Monday, August 14, 2017

La la la FairyLand

With guests visiting on the weekend, I took a turn at playing tour guide. One of the places we visited was nearby Redwood Park. Not only is it filled with many magnificent trees, it contains some important elements of Surrey's history.

A more recent addition to the park is one visitors often come upon by surprise. I knew the fairies often paid their respects, but I was surprised at how their little village has grown.

Considering how much nasty business has gone down during the past week (and especially on the weekend), it felt safe and idyllic in the forest with its fairy town.

Now, if only the rest of the world could be this calm and peaceful.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Hot times

The past while has been our version of a hot spell -- nothing like many would consider hot (trust me, I was in Kansas last month, and it was HOT there). Temps here on Wednesday made it up to 30 degrees, or for anyone south of the border, 86.

But what a great excuse to curl up with a book and read.

I've been doing a fair bit of that this summer -- whenever I can manage some quiet time. I'm pretty sure I'd have to say the best book I've read this season has been Ivan Coyote's memoir, Tomboy Survival Guide. I'm just about ready to say that this should be required reading -- for everyone. Its messages, though not always easy ones, are important; besides, it's also a fun read, with plenty that made me laugh out loud alone.

A read that's less fun, but one that feels important in another way is a book I recently re-read. One of those (don't you dare roll your eyes) post-apocalyptic novels, Emily St John Mandel's Station Eleven. Food, clothing and shelter -- for sure. But hey, you've gotta have art.

What cool books have you been reading?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Destination nowhere?

Even though it was way last week when I attended a panel presentation at the Surrey Art Gallery, I'm still mulling what sort of enlightenment it was supposed to bring. And sadly, I'm still not feeling any more enlightened now than I was then.

I'd understood that the topic, "Reflections on Canada" would offer some kind of vision on what contemporary Canadian Art is, and where it might be going in the future -- especially now that the hoopla over Canada 150 has eased.

The roster of presenters seemed pretty terrific -- a potter, a poet, a musician and an artist. With this in mind, I expected a diverse view of 'art-now'.

Unfortunately, not all of the presenters were there to talk about Canada. One seemed most intent on ensuring we understood she was not 'of Canada' while another spent much of the time displaying a personal C.V. of accomplishments. And as for discussion, there was hardly any. The bulk of the evening had been eaten up by some of the presenters going overtime. Moderator, where were you? Hello...

I was -- and remain -- curious about what constitutes Canadian art. Even in the limited area I know best, literature, it seems to be all over the place.

But maybe place -- the very place each of us stands upon -- is as far as any of can go, whether in understanding or in making art that might (or might not be) 'Canadian'.

Whatever, next time there's a panel on what seems to be a specific topic, I hope it will in some way deliver more on that promise.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What puts the 'festive' in Festival?

For a festival to truly live up to the meaning of the word, it must celebrate a thing or an event. The festival I've just been to takes place every year and the 'thing' it celebrates is a person, Amelia Earhart.

The Amelia Earhart Festival has been a tradition in Atchison, Kansas since 1997, and every summer it seems to only grow bigger and more exciting. This year's festival certainly bore that out, with the town of her birth attracting too many visitors for me to be able to count, though I know that at least one came from as far away as Spain -- and another from Ukraine -- to attend. Truly, a 'round-the-world' celebration!

Although it doesn't officially start until Friday, tradition dictates that the celebrating starts with Thursday evening's fundraiser, an old-fashioned ice cream social. There's an assortment of homemade pies and cakes, plenty of ice cream (at least four flavours to choose from), colourful sprinkles to scatter over top.

Dramatic performances, author readings, a speakers' symposium --  even a carnival of rides in the downtown area -- mean there's something for everyone. Flight aficianados had plenty to be excited about this year, as the airport in Atchison is now home to the last remaining Lockheed Electra 10-E, twin to the plane Earhart flew on her last flight. "Muriel" (named after Amelia's sister) is the gorgeous machine pictured above.

And another of this year's highlights had to be a slide presentation by Ann Pellegreno, who successfully followed Earhart's round-the-world circuit in 1967 -- fifty years ago. History alive!

Plenty of visitors come to the Birthplace Museum, where they took plenty of photos of the many articles there that belonged to Amelia and her family.

Culmination of the weekend is always a spectacular display of fireworks set to music. I got to sit in a rocking chair for this, surrounded by friends old and new. What a time!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sunny sunflower for Kansas

It's the state flower of Kansas, the place I'm off to for the next few days. Just the littlest bit of research reveals that Kansans take their state flower seriously -- there's even an ode to it!

I suppose, to be sure I can get back home again, I should take a pair of ruby slippers along. Since I don't have any with jewels, these little red shoes will have to do the trick.

