Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A new understanding of Architecture

Where this is the day so many of the faithful (and probably the not-so-faithful) make their way back to school, I thought about what I'd write if I were assigned one of those 'How I Spent My Summer Holidays' essays.

Among things I learned was to fret less (at least I think I did). As a reminder, I kept as reference the character from Bridge of Spies whose response to why he wasn't worrying more was, "Would it help?"

But another 'lesson' that came my way was one from the blackberries. I prune them regularly from March through August, sometimes if only to allow me to get in there to pick. They grow so densely -- and as I observed this summer -- the 'wild' branches do more than block the berries from pickers. They provide strength and 'propping up' to the berry-bearing branches. They do this by forming arches, the original weight-bearing structure. As a result, I finally deduced the source of the word, Architecture.

This probably seems like a bit of a 'duh' realization, but it's one that made me only admire my beloved berries all the more.

So, that's how I spent my Summer Holidays. For now, I'm just glad that I don't have to go back to school.

Monday, August 29, 2016


That's the best word I can offer for the workshop I attended on the weekend. Presented at Art in the Country by the well-known illustrator, Michael Kluckner, it opened my eyes to a realm of possibilities I hadn't considered before.

Subject of his presentation was graphic novels. I've read a few -- even did a review of a recent one based on the journals of Susanna Moodie. And I've just finished reading Michael's a very real story, Toshiko, based on the internment of Japanese-Canadians in World War Two. As for considering creating a graphic novel myself, I'll admit the idea had never crossed my mind.

For one thing, I am not very skilled at drawing or sketching. But Kluckner made the impossible seem almost possible.

My plans for this coming season include roughing out some ideas in a sketchbook of my own. I am sure my efforts won't touch the beauty of Michael's work (evidenced by the travel sketches he shared), And though I'm not going anywhere near watercolours, I'm still going to get myself a nice soft pencil and give this genre a try.

Friday, August 19, 2016

And the livin' is easy...

...At least that's what the song says about summertime. Somehow this time of year isn't always "easy" as one might think, as it's often pretty darn busy. Much of that 'busy-ness' is at least outdoors -- and not 'on the computer'. Although this isn't really a heartbreak for me, it does mean I've been lazy about stepping out onto the big limb.

The photo above is an alcove on our deck -- a special spot where I like to read or even take a summertime nap. I call it The Boathouse. No particular reason, though I suppose the worn boards contribute to the feeling of someone's boathouse on a lake. So, even though Goolwa isn't on a lake (it's on the sea at the mouth of a river), the boat print serves well as part of the outdoor art.

But the thing is, this summer has been busy enough that I've barely spent any time in my beloved reading/relaxing spot. I'm thinking that maybe this will change in the next few days, especially where we've just had a celestial event that's supposed to signify big changes all around. (Am I the only one who remembers the song that celebrated the "dawning of the Age of Aquarius"?)

In the spirit of seeking change, but at the same time being realistic, I'm aiming for Monday as a day for relaxing and reading in my boathouse. I picked up two delicious-looking novels at the library, so I'm set, especially if I can finish all my projects in the kitchen!

Partly because all the fruits have been ahead of schedule, I've spent an awful lot of time freezing fruits for winter, making jam and even baking. To finish off this year's bounty of plums, I'm going to have get out the canner, as there's basically no more room in the freezer.

Yet even as I contemplate how to deal with the flavourful blessings, I've had to go out and pick again this afternoon. Not a bad little batch for ten minutes in the sun. They should make a very nice dessert.

So even if the livin' ain't always completely 'easy' I'm not about to complain.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Down to earth, for the Earth

The Kinder Morgan Pipeline plan remains under consideration. At least there's now a Ministerial Panel holding meetings, fielding further input before the final decision gets made.

It's hard not to be discouraged when things take this long, especially after the initial optimism so many of us held when Justin Trudeau was elected.

Despite the size of Surrey, and despite the fact that the proposed 'twinned' pipeline will pass through part of the city, no Task Force hearings were scheduled for here. As a result, I made my way instead to Langley, the nearest such event.

The jar pictured above, containing the thick sludge-like material, bitumen, was passed around the room as part of one of the presentations. Where everyone was limited to five minutes, facts were flying fast, and it was nearly impossible to keep up with any note-taking. Luckily, it appeared that there were court-style stenographers, keeping better track than I of all that was said.

I wasn't the only one who'd come from outside Langley. One of the most passionate (and informative) speakers was a woman who identified herself as a 'mom' from White Rock. There were also engineers, former oil patch and refinery workers, all of them with strong reasons for opposing the

Okay, not fair, I did hear one presentation that seemed in support of Kinder Morgan's plan and I was glad that the assemblage remained respectful, despite the elephant so obviously in the room.

