Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The world in pieces?

Sometimes it feels that way. Wars, the threat of climate change, random shootings and more. You know what I mean, I am sure.

And I realize the images here are only of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Still, I want to think of it as a metaphor for starting out the new year. Besides, it was certainly calming to take a break from all that's hectic and work on assembling it.

My wish is that 2015 will be a year where we see the people of the world coming together and working towards finding real solutions to the changes we need to accomplish.

Onward.    

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Peace on earth

Wouldn't that be the most wonderful gift? Even as a child, when I used to hear beauty queens stating 'world peace' as their greatest wish, the cynic in me would quietly sneer. Doubt, even then. Or was it fear that prompted those 'as if' feelings.

Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on beauty queens to promote the idea of world peace. Think about Malala, not afraid to speak her truths, including the goal of peace.

Considering the mess the world is in, that outcome likely isn't in the cards for the very near future. Nonetheless, I can still wish for peace, especially when I consider such a peaceful image as the one of my wind chime outside the back door.

And I can at least send wishes of 'good will to all'.

However you celebrate, may it be with kindness.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The parade has begun!


 And no, I don’t mean the Santa Claus parade. That took place at least a month ago, back when the messages to ‘Buy, buy, buy!’ went into full swing. Nor do I mean the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” (one of the songs the choir I’m in performed earlier this month, though not at all the version in the link). This parade is the annual one that takes place here, the parade of the holiday goodies.

The banana breads are full of walnuts and will go as gifts to friends and neighbours. The butter tarts (below) are a Christmas tradition which I still make with the ‘secret recipe’ given to me years ago by Betty from the Soo.

The apricots are more of the special treats that only appear once a year. They’ve been soaking in brandy for quite a few weeks and they retain enough spirits that they probably don’t make for safe driving. Dipping them into chocolate makes them festive. I was glad to be able to make them earlier this week for the first day of Hanukkah

There are still a few more treats that need to be made, but it’s a good feeling that I’ve managed to make a good start. We’ll be able to do some sampling for Solstice. Convenient that it will occur just after 3 in the afternoon here. 


So yes, the holiday preparations are in full swing here. And yum, does the kitchen ever smell scrumptious! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12-13-14

Today is the last day in most of our lifetimes when we'll be able to write the date as a consecutive set of numbers. Next time this opportunity comes up is more than 88 years from now, on the second of January, 2103.

Even then, to make it work, zeroes will have to be incorporated: 01-02-03,

It's likely by then no one will even notice the zero, as digitization of everything will have long occurred.

I'm not sure whether I'm disappointed or relieved to discover I'm not the only one who's considered the importance of this date.

A numbers nut I'll admit to being, but I suspect there are worse things to be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Better late than never?

If I'd been serious about having bulbs in bloom for Christmas Day, I would have got started on this project much sooner. Unfortunately, too many sad things have slowed me down the last little while, the saddest being the death of a very dear friend.

Still, where she was such a skilled gardener (and especially fond of items that were exotic), it seemed important to at least start a few pots of bulbs for forcing even if they might not bloom until the new year.

The ones in the photo are one of the most traditional (and easiest) bulbs for this, paper-white narcissi, and despite how they might resemble a pan of yummy roasted onions, they are definitely not an edible.

I also planted a couple of hyacinths, each in their own Christmas-themed cup. They're so very fragrant when they bloom, they can't help but bring sweet thoughts of springtime.

My wildest experiment (also in a cup) is the Acmopetala Fritallaria. It's supposed to be easy to grow (though that may only apply to outside in the garden or in the Middle East, where they're from). Whatever, it's a species that's got to be easier to grow than to pronounce.

And just to ensure a showy display, I've got an amaryllis with a pretty good start. Those showy trumpeting blossoms are guaranteed to brighten the darkest day or mood.

I'm looking forward to having all these flowers in bloom to help me to celebrate, whether it's Christmas or New Year's or for that matter, Australia Day. Something bright and sweet to remind me of Jane.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Change for the better


Last week when I was up on Burnaby Mountain, the mud was deep enough to nearly go over the tops of my boots. This week things look much different up there.

Nearly all of the protectors/protesters have gone home. Why? Because Kinder Morgan has left.

Thankfully, they’re not all that’s gone. So are the charges against nearly all of those brave souls who were arrested. It seems that KM didn’t set their boundaries correctly, or had some problems reading their GPS devices, so their injunction was completely compromised. If their engineers can't read a GSP, it doesn't exactly bode well for the thought of their running more pipeline, or boring through the mountain. 

But the difference this week isn't just because hardly any people are left in the camp up there. The weather has also played a huge role in the change.

That ankle-deep mud has now frozen into solid earth and been covered with a thin layer of snow. Even with footprints in the snow, the ground appears to be healing from all that human traffic.

