Journalling Ottawa


Stubbornly, because I had been planning to for several days, I pushed on out into the pelting rain this morning, walking the streets that stretch away from my immediate neighbourhood, headed toward a little cafe I had heard about not too far away.

I took photographs along the way. This was part of the plan: to wander Ottawa’s Centretown, take photos, and write, on this, my last real day of holidays.

I took photos of the small, aging houses that still characterize much of our downtown core, the brick and coloured clapboard pieces of this town’s early history. I captured the fog rising thick from the quick-melting snow, puddles reflecting signs and roofs and the white-grey sky, quiet city streets. I managed to catch an umbrellaed man emerging toward me from the fog, framed by brick houses.

This is my “ode to home” day.

I have had other themed-days: there was a ski day, a cross-country ski day as well, the skating-to-the-library day, and several (many, if I’m honest) lazy book-and-Netflix days. With the exception of the latter, it generally took a good mental push to get me out the door, but I was always glad once I was moving. Glad, and pleased and relieved.

Relieved to be out, living, experiencing, seeing the things I only half remember exist when I’m stuck at my desk dawn to dusk for months on end.

There is a beauty to this little city. A sort of indie vibe, if you look. And a woodsy, green, outdoorsy vibe (you don’t have to look as hard for that), which is what brought me here originally, 15 years ago pretty much to the day. I had been living in Ireland for 5 years at the time and had decided to return to Canada, though not to my hometown of Toronto. But that’s another story…

My father grew up in Ottawa and left as soon as he could. With the exception of a blip when he tried to live here again a few years ago, he never really looked back, and now he refuses to come. “Boring” is, I think, how he describes it. Or maybe there’s something deeper, some unpleasant memory he’d rather avoid. But again, that’s another story, and it’s not mine to tell.

I never planned to end up here, never thought I’d “move back.” But I couldn’t face Toronto after 5 years in rural Ireland and Ottawa’s proximity to hills, rivers and forests seemed a good next home. So, here I am and, with the exception of my dreams of moving back to Ireland, I don’t really see myself living anywhere else now.

It can be boring, sure, but it isn’t really. If you look, walk, explore, there are little magic places. Small cafes. Vintage shops. Quirky places that can fill up the hours with poking and observing and people-watching.

I feel creative here. And by here, while I mean Ottawa, I also mean the little cafe I have landed in today. It’s quiet. People are dotted here and there, 5 of us in total – all writing, coffees gone cold on the tables beside us – plus two staff-members, a woman behind the counter and a guy who moves between bar stool and behind the counter as well.

I don’t recognize the music they have playing. It’s a sort of singer-songwriter collection that is perfect for rainy day writing in a cafe. Unobtrusive yet interesting. It could even been one of those coffeehouse mixes, but a good one, not the trite type you’d find playing in a Starbucks.

After this, when the feeling strikes, I’ll make my way home, stopping in at several vintage shops along the way. People in Ottawa are friendly for the most part, and all of this will take hours as I stop to chat to the strangers I meet.

And that will be that. My last day off for a while. My last day of poking about Ottawa, re-discovering this home I have made for myself.

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November magic

For a brief moment, sunrise alights the buildings – fire against purple clouds.

Then all is grey again; muted November.

Canary Song

come closer
walk between flames
between the lines
rustle petals and leaves
let the colours fill your eyes
pale the thoughts within
fade the world outside
find another existence
on the back of the wind
dance to the sea’s distant roar
to the song of canaries nearby
life can be vibrant
soft as velvet, intricate
in this ever-shifting light

African Tulip (Flame of the Forest) Study 1, Canary Islands, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

African Tulip Study 2, Canary Islands, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

African Tulip Study 3, Canary Islands, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Hibiscus Study 1, Canary Islands, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Hibiscus Study 2, Canary Islands, Copyright Silverleaf 2015


Consistent Inspiration

My inspiration comes from nature, from travelling, from the briefest of flashes that call to me, saying “There is something here. Can you see?”

It is everywhere I look, in the crook of a tree, in the angles of dilapidated human history, in every scent I stop to notice, in the sounds of voices and birds and water.

My muse is life – the broad blue sky, cityscapes and landscapes, the undulating waves, stretches of jewel-green woven with ochre, breeze-blown flowers, hidden cobbled ways.

My muse is life, in all its forms. And I return to her many faces time and time again.

St. Pierre Cathedral, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

I have many similar pictures of churches and cathedrals in Budapest, from all over Ireland, from Mexico.

At the Walls of St. Pierre Cathedral, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Cobbled back streets fascinate me, and I have pictures like this one from France, Italy and Dublin.

Sailboats on Lake Leman, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

I am drawn to water. I have similar pictures of Lake Ontario, the Ottawa River, Muskoka, Mexico, and places I no longer recall.

Lake View, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

Lake View, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

This could be the bench at the lookout in Gatineau Park.

On Golden Lake, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

On Golden Lake, Geneva, Copyright Silverleaf 2015

I took similar pictures in my teenage years of the Muskoka Lakes, and in my twenties, I took pictures of the Killarney Lakes in Ireland which resemble this view as well.