As for my presentation, I took, as might be expected, my own track and read part of the poem I wrote as a fundraiser for the Burnaby Mountain Defenders. As introduction, I cited the Han Shan Poetry Project, which succeeded in saving a forest -- a forest in Langley, no less, and on a site not all that far from where the day's meetings were being held.

I was also happy when, at the break, one of the government representatives asked if I had a copy of the poem. I was very glad I'd brought one of the original fundraiser chapbooks, as it's now on its way to Ottawa as part of the input gathered by the panel.

There are more meetings coming up -- in Burnaby, Vancouver and other cities in British Columbia. The full schedule is at the link cited earlier in this post -- but, in case you can attend (or even submit an email response), here's that link again.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Celebrating Amelia in Atchison, Kansas

Well, I don't think she'd be flying, but if she were alive, today's the day Amelia Earhart would be celebrating her birthday, turning 119. If nothing else, she'd probably have a hard time getting her pilot's licence renewed. The gorgeous cake (yes, that's actually a cake!) represents the line of luggage sponsored by Earhart, one of the many products she endorsed to finance her flights.

But even though she isn't around, every year when her birthday approaches, the town where she was born throws quite the celebration in her honour. This year, for the 20th anniversary of the festival, I managed to be there in the midst of it.

The range of events soared from the lofty to the less-than-sublime, and I'm pleased to say that I sampled the full range.

An important part of the festival is its Pioneering Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding women and their accomplishments. The women recognized at the Earhart Festival are kin of sorts to the famous pilot, as Amelia was all about women's rights and our ability to accomplish whatever we set our minds to. Much to admire, much to live up to.

Past recipients of the award include US Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins, first woman to pilot a space shuttle and athlete Lynette Woodard, the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. A number of other past recipients attended this year's festival and took part in a thought-provoking panel on Saturday morning. They included Tori Murden McClure (first woman to row solo across the Atlantic), Sophia Danenberg (first black woman to summit Mt Everest), Ngozi Eze (working on behalf of women in Africa, towards ending female circumcision and providing medical aid to victims of war rape) and the very special Ann Pellegreno who in 1967 completed the around-the-world at the Equator flight Amelia Earhart never finished. Yep, heady company, and I haven't named half of them.

But the weekend wasn't only about serious talk and accomplishments. Craziest event of the weekend had to be the demolition derby, just slightly up the road from town at the local dirt track. Among events was a first for me: a smash-up derby, but between school buses! Otto, you would have loved it.

After a lovely (and decidedly civilized, much in contrast to my afternoon at the track) reception at the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Saturday night gave us perfect weather, with just a breeze coming off the river while crowds gathered along the bank.

First, there was the excitement of the aerobatics show, with lots of people snapping photos. On the right you can just see the Amelia Earhart Bridge over the Missouri River. Later in the evening, its lights flashed like a rainbow.

And really, what July event in the US would be complete without the finale of a magnificent fireworks display. Just one warning with these: unless you turn your volume down, you're bound to hear me laughing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Only in Surrey?

When I saw this sign, warning of construction, I wondered whether the sign-makers had made a mistake.

You see, I live only a few blocks from 160th and 20th (that's confusing enough, though one is a 'street' while the other is an 'avenue') and hadn't seen anything there that resembled construction.

It was only later that the penny dropped for me. They meant the other 160th Street.

Yep, there are two 160th Streets in Surrey, separated by the wide band of a North-South freeway.

I guess when the street-namers were counting off their numbers, they anticipated a different configuration than what we have today.

Is there any other city or town that has such crazy-making signs?

Friday, July 08, 2016

More trees coming down

I've been hearing chainsaws in my neighbourhood so long now, I am almost (that's a very large 'almost') getting accustomed to the sound. I've learned that the noise usually means that a 'normal' house is coming down along with the trees around it and that an oversized pseudo-mansion will be erected in their stead.

This morning I managed to track down the sound of the latest round of nearby buzzing.

I was horrified at the thought that another entire subdivision of small houses might be in process of getting erased. Fortunately, for once, that isn't the case.

Earlier this year, a tree fell on one of the units there. It did damage to the roof of one of the homes, but at least no one was injured. Not long after that, two more nearby trees fell. Luckily, both fell between buildings, so no damage was done.

Still, these events led the strata council to look into what was going on.

After hiring arborists, they learned that a number of their trees were in danger of falling and of damaging homes, potentially causing injury (or worse -- everyone still with memories of the woman who was killed by a tree falling on her house in March).

I'll admit, I'm never happy when a tree comes down. And I know there's a contradiction in that -- our house is almost completely lined in wood -- wood that once was trees.

Still, this time I can at least understand that there is a reason for the cutting. And I'm also relieved to learn that this felling doesn't mean yet another batch of moderate-income housing will be eliminated in the name of the mega-house. It's just a matter of looking after the people who live there. Exhale.