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The Gentian's Bluest Fringes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When I was in about grade six, our itinerant music teacher Miss Guymer started off the school year by teaching us a new song for September. Here are some of the words:

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

The miracle of Google means I now know it was written by Helen Hunt Jackson; here's the link if you'd like to read the whole poem:


I loved the song -- it was sung as a round -- and I never forgot it. But it bothered me that I'd never seen a gentian and wasn't quite sure what they looked like.

As it turned out, it was almost 30 years before I found a blue fringed flower one September in a conservation area when I was out walking with my kids: it was unfamiliar to me, and I remembered the gentian song. When I looked the flower up in my wildflower reference -- there is was: fringed gentian. And such a gorgeous deep mauvy blue

That September when my kids were small there were only a few plants growing in among the goldenrod and the asters at the edge of a pond. Today, more than a decade later, I went back to look again. We've had an exceptionally warm and rainy summer: there is now about a half acre of gentians. The sun was shining, they were all open, and still an amazing blue: I don't know anything else quite the same colour.

Here's another link if you'd like to see a picture for yourself: apparently they are quite quite rare, biennials (living only two years, blooming only in the second year) and quite beloved by better-known poets than Helen Hunt Jackson!


All those gentians plus blue jays and deep pink waterlilies in the pond and the first leaves turning red -- but I was also on a mission for woolly bear caterpillars. None of those today. The width of the russet brown stripe in the middle between the two black stripes is said to forecast the length of the winter, but really I enjoy them because they motor so fast across the country roads. It's as if they're wearing jogging shoes on all of their feet! It's still a bit early for woolly bears: there will be time to find a few, and I'll be looking. They actually hibernate until spring and then form their cocoons: occasionally I've found one in a sheltered spot even in the depths of winter.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 9/27/2010 2:07PM

    Simply lovely. Thank you for sharing this.

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/17/2010 5:22AM

    As always Ellen, you add joy to my day with your wonderful word pictures. Thank you, hugs

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KALIGIRL 9/13/2010 1:13PM

    Your blog conjured up wonderful images of fall...

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PHEBESS 9/13/2010 1:10PM

    I'm smiling remembering my mother painting our cuts and scrapes with gentian violet - remember that purple stuff? It stained our fingers and knees for days!

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WALKINGANNIE 9/13/2010 12:58PM

    You have a keen eye for nature Ellen as well as a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed your blog and your shared memories.

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HAPPYNSMILING 9/13/2010 7:39AM

    I really liked your blog. I looked up the picture of the gentian...how beautiful!!
Thanks so much for sharing!!

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DBCLARINET 9/12/2010 10:42PM

    Awww, this post made me smile!

I love woolly bears, partly because we have an annual woolly bear festival here and during high school I played in the parade. Of course, that wasn't nearly as cool as actually FINDING one! When we were kids, you could be sure the kids on the playground in the immediate vicinity would all come running if someone found a woolly bear. So cute!

Thanks for sharing!

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They call it Labour Day because . . .

Sunday, September 05, 2010

yup, have a lot of work that I've got to get done. The usual laundry/groceries stuff, some dog grooming, a little attention to the garden -- but mostly "work work".

And today I whomped my way through a big whack of that.

With another round scheduled for tomorrow. (Highly time-sensitive deadline lurking, situation that would have to matter to anyone who cares about people at all . .. ).

But: tomorrow I'm committed to knocking off by 4 p.m. or so whether I am finished or not -- and heading to the golf course.

It's supposed to be a beautiful day!


How was it that the "labour movement" somehow bypassed my area of endeavour? No union, no overtime, no benefits: all the joys of self-employment!! And meeting payroll every week!!

Truth is: once had a unionized teaching job, and although I loved to teach, I really did not enjoy the resulting workplace politics. I do prefer being my own boss, doing whatever I need to do to get things done in accordance with my own OCD personality -- and then taking time off freely when pressures lessen. By and large, it suits me most of the time; particularly when I have got it done. Just another example of after-acquired motivation, I guess.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 9/8/2010 7:09AM

    I hope you had a fun time out at the golf course and enjoyed your day! :) You sound very happy with life, work, family, charlie, everything else and you! Have a beautiful day!

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KALIGIRL 9/7/2010 1:55PM

    Glad you took time for golf!

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DREMARGRL 9/7/2010 7:18AM

    Hubs was a teacher for 38 years and loved it most of the time, but spent his time in the gym instead of the teachers' lounge! lol. Worked for him.
I ran our businesses and I agree with you wholeheartedly....I LOVED BEING MY OWN BOSS. Sad to say....I also didn't have all the benefits one is accustomed to when working for someone else, but, hey.....I don't care! I retired myself 13 years ago and have loved every single minute. I sold antiques on Ebay for a few years, which was fun and lucrative.....Now....I just travel, clean, cook, take care of my family and play. It's wonderful and I hope you get to do that, too, one of these years. I'm glad you went golfing. Playing helps a lot! XO MaryAnn emoticon

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TRYINGHARD1948 9/6/2010 6:05PM

    Good idea to have a set time off and get out on the golf course.

