Tag Archive: colour

famous painter

A cherished Canadian Thanksgiving family tradition is to go apple picking at a local orchard.  This year, a severe spring frost damaged any hope for a quality yield in a number of apple varieties.  On Saturday, we visited an orchard which has quickly come to be our favourite for the range of apple varieties it offers, and for the on-site bakery and store where we can purchase pies, streudels, cider, and other marvelous apple products, either to eat there (warm) or to take home.  We were able to come home without empty hands, but with none of the mutsu or empire varieties I love to use  in pies.

Sunday, we went to greater lengths to find an orchard with my wife’s family.  We were wholly unsuccessful.  But the weekend was not wasted.  We had the opportunity to take in the beauty of autumn’s palette.

autumn foliage

Photo Credit: Fg2; Licence: Public Domain

Having young children, my wife and I have limited opportunities to get away, so we have to use our anniversary as a basis for doing any activity we want to do without our children.  This year, though our anniversary is in July, my wife and I decided to forego our standard weekend of unbridled vanity in favour a simpler trip in late September to Ontario’s Muskoka region to relish in the splendour of autumn foliage.  For a number of reasons, that plan withered, so our local foliage would have to do.  It might be less breathtaking than the vistas of more northern climes, but it’s still breathtaking.

It’s difficult to get one’s children to share appreciation for important things.  During those drives this weekend, there was a good amount of complaining from the back seat about how I wouldn’t let my 9-year-old watch a movie or play video games.  On Saturday, I finally said in exasperation: “Outside your window is the most beautiful picture ever painted. It was painted by a famous painter you might have heard about: God.  So look out your window and keep quiet.”

Then I smirked at the silly things parents say… except, it was true.  In my travels, I have seen a plethora of really stunning works of art, but never anything so beautiful or brilliant or phenomenal as the one we get to see every autumn.

Today, I am thankful for autumn.  The science of the changing of the leaves is exceedingly simple; the visual result is magnificent.


Our family travels a lot.  A lot.  Particularly in the summer.  And this summer we travelled even more than usual.  The vehicle we use for trips is a few hundred clicks away from the next oil change. Our third since the beginning of June.

Perhaps its a product of travelling more, or simply indicative of a change in my perceptions, or maybe they’re just becoming more popular, but everywhere I go, I see sunflowers.

I’m not complaining, of course.  Machismo be damned: I adore flowers.  I especially love wild flowers, and daisies are my favourite.  Look at a daisy and try to tell me you don’t feel happier.  I won’t believe you.  (Unless you have severe allergies, in which case I will most certainly believe you, but suggest that you try looking at the daisy while safely protected behind glass).  Sunflowers are just enormous daisies, so happiness can only be multiplied.

field of sunflowers

Photo Credit: Bruce Fritz; Licence: Public Domain

There is something almost fantastical about sunflowers.  Walking beside a flower that towers above me makes me feel as if I’ve climbed a magical bean stock and entered a land of giants, or climbed through a looking glass into a Carrollian dreamland.  Adventure must be only right around the corner.

Today, I am thankful for sunflowers, and flowers in general.  They are such a simple pleasure in our world: free to look at, free to enjoy.  Obviously, they serve a vital purpose in keeping the planet alive, but their beauty can be enjoyed by everyone without anything asked in return.  Next time I think of some material good I “need” to be happy, let me remember the sunflowers.


I can’t pass by a sunset without wanting to snap a photograph. I’ve never seen a picture of a sunset that has done a real sunset any justice. No photograph ever captures the complexity of colour, the sheer beauty, the eerie silhouetting of the landscape, the rays of light that push through the clouds as if the gates of another world have opened, the illumination of the endless sky in hues of gold, purple, pink, and peach.  Sunsets are the picture of eternity.  If I ever lose my sight, sunsets will be the first thing I will miss.


Photo Credit: Krishna; Licence: Public Domain

Today, I am thankful that I have sight.  Even though those born without it derive pleasure from the world in other ways, and those who lose it later in life learn to do so, I can’t imagine my life without the gift of sight.

