Saturday, May 18, 2019

Refreshed

There's something about going offline, especially when it means a get-together with longtime friends one doesn't get to see all that often.

This particular group is one I've known for twenty years, a group known collectively as The Chicks.

We've been getting together when we can, usually every five years or so, and this year, our twentieth anniversary, seemed important -- especially where we're now all farther afield from each other. One lives in Windsor, a city that feels far from here on the west coast. She has a husband, a job at a university, and a child who's nearly two years old, all of which keep her close to home.

Another Chick is about to head back off to England for a stint at further education.

So this gathering felt extra-special. And as you can see, even nature cooperated, by granting this most beautiful rainbow out over the water, which felt like a kind of blessing on us.

Here's to the restorative power of friends getting together!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Artstravaganza

It's been a kind of crazy time, with so much going on I can hardly slow down long enough to put my fingers to the keyboard. Still, there's been so much cool arts-related stuff, I probably have to post at least a few details.

Sunday the 28th (yep, over a week ago) started with me getting on the bus (something I've been doing a lot of lately, especially with fuel at $1.70 or higher) and heading into Vancouver for an exhibit getting ready to close. It was part of the Capture festival, an annual series of exhibits that's sure to engage anyone interested in photography.

Bizarrely, I was the subject of one of the photos in the show I was invited to visit -- not the usual for me, as I'm not exactly the most photogenic person in the world. Still, I was certainly honoured to be included in a show about "Women in the Way"-- women who've made strong social comments or initiated important changes. The woman I was most thrilled to meet there was Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson. She's long been a voice for decent treatment for the homeless and for protection for renters, especially from the recent spate of 'renovictions'.

Later I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery, where I strolled through a few of the current exhibits. The one I enjoyed most featured the French Moderns. The pieces weren't the 'usual' images one associates with these artists, but because I'd had such a wonderful art teacher in high school -- where we were led to really know so many of those painters, it felt like I was visiting a bunch of old friends.

But the part of the day that will probably stay with me the longest was a workshop offered at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It was up on the 9th floor, an open space that's the closest I'll likely get to being able to spend time in a penthouse. The topic? Haiku.

Who'd have thought that a two-hour workshop could be as enlightening as this -- certainly not me. But I'd gone with an open mind, and luckily so, as I learned more in that 120 minutes than I ever have in any other workshop I've ever taken. And amazingly, this one was free. Now, that's a library that offers valuable community programs!

Leader of the session was Michael Dylan Welch, an amazingly clear and engaging teacher who dispelled the many myths about haiku I'm sure most of us had been carting around for years. I do hope you'll click on the link to his website because if you're interested in writing almost anything (especially if you have poetic leanings), you're sure to find an immense amount of not only information, but also inspiration.

And if visiting there inspires you, there's still time to enter the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival's yearly Haiku Invitational. There's no cost to enter a maximum of two haiku. Give it a go.


fingers clacking keys
words fly from brain to fingertip
never quite perfect



Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Celebrating books

While I'm late for observing Canada Book Day (it was last week, same day credited as Shakespeare's birthday). Still, the photo above pretty much sums up the range of what we've come to call CanLit.

The book on the left is one I remember my parents having on the bookshelf in the living room (shelves either side of the television, as if it were a choice). This edition is a book club one from the '50s and not really worth much beyond sentiment. The authors in its pages range from -- well, actually, they don't 'range' much at all -- it's pretty much all dead Englishmen, with three women tossed into the mix. Fortunately, this limited view of our literature has changed drastically, and I'd have to say, for the better.

The title on the right, Is Canada Even Real? is certainly more fun. It's filled with quizzes and old-timey photos. The subtitle probably tells you all you need to know: How a Nation Built on Hobos, Beavers, Weirdos, and Hip Hop Convinced the World to Beliebe. I trust my argument stands.

But even though it isn't Canada Book Day, apparently it's something much closer to home -- BC Book Day, and today is the sixth annual celebration of same.

