Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Aside #8: Ode to Fall 2011

October 2011.  Thanksgiving Weekend Ode to Fall. 

Back to recipes in the next post. 

I had to pause and reflect on the weather. Canadian weather is a national past-time and this post is my contribution to the glories of autumn weather in centretown Ottawa. If I blink, the weather will have changed for the worst so I'm writing this now.    

It's hard for me not to notice the weather.  Both neighbours monitor it frequently vigilantly, for different reasons.  The elderly neighbour on one side has two types of weather events -- "great" or "terrible".  Her general spirits are highly dependent on which of the two types dominate on a given day.  Great weather is when she is able to garden in her tiny, perfect backyard oasis and be outsdoors as much as she wants.

 She's in her mid-80s but spry and flexible like a 20-year-old doing burpees as pictured left.  Why would that thought cross my mind? (Editorial aside:  Unlike moi of course who can only manage two burpees while others around me do half a dozen .... Practice, flow, practice, flow.  ... yes, MG). 

Anyway, leaving me aside, the point is that my 80-year-old neighbour is happiest when she is able to squat and tend her garden for hours at a time.  This is amazing, given that a year ago she had to garden rigged out with a belt and a portable intravenous line dripping antibiotics into one of the arteries at the base of her throat to counter a bad infection in her foot.  She became a frail skeleton by the time the doctors decided surgery was necessary. Thankfully, she recovered nicely and this year the garden has thrived under her daily care.  And the weather has been a great boon. 

The neighbour on the other side has hooked up a personal computerized home weather monitoring system onto the back of his deck that a marvel to behold.  His motive seems to be more scientific or intellectual curiousity and nifty software programs but, nonetheless, ability to monitor the weather surrounds me. 

And what a weekend to monitor! Spoiler alert:  This section will be a sappy ode to the weather that was on Thanksgiving Weekend 2011.  But, it was truly the best.  My favourite time of the year.  Many people drove, walked, hiked, biked, or skated up in the Gatineau Hills visible in the distance and I'm positive the views, colours and tableaux were exquisite.  But Husband and I decided on a autumnal viewing via bike along inner city bike paths, the river and the canal that are almost literally next to our home. 

The results were stunning.  Barely a five-minute bike ride away from the house, the picture-perfect panaramic views began.  The burning bushes were the first "must-stop" along the bike trail just over the train track bridge near our place.  Even with a crummy blackberry camera and late afternoon sunshine, the colours were spectacular. 

A little further along was Perfect Bush, one of many scenes viewed right along the river and bike path. 

As we rode along, I could hear dogs barking, or least I thought they were dogs.  Turns out they were Canada geese barking orders at each other.  Suddenly, and before the camera could be readied, a perfect V-shaped gaggle of 8-10 geese appeared above the bushes directly over Husband and swooped in on final approach for landing on the grass next to him.  The grassy slopes near HogsBack Falls were obviously the night Rest Stop as this particular group joined 100 or more other buddies already at rest which is true to form as apparently, "manicured parks, lawns and golf courses, bordering ponds or waterfront areas, provide an ideal grazing habitat for geese" according to the City of Ottawa Canada Geese site. The second "must-stop" happened at that point.  I tried for a bb pix but there were too many shadows.  Husband walked up to them and, en masse, they turned their backs to him and slowly ambled away, not the slightest bit perturbed at human presence. Obviously we were not the first to be amongst them.  

Wish I liked them more... I find them mostly dirty grubby creatures in need of birth control to control population growth and size of flock...  The fact that EACH one of them can eat up to 4 lbs of grass a day and drop 2 lbs of, ummm, fecal matter the same day, also kindof puts me off them big-time.

