Posts Tagged ‘spring’

There’s a rhythm that beats from within …….

As I opened the front door this morning I was greeted by the glorious sounds of spring. The birds are all back and are beginning to do their fan dances to attract a mate. I was quickly brought back to reality with the recognisable stench of our resident skunk. He had awakened from hibernation and no doubt had had a nocturnal tussle right outside our front door. It is a vile smell and no amount of flushing with the garden hose could dull that impenetrable aroma. To add to my delight, today is a Show Day at our house. What a greeting this was going to be to all our prospective buyers.

Many of the ‘window shoppers’ are from the East so the layout of the house and its feng shui is vital. Already many had remarked that the patio door lined up with the front door. According to feng shui principles, this signifies that all the accumulated wealth would flow right out of the house! Now we could not have that happening! What about the fact that there were 2 large pots on either sides of the front entrance? In accordance with these very same principles, they are meant to act as bastions and therefore welcome in any guests/energy into the house. I wracked my brains …….what could I do to mask these factors which were playing havoc with the ‘energy’ today?
One of the big parts of winterising your house here in Canada is you need to drain all the outside taps and empty and pack up water features. That was it! My tranquil grey water feature was hiding and gathering dust right up on the top storage shelf in the garage. I gently pulled the ladder off its hook and slid it into position. Up I went like a spring rabbit. I leaned across and manoeuvred the heavy bowl to the side of the shelf. It wobbled and I took up the slack. Oh the spirit was so keen! There was no way I could get that huge dish off the ledge and down the ladder. That was if I did not want to somersault right off and onto the cement floor. I stood there and weighed up my options. I decided to take the sensible one which went so against my grain. I had to play the waiting game yet again. Big muscles and a steady hand were called for ……..and my son who had both those attributes was sleeping soundly.
I continued to clean and polish and the bright spring flowers were placed at strategic positions. I opened the door onto the deck and the fresh spring air blasted through the house. The sound of the returning mallard ducks could be heard from the stream below.
It is time to leave. Everything is ready. My water feature bubbles at the front door. The energy feels right and is here. You just have to open your eyes, ears and heart to feel it!
And the echoes of your melody will always live in these walls…..

Maison de Morkel jpeg

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It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside…….

The snow has melted and left us with these feelings of expectation. Each day we look for the signs. We scrutinise the grass for sprouts of green and dig around the shrubs just in case new life might be hiding there. The temperatures are deceptive. We are teased with blasts from the polar vortex followed by the odd warm spring day. But we don’t mind as the warm days are such a reprieve. We have bravely packed away all the heavy coats right to the back of the closet. It is a point of no return!

Nature reminds us that new life is on its way. We spotted the sleek mink at the bottom of our garden. It dived excitedly into the clear river and inspected the bounty of food. Tiny minnows darted for cover. The graceful creature swam with purpose and was soon sunning himself on the rocks, content and delighted with his discovery. Not sure where Mrs Mink was hiding out as she was missing out on all the fun. Through the winter we would often see the tell-tale signs of tracks up from the river into our back garden. One of those was the Eastern Cottontail rabbit. It has been around throughout the winter and provided much amusement in an otherwise seemingly lifeless vista. According to Germanic myth Eostre, the goddess of spring, created a rabbit by transforming a bird. Ever since this unusual conception, all rabbits and hares have laid eggs during the week of Easter to thank Eostre and to celebrate their ancestry.

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our cheeky Easter bunny

Our graceful mink

Our graceful mink

See I’ve forgotten if they’re green or blue….

Our regular pair of Mallard ducks are back and have been setting up a nest for the new arrivals. The handsome male with his luminescent green head is a sight to behold! His head catches the filtered light through the leafless trees. He waddles up and down gathering twigs unaware of the human appreciation. Every now and again he looks up as if to keep an eye out for Red Tailed Hawk. He is splendid with his large frame of about 60 centimeters. This king of the food chain reigns in our back yard and sends many shudders down the backs of our array of ‘kleinwild.’ The vocal and fearless Red Squirrel stamps his feet and flicks his tail. The hawk does not flinch as he knowingly takes in this tiny pile of cheek…..all of 250 grams of body weight. He gets away with it as the hawk realises that this little creature is but a mere aperitif!

The Mallard couple

The Mallard couple

A scrap of cheek....

A scrap of cheek….

King of all he surveys....

King of all he surveys….

And you can tell everybody this is your song
it may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is now you’re in the world.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

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“Press it down firmly.” The command was shouted from the side of the house. This was serious…..

