Digging out

ShovellingThe Ottawa Valley was hit with a couple of big snowstorms last week, and an above freezing Sunday provided the opportunity to begin digging out. The whole family was at Mont Cascades to celebrate my brother Robin’s birthday — belatedly, because a blizzard put off our plans last week. I was on call to prepare the traditional feast of pirohi, as usual, but first there was some snow shovelling to do. Handyman Chris and his sister Megan came by, and the three of us tackled the mountain of snow at the front of the house so people could at least get in and out of the door. As you can see, the weight of snow and ice sliding off the roof took off the eavestroughing in places. When it snows again I’ll cry, but until then I’ll take pride in the good work we did. Such is life in Canada.

Carillon at Rideau Hall

Mobile carillon at Rideau HallThe Governor-General of Canada gives a summer concert series at his official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall. An unusual offering this year was a performance by the Dominion Carillonneur, using a mobile carillon. Dr. Andrea McCrady is the Dominion Carillonneur, and normally she plays the bells that are in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. She and her apprentice played a varied program for an intrigued audience on the grounds of Rideau Hall. We got a chance to see and hear a carillon up close. The how-to of this unusual form of music making was fascinating.

See and hear the mobile carillon.

Skiing along the Ottawa River

Skiing by the Ottawa RiverThe winter skiing and skating season is a bit late, but finally here. The Rideau Canal only opened for skaters this weekend, and as you can see the Ottawa River is not completely frozen over. The heaved ice from the wind and the current makes the Ottawa look like the wild river it really is.

I tailed along after my parents, skiing on the same path we bicycle on in the summertime. I’m wearing my “müts” — that’s the one word of Estonian I know, and it means “toque” (now the Canadians know what I’m talking about). I bought it in Tallinn last year.

Canada is United for Ukraine

Patches: Canada for UkraineMy second cousin is a soldier in the 24th “Iron” Division, a mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces. Last winter in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, he defended against the Russian invaders. Now, he has gone into the reserves, and his younger brother is on active duty defending Ukraine. I got these patches from a Canadian group which is supporting the welfare of soldiers who serve in the 24th “Iron” Division. The Ukrainian armed forces need all kinds of support, and that has to come from the Ukrainian government, allied governments, and individual supporters of democratic and independent Ukraine throughout the world.

My dear Ukrainian cousins: Canada is with you … Канада з вами … we are United for Ukraine!

Wakefield for Refugees

Wakefield for RefugeesThe village of Wakefield, Québec, just up the Gatineau River from Ottawa, is sponsoring a family from Syria who are refugees from the conflict there. A group called Wakefield for Refugees has raised $30,000 so far, and hopes to raise more and sponsor a second family. Last week they organized a language class in beginner-level Arabic for villagers, to help the newcomers feel more at home when they arrive. 40 people showed up in a local café, including some children. The enthusiasm and good will is tremendous. It’s the Canadian way.

My brother and I went to the Christmas craft fair in Wakefield this weekend, mainly to get a Christmas tree. Lots of people were out in the unusually mild weather, including volunteers at this Wakefield for Refugees table.

مرحبا بكم في كندا.
Welcome to Canada.
Bienvenue au Canada.

All Saints’ Day

Mushroom in bole of treeNovember 1 is All Saints’ Day. Western Ukrainians observe the custom of visiting the graves of relatives, and remembering them on this day. My Taras cousins in Lviv oblast visited the graves of my great-grandparents. In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 6,900 km away, I visited the grave of my grandparents. They were separated in life, but for us there was a connection in remembrance.

The photograph is of a mushroom in the bole of a tree, seen along the way to the gravesite in the cemetery. The leaves have fallen from the trees, but even in autumn life is tenacious.

Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general election

Advance poll, 42nd Canadian general electionI voted today. The general election for Canada is on October 19, but the advance poll was just along the street from me, it’s a beautiful sunny day in Ottawa, I had some time … so why not? I am an out-and-out militant when it comes to voting, and that comes from my experience as an election observer. Having seen how seriously most Ukrainians take the conduct of free and fair elections, and how they have had to fight for the franchise, I can’t imagine shirking my duty as a citizen and failing to vote.

While I was in the queue with other voters waiting to cast my ballot, an election worker distributed lollipops. I chose cherry. Now that’s something I never saw in Ukraine!

Putin Must Pay

Putin Must Pay demonstration - Dancin' in the StreetPutin Must Pay. According to the latest assessment from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 1,438,000 internally displaced persons in Ukraine. They have fled their homes in Crimea and in Donbas, from the occupation army of the Russian Federation. Putin invaded Ukraine 15 months ago, and he has not made any sign of paying to repair the damage, or to alleviate the suffering of human beings he has caused. Far from it, he has made it worse by illegally annexing Crimea, despoiling Donbas, and prosecuting hybrid warfare against Ukraine using auxiliary troops led by special operations forces of the Russian army.

Putin Must Pay demonstration - Ukrainian dancersA group from Toronto came up by bus to demand “Putin Must Pay” in front of the Russian embassy in Ottawa. August 24 is the Day of Independence of Ukraine, so it was a celebration as well. Mostly it was a celebration of the tolerance, respect, and peace that we in democratic societies like Canada and Ukraine enjoy, and which the unfortunate people in Russia and in its conquered territories do not.

Oscar Peterson’s 90th birthday at the National Arts Centre

Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday at the NACThe great Canadian, Oscar Peterson, would have turned 90 years old today. The jazz pianist is honoured at Oscar’s Corner at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, with a whimsical sculpture that juts out of the wall of the building. A thing-to-do for visitors to the city is to have your picture taken while sitting beside Oscar on the piano bench.

The Clayton Connell quartet played a concert on the street corner. The highlight was a beautiful rendition of Oscar Peterson’s celebrated Hymn to Freedom, a piece that is now a jazz standard and which became an anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I’ve got four albums of Oscar Peterson (my dad, the jazz aficionado, has many more), and he is a favoured musical companion for me on trains, planes, and automobiles.

Northern Woodland White-tailed Deer

Northern Woodland White-tailed DeerThe Northern Woodland White-tailed Deer is common throughout the Ottawa Valley, and far beyond. Highway signs warning Deer Crossing are numerous — and you really do need to be careful when driving. It is magical, though, to see a deer in nature. This youngster was foraging by the country place north of Ottawa in the Gatineau Hills. She came very close to me while I was taking her picture, before she lost interest and dashed off into the undergrowth of the forest.