Monday, December 7, 2009

"Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

The cold winds of late autumn descended upon Stratford yesterday. Braving the elements to stroll by the river, my eyesight collided with the vanishing dream of summer.

Yes, the ice has appeared, as if from nowhere, and birds that once could float upon the mirrored water now find their image on the hardened icy glass. Skiffs of snow ride like whitecaps upon the solid stream, while wild geese hang on to the pretense that they do not need to leave.

Our river bed has heard the call of Amiens from the tent up on the hill.
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;”
As You Like It (II, vii, 174-176)

Maybe not so unkind, yet enough to breed a discontent, as we look ahead to huddled walks mid blowing snows, and shivering toes.
“Now is the winter of our discontent . . .
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”
Richard The Third Act 1, scene 1, 1–4

Welcome, winter. What else can we say?
Living here in Stratford we know each season has its stay. And even if I do not like the cold, I will find its beauty here in months to come.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Canada geese are gathering by the hundreds on Lake Victoria.

Walking by the river recently we saw (and heard!) the most interesting display. The geese were floating peacefully when suddenly they began to honk, louder and louder in a great crescendo of sound. One of them stretched up on his legs in the water and flapped his wings with great strength. Others also began to beat their wings, causing a great stirring and splashing of the water. Slowly they lifted off and formed their noisy V across the sky.

This in itself is not unusual, as it seems to be a regular autumn rehearsal before they head to warmer places. What we had never noticed before was that the birds who remained began to honk vociferously as if cheering on their comrades. This cacophony of encouragement lasted for a short time, and then the whole scene repeated itself, again and again until the river lay empty and silent except for the low chatting of those who had stopped to observe.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Came

Autumn came while I was gone
And cast her gems upon the lawn,

Gold and garnet, emerald too,
And those of flaming crimson hue.

Autumn came, although unseen,
Her vestige masks the summer's green.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I went hunting tonight.

The cormorants have gradually been returning. On one of my walks I spotted 16 of them.

Last night when my friend and I were walking, we saw a new kind of water fowl. By the shape of the head, we thought we were watching baby loons. But no, it was the cormorants. I had not seen them in the water before. They are actually quite gracious and great fishers! Like a loon, they dive under the water and you wonder if they will ever surface. All of a sudden they pop up a little ways off, often holding a fish in their mouth. On the tree they look the water, they really are rather comic.

So I went hunting tonight to see if I could capture a picture for you. They have pretty well stripped the top foliage from their present resting spot and tonight I saw one landing in a new tree. I wonder how soon they will ravage it.

It is all part of the natural cycle of life, and I guess I feel privileged to be able to observe.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Nature called,
Come walk with me.
Drink in evening's bedtime beauty,
Bask in the reflected mirror of the night,
Reach out and touch her dusky silhouettes, her silky shadows,
Dip your fingers in the crimson palette tossed across the sky.
Come walk with me,
And let creation touch your soul.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Box Story

Last evening I had a rare of the things that I love about Stratford.

A senior student from Stratford Central Secondary School wrote a musical called Big Box Story. It was a sell-out hit when they put it on at the school this past year. Our mayor approached the Stratford Shakespeare Theatre to see if they would work with the students to enable them to re-create it on one of our professional stages. So 38 of our teens had the opportunity last night to perform in front of a packed and cheering house at the Avon Theatre. All of the proceeds from the evening are going to the Foundation for the Enrichment of Education. It is a win/win situation for sure, one that shows the spirit of this wonderful community.

Keep your eyes open over the next few years for the upcoming career of Britta Johnston. She seems destined for great things! Her first musical was amazing. Who knows what will be next!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Art in the Park

Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm, weather permitting from June to September, you will find an array of artisans exhibiting their work on the greens along Lakeside Drive between Front Street and the Arena. For forty-one years now this unique show has allowed regional artists to display and sell their creations in a beautiful setting under the trees. Photography, paintings, sculpture, jewellery, wood, clay and glass are all for sale.With the artists being present to chat and share about how the pieces were created, for any art lover this show is definitely worth the drive to Stratford.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This morning on my walk I was captured by shadows. Intricate patterns tossed like quilts on the ground casting beauty on pavement as much as on the clean cropped lawn of my neighour.

Life has its moments of shadow...layoffs, illness, accidents, death. Is there a way to look at these life events and see the light creating patterns on the dark, rather than focussing on the darkness obscuring the light?

