Friday, December 31, 2010

Taking stock

End of year always feels like a time to consider what's gone on during the previous twelve months.

On many fronts, this hasn't been the best of years. Still, I plan to take inspiration from the sprig of holly that's nestled itself into that chunk of wood. I know where I took the picture, and I plan to go back again next winter to see how it's doing.

I am hoping that both the holly and I will have accomplished much.

Expect a new look (again) to the blog in January, as well as some goals and commitments.

Want to start thinking about some of your own dreams and goals? Add a comment if you'd like to commit to any of them. We can look at them again next December 31 to see how we've fared.

Friday, December 24, 2010

...and to all a good-night!

My sister and I have always been firm believers in Santa. We're still convinced we saw him flying when we were little.

Whatever you believe, I hope that warmth and love are somehow part of your traditions. And in those, I will always believe.

Merry Christmas to all...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Return of the light(s)

Just over twelve hours ago, the earth started to pass between the moon and the sun, and a magical lunar eclipse began. Magical because totality occurs on the same day as this year's winter solstice. Apparently, the convergence of events hasn't happened for a few hundred years.

Anyway, when this special eclipse started, I was disappointed, because the sky here was cloudy. Still, because I knew what was going on up there, I thought about it, imagining what people long ago must have thought about such an occurrence.

And then just before midnight, the sky opened up, revealing a dusky orange moon, with only the barest fingernail crescent of bright light on one side. Again, I thought of those people from long ago and suspected they would have been tossing more fuel on the fire -- logs at least, if not a sacrifice of some sort.

Just after twelve, when the moon was about to go into full occlusion, the clouds returned, shrouding what showed of the moon. When it's visible but not reflecting light from the sun, it's easy to see that it's really just a big rock. Still, a pretty magical one.

About twelve hours from now will be the official observance of this year’s winter solstice, so I'm in my element. Magic in every direction. And we'll be on our way to having the light come back...

As for the lights above, they're from our little hibiscus trees in holiday regalia, with the camera trying to move as fast as the spinning earth.

Happy Solstice celebrating!

Friday, December 17, 2010

When does a park stop being a park?

When does a fence become an offense?

This week has seen a chain-link fence rise up around a nearby park. It's the only ball diamond for quite a distance, and there used to be a fun little playgound there.

No more.

Much of it is now blocked off to the public.

For what it's worth, it isn't technically public property; it's part of the Semiahmoo band's reserve. And for quite a while, the band has been threatening go fence it off, largely in response to the many dog owners who let their dogs run free there and then don't clean up after the messes they leave behind.

Still, this week's action comes as quite a shock. The reason being cited is a sinkhole that appeared last summer. Only now, the spot has grown, so I suppose this is what the lawyers advised.

In the meantime, no playground, no open field for games or kite-flying or just plain enjoying the space a park offers. In the confines of our busy lives, with so little green space left, this closure feels quite harsh.

I'm trying not to be sad about it, but right now, that isn't easy.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

If you want it...

I was at a school Christmas concert tonight. One of the songs performed by the choir was Happy Xmas (War is over). The line above is one of the mantra-like repeated lines that follow 'war is over' in the refrain.

It seems there's lots to remember as we remember John Lennon.

Do you have a memory of this night, 30 years ago?

Sunday, December 05, 2010


This is the sign that greets visitors to prison. Not exactly inviting, is it.

Yet despite signs and other roadblocks (applying for clearance seems far more difficult than getting a passport), volunteers continue to visit prisons, sometimes for writing workshops.

Last weekend was another of our Writers' Retreats at a local penitentiary. As always, it was a time for useful exchanges about work we'd prepared in advance. And because writing prompts are always an important element of these weekends, there was also a lot of new work generated.

Some of the more speculative start-ups prompted humour as well as thoughtful replies. A few of the responses to the what-really-happened scene behind Obama's stitches could have fit right in with the latest round of WikiLeaks.

