Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pipes and English Tea

I went to a concert called “Just Pipes” presented by the Brott Music Festival 2012 at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlington, Ontario. It featured two local artists, Jan Overduin, organist and Matthew Jones, recorder soloist, and  the concert got its name from the musical instruments.

The Brott Music Festival, now running in its 25th year, is known for inviting very talented local artists to perform in local venues in Hamilton and Burlington. St. Christopher’s Anglican Church has hosted many of these concerts because of its beautiful pipe organ, and its ample seating.

Matthew Jones is a versatile musician. He is Music Director of the Timmins Symphony Orchestra. He teaches, records as well as maintains his career as a cellist and recorder soloist.

Jan Overuid is a multi-award winner and has appeared in many recital, radio broadcast and on television.

The first part of the  program consisted of four pieces of baroque music: Sammartini’s Concerto in F major, Handel’s Sonata No. 5 in F major, Telemann’s Concerto in C major and J.S. Bach’s Sonata in F major.

It was a delightful performance by both Jones and Overduin and they brought to life the baroque flavour in the beautiful church setting. Jones played the soprano recorder in the Sammatini, and the alto recorder in the other pieces. His tone was rich and he had superb control of the instrument. He even performed a fine balancing act by raising his knee and touched his thigh with the end of the recorder in the Telemann concerto–this was the stunt to get a high F#! Jones prepared the audience for this surprise when he introduced the pieces to us. He had a sense of humour, and  whatever was lacking in program notes for this concert was well compensated for by Jones’s oral presentation.

The organ is quite rightly described as “the orchestra in a box”. The variation of sounds it produced complemented the recorder playing. I was particularly impressed by the piece by Handel and the picturesque interpretation by both artists.

The audience was ushered to another hall during intermission and we were served afternoon tea.

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There was a selection of dainty fruit tarts, lemon squares, shortbread cookies and lemon poppy seed cake. The sandwich platter also had an interesting variety, including the cucumber sandwich which added authenticity to the afternoon tea menu. There were butter scones served with clotted cream and jam.

I wish to take issue with the program calling this High Tea. Except for the high table, this tea was anything but high tea, which should have consisted of savoury items such as Scotch egg, and even steak and kidney pie and served later in the day. I hope a true English would back me up on this, because on this side of the pond, North Americans think of “high” in terms of being “superior”, as in “high” German or “haute” couture. Well, English afternoon tea is served at low tables, strictly speaking. Calling what we had, the English afternoon tea, as High Tea does not give it clout; it is a misrepresentation.  I think that given the time our tea was served, and the menu, the program would have done better justice to the event by calling it Pipes and English Tea.

Now, let us not be carried away by our afternoon tea, because there was still the second part of the musical program to come. We were entertained while we were enjoying our tea by Jones and Overduin again. This time, the accompaniment was played on a keyboard.

The music was still baroque, except for the piece specially . composed for Jones entitled  Fantasia for Recorders. Jones played with different recorders: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, including playing with two recorders at the same time. He joked that he looked like a walrus. Above all, he demonstrated amazing dexterity when he switched recorders. Jones stole the show in this part of the performance. He was lively, almost athletic, in his playing. Regrettably, the keyboard could not keep up with him. It was also uncertain as to whether it was due to the acoustics of the room or to the limitations of the keyboard that the accompaniment sounded loud, even overpowering at times.

All in all, I had a very relaxing afternoon listening to baroque music and enjoying my English afternoon tea, that I refuse to call high tea.

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Colorful Walks

One of the pleasures of walking outdoor is that I can always pause to admire the myriad colours nature offers, whether it is the lonely daisy or the sea of white and pink trilliums. They both signal of the beginning of the flowering season.

             

Over time, I have taken more snapshots with my “not so smart” phone, and my collection has included not only wild flowers but flowers blooming in the residential neighborhood.

Further into summer, the flowers in the residential areas are in full bloom.

The Canadian summer is short. the Queen Anne’s Lace here is completing his flowering stage. Savor the colors while you can!

Book Club Review: Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl

The person hosting our recent book club meeting picked Viktor Fankl’s Man In Search For Meaning, because it caught her attention on the reading list of her child’s Ethics course. I read an earlier edition (1962) of this book many years ago when I was a Psychology Major. It also became a reading I assigned to my students in my psychotherapy course. I have not read it in recent years, but I sometimes mention this title to some of my clients when they ask for a book on the meaning of life.

