Words Travel

The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, a weekend that was supposed to be awash in moody rain. Yesterday’s walk required an umbrella although I didn’t mind – the nearby ocean roared and the raindrops fell warmly making routine errands magical.

Today’s warmth and golden sunshine drew me on a walk towards a copse of lush woodland just down my street where a small group of yoga practitioners often meet to stretch near twisting thorn covered blackberry tendrils and underneath scarlet berries. There is a sense of the otherworldly as they gracefully move into the next pose below gently falling tawny leaves.

This was a day to savour and not knowing if the rain might return I decided to put off apartment chores to spend more time in the autumn light. I found myself at the edge of the Rose Garden with stunning blooms still reaching for the sun and a colourful swathe of fall dahlias. Amid a stand of fragrant cedars, the park’s excellent gardeners had created a fairy-like collection of small seats carved from a group of forgotten stumps. One seat was formed by a single smooth limb left attached to two stumps resembling a forest swing. I scrambled up on it and held on tight to both stumps and began to rock – and guess what? It actually felt like I was swinging! What a wonderful spot for a child or us to discover…

Lately, I’ve been exploring closer to home, wandering up and down newly named laneways on my afternoon walks. I found a hidden garden up one alleyway spanning almost a full block – I could see tomatoes of all sizes hanging on dark green vines, their pale skins waiting for the autumn sun and squash leaves winding through gaps in the fencing, a riotous harvest for tenants and strangers alike.

Just like that late summer fruit, I’ve been seeking light each time I step out into a world fraught with danger. Waiting until I reach the wide open spaces of the park after dancing between neighbours and visitors distracted by the pandemic that haunts our days and obscures the light – which is why we took the plunge and booked a few nights at our favourite retreat on Vancouver Island, giving us the chance to breathe deep, take in the sacred silence found there and revel in the mid-autumn light even if it’s just the flames dancing in the fireplace.

Our time spent in our woodland studio was like a dream – there were long walks through fern forest and by twisted trees near the Strait, their root systems laid bare by damp sand and erosion. Hundreds of leaves in colours of burnt orange, apricot and burgundy continually fell as we walked familiar trails often lit by a group or a lone golden-hued beauty. On cloudier outings these wondrous trees lit up the dark woods like the sun.

We woke to the haunting sound of calling ravens flying overhead most mornings, enjoying small plates of delicious food on offer in the welcoming lounge in the late afternoons as our days passed outside rain or shine. I sipped on dark red wine hailing from Spain and a bottle of that same wine purchased from our local wine store now sits on my kitchen counter, an elixir against November storms and the second wave of a pandemic seemingly spiraling out of control.

For the first time on the Island we walked beloved needle packed paths to the sound of the fall chorus of the Pacific Tree frog. In our urban forest haunts, this small creature is often a rare sighting – to hear them deep in the forest and at the edge of the ocean was an unexpected delight that makes me smile and helps to hold onto that unique Island vibe.

Returning home to the madding crowds after the friendly hellos and smiles from fellow walkers has been an unwelcome shock as well as the two week mini-lockdown that came into effect. Our now or never getaway taken at just the right time as non-essential travel is now restricted as our province tries to bend the curve once again.

Words travel and these ones certainly did as my trusty notebook was accidently left in the airporter/taxi as we made our way home! It arrived back this week by courier so you could read them here now…

This stunning view greeted us after an afternoon walk through the forest at Rathrevor Park near Parksville on Vancouver Island, B.C.

Autumn on Vancouver Island offered so much beauty, we couldn’t stop exploring.

The grey trunks just pop against the golden-hued trees throughout Rathrevor Park!

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Time Travel

Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.” – John Steinbeck

After reading a fellow blogger’s wonderful post (a bunch of old bus tickets) about saving her bus tickets meant for recycling in order to revisit her travels, I realized I had a stash of the very same thing – tissue paper thin bus tickets from the colourful local buses of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) as well as the newsprint texture of tickets saved from urban journeys in San Francisco (USA) and Toronto (Canada).

