Sunday, July 29, 2012

Afternoon in the Vineyard

Con pan y vino se anda el camino.
[With bread and wine you can walk your road].
Spanish Proverb

Out among the vines of pinot gris and baco noir grapes the Time Traveller and I enjoyed a personalized tour of the wonders of wine-making with the owner of Calamus Estate Winery. Each winery has its own story and each wine carries its own characteristics, literally drawn up from the soil through the plants' deep roots and mixed with wind and sun to produce its own "terrior".

Here, on land that decades ago hosted diary cattle and their feed crops, a Toronto broadcaster and his wife established 22 acres of vines with production and retail facilities housed in the property's two old barns. Centuries before, Indians wondered the land leaving behind stone tools and chert arrowheads. Linking the present to the past, Derek Saunders and Pat Latin called their winery "Calamus" which is the Latin word for 'arrow'.

Inside the rustic little barn that dates back to 1888 we sampled Calamus' 2011 Pinot Gris, truthfully described as "dangerously easy to drink". After sampling a few other 'vintages' we departed with a couple of bottles on the back seat and a smile on our faces.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Along the Footpath of Peace

To be glad of life because it gives you a chance to love, and to work, and to play, and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions but not contented with yourself until you have made the best use of them; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor's except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends and every day of Christ and to spend as much time as you can with body and with Spirit in God's out-of-doors. These are little guide posts on the Foot Path of Peace.
Henry van Dyke, American author (1852-1933) in "The Footpath of Peace"(1901)

Walking amidst pines, breathing in the fragrant air, and lunching under a natural arbour, everything was at peace on the spacious grounds of the McMichael gallery. I can imagine that Tom Thomson (1877-1917), one of Canada's foremost artists, would have been quite pleased to have his masterpieces displayed here. At the core of the gallery is the former fieldstone and log home of Robert and Signe McMichael and the art that graced their walls.

"In 1965, following lengthy negotiations with the Province of Ontario, the McMichaels gave their home, property and collection of 177 paintings to the government, which agreed to ensure that the buildings and grounds would be maintained and that the spirit of the collection would be retained for all time." (The Canadian Encyclopedia) Probably only a few years later, I visited the gallery with my parents. Perhaps, at the time, it seemed that I was unappreciative of visiting the only art gallery dedicated solely to Canadian art, but that summer trip did plant seeds in my nascent mind and some four decades later I was eager to re-visit the gallery and stand before the paintings that can take my breath away. The morale of the story? Parents: don't give up hope. ;-)

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the gallery. I did, however, come away with a few reproductions, including Thomson's ink on paper "Decorative Landscape: Quotation from the Footpath of Peace by Henry Van Dyke":

The art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven captures the spirit of the Canadian landscape and, in so doing, it also captures the Canadian identity. A print of A.J. Casson's "White Pine" found itself in the highly unlikely place of Luxor, Egypt; yet somehow it seemed perfectly at home there, as did I. It's an image that embodies the isolation, cold, and force of the Canadian landscape and yet it brought me much comfort to gaze on it from across the living room.

The gallery is located in the town of Kleinburg that dates its founding to 1847. Some of the buildings, such as the Murray-Diceman house (c. 1830), pre-date the arrival of John Kline and are beautifully adapted as shops for a little retail pleasure to round out the day.

I was impressed by Starbucks' low-key street presence that maintains the integrity of the town's streetscape. It was a lovely day and well worth repeat visits. I will certainly enjoy another chance to walk along the peaceful footpaths through fragrant pine woods.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Aurora's Cloak

The stars are putting on their glittering belts.
They throw around their shoulders cloaks that flash
Like a great shadow's last embellishment.
Wallace Stevens, American poet (1879–1955) in "The Auroras of Autumn"

"Houston's" border is working up nicely. It's certainly not a typical quilt border, but as it comes together I am happier with the results. The border fabric reminded Mom and I of the Northern Lights and so it has become a canvas on which I can stitch memories of starry nights and the awesome Aurora borealis.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Reunion

Family Ties are precious threads,
No matter where we roam,
They draw us close to those we love,
And pull our hearts toward home.