The frozen mud makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant book, Cat’s Cradle, in which an experiment to rid battlefields of mud goes terribly wrong.

It’s the book that's raised my hackles over fears about the kind of grand-scale water-poisoning that might occur if the frackers have it wrong when they say their actions won’t see oil or gas leaking into the water table.

At first glance, water and oil and pipelines may not seem to be related. But, just as all of us are related, so are all of those concerns. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Civil Disobedience -- a Civic Responsibility?


Now that more than 100 people have been arrested on Burnaby Mountain, questions are being raised about how many of those arrests may have been illegitimate. The BC Civil Liberties Association has posed this question, basing it on possibly inaccurate boundaries of the area under injunction -- an area Kinder Morgan is challenging in court today. The company is hoping to expand the area that's blockaded and to extend the days they'll be allowed to do their exploratory surgery in the forest.

As far as I'm concerned, all the arrests should be tossed. It seems to me that the protesters (whom I prefer to call protectors) are only performing their duty as citizens, defending an area that's a City of Burnaby park, one that's been deemed a conservation area at that.

The history of civil disobedience is lengthy, and instances of it span the globe. It has made the difference in many situations where injustice needed to be revealed (think, for one, the work of Gandhi).

Here's an article that will remind you of some important examples of civil disobedience in action. I especially love Richard Seymour's (author of the piece) concluding statement about civil disobedience: "It is the way in which progress is made."



Friday, November 21, 2014

Protectors of the Mountain: Standing up for all of us

Yesterday the arrests began on Burnaby Mountain. Kinder Morgan's injunction against the protest by the protectors was enforced by the RCMP, many of whom looked less than enthusiastic about the job they were required to do.

KM's lawsuit against some of the protectors certainly contains some absurdities. Consider this line from the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a document worth reading: "It is hard, today, to imagine that the word of a poet was once feared by a king." Yet, despite the fact that the 'king' is now a corporate 'king' rather than a person, that is exactly what has happened. A poet is amongst those being charged, and his poetry has been offered as evidence against him.

These photos were taken earlier in the week, when the weather was much kinder (that's 'kinder' as in 'gentler' not as in the name of Richard Kinder, the person who established the Kinder Morgan corporate entity), before the injunction was being fully enforced.

Today, even in the rain -- and bearing in mind the ongoing arrests -- people have gathered, this despite the road being blocked and the trek to the site being a steep uphill climb.

Fortunately, the City of Burnaby's mayor and Council are continuing with their own injunction in their ongoing attempts to protect the conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, where surveying and potential drilling are to occur. Machinery arrived on the mountain earlier today. I can only hope there is some way of blocking the kind of devastation that occurred earlier this month at the Blaauw Eco-Forest. When I head up there again next week, I will see for myself.

In the meantime, I can only pay attention to news reports and, I admit it, worty.

I fear that if Burnaby's court action does not result in protecting that city's bylaws (the ones that have been contravened by KM's cutting of trees), the laws of all cities and municipalities in Canada will experience the same fate -- that their bylaws (especially conservation ones) will be meaningless. Can you say (without choking) "pipelines in Stanley Park"?

Friday, November 14, 2014

A black day for green



This is the forest that was saved a couple of years back, in large part through efforts of the Han Shan Project. Since that time, the land was bought from Langley Township and put aside as a site to be protected in perpetuity, a place that would serve as a living laboratory for students from Trinity Western University.

As you step onto the path leading into the forest, you're greeted by a sign offering guidelines for using the preserve. Among these is the note that the path is designated for use by people, that vehicles aren't allowed -- even horses aren't permitted.

Last weekend, on the pretext of the Township needing to build a fence, at least one bulldozer was allowed to break these rules. It cut what's been called a  'swath' through the forest. But its track seems much broader than could have been necessary. It extends for at least a kilometre, and doesn't seem to make any sense in terms of being a fence-line -- I couldn't tell what it might have been protecting -- and from what.

I'm not sure who dropped the ball as far being in charge of stewardship, but someone sure did.Tomorrow is election day for municipalities in B.C. and somehow I suspect that voters in Langley Township have no idea the extent of the havoc that's been wreaked in lands that were supposedly protected. The current mayor, running for re-election, is using the taglines, "responsible leadership." But where, I ask, was the leadership required to look after this eco-forest?

I'm dejected, not only by the destruction I witnessed in the Fort Langley forest, but by today's decision from our provincial Supreme Court granting an injunction to Kinder-Morgan. The ruling means that the protesters -- who've been trying to protect parkland on Burnaby Mountain -- must break camp by Monday afternoon. So much for the right to protest, so much for protecting space that's been decreed as a conservation area.

It's hard to hold out much in the way of optimism, especially where, as if to top things off, the Keystone Pipeline Project passed today.