I left an enthusiastic comment and her reply inspired a closer look at the ephemera I had carefully tucked away in a vanity drawer. No matter where I travel or find myself sipping on a cup of tea, I’ll often collect a business card, napkin or menu – I’ve even brought home empty tea sachet packets and tins. A beloved masala chai tea tin from the Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco sits on my writing desk holding favourite pens and three feathers (an eagle feather discovered on a sea-kayaking trip off of Northern Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada), a crow feather found on a walk through the park and a raven feather brought home after its owner plucked it out). Just looking at that tin evokes a memory of a pastel coloured sunset over the city as we sat outside enjoying a fragrant tea after a long day of sightseeing.

A slim paper menu acts as a Harry Potter port key sending me back to New York (USA) and the mouth-watering dishes of TA Cocina, a Mexican Grill we came across on 9th Avenue after we were denied service at a well-known Italian restaurant for having our suitcases with us ready to catch the overnight Greyhound bus back to Toronto. To find shelter there amid familiar scents became one of the highlights of our whirlwind three day trip.

Some of my cache are too precious to recycle despite being wrinkled and creased – one, a folded square of paper showing us the way to the Hotel Socovan in Guanajuato (Mexico), faded from too much handling helped us to locate this cool hotel accessed by a dark tunnel in a Mexican city new to us. We will never forget its hidden tropical hued courtyard, copper sinks and unique tunnel entrance!

Other nostalgic paper offerings remind us of local farmer’s markets we frequented (Puerto Vallarta), Thai restaurants we ate at (San Francisco, New York) while some pieces were kept for their quotes and poetry (Bryant Park, New York, Mt. Shasta, California). Complimentary pens and notepads find their way to a blue and white Wedgewood creamer on top of the vanity or are added to a stack of repurposed notebook paper.

A battered travel journal is beginning to fill with some of my unruly collection – one item is a bill left in our standard suite at the very retro Asta Apartment Hotel in Barbados. After a long flight from Vancouver with a layover in Toronto, the sweet staff had left some amenities for us and I never fail to smile when I see one important notation – a bottle of rum! Any items not wanted or needed could be returned and the bill altered. That thoughtful gesture set the tone for a wonderful week in the sun.

One dear business card was picked up from a simple pottery shop in Kyrenia (Cyprus), called “Savvas” Pottery Ltd. I chose a lovely glazed terracotta cat figurine covered in black and brown spots with kohl rimmed almond eyes. It sits on top of our hallway bookcase and every time I glance at its mysterious face, the scent of lemons and the bright blue Mediterranean sea fill my mind.

Those saved bus tickets and other papery bits allow me to time travel during a time when wandering has been curtailed leaving me grateful that memories like these are just an open drawer away.

Note: If you want to read the post that inspired mine, please check out : https://shrubaboti.wordpress.com and look for her post, a bunch of old bus tickets.

This abandoned polar bear pit in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) is being taken back by nature, it appears to be time-travelling as well!
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Through The Looking Glass

in the gardens of memory, in the palace of dreams, that is where you and I shall meet” – The Mad Hatter

Smoke from the fires raging in California (USA) arrived yesterday, smothering the late August light and colouring the golden sun red. This on top of another week of warm weather for those of us who love September but aren’t quite ready for summer to end.

I’ve had a strangely beautiful summer filled with many walks on familiar forest trails and new pathways by the lagoon. A summer filled with unexpected music and art if one is willing to seek it out…

One late August night I found myself out on the balcony, barefoot underneath a starry sky swaying to the live music of a Mariachi band rising up from our street – the heartbreakingly familiar songs left me humming and singing a word or two deep in memories of living in Mexico. There was also a summer afternoon concert one street over, a gift to the two musicians’ neighbours who supported them through many a cancelled gig this year and a wonderful gift to their beloved West End neighbourhood. After a cool drink and shared desserts at the Stanley Park Pavilion, my friend and I found a shady spot on the prickly grass and were entranced for half an hour listening to Elvis songs (their muse) and sad love songs from eras laid to rest. Bathed in a cool breeze, that summer afternoon is not easily forgotten.

