Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Poetry en plein air

One of the many pleasures of travelling through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state is stopping at Washington Pass for a stroll along the paths there. And one of the wonderful discoveries there -- beyond the fabulous views -- is the fact that there are two poems posted along the trail. The one above, "Silver Star" is from William Stafford's chapbook, The Methow River Poems. The other, "A Valley Like This," also by Stafford, is from the same collection.

But these two are only part of a group of seven of Stafford's poems posted at locations along the river.  Apparently, they were commissioned by the Forestry Service in 1993. I've yet to find the others, but plan to seek them out next time we visit the Cascade Loop.

Poetry seemed to be in the air, as even the rangers' station encouraged visitors to create poems of their own.

The display was simple -- just a sign which included the reminder that Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac (and I'm pretty sure, Jack Spicer and Sam Hamill) found inspiration from time living in the woods.

Beside the sign was a table with some cutouts of 'foresty' words, but what a delight to find them.

And me, of course I'm wishing more of such public poetry would show up around here. There are some small haiku-like writings on rocks at nearby Blackie Spit at Crescent Beach, so I suppose I should be content.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

What's yer sport?

Watching all the wonderful tennis this weekend (yes, I've become a convert -- I used to think it was the equivalent of watching a game of 'pong' with its hypnotic blips) has made me wish I were more of an athlete. But like they say, if wishes were horses, etc.

About the closest activity I can claim as a kind of sport is my twice-weekly sessions of deep water running at my local pool. The photo above holds a rack of flotation belts for participants in the class. Only, I'm the odd one out who doesn't choose to wear one.

I'm not sure whether it's the 'built-in flotation belt' I seem to wear around my middle, whether I'm in the water or out, or whether I'm just more buoyant than many people are. Whatever the reason, I don't choose to wear a belt. And since the activity is one that I enjoy, I manage to remain fairly faithful, year-round.

Maybe in my next life, I'll do something requiring more training and skill. But for now, I'll just keep runnin'...

Sunday, September 01, 2019

A new way to celebrate

Although the first Monday in September is the day both Canadians and Americans observe Labour Day, many countries around the world celebrate Workers' Day on May 1st.

I'm sticking with the September observance, especially because a friend of mine (and a longtime union worker, no less) has come up with a brilliant new way to mark the date.

She's suggested that it be Jammies Day -- a day when those of us who get to stay home should spend it lolling about (knowing us, probably reading) in our pyjamas.

I'm just having a hard time deciding which of my two favourite nighties it should be: bunnies or kitties. But if that's the most difficult task ahead of me for tomorrow, I'm certainly not going to complain.

Here's to honouring workers of all stripes, especially those brave souls who fought for such basic rights as an eight-hour day or, praise be, the concept of the weekend. Yesss!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ar-beauty by the sea

We have a very comfortable home, nestled in the midst of a mini-forest it seems. So I wonder sometimes, why is it we go away to take a holiday.

A water view is probably the only element we don't have at home, so maybe getting to see (and smell!) the ocean is part of why we travel.

The arbutus above (okay, madrona if you live in the US), leaning out over the sea, was a bit of a bonus we encountered on our way home.

The trip back was lengthy (eleven hours to go not a lot more than 100 km as the crow flies), as it involves taking ferries, and not all of them offer the luxury of making reservations in advance.

By the time we got to the last ferry (where we did have a reservation, but for a boat leaving in two hours), we took a break and found a walking trail that led us along the shore.

Tired though we were, the walk (and the trees) helped revive us for the last leg of the journey. In fact, this tree in particular, leaning out and reaching, seemed to offer a kind of comfort -- encouragement that we were getting nearer to our destination.

And today, though I don't have ocean or arbutus just outside, I'm happy to be home. Almost September, when surely it'll be time to go on to bigger things.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

By the time...

No, I wasn't one of the people who made it to the festival that's come to be known as Woodstock -- an event that opened fifty years ago today. I knew a couple of folks who did make it there, and still know one who managed to get her face into the movie (though she's not thrilled about how she looks -- in the aftermath of the rain, in the mud).

Upstate New York felt too far away from where we lived in Northern Ontario. Besides, we didn't have a car. Oh yeah, and tickets for the three days of the weekend-fest sounded like such a rip-off at a whopping fifteen bucks. Whoo-ee

It seems kind of a shame that the anniversary event had to be cancelled, though maybe there'll be some kind of guerilla music fest sprouting up later this weekend, some kind of commemoration of the good vibes of the times. Like the poster says, it was all about Peace (and, of course, love too) -- both items we could use more of every day. 

Monday, August 05, 2019

Stop using their names

If I'm not mistaken, I heard news reporting that the Dayton shooting was the 250th to occur in the US this year. Considering today is Day 217 for 2019, that's not a good stat.