If nothing else, they make me feel happy when I wear 'em.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Rollin' into Stardust

Once upon a time, going to a roller rink was its own kind of social media -- or maybe social milieu would be fairer.

Surrey's Stardust roller rink was just such a place. Even its slogan offered an invitation: "Where meeting people is half the fun!" Only now, after many years (and who knows how many round-and-rounds of wheels), the Stardust is saying its last farewell.

Today is the last day the rink will be open to skaters, with a kind of finale event tonight.

I was surprised to discover that there is no entry on Wikipedia for the Stardust rink. I hope that this will change. One of my best memories of the place was a Grad fundraiser at the school where I worked. We had an all-night skate, or 'Roll-a-Thon' where parents and friends sponsored us to skate from midnight to dawn. Tiring, but fun -- with even a fair bit of money raised for the cause.

The building will be replaced with a 55-storey building, but I'm sure there are more than 55 stories with their origin this particular heritage site.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Summer dreams

One of my favourite summer pleasures is sleeping outdoors. The cool night air fills my lungs, freshening them and refreshing me.

No tent this year -- at least not yet -- just a long couch nestled beneath the cedars.

Morning birdsong is so much better than hearing an alarm. Watching the gradual lighting of the sky so much calmer than turning on a light switch.

When I woke here, I lay still for quite a long while, just taking in the possibilities of another new day.

Looking at the greenery above me, it gave a whole new meaning to the concept of a canopy bed. Such sweet dreams lying under the real thing.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Incongruities abound

Initially eager to observe this year's Canada Day, I hung the big flag outside the front door and charged ahead making a treat I usually only make at Christmas.

Butter tarts, a treat I think of as quintessentially Canadian, even though my recipe doesn't contain that most quintessentially Canadian ingredient, maple syrup.

Yet finding one last bucket of strawberries in the fridge from last Sunday's pick meant I was baking wintry treats in summer -- at the same time I was needing to slice berries for the freezer -- for wintry treats.

This somehow felt like a happy juxtaposition, a sunny kind of parallel, even complementary -- a yin and yang of seasons, of oven and freezer.

Tonight was another tradition -- the fireworks show on the beach in White Rock. As always, crowds of people streamed down the hills towards the sea, looking for the best vantage point for viewing. We managed a spot along the boardwalk, just below the train tracks that run the length of the beach. When we heard a train go by shortly before the show started, we thought that would be good to have it out of the way before everyone got down there.

But then in the midst of the celebratory display, not just one, but two more trains came through. Tanker cars, black. To me, ominous-looking as they rumbled along so close to those thousands of people -- young and old, so many families and groups of friends -- who'd been talking and laughing and pointing at the colours in the sky.

Black metal train cars carrying something toxic. Even their sound overshadowed the fireworks. American train on Canada Day. Talk about stealing someone's thunder.

Friday, June 30, 2017

At last, onward!

It's taken nearly two months, but at last there's clearly a new road ahead. Since our provincial election way back on May 9th, those of us who live in British Columbia have been on an uncertain path. Our premier has done quite the job of dragging her heels, hanging on to power. It's hard not to think this was primarily to do what she could to see to it that the Site C dam project gets to what she has called "the point of return".

Thankfully, events in the Legislature late yesterday laid the way for us to finally go forward. The acting (I'll say!) government had presented an almost absurdly 'copycat' set of proposals that nobody seemed ready to fall for -- after all, we've had 16 years of their tight-fisted (unless you're one of their rich friends) actions. A bit like the boy who cried wolf story -- who would believe! Instead, the BC Liberals fell to a non-confidence vote, opening the door that will allow the NDP-Green agreement to start leading us forward.

As soon as John Horgan is sworn in -- we can only trust that this will happen soon -- we may at last finally see some action in government. No one promises that the road ahead will be smooth, but at least it will be one that offers a better direction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Berry beautiful days

Tuesday was Solstice, so that means ever since that night it's been summer.
As if to help us celebrate, the raspberry canes offered up the first of the year's fruits that day -- two perfectly red raspberries -- ripe and delicious.

Yesterday, the first full day of summer, was also National Aboriginal Day. Again, the berries presented a way to celebrate. We'd gone out to Brae Island Regional Park, a park on the Fraser River that also bounds the lands of the Kwantlen First Nation.It seemed like a great place to celebrate the day and also enjoy the weather. While on our walk there, we found that the salmonberries were ripe, so had to pick a few of those for a snack.

I love the way the berries change colour as they ripen, just the way their namesake does, going from pale orange to a fiercely bright red.

They're a close relative of the cloudberry. In fact, some contend that's just another name for salmonberry. Aboriginal people used to whip the berries into a froth and serve it as a treat -- a kind of 'ice cream'. Name-wise, another close relative of this berry is what they call bake-apple in Newfoundland. Whatever the name, a wild berry fresh off the bush is a treat to be savoured.