The dissonance reverberating through our world gives us pause but in between the hard fought stillness, there are miracles to be had and embraced. On many of my lagoon walks towards the Coal Harbour seawall I’ve noticed a pristine waterway and often look down into its clear depths in hopes of spying a starfish. On today’s late summer wander, I watched a young gull lazily swimming by and as I took a closer look, I saw a pretty purple starfish clinging to a submerged rock – I haven’t seen one of its kind in our local waters in years! And guess what? Suddenly, I began noticing them at almost every step…

On the eve of back to school and some work places, I’ve come upon a spot to sit amid variegated green with touches of burnished red with a view of English Bay to rival the south of France. There’s a scent of salt and briny seaweed in the air, the wind warning from the morning just beginning to move through the trees and after a sip of cool water, I find myself feeling content. There is no more summer fruit to buy down by the sandy beach but a gelato to enjoy as I make my way will be the icing on the cake after an otherworldly walk through the forest. A forest now filled with fluttering menace as the Western Hemlock Looper moth takes wing in the thousands, a sight only seen during 10-30 year cycles. Harmful only to the trees around me, their delicate bodies gently touch my clothing and hair as I move among them, a looking glass image underneath smoky skies.

Safe passage back through the looking glass can be found in the pages of a book, a fragrant cup of tea or in a hidden forest garden peppered with smooth stones and sacred altars. I’ve found passage sitting outside at a sweet Parisian-style cafe offering respite from busy city streets – located in a developing community of funky bistros and greenspace on my way to revisit a favourite haunt, Granville Island. On that beautiful day there were long line-ups at the market so I inhaled its comforting scents of creosote, salt, and fish and chips before jumping on the small ferry boat to take me back home. My sunny amble beside the many beaches was heavenly, dissolving the looking glass for a few stolen moments once again…

This stunning holiday-like view of the lighthouse in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) was captured just off a favourite trail that takes us to Brockton Oval!

The spacious deck of the Stanley Park Pavilion has offered us sanctuary during the pandemic, drinking a pint above lush gardens on a summer afternoon has been simply divine!

A hidden forest garden just off a main path reveals one of the many altars scattered throughout this lush cedar-scented oasis in Stanley Park – after mask-wearing and worrying, it was lovely to stay awhile and simply breathe.

Have I passed through the looking glass again? This has been our view during daylight hours for the past few days, we’ve been inside our apartment for four days (we stepped out this morning wearing masks against the widespread smoke from the relentless fires burning in California, Oregon and Washington…some sunshine drew us out for a short walk this afternoon). We’ve heard that smoke like this might come and go throughout the fall…

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Outside We Live

What humanity needs, nature answers in whispers.” – Numi Tea

CITY

There’s a Summer Art Program being presented downtown twice a week – two beautiful parklets are now home to artists and students displaying works in progress to potential customers and happy wanderers hoping to capture a festival feeling in quieter times.

My time there taking in the colour, live music and stunning art prompted me to walk home via a different route, extending that summer in the city vibe as I walked the seawall hugging the waterfront. It’s a winding walk that ends in bustling Coal Harbour where the image of two young boys trying to fish in an urban lily pond still makes me smile and the gravel path on the edge of a dog park across from the Vancouver Rowing Club still offers respite from crowded walkways.

I came home with a feeling of calm and realized that summer joys I thought were lost forever can still be found.

Lot 19, site of the 2020 Summer Art Program located in downtown Vancouver, B.C.

The second site of the 2020 Summer Art Program at Cathedral Square in downtown Vancouver, B.C. The program runs weather permitting and the morning rain chased the artists away…

BEACH

It was time to walk down the sylvan path to Second Beach to buy some more summer fruit from the local Farmer’s Market stand. Twice a month with memories of camping dancing through my mind, I pick out three cartons of luscious berries and pack them carefully in my canvas tote bag. Earlier, we were wondering why one of our regular crow visitors who has been bringing her young one to our balcony hadn’t been by and here was the answer! It looked like “bring your crow offspring” to the beach day – the air was filled with squawks as young crows wandered over the damp sand, hung out on cedar branches and near the newly opened concession, some even perched on the outdoor pool railing.

