Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Trial of Time

New Year's eve is like every other night;
there is no pause in the march of the universe,
no breathless moment of silence among created things
that the passage of another twelve months may be noted;
and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening
that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

The new year begins in a snow-storm of white vows.

George William Curtis

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
Hal Borland

And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bow'd to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.
Thomas Hood

The first three pictures were taken today near my home. We had a spectacular New Year's eve sunset. The last sunset picture was taken from my kitchen window on December 29th.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Grand River in Flood

Our region has experienced some severe localized flooding this week as we had above freezing temperatures, melting snow and rain. The entire year has been exceptionally wet and the ground is saturated with moisture.

A number of dams have been built to control water flows on the Grand River but water had to be released from them this weekend as the reservoirs approached full capacity. The Nith River flows into the Grand at Paris, Ontario, but there are no dams upstream for flood control and some communities along its banks have seen the worst flooding since 1975.

Grand River nears the top of the flood wall
Picture on the left taken one week earlier

Yesterday the Grand River flood crest occurred at noon a few kilometres from our home in Galt, Ontario. I wrote about a severe flood which happened here in May 1974. Since then, flood walls have been built along the river within the city core. The river flows below the hospital where I work and the flood plain is wide and uninhabited. The river is much wider than usual here and the current is fast, but not ferocious. None of the trails I walk in this area are accessible at this time.

Speed River at Riverside Park

Downstream from the hospital, the Speed River joins the Grand River at Preston. Further along, the river is channelled over a low head dam between the flood walls in Galt. I have watched the river here in the spring but have never seen it rush like it did yesterday.

Parkhill Dam December 2008

This low head dam used to be a popular perch for summer swimmers to dive from when flows were much lower. Ten years ago in August 1998, a ten year old boy drowned at this spot as did the police officer from the diving team who tried to retrieve the body. People have become more respectful of the power of the river, even when it is not in flood. I took the picture on the left of kayakers in the same spot beneath the dam during the spring thaw in March 2007. The arches at the bottom of the old mill building are submerged now and the big rock is completely covered with water.

Main Street Bridge, Galt Ontario, December 29, 2008

This is the next bridge where Main Street crosses the river. I took a number of pictures here one week earlier and have placed one on the left for comparison. I don't think a canoe would even fit under this bridge. Further downstream a man did try to canoe in this current. He struck a tree and had to be rescued by the emergency response team. In my opinion, people like this should have to pay for their own rescue. The flood walls are higher than the roadway and are seen well in the smaller picture.

Below is a 30 second video clip of the moving water. If you want to watch three and a half minutes of rushing water, I posted a longer video here on YouTube. A number of people were watching the river and I was talking to an enthusiastic flood watcher. He was an aspiring hydrologist and was contemplating a post graduate degree in this field. He threw numbers and statistics at me as he analyzed the river. These numbers give some idea of the river's average and flood flows. At this spot:

Average flow- 15-30 cubic metres/second
Dec 29/08 peak flow- 603 cubic metres/second
Major flood May 1974- 1000+ cubic metres/second

Many areas of North America have experienced similar weather conditions and are flooded at this time. Flood control measures have been effective in this city this time but we can never underestimate the power of nature's forces.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My World's Winter Thaw

Our across the road neighbours have their house up for sale. The backyard pool is a less than appealing selling point at this time of year. We need a lot more warmth before buyers begin to think of swimming under the summer sun.

We experienced a lot more winter warmth over the past two days as temperatures rose briefly from -18C to 10C. The warmer moist air over the deep snow pack brought heavy fog as the cloudy skies touched the earth for a full day. It was impossible to see to the end of the street.

Rain has fallen, much snow has melted and many areas are experiencing local flooding. This seasonal cycle is not unusual. Perhaps the expected January thaw came early but it is already over as cold winds have once again returned turning standing water to ice. Brown and grey will disappear when new snow creates a fresh white ground cover.

Seasonal lights still shine indoors creating warmth and cheer as we wait for the New Year to arrive. This picture of our tree lights represents brightness, colour and best wishes for the New Year to all who stop by My World.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sharing Christmas

today is rain, pea-soup fog, flooded roads and streams, left-overs, holiday clutter...
Christmas holds bright memories for dull days...
children, Christmas Eve snow, snowmen, flowers, bright skies, special gifts...

among the best gifts we received...

*mosquito nets for Uganda,

goats for Bangladesh,

training for health workers in Bolivia,

growing gifts for families assisted by the **MCC

Thank you for caring!

Thank you to all who left holiday greetings here.
I could not reciprocate all of them.
May your Christmas cheer continue through the New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Skywatch

Grand River, Cambridge (Galt) Ontario

The past week has been marked by a succession of winter storms in many parts of North America. While our snowfalls have been far above normal, they have not been as heavy as those in other areas. My niece, Jaspenelle writes that Spokane Washington has had over 40 inches of snow this week with more on the way. We have had about 25 inches of new snow in the same time period.

