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The waning moon rises over the eastern end of the lake. Illuminating the mists, it casts a solid golden trail across the still water. It looks like a remote blob of lava, but in fact it is colder, harder and more inert than anything nearby.
Far beneath the stars, under deep shadow of hemlock boughs, the campfire curls and crackles softly. Its dancing light is warmly inviting.
The conversation turns. What is fire? It is superheated gases. It is the vector in a chemical equation, oxygen splitting atoms of hydrocarbons. It is the dead wood releasing its spirit to heaven.
Near Fletcher Lake, a road runs to a small quarry. For decades it has provided sparkling white quartz, shiny black and green mica, pink feldspar, pyrite and handsome granite. More recently, someone acquired a permit to exploit the resource commercially, but the quarry hasnít seen any new activity now for several years.
Amid semi-precious stones, softer beauties have taken root. St.-Johnís-wort and daisies bloom through quartz gravel. Atop a granite knoll, a shining jewel beetle clambers up a plant stem. A knot of leopard frogs populates a small pool. Red raspberries ripen among granite boulders.
A population of water striders appears on the lake's surface as a negative image of stars across the night sky. On a still day they skitter around by the thousands. Members of family Gerridae move with hairy legs across the surface tension by shedding small vortices in the water. Some move at speeds of 1.5 metres per second. They are predatory on other insects. Like stars, they vary in size. It's a wonder the smaller ones aren't immediately eaten. When two meet, one hops right off the water's surface to escape the confrontation. The lake is a small cosmos.
It was a peach haze morning. The sun lay lazily on a humid bed, hiding its face beneath the sheets. Rows of grey trees and hills receded into the distance, veiling plazas, rows of houses and the university towers. Traffic lights blinked at the quiet streets, green shifting blindly to red and back to green. A single pair of headlights slid along dank pavement.
A distant gull resolved out of the sky. Its approach had been camouflaged in the pale atmosphere. In descent, it shone silver against the pavement. Another appeared nearby, long wings silent, sweeping slowly up and down.
During the hottest days of summer, the shop continues to rumble with activity. The dust extractor thunders while various machines whir and rattle, whining or screaching when wood is applied to the blades. The antique bandsaw sounds like a huge chain is being spun through its guts at high speed. Occasionally men's voices rise above the commotion, but they are all wearing ear protection, so mostly they communicate by hand signals and gestures. Their faces run with sweat and red oak dust clings to damp pools on their clothing. Open windows offer little relief. Outside the air is completely still.
On first glance, the ginkgos in the sidewalk do not appear particularly unusual, however these trees are the single surviving species from a plant group divergent from other seed-bearing plants 300 million years ago. Scientists disagree on classification, but ginkgos most closely resemble cycads, sharing the characteristic of flagellated motile sperm. They evolved slowly and are virtually unchanged from fossil specimens 250 million years old. They were domesticated by Chinese monks, and it is uncertain whether any wild specimens remain, although they are naturalized in a reserve in Eastern China. Ginkgos tolerate pollution and are widely planted in cities.
Nothing tastes as good as summer fruits when you can get them in season. Consumers have become addicted to having whatever food whenever they want it, so supermarket produce is stocked throughout the year with strawberries from California, cherries from Chile, tomatoes from a Leamington greenhouse. Breeding has concentrated on products that stand up to shipping, at the expense of taste, although nowadays the taste is beginning to improve. Still, all this transportation happens at great environmental expense, which society has barely begun to pay. And still, those winter apricots remain dry, mealy, tasteless. Nothing stands up to local produce.
Saturday mornings in Guelph would be incomplete without a visit to the Farmers' Market. It is not large; there are no more than 50 vendors in the building and another 20 outside. In winter the outdoor attractions dwindle, but usually the diehards persist: the apple people, the Mexican Mennonites who sell gluten free corn chips, and the young couple from the alpaca farm with deliciously soft handspun yarn. In August the market is an orgy of fresh, local produce: apricots, peaches, plums, blueberries, raspberries, zucchini, slender leeks, garlic, big fragrant bunches of basil, new potatoes, cherry tomatoes and green beans.
Sandboxes used to be a common feature in playgrounds and backyards. Sand is one of those things that can entertain children for hours. You can build a castle, bury a friend up to the neck, or run a military campaign through makeshift hills and valleys.
But it's harder to find them nowadays. Sand sticks to the hands and clothes. Pets tend to treat them as lavatories. So adults far and wide must have decided that sandboxes were more trouble than they are worth. Or perhaps that problem is that higher-tech toys eclipse the fun of playing in the dirt.
Weaving is an ancient craft. Some believe it was invented by the Egyptians, however evidence suggests it was employed in Paleolithic cultures. The warp-weighted loom was used by 5500 BCE, and continued to be used in Scandinavia into the 20th Century. It consists of a heavy frame with a wooden top bar, to which the warp threads are attached. Tension is maintained by weights attached to the bottom of the warp. A warp-weighted loom can easily be constructed with some basic carpentry skills. Ancient Egyptians used flax fibre, but wool became preferred in most cultures around 2000 BCE.