If you go out to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Those words are from a song that once seemed innocuous, The Teddy Bears' Picnic. Although I remember a surprisingly freaky version of that song, nothing could match the horror of the surprise I was in for today when I walked in the woods. If you care to see the short video I took while walking in the forest today, here it is.

video

Monday, November 10, 2014

First of the season?


I took this photo nearly a month ago, figuring it was likely the first of many more I would see over the course of this winter. Between fears of Ebola and the far less exotic (and easier to deal with) seasonal outbreaks of flu, this may well be the winter for the wearing of surgical masks.

But then yesterday I saw Interstellar and saw the same masks. To my surprise, characters in the film were using them for a completely different reason – dust! The future depicted is one where farmlands have again turned into a Dust Bowl. Crops have failed (can you say ‘Monsanto’?) and the Earth’s population faces starvation. Bleak, eh.

So, maybe my concerns over seeing a woman on a bus wearing a surgical mask shouldn’t be so great. After all, buses are likely a veritable Petri dish for sharing germs – breathing in each other’s faces, hanging on to straps (who knows who might have held on before you, and what they might have been infected with?), so maybe she had a good idea.

Not exactly wanting to go out on a limb (not even a big one) with any predictions, but I’m wondering whether we’ll see more of these masks blossoming before spring. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Intentional?

Here in British Columbia, it's just about time for municipal elections, so signs have been popping up faster than autumn mushrooms.

When I saw this one, I couldn't help wonder whether the sign-raisers realized what they'd done by placing the sign where they did.

The man in the portrait has been our mayor in the past. I, for one, was not in agreement with many of the changes that came to our city during his tenure.

Now he's back, full of promises, which I'm not sure I can believe. High pressure gas line, indeed.

I like to think the sign-raisers did this intentionally, giving us not only a chuckle, but perhaps a bit of truth-in-advertising.

And, no matter who you might be voting for, be sure that on the 15th, you get out there and make your X.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A shirt named Dave

I was going to write about a shirt named Dave. Or else about an author named Kate. Or about a book called A Surrealist Alphabet. Or maybe even about Mashed Poetics, which just celebrated the Tragically Hip.

But all of that seemed less important after yesterday's miserable news -- that the CBC had fired Jian Ghomeshi. Huh?? He's almost single-handedly revitalized our public broadcaster, bringing it -- more than anyone else -- to an audience of people under the age of 50.

The Giller Awards have already joined the bandwagon, announcing Ghomeshi won't be hosting their upcoming award ceremony. And I think now of 'Canada Reads' -- yet another institution that's bound to trickle away into lassitude without the vigour Jian injected into it.

I'm reminded of Good Morning, Vietnam and its story of how a powerful entity -- in that case, the U.S. military -- got rid of Adrian Cronauer, a DJ who was actually connecting with listeners.

I'm also reminded of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's famous statement, presented (somewhat ironically, I suppose, on the CBC archive), "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." Nor, I contend, does the CBC.

When I was little, I had my own terrifying way of understanding the term 'getting fired'. I thought you got set on fire -- and worried that might some day happen to my dad.

This weekend's firing might as well be that literal, though I don't think it's going to be Jian going up in flames. With this action it seems more that the CBC has set light to its own self-destructing fuse. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poetry, poetry, poetry!

Last week -- in my life at least -- was a week filled with poetry. Tuesday meant a little (and I mean little, only a ten-minute gig) reading at The Paper Hound, a bookstore that serves as a great reminder of what a real bookstore is. Heck, any bookstore with Tintin living there qualifies as special in my mind. But while I was there, people came in asking for everything from books on calligraphy to books en francais. Amazingly, the owner/proprietor was able to help -- a far cry from the often bored-looking, unengaged worker-slaves at the dreaded chain stores.

Then on Wednesday, I attended SFU's Lunch Poem series, with features Tim Bowling and Donato Mancini. I suppose two poets couldn't have been more different in their work. And that may have very well been what created such a great dynamic. I'm still playing around with ideas buried in notes I scribbled at the event -- and better than my night-time notes, these are even readable.

If three days in a row isn't too lucky for words, Thursday was an evening where ten poets performed, but in pairs. Each pairing had prepared some kind of collaborative work for the event. And each was totally different from the others.

Jude Neale sang (in full operatic soprano) part of the work she and Bonnie Nish presented. The poet who'd written a piece about the exclamation mark was 'answered' by a poem about the question mark. Another actually danced her accompaniment to a poem. And all of this in a brand-new branch of
Vancouver Public Library, tucked into a building housing a supermarket and condominiums.

Another pairing explored similarities and differences in where/when they were born and who they'd become. My partner and I experimented by writing a renga together, then riffing on it in a couple of new directions, an experiment that you might want to try for yourself.

A busy week? Yes. But if only every week could be as rich!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Non-traditional celebration

But then, that shouldn't be too surprising. We seem to often do things our own way.