We live near the city of Cambridge, Ontario. The historic district of Galt was built on the banks of the Grand River by settlers of Scottish descent. Fine original limestone buildings have been well maintained lending an old world charm to the view. The river was completely frozen here a couple of weeks ago but was open this week below the Parkhill Dam. The day was windy and cold but the sun would peek through the clouds from time to time.

Wherever you are gazing at the skies this Christmas Day,
I wish for peace and goodwill toward ALL mankind.

See more SkyWatch posts from around the world here. Merry Christmas and thank you to the team who organizes this meme week after week.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to All...

On Monday, our local grocery store posted a sign outside inviting customers to help themselves to the remaining wreaths, tree boughs and pine cones that had not been sold. I took two wreaths, two bundles of boughs and one large pine cone and placed them out on the deck. The boughs were placed between the branches of the bare lilac tree and the wreaths hung on the wooden privacy screen.

Anvil Cloud published a post yesterday about peanut butter and birds (you really must see it) so I cut up some apple slices, covered them with peanut butter and seeds and stuck them with wooden skewers into the spruce, pine and cedar branches. The protective cover of the boughs and the temptation of peanut butter lured the shyest of my bird visitors to pose on the branches. I enjoyed a wonderful show outside my back door.


When I turned my back, the little red squirrel ( Cheryl D has named the squirrel for me...Red Buttons, Buttons for short!) made off with the apple slices and hoarded them in his little home in the neighbour's yard.

It is the time of gift giving, of feasting and celebration. There are no more grateful recipients than these birds (and squirrels) who are living outdoors in very severe conditions.

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

This Psalm is a song of creation, sometimes called Adam's song, a song sung outside the closed gates of the Garden of Eden from which he had been expelled. Jesus Christ came to remove the curse of sin and as we celebrate His coming we can rejoice in the salvation provided for mankind and the world.

Merry Christmas to family, friends, bloggers and all others who stop by here this day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My World in a Sunbeam

The past month has been marked by storm after winter storm with grey clouds, strong winds and blinding snow. Sunlight is rarely seen but is enjoyed by all when it appears in the lull. Monday dawned clear and cold and the sun shone brightly if not warmly early in the day.

Our downtown city park was blanketed in fresh, unmarked snow and the bench overlooking the frozen lake was almost inviting in a beam of light. I sit on it in the summer and watch the ducks, geese and herons in the water. In years past we skated here but the ice is no longer groomed and cleared as winters have become milder. This year would be an exception.

The park has many festive lighted displays on December nights. Inside the red-windowed trailer above is a Christmas scene that is illuminated after sunset. But this morning the sun shone on the landscape and reflected the park in the glass like a mirror blocking the inside view.

The Union Jack flies above the bandstand. This is Victoria Park and a statue of the old Queen of the Commonwealth stands high in cold bronze, her stern gaze overlooking the snow and ice. This is Canada, but Victoria's name is found in many places across the country.

At home, our dog Dakota seeks out any stray sunbeam that may shine through the window for a few minutes. He faces the light soaking in the brightness and scant warmth. We all need the sun.

“May your joys be as bright as the morning,
and your sorrows merely be shadows that fade in the sunlight of love.
May you have enough happiness to keep you sweet,
enough trials to keep you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human,
enough hope to keep young.”

Irish Blessing

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Bird Count at my Feeder

I signed up to watch our feeders for the annual Christmas Bird Count this past weekend. Saturday was a bright sunny day between storms and a lot of new snow was on the ground. I have been watching the feeders most days this month and have come to recognize the regular visitors. While it seems that a lot of birds visit throughout the day, there are really very few in total. Here is my tally for the day.
  1. Mourning Doves-2
  2. Northern Cardinals-2 (male and female)
  3. Black-capped Chickadees-6
  4. Red-breasted Nuthatches-2
  5. Dark-eyed Juncos-6 (4 males, 2 females)
  6. American Goldfinch-3
  7. House Finch-4 (2 male, 2 female)
  8. House Sparrows-15
  9. Downy Woodpeckers-2 (male and female)
  10. Crow-1 (not at my feeders, but hanging around the yard)
...and our little Red Squirrel. The Chipmunk and larger squirrels were nowhere to be found after the storm. Hopefully they are hibernating somewhere and will stay away from my feeders for a while.

I went out with Samuel last weekend and we found a large flock of Cedar Waxwings in a tree in the country. They were facing into a very cold wind. I was surprised to see this many Waxwings at this time of year. Seabrooke also found an unusual number of Cedar Waxwings in her part of eastern Ontario while doing the Christmas Bird Count.

