Thursday, June 30, 2011


Today is my last day at work before my vacation, and I'll be away for over a month. Not since I was a teenager have I had so much vacation at once. I didn't take much during the year, so this feels good and necessary. And with my office tidied and caught up, I'm ready.

The topic of work is one that keeps me and my friends talking for hours. A recent retiree told me that the most startling change he had recognized in himself since stopping was the revelation that he no longer spent the majority of his waking hours trying to please someone. It doesn't matter really how much autonomy you have in your work, at the root of it there is some need to please someone.

I'm lucky to have a job that has kept me stimulated and intrigued for quite a few years.

See you in 33 days, little office.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sometimes it Seems...

... that prepping to take my annual vacation is hardly worth it, as I work long hours to get ahead of the game. But it *is* all worth it, and when I come home in the evening from my long walk, I indulge - as I did last year - in a variety of different home made lollipops. They are all based on plain yoghurt. This flavour is mango and banana. Naturally sweet, fruity and cool.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Song of the Day for Tree Huggers

Im Treibhaus - Studie zu Tristan und Isolde
(In the Greenhouse - Study for Tristan and Isolde)

High-arching leafy crowns,
canopies of emerald
you children of distant lands,
tell me, why do you lament?

Silently you incline your branches,
tracing signs in the air,
and, mute witness to your sorrows,
there rises a sweet perfume.

Wide in longing and desire
you spread your arms out
and embrace, in self-deception
barren emptiness, a fearful void.

Well I know it, poor plant!
We share the same fate.
Although the light shines brightly round us,
our home is not here!

And, as the sun gladly quits
day's empty brightness,
so he who truly suffers
wraps himself in the dark mantel of silence.

It grows quiet, an anxious rustling
fills the dark room;
I see the heavy drops hanging
from the leaves' green edges.

This was another piece performed by Adrianne Pieczonka at her Toronto recital this past spring. Mathilde Wesendonck wrote the words for these songs by Richard Wagner. Much can be read about Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder and how they mirrored Wagner's and Wesendonck's relationship and anticipated his Tristan und Isolde.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oooh, New Project

Well, I decided my spare bedroom was spending far less time as a spare bedroom and far more as a studio space... so the bed and other guest accoutrements are going and it's going to be a 100% work space for my writing, photography, sewing, beading, and other girly pass times.

While I pondered my plans this evening, I did laundry and... ate wontons for dinner.

A Song of the Day... for Tree Huggers

Ruhe, meine Seele (Rest, my Soul)

Not a breath stirs,
the wood rests in gentle sleep;
through the leaves' dark veil
bright sunshine steals.

Rest, rest my soul,
wild have been your storms,
you have raged and quivered
like the swelling breakers.

These times are violent,
causing heart and mind distress -
rest, rest my soul,
and forget what threatens you!

Strauss set his song to this text by Karl Henckell, and Adrianne Pieczonka sung it beautifully at her recital in Toronto this spring.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cool Toronto

The McMichael Art Gallery is a great place to visit, for the art, and the surroundings, which I love to photograph.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I did This Spring, Part Seven

I listened to music...

Friday, April 8 marked the final stop (and the only Canadian one) in the North American tour by the superb choir of Christ Church College, Oxford, a tour that started in North Carolina a couple of weeks before that. I may not be formally edjimicated, but I did manage to figure out that the college is the home to several Harry Potter sets, such as the great hall of Hogwarts.

In Toronto the choir appeared at Grace Church on-the Hill (pictured above), and were joined by that church's Choir of Gentlemen and Boys. The repertoire covered a good deal of musical history, from John Taverner (c. 1490 - 1545) to Howard Goodall (b. 1958). The first half ended rousingly with Handel's "Zadok the Priest", but the moment I sat up, quite transfixed was, not surprisingly, with Britten's "Te Deum in C". Britten is always the man.

On Tuesday, April 26 we attended a performance by two fabulous groups: the Kalichstein-Laredo Robinson Trio and the ARC Ensemble. The former was new to me, the latter one of my favourite ensembles anywhere. Together they provided a wonderful evening. I love the soft, chocolate brown seats in Toronto's still-newish Koerner Hall, but I was nothing but riveted by the wonderful music being made on stage: Brahms' Trio in A Minor for Piano, Clarinet and Cello, Op. 114, Korngold's Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand, Op. 23, and - after the intermission - Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 47. The Korngold, particularly, played on my romantic, film-loving nature, but I would be hard pressed to have picked one as a desert island choice.

