Go wild for wildlife

Moose in a pool

Last week, I blogged about the abundance of birds who have made this spring a delight. It’s only fair that I give the same air time to the animals who have reclaimed the land during COVID-19.

There have been many news stories about foxes, raccoons and other animals being seen more frequently in urban areas. Just this past Friday, a moose decided to take a dip in a south Ottawa pool. It was a hot and muggy day, so who would blame him. I heard a deer wandered in front of one of our local radio stations here in Kingston last week too.

For those of us who live in the country, run ins with wildlife are a regular occurrence. But even at our house, we had three interesting wildlife encounters in this past week alone.

Last Saturday, I was woken up by a strange screeching sound around 4:30 or 5 in the morning. I went back to bed, but in the morning, the ruckus continued and we discovered two porcupines screaming at each other in the tree down our path. I’ve seen and heard a baby porcupine cry when it went too far on a branch and couldn’t get back to its mother. They make the weirdest sound, something between a screech and a squawk. Well, the first porcupine at the top of the tree was squawking at the other one to get out—it was his tree. Finally, the second one climbed down the tree and loped down the path in defeat. Watch this video to see what they sound like.

The next day, Clare and I were sitting on the dock when we heard rustling in the underbrush on the hill between the lake and our deck. The last time we heard this, our neighbour’s dog Buddy was chasing a baby fox across our property. This time, it wasn’t Buddy, or a fox, but a fast moving brownish animal with a bear like face and a stubby tail. He went up the hill toward the house, but then came down the path and stopped behind the canoe, only about 10 feet away from us. It was a fisher.

Now I don’t know how much you know about fishers, but you definitely don’t want one on your property. They are vicious and one of the only animals that will kill a porcupine (I thought of our prickly friends from the day before and hoped they made a clean getaway). Fishers have rapier like claws and will kill cats, small dogs, and any small animals.

There was even a story in the Whig-Standard a few years ago of a fisher that dropped from the trees on a local hunter (a relative of my friend Karen who took the black-necked swan photos from last week). He said the only thing that helped him not be seriously injured was he was wearing a hood.

I was surprised at how fast this particular fisher could move. After hiding behind the canoe, he went back up the hill. Clare said she saw him as she was walking up the path, his brown face peering out between a crevice in the rock face only about twenty yards away. We’re still a little freaked out every time we pass the cliff on the way to the lake.

Our final wildlife adventure came two nights ago when we heard something moving on our front porch. We have a bad habit of throwing our recycling on the porch, then taking it to the barn the next morning. I had tossed out a coffee cake container, and there was a very handsome raccoon helping himself to the crumbs. Raccoons can be nasty too (we’ve lost several chickens to raccoons) and last winter, we had one big fat fellow eating our bird seed every night on the back deck, but at least this guy was kind of cute.

This week’s #HappyAct is to go wild for the wildlife. What encounters have you had in the wild?

Be like Bill Murray

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd photo

If you’re like the rest of the world right now, you’re desperately looking for the next great show to watch on Netflix.

If that’s the case, add The Bill Murray stories to your viewing list. Dave and I watched it last week, and it’s a funny, entertaining and enlightening chronicle of a man who has embraced the idea of living in the moment and spreading joy to people he meets.

An alum of Saturday Night Live and Second City, Bill Murray is a legend for his comedy and long list of film credits from Ghostbusters to Meatballs to meatier roles like Lost in Translation. But his real legendary status stems from his random encounters with normal people, which has “earned him nothing short of godlike admiration from people around the world.”

The documentary shows him doing dishes at a London house party, playing football in the park with a bunch of university students and serving up drinks at a bar in Austin Texas. People love him, not because he is a celebrity, but because he becomes one of them.

We had our own Bill Murray story in our little neck of the woods a couple of years ago. It was a Saturday night, and our local pizza joint, The Pizza Place in Harrowsmith was rocking. In walks Dan Aykroyd with Bill Murray (the Aykroyds have a family cottage in our area and Dan is a regular around here). The guys took pictures with the locals, and it made it into the local paper.

