Gezi protests remembered

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The Gezi protests of two years ago will live in Turkish history, though they did not result in much tangible so far, save for a few deaths and some battle scars. The first protest started from a sit-in, live-in, give-in of  the last park in central Istanbul, an occupy situation.  The government wanted to build a shopping center whose architecture was reminiscent of the barracks that had been there at one time (and they had been built on an Armenian cemetery). At the time, I had newly returned to Turkey after some months away and was staying with a friend in Cihangir.  We went up to Gezi a few times to see the temperature.  When it got very hot, we tried to avoid it.

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At first, it was kind of like a party.  A few times we gathered in the streets with other gawkers.  There were some strange people.  For example, one guy was walking around squeezing lemon juice (rumoured to counter tear gas) in his eyes, even though there had not been any tear gas.  A little later three young guys with kerchiefs over their faces strolled by and decided to smash the ATMs outside the Taksim Ilk Yardim Hospital.  People around them called on them to stop it, but by then it was too late.  Unfortunately, hooligans take the opportunity to join in protests wherever they are. And I also have to report that that hospital has since been closed, so now there is no public hospital in Taksim. It is rumoured that it is going to become a hotel.  Meanwhile, other hospitals took in injured protesters free of charge.

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Of course many of the people protesting looked like what we used to call hippies.  But there were also a lot of people like us, middle aged ‘straight’ men and women.  As the days went by, the protests widened.  The park was occupied in different areas peopled by different groups– women’s groups, LBGT groups, political groups.  The Kurds were just outside the park, which seemed to me to be a metaphor of their position in Turkish society.  The people in the park set up free kitchens with donated food, which were patronized not only by the occupiers but also by other Turks.  They also set up libraries and many people donated books and time. Of course there were musicians and artists and the protests brought out a wicked sense of humour.

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Many people went to the park to see what was going on.  We went one night and it was so crowded that we could hardly move.  We all felt claustrophobic but with so many people it was difficult to see how to get out.  Finally we got to the stairs that had broken in a previous protest (the people were srambling to get away from the tear gas) and found ourselves outside the park.  This is where the Kurds were.  They had pictures of Ocalan (the jailed head of the PKK, the Kurdish group, also known as a terrorist group) and flags of ‘Kurdistan.’  However, they were dancing in circles and being peaceful.  Unfortunately, some Turkish men who were not Kurdish were booing them and making nasty comments.  One man came up to them and tried to soothe them, telling them it was not appropriate to act that way.  We left, fearing a bigger confrontation.

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There was a strong feeling of idealism in the air, but things went to hell rather quickly.  Tear gas became a nightly ritual, as well as water cannon tanks.  Later we learned that the water had been spiked with a sort of pepper gas.  People were injured and a few were killed.

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There were various kind of protests in Taksim Square.  One was the standing man protest, started by a performer who just stood there for hours.  The police could do nothing, as he was doing nothing.  Many people went up to the square to stand also.  Another was a piano player who set up in the square.  Other musicians came along and people danced in circles.  And of course vendors set up, selling everything from t-shirts to water to balloons.

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And yes, there was damage.  A wrecked city bus sat on the square, as well as an upturned police car.  Protestors made barricades of whatever, they could find.  There was graffiti everywhere, with workers vainly trying to take it off the day after the protests.

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bye bye police

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welcome to the first traditional gas festival

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Every evening, people showed their support of the protests by banging on pots and making noise.  Of course there were some neighbourhoods where this did not happen (such as Sultanahmet), but in Cihangir, the cacophony was loud and clear.  Taxi drivers and other drivers also leaned on their horns.  In fact, most of the taxi drivers I spoke to supported the protests, in spite of the fact that it affected their business.  They were especially not happy with the reconstruction of Taksim Square.

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notice his gas mask

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view from the window

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ready for anything

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One evening we were at a friend’s house for her birthday.  We heard people running down the street from the hospital gates.  We closed the windows, but she forgot one and we still got gassed.  People on that street unlocked the apartment building doors and some took in protesters.  My friend took in a couple, high school students.  They stayed until the gas had subsided and then left.  We wiped our eyes and continued with the birthday party.

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The protests were not only in Taksim.  They took place in other parts of the city, such as Besiktas and Kadikoy.  They also took place in other cities around Turkey, all with the same results of tear gas and water cannons.

