Today it's pouring with rain, dull grey and windy. The leaves have all fallen and the flowers all finished. To cheer myself and everyone else up, I am sharing this photograph of deep frozen Queen Anne's Lace. The details of the tiny flowers that make up the 'platform' of the bloom are exquisite as seen through a macro lens. The flowers are frozen in blocks of ice when they are at their peak and then are preserved until I have time to photograph them (or need freezer space)! Now the Queen Anne's lace plants are just spiky stalks denuded of their blooms, but we have these to remind us of their past (and future) delicacy and glory.
In celebration of the beauties of flowers especially as photographed through ice and with a macro lens to show fine detail, I have created a collection dedicated to this subject.
Once you start really seeing fungi, or mushrooms, you discover that they are everywhere, in places you wouldn't have imagined. I have a friend who loves to photograph them and so on my walks around with Joni I keep my eyes open for possible subjects for her. I almost feel as if they belong to her, so I often don't take a picture myself until I have given shown them to her first to capture. On this occasion I couldn't resist them. The whole stump had perhaps 3 or 4 different varieties or stages, but these had such a wonderful thick smooth skinned clump that I took the photograph anyway.
A couple of days later my friend and I took a walk so she could see and photograph them but were horribly disappointed. Some nature vandals (we have lots of those, sadly) had kicked the whole clump to pieces. So I was just glad that I had taken this picture.
Happy Saturday everyone! It's raining here, perfect weather for growing more of these.
Sometimes other people's houses have more interesting things around them than you can find in your own. This collection of random items was on the front porch of a house not far from us. I loved how everything seemed to have been carefully placed to show each piece off to best advantage. My untrained eye couldn't detect any relationship between any of the pieces. I could only imagine that everything on that table had meaning to the people who had put it there. Closer inspection revealed all kinds of unexpected little surprises. The new G+ does not permit (so far) zooming in but if you can, enlarging the image will reveal some of the stranger additions. There are no children in this house, just in case you wondered. My posts can all be read in my blog: www.elliekennard.ca .
Border collies are working dogs and are happiest when they have a job. That job can be something as fun as playing Frisbee or ball, or as serious as sheep herding or search and rescue. Joni wears this pack often when we go for a walk, partly because it helps to focus her, but also because the weight it carries gives her additional exercise and builds stamina and muscle. When she sees me holding the pack, she walks up and puts her nose into the harness. As soon as it is buckled on her character changes to being calm and serious. She becomes a working dog in fact as well as name.
She is learning to wait patiently for me while I stop to chat with someone or to take a photograph as I was here. She has also learned to drop to a 'down' position wherever she is, when I raise my arms and call her name (this was how the sheep herder told me to train her). She will also come straight back to me and sit by my left side when I call her name and tap my leg. She needs to work a bit more on it as, like a child, at times she becomes distracted and needs a reminder that life is not all about play. But she is getting there. She will soon be 2 years old.
Tout compris roughly translated from the French means Everything is included, but The spoken word can also sound like Everything is understood.
This piece, a mini story was written on the back of an envelope, scribbled down feverishly, almost illegibly, while I was sitting on the train. This was a trip I took every Monday and Friday while I commuted to Montmorillon, in France, for my year at the Agricultural college there. I have always loved travelling by train and these words came to me, suddenly crystallizing of the reasons that I do.
Come with me on this short train ride. Don’t bring a book!
Inside the moving train the patrons overlook the bonus on their ticket – theirs for the taking. Theirs is the world of the between the covers magazines, the ‘before’ and ‘afters’ of fashion makeovers and other modern fables. Before their unseeing eyes the world awakens beyond the train’s cinema windows and the sun tries to distract them, but they close the curtains.
