The Summer Side of Life

This week, a part of Canada died. Gordon Lightfoot passed away at the age of 84.

A troubadour and master storyteller, his soothing voice and spellbinding lyrics captured the essence of life, love and everything Canadiana, making him one of our most beloved national artists of all time.

Here are songs and lyrics from my favourite Gordon Lightfoot songs of all time to add to your playlist, a tribute to the man and legend. Even now, as I read these lyrics and listen to the beautiful strains of his guitar, my eyes well up.

Song for a Winter’s Night

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

Christian Island

I’m sailing down the summer wind
I’ve got whiskers on my chin
And I like the mood I’m in
As I while away the time of day
In the lee of Christian Island

Minstrel of the Dawn

The minstrel boy will understand
He holds a promise in his hand
He talks of better days ahead
And by his words your fortunes read
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go
Listen to the strings
They jangle and dangle
While the old guitar rings

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Pussywillows Cattails

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rain pools in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring

Don Quixote

Through the woodland, through the valley
Comes a horseman wild and free
Tilting at the windmills passing
Who can the brave young horseman be


At times I just don’t know
How you could be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

The Last Time I Saw Her Face

Her eyes were bathed in starlight
And her hair hung long
The last time she spoke to me,
Her lips were like the scented flowers
Inside a rain-drenched forest
But that was so long ago
That I can scarcely feel
The way I felt before

Here’s a clip of Lightfoot performing That’s What You Get For Loving Me with Johnny Cash in 1969.

RIP Gord.

Joy to the world

joy-to-the-worldThe word “joy” is rarely used until the Christmas season arrives when it permeates our language. That’s because many Christians equate joy with the religious love of God for all creatures on earth.

Even if you aren’t religious, the holiday season can be a time of great joy for people who experience deep contentment, gratitude or happiness.

What is the difference between joy and happiness?

Alan McPherson, a retired minister of Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, distinguishes between happiness and joy this way: “Happiness is an emotion. Joy is deeper, more long-lasting. It is based more on inner certainties, not external events.” has a similar, but slightly different definition, saying happiness is an emotional state of well-being defined by positive feelings ranging from contentment to intense joy.

There are many passages in the bible that use joy and happiness interchangeably and yet religious groups often equate joy with God’s love to mean a more deeper, long-lasting emotion.

For me, the moments of joy in my life are the times when I have felt supremely happy and at one with the world. These moments are rare, but so very special.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find joy this holiday season. Celebrate peace on earth and a time when joyful all ye nations rise. Listen to a choir echoing its joyous strains and repeat the sounding joy. The weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Spring’s symphony


Spring is a delight for the senses, especially sounds. For the past few weeks on my nightly walk, I’ve been serenaded with the symphonic sounds of spring.

The first movement begins with the dolce sounds of a songbird, introducing the sweet melody in the opening sonata. His solo transitions into a chorus of sopranos and altos: spring peepers and chorus frogs whose peep, peep, peep and crick, crick, crick fill the night air with fanfare.

The staccato sounds of a woodpecker pierce the night air, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. A barred owl takes centre stage in the spotlight demanding, “who, who, who cooks for you”. The final movement builds in intensity, as the drumming beat of a grouse drives the last few refrains. Quiet descends.

A perfect performance on nature’s stage.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and enjoy the symphonic sounds of spring.

Hear the sounds.

Watch these videos to learn more about the performers in spring’s symphony.

Western chorus frog

Spring peepers


Sing like no one is listening

Tim singing
Tim rocking out at our company’s Summer Celebration

Special guest blog by Tim Aylesworth

Laurie asked me to be a guest blogger a few months ago to cover while she is away on vacation and I eagerly said yes because:

  1. I am a ‘Happy Act’ follower and have been since she started her blog.
  2. She is my boss. (Ok, I would have done it anyway even if she wasn’t my boss).

Then I completely forgot about it until in late June when I was vacationing in North Carolina visiting my brother-in-law and family and I received a message from Laurie asking if I was still interested in writing a post. I’m no dummy so I said ‘of course’!

I had no idea what to write about. As a musician, playing music makes me happy but that was just a little too obvious and not everyone is cut out to play an instrument.

While in North Carolina, we decided to try Karaoke and it hit me. Everyone can sing and singing makes you happy! I had my topic. Maybe you only sing loudly and badly, but you can sing. And the perfect opportunity to be loud and bad is Karaoke! You might not want to inflict your singing voice on the unsuspecting public but you can Karaoke in the comfort of your home. Just fire up YouTube and there are tons of Karaoke versions of songs just waiting to be massacred.

And talk about laughs! We each took turns picking the next song. The teenage girls picked Bruno Mars ‘Uptown Funk’ which is a really fun song – I really got into it. The same teenage girls were then horrified watching their parents sing Meat Loaf’s ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ (all eight and a half minutes of it). We split the boys and girls up for ‘Summer Lovin’ from ‘Grease’ and we were surprisingly good.

My brother-in-law Dan picked ‘I’m Too Sexy’ by one-hit wonder Right Said Fred (he seemed to know all the words without looking). The teenage girls eyes were rolling again when Uncle Tim started ‘shaking his little tush on the catwalk’. There is video evidence of this that I hope never sees the light of day.

I’m usually a pretty good singer but I got really bad in hurry and I loved it. It was liberating just to belt it out with worrying about being in tune or even getting the words right.