As for tomorrow's berries, the morning is time for another round of picking ripe strawberries. And maybe when I get home from the fields, I'll do another round of pruning towards my end-of-summer harvest of the blackberries.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Disappearing tall trees

It's not just me who thinks this is the case. Even the Vancouver Sun has noticed. Their article about Surrey's disappearing canopy actually made the front page.

It's just about impossible to drive anywhere in the city without seeing clear-cutting in action.

Although there's a bylaw intended to protect trees, it doesn't seem to be doing much to protect many of the remaining forested tracts. Saddest of all, when these big trees fall, most of the time they aren't even culled as possible timber to be processed.

The city likes to say 'the future lives here'... If all this destruction if an indication of what the future is going to look like, I don't think it bodes very well.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What a waste!

On Friday I did my rounds of produce and grocery shopping. The day had started out as cool, but the afternoon had turned surprisingly warm. Sadly, the display of potted lettuces outside the supermarket practically had their tongues (okay, it's a metaphor) hanging out, in want of a drink.

I mentioned how they looked to the person at Customer Service, and was told that the problem had already been reported to the person in the Plants Department. In other words, Customer Service had done what they could.

When I went past the Plants Department, no one was to be found, so I carried on with filling my list, hoping the watering was in process.

Then, when I was ready to check out (always a joy, as there are never enough cashiers), I spotted the woman working at the Plants counter. When I mentioned the lettuces, she said she'd gone out and watered part of the batch, but hadn't been able to do the job properly as she had so many orders that needed filling in her role as the supermarket's florist. And of course, they were all 'rush' jobs. She looked frazzled and practically exhausted, and I understood that she was doing her best.

It's a case of not enough people being hired to do the work that's required.

As I was ready to leave the store, I found the person who was apparently in charge of running the store's front end. When I mentioned the lettuces to him, his unhelpful reply was, "I didn't know we had lettuces out there," and he seemed content to leave it that.

At $13.99 a basket, the pots of lettuce (three rows of about ten each) represented over $400 of food that was going to waste. And if the attitude of the person 'in charge' was any indication, it was $400 that didn't even matter. But I can't help thinking, the money that store is 'saving' by not hiring enough workers to look after things properly is money that's going to waste and not being 'saved' at all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

On achieving equality

There's a chilling line in a Kurt Vonnegut story about a future I don't believe any of us want to see come true. "The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal."

It's from a story called 'Harrison Bergeron' in Welcome to the Monkey House. While the idea of equality is a noble one, the way it's achieved in Vonnegut's vision is anything but noble. To achieve 'equality' among everyone, anyone with a beautiful face must wear a hideous mask; anyone with above-average intelligence must wear earphones that continuously blast cacophonous sounds to prevent them from thinking clearly. It's a society with a level playing field, but it's one where the bar has been lowered to the bottom rung.

On the weekend, I attended the On Words Conference of The Writers Union of Canada, a group to which I belong. The overriding theme of the weekend was the issue of equity.

Carmen Rodriguez offered a metaphor of explanation, one that made it clearer than any I'd heard before. She told us to picture three people standing behind a fence, outside a soccer match.. One of the persons is quite tall, one is of medium height and one is very short. The tall one can see a bit of the game, the mid-sized one can reach for the occasional glimpse, but the short one is out of luck. In other words, they're not being given equal opportunity to see the game.

Then someone comes over to the fence with three little stools for them to stand on. Now, the tall one has a good view; the medium person gets a better look than before, but the short one still can't see over the fence. Resolution for the problem? For the tall person, the short stool provides a solution, allowing them to see the game. For the middle-sized person, a stool that's a bit bigger will make all the difference. As for the short person, they will need a very tall stool to look over the fence comfortably to participate in watching the game. Equity. Aha! A chance for all to be equal.

At our family supper on Sunday night, I told Carmen's story and reactions around the table were mixed. One son thought each person should get the same advantage -- that they should all get a tall stool right at the start. Even though the tall person didn't need a tall vantage point, this way would be 'fair' to all with no one person needing more 'propping up' than the other. Interesting.

And then came the suggestion to simply take down the fence.

I'm still not sure how best to handle the question: How do we provide equality to everyone? About the best metaphor I can offer for now is the image of the curving fence above. Maybe each of us needs to find our own place along it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The future looks green

It sounds official. The Green Party, with its three elected members of the BC Legislature, have decided to join forces with the New Democrats. This changes everything -- it's history in action.

Any number of items will at least be revisited -- the plan for the extension of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Massey bridge extravaganza, and most of all, the Site C project.

And at last we should be in line for electoral reform. Plenty to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New found (land) taste treats

When we were in Newfoundland, we didn't only chase icebergs. We also did our best to track down some of their specialty foods -- treats we knew we wouldn't find here.