The pages of my book cannot hold me. I try to focus my attention – I have seen this same scene every week, so often, and the writing on the page is new to me and should captivate me into its world – but the flashing pictures beyond the glass draw me, and I am once again mesmerised before the unfolding story. I feel a slight shame, that of the addict or the lover who hopes his passion is not nakedly exposed for the world to see, then I abandon myself completely to this panoramic moving landscape fusing the fact of vision with the fiction of a fired and active imagination. I press myself shamelessly to the glass, then strain to look across through the other side – so much to miss!
Leaving the grey and black tunnel city, the strip of film unrolls along the track, interrupted by tunnels allowing for a few brief moments of reflection in the dark. I feel certain that this secret world does not exist except as seen from the moving train – could not be found on ordnance survey or tourist guide – and hesitates, breath held, to live again, twice each day as the train passes for the next performance. The fleeting moments glimpsed in flash of sun or gloom of rain are ever changing, though always constant. The torrents of spring running beneath the dripping winter moss trees become a gentle stream, twisting and turning lazily in the heat beneath the hanging leaves of summer; a rusting wreck undergoes an unseen and patient transformation; in a stretch of field, surprised in the late spring sun’s warmth, fleeing young lambs betray their youth near their calm mothers – last year’s frightened babies – heads bowed, intent on the evening browse, hungrily oblivious, their memories of indoor winter hay too fresh.
Black plastic covered heaps, rusted fence and end of track to the side and then we slide into the little country station for a pause in the unfolding drama.
On again, through shameful flooded stretches, sodden and weary of all the rain. I see the red brown dead bracken, fallen protectively in one last brave act, to cover the secret curled unfurling green, pushing insistently, stiffly through the smothering embrace. Wet black trunks and branches pass, some with new pale green – spring promise of summer’s welcome shade – others dark and still. Winter is a great equalizer for the woods. Which trees are sleeping, waiting? Which are dead? Those who watch behind glass windows will see when it’s time.
Pick-up sticks railway sleepers tumbled down the bank by some careless giant hand are gently being covered by secret tangles of brambles and riotous hawthorn blossom. Rutted tracks appear suddenly, take me to a dark plough-furrowed field, then twist and run off where I can no longer follow, first leaving me a glimpse, in a flash of sun, of the misty haze of bluebells. On a hillside, older lambs with their numbers in black on their backs, horizontal ears curious, are familiar, emboldened by their few weeks experience. These are my crowd scenes and walk-on parts in this unfolding life, briefly glimpsed, week after week, from the train.
On each journey these scenes hold my attention, silently insisting. In my carriage there is only me watching, searching, seeing, eyes wide, drinking in all this mystery, this dream of possibilities that is this unreachable, unreal world of scene from the train – and all for the price of the ticket from Limoges to Poitiers.
The situation had become critical. My freezer was filled with flowers to the point where I had no more room for food. I decided that I had better get some of these blocks of flowery ice out and see what they had become, frozen forever in the attitude they took when first plunged into the water. In my experience it's not easy to know what will work as far as frozen blooms are concerned. They have a habit of moving around randomly as though alive before they slowly but surely are trapped by the hardening ice.
This spray of gerbera daisies seems to be full of exultation, almost leaping up with the spikes of bubbles that encase them. I hope they bring a ray of sunshine to the start of your week.
To photograph this I decided to play with the light by using a torch (flashlight) and moving it around during the exposure to bring more light to certain areas. Thanks to the whole team on the #blur mentorship, including +Alex Lapidus, our wonderful mentor, who introduced so many exciting techniques to our photographic toolbag.
And before you ask, no, I don't seem to have much more room for having released two of the frozen blocks, of which this was one. So I had better get some more out again soon if we are going to be able to eat.
