Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fall Garden

     For the past month or so, the garden has not been very exciting, mostly because it has been a very monochromatic green.  With the onset of fall, things are starting to colour and the garden is coming alive again.  Not only are the leaves changing colour, but various seeds are forming and making themselves known.  The above is a shot of our poor, old dying Sugar Maple with a young, brilliant red offspring in front of it as well as some mauve Asters and a reddish Bladdernut shrub.

     Although we have four different colours of Asters - mauve, purple, white and pink; the mauve ones predominate and are swarming with different kinds of bees and wasps.  The look especially beautiful contrasted with the yellow Black Eyed Susans.

     The Sumacs are just starting to turn red and I love their pinnately compound leaf structure, and their gnarly stems that remind me of arthritic fingers of the elderly.

     In the backyard, we have Kentucky Coffee Trees that resemble the Sumacs in leaf shape, except they turn lemon yellow and they are on upright stems.  As well there are the Walnut Trees that are dropping their astringent "bombs" all over the back yard and are a favourite of the squirrels.  Above is an Allspice that has had a great year for seed production.  The fruits/seeds turn bright red and the leaves yellow nicely.

     We have brought a lot of the houseplants in for the season as there have been frost warnings, although we have yet to have a frost.  A lot of the Geraniums have been put back outside, by the potting shed of the garage, so they can soak up some more sun and create some contrast with the reddening Virginia Creeper.

Toronto Visit

     This past Thursday was my Toronto book club and I decided to take the Friday off so I could sleep in and see the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the AGO.  We had a good discussion about the Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, mental illness and feminism, and the food a la CC was great!  I slept in until 9 the next day, something unheard of for me, but I must have needed the rest.  I hurried off downtown, so I could get into the AGO early before the crowds.  Interestingly, there were lots of high school students at the exhibit, so it was interesting to see it through their eyes.

     Ai Weiwie designed the famous "Bird's Nest" stadium for the Beijing olympics, but distanced himself from it once he realized how poorly Chinese people were being treated by the government.  In the exhibit, he takes a lot of old and everyday objects from Chinese society and reconfigures them into something new.  The image above is a bunch of stools that have been joined together using ancient Chinese woodworking techniques to create something sculptural.  The image below is of Han dynasty vases dipped in modern, brightly coloured paints to represent the old and new of Chinese culture.

     Weiwei was very affected by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, especially as many schoolchildren were killed in shoddy "tofu" buildings.  The government refused to release actual numbers of those killed, so Weiwei went around and recorded as many as he could.  One wall of the exhibit had the names, ages, addresses etc. of as many children as he could identify - very powerful and compelling.  He also collected rebar from the sites of the earthquake and laboriously straightened it and arranged it into a landscape-like sculpture, seen below.

     After that show, I had a quick look at my favourite permanent exhibit of Henry Moore sculptures and a look at the AIMA/AGO photography finalists.  I then headed over to Chinatown, which seems to be shabbier and grimier than ever.  I also walked through Kensington Market, which had a lot of empty stores and was also looking in rough shape.  I have a feeling that those two areas are going to be the next sites of condo development/intensification, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if a fire helped that along.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

To the Lake and Back

     I have been off work this week for a "staycation" and today was the first day I managed to go out an a bike ride. I went down the hill and got onto the Trans Canada Trail that follows the Speed River up to Guelph Lake.  The sun was shining brightly, but there was a bit of a cool breeze in the air, so it was a perfect outing.  For the most part, the river valley is untamed, and quiet except for the birds and insects. The picture above is the end of my ride, where the Speed River comes out of the dam at Guelph Lake.  The yellow of the Golden Rods matched the painted part of the dam well, and there's also a bit of blue in the sky and on the front of the parked truck, as well as a bright red sign at the base of the dam.

     At the top of the hill, you can look down into the river valley, where some brave soul was fishing in the malodorous and scummy waters.  Still, from a distance, the lake looks cool and inviting.

     On the way back from the lake, I alternated riding and walking because I wanted to take my time in and amongst the forest and stillness.  There are many cedars which have a very beautiful reddish bark, and the forest floor is covered with the also-red fallen needles. The trees were planted in straight rows, which makes for a dramatic vista, and makes me feel like a fairy-tale character, following some quest/journey.

     One of the more interesting plants I saw on my ride was the spiky cucumber-like vine above.  When I was kid and was walking along the creek bed in a forested area, I came across these unusual seed pods for the first time and imagined that they were some kind of alien life-form and was excited, and a little scared,  about my discovery. It turns out it's just Wild Cucumber (Echinocytis lobata), a native Ontario Wildflower!

     The light at this time of year is quite spectacular and casts lots of interesting and spooky shadows.

     While riding through Riverside Park, I stopped to take some pictures of the pedestrian bridge over the river and caught a seagull mid-flight.