Had just finished reading your blog Ellen and then looked at the Huie's motivational sayings for the day so thought I should share them with you:

Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.
- Horace

The end of labor is to gain leisure.
- Aristotle

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
- Anne Frank

They just seemed to fit. Have a wonder filled day.

Comment edited on: 9/6/2010 6:08:26 PM

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WALKINGANNIE 9/6/2010 1:21PM

    Hope you have a productive work day and then really enjoy your time on the golf course.

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TBANMAN 9/6/2010 12:52PM

    Have fun golfing today! It's pouring rain here.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/5/2010 10:38PM

    Wishing you a productive day and lots of fun on the golf course. I'll be thinkin' of you!
Usha xx

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SLENDERELLA61 9/5/2010 9:09PM

    Congrats on being so productive!! That being your own boss stuff is cool, too.

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WINE4GIRL 9/5/2010 8:16PM

    WOW - do you sound like me!!! I feel your pain - gardening, house bits, etc. You're right - if you work for yourself, the work doesn't stop, because we find something else to do!

Hope you get some down time - on your non-Labor day!

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Tomorrow's Lunch Salads

Sunday, August 29, 2010

. . . all made, sitting in the fridge ready to go to work with me.

And it includes: spinach, avocado, green beans, shelled fresh peas, radishes, carrots, red pepper, sliced brussels sprouts, large shrimp. I'll add lemon poppy seed dressing.

For my chopped fruit, I've prepared: fresh pineapple, small peach, blue concordia grapes, sweet cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries.

My my: this nutrition tracking requires so much deprivation and self-sacrifice. Not!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 9/8/2010 6:41AM

    YUM!! So healthy!

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FROSTIERACES 9/8/2010 6:41AM

    YUM!! So healthy!

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WINE4GIRL 9/5/2010 8:17PM


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TRYINGHARD1948 9/4/2010 6:26PM

    I see you are really doing this the hard way. emoticon

Lovely to see you and be able to drop by again. emoticon

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BRIGHTSPARK7 9/2/2010 11:26PM

    Thanks for helping me with my grocery shopping list! emoticon
SO GLAD you are taking exquisite care of yourself.

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IMAGINE_IT 8/31/2010 9:13PM

    Im coming over for Lunch!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PENNYAN45 8/31/2010 8:03PM

    I'd love to have some of that in MY refrigerator! Sounds deelicious!


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TEENY_BIKINI 8/31/2010 5:47PM

    Wow. Yummy!!!

What deprivation?!!


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1BIGDREAM 8/30/2010 12:21PM


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KALIGIRL 8/30/2010 9:33AM

    Sounds divine.

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WALKINGANNIE 8/30/2010 5:04AM

    Nom, nom, nom!

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Journey of Life: Five Travel Tips

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There's a fun article in the Saturday edition of the National Post about a recent travel writers' conference put on the by the Cuba Tourism Board . . . with a rebellious travel writer who decided pretty much not to participate in the programme laid on. Here's the link if you want to read the whole article:


But what I liked about the article most were the five "travel tips" he picked up on his alternate exploration with another travel writer. Which have general applicability beyond the travel context:

So here they are, in brief:

1. Wherever you are is where you're supposed to be.

2. Ask for what you want.

3. Trust your gut.

4. Smile as often as you can and as genuinely as you can.

5. The people you meet create the paradise you find.

Yeah, there it is. Why do we travel anyhow, except to find ourselves. And to re-create ourselves.

Maybe my "Murrican" friends don't get to Cuba very often -- and in fact although lots of Canadians love Cuba, I've never been there myself.

But probably all of this can be done, with the desired effect, from where we are right now.

Which is after all (see above, first tip) where we're supposed to be.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DONNACFIT 8/26/2010 9:10PM

    great blog,,let me get my pen to copy down those tips :)

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VALERIEMAHA 8/24/2010 1:39PM

    1. emoticon
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Love'em! Thanks...and I hope to make it to Cuba. I have a friend who lives now in Hawaii and studies dance in Cuba. She's bringing one of the teachers to HI for a workshop:


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KALIGIRL 8/22/2010 9:25PM

    Sounds right to me.

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WALKINGANNIE 8/22/2010 4:18PM

    These are great tips for any journey.

Thanks for sharing the article.

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    I may be "Murrican" but I hale from the northern mid-west... or as we call it "The United States of Canada"


Spenidng some time this morning doing some mental strength building by memorizing these five amazing pearls o' wisdom. Thanks so very much for the tips.