There was a project in progress and the men in our house were finding a use for all the heaps of snow that had gathered through our brutal Canadian winter at the back of the garden. We did not know what to do with it anymore! The shovels whooshed to and fro as our recycle bins found another function in their somewhat restricted portfolio. Gone were the heaps of trash that had filled their bellies but instead white fluff lined their insides. The brilliant blue plastic receptacles caught the filtered light through the forest of maple and elm trees.  I stood at the top cocooned inside our warm house and admired my design team. They had pulled on their snow gear with their heavy snow boots too. All this cold weather paraphernalia did not seem to restrict their agility as they considered which consistency of the ice cold material would be most suitable for the job.

Heaps of snow....

Heaps of snow….

“What on earth were they up to?”

I had no idea what was being constructed and was drawn to stand and stare. One thing was for certain….. These men were focussed and on a mission.  It was being well orchestrated with method   and had a definite plan. They would stop, lean on the snow shovels, discuss and then work on. It was reminiscent of a road crew but with a whole lot more motivation! I watched and waited. The compacted blocks were turned upside down and the ice brick slid out. Each had a position in the plan. The wall of snow began to immerge. By this stage I could not contain myself any longer and further investigation was definitely warranted.

Josh gets a piece of the action too.

Josh sizes up the material.

“Oh these things weigh a ton!”  I shouted as I lolloped down the side of the house in heavy snow boots to get a look in on the action. The debate then ensued as to what these master builders were creating on this freezing cold day.

“It looks like an igloo. No, I think something more majestic…..a mini Zimbabwe Ruins!” They were not about to let on and just kept me in limbo.  I had a distinct feeling that they did not know what would eventually materialise out of this pile of snow. But it was getting colder and this engineering feat would have to be completed in haste. The pace increased and I waited with baited breath. Slowly it   become apparent as the last snow brick took its position. A name was written up on the side……….a snow bar!

Cold weather activity.....

Cold weather activity…..

It was perfect complete with a glistening sheen of the ice that had already formed along the top. But like any construction, it needed the hands of a lady to add a few of the finer points. So the odd decorative piece and some lighting was added to the master piece. Now all that was needed was to christen this baby!  A few willing friends were summoned to help us with the task.

A perfect evening.

A perfect evening.

It was a perfect evening…..not too cold and not too warm. We did not want our snow – bar to melt or sublimate for that matter!  The fine snowflakes drifted down and we celebrated our creation, life and most of all a special family birthday. It was after all the beginning of spring.

Time to celebrate......

Time to celebrate……

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“When I look into your eyes it’s like watching the night sky.”

A pair of Canadian geese paddled across the smooth river towards me.  It was a still evening and the reflections of the ripples floated towards the jetty. The geese scrambled out of the water and clumsily waddled off. Their sense of purpose meant that they were on their way to their quiet nest for the evening. I could not help thinking that they looked about as awkward on land, as I was about to feel in a boat on water! I stood on the bank as I contemplated my next endeavour…..dragon boat paddling! The words: ‘Face your fears’ and ‘start something new,’ were drumming in my head. After all spring was here and the enthusiasm and energy were infectious!

'The Girls'

‘The Girls’

“I see that you’ve come so far to be right where you are.”

Names were checked off, life vests fastened and the correct length of paddle chosen from the stock. My stomach growled and I was not sure if I was excited or apprehensive. It was probably my supper that I had wolfed down before I ran out the front door. As I adjusted my life jacket, things felt strangely familiar.  I was reminded of childhood holidays in South Africa where we would ‘muck about in boats.’ I adjusted my life jacket like a dab hand! I can do this……

The length of this was crucial.......

The length of this was crucial…….

“And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating.”

“Take it away, girls!” At first we clashed our oars together as we struggled to get synchronized. Splashes dashed over the boat.

“Watch your partner,” this was proving to be a challenge…..to keep your eye on the person diagonally opposite you and to pull on your paddle at the same time. Not only did I have to think this through but I had to get my body to do what I wanted it to do! I hoped that I could activate some old muscle memory, as it felt that some of them were getting a bit of a rude awakening! Then there was the question of technique!

“We’ve got a lot to learn.”

“Let it run, girls!”  We had a welcome break of a few seconds in between a burst of paddling. I felt my muscles burn…… and then the relief when we could just rest. It is amazing how just those few seconds allowed you to just keep carrying on. I was feeling it now. My knuckle hurt where I had bashed it on the side of the boat. I think my paddle was too long. I needed to remember that when I chose one next time. Then there was the exhilaration of the harmony when we were all in unison……. the fatigue just melted away. Our coach persisted, “Paddles up, girls!

