Seals and Crofts, live on the British BBC2 TV music show The Old Grey Whistle Test back in in 1975, with their beautiful “Summer Breeze” (stardustdays)”

Watching Canada Geese Crossing signs on the roads and then seeing a goose family arrogantly and confidently cross the road while you idle the car, taking snapshots with your phone.  They’re hardened Canadians too, aren’t they. Proud.  Some stay all winter down on the shores of Lake Ontario, and in the Toronto area, we visit them and bring seed and grains for them in the winter months. They are sleek and sassy, and very hardy and strong – symbols, like the beaver, of Canadians in general.

1435601-1024x768-[DesktopNexus.com]

Summer has a different breeze, a different rain, a different sky-filled starry night than other seasons.  It’s the only time we can really feel lazy, as I do when I step onto the patio and doze on my glider swing, day-dreaming a story into being, or snapping pictures of birds as they hop through the branches, looking for berries or bugs.  I think the cardinals and bluejays deliberately flit about, knowing their pictures are being taken.  They do have a generous dash of show-business in their makeup, announcing their arrivals and claims to the territory, as do the crows in the tall pines at the back of the yard.

“This is a classic, happy summer song; the original 1970 version of the British band Mungo Jerry’s biggest hit “In The Summertime” (Mungo Jerry)”

Summer is full of fun, laughter, daydreaming, laziness and holiday – short-shorts, hot days, humid nights, band concerts, trips to get ice-cream.
Summer 2

Summers are hot sunny days spent in air-conditioned malls shopping, going to a movie, eating at a favourite restaurant – or barbecues with ribs, burgers, fish, roasts, corn, topped with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  And don’t forget the beer.

Summer 3

Summer is watching the corn grow as “high as an elephant’s eye”, knowing that June and July mean fresh strawberries with corn on the cob in August.  Summer is visiting pick-your-own produce orchards and farms – feasting now or canning or freezing whatever you need for the rest of the year.

My daughter thought our southern neighbours would particularly enjoy listening to Hall & Oates perform on the Fourth of July at Liberty Park, NJ (fireworks and all!).  They were always well loved here in Canada too and played many of our largest venues to sold-out crowds

“In 1985, for a crowd of 60,000, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Daryl Hall & John Oates perform a cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s 1969 quintessential summer sing-a-long “Hot Fun In The Summertime”. As a side note, you may notice lead guitarist G.E. Smith, who later joined the Saturday Night Live band as Musical Director. Hope you enjoy, and if you do, look up Sly’s original version too! (MadMelTV)”

Summer is Farmer’s Market and roadside stands displaying home-grown produce full of goodness and freshness.  Summer is a time for the Honda Indy Toronto Race on the downtown lakeshore streets near Lake Ontario, for visiting the Canadian National Exhibition grounds for fun and a taste of Canada and the world.  Summer is a time of street festivals, of Jazz Concerts, of Theatre and rock and classical concerts, of opera, of open air restaurants.  Summer is a time of regattas, air shows, amusement parks.  Summer is a time of meeting and greeting and I love every moment of it!

Autumn: “Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” – George Eliot

Autumn Title (s)

Now comes Autumn, to some people the best season of the year. I particularly love it because my daughter was born and married in Autumn, for starters. What is more awe-inspiring than a trip to Algonquin Park, or any of the north woods where the Master Painter has been at work splashing colour on the maple trees, in vivid reds, oranges, yellows, golds – balanced with bright or deep dark greens.  There is a different scent in the air, and just a touch, a hint that it will be getting chilly. But there is still a generous serving of warm days left over from summer.

Here’s Chet Atkins, “Mr. Guitar”, performing “Autumn Leaves” for a Boston Pops audience in 1972. He begins in slow Flamenco style then switches to up-tempo with his unique “finger” picking style. (muzikman74)

This is the time when the yard is cleaned up, leaves are raked (after the piles have been jumped into and thrown around a bit by the kids).  Tree branches are pruned back, gathered, tied into bundles, placed at the roadside for pickup. (Even yard cleanup is kind of invigorating and satisfying.)  In the countryside, you can catch the pungent aroma of burning leaves here and there, bringing a bit of nostalgia for the days when we were once allowed to do the same in the city, in your back yard or at curbside.