Throughout the summer I’ve found myself on the seawall more than ever, arriving after a walk through the forest trails or on urban streets. I’m glad I recently came across the words, sacred space, written in pastel chalk near the stone Inukshuk statue before the Good-bye Graffiti truck hosed it away. These enlightened words reminded me to pause on a cloudy day by the beach, to find an empty bench and take some cleansing breaths on the cusp of an uptick in new COVID-19 cases.

No matter what forest trail one walks upon, they invariably lead to the ocean. This capture shows some recent fire damage to a tree near Tatlow Trail in Stanley Park that has previously made an appearance on my blog site.

A rare sun halo captured by Terry on a solo walk near Lost Lagoon (a beloved pathway to Second Beach) in Stanley Park.

FOREST

The best time to walk in my world is just after a rainfall. Asphalt paths and needle covered trails smell earthy, their damp surfaces littered with autumn-early dip-dyed leaves and brilliant blue hydrangea blooms.

On this August day we’re sitting on the wooden bleachers at Brockton Oval in coyote country after a tasty take-out lunch (a mouth watering West Coast salmon burger from Lumbermen’s Arch concession) and a stroll through sun-dappled forest. There’s a soft breeze carrying dragonflies and other insects through the warm air, the wooden planks sound alive underneath the sun, the creaking and groaning covered over with the remains of several swallow nests, nearby Canada Geese are nibbling on the same grass where lone rugby players practice their kicking skills. It’s a peaceful afternoon far away from the rules of social distancing where one can breathe deeply and inhale the stillness.

This is our summer ritual every two weeks, a chance to capture the essence and fragrance of past summers. Later in the day we retreat to a spacious deck at the Stanley Park Pavilion to share a small plate and take in the treehouse effect while gazing upon the gorgeous gardens. There are still a few weeks of summer left as we shore up these gastronomic memories and delicious pints, memories to think upon when autumn touches our world again.

We are all living on the edge of previous lives trying to expand our worlds in new ways, finding ourselves outside can be one of those ways…

A curious young coyote on a wander by Brockton Oval, Terry had to shoo him back on to the forest trail he came out on but not before he got this incredible shot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collateral Beauty

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Solo walks this mid-summer have taken on a different hue – our provincial government recently mandated that we travel and explore here in our own province. So each afternoon I plan to walk a slightly different path, stopping along the way to read or write, taking note of the unfolding beauty all around me. What’s a girl to do during this world-wide pandemic with air travel at a standstill but pack her beloved cork tote with her fedora, water bottle, that soft airline blanket not forgetting to bring her current read and battered notebook?!

Today’s adventure finds me at Third Beach after a salt-air infused walk by the sea where I’ve found a weathered bench above the tidal pools to watch a lone Great Blue Heron and three sleek Pelagic Cormorants fishing, enjoying yet another enchanting vista after watching a majestic eagle soar above the sea seeking lunch. A dream-like afternoon that awakens memories of Mexico. On my way home, I walked an abundant flora lined path up to the Tea House seeking shade and lush green. I was curious to see how the roadway looked as the park welcomed more traffic, it was now divided to accommodate both vehicles and bikes. The bike lane is parallel to the sidewalk I walked upon leaving me with lots of space to linger under the shadow-rich canopy above.  The shared roadway seems to be working well as my walk felt peaceful despite the odd car zooming by…

Other walks include trips to the shops or delivering orphan books from our apartment building’s laundry room shelves to the free library book cupboard in our neighbourhood (there are eager readers out there as our local library is still closed, sigh!) often resulting in blissful moments of joy. On one such walk on a search for a special box of tea, the health food grocery store I frequent was in the midst of reopening its spacious patio, there were sweet pots of flowers placed on tables and counter spaces that caught my eye, serving as gentle reminders to observe social distancing and to keep guests safe. There was one empty table calling my name so I made sure to buy a chilled can of peach ice tea and enjoyed watching the world go by once again on our famous Robson St. as I sipped away underneath the warm sun.