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There were negotiations between the group sort of in charge of the protests and the prime minister’s office.  Finally, the protest groups agreed to leave the park and were going to leave one tent as a symbol of the protest.  However, the PM could not wait and sent the police to burn tents and beat and gas the protesters.  It was like a father who had agreed not to punish his child, but went ahead and did it.  He broke his word, in fact, because he needed to show who was boss.

Weeks of gas and water cannons faced the protests and injuries and deaths continued.  I believe it showed the true face of the patriarchal government in a shameful way.  The protests finally stopped, for the most part, with occasional spurts of more demonstrations.   I know many people in Anadolu, which is very rural, saw this as an Istanbul protest, even though there were protests in many other cities.   I am not sure what this will mean for Turkey and its disillusioned young people but I hope that as time goes by the country will recover its equilibrium and embrace the energy of all the people.

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Hibernation Arts

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This winter I stayed in a lot and produced a lot of handwork. It has been a very creative and satisfying season for me. I crocheted baskets in different sizes and stitched tapestry pictures. Each one is unique. Then I began the process of making the small tapestry pieces into something useable– pillow covers or little bags or medium sized bags.

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The process has been very interesting. This outpouring of work came from my sister’s quilting friends. I think that people who work with textiles tend to collect them. In addition, some of her friends were older and had accumulated projects that they did not actually do or some that they did not do anymore. I wanted something to do in the evenings as I stumbled around YouTube so my sister mentioned it to them and they came through. One day Peg brought me a box of small embroidery kits, a barely started tapestry pattern, a hand-painted flower tapestry pattern made in Jamaica, and three good-sized bags of random tapestry yarn.

Some of the embroidery kits were Christmas decorations, so I did them, but passed on the rest. They went into the Goodwill box. Anymore, embroidery is too fine for my eyes for very long, so I was glad to move on to tapestry.

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First I finished the tapestry pattern. There were a few places where someone had stitched green or pink. For the rest, I had to find something close from the yarn I had to choose from. It turned out fine and I made it into a pillow from some fabric I found at Goodwill. It then became a Christmas present for my nephew and his wife.

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The next pattern was still in the package. The pattern had been hand-painted with yellow flowers and green leaves. The design was fairly basic and with a plain white background, kind of boring. So I decided to make the flowers different colours, used various shades of green for the leaves, and the background became several chunks of colours. That also became a pillow and I gave it to my daughter.

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I couldn’t find tapestry material at the shop downtown, but once again the quilting ladies came through. Peg brought me a meter or two of large weave embroidery fabric, so there was my canvas. By then I had sorted the yarns, as they were different styles and of course different colours in varying amounts. For some colours little remained and for some there was quite a lot. I wanted to use them all up.

I tried one design that I drew onto the fabric, but it looked terrible and I threw it out. Unlike crochet or knitting, it would have been hard to pull all the pieces of thread out. But at the same time, it was beyond redemption . Too bad.

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So, I just started. The stitches are on an angle and the piece is supposed to be all on that angle. Truthfully, there are a couple of pieces where I made a mistake and a small part goes the wrong way, but it just adds to its charm. I could see at another time where it would be fun to play with that. At any rate, the fact that the stitches go one way affects how I used them to make shapes.

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The first couple of pieces were mostly blocks of colour and then triangles. In the blocks I used up a lot of little ends. But there were still a lot more! Then I started to make pictures. These were partly formed by ideas that progressed as the work progressed. I did not draw anything– it just flowed. And since I was using up colours, often it would take on colour themes. I did one of trees on a river, which is the one I am keeping, already on my sofa. That is a reminder of my sister’s river. The next one was round trees on water, followed by pink round flowers. Some more geometric pictures followed, though by this time I was making much smaller ones.   IMG_1368

In all, I made seven larger ones, about 9 by 12 inches. The smaller ones are about 7 or 8 inches by 8 or 9.

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I bought some bargain pieces of fabric at Fabricland and used them to make pillow covers and bags. I finished all the pillows, using the larger pieces. One became a gift for my sister. I made a large bag which I am ruminating about and some smaller bags. I constructed another smallish bags and then I made a lot of small bags, some of which work for glasses and some are random. I had a little silver bowl of beads and sequins and doo-dads which I incorporated into some of the bags and more of the crocheted baskets. I also went through my button box. Who has those anymore? I have had mine for decades, full of all colours and sizes and styles of buttons.

