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……

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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!
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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).

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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.

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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Lazy, Crazy Days

 

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Yes.  It’s finally here.  Summer.  In Canada, “summer” has special meaning.  Here, we like to cram t-shirt and sandals activities into a time frame of approximately mid-May to Mid September.  In other areas, farther south, they can take their lazy time with the same activities, starting January 1st and ending December 31st.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not being jealous, or bitter, or envious or anything, I’m just explaining how Canadians deal with summer.  Here’s how:  we play it to the hilt!  Every day is really, really precious and exciting!  Every blue sky, sun-drenched day is priceless!  And make no mistake, Canadian summers are really breathtaking!  We don’t have time for our grass to go brown, (well, maybe sometimes in a particularly hot August, but hardly ever.)  Everything pretty well stays lush and green…

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with amazing arrays of flowers and flowering shrubs.

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This is the time we fit in as much activity as possible: volleyball, tennis, bocchia, lawn bowling, gliding, hiking, adventure racing, backpacking, cycling, camping, canoeing, caving, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, kayaking, mountaineering, photography, adventure park, rock climbing, running, sailing, water skiing, surfing, rafting, hill walking, water polo, trekking, bird-watching, amusement park…

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snorkeling, scuba diving, ballooning, Safari park, mountain biking, para-sailing, flying, dog parking, metal detecting, beach crowding, motorcycling, bungee jumping, tree climbing, windsurfing, picnicking, sightseeing, mushroom hunting, clam digging, swimming, canyoning, field tripping, skeet and target shooting, foresting:  in general – getting acquainted with the sun, wind and fresh, warm air again.

www.dennyzen.com summer-act

Or – maybe just the hammock…..

Girl in the Hammock -Winslow Homer (wikimedia commons)

Girl in the Hammock -Winslow Homer (wikimedia commons)

I have a solution to enable Canadians to  get the very, very most out of the summer season.  I think sometimes we take our two-or-three-week vacations entirely too seriously.  Yes, we should have them, granted.  We’ve certainly craved them, and probably earned them, but there’s more!  Instead of waiting all year for those precious free-from-work days where we trip off to the Algonquin area, or Barry’s Bay, or Collingwood, Lake Simcoe, Muskoka, Magnetawan, Georgian Bay, Haliburton, Huntsville, Kawartha, for a frantic few days, –

Muskoka Sunset, Flickr - Ed Nutt

Muskoka Sunset, Flickr – Ed Nutt

we can do all that, yes, but here’s something else to think about…..

In those two or three week periods, it usually takes at least five days to give your mind and body time to wind down enough that you can actually begin to look around you and start to enjoy what you see.  That time lasts for about a week or so, and then the anxiety factor creeps back in.  How many days do I have left?  When you realize you can’t fit in all the things you planned to do in those few days you have, you create even more anxiety,  starting and ending the vacation with a tight, tense feeling, instead of a relaxed high.

planning

So – why not take planned mini-vacations many times a year instead? By taking regular breaks throughout the year to augment summer vacations, it can make a world of difference to the health of your mind and body.  For instance…… what if you took two (or three) single weeks instead of taking them consecutively?  For starters, you could have a week in the summer, a week in the winter (or two).  That way, all the work you left behind which your substitute was going to cover for you – but didn’t – wouldn’t still be there when you got back.  Or at least, the pile would be smaller, because your time away was shorter. You also realize your vacation isn’t ended – you still have a week (or two) coming up – no anxiety.

Next, you calculate all the single holidays we have in Canada – there’s quite a list, depending on where you live.