Other writings were far more personal -- the kind that only come about in an atmosphere of trust. One man revealed a story that seemed to surprise even himself. After he read it, he offered in a shaking voice that he had never expressed those thoughts to anyone.

Another was seeking ways to write about a traumatic experience he wanted to get down in words, but wasn't yet able to -- the first strip-search he'd experienced. Some of the difficulty became even clearer when he told us that this had occurred when he was only twelve.

Those of us 'outsiders' didn't have as much hardship to share, but when we wrote about 'why we don't write', the excuses sounded the same, whether from inmates or 'outmates'. Everything from needing to watch a show on tv to the universal excuse, the L-word, laziness.

Today is International Volunteer Day -- a day that recognizes the efforts of the many, many people who do things they don't get paid for, but things that make a difference to their communities. They're the people who run Scout troops and arts events and food banks and baby clinics.

If you'd like to read an article about one kind of volunteer, those who go into prisons, click here for an article by Ed Griffin. Ed's a longtime prison volunteer and teacher. His article appears on a prisoner-based website called The Incarcerated Inkwell. The site contains a great deal of information, even a glossary of prison jargon. It also accepts guest articles for publication.

What do you take time to do for your community?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jobs for humans

Strange, I suppose, but I'm all for the idea of jobs for humans.

I'm sick of being directed to use the self-checkout lanes, tired of waiting on hold while a machine drones a loop of pre-recorded pap.

What a concept. Jobs for humans. And today of all days, Cyber Monday, a day we're supposed to go online and shop our brains out.

While I understand the concept -- that virtual shops should make overhead costs lower, I'm having trouble getting my head around what happens when all of us do all our transactions online. And really, I want people to have jobs.

I'm so concerned about jobs disappearing, I refuse to go to self-checkout lines at my supermarket.

I even mail in some of my bills. I figure that somebody has to clear the letter box, empty the bag, at least throw the envelopes into the sorter, etc. Then, when the item arrives at the company in question (oh yes, a letter carrier even delivers it), a person has to open the envelope, look at the numbers on the cheque and the bill, credit my account...

Considering the many steps one simple bill payment must go through (as opposed to if I pay it online), quite a few people have to actually touch the documents -- in other words, a lot of people have themselves a job. Just thinking about the many people whose jobs I contribute to (even in a small way), I reckon I get my 57cents worth.

Crazy? Maybe. But it makes me wonder just who'll have the money to buy anything -- online or in person -- if too many of our jobs get taken over by machines, whether self-checkout cash lines or automated bill pay systems.

Next time you're shopping -- or paying a bill, for that matter -- think about whether you're doing anything to ensure at least a couple of jobs for the humans. After all, humans (especially employed ones) may well be the next endangered species.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Over the river but not through the woods

This was the view out the window of the SkyTrain as we passed over the Fraser River on Sunday afternoon. If you look, you can see a bit of reflection. The fresh snow on the North Shore Mountains is one of the reasons this part of the world is so beautiful. Thanks to Franci Louann and Poetic Justice, I was heading into New Westminster for a reading at Renaissance Books. What a busy place -- three readings in a single afternoon!

Because I can't so much as enter a bookstore without buying a little something, I came away with a couple of new-to-me titles. Still, there are worse habits. I am sure.

As for the not-quite quote on this header, it's from an old poem associated with American Thanksgiving. Best wishes for this holiday to our neighbours to the South. All of us have plenty to be thankful for. I for one, am grateful to not have to be trying to use an airport this week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Still more remembering

This series of Remembrance Day postings has become even longer than Canada's observance of Remembrance Week. Still, I think my reasons for continuing are good ones.

Tuesday saw writer June Hutton visit White Rock. She participated in two events -- one at the local library and one at our favourite coffeehouse, Pelican Rouge. She not only read from her novel of remembrance, Underground, but also answered the many questions posed to her. Whether talking about history, her process of writing, or the poppies she'd found in a box of family treasures (in the photo), she was gracious and clear and lots of fun.