This Thanksgiving was no different. No big turkey roasting in the oven. No pile of dishes and pots to wash up.

It was an order-in takeaway supper instead -- barbecued duck instead of turkey. The non-traditional accompaniments of chow mein and tofu were good companions to the duck.

But so was the completely traditional side of Brussels sprouts, though even they arrived in a less-than-conventional format -- still on the stalk, fresh as they can be.

Much to be thankful for. Always.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Gathering wild mushrooms


It's something that goes with autumn. Harvesting an assortment of wild mushrooms. Over the years, we've refined our skills -- learned about mushrooms we didn't know about before, explored new places, tried new recipes.

We've also learned a few things about the right and the wrong ways of harvesting.

The photo above shows how NOT to gather them. Those aren't some fat cigarette butts resting around the leaf. The black 'fuzzy' stuff on the cut-off mushroom stems is soil.

The harvester who left these behind has jeopardized the odds of mushrooms growing there again next year. They've pulled them up by what you might want to call their 'roots' -- that critical connection which links them to the mycelium, hidden beneath the earth.

The parts we 'pick' are the bits that poke their heads up through the soil.

It's important to slice the base of the mushroom in such a way that the link to the fruiting body isn't disturbed.

It's also a good idea to not try to clean out the forest, but to leave some for other harvesters who may be coming along in a day or two. A good way to ensure you're doing this is to avoid taking small mushrooms, and only harvesting those that have had a chance to grow into mature specimens.

Of course, it's important to know what you're harvesting. Our friend the Internet can provide many answers, but even Google's images of chanterelles contain at least one look-alike, one you won't want to ingest.

A book with clear photographs can be a useful companion in the forest, and will be easier to use if its focus is specific to your geographic region. An even better way is to tag along with a knowledgeable harvester.

But even if you don't feel like learning which kinds of mushrooms are edible, the experience of walking in the forest this time of year is one that can only inspire wonder. Get out there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Looking forward

I've been staring at this autumny tree, trying to take in some of its calmness.

It's been kind of a crazy month -- not one to complain about -- nearly all of it happy-making, culminating in this weekend's Word Vancouver. Still, I'm ready for a less hectic time.

Maybe tomorrow, when the calendar turns to October, life will slow down a little. But for now, I need to get dressed, as I'm heading off to a literary event, exactly the sort of thing I love to do.

And no, I will never complain about there being too many literary events going on, or too much art in the world, or too many beautiful sights in nature to inspire me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweet homecoming

This past fortnight has been a series of homecomings. There've been reunions of various sorts -- with relatives, some whom I haven't seen in a decade or more-- with friends that go back even more years.

I've also revisited places I haven't seen in years. I even got to visit my gramma's old house.

But the best homecoming of all has been returning home today. It's been one of those rare September days when the air is warm and sweet, hot as any day in July.

The berries still on the bush are continuing to ripen (I picked enough for a pie for the freezer and for a dessert for tonight).

The quince are nearly ripe, but autumn is clearly nearby.

Something I suppose about the angle of the light, the way it seems to break into disparate beams. The spiders are weaving their oversized nets, hoping to catch the last of the summer insects. The floppy autumn crocuses have opened their pale blossoms to these last days of warmth.

The clues are here: change is in the air. But oh, it's sure beautiful right now.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Once upon a time the sky...

...was filled with flocks of passenger pigeons. The empty sky in the photo marks a sad anniversary -- 100 years since the last passenger pigeon, Martha, died.

It's startling to think that a species could go from being the most numerous bird population on the planet to extinction, and all in the space of not much over a century. As late as the 1800s, the sky was said to darken, sometimes for more than a day, as masses of these birds flew overhead. 

And somehow I don't find it completely reassuring that scientists are considering ways of renewing the species, using DNA from the feet of specimens in the Royal Ontario Museum. Such birds wouldn't be the same, as they would be crossed species with another breed of pigeon. Besides, really, what's the point.

The best lesson we can take from the passenger pigeon is a cautionary one, reminding us of the fragility of life -- even when it seems to be in abundance.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Imagine whirled peas...


Saturday was a day that proved to be all about community. It started with an event sponsored by the SOFIA Collective, an interdisciplinary group of artists based in the north end of Surrey, the city where I live.

They've sponsored a couple of these events, forums exploring ways the arts can contribute to the health of the community.

Even though I only attended the afternoon panels, I came away filled with hopeful thoughts for our city.

The first panel, "Intersections: Art Practice in Convergent Communities" raised many questions (and comments) about the broad multicultural spectrum represented in our city. Racism, the elephant in the room we all seem to choose to ignore, was key to the discussion -- and rightly so. According to the last reliable census figures (2006, the last census to employ the 'long form' which asks respondents to identify their ethnicity), 46% of our city consisted of 'visible minorities'. No doubt, this figure is higher now, but thanks to Harper's fact-denying agenda, such numbers will no longer be available. Not that such numbers are necessary to see who we are. Attendees were united in wanting all of us, artists and others, to go forward together, regardless of what we might look like.

