The Strength of Moving Air

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One day last week I was reminded of powers we don’t see, just take for granted. I checked the weather in my usual manner: looked out the kitchen window at the thermometer and the back yard.  The day was sunny and warm for the time of year and I decided to get a few groceries by bicycle.

What I had not seen or heard was the wind. When I first noticed it, almost immediately, I thought it was only a gust, a short burst in the gentler flow of air. In a block or two I was struggling to control the bike. I thought better of carrying parcels; instead I rode the bike to the nearby repair shop for some needed maintenance.

All day nature reminded me of the unseen power of wind, in ways beautiful as well as dangerous. Several young ladies were walking down the street, giggling and trying to hold their hair and clothing under control, sometimes unsuccessfully. Not far away, the wind had ripped metal cladding from a storefront and the police had set up baricades until it could safely be removed. Looking toward the creek from a high overpass, the tops of willow trees seemed to dance and sway, denying their roots and trunks. When I arrived home, the street beside my car was littered with the dry branches of a dying tree. I felt it necessary to check the car for damage.

Wind. It’s with us all the time; as long as the earth turns, currents are created in the atmosphere. Still, we associate it with concentrated events – with tornados, hurricanes, all manner of storms. We seldom notice it on its own.

And occasionally we are reminded of the power of the wind; we continue to try to harness that power the way we have come to harness flowing water.

Ah, but without the untamed strength of moving air how would we enjoy the beauty of willow trees and giggling young ladies?


Blue Angel Noise Band

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Another Thursday evening. Another session of the noise band. These evenings have been going on for several years now and I’ve been part of the group since the beginning. I’ve grown attached to it: the group, the camaraderie, the sounds and instruments.

The basic instrument for us is the keyboard, sometimes a piano but often an electric keyboard or two. Or sometimes three. Or, as happened several times, four. It usually depends on what someone has brought and what they want to noodle around on. We’ve had different percussion instruments, strings – violin, cello, guitar, steel guitar, mandolin. A trumpet was introduced a couple of times. Harmonicas. Voices. As I mentioned, it all depends.

The main concept is that any sound, any music, should be unstructured; no songs or tunes. We play, and play with, the sounds the instruments make. No one is formally trained on their instrument so it becomes an exploration together.

Personally, I like to play on some sort of solid foundation. On the piano or keyboard I like to find a riff, a sequence of sounds that pleases my ear and my mood, something I can repeat over and over again and whenever I like, introduce variations and small changes. This way I can also explore for myself chord structures and harmonics, little touches of melodic phrases. Besides, that gives the others a rhythm and flow to work with or against or to fly off on a trip of their own with no relation to anything else. As the name says, it’s more noise than music.

And the magic occurs. Suddenly I’ll become aware of an interplay happening between my riff and another keyboard, or strings, or whatever is sounding that evening. And everyone becomes aware of it. Whatever happens is not though anyone’s will or specific effort.The volume modulates and when enough seems to be enough we all stop together. The smiles and joy fill the place.

Sometimes I think we should do this for the public, to share these feelings we create together. We did play once during an Art Crawl; we received some compliments.

We can take the group out of the Blue Angel, perhaps. We can take the instruments. But could we carry that spirit?

Talking Cat

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The other day I came across a book (in a second hand shop, of course) about communicating with your cat. I had to pick it up. My current cat and I have a certain difficulty in communicating; I think it’s because we are both stubborn and prefer not to recognize the other’s wants or needs.

That might be part of the problem, but another is that we are slow to get used to each others ways and habits. That part of our communication keeps improving. However, I also find that she uses different mannerisms, both vocal and body language, than any of my previous cats. Because she was three years old when she came here, we didn’t develop a method of communication together and I find that many of the actions Dizzy, my previous cat, used are alien to her. Also there are actions and postures she uses that I’m not familiar with. Hence the book comes in handy.

For instance, Dizzy always used his tail; you could tell instantly how he felt about any situation by how he carried and moved his tail. This cat, Measha, makes only minimal use of her tail. She also flops down on her back, belly up. You might believe it’s asking for a tummy rub but she doesn’t care enough to purr. Instead, she’ll squirm and move away. If she had all her claws, I wonder if my hand would not be torn to shreds. She’s certainly quick to nip at my hand and dash away!

We are growing closer. She won’t let me pick her up; she prefers to stand on her own four feet. This afternoon we napped together: she settled down draped over my outstretched arm. That wasn’t the most comfortable physically, but was certainly pleasing (for me) psychologically.

And I’ll study her quirks, try to understand them in the light that this book may shed.


In the Rain

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I went out this evening on my bicycle to grab a listen to a concert by the Dinnerbelles at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre on Stuart Street. The last weather forecast I had heard (at 6 pm) said “clouding over with showers starting around midnight.” I expected to return home well before that. Imagine my surprise when I came out just after nine and found it raining steadily. It was a wet ride home, and somewhat uncomfortable.

We always look for someone or something to blame when things don’t go as we had hoped or planned. I don’t understand why, unless it serves to point away from our own shortcomings. In this case, should I blame the weather forecasters for presenting unreliable information? I certainly don’t want to hold myself up for ridicule, a fool who rides his bicycle without a thought about unclement weather. Who or what else could I point at?

Sometimes we have to accept that some – make that many – no, probably most – happenings are beyond our control. I can’t blame myself for riding in the rain; it was not intentional. I can’t blame the forecasters; they worked with the information at hand. So what’s left?

Things happen, whether preordained or not. Rain rains when and where it must, and not at my pleasure. And whether or not I like it, I get wet.

And I have to live with it, and learn from it.


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York St. Waterfall

Some time ago I was talking to Chris Eklund, the leader of the initiative to rebrand Hamilton as the “City of Waterfalls (due to the numerous waterfalls, large and small, within city limits) about installing a symbolic waterfall in the city hall plaza as it was being rebuilt, as a symbol. One of the city councillors was also present. I don’t know if my idea started this effort, but the city has now installed a working model waterfall, not at city hall where access to flowing water by street people was considered a drawback, but at the intersection of York and Dundurn, gracing one of the most beautiful entrances to the city.

It’s a three step cascade, not a direct or realistic copy of any of our more than one hundred falls, but a worthy symbol with water flowing continuously over slabs of stone. The falling water is surrounded and contained by rocky embankments leading into a flower bed at the beginning of a wide boulevard with grass and trees.

In my mind I had envisioned something higher and therefore more distracting, but that was also in a different location. The one built here suits its location – with lots of green space and Dundurn Castle near at hand – visible but no more obtrusive than its surroundings.

Sometimes small endeavors can make a city more livable, more than “Master Plans” and vague “initiatives” will. Thank you, Hamilton.

Friday Night or Saturday Morning

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I have gone to the trouble of setting up a new blog. I felt that I needed a more personal space, a junk drawer of the mind for all kinds of thoughts and ideas.

However, as usual, there is nothing I need to say immediately. As Mr. Samuel Pepys said so eloquently so long ago: “And so to bed.”

Hello world!

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