Autumn ablaze–a photo essay

creek with fall colours

This year the fall colours have been particularly spectacular. I tried reading up on why, but got lost in words like chlorophyll and carotenoids. I don’t care about the science. I’m just grateful for the beauty of the area we live in.

Here is a photo essay from my Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy the colours while they last, and Happy Thanksgiving!

yellow and red treesseagulls on a dock in the fall

porch with fall decorations

clouds over water

high cranberry bush

fall trees and sky

deer in woods

 

Girl walking in fall leaves

sunburst through trees

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Walk through a sky with a thousand suns

Sunflower

I have found a very special place here on earth.

A few weeks ago, when I asked the kids what they wanted to do during their final week of summer, Grace said, “I want to go to the sunflower fields.”

So after spending the day at Sandbanks Provincial Park, we stopped at Sunflower Fields ice cream shop, just outside Picton. We filled up on Kawartha Dairy ice cream, then spent an hour wandering through acres of sunflower fields.

Sunflower fields ice cream shop

Our trip to heaven on earth was about two weeks too late. Most of the stalks had already lost their flowers, but it was still spectacular.

The fields of gold and green shimmered in the late day sun. Bees buzzed brimming with nectar and pollen and cicadas hummed their pleasure. The warm rays of the sun bent down to kiss the regal remaining stems that turned their round faces upward.

Author Corina Abdulahm-Negura once said, “A sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns.”  This week’s #HappyAct is to find and visit a little piece of heaven on earth. It’s corn maze season. Why not get lost in one?

Here were some of my favourite photos we took that day.

Girl and sunflower

 

 

Girl and sunflowers

 

gangly sunflowerFunny signCricket on sunflower

Sunflower fields

Sunflower

Watch the world awaken

Darkness out a car window

5 a.m.

Pour the coffee

Pack the car

Hit the road jack

 

The car headlights cut through the fog

Blurred darkness

 

6 a.m.

The world begins to lighten

We pass through sleepy towns with quirky names like Tichborne and Wemyss

 

Signs never seen before

The Battle River Bison Company

10 acre hobby farm for sale

Even the wildlife sleep, save for a lone bat startled by the car headlights

 

The blanket of mist slowly lifts

Revealing silhouettes of Jack pines

Standing guard, protecting the quiet, still dark lakes

 

7 a.m.

Movement.

A few drowsy cows graze outside my car window

A light flickers in a farmhouse

Round hay bales sit forlornly in the fields

Saluted by the stands of corn

 

Daylight.

The fog persists

But another day has dawned

 

Ed.note: I wrote this poem in my head early Sunday morning driving to Ottawa for Clare’s provincial kayaking championships. I’m not a morning person, so you won’t see many “enjoy an early morning happy acts!”, but there is something special about watching the world awaken. Try it (if only once!) The trip was definitely worth it. Clare got a gold, silver and bronze medal.

Fireflies at night

Firefly

A couple of weeks ago the Ottawa Citizen ran a story, Fireflies are flooding Ottawa with light this summer.

It seems the wet spring has provided lots of food for these fascinating insects, and the woods and riverbanks along the Ottawa River are alight with lightning bugs.

I’ve always found fireflies magical. I remember one time in Vermont when we rented a 100-year old cabin in the woods. It sat on 25 acres, and there was a huge field that sloped down from the large wraparound porch into the woods. The kids were quite little and I  had to get up in the middle of the night with one of them. I looked out the upstairs window, and the entire field was filled with glowing tiny lights sparkling in the night. It was magic.

Fireflies aren’t flies, they’re actually beetles. They go through four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, to beetle. Their glow comes from a chemical reaction that produces light without heat.

One night, Clare and I were walking and we found a whole bunch of tiny bugs which we found out after were firefly larvae (some people call them glowworms). They looked like tiny worms with scales, but you could see they glowed. If you ever see a firefly up close, it’s really cool too. They are bright green—you often can see them on window screens. We’ve even rescued some in the house.