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I have also crocheted a lot of baskets. I found the pattern in a store in Dallas, where Meadow found first a booklet of patterns for cute baby outfits. The baskets are quite basic, though the booklet gave some suggestions that I used and some I did not. It has been fun and interesting to try out different kinds of yarns for those. Some I made of some hemp and cotton yarn I had left from making little bags. I had bought odd skeins of acrylic yarn from the dollar store– those included various kinds of tufted or fuzzy yarns in different colours. So it has been another interesting challenge to put all these together. On some of the baskets I have sewn interesting buttons from my button box or little baubles I had. A few were pinned with old brooches or odd earrings. Again, each basket is different, in colour or size or yarn.

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I feel useful doing these things. They are not making me any money, though I hope to sell some. It would be a particular kind of person who would like one, probably on the hippie-ish or bohemian side. Hippies are all beyond a certain age now, but people can be bohemian at any age. At any rate, I am making things as I while away my time in Orillia.

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And on a sort of political note here, I will say that my time doing this is considered worthless because it is hand work. This has been true forever. I recently told a friend that if I were a man doing this, I could charge at least minimum wage for my time, which would mean that the tapestry pieces, for example, would be at least $75 each. However, my prices will have to be quite a bit lower because my time is not counted as money. I value my time, but it would also be nice to be paid for it.

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During this winter I used up a lot of tapestry yarn, tapestry fabric, and most of the buttons, but I have spent a very satisfactory winter season developing my hibernation arts.

Stone tiles in Galata

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Some years ago a friend of mine was a realtor in Galata.  He often saved his photos on my computer, so when i was cleaning things up, I found quite a few photos of places he he had seen or was trying to sell.  He evidently was taken with the stone tiles he saw.  These are called ‘cini’ or chinese tiles.  They are fairly expensive these days, but when these buildings were built in the 19th century, they were commonly used for floors, especially in entranceways.  Some of them look like carpets, I think.  Some are in rather rough shape, but they still exist.  I am posting them below for you to look at.  Stay tuned for more posts on other architectural features and enjoy these.

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Being a retired lady

This is the first time in my mature life that I have not been working by choice. When I was living in Toronto a few years ago I was not working but I was not resigned to it and I did not like it. My life was stopped, is all. Here, after a spate of looking for work, probably half-heartedly with therefore few results, I have made the decision to be retired and I am enjoying it much more than I expected.

It is nice to get up in the morning and know I don’t have to get ready to go somewhere. However, although I am not working, I do still have a loose routine. I go to aqua-fit three mornings a week. I usually walk downtown once a week or so. I have very slow mornings, reading Facebook and mail and newspaper headlines. I do the crossword on yahoo every morning. If it is a Tuesday or Thursday, I do sort of yoga to get going. Once every two weeks I go to the laundromat with my neighbour.

My father’s wife proudly tells people that she has been retired for 25 years and is busier than ever. She goes to meetings and helps with newsletters for several organizations. And of course there are also the multitude of doctor’s appointments hither and yon. I doubt that this will be my retired future, or I sure hope not, as far as the doctors go.

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I see advertising and articles geared to retirees to buy property or rent or travel in other countries. I am really glad that I have already done that. They have more money than I do for retirement, but I did not have health issues when I lived abroad. I also lived abroad. I was not really travelling, which is a way of skating through places. I think we ‘own’ the places that we have touched and I am glad that I have touched some places very deeply. I do know some American retirees in Turkey and they live fairly well there. But again, they are living there.

Sometimes I ‘waste’ time. Occasionally I lie down. I don’t nap, but I drift close by. Even without work and all its attendant thoughts, there is still a lot to think about. Now that I am back around my family, there are certainly family issues to consider. And a pregnant daughter waiting for me to get my green card.

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I have the time. Sometimes I am busy and sometimes I am not even here at home. But mostly I am at home alone and I mostly have no problem with that. For many many years, especially the cafe years, I intensely shared my personal space. Now I do not and it is kind of a relief. The size of this place precludes any gatherings anyway, so it is a bit of an excuse.

I like time with myself. I can do what I want, and that has been creating things as I mostly listen to talks on YouTube and later watch ancient movies. I go outside to smoke once in a while and sit on the porch and watch what little traffic there is. I observe the squirrels and the various seasonal birds and see the occasional pedestrian.

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I think about the pieces I have been making. Truthfully, I am a little shy about them, because they are somewhat odd, eccentric, unique, but hopefully other people will like them too. This winter has seen an incredible creative outpouring. It was important to keep my hands busy (idle hands are the devil’s handwork) and it was such a pleasure to let these ideas come up and be formed by my hands.

And it’s all my time. If time is money, what I lack for money, I make up in time. This is probably temporary as, inshallah, I move to a bigger city and get busy with a grandbaby, settling in, and making new friends. But for now, I treasure it.

daughters, mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and other mothers

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Since I am about to become a grandmother, I have been thinking about mothers specifically and mothers generally. Here I want to introduce you to some of the mothers in my family.

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I never met my great grandmothers and in fact I don’t have any photos of my paternal great grandmothers. We tended to lean towards my maternal side, so I do have a photo of my grandmother’s mother, Rose Ellen White Meadows. Her father was a tea merchant in Toronto and she married George Meadows, who was an upstanding manufacturer of forged iron items (I remember a photos of my grandmother in an iron crib he was selling and he made the fence around Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto). Rose Ellen has five children and then became an invalid, probably to avoid having more children. They were basically raised by Auntie May, who was a spinster. My grandmother, Marjorie, was the youngest of the five children.

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Marjorie Harriet Meadows married Chick Stone (who I have already written about) and had two children. She was actually my favourite grandmother, probably because like most wives, my mother was not greatly fond of her mother-in-law. Marney, as we called her, had become a dental assistant in her youth and as a widow worked in a library. She was a widow for more than thirty years. I know she wore a corset her whole life, which became an issue in the nursing home she moved into. I am sure she wore it until she died. She loved books and passed that on to all of us. Even in her later years when she was basically blind, she would get books on tape.

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My other grandmother was Julia Currey. She was born in the same year as Marney, 1897, but unlike Marney, who grew up in Toronto, Julia grew up in New Brunswick. Her brother went to the Farquharson School in Toronto, which is how she met Jack, her husband. Nana was a phys ed teacher in her youth and in her later years was an ESL teacher. She also was a widow for almost 50 years. She too liked to read, though it was usually sort of strange books about which she would offer her opinions. Her mother, Mary, was a very independent person and I remember Nana telling us that she had driven with her five children (older at this point) from NB to Florida in a Model T. Nana always walked with a limp when I knew her because she had had a botched hip surgery. However, although she walked with a cane, it did not slow her down much. She went to Europe for the first time when she was 69 and did exercises every morning. When she visited she would bring cod liver oil and make us take it and she introduced us to brewers yeast as a supplement and tongue sandwiches ( yuck and yuck, though now I like a different kind of brewers yeast). She believed in vitamins and healthy food, well into the ‘health food’ trend before it became a trend. She was almost 99 when she died and was ‘absent’ the last three years. The second last time I saw her, in a nursing home, she had a book upside down on her bed that she was reading. The very last time I saw her, she kept looking at my brother as if she knew him, since he is the one who most resembles out father. And the only thing she ever said for about two years was ‘Please put me to bed.’ A fizzling end for a strong lady.

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My mother was Dorothy Joyce Stone Farquharson, the older daughter of Marney. She was a tall sort of gangly child and woman, 5’10” with big feet and hands and long arms. She met my father at the YMCA in Windsor, got knocked up and had to marry him. I did not know that until she took me aside when I was 18 to tell me that no, they had not married in 1949, but in 1950. She trained as a nurse and wanted to be a physiotherapist, but she had to go home to help take care of her dying father. She worked as a nurse for much of her life, so I heard a lot of nurse stories while I was growing up– making me not wish to be a nurse. Joyce had four children in five years, two girls and two boys. I am the oldest. She stopped having children when the birth control pill was invented. She was a stoic person who loved reading, a love which she passed on to us girls at any rate.

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And I am a mother of two children, a girl and a boy. Since I was divorced when my son was two, I spent several years in a custody battle, from which I ended up being the visiting parent, which was frustrating. My kids spent every other weekend, scheduled summer weeks, and every other Christmas with me. However, that did not prevent us from having some adventures. When they were each 15, they decided to live with me in Portland, Oregon. I taught in Japan for a couple of years, during which I visited often and they visited me. Then a few years later, I moved to Turkey, where they visited and had more adventures. While they were growing up, I got my masters degree and became an ESL teacher, which I did for about 25 years. In fact, I went to Turkey to be the director of a language school. My daughter visited me in Turkey a few times and my son visited once and then came back to live with me for several months. Now I am in Canada waiting to get a green card so I can go and live near my daughter, who is expecting my first and possibly only grandchild. I will be the nanny. I am still not sure what I will be called, as I don’t want to be called Nana or Grandma. One friend suggested Nanamo and I am also thinking of Grammo.

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So now my daughter is about to become a mother. It is an incredible adventure. I worry about it because it seems that many parents are smother parents and children are given little freedom. I hope my daughter can buck that trend.

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A special group of mothers deserves honorable mention here. The day before my daughter was born I went to the first meeting of a mothers group. I am not sure how I was invited, except that pregnant mothers to be are fairly obvious in the small town I was living in. we met periodically, first with our babies and toddlers, with more coming for a few years. Every year we would go away for a weekend without our kids. Over the years our conversations changed from baby topics to the joys of adolescents, to marriage and divorce, and then to menopause. A few members drifted away and two died, one recently from Alzheimers. However, when we get together nothing has changed. The mothers are different, with various professions and interests, but we all get along and respect and cherish our friendship.

Mothers make the world go ’round. We do most of the work of raising our children and providing them with homes. I appreciate the strength of my great grandmothers, grandmothers, and mother and I hope I have passed on that strength to my daughter as I become a grandmother myself.

Happy mothers day to all you muthas!

wild life in orillia and istanbul

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As I sat outside this morning listening to the morning bird song, I realized that when I was living in Istanbul, the only birds I saw or heard were the many seagulls, the doves and pigeons, and the karga, which are a sort of crow with gray wings. As for helicopters, there were a lot of police helicopters flying around, especially when there were protests, and some private ones. I saw one here tonight that was sort of wandering around, but it was not a police helicopter. Once in a while there is an ambulance helicopter transporting patients, but that is about all.

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In Istanbul in one place I lived in some doves decided to make my window box their home. The mother lay one egg which did not hatch and then another one that did hatch into a rather ugly chick. When I opened the curtain to look at it, if the mother was there, she opened her wings and made herself look bigger. One day I looked at it and the chick flew across the street to a windowsill and they never came back.

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Another time in Istanbul when I lived in a terrace flat, I watched a war between kargas and seagulls. They were on a nearby roof, lined up with about a dozen of each on either side of the roof. All of them had their wings arched back, ready to go at it. However, being smarter than humans, they just threatened and then flew off.

From the same terrace I watched a seagull who had caught a pigeon belonging to a guy a few rooftops over from me. The guy kept whistling for his beloved pigeon but it could not get away from the seagull who had it by the throat. Until then I actually did not know that seagulls killed other birds. And pigeons are a big hobby for many Turkish men. On a wall walk with a group of friends, we came across a pigeon market. Many of the pigeons had bead bracelets and some tumbler pigeons were tethered so they could fly and tumble but not get away. It is quite amazing to see these pigeons fly and do flips in the air.

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And on that terrace were some baby seagulls.  Noisy and ugly!  An Armenian Turk I knew who had a workshop across the street told me that when he and his brother were kids in Galata, they would look for seagull eggs to eat. Yuck!

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Here there are all sorts of birds. There is the elusive cardinal, which I hear and occasionally see. cardinal

There are lots of starlings who have been collecting twigs for their nests. Starlings are sort of a nuisance bird, but they have pretty songs and it is interesting how they click their beaks as part of it. starling

chickadeeThere are also chickadees that twirp around and robin

the robins that are full of ‘cheerios’. And there are a few seagulls and crows.crow

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Although not birds, there are some black squirrels that come around. There used to be a fat gray squirrel, but he got run over. One of the black squirrels is a mama, as when she sits up I can see that she is nursing. There is one that comes within a couple of feet, carefully, as she knows I feed her.

And that is the wild life in Orillia and Istanbul.