A little boy walks down the streets of Montreal with his father. The child’s name is Eric and he is 8 years old. His father, Thomas holds onto his hand tightly saying little to him along the way, but Eric will remember this walk for the rest of his life. He will later relate the story to his son, Bruce who will, in his turn pass it down to his children and to me. This memorable trip takes them longer than it normally would have, as Thomas walks very slowly, pausing often. When they reach their destination, they stop in front of the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Thomas takes his young son’s hand and says to him “Eric, I am going to go inside. I want you to wait out here. When I get to where I am going, I will come to the balcony and wave. Then you can go home.” The little boy nods gravely. Time passes and his eyes keep scanning the building above him. Finally Eric sees the figure of Thomas on a balcony**, waving down at his son. Eric waves back and turns to go.
That was to be the last time he would see his father. Thomas never came home from the hospital, where he died shortly after being admitted.
Now Step Back Ten Years earlier to 1893
We have a young Victorian family setting sail for a bright new future in a distant land. The Father, aged 32 was that same Thomas in the story above. The Mother, Harriet was kept busy caring for their three young children. Together they were leaving the comfort and security of their home on the island of Jersey, in the English Channel and travelling across the sea to a land they had never seen. Harriet was probably pregnant during the sea journey and the baby, Olive* (shown in the photograph below in her mother’s arms), was born soon after their arrival. The voyage might have been rough at times, in a boat packed full of hopeful immigrants like themselves who were looking for opportunity and a better life, whatever that meant for each person. This distant country to which they sailed was Canada.
Montreal turned out to be a bitterly cold place in the winter compared to the relatively temperate climate of their home back in the Channel Islands. In the summer they’d have had little respite from the sweltering heat and humidity in their cramped, upstairs brownstone apartment in Durocher Street. I hope that perhaps they might have been able to find some relief from that heat by visiting the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence River sometimes, though I don’t know for sure. Life would have been a struggle for this young family, but at least they had each other. In time six more children were born into the cramped quarters of the LeDain household, though sadly two died.
Then with an unexpected shock, the young family was torn apart. A short ten years after their arrival, so full of hope, Harriet and her eight surviving children were suddenly left without a husband and father. Thomas was only 42 years old when he died. The young widow found herself without any means of support for her children.
I had heard this story of the LeDain family and the death of the father from talking with Thomas’s grandson, the little boy Eric’s son, Bruce LeDain before he died himself. When I was writing it some years later I contacted another grandchild, Joan, to see if she could fill in any more details from anything her mother, Irene might have told her. I sketched out the story I had so far but when I reached the part about Thomas’s death she interrupted me. “That’s not at all how he died!” I was shocked at her reaction, but asked her to relate the account as she had heard it from her mother.
This is the story that she told me:
Thomas was a hard working man who was respected by all in the railway office where he was employed as a clerk. He was a man with a great faith in God who, before he began his work every morning, would get onto his knees and say a private prayer.
One morning he had arrived at the usual time, said his prayer and begun his work. A colleague who came into his office saw him slumped at his desk. Thomas had died of a heart attack. This story was told to his granddaughter, Joan by her mother, Irene, Thomas’ daughter. This tale made a big impression on her, and she likes to think of her grandfather, a truly devout man, having said a last prayer just before his death.
The LeDain family situation after that point became critical and it made the accuracy of such tales of little importance, which possibly allowed their imaginations and wishful thinking free rein. What did matter is how the children and grandchildren were affected by the particular version of events that formed their own personal history and the way their own lives were changed by the sadness of this early death.
Continuing – the Family is Rescued:
As it happens, the time following the death is where the stories converge. His young wife Harriet was left a widow with 8 children. Without her husband it seemed that she would be unable to care for them and in despair the distraught mother had to put her little ones into an orphanage.
This would have been a terrible family tragedy had it not been for Thomas’ brother, an unmarried sea captain who heard of their loss and the hardship endured by the widow and children. He did not live in Canada and there is no information on how he got this news, but when he did he wrote at once to Harriet. He told her that he would not let his brother’s children be brought up in an orphanage. He promised to send her $75 every month so that she could have them with her and care for them. As long as she lived he kept his promise. All her life Harriet believed that her benefactor had remained single. After her death her children discovered that he had in fact married a Mexican woman and had children of his own. He had never told Harriet as he thought that if she knew, she would no longer accept his assistance.
