Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The rest of the weekend

After the memorial in Barry's Bay, my brother and his family made the trek back to Ottawa with us for a nice visit. We had a great weekend! Toured Parliament (so beautiful! Why haven't I been back here since Grade 8? And why did I forget my camera?!), coloured with my adorable niece, and played with my drooley-monster nephew (who is exactly one year old today!), went for dinner at The Works, and had homemade rhubarb pie and ice cream. When the kiddies were asleep we played several rounds of a fun Euchre variation (known by many monikers, perhaps you know it as "Screw your Neighbour"), and even a rousing game of I.Q.2000. It was so much fun!

My favourite scene from the weekend. Curiosity meets curiosity.

Celebrating Uncle Bill

On Saturday I gathered with my extended family to celebrate the long and full life of my Great Uncle Bill. However, though he was indeed very great, I always just called him Uncle Bill. This is a lovely write-up about him.

It was a happy/sad memorial with many fond recollections, and tributes in both words and songs. So many beautiful songs! It was so nice to hear such touching memories and realize with a smile that I share so many of them. Nearly every March Break when I was young was spent at their log house in Schutt, and we would walk in the forest with Maxi, the dog whom he adored, almost as much as my dear Auntie Gwynne. And later when I was older, he would share his latest poetry with me. He was a thoughtful poet, and though he could at times have a very practical exterior, he was truly gentle and sensitive, and his love of his family and life was very clear.

It was wonderful to see my cousins, some of whom I haven't seen in probably 20 years! After catching up with everyone, I truly felt that I'd had a nice visit with Uncle Bill, and that made me so glad to realize that we have all been influenced by his personality, and that he has truly made us who we are today.

On the way back home later that evening, Mark mused about the colour of the sunset. I couldn't have agreed more. It was the most perfect sky-blue-pink.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canela y Naranja

After the events of the previous day, we awoke on the overnight train from Valencia, and eagerly lifted the blind to a new landscape. Sun rising in Andalucia. Headed for Granada where we would be mesmerized by the unfathomably intricate carvings of the Alhambra, luxuriate in the cinnamon- and orange-scented hammam baths, blissfully wander the maze-like streets of the Albaicín, be captivated by the passion of flamenco, and relax with evening sangria and tapas. Yes, there's wonderment ahead.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One year ago today

A year ago today, on a hot summer's day in a relatively remote, white-washed Spanish village, I got in a fight.

A tomato fight.

Buñol, before.

La Tomatina is celebrated annually on the last Wednesday of August in the town of Buñol near Valencia, Spain. My friend MDM and I were going to Spain already, and decided to make sure we'd be there for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it was. Oh man.

We woke before dawn in Valencia (not much in the way of accommodation in Buñol itself for the 30,000 influx) to walk to the subway, to get to the train station to take us the 45 minutes to town.

Up before the sun in Valencia.

Sadly, cheap cerveza and sangria, scorching heat, and thousands of people compressed within the very narrow confines of winding Spanish streets, does not a lucid combination make. Add to that a multitude of languages being spoken, and you have a rather chaotic crowd, all pressing towards the town's main square, where it was rumoured the polo jamón would be, literally: ham pole. The tomato-throwing cannot commence until some brave (?) soul retrieves the ham placed atop the greasy pole. When this happens, a canon fires signaling the start of the fight, and you fight fight fight until you hear another canon, about an hour later.

Even though we were already crammed uncomfortably and no longer making forward progress, the crowd crushed forward, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the tomatoes. Chants and cheers erupted throughout the crowd as we were sprayed with hoses from the rooftops above us.

In the end, we never found the ham pole, and I actually left (fled? escaped?) the overly crowded area, after getting separated from MDM in the fray and having my shirt torn by a drunk guy who had just de-shirted a girl beside me. It was just too much for me. On the way to quieter ground I helped an Australian girl haul her partner who had passed out, upstream through the madness, until we reached a miraculously quiet (well, relatively quiet) side alley. There we parted ways and I circumvented the crowds along lovely, still whitewashed village streets, until I unexpectedly found myself on the street where the tomato trucks were arriving.

Blasting their loud horns, the dump trucks filed past, full to the people-lined brim with tomatoes in various states of wholeness. As the first truck past by me on the narrow street, I was shocked horrified by the smell; I don't remember having thought about what it would smell like, maybe tomato sauce? tomato soup?... but nope, it smelled like vomit. Yup, vomit. There's no delicate way of describing it, it smelled like puke.

I was startled from holding my breath by a rogue tomato—thrown by one of the people sitting on the edge of the next truck—hitting my back hard, like a baseball, then running and oozing down my back. Awesome. I had heard that one of the few (etiquette?) rules of this event was to squish the tomatoes before throwing them, to minimize injury. Clearly this did not happen. Though after being thrown, scooped from the street, thrown again, scooped again, and thrown again the tomatoes disintegrated all on their own, but those first few hits...

Many a fine flip-flop lost their owners that day...

I don't remember hearing the canon, but before the trucks had even finished driving by, the streets were coated with tomatoes, and within a very small amount of time, so was I. What quickly became a tomato slurry was slung, flung, whipped and hurled in every possible direction. It was crazy good fun.

And after a too-short amount of time, another canon fired, all throwing ceased very calmly, and the hoses came out to start the clean-up. Streets, walls and people were blasted with garden hoses by the locals, erasing all evidence of what had just unfolded for another year. (Though it did take a concerted effort and multiple showers to remove all the bits of tomato lodged in my hair...)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ultimate champs

Another weekend filled with action-packed Ultimate. With over 300 teams playing throughout the week, OCUA (the Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association) has one of the largest summer leagues in the world. The end of summer brings playoffs for each weekday league. Saturday was the tournament for the Thursday league, and Mark's team, Top Gun finished #1 for the second year in a row, beating out 53 other teams!