In fact, June was just the sort of person my mother would have enjoyed. And this is a special day of remembering her, as it was this date two years that her life ended. The little angel in the photo is one that came from her, and it's one of the many small objects in my life that remind me of her.

The candle's burning in remembrance of her -- and oddly, for another friend, one whose passing was almost exactly 100 days ago. How quickly time passes, but how long we remember.

And I promise, from here on in, I'm back to looking forward -- with any luck, just as the angel above is doing -- with wonder.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Studio time

This weekend seems dedicated to studio time. Last night it was participating in SFU's The Writer's Studio reading series.

Feature reader for the event was Gurjinder Basran. Her book, Everything was Goodbye, won Mother Tongue Publishing's Search for the Great B.C. Novel contest. The section she read seemed spot-on authentic.

Other readers were Bonnie Nish, whose photo is at the left. Her poems ranged from those considering "...a childhood gone wrong" to ones remembering her mother, who died less than a month ago. Nish's musings "On being Ashley Judd" was a funny (and useful) poem for those of us who are less-than-drop-dead-gorgeous.

Other readers were Kerry Sandomirsky, an actor whose piece about self-induced bondage had everyone in Vancouver's Take 5 Cafe in stitches. SFU graduate Leslie Hill read a convincing memoir set in Toronto, 1969, while UBC's Natasha Boskic read love poems, and even offered one in multimedia format. The first set was closed by Morgan Chojnacki, with a delightful scene from her Quebec-based story -- even the snowballs in it seemed fresh as the 16-year-old character she presented.

The first reader after the break was Andrea Winterbottom, who's a frequent participant in the Writers' Retreat workshops at Matsqui Penitentiary. Others were Jennifer Irvine, whose "Unfashionably Green" mixed childhood memories with bittersweet comments about losing a parent. Hilary Mandel's story "Couch Love" seemed all too familiar, as my partner and I are caught up in the throes of getting rid of a beloved couch (though having a heckuva time finding a better one). And squeezed into the second set was my piece -- a condensed version of the first chapter of next spring's Shrinking Violets.

Today was a day for the cardmaker's studio. Not affiliated with any university, this is an annual event that sees my friend Brenna and I puttering with craft supplies while we try to be creative. At the rate of about an hour per card, we're not exactly planning to go into business. Still, it's something we both enjoy. Besides, it's a great excuse to sit and visit.

Tomorrow's a studio of another sort -- a day that will be spent in the kitchen, crafting up a feast of Mexican-style foods.

All this creativity, and in the span of only a weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Or, to put it another way, a day that's about not forgetting. The rock with its plaque of remembrance rests outside the White Rock Legion, a place where there'll be a lot of stories told today.

Those of us who don't have particular memories of war are among the lucky ones. And as I type these words, I can hear the old planes as they do their 11 o'clock flyover. How fortunate to know that no bombs will fall from them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Canada Reads -- a lot!

This year's Canada Reads event is the 10th Anniversary, so they decided to run it a little bit differently.

Instead of presenting us with the five finalists, they opened the competition -- and asked readers to nominate the Top 40 fiction titles of the last decade.

By clicking on any title on the list, you can read more about it. So if there's a book you're unfamiliar with, now's a great time to learn about it easily.

Now, we're supposed to vote for a favourite -- a tricky proposition, at least for me -- to only choose one. Using those votes, they'll create a shortlist of ten. After that, the final five contenders will be announced and will be defended, as they always are, by a panel of dedicated celebrities.

The ballot is at the bottom of the list. There's even a contest for those who want to try their hand at predicting which books might make the Top 10 (near the bottom of their page, after the ballot).

We have until midnight Sunday (Eastern time) to cast our ballot -- only one per voter, which I appreciate. No ballot-box stuffing!

Which book do you think should win this year's Canada Reads?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Spirit of the light

According to a piece by Douglas Todd in Saturday's Vancouver Sun, this is the season when it's easy to find 'thin places' -- places where the membrane between the physical world and the spiritual one is thin enough to allow spirits (or ghosts, if you prefer) to pass through. But he's not the only one to recognize the 'differentness' apparent during this time of year.

