Category Archives: autumn

Why Can’t You be Just be Like US?

 

Still thinking of Manitoba

 

The Thunder Bay area where I stayed my first night on short autumn jaunt has a deep history of racism and residential schools. It is beautiful country with a very dark past. After I arrived after my first day’s drive I checked into a hotel and immediately proceeded to a local restaurant. There were many indigenous looking people in the restaurant, but of course that is not always easy to discern who is first nations and who is not. It didn’t matter. At a table next to mine I watched two indigenous men with 2 young girls. Everyone was having a fine time. Life was good.

 

I recently watched a documentary called Colonization Road. I highly recommend it to one and all for some interesting points of view.

As one indigenous Canadian Chief of the Rainy River First Nation and writer, Al Hunter,  asked on the documentary, “We hear it a lot over and over—why can’t you just be like us? What does that mean?” The question of course is rhetorical. The answer is obvious. That means why don’t you assimilate with us? Become like us, because we are better than you. Those really are the suggestions of such a question. But  Hunter had an answer however in the film

 

“We want to be who we are. We want our culture to be strong. We want them to know that the past and the future and the present are actually alive. And we want respect, for wanting that for ourselves.

 

Is that too much to ask? Is it really so obvious that we whites are better than our indigenous neighbours?

 

Beautiful Manitoba 

 

Many people think Manitoba is dull and boring. They are wrong!

 

My trip turned out to be amazing. The scenery of autumn was glorious, but then I encountered something unexpected.  I listened to a strange CBC radio podcast that described a series of incidents in Thunder Bay. I was going to stop there my first night so my ears perked up, where I would stop on my first and second night. I had also recorded a film based on the same series of incidents although when I recorded it I did not realize that. It was a happy coincidence. Benign forces perhaps. Finally, a friend of mine sent me a link to another film in response to a post about reconciliation.  These forces created a perfect storm of beauty and darkness. What could be better?

 

The first thrill of the trip was—get ready for this—Manitoba. I tend to forget, that Manitoba is also beautiful in the autumn. The autumn leaves were stunning. Not many reds, but the colours were jumping. This was a wonderful start!  I could not resist stopping and taking a few photographs from beside the Trans-Canada highway. This was aspen gold at its finest.

 

My next stop was Lyons Lake near the Ontario Border. This is a lovely gentle spot. No power boats allowed. Many years ago, Christiane and I used to go here early in the year to try to catch trout. Always without success, even though the lake was stalked. We just tried to fish from shore and used corn kernels as bait. Someone told us that was good bait, but it never worked for us. But we loved the spot.

 

I listened to some very interesting podcasts including one about Freedom Road which I passed along the way my first day. The road is very near the Ontario border. I will blog about it later. It is a story of Canada at less than its finest. I ended up staying in Thunder Bay for the night. I have always enjoyed Thunder Bay even though I had heard disturbing stories of racism there, including a special report by Justice Murray Sinclair the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It was an unsettling first day of my short and puny and inferior jaunt. But I was on a high. I was ready for adventure.

 

Steinbach Manitoba to Thunder Bay Ontario: A perfect storm of beauty and darkness

 

 

I was thinking about an autumn trip for weeks. Maybe months. I am an admitted travel slut who has not travelled for more than 2 years. I was a-hankering. Bigly.

Autumn is my favourite time of the year to travel.   My original idea was a trip to the east coast of North America perhaps for 4 or 5 weeks.  It is astoundingly beautiful there in the fall. I don’t know if any other place in the world has such a beautiful autumn.

But malign forces were at work.  Other matters kept encroaching on the available time.  First, I got sick. Then Christiane got sick. A few work-related matters and cottage repair issues interfered. How can work interfere with  the life of a retired person?  Available time was shrinking. Malign forces remember.

Then I down -graded my plans to a trip around Lake Superior. It is a spectacular place.  This would still be good.  Michigan is considered by many the best place in North America to see fall colours. But every state and the province of Ontario around it are spectacular. The boreal forest of Canada and the US are magnificent.  I could hardly wait.

Then even that puny trip encountered obstacles.  Malign forces again.  For a while I thought I would not go at all. Then after I recovered from a cold, which I passed on to Christiane, who was not impressed, I decided to abandon all reason and light out for the territories as Huck Finn would say. I went on my own for a very short jaunt as far into the Superior region as I could get, before I would have to turn around and get back in time for duties that were calling.  Isn’t a short jaunt better than nothing?  I thought so. Chris was happy to have me leave (imagine that).

