Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Gethsamane" - another poem by my Grandfather William A Steward


The purling* brook runs rippling by;
The flowers and trees are budding sweet.
The joyous note of larks on high
Carol a welcome thee to greet.
Nature, arrayed in smiling mood,
Stands blithely knocking at my heart
Whilst I, with bitterness imbued,
Remember only - we must part.

Fain would I rather see thee dead
Than seeking life at such a cost.
And as the years roll o'er thy head
Thoul't learn twas true loves labour lost.
When, from thy bleeding heart someday
A childish image wrests a tear
And God's own voice, "I will repay"
Whispers into thy trembling ear.

For me life's guerdon** hold's no hope
No happiness can e're be mine!
My homeless children vainly grope
In quest of mother love devine
For thee, accursed of thy race,
Life's joy is now denied thee.
Thy future life, thou shalt not face
With love's offspring beside thee.

- W.A Steward

* flowing with swirling motion and babbling sound
** reward, recompense

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Misericordia" - a Poem by my Grandfather, William A Steward

Oh! Heart of mine now broken!
Why dids’t thou lead me on?
In this dark vale of utter woe
Why bids’t me not begone?
In other lands and other climes
Perchance I yet may find
That which is here denied me -
A calm contented mind.

My birthright I have bartered
The shadow I retain.
The substance has forever gone
Yet memories remain.
Two loving hearts are counting
The hours till my return.
Two pairs of eyes – my children’s
With love for me still burn.

Oh! God who by the lips of babes
Hath consolation sent.
In my dire need come once again
And right a life misspent.
Draw us to thee, more closer
My sons, oh Lord, and I
And in that sweet communion blest
Will rest until we die.
- W.A. Steward

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fêtes des Anges, Montréal Oct 16

Marie and I, along with Fernanda and Philippe, spent a blustery, cool Saturday morning remembering with hundreds of others, mothers, fathers, grandparents and children, the short lives of little angels at the Église St-Pierre Claver. It was the annual Fêtes des Anges (Celebration of of Angels), a remembrance of those that have left us much too soon; of course for us it was the emotional connection with our forever little angel Patrick. After a spiritual reflection by Abbé Pierre Desroches and a few words from the organizer Valérie Dorion we were treated to a heart warming, sad and beautiful song by Mélanie Grenier which bought tears to all present. Afterwards, everyone gathered outside on the steps of the church and released hundreds of blue, pink and white balloons (l'envolée des ballons). It was a thrilling sight to see them soar into the Montreal sky, whipped about by the brisk October winds. Patrick, God called you to join his angels much sooner than we wanted, but we will brave the bitter grief we share, and try to understand. We love you so much! gws/mes

À mon ange
(paroles et musique: Mélanie Grenier)

Je suis si fatiguée depuis que tu es parti
depuis que tu as déployé tes ailes
pour un nouveau monde, un nouveau paradis
Ton doux visage me manque, je regarde au ciel
Je voudrais tant que tu sois à mes côtés.
J'imaginais la vie si belle en ta présence
Le jour ou tu es sorti de mon corps
Jamais papa et moi n'oublieront la chance
De t'avoir bercé, cajolé, serré si fort
Tu étais notre petit trésor

Ô mon ange comme je t'aime
Même si tu es loin de moi
Ô mon ange comme je t'aime
Tu vivras toujours en moi
Chaque jour je pense à toi
Je me demande encore pourquoi
Fais-moi signe, viens dans mes rêves
Dis-moi que tu es bien là-bas

Depuis papa souffre en silence
Derrière son sourire il y a tant de tristesse
On ne le juge pas, on sait à quoi il pense
Il aurait tant voulu te protéger, quelle détresse
C'est si difficile de comprendre et d'accepter
Un an plus tard, tu es plus que jamais dans nos cœurs
Même si j'ai mal je me dois de continuer
À prendre bien soin de tes frères et sœurs
Et toi du haut de ton nuage doré
Rien ne pourra jamais me faire oublier