I don’t want to focus on loss of sight as a disability.  I had a blind acquaintence in university who volunteered helping new students who were blind learn their way around the university.  He played electric guitar and he took a bus to Toronto a few times each week to work for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.  There is a blind man in my neighbourhood who walks simply everywhere, always with a broad and warm smile on his face. Disabled these people are not. Maybe they can’t get in the driver’s seat of a car, but there is plenty they can do.

But I’m too much in love with the world I see to give up sight of it.  Call it an appreciation, an obsession, an addiction — whatever you want to call it, I’m grateful.


Last week, we were camping in Algonquin Park, part of a vacation we take each year at the beginning of August.  Nestled in a transition zone between the rugged landscape characteristic of northern Ontario, and the more plateaued and agricultural south, it is an ideal spot to see many different ecosystems up close, working together in picturesque harmony (as nature has a knack for doing).

Algonquin Provincial Park

Photo Credit: (c) J. Matthew Lake

The park is known for its wealth of interpretive programs which educate visitors about the diversity of organisms that inhabit the area.  Zachary is a bit too young for some of it, but I love watching Gregory lap up the information, ask questions, learn.  One year, he developed a fascination for fungi.  While on trails, we had to stop every time we came upon a mushroom to look it up in our field guide.  Hikes took twice as long as usual, but I was delighted to see him take such an interest.

For me, the draw of Algonquin is in the opportunity to break away from the bustle and noise of populous cities and be in a place where the loudest sound one typically hears is the eerie howl of wolves in the moonlight, or the haunting, mournful call of a loon.  Within minutes of entering the park, I can feel tension disappear from my neck and shoulders, and my heart beats a little bit more slowly.

Alongside hikes, our favourite activity while visiting Algonquin is canoeing out into the rustic interior, a section of the park unsullied by vehicles or nearly any other vestige of civilization.  Time stops, the air is fragrant, and there is almost nothing to see but the illimitable wilderness before us.

Later, by night, far away from the light pollution of cities, the stars of the Algonquin sky are innumerable.

Today, I am thankful for nature, and for the sheer vastness of untouched wilderness in this spacious continent on which I live.

What is your experience of nature?  Share it with me in the comments.


Nearly a decade ago, while visiting a friend in Vancouver, British Columbia, I decided to step out and take a stroll at dusk.  The air was fresh and fragrant with the scents of summer, the temperature was ideal, and I felt generally happy and at peace with my life, which lent me an unusual sense of spontaneity.  I hadn’t the foggiest idea where I was going or where I would end up, but trusted my fate to the city.

As darkness descended, I found myself near the waterfront, which was buzzing with overwhelming activity.  Inquiring of those around me, I discovered that I had stumbled upon Celebration of Light, an annual musical fireworks competition.  The competition features spectacular fireworks set to a musical score.  I was near a high-rise condominium, several of whose residents had their radios tuned to the station broadcasting the soundtrack, and who were blasting the music at sufficient volume for it to be heard against the thundering boom of the exploding fireworks.  I arrived just as the show was beginning, and took up a patch of grass to take in the colourful display.  It was an entirely unexpected boon, and one which made my holiday so much sweeter.


Photo Credit: Vicki Nunn; Licence: Public Domain

Yesterday, we arrived in Gatineau, Quebec, for the tail end of an annual family vacation which begins with camping in Algonquin Park.  We have a few friends and family who live in the Ottawa area, and this is our chance to catch up with them.  The streets and parking lot outside our hotel were nothing short of chaotic.  A man with security stenciled across his shirt intercepted us at the entrance to the lot to confirm we had legitimate business at the hotel.  I thought at first that some political personage must be staying at the hotel and there were concerns of assassination.  (I realized later that this was silly as, although the hotel is of reasonably decent caliber, it is not quite so high as to attract people worthy of assassination).