Diwali, the Indian festival of light, also occurs during this auspicious time. Celebrations in Vancouver begin today and run through the weekend.

Today's the day Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It's also the day Roman Catholics observe All Souls' Day, a day when prayers are believed to release those who might have been trapped in purgatory.

It's hard not to think there must be something special about this time of year. With so many different belief systems observing important rituals involving the dead during this time, I can't help but suspect there's something to it.

I've got a candle burning in the kitchen, and who knows -- someone on the other side may well decide to come by and say hello.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In the spirit...

Everybody's dressed up for Halloween, even our friendly outdoor leopard, Spot.

Happy trick or treats!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Yes, it's full of distortions that come from taking a photo of a television screen. Try it -- those jumping pixels don't stay still for long.

Despite the eye-trick -- think of all the rearranging work our eyes must constantly do when we watch for long periods of time -- there are a couple of other elements that went along with this image of Premier Gordon Campbell that weren't quite right either.

He started his speech last night by asking a double-headed question: Why his government had initiated the HST and why they "...didn't talk about it before the last election."

As for the first part of the question, he trotted out mostly the same explanations he's always offered, only with the addition of charts. Although these were credited to the province's Ministry of Finance, I was surprised to see them using one of the oldest propaganda tricks around. Although they appeared to be bar graphs, there were no numeric indicators running up the side, nothing even to indicate a base line. In other words, the ratios shown could have represented any amount and were in essence, completely meaningless.

Conveniently, none of these charts illustrated the fact that B.C. continues (despite our high costs of living) to have the lowest legislated minimum wage in all of Canada.

He tossed around a lot of numbers -- how a family of four currently making $25,000 (good luck, sez I) will now receive up to $920 in HST tax credits, money they'll be able to 'decide' how they'll spend. Hmmm, that's a whole whopping $2.50 a day -- that sounds like a real life-changer.

When it came to his answering the second part of the question (the part about how the tax had been brought in even though HST rumours were denied during the last campaign) Campbell pretty much managed to skip addressing that part. Only that's the part that seems to have stuck in the craw of so many British Columbians.

In his rationalizations about the HST, he even used the phrase "...after the announcement was made...". Not 'after the province-wide referendum', not even 'after it was debated in the legislature' -- but "after the announcement was made".

Governance by announcement rather than democratic process. And that's the real problem with these pictures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A day for Purple

Today is a day for wearing purple. It's a day for thinking about people who've killed themselves because someone found out they were gay. The most recent of these tragedies was apparently triggered by an unwanted posting on Facebook.

In one of those perfect flukey messages sent by the universe, the following quote showed up in a message someone sent to me today. Attributed to Mark Twain, its sentiment seemed suited to the day. “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Silver Rain in White Rock

And no, it wasn't raining here. It was another beautiful autumn day. I not only managed to get out and into it, but also made it to the launch of a brand-new book.

Local writer Lois Peterson has put early retirement to excellent use, writing -- and even better, getting published.

Today's event celebrated the launch of her third book, Silver Rain, a story set in Vancouver during the years of the Great Depression. Since marathon dancing is part of the plot, Lois arranged for the reading to take place at White Rock's Arthur Murray Dance Studio (who'd have even known there still were such things?), where we were treated to a demonstration of several dances. Better by a mile than watching Dancing with the Stars.

Her previous book, The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw, was also on sale, though her earlier book, Meeting Miss 405, wasn't available, as I suspect that it has sold out. It won a whole fistful of prizes, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if today's entry doesn't do the same.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Today, 10/10/10 was scheduled to be a day for thinking about the climate. It wasn't raining, the day wasn't hot or cold, and it seemed like the perfect day to get in the car and head for the forest.

In other words, instead of participating in a protest, I celebrated -- I honoured the changing weather by getting outside and into it. Bad of me? I don't think so.