“I won’t give up on us even though the skies get rough.”

It was a still evening and the lights shone down on us through the trees and reflected in the water. The sun had almost slipped away but we still had the last glimmer to steer by. We felt accomplished! All 20 of us had managed to paddle our dragon boat up stream a fair distance. We did not tip over and even built up a dash of speed! There were certainly going to be some sore muscles tomorrow. In the back of our minds we knew we still had much to master but allowed ourselves to indulge in our excitement.

 It was exhilarating! 

We can aspire to.......

We can aspire to…….




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Enough already! I thought I had passed the ‘Winter Test’ this year! We have endured the blasts from the Arctic Vortex, had metres of snow thrown on us and braved the sub zero temperatures!  We had just begun to thaw and had enjoyed a few days out in the garden and have even sipped our first of the season sundowners on the deck. The hesitant sun had begun to warm our frosted lily- white winter limbs. Our mood had lifted and there was a spring in the step. But it was not to last…….

The morning scene.....

The morning scene…..

We woke up this morning and the world outside was all carpeted in snow! Oh no! It was hard to assimilate that we had regressed back into winter over night.

So out came the liquid sunshine, the ‘must have’ vitamin D tablets, at breakfast. I had pushed that right to the back of the tray as I felt they would not be needed for a few months. How wrong I was! Warming Jungle Oats would be at the top of the menu once more rounded off with a cup of hot chocolate. There would be no walk for our canine member of the family either. I just could not get myself out of that door to duel with the wind. Josh had that ‘gatvol’ expression on his face as he went out for his morning ablutions on his snowy patch. He had reveled in the sun over the weekend as he rolled in the grass and luxuriated on his back in the sun. Now all he could do was jump straight back into his warm basket and sulk.

I fumbled in the dark coat cupboard for my tried and tested and ‘very sick of wearing’ blue padded jacket. When I first arrived in Canada I could never understand the reasoning behind having so many coats. I used to listen to locals discuss their ski coats, walking jackets, evening coats, weekend coats and spring coats. What on earth was a spring coat? Initially I decided that this was surely extravagant and I could manage with far less. I muddled on for the first winter and even the second as they were both mild. But then the ‘big guns’ hit us…….this last winter! It did not take me long to realize that my sensible repertoire of 2 coats in the mudroom cupboard was just not enough. I would feel an attack of SADS coming on when I reached into the cupboard and selected one from my meager choice! Then the warm boots were reluctantly pulled on too. Oh for a pair of peep toe sandals!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

I long to give my summer sandals an airing!

So as the sun breaks through those clouds and the snow begins to melt yet again, the prospect of spring becomes a reality once more. We can look forward to new growth and new life! But in the meantime a couple of mallard ducks have set up home down at the river at the bottom of our garden. There has been much courtship and spring shenanigans going on.  It looks like there is soon to be a batch of baby chicks. What a lovely way to celebrate Easter!

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

Our mallard ducks make whoopee in our stream.

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You walk a lonely road; oh so far you are from home…….


The bustle of the airport was overpowering and I felt the nausea rise in my throat. My swollen arm ached and I cursed myself for my stupidity at my uncoordinated crash from the ski lift. These journeys back to South Africa are long and lonely. Mixed feelings and longings fill my head as I try to rise above my pounding head and sore body.

“Hello, I heard you speak, you must be South African!” A bright cheerful face looked down on me. Those kind words quickly washed away my self pity and wallowing. We chatted and connected with the similar threads that had been part of our lives. My new friend was further down the road of the ‘Trans- Atlantic Living’ and I valued the tips and similar experiences that we shared. Too soon it was time to board and the conversations would have to continue once we were back in Canada.

The view from Loonshadow.

Morning coffee on the deck at  Loonshadow


May it be that you journey on to light the day…..


Many months later we joined the weekend exodus of Canadians up to Cottage Country. We were to reconnect with our fellow South Africans. The spring colours burst forth as we travelled up east deep into the Kawartha Highlands. The name ‘Kawartha’ means “the Land of Reflections.’ The name did not disappoint as we indulged our eyes on the ice- melt rivers and the glistening dark waters.  You do know that there is more lake area in Canada than any other country in the world! I digested that thought while the road meandered on through the hills and dark forests. We had been on the road for almost 3 hours and a cup of coffee and a rusk would certainly would have gone down well! The car rounded one last corner and in the clearing, a cottage nestled amongst the trees. We were finally at “Loonshadow.’


