Category Archives: Nature

Flow: Clogs, floods, parables and Justin Bieber

The main pipe that takes water waste away from our house clogged.

For a twenty-four hour period while we waited for the friendly rooter person to come and clear out the gunk, we couldn’t wash dishes, shower or do laundry for fear of back-up and damage.

Before the clog, I thought of water in terms of supply. That is, how important it is to have water flowing to my house. It also should be a world priority to have water flowing to people no matter where they live. After the clog I realized that water flowing from my house is equally important.

While water was backing up in our pipes, it was flowing wildly in the Ottawa River. Two years after a disastrous flood—one that was supposed to be a “hundred-year flood”—another one came to us, and this one was worse.

The flooding damaged homes, cottages and businesses along the shoreline. Even though the force of the water through one of our bridges was three times that of Niagara Falls, the volume of water flowing to us exceeded its ability to flow from us. Flooding and damage resulted, and that bridge will be closed for weeks because the force of the water could undermine the integrity of the structures.

Still shot from local news - Niagara - 2400 m cubed per second of water, the Chaudiere Bridge, 7497 m cubed per second.
Matt Skube on CJOH News Ottawa with graphics showing the force of water through the Chaudière Bridge.

We experienced what I call the “Justin Bieber effect.” (More on that later.) The community pulled together to fill sandbags and clear up damages. The community will continue that work for weeks and months to come

While all this was happening, I was participating in a series of group discussions about the parables in the Bible. Those stories have been studied, analyzed and dissected for centuries and people still can’t agree what they’re all about. The same story can mean two different things to the same person at different times in their lives.

For me, right now, the parables remind me of flow. They teach me two lessons: (1) There is enough and more where that came from flowing to us, and (2) we’d better share or there will be damage, and everyone is worthy of receiving the flow from us. The loaves and the fishes, for example, can be interpreted as saying, “Never think there’s not enough. There’s enough and more where that came from, and everyone is worthy of receiving it.”

Which brings me to Justin Bieber. As I stood by the banks of the Ottawa River watching the level continue to rise even though there was nowhere else for the water to go, I started to think about flow in terms of abundance and money.

Justin Bieber was a simple kid from Stratford, Ontario. He was adorable, but not well-known, and there was no excess of money in his household when he was a child. Then he got noticed on YouTube. Then important people noticed him on YouTube. Then there was a torrent of wealth and fame that descended upon him, and it was TOO MUCH all at once. The volume flowing tohim was more than the flow from him could handle. The flooding caused damage and the force threatened the structures

Justin needed some sandbags and some clean-up help from community.

This spring of clogs and floods reminds to allow the flow, to trust the flow to provide for my necessities and maybe some fun too, and that if sandbags are needed, community is there.

Here is a video of fun in the flow.

On being Mrs. McGregor: Bunnies

This bunny hopped into my backyard early Saturday morning.

small bunny on the snow
March Hare?

Cute bunny, right? But my reaction to the furry friend was not charitable, because last year this bunny, or one just like her, ate the tops off all my tulips. My Canada 150 tulips, no less. I was not impressed.

close-up of the leaf shape in the centre of the Canada 150 tulip
Canada 150 tulip – 2017

And my front garden has become her favourite place to poop. Yuck.

bunny poop in the garden
Bunnies poop is cute, but still . . .

As my tulips come into bloom this year I will be keeping a close eye on bunnies. My red and white blooms will be guarded, and I posted a comment to that effect on my Facebook feed. One of my friends commented: “Okay, Mr(s). McGregor.”

I laughed out loud, because I did sound like Mr. McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit about the garden.

cover of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I laugh.

But, I love my tulips.

Bunny, I’ve got eyes on you. And I’m not afraid of being called Mrs. McGregor.

Pussy willows in the wild

Do you buy yourself flowers?

I don’t. The frugal former farmgirl part of me is uncomfortable with impractical spending. Why spend money on a luxury that will die in a few days?

Praises be, I raised a city daughter who thinks differently. She willingly spends money on touches of beauty: plants with character, fresh flowers and unique throw pillows. (Frugal former farmgirl says, Throw pillows? Useless!)

three throw pillows, one with a Harry Potter Marauders' Map
Useless?

Last week my daughter brought home pussy willows.

Boom! She transported me back to my childhood farm near a wooded area where pussy willows grew wild. In my barn-chore gum rubber boots, I’d walk through the soggy marshland in the spring and run my fingers over the soft pussy willow buds.

I wondered how many people in our oh-so-urban society are lucky enough to have such a beautiful memory. I felt privileged and full of gratitude.

My daughter, spending her money so willingly, bought more than fresh flowers. She bought a long-forgotten cherished memory, an appreciation for my carefree childhood, and gratitude for how her different approach to life makes mine richer.

Those aren’t luxuries, and they won’t die in a few days.

Pussy willow buds

Pussy willows in the wild: Ontario Trees

Which road to which reality?

Hundreds of books pass through my hands in any given week in my library job.

Few of them make me stop and look.