Here is the link with the report of the December 20th bird count in our city.
Here is a link about the history of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nativity Quiz

Living Nativity at the Christkindl Market

Here is a Christmas quiz I have given to 5th and 6th graders in Sunday School for the past twenty years. We do it for fun and the children think it is easy until they see their marks. I failed it when it was first given to me as a young adult.

Most aspects of our Christmas celebration are based on traditions which have come through time from many cultures. The Bible does mention the birth of Christ in two of the gospels, but there is no evidence that the early church celebrated the nativity. They did celebrate the resurrection every week, an event far more meaningful to the Christian faith.

Jesus almost certainly was not born in December but the celebration of his birth was set centuries later by the church to give an alternate meaning to ancient pagan celebrations around the winter solstice. I enjoy many aspects of Christmas and believe any holiday that focuses on family, peace, goodwill, and the birth of a Saviour is worthwhile. But I will not get drawn into an irrelevant argument about whether to name a decorated tree a Holiday Tree or a Christmas Tree.

So here is the quiz on the facts of the nativity as described in the gospels. All answers are found in the Bible and you can look up the answers as you go along if necessary.

1. Joseph was from:
a) Bethlehem
b) Jerusalem
c) Nazareth
d) Egypt

2. Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem by
a) Camel
b) Donkey
c) Walked
d) We don't know

3. The innkeeper told Mary and Joseph...
a) I have a stable you can use
b) There is no room at the inn
c) Both (a) and (b)
d) None of the above

4. Which animals were present at Jesus' birth?
a) Cows, sheep, goats
b) Cows, donkeys, sheep
c) Many barnyard animals
d) None are mentioned

5. Who saw the star in the east?
a) Shepherds
b) Mary and Joseph
c) The Wise Men
d) Everyone

6. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
a) One
b) Three
c) A Multitude

7. What sign did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
a) A star over Bethlehem
b) A baby that doesn't cry
c) A baby in a stable
d) A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger

8. What did the angels sing?
a) Joy to the World
b) Alleluia
c) Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given
d) Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men

9. How many wise men came to visit Jesus? ________

10. The wise men found Jesus in a
a) manger
b) stable
c) house
d) a good mood

11. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem
a) To inform Herod about Jesus
b) To find out where Jesus was
c) To buy presents for Jesus

12. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
a) The angel
b) Mary's mother
c) Herod
d) Caesar Augustus

13. Joseph took baby Jesus to Egypt
a) To show him the pyramids
b) To be put in a basket in the river
c) Because he dreamed of it
d) To be taxed

14. Where do we find the Christmas story to check the answers to these questions?
a) Matthew
b) Mark
c) Luke
d) John
e) All of the above
f) Matthew and Luke
g) Mark and John

Answers: 1(c), 2(d), 3(d), 4(d), 5(c), 6(a), 7(d), 8(d), 9(we don't know), 10(c), 11(b), 12(d), 13(c), 14(f)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Storm

Friday Flowers are on hold today as the top story of the day is the winter storm that is gripping the Great Lakes regions of Canada and United States. My niece, Jaspenelle has been writing about the record snowfall in Spokane WA this week where they received 20 inches of snow in a day. We are experiencing heavy snow with blizzard like conditions due to high east winds. Storms with east winds are usually severe and bring lake effect snow from Lake Ontario affecting communities at the west end of the lake. But city schools are open and most people headed off to work today. I went out early this morning to top up the bird feeders.

Tomorrow is the annual Christmas Bird Count and I will be reporting on the birds seen in our yard. I hope the people who will be counting in rural areas and along trails and rivers will be able to go ahead with all the new snow. Our next storm is coming on Sunday so the event cannot be delayed to the next day.

I am cozy and warm indoors but wonder how animals and birds manage in weather like this. Looking out the window as I walked on the track yesterday, I saw a deer resting quietly under a tree in the bush. She was so still and blended in so well with the trees that it was hard to see her.

I have tried to add some shelter for the birds on our deck. We left the picnic table out because birds like to rest underneath it. Juncos and doves prefer to eat from the ground so I always sprinkle some seed around for them.

Last weekend I bought some spruce boughs and have set them on a bench to make a tent like shelter. A number of birds have been behind the branches today eating the sunflower seeds put out there. Other birds are resting between the boards of the fence between visits to the feeders.

Our dog is loving this weather and has been out much of the morning facing the wind, rolling in the snow and defying me when I call him in. He is like the people who are heading to ski hills today to try the fresh powder and others who are getting their snowmobiles ready for the trails. Winter is not going away anytime soon so we might as well enjoy it. And Christmas is certain to be white this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Solstice Cold and Warmth

Winter solstice is almost here... 8 hours and 56 minutes of daylight in our area, 6 hours and 14 minutes in Churchill Manitoba. In Nunavut there is no daylight at all in December.

