Friday, February 27, 2009

man's best friend

It is impossible to write about moments with Sophie without including a tale specifically about Jones and Sophie. While the notion of man’s best friend has been written about by many men who have owned dogs, I would like to discuss it from the perspective of the woman who occupies space in both the man’s and the dog’s life. It’s a perspective that I truly treasure.

I learned very early on, that the while the relationship between Jones and Sophie was going to be special, it was also going to be messy…and smelly. Their return to the house after one of their outings together never seems to be without muddy paw prints and footprints all over my floors or the musky scent of wet dog hanging in the air. However, it’s an odour I’ve learned to live with because I’ve seen the two of them sauntering up the street from their river walk: Sophie out in front, soaking wet, tail wagging, looking back every so often to make sure Jones is still at the other end of her leash and Jones following behind, squinting in the summer sun, smiling down at the little dog leading the way. That picture is worth every day smelling of wet dog.

When I think back over their first year together, my thoughts are a string of snapshots over time: the two of them standing on the pier looking out over the water in Port Elgin, a childhood haunt that holds a special place in Jones’ memories; Jones running across a snowy field with Sophie tearing after him during a favourite game of tag; Sophie curled up in bed on Sunday mornings while Jones reads, both cozy and content. I’ve seen Sophie’s love for Jones grow to the point that it’s palpable….she explodes in unequivocal, unrestrained joy at the very sight of him. And I’ve seen Jones, a fairly stoic and objective man, reach for a grip on his emotions in an instant when he thought Sophie might be injured or in pain.

There is a connection, a bond, between them that is very different than my relationship with either one of them. It seems to transcend the gap between species and extends beyond language and emotion. They share an inherent love of simplicity and nature in life, an appreciation of the world around them and of each other. To be able to watch them together, knowing how much they mean to each other, is an amazing gift. Sometimes, when we all go hiking together, I purposely fall behind a little bit and I watch their even tempo as they walk, their ease in each others company and I am moved.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

lessons - three

There are times to work and there are times to play....

....both should done with same kind of intensity and
both should bring you happiness.

Monday, February 23, 2009

always growing

"living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to
thought in such a way that we are always gr
owing, always
experiencing new things
in the old and old things in the new"
~thomas merton

Sunday, February 22, 2009

sunday stills - architecture

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was architecture. I decided early in the week that I would try and capture this theme by shooting churches. Sophie and I don't follow one particular faith, but have an appreciation for the power and beauty of all of them....a power and beauty that is often reflected in the architecture of different places of worship.

Church of Our Lady

We headed out on a road trip early Saturday morning in search of churches in Southern Ontario. Sophie rode shotgun and the sun was shining, all the right country tunes were blasting from the radio and the coffee was made just right. We had stopped half a dozen times to shoot various sizes and styles of churches and were starting our route back when we saw her....away in the distance and I knew we had one more location to hit.

sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows

detailed arch above the front door

This is the Church of Our Lady in Guelph, Ontario...sitting atop a hill and watching over the city. She took my breath away. My camera could not do her justice. The rising peaks and detailed arches, the colourful stained glass windows, the sheer reverence of her. Sophie and I sat on her front steps after we finished shooting and my eyes wandered over the horizon and the city below. I thought about how many people must have found comfort within the walls of this church over the last hundred years and more...about how many times that front door swung open as a groom and his new bride took their first steps into their new life together or about how many times that front door closed behind a congregation gathered to say final good-byes to a loved one.

front steps and doorway

The architecture was magnificent....but I sensed that the foundation of this church was not built on bricks and mortar, but on the solace, love, and joy found here by the human spirit.

Friday, February 20, 2009

b&g girl

I received some good news today...I took a tiny step closer towards a dream of mine. A little slice of success. But this post is not about sharing that news yet....I do not want to blog about it until it's closer to being a tangible part of this world. This post is about a person who helped me take that step.

I wrote about her once before. But I feel the need to do so again, because I know, in the very core of my being, that I had not met her, if she had not graced with me such a wonderful friendship, that my life would be very different today. That dreams would still just be dreams...something hazy in the distant land of maybe and someday.

