Sunday, February 24, 2008

Downsizing: Sofa King Fun!

Personal downsizing - we all do it at one time or another. When the kids grow up and move out on their own, we think about relocating into a smaller dwelling. Around that time, we might also decide that we no longer need the van that carted countless children to sporting events and weekend outings, so we start looking to downsize to a smaller vehicle. My aunt has decided to do some downsizing of her own.

The call for help came in on Friday afternoon. It was my cousin Barb in need of a couple of men and a power tool, in hopes that they could provide a solution to her dilemma. Barb's mother moved here from Montreal several years ago and lives about five minutes from my house. Over the past few years, she has probably acquired a few new electronic devices, kitchen gadgets and decor-enhancers, but her basic furniture has pretty much remained the same as the day she moved in. Lately she's finding that some of the discomforts of aging have caught up to her, and has decided that she'd be better off living in the seniors' residence across the road from her current apartment.

Such a nearby move might sound simple at first thought, but as with most things, problems arise from time to time. My aunt's four-seat sofa is too large to bring with her into her new dwelling and so she decided to sell it. She had a buyer who was willing to take it, and all seemed well until they attempted remove it from her seventh floor apartment. They squeezed it through her doorway without much difficulty, but when it came time to place it in the elevator, it just would not fit. This very same piece of furniture was moved into her apartment without issue several years earlier, but sometime during the course of her occupancy, there had been some renovations done to the building. This included new elevators. New, smaller elevators. This sofa was not going to fit. So back to the apartment it went, which is probably when the above mentioned call for help came in.

My son Jeffrey was in town this past week, and since Frank was also visiting, and we just happened to have a circular saw, we offered to see what we could do. Armed with a few tools, army-issue gloves and protective eye gear which Jeffrey purchased especially for the occasion, we headed over to my aunt's apartment and proceeded to destroy her thirty year-old sofa.

(You can click on each of the images for a larger view.)
This is the victim. A custom-made four-seater which served hundreds of bottoms well over the years. As you can see, it was still in very good condition which made it particularly heartbreaking to destroy. But the little boys in these two men prevailed over sentiment. They had tools and they were here to use them.

Frank and Jeffrey tipped the couch over on its front, and after making a small cut, began to remove the first layer from beneath the couch. Sofa so good!

After deciding where to go from there, they returned the sofa to its upright position and cut into the material to reveal the frame and springs beneath. The wire near the top frame spans the length of the sofa, and needed to be removed before they could safely saw into the wood.

Unfortunately, wire cutters were not among the tools that we brought. Frank located these vice grips in a storage room, and Jeffrey noticed that if placed just right, they could be used to cut through the wire.

Having successfully removed the main wire, Jeffrey cut into the base of the sofa to reveal the frame. My aunt watched and joked around at various intervals that she had changed her mind.

Here's where the little boy bubbled to the surface of my son. Prepare to destroy!

The blade cut through the surface of the wood, and then stopped abruptly with a screech...

A couple of screws were in the way. They needed to be removed the old-fashioned way.

Once all of the outer framework had been cut, there was a smaller, inner frame that was in an awkward spot. The men determined that it was hidden too deeply to access it with the circular saw.

Frank could approach it more easily from his side and he worked away at it until Jeffrey decided that a karate-like kick would work just as well, and a lot sooner.

A few snips, cuts, kicks and grunts later, the sofa was separated. When placed side by side, both parts fit into the elevator quite easily this time. They were brought downstairs and placed into the dumpster along with the accompanying cushions. I vacuumed the remaining mess and our mission was accomplished. One sofa successfully downsized.

My aunt offered us the opportunity to take anything that might have interested us from cartons of unwanted items. Among them was a box with near-full bottles of vodka and and whiskey. I think we'll drink a toast to my aunt, and bid her a smooth, stress-free move next week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse of the Heart

The days are getting longer. I am reminded of that in little ways such as the late-afternoon sun streaking across my living room wall, as it creeps into view through the north-facing window. It's usually late February or early March before I notice how it brightens the room after the long, dull winter, just like I become aware of the tiny tufts of green grass which begin to appear in April.

