Friday, December 12, 2014

Winter in Montreal

And the view from my flat is holiday themed. This is the racquet club next door, a beautiful old Tudor style building.

This was taken very quickly out of my sunroom window one evening, on my iPad. No enhancements or post processing or filters. This is exactly what it looked like.

Note the bike leaning on the fence. Someone actually rode a bike to the club.

Winter is so not the boss of us, here in Montreal.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do you believe in Synchronicity?



Well, my socks were blown off today.

Recently I wrote a piece on coincidences. It began like this:

Coincidence kills good fiction, as the saying goes. In fiction, we expect patterns of cause and effect. If everything happens by convenient accident, there is no buildup of suspense, no curiosity about what comes next. At best, there’s an eye roll. At worst, we exit the movie theatre or throw the book across the room. When everything is contrived, it destroys our willing suspension of disbelief. 

So why, when it happens in real life, does it seem like a small miracle? Carl Jung called that synchronicity, Deepak Chopra calls it synchro-destiny. Whatever you call it, whether a “conspiracy of improbabilities” or fate poking its cold wet nose into our hands, real life coincidence is meaningful and fills us with awe. Twins who found each other as adults. Best friends whose parents dated...

I went on to describe events in my life that were too coincidental to ignore. I didn't know what if anything they meant, but the pundits say, ask yourself what is the message, the significance? If you do, the answer will present itself. 

Okaaay.

So here's the thing. Throughout the year, at odd times, I'll start to notice the clock saying 11:11 or 2:22. It happens often enough that I pay attention. Sometimes it's not even the real time, like the flashing clock radio in the kitchen I never bother to adjust because there's always another power failure to knock it back again. (Also, I don't know how.) So sometimes it will say 11:11 when it's really 8:02.

My sister Lisa and I have taken to texting each other when this happens. "Haha, look. It's 11:11 on 11/11!" Once the fire alarm went off at the cottage during the night, and we collided into each other in the hallway. The time? 11:11.  Then there will be nothing for months, but it will start up again, and we'll send more "BOO!" texts back and forth. It's a silly game we play.
 
What do you think it means, I asked her, because it happens with such frequency I'm starting to find it kind of creepy. I'll wake up in the night an press my alarm light to check on the time and more often than not it will read 3:33 or 4:44 or 5:55.

Maybe it's Nana saying hello, you know, from the other side, said my sister. Our beloved grandmother passed away in 1988, just after my son was born. Okay, I could deal with that. That wasn't creepy, that was comforting. (Numbers repeating for no reason is creepy. A dead relative saying hello beyond the grave is not creepy. That, my friends, is how my brain works.)

So now my sister and I text, "Look, 11:11! Nana is saying hello, haha."

Last year, a cousin I had never met, indeed, never even knew about, contacted me through this blog and sent me a photo of my grandmother and her older sister Edith. I'd never seen it before, and was thrilled to have it. 

The photo arrived on November 24th, Nana's birthday.



This year, her birthday was last Monday. I thought about Nana all day. She would have been 125. (If you think that's impossible you haven't heard of this lady.)

The day passed uneventfully.

This afternoon, Buddy stood in front of my china cabinet and barked at it. Repeatedly. He'd woof, back up, stare intently, woof again, look at me, stare at the cabinet. To be fair, he's a bit of an oddball dog. He doesn't bark often, but he will woof at the couch if the blanket is in his way, or at his bed if it's in the wrong position. But there was nothing in, on, beside or under the cabinet that would account for his behaviour I looked for a mouse, a moth, food, anything. The only thing in there was my grandmother's china. And he wouldn't stop. I'd haul him away, and a few minutes later, he was back, staring at the cabinet and softly woofing at it again.

I ignored him and checked my emails. A casual glance at my junk mail file showed an unfamiliar name with a subject title, "A fun little mystery unfolding....maybe." Another Nigerian scam, I figured.

It said, "I don't know if you are the right Pamela Patchet, but I thought it might be fun to send you this note and see what comes of it."

The woman who wrote, W.W., lives in California and said her father was a former senior editor of covers and photos at Newsweek Magazine. He passed away, and she was going through his things when she came across a letter from an E.L. Patchet in Toronto. (Ernest Luther. My grandfather.) In the letter, he said how surprised he and my grandmother were to see a photo of their granddaughter (me) on the cover of Newsweek. In fact, it was the woman who wrote me the email who appeared on the cover back in 1960, and I guess the resemblance was such that my grandparents felt compelled to write and ask. 

She said, if you would like your grandparent's letter, the photo, and the copy of the Newsweek cover, she would be happy to send it.

Then I looked at the date of the email.

November 24th. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Montreal Walkabout

 Today I had lunch with my wonderful friend, Kathy Down The Road. We have known each other for over 25 years, and have so much fun together, it's kind of ridiculous. Stream-of-consciousness conversations, laughing from the moment we sit down together until we part ways to go home, it's the kind of friendship that makes people wonder if we're sisters. And we kind of feel like sisters. Odd, odd sisters from odd, odd parents. We can even share dessert without either of us wanting to chomp off the other's finger. Now that's a friend.
An ornamental cabbage. Hope they're not edible, because Buddy christened the rest of them whilst I took this photo.
We wandered up Greene Avenue after lunch, past the uniformed schoolgirls who walked and texted without regard to passersby or traffic, swollen-lipped women with flat-ironed blonde hair in fur coats, men in paisley foulards and polished loafers, and one tall woman behind us having a loud, animated discussion with what I thought must be her grandmother, as it was the kind of one-way conversation you'd have with a hard-of-hearing, cantankerous relative who refuses to turn up her hearing aid. Turns out it was her brown Labrador retriever who loped past us, off-leash, not giving a rat's patootie that this woman was talking at it full stop. This wasn't a "Heel, Espresso, HEEL!" kind of talk. This was a "Hey, do you think it's going to snow, and do you think our current prime minister is doing a good job" kind of conversation.
She then threw open the door to a ritzy hair salon and let the dog bolt ahead of her. We were left to ponder how the unsuspecting patrons felt about this slobbering dog and the Human Megaphone it belonged to taking their zen by the throat and shaking it to death.