The one in the photo above is called Jiggs dinner. Not really so different from what I might call 'boiled dinner', it's the kind of meal that fills the house with steamy scents on a wintry afternoon. Comfort food at its most basic. The only variations from what I might cook at home would be the meat itself (corned beef seems a little different from the 'salt beef' they use there) and the peas pudding wasn't a thing I'd had before -- it was good though. Kind of like thick pea soup, very tasty.

One of the best restaurants we found was Chafe's Landing in Petty Harbour (I learned the place got its name from the early French settlers -- 'petite' harbour -- which later, with the arrival of the Irish, became Petty).

We shared a pulled-moose sandwich and a mini-basket of clam strips. I was charmed, not only by the little basket they were served in, but by the bank of supplies on our table --
more than one kind of vinegar, pepper and salt, and (they must know other messy eaters besides me) an entire roll of paper towels!

As for our 'best-value' meal, that would have to have been our fresh lobster feast. We found the local Sobey's supermarket, picked two lobsters from the tank, and got the deli to steam them for us. With paper plates, along with newspaper spread on the table, it was even easy to do the clean-up. And oh, so delicious, complete with melted garlic butter.
One Newfoundland detail we won't be able to repeat (unless maybe we go back there at the right time of year) was a very special evening cocktail -- whisky over iceberg ice we'd picked from a beach along the East Coast Trail.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On a rock on the Rock

Newfoundland is as far east as we can go while still being in Canada -- quite a trek from our home on the west coast. The rock I'm standing on is along the East Coast Trail, where we took a mini-hike yesterday.

This trip here is to promote the new Amelia book, but it's also an opportunity to explore. Besides, the people are friendly, and the sights are magnificent. We've even managed to find a few icebergs!

But now, onward!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Eeny meeny miny no

This is just a sample of the crazy bouquets of signs that were lined up on nearly every boulevard and median in our neighbourhood. I'm sure this was a common sight all over the province as we prepared for the election held here in BC earlier this week.

Results of this election proved one thing to me: we are ready for (and need) some form of proportional representation.

If we use stats reported (as of May 10), the percentages of votes cast would suggest a legislature caught in a tie. The BC Liberals and NDP would each have 35, rather than their current respective 43 and 41. But the Greens, rather than having 3 members elected to the legislature, would have a whopping 15 seats. Even those 'other' candidates, based on the 2.55% of votes they received, would have elected 2 members instead of none.

I find it of interest that it was exactly 8 years ago today that British Columbians went to the polls to vote on a referendum that might have given us a proportional system.

Needless to day, it didn't pass, or we wouldn't be facing the unsettled confusion we have today.

There had been an earlier vote on the issue in 2005, though if you look at the conditions that passage required then, it almost appears to have been rigged to fail. Revision of the voting system required 60% approval to pass, (It seems worth noting that a far bigger issue, the Brexit referendum, passed on a simple majority.) But because it only got a 57.7% approval, it had to go to a provincial referendum. In that referendum, the one that took place on this date in 2009, the motion failed -- for any number of reasons.

There are still plenty of votes to be counted, especially absentee ballots. And I'm sure there'll be a number of ridings where a recount will be needed. There's one instance where the current margin determining the winner is only 9 votes. But even that illustrates the point -- every vote counts, yes -- but in a first-past-the-post system, pretty well half of voters are not represented. Maybe by the time the next election takes place, we'll have a system that better reflects the wishes and beliefs of the people. Here's hoping.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Be prepared

If I'm not mistaken, for years this was the motto of the Boy Scouts. A quick search revealed that it's now the motto of Scouts Canada, which has morphed into an organization for boys and girls.

Looking to origins of the sentence, it's attributed to Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement. The motto turns out to be perfectly appropriate for Canada's Emergency Preparedness Week.

This is a week when we're supposed to be updating (or establishing) our emergency kits -- maybe even talking with neighbours about how we can plan for ways to get through a natural (or other) disaster.

This was one of the topics at the recent Permaculture event I attended. One of our activities was to list those skills or materials each of us has -- ones that might prove useful in a disaster, especially if the situation proved to be a long-term one. We quickly realized that, by pooling resources, our group had access to tools, books, water supplies, barbecues, firewood and more.

Even though the items in the photo above are good ones for in an emergency kit (don't forget that manual can opener), these were simply a part of our normal, non-emergency Sunday supper. The dark stuff on top of the beans isn't a mistake. I like to add a dollop of molasses to tinned beans, as I think it always makes them taste better.

Right now there are a lot of people in Canada who are doing their best to get through actual disaster situations, as almost unimaginable flooding has occurred in so many places. We can only be grateful that our emergency kits (including those shoes under the bed, a flashlight in the nightstand, bottled water at easy access) are, at least for the time being, just a part of being prepared.