While we haven't had as many of the random-crowd shootings here in Canada, we've still had far too many murders. We even had one barely a mile away last week. Targeted. Some bad guys out to get rid of some other bad guy. Still. Somebody dead. By a gun.

And today, the end of a holiday long weekend, more bad news from Toronto.

In all of these incidents, it bothers me that the name that makes the headlines seems to nearly always be that of the shooter.

And it's convinced me that half the reason these guys (yes, they're still mostly males) do it is for some lame attempt at fame. Kill a bunch of people and you'll be a celebrity. You don't even have to know how to carry a tune -- just a gun.

For over two weeks, RCMP have been on the hunt for a pair of accused murderers -- among their victims an American woman and her Australian beau. The name of woman, Chynna Deese, as well as that of her companion in death, Lucas Fowler, seem to be the names we should be remembering -- along with that of Len Dyck, a much-beloved professor at the University of British Columbia who, while on a solo camping trip, also found himself in the path of the duo from Nanaimo.

Frankly, I'm sick of hearing continued reports on the possible whereabouts of the pair. They've had more than their share of the spotlight of infamy. They've pretty much been Canada's most recent "Movie of the Week" -- only for not just one week. We're now on week three.

Let's quit publicizing the names of these pathetic souls who commit heinous crimes in their desperate grab at fame. Maybe if the Hollywood-style lights don't shine so brightly on them, and we stop glorifying their names, they'll stay home and do something worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Summer bounty

These July days are, I suspect, just about as perfect as anyone's time on earth could be. The other day, reading a book outside, I looked up from the page and thought: If there's a heaven, I hope it's as good as this.

Yes, I still go to the grocery store, though every day we eat something or other from the yard. And so much of it seems to just come up on its own -- golden plums, the berries (though I do prune them almost weekly from March through August) and this year, a trio of peaches.

The salad bar takes a bit more fussing, with much of it needing to dangle in hanging baskets to keep the slugs at bay. Still, fresh greens every night (oh yes, beans too) are hard to beat.

And as for those blackberries, they can be pickety. I'm often competing with bees, who still love visiting all those sweet white
flowers, but at least they seem to leave me alone. A few of them might buzz around my hand or head, but they seem to prefer the flowers to me.

It's the thorns that keep wanting to grab, and are the reason I wear glasses when I pick.

Still, a few nicks don't bother me, especially when I know what dessert will be. Blackberries, fresh off the vine, with even one of the last stragglers from the raspberry canes.

Heaven. Who needs it. Not yet anyway.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Some big birthday!

For all of the theories that exist about Amelia Earhart, the one thing I am sure of is that she's no longer alive. If she were, she'd be celebrating a very big birthday today -- her 122nd.

As mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend attending the Amelia Earhart Festival in Atchison, Kansas, the town where she was born in an upstairs bedroom in the home of her grandparents.

The town makes a very big deal about celebrating their most famous citizen. And I suspect Earhart is one of the main drivers of the town's tourism industry.

Several plaques and statues of her are placed around town -- this one is at the International Forest of Friendship, a site that recognizes many of aviation's pioneers and current heroes. Even our own Julie Payette and Marc Garneau have commemorative stones there. I'm hoping that next time I go back, I'll find one for Chris Hadfield too.

But now, I'll just say Cheers! to the woman whose life continues to inspire people everywhere (including me).

Saturday, July 20, 2019

An anniversary for Selenophiles other words, an anniversary for people who love the moon (though there's also a plant by the same name, selenophile). In seeking the word to match this meaning, I also came across 'lunaphile' which I must admit to liking, even though the only reference to it is somewhat buried in a comments section. Initially, I'd wanted to call this an anniversary for 'lunatics' until I found that pretty much the only meaning for that term is someone who's deranged and also that the word's become mostly unacceptable.

The reason for this post is, of course, the fact that today marks 50 years since human beings landed on the moon (at least as far as we know). Although if you're a follower of Tintin, you'll know that he and Captain Haddock were there long before Neil Armstrong touched down.

As this date has approached, there've been any number of memory pieces, but the one I loved most (and, unfortunately, can't remember where) was the man who told about his father going out and buying a colour tv towards marking such a memorable occasion. It's key to remember that not many people had a colour television in 1969. For one thing, their relative newness made them quite expensive. Having one probably seemed like an extravagance, maybe even showing off.

And then, as it turned out, when events of the moon landing came on, the images were only in black-and-white, as that's how they were broadcast. So much for a colourful celebration, at least that night.

I'm not sure exactly what I might do to celebrate, but the occasion does seem deserving of something special. If the weather holds, I will at least be watching fireworks tonight, as they're always part of the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, an event I'm lucky enough to be attending. I'm sure that walking on the moon would have earned Amelia's approval.

