Sunday, November 11, 2018

One hundred years on

....since the end of the 'War to End All Wars'. Unfortunately, that idealistic name for World War One has not proven to be true. Numbers of how many died vary according to source, but taking into account civilians as well as military, 37 million is one figure I saw for casualties -- just about exactly our country's current population. If every single person in Canada were to suddenly die, the world would need to take notice.

This day of remembrance is filled with traditions, including the red poppy so many of us choose to wear as commemoration.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
between the crosses row on row. 
The photo of the 'row' of poppies is from above the kitchen sink in our RV, The Rattler. We seem to often be on the road in early November, so poppies are often part of our apparel. It's good for me to know where a few extras are, as too often I seem to go out with the 'wrong' jacket -- with my poppy invariably on a different coat.

Right now, I can still hear a few of the big planes passing overhead. Earlier a tight formation of single-engine fighters went by. After that, I even saw a biplane -- the same kind of plane that actually flew in WWI.

But at the stroke of 11:00, I was listening to a different kind of sound. Turning on the radio, I was greeted by silence -- a sound (or lack thereof) that might have been disconcerting any other day.

I am sure the people in Syria would be glad to have their world quiet down. And not only Syria, but Afghanistan and far too many other places to name. It seems a bit crazy, but maybe we really will have to wait for extraterrestrials to visit for us to decide to live together in harmony and peace. Considering what bad shape we seem to be in, I'd like to think that maybe they're on their way.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The incredible stillness of silence

I'm not a golfer, but I admit to enjoying the walking part, as golf courses seem to always be beautiful places. Luckily, my partner (who's an awesome golfer) doesn't mind my tagging along, dragging only my camera for my usual nine-hole limit.

The photo above is from the course at Discovery Bay, and it's either the 13th or 14th hole. Whichever isn't all that important. The situation prompting this post is what mattered to me. The photo is from only a few seconds after the fact.

I'm not sure how I noticed it, but notice I did -- silence. Not a traffic sound, not a plane overhead, not even the sound of wind or an animal. The unusualness of the quiet managed to catch me off-guard.

It's not very often that total silence reigns. Even now, in the privacy of my office, besides the quiet taps of my fingers on the keyboard, there are sounds. Although the window's closed, I can hear a kind of humming from outside. Probably a machine, part of the ongoing construction our neighbourhood continues to endure. And another, the sound of a truck or other large vehicle passing a few blocks away.

How long did that momentary silence last? Twenty seconds? Maybe. I don't really know.

What ended it? I'm not even sure anymore, though I'm pretty sure it was a natural sound that broke the spell -- either a frog or a trill of birdsong. And soon after, I noticed the hum of traffic on the nearby road and then another of the little planes overhead.

The silence didn't last long, but its effect was deep and something I won't forget. For that small but precious interval, I'd witnessed something I don't get enough of, and experienced myself as a part of it. Exhale. Ahhh.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Abandoned

Dusk on a greyish Tuesday, when I'm on my way to the jail where I volunteer. This field full of forgotten pumpkins looked so lonesome, I had to stop and take a quick snap. A little fuzzy, to be sure -- even a little bit crooked -- but maybe that's appropriate, especially for where I was headed.

These pumpkins looked to me like orphans of a sort. Abandoned. Not big enough or pretty enough to get picked when the rest of the field was harvested for jack-o-lanterns. The ones left behind.

Just as I often wonder what will happen to the men I work with once they get out, I wonder what will happen to these pumpkins next week.


Friday, October 26, 2018

A forager's delight

This month has been a great one for foraging. And yes, those giant puffballs we found when we were visiting in Ontario were mighty tasty. Sliced into strips and pan fried, they were actually meaty -- like I might imagine the vegetarian version of a steak.

Today was another perfect day for tromping around in the bush, poking about for edible treats here in BC. The recent rains had encouraged all sorts of mycelia to sprout their fruiting bodies (what we think of as mushrooms). Even though most of them aren't safe to eat, that doesn't mean they aren't pretty enough to want to take photos of them -- like these, some kind of variation related to a chanterelle, but not one that I would want to sample.