I looked forward to re-reading the book and the meeting.  In particular, I was interested how the book would be discussed in a book club as different from an academic or a therapy-oriented setting.

I bought the latest edition (1992), which had a new preface by the author in the same year. There was also a Postscript (1984), “The Case for a Tragic Optimism” based on a lecture delivered by the author a year earlier.

I told DH, who picked the book, that she had chosen a little book which was bigger than life.  She agreed and first posed the question about Frankl’s decision not to publish the book anonymously. Everybody preferred to know the author, because the name,provided a sense of reality as well as accountability to the contents.

People started to wonder what kind of a person Frankl was: “nice”, “calm”, “deep”, “complex”, and probably “non-judgmental” as a psychotherapist? These qualities were contrasted with the personality traits of those inmates in the concentration camp who had given up hope and died, and those of the kapos. What would one do to survive? Choosing between survival and integrity must be truly difficult indeed. There were some personal acknowledgement of what the individual would do under trying circumstances, and that was with reference to Frankl’s description of a former kapos whom he met years later and who seemed to have rehabilitated and redeemed himself.

The fact Frankl wrote that he decided to stay with his parents instead of moving to New York also intrigued us. It transpired that Frankl did not mention that he was Jewish in the first part of the book, and little did we know about his upbringing in a Jewish family. How much had the values his parents instilled in him played a role in his decision, when he remembered the commandment to “love thy parents”? Regardless, when he was describing his concentration camp, being Jewish or not did not matter. His account was one human being watching other human beings suffer. Ethnicity was irrelevant there.

Source: Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes; USHMM archives.

It was felt that in order to be able to endure and survive extreme hardship, based on what we had inferred from the book, a person had to have an inner life or spiritual freedom. I opined that we were all capable of attaining an inner life, yet in this world repleted with material cravings, many people were misled into thinking that happiness was an entity to be acquired, as promised by the so-called “ways to happiness” in many “how to” books. There was a comparison between Buddhism and Frankl’s idea that sufferings were inevitable in life. Then it was felt that Frankl proposed a more optimistic outlook which recognized choice, responsibility, love and meaning. The story of Jerry Long provided an inspirational vignettes in the book. What was revealing though was the universal theme of “Man’s Search”, be it the Holy Grail in western culture or the Sacred Book in the Chinese legend of the Monkey King.

The majority of us liked the book. There were many quotable quotes. One of mine was, “…it did not really matter what we expected form life, but rather what life expected from us” (p.85). An observation was that if Man considered himself to be supreme, he would have nothing to anchor himself when he was reduced to bare nakedness. However, either a religious or a spiritual orientation which allowed for a higher explanation for one’s existence might lend meaning to life. Or perhaps, in the apparent nothingness, there could be a sense of “being” which paradoxically enabled one to “be”. Other favorite quotes included “The solution of man is through love and in love” (p.49); “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how” (Frankl quoting Nietzsche); and “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems…” (p.85).

We had a lively discussion. I enjoyed it  because I could relate to the book from an experiential angle. Years of scientific training, and asking questions about evidence-based methods has led me to be concerned more about the effectiveness of logotherapy, and the logical relationship between its techniques and its conceptual framework in the past.  My re-reading of the book for the book club and the discussion that ensued had given me the opportunity to connect with the book at a different level. I knew there were many levels from which this book could be analyzed.  As for my book club experience, I was pleased that I could ask questions about myself and my life in a non-judgmental way. I also had the openness in the sharing of my book club members to thank for.

Saying Goodbye: Reflections on Walking as a Metaphor

The bright summer days could not lift the dark cloud that weighed in our hearts. The Sole Mates lost one of their members, for JM had lost her battle with cancer.

A healthy woman who used to power walk with a group of friends who called themselves Sole Mates, JM would have been the last person among us to leave this world at her age. The news that she had cancer was as much a surprise to JM as it was to her friends. Most of us were not able to witness it, and for the few who did, JM’s condition deteriorated fast. For days, I switched between sadness and disbelief since hearing the news that she was fighting this almost impossible battle, and after knowing that she was resting in peace with no more pains and sufferings.