As a result of these forces my superior tour turned into a puny inferior tour.  But I tried to make the most of it. I thought I did that. Parts of the story are truly amazing. These are the parts for which I can’t claim credit, but I think they are worth the trip and I hope some faithful readers of my blog follow me on this journey of discovery. It was far more than pretty pictures. I came for pictures; I found truth. A dark truth.

Autumn thoughts of old men (and a few others)

 

Buffalo Point is a special place for me.  At no time is it more special than autumn. It is always a sad time.  I know what is coming and I resist the march of time. Toward winter and toward death. In the back yard (which is really the front since it faces the lake)  which is where we spend most of our time, facing the lake, often on the deck, I looked around. I saw rotting trees. Is that bad? Is rot bad? No. Forests must rot. If the trees did not die we would soon be choked out. That would not work. Just like the planet would be overrun if we did not die. In this world, death is necessary? I don’t know about the next. That is why old men must move on and should not hang around too long.

I am like that old poplar. It no longer has leaves. I don’t have much hair left. Old is good.  Someone once said, “No wise man ever wants to be any younger than he is.” Obviously, he was not a wise man. The tree had a hole near the top. To me it looked like a woodpecker had drilled a hole in the rotten tree looking for bugs to eat.  The hole may be used by another bird as a nest next year. This old tree is still of use.  So are old men. Of little use not much more than that.  Not the same use they once had, but different. Still important. Old men need to impart what they have learned. What else is a long life for? In this day- and-age old men sometimes resort to blogging to try in their small way to give a flavour of what they have learned or think they have learned.

 

Albert Camus, one of my favourite writers and philosophers captured what I think about autumn– “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

 

Delia Owens, who wrote Where the Crawdads Sing said “Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” I would say they don’t so much soar as meander.  Maybe that is because I no longer soar, if I ever did. But I sure can meander.

Jane Hirshfield, the author of The Heat of Autumn said, “The heat of autumn is different from the heat of summer. One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.” That applies to me too. I find apples too acidic, perhaps because I have acid reflux problems.  Life is never simple for an old man, but an old man can enjoy simple pleasures, like an autumn stroll in the woods.

Elizabeth Barrett Browing once said, “Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound.”  Imagine that. How can you hymn an autumn sound?  I wish I could do that.

George Eliot said, in autumn the still melancholy could make “life and nature harmonize.” I actually think that can be done at any time, but since autumn is my favorite season, why not reserve it for autumn.

The American poet e. e. cummings put his thoughts into a form that an old man can understand: “”A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.” It is clear I too have known autumn. Sadly so.

One of my favourite writers, Wallace Stegner, who wrote one of the best Canadian books ever, Wolf Willow, also said it well, “”Another fall, another turned page…”  It was time to head out to our deck and turn another page of a good book.

Autumn at Buffalo Point

 

 

Chris and I spent one last weekend at Buffalo Point before her surgery. It was still a little before prime colours I thought, but the colours were still wonderful. Sometimes we just have to be satisfied with what we have.

 

After we unloaded our stuff, we sat on the deck and enjoyed a lovely fall day. Chickens were twittering non-stop as if they were getting ready for the winter to come.

The next day  I went for a stroll thinking the colours were too green.  With hindsight, I think I was too critical.

The second day the colours looked better than the first. Could they really change so much in one day?

 

 

Next morning. I went for a quiet stroll with my camera. This would be my last day to soak in fall colours.

 

The pond and lake were perfectly calm. It gave us trust that things would work out.

 

I was not in a hurry for autumn to come, because I knew what came after it. Ominous winter. This year that uneasy feeling was amplified because Chris would have surgery a couple of days after we returned.

 

 

Golf courses have some use, besides chasing little white balls.

 

 

An Autumn meander in the Whiteshell

 

 

 

 

After a lovely picnic at Whitemouth Falls we continued on our autumn jaunt. Our second stop was Old Pinawa dam. This is a historic old dam that was  was built to provide electricity for modern Manitobans. You can see the old dam in the distance.

Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the changing of the colours. In Manitoba the colours are not as spectacular as they are on the east coast, but ‘You gotta dance with the girl you brung.’

Our walking club had visited this site earlier in the summer.

 

A branch of the Winnipeg river flowed by with impressive enthusiasm. I was surprised there was so much water here as we had a very dry summer.

I was a little disappointed that the autumn leaves had not yet reached the peak of colours, but I tried to make the best of it.  You gotta dance with the girl you brung.

I knew I would not be able to return to this place this autumn since next week. after Chris’ surgery I would be seconded to perform manservant  duties.  Of course in my opinion I performed those services with sterling diligence.

 

After we completed our too brief visit at the dam, we continued  our meander through Whiteshell Provincial Park–one of the jewels of Manitoba.  Meandering is good.

