May 23, 2012

Deerly Departed

Nathaniel and I were driving home from gymnastics recently and as we passed by Woodland Cemetery, we were astonished to see two deer sitting on their haunches next to the crematorium.  Can you see the deer in this picture?

Or this one:  ?

No you can't.  Because there aren't any.
Sorry for that little trick; I couldn't resist.  The next picture will be of a deer, I promise.


Nathaniel was adamant that the deer were plastic statues (the same ilk as the dreaded pink flamingo).  Woodland is one of London's oldest (1879) cemeteries.   There is NO WAY that they permit people to "decorate" with plastic lawn ornaments! So I did what any mother worth her salt would do:  I slammed on my brakes, pulled a "u-eeeee" and drove back to the gates to check.

As we drove inside, Nathaniel complained:  "I don't wanna go in. I'll think of death".

The kid has a death phobia.

I said, "death is part of life.  Look how beautiful it is in here!"

I also gave him the "when I was your age..." line and told him about the countless enjoyable days that I spent roaming the Woodlawn Cemetery in Welland with my paternal Grandmother, who views the cemetery as kin of the park - both are perfectly acceptable places to bring small children.  I told Nathaniel about the pet and children's cemetery and how I liked to pore over the gravestones, reading the inscriptions and scrutinizing the porcelain photos of the dearly departed.

Silence from the back seat.

We crawled along the road toward the crematorium and sure enough, those statues were bona fide deer.  They were sitting with their legs tucked beneath them in the grass and were chewing their cud contentedly.  I was sure that they would sprint away, but they actually ignored us.  Aren't deer supposed to be skittish?  Was it beneath them to even glance in our direction?

I was amazed and awestruck as I always am in the presence of the sublime, but unbeknownst to me, the best was yet to come.

We bid adieu to the deer and prepared to leave.  You have to take a rather long and circuitous route to exit the huge cemetery and as we drove down the shady lane, I admired the many ancient headstones, statuary and grave markers - the beauty of which was lost on the 8-year-old.  I stopped the van in front of the venerable Pixley Mausoleum, which is monolithic and glorious.  Its massive door is flanked by lions, also real (heh heh), and so I HAD to stop and take a closer look:

picture by David Caloren, a librarian friend of mine (
Nathaniel refused to budge from the van:  "I'm cweeped out, Mum".  And so, I put the van in park and walked to the mausoleum ALONE (cue horror music).  I was admiring the front door, which was sadly but not surprisingly locked, when I heard Nathaniel yell:  "LOOK!"

He startled me, as I thought he was still inside the van, and so I jumped.   As I turned to see what had excited him, he was pointing directly at me. Realizing that the object of his attention was behind me, I whipped my head around and saw a buck standing less than TWENTY FEET from me!  I instinctively began backing away slowly because I didn't want it to charge me.  Don't laugh! I have been in a passenger in the front seat of a van that was twice charged by the same huge moose and it is no laughing matter. (I'll save that story for another time).

Back to the buck.  The deer did something unspeakable. It turned its back on me, so that I had an upfront and personal view of its anus, and both pissed and shat. I kid you not.  Nathaniel and I, being mature individuals, laughed like maniacs.

After finishing its business, it limped away.  It was obviously injured and we were sad for it.  Poor thing.

As we continued our drive through the cemetery, we next came upon eight deer sitting in a semicircle chewing their cud.  It was a deer party: a true stag and doe!  Again, the deer just sat there, munching away.  I think that one or two got up and deigned to look at us, but they didn't approach and neither did we.  It was a very special moment for Nathaniel and I to share.

At this point, we decided that we had to "hightail it" home to get a camera!  As we approached the Veterans' Area, we had to stop the van because there were two deer crossing the road directly in front of our van.  There were also many deer to the right and left and as I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw one standing in the road behind me.  We were surrounded!  We counted 22 deer.  Unbelievable!  I felt like we were in African Lion Safari, except it was London Deer Safari.

Should you wish to go visit the deer yourselves, I can tell you that it is miraculous to behold these beautiful creatures.  I have been three times this month between the hours of 7:30 and 8:15 in the evening and I have seen them every time.  Woodland is on Springbank Drive.


This buck is "in velvet", so named because of the fuzzy antlers which begin to grow in May.  Bucks shed their antlers December through March.

You can see the nubbins of new antlers on this buck too:

I liked the robin sitting atop this headstone, "gazing" into the trees.  

Now go visit!  You'll love it.

May 01, 2012


On the front page of a recent edition of the London Free Press, I read the headline: Kids, today's letter is 'i' - as in iPod.  I learned that hundreds of kindergarten and JK pupils are part of a pilot project using iPod Touches to teach them how to "use applications, send e-mails, take pictures, listen to stories online and more".  The school board paid for 40 iPod Touch kits at $1200 a pop, while the Ministry of Education footed the $25,000 bill to train the teachers.

Surely I cannot be the only one who thinks that this is a terrific idea.  Why not give all of the children laptops while they're at it?  Oh wait. Laptops have gone the way of the dinosaur, like books.  Right.  Maybe they should all get iPads instead.  Because kids NEED to spend more time interacting with technology -  playing outside is so 1980.

I like my iPod, most of the time.  I use it to listen to books on tape (yes, I still call them that even though tape has migrated to cd, which has migrated to mp3... and so on) and for listening to tunes in the car.  I borrow compact discs from the library, import them into iTunes and then transfer the music onto the iPod.  A bit onerous, but free.  I did buy one song from iTunes on one occasion (it was an Old Man Luedecke song about bacon that I couldn't get out of my head), but I find my system works for me.  I also borrow children's books and transfer those files to the iPod for the kids.  I used to read novels aloud to them, once they progressed beyond picture books, but since I have polyps and some vocal cord dysfunction, I find this works better for me.

I asked my 8-year-old if he thought that Kindergarten students should have iPods.  He paused briefly and said "they're expensive and they'll wreck them, like if they drop it".

Good point, Nathaniel!  I hadn't even considered that, even though we own one broken iPod. One of the kids dropped it; the power button is broken and you can't turn the blasted thing off.  It's permanently on; it always requires a recharge.  That glowing screen is no beacon in the night for me!

Not to be outdone, my 6-year-old said "they'll get addicted and want to play video games all the time".

From the mouths of babes... "Yeah," Nathaniel piped in.  "Because they're starting so young".

I'm not sure why a kindergardener needs to use email.  Oh wait, to set up play-dates with classmates.  Why don't we give them all iPhones so they can call their friends too.   Duh.  Calling is also so 1980.  They can text their friends instead.  Once their new iPod teaches them how to read and write.  Brilliant!

Let children be children, for Christ's sake.  As for the literacy aspect of the iPod (maybe they will be listening to stories online?); I agree that children need to learn to read.  And we already have a perfectly inexpensive and durable technology that helps them do this.  It's called a book, people.  Those old-fashioned paper products that you actually have to physically turn the pages of using gasp your actual  fingers.  And that can withstand being dropped.  And that do not require a recharge or batteries.  And that you don't need an owner's manual for.  And that cost a hell of a lot less than $1200!

Here's a link to that hilarious Old Man Luedecke song that I bought.  OML is waxing on about the scent of bacon cooking...

I opened up a book, on the shelf near my Bible.
Opened up a book for culinary survival.
I took a look in 
The Joy of Cookin'
Joy of Cookin', 
oh, why, oh?
If I'm not mistaken, 
the answer’s bacon
Answer's bacon, 
oh, why, oh?