As for the photo at the top of this post, that's an item that hangs in my bathroom. After the light's been on it, it glows, casting a light not dissimilar from the moon's -- not really bright enough to read by, but enough to help me navigate my way back to bed.

And regarding my 'occasional' poem below, it's an effort based on a very fun edition of Magnetic Poetry -- moon-themed, no less. The set is full of official moon terms like 'gibbous' and 'crescent' and, of course, full. And even though I didn't use 'crescent' in my poem, 'waxing crescent' is apparently the phase the moon was in 50 years ago tonight -- nearly a quarter full, and growing.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Good intentions, but...

...not quite.

Riding the SkyTrain not long ago, owing to the usual rush hour crush, it was hard to ignore the drink in front of my nose.

I was close enough to be able to observe that the straw wasn't the dreaded plastic, but paper. Hurrah, I thought, but.

What about the cup and dome lid?

Big changes start in small ways, so I can't complain to see at least something changing. And I'm inspired when I encounter projects like the one I found at Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. Their goal is to get the rest of the Maritime provinces on-board, but they're not afraid to start on their own.

The City of Victoria was told this week that they don't have the jurisdiction to be able to ban plastic bags (for now, at least). Vancouver's main actions so far have been ongoing studies, but at least these show that we're improving.

The transition away from plastics is going to continue to be tricky, that's for sure. But all we can do is keep trying, even when it's just eensy baby steps.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A place of contradictions

Sometimes Surrey, the city where I live, can make me want to pull out my hair in frustration -- from day to day, it can be so very up-and-down.

On Friday I attended a workshop in Newton, one of our city's many 'cities within the city' -- I guess a previous township of its own, it's now considered one of the city's town centres. It's an area that sometimes gets a bad rap, as it's had its share of crime occur.

But on Friday, there was no mention of crime, as a group of us were led on a tour of a place that could almost be called a transformational miracle -- an amazing community garden, providing beauty, food, and opportunities to work outdoors for anyone who chooses to participate.

And yes, please click on this PLOT project link, as it's quite an adventure, complete with video of how this miracle came about.

The project embodies an idea that really puts the 'unity' into the concept of 'community'.

But then on the weekend, Newton made the news again -- this time with a dreadful house fire, one that investigators have started calling suspicious. Worst of all, there were injuries, and to children.

Yet, I'd prefer to think back on the workshop -- a project that saw us gathering images to be used in an amazing-sounding exhibit in September by Toronto artist Faisal Anwar. Since part of our task in the workshop was to take photos of the wonderful sights we saw in the gardens, that's what I'll close with -- an image of beauty.

Yes, please, I say, more beauty for all.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Goodbye Personal Servant

Personal servant? That may be a bit much, though truly that little machine, our faithful GPS served in so many ways -- not only keeping us on track to many destinations, but keeping us out of trouble.

He (yes, I have no hesitation in calling him a 'he' -- after all, his name was Simon, and he had a lovely English accent) came into our lives in 2011, part of the acquisitions we made when we set out on our cross-continent tour in 2011. Wending our way through the complicated cloverleaf highways in the US would have been nearly impossible without him. At the very least, the relationship between the Dear Man and me might not have survived my map-reading skills. Call him a subtle peacemaker. Which way do we go? No arguments; just ask Simon.

Sure, there were a few times his satellite connections fed him information that was less than accurate, but generally these errors led us into strange and wonderfully off-the-beaten track surprises. Once we found ourselves not at the campsite we'd been seeking, but instead in the midst of horse-and-buggy 'traffic' in Amish territory.

Keeping us out of trouble came with his speed limit alert feature. So many little towns seem to rely on income from speeding tickets issued to tourists who might happen to miss the suddenly-low speed limit at the town boundaries. The warning sound Simon emitted was, fortunately, enough to get us to slow down from highway speed to the safely low numbers they expected. Whew! He more than paid for himself in fines saved.

This seems like the right day to bid him farewell, as it's the anniversary of when we got home from the big tour, eight years ago.

Despite poking around for better photos of Simon than the 'farewell' shot of him (out of focus, no less), I've failed. Best I could come up with was a link to this shot taken during the big road trip, where it appears we've gone off-road on some parallel trail. I'm pretty sure it was just a construction-induced detour.

It isn't that I took lots of pictures of him, but now and then, it just seemed too fun not to. Best were when we were heading across some body of water in a ferry. The little blue Volkswagen Beetle (his avatar) looked as though it was magically gliding atop the water. Silly, I suppose, but then silly generally is my middle name.