Where today is also the last day of National Poetry Month, I thought it seemed worthwhile to do a small browse of my poetry shelves (nerdy, I know, but yes, I have two bookshelves devoted to poetry and yes, the books are in mostly alpha order). One of the oldies I came across was a BC-based anthology called Skookum Wawa: Writings of the Canadian Northwest. I found a review of it, by none other than the eminent George Woodcock. If you click on this link (once you get there click on the PDF connection), you'll find it.

A more recent anthology, and one closer to my heart would have to be Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia. But then, I'm probably just showing a personal bias.

Whatever your taste in books, today is one of those special days when we're encouraged to go out and celebrate the fact that we can read. Like the sign said, "Keep Calm and Read On."

Monday, April 22, 2019

What is real??

Although Easter might seem like an appropriate time to quote what's likely the most famous line from The Velveteen Rabbit, that's not the answer to today's question.

The item in question is definitely real, though when I first saw it, I thought it was a stone, not what it actually is -- a tiny egg. My brass swans look as though they're feeling proud, and my pie bird crow might well be cawing a celebratory squawk.

When I found the egg, it was lying on some grass near the back door. I'm still not sure what kind of egg it is -- what bird might have laid it -- but I couldn't spot anyone's nest nearby. All I could think of as a possible source for the egg is the garden basket still up from last summer -- the one that seems to be trying its best to start making strawberries again. And it's true, I have seen little birds alighting there, as if they're looking for a spot to build a nest.


But the egg isn't the only 'found gift' that came to me this weekend. I also encountered some real live bunnies who looked like they were getting ready to make a batch of baby bunnies.

Not only is today what many observe as Easter Monday, it's Earth Day as well -- and also the day Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party, is getting married. I wasn't invited, though a friend of mine was -- and she'll be wearing a tiny feathered hat that I lent her.

So, although I won't be there, I'm hoping my little hat will come home with a few stories it's found for me.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Weedy

Nope. Not the kind of weed you might be thinking.

Even though today is the proverbial 420, the weed in question here is not that green one that's finally been legalized (even though there still isn't a store between here and downtown Vancouver, but whatever). This is about the plain old dandelion.

I've got nothing against this readily identifiable plant. I've used their leaves in salads, even roasted and ground the roots to make ersatz coffee (once only, I admit). Apparently, this has become trendy (what hasn't?) with some comparing it to matcha.

I've even got a poem that praises the dandelion bouquets my kids brought me when they were little. So, no, it's nothing personal against a little yellow flower.

But there's a difference between a kid-sized handful and an epidemic of weeds poised to spread throughout the neighbourhood.

Our lawn isn't exactly in the running for any landscaping prizes, but sheesh, unless you're planning to make dandelion wine, is it necessary to have a lawn that looks like the one above?

It's the same every spring. It's only this one yard in our neighbourhood that looks like nobody's home, even when they are. And it's not just in the spring (when the dandelions come out like an announcement to remind us) that they let their yard look so rundown -- this will go on all summer. It's hard not to think they don't give a damn. Harsh-sounding judgment, I suppose, but it sure seems true.

About the only positive spin I can conjure is to think that they're happy to share -- with everyone's yard in the surrounding area. It's just too bad that what they're sharing is dandelions. Something for the rest of us to pick or dig out.

Monday, April 15, 2019

History matters

Even though he wasn't the first, Neil Gaiman reminded us that Art Matters. And I certainly have to agree.

But today I am thinking that History Matters. The people of Paris know all too well the fact of this. For over 800 years, whether under construction or celebrating its full glory, the Cathedral of Notre Dame has stood amidst the citizens of Paris. Now, that's history.

I remember the shock that all of us felt when the Twin Towers came down, almost 20 years ago. I'm sure the shock to Parisiens today with their beloved structure so damaged is every bit as palpable.

Because I've never been to Paris, the image above from Montreal will have to suffice as my small commemoration of this Ides of April.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

I is for...