Besides finding some lovely, fresh parasol mushrooms which will definitely feature in tonight's supper, there were also some chestnuts which might have been fun as a woodland appetizer if it weren't for the fact that they're horse chestnuts -- not fit for human consumption. Still, the patterns on their shells are as beautiful as any finely burnished wood.

But the best find of all was a pocketful of windfall apples. With some careful paring (sure, there were little bruises and flaws), they're now in the oven, baking their way into a pie for dessert.

PS Please be sure, if you're picking in the wild, to follow the rules. Use a guidebook -- or better yet, go with someone who knows what's edible and what's not. As the adage goes: There are some things you only eat once (because once you eat them, you're dead).


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Long time comin'

Finally. After waiting for too many years -- at least since 1972, when the LeDain Commission recommended it -- marijuana has been made legal in Canada.

The move is certainly not without problems, and is already starting to create some new ones without even trying. Distribution is one of the biggest, especially here in BC where there is currently only one official store. It's in Kamloops, about a four-hour drive for most of us who live in the Lower Mainland. The government has established an online supply source, though I don't understand how deliveries will be made, as the government liquor stores don't deliver, but clearly this 'store' must.

Differences in how the law is being interpreted in various provinces present yet another set of complications. While most of us will be allowed to grow four plants per household (poor timing though, as this isn't exactly the season for throwing seeds into the ground), some provinces have banned the practice.

So even though I'm not about to run out into the street to smoke a big fat joint, I am going to breathe more easily, firm in the belief that as a society we've taken a step towards becoming more grown-up and civilized. As for what comes next, we'll just have to wait and see.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Road from Paris to London


...But maybe not the road you were expecting.

We've been spending the last while tucked away on the family farm, nestled along the highway between Paris and London, but it's Paris and London, Ontario.

A great place for observing Thanksgiving, especially with so many family members coming from near and far to celebrate. And all of it has been enhanced by the brights colours coming out in the trees and the wonderfully blue skies.

Last night things took a bit of change, as it was the book launch for my newest book of poems, Practical Anxiety.

The Hamilton bookstore where the event took place, Epic Books, proved to indeed be epic. Friends and family filled the place, along with a number of new friends. We even had a musician to set the mood for listening.

Memorable.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A positive approach

For all the grumbling people often do about transit, ours seems to be doing a few things right. Considering the infrastructure (or lack thereof) they're up against, they've done a good job of getting me where I need to be, without my needing to fight traffic to get there.

Lately, our local transit provider, Translink, has taken some interesting steps towards making the ride even smoother for riders.

Getting people to behave better on trains and buses has come a long way. For a number of weeks we've had Seth Rogen as the voice of reminders (along the lines of the one in the photo above) to help people remember their manners. His 'presence' even gave me an easy option for dealing with a guy whose backpack was taking up the seat next to him, when the train was standing-room only. All I had to do was smile and say, "Seth Rogen says, carry your pack on your lap so others can sit." No fuss, no crabbiness -- and it worked!

This week, Translink is celebrating "I Love Transit" Week. As part of this, kids in Grades K-12 ride free through Friday, October 5th. And they're even having a colouring contest -- for 'kids' of all ages. One category is for kids 15 and under, with another for those of us 16 and over. The prizes -- what else, transit passes.

PS The images used in the campaign program are based on art created by students at Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECCAD). Credit for the one at the top goes to S.Wilson.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Shifting gears

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days ever. The sky was blue, the temp was warm enough for shorts and T-shirts, the breeze was gentle and sweet. Only the long shadows served to remind that the days are getting shorter.

Good thing I got out and into it, as today's skies have taken on a change.

Cloudy and grey, with occasional gusts of wind, it seems as if the weather is telling us it's time for a new month, one that's well and truly autumn.

The dry bits of keys from the cedar trees have even started to fall, the equivalent here, I suppose, of leaves to be raked. For now, they can stay a while, golden in the yard.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Getting set for this year's equinox


Seeing the moon half full (I'd never think of it as half-empty) the other night reminded me it's just about time for this autumn's equinox, the date when both sides of our twenty-four hours are equal.