It turned out that the Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light program was being featured in a place visible from our hotel.  Without intending it, we ended up in a place of such convenience that we needed only to set up our fold-up chairs on the lawn outside the hotel and a marvel of human ingenuity was executed seamlessly before us in dazzling bursts of light.

serendipity: the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things unsought

As I have aged, I have found myself losing some of the pure excitement of my childhood — the fascination of a virgin mind exploring a world filled with wonder.  Having children helped me regain some of it, as I found joy in their wonder, but I nevertheless feel that, compared to my childhood, my blood has in many ways dried to dust when it comes to feeling that sense of amazement at the world around me.

Not so with fireworks.  When I see them, it’s like I’m a child again.  I feel no shame in admitting it: I get giddy.  I just sit there with a goofy grin on my face, my gleaming eyes reflecting the vibrant, chromatic explosions before me.  You can understand, then, that happening upon an opportunity to see a world-class fireworks display when it was not even planned made our family vacation infinitely more perfect than it already was.

Today, I am thankful for serendipity.  Whether you believe that fate brings us to these places, or that it is all just happenstance, I feel immense gratitude for the small opportunities that arise in life through perfectly unplanned timing.


In June, we road tripped to the eastern provinces of Canada.  We weaved our away east across Ontario to Quebec, south from Montreal through the mountains into Vermont, then southeast through New Hampshire and Maine to New Brunswick.

We passed through countless small towns and villages and, for the majority of the New England branch of the trip, the majestic mountain range was a constant companion.  I vividly recall a moment in the drive when a storm had collected over mountains in the distance, desaturating them of colour, while verdant forests awash in sunlight surrounded us.  It was an ominous sight.

In Nova Scotia, we visited Peggy’s Cove, a small fishing community on the southwestern shore of the province.  We arrived shortly after a drizzling rain and the gray clouds were still suspended in the air.  We were visiting outside of tourist season, and I was left with an unshakeable impression that the village was just waking from a long hibernation, still groggy with sleep.  Yet the village itself was anything but muted: everywhere I looked, I was astounded by the vibrant maritime colours — reds, yellows, greens, blues.

Peggy's Cove

Photo Credit: (c) J. Matthew Lake

On Prince Edward Island, I simply could not stop snapping photographs of the rolling farm land, rich in colour from the green of new growth, and the beautiful red soil.  I remarked to Sandra that I felt a strange and insatiable craving for red velvet cake before realizing that it was the soil that was reminding me of the delightfully moist cake.  P.E.I. quite literally looked delicious!

Then, in the final leg of the trip, we drove north through New Brunswick towards Quebec, traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway, which runs adjacent to the Saint John River for a good stretch.  Later, while encouraging a friend to drive rather than fly if visiting the east coast, I described the vista: marbled precambrian rock robed in lichens, and this brilliant sapphire river cutting through the emerald forests.  It was breathtaking.

When I reminisce about the trip, I realize that some of my most pleasurable memories have something to do with colour, and I wonder if the trip would have been as memorable if I had not been able to perceive all the vibrant colours which surrounded me.

Today, I am thankful that I can perceive colour without any deficiency.  When a surprising number of people in the world have some type of colour blindness, I feel very lucky.  I can’t imagine the world without the variety of colour I see.

Does perceiving (or not perceiving) colour fully affect your life and experiences?  Please share your thoughts with me in the Comments.


I took a couple of linguistics classes in University and they nearly slayed me with ennui.  And I’m the type of person who loves doing a lot of things that other people find agonizing: reading law, discussing grammar, filling out surveys, memorizing things (just for the heck of it).  Give me a statistics formula to sink my teeth into and I’m a happy man.

My issue with linguistics was that it took what was, at essence, a really deliciously messy topic and boiled it down to a science, scrubbing it clean with words that sounded like they were made up just to annoy me (agglutinative, antonomasia, litotes…).  It’s like when your Mom has some sort of departure from her senses and encourages you to play in the mud.  It takes all the fun out of it.

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