 

 

 

A Nature Jaunt

 

 

 

This has been a very strange year. Chris was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in January. The surgeon told us it was a big one and he clearly recommended surgery. In fact he said, he wanted to do it as soon a possible, because he hated seeing his patients die before the hit the operating table. We agreed with this entirely. In fact, we didn’t like the idea of Chris dying on the operating table either. Her surgery had been postponed twice already because Covid-19 was overwhelming the Manitoba health care system.  Both of us were very worried it would be postponed again. So one week before surgery was scheduled we went out for a nature jaunt to get our minds over surgery.

We went to Whitemouth Falls near Seven Sister Falls power station. It was a magnificent early autumn day. I am a sucker for autumn. I love the colours and try to capture the feeling of them, sometimes going beyond the real.

We have been to the modest falls a number of times but this was the first time we were able to get onto the island.  In fact, because the weather was so dry this year it was no longer an island. We had a lovely picnic in the warm fall sun.

 

Life does not get much better than that. And I got to photograph autumn leaves. We don’t have the colours they have down east, but is you look you can see.

Chris had surgery at the end of September and after that we had to stay home while Chris recuperated.

Thankfully Chris survived the delays and we enjoyed a little bit of autumn.  We only enjoyed a couple of days in the autumn. But we tried to make the most of them.

Like leaves, our lives are brief and then we flame out. Not always in a blaze of glory but we do the best we can.

As Shakespeare said,

 

Out, out brief candle!

LIfe’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

Life was good and we wanted to keep it. And savour it. This day we did exactly that.

 

 

 

Beauty like a bended bow

 

As W. B. Yeats put it, “Beauty like a bended bow.” In the poem as I recall it, he was referring to Helen of Troy whose face launched a thousand ships. Men sent to battle to get her back or keep her captive. That is what autumn is to me. It is a dangerous beauty.

Like us, autumn won’t last long. If only we can make a spectacular exit as autumn does each year.

The birches and aspen were gorgeous, particularly set off against a beautiful blue sky. What goes together better than bright yellow and brilliant blue? Not much.

 

 

Disorderly Divine

 

 

 

When Chris and I were in Arizona 2 years ago we heard a series of lectures at Arizona State University by a professor from Oxford, Jonathan Bate,  on the subject of “How the Humanities can save the world.” I found them fascinating and have meant to blog about those lectures. Must do that soon.One day Bate  discussed a little known poet by the name of John Clare who Bate says is the most important poet of nature in the UK.  Even though he is not well know.

John Clare was an English poet and the son of a farm labourer, who became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and his deep sadness at its disruption. Like me, he hated to see the commons desecrated. He hated to see the ecosystems of flowers and community disturbed.

 

Clare was not very well known or respected until the 20th century when many started to realize that he was one of the most important poets of the 19th century. Perhaps poets like Clare can help the Humanities save the planet.

He can do that because he points, however vaguely to a new attitude to nature. I have blogged a little bit about that but again must do more. I must return to this subject as soon as I can relegate politics to the backhouse where it belongs

One of Clare’s poems which Bate talked about was “Autumn” in which Clare describes the changing of the seasons:

Thy pencil dashing its excess of shades,

Improvident of waste, till every bough

Burns with thy mellow touch

Disorderly divine.

I love that idea. Autumn leaves evince the disorderly divine. Perhaps what we need to save the planet is the disorderly divine. Perhaps that is what the Humanities can give to us. That’s a lot.

This was the Day the Lord had made

 

This was a magnificent autumn day at Buffalo Point. It was Thanksgiving Weekend and we had a lot to be thankful for. We got together with our two sons Nick and Pat who live in Manitoba and one daughter in law, Debbi, and 2 grandchildren, Nolan and Stella. They were all healthy and fully employed.

 

We interpreted Manitoba laws to allow a small gathering. We figured 7 was small, but had tinges of guilt and fear. Just a little.

 

 

 

The blue skies were extravagant and the yellows were sharp. In Manitoba we had few reds. That is a pity, but the colours were still sensational. I  went walk to take photos of the autumn leaves.

 

Astonishingly when I went for a walk I strolled toward the golf course to admire autumn leaves in brilliant foliage. Much to my surprise I met some of my old golfing buddies who I used to golf with regularly before I became a recovering golfer.

Can you imagine that they would waste the time golfing on such a beautiful day? It seems absurd but it was true. What cretans. I must search for a better class of friends. Some who might appreciate truth and beauty.

My mother used to always quote to me a passage from the Bible. “This is the day the lord has made.” She wanted us to read it at her funeral. And we did. This was such a day.