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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pi day

So here's a picture of part of a pie my friend made for me. Not the mathematical pi, I know. Still, it isn't every day you get blackberry pie with your initial on it. (Does it help to know that he's an engineer -- so he must be good at math?)

In one of those unusual quirks that I can never ignore, it must have been pretty close to being pi day when one of the greatest mathematical minds of our time, Stephen Hawking, departed the Earth. His prognosis certainly never made it seem that he would live to such an age.

So now, he is off to the Universe and the endlessly repeating miracle of pi. And -- if there's such a thing as Big Brain Heaven, he's having a good laugh with Albert Einstein, whose birthday it is today.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Hard to balance

It's a balancing act. Life, that is. Still, it bothers me that so many aspects of life can feel so out of balance.

While it shouldn't have come as a surprise, last week's tree-cutting in White Rock, came as a shock to many. Apparently, it had been part of the ever-shifting Official Community Plan, a document that too often has seemed to have been amended behind closed doors. This time, there was some sense to the act, as it was meant primarily to address the unsafe interlock-block sidewalk that had been shifting and rising over the years. Nonetheless, seeing stumps the breadth of these takes my breath away. I know, silly tree-hugger me. And if it weren't that the city has already cleared so many other tracts of trees, it might not seem as harsh as it does. Somehow, replacing a tree with a high-rise isn't an equation that seems very balanced to me.

But trees aren't the only out-of-balance item of late. Sunday's Academy Awards were certainly another indication of that. Among comments made by Frances McDormand (brave soul that she is) was the observation that, of Oscars presented, 33 went to men while only 6 went to women. That stat becomes even grimmer when you remove the two that could only be awarded to women (Best Actress and Supporting Role) and the two given only to men (Best Actor and Supporting Role). Then the imbalance becomes even clearer: 4 to 31.

And no, I'm not going to go into detail about the ongoing matter of wage inequity or lack of representation in board rooms (the glaring exception here is the status of volunteer-based organizations -- if there's no pay, women are given the jobs).

Today, International Women's Day, is a day for awareness, yes. But I wonder, just how many years is it going to take for equality to be a fact, and not a dream.

Friday, March 02, 2018

What's the difference between a saying and a proverb?

Or, for that matter, between tradition and folklore?

Of this new month, March, it's been said that if it comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb, a saying that has a number of possible origins (all of which may well be a kind of folklore all their own). 

And I suppose the converse might be considered true when it comes in the way this one has -- sweet and mild as our city-bred visions of what a lamb must be like (even though wobbly little lambs can be pretty feisty, ready to nip at fingers, hoping they might work the same way teats do).

So, does that mean our Easter weekend will be wild and blustery? Who knows. We've got the rest of the month to find out.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A little bit grumpy, a little bit seasonal

So, what's wrong with this picture? Besides the obvious -- that the focus is ridiculous and that the snowman's carrot-nose is sticking up from his head? For me, it's the fact that there's a snowman at all in a yard where a palm tree is growing. Bottom line is, I'm not used to the amount of snow we had this winter -- and definitely not this late in the season. Grumpy about that? You bet.

And I'm not the only one who thinks there's something funny about what's going on with the seasons.

The Christmas cactus has decided (because of all the snow?) that it's time to bloom again. Lovely, but the wrong flower for this time of year. I'm wanting all those brave little daffodils and tulips out front to put their heads back into the light and come into bloom.

Yesterday was better, waving goodbye to another Olympics. My only complaint there was that they didn't choose the athlete(s) who seemed the obvious choice as flag-bearers on the way out, Kaitlyn Lawes and John
Morris. After all, they not only won gold, but did so in a sport that was new to the Olympics, mixed doubles curling. Canada had a pair of athletes as flag-bearers for the Opening Ceremonies, so another duo for the Closingg would have made nice bookends to that.

But enough grumpy opinions, today's looking good. This morning, the birds were singing their heads off -- LOUDLY, it seemed. As if to say they're ready for a change too and announcing the end of winter for all to hear and rejoice.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ruled by the moon

So many people, so many different places on Earth, observe a calendar based on the moon. The Asian calendar, with its welcome this weekend to the Year of the Dog, is one of those.

We celebrated in our own small way by cooking up some delicious (store-bought, frozen) siu mai (shumai) to go with the rest of our decidedly western supper (spaghetti -- though, wait a minute, weren't noodles invented in China?). If you look carefully, you'll see that there's a traditional red envelope in view, though ours didn't contain money, but a couple of lottery tickets.

It wasn't long ago that I learned a bit about a First Nations tradition called Hoobiyee, a celebration that marks the new year according to the moon. It was also linked to the return of the oolichan to the river, an important event marked by the Nisga'a.

I wasn't able to see the moon last time it was 'new' (February 15th), but I'm hoping its shape was more of an upturned crescent than a downturned one. My reason goes back to one of the concepts I learned about Hoobiyee: the first new moon after the new year indicates what kind of harvests there will be. An upturned one (cup-like) indicates bounty, while a downturned one, the opposite. Especially where I've just pruned our berry bushes, I am already looking for a good harvest later this summer.