Sunday was the tourny for our Tuesday team, the Killer Bunnies, and we battled hard through two games in the rain, winning both, making us the champs of Tier 7 of the Tuesday league. (Never mind that there are only 7 Tiers to the Tuesday league — it's better to be at the top of the bottom than the bottom of the top, am I right?!) It was an epic win. Plus, the Bunnies demonstrated such good-naturedness throughout the season that we were ranked one of the top spirited teams, which meant that we were awarded Spirit Beer after the game. Good karma = free beer, I dig it. And, the rain kindly held off just long enough for our post-game celebrations.

Our fearless mascot and cutest spectator!

Marked For Priority Removal

I was hoping that the large red X spray-painted on the beautiful, large maple tree down the street meant "this tree has been selected to live out all the days of it's natural life to the fullest." Sadly, no.

When I saw the large red X, I felt immediate dread and sadness. I might have even gasped. I adore all the mature trees in my neighbourhood. They dwarf our little wartime houses and line the streets in such a cozy and welcoming way. They seem so strong and steadfast, I take for granted that they won't always be here. 

I'm not sure why, but I felt like if I didn't at least try and fight for this tree, that I would always regret it. Chaining myself to the tree seemed overly dramatic... so, Mark suggested I contact the Councillor of our Ward and see if she had any information. I emailed, and got a very speedy response saying they would contact Forestry Services and get back to me. They did, and confirmed my suspicions... The tree was destabilized in the windstorm on July 14, was inspected, found unsafe, and has been Marked For Priority Removal. Four words that sound excessively harsh and objective.

Obviously if the tree poses safety concerns, then I agree with the decision to remove it. I guess I was just hoping that it was spray-painted by mistake. 

I am trying to not think about the gaping hole that will be left in its place, and instead appreciate it while it's still here. I was uplifted when Mark told me about this story of an old oak tree in Old Ottawa South, also scheduled to be cut down for safety reasons, and of the residents coming together to honour it in some way.

UPDATE: The trucks rolled in this morning, and as I was leaving for work, the sounds of the chainsaws were drowned out only by the roaring of the wood chipper...

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Ultimate Weekend

This past weekend was full of Ultimate Frisbee. Mark played in the Canadian Ultimate Championships from Thursday to Saturday, three games a day, for three days. I was thankful that the CUC was posting live scores on their website so I could keep up on the games while I was at work, firmly on the edge of my seat. Sunday was the finals, where Mark and I could spectate together.

We missed the Women's match earlier on Sunday, but were there to see the Men's and (most of) the Mixed, until we were forced to flee from the torrential downpour. For the Men's, it was GOAT (a mix of players from Toronto and Ottawa) vs Furious George (Vancouver). Not only were they playing for the right to call themselves the best in Canada, they were playing to be the team to go to World's in Japan. So, needless to say, they wanted the win. Badly. Which made it fun for me. What an exciting game to watch. I'd heard that Men's Ultimate was intense, but other than a few YouTube clips, had never seen it played. Phenomenal athleticism and talent paired with raw ferocity made for a very, very thrilling game. Powerful throws, ridiculous layouts, impressive catches. Very, very awesome. It was a close game, even after almost every point, and was suspensefully tied 13-13 before Furious took the win 14-13.

What is a sporting event without a streaker?!

The Mixed final was between Team Fisher Price (TFP) from Vancouver and Odyssée from Montréal. Though it lacked the unbridled ferocity and aggression of the Men's game, this was still a phenomenal game to watch. Since I play Mixed, I was also interested to observe and see how I could improve my game. Basically, I need to be faster, taller, throw better, catch better, cut sharper, fake better—basically, do everything I currently do, but much, much better. Plus, if I want to play like these guys, I'm going to have to start laying out. Ouch. But I guess that's why it's called Ultimate. These guys play Ultimate. Me, I'm just playing Frisbee.

We missed the end of the game because of the rain (but still got soaked making our escape), but found out later that TFP won. Bummer. I was really rooting for Odyssée, who I think had a great team dynamic and used all of their phenomenal players well. 

You can see the games online here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Secret Garden

My parent's backyard is a haven. An oasis. You enter the gate through the massive cedar hedge and enter a quiet world of trickling, babbling water and birds chirping. It is a feast for the eyes and all the other senses.

Filled with flowers and their beautiful art, the garden reflects their uniqueness and the care and detailed attention they pour into all of their work. You can see the Secret Garden and their store for yourself from September 30 to October 2 during Culture Days.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer rain

Rainwater caught in the folds of a petal. Pearl-like beads of morning dew on a leaf. The perfect, delicate suspension of a water droplet on a blade of grass.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Campout... the backyard.

Because we were up late painting the nearly completed bookshelves (!), and filling the house with paint-fumes, we decided, at 11pm, to set up the tent and sleep in the backyard. I can't believe in the 2+ years we've owned the house that we haven't done this yet! So much fun!

Without the fly on the tent, it was lovely and slightly breezy, and definitely the coolest place we could sleep, but, most importantly: no paint fumes. 

It was so nice to wake up this morning to blue sky and soft, gauzy clouds hovering above, and the chirps of songbirds (plus a few startlingly loud crow caws...), and the buzzing cicadas helped tune out the street noise.

Well, I've got to get back to it, there is more painting to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little things

A frustrating and disappointing afternoon waiting in a line of cars for a beach that was exceptionally crowded and noisy, and water that was neither deep, nor refreshing, with signs posting about the threat of "swimmer's itch" looming over us. 

But then there was this cloud. This cloud.

Monday, August 1, 2011