Nationwide
New Year’s Day, (January 1)
Good Friday (except Quebec) the Friday before Easter Sunday
Victoria Day (National Patriotes Day in Quebec) on the Monday preceding May 25th (except New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland),
Canada Day (July 1)
Labour Day (First Monday of September)
Thanksgiving (Second Monday in October – except New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland)
Remembrance Day (November 11) except Ontario, Qubec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland)
Christmas Day (December 25)

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Regional
Islander Day (3rd Monday in February – in Prince Edward Island)
Family Day (3rd Monday in February, second in BC) in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario
Louis Riel Day (3rd Monday in February) in Manitoba
St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) in Newfoundland
Easter Monday (Monday after Easter Sunday) in Quebec
St. George’s Day (April 23) in Newfoundland
National Aboriginal Day (June 21) in Northwest Territories
Féte Nationale (St. Jean Baptiste Day) – June 24 in Quebec
Discovery Day (June 24) in Newfoundland
Nunavut Day (July 9) in Northwest Territories
Civic Holiday (first Monday in August) in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nunavut
Boxing Day (December 26) in Ontario

Other time off can include saved-up “sick days”, or personal days (personal time off) which many companies allot and which can usually be accumulated.  So why not take some of those extra paid holidays and stretch them into long weekends?

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A five-day cruise is a wonderful thing!  Any five days in the sun when it’s winter at home can be a life-saving remedy for winter doldrums.

Norwegian Pearl mini-suite with balcony

Norwegian Pearl mini-suite with balcony

In the summer, being in another country can be exciting too – like a trip to Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Australia, Ireland…. (how about a whiskey tour in Scotland, hmmm? just sayin’)

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….in the winter the beaches in Florida, Hawaii California or Costa Rica can beckon us to take a break from snow shoveling.

Fiji summer wallpaper

Because our business kept us busy, my husband and I expanded many, many weekends into “mini vacations” which were refreshing and exciting and jam-packed full of things to do (or not do, depending on the mood).  Because we were our own employers, we chose what would have been our summer vacation this way.  During that time we would zero in on an area in Canada or the US that was having a festival or had a regional flavour not found anywhere else.

To illustrate what I mean – pick a state (any state) – such as Iowa.

Where is Iowa located?

Check out what alluring, interesting events happen there, and zero in on a destination of your choice.

Boone, Iowa hosts a biennial Farm Progress Show, is home to the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Museum, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, and Ledges State Park. (Incidentally, BSVY #6540, is a former Canadian National Railway GMD FP9 with CNW markings – a hands-across-the-border link to Canada.)

BSVRR BSVY#6540 former Cdn. Natl Railway GMD FP9 with CNW markings

The Meskwaki Settlement west of Tama is the only American Indian settlement in Iowa and is host to a large annual Pow-wow.

Meskwaki Annual Powwow Assn copyrite meskwakipowwow@gmail.com

In Madison County is the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset.

John Wayne Birthplace Museum

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has collections of paintings by Grant Wood and Marvin Cone. It’s also home to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Davenport boasts the Figge Art Museum, the River Music Experience…

The Redstone Building Home of the River Music Experience, Davenport, Iowa

The Redstone Building Home of the River Music Experience, Davenport, Iowa

and the Putnam Museum, Davenport Skybridge, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Quad Cities, and plays host to the annual Bix Beiderbeck Memorial Jazz Festival…

Bix Bkeiderbecke

and the Quad City Air Show.

Quad City Air Show, Davenport, Iowa

Quad City Air Show, Davenport, Iowa

There are several resort areas such as Spirit Lake, Arnolds Park (having one of the oldest amusement parks in the country)  and the Okoboji Lakes.  Fort Dodge has the Fort Museum and Frontier Village.  Dyersville is home to the famed Field of Dreams baseball diamond from the movie of the same name…

"Field of Dreams", Dyersville, Dubuque County, Iowa

“Field of Dreams”, Dyersville, Dubuque County, Iowa

and the Maquoketa Caves State Park contains more caves than any other state park.

But Iowa is also the number one producer of corn in the US, and hogs, and chicken eggs. In 1872 the Red Delicious apple was discovered in an Iowa Orchard, and is now found in nearly every produce section of grocery stores in North America.

Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious Apples

So Iowa’s food could become an enticement for you too – a little research will bring up the best places to go, then just center your weekend around that area. Those are only a few of Iowa’s attractions.  It’s so exciting to see new places, experience new things.  See what fun you could have in Iowa on an extended weekend?  C’mon, confess – before today it probably never crossed your mind, right?  (Unless you’re explorers like we are.)