December 21st will mark the first day of winter for some, but it is midwinter for others in the northern hemisphere where the season is already well established.

The noonday sun hangs low in the sky, blinding the eyes as its rays reflect light on the snow covered ground. Our days will start to lengthen after the solstice and winter becomes brighter but colder in January and February. These are famine months for man and creatures who cannot store adequate provisions, those who go forth to seek food each new cold day.

Afternoon shadows spread their long dark fingers over an unharvested corn field as the glow of the setting sun paints the landscape a deceptively warm colour. Clear days like this are often accompanied by bitter north winds.

It is time to gather around the fire, to create warmth with light and good cheer as we look forward to the promise of spring and new life.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting Back on Track: Part Two

This is a recent picture of my young niece showing her inherited lax, hyper- extending knees. My dad and brother, (her father) have them, as do I and several other members of the family. My knees and elbows used to hyperextend a full 20 degrees and my anatomy professor would speculate on the shape of the end of my humerus. We chuckle about the classic familial stance but it is obvious that the lower leg and patella are well out of alignment with the femur.

There are several risk factors for osteoarthritis of the knee. I have seen a number of plumbers and construction workers, particularly those who use jack hammers, with severe, premature joint damage. Years of walking on poorly aligned joints, whether from joint laxity, flat feet, limb shortening or scoliosis also take a toll. Some people have a genetic predisposition to cartilage defects. Osteochondritis dissecans affects young joints as well as old. My surgeon has suggested I may have this condition. This summary of possible causes of osteoarthritis was copied from the website of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. I am adding it as web links have a tendency to go dead quickly.

Some people have an inherited defect in one of the genes responsible for making cartilage. This causes defective cartilage, which leads to more rapid deterioration of joints. People born with joint abnormalities are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, and those born with an abnormality of the spine (such as scoliosis or curvature of the spine) are more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine.

Obesity increases the risk for osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. Maintaining ideal weight or losing excess weight may help prevent osteoarthritis of the knee and hip or decrease the rate of progression once osteoarthritis is established.

Injury. Injuries contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. For example, athletes who have knee-related injuries may be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee. In addition, people who have had a severe back injury may be predisposed to develop osteoarthritis of the spine. People who have had a broken bone near a joint are prone to develop osteoarthritis in that joint.

Joint Overuse. Overuse of certain joints increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. For example, people in jobs requiring repeated bending of the knee are at increased risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee.

Many people have at least one of these risk factors and recognizing them is the first step in taking possible preventive or corrective action. I am seeing Lynn, an excellent physiotherapist who is supervising my rehab program. It is impossible to be truly objective with yourself and it is also hard to push through pain without encouragement. She noted that I was rolling outwards on my feet with each step as I compensated for muscle weakness around the knee. My Xrays show more lateral than medial narrowing of the joint space of my knee.

I took a look at my winter hiking boots which I have worn for several seasons now. The lateral wear on this right boot is very noticeable but I had not paid any attention to it. While I had little pain until recently, I was losing movement and strength in the knee for some time. Our bodies are adept at finding ways to compensate for imbalances. Many people, especially women, have a tendency to flat feet and valgus or "knock knees". Their heels tend to wear opposite to mine and they sustain damage to the medial compartment of their knee. This is so common that knee hemiarthroplasties (Oxford replacements) are being done to replace only the medial half the knee joint.

Last week I purchased a new pair of Keen shoes for winter. Beth from Maine* had recommended their sandals and I bought a pair in June, wearing them every day until the snow came. When I switched to other shoes, my knees became more painful. The Becka calls my new Keens "Frankenstein shoes" and tells me I could go Goth with them, but they feel heavenly on my feet. Women and shoes are often in conflict. I have purchased shoes that hurt because they were attractive and on sale. High heels displace weight to the front of the knee joint and this can contribute to painful patello-femoral arthritis over time. The Keens have a generous toe box. Most women squeeze their feet into narrow toed shoes and are four times more likely than men to develop foot deformities. Walking with bare feet causes the least strain on the knee joint as the many small joints in the foot absorb the forces of weight bearing well. (reference) Bare feet are not an option for most of us so we cram our feet into rigid, often ill-fitting shoes and walk on hard surfaces for much of the day.

I continue to walk on the track with my poles and completed 2-1/2 km yesterday. I am not pushing for distance but am paying attention to how I am walking as I try to correct my gait pattern. I will get an orthotic assessment as part of my action plan to protect my knees.
In my next instalment I will review the exercises which have been most helpful for me.

*Here and here are links to Beth's posts about Keen Shoes. I am not endorsing them exclusively as there are other shoes available that provide excellent support. But these are the most comfortable shoes I have worn.

Getting Back on Track: Part One