The divide between seasons has left its mark – leaving black husks of lilacs in place of vibrant purple, the coral blossoms of the ornamental quince have finished gracing the edge of the lagoon and there’s not a tulip to be seen. Among the dragonflies, wild rosehips are dotting now choked forest trails and on dusty paths acorns come to rest – collateral beauty noted underneath sunset skies that welcomed a mysterious traveller recently, the comet Neowise, its long trailing tail and pale center visible just after twilight not to be seen again for 6800 years…

An early morning capture of Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) as we enjoy exploring closer to home!

A trio of young Great Blue Herons perched up high at the edge of the lagoon reminding me of a delicate Japanese silkscreen.

Our morning walked yielded this beauty, a former groundskeeper cottage reflecting lush green. As we walked away, a rehabilitation worker came by with an animal carrier containing a recovered young Great Blue Heron ready to be set free down at Second Beach!

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Every Little Thing Is Everything

Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.” – T’ien Yi Leng

I woke up this morning with new energy and resolve – hoping to shake up the routines I’ve clung to these past few months and invite some fresh air into my life!

Right now, I’m waiting for the warm sun to envelope the space I’ve carved out on our balcony with my faded blue camp chair and old wooden table. The chair is facing the glittering water of English Bay, instead of tea nearby, a crystal glass sits on the table filled with sparkling water, a small change in the works already. After a walk through the busy park, the peaceful feeling unfolding nine floors up underneath a perfect blue sky steadies my heart. There is still some cleaning to attend to on our balcony but so far, I’ve been able to savour a morning tea in a patch of found sunlight and have begun writing on the odd afternoon.

There is a resident city robin who sings every morning and evening – during a recent morning its cheerful notes were overshadowed by rumbling thunder as I drowsed underneath our woolen blanket. It sang through three waves of thunder and I wondered if it was teaching the young robins to sing no matter what. Rain fell, too and coloured our world grey as it used to do years ago before fire season became the new normal after warmer springs. Perhaps the stillness we’ve all come to embrace has recalibrated natures’ rhythms, restoring a balance we feared was lost forever.

Our part of the world is now disturbing that very hush as businesses, schools and restaurants are being encouraged to wake up. Nearly empty streets are filled once more with roaring sports cars on their way to the beach and downtown. The playgrounds host laughing children as we wait patiently for the park concessions to open imagining those first oil spotted boxes of freshly cooked fish and chips. Some little things are worth waiting for…

We cannot wait it seems and did the next best thing – toting homemade potatoe salad and picking up some take-out from the Stanley Park Pavilion to bring to our still undiscovered picnic table. While we ate our delicious fare, we could hear raven young calling to each other, safe in the lush canopy above just behind the shuttered and fenced Railway Cafe concession – their haunting calls reminiscent of a more ancient time than this.

Every little thing is everything during this unprecedented time – the feathered visitors who join me as I do yoga in my tiny studio (by moving the coffee table towards the balcony door and putting down my yoga mat), foraging for lichen covered twigs and branches to create botanical bouquets for summer (inviting the forest inside) and the relaxing hour reading before sleep takes over. Small things and moments easing the new normal that overshadows what once was…

A beautiful capture of the rose covered arbour by the Rose Garden in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.). We walk underneath it on solo walks and when we go picnicking!

These enchanting stone steps are located beside the arbour as if there wasn’t enough beauty to enjoy on a summers’ day!

This botanical bouquet was inspired by an Escape To The Chateau episode – it came together with a few foraged twigs and branches, an old silver teapot and my Dad’s beloved book. It sits beside a found verdigris trellis that often hosts postcards from our travels!

I’d love to hear about your own little things that are “everything”!

 

 

 

 

 

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Fewer Faces and Bigger Spaces

Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” – Rumi

Most of my solo walks are heavenly – there are often small paths and walkways leading to lush gardens and on todays’ walk down by the lagoon, a friendly black crow walked with me flying from one tree branch to another and when she neared the old stone bridge, she called good-bye to me as only a cheeky crow can. It was magical to walk with her on a path empty of people after an early morning rain shower.