I'd somehow thought it would be September 21st, but no -- it's the 22nd, and apparently nearly always is. Readers of this blog will know that I nearly always observe the solstices and equinoxes, with small, personal rituals. Mine aren't necessarily the usual ones people follow; most of mine have to do with various sorts of maintenance.

One that goes along with the autumn one is the pruning of the hibiscus trees which have grown too big to come back into the house, where they'll be safe from the weather over the winter. That pile of greenery above is from just one of them, and now that it's inside I can see that I still need to do some more trimming.

We also had the arborist come in to prune some of our big trees -- the spruce and the cedars out front, the ones that help us pretend we live in a little forest.

Weirdly, I suppose, the equinoxes (and solstices) are also when I change the filters on our water dispenser. Reminders from the sun seem less disciplinarian than other kinds might feel.

And maybe the strangest one of all is the fact that even I had a 'pruning' of sorts with a comfy new haircut that feels fresh and ready for a season of new beginnings.

So, maybe a little bit early, but happy autumn. May it bring a harvest of happy things.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A day for brown

With all the worries about Hurricane Florence and impending power outages, I came across the word 'brownout' -- a term describing those moments when the power fades, sometimes going in and out, a sign that's often a precursor to a true power-out event -- vaguely the opposite of a power surge.

Yet with all the current worries about the storm, which I suspect will be ongoing, I managed to find a small piece of good news for today. Who would have thought there'd be a day to celebrate the glories of chocolate! But yes,there is such a date and this is it. If you want to learn more about chocolate, the Smithsonian takes this treat seriously enough to have an extensive article on its history.

Hoping you'll find a way to taste some today, though probably any other day it will be just as yummy. (Oh, and as for those googly eyes, they're a pair of early Halloween treats looking up at you.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The scents of summer's end

There's something special about the light this time of year -- slanting and more golden than at summer's peak. Along with that light comes the many scents that signal the changing season.

The scent of apples and other fruits ready for harvest (all those juicy prunes, the last of the berries) tells me it's September.

Technically, I guess the tomatoes are actually fruits, even though I still think of them as vegetables and oh my, they have a scent that's all their own (a little bit metallic, strongly 'green' -- so hard to describe).

The other time of year when I'm most attentive to scent are those early mornings in June. There's a freshness in the air that's different from any other time of year (at least in my mind).

Considering these two seasons when my nose tells me so much makes me realize these scents might all be related to school -- the one when school is going back and the other when freedom is imminent.

And this now leads me to wonder where 'an apple for the teacher' got its beginnings. And regardless of that, I'm heading outside to pick some more berries and choose a few of those reddening tomatoes for tonight's salad.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A day to celebrate!

The photo is from Saturday -- an event on Burnaby Mountain, calling attention to some of the many reasons why the new pipeline should not be built.

And today comes the stunning news that the Federal government's plan to build that pipeline has hit a wonderful snag.

Not too surprisingly, Kinder Morgan's shareholders just voted (99% in favour) to approve the sale of this seemingly doomed pipeline to us, the Canadian taxpayers.

Looks like Justin made a humdinger of an error, committing $4.5 billion to this outdated project.

Maybe with this much money flying off to a company in Texas, Mr Trudeau might have to think about resigning. Clearly, too many of us made a mistake in believing the promises he made.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Practising for Life on Mars

That's pretty much what it's looked like. Smoke from all the wildfires, to the South and North and West have managed to fill the skies with a fog-like blanket. Only it's not the benign mist fog usually carries. This is smelly -- I guess, the smell of carbon.

The photo looks a lot like a harvest moon. Only it isn't the moon. It's the afternoon sun. The light it cast was eerie enough that even the birds went into hiding. The last time I saw that happen was almost exactly a year ago, during last August's solar eclipse.

Maybe the reason I'm thinking this orangey light seems like Mars is that it was only a couple of weeks ago I again saw the Matt Damon movie, The Martian.

Rain -- or at least the possibility of precipitation -- has been hinted at for this coming weekend. Considering we've barely had a drop since June, it would be a welcome relief.

And when there's enough of it, it will (we all hope) clear the air and douse the fires that are burning up our province and so much of the coast.

