Sunday, November 11, 2018

One hundred years on

....since the end of the 'War to End All Wars'. Unfortunately, that idealistic name for World War One has not proven to be true. Numbers of how many died vary according to source, but taking into account civilians as well as military, 37 million is one figure I saw for casualties -- just about exactly our country's current population. If every single person in Canada were to suddenly die, the world would need to take notice.

This day of remembrance is filled with traditions, including the red poppy so many of us choose to wear as commemoration.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
between the crosses row on row. 
The photo of the 'row' of poppies is from above the kitchen sink in our RV, The Rattler. We seem to often be on the road in early November, so poppies are often part of our apparel. It's good for me to know where a few extras are, as too often I seem to go out with the 'wrong' jacket -- with my poppy invariably on a different coat.

Right now, I can still hear a few of the big planes passing overhead. Earlier a tight formation of single-engine fighters went by. After that, I even saw a biplane -- the same kind of plane that actually flew in WWI.

But at the stroke of 11:00, I was listening to a different kind of sound. Turning on the radio, I was greeted by silence -- a sound (or lack thereof) that might have been disconcerting any other day.

I am sure the people in Syria would be glad to have their world quiet down. And not only Syria, but Afghanistan and far too many other places to name. It seems a bit crazy, but maybe we really will have to wait for extraterrestrials to visit for us to decide to live together in harmony and peace. Considering what bad shape we seem to be in, I'd like to think that maybe they're on their way.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The incredible stillness of silence

I'm not a golfer, but I admit to enjoying the walking part, as golf courses seem to always be beautiful places. Luckily, my partner (who's an awesome golfer) doesn't mind my tagging along, dragging only my camera for my usual nine-hole limit.

The photo above is from the course at Discovery Bay, and it's either the 13th or 14th hole. Whichever isn't all that important. The situation prompting this post is what mattered to me. The photo is from only a few seconds after the fact.

I'm not sure how I noticed it, but notice I did -- silence. Not a traffic sound, not a plane overhead, not even the sound of wind or an animal. The unusualness of the quiet managed to catch me off-guard.

It's not very often that total silence reigns. Even now, in the privacy of my office, besides the quiet taps of my fingers on the keyboard, there are sounds. Although the window's closed, I can hear a kind of humming from outside. Probably a machine, part of the ongoing construction our neighbourhood continues to endure. And another, the sound of a truck or other large vehicle passing a few blocks away.

How long did that momentary silence last? Twenty seconds? Maybe. I don't really know.

What ended it? I'm not even sure anymore, though I'm pretty sure it was a natural sound that broke the spell -- either a frog or a trill of birdsong. And soon after, I noticed the hum of traffic on the nearby road and then another of the little planes overhead.

The silence didn't last long, but its effect was deep and something I won't forget. For that small but precious interval, I'd witnessed something I don't get enough of, and experienced myself as a part of it. Exhale. Ahhh.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Dusk on a greyish Tuesday, when I'm on my way to the jail where I volunteer. This field full of forgotten pumpkins looked so lonesome, I had to stop and take a quick snap. A little fuzzy, to be sure -- even a little bit crooked -- but maybe that's appropriate, especially for where I was headed.

These pumpkins looked to me like orphans of a sort. Abandoned. Not big enough or pretty enough to get picked when the rest of the field was harvested for jack-o-lanterns. The ones left behind.

Just as I often wonder what will happen to the men I work with once they get out, I wonder what will happen to these pumpkins next week.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A forager's delight

This month has been a great one for foraging. And yes, those giant puffballs we found when we were visiting in Ontario were mighty tasty. Sliced into strips and pan fried, they were actually meaty -- like I might imagine the vegetarian version of a steak.

Today was another perfect day for tromping around in the bush, poking about for edible treats here in BC. The recent rains had encouraged all sorts of mycelia to sprout their fruiting bodies (what we think of as mushrooms). Even though most of them aren't safe to eat, that doesn't mean they aren't pretty enough to want to take photos of them -- like these, some kind of variation related to a chanterelle, but not one that I would want to sample.

Besides finding some lovely, fresh parasol mushrooms which will definitely feature in tonight's supper, there were also some chestnuts which might have been fun as a woodland appetizer if it weren't for the fact that they're horse chestnuts -- not fit for human consumption. Still, the patterns on their shells are as beautiful as any finely burnished wood.

But the best find of all was a pocketful of windfall apples. With some careful paring (sure, there were little bruises and flaws), they're now in the oven, baking their way into a pie for dessert.

PS Please be sure, if you're picking in the wild, to follow the rules. Use a guidebook -- or better yet, go with someone who knows what's edible and what's not. As the adage goes: There are some things you only eat once (because once you eat them, you're dead).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Long time comin'

Finally. After waiting for too many years -- at least since 1972, when the LeDain Commission recommended it -- marijuana has been made legal in Canada.

The move is certainly not without problems, and is already starting to create some new ones without even trying. Distribution is one of the biggest, especially here in BC where there is currently only one official store. It's in Kamloops, about a four-hour drive for most of us who live in the Lower Mainland. The government has established an online supply source, though I don't understand how deliveries will be made, as the government liquor stores don't deliver, but clearly this 'store' must.

Differences in how the law is being interpreted in various provinces present yet another set of complications. While most of us will be allowed to grow four plants per household (poor timing though, as this isn't exactly the season for throwing seeds into the ground), some provinces have banned the practice.

So even though I'm not about to run out into the street to smoke a big fat joint, I am going to breathe more easily, firm in the belief that as a society we've taken a step towards becoming more grown-up and civilized. As for what comes next, we'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Road from Paris to London

...But maybe not the road you were expecting.

We've been spending the last while tucked away on the family farm, nestled along the highway between Paris and London, but it's Paris and London, Ontario.

A great place for observing Thanksgiving, especially with so many family members coming from near and far to celebrate. And all of it has been enhanced by the brights colours coming out in the trees and the wonderfully blue skies.

Last night things took a bit of change, as it was the book launch for my newest book of poems, Practical Anxiety.

The Hamilton bookstore where the event took place, Epic Books, proved to indeed be epic. Friends and family filled the place, along with a number of new friends. We even had a musician to set the mood for listening.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A positive approach

For all the grumbling people often do about transit, ours seems to be doing a few things right. Considering the infrastructure (or lack thereof) they're up against, they've done a good job of getting me where I need to be, without my needing to fight traffic to get there.

Lately, our local transit provider, Translink, has taken some interesting steps towards making the ride even smoother for riders.

Getting people to behave better on trains and buses has come a long way. For a number of weeks we've had Seth Rogen as the voice of reminders (along the lines of the one in the photo above) to help people remember their manners. His 'presence' even gave me an easy option for dealing with a guy whose backpack was taking up the seat next to him, when the train was standing-room only. All I had to do was smile and say, "Seth Rogen says, carry your pack on your lap so others can sit." No fuss, no crabbiness -- and it worked!

This week, Translink is celebrating "I Love Transit" Week. As part of this, kids in Grades K-12 ride free through Friday, October 5th. And they're even having a colouring contest -- for 'kids' of all ages. One category is for kids 15 and under, with another for those of us 16 and over. The prizes -- what else, transit passes.

PS The images used in the campaign program are based on art created by students at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECCAD). Credit for the one at the top goes to S.Wilson.