Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's a sign

...that summer is well and truly here. No more excuses for using the dryer when I can do this in the backyard.

Solstice arrived at 3:07am -- at least in my time zone, Pacific Daylight Time. This makes it official: summer is well and truly here.

Celebrations vary, depending on your beliefs. Of course, for many, it's just another day.

This year there's at least one group who believes this solstice marks the coming of the Rapture, the return of Christ to take believers up and into the heavens. They've determined this using various numbers -- mostly the number of days since various persons died: the religious leader Billy Graham died (120 days), Stephen Hawking (99 days), even Christopher Hitchens (6 years, 6 months, 6 days).

Despite all their tallying of numbers, I'm not holding my breath. Because, really, who can say what any particular day may bring?

But just in case, I'll be set. And at least I'll have sweet-smelling sheets.

Friday, June 15, 2018


But then what, under the sun or moon, isn't. Even the gorgeous calla lily above has holes in its leaves -- and who knows what the little spider might be planning. 

Earlier this week we received sad news of the death of the writer, Stephen Reid. (If interested, there's an interview with him on As It Happens -- the whole program is here; go towards the end of it for the interview.)

It's made me sad that too much of the coverage has seemed to focus on his crimes -- not, as far as I'm concerned, what he should be remembered for.

Maybe I'm just soft-hearted from having spent time as a volunteer in various penal institutions. But really, those experiences have only reminded me that everyone makes mistakes (admittedly, some are much bigger than others) and for many of us -- myself included -- being incarcerated may well be a matter of the old "there but for the grace of God" theory.

Stephen was a husband, a grandfather, a mentor to many (both in and out of prisons) and a wonderful writer. I was lucky enough to review his book of essays, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden in the Vancouver Sun.

Even luckier is the fact that I own one of the beautiful drums Stephen made. Every time I see it, it now holds a new significance, a touchstone to a beautiful soul.

As his wife Susan has noted, a group of orcas passed by the nearby beach shortly before Stephen died. Among beliefs about them is that they guide the traveller home. Expanding on the thought of what 'home' means, their visit is also believed to signify a coming death. This indeed proved to be true.

I like to think of them as seven orcas coming to escort the soul of a brave warrior spirit home. Someone who, like the rest of us, was in his own way, flawed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Up and away!

Even though I love our home and the mini-forest it's nestled in, I still love getting out into the bigger realms of the world.

A short camping trip found us on Washington's Olympic peninsula, climbing Hurricane Ridge with a group of friends. Even though we had to trek through snow that still clogged parts of the trail, the views at the top made the hike well worthwhile. To see for yourself, here's a link to the webcam with views from the visitors' lodge, not too far from the summit.

Despite the elevation there (nearly a mile), for me the trip's high point was being offline for five days -- not a long time, but enough to clear my head of much of the busy-ness that so often fills it.

Time even to take a photo of the first of the season's salmonberries, the true harbinger of summer. Ahhh.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What's up here?

...besides the patch of grass that's supposed to pass as a lawn.

Our neighbourhood is displaying a new phenomenon. It started a few years ago, with one or two yards here and there that looked like the one in the photo. Somehow the phenomenon has spread.

Now, nearly every block has one of these yards -- and not just on the houses with 'for sale' signs that have a 'sold' sticker. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but it almost makes me wish this was something the city would take a stand on.

I'm not confusing this uncut lawn with the 'wild' yard look -- one that's planted with vegies, or floral arrangements or even those that are the results of scattering wildflower seeds.

Those exude a folksy kind of charm, and often serve the purpose of feeding the people who live there.

The ones I'm talking about just look neglected. They make the house -- and in turn, the neighbourhood -- seem like nobody gives a damn.

The uncut lawn of straggly grass and weeds is not a look I am hoping will proliferate. Especially not with all the dandelions that are sure to come along with the practice. And really, if you can't manage to cut it yourself, hire someone -- it's good for the economy when humans have jobs.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Still pokin' along the trail...

Continuing the line of horses.

In the last post I mentioned a book, The Summer of the Horse. Since then, I keep finding horses of one sort or the other. Or maybe they are simply finding me, like the one on my 'special' cup.