A plethora of cars in a residential neighbourhood is a sure sign of a family reunion. Our 'clan' gathered to celebrate the summer birthdays. A plethora of birthdays in August is a sure sign of chilly December nights. So the young and not-so young gathered around the cake in celebration.



It's joyful moments like this that bind us all together in one continuum, because we've all been there with cake smeared across our face.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Pleasant Tour

Communities are like quilts: they are stitched together one piece at a time.

With maps in hand, I ventured out once again onto the province's back roads for a second tour of barn quilts, today with a focus on the hamlet of Mount Pleasant. There are five quilts in the area and their theme seems to be summed up in "Our Mount Pleasant Home" quilt block that stands proudly at the town's main crossroads. Founded in 1801 by a handful of families on Six Nations land, the hamlet became home to so many.

The "Double Wedding Ring" quilt motif is appropriate for the "Bryning Manse". This was the home of the hamlet's first resident minister, Rev. John Bryning, who officiated countless marriages upon settling here in c. 1838.

The "Crossroads" quilt block marks the centre of town on the old general store and post office building, built in 1834. As is custom with this type of building, the upper floor was a residence and here Ontario's fourth premier (1896-1899), Arthur Sturgis Hardy, was born in 1837.

"Village lore is that at 1:00 a.m. on December 14, 1837 troops commanded by Col. Allan McNab marched through Mount Pleasant en route from Brantford to Scotland in pursuit of rebels led by Dr. Charles Duncombe from Burford who had gathered there. When McNab's company got to Mount Pleasant there was a light in a bedroom over the Hardy store so a suspicious McNab detailed a party to search the premises for conspirators. Russell Hardy answered the knock and invited the Colonel in to meet a newly-born son, Arthur Sturgis Hardy. Hardy seemed literally to have been born into the ranks of Liberalism, destined to enter the Ontario Legislature on the Reform (Liberal) ticket in 1873, again meeting Col. McNab who was there as a Tory member." (from Devlin's Country Bistro and Catering website)

Most of the town's pioneers were farmers, but Thomas Perrin established a gristmill on the Mount Pleasant Creek in 1801. Unfortunately, his hard work was destroyed only a few years later during the War of 1812. American General Duncan McArthur set out from Detroit in the fall of 1814 with a plan to attack the British at Burlington Heights (aka my hometown). His strategy called for pillage and destruction on route and Mount Pleasant was among the communities heavily damaged in the last days of the war. The Water Wheel quilt block commemorates the ghost of Perrin's mill.

"Our Mount Pleasant Home" quilt block is sited within the cemetery where many of the town's pioneers are buried. The graves of those who fought in the War of 1812 are marked with flags as part of this year's bicentennial commemoration of the war. A surprising number of the early tombstones bear a weeping willow as a symbol of mourning. This decoration was a popular in the early 1800s across Ontario and the U.S. I'm unsure of the carving beneath the tree. It appears to be a series of forward and backward 3's. hmmmm.

Preceding today's "pleasant" tour was a stop in the nearby town of Waterford at its former train station, which just happens to be the home of a lovely quilt store. The Canada Southern Railway station first opened here in 1871. It was a busy hub with over a hundred trains a day passing by this elegant wood edifice. Here Canadian passengers could connect with trains run by the New York Central company traveling to Buffalo and Chicago. Those busy tracks are long gone and now the Quilt Junction makes for really appropriate adaptive reuse of the historic building. I spent an enjoyable hour browsing their fabrics and books and came away with some "King Tut" Egyptian cotton thread that is perfect for my current project. I just wish I had brought a cup of coffee with me in order to sit at one of their tables on the station's platform to enjoy the setting and its views over the river. Next time!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Can-Do Quilting

They can because they think they can.
Virgil, Roman poet (70 B.C - 19 B.C.)