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SLENDERELLA61 8/22/2010 11:21AM

    Great wisdom! Thanks for sharing.

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TBANMAN 8/22/2010 11:16AM

    Wonderful advice - thanks! I'm off to read the article now. emoticon

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PENNYAN45 8/22/2010 10:50AM

    That is good advice! Thanks for sharing the list with us.

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DREMARGRL 8/22/2010 10:45AM

    I love those rules.....and try to live by them.....traveling or not. Thanks for the post and hope you have an amazing Sunday full of sniles and genuine love. XO MaryAnn

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GWENFITNESS1ST 8/22/2010 10:22AM

    I am traveling now and can really appreciate your comments. These are great travel tips. Thanks for sharing. emoticon

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VENISEW1 8/22/2010 10:18AM

    emoticon emoticon

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Point Pelee: Canada's Sanibel

Friday, August 13, 2010

We took a little break last weekend to travel to the southernmost part of Canada, Point Pelee. This is a peninsula jutting into lake Erie which extends below the 42nd parallel -- more southerly than Rome or Barcelona.

As a bird and butterfly sanctuary it reminds me quite a bit of Sanibel Island off Fort Myers -- except with a north/south rather than east/west orientation -- and no shells, dolphins pelicans or manatees!

I particularly enjoyed the boardwalk through the marsh on the east side -- the soothing sighs of wind in the cattails, the explosions of brightly coloured warblers in the willows, the swamp milkweed full of Monarch butterflies, the herons stalking frogs.

The west side has some great sand beaches, and the tip of the peninsula is sculpted by currents and riptides which it's easy to see are very powerful: visitors are warned not even to wade into the waters.

Interior areas are forested with Carolinian species that don't grow elsewhere in Canada -- tulip trees, a semi-tropical oak, lots of jungly vines. And there are cacti too!

Specialty fish in the area include yellow perch and pickerel. At a nearby restaurant we enjoyed a fish fry under a loggia smothered in trumpet vine -- a creamy orange variant which I've never seen before.

Wish our camera had been working . . . I'd have liked some pictures. Although those warblers were way too fast for me! We'll have to try and get back for either the fall or spring migration, which is apparently quite spectacular, with Pelee functioning as a funnel: last resting place for departing species in autumn, first landing for arriving species in spring.

Point Pelee was all laid out for cottage development in the 1920s. Some 300 cottages had been built before the government purchased it as environmentally protected parkland. All the cottages were removed and strenuous efforts were made to restore the natural flora and fauna -- including flying squirrels. I'm so grateful this special place was preserved.

For now, the monarch caterpillar I'd found locally about 10 days ago has made its chrysalis -- an elegant pale green with shimmering gold spots -- and I'm just waiting for it to turn transparent and reveal the butterfly inside. A summer tradition for me since I was very small . . . emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SASSAGAIN 8/21/2010 7:38PM

    Loved Pelee when I went as an undergrad as part of one of my physical geography courses at Waterloo. Now I want to go back. Thanks for reminding me that its there! (3 degrees to the south!)

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STLRZGRRL 8/21/2010 7:02PM

    Erie is south of Barcelona?


Poor Barcelona.

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TKADEEPBREATH 8/16/2010 8:34PM

    As a girl in Northern Iowa, milkweed plants grew everywhere and the Monarchs were drawn to them. I was always so fascinated by the way the chrysalis looked with the little gold line around the top. I thought it looked like a jewel hanging under the milkweed leaves. How exciting to wait till transformation comes and the jewel spreads it's wings. Some things (many things really) I miss about the mid-west. The place you visited sounds so pristine. I loved your description. I love it when words take you somewhere else. I can always count on you to do that.

Have a good night. Jan

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FROSTIERACES 8/16/2010 4:31PM

    I agree..who need pix - you've described it beautifully.

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TEENY_BIKINI 8/15/2010 1:59PM

    Wow. How descriptive - who needs pictures. It sounds wonderful.


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PENNYAN45 8/14/2010 9:07PM

    Thanks for the word picture of this place. I have been to Sanibel - but have never heard of Point Pelee. Will check it out!

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WALKINGANNIE 8/14/2010 5:00AM

    Wondeful descriptions as usual Ellen. Hope you are having a good break and that your toe isn't hindering you too much.

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BRIGHTSPARK7 8/14/2010 12:15AM

    Love your word painting of this wonderful place, Ellen. I get a glow from seeing wildlife, too.
I am amazed that you have a monarch chrysalis. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is magical. Waiting with you ...

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KALIGIRL 8/13/2010 9:37PM

    Sounds idyllic -cool and placid.
Hope you are having a marvelous time.

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