As I wandered, I noticed a musician and his female companion sitting underneath the tall canopy at a picnic table almost hidden from view – he began to strum his guitar and they both started to sing a haunting song, another woman stood nearby entranced. I walked on my favourite upper path overlooking the ocean filled with joy at this unexpected gift. Some of the tree trunks nearby sported large red construction paper hearts tied with old-fashioned twine imploring passersby to hug them and leave the date…

The paths I lately walk beside the dark green lagoon reveal heaps of goslings nestled together with their watchful parents nearby; an older gentleman walking towards me remarked to his wife, “It seems to be the year of the Canada Goose”, and he was right, I was met with downy goslings almost every step I took!

This unique season unfolding during a world-wide pandemic leaves me breathless with its fierce fuschia, pale yellow and vibrant red blooms punctuating shimmering greens – there is fragrance all around emanating from young snow white rhododendron bushes and floating from waning cherry blossoms. Perhaps this unrelenting virus has put everything I see and feel into sharp focus, like a Monet painting come to life.

Above an outcropping of rock by the ocean, ravens and eagles soar as I walk on an almost empty seawall, apex predators ever alert for unsuspecting prey. Their raucous calls yet another form of music to my ears on this fine spring day. I’m forever grateful that these late spring days offer such respite from staying inside, there is always a friendly face to wave to and something new to see…

Today feels like the first of many summer days to come so we packed up some salad and sandwiches to head into the slowly awakening park to find a picnic table far from the madding crowd. What a surprise to find two empty freshly painted tables (in warm terracotta hues) waiting for us near the for now closed Railway Cafe. We vowed to try to do this at least once a week after a wonderful lunch in the open air!

On my solo walk later in the afternoon after fruitlessly trying to find some quiet space, I wandered back to the cedar grove near the Great Blue heronry I noted earlier, to drink some cool water underneath a majestic tree with just enough sunshine among the shadows. There are two paths on either side of me with a few trees between them to allow me a view of the many people heading to picnic areas and down to the beach. The fragrance of spring is in the air with the odd prehistoric chatter from the many heron nests, this tiny oasis a perfect place to write and read a word or two.

COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifting in our part of the world – a recent foray to a boarded up downtown that kept me away for over 2 months revealed colourful murals filled with whimsy and good wishes. Just a few retail stores took their murals down to welcome masked shoppers on streets devoid of their usual activity. A new world is unfolding and I hope to step boldly into the future with the mantra, fewer faces and bigger spaces, as my armour guiding the way. Tomorrow seems closed for the moment, a new day will dawn – this cannot be forever.

Spring’s romantic side is on show near the Rose Garden in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

This beautiful blossom heart was discovered near the Stanley Park Pavilion, its fleeting beauty a sign of hope to warm the hearts of everyone who passes by.

Shimmering green just a wander away from our apartment on the edge of a rainforest!

This post is dedicated to our Provincial Health Officer (British Columbia), Dr. Bonnie Henry, whose calm words became the title of my post. She comes to each press conference wearing kick-ass Fluevog shoes and cool jewellery, weaving words of hope amid the hard data.

 

 

 

 

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Portal

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” – William Blake

A good friend and I often email each other but make a habit to call periodically to hear a different voice other than the one inside our heads. It’s heartwarming to share concerns or insights as weeks of staying inside and social distancing slowly become months.

This change-maker pandemic has stolen so many identities from all of us it makes my head spin. Words to describe myself – potential volunteer, traveller, bookstore wanderer and coffee bar patron no longer apply. There are new words that settle over me like a scratchy wool sweater – solo walker, isolation diarist and 7 pm cheerleader honouring all those that stock our grocery shelves and care for the sick. An ordinary human being trying to make sense of this novel passage, thankful for caring neighbours and loving family as the earth and its population stills.

Identities that have been shed are being reborn, becoming innovators, ambassadors and life savers – truck drivers, those grocery clerks/shelf stockers we cheer for and caregivers in our long term care facilities are now first in our thoughts and so needed.