1842238-1536x864-[DesktopNexus.com]

Autumn is watching the birds getting a little restless, the ones who endure that enormous, brave journey down south each year, knowing one day they’ll be here and the next they’ll be gone.  The joy is in watching them mass up, gathering their kind together, prepping themselves for the journey, making sure everyone is there, and breaking out in song together as the evening sun sets.  I have seen fields massed with millions of Monarch butterflies waiting for the right wind to help them cross the lake on their first stretch of the journey to California or wherever is as south as they can go.  The whole field was shivering and glittering with their fragile bodies, wings moving, waiting, waiting and then…. gone.

1237140-1200x800--1_1Monarch-butterflies
Or a tree completely filled, every inch of every twig, with warblers of every ilk, waiting, waiting … look again, and they’ve left Canada for their great sojourn below the border.  I’ve seen southern Ontario crows leave for southern U.S., and northern Ontario crows leave for southern Ontario.  Go figure!

84783-1280x1024-Geese

Through it all the faithful sparrows and cardinals and Canada Geese who stay, keep me remembering that hardy ones are always here, through all the seasons, the ones I worry about in a bad storm. (Where do they hide? How do they keep warm?  Find food?) Yet they are there every spring, ready for a new season of life.  And that’s who we are, as a nation.  We don’t need to flee to southern climes – although some of us do, or temporarily do, or sometimes do – but mostly we stay, roll down our sleeves and wait and prepare for winter.

“Do you know Justin Hayward? He’s been the lead singer of the influential British band The Moody Blues since 1966 and I’ve always enjoyed his distinctive voice. From 1989 this is “Forever Autumn” (amethyst2001)”

Autumn is a time when we give thanks for this wonderful country, our home.  This is the time we gather what we’ve sown and set it aside for the lean months of winter.  (Well, theoretically at least.  After all, our stores never run out of bananas and mangoes and lettuce, summer, winter, spring and fall, but I’m creating a picture of our hardiness here!)  Seriously, I do give thanks.  Thanks for being born here, thanks for the newcomers who have adapted to our ways and become hardy Canadians too, and who have brought touches of India and China and the Middle East and Europe to our restaurant fare. My friendly, helpful next-door neighbours are from the Philippines, quite used to our seasons now, shovelling snow and mowing lawns with the greatest of ease.  Autumn is a rich, beautiful season, with hardy chrysanthemums lasting out well into the first snows.  I think of them as Canadian all the way.

Indian Summer: “Each golden day was cherished to the full, for one had the feeling that each must be the last.  Tomorrow it would be winter.”  Elizabeth Enright (The Four-Story Mistake)

Indian Summer

Before Autumn is finished with its wild winds and whirling leaves, there sometimes comes a period of grace called Indian Summer.  Just when we are getting used to thinking cold thoughts and preparing for the white stuff, a few days or a couple of weeks will come with warm breezes and sunny skies and shirt sleeves again, even if the air still smells of late Autumn.

Autumn 1

These are times for a final soaking up of as much sun as you can hold, before having to take your Vitamin D drops in the winter.  These are times for a day trip or two to a country inn, walking around outside, taking advantage of every minute. It’s a time of respite, of gathering together your stamina, getting ready for what is to come – for that period of still, quiet mornings, gray skies and threatening clouds, harbingers of that first day of snow.

From a 1957 episode of The Nat King Cole Show, here’s the man himself singing the classic “Shine On Harvest Moon” in his own unmistakable style (NelsonGoncalves)”

Happy, Happy!

I noted that the 2015 World Happiness Report, the third of its kind, has Canada listed as #5 of the 10 Happiest Nations, behind only Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and Norway – and followed by Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia (oops! the USA is #15 — just joshin’ ya).  I think, when you look at the list of happiest nations, you should note how many of them are known for their changing seasons…… I rest my case for Canadian Seasonings.

Crea-degli-accostamenti-gradevoli

Before I leave the post, for those visiting for the first time, I normally have Paws Awhile, with animal pix or notes, a poem of mine, quotations, some art or interesting items (to me) from around the world, or another whimsy or two.  But this post was a little longer than usual, and my daughter and I decided to include a few quotations and some music within each season.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Signing off…
ej

Advertisements