Rain. Even on Mars, they're thinking they've found water. It's time we get some here again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The art of being lazy

Even the dog on the porch, though he's a statue, knows enough to stop and smell the flowers.

Paddling a canoe on the lake today, a man who clearly understands the spirit of holidays was lying on his paddleboard, just floating, maybe meditating.

Taking a break from life's demands has to be good for us. Otherwise, why would I be posting such an abbreviated blog. Just another aspect of bein' lazy. 

Monday, August 06, 2018

Ubiquitous



That's a word we often hear. Ubiquitous. It's everywhere.

I know. It's a lot more than plastic straws that are ruining the oceans.

Everywhere I look I see plastic. My toothbrush, the phone, this computer I am typing on. Bread comes in plastic bags, so do cherries, tortillas, potatoes...

My feeble efforts to collect and recycle my plastic bags seem almost stupid, they are so insignificant. What eensy difference can taking my little bundle of bags to the recycling centre mean?

Would it really make any difference if everyone bothered to do this? Somehow, it's hard for me to believe it would.

Still, I am sure that I will carry on, trying to avoid plastic when I can -- whether a straw or a shopping bag. And when I gather a bunch of them, I will take them to the place where I believe (trust may be the more accurate word) someone takes them away to a place where they get converted into fleece jackets or maybe just more plastic bags.

If nothing else, I suppose it will at least help me feel a little better. If only it would make the ocean feel better.




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Outdoor art


One of the joys of having a house with a yard is being able to sit outside in the cool of the afternoon. When the experience includes reading a book, it's even better. 

When the experience has me looking up from the book, watching a single-engine plane soaring above, I get a small vicarious thrill, can feel the tilt of the wings riding the currents of air. 

And even, just sitting, my eye meets one of the pieces of art we have on and around the house. Right now I can't be sure which artwork I love more -- the painting of Vancouver or the straggly legs of bolting lettuce casting shadows against the wall.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dreams can come true

It's been one of my small dreams to have a Little Free Library in our neighbourhood. Now, at long last, my wish has come true.

It took a bit of poking around and finagling, but I managed to get through to the right people -- and voila, it's reality.

Both Surrey Parks and the local Rotary Club made the project come together so nicely, and really, I have to say that I'm very pleased with how it looks.

Aside from the fact that it's so darn cute, I'm especially happy that the 'building' itself was constructed by men at the jail where I volunteer. Something about this makes me feel that things in my life are going as they should, and moving in full circle.

Because it had been in storage for a while, the little library's paint needed a bit of freshening up. While I was wielding my brush, a number of people came by to say they were very happy that our park now has one of these. And yesterday, when I was putting the books in, even more people came by and commented favourably.

I made a little sign for the inside of the doors which I hope will encourage neighbours to contribute books of their own.

And I'm hoping this Little Free Library will contribute as part of the feeling of community that our area is starting to grow -- starting this evening with a Free Community Picnic sponsored by the City. Yay, Surrey!




Friday, July 13, 2018

Not exactly 'feathering one's nest'

No doubt you've heard that phrase, 'feathering one's nest' and pretty much always with negative connotations.

The phrase that applies in today's instance should probably be 'flowering one's nest' as that's almost exactly what a pair of robins has done in our front yard.

They made several attempts to build their nest in our gazebo, but since we spend so much time out there in the summer -- reading, eating meals, visiting with friends -- we did all we could (in gentle, kind ways, of course) to discourage them from nesting there. Some of the tricks included putting large candles (not burning, I promise), baskets, even a stuffed animal along the ceiling beams, so there wouldn't be room enough for them to construct a nursery.

But, because they obviously liked the 'neighbourhood' they decided to stay. And where did they build but in a hanging basket of flowers.

I'll admit, it's made it awkward to keep the plants watered. Luckily, a few days ago, nobody was home for a long enough time that I took the planter down to give it a bit of drink. There, enclosed within the perfect circle of the nest were two turquoise eggs. Shortly after that, the robin came back. It was almost as if she'd left for a while so I could look after the plants.

At this point, the little family-on-the-way is our priority because really, where the flowers are mostly annuals, it's not the end of the world if a few don't make it.

