Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Is It?

On our evening walk along the Avon, I was startled to see a lady with two small dogs who appeared to be pulling little carts behind them. On closer examination and in discussion with Pat, their owner, I discovered these were not carts, but rather "doggie wheelchairs". We listened fascinated as she shared her story about the dogs who appeared strong and very capable of giving their mistress quite a run!

Haricot, 9 years old now, had come to her from the French Bulldog Rescue Centre. He had been run over by a car, and his owner had been so negligent that as he dragged his paws behind him they became raw, infected and were constantly bleeding. Loving care at the rescue centre and from Pat has brought him back to health. He has leather shoes for his back feet as he has some limited use of those legs and was constantly working himself out of the stirrups.This enables him to "walk" as he is able, but in a very supported manner.

Pearly is a more recent addition to Pat's family. She had been so badly abused in a puppy mill, that she has no use of her hind end. The rescue centre called Pat to see if she could take her right away rather than having her first adjust to the centre and then later to another home. Pat readily agreed. The wheels support Pearly's body so she can move quite freely. She craves affection and is very protective of any human who bestows love. As my friend was petting and playing with her, a large dog came by, and she seemed quite ready to attack if necessary to defend us all.

It is amazing the lessons one can learn while walking the Avon. Tonight it was a lesson in human love, and in the animals' determination to survive and to enjoy life to the fullest.

This article also appeared in Helen's column AROUND TOWN WITH HELEN HARRISON in Your Daily Source. September 8,2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Fond Farewell

Summer 2010 is quickly drawing to a close. September 1 marked the final date for the Stratford Concert Band's series of outdoor concerts held in Upper Queens Park every Wednesday during the summer.

The venue could not have been more perfect. After the current heat wave, it was extremely pleasant to sit basking in a lovely evening breeze. Mare's tails strewn across the sky made a perfect backdrop for the gulls who soared overhead as if in time to the music. A large audience had come out to enjoy the concert sitting on the benches provided by the park system or spread out across the area in friendly conversation groups on lawn chairs brought from home. The Stratford Police Pipe Band was featured during the halftime break. There is nothing quite like the strains of the pipes wafting across the evening air, especially when they choose to play some of one's favorites.

This was not only this season's final outdoor concert, but for maestro Nigel Evans it was his final stint on the podium after guiding the band for the past nine years. He took advantage of this concert to bring us many favorites from his time as director. Stratford and the Concert Band will certainly miss Mr. Evans but, as he pointed out, we have a treasure in the band and they will continue to bring us joy over the coming years.

It looks like there is a wonderful series in the works for the coming year. Why not consider buying a season's ticket and cast your support behind this enjoyable part of Stratford's cultural life?

writer's note: Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me last night. These photos capture the essence of the concerts in the park, but were not taken at the farewell concert.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

High Seas Adventure

I traveled across town last week and got caught up in a high seas adventure.

No, I was not accosted by pirates - although I did see a few. I did not get sea sick - although there was a mighty storm and many people got soaked! What, you wonder, happened to me?

Well, I followed the scent of adventure and ended up at Memorial Baptist Church, where close to 100 children and 80 volunteers were involved in the annual Vacation Bible School.
Following the theme of an expedition on the high seas, the church sanctuary had been transformed into an ancient sailing ship complete with seagulls flying overhead.

Whales and dolphins swam in the craft room.

A talking chipmunk named Chadder starred in a video adventure that left us hanging at the end of each day's segment wondering if he would ever see land again and be able to stave off the evil intentions of the mutineers.

I think I have shared enough for you to get a taste of what happens at several churches around town when they host children from the community for a week of Vacation Bible School. Christian leaders spend hours of time and creative energy to help the children of Stratford have a great time while learning about God.

Through active games, crafts, fun Bible lessons, rousing songs, and amazing snacks, they share God's love with the kids who come. Thank you to all of you who volunteer to host these summer events. May God bless you and the children that you serve in this very worthwhile endeavour.

You can also see this article in Your Daily Source available at local coffee shops, businesses and laundromats in the
Around town with Helen Harrison
column on August 25,2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fine Art Photography

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the RPA Photography studio. Rob and Peggy Andrews moved to Stratford recently and set up a studio in their home on Shakespeare Street where they live with their two cats and three birds. Rob is a Fine Art Photographer accredited by the Professional Photographers of Ontario, and recently recognized in the National Image Competition of Professional Photographers of Canada as a photographer "with the ability to produce above average images for (his) clientele." (Press Release from PPOC May 12, 2010).

I was thrilled to see some of the exquisite artistry that he creates with a combination of top-notch equipment, an artist's eye for line and light, and a sense of adventure when it comes to the use of Photoshop on his computer.