Monday, May 01, 2017


The April rains, traditionally reputed to bring May flowers, have nearly lived up to expectations. Although the daffodils have long since come and been, the tulips are still standing and even the stalwart daisies have started asserting themselves. As for the lilac, you can see that it's still in the 'almost' category, just about ready to pop open, with that wonderful once-a-year scent.

But the garden isn't the only place where 'almost' is the operative word. It's almost time for our provincial election, one we can only hope will bring about a more positive direction for people here.

My happiest 'almost' is the fact that my new book about Amelia Earhart is now at the printer and is expected to be ready for take-off later this month. One of the most exciting parts of that particular 'almost' is the fact that I will be launching the book at Harbour Grace in Newfoundland -- the same town where Amelia took off for her history-making transatlantic solo across the Atlantic -- and on May 20th, exactly 85 years after her departure from there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Every day needs to be Earth Day

It's wild how quickly the days keep flipping past -- with me only now finally getting around to saying a bit about how I spent Earth Day. Where the theme of this year's observance was Environmental and Climate Literacy, it was appropriate for this to also be the day when scientists marched, with the goal of science being respected again as the basis for decision-making.

As for my day, I was lucky enough to be invited to a conference on Permaculture. It seemed like an appropriate way to spend the day, even though much of the time was spent indoors. Topics addressed ranged from disaster-preparedness (and forming community in our neighbourhoods) to understanding the nature of currency. For the currency session, all 50 of us walked down to nearby Crescent Beach, where our history lesson included rocks and a stick with notches carved into it.

I first heard about the permaculture movement when I lived in Australia, back in 2002. I suppose it's taken a while for it to take hold here. But, the same way I like to think about postings on this blog, better late than not at all.

It was encouraging to see a range of ages represented at this event -- for a nice change, there were more young people than older ones -- certainly a positive sign for our future.

And I was especially happy to come home and be reminded of the ways we practise so many of the tenets of permaculture in our little yard -- our rain barrels, our compost bin and of course, our 'kitchen garden' which will soon again be providing our summer salads. Yep, those tender green shoots in the image above are some of the seedlings we've started for our outdoor salad bar. Yummm!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pot is on the table

At last! It was 1969 that the LeDain Commission was called -- an official government inquiry into the non-medical use of marijuana.

Over the course of the early 1970s their findings were reported, and -- surprise, surprise -- even back then, their conclusions were that it was time for marijuana laws to change.

Finally, with Thursday's Cannabis Act, Canada has begun to move forward towards legalization.

Sure, there are still kinks to work out. I plan to follow as this process unfolds. I'm just hoping there isn't any back-pedaling from the government. Considering how they've backed out of other promises they've made, I'm going to pay close attention.

One thing I am sure of is that next week's 4/20 events will truly have cause to be celebrations!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Women vote, because we can

It was only 100 years ago today that women were granted the right to vote here in British Columbia. The only reason I know this is because Daphne Bramham, one of the excellent columnists for the Vancouver Sun, brought it to readers' attention. Weirdly, I'm not able to find the piece in question online, though many of her other columns show up in a search. I'll do my best to not be paranoid about this.

Something she mentioned in the piece (it does exist; photo is of the print version which appeared on Saturday) is the fact that it was only in 1964 that women were permitted to open a bank account without their husband's permission. Strange though it seems, I recall being asked for my husband's signature when I applied for my first credit card (if memory serves, it was called 'Chargex') in the early 1980s. The thing is, I wasn't even married. My partner was a common-law spouse and wasn't the primary breadwinner in our household. Somehow I worked around this -- or, who knows, maybe I caved.

Today, on another errand, I needed to stop in at my Member of Parliament's office. While there, I mentioned the significance of the date, and I might as well have been looking at the deer in the headlights. Not a clue. And my MP is female.

We need to know more about our history, especially our history as women. And with an election coming up in our province on May 9th, it's important to support whichever party we most believe in.

It's simple: because we can vote, we must.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bananas for spring!

It's finally rounded the corner and turned into spring. I've been outside pruning -- the blackberries and rasps stand tidier than ever before. The quince and plum trees look ready to bloom. I even snipped the dead bits off grapevine and trimmed the little peach sprawled against the wall of the house. The only ones I left alone were the fig trees, spoilsports that they seem to be, so rarely bearing fruit.

Earlier this week I managed a trip to two of our coastal islands -- always a good way to get into the swing of feeling the seasons change.

Nope, I'm not foolin' (nor would my birth buddy, Debbie Reynolds have joked) when I say I go bananas for spring.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

In among the animals

It's been a wilder than usual week. Not just because of those photos of animals on the walls,though they contributed too -- in a positive way.

The woman is Bonnie Nish, the primary force behind Pandora's Collective, a long-standing group that promotes the arts in the Lower Mainland.