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Instilled at a young age with an attitude that I can do anything I set my mind to (if I only set my mind to it) I became determined to make my own design for "Houston's"** wide border. Some might think I'm imprudent being a quilting newbie and all, but I jumped headlong into the task without really knowing what I was doing and lacking the proper supplies. Using the simplest of materials like old file folders and calling upon the skill learned in grade school to make a carbon transfer by scratching the back of the paper with lots of pencil lead, I boldly ventured into quilt stencil making. And it worked! Yippee! And Whew! Confidence and Resourcefulness: 1. Imprudence: 0.

**The "Houston, we have a problem" quilt is now simply referred to as "Houston" around the homestead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Problem Solving

"One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment . . . ; If it doesn't turn out right, we can modify it as we go along."
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt counselling Frances Perkins, his Secretary of Labor (1933-1945)

I have unofficially called quilt number two the "Houston, we have a problem" quilt. Problem solving has led to its 'organic' development.

At inception, this baby was conceived as a quilt back; later I decided it was too lovely not to be seen, so it evolved into a quilt top. Then, after completing the machine quilting of the main body, I spread it out for a good look only to find that it was much larger than the lap quilt I had planned and it was just a few inches too short to cover a double bed. So after consultations, it was decided that another border could be added to make up the shortfall. As a result, the 'lap quilt' has become a 'bed quilt'. And now, just as I was about to cheer that the hand quilting of its inner wave border is complete, I saw that my backing fabric will be less than an inch too short on one side to accommodate the proposed new border. Groan. Mom has come to the rescue with a solution (thanks Mom!) and so work continues. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 16, 2012


A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.
Eudora Welty, American author and Pulitzer Prize winner (1909-2001) 

With boundless energy children run about the house; and they seem to change with equivalent speed. Thank goodness for photographs. They take life's hypersonic moments and hold them still so that we might also be still -- for just a moment -- and appreciate all that we have to be thankful for . . . over and over again. Family photos, like the children, are treasures.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

♬ One More Step Along the World I Go ♬

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.
Sydney Carter, English poet, songwriter and folk musician (1915-2004), in his hymn "One More Step Along the World I Go" (1971)

When you set out on a journey, you may have a mission or a destination but you can never know what you will find along the way. Today I found myself in a unique cemetery that, unbeknownst to me, bears a connection to my past. A friend and her daughter kindly agreed to set off with me in search of barn quilts and we found ourselves in the Otterville African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery. Somewhat perplexed by its name and uncharacteristic features, we learned that we were standing in one of the few preserved Black pioneer burial grounds in Ontario.

Here rested the African Americans who fled persecution in the US and settled in Otterville beginning in 1829. Their white-painted, wood frame church stood on this small pocket of land until the early 1900s, by which time the community had moved on. The church, the burials, and their wood markers were forgotten and over time disappeared into the landscape -- quite literally.

In 2007, a restoration programme located the more than 140 burials. Lacking records to identify the men, women and children buried here, each re-found grave was graced with a new marker to symbolize "that that person’s light continues to shine . . . once more for all to see."

What a moving experience to walk through the silent, re-forested grounds flickering with their light!

And what a surprise to find that I was tenuously connected to this cemetery. My 'Archaeology 101' professor is honoured for his work to identify the burials and the remains of the wood-frame church. For the fascinating story of Otterville's Black pioneers and the archaeology that restored their cemetery, click here.

As for the original mission to find barn quilts: "Barn quilts" are large images of quilt blocks painted on the sides of barns and, as a result, become tourist attractions. A few counties in southwestern Ontario recently developed a series of Barn Quilt Trails using 8' X 8' images that adorn all sorts of buildings or are set up as billboards. Each quilt block holds a story. Here, at the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, the Church Window quilt motif of hexagons is uniquely enhanced with the cemetery's candle of remembrance. How appropriate.