The second session, "Lessons Learned: A Survival Guide to Establishing an Artist-Run Centre" was much more light-hearted, even fun. And this is likely where I found the most to take home with me.

All of the speakers talked about getting together with other artists, and surprisingly, the notion of potluck dinners came up more than once. Yes, say I, food can serve as the glue (even when the food isn't sticky!) that brings us together.

So, later in the evening, when we went to nearby New Westminster for their second annual festival of food trucks, I couldn't help notice the way everyone was getting along. It wasn't a potluck supper, but the atmosphere was similar. There were lots of conversations, comparisons of food items (Oooh, where'd you get that sandwich??), good-natured kidding while standing in line, people snapping pictures with cameras or phones.

Maybe food really is the answer, even the way to world peace.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Everywhere is Anywhere is More...

It isn't very often that an art gallery has signs that encourage you to take photos of the exhibit. But then, there aren't a lot of exhibits quite like the current one on the main floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery, a wide-ranging show by Douglas Coupland.

Yes, there's plenty of Lego, not all of it quite as wildly assembled as this piece. Still, I love the ways he uses it, even when he's pointing out the mundaneness of contemporary suburbia: row upon row of identical houses. All that's missing from his show are the identical people who must inhabit those houses.

One of my favourite parts of the show is a section of Canadiana artefacts -- everything from hokey-looking lunch kits and thermoses to a tin of Uncle Ben's beer.

But don't think for a minute this exhibit is all about trinkets and toys.

Coupland's paintings and sculptures reveal an artist who's committed to interpreting art history. Some of his paintings serve as homage to the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. Others hearken to the era of Pop Art, with obvious tributes to Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol -- or, to their predecessors, Mondrian and Miro.

He even plays around with his own forms of Op Art, with pieces that require you to view them with a Smartphone, for almost a 'magic eye' effect.

It's hard to imagine anyone having this much talent, but yes, he also writes fiction. So, it's not surprising that some of his art is text-based. One section of the show, called Slogans for the 21st Century, consists of signs with Couplandesque sayings on them. An example? "It's not an illusion. Time is moving faster." Fans of his books will recognize some of these as part of the marginalia from Generation X.

Those living in or near Vancouver should try to get to the gallery soon, as the show closes on September 1st. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

It must be summer...

 ... for me to be so lazy. Already the 11th of the month, and nary a blog post.

And not only have I been staying off the blog, but clearly I've not even been using the car enough, as look at that spider who's decided to build a home on the mirror.

Maybe he (she?) just got sucked in by things appearing closer (and larger?) in the mirror. Tasty bits of tiny bugs must be looking like much bigger feasts.

Even today's drink of choice is one that's lazy. Sun tea, a recipe that makes itself by sitting outside in
the sun for the day. This batch isn't actually tea, it's more like lemonade, but is made from the much more refreshing fruit, quince.

Cheers to summer and to keeping cool!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A presentation by France sets me thinking...


Sometimes I wonder why I love fireworks. It's a fact though. I can't help it. I do.

And really, with all that's going on in the world, I wonder whether I'd feel the same way about all that fire and noise if I lived someplace else, where the sounds of rockets flying through the air might mean imminent destruction or even death. Even though I love them, fireworks sometimes make me think this way.

This has been the week for observing 100 years since the start of World War One, a war once thought of as the 'war to end all wars'. Sadly, we know that hasn't been the case. In fact, some now think that WWI might have been the war that started a whole new round of wars -- that without it, and the divisions of lands it caused, World War Two might have never happened -- and with it, the countless other disputes, so many of which continue.

For someone who dreams of peace, the idea of loving fireworks might seem contradictory. Still, standing as part of a throng of nearly half a million people, watching the Celebration of Light beside the Pacific Ocean on a warm summer night is something that stirs me. And really, for a show that's free to watch, is pretty darn hard to beat.
video
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy birthday, Amelia Earhart

When I was in Newfoundland, I took the time to visit Harbour Grace, the place where Amelia Earhart took off on her first solo trans-Atlantic flight on May 20, 1932.

The field there looked too tiny to be an airstrip, more of a place for launching kites than planes.

Her intended goal was Paris, but weather forced her to cut the trip short. Luckily, Ireland intervened. The story goes that she landed in a pasture near a small village in Northern Ireland, and didn't even know that she wasn't someplace in France.

So, why am I thinking about her today? It's her birthday, a day observed by some as 'Amelia Earhart Day'. She liked the colour yellow, so when I visited her statue in Harbour Grace, I stuffed a bouquet of fresh dandelions into her hand, an early birthday present.

Earlier this month, July 3rd, was the anniversary of her disappearance, a mystery that lingers, with occasional reports of evidence (often less-than-reliable) of what her fate might have been.

But I'm not the only one who still thinks about her. A woman named Amelia Rose Earhart recently completed the round-the-world flight path Amelia intended to make. Yet I doubt that even this will be the end of the news about this object-of-my-fascination, Amelia.

And oh yes, those feet of mine are standing on a rock in the field at Harbour Grace. I couldn't help but think that on that May morning in 1932, Amelia may well have thought to 'ground herself' for a moment before climbing into her plane, and that she may have paused for a few seconds, standing on this very same stone.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Melting points

In Fahrenheit, the melting point of ice is apparently 33 degrees (or, for those who are pickier, 32.1, and even that depends on your elevation above sea level). To make it simple, you can think about ice's melting point as just above the freezing point of water.

Apparently, the melting point for me is just about the same number -- 33, but in Celsius. This weekend, that's what it got up to, and not just on our thermometer. And no, I didn't melt, but taking a walk down the sun-filled streets, I felt as if I might!

This is hotter than it usually gets around here, but at least our house, tucked in behind our big trees, stays a few degrees cooler. 

If it's hot where you are, it might help to gaze at my artist-friend Marilyn's fountain in the photo above. Take a break and as they say, Chill...

Monday, July 07, 2014

The heart of summer


If you've visited this blog during summers past, you'll know that berry-picking is one of my favourite summertime activities.

This summer's no different. Most of the strawberries have now been eaten, save for two tiny babies
that live in a pot in the backyard. Those that might have not gone into our mouths have been frozen for winter use or made into jars of jam which will mostly serve as Christmasy gifts. I couldn't help but think that my big bowl of soon-to-be-jam strawberries (above) looked a lot like little hearts.

The other day, picking raspberries, I noticed how much easier it is to pick rasps than strawbs. Strawberries, sweet though they are, require all that bending, squatting or kneeling. They mean sometimes getting mud in your fingers, as you look for berries hiding out in the low-to-the-ground leaves.

Nature seems kind in this respect. We start the season having to work for our (straw)berries. By July, we get to stand, only needing to bend now and then, as we
seek and pick the red ones interspersed along the tall spikes where they grow. Later this month and into August, we'll go after the even easier ones, blueberries. Picking those can often be a matter of simply holding the bucket beneath a branch and rolling the berries off, gently 'milking' the berries into the waiting container.

This all makes sense in an odd sort of consider-the-land way. In a world more guided by the changing seasons, August might see us getting complacent about laying in supplies for the cold months ahead when fresh fruit might be lacking. Could that be a reason the last major fruit of the summer should be the one that practically picks itself? Just one more thing to think about, I suppose, next time I'm out picking.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Canada Day



The weather is perfect -- clear and sunny. The flag is a little bit wrinkled, but hopeful as ever. Hmmm. I suppose some may apply the same descriptors to me.

A day to be lazy, maybe turn pages while I lie about in my outdoor 'reading room'.

Happy 147th birthday, Canada!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cooler than cool

We'd heard that it was a good year for icebergs. This one was hanging around Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America. Plenty of people, both tourists and locals, were hanging around too, all to get a glimpse of the ice. Those chunks floating closer to shore are smaller bergs, broken off as the ice has travelled down the coast from Greenland. That iceberg on the horizon is the subject of a short video posted by CBC. It's taken by a drone, and after a few passes, it scoots through the ice arch. Pretty darn cool.

But it wasn't just Cape Spear that had visiting icebergs. They seemed to be everywhere, floating off the coasts of Newfoundland. Travelling around in my little rental car, I'd come around a bend in the road, and there below me would be a bay full of what looked like a fleet of white boats. Only they weren't boats, they were icebergs. This is the 'ice flotilla' in Hant's Harbour.

The video below (shaky, I apologize) is how one iceberg (the biggest one, the one on the right) looked just after it 'foundered'. While I didn't catch that part of the action, at least you can see how quickly the chunks of ice dispersed from the bigger berg once it broke. Pieces of ice are streaming away from the berg, rippling the water, almost as if someone had picked up the iceberg and dropped it (which is pretty much what it looked like as it happened). One of the women watching from the same vantage point said it was a very lucky thing to see -- and that this was only the second time she'd ever witnessed such an event. Lucky especially for 'from away' me.
video

Thursday, June 12, 2014

O.P.P. notes

If you’ve ever lived in Ontario, you’re probably thinking this post is about the Ontario Provincial Police. But no, the O.P.P. in question here is ‘Other People’s Poetry’.

On Monday, I hosted an event that featured the work of the five poets who wrote the books in the photo above. Those titles were the finalists for this year’s Dorothy Livesay Award, the poetry component of our province’s BC Book Prizes. You can read more about them here (scroll down past fiction and non-fiction to the Livesay finalists). But they’re not the primary focus of today’s rather long post.