I picked Iowa randomly – it is one of 48 states we were fortunate enough to visit together – for one of our mini-vacations.  I calculate we had roughly twelve – sometimes fourteen mini-vacations every year.  We tried to make them five days, but sometimes took four — all of them lazy, relaxed days. All of them providing priceless experiences and memories.

All of them making work just a bridge between vacations!

poetrycornerkat

 I trekked back into my older poetry books looking for something about vacations, and found a poem which could illustrate the Ultimate Vacation.  It was written by the youthful me, wondering what it would be like to travel to the stars.  At that time, we hadn’t even sent a rocket into space, so this poem illustrates that one invaluable commodity a writer must have – imagination.

 THE STARS MY DESTINY

If it were in our hands to choose
The time for birth – the time to die –
I’d wish my destiny to be
When Man controls the farthest sky!

Someday, somehow, I know, will go
Beyond the bounds of time and place,
A restless few who cannot stop
Until the very end of space.

This pod of mine is rooted here,
And only Earth will know its deeds.
My final planting here will be —
But ah! My seeds!  My seeds!

Someday a part of me will gaze
On unfamiliar shore and hill;
O! restless spirit, patience yet —
O! yearning, wandering heart, be still!

© E Joyce Finn/Collie

music-24102-1680x1050

Hi again! It’s the “daughter” signing in with a few songs for those hot “Dog Days” of summer coming up. As usual I’ve posted songs or artists that represent some special memory or meaning for me, and tie-in with the theme of Mom’s blog.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them too.

Connie Francis (b.12/12/38-) is an American pop singer of Italian heritage and the top-charting female vocalist of the late-1950s and early-1960s who has remained a top concert draw and is still active as a recording and performing artist. (wiki)

1962 – To get the “beach” ball rolling, here’s Connie Francis belting out a popular sixties summer song “V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N” (vanderbeer/YouTube)

Nat King Cole (b.3/17/19 – d.2/15/65) was an American singer and musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He was widely noted for his soft, baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He was one of the first African Americans to host a television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, and has continued to maintain worldwide popularity since his death.(wiki)

1963Nat King Cole performs one of his biggest hits, and one of my favourite old summertime songs, “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” live on BBC TV (the ladies singing live back-up are a bit more operatic sounding than the recorded voices I’m used to listening to!) – (Johnny Brown/YouTube)

The Lovin’ Spoonful is an American rock band of the 1960s, named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. When asked about his band, leader John Sebastian said it sounded like a combination of “Mississippi John Hurt and Chuck Berry”, prompting his friend, Fritz Richmond, to suggest the name “Lovin’ Spoonful” from a line in Hurt’s song, “Coffee Blues”.(wiki)

(This band had a tie-in to Canada as the lead guitarist, Zalman “Zal” Yanovsky (b.12/19/44-d.12/13/02), was born right here in Toronto!)

1966 – Enjoy with me a TV performance by The Lovin’ Spoonful of a song that’s special to me, “Summer In The City” (DiscoBar80/ YouTube)

Mungo Jerry is a British rock group fronted by Ray Dorset, whose greatest success was in the early 1970s. They are remembered above all for their hit “In the Summertime”. It remains their most successful and most instantly recognizable song. Their name was inspired by the poem “Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer”, from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. (wiki)

1970 – Listen to Mungo Jerry performing “In The Summertime”  and I bet you won’t be able to keep your toes from tapping along! – (Hits70s/YouTube)

The Go-Go’s are an all-female American rock band formed in 1978 who rose to fame during the early 1980s.. They made history as the first, and to date only, all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is considered one of the “cornerstone albums of (US) new wave” (Allmusic), breaking barriers and paving the way for a host of other new American acts.(wiki)

1982 – Let’s take a nostalgic look back at what I affectionately refer to as an 80’s “Big Hair” band, The Go-Go’s, singing “Vacation” (emimusic/YouTube)

