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December 6, 2009 diario/journal, harrow

1st entry – harrow 2009

I’m going back up to Harrow, Ontario this coming week-end. It’s Rainer’s 60th birthday and he and Lynne are throwing a party.

When we got together last summer, it was the time of walking through the corn-fields in the moonlight, holding on to Lynne, because I had no idea where we were and was certain that if I didn’t hold on, I’d never find my way out of the corn.

It was also the summer of the cats and learning from Lynne how they lived in the wild and how she took care of them. I’m curious to see how many are left.

It was also the visit where I sat on their lawn transfixed by the fireflies. There are images that I carry in my head, some wonderfully romantic, some exceptionally beautiful, some emotionally scary and some delibitatingly sad. The fireflies lifting into the air is one of the beautiful.

As I’m writing I realize I don’t have one image to post. The visit was still at a time where I was self-consious of walking around with a camera. Maybe this time, I’ll be a bit more brave.


December 11, 2009 diario/journal, harrow

2nd entry – harrow 2009

In July when I was here to visit and play golf with the boys, the area was gold with grain.

Harrow 050I remember just stopping in the middle of a country road and shooting the wheat field. The area is very flat and fields and farms stretch to the horizon. (In Pennsylvania, fields stretch to the next rise.) I had no idea where I was and Rainer literally talked me through getting to his farmhouse. It was only my second visit and I wasn’t paying any attention to directions. All I could see were swatches of color that I wanted to capture. And I was still unsure and reluctant with the camera.

However, I still stopped and just shot. In the image on the left, the line of trees in the distance was nothing more than a demarcation, separating the blue and the gold. It’s now, six months later, that I even know there are trees in this flat terrain of south-western Ontario. And now six months later, the gold and green are gone and what remains is the brown bareness of this prairie landscape. Winter here in the southern most point of Canada is still desolate.

Dec09 041I got to Windsor by 4:00 and pulled over at the Ontario Travel Bureau to call Rainer. I noticed that the office was open, so I decided to go in and get maps of the area. I have a GPS, but I’m not familiar enough with the area to trust myself to driving around. Also, I didn’t want to get caught in some country road after sunset GPS or no GPS.

The woman was very helpful and suggested a wine tour for Saturday. She also gave me a great map of the area that showed all the roads and situated Rainer’s house in the middle of this vast farm area.

When driving in a new area, I’m never sure that I haven’t passed my turn off. It was very hard to drive down Howard Road – a very long north/south corridor – and not worry that I had missed the right turn onto Rainer’s road. I forced myself to keep driving hoping that I would find the turn off and that it would be well marked. It was.

Along the way I shot a Greek Orthodox church, a cemetery and a vineyard with its bare vines. The wind howled as it ripped through the naked grape tendrils and the rust colored vines were a red haze behind the bare tree.

full circle

December 12, 2009 diario/journal, harrow

3rd entry – harrow 2009

Frank, Norma and I spent Saturday “in the county” as the locals refer to the area. Neither of them had even been to Windsor. We drove down and I took them through the University campus, showing them the house I lived in the year I was there.

U-Windsor 038This is the house that I lived in back in 1969/70. I had finished my year at the novitiate in Narragansett, Rhode Island and returned back to Canada and Windsor for university. I shared one of the third floor dormer rooms with a young man who was not a monk, but was living in the house, because he had gone to the Brothers’ high school in Toronto. His bed was in the right alcove you see and mine was in the alcove facing the river. I hated living in Windsor. I remember thinking that Sault Ste Marie was a better place to live than this miserable city on the Detroit River. And I knew nothing of the farm area that 40 years later I would visit to hook up with old childhood friends.

The house was on campus and it was the Christian Brothers center at the University of Windsor. The best part of living here was the cook. She made the best desserts. But even that couldn’t keep me in Canada and at the end of freshman year I transferred back to the United States and joined the New England/New York branch. This was the group that ran the novitiate and had the kids that I had become friends with. I’ve never regretted leaving the Canadian province of the Christian Brothers and settling in the United States.

The house is now a suite of offices for the Theology Department of the University of Windsor. (I wonder what they have in the ball room? When I lived there it was our chapel.)

old friends

December 13, 2009 diario/journal, harrow

last entry – harrow 2009

I knew there would be little time to spent with Rainer on Saturday after all it was his birthday party and he and Lynne were hosting a large group, but I made sure to get to his house on Friday and visit with him. I knew I would have more time with Frank and Norma and with Gabriele – Rainer’s sister and the person whose house the three of us stayed at.

It was very nice to visit with Gabriele again. She was part of the group that grew up together all those years ago in Sault Ste Marie. Gabriele is a nurse who has worked all over the world for Médecins Sans Frontières for the last 20 years. The four of us spent both Friday night and Saturday, after the party, talking and talking and talking. It was familiar, comfortable and great fun.

Gabriele is slowly renovating her parents’ home and making it her own. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pahl, two people I remember fondly, have passed away. I spent many outings with the Pahl family going fishing in the small streams around Sault Ste Marie. I remember climbing the low, northern Ontario mountains collecting blueberries. Mr. and Mrs. Pahl never got lost. Mrs. Pahl taught me to play chess and she gave me some World War II book to read that was a seminal experience for me, because for the first time I knew what Europe and my parents and Rainer and Gabriele’s parent went through.

They were always very welcoming and their apartment was a retreat, a place with intelligent people who talked to us as intelligent young men and women. It was also the first place where I saw modern furniture. The Pahl’s apartment was decorated with sleek, teak furniture. No one else I knew had this type of chairs and sofas. My parents decorated in French provincial.

After breakfast, Frank, Norma and I went down to Windsor and first we drove along Riverside Drive next we went to Little Italy and window shopped and had lunch.

Dec09 028The pic is typical of what I shoot – Frank and Norma walking down Erie Street, the Little Italy of Windsor. The street was empty. We being city people couldn’t understand why. A similar street with great restaurants and specialty shops in either Toronto or Pittsburgh would be teaming on a week-end close to Christmas. Instead we had the place to ourselves. I believe this is because in Windsor this is a local street for the people who live in the area. We stopped in a small grocery store and it was busy with people who lived in the neighborhood.

We did manage to find a place for lunch and being true city nerds we had to find another place for dessert and espresso. I always enjoy spending time with Frank and Norma. We fit well after all these years and can enjoy hours together. (The pic is unique, because on the cloth sign above the MEZZO marquee is an ad and the script spells Mario.) After dessert we headed back to the county and visited one of the wineries – D’Angelo Estate.

The birthday party was well attended. I didn’t realize how big their renovated farmhouse is until I saw it full of people and there was still room to walk around. We were there for about 4 hours. Got to visit a bit with Ron and met a friend of Gabriele whose grandmother had the original Crown deed that granted the family the land they farmed. Also got to meet Rainer’s brother in law, he and his wife are the present generation farming the land. He said that a farmer needs between 600 and 800 acres in order to make a living off the land. (There’s a tipping point Malcolm Gladwell hasn’t considered.)