Not long ago, Cristy Watson, a writer friend in my community, invited me to participate in something called a Blog-Hop. That idea came from writer and blogger, Kristin Butcher. To see Cristy’s blog (worth looking at, whether you write poetry or fiction), click here. And while you’re clicking, check out Kristin’s too, as she’s the brains behind this whole Blog-Hop dance. 

The Blog-Hop process requires me to answer four questions, which I’ve done, below. But more importantly, the Blog-Hop gives me the opportunity to point you in the direction of three other blogs, each of them by other poets – in other words, they’re places where you’ll find out more about ‘other people’s poetry’ (O.P.P.)

Since I’d prefer to deal with introductions first, may I please tell you about Linda Crosfield. She describes herself modestly, mentioning several journals where her poems have appeared: The Minnesota Review, Labor, and The Antigonish Review. She adds that one of her poems became a miniature accordion book by UpDown Press, and that she produced a chapbook for George Bowering through her imprint, NIB Publishing. She acknowledges a few places where she’s read, including in 2013 at Nelson(BC)’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, but fails to mention that she was nearly the hit of the weekend at the recent CascadiaPoetry Festival in Seattle with her hilariously true poem, ‘Nobody Smokes Anymore’. She blogs at purplemountainpoems.blogspot.ca in Ootischenia, BC.

Another poet you'll want to meet is Mary Ann Moore. She's based in Nanaimo, BC. Her book of poetry, Fishing for Mermaids, was published by Leaf Press in April 2014. But she does a lot more than write poems. Mary Ann offers a mentoring program called Writing Home: A Whole Life Practice and a weekly women's writing circle as well as monthly poetry circles called Poetry as a Doorway In . . . and a Welcome Home. She writes a blog at www.apoetsnanaimo.ca and also writes books. It wasn't long ago that she and I shared a page in The Vancouver Sun, with comments each of us were making on new BC books.

The third poet (with blog) I'm introducing is Janet Vickers. A few years ago, she and her husband packed up house and moved to the lovely (though somewhat tricky-to-reach) Gabriola Island. She is a member of Poetry Gabriola and helps organize readings on the island, including one I participated in during National Poetry Month (April). Her first trade book, Impermanence, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2012. She has long been active in the peace movement and has also been dedicated to other social justice causes. Janet is the publisher of Lipstick Press, which she claims is in the process of re-inventing itself -- very slowly. You can keep track of what those changes might be at the Lipstick Press blog. 

And now, down to my answers to the four questions – the same questions Cristy answered on her blog, and ones you’ll soon see responses to on the blogs of Janet, Mary Ann and Linda.

What am I working on? I’ve mostly been working on everything but writing – a state of being that makes me almost itchy. A week-long trip to Newfoundland saw me involved in networking with friends and colleagues, as the heart of the trip was The Writers Union of Canada’s AGM. (St. John’s – what a place!) I can’t wait to go back. And truthfully, while I was there – in fact, in the midst of the celebratory banquet, no less – came words for a poem about ‘home’. Not finished, still mostly scribbles in a notebook, but then what poem ever is truly finished?

How does my work differ from others of its genre? One of the ways my work differs from others of its genre (and here I’m speaking only of poems) is that I don’t seem to have ever caught on to being able to write to a particular project. The only exception to this would be A: The Amelia Poems, a chapbook published by Lipstick Press (to see more on this press, click on the link for Janet Vickers, above). This ‘poem-here, poem-there’ pattern of mine does not lend itself well towards organizing a manuscript, especially as it seems pretty well all poetry books published in the last decade place their focus on some particular event or at least subject or theme.

Why do I write what I do? I write what I do because those are the words/phrases/lines that I hear in my head. I nearly always start with a scrap of something I’ve ‘heard’ (please don’t call the men in white coats) and then – provided I can later find the physical scrap of paper I’ve likely scribbled it on – I use it as the basis of something longer. The 'heard' line or phrase isn’t always the first line, nor is it the last; often it’s something that turns out to be in the middle. And sometimes, that ‘scrap’ ends up being the title of the poem.


How does my writing process work? Oops. I think I just answered that in the previous response. But then, maybe that just serves to demonstrate that it really is the bit of inspiration that leads me into the actual work of the writing, rewriting and then rewriting some more. Sometimes I think we shouldn’t bother calling ourselves writers, because really, so much of what we do isn’t writing, but re-writing. Maybe I’ll change my business card to Heidi Greco, ReWriter. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Easy as pie?


Whoever it was that coined that aphorism probably never made a pie. Or at least, they never cleaned up after making one.