The following week we were back in Koerner Hall for a recital by the great Canadian diva, Adrianne Pieczonka, with Brian Zeger at the piano. She sung a progam of songs by Schubert, Strauss and Wagner (his Wesendonck Lieder). The previous week, Pieczonka has been unwell, and had not been able to sing the opening night of the Canadian Opera Company's Ariadne auf Naxos. She dedicated Strauss's "Zueignung" (Dedication) to her wife, mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker, who - she told us from the stage - had been a blessing in that rough week. There weren't too many dry eyes after she had sung that. It was the last piece on the printed program. But then we had encores, including "An die Musik", which caused a lady to call out, after the applause had died down, "But Adrianne, you are the music!" The love-in continued, and I shed many tears when this wonderful artist sang "There's a Place for us" from Bernstein's West Side Story.

On Thursday, May 5, I attended, with my dad, a concert of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was a night of Finnish magic: Hannu Lintu, conductor, led the TSO with Karita Mattila, the riveting Finnish diva and Anssi Karttunen, cello. The repertoire was so generous and fascinating: Saariaho's Laterna Magica was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's autobiography of the same name. Her Mirage for soprano, cello and orchestra featured text from a poem. The program notes by Don Anderson told us:

"The shaman and healer Maria Sabina (1894 - 1985) spent her life in a tiny village, deep in the mountains of southern Mexico. She was among the first people to allow outside visitors to participate in a healing ritual involving the consumption of the trance-inducing psilocye mushroom. Her chants and incantations were set down and translated and Kaija Saarihao used one of them, in English, as the setting for Mirage."

I am a woman who flies.
I am the sacred eagle woman [the mushroom] says;
I am the Lord eagle woman;I am the lady who swims;Because I can swim in the immense,Because I can swim in all forms.I am the shooting star woman,I am the shooting star woman beneath the water,I am the lady doll,I am the sacred clown,Because I can swim,Because I can fly.
I was high on the rest of the superb program which featured Bloch's Schelomo ("Hebraic Rhapsody") for cello and orchestra, Sibelius's Luonnotar, Op. 70 for soprano and orchestra, Sibelius's Der Barden (The Bard), Op. 64 and - I guess for shits and giggles - Ravel's La Valse.

Very lucky.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Curve in the Road

I can feel myself dragging my heels as the longest day rapidly - too rapidly - looms. I don't want this beautiful time of year to end. The winter was so achingly long, the spring short and rough, and now we have these soft, warm days that I wish could go on forever.

Each night, the sun takes an age to set, and leaves magical light on my walls.

But I'm yearning for trees. I feel the call of the curve in the road. I don't know what it means... yet.

The closest I've been to a tree all week was this big portabello.


Friday, June 10, 2011

And on a Lighter Note...

... it's Woofstock this weekend! See you at Toronto's wonderful festival of all things doggy!

Two Questions That Break my Heart

1. Can anyone spare a loving home?

2. Who hasn't heard of spaying and neutering?

What I did this Spring, Part Six

I appreciated the charm of the gardens of St. James' Cathedral, a favourite spot in the middle of the city.

Wedding leftovers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What I did this Spring, Part Five

I was a tree hugger.

For a brief moment, between the drab, endless winter, and the violently schizophrenic spring, I succumbed once more to the blossoms of Cherry Street. They disappeared as soon as they came, battered by vicious winds and unseasonably cold rain. But for just one evening, I wrapped my arms around their slender branches and buried my lips in their insanely beautiful whiteness.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I did this Spring, Part Four

The dinner group met again, and again at the home of the gentleman with the step-down living-room. Good conversation, sparkling Prosecco, and a prosciutto-inspired menu...

I didn't know that such a thing as a polenta board existed. Made of wood by my host's father, it absorbs the excess moisture from fresh, hot polenta, resulting in a wonderful consistency.

Here the prosciutto enveloped little quails.

For dessert I made my new favouite concoction (inspired by Martha Stewart): layered home-made meringue (so much tastier than store-bought), crême-fraiche folded with home-made lemon curd, fresh blackberries, whipped cream, and finished with a piped meringue stalk.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Took a Wrong Turn?

Another reason I love my 'hood... every couple of weeks there's filming going on. And so it's not strange to see this sort of thing parked on the side of the road.

What I did this Spring, Part Three

Spring came what felt like two weeks late. When it did come, it was over quickly and now the hot weather has kicked in. The lilacs didn't get much of a look in, but I inhaled as much as I could when the opportunity arose.