The other photo is two different kinds of horses, both found in the yard.

The lovely white flower is horseradish, that yummy piquant complement to meats, especially beef. It's only the root that gets grated to make that, mixed perhaps with a bit of vinegar or water.

The other is horsetail, known for its healing properties as well as its wildly invasive skills. Considering how deep its roots can go (I have actually read 200 feet), no wonder it's a hard one to get rid of.

The horse I found yesterday was the film version of Richard Wagamese's memoir, Indian Horse. What a film! Using three separate actors to portray him at various stages of his life, it's a movie I think everyone (at least everyone in Canada) should be required to see. It's the story of a young man's life, but it's also the story of one of the most shameful parts of our history, the story of life in residential schools.

Near the end, there's a line about the 'horses of change' and how we must all learn to ride them. Doing my best...

Friday, May 11, 2018

An expen$ive parking spot

These days when I go into the city (depending where I'm headed, it's about 50 km), I generally use transit. Partly because in many ways it's easier (plus, I get to read while I travel), partly because fuel for the car is so pricey (nearly $1.60/litre) and partly because parking can cost plenty. After deciding to drive into town for a reading the other night, I had to scout a few neighbourhood streets to find a spot, but succeeded (or so I thought). When I parked, I had no idea just how big that cost might be.

The event had been a delight -- getting to spend a bit of time with a friend I'd not seen in several years, hearing her read from her terrific new book,.even getting to meet her new man. The weather was just right -- not too hot, not cold -- everyone wearing clothes pronouncing summer as nearly here.

But when I left and headed the few blocks down to where I'd parked my car, I was taken aback by not finding my car where I was pretty sure I had left it.

In case I'd remembered the street wrong, I walked circles in a few blocks surrounding the spot where I was sure I'd left my car. The more I circled, the more convinced I became that indeed this had been the place where I'd left my car. And then, the sinking feeling was truly sinking in, giving way to the realization that the car was well and truly gone.

Heading back to the bookstore where the event had been, I ran into my friend who let me use her phone (my mobile is immobile these days, long story) to call the tow company and sure enough, they (of the all-too-appropriate name, Buster's) had it in their lot.

So then, to the bus, with the driver offering sympathy, helping me be sure to get off at the right stop, I made my way through the now-darkening industrial area where errant vehicles are taken. Holding my bag tightly to my side, I'm sure I walked faster than my usual quick pace, as several slow-moving men were shuffling along the opposite side of the same back street. Whether they were junkies, or guys looking to each other for a quick lay, I couldn't say. Maybe they were just tired after a long day at work.

Finally, the lights of the tow lot appeared. Their brightly lit office was staffed by several workers safely behind protective grills. Employees at the tow company get a lot of grief, I am sure. But to their credit, though they were terse, they were polite. The building even had a half-decent washroom (better than many) that I was able to use before setting out on the long drive home.

Pricey? To be sure. With taxes and various fees, over a hundred bucks. And yes, you can bet that next time, I will take transit, even when I might find myself deterred by having to transfer a couple of times. A lesson learned, though I'll admit I am still scratching my head over what exactly it was I did that was wrong. Yet another lesson to be determined.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Blinded by the light

No, I'm not meaning the song with the lyrics that seem to always get misheard. The lights I'm referring to are ones that were installed some while ago at my local pool.

For years, I'd enjoyed deep water running as a year-round form of exercise. But when 'improvements' were made to the ceiling lights, I had to give it up. The reason? The new halogen system cast reflections on the surface of the water that gave me an almost instant migraine. Arggh.

The various paraphernalia above are some of the means I tried -- baseball hats and visors were also part of the mix -- but nothing worked. Until now.

My very best birthday gift was a new pair of goggles: super-dark, with mirrored lenses that are Polarized. With a hat and as many gazes into the distance as I can manage, I'm able to join the class again.

It seems I'm not the only one who's affected by the wrong kind of lights. My city is actually reconsidering a major purchase and installation of streetlights that can cause harm. Now, if I could just convince my next-door neighbour to stop shining a spotlight into the window of my office at night, I might even be able to go back to getting solid sleeps.

Let there be light, for sure -- but not all the time, and not so bright, please.