They say the best time to view fireflies are in May and June around dusk, but we still have some on the property, so it’s not too late to get out and watch nature’s light show.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the fireflies at night. Happy summer!

firefly larvae
Firefly larvae

Screams and curtain calls

cast of play
Cast of Murder Afoot

Special guest blog by Ray Dorey

It was a dark and stormy night. At least it was dark. Not so sure about the stormy part. But there was definitely a nip in the air that October evening, as my friend and I ventured into Fort Fright, a popular Halloween attraction at the Fort Henry historical site in Kingston.

You might not know it by the amount of time I spent cowered behind my friend, but I loved every minute. I suppose I have my dad to thank for that. Halloween was always one of his favourite times of the year.

What made Fort Fright so special were the scare actors. Real people wearing makeup and costumes, and with an agenda to extract the most fear from the masses winding their way through the dimly lit passages.

Fort Fright

It looked like so much fun that a crazy idea popped in my head. I wanted to be a scare actor. Why not?

The following August, I reached out to express my interest. I interviewed shortly after, and was subsequently hired as a member of the Fort Fright scare acting team for the 2018 season. I was ecstatic beyond words.

To begin with, it was cool just working at Fort Henry every night, and being surrounded by all of the history. Our locker rooms were at the end of one of the parade squares, near the spot where I saw my first Tragically Hip concert. As I walked in each night, I would look to where the stage once was, and envision Gord Downie rocking and bouncing the microphone stand off his head.

The character I would assume for the month was an evil brain surgeon in the haunted hospital. I would lope around an operating table carrying a bloody, rubber brain, lurching out at guests as they nervously passed. Over time, I developed a few lines of dialogue, and I would learn to adapt my theatrics to the mood of the crowd.

Fort Fright actors
The doctor will see you now

Throughout October, I worked my full day job in Brockville, rushed home, and then was off to Kingston to work at Fort Fright for the evening. I actually used some vacation time to give myself a break from working double shifts. When it was all over, I had attended all but one evening that the attraction was open. Not surprisingly, I was tired some of those nights, but the adrenaline would kick in hard as the first visitors approached my post.

The job wasn’t without its risks. There was one night when I scared a big, burly man walking through with his date. My pleasure at nailing the scare just as quickly changed to horror when he turned towards me with an angry glare, and for a moment, I thought he was going to pulverize me. Thankfully, he thought better of it and continued on, as I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But truly, the best part of the experience were my co-workers; energetic, passionate professionals all. And always anxious and friendly to offer guidance to the rookies such as myself.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Truly the most fun I’ve ever had doing a job. I can’t imagine my fall without it.

Second stage

In the midst of my foray into scare acting, several friends suggested that I should try my hand at more conventional acting. I balked a bit at first. Running around with a mask and jumping out at people was one thing. I couldn’t imagine myself being part of a formal production.

There was a local venue that I had driven by many times but had never entered; the Royale Theatre Thousand Islands in Gananoque. I knew they occasionally held open auditions for various performances, so I began following their Facebook page for notifications.

It was early February when they posted for a play called MURDER AFOOT. I attended and was provided with a script and a brief synopsis. The director assigned and rotated different roles while we read in a circle. When I left after about 45 minutes, I wasn’t really sure what to make from the experience. Of course, I was glad I had attended, but I had no idea how I had done.

About a week later, I was offered a role. I could not have imagined then how much I was going to enjoy every minute of the experience.

The play itself was a comedy murder mystery. My character was businessman Thomas Tottering, Vice President of Platt Shoes, engaged to Penny Platt, the daughter of the Company owner.

The rehearsal process itself was fascinating. We would start each session with warm-up, memory and accent exercises. MURDER AFOOT was set in 1930s England, so one challenge I had was learning a British accent for my role.