Actually, the sight of Canada Geese brought back a funny/not so funny memory.  In another posting, I talked about MortCat and his many cat lives that he burned through at regular intervals.  Geese was one such moment.  Recall that we lived in the country, with MortCat the mouser patrolling the acreage for signs of mouse-life or other critters to torture. There were no homes built around us at that point and across the street was a marshy bog with many trees.  One night, MortCat was out doing the rounds and I happened to hear lots of barking, the sky visibly darkened, and I looked skyward to see literally thousands of Canada geese in final approach to settle in the marsh for the evening.  There was much ruffled honking and horking amongst them as they settled in.  

MortCat was, of course, the ultimate curious kitty.  I watched in horror as his little black and white body tried to sneak along the ditch to sniff a couple of the creatures grazing there.  At that point, everything moved in slow motion.  I began to run toward him and the geese yelling "No.... No" or something equally brilliant.  

As I'm running, one of the Geese creatures rose up tall, wings spread to their fullest extext, prepared to defend its family and habitat. At full height, it was literally 5-6 times larger than the dumb curious kitty inching toward it.  Not to mention the dumb banshee-wailing human also headed that way. A second geese-y type hovered in the air prepared to dive-bomb the unsuspecting cat.  I ran faster. I'm not sure how I did it but I got to the cat and scooped him up just as I was rushed at by Ground Goose, wing wildly aflapping yelling at me/us to get the h--- outta there.  Glad to oblige.  MortCat and I headed for the safety of the house at full speed.  In hindsight I'm not sure how we both survived not being attacked.  So, I've been leery of Canada Geese ever since...

Back to the autumn evening ramble.  The third "Must Stop" was just around the corner from the Canada Geese and involved two majestic, unruffled Royal White Swans (originals were courtesy of herself, QE2, in 1967). 

It turns out these swans are one of the two types of Rideau River Swans that delight residents and tourists in Ottawa from May until October. I assume the Swan family was making the most of one of the final glorious weekends before they are rounded up and taken to their winter quarters called, wait for it, "Swan House".

These are "mute" swans and, true to their name, they didn't have a swan song for us and stayed (mostly) still for a series of pictures while keeping a watchful eye on their River Swannies (Husband tells me the correct term is "cygnets").  And one of them is obviously a "she" or "pen", while the male is called a "cob". 

They mate for life, can live for up to 30 years and will snack on spinach, lettuce and alfalfa sprouts.  Go figure....

Trivia lesson now done, onward we rode, across bridges and down paths heading for a neighbourhood street that runs along the canal with Zero Traffic except pedestria and gorgeous homes.  I salivated over a number of a small-ish (I'm sure expensive) bungalows.  I passed a bench and took a picture, not because I like benches, but  because a) no graffiti on the bench; b) it was in good condition; and c) the garbage bin was not overflowing with refuse.  Contrast that with many benches and trails I have passed in other cities in Canada, the US or elsewhere and I again have to marvel at the Canadian-ishness of it all. 

The final stretch of the 10K ramble found the best scenes.  As I rode along the streets where folks were unpacking their cars and vans from the long weekend trips or simply out for a walk with or without pooch, I chanced upon two scenes, both of which summed up the Thanksgiving weekend for me.  The first was a clump of flowers blooming along a fence.  They were perfection personfied, delicate looking, colourful, leaning toward the evening sunshine. October in Ottawa, say what?

We rode on and not long before we came upon the final "must stop".

It was for the view of a tree kissed by colour along its top-most branches and only brushed lightly by hues of red down its side.  I remembered scenes of youth when we had to gather different types of leaves, put them between two pieces of wax paper and trace them for class.  It was always a competition to find the the reddest, most perfect, specimen of a leaf and preserve it enough to get it home and then to school the next day. 

I want to give that tree another week and I'm sure it will be flaming red.  Hopefully, the 5-day rain event that's in the offing won't strip the trees of too many leaves. 

Fingers crossed that next weekend I'll be able to perhaps still be biking and do the Ramble Encore and see how the autumn is progressing.  That is, if snow hasn't arrived before then.

Anyway, Enjoy.  

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