Sure, maybe only celebrities can crash a wedding or walk into a house party uninvited and be welcomed with open arms. But we can all be a little bit more like Bill Murray and go with the flow, take an interest in others and make the most of the moment you’re in with the people around you.

No stupid rules–help Steve the cat

 

Steve the cat who was fired by Canada Post

Just before Christmas, a friend of a mine who lived in the tiny hamlet of Newburgh shared a story on Facebook about a cat named Steve.

For the past two years, Steve made a daily trek to visit the staff at the Newburgh Post Office. The staff adopted him as their mascot, and soon he became a fixture in the building, greeting customers and overseeing the daily handling of the mail.

Canada Post got wind of the story, fired Steve without cause and banned him from the building saying cats were not allowed at Canada Post.

Poor Steve didn’t know this, and every day, he reported to work, sitting outside the building crying and meowing to be allowed inside.

The employees and customers in Newburgh took a stand saying this was a stupid rule, and created a petition on change.org demanding Canada Post that Steve be reinstated and allowed back in the building.

As of this morning, the petition had 9,563 signatures in a hamlet of 500 people. The latest update from February 2 says Canada Post is standing firm and not allowing Steve in the building.

If there’s one mantra I’ve tried to live by and teach my kids, it’s “no stupid rules”. Here were some of the comments on the petition from people in the community:

“I live in Sydenham, Ontario and we have an LCBO cat! Chloe is an excellent customer service representative and I think every small town business should have one. It makes the business more community orientated and friendly.”

“I know steve, great cat, loving, caring, he deserves to be allowed entrance anytime he wants. He’s our mascot of the post office and we’re proud to have him!”

“Let the cat back in Canada Post. Fire the person who made the foolish decision.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to sign the petition to help Steve the cat, and don’t let stupid rules get in the way of what’s good and right in this world.

Just be grateful you are alive

Albert Einstein quote on gratitude

Sometimes I think we are too preoccupied with insignificant things, when really we should just be grateful to be alive.

Saturday morning, as we were driving to Peterborough, Dave and I witnessed a terrible car accident on Highway 7. We were the first on the scene, so I relayed instructions from the 911 operator to Dave and other kind samaratins who had stopped and were tending to the wounded. There was a mother and an infant who were seriously hurt. The news reports had said their injuries were serious and life threatening and they had been taken to Toronto. The driver of the other car wasn’t seriously injured.

To say each day is a gift sounds trite, but when you see with your own eyes how fragile life is, those words take on new meaning.

That night, our hockey team went out for dinner. As I was leaving the restaurant, there was a young couple holding a baby near the door. I stopped and chatted with them and reached out to hold the baby’s hand. I couldn’t help myself. It felt like if I could just hold that tiny little hand for a minute, it would send waves of love to the other little baby whose hand I couldn’t hold earlier that day, and everything would be okay.

Each day is a gift. This week’s #HappyAct is to just be grateful you are alive. To the mother and baby we helped on Saturday, we’ve been praying for you. We hope you both make it and have a long future ahead with your family filled with love and laughter.

This post is dedicated to the first responders in our communities who are there when we need them most. To watch them in action on that snowy highway on Saturday morning was awe inspiring. You guys are amazing.

Top ten happy acts of 2019

Girl walking in fall leaves

Welcome to the final happy act of 2019 where I recap the top happy acts of the year. I’ve come to learn my little blog, where I share a piece of inspiration or something we can all do to be happy each week has also become a chronicle of sorts: of my travels, family life, and of current issues on the minds of Canadians. I hope you still enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it each week. Here’s my top 10 happy acts of 2019.

  1. Take the self-care pledge. If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution to start off 2020 on the right path, this post may inspire you.
  2. Always look on the bright side of life: a tribute to Monty Python
  3. Living in the country has its charms. One of them is Funny country signs.
  4. Plan a red hot date night. Read about my steamy date with one of the last of the red hot lovers.
  5. Harvest the Grape. One of my favourite days this year was spent picking grapes at a local vineyard. Read about the harvest and what goes into making a truly remarkable vintage.
  6. Already missing the crisp cool days of fall? Check out Autumn ablaze, a photo essay with my favourite photos of eastern Ontario this spectacular fall.
  7. In Screams and curtain calls, guest blogger Ray Dorey shares his experience in local theatre.
  8. In Eat from a Dish with one Spoon, I explored native culture and what we can learn from First Nations people.
  9. A discovery of an old box of newspaper clippings of my Dad’s led to this photo essay and tribute to Toronto the good in photos, a must read if you live in the GTA.
  10. If there was one issue that galvanized the world in unity and action in 2019, it was climate change. In #FridaysforFuture and Lessons from Frome, learn about what one town in England is doing to take action.