...irreplaceable. The tree that's now a stump will not be replaced while I'm on this earth. We counted 92 rings, so I'm guessing it was a century tree. And, judging from the clear surface of the stump, the tree wasn't diseased or infested with anything nasty. It appears the only blight it experienced was  the all too prevalent blight of greed, as the site where it stood (on the front of the property where it's unlikely it would have impeded construction of any new structures) is slated for development.

I is also for ironic, as the property long served as the home of the Birthplace of BC Gallery, an institution whose owner was instrumental in preserving the heritage of the town of Fort Langley.

There was further irony involved, as the group of us who discovered this (in Fort Langley to participate in a poetry reading at the Fort Gallery) had all been participants in the Han Shan Poetry Project, an arts celebration that managed to bring about the preservation of a nearby forest grove.

It would be easy to go on with the list of "I" words the tree-cutting represents: insensitive, idiotic, insane, intolerable... But I think I'll go outside instead to glory in the presence of the trees that remain around me.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Room with a view

All right, not exactly a room, but wow, what a view! Lucky for me, it was my turn to play passenger, riding in the cab of our funny little RV (yes, the same one we crossed the continent in eight years ago, click here to see where we were on this date in 2011), on our way home from a mini-holiday.

The view is from the bridge spanning Deception Pass, a treacherous stretch of water on the Washington coast. Not a place I'd want to try navigating a boat, but an excellent spot for a beautiful state park.

We spent most of our away-time in and around Port Townsend, a town that places a high value on the arts as a basis of its attraction for tourism. There seems to always be something artsy going on there, but if there weren't there'd still be enough in the way of attractions, even with just looking around at the town's Victorian architecture.

It's a gorgeous town, to be sure, but sometimes it makes me a bit sad over the way we seem to put so little value here on historic buildings, and the importance of preserving them.

But spending time in nature (offline, hurrah!) was the most important part of the getaway. And staying in state parks was very comfortable, with beachwalks and hikes on scenic outlooks all part of the drill. One of the highlights (okay, I'm probably strange) was seeing a family of sea otters humping their way along the high tide line at dusk.

Now that I'm home again, I'll be keeping my eyes open for all that's beautiful around here too -- even if it's not quite as spectacular as the ride over the turbulent waters of Deception Pass.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Let there be...

...light, of course. Yes, bring on the light. 

I usually think of Winter Solstice as being the time to look for the return of the light, but this year, I'm thinking about it with the return of spring. 

This year's Vernal Equinox, tomorrow afternoon at 1:58 (PDT), will be only a few hours away from another of those super-moons we've been seeing -- this one apparently the last for 2019. 

What qualifies the full moon as 'super' is not how big it looks (face it, the moon is always the same size, though light amplification can change how it appears), but its brightness. So yes, more light will shine on us -- the light of spring and of the super-bright full moon

Already it seems extra bright. Both last night and the night before, the moonlight poked around the corner of the bedroom curtains and woke me. But no, waking because the moon came to say hello, I don't mind. 

On Saturday we attended the opening night of an art exhibit that's all about light, Luminescence, this year celebrating its fourth year. 

The range of exhibits was amazing, from a 'waterfall of light' that could serve as a wonderful colour-changing light fixture to a steam-punk octopus with an oversize light bulb for a head. There was a chandelier made of empty medicine bottles and a rainbow parade of animals in Lucite that seemed to be marching past, like the phases of evolution. 

Because it was the opening night, there was even a special performance by a man who twirled blazing batons and lit up the faces of everyone watching, enthralled, in the back yard of the gallery. 

But the showpiece that brought people in from the street was no doubt the metal-and-neon 'dragon' who, when his lever was pulled, 'breathed' fire. 
And with all that light -- especially with the sunlight that makes me feel that spring is here -- I even managed to wash most of the windows, getting rid of the wintry layer of grime. So now that beautiful light can make its way inside too. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Disturbing

Events of the past few days make me think of what Obi-Wan Kenobi says when the planet Alderaan is blown up: that there's been "a great disturbance in the force."

That's how it's felt, with altogether too many deaths, both global and personal.