This is Thanksgiving weekend, and as always, I have much to be thankful for, including the bounty of wild mushrooms we found today. The photo shows a few of the chanterelles we found, still holding needles and bits of debris as they lie on the bed of the forest.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lungs of the Earth

This morning saw me making an early morning trip to the airport, dropping off my sister who'd been visiting. On the way home, with those mixed-up feelings of sadness and regret that so often are part of a family visit, it felt comforting to drive past fields where a blanket of autumn mist was rising. Naturally, this was one of those times when my camera wasn't by my side.

But when I got home to our little yard so full of trees, I decided to take a picture of one of the pieces of found art we display outdoors. It seems to so clearly show the role that trees play as the lungs of the earth.

And speaking of trees, this little blog is one of many that's had some of its posts selected for a 'blog carnival'. If you'd like to see some of the many blog posts about trees, click here to see the current carnival, Festival of the Trees.

And if you'd like more info about getting one of your posts linked into next month's carnival, click here.

But in the meantime, while the weather lasts, think about getting outside and working your own lungs in the company of some of the 'lungs of the earth' in your neighbourhood.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

High there!

One of the great things about having out-of-town company is that it can make you become a tourist in your own town.

The end-of-September weather couldn't have been better, so we made our way over to the North Shore for some of the sights, including the gondola ride up Grouse Mountain.

The view above (the far away part) is what the city of Vancouver looked like, part of it even blanketed in cloud cover. The ships anchored out in the harbour look like toys.

To ensure the full touristical experience, we stayed long enough to watch the lumberjack show. Corny jokes, but lots of fun -- and the guys' skills were certainly impressive.

We even stopped in at the Cleveland Dam, site of the watershed that provides the Lower Mainland with its delicious tap water.

I wonder, do I need to send myself a postcard?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gone to ground

Even though there are a few hours remaining in summer -- technically, it won't be autumn until 8:09 PDT this evening -- there's a definite bite of fall in the air.

In keeping with the season, it's been a day for doing things that tie in with the change.

For one thing, there's a new template for this blog. Not sure how long I'll keep it, but it seems to be appropriate for my autumny mood.

For another, it's the day the tent finally came down. No more sleeping out. Time to pack it away for next year's camping adventures (even if this year, those were all in the 'wilderness' of our foresty yard).

It's also the day the garlics go back into the ground, so they can hunker down over the winter, readying themselves to raise their heads into the sunlight of 2011. Nestled in beside the oregano and rosemary, another couple of tough-minded neighbours who should make it through the winter, they'll even have companionship over the long cold months ahead.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The persistence of art

It's been a week filled with art -- and of just about every variety.

Tuesday was the launch of a student magazine, The Louden Singletree, out at UFV in Abbotsford. The event included readings, an art display, and an array of great snacks (always a plus, I think). The photo above is one I shot while still on campus there. Lots of great art going on in every building, it seemed.

Thursday evening was another launch, this one to celebrate Semiahmoo Arts, the re-branded version of our local arts council. Music, lots of art on display (besides the photo show in the gallery, there were displays of pottery and fibre arts too).

Friday evening, it was cool jazz renderings from Heidi McCurdy, who was accompanied by guitarist Doug Towle. This was the first in the new Friday series, "Uptown Lounge" and it's complete with wine or beer, the perfect end-of-week chill-out.

But then Saturday found two more arts -- one maybe less traditional than others. It was the morning for the annual making of the bockwurst. Looks like we'll be set again with great sausage for the winter.

Still, I have to admit the most spectacular event of the week was the performance by Vancouver's newest dance troupe, the VCDT (Vancouver City Dance Theatre). They presented an original piece, The Dali Universe. With dancers portraying the subconscious and other aspects of the internal psyche, following the 'plot' was at times confusing. But then, the question at its heart posed this convoluting thought, "Is life a dream, or do dreams help us live?"