One of the many ongoing events established by Pandora's is 'Word Whips in the Gallery', a gathering that this time I was lucky enough to be a part of.

The way it works: several poets (and usually a musician and/or a dancer) are invited to visit the Zack Gallery at Vancouver's Jewish Community Centre on or around the opening of a new exhibit. Following that, they go home and prepare work that serves as a response to images in the show.

This time, the exhibit, "The Intersection of Science & Art" contained photos taken in South Africa and on the Galapagos Islands. Also included were realistic sculptures of various fish and birds, mainly ones that live here on the West Coast. Both elements served to inspire some strong responses -- not only from the poets who'd officially been invited, but from participants in the Open Mic, such as the talented Sho Wiley.

Of the pieces Bonnie read, the one that resonated solidly was one containing a line, easy for me to identify with, mentioning "days we all want to /crawl into our shell". This is particularly appropriate for Nish, as she's the editor of a book about concussion and brain injury. Not only was she the compiler of (and a contributor to) the book, but she's a survivor of concussion, unafraid to talk about it.

The work presented by the other poets offered the always imaginative range one encounters at readings, although just about everyone seemed to have a poem responding to the photograph of the blue-footed booby with its always-fashionable bright blue feet.

The imagination: surely one of the best traits of our species!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Not quite there yet

These daffodils serve as a good example of how I'm feeling ''not quite there yet" on a number of fronts. Even though I bought them a week ago, they've only barely begun to open -- and in truth, I'm not confident that all the buds will make it.

Oddly, the same thing occurred with quite a few of the bulbs I tried forcing this year. Specifically, it was members of the narcissus family, including the usually reliable 'paper white' variety' that disappointed. They formed what looked like normal buds, but they simply didn't open. And it wasn't just the set of bulbs I'd potted, but ones that came as a gift from a friend -- a friend who's a professional gardener.

But flowers aren't the only case of my feeling "not quite there."

Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and I'm seeing far too many instances of women being nowhere near "there" especially if 'there' can be defined as a place of equality.

I'm thinking specifically of recent court cases where sexual assault charges were not taken seriously, where the judge ruled that being passed out drunk could still signal 'consent'. If there can be any good news in this, it's the fact that the decision has raised an outcry and that today an appeal has been made.

As for wage inequity or glass ceilings, I'm not even going there. Sadly, that's not news.

And maybe I'd feel less edgy about all of this if it weren't for the fact that even spring seems to be on hold. Yep, instead of daffs outside, there's still more snow.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vigilance required

Today marks the first day of Freedom to Read Week. The books above are on display at my local library. I can't help but notice that several of them are considered science fiction -- books from writers who think about the future, and who often write books that serve as warnings. When writers hit too close to the mark (think Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book that's currently high on best seller lists), what happens? Their books are banned -- or, as we prefer to call it here in Canada, 'challenged'.

This year it seems more urgent than ever to speak out against censorship, even when the battle about 'fake news' is across the border from us. That's much too close for comfort.

The absurdity of the term hit me when I was watching this week's episode in the History of Comedy series (ironically, produced by CNN). In talking about some of the traditional family-comedy shows, Larry David used the term 'fake life'. I can only suspect that the guy complaining most about fake news probably knows quite a bit about it.

We've seen things go from bad to worse regarding Trump's non-relationship with the press, a group he's labelled an enemy of the people.

This week his 'shut up' statements to various reporters have been upped. In effect these now apply to several entire news organizations, notably CNN and the New York Times. If this were in a science fiction novel, it would be scary enough (maybe even enough to get the book banned). Only it isn't fiction; it's reality -- and a frightening one.

It's one thing to ban books -- a horror, to be sure. But it's quite another to disallow writers from gathering information and formulating the words. If I'm not mistaken, the Americans even have an amendment to their constitution which enshrines, among other essential rights, freedom of the press.

Dangerous signs in precarious times? You bet. Vigilance. Probably both meanings are in effect.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What's wrong with this picture?

Earlier this year we treated ourselves to a quick holiday (too short, but that's another story) in Cuba. I spent a lot of time strolling along the beach. Initially, my beachwalks were of the standard variety, keeping an eye out for shells or pretty rocks. But it didn't take long for me to decide there were far too many rainbow straws littering the beach.

Because one of my daily practices is picking up a piece of litter, it was easy to bend and pick up the first pink plastic straw that greeted me. But I soon found these littered straws were in abundance. And these were just the ones still on the beach. How many others had made their way out to sea?

In a place where plenty of drinks are being served, practically 24//7, I understand that hygiene is important -- thus, straws are inserted into just about every glass (even the plastic 'glasses') the bartenders hand out. I suppose the colourful straws also present some aesthetic appeal, and no doubt are cheaper than tiny umbrellas would be.

But, the abundance of these plastic straws along the shoreline got me worried about how much ocean contamination they were causing.