A walk in the forest

A walk in the forest

Believe and you will find your way……..


The front door opened and our South African hosts were there to greet us. There was that same hospitality that I had experienced at Amsterdam Airport. The weekend had begun….

The men tried their hand at fishing but they could only tell us about ‘the one that got away.’ Besides, who needs fish when you have loads of steak and boerewors! The women ambled through the dense forest, while the boys ventured out on the quad bike. There was much to talk about and we covered a range of topics, like only women can. Everything from ‘what hair product works best in Canada’ to ‘the best places to shop.’ What can I say? I am sure that the men’s conversation was a far cry from this, especially being that their favourite rugby team had just been defeated! The sounds of our voices were like a whisper as the forest floor echoed under our feet. It was time to see to the evening meal.


There is nothing quite like staring into a fire.....

There is nothing quite like staring into a fire…..

May it be an evening star shines down upon you…..


A roaring fire was made and we gathered round as the light disappeared from the mirrored lake. The sad howl of the loon duck faded and the shrill call of the osprey broke the silence of the night. It was perfect and even the bite of the black flies could not spoil it for us. There is always a bit of pain with the pleasure…….




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(This song was written and first played by the Zombies in 1968. This rendition is by Dave Matthews, a South African, who now lives in Seattle.)


It is another day of temperatures below zero! I mumble as I sit down in the mudroom. (This is a room at the front of most Canadian houses and it has all the coats and winter garb.) I pull out my blue fur- trimmed coat and my thick boots. I am sick of this outfit!  I have forgotten what my feet look like as they have been all trussed up in heavy boots for months! Each morning we look out for any sign of some reprieve……..another day of rain and grey skies. Oh no!

Even the locals are ‘gatvol.’ Sometimes I have to resort to my local dialect as there is just no other word that best described this feeling.  I could think of a few other choice words which could best describe this k…k weather but I am sure that this blog would then be blocked!  But there is hope……. 


One of the joys of winter!

One of the joys of winter!



Spring is slow at gracing us with her presence. You have to look hard for it as it pours most days!  My tulip bulbs are sprouting and their glossy leaves have broken through the earth. Thank goodness! They survived the beady eyes of the squirrels during the fall. This was when all the delicately juicy specimens were gathered up as their stash for the winter.  Somehow the new bed that I had created in the garden was overlooked by the vigilant gatherers. The resident rabbit is the next threat. The new growth is just too much for him to resist. Luckily Josh keeps a watchful eye from the window. He performs a war dance whenever any livestock dare to trespass on our verge. So for the moment the bulbs are safe.

I resort to the indoor tulips!

I resort to the indoor tulips!


The morning greets us with an abundance of bird calls….robin, thrush and the splendid red cardinals. The woodpeckers often disrupt the melodious calls with their beating thuds against the bark. They busily make new homes for fussy females and the pending brood. The majestic birds of prey have made their weary journey back across the sea. They can be seen gliding overhead and filling up on local delicacies like squirrel and the odd mouse. Our resident red -tailed hawk has appeared. He was less noisy but probably still exhausted after his long commute. He is sure to be squawking away in the elm trees and creating havoc once he has regained his strength.

Our magnificent cardinals.

Our magnificent cardinals.



Spring is a time to renew, recover and replenish. Nature does it and it enthuses us winter-weary humans to do the same. The excitement is tangible. A mere glimpse of a ‘patch of blue’ draws people outside and into the street.  Enthusiastic neighbours gather round and wield their power hoses. The clean up has started! Driveways and front steps are washed and the residue salt and grime disappear down the drains. Sleek new road tyres are fitted to the family cars and the robust winter tyres packed away.  Our basements are bulging with all the winter paraphernalia! The mud room gets a facelift and all the heavy coats and skis make way for bathing costumes and sandals. Hoorah!

All this adds to the delight and realization that SPRING is almost here!




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(This song was written by George while he was sitting in Eric Clapton’s garden after a very long English winter)

Cheers to spring!

 “Little darling, the smiles are returning to the Canadian faces. Here comes the sun. It feels like years since it has been here. Sun…sun here it comes…..”

Cottage Country is being opened up so that ‘gone fishing’ can become a weekend activity once more. Sport cars are relieved of their grey winter covers and skylights are slid open. Bikini’s are pulled from the back of cupboards and summer outfit shopping is in full force. The black and drab- grey garb of winter is pushed to one side. Pinks, yellows and even a touch of orange will soon be the prominent colours on the streets and the nautical and ‘preppy boy’ look is all the rage. Oh to just wear my white shorts again!

