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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Santa Claus Parade

It seems the Christmas season has begun. Today is the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto. This is the best such parade in the World and the oldest children's parade.

For those lucky enough to live near Toronto, it is time to gather up the children, if not yours, your neighbours, (for the parade is best viewed with children) and take in the parade. Be sure to get there two hours in advance so as to get a good viewing spot. For millions more around the World there will be an opportunity to see the parade on television
The Santa Claus parade is a Toronto institution, nay, a Canadian institution, begun by the T. Eaton Company which sponsored it for decades as a playful obsession of the Eaton family and as a commercial promotion of their department store, Eaton's of Canada, which was a wonderful Canadian institution in itself, as a major retailer in downtown Toronto and as that wonderful mail order department store know to rural and small town Canada,( where most Canadians lived until the 1950's) through the Eaton's catalogue, particularly the Christmas catalogue. It was a sad day when Eaton's went out of business. It had been an institution that helped give our country a national identity. It lives on in the shopping mall, the Eaton Centre, in downtown Toronto and in the Santa Claus Parade.

Here is the first of a series of videos on the history of the parade.

As a child, I remember those magical few years when we were taken to see the Santa Claus parade, at true believers, so we could be reassured that Santa was in town and could be visited at Eaton, "Toyland"department. The weather usually was chilly, and often with some snow on the ground. This year it will be warm with the temperature at 13C. with some rain. I expect there will be large crowds lining the parade route.

I have written before how fierce my mother was making sure we had a front row seat if the crowd was was many rows deep. She would push up through the throng so that we could sit on the curb. "Let the little children through! The parade is for the children." She would hover at the back, probably only being able to catch a glimpse of us from time to time. No doubt she admonished my older sister to keep, "Keep an eye on your brothers and hold their hands when the parade is over." We were always treated nicely by strangers who readily followed my mother's admonishments to have us reach the front row. It was a more innocent time. There was no fear of strangers and possible child abduction, in my childhood.

When I returned to Canada from living in the United States, I had a son of my own and for a couple of years I remember meeting up with my sister and her family to watch the Parade near its beginning, at Christie Pits, a park my father often talked about as a place he played as a child.

One year we even got on the subway and traveled to the head of the parade down on University Avenue and watched it a second time.

The Santa Claus parade is one of those community events around which family memories are fashioned.

I also remember in my youth going shopping at the downtown Eaton's store. It was a large and magical place at Christmas time. We would walk to the village of Port Credit, which we lived near, catch the bus in front of Hooper's Drug Store, to take us to Long Branch, where we could get the street car into Toronto. It must have been an adventure for my mother with three children in tow. We were there, of course, to see Santa Claus and visit "Toyland", where we could see the great displays of toys, riding up to the appropriate floor on a classic elevator, which seemed to be made of brass with a caged door that was closed by an operator, wearing white gloves. He would call out the floors, "Third floor, Toyland!" It was the first department store to have elevators installed. It was also the first store to have electric lights installed. I was always fascinated with one other thing. The vacuum tube system in which messages could be put in a container as swished off the some management office. We could have lunch at the Eaton's stores restaurant. (before fast food places, it was one of the few times we ever ate out. Being on our best behaviour was expected). This building was eventually torn down and replaced with the Eaton's Centre. Now that I think of it I think it should have been declared a National Historic site and preserved. It seems progress overtakes many of the sights and sounds of our historic memories.

Eaton's Department Store and its retailing rival Simpson's across the road, had the most spectacular store windows, at street level. It seems they tried to outdo each other with animated scenes displaying toys and other goods, although I only remember toys. These were part of the Christmas magic we had to view though the largest glass windows in any store.

This is a painting by Kathryn Smith, a Hamilton, Ontario artist, of a scene "Eaton's Windows"

Here are a few photo's of Eaton's Windows in The Archives of Ontario

So much for my Christmas reminiscences. If you want to read memories of others you can find them in The Archives of Ontario.

