Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter scene at Wicklow Beach
JFK once said; "All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came."  Although I am a huge fan of his, I'm not sure I fully agree with his conclusion as to why we are drawn to the sea.  Yes, I am drawn to large bodies of water, but I don't really differentiate between salt water and fresh water, and ultimately, while I get the whole evolution concept, I just don't think humans evolved from a fish.  When I want to clear my mind, or just take in some really fresh air, I will often make the short drive down to the shore of Lake Ontario.  Directly south of here in Grafton the beach is predominately stone covered, although further west in Cobourg and Port Hope, or to the east in Brighton or Prince Edward County one can find some of the finest sandy beaches in Ontario.  Either way, the lake shore is soothing, even on stormy days when the waves are crashing against the shore, whether the water is fully fluid or full of ice chunks.  My mom loves to walk her dog down on the beach while she searches endlessly for bits of sea glass and interesting shells.  The fact is, since the invention of the automobile, we humans have been devolving as we find it much easier to jump in a vehicle to do just about anything.  I drove David up to Peterborough this weekend to run in a 1/2 marathon, and easily managed to talk myself out of joining the 5K run, or even jumping in the pool for a swim.  I did fit in a walk up and down George Street with Massie by my side, but really, without become an obsessed marathoner, there really isn't any good reason why I couldn't walk at least 5K every day just in the course of my regular routine.  Please, someone, besides my doctor and my conscience, give me a reason to be fit.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Growing up in the country

From age 4 - 18, I grew up in rural Ontario, north west of Toronto.  I have fond memories of Dell Casely and Bob Purvis at Card Lumber, Bud Maw at Maw's Grain Elevator, our next door neighbours, Eva and Len Patterson, the Vermeers, the Keoughs, the Bensons, postmaster and mistress and general store keepers Dan  and Jan Hennessy, the Miller sisters, and many more people who made growing up such an adventure.  As a teenager, I hung out for a while with Kelly Maw and Kevin McCallum.  We developed a habit of dropping in on friends and neighbours, unannounced, just to visit and chew the fat.  One of our neighbours and the local doctor, lived at home with his parents.  Peter dropped in on us quite regularly, but his parents weren't so keen to have us drop in on them - something about being British and proper.  When we settled in Grafton back in 1981 we really didn't know anyone, but quickly found that dropping in on neighbours was just as acceptable in these parts, however, it did take some time and effort to sort out who our friends would be.  This past weekend, I dropped in on a local family, only to be offered lunch, and then invited to help with the construction of a backyard igloo.  I was a little sceptical at first - I had trouble trusting the notion that this domed dwelling could be built without some kind of a form, or at least a secret formula passed down through the generations.  After about 6 or 7 rows of blocks, there was a slight cave in, but after some fine tuning and refinement of our technique, it wasn't long before the final block was being place to make the roof.  What fun!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jack Yellowlees

Today I lost a dear friend.  Around noon, when I received the news of Jack Yellowlee's passing, (something that I knew was inevitable once I heard that his doctor's had given up on treating what turned out to be a very aggressive lymphoma), I immediately teared up as I realized that I would never again receive his encouraging phone calls, benefit from his sage advice, bask in his belly laugh or his unwavering, unconditional and non-judgemental support.  But as the day progressed and the bright blue sky embraced a sun shining ever so brightly, and later, as the moon followed suit, circled by a great white ring, I knew that Jack was home and that the heavens were in a state of ecstasy as they claimed this great man for themselves.  I may have lost my earthly friend, but now I have a new guardian angel.  As one my dad's best friends and business associates, Jack was one of a handful of IBM executives who were always in our lives growing up.  So about 15 years ago, when my father thought it was time to create some distance between himself as a business coach to his entrepreneurial sons, and later as he moved his life to Ireland, he left us with a great gift.  He asked Jack to chair an Advisory Committee to advise my brother John and me on our business dealings.  Jack would make the trip to Grafton for our quarterly Advisory Committee meetings in his sensible Volvo station wagon.  He ran the meetings, with a casual elegance asking a myriad of questions, and offering his advice and encouragement.  He was always so genuinely inquisitive.  I suppose my father knew that Jack would fill a void for us that he realized he could never fill, only because he was our father.  What surprised me though was how easily I would come to love Jack and his wife Helene as gentle, gracious friends.  I can't say I've ever felt inspired to quote Ronald Reagan before, but today his words from January 28th, 1986 are stuck in my mind as my friend Jack has 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God'.  Godspeed Jack.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The icy grip of winter

Icicles hanging from my roof
For as long as I can remember, I have a habit that awakens around mid January or early February where I find myself spontaneously surfing last minute travel deal and airline websites to plan an escape from the dead of winter, thinking that if I break it up with a week or 10 days of sunshine, spring will come around a little sooner.  This urge has been especially strong over the past couple of weeks as snow storm after snow storm and deeper and deeper plunges of the thermostat start to rattle my bones.  But this year I am trying to fight it, perhaps to prove something to myself, that I can not only withstand a full winter, but that I can embrace it.  After all, if you dress for it, winter really isn't that bad, I keep telling myself, and there are many things to enjoy about winter - a cup of hot chocolate by a crackling fire is really fully appreciated at this time of year.  Then there are winter activities, like skiing, snowmobiling and skating that wouldn't have the same appeal in August.  So, cheer me on and join me in celebrating part of what makes us Canadian, snow, slush, ice, winter drivers and a good old winter storm warning!