Ô mon ange comme je t'aime
Même si tu es loin de moi
Ô mon ange comme je t'aime
Tu vivras toujours en moi
Chaque jour je pense a toi
Je me demande encore pourquoi
Fais-moi signe, viens dans mes rêves
Dis-moi que tu es bien là-bas

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Notre-Dame-des-Bois, Quebec

           For those of you who have wondered where we will be retiring to next year I shall attempt to describe the small village and the history of the surrounding area Marie and I will soon be calling home. We will be building our house in the Domaine des Appalaches, a private domain (gated community) covering approximately 3600 acres of land where Maine, New Hampshire and Quebec all meet. Entry to the Domain is limited to landowners and their guests only so we will enjoy our privacy. This particular Domain is unique as it extends itself across 4 different mountains, with many small lakes, rivers and streams, home to wildlife and isolated cabins, all linked by quiet gravel roads. It is ideal for outdoor sports, especially hiking and cycling in autumn and cross country skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing in winter. The area is home to some of the highest elevations in the province: Mont Mégantic, at 1,105 metres, and Mont Gosford, at 1,193 metres, are the highest peaks in southeastern Quebec. We are just a few miles southeast of the village of Notre-Dame-des Bois. Formerly known as Chesham, it is one of the highest villages in terms of altitude in Quebec - in Le Granit Regional County in the Estrie (Eastern Townships) region. The Eastern Townships is a huge section of Quebec, strung out along the American border, basically beginning at Lake Champlain, skirting the U.S. border at Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for almost 300 kms.,and as far north as Drummondville. 
           The Eastern Townships was opened up for settlement by the British in the early 1790's. The more southerly regions tended to be settled primarily by Americans from the New England states, the more northern regions by immigrants from the British Isles. A wave of French-Canadian settlers swept into the region in the 1840s and by the 1871 census French-Canadians made up the majority of the population of the Townships.  As the population of the Townships grew, place names, county names and the groupings of townships within counties changed. As I mentioned Notre-Dame-des-Bois was originally known as Chesham, named after an English market town in Buckinghamshire, England. The first settlers were gold prospectors who were quickly replaced by French-Canadian colonists, many of whom had emigrated to the United States. A few arrived from France and Belgium. Then in 1871, François-Xavier Dufresne arrived, clear-cut three acres of land and established a blacksmith shop. Considered the village’s founder, Monsieur Vaillant built the first sawmill. The Repatriation Act, signed in 1875, was a positive force for the colonizing of Chesham and in October 1876, the population grew to 636 souls. They celebrated their first mass there that year. Services were held around a large rock that served as an altar, then later in a small chapel where a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected. This inspired the name of the parish and later the municipality. The town was incorporated on January 1, 1877, and given the name Notre-Dame-des-Bois on April 26 in honour of the Virgin Mary. Marie and I have since added 2 more to the present booming population of 994!
        A short hike from our property, near the base of the marble mountains that form the New Hampshire and Maine borders, is a route (Sentiers frontaliers) consisting of 134 km of walking trails that lead you to the mountain peaks – 1100 metres in height with breathtaking scenery. The trail will eventually cross the US border to hook up with the Cohos Trail in New Hampshire. We have hiked up there a few times and sat on the border between the two countries enjoying our lunch, and the views! Recently (in September 2008), the Route des Sommets was inaugurated, 157 km of highway crossing 15 municipalities. It starts at La Patrie (just 15 km west of us) and Notre-Dame-des Bois and winds through forests that are now displaying fall's vibrant colours. (Fall arrives early up here!) The route climbs the granite mountains of the Appalachian chain and meanders through picturesque valleys where you will see dairy, cattle and sheep farms, deer and the occassional mother moose and her calf. We have seen a few moose this past summer around our property yet never seem to have a camera with us when we meet!
        From our place we are about a half hour drive to the major town in the area, Lac-Mégantic. Megantic means 'place where fishes are held' in Native American language (Abenakis). Lac-Mégantic has a population of less than 7000 but has all the comforts of big city living we have grown used to over the years - a Tim Hortons, a Wal-Mart, a Canadian Tire and a fairly large hospital! The town derives its name from the adjacent lake, a beautiful,12-mile long body of water running north-south that in summer is dotted with sailboats, located on the municipality's southern boundary. Although the railway, as in most small Canadian communities we have lived in and left, has declined in recent decades, Lac-Mégantic is still an important lumbering and farming centre. The big tourist draw here, of course, is the Astrolab observatory atop Mont-Mégantic park, the most powerful in Canada! The Observatoire du Mont Mégantic is owned and operated jointly by the Université de Montréal and the Université Laval. Founded in 1978, it is the largest observatory in eastern Canada, and is situated at the summit of Mont Mégantic, the highest point of the province of Québec to be accessible by car. As I have mentioned in previous blogs the region was recognized as the first International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in September of 2007, a world-wide initiative which preserves the starry sky. We are in this region that has an exceptional quality of starry nights, including the city of Sherbrooke (40 minutes drive to the west of us). The municipalities help support dark sky values by correcting excessive and upward-pointing night lighting, something we have to consider when we build as well. While mainly intended to protect the view of the stars for the observatory atop Mont Mégantic, the reserve designation also allows anyone to see a truly dark sky streaked with the Milky Way and other delights such as the Seven Sisters. Most clear nights when we are up at the cabin Marie and I sit outside by the fire and are always amazed at the clarity and expanse of the universe above us.The Milky Way especially is awe- inspiring here - and you feel like you can reach up at touch it. 
             From the following pictures of the area you will see why we chose to retire and build our home in this lovely part of Quebec. Come one, come all you are always welcome to visit...

