What is a Community in Bloom?

For the past several weeks, I have been consumed with Communties in Bloom, an international competitive civic beautification program that fosters civic pride and ultimately allows participants to cite tangible examples of improved quality of life within their villages, towns and  cities. This week the judges arrived to assess our efforts. One of the critical elements that is provided is a Community Profile Book that outlines all of the municipality's accomplishments in 8 different categories. This is used to help compare apples to apples as the judges travel North America and Europe, evaluating the entries. My job is to write that book, and this year it occurred to me that defining a community in bloom is not a simple thing...it's much, much more than hanging baskets of flowers....
This is the foreword to the book:

 Eleven years ago, when Pembroke first enrolled in the Communities in Bloom program, the thinking was relatively straight forward: being a community in bloom meant that we would take better care of our surroundings, and encourage others to do so as well. It would look nicer, and therefore, likely be nicer. And that is exactly what happened.

That first year, driving into Pembroke on the day the judges were to arrive, I remember feeling awed at the changes I saw! Clean streets, beautiful flower beds, everything looked so nice and welcoming and there was an almost palpable feeling of hope and optimism for the future. Those feelings haven’t changed in the past decade – but some years you feel it more than others.
The past two years in particular have been interesting because there was a lot of negative economic news throughout North America and the world as the most far reaching recession in decades hit homes in the cities, towns and villages of Canada. Finally, this spring the business news picked up, jobs were created, and the world heaved a sigh of relief. Here in Pembroke, we emerged relatively unscathed, as our economy is not dependent on a single industry. Still though, families were stressed, and tough times were had.
They’ve been had before in this town, which started as a rough and ready frontier camp, with a scattering of tree prospectors staking claims to the tall stands of timber 180 years ago. There’s a boom, bust and echo story here that gets retold about every 20 years…but one thing that never changes is the spirit of the people who live in Pembroke.
The people of Pembroke are proud, stubborn, and relentlessly helpful when help is needed. They pitch in, pick up and pat their neighbours back the moment they hear someone’s hurting. It’s an awesome thing to observe. And that’s what a community in bloom is.
It’s a collective of people who respond to each other. There when the going gets tough, and there to celebrate after the job is done. A community in bloom is not just “that flower thing”, it is the communal spirit that plants the seeds of good will, and that regenerates and nurtures itself throughout time. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse…that’s the spirit!
And that’s what makes Pembroke an incredible Community in Bloom. ...

What's YOUR definition of Community?


Pining Away

 It's been so hot lately here in the beautiful Ottawa Valley, that it saps the thoughts right out of me, and they dribble away meekly hoping for a cool breeze to revive them. Writing is a chore it seems, better suited for cooler weather!
So instead, I thought I'd share some photos I took a few weeks ago at Les Chutes Coulonge, a waterfall park not far from here that's an example of the creative re-use of primary resource material. The log drive used to take place on many rivers in this part of Canada.

It's the reason the region was first settled 180 years ago as tree prospectors came looking for tall white pines to make masts for her Majesty's fleet of ships back in jolly old England.

Today, the park has a  trendy zip line through the tree canopy and across the falls. Where nature used to be harnessed to drive the timbers to market, now it's tourists who are harnessed, screeching their way across the canyon, as the timbers quietly watch.

for more scenes from around the world, go to http://www.skyley.blogpost.com/


The Tom Sawyer Approach to Renovations

Haggle, bicker, nag and bribe...none of these traditional  methods of getting something done around here was being particularly effective this past month. The screened side porch was in dire need of paint and a polish, and  most definitely new screens. The bugs didn't have to bash  and bruise their tiny probisci to come for dinner. Uh uh. They just made a bee line for one of several holes that had appeared over the past decade.

Something had to be done, and early one Saturday morning in mid-June, after a fortifying cuppa coffee, I did it. While my prince lay resting his weary bones, I tore a strip of screen off one panel,  and then another...and that was that. Gaping holes in the porch wall where now anything ...bugs, bees, bears, and anyone...could amble in and join us for breakfast. The gauntlet had been dropped and the project was on!

I was pretty sure that this would be a quick little job, as they so often are...so set about emptying the porch of all furniture, washing the floor, and preparing a list of stuff that we needed to finish the job by supper time: floor paint, brushes, rollers, screening, paint for uprights, and beer.

When  John arose, we were off to the races, or at least to Home Hardware for the necessary supplies...and back home, ready to go by oh, about 2:00 pm. First the floor...a quick fresh coat of butter yellow so it looks like the  sun is always shining...I barely got started, when John began telling me to go parallel to the wall.

"Hmm, "  I wondered to myself, "which of the three walls might he be meaning?" So I picked the left wall and began the long w-shaped roller strokes.
"No, No", he promptly said, as he sipped his coffee, " not that wall, the other one."

So I switched directions, and chose the other one. Oops! Wrong again!  And two wrongs made me realize that Tom Sawyer was absolutely right! During the course of painting his fence he  had "discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain."  That (a perfectly painted floor) seemed to be happening right at my finger tips! So I handed the roller to my friendly critic and suggested he give it try to show me how, while I 'd go in and  see about rustling up some late lunch.

Perfectly painted porch floor was glistening as we sat down to a quick bite to eat half an hour later. And on we bungled. First removing the rest of the screening, then getting ready to paint all the battons, and naturally discovering a host of little "problems" that had cropped up over the intervening years...like wood rot and 2 x 4's that would need to be replaced. Ah well. As my dad always said, (and yours too, I  bet) " If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right." So we worked 'til the light left us, and said okay, tomorrow we'll get at it bright and squirrely. Which we did actually. I awoke at dawn to the sounds of cat meeting squirrel on the deck, as squirrel was interrupted trying to have a little breakfast of sunflower seed I'd inadvertly left in the porch overnght. No fur flew, but it was time for day 2.

Problem with day 2 was the weather...I mean who wants to paint in the pouring rain? So we waited 'til it cleared up, then slowly got assembled, and started the tedious task of putting the porch back together again. My brother and his lovely wife were arriving the next day , so it would be really nice to have this wee project done!

But, alas...it wasn't. It was partially done, as in some of the posts were painted, some of the screen was up, some wasn't down yet, none of the battons were back up...and then arrived the brother. And the second Tom Sawyer truth along with him."Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

Well, my brother did not consider fixing the porch work at all! And neither did my sister in law! Holy get the job done right! They were totally into making this porch a master piece. Battons? Ha!! Battons, molding, mitre cuts, measuring for gawd sakes! These two saw a project, knew John and I were pretty much incompetent DIYers, and they just took over! The Taj Mahal Porch is something we never envisioned, and had we emphatically stated that it wasn't necessary to go to all this trouble. "You're on holidays you two! Relax!We don't need to do this while you're here " was met with deaf ears, and Tom Sawyer noted that, "To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing."

What can I say! Total time to finish the job? Seven days! But the final result looks great, my brother got to practice his finishing carpentry skills, my sister-in-law had something to do besides listen to the men natter about men stuff, and my prince got to watch a job well done, er, done well!
And me? Well, I got exactly what I wanted too!


I Saw The Monarch Today!!

It was very exciting, because it's not something that happens every day here in the Ottawa Valley!
It was also a tad odd, because she was hanging about with a bunch of viperous has-beens. Not at all what I expected really. I mean we go to great lengths to cultivate the proper young guns that will attract and retain her attention around these here parts! She's definitely not here all that often and has flown 1000's of miles just to spend a few hot and steamy days in our midst, so naturally, we do all we can to make her visit meaningful.
However, come she did (we hope) and the rather fluttery thing by her side was  nice to see too! Her once and still charming prince...leaping up whenever she moved anywhere near him. Doing his duty for God and the Queen - I guess  he must take that rather literally!
Then all too quickly, it was over...all good things must, of course, come to an end...and like proper folk everywhere, they just discreetly folded up, and  sought a quiet corner  to recover from a very exciting time!
Oh...and Canada's Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was in Ontario today too accompanied by her Prince Philip. Coincidence? I think not!

She was likely much too busy attending dinners and eating cake to notice the real Monarchs among us!

The regal pose of a true Monarch in repose.


The Heroes in our Midst

Funny...if you google heroes, which I just did, up pops about a trillion links to the TV series about beautiful teens and 20 somethings fighting the  good fight based on good versus evil. It's  a mish mash of  Sci-fi meets Harlequin romance, and somedays, the good guys win, and other days, they get smashed to pulp by the bad guys.
No where did I find any reference to Dave. ...

When Dave isn't providing impassioned oratory for some community event (like Canada Day) as our wonderful Town Crier, he's a Lay Preacher, and he works for the Canadian Cancer Society fighting the battle of our lives.
He can't  jump tall buildings or self mend his broken bones if he falls from one of them. But he's there where needed. He's a real hero.
Like Gord...
Not only does Gord show up to play taps for the Legion Band whenever required,
he's also working relentlessly to help save the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory,through an employee coalition called CREATE, to establish a  national research laboratory in Canada. Tough job, but someone has to do it.
Play the Reveille Gord.
Whenever there is a community event, it becomes self evident who the real heroes are...they're the ones who care enough to show up. They don't use words like shoulda, woulda, or coulda. They are people of action who believe that actions speak louder than words.
Some of them play the bagpipes, fairly loudly, as a case in point.

And they're not just blowing hot air. They love what they're doing, and are proud to be a part of the pomp and circumstance that requires their attendance. They're heroes.

Yes, there are other kinds of heroes, who have fought valiently for national and international causes, who have lost liberty and freedom and risked life and limb...
We honour them.
While at the same time, we pray that the duly elected officials of our Nation act wisely on our behalf.
But really?
We don't need another hero.
We just need people like Dave and Gord. People who show up.

Sing it Tina.