The globe-shaking event has been the deaths of 157 people on the Ethiopian Airlines flight. So many of the victims were involved in humanitarian or environmental causes. Today's newspaper headlined their profiles with the tag, "They wanted to change the world." No wonder the UN called its members to stand and observe a moment of silence. 

Yet there've been even more deaths -- what might have to be called a spate of them. Thursday alone was the day one of our best known poets Patrick Lane died, just days shy of his 80th birthday, a day when his family planned to celebrate.

Sadly, he wasn't even the only one to go that day, not even the only poet. Carl Leggo, a poet and teacher at UBC, a man who inspired many Vancouver writers, succumbed to cancer on the same day.

Perhaps more quietly, at least with less public notice, the son of a longtime friend died that same day -- of the identical cancer as his mother, right down to it appearing in exactly the same spot.

So the weekend was one of sadness and remembering. But this particular rift in the force hadn't yet finished announcing itself.

Yesterday morning, Joe Rosenblatt, yet another of our country's great writers breathed his last. He'd been ailing for a long while, but still, no one was ready for this. His publisher was in the final stages of printing covers so he could bind Joe's new book, Bite Me! The only blessing in Joe's passing is the fact that the first review of the book came out on the weekend, and hearing that a friend had taken the time to read it to him.

As for the rest of us, certainly, we go on. But not without feeling saddened, diminished. Even the hellebore's blossom, outside this morning, looks as though it too feels the need to grieve.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

PTSMS?

It's been in the news that a hockey player who was considered a good prospect for the Canucks has shut down several of his social media feeds. His reason -- because he was getting too many 'hateful' remarks from supposed team fans. And to think it's barely days since we observed the annual 'pink shirt day'.

While I can't say (touch wood, I guess) that I've had exactly the same experience, I do have to say I can understand the hurt -- and yes, it's because of something I saw on social media.

It was, I suppose, another example of my too frequently paranoid thoughts, but when I saw a negative post the other day (one with no specific name in the complaint), I managed to decide it was about me.

I knew it would be a bad idea to post anything in reply, that it was something I needed to think through and not respond to in haste. But that didn't help me get me through the night without a lot of restless tossing.

Since then, I've addressed the matter of the post -- privately, and not via social media -- and I'm happy to say, all has been resolved. It was just my misunderstanding.

Nonetheless, I get the fact that it doesn't take much to cause hurt to another person. Like the sign above suggests, pain can be caused -- intentionally or unintentionally -- 'by a line.'

A name for this condition? If we're going to get it out in the open, it probably needs one. How about PTSMS -- that is, Post Traumatic Social Media Syndrome (or Suffering)? Because, if it's named, maybe we can make it go away.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Think -- an idea whose time has come

Once again, it's Freedom to Read Week, an observance that doesn't get the attention it deserves. True, there are no parades, with people marching and proclaiming their right to read what they choose, but hmm. Maybe there ought to be.

Just yesterday, when I was featured in a public reading, presenting work from my own books, I chose to read a poem that had been challenged. It had been posted on the blog of an environmental group. But soon after it appeared, there were objections to its content, with several commenters insisting that the poem be removed from the site. Some went so far as to say the entire blog should be shut down.

Fortunately, thinking minds prevailed. The poem and blog remained online, the objections overruled. Oddly, the piece in question had been inspired by and based upon verses from the Bible. My head spins at the ironies unwinding. 

But for anyone who believes the idea of challenging -- or worse, out and out banning -- what we read is something that only happens in science fiction, think again. It doesn't take much to have a piece of writing be challenged. Looking over a list of 29 books books that have had to be pulled from libraries or classrooms in Canada, objections were based on "offensive language" or sometimes, "violence." In a number of instances the reasons cited were "unknown."

Some of the authors on the list will also surely surprise you (Laura Ingalls Wilder?!) as will some of the titles -- one in the Star Wars series, and another in the Chicken Soup for the Soul publications.

But if challenging titles over what some consider 'bad' words isn't enough to raise your ire, let's remember what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who was tortured and executed last year. Freedom of the press is among the most basic of freedoms; some would argue it as the foundation of what we like to think of as democracy.