It's been a nice winter for many reasons. The temperature hasn't plummeted to overly-uncomfortable levels too often, or for too long. The snow, although a fair bit of work to shovel, has been plentiful and refreshing during an otherwise dreary season. It also began late. Summer lingered well into October this past year, and autumn and winter followed in due course. For the first time since I was a child, winter has actually been pleasant. The main reason for this unexpected pleasure is my camera.

Most anywhere I look, there's a photograph. In my mind's eye, a bird at the feeder, the sun reflecting on the frozen lake, the moon-lit snow and fluffy flakes captured in mid-descent all appear to come into focus inside of their own frames. Icy paths have become less bothersome to navigate, and instead assist to reflect the light just right. Piles of snow create a temporary newness to the landscape. I'm no longer just seeing the mercury as a reliable measure of the day's potential. The season does not feel endless. It simply feels like a welcomed part of our passage to the next one - a period to which I have to admit I'm also looking forward.

I've spent so many years disliking winter and hiding from it, much like a creature in hibernation. In some manner, it feels as if I'm emerging from a darkness of sorts. This year, that shadow of concealment has slipped aside to expose a spectator with a rediscovered appreciation for the fullness of the season.

Much like last night's lunar eclipse, I feel that I am both a part of it and witness to it, and I can scarcely tear myself away from watching the transformation. I'm dazzled by its colours, its beauty and its charm. I feel lucky to have revisited this excitement for this time of year, which had been met with antipathy for so long. It's as if I have seen winter from a child's perspective once again.

I can hardly wait for the newness of Spring.

Below are some recent winter photos of nearby walking areas. Please scroll down to my previous entry (posted a few minutes ago) to see a few images of last night's total lunar eclipse. For clearer detail, please remember to click on the images to enlarge them.

Fluctuating temperatures cause frequent thaws and refreezes, creating this icy surface within a small cedar grove.

As the afternoon becomes evening, wispy shades of pink spread across the sky.

A pine tree stands tall, and watches as the sun paints the sky.

Across the lake, the sky is ablaze with colour.

The winter sky is magical at the point when the sun kisses the earth goodnight.

A golden moment in time.

When The Moon Hits Your Eye

Here are some images from last night's lunar eclipse. It began here at approximately 8:30 EST and ended shortly after midnight. These photos were taken from my snow-covered balcony. I wasn't able to get a decent capture of the eclipse in its totality, partly due to the angle at which I had to shoot, but mostly because I don't have a tripod - nor a steady hand.

Please click each image to enlarge.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Family Day

Today was Ontario's first ever statutory holiday in the month of February. Following Alberta's lead, we joined them and Saskatchewan in celebrating our first Family Day.

Though mostly by chance, rather than design, it turned out that much of our local family did get together for lunch at the half-way point between those of us who live farthest apart. My son Jeffrey and I made the half-hour drive to meet up with my sister, her daughter, three of our first cousins and one of their sons. All eight of us gathered at a restaurant to share a warm meal, endless chatter, hugs, laughter, a few tears of frustration, tales of kidlet-induced angst and the comfort of each others company. It was a lovely afternoon spent with people I have known and loved all of my life. What better way could there be to spend our first Family Day?

Thanks, Barb for arranging it. I hope this was the first of an annual tradition.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Uncaptured Capture

On Sunday morning, we were sipping coffee while watching as various birds discovered and pecked at the suet, peanuts and seed from the freshly-filled feeder. We'd had a 30 cm (one foot) snowfall over the previous few days and the temperatures were now plummeting to uncomfortable levels. I felt grateful to be sheltered from the biting wind, and marveled at how these tiny creatures just continue their routine regardless of the cold.

Sparrows are always out in full force, but we noticed that this group seemed hesitant to settle into their usual pushy roles at and beneath the feeder, opting to remain cloistered within the bushes at the back of the yard instead. We surmised that they might be trying to keep warm by basking in the only streak of sunlight to make its way into the yard at this hour.

A few moments later, we realized that the birds had probably sensed impending danger. Something large landed right in the open, toward the back of the yard. Its alert, vigilant profile told us it was a hawk (seemingly a Northern Harrier), and its stance indicated that it might have caught its prey. Frank could see that it did indeed have something in its grasp - probably a sparrow. I did not have my camera handy, but a small pair of binoculars revealed a sight I won't soon forget.

Just before it caught our attention, the hawk must have swooped down and snatched the hapless sparrow. I could see the little critter lying on its back, the raptor's talons dug deeply into its breast. Its little mouth was opening and closing rapidly. I was torn between continuing to view this moment in nature, and hoping to capture the image on camera. I opted for the latter. Passing the binoculars over to Frank, I slowly eased myself out of the chair to grab my camera from the other room. Frank stood to get a better view, and I suppose that our activity level was too much for the hawk. It flew off with its prey before I could make my way back to the window. A missed photo, but the mental image remains.

Part of me felt guilty for having provided the lure that brought these small birds into the yard. Without the bounty of seeds, they would not be here, allowing themselves to be easy prey for predatory creatures. I reminded myself that this natural ritual happens constantly, but we're rarely privy to witnessing it firsthand, especially in our own suburban back yards. Guilt began to ease its way into honour for having the privilege to observe.

I hope the sparrow had a quick end.

Below are some photos that were taken during and after our recent snowfall. Please click on them to see them enlarged.

Last week, we had hoped to explore a new (to us) conservation area called Stephen's Gulch, north of where Frank lives. It was the day after the main snowfall and we headed up there only to discover that there weren't any clear paths for us to follow. Since we had no idea where we could wander, and the snow was too deep for an easy amble, we thought it would be wise to return another time, once the paths were made visible by those more familiar with the area. Before we left, we snapped a few photos of the creek that runs under the bridge.

Some of the trees' branches hang low to gracefully touch the water.

Closer to Frank's place, we took Benny for his usual tour of the nearby wooded area. The snow continued to fall lightly and cling to the branches as we entered this enchanting grove.

The walking area also takes us along this creek. The cold water sounds lovely as it rushes along the shore.

The creek gurgles as it trips over snow-covered rocks along its path. Here, listen...

Night time brought more snow. This backyard shot was taken without flash. The snow appears more like rain.

Seconds later, with flash, individual snowflakes are more apparent.

Back at my place, Benny is busy making his own snow. The stuffing of his brand new squeaky football was strewn all over the living room floor. Now he's ready for a real game of tug-o-war. You can read more about Benny's antics over at Frank's blog.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Tacky Solution

Thank you to everyone who played along with the eyeball bender. A few of you thought it was a fan of some sort. Two of you had the correct answer - a Scotch tape dispenser.

I've published the comments that accompanied the previous post, and you can find my responses to them below.

Cuzzie of and Jo of my place for Whatever both guessed the correct answer. They each have unique perspectives of life.

Cuzzie Phyllis has spent a great deal of time looking at small things. Very, very small things. She's a food safety microbiologist who has recently started up a very informative and helpful blog. Through it, she alerts us to food product recalls. On any given day you can click on her site and find that the canned beans you considered buying for tomorrow's dinner might be a bad idea. Click on "Recalls" at the top of her page to see recent reports of contaminated foods. You can also see some wonderful photos and videos taken by her husband Mike on their recent trip to Southeast Asia by clicking on the second link.

Jo also has wonderful perspective - that of an artist. She's an amazing painter, creative photographer and an eloquent writer.
Plus she plays with Photoshop! Jo delivers her messages with beautiful insight, depth, humour and whimsy. If you've not seen her blog yet, you're missing out on some great entertainment.

The rest of you made fine guesses and comments..

Andrew: I had to squint to read your guess. Spectacular as it was, protective glasses was not the correct answer. :)

Baggie: Your life on the ranch sure is primitive. I had no idea you were unable to acquire adhesive tape there! ;)

Moi: Cool answer, but it's not a ceiling fan.

Reb: I got a charge out of your guess, but it's nothing electrical.

Tink: You have lots of fans but this was not one of them.

Stace: It's a good thing that it's not a drain. At my house it would just get clogged up.

Crabby: On your blog, you're the queen of perspective.. and keeper of the cupcakes!

Fannie Mae: With a name such as yours I wouldn't have expected a different guess.

Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Perspective is Everything III

The photo below is of an everyday object found around many homes. It's taken from an unusual perspective - very close up.

If you think you know what it is, and would like to take a guess, leave your answer(s) in the "share your thoughts (comments)" section at the end of this post.

I'm going to turn on the moderation setting for a few days so you won't see previous responses. I'll post any comments that are not guesses as I receive them, and all comments in a few days.

Have fun and good luck!

What do you think this close-up image is?