With the help of that monthly cheque, Harriet brought up her children alone in that apartment on Durocher Street in Montreal. On the walls of the apartment were displayed exquisite needlepoint work, beautifully framed. These were all done by her brother-in-law, the sea captain who had given her the means to raise her family with dignity. These are cherished by the great grandchildren of Harriet and Thomas to this day just as each treasures his own story of how this man died.
No Reality Check
How is it possible for there to be two such different but detailed accounts of the death of one man, both related by a close family member? Who can now know which was true, or if either was?
Family stories give a personal perspective on history. You have confidence that they are true because you heard them directly from trusted relatives, or those close to them – they relate collected remembered experiences through the ages.
The stories were both verified by those who heard them directly from their parents who were children of Thomas. The only problem is that they are both completely different, yet each comes with details and emotions that colour the way these people and their own children have thought of their grandfather and great grandfather. The artist, Bruce cherished the mental picture he had of the grandfather he never knew, taking his last walk to the hospital with his own father, a little boy who was able to wave goodbye to him. Joan, a nurse, herself of strong faith loved the thought of her industrious and devoted grandfather having made his peace with his god before his demise.
The family photograph below shows Harriet (my great grandmother), with her daughter Irene (one of the children in the family photo above) and her son Lloyd (my father). I am sitting on Harriet’s lap.
Over 100 years has passed since those events and in all that time none of the children who were building their memories and their versions and handing these down to their offspring had apparently conferred or shared these with their siblings. There had never been a reality check.
We all have our own stories from our parents and grandparents just like these. These become our history and the history of the world. It makes you think.
This small stack of CDs for the theme for our BW Project reminds me of a trip we made to Canada many years ago, before we moved here. We lived in France at the time, in an area where CDs were not easy to find, sadly, as music is a very big part of our lives. We had an eclectic taste in music and missed having access to a wide range of genres. They were also very expensive to buy, so our purchases were few and far between.
By contrast, Canadian music stores had a huge and varied inventory and we spent hours wandering around them making exciting discoveries. They were also cheap and doubly so for us as the dollar was low compared to the French franc. This meant that each trip to the stores saw us coming back to our room with a few more acquisitions to add to the pile.
We spent some time in several places and finally on the last leg of our journey I started to gather things together for the return flight. As I made my way around the room, I found a few stacks of CDs, then a few more, then a few more, under or behind or in boxes and bags or suitcases. I had not realized just how many CDs we had accumulated on that trip, but when I made the count finally, I realized that we had bought about 41 of them!
We still have them all, still in perfect condition and still treasured, along with the hundreds more we have bought since. We still buy CDs, not digital downloads. These are beautiful musical memories. Have fun reading the titles and seeing which you know (and discover) in this small stack. The full list of titles is: Boz Scaggs: My Time Boz Scaggs: Memphis Boz Scaggs: But Beautiful Boz Scaggs: A Fool to Care Sade: Stronger Than Pride Sade: Love Deluxe Van Morrison: Poetic Champions Compose Mark Knopfler: Tracker The Rails: Fair Warning Richard and Linda Thompson: The End of the Rainbow (an introduction) Beppe Gambetta, Carlo Aonzo, David Grisman: Traversata (Italian music in America) Craig DeMelo: The Whiskey Poet The Great Piano Concertos – Grieg, Schumann Judy Garland: Over the Rainbow
The webs in this pile of leaves seem to be like jewelled necklaces that hold them together, strung as they are now, with beautiful gems all along them. This is one of my favourite photos taken for the daily photography project I undertook in 2012. I found it again the other day when a friend commented on another webby photo and thought it was worth sharing it again. I always feel really happy when I see it with its warm tones, leathery textures contrasted with the drops and all tied together with these thin filaments of web. I hope it makes you feel the same today!