2022 / week 1

New String Day

This week I put new strings on two guitars: Oskar (my songwriting partner), and Eastwood (daily driver). I always leave my strings on for a very long time – way past their best-before date, so putting on new ones is a special event.

It never fails that something goes sideways in most of my undertakings and New String day is no exception. Lots of polishing, and getting ready, then removing old strings – all good. The wild card is always: how much slack do I leave to wind around the tuning peg? By the time I get to the third or fourth string I have it sorted. But then the diameter of the heavy strings changes drastically, and I mangle it somehow. In the end, it generally turns out okay. As with most things though, regular maintenance would be of much greater benefit.

Oskar with fresh strings


How do we measure growth? Certainly, one way is some kind of yardstick. Looking at Lily’s growth chronicled on a door jam indicates a physical burst during an annual period. There is a clarity, and informal whimsy to these marks that I love. A sense of progress over time tracked on the skin of a house.

Evidence of repeated use on hand tools also suggests the hard-earned growth of a skill. I find these types of objects beautiful even when they’re no longer in use. Especially when they’re passed along from one generation to the next. The growth embedded in hand tools isn’t quite as explicit as growth marks scribed on a wall, but it’s not a big leap to imagine that growth in a particular skill set has occurred over time. We have hands that hold things, and we understand the wear and tear from repeated use. ‘Is it time to get a new toothbrush?’ Or ‘why doesn’t my key work as well as it used to?’. This is not the same as entropy or decay, simply the grind of daily life. And with that, there is the potential for growth.

Lily’s growth spurt
Leather working tools of Lori’s great-grandfather. He was commissioned to make the harnesses for the legendary Budweiser team of horses.

Swimming with number 37

I have a thing for the number 37.
It dates back decades now, and resurfaces in countless magical ways. It was so significant for several years, that I made it a central component of a series of artworks I produced at the Ontario College of Art and Design in early 80’s. It’s not like having a favourite ‘something’ like a colour, because it’s more mysterious to me somehow. Often when it appears, it still manages to surprise me. Like a seat number on a plane, or ‘step up when this ticket number is called’, or ‘here is your special refund’.

The most recent encounter was with a gift I received. Leading up to my birthday, I had been dropping not-so-subtle hints about a fantastic book I had started reading but was forced to return to a friend: A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. I learned so much from it, in such a short time! As the subtitle states, it was truly ‘… a master class on writing, reading, and life’. Saunders uses four Russian short stories as the springboard for remarkable insights on writing that he delivers with clear-eyed brevity.
I was thrilled when my birthday arrived and with it – the Saunders book! Imagine my elevated delight when I turned it over, averted my gaze locked onto the garish price tag, only to discover the following:

Thanks Sarah!

Sour Dodo

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been baking sourdough. I had made no-knead bread before, and enjoyed it but baking never got traction in my daily life in the past, for no particular reason. But when researching sour dough recently, I came upon a video channel that changed everything: Joshua Weissman. His video was thorough and entertaining enough to get me to take a crack at it. It’s now been almost two years that I’ve been baking the same recipe (I know – not very adventurous) and I still marvel at results.

You guessed it: loaf #100.

I might just be biased, but my daughter has great taste in gift giving. Unlike my more mechanistic approach, she thinks deeply about the lucky individual and artfully delivers the perfect gift. And once again, I was the lucky recipient:

The first book by the compelling, and talented Joshua Weissman.

Same week, different year #1

Here’s where I select a photo of note from a year gone by. I’ve been taking photos with intent since I was 18 so dating pre-digital images is a bit of a crap shoot, but I’ll take my best guess. This week’s entry is from January 2009.

As most northerners know, some winter days produce the perfect conditions for making stuff from snow. On one of those magical days, the three of us went outside and started building our own little family out of snow. Naturally, Lori’s was the most magical – sort of a love child of Frida Kahlo and the Venus of Willendorf. It was a one of those days when the air is sparkly fresh and the exertion is enough to keep everyone warm in their woolies. We made a little version of our dog Riley, and a low wall of snow blocks to ward off (short) intruders.

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