The barn quilt trails encourage travellers to visit heritage sites along the route. Otterville's 1845 gristmill lacked a quilt block and wasn't open this afternoon, but I nevertheless enjoyed wandering around this splendid building, which is said to be "one of the oldest continuously operating, water-powered mills in Ontario." It deserves a repeat visit; perhaps on my next adventure along the Barn Quilt Trails. Stay tuned.

Even though I got lost driving along county roads with names that didn't jive with those on my map, I thoroughly enjoyed today's outing and all its wonderful surprises. In hindsight it seems providential that my afternoon journey was preceded by this morning's inspiring worship service during which we sang "One More Step Along the World I Go". I travel on with gladdened heart.

One More Step Along the World I Go
Words and music by Sydney Carter
One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Time Traveller's Return

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.
Steven Moffat, Scottish television writer for "Doctor Who"

The Time Traveller projected himself through the wibbly wobbly, time-y wimey stuff to arrive back in the homeland, if only for a brief sojourn.

He's managed to work his way through Time's gelatinous vortex to arrive at a glorious time of year when small town music festivals offer a great venue for lounging in lawn chairs while sharing delicious roasted pork sandwiches served with coleslaw and cold pork-and-bean 'salad'. Ah, the precious facets of a Canadian summer. Welcome back!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Faces to the Sun

He who stands with his face to the East in the morning will have the sun before him. If he does not change his posture, the Earth in the meantime having changed its, he will have the sun no longer before him, but behind.
Daniel De Leon, American newspaper editor and politician (1852-1914)

A few months ago, when the family's three winos ventured out on Twenty Valley's "Get Fresh" winery tour, the Watering Can Flower Market gave each passport holder a lovely potted floral arrangement. It's a gift that keeps on giving. Every day I look upon the violets' perky faces and smile at their cheerfulness. And I have come to notice that they re-orient themselves throughtout the day to ensure that they always face the light. More wisdom from the garden.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rejoice in the New Day

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.
Eleanora Duse, Italian actress (1858-1924)

As the morning sun streamed through the foliage, the Rose of Sharon seemed to rejoice in the new day, stretching open its petals wide, wanting to make the most out of the next 1440 minutes. The garden is full of inspiration.

Monday, July 9, 2012

For Warmth and Comfort

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.
Arabian Proverb

Drum roll please . . .

At today's quilting class, the last of the season, I was able to unveil my first true* quilt. It's done!

* Baby quilts made with 'cheater' tops don't count in quilting circles.

And I am very happy with the result. I'm ecstatic, in fact.

My teacher congratulated me saying, "She's a quilter now."

I held my breath over the weekend. Through a (gentle) machine wash the stitching held fast. Ilhumdulila!
May it bring warmth and comfort for years to come.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things.
Veronique Vienne, author of The Art of Doing Nothing and The Art of Imperfection

It's summertime and the porch-sitting is easy. Some of my dear readers may think I've gone AWOL for the past week or so due to the lack of blog posts. The time has been spent in an air-conditioned house sitting in a rocking chair quilting contently; driving along country roads to explore a new-found quilt shop and driving along the lakeshore to a cozy wool shop; taking a stroll with my canine friend Handsome and meandering through the farmers market with Dad early on Saturday mornings; making a rhubarb pie with just a hint of almond and a blueberry-raspberry pie infused with lemon, vanilla and cinnamon; and inhaling at the drama of sudden thunderstorms that brew, boil, crash, and dissipate in minutes, taking the scorching temperatures away with them as they went.

Through it all I thought, "This isn't anything that would interest my readers -- this is all stuff they've seen before." And so the blog sat silent. I've since had an attitude re-adjustment. As a result, un-interestingly ordinary or not, I post one of today's precious, ordinary moments as the afternoon sun sparkled through the patio curtain, warming the family gathered at S-I-L's.

Perhaps my lack of blog activity is due, in part, to the record-setting highs that we've been experiencing for the past week. Louis Armstrong's horn captures perfectly the laid-back, soporific feeling that comes over me with the rising temperatures in his and Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime".