Saturday, May 18, 2019


There's something about going offline, especially when it means a get-together with longtime friends one doesn't get to see all that often.

This particular group is one I've known for twenty years, a group known collectively as The Chicks.

We've been getting together when we can, usually every five years or so, and this year, our twentieth anniversary, seemed important -- especially where we're now all farther afield from each other. One lives in Windsor, a city that feels far from here on the west coast. She has a husband, a job at a university, and a child who's nearly two years old, all of which keep her close to home.

Another Chick is about to head back off to England for a stint at further education.

So this gathering felt extra-special. And as you can see, even nature cooperated, by granting this most beautiful rainbow out over the water, which felt like a kind of blessing on us.

Here's to the restorative power of friends getting together!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019


It's been a kind of crazy time, with so much going on I can hardly slow down long enough to put my fingers to the keyboard. Still, there's been so much cool arts-related stuff, I probably have to post at least a few details.

Sunday the 28th (yep, over a week ago) started with me getting on the bus (something I've been doing a lot of lately, especially with fuel at $1.70 or higher) and heading into Vancouver for an exhibit getting ready to close. It was part of the Capture festival, an annual series of exhibits that's sure to engage anyone interested in photography.

Bizarrely, I was the subject of one of the photos in the show I was invited to visit -- not the usual for me, as I'm not exactly the most photogenic person in the world. Still, I was certainly honoured to be included in a show about "Women in the Way"-- women who've made strong social comments or initiated important changes. The woman I was most thrilled to meet there was Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson. She's long been a voice for decent treatment for the homeless and for protection for renters, especially from the recent spate of 'renovictions'.

Later I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery, where I strolled through a few of the current exhibits. The one I enjoyed most featured the French Moderns. The pieces weren't the 'usual' images one associates with these artists, but because I'd had such a wonderful art teacher in high school -- where we were led to really know so many of those painters, it felt like I was visiting a bunch of old friends.

But the part of the day that will probably stay with me the longest was a workshop offered at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It was up on the 9th floor, an open space that's the closest I'll likely get to being able to spend time in a penthouse. The topic? Haiku.

Who'd have thought that a two-hour workshop could be as enlightening as this -- certainly not me. But I'd gone with an open mind, and luckily so, as I learned more in that 120 minutes than I ever have in any other workshop I've ever taken. And amazingly, this one was free. Now, that's a library that offers valuable community programs!

Leader of the session was Michael Dylan Welch, an amazingly clear and engaging teacher who dispelled the many myths about haiku I'm sure most of us had been carting around for years. I do hope you'll click on the link to his website because if you're interested in writing almost anything (especially if you have poetic leanings), you're sure to find an immense amount of not only information, but also inspiration.

And if visiting there inspires you, there's still time to enter the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival's yearly Haiku Invitational. There's no cost to enter a maximum of two haiku. Give it a go.

fingers clacking keys
words fly from brain to fingertip
never quite perfect

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Celebrating books

While I'm late for observing Canada Book Day (it was last week, same day credited as Shakespeare's birthday). Still, the photo above pretty much sums up the range of what we've come to call CanLit.

The book on the left is one I remember my parents having on the bookshelf in the living room (shelves either side of the television, as if it were a choice). This edition is a book club one from the '50s and not really worth much beyond sentiment. The authors in its pages range from -- well, actually, they don't 'range' much at all -- it's pretty much all dead Englishmen, with three women tossed into the mix. Fortunately, this limited view of our literature has changed drastically, and I'd have to say, for the better.

The title on the right, Is Canada Even Real? is certainly more fun. It's filled with quizzes and old-timey photos. The subtitle probably tells you all you need to know: How a Nation Built on Hobos, Beavers, Weirdos, and Hip Hop Convinced the World to Beliebe. I trust my argument stands.

But even though it isn't Canada Book Day, apparently it's something much closer to home -- BC Book Day, and today is the sixth annual celebration of same.

Where today is also the last day of National Poetry Month, I thought it seemed worthwhile to do a small browse of my poetry shelves (nerdy, I know, but yes, I have two bookshelves devoted to poetry and yes, the books are in mostly alpha order). One of the oldies I came across was a BC-based anthology called Skookum Wawa: Writings of the Canadian Northwest. I found a review of it, by none other than the eminent George Woodcock. If you click on this link (once you get there click on the PDF connection), you'll find it.

A more recent anthology, and one closer to my heart would have to be Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia. But then, I'm probably just showing a personal bias.

Whatever your taste in books, today is one of those special days when we're encouraged to go out and celebrate the fact that we can read. Like the sign said, "Keep Calm and Read On."

Monday, April 22, 2019

What is real??

Although Easter might seem like an appropriate time to quote what's likely the most famous line from The Velveteen Rabbit, that's not the answer to today's question.

The item in question is definitely real, though when I first saw it, I thought it was a stone, not what it actually is -- a tiny egg. My brass swans look as though they're feeling proud, and my pie bird crow might well be cawing a celebratory squawk.

When I found the egg, it was lying on some grass near the back door. I'm still not sure what kind of egg it is -- what bird might have laid it -- but I couldn't spot anyone's nest nearby. All I could think of as a possible source for the egg is the garden basket still up from last summer -- the one that seems to be trying its best to start making strawberries again. And it's true, I have seen little birds alighting there, as if they're looking for a spot to build a nest.

But the egg isn't the only 'found gift' that came to me this weekend. I also encountered some real live bunnies who looked like they were getting ready to make a batch of baby bunnies.

Not only is today what many observe as Easter Monday, it's Earth Day as well -- and also the day Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party, is getting married. I wasn't invited, though a friend of mine was -- and she'll be wearing a tiny feathered hat that I lent her.

So, although I won't be there, I'm hoping my little hat will come home with a few stories it's found for me.

Saturday, April 20, 2019


Nope. Not the kind of weed you might be thinking.

Even though today is the proverbial 420, the weed in question here is not that green one that's finally been legalized (even though there still isn't a store between here and downtown Vancouver, but whatever). This is about the plain old dandelion.

I've got nothing against this readily identifiable plant. I've used their leaves in salads, even roasted and ground the roots to make ersatz coffee (once only, I admit). Apparently, this has become trendy (what hasn't?) with some comparing it to matcha.

I've even got a poem that praises the dandelion bouquets my kids brought me when they were little. So, no, it's nothing personal against a little yellow flower.

But there's a difference between a kid-sized handful and an epidemic of weeds poised to spread throughout the neighbourhood.

Our lawn isn't exactly in the running for any landscaping prizes, but sheesh, unless you're planning to make dandelion wine, is it necessary to have a lawn that looks like the one above?

It's the same every spring. It's only this one yard in our neighbourhood that looks like nobody's home, even when they are. And it's not just in the spring (when the dandelions come out like an announcement to remind us) that they let their yard look so rundown -- this will go on all summer. It's hard not to think they don't give a damn. Harsh-sounding judgment, I suppose, but it sure seems true.

About the only positive spin I can conjure is to think that they're happy to share -- with everyone's yard in the surrounding area. It's just too bad that what they're sharing is dandelions. Something for the rest of us to pick or dig out.

Monday, April 15, 2019

History matters

Even though he wasn't the first, Neil Gaiman reminded us that Art Matters. And I certainly have to agree.

But today I am thinking that History Matters. The people of Paris know all too well the fact of this. For over 800 years, whether under construction or celebrating its full glory, the Cathedral of Notre Dame has stood amidst the citizens of Paris. Now, that's history.

I remember the shock that all of us felt when the Twin Towers came down, almost 20 years ago. I'm sure the shock to Parisiens today with their beloved structure so damaged is every bit as palpable.

Because I've never been to Paris, the image above from Montreal will have to suffice as my small commemoration of this Ides of April.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

I is for...

...irreplaceable. The tree that's now a stump will not be replaced while I'm on this earth. We counted 92 rings, so I'm guessing it was a century tree. And, judging from the clear surface of the stump, the tree wasn't diseased or infested with anything nasty. It appears the only blight it experienced was  the all too prevalent blight of greed, as the site where it stood (on the front of the property where it's unlikely it would have impeded construction of any new structures) is slated for development.

I is also for ironic, as the property long served as the home of the Birthplace of BC Gallery, an institution whose owner was instrumental in preserving the heritage of the town of Fort Langley.

There was further irony involved, as the group of us who discovered this (in Fort Langley to participate in a poetry reading at the Fort Gallery) had all been participants in the Han Shan Poetry Project, an arts celebration that managed to bring about the preservation of a nearby forest grove.

It would be easy to go on with the list of "I" words the tree-cutting represents: insensitive, idiotic, insane, intolerable... But I think I'll go outside instead to glory in the presence of the trees that remain around me.