May 15, 2015 diario/journal, sault

fava in the cold northsault 2015 – 1st entry (May)

favaIt’s always a disturbing experience to come north in the spring. I leave behind warm weather and trees full of leaves for cold days and colder nights, bare trees and gardens growing to the rhythms of a winter dominant land.

The above image is of fava leaves. In Calabria they are already eating the bitter beans, but here in Northern Ontario, the leaves are just sprouting. (I remember going looking for fava, in the Strip, in early July only to have the vendor tell me that fava are an early spring bean and that July is the time for summer fruits-and-vegetables. My reply was that at my Dad’s we always ate fava in July. And then it dawned on me, that we ate fava in July in Northern Ontario. I apologized and went out with a new piece of awareness.)

My Dad’s garden is planted with garlic, onions, fava, radish and early bush-peas. Anything else would not survive the cold nights. (The tomato plants are in the sun room waiting for the threat of frost to retreat.) The garden is also full of seedling from the nearby willow and my Dad is threatening to call the Forestry Department and have the tree cut. I suggested that trees are good for the environment and for air quality. That fell on deaf ears as he pointed to the thousands of seedling he’d have to weed from his precious garden. (The man is 90 and is still planting a huge garden. Hard work that he does all on his own. As he says, he’s now doing it very slowly, but it isn’t like he had to get up and go to work. I think I get my love of putzing around in the soil and planting from him.)

One last note: When it was still a detriment to be Italian in Sault Ste Marie, fava were called horse beans another slur and negative hurled at the immigrants and their foreign foods. Today with the awareness of a nutritionally bankrupt food system and a need to find viable, healthy foods, the fava has regained its status and lost its immigrant negativity. All the grocery stores now carry fresh fava and all the foodies are rushing to eat the bitter, peasant bean. BTW, in Calabria, in the winter, the dry bean was fed to donkeys.

This series will also cover the early August return trip under the category sault 2015.


May 16, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the warm breath of springsault 2015 – 2nd entry

Sat-16 057The day began gray and overcast, but at least no rain. I like the west-end of town with its industrial landscape and rugged coastline. It’s also littered with streams that empty into the St. Mary’s River.

The image on the left was taken early evening. The stream is on Connie-and-Ron’s property in the Base Line section of town. The area at one time was all farmland, now solar-farms sprout from the thawing soil. In heavily developed cities, we introduce old icons – weather-vanes, split-rail fences, Home-Depot barns – to remind us of the long ago when the streets, highways and suburbs were rural, forested lands. In Northern Ontario, the inhabitants add modern icons – John Deer tractors, satellite dishes, solar panels – to their properties to remind them that they live in the 21st century. I’ve been taught to regard the old icons as quaint and the new ones as contrary; I don’t know if I can keep to that distinction.

The stream goes through an area that was once a beaver pond. There are still reminders of the pond – felled trees with teeth marks, remnants of a dam and the top of a lodge. The main channel – the stream – when the area was flooded, was probably 10 feet deep and the surrounding area is bordered by a natural embankment that the beavers used to border the pond.


May 17, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the big lake they call gitche gumeesault 2015 – 3rd entry

Sun-17 056

Because the Thormans head home tomorrow, we had the big meal at lunch today. Afterwards, we headed out to Connie’s cottage and we walked the Voyageur Trail from the cottage south towards Gros Cap. The above image is of Lake Superior along the trail.

Before we got to the cottage, there was a discussion about making the big meal simple. I failed to alter those plans; my mother made lasagna, my dad roasted rabbit and potatoes, deep fried breaded shrimp and cooked calamari in a tomato sauce; these were complimented with various vegetable dishes and salad to finish the meal. For dessert, we had these amazing cream-puffs that my mother’s friend made and dropped off before lunch.

I was able to extract from my Dad a change of venue. Instead of preparing all the food here in town and then packing it up and carting off to the cottage, I made the strong suggestion of eating in town and we did. My parents work very hard when we are all visiting and I know they enjoy the company, but they are 90 years old. And cooking everything to then cart it off to eat an hour away was added work that they did not need to do. (I probably robbed my Dad of an outing, but that will just reinforce my reputation as a difficult and uncooperative family member.)