We’ve just heard from our health care officials that staying inside and practising safe social distancing is helping to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this deadly virus with mid-May an historic time to aim for re: lifting of some restrictions (safely, of course) as the world begins to take baby steps towards what is being touted as the new normal with the caveat that we might not return to the lives that we lived in December for quite some time.

On some of my neighbourhood walks, I often come across images left behind as the lockdown descended: in one business, its windows bare, I can see a book hurriedly left on the counter with the word “heaven” in its title, an eerie film still from an apocalyptic movie. I’ve noticed neighbours bringing out their lawn chairs to sit in the sun in alleyways or the park, I’m not the only one to bring out a thermos of tea or coffee, a welcome break from our couches. When I look up on these daily walks, I see people perched on their balconies reading with a steaming cup of liquid nearby, they’ve inspired me to create a reading/tea nook on my own balcony, something I will work on this coming warm weekend.

I find I falter when I think too far ahead…it’s important to be prepared and have goals to jump-start when things settle  but the most pressing task for us all is to live in the moment, day to day, it’s all we can ask of ourselves. My goal is to close my eyes at the end of the day knowing I’ve reached out to everyone I need or want to, that I’ve tackled a small project or two and have thought of a new one.

There are days when I find it hard to keep motivated re: those daily solo walks but I keep pushing through the inertia and Covid-19 fatigue, this is a defining time for us all even if we didn’t cause or ask for this…there is grief woven through my days, too, as I think of all the unique human beings the world has lost. I try to honour my time here by appreciating each day even though it’s hard to keep calm and unafraid sometimes. The evaporating fragrance of my own cup of black tea challenges me to adapt, to breathe and let go.

I recall an exquisite shift last year in England on a walk down from an ancient castle through a tangled bit of woodland with Wood doves perched on winter limbs – my heart fluttered as I breathed in the sweet convergence of blessed peace, beauty and soaring harmony sensing with an inner knowledge that this could all slip away, sensing that a storm was coming and here it is.

Sometimes stone steps lead to blooming portals…I often pause here on my solo walks through Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

I pass this romantic offering on the Camellia Walkway just before those magical stone steps.

This enchanting capture just off the Camellia Walkway never fails to fill me with joy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Pause

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T.S. Eliot

On a night of rain and whiskey, the raindrops and burn keep worry away during watershed days after the pandemic announcement that has stilled the world. We’ve all retreated to our homes and apartments to do our part in slowing down the spread of a deadly virus gone rogue. Staying in is definitely the new black…

My heart is warmed by more than the odd glass of creamy Irish whiskey, there is the nightly ritual (at 7pm) when our West End neighbourhood erupts into clapping, pot banging and cheers of support for our first responders and healthcare workers. Before that magical hour that I gladly participate in, the news is turned off and a CD put on as we dance and sing through our collection.

Days are spent tackling projects put off over the years as work hours and travel filled our lives – each morning is devoted to the task at hand while afternoons are set aside for daily walks and rare trips to our local grocery store.

In order to practice safe social distancing, I find myself walking quieter streets and lanes, counting every drifting cherry blossom, fragrant hyacinth and sunny daffodil. Park walks often entail exploring pathways and trails once avoided, there are many of us out there doing the same (exercising and getting some fresh air), lonely paths aren’t so lonely anymore and sometimes there are smiles.

Spring never fails to push away the darkness of winter and now, it tempers the toothy edges of an invisible enemy forcing us to dive deep, as it strips away the other masks we all wear, revealing who we truly are. We’ve already witnessed violence in our back alleyway – there was the shocking sound of screaming, blood and two large men fighting, one even body-slamming the other. It shattered a quiet spring afternoon and reminded us of the precariousness of the world right now. Thankfully, many neighbours jumped in to help and the police as well as an ambulance arrived promptly.

At the other end of the spectrum, someone has carefully and artistically created emotional signposts of encouragement, “it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling”, “I hope something good happens to you today”, pinning them to park tree trunks and telephone poles – on my daily walks I’ve come across two of them and they’ve made me smile.