Rehearsing was much more than just memorizing lines. I was learning timing, inflection, and interacting with other characters. I was also learning how to enter and position myself on stage without blocking other cast members. During breaks, we would all be sized for costumes.

Over the course of about two months, it was thrilling to see the progression in everyone’s performance, as we would make tweaks and improvements along the way.

And I can’t say enough about the entire cast and stage crew. Again like my co-workers at Fort Fright, all talented and dedicated people. I was only one of two people in the play who were completely new to the theatre. The others had all performed in previous productions. We were all volunteers with a passion for the local arts community, and the Royal Theatre Thousand Islands.

Surprisingly, as opening night approached, I really wasn’t nervous at all. I was in fact energized and confident, eager for the show to start. As I waited off stage for my first scene, I had a few butterflies, but they quickly vanished with the delivery of my first line.

Three days, and four performances went by in a flash, and I can still remember the bittersweet experience of our last show, knowing that this would be the last time I would be in this character, delivering these lines, with this cast.

But it won’t likely be the last time I set foot on that stage.

This week’s #HappyAct is to embrace the unconventional. Discover those opportunities out there waiting for you to explore elements of yourself that you weren’t sure existed.

You can read more of Ray’s adventures and short stories at storiesfromdoreyville.wordpress.com.

Author and his mom
With my Mom after a performance of MURDER AFOOT

Happy trails

Girl at trailhead

Eastern Ontario is a hiker’s and biker’s paradise thanks to the miles of abandoned rail beds that have been converted into trails.

A couple of weeks ago, Clare and I hiked a new portion of the trail. We started in Harrowsmith, which is the junction of the K&P Trail and Cataraqui Trail. It was a windy spring day, and the fur of our great Pyrenees Bella shimmered and rippled in the breeze like the rushes in the neighbouring wetlands. It was a great day to get out, enjoy the spring sunshine, clear our heads and get some exercise.

Dog in breeze

The Kingston and Pembroke trail was an old railway that ran from Kingston Renfrew. It was abandoned by Canadian Pacific Railway between 1962 and 1986 before being taken over by the City of Kingston and Township of South Frontenac. Most of the trail is now complete up to Sharbot Lake, except for a small stretch near Tichborne.

The Cataraqui Trail is 104 kms long and was the rail line operated by Canadian National. The 78.2 km section from Smiths Falls to Harrowsmith is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Harrowsmith is an excellent starting point since the two trails connect there with four different routes to hike.

We watched ducks and geese in the marshes, saw baby cows in the farmer’s fields and ate lunch overlooking a beautiful vista.

I’m always surprised how many people in Kingston don’t venture north of the city. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and discover the beautiful trails north of the city. And best of all, it’s free!

Signpost on the K&P Trail

Just don’t call me late for dinner

Family eating at potluckCall it a potluck, call it a smorgasborg, call it what you will, just don’t call me late for dinner.

Last weekend, our Frontenac Fury Girls Hockey Association held our annual hockey banquet and potluck.

It’s always a nice way to mark the end of the hockey season, recognize the girls’ achievements and share some laughs before all the hockey families hang up our sticks for the season.

But just like our girls would have going into any big game, it’s important to have a strategy when the pot drops at a potluck. Here are a few tips from a seasoned veteran in the line-up.

  • Always get in line before the biggest guy in the room
  • Scan the venue and your competition to scope out the best grub
  • Don’t fill your plate with too many salads or bread—save room for the main event
  • Enjoy the small talk during the intermissions between refills
  • Never take the last meatball or you may wind up in the penalty box
  • Unlike hockey, icing is a good thing at a potluck
  • When it comes to dessert, go for a hat trick
  • And make sure you give thanks for the big, warm extended family you’re breaking bread with

This week’s #HappyAct is to plan a potluck or smorgasborg and enjoy! And congratulations and thanks to all the Frontenac Fury teams and families for another fun, successful year. We’ll see you in the fall!Plate full of food

Potluck kitchen

Hockey families at banquet