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EVERYDAY GLORY – Part 2

*PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE*

Before the car accident, I was busy leading the big projects, travelling here and there.  Running around trying to change the world can make a person miss the beauty of “ordinary” things.

Injuries and pain are indescribably worse.   You finally have time to see, but barely have the energy to look.

But – oh – it’s worth the effort!

Blog Photo - Verandah Path

To  see one’s surroundings with new and grateful eyes.  

To take joy in the small moments.

To be open to small patches of everyday glory. 

"Snow Cones" on Spruce Branch - Photo by Hamlin Grange
“Snow Cones” on Spruce Branch

Snow on evergreens. The first snow makes the garden beautiful, day and night.

The late sun. Late afternoon sunlight shining on wood floors is magical. And when the late sun hits the wavy glass sidelights in the front door of our old farmhouse, it’s wondrous.

Sunshine on Hardwood

My husband’s truant socks. He has tons of single socks and we spend time searching for their matches.I used to get irritated by this.  Or by newspapers strewn across the breakfast table. (Or his overlooking my small attempts to ‘cheer up’ our house.)

Now, I call them “signs of life”.  And I give thanks for having someone kind, funny and loving to share my everyday life with. (And I try to assemble the newspapers without muttering.)

Freshly washed sheets.  There’s luxury in the smell and feel of freshly washed cotton sheets although they’ve been used and washed many times.

Canadian Wool Blanket

The old wool blanket. “Canadiana”, for sure, it would be worth something, unstained. Do I care about the stain? No.  I love this blanket for its brilliant stripes – and for having survived decades of use.

Blooming Amaryllis. Bought for 6 bucks,  it re-blooms (big red blooms) on long stalks each winter. ‘Nuff said.

Our family’s big mixing bowl.  Many apple pies have been mixed up in that beautiful old bowl.

Blog Photo - Kitchen Pies on Table

My daughter’s dogs.  Sometimes, just the sight of them gladdens my heart. One brownish-black, one white, they’re both tiny dogs with personalities of their own. As I write, they’re stretched out beside me,  fast asleep.

Julius and Dawson Fast Asleep
The Pooches

Slowing down  by choice is great. Being forced to do so is awful.

But in the spirit of lighting a candle and finding my way out of darkness, I’ve been focusing on positives.

And keeping both eyes open for the everyday kind of glory.

**

This post is dedicated to the caring staff at the pain management centre of Toronto Rehabilitation Hospital. One of the techniques they teach their patients is mindfulness.

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Lost Without a Clue – Pt. 1, the Ebor House Series

I kid you not: I could get lost in a room. 

So – naturally – I got lost while coming home from an appointment in a nearby town.

Blog Photo - Bond Head main street

The key to getting lost graciously is to act as if where you’ve ended up is where you’d meant to go all along. But I was too agog at where I’d ended up to even pretend to be gracious. My mouth fell open.

Blog Photo - Bond Head Whtie fence and flowersIn no time at all, I’d gone from modern streets and brand-new neighborhoods to this old country road and a feeling that I’d time-traveled into the 1800’s. Beautiful old houses flanked both sides of the road.

Blog Photo - Bond Head White House1

And I knew, without being told, that some of these homes had belonged to certain local families for generations. It was that kind of place.

Blog Photo - Bond head grey hosue between trees

Most were surrounded by expansive grounds with big old trees…

Blog Photo - Bond Head Grey House and Lawn

Sweeping lawns and glorious gardens.

Blog Photo - Bond Head GRey House 3

On the lake side of the street, were more gardens, houses and infinite vistas….

Blog Photo - Bond Head Bayard and lake

Parkland and beaches and families at play….

Blog Photo - Bond head family playing by lake

Boats at the marina…

Blog Photo - Bond head marina boats in bg

People fishing…

Blog Photo - Bond Head Marina, Boats and Man fishing

Where on earth was I?

Blog Photo - Bond Head Boats at marina

Not one to panic till I’d run out of options, I kept going…  and thought I’d seen that enormous old tree just a minute or so before I turned…

Blog Photo - Bond Head huge tree and fence

So I turned around again and kept going…..

Blog Photo - Bond head lake shot

And discovered a sign…..

Blog Photo - Bond Head sign

Historic Bond Head.

I’d never heard of it.

Later, I’d learn that Bond Head, formerly known as Port Newcastle, was once a thriving harbour, with ships ferrying cargo to and from Quebec, Toronto to the west, Kingston to the east and various American ports.

In 1856, Bond Head and the neighboring village merged under the name of Newcastle. The overall region is now known as Clarington.

But right now, I was just busy being lost.

And then I saw a strangely beautiful old house.

This house must have a great story, I thought.

And this is how I met a man named Ron, whose historic home had belonged to generations of an illustrious Bond Head family which counted as relatives two Lord Mayors of London, England, and had a big impact on the life of many Canadians, including themselves.

I’ll introduce Ron, his house and the family to you in my next post.

Stay tuned.

**

Dedicated to lovers of history everywhere, including residents of Bond Head and Newcastle in Ontario.

 © 2008 CSR

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Almost There – John’s House Pt. 5

Ever get the impression that this blog is my way of living vicariously through others?  That I write stories about people who do things I wish I could do — or used to be able to do?

If so, you’d be partly right.

But what John Garside is doing – almost entirely by himself – blows my mind.   And now, as he nears his self-imposed deadline for moving Ann and himself into their house in Prince Edward County, I find myself holding my breath every time a new email comes from John.

Blog Photo - John Yellow Room and Scaffold

Will this be the email where John finally confesses that he needs a break from all this work, and that – promise or no promise –  the idea of moving in this spring is ridiculously un-do-able?