Many of us have people in our lives who encourage us. Who bring honesty, sincerity and a sense of what's genuine into our lives. Who are always rootin' for us. My friend is all of those things and more. She exuded such belief in me and in my abilities that it compelled me to face my fears, to ignore my doubt and to do the one thing we all need to do to get that much closer to our dreams...her belief in me made me try. And I will never, with all the words of the English language at my disposal, be able to articulate to her how much that means to me....what she means to me.

And when I arrived home from work today, after sharing my good news with her this morning, I found a wonderful bouquet of tulips waiting for me. A message of congratulations from my friend. Buds still....on the edge of me, I hope. Her thoughtfulness and unabashed enthusisam over my good news touched me in a way that I will remember in my heart forever.

My friend, b&g girl, is also a fellow blogger. She is relatively new to the scene. I encourage all of you to visit her blog and get to know a little piece of this wonderful person. I have never met anyone like her...nor do I ever expect to again. She was a driving force behind the creation of Finding Sirius...and her wisdom and humor helped to forge my incredible bond with Sophie.

And to you, b&g girl...there are friends and then there is you. One of the best parts of my story is you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

lessons - two

There are times when it is worth it to venture off the path in front of you into unknown, unchartered territory... just may find something joyful there.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

lessons - one

I am starting a new series of short posts about the lessons we learn from our dogs....or at least the ones that I have taken away from my time with Sophie and have found worthwhile to apply to my own path in life. I know that I will continue to discover new truths as we move through this world together and I look forward to those discoveries...and to sharing them with you through a few words and a photograph.

There are moments in life when it is important... run with wild abandon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a daily choice

There is no secret to life. No quick fix nor magic formula. No blueprint that can be followed, nor seven easy steps that can be implemented. It's about making a choice. Not once...but every day.

Each day I choose.... define myself on my terms.... create through my writing, my photography... cherish what I have... soar.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

sunday stills - the moon

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was the moon. I will admit that these are not my best photos....they are not even good photos...but they are moon photos. I do believe, however, that I get an "A" for effort. I've included the story of said effort...

I have never really photographed the's never been a subject that interested me. So before taking any photos I went online to do a little research for this challenge. I was planning on buying a tripod anyway, but now I had good reason as every article I read said it was a requirement. So I bought one on Monday. I printed out the moonrise and moonset times for my region for the week and eagerly waited for the clouds to disappear.

the eerieness of this photo jumped out at me

On Tuesday evening, the clouds were moving so I set up my camera with tripod and snapped a bunch of photos. They were all crap. I realized that I needed to get out of the automatic modes on my dslr. So I read some more articles on moon photography. Then I read some articles on basic photography so that I could really understand what they were saying in the moon photography articles. Then I poured over my operations manual so that I could figure out how to work my camera (outside of the automatic settings). It was cloudy for most of the week and each day the moonrise/moonset times kept getting later and later (so I was either asleep or at work).

waning moon....

On Friday morning, I awoke at 3am, flipped over and saw the moon staring at me through my bedroom window. I immediately hopped out of bed, threw on my boots and a coat over my pj's and headed into the backyard with my camera and tripod. I had taken about 25 photos, while fumbling in the dark with my camera manual, when I heard Jones open the window and ask: "Honey? Is everything okay?". "Just taking pictures of the stupid moon," I replied. "Go back to bed." He is still giving me suspicious sideways glances today. And all of those photos were also crap.

this one is my favorite (even with the blurred tree) - i
think it's the most interesting

Saturday morning, 5:15 am, I once again set up shop. The first two dark photos posted are from that session. I took a few more later Saturday morning when there was more light and the third photo is from that round. This last photo is from the only time before this challenge that I have pointed my camera at the is from my archives, taken about two weeks ago. It was my back up for this challenge in case I couldn't get a shot this week.

my only pre-challenge moon photo

I spent the week being haunted by the moon. I know now that every assumption I have ever made about the moon is true....she is a fickle, elusive creature. Sophie and I would much rather chase sunsets. (But we loved the complexity of this week's challenge and enjoyed learning so much more about our camera and the art of photography)

Friday, February 13, 2009

the heart of scotland

From my archive of columns....this one ran last August.

With a Scottish background on my father’s side, Sophie and I recently spent a hazy Sunday morning at one of the local Highland Games Festivals. It was a beautiful morning, rich with Scottish heritage. As we walked through the fairgrounds, poignant melodies from the pipers accompanied us. We joined in the applause for the highland dancers….young girls with flushed cheeks and happy smiles, their family tartans carefully pinned in place. We stopped to visit an elderly man that took a shining to Sophie…his thick Scottish accent and gentle demeanour reminding me of my wonderful grandfather whose time with us ended a few years ago.

As we made our way around the Festival, we ended up at the Scottish Breed Dog Show section. Sophie and I walked through the area where beautiful, delicate Dandie Dinmont Terriers were being groomed for the show and elegant, graceful Deerhounds lazed in the shade waiting for their chance in the spotlight. As we were passing through, a woman called out to us. She asked us if we were planning on staying for the show and when I indicated yes, she then asked if Sophie was well trained and, if so, would we would like to be in the show to represent the Border Collies as they were missing that breed? So we were about to make our Dog Show debut! Our tasks included walking in the parade of dogs once around the ring and then entering center ring when it was the Border Collie turn to be showcased. Sophie would do a few of her tricks and then we would head back to our place in line.

I was, admittedly, a bit nervous. The other dogs were beautiful, well-groomed, and so calm. As we took our place in line, I couldn’t help but notice, with some dismay, Sophie’s grass stained paws (from an earlier Frisbee game), her rumpled fur and her wild-eyed stare. The parade started and we were off! Sophie was a picture of perfect obedience walking in the parade of breeds and then it was our turn in center ring. We started performing our tricks as the announcer began describing the Border Collie…and then I saw the unmistakable twinkle in Sophie’s eye. I watched as a familiar blur of black and white shot past me to throw herself, shaking with delight, into the arms of the spectators.

I could feel my embarrassment rising, especially when I saw the horrified look on the announcer’s face. The other dogs had been so obedient and dignified in center ring...I was as mortified as the announcer. But then I looked out at the smiling, laughing faces of the crowd who had immediately become taken with lovable Sophie and I remembered where I was…at a Festival celebrating my heritage. Celebrating a history and culture that helped me become the person I am today. Celebrating who I am…with pride. And that’s just what Sophie was doing…being all things Border Collie. Being all things Sophie. Her grass stained paws and wild antics are some of the things that I love most about her. I had forgotten that for a minute, but never would again. So while we were not best in show that day, I do believe we showed the best of heart.

Cuimhnich air na daoine o'n d'thainig thu ~ Remember the men from whence you came.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

just breathe

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

do what you love

There is something important about doing things that you love. About finding, even if for just a brief moment each day, that zeal...that light...that lifts the spirits inside you. That fulfills you. At the end of a long, grueling work day on an overcast Tuesday, it's easy to come home, curl up on the couch and lose myself in the television for a few mind numbing hours. But it's worth it to throw on my boots, collar up Sophie and hit the trails with camera in hand. Worth it because I find....

the beauty of a pink February sky...

a light that reminds me of what's meaningful in my life...

and because I love it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

essence of a dog

As she lies peacefully in the day's fading sun, she often seems lost in thought.

Wise and pensive....

...reflective of yesterday's trails and contemplative of tomorrow's... these moments her eyes may seem almost human, but this is when she is the very essence of a dog...of my dog...of Sophie.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

sunday stills - reflections

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was reflections. This photo was taken last summer with my old point & shoot camera. It's one of my favorites. I have used this photo in a previous post, but it was still the best picture for this week's challenge.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

saturday morning - silver creek

Warm temperatures, a hint of spring felt like anything was possible....such as:

an early winter thaw.....

too high leaps....or even....

...a walk across the February sky.

It was a morning filled with happy spirits.

wcb - elora "plays"

A leaf as the object of her attack is okay...charming and cute even. The "charming and cute" quickly dissipate when it's a hand, feet or Sophie.

submission for weekend cat blogging, hosted this week by m-cats club.

Friday, February 6, 2009

last light

Today, Sophie and I went chasing sunsets....

....and it was perfect.