If you have not gotten your letter off to Santa you could take it to the Parade and some elf will gather it in. Be sure to address it if you want a reply," Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOH OHO". As a child, we always knew Santa was a Canadian for the North Pole is in Canada. We were happy to share him with the World.

We are still assured that every letter will get a personal response. For decades, staff of the T. Eaton Company took on this task, on Santa's behalf, and today, Canada Post staff does it. You can also send your letters with your excuses for being naughty and your assurance that you have been nice (I have tried my best.) before you lay out your wish list for gifts at Christmas. (Be sure to be modest in what you wish for and always wish that less fortunate children get gifts also.) I suspect viewing the Santa Claus Parade on TV will inspire a flurry of letter writing. I trust a real letter sent by snail mail is still the best and only way to communicate with the jolly old elf.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Doing Wood

I have not posted as much as I might, lately. I have been busy doing some wood for this Winter. It is rather late to be doing this. One is supposed to do it in the Spring so that the wood can cure over the summer. Properly cured wood burns so much better giving off the maximum heat.

This Winter I will muddle through as I did last year. I do still have some wood in the basement left over from last Winter. Some of the wood I am currently cutting, splitting, piling and moving into the basement has been cut for a year and is partially dried. I will cure it for a while outside and them move it in the basement. This can be done when their is snow on the ground.

The snow is overdue. There was a sprinkling over night as their was one night about a week ago.
They have had significant snowfalls south of here and north west of here so Winter will eventually show up after a rather mild Fall. I read that meteorologists are predicting a cold Winter, hopefully with lots of snow. So far the temperatures are just hovering around the freezing point. At the moment it is 1C and may go down to -3C tonight.

This early in the Winter season I am looking forward to the -20c highs and the -3oc's and occasional -40c temperatures. With ample snow the Winter can be an invigorating challenge.

Those Canadians who have not fled it for warmer climes with best deal with it by rising to the challenge and embracing with outdoor Winter activities: skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, skiing both Nordic and downhill and snowboarding (which seems to have become the most interesting activity for the young. There is also Winter camping, which can be very interesting. I have always wanted to do it but never tried it. It we have lots of snow this year I might try to build a quinzee and try sleeping it it. (I am too old to try such thing by getting too far away from my bed and comforter if it doesn't work out.

For now I am dreaming of Winter and working hard doing wood, which I always enjoy a test of my manhood. I must admit at my age it is feeling a lot more challenging than it used to be.

My initial little bit. One small hitch of wood and some wood I purchased from a neighbour (not of good quality)

The latest wood my neighbour skidded out for me. I cut most of this a year ago, so I hope some of it is well on the way to being dry enough to burn. I tried to include my equipment in the picture. Having worked as a logger I am always keen to use all the safely gear. helmet, with visor and ear muffs (I prize my sight and hearing). safely gloves, boots and pants. Having been struck on the head by a falling tree, I appreciate my helmet. Even with safety boot I once cut through the boot and half way through my big toe with the saw. Cutting yourself with the saw is not fun although not as painful as you might think. The stitching my toe together was more painful. The real cautionary tale that impresses on me the wisdom of the safety equipment is the face that I have know three loggers killed on the job, even with good safety equipment. Logging. like hard rock mining , can be very unforgiving.

The wood I use is mostly poplar. It is a low grade hardwood. When properly cured it burns well and fast until it is ash. It needs lots of lending so one need to be around to feed the fire. Poplar is plentiful and largely a weed tree. There are problems using it as lumber but it is used in particle board and plywood. Due to years of bad forest management there is lots of poplar which flourishes after it has been cut down and more valuable trees have been removed. The are now trying to reverse this degradation of the great softwood and hardwood mixed forest in this southern part of Northern Canada.

Before I am though I hope I will have 7 full cords of wood done for this Winter. For those who are not interested in word, a cord is 127 cubic feet of wood and air. or 70 cu feet of piled lumber.

This is a pile of firewood 4' X 4' X 8'. I have it cut into three piles of 16" long wood to feed my wood stove.