I've been doing my best to be quiet when I'm nearby, though the birds seem to be mostly accustomed to our comings and goings. It's as if they recognize that we mean them no harm, and I have certainly come to recognize the bright bead of the robin's eye, watching as I go by.

And oh dear, this morning I felt some pangs of guilt while eating my breakfast outside on the deck. Toast with a hard-boiled egg -- from a chicken, not a robin, but still. I was hoping the little mama's shining eye wasn't focused on me.


Saturday, July 07, 2018

Diversionary tactics

Maybe it's just one of the perils of summer, but I've not been getting as much work done as I mean to. The problem? Falling prey to too many diversions.

Some of these are reasonable, and go along with the season. Keeping up with the garden, whether that's watering or pruning or trying to deadhead lettuces before they bolt into flower (though those are yummy too). And there's been plenty of berries bought or even picked (27 pounds of raspberries), and processed into jams packed into the freezer for winter treats.

Other of these diversions are less productive. As the finals of the World Cup draw nearer, the call of the television gets harder to ignore.

And oh dear, witness the jigsaw puzzle above. Sure, I assembled it in between rounds of dealing with the actual strawberries, but it wasn't a very fruitful way to spend the time.

And that missing piece from the middle of the picture. I wonder whether that nagging bit of unfinished business should serve to remind me that, even though it's summer, I can't fall into too many bad habits. Projects still need to be completed. Deadlines still need to be met.

Oh, but where it's greyish and drizzly this morning, maybe I can get away with just one more day of frittering.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

In search of comfort

Not long ago, walking on a golf course (yes, I walk, sometimes even play caddy though I don't golf), I spotted what appeared to be an inviting comfort station. It looked as though it might even offer a view of the sprawling green valley below.

It's too bad such conveniences aren't more readily available -- especially when one is travelling on Vancouver's transit system.

To get from my house into the heart of the city means two buses to get to the Bridgeport Station, where I can board the Canada Line into town. Natch, if I want to go anywhere not on that line, it means yet another transfer to a bus or another train line.

While it's terrific to have such non-driving options (especially with the price of parking!), it would be nice if there were a public toilet along the way. But the fact is: none of the train stations have such an amenity.

Thinking about this makes me wonder who it is that we are we so afraid of. And what exactly is it we fear they might do? Yes, it's possible someone might do something they shouldn't, but this avoidance of restrooms seems to mostly be a stereotyped backlash against the few who might misuse such a facility. To put a name on who that might be, I suspect: the homeless, the addicted, the poor. A fearsome trio, to be sure.

To give them some credit, TransLink does keep planning improvements, (though I'm not sure toilets are part of their action plan). To support these extensions and services, the Mayors' Council has just announced a hike to the gas tax, scheduled to come into effect next spring. Interesting, as it was barely three years ago that Metro electors voted No to a proposed 0.5% tax to support additional funding for transit.

But I guess those results don't matter anymore. Though where that seems to be the case, I can't help wonder why those millions spent on the referendum vote didn't go instead directly to transit services? Who knows. The money might have even been enough to buy riders like me a little comfort on our travels.

And as for what appeared to be the lovely 'comfort station' on the golf course,
even it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

Nonetheless, somewhat better than having to hold it (oh, and now I am just starting to understand those many signs on the train that urge you to 'hold on'). Small comfort, indeed.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's a sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Flawed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Up and away!


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

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

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

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




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What's up here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Still pokin' along the trail...

Continuing the line of horses.

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

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

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

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

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

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



Friday, May 11, 2018

An expen$ive parking spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 07, 2018

Blinded by the light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Free coffee!

That's the deal at a nearby coffee shop -- but only good during the month of April. To get your coffee, you need to 'pay' with a poem. A nice promo for National Poetry Month, and a great way to encourage customers who might not otherwise visit. The wall above shows some of the poems people have brought in as exchange for their hot drink.

I'm not sure what it is about poetry and coffee shops -- or, as they were once more commonly called, 'coffee houses' -- whatever their name, they come with a long history.