This is the walk my pastor's family treds right now. As Ben is getting weaker, they are choosing to focus on life. In the words of his mom, they brought him home to live, not to die. Instead of existing in the hospital, they are living together at home. What an inspiration they are to us all...a lesson on facing life's challenges focussing on the light.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mirrored Pleasures

This morning dawned crystal clear and the river beckoned. As I walked down the Nile Street hill, the water displayed an absolutely perfect reflection, a sight we often don't get to see. The rain that we've been having lately has done a better job than Windex in shining up the mirror Avon.

Reflected landscape

Mirrored water fowl

Reflected dragonboats and heron

Reflective thoughts:

On my way around the river I met a new acquaintance who chose to walk with me for a while, and later I encountered two friends whom I hadn't seen for a long time. My Stratford is indeed a place where pleasure often seems to come in double measure.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Cormorants Are Back

We have seen them before. A group of about nine invaded our Lake Victoria area a couple of years ago. Yesterday on my walk I noticed they are back, so far just three that I could see.

Already the top of the tree where they roost is getting bare. Cormorants have been known to strip vegetation, as well as endangering other species such as the blue heron, and eating large quantities of fish (the equivalent of three perch a day).

It will be interesting to watch this saga as it plays out on the Avon this year. I'll keep you posted if things change.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Music in the Park

August 7, 2009

A lot of things have been happening around town during the past twenty days. Let me tell you about some of Stratford Summer Music's outdoor events, where costs are covered by donations rather than ticket sales.

Three or four times a week one can sit on the grassy knoll by the boat house or on the ramparts of Veterans Park and listen to “Barge Music” performed by world class musicians. TorQ Percussion Quartet were amazing as they entertained us with a variety of xylophones and drums. I was sorry to miss the Chameleon Barbershop Quartet, as I heard from those who attended that their show was a lot of fun and not entirely “Barbershop-y”.

The Sax-O-Matics Quartet, added humour and a wheel of chance as well as fine musicianship to their presentation.

On the Holiday Monday, now called Simcoe Day, I wandered down to Lower Queen's Park to enjoy the OLG Bluegrass Blowout and classic car show. For six hours from mid-afternoon until dusk, one could enjoy the music of five different blue grass bands. There was lots of delicious food from various Stratford restaurants and cafes, a sectioned off Beer Tent area,
and a large area for people to set up their lawn chairs, and mingle with friends.

As the evening progressed, the open area in front of the stage became a spontaneous dancing area for many young children who were there.

What I like most about these events, aside from the music itself, is the whole sense of community that arises from people relaxing in nature and sharing a common experience.

This feeling is part of the wonder of my Stratford.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sky Dancers: Leaping to a New Level

July 25, 2009

How does one wrap up an amazing experience in a few words?

On Tuesday I wrote the Sky Dancers poem reflecting on the opening event for Stratford Summer Muisc,(SSM), and posted it on this blog. On Thursday morning I happened to be chatting with SSM's artistic producer, John Miller, and offered to send him the blog site as I am planning to write about more of the wonderful musical events that will be offered here over the next few weeks.

On Thursday evening, John was in touch with me and asked if he could offer the Sky Dancers poem to Dr. Andrew Gant, who is the organist/composer/and director of Her Majesty's personal choir, The Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, London, England. Dr. Gant was offering a three part lecture/concert series here this week as part of SSM and wished to write a choral number that he would dedicate to Stratford Summer Music as a finale for his time here. John felt my little poem would be perfect for the occasion.

Between Thursday and Friday night Dr. Gant composed the music. The Tactus Vocal Ensemble practised it briefly and presented it as the final number of this morning's concert. Lively and boisterous at times, thoughtful and moody at others, Dr. Gant captured the imagery of the poem perfectly. What an honour for me and for Stratford Summer Music! I spoke with him briefly after the concert before he packed up to fly home to England, in order to conduct and play for the services for Her Majesty tomorrow.

This is an example of the magic that can be experienced in my Stratford!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sky Dancers

July 21, 2009

Noisy and precocious
They danced across the sky
Flaunting summer colours
In bright array
Across the stage of night

Symphonic tones
Trailing through the cosmos
Heightened the spell
Of cultural delight
With ethereal sounds
And phantom shades of light

Stratford Summer Music has opened once again gracing the shores of our picturesque riverfront. The music on the barge will entertain our noontime picnickers, and downtown streets will host guerilla minstrels, who'll turn up in the most unexpected places to add to the ambiance of our fair town. Local churches, restuarants, cafes, City Hall, as well as outdoor venues in Queen's Park, will offer an array of international musical talent. Many free events as well as recitals at very reasonable rates are running from July 20 to August 15. Check out the website and come partake in the Stratford Summer Music experience.