It is always hard to say goodbye, and yet, because I was not able to say goodbye to JM in the hospital before she left, my occasion to bid her farewell was at the memorial service her friends held for her. I found myself standing in front of her race medals that were on display and trying to re-live the times we trained for those races together and our race days. Some of the medals I also have in my possession.

I remember vividly how we walked into one another one sunny morning in the early spring and we were preparing for the same race. She was smiling and laughing as she approached with her training partner. We gave each other a hug and exchanged good luck wishes. To nobody’s surprise, JM finished the race smiling and laughing. Sadly though, In less than three months, she was gone.

I have met a lot of people since I have taken up distance walking as a lifestyle. Some have become my friends, some remain acquaintances, and some I have not seen for a very long time. There are times when I walk just by myself, and at other times, I choose to join a group walk. I cannot calculate the distance I have walked over the years. It does not matter. Walking has assumed a meaning for me–walking those distances is a metaphor for going through life.

(Source: http://www.vagabondish.com)

Throughout life, we have both our solitary moments as well as times we share with people whom we relate.

(Source: http://www.dannybach.wordpress.com)

There are smooth and easy days, and there are uphills and challenging stretches. Just like in a walk, be it a distance of 5K, a half marathon, a full marathon or even an ultra, sometimes we are by our own self, and sometimes we have people to walk with.

(Source: http://www.peleyes.com)

Many a times in a race, I pace along with people whom I have never met before, and after exchanging a few words, we walk together and motivate each other on. At some point, we part our ways and move on. Isn’t this like life? There are encounters, shared experiences and separations. Some share our life with us longer, or care for us deeper. (The Sole Mates have decided on this name with the pun well intended.) However, in the end, just like in a walk, all this will come to an end. We say goodbye to the people we love when they go, and when our own turn comes, we say goodbye to life as well.

We lament that life is ephemeral. In response, some try to live life with a gusto, and some look for ways to live longer. So can be our feelings about walking. Our training focuses on power for the shorter distance and endurance for the longer ones. It is not possible to attach a value as to which is better. We make our choices and we pursue what seems to suit us best at the time.

I can recall some difficult moments during my races. The first that came to mind was the feeling of exhaustion at the 40K mark in my first marathon. Then I saw my friend, CD, who had promised me to meet me there and walk me to the finish. ( I can feel my energy surging inside me as I am writing about it.) I kept on going with her, I was in a zone telling myself that I could finish the race. The story did not end here. About 100 metres before the finish line–I could see it getting closer and closer–I stumbled and fell! I knew I scraped myself fairly badly. No, I had to finish the race. I got up, and walked past the finish line with my head held high. Someone put a medal around my neck. I fell into the embrace of CD and my loved ones who had come out for me.

When we decide to walk a certain distance, we try our best to complete it. No matter how tough it is, life must go on. Well, at the end of a race, we often say to one another, “See you at the next race!”  Regrettably, the metaphor of walking and life applies no more here.  At the end of life, the goodbye is final. This is the sad part. I cannot say to JM,,”See you at the next….!”  I can only reflect on the moments we shared in our walks, moments that were part of my life.

Holy Land Revisited

A group of us went on a trip last November to the Holy Land. Recently all of us found the time to gather together to share the photos we had taken on the trip. The task was for each individual to select one to two photos that best represented a particular day. It was challenging given the multiple locations we visited and all the things that we saw. Anyway, these are my picks:

Day 1:  Parthenon, Athens

and Athens, from Mass Hill

Day 2: Temple of Poseidon, Sounion

and Acropolis at night, Athens

 Day 3: Omphalos, Delphi

and Temple of Apollo, Delphi

Day 4: The Canal, Corinth

and Nafplion (Capital of Argolis, first capital of Ancient Greece)

Day 5: Ephesus

Day 6: Santorini

 

Day 7: Mt. Olive, Jerusalem

and Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

Day 8: River Jordan, near Sea of Galilee

and Mt. Beatitude, near Sea of Galilee

Day 9: Paphos

Day 10: Antalya

Day 11 St. Paul’s Gate, Rhodes

Day 12: Hippocrates Tree, Kos

Climbing a Stile in Style

What is a stile?