And after our yummy sampling last night, I suspect, before the week is out, I am going to want to go to a restaurant for a celebratory feast of more dim sum.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

P.S. to the previous post

Yep, looks like spring is 'off' again.

Hoping this lacy white stuff only lasts through Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On again off again spring

This past week has seen temps going up and down, from T-shirt afternoons to bundled-up as if ready for snow mornings.

The sun has meant I've managed to get myself outside more. I've pruned a friend's blackberries, trimmed some butterfly bushes and rhododendrons, and hacked the dead bits off of some of our roses too.

While the snowdrops are to be expected this time of year (and are out, in their usual proliferation), the daffs and tulips are up a good hand span, looking green and fresh -- a welcome sight. And the little treasure above (a cyclamen, something I generally overwater and kill) said hello to me from a friend's garden patch -- a friend who, unlike me, was a dedicated and skilled gardener.

Sadly, the meaning of the cyclamen is resignation and goodbye.

Even though that gardener friend has been gone a couple of years now, I don't suppose I'll ever be quite ready for a final goodbye -- especially when I see such lovely signs of life from her.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Superb Owl goes to the Super Bowl

...and takes an actual 'super bowl' along.

The bowl has quite a history. It started life as a prop in a play, but remains as an item in my kitchen. And yes, that's coloured tape on the side of it. The effect was supposed to make it look like Mexican pottery.

The bowl's theatrical background made it seem like the right container for treats brought back from Cuba, even if the geography's not exactly right. (There'll be more on that visit in coming posts, I am sure.)

The 'treats' are a range of junk foods, but ones that seem perfect for nibbling with beer at a Super Bowl party with friends. Garlic flavoured puffy balls, cheesy ones too. Another that I think is mostly potatoes.

Whatever, they should be a good conversation piece, even if they aren't the hit of the potluck table.

(Go, Eagles!)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bluper moon?

By now most people probably know that the second full moon occurring in the same month gets called a blue moon.

This one was even more than that, as it was one of those occurrences when the moon is close enough to the earth to earn the title 'supermoon'.

And then, to make things even crazier, there was a lunar eclipse at 5:26 am, which led to last night's/this morning's moon to qualify as a super blue blood moon. Impressive titling, to be sure. Makes me think of British uppah-classes or worse, that hateful little rich boy in Monty

I was too lazy to get up at 5, so I didn't get to see the eclipse or the moon turning red. Still, I was pretty happy to get this shot of the just about perfectly full moon last night -- probably just before the clouds took over the sky.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A wee bit late

I suppose any die-hard traditionalist would find it terrible to be observing Robert Burns' birthday this late in the month. But it turns out this was just the first day we could manage.

Even as we bump along in our non-traditional ways, we try to keeping a few of the 'auld' rituals. One of these is celebrating with a homely version of the Burns Night Supper that isn't exactly what true Scots might be serving.

At least the centrepiece of the meal was the traditional haggis, a food that is apparently illegal in the US.

I admit to cheating, and to buying this haggis from our local butcher shop -- and I even admit to quite liking it, though I probably wouldn't want it all the time.

As for the accompaniments, they weren't exactly what they were supposed to be, but made up from ingredients that were in the fridge, the pantry, or the garden.

The pantry and fridge elements lent themselves to the "MacRoni" and cheese -- made with a nicely respectful Cheddar (aged) at that. And the other side dish wasn't exactly 'neeps and tatties' (turnips and potatoes), but a pretty good facsimile with freshly-dug Jerusalem artichoke, one of the items remaining in the kitchen garden.

Burns Night celebrates the life of a poet, so I probably need to cite a few lines of his that befit the occasion:
Some hae meat and canna eat And some would eat that want it. But we have meat, and we can eat. Sae let the Lord be thankit. 
To that, I can only add an after-dinner Amen.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Finders keepers

I'm pretty sure it was Stephen King who impressed me with his recommendation to read Dickens. He may have even said he often re-reads particular books by Dickens, including the tome of tomes, Bleak House. It isn't one I've ever tried.

Great Expectations was a novel we were expected to read in high school. Memorable in its own ways (at least parts of it linger in memory), it wasn't enough to push me into wanting to read the rest of the Dickens library.

But today (not rainy, hurrah!) might mean that I have to screw up my courage (and clear my calendar?) to take a run at this 1,000+ pages classic. As I entered a building where I had an appointment, there it was, standing near these mossy bricks, extending an invitation to me. For someone who's a believer in 'signs' it's hard to ignore this new addition to my bookshelves (especially where it takes up what seems like more than its fair share).

I'm not ready to start it yet, though I am sure over the course of the year, it will beckon me. When (if?) I manage it, I'll let you know.

Gosh though, if only the title wasn't so grimly discouraging.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A new leaf?

Yikes, we're already into the double digits of January in what I'm still thinking of as a new year. And what a new year it is turning out to be!

I'm still trying to get used to the sound of it: 2018 -- a number I am sure I once believed would mean flying cars. Too bad about those, especially when you consider the traffic congestion we contend with.

But not everything is as bad (or getting worse) as traffic congestion.

Anyone who doubts that some things aren't getting better didn't see Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards, where so many people spoke out on behalf of change. And oh my, there was Oprah, putting a president to shame with her eloquence.

A new leaf? Let's hope so. It's time.