Monday, September 28, 2009

Use it, or lose it

Living in Ontario, we are blessed with so many opportunities for recreation, entertainment, spiritual fulfillment, fine dining - you name it. Last week I drove to Stratford and thoroughly enjoyed "West Side Story". What energy and talent erupted on the stage in this incredible performance. And yet, Stratford has not had a great year - crowds have been down, once again, due to the "economy". I don't think I've been to Stratford since high school, when I believe we went to see Romeo and Juliet. Walking into the theatre brought on a strange and distant deja vu kind of feeling for me. Until I read my program, I didn't realize that West Side Story was an interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. Somehow, I had it mixed up in my mind with Midnight Cowboy - go figure! Over the past several months, as I've followed a small group of runners to various marathons from Picton, to Belleville, to Toronto, and Peterborough, I've also had an opportunity to witness incredible feats of athletic achievement, and to be in cities and towns bursting with pride at their growth and creativity. And yet, crowds are down, due to the "economy". In my travels, I've also visited several different churches, St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, St. Gregory the Great in Picton, St. Peter in Chains in Peterborough, St. Michael's the Archangel in Belleville, and again, crowds are down, but perhaps not as a result of the economy. After 2,000 years the Catholic Church risks losing it's relevance with followers, but who is to blame for that? It seems to me that we Ontarians have a tendency to become complacent, to take what we have for granted. If we want to continue to have great opportunities for recreation, entertainment, spiritual fulfillment, fine dining, and you name it, we have to speak up, vote with our feet, enthusiastically support, encourage and engage ourselves in these aspects of society that define us. Take your TV remote control and toss it. Get up off the couch and get involved - make a difference.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Walking home one night

Most Fridays, I dress down a bit and try to get out of my office routine for the day. Not that I dress up the other days of the week; long gone are the days when I would pull a fresh white shirt out of the wrapper and choose one of a small selection of ties to match one of a small selection of suits, black shoes and knee socks. Thank God for that. I usually try to seek out some kind of physical activity to give my mind a bit of a break. Not that physical work doesn't require thought; I guess I'm in search of a change, a break in the routine so to speak. I also try to wear a red shirt as a reminder of and a tribute to the men and women who are serving our country in the war on terror, although I'm sure there is much more that I could be doing in that regard. As it turned out, this Friday there wasn't any specific physical chore calling out my name, so I opted to return a leased car (having reached the end of it's term) to the dealership . I didn't make any arrangements for a ride home, thinking I'd just wing it. The dealership was at the corner of Division and Elgin Streets in Cobourg. After dropping off the keys and waiting for the salesman to take a reading of the mileage, I started walking south on Division towards the lake. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, nice breeze, clear blue sky. I passed KFC (without going in), St. Michael's Church (also without stopping), thought about walking down to the waterfront, but instead made a left at Hwy. 2, or King St., as it is known in Cobourg. I popped into the Green Machine and withdrew enough cash to get me through the weekend, and to take a cab back home. I briefly contemplated the cab ride, the stale smell of cigarettes, the small talk and the cost. I kept walking. Before I hit the edge of town, I sent a text message to a friend hinting that I might need a ride. Subconsciously, I think that more than anything, I was testing the strength of the friendship. A new art gallery caught my eye, so I popped in, hoping that I wouldn't attract the attention of the volunteer attendant. Just as I thought I was in the clear to make a clean getaway, she asked me if I wouldn't mind signing the guest book. I complied, thinking that this would be quick and painless. Just then, my PDA vibrated. A response to my text test was pending. At that very moment, the attendant, who had circled around me politely appreciating the works of art, read my entry in the guest book and exclaimed "Are you the famous Jim Corcoran?" I could feel myself turning red, knowing that my escape plan had been foiled. I asked her what she meant by "famous", assuming she was referring to recent spate of articles in the local newspaper about my dispute with my fellow Catholics, but no, she was referring to my association with Ste. Anne's. As it turned out she had been a regular guest about 20 odd years ago, before I had taken over. In those days, there were a number of groups who would take over the whole place for a weekend of tennis, gastronomy, cocktails and boomerfun. My claim to fame with those people was that I spoiled all that by introducing the spa concept and hiring a chef. I've always sensed that those groups were not some of my biggest fans. In any case, we chatted each other up politely, and she commented on viewing the most beautiful baby in the world as having been one of her last memories of Ste. Anne's - I'm assuming she is referring to my niece Jenna, now in her final year at U of T. How time flies. I made my escape, and immediately checked my text messages. I got kind of a lukewarm response to my hint for a ride, to which I replied "Sounds like you're busy - the walk will do me good." Now I was committed. I stopped and bought a bottle of cold blue liquid and set off on my 15 km. journey. It was 3:30. Walking along Hwy 2 between Cobourg and Grafton isn't a walk I'd recommend. The shoulder of the road and the speeding cars are a little too close for comfort. I noticed a few people pass by who I knew, who didn't stop, and a couple of people who I didn't notice pass by, actually turned around and pulled over to ask me if I wanted a ride. One friend passed by and then called me on my cell to see if I wanted a ride, but I sensed he really wasn't going my way. I declined all the offers and pressed on. Walking just to get from point A to point B, with no purpose other than the simplest mode of transportation, affords one the opportunity to think things through. I made full use of this opportunity. Three hours later, as I entered the town of Grafton, I was dead tired. Everything was aching and the worst part of the walk loomed ahead of me in the form of a steep 4 km climb to the spa. I stopped and picked up a newspaper, I sat down on a short wall and was even more stiff when I got up. Too tired to care about the repercussions of defeat, I sent one more text message to my friend saying "Don't you know, no means yes?" Just as I sent it, another friend stopped by and offered me a ride up the hill. This time, I took it. Two days later, the pain and stiffness is gone but the memories and the lessons of my long walk almost home are still with me. Now I know that I can almost do it - and I'm sure that if I didn't take the ride, I would have made it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Africa comes to Rice Lake

This past week was a little stressful as one of the respondents to the HRC case decided to use his office and all of the Catholic Churches in the Peterborough diocese to establish his authority, and my guilt, and to spread his version of recent events that is substantially different than what I perceive the facts to be (sound familiar?). So, a trip around Northumberland County to visit some of the artists displaying their work in the annual Studio Tour was a welcome diversion. Our first stop was at a barn that has been beautifully restored and converted to a studio to view the works of Martha Robinson. Martha's family and my family have been friends since the beginning of time and we love her work. Many years ago my mom and sister gave me one of Martha's portraits of a sheep, which I treasure dearly. Some of Martha's work is currently on exhibition at Ste. Anne's. From there we made our way up Harwood Road to drop in on the studio of Graeme Coxon, another long time family friend. Graeme specializes in digital images of plants - absolutely stunning work. For the last stop on our tour, we made our way to the opening of ZimArt's 10th public exhibition, on until September 27th. We have been lucky enough to have some of ZimArt collection on display at Ste. Anne's over this past year, and two of the artists, Biggie Chikodzi and Singi Chiota where artists in residence in our walled courtyard just a couple of weeks ago. Art is such a wonderful gift. The prices attached to pieces of art can sometimes be hard to swallow, but really, when you experience a piece of art, it becomes a part of you, and when you own a piece of art, you take a piece of the artist with you. Well worth the price, if you ask me. If you can find the time over the next couple of weeks, take a drive up to the outdoor ZimArt Exhibit, and mark your calendar for next year's Northumberland Studio Tour.