He's gone -- to wherever the electronics recycling items go, hopefully not back to the Philippines where so much unwanted Canadian garbage turned up. I like to think he's gone to where someone or thing gets to guide him for a change -- a bit of payback for all the gentle guidance he gave to us.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Pull of the tides

For years I've had a tradition of trying to see the magical light cast on our front door by the Solstice dawn shining through a little stained glass window. This year, both mornings I tried (even the morning that wasn't officially Solstice), I missed it -- or it was too cloudy for the bright light to do its trick.

Even though I don't quite understand how the 'bulging ocean' phenomenon works, I am a longtime observer of the tides, especially the big ones that we see in summertime (or are those simply because we go down to the beach more when the weather's nice?).

The image above, a bit crooked though it is (apologies, I never make adjustments to the photos I post) gives you an idea of just how far out the tide goes when summer begins. It looks as though you might walk halfway to Vancouver Island. All of this is complicated by the pull of the moon, even though the last full moon was June 17th, days before Solstice.

I'm not the only one who likes knowing when the moon is full. This week I read that Neil Young, one of my favourite songwriter/musicians only makes recordings three days before the full moon. Apparently, he believes that's when his creativity is at its peak. Something more to watch for before the next time it's full.

Like I said, I don't really understand it all, but enjoy paying attention to the interaction between sea and sky. Always something to see, always something to wonder at.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Picky picky

Even though summer won't officially arrive until Friday morning's Solstice, today's ritual -- the annual picking of the strawberries -- made me feel like it was already here.

Because they grow so close to the ground, strawberries are the hardest berries to pick. Good thing they're the earliest berry. The picking only gets easier as the season progresses. All that bending or squatting (or, when desperate, kneeling) gets tiresome pretty quickly.

Still, this year's crop might have been the best (and easiest to pick) in years. Big, ripe, and juicy (I'll admit, I tested), they were so plentiful I was able to be quite selective, choosing only the nicest ones, and able to do so quickly.

So, what's next? Plenty of slicing and freezing and making jars of jam -- and of course, eating!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Becoming a birdwatcher?

While I wouldn't consider myself a birdwatcher, especially not one with any knowledge of species identification, lately I've been seeing a lot of birds.

The baby robin perched in the photo above must have peeped or I'm not sure I would have seen him, as I was lying outside reading a book when he caught my eye. It didn't take long for one of his parents to show up, bearing a mouthful of wriggly-looking worms. Yum.

But there've been other birds catching my eye of late -- some of them barging right up the front walk, looking as though they were sizing up the place, set to move in. In fact, yesterday's pair of visitors may well have been birds I could have said yum to, though I didn't. It would have been rude to treat 'company' so badly, I am sure.

These two ducks came wandering onto our deck, I suspect looking for a place to nest (probably in the very spot where we'll soon be pitching our tent for summer sleeps).

They poked around, looking here and there, pretty much giving us the up-and-down before they seemed to decide our house didn't fit their needs.

And now, barely an hour ago, looking out the back door I spied another bird, this little visitor a 'regular' making her daily path to her 'secret nest' hidden in the periwinkle. She (I have my reasons...) stops, perching on one of the hanging baskets of lettuce, then hops down to a lower one (maybe testing the basil?) and then sneaks down to the ground, where she dives into the thick greenery. The egg I found earlier this spring was probably from this little bird.

Not a pastime I'd ever claimed before, but maybe one of my new hats will have to be birdwatcher, even if I don't always know their names.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

History matters

As we've been reminded by all forms of the press, today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. So, what's a photo of a foggy day in Nova Scotia got to do with it.

For one thing, the photo is from one of the Maritimes' most iconic seaside spots, the famous Peggy's Cove. The morning I took this was foggy and peaceful, something those beaches at Normandy were not -- especially the peaceful part. 

As we travelled around Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it was hard not to be impressed by the respect the townsfolk show for their history. 

Not only are old buildings preserved, they're still used, not demolished -- the way buildings less than fifty years old are routinely torn down here. A family we met live in a house that's over 200 years old. Sure, they've had to do plenty of updates, but it's standing and they're living their lives in it. 

I know we can't go back in time, but I certainly believe that it's important we remember -- and honour -- the past. How else can we know how to best go forward?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Peek-a-boo view

There hasn't been much time for doing any blog posts, as we've been travelling through the Maritime provinces, staying offline most of the time.

A lot of that driving has been along shorelines. No icebergs (as would be in Newfoundland this time of year), but plenty of beautifully red beaches and vistas of the mighty Atlantic. And while most of the views have been big vistas of the see-forever variety, the one above was a little more subtle.

Hiking the Skyline Trail along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, we were among the lucky ones who spotted this female moose (cow? I suppose) chomping on some of the fresh springtime tips sprouting on the trees.

But now it's time to sign off again, on the quest for more views of seaside, scenic hillsides and farms or maybe more special critters.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


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


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


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


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


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.