There you have it. Thanks for continuing to join me each week in this journey. Here’s to many more happy acts in 2020.

Where everybody knows your name

Pilot House Kingston

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

After work on Friday night, Clare and I stumbled across the street from my work to catch a quick bite to eat at the Pilot House before her evening volleyball tournament downtown.

It had been another long brutal week at work. I was cold, tired and hungry and knew we wouldn’t be getting home until late, and up early the next morning for more volleyball and hockey.

As soon as we walked into the bar, the stress of a long week started to melt away like the cheezy melt on the menu as the hum of laughter and conversation, and the warm, cozy atmosphere of the bar washed over us.

The Pilot House is your quintessential neighbourhood bar. Regulars perch on stools or mill about, slapping each other on the back as they share jokes and stories from the day. The beer flows freely, and the smell of fish and chips and vinegar permeates the air.
If they have menus, I’ve never seen one. The menu, which most of us know by heart anyway, is written in chalk on a blackboard. The only reason you look at it is to see what the day’s specials are.

In marine navigation, a pilot refers to anyone who steers a ship, and the little pub is awash in photos and memorabilia from the days when off-duty pilots of ships would meet there. In the old days, the building housed maps and charts for navigation. The pilots would take the charts and report for duty on their ship on the waterfront down the street.

It was the perfect tonic after a long week.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit your local watering hole and enjoy a pint and cozy atmosphere to escape a cold winter’s night.

What’s your favourite local watering hole? Leave a comment!

Pilot House signClare at the stained glass door to the bar

Trivial pursuits

Ryerson alumni at trivia night

Are you smarter than a Ryerson grad? If you’re a university alumni living in the Kingston area, come out Monday night and find out.

For the past four years, my Ryerson alumni group has been running an alumni challenge trivia night at our home pub, Tir Nan Og. Each year the event has grown. At first it was just Ryerson versus Queen’s (boo…) but now McGill and Royal Military College participate, and others are welcome too.

I suck at trivia but my friend and fellow Ryerson alum Michael Onesi, who works for Queen’s by the way (traitor) is our ace in the hole. He’s actually won HQ Trivia three times. He is a trivia god.

Trivia is as Canadian as butter tarts, hockey and double doubles at Tim Hortons. One of the greatest trivia games of all time, Trivial Pursuit was created by two Canadians, a photo editor for the Montreal Gazette and a sports editor for The Canadian Press. And of course Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy is Canadian!

 

To get you in the spirit, see if you can answer these trivia questions about trivia:

 

  1. Which big company turned down the rights to Trivial Pursuit (and are probably kicking themselves to this day?)
  2. How much did the friends sell the rights of the game to Parker Brothers for in 1988?
    a) $10 million
    b) $40 million
    c) $80 million
  3. What were the shapes of the pieces in Trivial Pursuit?
  4. What is the singular form of the word trivia?
  5. Why is trivia sometimes associated with scandal?
  6. Who holds the record for most wins on the show Jeopardy?
  7. How many wins in a row did he have?
  8. If you’ve competed on Jeopardy before, what other game show are you ineligible for?

In the trivial pursuit spirit yet? This week’s #HappyAct is to join your local pub’s trivia night, or come out to ours. The action goes down at 7. See you there!

  

Trivia about trivia answers:

1. Virgin Group

2 c)   $80 million

3) Triangles or cheese wedges

4) Trivium

5) In the 1950s, trivia became popular on American television, but it was discovered the producers of shows like the $64,000 Question and Twenty One were feeding the answers to contestants. This became known as the Quiz Show Scandals

6) Ken Jennings

7) 74 consecutive wins

8) Wheel of Fortune because they are sister shows