The photo shows the aftermath (along with the resulting two pies) of a pie-making session in my kitchen. And really, the process was relatively easy considering I'd picked the berries way last summer. These were the last of the blueberries in the freezer.

I'd even been one step ahead of the game with the pastry, as I'd made up the 'dry' part of it some while ago, and it had been waiting in the back of the fridge for this very day.

Still, what with the flour and the rolling and the fitting parts together -- well, you can see the mess for yourself.

As for the inside of the oven now that the pies have baked, well, I'm saving that job for some other day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A basket of world peace?


I don't suppose a basket of mangoes looks much like a recipe for world peace. Still, I think they have possibilities.

Yesterday at the produce store, I found myself drooling (only mentally, I promise) over the boxes of mangoes that were on sale. Buying by the box was a lot cheaper than buying individual ones would have been, but a dozen ripe fruits seemed like too many to buy at one time. After all, there are only two of us.

When I noticed another woman who appeared to be making the same mental calculations, I turned to her and asked, "Would you like to share a box of those?"

She thought that was a great idea, so we chose a box. She bought it and I handed over the right amount of cash to close the deal. We split up the fruit and voila! Each of us had what we wanted.

Maybe it wasn't exactly world peace, but it felt as though we'd taken a small step toward 'community' -- that network of people who look after each other and help out, so often in small and simple ways.

This morning's news has a piece about 100-in-1 Day, an event scheduled for June 7th in Vancouver. Lots of friend-making and other community-building actions are being set up. While this sounds as though it requires a formal approach (devising an event, registering it), it does seem a good step.

As for me, I think I'll stick with the little, spontaneous things that present themselves in the course of the day-to-day. But first, I'm going to take a lunch break and eat a mango.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Death of an (another?) industry?


The boxes in the photo are paper products -- about to be recycled by a Vancouver publisher.

The way this works is that the publisher (a small business person) phones the recycling guy (another small business person) and arranges for the recycling guy to come and pick up the boxes of paper product for shredding and pulping.

At least that's how it worked in the past.

But now, Victoria (they don't even much bother to call it 'the government' anymore) has determined that BC residents will be better off if our recycling needs are met by a new kid on the block, MMBC. Although their business address is listed as North Vancouver, payments made to them go to Toronto. Huh?

Even though the new system isn't scheduled to come into effect until next week, our small business publisher has not only been billed, he's had to submit the first quarter payment (it sounded as though there might be penalties if he failed to do so) and the next quarter's invoice has already arrived.

So now, because he's paid his 'sin tax' (think carbon tax?) he's basically off the hook. If he feels like it, he can toss all that spare paper into any old garbage bin. Recycling? Why bother? It'd cost more. He'd have to phone the shredder/pulper guy, wouldn't he...

So now, the shredder/pulper guy will probably go out of business. And as for the publisher -- well, with postage rates and now this latest gouge, who knows?

As with too many decisions made by 'Victoria' these days, opposition doesn't seem to make a difference, even when some of it is coming from the very people who helped get this crew elected.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Erasing borders

This is the flag of the not-yet-in-official-existence Cascadia, a country/nation/region that extends from Northern California up through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

The idea has been around since at least the 1970s. Boundaries of Cascadia are based on geography and geology rather than on wars or political decisions that might have been made half a continent away.

I first encountered the notion (or something similar) in the works of Ernest Callenbach, a Pacific coast author. He called the region Ecotopia. The basis of that nation was the will of its people to live in ecological harmony with the earth. Shortly after Callenbach's death in 2012, a kind of manifesto of farewell was published -- a document found on Callenbach's computer called "Epistle to the Ecotopians". It's an important document and worth taking the time to read. If you click here and then scroll down, you'll find it. I'd recommend waiting for a time when you don't have to simply skim it. Have a cup of tea at your side, and settle in for words that will likely echo long after you finish.

This past weekend, I participated in the Second Cascadia Poetry Festival, held in Seattle, Washington, the heart of Cascadia. I say the heart, as that's where David McCloskey, a geographer known as the Father of Cascadia taught for many years. As part of the festival, McCloskey presented a session explaining the many unique characteristics of our region.

And the poets, well they certainly demonstrated some of the artistic attributes and elements that make this region so special.

The two most remarkable panelists (for me) were Stephen Collis, who spoke about innovation in poetry, especially as manifested by work in our region and Derek Sheffield, who gave the most lucid explanation of eco-poetry eco-poetry

The festival was an extended weekend (Thursday through Sunday, with follow-up on Monday morning) that will remain lodged in memory for a long while.

The idea of Cascadia is an important one. One man I met takes its message and goals seriously enough that he's decided to wear one of its emblems on his skin for the rest of his life.

Hmm. I'm not ready to go as far as a tattoo. Still, I'm ready to start counting sleeps until next year's Cascadia Three. That will happen this side of the invisible (geographically, at least) border, in Nanaimo, BC.