This was the stile I climbed over on my hike on the Bruce Trail this week. A stile is a ladder-like structure which gives access to the Bruce Trail when it crosses the property line of private property. On this day, I climbed over five stiles.

On this walk, we started from the entrance to the trail on #1 Side Road, east of Guelph Line in Burlington (Ontario) and hiked over 8K to Kerncliff Park. We stayed on the main trail for the most part, walking south and west towards Cedar Spring Road, but also included the Ian Reid Side Trail.

The hike was listed as “moderate” in the trail guide. This meant uneven surfaces with roots and stones. We were on rolling hills. There were a couple of times when we stepped or leaped over rocks. Challenging, but fun! My more experienced hiking friends said that for this section of the Bruce Trail, one could bring a walking stick.

This hike took me to the Fisher’s Pond. It looked dreamy to me this morning.

We walked past a big field, and would somebody tell me whether this was wheat, barley or oats?

We walked very close to some residential property, with its vegetable garden.

Its overlooked a majestic-looking tree.

What did I learn on this hike?

#1 When I am with experienced hikers, I can follow their example and try these wild raspberries. They are fresh and sweet.

#2  The tree on the right is call shag dog hickory.  The bark seems to be peeling off the trunk; hence the name. The bark is hard and sharp, and so do not lean on the tree.

Coriander Green: Curry in Downtown Oakville

Every time as I step out of my car after parking it near Church and Allan in Oakville in the evening,  I can smell the enticing aroma of curry coming from the kitchen of an Indian restaurant, the Coriander Green. I have promised myself that I must try this place some time.

My husband and I are quite adventurous when it comes to food. Our philosophy is that if the place is good, we shall go back and even if it is not good, it is always a useful thing to know.

We found an occasion to dine at Coriander Green. It was a small restaurant with a narrow entrance, but then opened up to a larger dining area. Soft Indian music was playing. I thought the lighting was a little dim when I entered, but I soon adjusted and this did not affect my dining experience.

For starter we had a vegetable pakora. These were battered balls of onions, potatoes, cauliflower and spinach, served hot and freshly deep fried. The bite was crispy on the out side and medium soft inside–just right! I love the taramind sauce which was a little sweet and spicy and it complemented the pakora perfectly.

We ordered three dishes and wanted to try something mild, moderate and hot. Our intention was to taste the authentic “hotness or spiciness” of the dishes, but we made the mistake of confirming with the waitress that the dishes were the way they usually do it. She immediately responded by saying that they could make it milder or hotter to our liking. (I am of the opinion that when a restaurant adjusts the the taste of their dishes to suit the requirement or expectation of their patrons, the original taste of the dishes is often compromised. I am also saying this from personal experience with Thai food and Chinese food.) I wondered if seeking her reassurance that we wanted their authentic taste had worked.

We ended up with vindalu lamb, the coriandar green special byartha and palak chicken. We were told that along the scale of spiciness, they were hot, moderate and mild (as shown below).

We had three very colourful dishes in front of us. I liked spinach and the palak chicken was tasty and the spinach sauce was delicious. The vegetable curry was spicy and delightful, I rated it the best of the three.  We found the vindalu lamb too hot–as accustomed to hot food as we were– and as a result, the heat had taken over the spicy and tangy taste of the sauce. (That’s why I questioned whether my discussion with the waitress that it was a hot dish had channeled to to the kitchen an order that we wanted it very hot.)

We ordered three kinds of bread–plain naan, roti and paratha to go with the curry. The naan was the best complement to the curry that evening for its softness and plainness. Somehow the roti and paratha were over greasy and overdone. We were lucky not to have ordered buttered naan.

Besides ice cream, yet not the Indian ice cream (kulfi) that I loved, there were only a couple of offerings on the dessert menu: gulabjamun and rasmali. We ordered rasmali. It was flavorful and aromatic. Two piece of cottage cheese cake with an interesting texture were dipped in a milky sauce (and my wild guess was a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and rose water). This balanced and rounded off the spicy taste of the food served earlier extremely well.

Chef Harminder came out to greet his guests. It was nice that we were able to offer him our compliments personally, hence making our dining experience more meaningful. We’ll come back another time.

Coriander Green is situated at 342 Church Street, Oakville, ON.                                           http://www.chefharminder.com

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