It seems they always appealed to a certain brand of people, often those with strong political views. Strong viewpoints, strong coffee. Who knows.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, the term began to apply to a new kind of coffee house, one that was more of a celebratory event, often taking place in a church basement or other free or low-cost venue. These attracted musicians and writers, especially poets.

The coffee house as venue was strongly associated with Beatniks, themselves a kind of social phenomenon that grew out of the Beat Movement -- Kerouac, Ginsberg and company -- a movement that branched out into music (especially the lyrics) of groups like Jim Morrison and the Doors.  Today there's even a publishing house based on encouraging writers who work in coffee shops.

A simple cup of coffee. A poem on a page. Sometimes, a world opened.


Monday, April 23, 2018

A poetic Earth Day experience

Yesterday, Earth Day, I celebrated by taking the ferry to Victoria and participating with other writers who were reading poems for the planet. It felt nicely 'Earth Day ish' seeing the Recycling bins on the boat and watching to see how careful people were about looking, then thinking, before tossing their items into the appropriate bins. A small step, but an important one. Awareness.

The event was organized by Victoria's Poet Laureate, Yvonne Blomer, who's approaching the end of her four-year term.

Among her accomplishments is her legacy project, the anthology, Refugium: Poems for the Pacific.

The reading was held in the city's Centennial Square, where life-sized statues of Orcas hold court, so our poems about the ocean fit right in.

Each of the poets read and spoke to the situation facing us. There was even a scientist in our midst, a man doing research at U Vic's Department of Oceanography. He reminded us of Carl Sagan calling our planet "a pale blue dot" and called the image itself the most elaborate-ever selfie.

This time, the Orcas in the square were the only ones I saw, as I didn't see any whales on the ferry rides. But I did get slightly meditative (for lack of a better word) watching the gulls floating on the sea and feeding along the tideline. There was something about the way the surface of the water was constantly moving and shifting that made me consider the absurdity of us thinking we can lay claim to a patch of earth -- even if it (luckily) doesn't shift and move the way water does.

We can't own the planet. If there's any owning to be done, the planet owns us, and we owe -- not only our existence -- but our fealty and respect to it.

If you didn't get to see it, I hope you will track down the Google Doodle from yesterday -- Jane Goodall's life and lessons. She's gone beyond awareness and respect, by living her life in service to the planet, its animals and the environment. May we all learn from her, and act accordingly.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Celebrating the bright lights of poetry

This year's National Poetry Month is already more than half over, and oh, we better not be counting how many new poems have been churned out.

Some people observe this celebration by writing a poem every day. Though I'm not one of them, I've heard quite a few friends say they've signed on to NaPoWriMo, with the plan to write a poem every day for the whole month of April. You might want to follow that link in the sentence above, as it's a site that offers prompts, examples and lots of encouragement -- every day, all month long.

Like I said, I'm not that dedicated, especially as for me, poems mostly 'arrive' as words in the night, and then take more drafts than I might even want to admit.

There is, however, one organized poem-writing contest I always take part in -- the 2-Day Poetry Contest sponsored by CV2 Magazine. You get ten words on Friday night and have to use all of them in a poem by the always-too-soon deadline on Sunday night. And there's always at least one word in the list that's so obscure, pretty much no one has ever heard of it. This year's stumper was (for me, at least) roric. Somehow, I don't think it's going to catch on in any big way.

There's still time to find some way to celebrate this special month -- if you don't want to write a poem, you might at least read some poetry. Plenty of it is available online, with many sites offering suggestions, including the fun-sounding Poem in Your Pocket project.

Neon-bright and maybe even flashy, poetry really isn't the daunting subject your crabbiest English teacher managed to scare you with. Poke around and you might surprise yourself. Who knows, you might even write a poem.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Torn apart

That's a term I heard on this morning's news. Describing how the town of Humboldt, Saskatchewsn is reeling with grief  -- a feeling that is rippling across the country after a horrific bus crash. At this point, the count of the dead is 14. More than enough for two lines of players, plenty for a rousing match of shinny.

The term 'torn apart' may be resonating so deeply for me for two reasons. Primarily, because I know the town of Humboldt. I've spent time there, walked its streets, enjoyed the light of autumny days there. I understand the feeling of community and connectedness that resides in the people there.