But it never is.  Not when he has to repair major cracks in the coach house foundation (below).  Not when he undertakes the delicate restoration of original ceiling medallions.  Not even when he is clearing out the basement.

Blog Photo - Johns Coach House

Blog Photo - Johns House Medallion

A lot of the work has been onerous.  As for the basement, John says it “was very crowded — 100 years of clutter — and cut up with old wooden partitions etc.  This was totally removed by me. 6,300 lbs. of stuff!!”

Right now, John’s working on finishing up the library.

Blog Photo - Johns House Library in Progress

The more John restores the house, the closer he feels to it, and the more he learns about its past.   He’s made a few intriguing discoveries.  Like the original signatures of the first owner and his young son, written in concrete.

“William W. Bedell,” explains John, “was the father.  Willet V. Bedell was his only son.  The boy would have been only 7 or 8 years old when he did it.”

Blog Photo - Johns House  Signature in concrete

Sadly, Willet died as a young man.  It was during the First World War, “on a Troop Ship in 1917 en route to France”.

The second family to own the house were the Wards, though John doesn’t yet know who exactly “Envers” was.   There’s still a lot to learn about the home’s history.

Blog Photo - Johns House Name on wood

John’s original move-in date was April 30.  But life follows its own course.

Just a few weeks ago, John’s mother’s health declined suddenly.  She died within days.

This spring is a time of change for John, Ann, and family.

It’s also a time of renewal.

After a rough winter, a flock of tiny blue scilla flowers is blooming in the garden.  It’s one of the first flowers of spring.

Blog Photo - Johns House Blue Scilla

And inside the house, John keeps repairing and restoring.

Another room done, one left to go. Then, after all the cleaning up, comes the big move.

The movers are now booked for May 7.

We’re cheering you on, John!

Photos by John Garside.

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My Home and Adopted Land

If you’re not Canadian – and even if you are – you might wonder why some people are fretting about the potential break-up of our  country – yet again.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the Canadians most concerned about this are immigrants.  People like me.

I came here in the 1970’s.   Went to university, launched an award-winning career, married a great guy, bought our first house and raised our children together — here, in Canada.    I’ve worked in every province — and the Northwest Territories – of Canada.  I have relatives and friends here.

Canada is home.

Most of the places and people I write about in my book, A Good Home, are right here in Canada.

agoodhome_cynthiareyes

Even now, when the winter has finally driven me crazy and I’ve been making up silly poems beginning with lines such as: “No ifs, ands or buts, This winter has driven me nuts…”  Even now,  I love this country.  It’s not where I was born, but it’s where I will be buried.

My love affair with Canada was ignited, not in Ontario, where I landed, but in the history of French Canada – particularly Quebec.  I experienced it only in the books I studied at university. I’d never even been to Quebec.

~~

“New France”,  the French called their new outpost.  Settled in the 1600’s by French soldiers,  priests, woodcutters — and the destitute orphans, peasants and street women who came to the new colony to marry them (except for the priests!) and populate the colony.

via wikipedia.org
French women arriving in New France. Image via wikipedia.org
via canadahistoryproject.ca
via canadahistoryproject.ca

In 1759-60,  British forces defeated the French, formally taking over New France in 1763.  But even in the 1980’s – when I worked as a journalist and producer for Canada’s public broadcaster – Quebec’s early history, and that historic loss, seemed present.

“Je me souviens”, Quebec license plates read, starting in 1978. “I remember.”

via wikipedia.org
via wikipedia.org

~~

Fast-forward several years, and I’m now an executive producer/ head of journalism training for the CBC.  On the international front, I’m also Secretary General of INPUT, a public television organization based in Italy and Canada.

Back home in Canada,  the province of  Quebec was threatening to separate from Canada.  But it was in Italy –  while having supper in a Florence restaurant with an international  group of TV luminaries — that I was confronted with the real likelihood of it.

My favorite person at the table was Helene, a passionate and outspoken producer from Quebec.

An Irish colleague asked Helene: “Would Quebec really separate from Canada?”

Helene didn’t miss a beat. “We have to go,” she said.

Helene was my closest friend in INPUT.   But realizing her dream of a  new country meant tearing my country apart. I, who had felt the pain of the conquered Quebecois, was now solidly on the other side of this fight.

“My Canada includes Quebec,” I said, reduced by shock to talking in slogans. “I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, Cynthia,” she said, pronouncing my name Cyn-te-ah. “I’m really sorry.  But we have to go.”  The words flew from her mouth like bullets to my heart.

My Canada included Quebec.   It also included the Aboriginal peoples, the original inhabitants of Quebec.   They, too, had suffered historical losses.  My Canada included English Canada and French Canada and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

~~

On October 30, 1995,  I was in downtown Montreal, where many of the shopkeepers are immigrants.  Rue Ste Catherine;  St. Dennis: I wandered these streets and others whose names I was too upset to notice. It was Referendum Day.  Quebeckers were voting. By day’s end, Canadians would know if we were still a country.

The streets were almost deserted that day, the shopkeepers downcast. It was as if the mourning for Canada had already begun.

Surprisingly, the separatists were defeated.  Narrowly.  Some blamed Quebec’s immigrants for the loss.  They’d voted overwhelmingly against separation.

I imagined  Helene’s grief,  her dream denied.  But for the first time since I’d met her,  I didn’t know how to console her.  Because Canada, my adopted home, would stay together.  At least for now.

~~

There is separatist talk in Quebec.  Again.  And it scares me.  Again.