So my #HappyAct advice to you is the next time you are at a party and or a family gathering and things are a little dull, go to YouTube and make your guests sing Karaoke for their supper. They might protest at first but soon everyone’s sides will be hurting from laughing so hard.

A word of warning. You might want to confiscate everyone’s phone first or you might become an unwilling YouTube star yourself.

Tim Aylesworth is a communicator and singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who just released his fourth CD “Sending Out Waves”. Tim records his music in Rushin’ Draggin’ studio, his small but mighty home studio. 

Ed. note: We are all HUGE fans of Tim’s music at work. He is such a talented musician. Be sure to check out his songs and support him!

Listen to Tim’s music: CDBaby

Tim singing
Tim volunteers his time to sing at many charity functions, like this event for United Way

Rock out to your ultimate driving tune

When the weather gets warm, I like to cruise the country roads with the windows down and crank up the tunes.

I’m not sure what’s more intoxicating—the smell of the lilacs starting to bloom (our area is full of lilacs since farmers around here plant them as windbreaks), wondering what adventure lurks around the next curve, or the feeling of not having a care in the world as you sing at the top of your lungs to your favourite song.

Remember that scene in the movie Wayne’s World where Wayne and Garth rock out in their Gremlin to Bohemian Rhapsody? Party on, excellent. My friend Terry used to swear in our university days he could drive anywhere in Waterloo in the time it took to rock out to David Wilcox’s Hypnotizin’ Boogie.

This week’s #HappyAct is to crank up the tunes rock out to your ultimate driving tune. Who cares if someone sees you—chances are you’ll make them smile and make their day. What’s your ultimate driving tune?

Create a happy play list

Last week was the #InternationalDayofHappiness. It was fun watching people share the happy on Twitter that day. Many radio stations including the CBC and one of our local stations here in Kingston got on the happy bandwagon, asking listeners what songs they listened to for a pick me up. Mashable compiled its list with the help of Ed Sheeran and John Legend.

Here are 11 songs that would be on our family’s happy play list.

  • Bang Bang by Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jesse J
  • Downstream by Supertramp
  • Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
  • The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon and Garfunkel
  • Walkin’ on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
  • Happy by Pharrell Williams
  • Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars
  • Carry On by Fun
  • Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles
  • Wave over Wave by Great Big Sea (or any Great Big Sea song)
  • It’s Friday by Alan Doyle and Dean Brody

What song would make your play list? This week’s #HappyAct is to create your own happy play list. Feel free to use some of ours.

Listen to live music

band on stage
Celtic band Irish Roots playing at the Verona Cattail Festival

This weekend is a big deal in my small town. It’s the weekend of the annual Verona Cattail Festival. It kicks off with a parade that lasts about 10 minutes and has more people in it than watching it, features a Red Green Cardboard Duct Tape Boat Race where entrants make a boat out of cardboard and duct tape and everybody cheers as the boats sink, a pancake breakfast, fish fry and antique car show (on today if you’re looking for something to do and like antique cars).

For me, the highlight of our little festival is the music on the main stage. The organizers do a great job attracting talent from all genres. Last night the best act was a group called the Bon Evans Band—a guy who looked and sounded like Cat Stevens who played all originals, but the celtic group and Rockabilly Allstars were fun too.

The reality today is, most of us listen to music through some sort of device. It’s great that music is now universally accessible thanks to iTunes and iPods, but we’ve lost that experience of seeing the musicians on stage, hearing the music live and watching the performers interact with the audience. Many artists now have to charge exorbitant amounts for their concerts since it is their primary source of income.

At one point last night, I was watching the band. The sun was setting over the fields. Beside the stage were two Canadian flags gently billowing in the wind. Beside the stage Clare was dancing with friends and an older couple were dancing. It was a one of those blissful moments when you realize there is no place you’d rather be and no better place in the world to live than in Canada.

This week’s #HappyAct is to listen to some live music. The more intimate the venue, the better. Tap your toes, get up and dance, let the music take you away. A plug: if you’re out on a Saturday night in Kingston, my co-worker Tim Aylesworth and his buddy Craig Jones are always playing at Tir Nan Og Irish Pub on Ontario Street on the patio–he’s a great singer songwriter.

Pay homage to the king

IMG_0743On July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio in Memphis and recorded “That’s All Right” with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine the recording session. The sound of mike stands and music stands scraping across the studio floor, voices echoing in the air, the twang of guitars practicing riffs, then a quick 1-2-3-4 and the sweet sounds of rock ‘n roll filling up the non-descript studio.

It’s been 60 years since Elvis rocked the music world, launched an entire new musical genre and forever changed the face of rock ‘n roll. He will forever be the King.

This week’s #HappyAct is to pay homage to the king. Watch an Elvis movie (my favourite is Blue Hawaii) or listen to some of his classics. The last time I was in Nashville, I bought a four CD disc of his gospel songs at Ernest Tubbs record shop on Broadway. (Elvis often warmed up in the studio by singing a gospel song before a recording sessions). Graceland has planned many special events this summer to commemorate 60 years of rock ‘n roll. Why not plan a visit. Leave a comment. What’s your favourite Elvis tune or movie?

Blog author in Sun Studio

Sun Studios in Memphis
Sun Studio in Memphis