I wish my wood was all done and all I had to do was sit and watch the Winter close it. I won't be fully ready but I will have wood close by that I can get even if it means moving some of it in on a clear cold winter day in January or February.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Armistice Day

I prefer the older designation of today at Armistice Day rather than Remembrance Day. It is the anniversary of the armistice signed to end the first World War on the 11/11 at the 11th hour.
It reminds me of the irony that it was to be the end of the, "War to End All Wars", which, of course it wasn't. It was the beginning of a century of wars which seem to be continuing into another century, as a way to resolve international disputes. Armistice Day reminds us of the end of an unnecessary war which was particularly horrible for the common soldiers who fought it under terrible physical condition, which we may never see again. Unfortunately, the sacrifice of our youth in war is an even less of a deterrent today. We no longer see tens of thousands of soldiers kill in single battles. It seem wars of the future will be robotic wars fought by soldiers half way around the world directing drone attacks as if they were playing a computer war game.
Innocent civilians will continue to be the greatest casualties of war. There is no Remembrance Day for them, sadly.

I have the greatest respect for those soldiers that answer their Nation's call if they truly believe in the justice of the cause. Unfortunately, with perhaps, the exception of the Second World War their have been no just wars since that armistice day. I would have more respect for soldiers if they refused to fight in unjust and illegal wars. There are few this heroic as we are trained all our lives to obey our political leaders.

I have always been impressed with the continued remembrance of the Canadian soldiers who liberated the low countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. It was largely Canadians who were tasked with this theatre of war in WWII while the Americans and British armies pushed on to greater glory in liberating Paris and then reaching Berlin ahead of the Russians. The people of the low countries have never forgotten the sacrifice and efforts of Canadians. They continue to teach, three generations on, their young people of Canada's effort on their behalf. It is emotional and humbling to see their continued tribute to Canadians.

Lynne sent me this touching video of a Belgium boy dressed in a Canadian uniform saluting some Canadian soldiers, who acknowledge his salute.

May we continue to rededicate ourselves to the slogan of Canadian veterans "Never Again!"
We could best honour those who fought and lost their lives in war if we stuggled harder to avoid future wars. Our youth are too precious to sacrifice in wars of their elders.

Bloody War. . .. . The Cause

When greed sups with the devil
And principles are shed
When power is corrupted
And truth stands on its head
When fear pervades the confused mind
And fools are easy led
When reason is a prisoner
The bell tolls for the dead.

Tom Walker ( an veteran sailor, still alive in 2010)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Vote is for Fundy

There is currently an international contest to select the new 7 Wonders of Nature.

It is worthy of such recognition is that is it an amazing ecological system made possible because it has the highest tides in the World. If for no other reason the fact that it is habitat of 12 varieties of whales ,including the rare right whale, would justify its designation. I leave it to you to explore the reasons to vote for The Bay of Fundy.

I find the Bay of Fundy a worthy Canadian contribution to this contest. It is quintessential Canadian. It is low key. It is not "in your face" as so many of these natural phenomena are. It is dependable as the tides come and go predictably such that the ecological system can be sustained. It supports not only the ocean ecology but also the culture, Mi'kmag, Acadian and Canadian, around it's shores which can be traced back to prehistoric times as it wears away th land to reveal the oldest fossils in North America. The dramatic tides of the Bay of Fundy will help sustain the people of the area with the generation of tidal electical power in the future. The Bay of Fundy is an ongoing phenomena that has the power to sustain man and Nature well into the future if we appreciate and respect what it has to offer.

The above two photos are of the same pier at high and low tide.

Here is a right whale breeching in the Bay of Fundy.

Low tide at the flower pots at Hopewell Rocks. I have visited this spot on the Bay of Fundy and witnessed it dramatic tides. I have also watched the reversing falls near St John, New Brunswick as the tides back the water up in the mouth of the river.

I hope the Bay of Fundy get the recognition it deserves. I hope to revisit that area in the near future to discover some more of what it has to offer to an interested tourist.