May 17, 2015 diario/journal, sault

the birch treessault 2015 – 4th entry

Sun-17 043On the way back from Connie’s cottage, two men were stopped on the side of the road retrieving birch tree bark from the side-ditch. I assumed the two men were collecting the bark to use in some art project.

In elementary school, we learned that Native Canadians made canoes out of birch bark. (In Ontario, the tree is also called the Canoe Birch.) That has always fascinated me and that memory always comes back whenever I see the tree or the bark. The bark is also prized by Canadian artists who make all sorts of things from it. The bark from a dead birch rots very slowly; remaining solid long after the wood had decayed into dust.

The image on the left is from the Voyageur Trail outing. The trail follows the lake-shore, is well maintained and at this time of year mosquito-free. (I hate visiting in early August, because the mosquitoes are in full force and I leave covered in bites.) The white birch grow all along the lake and it was great finding this small stand. The Voyageur Trail is really a series of smaller trails that when linked go across Canada. This particular section, about 20 km, goes south along the Red Rock Ridge and comes out at Gros Cap. In the region most trees still have no leaves and the apple blossoms are weeks away. Spring flowers are almost two-and-a-half weeks later than they are back in Pennsylvania. For us, the spring flowers are done and the trees are full.

I liked the birch tree with its white bark enough to have Derrick cut a dozen of short logs that I put in the non-working fireplace in my Mexican War Street house. (They were hard to keep clean and eventually had to be thrown out, because they were encrusted with dust.)


May 18, 2015 8th grade, diario/journal, sault

the resurgence of the west-endsault 2015 – 5th entry
8th grade – 17th entry

Mon-18 016

My generation wanted out of the West-End and ran to buy houses in the Protestant East-End. Sir James Dunn High School was the envy of every immigrant living in the West-End. The Dunn was new and full of Canadians. The West End elementary schools were full of immigrant children. (St. Veronica and St. Joseph Elementary were full of children with names like Stocco, Zinga, Bitonti, Pozzobono and Fratesi.)

Forward 50 years and the world has changed. St. Veronica’s and St. Joseph’s are shuttered and the sons and daughters of the immigrants have taken over the political machines. The mayors and aldermen, for the last thirty years, have all had last names ending in vowels. Gone are the McCaigs and the Smiths. And the West-End with its wooded lots and undeveloped ridge has become a magnet for young families and well-to-do families looking for large parcels of land with a view to the Lake.

And the fact that much of the political class has come from the West-End, much of the new development has occurred in the West-End. The above image is of the Fort Creek Conservation Area. The walking path through the area is amazing. The metal bridge in the image is one of three that span the Creek.


May 20, 2015 diario/journal, sault

cruciform on drahner roadsault 2015 – 6th entry (May)

Tues-18 009There are two side-trips I’ve been wanting to do when at Rose-and-Derrick’s. Today, I got to do one of the two – visit St. Benedict Monastery on East Drahner Road. Rose and I got back to her place in the early afternoon and after expelling the last of the Sault residue, we took a drive down East Drahner. (Rose who’s lived there some 20 years, had no idea the monastery existed.) The complex is rather small in comparison to other monastery properties. It has a huge modern church, the monastery and a new large retreat house.

The chapel is this huge modern church with floor to ceiling windows behind the main altar. (The chapel was completed in in 2000; the architect was William Wyzinski.) The image on the left is of the corpus behind the main altar. The architect uses the window frame for the cross, putting the corpus at the junction of a horizontal and a vertical pipe. I like the image, especially the blue rectangle on the left. It’s a window shade that was pulled slightly down. I find modern religious architecture not very inspiring; it lacks a sense of the sacred. However, the monastery chapel on East Drahner Road works well as a sacred space. The best example of modern religious architecture that invokes the sacred is Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame du Houte in Ronchamp. Seeing the hilltop chapel for the first time in the rear-view mirror and then walking its stark interior were amazing experiences. The chapel at Ronchamp was commissioned by the Dominican friar Marie-Alain Couturier. His quote – better to commission geniuses without faith than believers without talent – is amazing and a pillar of faith for the Church during the Renaissance. (The modern-day Republican Party seems unable to commission politicians who are either craftsmen or geniuses at compromise or governance. Primary voters would rather elect a presidential candidate who is a believer in the rule of white-men, regardless of his lack of talent to lead a heterogeneous country.)