In The Park

July 20, 2009

Birdlings sing and soar in flight
Children laugh in sheer delight
Grey heads nod and young toes tap
Some eyes close for a short-lived nap"

Mellow strains fill the evening air
Soothing souls and lifting care
Music echoes through the park
The band plays on 'til the sky turns dark

On Wednesday and on Sunday night
Crowds convene to see the sight
Of concert bands who come to play
A perfect end to a summer's day

Thank you to the Kiwanis Club of Stratford for providing such pleasurable outings throughout July and August. Citizens and tourists, young and old, have come to appreciate this compimentary summer entertainment in Stratford, Ontario.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You Never Know!

July 17, 2009

The breezes were stirring gently as twilight tinged the sky. Strolling along Downie Street, I soaked up the silence after the crowd had moved into the Avon Theatre for the evening's performance. Restaurateurs were bringing in their patio chairs and getting ready to close. There was a sense of quietude, of tranquility.

As I walked, I glanced up and there they were. Gargoyles? In Stratford?

Indeed. They rest atop the condo building across from the Y, as if guarding the area where our youth are known to gather. Memory took me back to a cartoon show when my boys were young where certain gargoyles came to life to protect the citizens of their community. Ah, imagination!

Some gargoyles have a rather scary look, but these ones are kind in countenance.

You never know. Perhaps they do come down to enjoy the sweet peace of Stratford on a summer night. You never know.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Evening Snacks

July 9, 2009

Last night as dusk approached, the river beckoned. It was a beautiful evening, warm, with a slight breeze, too nice to stay inside. I was anxious to see if I could find the cygnets about whom I had written on June 21, when they were first born. I had heard about 10 days ago that one of them had not survived. Would the rest still be living?

It was a great joy therefore to spot the family receiving an evening snack. I was so pleased to discover that this good citizen knew to feed them greens. She informed me that the stores here are quite willing to let her have lettuce that is past its prime. This family of swans seemed very comfortable with her and ate voraciously, even taking a leaf from her hand.

The little ones are obviously thriving, still with their fuzzy baby feathers, but definitely growing and healthy.

We continued on our walk, enjoying the magic of the sunset, intrigued to spot a duck among the clouds.
Turning reluctantly to head for home, we came upon yet another evening feast. This time the hostess was serving corn, and an eager crowd had gathered to partake! Several swans crowded around her including the bully who I described on June 15, this time well behaved and even eating politely from her hand.

The newest additions to our waterfowl were there as well, a very interesting-looking pair of Chinese geese.

Night had definitely fallen. Reluctantly we turned our steps towards home, but our hearts were light with the joy of watching mankind and nature interacting in such a mutually appreciative way.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Parkland Variety

July 5, 2009

Take time to walk through our less manicured parks in order to experience Stratford's more rustic beauty. In the T.J. Dolan park, just off of John Street, intriguing pathways call for further exploration. Wear your insect repellent and some good walking shoes and you can enjoy a natural hike along part of the Avon Trail.

This wild area offers short or longer hiking trails where you will see native foliage and blossoms that change with the seasons. The thought of what lies beyond the next corner is enticing and begs the novice to go just a little further.

At the East end of the Lake Victoria park system, on the south side of Festival Bridge, the entry trellis of Meadowrue Gardens invites you to to explore a nautralized area on a much smaller scale. Plants native to this part of Ontario tumble in disarray by the meandering pathway. While there you may wish to take a look at the new bed of reeds providing natural habitat for wildlife at the east end of the river, or hike along the abandoned rail line to Confederation Park.

My Stratford is a place to enjoy the wonders of creation.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


June 28, 2009

Strolling by the river on Saturday afternoon, enjoying the somewhat milder weather and lovely breeze, my friend who does amazing water-colours, spotted a fellow artist who had set up at a picnic table to paint the scene before her.

We had not seen an artist at work on the Avon before, although paintings of the river and our swans are quite common. What really intrigued my friend was the portable easel/paintbox combination that the artist was using.

We stopped to admire her work and to find out more about the easel. Laughing, she told us about the two white geese that frequent the river who had come up to her and stood there as if posing. She didn't really want to paint them, but they “insisted” and wouldn't leave until she had captured them for posterity. I know our wild fowl often act as if they think they are human, but this seemed to be taking vanity a little too far! As we chatted further I discovered that Tamara was a singer as well as a painter and studies singing with Anita Ruthig, who was my vocal teacher when my children were young. What a small world! She told us she would be performing Mozart's 'Ave Verum' at the evening mass at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in St. Mary's. I decided to drive over to listen. It was quite lovely and brought back memories of singing it myself.

Yes, my Stratford is brimming with unique opportunities to meet interesting people. And sometimes, like on Saturday, our lives just happen to intersect in the most unexpected ways.