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, known by her stage name Lana Del Rey (b. 6/21/85-) is an American singer-songwriter who started songwriting at the age of 18 and signed her first recording contract in 2007. Del Rey’s music has been noted for its cinematic sound and its references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly that of the 1950s and 1960s Americana. The singer has described herself as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra”.(wiki)

2013 – Lastly, here’s a current favourite of mine, Lana Del Rey, performing her version of “Summer Wine” (sung with Barrie-James O’Neill) originally recorded by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood in 1967 – (Lana Del Ray/YouTube)

Wolverine-Drawing-by-C.G.Pritchard-Hall-&-Keson,-1959)

Wolverine-Drawing-by-C.G.Pritchard-Hall-&-Keson,-1959)

THE MIGHTY WOLVERINE

Because there are an estimated 20,000 or more of them in our Great Northlands, but only an estimated 700 in the USA, and low populations in Europe, China and Russia, I like to think of  the mysterious wolverine as being primarily Canadian. The Canadian provinces and Alaska state have the most stable and largest concentration worldwide. So let’s call him “The Mighty Canadian Wolverine”.  Many people are devoted now to the study of the fascinating wolverine, and up until recently, most information on him was scanty, and not totally accurate. I’d like to share with you what I’ve found out about this wonderful creature.

Wolverine, Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, Coldfoot

Wolverine, Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, Coldfoot

He is classified as Gulo gull which in Latin means roughly “gluttonous glutton”.  He has a hearty appetite, eats with gusto, even finishing off the bones and teeth of his prey.  His teeth and jaws are so powerful he can bite through a totally frozen carcass with ease.  Imagine taking a solidly frozen roast from the freezer (bone in) and trying to munch on it.  Child’s play for the Canadian wolverine!

Wolverine (Gulo) Global Distribution (Wikimedia)

Wolverine (Gulo) Global Distribution (Wikimedia)

For a mighty critter like him, the wolverine is actually quite small, like a medium-sized dog, but still the largest land-dwelling species of the Weasel family. He looks like a powerful, stocky little bear, muscular, furry, with a thick body, short legs, small rounded ears, broad flat head, little beady black eyes, arched back and a foot-long bushy tail.  He weighs in from 30 – 55 lbs, is up to 4 feet long (including the tail), the male being about 1/4 larger than the female.  In winter, his coat becomes dense and long, his large feet covered with stiff hair, helping him walk or run easily on snow.  The oily dark brown to black fur has light brown to yellowish stripes running from each shoulder along the flanks. There are sometimes white markings on chest and throat, or a light-silvery facial mask.  His fur is resistant to frost, (frost just brushes off) making it a popular lining in jackets and parkas in Arctic conditions, which is one reason its population numbers have dwindled worldwide, except for Canada and Alaska.

Wolverine On Rock (Wiki Seve Kroschel)

Wolverine On Rock (Wiki Seve Kroschel)

The Innu people of eastern Québec and Labrador called him Kuekuatsheu, known as a trickster and a hero at the same time. Kuekuatsheu built a big boat, putting all the species of animals in it, and when there was a great flood, he made an island of rocks and mud, which became the world. So he was in their folklore the creator of the world.

Wolverine Tracks on Snow

Wolverine Tracks on Snow

He is an omnivore – eating whatever he can find from nuts, roots, seeds, insects, berries, even greens at times, to small animals and nesting birds and their eggs, up to medium and big game.  He’s great for the landscape, because he eats mostly carrion, and constantly scours his 500-600 square mile territory (30 to 40 miles a day) searching for fresh or old kills, eating every bit of them, and leaving a clean scene. He has an extremely keen sense of smell, being able to sniff out dead meat two miles away, or under 50 feet of snow.  His powerful claws can easily dig down deep to find deer, elk or moose buried by avalanches or trapped in deep snow.  He can drag carcasses up to five times his own weight to a cache site, where he will return and devour every scrap.  Sort of like nature’s super street sweeper.  He will boldly steal a carcass from another predator larger then himself, because when it comes to getting fed, he considers “Me – first, last and always!” as his motto.