                                                         Sanctuaire du Mont Saint-Joseph

                                                                 View from our cabin


                                          Notre-Dame-des-Bois in the winter                                           

Observatoire du Mont Mégantic 
                                                                                  The Saddle

                                                                       Lac de La Passe

                                                                The Saddle from the Domaine


                                                           Notre-Dame-des-Bois eglise


                                                   View of NH and Maine from atop Mt Megantic

                                                                    Mt Megantic


                                              One of the gravel roads somewhere in the Domaine

                                                                  Lac Megantic lake

                                                                     Lac Megantic town

                                                         a typical view from the Domaine

                                                                             another view

                                                                        Mt Megantic

      Now as the cool winds of October move in from the north and the leaves began to fall I start to think about the next five months of cold and snow that is sure to come. We will visit our cabin a few more times before spring, snowshoeing up our road and probably sweeping snow from the shed roofs. It will be as still as ever in the woods and the snow will be crisscrossed with the tracks of rabbits, deer and fox, and the occasional moose. But before then we have to enjoy the delights of autumn, the colours and smells only one can find in these northern climes. Hockey season has begun for real this week and the rabid fans of this city are already flocking to their favourite watering holes to follow their beloved Habs.  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Day (Columbus Day) yesterday and come back again soon!    gws

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mahler's Fifth Symphony

               Marie and I had the greatest pleasure this past Wednesday to take in Kent Nagano's first indoor concert of the season featuring Mahler's Fifth Symphony at the Salle Wilfred-Pelletier in Montreal's Place Des Arts. It was a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Austrian composer and conductor. Lots of brass - trumpets, trombones and French horns - and strings made the first movement a delight, the second and third moving into what I'm sure most people, including myself, had come to hear: the beautiful Adagietto. It brought tears to my eyes and I think I was the first person on my feet after the rousing finish soon after! Prior to the symphony violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter presented two works written for her by Henri Dutilleux and Sophia Gubaidulina - interesting but not our particular favourite. All in all though it was our first taste of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and well worth the price of the tickets! Bravo maestro Nagano!    gws


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cabin Renovations


Fall has arrived in the northern woods and I spent three days there this past weekend alone enjoying the crisp nights, warm days and the beauty of the colours around me as I finished the interior of the cabin. I finally finished installing the rest of the t&g up to the peaks and framing the windows - and as you can see by the photos, am happy with the results.  Thank God for my little Honda genny!



                                                   I was up at 6am capturing the sunrise........

                     Listen!  the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
                 We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!
                                                                                         - Humbert Wolfe

                                               Till next time, peace and love     gws