The pipe coral in my photo was washed up on shore, yes. And I'll admit to inserting some of the straws I'd picked up into the hollow tubes. I hope the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made helps make a point -- a point I first heard about from an action in Tofino called 'Straws Suck.'

Plastic doesn't break down well, not even in the sea. Where tourism in Tofino is all about nature and the ocean, folks there take their stewardship seriously. The Straws Suck campaign is simple: avoid straws if you can, but if you need to use straws, use paper ones instead. Something to think about next time you're sucking up a drink.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


When I was little (like, five) I used to play store. This involved getting tins from my mother's cupboards and arranging them on the steps outside the front of our house. I never sold anything, but I remember taking great pleasure in setting up the 'store' and taking some kind of strange pride in how it all looked. Plentiful, secure. Who knows.

Looking at my kitchen counter, I realized it still looks like I'm playing store -- only the display isn't on the steps outside, and the line-up doesn't consist of beans or corn or soups.

The set-up this time is an assortment of the various remedies I have tried to get through this ridiculous coughing flu, the manifestation of this winter's flu that's decided to pay me an unwelcome visit.

It probably looks as though I've decided to play drugstore. Frankly, it's nowhere near as much fun as playing 'ordinary' store. I'm just hoping I'm not going to need to rely on these supplies for much longer. But excuse me, please, while I go to find another lozenge.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Snow job

It was sunny here on Thursday, Groundhog Day, so I suppose the little critter saw his shadow and ran back inside. Even though snowdrops were blooming in the garden, I guess I should have expected 'six more weeks of winter' -- just as the local groundhog must have predicted,

Still, when the snow started falling on Friday morning, I was less than enthusiastic. Mostly I've taken comfort in the fact that I don't really have to go anyplace this weekend, so I can stay home and hunker down for a few days. Besides, I can blame it on the groundhog.

If only I could blame the other snow job on a character as innocuous as a groundhog.

I'm talking about the second of the big campaign promises that have been dashed by our prime minister, who once seemed like such a beacon of hope.

Many British Columbians must have voted for Liberal candidates on the basis of promises made on that party's behalf by its leader, Mr Trudeau.

Elements of their policy platform (still posted as least as of today's blog posting) include the promise of electoral reform -- in other words, as they put it: We will make every vote count, with Trudeau telling us many times that the 2015 election would the last we'd see of the first-past-the-post system.

People believed the Liberal promises in the last election, as evidenced by the fact that the party's dismal results in 2011 (when only 34 Liberal MPs were elected) were more than reversed by their resounding success in 2015 (with 184 elected, 17 of them from here in B.C.).

But electoral reform isn't the only promise that's already been put aside.

Trudeau campaigned on protecting BCs coastal waters. There was even a proposed moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic. Apparently that sort of ban doesn't apply to the waters of Burrard Inlet or the Strait of Georgia, as another broken promise came when Trudeau approval the Kinder Morgan pipeline plan.

The third big promise was the plan to legalize and regulate marijuana. At the rate he's been going with breaking his commitments to the citizens of Canada, I fully expect this one too will turn out to be too difficult for him to follow through on.

A snow job from the skies above? I can pretend to blame it on a rodent. A snow job from the government? I object.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mr. Jaws and others who come to mind

Today marks the start of the Lunar New Year, this time the Year of the Rooster. Since I didn't have a live rooster handy in my neighbourhood (and I didn't think you'd like the pic I took of the dead one on the street in Havana), this image of the little rooster box must suffice.

Thinking about roosters, I must recall one our family owned briefly many years ago. His temperament was none too friendly, so we named him "Mr. Jaws". Sadly, he met an untimely demise at the jaws of an animal bigger than he was.

I also can't help but think about the personality to the south who has invaded the White House. Right down to (or should that be 'up to') his flamboyant hairstyle, it's hard not to think of a cock's comb when I see him.

Of the several rooster-related quotes I've checked out, the most appropriate seems to be one attributed to Jeff Foxworthy: "The more excited the rooster gets, the higher his voice gets." Or, though certainly darker, this descriptor from the work of Stephen King, "a banty-rooster sort of guy -- the kind that likes to pick fights, especially when the odds are all their way."

So, aside from thinking about that particular rooster of sorts, what's inside the box?

Although it might appear empty, I'm sure this 'New Year's Box' contains a number of wispy plans, at least several unspoken dreams and of course, as always, plenty of hope.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Peace starts here

I'm doing my best to remind myself that mindful intention can be nearly as powerful as action, especially when it's combined with time devoted to a meditative practice. But even with such self-reminders, I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about not going into Vancouver today to be part of the Women's March there.

The closest I've come to being part of this weekend's social actions was participating in yesterday's virtual march in Surrey, the city where I live. The little guy in the photo above was one of the marchers in that. Again, intention, intention.