The multimedia effects all seemed to work the night we attended, so I didn't share the complaints expressed in the Vancouver Sun's review (save for his comments about the predictability of some of the choreography, which were pretty much spot on). I also loved the 'square' skirts the dancers wore for one part of the dance. And really, who couldn't adore the melting clocks that seemed to positively ooze their way down the set.

Anyway, quite a full week. Especially for a province where the government has slashed back its arts funding so severely, I'm glad that the arts have a way of persisting.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Just a little too tidy for me

Whoppers. That's what I've always called them. Fish stories is another term that some might use instead. Whatever name it might go by, this is one story I'm not buying into easily.

Like just about everyone else, when I heard that a pastor in Florida planned to burn a copy of the Koran, I was shocked and disgusted.

And I'll admit, early on I wondered how a guy who apparently can only attract a congregation of 50 (we had more than that at a literary reading in our local coffee house last January) could be getting such a high profile on the news.

This morning when I read that the White House might be getting involved, I saw a line credited to Sarah Palin's Facebook page, "...although people have the constitutional right to burn the Qur'an, doing so would be an 'insensitive and an unnecessary provocation — much like building a mosque at Ground Zero'." That made me shake my head. What a stupid thing, I thought, to toss into the mix of an already simmering situation. It looked like a case of fanning the proverbial flames, even though the book-burning fire hadn't actually been ignited.

Only, now the latest seems to be that the bonfire-loving Jones has changed his mind. But -- and here's where my spidey sense starts to quiver -- he's going to fly to New York and meet with an imam, as he's part of a plan that will ensure no mosque gets built near the dramatically-named Ground Zero.

Go ahead. Call me paranoid. It's a name I've learned to be comfortable with. But watch.

This story seems stinkier than last week's garbage left out in the sun. This kind of trade-off deal seems far too conveniently tidy. If it turns out to be true, I'm not promising to eat my hat, but I'll hate it like hell if such deals might truly be real. I'm not yet calling it a set-up, but it sure looks fishy to me.

And if you're into things like seeing Jesus's face on a piece of burnt toast, take a look at the photo that banners this post. If you scrinch your eyes just so, you might think you see the devil. But if you see him, I say scrinch a little harder. You might find you even see an angel in there.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I did it!

Not enough words to really stand as a novel, maybe not even enough to qualify as an official novella.

Still, after the 72 hours that were available to me, I'd managed to crank out over 15,000 words for this year's 3-Day Novel competition.

Amazingly, my batch of words even seems to exhibit a beginning, an end, and a bunch of somewhat-related bits that make up a middle.

How did I get through it?

Besides relying on coffee and Rice-Krispie treats, I was supported by my wonderful partner, who made sure that I had meals, complete with freshly-made (freshly-picked, no less) salads.

He even took me out to a nearby restaurant Saturday night. The break (especially the walk there and back) really did a lot to clear my head.

And yes, that mess at the top of this post is part of what evolved over the course of the three days. As I compiled the various notes, they served as the guideposts (though crampons rather than guideposts may be more descriptive of the traction they provided) that helped me make it to my goal.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

36 Frames

That's how many frames are on a standard roll of film. And that's how many pieces, taken with standard cameras, are in the current photo show at the Semiahmoo Arts Gallery.

The opening, last Thursday, kept viewers entranced -- not only with the prints hanging framed along the walls, but with the old cameras on display there.

Some of us even played around with View-Master reels, shot and created for the occasion by the artist.

There was lots about the night that was fun. Heck, even most of the food was in shades of black and white.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday Night, Night Market

Again it was a cool night, but one that called for doing something outside. Since we'd managed to miss out on going to the Asian Market last year, we headed for Richmond and a late supper of dim sum treats and whatever else might turn up on the menu. As we expected, there were lots of skewery treats, from octopus and squid to pork and beef and tofu and fish and...Japanese crepes with ice cream.