Anyway, KDTR asked me why I hadn't posted any photos of my walks as of late, and I said it was part laziness, and part wondering if it was just all too much navel gazing. But she asked me to, so I will oblige and post a few I have taken recently around my 'hood.

If you enjoy them, let me know via the comments. If you don't, feel free to explain why to your dog.

They are replacing the pavement down the street. It will soon cover up all evidence of the old cobblestones and track for the streetcars.
Self-portrait

Front Lawn Art. I want to rescue this poor, rusty Underwood, but it seems happy with the pink flamingos and louche ceramic frogs.

The Catholic nuns and priests got all the good properties.

Typical door in Shaughnessy Village

Typical door in my daughter's neighbourhood

A friendly neighbour checking me out.

A Random P. There's a lot of that in the doorways of my neighbourhood.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amy Dupire's GOD-THING: AND OTHER WEIRD AND WORRISOME TALES

I know Amy Dupire through the Compuserve writers' forum, and also from the annual contest at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, where she inevitably places in the top storyteller category as either a winner or runner-up.

Amy has now published a collection of stories called GOD-THING: AND OTHER WEIRD AND WORRISOME TALES and her first novel ALL KINDS OF HELL was published last month.

Her short stories are mysterious and strange and beautifully written, and creepy in a good way. Look what Diana Gabaldon has to say about Amy. She just added Amy's book of short stories to her Methadone List (what Diana calls her book suggestions for those waiting for her Next Book in the Outlander series.)

"The stories here are written with delicacy, humor, and a healthy dose of uneasiness. And they are… well, you know… short. Whether you’re in need of a literary appetizer or dessert, immersion or distraction— you might just find what you’re looking for in this collection of "Weird and Worrisome Tales." " Diana Gabaldon



You can read excerpts on Amy's website www.amydupire.com.

If you want to order her books, either hard copy or on Kindle, go to amazon.com!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mistakes Can Actually Work Out (Or, Pretend You Meant to Do That)

After I transferred my photos from camera to laptop a while ago, I noticed something odd about them. Many of them were over-exposed, while just as many were under-exposed.

Huh.

After much fiddling and confusion on my part, I finally figured out that I inadvertently pressed the "bracket" (Auto Bracket) button. This means the camera is assuming you will take three shots in a row of the same subject, and each one will go from light to dark, and then you're supposed to go to photoshop and blend them together for an HDR type photo.

But I didn't do that, I just went on my merry way, snapping anything that took my fancy in the park up on our mountain. So some shots looked bleached out and others looked vivid and other worldly.

But once I got over my panic of not knowing what I did (and I fixed it) I kind of liked the shots. Note that these were taken within minutes of each other in almost the same spot.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Hummingbird Rescue

I needed this today, and I suspect many of you do too, after hearing about my tragic raccoon tale, which still has the capacity to make me cry. But this fine morning, I bring you a good news nature story.

Despite the fact that I deliberately keep our cottage windows dirty to prevent bird collisions (confession: the city windows are dirty from pure laziness) there is still the occasional accident.  My husband protests but a) he's not the boss of me and b), see a).

This morning, as I sat outside on the deck reading, a young hummingbird zoomed right above my head straight into the glass, then dropped with a thud at my feet.

I hustled Buddy into the house and we left it alone for a few minutes as it writhed on the deck. Experience has shown that the first few moments will determine whether a bird will live or die. Sometimes death comes in seconds if it breaks its neck, but more often than not, they suffer a mild concussion and recover quickly.

That is, if the squirrels, or Buddy, doesn't get to it first.

Then it becomes breakfast.

So this poor little hummingbird struggled on its back, wings sprawled, fluttering in a circle. But suddenly it righted itself, a good sign even though its eyes were still squeezed shut. Definite concussion, but still.

Buddy and I watched together from inside the cottage so as not to frighten it, but then a red squirrel showed up to spoil the party.

I ran outside and shooed the squirrel away, then I bent over the hummingbird to check on it. It suddenly flew into the air, hovering like a little helicopter in front of my face, the buzz of its wings so incredibly powerful and strong for such a tiny creature. I instinctively held out my hand, and incredibly, it landed in my open palm!

I couldn't believe it. I stood stock still, thinking it was going to take off at any second. My camera was inside, as was my phone, but I'd been reading on my iPad (okay, I was playing Candy Crush) and I thought I might be able to snap a photo if I moved quickly and carefully.

And by that I mean like a stealth ninja.

An old, creaky, plump, stealth ninja.

The photo isn't as sharp as I'd like, but it was left-handed. Using an iPad. WHILE HOLDING A HUMMINGBIRD.

May I say, do you know how hard it is to take a photo whilst juggling an iPad with one hand? With one non-dominant hand? With a hummingbird balanced in the other hand?

I struggled with the damn electronic demon and cursed its stupid design, which slipped and flipped each time I tried to hit the play button (yes, I know about the other button, but again, one-handed, holding a bird) all the while trying to a) not drop it, b) startle the hummingbird.

I did get it on film. The little guy was in no hurry to vacate his warm, cushy home. I had to coax him onto a nearby cherry tree branch. Within a minute or two, he flew off, unfazed.

You can watch the video below, or I recommend you go to YouTube HERE and watch it on HD and on full screen.

Or you can watch the tiny version here: