Author Archives: admincj

The Three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Re-charging

This summer, I took the longest sustained pause since completing my PhD. I knew I needed a break, but my time kept getting eroded. I decided a year ago to safeguard this summer to recharge, and also to focus on my non-academic writing. With caring for aging parents, and then launching right into the PhD, life had been taking priority over the creative work for more than a decade. Six manuscripts had been parked that I wanted to get back to. I brought three with me on retreat, knowing that my writing focus tends to change with the weather.

It rained six days out of seven quite consistently, sometimes with violent wind, thunder and lightning; so while not a good summer for painting and outdoor cottage repairs, it proved very productive in terms of one of my writing projects. A poetry manuscript that I’ve been working on for a while, but hadn’t figured out how to bring together, is now nearing completion. And it feels so good! It’s like taking back a vital part of my self that’s been lying fallow for far too long. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, but I find that academic writing just doesn’t allow for the same level of free-thinking creativity; it just doesn’t offer the same buzz. And for me, creative work requires quality time that also supports the energy required.

Doe on the front lawn looks into the cottage to watch me knit

I took my writing retreat at the family cottage, a log cabin in the woods on a lake north of Peterborough. I was there for nearly six weeks, which proved to be an optimal amount of time. It was long enough to get good work done, but by the end, I was ready to come home. I also got some fun reading done; I caught up on almost a year’s worth of National Geographic, and read five novels, four of them YA fare. I knitted most of a sweater, noting my long association of writing with knitting. And in spite of the weather, I got out on the lake in my kayak several times.

Sitting on the front lawn, you can see and hear all kinds of birds: ospreys, blue jays, chickadees, scarlet tanagers, hummingbirds, herons, loons, ducks, geese, wild turkeys, crows (few things in nature sound as goofy as an adolescent crow), and woodpeckers. The woods are also full of animals: black and red squirrels, chipmunks, racoons, porcupines, groundhogs, fox, and deer. It’s amazing to see them in the wild, but they tend to disappear on weekends when more people are around and the lake gets noisy.

Pileated Woodpecker’s snack

It’s quiet there. So quiet, that I sleep heavily through the night. So quiet, that you can hear insects, and when a Phoebe snatches one from the air, you can hear her beak snapping shut. The air sometimes has sweet undertones. Sunsets provide amazing light shows, and then the night is truly dark and still.

I feel well rested, relaxed, and more like myself than I have for a really long time. As with all holidays, one tries to hang onto that feeling for as long as possible. I’m back in Toronto, with the teaching term starting, but I’ve scheduled regular writing time, hoping to move forward with some other projects that’ve been on hold. I’ll let you know when I get a publisher lined up!

 

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Boats of the Kawarthas

The lakes north of Toronto are home to a panoply of wild boats. This handy field guide will help identify a few of the more common species.

Kayaks and canoes often travel in pairs, or sometimes flocks. They tend to stay near shore, preferring calm waters, and are most commonly sighted mornings and evenings. These quiet boats can seemingly appear out of nowhere; however, when occupied by youthful campers, can be readily heard across the lake. It is heartening to see that their numbers have noticeably increased in the last few years. Their unmotorized cousins, rowboats and sailboats, continue to be rare on these lakes.

Fishing boats also tend to stay inshore, believing that this is their prey’s preferred habitat. Unlike kayaks and canoes, fishing boats usually travel alone; however, like their cousins, they are also more commonly sighted in the mornings and evenings. Their occupants have a propensity for standing, often talking loudly, and are prone to alcoholic-induced behaviour. Because of their fondness for the shallows, they are frequently snagged on rocks, sometimes emitting loud swearing when this happens. Fish are wary of these boats, having witnessed or experienced release back into the water via a long overhand lob.

Moving through deeper water, majestic houseboats traverse these waterways at a slow, steady pace. These are often rented boats, piloted by less experienced drivers. They are most common on weekends, especially long weekends, when they can be quite raucous with loud music, alcohol, and fireworks. Although usually seen solo, they are sometimes observed docking together in small groups. Such clusters of houseboats often emit loud partying noises

Jets skis are increasingly common, usually travelling at speed, in pairs or sometimes threes. Although designed for a single rider, they can be observed with as many as three. As with houseboats, they are most frequently observed on weekends. These gregarious vehicles are noisy, and like showing off. Occasionally, one will stall in the middle of the lake, while another circles around, seemingly teasing or anxious. Rarely, two will stop for a conversation before speeding off again.

Another common weekend species is the jet boat. These excessively loud boats are recognizable by the high plume of water extending from their rear. Although jet skis share this behaviour, because of their heavier, more powerful motors, jet boat rooster tails are taller. They move at uncommonly fast speeds, and while sometimes seen solo, jet boats often race in pairs, or with a jet ski companion. These are competitive boats, that clearly enjoy showing off.

Common for decades on these lakes, motorboats, with either inboard or outboard motors, ply the waters, usually at moderate speed and volume. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be seen at any time of day. In comparison to some other motorized boats, like jet skis and jet boats, these boats are sturdier, take more passengers, and are usually quieter. In the past, these boats sometimes towed water-skiers; however, now they more commonly tow inflatables, frequently filled with screeching children.

 

 

 

 

 

Increasingly, oversized inboards, such as cigar boats, can be seen—and heard—roaring up the lake. These new hybrids are clearly an indication of the increasing affluence of weekend boaters, as they usually have only a single occupant, and like jet boats, can often be seen in racing competition. (It was upon witnessing one of these deafening races that this researcher had the fleeting thought that the male pilot should, “grow a penis.” This thought was not blurted aloud, as it would have been very unprofessional, as well as unheard over the din.)

Finally, spacious cabin cruisers are also increasing in number. The presence of these boats is another clear indication of the increasing affluence of weekend boaters, as they can take multiple passengers in comfort, allowing for sunbathing on the deck, and sleeping or other activities in the berths below-deck. They include cooking facilities, enabling occupants to eat while drinking, usually reducing their raucousness. Because of their self-contained luxury, cabin cruisers can travel greater distances than many other species, lending their stately appearance to numerous lakes on a given weekend.

 

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Reflections from Cottage Country

Catherine’s off being a writer in a cabin in the woods. Me? I’m on holiday, so I volunteered to write this month’s post. (Wow. Automatic spellcheck is amazing—especially when you’re not a great typist.) We’ve been here a really long time. It’s rained almost every day, so it’s been perfect for napping.

Even inside, there’s lots to see and do. There are lots of windows, so I can see all kinds of birds. One day, the lilac bush was alive with them! And I’ve seen all kinds of animals outside too! Some of them are about my size, but they look very different. One of them lives under the cottage; I hear her scratching or grunting sometimes. Her whole body is covered with these long sharp-looking spines. Early one morning there was a family of five little animals about my size staring in at us. They sat up on their hind haunches with their front paws hanging down like little hands. There’s an animal that looks a bit like a small dog, but he has the most amazing tail!

And there are these huge animals—bigger than a human! I hear them snorting in the trees. Sometimes they come out though and they’re enormous! One of them had little antlers growing from his head! They’re not very brave though. The smallest movement or noise and they snort and stomp, then run back into the woods.

 

 

 

 

Catherine’s here all the time—well, nearly all the time. It’s great because whenever I get a bit peckish, I ask her for treats; sometimes she complies. When there’s sun, she lets me go outside. She makes me wear this stupid string thing, and won’t let me go under the cottage or into the woods. The other day, I took her around the whole cottage and then down the road. I decided to turn back before the cottage was out of sight; I didn’t want her to get lost.

I’m loving the quiet and the sweet air and the moss for stretching in and the grass for eating and so much to see and experience! And lots of cuddles when it’s cold. I hope the weather gets better so we can go outside more. Not sure when we’ll be home; I’m not the driver!

Signed The Mystery Cat in Black aka Baboo aka Fawkes Jenkins

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Ah, Paris

Paris, Ontario, that is. Since it was settled in 1829, and incorporated in 1850, the town has grown to a burgeoning population of over 12,000. But size isn’t everything. Paris has sometimes been called the prettiest town in Ontario. Built on the shore of the Grand River near its convergence with the Nith River, it’s easy to see why.

Paris on the Grand

There’s a Public Library, and a variety of churches. Some people even canoe and kayak on the Grand, but there’s quite a current and rapids, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Paris Public Library

Boating on the Grand

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is also the home of Mary Maxim crafts, so there’s lots to do on those cold winter nights. When all else fails, one can always relax and watch the lights of Paris. Enjoy!

The Lights of Paris

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

California, Here I Come!

California’s been on my list for a while, so when a San Diego conference opportunity presented, I jumped on it. After attending numerous conference sessions, I set out to explore the city. My first walk was along the harbourfront.

San Diego combined Work and Play

Setting out from my hotel, I wandered through the very commercial Seaport Village and kept walking. Although it’s possible to board the now-decommissioned USS Midway, I declined. Its size is truly awesome, dwarfing the numerous helicopters and planes on its decks. I walked all the way to the Maritime Museum, which allowed me to board and walk through classic tall ships, as well as a submarine. I’ve always wondered how I’d do in a sub, and now I know. Having done it once, I’m glad that I’ll never be asked to do it again.

After several more conference sessions, I headed out the next day to explore the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m always amazed at what passes for old on the west coast. Although charming, there are many much older buildings in Toronto or Peterborough, and here, the gas lamps are electrical. I made it as far as the Chuck Jones Gallery and spent a long time looking at original pieces by Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, Charles Shultz and others. It’s a delightful time capsule for connoisseurs of 1960s cartoons.

Balboa Park, San Diego

On my last full day, and after a few more conference sessions, I headed for Balboa Park. The round-trip walk took me three hours, but the weather was warm and clear, like every other day in San Diego. The main attraction at the park is a series of buildings constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, a Worlds’ Fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The buildings are perfectly preserved and rest among lush greenery and fountains. The park is obviously popular with families.

San Diego is beautiful and the weather was consistently perfect. It’s also expensive. I was stunned at the number and population density of homeless people everywhere I walked.

The perfect image for San Diego; beauty on the surface sometimes hides unpleasant truths.

Between the time I planned and accepted my conference invitation, and the actual trip, the American political landscape changed drastically. Although I considered cancelling, ultimately, I decided to go. And I’m glad I went, but I may take such decisions a little more cautiously in future.

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved