Friday, April 20, 2018

Significant Plant of Planet Earth

Consider a tree for a moment.
As beautiful as trees are to look at, we don't see what goes on underground ~ as they grow roots. Trees must develop roots in order to grow strong and produce their beauty. But we don't see the roots. We just see and enjoy the beauty. In much the same way, what goes on inside of us is like the roots of a tree. (Joyce Meyer)

Mother Nature is Always Speaking,”
wrote Radhanath Swami, after living as a wanderer in the Himalayan foothills.
“She speaks in a language understood with the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. Leopards, cobras, monkeys, rivers and trees. They all served as my teachers.”

The “Joshua Tree” about which I've recently written, lives and thrives uniquely in California's Joshua Tree National Park, adjacent to the Mojavi Desert. It reminded me of an entry sign at John Muir's Redwood Forest near San Francisco: Advice From a Tree (written by Ilan Shamir)
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of a greater source
Think long-term

Many Trees 'Unique to Specific Locations in the World.'
Rainbow Eucalypcus (Pacific Islands (Kauai); Dragon's Blood Trees (Socatra Island, part of Yemen's territory due to the trees' red sap); Bamboo Fronds (grasses) in Japan and Hawaii; Angel Oak Tree (Charleston area in South Carolina); Joshua Tree (Mojavi Desert in California); Pakistan's Spider Trees; Japanese Maples (Eastern Asia); Giant Sequoias (California); Tree Tunnel (Northern Ireland).

Giant Blobabs (Madagascar); Dead Vlei Trees (renamed Namib in the Namibian Desert); Blossom Cherry Trees (from the German city of Bonn to the guards of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and to District of Columbia's Basin marking the beginning of spring); California's Redwoods ~ which are the tallest trees in the world growing along the Pacific coast near the Bay area); Bristlecone Pine in the American West; Ponderosa Pines in Bryce Canyon, Utah; Blue Jacaranda in the South Americas;
the Banyan Trees located in Hawaii and Zealand.

Canada's Tall Trees
The second-largest Douglas Fir may have been found near Port Renfrew standing alone in 'a clear-cut' on Vancouver Island ~ estimated 1,000 years old. Canada's largest and greatest is Cheewhat Grant ~ a western cedar in a remote location near Cheewhat Lake within the Pacific Rim National Park (south-western Vancouver Island). The tree measures 20 feet in trunk diameter...182 feet in height...450 feet regular telephone poles worth of wood. It was discovered in 1988.
The Pacific Rim National Park was created in1971.

Plant Survives!
(and so can you and I in dire circumstances)
Little House on the Prairie (now on TV reruns), tells of a family surviving a hurricane in Minnesota that destroyed their rural country home. Alphonso, the husband, married to Laura, was injured and wheel-chair bound. His hope for his family's future was doomed. Loving Laura, their baby and his farm, he gave up hope of ever walking again...of not being a responsible husband...of lacking the ability to reconstruct his collapsed home. One day, he wheel-chaired over to his almost demolished house... ...viewed the broken windows and doors (with the semblance of 'what used to be')...and deriding himself with, “What's the use of even trying to even rebuild my crippled life?”
I wanted to die ~ but now I need to live!

With stunned amazement, he saw Laura's father attempting to assemble the broken pieces. Considering his inabilities, he thought that any resurrection to a 'living home' was impossible.
Unbelieving, he noticed a lonely 'alive green plant' which outlived the hurricane:
green and flourishing at a basement corner, giving him the Will to Live!
To Laura's father, he stated, “I wanted to die ~ but now I want to live!”

With assistance, Alonzo managed to get out of his wheel-chair...
and standing, was able to saw lumber to begin his home restoration.

Like the Joshua Tree, we adapt to our environment ~ whether residing in Canada's Northland or coping with the hot, humid summer days of south-western Ontario. As for me, I choose a Canadian location with pleasure to enjoy Nature's Gift of Four Seasons!

Waterdown Sapling with Vimy Ridge Lineage Receives Heritage Label
Although published a year ago by Natalie Paddon from The Hamilton Spectator,
this sapling of approximately 100 oaks were sent across the country
to commemorate soldiers in battle.
A two-metre sapling that is a direct descendant of the English oaks at Vimy Ridge is the only tree in Hamilton to receive heritage designation. While planted on the grounds of the Waterdown Legion only in June, the Vimy Memorial Oak Tree is significant because of its lineage. The fenced-in sapling is one of approximately 100 oaks sent across the country to commemorate the more than 10,000 Canadian casualties in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The story of the trees, stems from acorns collected by Canadian soldier, Leslie Miller ~ who died in1979 ~ sent them home. They were planted on his rural Scarborough property, where they grew into a forest of oaks on land now owned by the Scarborough 'Chinese Baptist Church. For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, efforts were made bygrafting hundreds of branches from the tips of the trees to saplings of English oaks from British Columbia. The work was done at Connon Nurseries in West Flamborough in 2015.
Coun. Judy Partridge suggested putting the tree forward
for Heritage designation. “One hundred years from now, that tree is going to be still standing and I believe it is important that no one chops it down without adhering to the heritage designation.”
“It has created a landscape in Flamborough that's going to highlight
the military history for Canada. It's something that's leaving a legacy.
“On the grounds of the Legion, a green wrought iron fence donated by Versitch Industries Inc. encloses the tree to provide protection. One acorn fell from it last fall.”

Chad Sugg advises: “Love the trees until their leaves fall off ~
then encourage them to try again next year.

Chinese Proverbs: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW!
Keep a green tree in your heart ~ and perhaps a singing bird will come!

Wise words from Albert Einstein: Look deep into nature ~ then you will understand everything better!

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...March 13, 2018
Comments appreciated: mbairdkerr@cogeco or inezkate@gmail.com

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Marine Conservation

The ocean stirs the heart ~ inspires the imagination ~
and brings eternal joy to the soul. (Wayland)

Voltaire states, “The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error.”

Water and Air ~ the two essential fluids on which all life depends,
have become garbage cans. (Jacques Cousteau)

Life will let you get away with something for a while,
but sooner or later, you will pay the price.
Everything you do in life causes effects that you experience.
When you get the bill, be prepared to pay. (Author unknown)

What Are Mangrove Swamps?
They are coastal wetlands found in tropical and sub-tropical regions ~ salt-loving trees, shrubs and other plants growing in brackish to saline tidal waters ~ often found in estuaries where fresh water meets salt water and infamous for their impenetrable maze of woody vegetation. In North America they are found from the southern tip of Florida, along the Gulf Coast to Texas. Florida's southwest coast supports one of the largest 'mangrove swamps' in the world.
Mangroves once covered 3/4 of the world's tropical coastlines.
Only 12 species today live in the Americas.
They range in size from small bushes to the 60-metre giants found in Ecuador.

The Yukatan Peninsula: When in Mexico's northern peninsula a few years ago with an Oakville friend who yearly spent January and February in Progresso, a small town, facing the Gulf of Mexico, we visited a few coastal areas in my 2-week vacation each of two years. This was Mayan country, and although the townspeople spoke 'broken English', they were most friendly and hospitable. Several times we walked into town...from a local bar, had lunch and a Corona beer brought to our umbrelled table on the sandy beach and enjoyed several hours. By bus, a few times we visited Merida, the capital city of the Yukatan (population of about 900,000). It's a gorgeous colonial-era Mexican city.

Touring around by taxi, we visited a few ancient Mayan cities that over the past several years, have been discovered ~ hidden in thick vegetation ~ barely accessible. At Chichen Itza (75 miles from Merida) it is the most visited Maya ruin. With stairs to the top of this once Mayan temple, we sat on steps, viewing the surrounding tropical landscape; with imagination, one's mind recedes into the lives of yore when native tribes built these cities and with families resided for many years. When vacated, lush forests with heights and foliage buried these once vibrant cities.

Along the coastlines were numerous birds...so amazing to observe the hundreds of pink flamingos placidly standing in shallow blue waters of the Gulf; and along a rocky coast were many pelicans, flying in to watch for a good fish catch. One side-trip by a small sight-seeing boat, along the west coast took us to a 'mangrove' appearing as a small island inlet to the lush green forest touched by Nature's hand. The boatman asked if we'd enjoy a brief swim in this quiet lush green wilderness. I declined ~ fearing reptiles and gators who possibly inhabit the waters around this verdant area of trees, plants and vines. This was the first time I'd seen a mangrove!
You needn't look further south from Florida to experience a mangrove rehabilitation.

The Indulgent Voluntourist
There's no reason you can't stay in luxury
while being a mangrove rehabilitation voluntourist in Miami.
It's good for you ~ and good for the planet,” writes Steve MacNaull.

Feeling virtuous, my wife and I tuck into the elaborate tasting menu at KYU. The extravaganza of wine-and-dine at the Asian-inspired barbecue hot spot in Miami's warehouse-turned hipster justified our stint of voluntourism earlier in the day. Granted, our hand in 'mangrove rehabilitation' along the Oleta River15 kilometres away was short-lived. We spent just a few hours in the morning planting cord and black needle grasses in the saturated shore bordering the mangrove.
But that's what voluntourism is all about.
You take a sliver of time out of your indulgent holiday to save the environment...walk rescue dogs...read to under-privileged kids...and feel better about yourself. It's one of travel's hottest trends.
Give back a little while on vacation.
Our voluntourism stint is triggered by a visit to the sleek new 250,000 square-foot, 6-level Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami. After admiring hammerhead sharks and schools of tuna through the oculus of the 500,000-gallon, martini-glass-shaped aquarium and catching the laser show set to the music of Queen in the planetarium, we find out about the Frost's volunteer opportunity at its satellite Batchelor Environment Centre ~ located on Biscayne Bay campus of Florida International University adjacent to the formerly wrecked red mangrove along the Oleta River.
Infill, invasive Australian pine trees and litter overtook the site
before Frost showed up with armies of volunteers to make it right again!
Usually, it's locals who give of their time to pick up garbage, rip out invasive species and plant native grasses, shrubs and trees. Increasingly, tourists are jumping on the band wagon, inspired by a visit to Frost and hearing how mangroves are essential to Florida's marine environment.”

Mangroves are superstars,” says Fernando Bretos, the museum's curator of field conservation, as if he's referring to Beyonce and Jay-Z. “They maintain healthy water...provide habitat for water and air species...and protect against high sea levels and hurricanes. We could simply hire a contractor to do all this work,” he said, “but inspiring locals and tourists alike to get involved, gives them a chance to see firsthand how important mangroves are.”

On the day my wife and I drop by, there are 40 volunteers ~ planting grasses, beach creeper and ferns on the brackish water's edge and blackbead and cocoplum shrubs and green buttonwood trees.
Mangroves are actually the trees that can grow in a couple of feet
of salt or brackish (a mix of salt and fresh) water.
The trees and associated swampy shoreline vegetation are essential in attracting manatees, bull sharks, crocodiles, stingrays, barracuda, snapper, tar and mullet to the waters. Crabs, lizards and raccoons to the land. Bald eagles and ospreys in search of prey. All of these species have returned to this stretch of the mangrove, thanks to Frost and volunteers.
Bretos hands us trowels and dozens of bunches of cord and black needle grasses to plant in the soppy soil at the mangrove's edge. We're happy to get our sneakers and knees wet and our hands dirty!
We're also happy to spend the rest of the time at our luxurious hotel.”

Scripted by Merle Baird-Kerr...April 8, 2018
Comments most welcome: mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Walks of Life

No one saves us but ourselves; no one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path. (Buddha)

Over every mountain, there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.
(Theodore Roethke)

John Muir's advice: In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

Getting There is Half the Battle
Lee, a student from Pelican Falls First Nation High School in Sioux Lookout, in a Spectator photo, works with teacher Robrt Docherty to reconnect the wiring on his team's robot in preparation for competition on Saturday and Sunday in the Ontario District-First Robotics Competition at McMaster University. Unlike most teams, the Pelican Falls First Nation team has to disassemble and reassemble their robot every time they compete. Teacher and coach, Robert Docherty says the robot taken apart for their trip, entails a 4-hour drive to the closest airport, then a 2-hour flight into Toronto, and finally the drive to Hamilton where it is reassembled. The team first competed at the competition last year and was worried they would not be able to return this year, but Indigenous and Northern Affairs was impressed with their skills shown in a video and agreed to fund the 12-member team.
Docherty says, “There are about 5 full-blown science geeks on the squad
and competing at this level allows them to interact with 800 other like-minded students.”
(Truly, Our Youth ~ our Future!)

Spec Cartoonist Among Nominees
Seventy-five local artists including Graeme MacKay, have been nominated in11 categories for the 2018 City of Hamilton Arts Awards. MacKay is nominated in the lifetime achievement category, along with music teacher, Kosha Braun, the late McMaster music professor and flutist David Gerry, and visual artist Brian Kelly. Prizes for established artist awards are $2,500 ~ emerging artists receive $1,000. A special $2,000 award will also be handed out for the Shirley Elford Emerging Artist Prize in fine craft.
Winners will be announced June 6 at a public event at Theatre Aquarius Dofasco Centre for the Arts.

Perfect Way to Honour Mr. Custis
Scott Radley, writes in The Hamilton Spectator: “It was just days after the Hamilton public school board created an online poll asking for suggestions for a name to be given to its high school under construction aross the street from Tim Horton's Field, that CHCH sportscaster, Bubba O'Neill made his pitch. Bernie Custis Secondary. He's right, of course. The man behind that name was a football star. He was a pioneer. He was a legendary coach. He was an educator. Seems multiple generations of Hamiltonions are fans of this legend ~ so many aware, not only what he accomplished on the football field; so much respect and love for him as a coach or as their teacher or principal.”
The Reader's Digest version states:
In 1951, after graduating from Syracuse University, the star quarterback was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. But black men didn't play quarterback in those days ~ so he was told he'd be a 'safety.' He didn't agree and was eventually sold to the Tiger Cats where he became the first black quarterback in pro-football history, earning his way onto the 'all star team' in his first season. He went on to win a Grey Cup with Ottawa. When he retired, he began working as an elementary school teacher and later as a principal while coaching junior football. Eventually, he took over the Sheridan College squad leading it to an 86-14 record and 6 straight championships.

Is Hall Door Opening for Austin?
Drew Edwards from The Hamilton Spectator reports: Kent Austin will finally get his chance to make the Canadian Football Hall of Fame! He has been named by an anonymous member of the public and therefore will be considered by the hall's selection committee this year. Austin, who spent 10 years with Saskatchewan, B.C., Toronto and Winnipeg, is currently 12th all-time in career passing yards with 36,030. Every player above Austin on that list is either already in the Hall of Fame (Anthony Calvillo, Damon Allen, Ron Lancaster) or likely on the way there, (Ricky Ray, Henry Burris). There are already several players in the hall that have lesser passing totals than Austin.
Kent Austin has some strong numbers:
the 2nd highest yardage total in a season as well as the 5th highest per game passing yard average. He won 2 Grey Cup titles as a player. So, what's Austin missing? Personal accolades like Most Outstanding Player awards and all-star nods, which are also taken into account. During Austin's 4 of 5 best seasons from 1990 to 1994, he was bested for those honours by fellow quarterback Doug Flutie, considered one of the best players in the history of the game.

Life is a journey that must be travelled, no matter how bad
the roads and accommodation. (Oliver Goldsmith)

Liberals Name Catherine Tait as CBC President ~ First Woman to Hold that Role
The federal government is making a Canadian television and film executive the first woman to head CBC/Radio-Canada. Catherine Tait called this appointment her dream job during an announcement on Parliament Hill, standing alongside Heritage Minister Melanie Joly. Tait, whose appointment is for a 5-year term, says she wants the broadcaster to think digital, with consumers able to access content anywhere and at any time. “The CBC needs to be an inclusive storyteller for Indigenous Peoples, women, newcomers and LGBTQ+ communities,” she says.

Fire Department to Donate Trucks to First Nations
The Hamilton Fire Department is donating 2 of its surplus tanker trucks
to First Nations in northwestern Ontario.
The two 1997 Freightliners are to be given to Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation and Couchiching First Nation, which are both east of Fort Frances. “The trucks which have 1,350-gallon tanks, should help the tiny communities,” said Hamilton Fire Chief David Cunliffe. “These trucks will function and do a great job for them,” he added. In February, Ontario's chief coroner announced a panel of experts will review fire deaths in First Nations. The rate of fire-related deaths in Indigenous communities is more than 10 times higher than in the rest of the country, the federal government's First Nations Fire Protection Strategy notes. Shylo Elmayan, project manager for Hamilton's urban indigenous strategy, put the city contact with the two small northern communities.

You can't cross the sea merely by standing
and staring at the water. (Rabindranath Tagore)

Scripted by Merle Baird-Kerr...April 7, 2018
Your comments welcome: mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nature's Spring

'Tis the season for the flight of wings...of 4-footed friends...
the salamander migration and bird tales.
Mother Nature welcomes us: she has thawed the winter snows...
will bring us refreshing raindrops...awakens the trees to birth their tiny leaves...
and induce humans to dream of gardens with colourful blooms,
of summer berries and the harvesting of autumn's vegetables.
Springtime is the land awakening!

King Road to Close for Annual Jefferson Salamander Migration
No Through Traffic on Road until April 1: I'ts once again time for the annual migration of these salamanders. The City of Burlington closed the roadway from the base of the Niagara Escarpment to Mountain Brow Road March 11 until April 1 to provide the endangered Jefferson salamander safe passage during its annual breeding migration. The closure is a partnership between the city and Conservation Halton. The Jefferson salamander is a nationally and provincially-protected endangered species. Fortunately, since the first full road closure in 2012, there has been no road mortality observed by Conservation Halton staff during the road closure period.

Coyotes are Out and About: A west Mountain school is advising parents of coyote sightings on its property. Westview Senior Elementary issued the alert March 6, saying coyotes are residing in the woods adjacent to the school and have been sighted on the property while students are indoors. There have been no reports when the animals are sighted ~ students and staff are kept indoors as precaution.
Of interest, Burlington has coyote visitations also.

Man's Best Friend really may be this, especially to Miguel Guzman of Villa Carlos Pax, Argentina. Although his owner passed away in 2008, the loyal dog, Capitan, has stayed by his grave ever since. Capitan left the family home shortly after the funeral and the family thought he was lost. Veronica, the owner's wife, one day found him at her husband's graveside. Because the dog won't leave, he has become a mascot of loyalty to the cemetery workers who feed him and ensure he has vet care if needed.

Fortunately, the Donkey Was Very Co-operative: Grant LaFleche resports from the St. Catharines Standard that sometimes, the subject of a hard target search by police officers isn't a hardened criminal hiding from the law. Sometimes, after years of training and experience, often dealing with the worst people have to offer, cops are called upon to corral a lost donkey. Early Friday morning, Niagara Regional Police received a 911 call for an unusual road hazard in Thorold. The call came in about 3 a.m. from a motorist. The hazard was not a pothole or the lost payload from a transport turck. It was a lost, light-brown donkey. Working with the local humane society, police officers managed to corral the beast. Apparently, the donkey was very co-operative...was returned to his home without incident by the humane society after police got it off the road. It demonstrates the varied nature of calls to which officers are called upon daily to respond.

Olympic Star Saving Canines from Dog-Meat Trade
Reported by The Canadian Press, “Canadian skating figure skater Meagan Duhamel strode slowly from cage to cage Thursday, greeting some of Canada's newest arrivals from South Korea, at an emergency dog shelter in Montreal. “You're scared eh? That's OK,” she said, reaching out a reassuring hand to a big golden-coloured dog named Bear. Duhamel was on hand as Humane Society International 's (HSI) Canadian branch detailed its latest operation, bringing more than 80 dogs to the organization's emergency shelter in Montreal, from a farm in Si-heung-si, The Olymipic star, who ended her competitive career in the recent Winter Games in South Korea with a bronze medal in pairs figure skating and a gold in a team event, added her voice to those calling for an end to the dog-meat trade.

After inspecting many of the canines, Duhamel said it is heart-breaking to see them when all they want is love. Some of the dogs that were destined for the dinner plate were clearly suspicious and scared of interacting wtih humans at the Montreal shelter. “But there are others who are friendly and loving and I believe they'll adjust very well into homes and a loving family,” said Duhamel, 32. “I just hope they all find a home and people who will treat them well.”
A senior campaign manager for HSI's Canadian branch
who was in South Korea for the recent removal, described the conditions as deplorable.
Multiple dogs were crammed into tight quarters with fellow pups.They were exposed to the elements and living off restaurant waste with no water, no socialization or proper vet care.

Duhamel, a vegan for the past decade, has travelled extensively in Asia over the past 15 years and had heard about dog meat being readily available in South Korea and China. To help, she started by making a monetary donation and volunteering to fly with dogs back to North America.
That's how she ended up adopting Moo-tai, a miniature dachshund mix,
who was rescued from a South Korean farm a year ago.
HSI says there are 17,000 facilities in South Korea where some 2.5 million canines are raised for human consumption yearly. HSI has helped shutter 11 dog-meat farms and rescued about 1,300 dogs in South Korea.

Bird Tales
(Shared stories about feathered friends that will truly amaze you.)
Tapping the Tank: Each day, this yellow-bellied sapsucker comes to drink at our oriole feeder. Then when it's finished, it flies to a large propane tank and taps like crazy. The sapsucker begins its routine in spring and continues its pecking through the summer, several times a day! (Marcie from Peterborough)

Tweet Revenge: As my husband and I sipped our coffee one morning, we watched a squirrel scamper from our roof onto an overhanging tree limb. At the same time, a blue jay swooped in to perch on the same branch. The two startled each other so much that the squirrel fell to the ground, stunned and the jay flew away. After a few minutes, the squirrel returned and found a spot on our garage roof to sit and nibble on a nut. That's when the blue jay emerged and flew right at the bushy-tailed critter and gave it a sharp peck. I believe it got its revenge! (Gretha from Florida)

Lost and Found: When my friend is having a bad day, she sits outside on her front steps to observe the natural wildlife that surrounds her 40-acre property. As she was trying to lift her mood one particularly troubling morning, she noticed a baby bird hopping near her. It seemed to purposely make its way right over to her. Then it threw its head back, begging for food. My friend lifted the little bird up into her hands and began to search for its nest. All the while, the hungry little bird kept begging to be fed. Once she found the nest and returned her wee feathered friend, she stepped back to ensure the parents would return. After that, she felt better ~ and her problems didn't seem so bad.
Nature always seems to have a way of balancing us out. (Dana from Oklahoma)

Bern Williams concludes that the day the Lord created hope
was probably the same day he created Spring!

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...March 20, 2018
Comments appreciated: mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Highlight of Pyeongchang's 2018 Olympic Winter Games

Canada sent the largest contingent ever to Olympic Winter Games!
And were richly rewarded placing 3rd in nations represented
after closely tailing the power-countries of Norway and Germany!

Alone and Golden, On Top of The World
(wrote Lori Ewing, a sports journalist)
Canadians, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history ~ after their ice-dancing 'free skate.' They sang along to parts of their breath-taking Moulin Rouge program as they whirled around the Olympic ice. Caught up in the magnificence, they were 'alone in their own world' ~ Canada went along for the ride! A partnership, 20 years in the making, Virtue and Moir penned their own thrilling ending by capturing the Gold Medal.

It's an overwhelming feeling because it is something we envisioned for so many years,” Virtue said about their center-ice hug at the program's end. “I couldn't help but think about the 20 years we've spent working for this moment ~ and the incredible team of people behind us.”
Coaches Patrice Lauzon and wife, Marie-France Dubreuil from Montreal agreed.
They're a once-in-a-generation talent, that you seldom see.”

Moments before they step on the ice for their 'free dance'
and as they've done every skate for years, they've hugged for a half minute...
eyes closed...Virtue's head resting on Moir's shoulder...
(“It helps us focus,” they said, “and melds our emotions
to the 'telling of the story.')

Dressed in a skin-tight backless red dress, with a high jewelled neck, Virtue played the role of Nicole Kidman. Moir, in a mostly sheer black shirt made a great love-struck Ewan McGregor. And together they dazzled the Gangneung Arena crowd with their passionate skate to “Moulin Rouge” ~ a movie they'd seen together when Virtue was 11 and Moir was 13. They had wanted to skate to it ever since!
Their personal-best score of 122.40 for the 'free skate'
and a world-record combined score of 206.07 points
carried them past French rivals and silver medalists whose total score was 205.28.
(I'm certain Moulin Rouge will become their 'signature performance)

The Gold was their fifth career Olympic medal (breaking a tie with a previous Russian pair).
Since they first melted hearts when they were Gold in Vancouver Olympics 8 years ago, Virtue and Moir have 'pushed the ice-dance envelope' with their athleticism, lifts, footwork and in addtition have made sensuality practically a required element in the sometimes stuffy world of ice-dance. They had the crowd roaring with another gorgeous, soaring lift that had Virtue bending backwards...her arms reaching to the rafters victoriously...her blades balancing on Moir's thighs!
They certainly took 'chemistry' to a new level!

Virtue was just 7 and Moir 9 when they were paired together by Moir's aunt...
it's a partnership, in the London, Ontario area, that kept growing with their love of skating.
Canada's longest-tenured team, credits those 2 decades and their legitimate desire to skate together...
for their uncanny ability to 'tell a story on ice.'
Moir, in the post-skate news conference stated,
I would never even think about skating with someone else!”
Virtue comments, “We're very proud of our business relationship and it's been very special for 20 years,

What They Said” from the Canadian Press

Kristie Yamaguichi (retired American skater): “A dance event with roller coaster emotions. Congratulations to Virtue/Moir on an awe-inspiring skate and history made.”

Dick Button (retired American skater): “ Your skate will be an iconic Olympic skating moment.”

Elvis Stojko (retired Canadian skater): Congratulations, you two!”

Arlene Dickinson (Canadian business woman and star in CBC's Dragon Den): “Tessa and Scott are what pure joy looks like. Magnificent!'

They skated for Canada: Always Their Dream!
Sometimes, you will never know the true value of a moment,
until it becomes a memory!” (Unknown Author)

Behind the Scenes ~ According to Tessa Virtue
We put ourselves out there and we're the only ones on the ice! But it takes a 'village' ~ we need to be surrounded by the right people...we learned to utilize the members of our team better...so we know we can rely on them...reach out for support...and approve things in a more scientific way.
Their choreographers vary from David Wilson and Sam Chouinard to our husband and wife coaches
(Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon) plus several other technicians.”

Surprise at the Games!
Hamilton, Ontario's “Arkells” (a Juno-winning rock band and favoured musicians of both Tessa and Scott, arrived at the Olympic Village to pay tribute to their special fans.) The Arkells played an unplanned 90-minute concert set at “Canada House” on Saturday evening in Pyeongchang before more than 600 people, including most of the Canadian athletes participating in the Games.

The band was introduced by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and were joined onstage by other well-known Olympians including silver-medal women's hockey team. Justine Dufour-La Poine (a silver-medal freestyle skier) came up to sing Stevie Wonder's 'Signed Sealed Delivered'. The band closed with its latest Juno nominated hit, “Knocking at the Door” which was adopted as the unofficial theme song of the Canadian team soon after the Olympics opened.


The Arkells were unexpectedly invited to South Korea the previous week, arriving as guests of the Canadian Olympic Committee...and without instruments...and no definite plans to perform. The COC managed to find enough gear to allow it to stage this impromptu concert...and put them up in a hotel 10 minutes from the Olympic Village.

Little things done and given may seem nothing, but they give peace
like those meadow flowers which individually seem odourless
but altogether, perfume the air. (Georges Bernanos)

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...February 26, 2018
All comments welcome: mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Winter Games ~ 2018

These Winter Games officially known as The XXIII Olympic Games ~ are more commonly known as PyeongChang 2018 ~ is an ongoing international multi-sport event ~ hosted by the 'county of PyeongChang, South Korea.' Selected as the 'host city' in 2011, it marks the first time that South Korea has hosted the Winter Olympics ~ and the second Olympics held in the country ~ the first being the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the capital City of the Republic of South Korea.

These Games feature 102 events (the most ever) in 15 sports disciplines including 'new this year' :
Big Air Snowboarding...Mass Start Speed Skating...Mixed Doubles Curling...Mixed Team Alpine Skiing to the Winter Olympic program. A total of 2,952 athletes from 92 National Olympic Committees are slated to compete ~ including the debut of Ecuador, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore. In after 2 years of 'high-level-talks,' North Korea agreed to participate in the Games.
The two countries marched together during the Opening Ceremony
and agreed to field a unified women's hockey team.

Mascots for the Games: Soohorang (a white tiger) and Bandabi (an Asiatic Black Bear)
were unveiled on 2 June, 2016.

Luge: Sledding on Ice at 145 km/h
(Born and raised on a farm, my knowledge of sleds were for tobogganing, which we had and used frequently; we also had sleighs for child-play and for being horse-drawn by 1 or 2 horses.)
Luges? I'd not heard of them until tuned in to Olympic Games a few years ago!

A black and white photo by The Canadian Press published today, shows an action-drama photo:
Sam Edney of Canada competes in Run 3 of the men's singles luge event on Sunday.
This overhead 'shot' shows Sam, wearing a #25 bib and laying flat on his back while speeding his luge;
fans in the foreground cheer him on with flags and upraised arms!
Edney finished 6th in his Olympic farewell race.

Victor Mather, from The New York Times writes about this race:
One of the most appealing things about luge is its name. Luge. It's like a sled whooshing down an icy track (it's actually a Swiss term for a small sled.) Luge feels familiar ~ it's like when you leapt onto your Flexible Flyer and steered down the hill with your feet. Only, these sleds weigh 23 kilograms and can hit speeds of 145 km/h. And then, there's the doubles luge. Is that one person just lying on top of the other person as they race down the icy track? Yeah, pretty much.

They've been lugeing in the Olympics since 1964. A lot of people remember back in the 1970's when some lugers wore conehead-style-helmets to gain an aerodynamic advantage (which are no longer allowed.) The start of the race is vital. The lugers push off with their hands as they sit facing forward on the sled and try to get going as speedily possible, aided by gloves that have spikes to grip the ice and propel the sled forward. They steer with their calves as they shoot around corners of the course.
(It causes me to wonder how when laying on their back(s) they see where they are going???)

It can be a dangerous sport. In 2010 in Vancouver, the day before the Olympian competition began, Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia flew off the track in a training run
and crashed into a steel beam. Sadly, he was killed.
Luge added a new event in 2010: the team relay! Each country sends one man, one woman and one men's double down the course, one after another. As each reaches the finish , they reach up and slap a board, which opens a gate to send the next racer down the icy track.
The total time of all 3 runs determines winners.

What They Said...(Compiled by The Canadian Press)
I'm on the podium and I probably shouldn't even be here. So, I'm pretty stoked!”
Regina snowboarder Mark McMorris, on winning a bronze medal in 'slopestyle' less than a year after suffering multiple injuries in a crash in British Columbia.

I said to myself, “Listen, Max. You fell 2 straight times. You can't fall on your 3rd final run! I had a lot of pressure and my heart was beating really fast before starting on the course. Talking to myself, “I've been snowboarding since I was 9 years old; it was already a victory that I was here at the Olympic Games.” Canadian snowboarder, Max Parrot on his silver-medal winning in 3rd in slopestyle run.
(Best score of 3 runs determines the athelete's given score.)

You just don't get too many shots at an Olympic medal, let alone an Olympic Gold Medal. I believe Canada has a great chance. We're a 'skating country...the choreographers...the coaches...the skaters that have come from our country are second to none.” Canadian ice dancer, Scott Moir...with chances for gold in the figure skating team event ~ which he and Tessa Virtue won!

I crossed that finish line knowing that no matter what happened next, this was it! This was the best run I could put down at the right moment and now it's the judges' decision. If I could do something that I could be proud of, and knowing that I did everything I could, no matter what the medal is.” Canadian freestyle skier, Justine Dufour-Lapointe on winning silver in the women's moguls.

That perfect race where you get into a flow and just fly to the finish ~ it doesn't always happen, but I made the most out of it ~ and I gave everything of myself. I'm really proud to be on the podium and it's a really big reward for my whole team.” Canadian speed-skater, Ted-Jan Bloemen finishing 2nd in the men's 5,000 metres behind Dutch legend, Sven Kramer.

Sixth place at the Olympics is still something to be really proud of ~ it's just not exactly what I was hoping for.” Luger Sam Edney, who raced his last Olympic men's singles race. His 6th place is Canada's best-ever result in the event.

Alex Gough of Calgary ~
leads Canada's 8 lugers into the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea
where the country seeks its first Olympic Medal in the sport ~
and Gough is Canada's most decorated luge athlete
with 25 World Cup medals and 2 World Championship Bronze in women's singles.

Canada's team certainly has the depth of talent and experience
to 'battle for the top of the medal table'
and win more Winter Games medals than ever before.
We head into the Games, probably with our strongest team ever,”
said. Own the Platform chief executive officer, Anne Merklinger.

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...February 12, 2018
Comments appreciated: mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Around the Bay Road Race" History

The Story of the Stones: written by Paul Wilson and published in The Hamilton Spectator.
In Wiltshire, England, there is Stonehenge, a puzzling circle of 83 prehistoric standing stones.
In Hamilton, Canada, there are the nearly ancient dark-granite standing stones
of North America's oldest foot race.
The 'Around the Bay Road Race' is this Sunday, March 25. Thousands will run the coarse and most won't notice the three surviving mile markers erected when the race was young.
On a bitter Christamas Day, 1894, 13 men dressed in white shorts and numbered shirts
set out from Billy Carroll's Cigar Store on James Street North,
with citizens on bikes, horses and in buggies charging along behind.
The Hamilton Herald newspaper sponsored the run in the early years. The course is an even 30 km today, but in the beginning it was 19 miles, 168 yards. And they measured out the race in rock-solid fashion. Granite markers were produced, each about six feet tall, with the Herald name and the mile number engraved on each. They looked like cemetery stones, fashioned to the last an eternity.
But that was not to be.
In the mid-1920's, the race disappeared for a decade or so. Maybe, it was those years that the markers fell. The Spectator carried a short item December of 1954: “(Hamilton Beach) Police Chief, Howard Nickling has recovered many old Herald stones placed to mark the distance across the Beach from the Herald office when the marathon races were run around Hamilton Bay. They have been taken with others to the Beach Commission office to keep as part of the history of the Beach.”

Scott Howley wonders what happened to those stones that landed at the Beach Commission. But he does know the story of how one race marker on the Beach got liberated. It is the 5-Mile Herald marker.
In the beginning, it may have been along Woodward Avenue. But somehow, it ended up as a parking curb in the lot at Dynes Tavern, a Beach landmark built in 1847. The marker, discovered in the late 1980's, the tavern eventually mounted the stone out front of the establishment. On the evening of July 18, 2007, a band of heritage freedom fighters showed up at the Dynes with a Bobcat and spirited that stone to safety. The marker sat in more than one backyard on the beach, under tarps, for several years. And in the spring of 2011, the people themselves mounted the stone at the edge of Beach Boulevard, across from Hamilton Beach Convenience.

And now in Aldershot, ultra marathoner Les Michalak and others in the Burlington Runners Club plan to showcase the Herald Mile 15 stone in a granderway. It stands at the interstection of Plains Road West, near Spring Gardens Road. But it's partly hidden by overgrown vegetation. Through GoFundMe, the club has just started to raise money to move the stone closer to the street and add a bench, a plaque and some public art.

The final known survivor, the Herald Mile 17 stands just south of the High Level Bridge. Behind a chain link fence, it needs a plaque to tell its story. How about getting that done for next year, the 125th anniversary of when those first sturdy souls set off to beat the bay?

Benefits of Long Distance Running and Marathons
The half-marathon (13.1 miles) is one of the fastest growing race distances with new races popping up all over the world. Reasons to give the distance a try:
You'll stay motivated to run.
You'll burn a lot of calories.
You'll experience lots of health benefits.
Yoy'll have a lifetime of bragging rights.
You'll discover new running partners.
You're less likely to get injured than if you travel for a full marathon.
It's not as time-consuming as training for a marathon.
You'll meet other runners.
You can support a 'cause.'
You'll get a medal and a shirt.
You can travel to new destinations.

Around the Bay Race Just Around the Corner
(excerpts from Carmela Fragomeni 's writing in the Hamilton Spectator)
Our harbinger of Spring attracts thousands of runners and cheering spectators
happens Sunday, starting at 9:30 a.m. on York Boulevard at Bay Street North.
The Around the Bay is a 30-kilometre Hamilton-Burlington course that is 12 km shorter than a marathon. It follows the outline of Burlington Bay/Hamilton Harbour and goes through north and east Hamilton to Beach Boulevard into Burlington and along North Shore Boulevard back into Hamilton.
It is perhaps one of the most scenic races to run!”

Race director, Anna Lewis says, “It is the oldest race inNorth America, beginning three years before the Boston Marathon, the first marathon on the continent. The Around the Bay Race is a great race to train for local and far marathoners.
The Around the Bay Race is iconic because of its rich traditions.
It's a celebrated and momentous community event with family and friends cheering on the personal triuimphs of loved ones who paricipate in the run, while fundraising for a good cause.

The race dates back to 1894 and attracts participants ranging from fundraisers and challenge-lovers to elite and Olympic athletes. The top purse for each of the men's and women's winners is $4,000.

For the past 14 years, the race has also been associated with fundraising for St.Joseph''s Healthcare,which asks participants to raise pledges for theorganization that includes St. Joseph's hospital inHamlton. St. Joe's has raised $3.3 million since it became associated with the race.
The money raised goes to support the organization's greatest needs that year. It could go to patient care or equipment purchases, for example.
.
This year, there are about 8,500 runners registered so far.
But we expect another 300 to 400 to register on Friday and Saturday
at the free Health and Fitness Expo at First Ontario Place.
On page A6 of The Hamilton Spectator's March 21 `
issue
is a beautifully coloured map depicting the race course
bordering Hamilton Harbour, along the Beach Strip and around Burlington Bay.

Written by Merle Baird-Kerr...March 21, 2018