Spring fever has hit our street. We have all come out of hiding and I see new faces each day. The ‘snowbirds’ have returned from their escape down to Florida and are hurriedly catching up with ‘the opening up’ process. We scurry about and tend our gardens. We rake, trim, bundle and feed our urban sanctuaries. Local knowledge is shared over the garden fence and the best compost, topsoil and fertilizer is discussed. Garden catalogues are poured over with the brightly coloured flower selections. It is to be our first spring garden in the northern hemisphere and the lack of knowledge of the local flora and fauna is quite a challenge. Local gardening magazines are a great help as I scour the pages for plants that will survive zone 5 type weather.

I assure myself that the characteristics that are required for plants to survive in the African sun or the harsh Canadian winter are similar. They both require the resilience to survive in harsh weather conditions. Although the plants in Africa have to contend with prolonged heat and not enough water, while the Canadian ones have all the water in the world and very few months of continuous sun!
Water, water……everywhere….. and I remind myself that I don’t have to run a tiny bath anymore!

Inside the house the spring cleaning process is in full swing. I am slowly learning the intricacies of keeping house in the northern hemisphere.  Here house mites need to be kept at bay. All mattresses need to be vacuumed regularly.  I smile to myself as I reflect on how the pattern of my day has changed. I used to fill my head with ideas on how to challenge my pupils and now I ponder the life cycle of a house mite in a Canadian household. Both challenges….just different fields!

The beers are on ice and I have a few good bottles of merlot in the store to savour on the deck on those long summer evenings.

“We made it! It has been a long and lonely, cold winter. And I say…..It’s all right.”

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I am grateful today……..

My constant companion, Josh.


1.For a warm coat, I needed it in my walk around the city of Toronto   today with temperatures and the chill factor of minus 10.

2. For the quick, warm and comfortable ride on the go-train into the city. No sitting in the traffic for me!

3. For the sustenance of a plate of steaming hot butternut soup made from scratch in a lovely restaurant in The Distillery District.

4. For being able to keep walking for so long today in the city without feeling the pain of the sciatica in my leg. Old age is creeping in!

5. For the positive response that Bryan has received with his job interviews in Toronto.

6. For Philip’s energy and drive with his demanding job here.

7. For having the privilege of being able to be a ‘stay at home mom’ for the first time in my life. I now have time to play!

8. For being able to watch David grow into his own person. It is not easy to have 2 brothers precede you.

9. For David making the senior rugby squad, he has worked so hard to be considered for this. Yes, they do play rugby here!

10. For my friends and family, who even with their busy lives, still keep in touch with me on a regular basis. Contact with home makes my heart sing!

11. For the job offer made to me by a school in SA. This made me realize that I am still remembered and considered for my skill as a teacher even though I am no longer there.

12. For the message from a past pupil on Facebook. It is special to know that the connections you made with young people are still relevant.

13. For my furry child, Josh, he is such an enthusiastic companion and has such a zest for life.

14. For my improving vision that allows me to take in the beauty of my surroundings on my daily walks.

15. For the first buds that have appeared on the shrubs in my garden. Spring is on its way!

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Canadian flags flutter in the wind as we make our way north on highway 401. The straight fur trees appear match like against the white vast snow fields and Fisher Price barns peep through the misty distance.  A horse digs deep with his nose for a fruitless search of green sustenance. The frozen grass that had survived the harshness of winter pokes through the soft white crust of snow. Ploughed lines of soil are accentuated with a white icy trim. The dark network of deciduous branches stands stark against the grey sky. It is hard to imagine that soon they would be bursting with green buds. These white ‘plains of Canada’ shimmer for miles and the trees quiver as clouds of mist veil the leaves.


There is both frailness and strength to winter as all living creatures and plants struggle to survive the elements. The fields are still as the squirrels take cover in burrows and play the waiting game. They patiently sit out the storms, huddled up in their leaf- lined homes. They have learnt this lesson and know that the reward for their patience is great. They await the first tip of green that will announce the arrival of spring. Oh what a joyous occasion that will be! All that moves will run about and enjoy the warmth of the sun!


Today tiny white buds in our garden announced that spring is imminent. The days have begun to stretch and our waiting game is almost over too!  We have been let off lightly this time with a mild Canadian winter. It is time to run outside and enjoy the warmth on our backs.




Our first Canadian winter.

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