The other reason is that I stayed up past midnight, needing to finish a book wouldn't let me go -- Timothy Taylor's The Rule of Stephens. One of its central ideas is that of being torn apart, whether physically, psychologically or emotionally.

So this morning when the news greeted me with this term, it connected on a deeper level than it might have yesterday, as that term -- with all of its levels of meaning -- keeps echoing.

There's a candle burning in the kitchen, but I am feeling helpless in this sadness.

As a sad update, yet another person has died -- this time the only woman on the bus, the team's athletic trainer, Dayna Brons. The total now has gone to 16.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A convergence of calendars




Two of my favourite calendars this year both have images of an odd-looking fish -- a creature I've learned is called a unicorn fish, for fairly obvious reasons.


But there's a more significant convergence today -- anniversaries of two people who made a big difference in speaking out for racial equality among the rest of us fish in the sea.

It's been fifty years since Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He is still held in great esteem and is now commemorated with a national holiday in the US. Although much has improved, his work certainly isn't done. But this leads me to think about the other significant person associated with this day.

It would have been the 90th birthday of the multi-talented writer, Maya Angelou. Perhaps best known for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she was commemorated today with a delightful Google doodle, that used animation, along with the voices of a range of writers and actors performing her poem, "Still I rise".

A link of somewhat-bizarre calendar images, a birth-and-death connection involving two people courageous enough to truly make a difference in the world. Magical as unicorns.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Getting ready for Easter

Once upon a time I would have spent too much of this afternoon on my knees, singing sad songs in a choir and overall, feeling guilty and shamed. Why? Because today is Good Friday.

I no longer hold to those traditions, although there are many who still commemorate those origins of the day, including some who take the observance to extremes, allowing themselves to be crucified. That's not for me. The breast-beating I did as a child managed to thump any such self-sacrificing notions out of my system.

Yet despite the baggage linked to this weekend (which I remember and probably still cart around), I've learned to make more positive traditions to mark the occasion.

I still colour eggs because I like how pretty they look (besides, who can say no to egg salad sandwiches or devilled eggs?). I hard-boiled a batch this morning and plan to dye them tonight. And I still enjoy finding ways of sharing them, along with chocolates and jelly beans.

One tradition that came as a surprise to me this year -- and for all I know this has been going on for decades -- was a line-up at a nearby mall where kids were getting their picture taken, sitting on the lap of the Easter Bunny. Was this like going to Santa, where children are expected to tell the list of goods they expect to receive on Christmas? I wasn't sure, and only ventured close enough to snap a photo of the creature (whom I found somewhat scary-looking -- "Bunny, please don't show me a mouthful of big teeth.").

Later, I learned that this same Bunny (or at least an underachieving colleague from Alberta wearing an identical suit) was shilling this same gig at at least one other other site, specifically, the famous West Edmonton Mall.

And no, I didn't line up to tell him (her?) what I wanted, as I've already got enough of a treat in store for that day. For the first time in over half a century, my birthday arrives (along with the Bunny?) on Easter. And no, I'm not foolin'.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fleeting glimpses

Where the Vernal Equinox was yesterday, today is the first full day of spring -- and it feels like it. It's bright and sunny, and there's a light breeze that carries the sweet scent of blossoms. It's even quite warm outside (as long as you're in the sun).

But it's a day that brings a small chill along with it, as it marks one month since the death of a friend who lived in the neighbourhood.

She'd always seemed frail, but maybe in the way that thin, pretty blonde women can appear to me. She embodied that lovely fragility we once associated with old-fashioned china dolls.

There hasn't been a service -- not even an announcement -- so I suppose I have some unresolved feelings surrounding her death, especially as I was the one on the phone with the 9-1-1 person.

I probably won't forget what it was like to be standing in the road when the firetruck, lights flashing,  sirened its way to a stop in front of me. Nor will I forget the confusion of several conversations going on at once, as the struggle to get her to treatment went on.

There's more that I remember, but that's something I still need to hold in my heart, a heart that still gets a knot when I think of her. It feels something like that heart of knotty tree roots enclosing the batch of crocuses in the photo.

Someone too young, someone to remember.