The days have been hot and humid. When the air cools at night, fog descends on the city. It comes like a languid lover, drawing lonely people into the streets to wander and lose themselves in its veiled secrets. Come morning, the air is dense and bright as silver, obscuring everything beyond a few blocks. Shadows of trees recede into oblivion. By 8:15 the sun has dissipated the fog. The day turns warm and muggy early. Summer students pad up and down the street in shorts and sandals. Nobody walks quickly. The city's residents move slowly as tired lovers.
This is the school of life. Every day is a lesson, a stone turned. Someone said life is a spiral: you keep coming back to the same issues, though perhaps with new insights to address them. When something unpleasant happens, instead of complaining and blaming others for your misfortune, give thanks for the challenge. See what new understanding you can draw from it. A person never stops finding new lessons until he or she is dead. The person who says, "I've already experienced this; I have nothing more to learn," has blinded himself to the best life has to offer.
In the school of life, consider yourself a professional student. Your goal is not to graduate. You are preparing yourself for nothing but to move onto more lessons. This is it.
This is life. The refreshing breath of morning air at the window, the tickling carress of a sleepy lover, the stab of frustration when good work goes unnoticed, unappreciated, whatever you feel now is the essence. Don`t place all your bets on a blessed future. There are no guarantees.
Is this day sucking the marrow out of your bones, or are you sucking it? You have a choice.
A rusting 53-metre cargo ship lurched into a British Columbia harbour yesterday carrying 490 Tamil migrants. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have been swift to inspire hysteria, insisting the government, "must ensure that our refugee system is not hijacked by criminals or terrorists."
Following the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in May 2009, 300,000 internally-displaced Tamils were detained against their will in barbed wire encampments. Those attempting to escape were shot. These 490 escapees endured months on the high seas in cramped quarters. Canadian and international law require hospitable treatment toward migrants making a valid refugee claim.
A man and a woman in red t-shirts stood in Kensington Market, poring over a Toronto city map.
The man shouted, "Does anybody know where there's a Mona Lisa near this corner?"
Danny knew. He pointed to the next corner, turn right, down that street. On the side of a building.
But the pair got side-tracked. Five minutes later they reappeared at the corner of Kensington and Dundas, still looking. Danny pointed again. From there you can see the mural in the distance, elusive smile and google eyes, a banana in her hand, fruit heaped by her shoulder.
The man and woman sprinted up Kensington Avenue toward the Mona Lisa.
It was a vibrant morning in the market. A cloud of bubbles drifted out of a second-hand clothing store. A crowd gathered to watch a dragon dance on the corner. A row of people stood in costumes carrying pennants on long poles.
The man and woman reappeared 10 minutes later, several blocks south, waiting for the Queen streetcar. Their t-shirts said Mitsubichi City Chase. They were shuffling maps, cell phones and rumpled yellow lists of clues for the route. They asked the way to Carlaw Avenue.
They sat down breathlessly on the the streetcar. They were a brother and sister, he from Brantford and she from Barrie. She appeared older and more calm about the adventure. Her handheld device began to run out of batteries, but she seemed to content to chat while he pored over maps, called friends on the cellphone, figured out addresses and plotted the rest of their course. Danny helped them with some of their clues. They could hit Keele Subway Station, High Park and Runnymede Branch of the library in one swoop.
Then came Carlaw Avenue and they disappeared for good.
Each night the moon rides heavier and higher in the sky later. The wind of solar energy catches its round sail and drives it across calm, dark seas to deeper waters of the west. Each evening it scatters a different angle of energy from its flight path. On an August night it drifts demurely behind a veil of cloud. It is a pale, hazy blotch. Its movement is an advent to the night when it will face the world boldly, unhidden, unshadowed. Then it will turn a corner and return to the secret part of night where no one sees.
The way to the sawmill runs through the prettiest Ontario farmland. The gravel road jogs sharply around a rambling farmhouse. The large garden is planted with banks of sweet william and other demure summer flowers (no lilies or orchids here), presumably to be cut and sold at farmers' market. Along the highway tables offer bouquets, gladioli and baskets of green beans, but this farm is too far from the main road. Beyond the barn, the Mennonite farmer ploughs his field with four dark horses. In the pasture, another four tan work horses graze, tossing their manes in the summer breeze.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition of the foot, often experienced with the first steps of the morning or after rest. It is an inflammation of connective tissue extending from the bottom of the heal along the sole of the foot toward the toes. The condition develops after days spent on one's feet or bearing weight. It feels like your feet are crumbling into sharp pieces, accompanied by stiffness of the calf muscles. Often it can be remedied by stretching exercises before getting out of bed. Straighten your legs and stretch your toes as high as comfortable, toward your shins.
The morning is heavy with unheard thunder. High on the hill, the Church of Our Lady Immaculate stands paler than the sky behind.
Below the church, a bacchanal of ripe produce is underway in the farmers' market. Tables are laden with 11-quart baskets of glowing peaches. Sure enough, there are neat bouquets of demure purple flowers, but the rough woman selling them has tousled hair. Across the way, a prim Mennonite lady sells brazen sunflowers, bright faces lolling drunkenly.