This pause, although worrisome, has changed our sense of time as work and school days go on hiatus – our linear world stretched into a delicious spaciousness. On this long weekend usually set aside for religious gatherings and ceremonies, we hiked into the park to find some of that new found space. In front of a lone mottled stump, we laid a blanket down upon mossy, bright green grass to let all that is spring wash over us (to watch bees lazily fly by and enjoy the sun’s warm rays).

We can hear the low rumble of distant traffic and the odd boat horn on Burrard Inlet, otherwise the silence in between is heavenly. A thermos of rooibos chai tea is waiting to be served as hummingbirds launch themselves straight up to the sky. After a small cup of tea or two, we begin to think about packing up for a walk through the oxygen-rich forest aiming for Beaver Lake, to find a bench there and finish our thermos. As I took my last sip of tea, an eagle flew low over the ground not far from our blanket, and do you know what?, for a moment this pause forced upon us felt almost normal.

A beautiful capture near the Railway Café (closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic) where we picnic in the summer in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

These gorgeous tulip trees stand beside the stone walkway overlooking a grove of cherry trees (this is what we can find waiting for us on our daily walks through the park!).

When I need to practice social distancing, I can climb up these stone stairs from the camellia walkway to let others pass. It’s a peaceful spot especially in the sun…

 

 

 

 

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Broken Clouds

Not All Storms Come To Disrupt Your Life…Some Come To Clear Your Path – Goalcast

New windows have been installed in our apartment rental and on rainy evenings I’ve noticed a different rhythm, a staccato beat as the drops strike a gentle lullaby before sleep takes over.

The noise, dust and disruption has chased us to Vancouver Island where we’ve found shelter in a woodland studio amid towering cedar and gnarly arbutus. Winter sunlight has graced us twice resulting in languid walks through beloved forest trails and on the windswept beach where swathes of drying seaweed resemble undulating dunes.

This sylvan retreat guarantees respite from broken clouds – late winter storms and the warning whispers of an impending pandemic. There have been many stolen hours without the worrisome news, time spent walking, drinking coffee and cups of fragrant rooibos tea as the sun comes out to paint the dark green leaves of the many trees silver. We’ve arrived at a different time of year on this indulgent trip and these last days of winter have brought some unexpected delights – being woken each morning by the haunting call of a raven, the blue sky overhead filled with playful eagles calling out to each other and clear nights for stargazing with only the glowing moon to light the way through quiet forest paths.

It’s these delights now that calm me as the world holds its breath as an unleashed pandemic runs its course…

I’ve been for many walks in nature looking for love and human contact albeit at 6 feet apart on forest trails and by the ocean nearer to home – I found it observing a woman praying on a bench facing the sea, in words traced in the sand, “Have a good day”, coming upon solo picnics in the park and people tucked away among the trees, sitting on fallen stumps with their books and take-out coffee cups nearby.

We are doing well at the moment; we make a big pot of homemade vegetable soup (Spinach & White Bean), decanting it to freeze for 7 or 8 lunches and lately, have gone back to our Mexican meals – making a batch of refried beans from scratch to accompany omelettes, quesadillas and yummy fish tacos.

Each time I go out for a wander, I’m drawn to a grocery store or small ethnic convenient store where I find the item I used to buy regularly – most of them lost to panic buying -items that are kept on a wish list I carry inside my head and I’m grateful. We will get through this, find ourselves on the other side, find another pause filled with wonder and relief.

A driftwood fort constructed on Rathtrevor Beach near Parksville on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

On a walk back from the forest to our woodland studio at Tigh-Na-Mara, we came upon heaps of dry seaweed on Rathrevor Beach.

At this time of year (late winter) we noticed a lot of black rabbits and burrows scattered throughout the natural vegetation in Rathrevor Park.

Covid-19 update: I was sad to hear that ferry service to the part of Vancouver Island we love the most has been suspended for 60 days, another step in holding the line against an invisible enemy.

 

 

 

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