Sunday, April 19, 2015

helicopters in the garden / McCord Museum

The gate to the community garden is padlocked all winter and I was eager to see what had happened in my plot after the long season of snow. Three clumps of sorrel are already growing, though I'm told it's not as tasty if it isn't planted fresh each year. Guess I'll find out. The two rhubarb crowns I transplanted from our rhubarb patch in the Gaspé is coming along: red shoots and tightly curled leaves thrusting up in an obscene and wonderful rhubarby manner.

I knew I was going to have to deal with the maple helicopters. I'm not directly under a bank of trees but my plot lies in the direction of the wind. If all those seeds sprout, I'll have an 11' x 14' fledgling forest. Do you know what I mean by helicopters? They're the maple seeds that twirl when they fall from the tree.

After the winter on the ground they look like this:

Last year I thought they were like mulch and left them on the ground. Within weeks I had zillions of sprouts to pull out--the problem being that I'm such a newbie at gardening, I wasn't sure which was a maple tree sprout and which a leaf lettuce or a radish.
This year I thought I'd pick up all the helicopters, but after a couple of hours crouched under the sun, my lower back and knees grumbling curse words at me, I'd so-called cleaned less than half the garden. Now I'm debating whether I should just go with the flow. Do an experiment of survival of the fittest. What will I have by July? Maples or beets?

The other day I visited the McCord Museum where they have an exhibit of First Nations' identity as represented by clothing.
Afterwards I went upstairs to the Montreal exhibit and found it interesting to compare the moccasins (ca. 1900) I'd just seen with slippers worn by well-to-do Montrealers in 1860. The beaded design on the moccasins are symbols evoking sacred places. The designs on the slippers are... well, I suppose the embroidered hothouse blooms evoke sacred places as well, though I wonder if the wearer thought of that so specifically.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Manitoba in April

We went to Winnipeg for a week to visit with friends. The friends include four boys which gave R the opportunity to revisit boyhood.

The boys tumble about, but they also build things and paint.

I like how South America hangs off the edge: too large for the page but not forgotten.

I learned some pedagogical tricks in the event I ever need to tempt a 4-yr-old to get dressed. This actually worked. He was still in his pyjamas then he wasn't. I thought I was watching the whole time but didn't see when he slithered into his clothes, socks and underpants included.

We visited the Human Rights Museum and played interactive learning games, including how to make a soccer ball from crumpled newspaper, plastic bags and twine. Who needs Walmart? Especially in a world where plastic bags are ubiquitous. I watched the demonstrators show each boy how to make a soccer ball and each time waited for them to comment on the availability of plastic bags even in underdeveloped countries, but they didn't. Right, it was the Human Rights Museum. We need another museum for Environmental Disasters.

We made a trip to the Winnipeg Art Gallery as per the request of the third eldest boy who wanted to have a look at Inuit art, which we did. This was day #5 of our visit and my energy was starting to flag.

Here I made the mistake of asking if I could take a picture. 

Fort Whyte again next year? With everyone except me a head taller. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

translating words of abuse

The language with which we abuse people is harsh and unfair, but sometimes colourful as well.
Just now I'm looking at the German word Einfaltspinsel. Einfalt means naivete or simplicity. Push it a little and it means stupid. To break that down even more, a Falt is a fold or pleat, so Einfalt is a single fold or pleat.
A Pinsel is a brush. That makes an Einfaltspinsel a single-fold brush. Except brushes don't have folds, they have hairs, so an Einfaltspinsel is a single-hair brush.
Neat, eh? Who came up with that one? A master painter shouting at a hopeless apprentice? Though maybe the apprentice only had a different way of seeing and applying paint. The word first appeared in print in 1732.
In the dictionary, Einfaltspinsel translates as nitwit.

If you are planning a trip to a German-speaking country and packing a few words of abuse to toss around, I don't know how current Einfaltspinsel is. It can be found online if that's an indication.

The frog comes from my old copy of Grimms which I'm using for something else I'm writing. He's a happy frog, isn't he? Ready for spring as we all are in the unending cold that winter has been.

Back to work...

Monday, April 6, 2015

starlings helping sparrows?

The view from my study is onto the carved wooden cornices across the street. For a couple of years now I've noticed that sparrows have made a hole under the neighbour's roof. They fly in and out. I assume there's a nest.

Today I was distracted by a commotion. The sparrows were fluttering and screeching because a squirrel was running along the edge of roof and wanted to investigate their hole. At this time of year, there must be eggs. The sparrows flew at the squirrel who was only a bit bothered by their puny beaks and batting wings. Sparrows are noisy but not exactly military machines. A squirrel weighs approximately ten times as much as a sparrow. The squirrel dodged them easily, scurried under the lip of the roof and inside the hole.

Oy vey! Oy vey! The sparrows made such an uproar that more sparrows came to commiserate. They lamented the pillage and slaughter that must surely be happening. Individual sparrows kept charging the hole to berate the squirrel, though none of them dared to fly inside. They were very upset. If I could have helped I would. I don't love squirrels. They've torn my backyard to pieces, shredded my flowers, turned my bicycle seat to confetti. Vandals they are.

I was surprised when several starlings--the larger, darker birds--joined the sparrows in the tree. They, too, flew at the hole and scolded. They couldn't make the squirrel leave either.

Still: I hadn't expected that birds of a different feather would join forces.

I didn't keep watching to see what happened when the squirrel finally left the hole.