I hope you'll take some time this week -- and really, every week -- to think about the importance of our freedom to read. Just like the sign in the photo above, one the VPL created for its Freedom to Read campaign (back in 2014) suggests: "Think for yourself and let others do the same."And oh yes,  read exactly what you please.

Monday, February 18, 2019

First cut

Yesterday was so beautiful, I just had to do something outside.

It might have had something to do with the fact that in the morning I'd seen the first robin of the season. He looked to me like the same who built a nest here last year.

And maybe it was just the blue skies and warmer temps that got my blood moving, but something made me need to get out into the garden.

This time of year -- especially with bits of last week's snow still lingering -- it's not really time for much in the way of gardening. Even the weeds haven't poked up yet, but oh, there are always those blackberries, aren't there.

I managed to almost fill a garbage bin with clippings. Not quite what I'd consider a 'pruning' as I only removed the ends of branches that were still clinging to bunches of dried-out berries.

Still, it felt like a satisfying step towards welcoming spring.

Now I'm just hoping this afternoon's whitish skies don't mean we'll need to be looking at more of the white stuff.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Shoulda known better...

This photo of snowdrops in a planter box is one I took just over a week ago, on Saturday, Groundhog Day. Because I couldn't see my shadow cast across the blooms, I fell prey to believing that not seeing it meant that winter was just about over -- that we wouldn't have to wait another six weeks for spring breezes to be upon us.

But oh, silly me, look at what today looks like for those same snowy snow drops in the planter. The poor things are buried past their necks. Even the straggly geranium appears to have given up.

Yesterday we celebrated a dear friend's birthday -- with a nice supper and even a homemade cheesecake. Looking outside this morning, it looked like a yard full of birthday cakes, and all of them risen higher than yesterday's celebratory dessert.

I guess this must be what I get for trying to think like a groundhog.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

I've always loved pigs

That's the start of a quote about pigs by an author I love, Maurice Sendak. It's there because today marks the lunar new year, this year beginning another Year of the Pig, to which I admit unabashedly, I'm proud to be one. According to some legends, pig is twelfth (not a problem for me, as that's my favourite number) because he overslept. Yep, that'd be me, all right.

Today's photo looks more like something I might have posted on the old "What's Fer Supper" blog, the site where I wrote about what we ate, every day for the year of 2009. Every once in a while, I still add something or other, like this post I did for Lunar New Year in 2015.


The past few days our produce stores, most of which carry an array of specialty Asian items, have been extra busy as families prepare for the feasts they will no doubt have this evening. This brunch of ours was much easier to make than it probably looks, as it's a mishmash of foods from our freezer and pantry. I certainly can't claim any skill with making Asian dumplings from scratch.

Depending upon what sign you might be, the Year of the Pig is supposed to be one that sees dramatic change. With an election here in Canada later this year, that's a strong possibility. But in case you're curious what changes might be in store for you, here's a site you can click on to find out.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

A rear-view kind of day

That rear-view window isn't the view from a racecar, though that might have been fun, as racecar is a a palindrome, one of those words that are the same, whether you read them forwards or backwards.

It's just a rainy day shot I took from the back window of the SkyTrain, I think not too far from Metrotown in Burnaby. Since SkyTrain cars are driverless though, I have to wonder why there's a windshield wiper. But, whatever.

My reason for this backward glance is that today is National Backward Day -- not exactly a big cause for celebrating, but kind of fun sounding anyway. And I suppose if you poke around, you'll find that just about every day puts a focus on some kind of cause or event.

End of the month, already. Time to turn the calendar to February, the shortest month, which will likely zip past even more quickly than this first month of the year has.

Still, looking back can provide certain insights. Sometimes it's by looking back that we get a better idea of how we might go forward.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Backyard astronomy

Last night's lunar eclipse was pretty spectacular. The nice thing about an eclipse of the moon is that it takes place over a few hours and -- even better -- you can look at it without the risk of eye damage.