Each year, the Market seems to have some new 'hot' item. In that respect this year's no different. Foodwise, it was clearly hurricane potatoes, a swirl-cut potato that's deep-fried and comes out like a series of hot chips. The line-ups for these were crazy, as it seemed nearly everyone wanted to try these. I must say, I was glad to be wearing my glasses, as long skewers seemed to be pointing everywhere.

Take-home treats were a last-minute purchase. These included fresh rambutan, a hard-to-find tropical treat.

Of course, there's more to the market than food, but frankly, it's mostly junk. Waaaay too many cell-phone covers, bargain socks, and false eyelash kits. There are still the goofy clothes for pets, though not as many outfits as I've seen in previous years. Disappointingly, there weren't any household sundries, as I was actually hoping to find a new bug zapper. Oh well, since the season for bugs is nearly over, I guess I'll have to wait until next year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bright moon, summer dreams

Last night’s big moon was very close to full, and so bright it woke me at 3 a.m.

The photo above is one I took by moonlight. If I’d used a tripod, it would have been less blurry. Still, it gives you an idea of just how bright it was.

When I went back in I had dreams of my girlfriends as super-heroes, one of them running as fast as a car, another running up a wall like Angelina on special-effects.

But there were more summer dreams on the weekend. Pandora’s Collective sponsored its seventh annual Summer Dreams Festival.

Their events started Friday evening, with an honours ceremony recognizing many members of B.C.'s literary arts community. Among the presentations was a Lifetime Achievement Award for Susan Musgrave.

Although the recognition event went on too long, there was a kind of magic in the air. Even traffic out on Granville Street seemed to fit the occasion, contributing its own particular rhythms. And when Jamie Reid read poems, with Mike Peacock accompanying on keyboard, it seemed proof that summer dreams really do sometimes come true.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I still don't get it

So the ruling has finally come through that seems to permit the anti-HST petition its due. Failing this, the whole initiative/recall established in our province would have been pretty much worthless.

But the part I still don't get -- about the HST issue and about the census kafuffle -- is how matters that appear to require legislation get passed by virtue of cabinet's saying so.

It's sure getting hard to remember that we're supposedly part of a democracy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A remembering

This week has been complicated. There’s been an extraordinarily beautiful wedding, the burial of a young man whose genetic inheritance caught up to him much too soon, a 40th birthday celebration, and the observance of a sad anniversary. But the cloud that’s hung over the last few days has been for a longtime friend whose cancer, despite months of treatment, got the best of him.

Mike was 15 when he came to Canada – alone – escaping the ’56 invasion of Hungary. He spent some time in Montreal at a range of menial jobs, but soon, like so many others back then, he started heading west. He learned English, got himself through a degree at UBC and forged a career as an entrepreneur, ever the independent man, both in action and in thought.

He loved nothing more than a good bout of arguing. And even though English was his second language, his vocabulary was one of the richest I’ve known. He may have pronounced words with an accent, but he knew how to pull out the most precise, the most elegant choice for the occasion. Or, as was more likely the case, the cause.

A visionary he was, but like so many visionaries, ahead of his time. It’s interesting to think about how the city of White Rock might be different if Mike had won a seat on Council when he ran for office. Marine Drive might now be a pedestrian walkway with a market-style mall; shuttle buses would run up and down State Street, providing pedestrians easy access to the beach.

Dear to my heart was his love for good food, especially if it was a bargain – or better yet, free. He loved to fish, dig for clams, set a trap for a feed of crabs.

One of my favourite companions for mushrooming in fall, he’s the only person I know who could find truffles without the help of a pig or a dog. He had a great eye for spotting a patch of helvella at the side of the road – only trouble was, when he was on the prowl, he’d drive while looking at the verge, rather than watching the road. This led to the occasional slip of wheels onto the shoulder, and more than one offer to take over the driving. Not a chance, especially with his beloved Fiero. But I suppose the occasional slip of the wheels must at least be good for the passenger's heart.