All day the atmosphere intensifies, but rain holds off. Finally at dusk the air whispers and streets begin to shine.
The orchid came from the farmers' market in January. It has bloomed in the bathroom window ever since, sprouting one stalk after another of deep blotchy maroon flowers kissed with yellow. Four stems emerged altogether, each bearing six blooms. It's an exotic sight to greet the eyes each morning.
But the plant needs rest. The last stalk had to be cut from the plant several weeks ago.
It sits in a bud vase, brightening the living room. At last this morning the flowers began to fall: one, two, into a cereal bowl containing the remains of last night's ice cream.
The rain started yesterday morning and hardly let up all day. It was not heavy, just the steady kind of precipitation that rinses the air of all late summer's dirt tiredness. It was a good day for running errands and doing housework, not appealing for spending any concentrated time outside. Beside the sidewalk, rain gathered into shining pearls along the length of every daylily leaf. The ginkgo trees were bedecked with bright strands of diamonds. At 4 p.m. the atmosphere was still muggy and dense, but suddenly the evening air blowing in the window cooled, like summer's dying gasp.
Settlers of Catan is a board game invented by Klaus Teuber. It has an explorative feel due to the changing nature of the board, consisting of 19 coloured hexes which are shuffled and arranged randomly for each game. You build roads, settlements and cities around the perimeters of the hexes, which produce resources necessary for further building. It is impossible to progress, at least during early stages of the game, without co-operating and negotiating with other players. It has given rise to numerous spin-offs such as Seafarers of Catan, Cities and Knights of Catan and Starfarers of Catan.
Suddenly the air cleared. It was a sparkling afternoon, the sky an untarnished blue. A young man wearing only jeans lay stretched on his back on a tiny patch of grass outside his streetside apartment. A waitress stood on the sidewalk outside a cafť telling a story to her friend. They laughed and smiled knowingly, then she shouted a message to the universe. The familiar old guitar player sang spirituals near where the city buses stop, collecting coins in the case. Everyone soaked up sun, behaving as if it were still midsummer, ignoring the slight chill in the breeze.
There is nothing better than biting into a ripe peach. This radiant globe condensces the whole flavour of a bright, warm season.
It is like kissing the genitals of summer. In the favour of joy, return to the Earth its loving gift. Velvet skin brushes your lips. Supple flesh yields to the tongue. Bite gently. A burst of sweetness escapes your mouth, flows down chin or beard, dripping onto your naked chest. You are covered in love juices of the universe.
The beauty of winter peaches may seduce, but they are false and tawdry. Have nothing to do with them.
On these late summer mornings along the commute north from Guelph, fog commonly hangs over the fields of corn. Rows of gold where grain has been harvested stretch away over the rolling landscape to woodlands faintly crowded in the blue distance.
Ideally a farm should operate as an ecosystem. The problem is not humanity's infatuation with meat, but with cheap meat as often as they can get it. Eliminating animals from the landscape will not heal the Earth. But livestock is kept in huge buildings and fed food that makes them grow faster, not healthier. A pasture is an ecosystem.
The Red Lion Inn was built in the mid 19th Century. Later, court proceedings took place here. Presumably the rooms housed the accused. Now it is a low-rent apartment building. Downtown historic walking tours pause to note the long, pale, aluminum-sided building with three ranks of windows.
The hardwood floors creak. New street-side windows have been installed, but the ones facing the back are still ancient, paint-encrusted. Off the main floor hallway, two mysterious low panels lead to nothing. One corridor grows narrower and narrower, approaching an Alice-in-Wonderland tiny door onto the back garden.
Jon and Bill were married at Eden United Church last evening. They encouraged everyone to dress "summer smart", and what a colourful celebration it was! The four best men wore violet, red, blue and yellow. The grooms exchanged leis of yellow and purple carnations. The Rainbow Chorus went up and sang "Starlight", while Bill and Jon glowed in the front pew. Jon's mother and brothers attended, but neither of his sons did. Bill's siblings were all there, and his niece welcomed Jon to the family. Bill wanted to get the speeches over quickly so everyone could be dancing by 9.
What happens this time of year is the days get farther and farther apart. There is no more or less time, just greater pauses, more significant punctuation marks between the flashes of light that make up life.
There is a special golden quality to the evening light this time of year. During daylight hours the sun slants deeper into the apartment, hitting walls that haven't felt direct sunlight since last spring.
It's like a set change in a play or opera. Pieces of the scenery move. Walls collapse or dissolve into shifting curtains, rooms change shape, mountains disappear or reappear.
You get a different perspective on the world when you take your eyes out of your navel. You give up the recital of ongoing pains and open yourself to the senses. A new narrative suggests itself. Instead of the story being about you, it is a richer story in which you are immersed. You stop being the object, and become a participant. Sometimes even passivity is better than absorption in the self.
Have you ever stopped to think how quickly we are moving through space? The Earth is revolving, rotating and speeding through space at hundreds of kilometres per second.
The Tip Jar