Especially if you've never tried meditating, here's a website that provides some solid guidance. Because it's by subscription, please know that I'm not necessarily promoting it, just saying it's a good place for learning.

But now I'm moving beyond intention (in my own small way) and heading out the door for a private march for peace in my neighbourhood.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Post-performance notes on an evening of song and light

All right, the photo is duller than most of the pics I post, but that doesn't mean that what I'm writing about was dull in any way. I'd have taken photos of the presentation if I'd been able, but cameras weren't allowed at the event.

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre offers a program where certain of the plays they put on in the city circulate later at theatres in the suburbs. I've been a subscriber to this series in Surrey for several years, and last night's show was one of the best I have seen.

I'll admit, beyond knowing that the play had been written by Tomson Highway and that it was essentially a one-woman show, I knew almost nothing about The (Post)Mistress in advance.

The playwright's bio states that he grew up speaking Cree and Dene. So it wasn't too surprising to find the interplay of languages playing an important role in the script.

The main character, Marie-Louise Painchaud (indeed, that means 'hot bread'), who plays the all-knowing postmistress in a small Ontario town, spoke and sang in French, English and Cree. The French was easy enough for even me to understand, though English sub-titles appeared on a screen for both the Cree and the French. So yes, the show was wonderfully inclusive.

Beyond being inclusive, the message of the play was powerful. It probably sounds simplistic to say the focus of its themes was the importance of love, kindness and laughter, but that would be true.

The show seemed to be the quintessentially Canadian play -- from its use of language to its portrayal of life in a small town. How very appropriate for this, our country's 150th anniversary.

Marie-Louise was played by the remarkable Patricia Cano, who has a voice big enough to blast away anyone's winter blahs and a stage presence that nearly overfilled the theatre. She had all of us in gales of laughter and also drew us to tears (even hard-hearted moi, who rarely cries, even privately).

There are elements of the play that I can't give away; I can only encourage anyone who has the opportunity to see it to do so. Because truly, as the show ended, as I and the rest of the audience rose with applause, I could only feel that it had been an honour to be able to attend this amazing show.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Are they mating yet?"

Some things in life just don't make any sense. Today's stumper for me is the mystery of the mismatched lids-and-containers.

How is it that when they get washed and put on a shelf, top and bottom are intact, but when I go to tidy their chaos, more than half of them are loners?

I haven't heard any arguments coming from their shelf, so I can't blame this disconnect on domestic discord or messy divorces. As for my question at the top of this page, some may recognize it from the film version of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. However it is that this disconnect occurs, I'll admit to being puzzled. After all, I don't think anyone's been sneaking into the laundry room and stealing lonesome bits of plastic for the re-use phase of recycling. If they are, I wish they'd take the lids to go with all those missing bottoms.

And while I'm not exactly saying that there's a black hole behind the washer (though who knows, maybe there is), if there is, maybe it's a companion to the one behind the dryer that keeps chomping down those singleton socks.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Celebrating and Un-

Today is Orthodox Christmas, so it seemed like a good excuse for a bit more celebrating. I'd heard that the British call it 'Little Christmas,' but when I checked, it turns out that was yesterday, and that it sounds to be more of an Irish tradition than an English one. Today is also a friend's birthday so it was a good excuse to visit with her and have a celebratory cup of tea.

But along with celebrating went a bit of 'un-celebrating' as today was the day for packing up the ornaments and taking the wreaths down from the doors. Un-Christmasy, I suppose, but in my own homely way, practical.

Still, perhaps today's best celebrating was taking in a matinee at the local bijou, a place that's actually called the Rialto. This name proved to be more than simply nostalgically traditional, as the cinema featured within the film we saw had its own Rialto a scene which got an appreciative chuckle from the audience.

And yes, the celebratory fantasy was LaLa Land, a fitting title if ever there was one.

At first, I was hesitant, especially with the over-the-top (literally) opening scene (though it did present a nice alternative to road rage), but I soon fell under its charm (or maybe Ryan Gosling's).

Oh, it's corny, to be sure, with numbers reminiscent of Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. But it's also a lot more than that. There's a story, an actual story, a story that even has layers.

The music, much of it terrific jazz -- especially piano, the instrument I'm the biggest sucker for -- may well be the real star of the film, though Ryan Gosling's piano playing is certainly in the running.

The film's been praised like crazy and has also received nearly as many pans. I'm on the praise side and can't help but think that -- like so many things -- it's all about the timing.

Maybe this little movie, with its clever (even if not-quite Cole-Porterish) lyrics and peppy dancing is a dose of exactly what we need right now.

As 2016 was winding down, it seemed nearly every source was reporting doom and gloom, telling us what a dark time it is. Well, maybe it doesn't have to be. I'm all for un-dark.