Anyway, next time I go for dim sum without him (especially if they serve chicken feet), I am going to miss him. Just as I am going to miss him when I have Greek food or crab or when I eat outdoors in the fading light of evening, especially if a boisterous discussion is on the menu. I am going to miss this man we mostly called Michael or Mike. Although in my heart I will always think of him by the name we used when we lovingly mocked his accent, and called him Der Mickey.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Pork 'n beans

Though these aren't exactly what you might expect.

I guess I must be missing the supper blog I kept last year, as here I am doing what I did then -- telling about what we had for supper.

The pork was something I'd found on sale, that had waited in the freezer for just the right night. The beans were ones I picked yesterday, when I was out picking yet another load of blueberries.

Still, this new twist on an old favourite seemed worthy enough of a post. Although, where we're having it with rice, maybe it should be known by the name of that other favourite dish, rice 'n beans.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Blacks are Out!

Yes, I am happy that the first of the blackberries are ready for picking. They're going to play a big role in the dessert element of tonight's family supper.

But there's also another Black who's out. I have to admit, I never thought I'd be rooting for Conrad Black, but the piece he wrote for yesterday's National Post had me cheering. If you'd like to read it in its entirety, click here.

So much for a few thoughts on blackberries...

In it, he decries the absurdity of the US's War on Drugs, pointing out how ridiculous it is to have so many people in prison for marijuana offenses. He also reminds us of the injustice of penalizing sellers of crack cocaine so much more harshly than sellers of the rich man's nose powder. Okay, he doesn't put it quite it that way, but he makes it clear he realizes that the unbalanced sentences are a reflection of the institutionalized racism that seems to be built in to the US penal system. Sadly, our penal system is no different, even though those most frequently incarcerated here are members of our First Nations, rather than those of African heritage.

One thing I noticed in Black's article is his reference to computers in the Florida prison where he spent his time. And not only computers, but computers capable of email.

Sadly, the prisons I've entered here have no such access available. And yet, I always have to scratch my head: How can anyone in the year 2010 expect to reintegrate themselves into mainstream society without experience using the Internet? Where's the rehabilitative element in a system as backward as that?

Like I said, I can't say I admire Mr. Black, but I do have to thank him for using his position to publish an article that so clearly incriminates the prison system.

Now, if only Steve Harper and his crew could see the truth in Black's remarks and apply them to Canada -- if only they'd look at the evidence to see just how wrong-headed they are with their 'tough on crime' stance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A day for special birthdays

It's not anything too special to have a celebrity born on your birthday. After all, every day is somebody else's special day too. Well-known people born on this day include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Beatrix Potter and Terry Fox.

But aside from those familiar names, a few others were born this day -- my niece, also named Jacqueline, and a stranger who came in and out of my life 43 years ago.

Tonight I was part of an important celebration, an observation of a different kind of birthday. The gathering coincided with a meeting of NA and was in honour of a friend who's now gone a year being drug-free. Considering he'd spent a lifetime ingesting drugs and booze, this is a major accomplishment and a step further into the new life he's established. I was proud that I got to meet his mum and his brother and to be included as part of his family.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beyond language

When I used the website, Babylon, to translate the phrase above into Hungarian, it came out as TĂșl nyelv. But when I pasted that phrase into the Hungarian-to-English form, it came back as too language.

And really, 'too language' is about how I feel when I try to learn (or even hear and repeat) almost anything in the subtle sounds of Hungarian. To my western ear, it sounds like a series of swishes and other vocalizations that are impossible for my mouth to wrap itself around.

When I travel, I try to learn enough of a language to at least say thank you and hello. But when I travelled in Hungary, I was hard-pressed to acquire even that much. I found myself pretty well stuck with English only.

This summer, friends from Hungary have been visiting nearby. Yesterday, we took them on an excursion to the city. Five-year-old Hunor proved that English isn’t always necessary to enjoy an outing with a couple of Canadians. Science World with its many interactive attractions kept him (and the rest of us) happily occupied for the entire two hours we’d plugged the parking meter for. Who ever said science wasn’t any fun?