You can tell from the photo that I didn't have access to a tripod, so the slow exposure required meant that I moved, blurring the image. No amount of breath-holding or trying to 'freeze' seemed to make any difference. Still, I am pleased with the way the camera captured the bright red colour. No PhotoShop enhancement, I promise.

This hue is the obvious reason it's called a 'blood moon' and there are plenty of explanations available online about that term, as well the longer title applied to last night's manifestation (super blood wolf moon), including prophecies that might scare your pants off if you believe them.

I'm just glad we had clear skies last night and that it was warm enough to keep popping outside to look at it. Among quotes attributed to Snoopy is one where he refers to the moon as looking like a "dirty beach". That certainly wasn't the case last night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

There's a word for this mess

And I'm not referring to this blog of mine as a mess, or even the pile of dictionaries all askew on my table. Rather, to the state of things going on -- or, actually not going on -- in the U.S.

Weird though it may seem, one of the books I've been reading is all about words. Ammon Shea did the rest of us a favour and devoted a year to reading all twenty volumes of the OED. His resulting book, Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages is more entertaining than its title might suggest.

But back to the current mess, and the word I found in Shea's book: Kakistocracy. Its literal meaning: government by the worst people.

And to go with this new-found word (new for me, at least), a piece of newly penned doggerel:
Trumpty Dumpty wanted a wall,
so he shut down the government, paycheques and all.
No one in Congress or on CNN
could get him to start things over again. 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rule of three

Not just because today is Orthodox Christmas (which is part of it) but for several other reasons, I'm celebrating.

One cause to celebrate is that today was garbage day in our neighbourhood. As you can see, we have three separate bins -- and ours (unlike most everyone else's) come in three sizes which I suppose you could call Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear.

Because we always have plenty of green waste -- branches and other debris from the many trees in our yard -- as well as food scraps from the kitchen, we have the extra-large size for organics.

The middle-sized one (standard issue from the city) is for recyclables. Because we still subscribe to a print news source, there's always plenty of paper. Tins, plastics, cardboard... well, there's always plenty of other items to put in there too.

The littlest one (a rarity, was even difficult to get from the city) is out and out garbage. Like the recycling, it only gets collected every two weeks.

This week, it was Mama's turn, the blue bin. Pretty much overflowing, mainly due to the crazy amount of (over)packaging from Christmas gifts. It got me wondering when all this plastic and cardboard and styrofoam nonsense began.

For sure, it had something to do with trying to prevent shoplifting. Remember those oversize containers for music CDs? A lot of that had to do with making it awkward for you to walk out of the store with a handful of them under your jacket, something that hadn't been such a problem when albums were still on vinyl.

And then there were the crazies who thought they were clever by messing around with bottled pills. Tampering with pain meds was the big one that got companies scared enough to add safety measures (packaging).

And the most recent excuse seems to be our addiction to online shopping, with the resulting packaging required for shipping.

When the blue bin went out this morning, it wasn't the only one on our street that looked to be overflowing. My resolution was to get rid of stuff, but this wasn't the kind of 'stuff' I had in mind. Still, I am grateful that the city has trucks that pick it up and take it away. As for where it goes, I can only hope.

But really, my main cause for celebrating this sunny Monday? For sure, my best reason of all is that a friend's cancer is beginning to retreat (yay!).

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Looking...

The start of a new year, arbitrary though its 'newness' may be, based as it is strictly on the calendar, always seems a good time for taking stock.

Looking back at 2018 is sure to bring some sadness, but hopefully joys as well. There's plenty to be glad about having behind us -- for those of us here in BC (as well as for people in California) the wildfire season was horrific, one we certainly hope won't be a repeat. 

Although some predictions are zanier than others, looking ahead generally seems to inspire hope -- at least that's the direction I'm looking in.

As for resolutions, mine (probably be a repeat) is to get rid of stuff.

In my case, that's mostly old clothes and too many books. Something I'll have to report on twelve months from now. In the meantime, I need to get back to sorting the items I pulled out of my desk today -- everything from stamps and coins to unusable floppy disks!