Wolverine, Kristiansand Zoo, Norway waiting for his meal (Flickr Lukasz Lukomski)

Wolverine, Kristiansand Zoo, Norway waiting for his meal (Flickr Lukasz Lukomski)

For his size, he is the strongest of all mammals.  He is absolutely without fear, showing courage and tenacity beyond belief.  Cougars, lynx, wolves and grizzlies are known to relinquish a freshly-killed carcass to him. Once he is in a conflict, it is “win or die” with him, although he is extremely cautious to enter a fray, always in ready-mode to run from perceived danger. He won’t back down from a fight, pursuing victory against all odds, and usually winning. Because he is intelligent and cunning, his thievery can be crafty and ingenious, sometimes stalking his prey while it eats or rests, taking small quiet steps, hiding, before making a quick final spurt to bite and kill. (Korzhechkin, 2005).

Wolverine Paw Tracks

Wolverine Paw Tracks

Jeff Copeland of the U.S. Forest Service who studies wolverines in Glacier National Park, says the wolverine embodies the image of wilderness.  “We see the grizzly as defining wilderness, but they can’t stay away from our garbage cans,” he says. “Wolverines don’t get in our garbage or go after our livestock.  They stay far away,” avoiding humans.

Wolverine Photo by Norton

Wolverine Photo by Norton

He’s a solitary, tireless journeyman. His incredible claws enable him to easily climb trees, and to be an amazing mountaineer, with no landscape posing a challenge to him.  Jeff Copeland once watched a male wolverine climb 5,000 vertical feel on Mount Cleveland in about 90 minutes. His claws can also tenaciously hold onto prey, as in one account clinging to the throat of a polar bear until it suffocated.

Wolverine (Wiki Zefram)

Wolverine (Wiki Zefram)

Although he’s a solitary traveler, he’s also a family man too. “Reproduction is by delayed implantation.  Females breed in summer, but the embryos don’t implant for several months, finally developing into fetuses in early winter, with birth taking place a few months later in late January through April.” (Montana Outdoors) So the female can decide when her kits are born.  Up to five kits are born in rocks, hollow trees or in deep tunnels built into the snow, and they are weaned and ready to go after two months, staying with Mom Wolverine a year or two, with Dad Wolverine coming for visits from time to time. Recent information reveals that the males will form lifetime relationships with two or three females, visiting them occasionally, although some males never have a mate.  Father makes visits to his offspring until they are weaned and some kits reconnect with their father at about six months, travelling with him for a time, with Dad teaching them the ropes.

Wolverine (Matthias Kabel)

Wolverine (Matthias Kabel)


A 1994 movie, “Running Free” (also known as “One Paw”) is about a young boy and his friendship with an Alaskan wolverine.  The first full-length documentary about them was called “Wolverines – Hyenas Of The North”, produced in 2006 by German Gulo Films for German TV, and has been broadcast in many countries as “Wolverine X” or “Wolverine Revealed”, and in the US as an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  It has won more than 20 international festival awards and nominations.

Here is a great YouTube video called “The Wolverine Whisperer” which will give you a wonderful view of two tamed wolverine kits. I found it fascinating, and very informative, and I hope you will take the time to watch.  It’s a one hour documentary, so please come back to continue visiting my blog once you’ve watched it.

There is also a series of six videos showing a 2013 Canadian Alberta wolverine tracking project, showing the building of a special trap (they’re too smart for ordinary traps), how it works, various visitors to the trap – including wolverines, but also showing an ermine, marten, fisher and a wolf, how they gently treat the wolverine, wake him up, let him go, and examining what great clean-up artists they are at a kill site.  You can see these videos by clicking The Wolverine Foundation’s website link below. Once there, scroll down to “On The Wolverine Trail” and click Chapters 1 through 6.

http://wolverinefoundation.org/news .

We need to know more about him to keep this incredible critter around, so that the wolverine is not only safe in Canada but in the U.S., Europe and China as well.

Wolverine from PBS's Nature - Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom

Wolverine from PBS’s Nature – Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom

Hope you’ve had an enjoyable visit — come back again and see what’s in the other blogs….. (some neat stuff!)

Waving ‘bye!  …. ej