Right now, until October 31, 2010, Rob is offering a special deal for pet lovers. He is calling it Puss and Pooch. (Did I mention that he has a great sense of humour.)For a very reasonable price he will give a client an hour of his time, photograph the pet on location in a favorite outdoor spo t as well as in his studio, touch up the photos and then provide a choice of pictures with half of the "sitting" fee going towards prints. RPA Photography also offers matting, framing, and mounting as well as other special features.

If you would like to see more samples of his artwork or to book a sitting, check out his website at www.rpaphotos.ca

A version of this blog post appeared in Your Daily Source, August 19 to 27, 2010.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frozen Music?

I heard an interesting quote while watching a documentary recently. "Architecture is frozen music" (Goethe) and "Music is a fluid architecture of sound." (Roy Harris) This interplay of music and architecture carried me back to the Stratford Farewell concert of Jamie Klassen and Megan Franken on August 13 at St. James church. That evening I was struck by a quote inscribed in gold across the front of the sanctuary. "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)

Savouring the expansive romanticism of Brahms' Intermezzos, I allowed myself to absorb the atmosphere of this historic church. The beautiful stained glass windows, including small ones placed at the top of each gothic arch to catch the sunlight, the elegant castings on the lecturns in the chancel and the lovely banners adorning the walls made me realize once again how abundant our life is here in Stratford.

I have the freedom to wander across town on a sunlit evening to hear amazing talent on a beautiful instrument and to listen, centuries after his lifetime, to the mathematical intricacies of Bach's Preludes and Fugues. Closing my eyes I could envision the Roaring 20's flappers dancing the Charleston to the ragtime frivolity of Scott Joplin. For me, the piece de resistance was the fluid line and harmonic undercurrents of Liszt's Grand Etude in D flat major, "un sospiro" (Italian for "a sigh"), a nickname given to the composition by those who no doubt like me, felt their spirits breathe with the rise and fall of the melody.

Yes, frozen music, fluid architecture, abundant life... all in Stratford on a summer evening.

Farewell, Jamie and Megan. May you enjoy abundant living as you pursue your dreams. We hope you will invite us to once again experience "the fluid architecture of sound" if you ever come back this way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunset in the Park

I love to walk along the Avon at sunset.

The sky, the silhouettes,

The perfect reflections by the water's edge

The swans enjoying a bedtime snack.

There is peace in Stratford in the evening's glow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Berries Galore!

This beautiful summer weather whets the appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. Just a short drive into the rolling hills of Oxford County, there is a bustling hive of edible activity at Sheldon Berries farm.

Ray and Peggy Sheldon bought the 50 acre property at RR#3 Lakeside in 1992. On a family outing that year, Ray saw bush blueberries for the first time and realized that the acidic soil on his farm was perfect for growing the luscious fruit.

He planted his first acre in 1993. I did not realize that it takes the plants 4 or 5 years of growth before they will yield a crop of any amount, and 6 or 7 years before they produce well. After that, as long as you prune out the old wood each year in March, they will keep producing forever. Having a blueberry farm is a long term investment. At about $10,000 an acre to plant and with a wait of at least five years for the product, the word "patience" takes on new meaning!

A few years after planting his first acres, Ray decided to also invest in raspberries. Over the past 18 years the farm has continued to develop and is now a thriving business employing eighteeen to help with picking, plant maintenance, and manning the store, where one can get buckets for picking or buy the produce itself. Beginning with strawberries in June, the season runs through to November, featuring the berries, but also rhubarb, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squash, gourds and pumpkins. The blueberry season which is at its peak right now, will run until mid-August, and the fall raspberries, just coming into their prime,will be available until early November under the high tunnels which help to keep them dry and protected from the cold.

In addition to fresh produce, the store carries frozen fruit, preserves, raspberry/apple juice, and fresh honey from the 26 hives that Vince Bryans from St. Mary's keeps on the property to help with pollination.

Ray supplies produce to the markets in Grand Bend, Exeter and St. Mary's, as well as to Woolfy's, McCully's and the Gentle Rain. In the fall, Food Basics and Canadian Tire carry his pumpkins and squash. With 10 acres of pumpkins, he does have a few to spare!

Regular customers across south west Ontario make their way to Sheldon Berries each year, coming from as far as Wiarton, Listowel, Palmerston and of course the more local communities. Many tourists also enjoy the country experience.

To get to Sheldon Berries follow Hwy 7, cross the Wildwood Dam and turn left at Hwy 119 to Medina. Turn left and continue until you come to the 27th Zorra line, the first road east of Lakeside. Turn right and watch for the sign. Call 1-519-283-6025 to find out what crops are current. Store hours are Monday to Saturday, 9 - 6.