The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose has a catchy title for a person like me, though. I imagined myself opening it, reading a few life-changing phrases and sighing, “So that’s what life is all about.”

Alas, I lasted only as far as the mathematical equations:

Taking the particle’s ordinary 3-velocity to be v, so that v = (dx1 / dt, dx2 /dt, dx3 / dt), where t = x0, we get [18.19],[18.20]

 p = mvm = γμva = γ(c2, v),

 where

γ = (1 – v2 /c2) – 1/2.

The equation road led me to the reality of a dead end.

Is the universe is only ours to appreciate if we study enough math?

I sure hope not.

I wouldn’t have wanted to see my grandmother’s magical ability with pie crust trapped in a mathematical equation. I don’t believe my friend Etienne’s off-the-charts charisma can be captured that way. Or my love for my children? There’s no equation complex enough.

I thought of The Big Bang Theory episode where the scientific geniuses rhyme off answers to complex scientific questions in the Physics Bowl. Penny sleeps through the event and average viewers like me wonder Who knows that stuff?

After the physics event Penny brings out her own trivia cards. The answers to the popular culture questions would be obvious to most of us, but Leonard says, “Who knows this stuff?”

Same reality, different roads.

I’ll stick to the one with apple pie and no equations.

chocolate pie

Winter: So bright, so beautiful

The Turtlehead blog post yesterday entitled Frozen talked about winter, and how it’s possible to love it. The skating, the skiing, the walking and playing in the snow.

I am finding so much JOY in winter this year. As I write this I am looking out my window at sunshine glinting off a snowy landscape.

So bright. So beautiful. 

On New Year’s Eve when it was -22 degrees Celsius in Ottawa, Canada, we walked from house to house during our annual “travelling” dinner celebrations with neighbours. No breath of wind stirred the air. The almost-full moon cast crisp shadows on the snow. So bright. So beautiful.

In early January we skated on the ice rink put in place on Parliament Hill as part of Canada 150 celebrations. It was really, really, really cold that night and the wind howled. But we skated in the evening with the inspirational images and music of the Northern Lights sound and light show playing in the background. So bright. So beautiful.

We skied on Sunday at a local ski hill. The sun shone on our skis as they shooshed through perfect snow conditions. So bright. So beautiful.

The family on a less sunny ski day.

On Saturday we visited the outdoor skating rink at Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor General. (Affectionately known to many as the GG, she is the Queen’s representative in Canada.) We happened there on the same day as the Winter Celebration. We walked on the grounds, skated on the rink, drank hot chocolate and enjoyed winter. So bright. So beautiful.

We skated on the Rideau Canal on Thursday, and if anything encapsulates the winter experience, it is that. How lucky to have such a gift in my city. The National Capital Commission does an amazing job of maintaining the world’s largest skating rink, but this is nature we’re talking about. Some parts of the 7.8 km stretch (not quite 5 miles) was glassy smooth. So bright. So beautiful.

Some parts were smooth, but not glassy and with bumps under the surface.  So bright. Proceed with caution.

Other parts were pitted and rough. Navigate those patches by pointing the skate blades straight and coasting until it’s over. So bright. Not so beautiful.

Those rough patches mean the experience is not flawless, but the joy of skating for almost five miles without ever having to make a turn, the benefits of crisp cold air and sunshine, and the beauty of our Ottawa landscape makes the overall experience SO worth coasting through the rough patches.

That sums up winter for me. I don’t love everything about it, but the joy of skating, skiing, walking, the benefits of crisp cold air and sunshine, and the beauty of our Ottawa landscape makes the overall experience SO worth it.

Skating on Parliament Hill

Finding joy in winter is about wearing the right clothing and choosing the right attitude. You don’t wear a parka on a beach on a hot, humid summer day, so you shouldn’t wear jeans and thin jackets outside on a winter day either.

Dress appropriately and look for the bright and beautiful. Choose joy.

 

Bunnies beat dragons

This past weekend the streets of downtown Ottawa, Canada overflowed with hundreds of thousands of people thronging to see La Machine.

The “travelling urban theatre” made its North America debut in my hometown as part of our ongoing Canada 150 celebrations. A gigantic mechanical dragon and spider wandered through the streets and public parks for a show entitled “The Spirit of the Dragon-Horse, With Stolen Wings.” The creatures lived, breathed (sort of) snorted and farted (really), and walked among the people of Ottawa 24 hours a day for four days as they pursued their quests. My social media feeds and the Ottawa news channels were full of pictures and videos of these feats of engineering at play in our city. The dragon and the spider were a huge hit.

As cool as that all sounded, as unique and interesting as it seemed, I could not summon the interest in going to see it for myself.

Cottages called to me. I spent the weekend in peaceful surroundings. Sun, water, relaxation. I couldn’t bear the thought of those crowds.

Last week, before the dragon and the spider descended on my city and before the hundreds of thousands of people flocked to see them, I went for a walk downtown. At the heart of Ottawa, a few hundred feet from Parliament Hill, I encountered these baby bunnies. They were small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. By myself I spent some quiet moments with the bunnies.

For me, quiet moments with those bunnies beat noisy dragon time.