Second Summer

By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.” – Helen Hunt Jackson

A burnt orange crescent moon rose in the night sky late this week, ushering in a glowing red sun smothered in smoke. Breezes that were absent during the heat dome in early summer have made the last few days of a third heatwave bearable but stalled yesterday resulting in a 10+ dangerous air quality reading and a strong smell of wood smoke. Thankfully we had thawed a simple supper allowing us to heat up some delicious vegetarian chili rather than fry or bake something. We anticipated another sleepless night but managed to create some movement in the apartment with our tower fan and air purifier. Autumn arrives in a few weeks and we hope to have a second summer rather than a prolonged fire season (some fires in the Interior might burn until the first snowfall).

Today the smoke and heat have fled and a cool breeze kept me company as I walked up my street to a heritage home to check out a Postcard Era exhibit called Wish You Were Here – highlighting the art of the postcard, connection and communication. There was a touching poster board note about the pandemic and how important it is now, connecting – posting a photo or commenting on a blog site, today’s version of mailing a postcard to a loved one or friend.

The collection of sepia-toned and pastel hued postcards came from all over after a call-out to the many small museums up and down the coast, giving them a chance to be seen in the big city. I was amazed at the similarity to my own postcard collection with their cursive sentiments echoing my own. I had the whole house to myself to wander through on a beautiful sunny afternoon and I’m so glad I went!

As I write these words, a fragrant cup of rooibos tea steams gently in a delicate English tea cup decorated in bold black stripes and an array of stylistic animals and birds (some holding fans, beloved books or playing amid autumn leaves in sepia toned colours of their own). I’m at a delightful coffee place and gift shop called Goodge that I try to visit every summer. Sitting outside at their bistro tables near a lushly scented florist shop is divine…

A second summer has emerged with sundrenched days and some welcome rainy ones – on one of these perfect summer days we left the city to spend some time at the Shipyards (formerly the Wallace Shipyards), just a short Seabus ride across beautiful Burrard Inlet to the North Shore. The Shipyards sit adjacent to a very vibrant Lonsdale Quay where we sat dockside recently enjoying some delicious teriyaki take-out. Today’s lunch (tasty burgers and glasses of cold beer) was at the Original Tap and Barrel restaurant where we sat underneath a bright yellow patio umbrella at a scrubbed wooden table facing the stunning Vancouver skyline. Ravens as black as night flew overhead to sit on a large crane left behind as industrial sculpture while the ocean breeze kept us cool.

As we revel in this second summer, autumn is quietly painting the tops of the chestnut tree one street over and I kick through fallen acorns on my way to write at Veranda Cafe, thankful for the warm sunshine and the freedom to sit outside, to savour a cup of tea and take it all in.

A view of Lonsdale Quay (North Vancouver, B.C.) where we sat dockside overlooking the Burrard Inlet.
The stunning Vancouver skyline captured just steps away from The Original Tap and Barrel restaurant.
The Shipyards area offers quiet spaces, hidden patios and a long pier to eat an ice cream on, there are many industrial and marine touches to enjoy on a sunny wander.
This is a shot looking back towards the Original Tap and Barrel restaurant and that huge crane that the ravens like to sit on!

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Golden Hour

But in the midst of all that is, was or ever will be, there is a light that keeps shining, reaching us from far away.” – Sasha Sagan

After an unexpected and very deadly heatwave that enveloped the West Coast in late June and early July, it feels wonderfully cool to sit at a table in what was the former glory of our local public market amid generous air conditioning and write a few lines. During a season not touched or shaped by climate change, the cooling breezes coming off the deep blue Pacific Ocean provide respite from any errant rise in temperature. The heat dome that arose smothered all the breezes and because of low tide, killed one billion sea creatures and left those of us without air conditioning struggling to keep cool and hydrated.

Over the five worst days, sleep eluded us while our days were spent chasing the sun as we opened and closed blinds not meant to keep out the oppressive heat while leaving our apartment door open Mexican-style to usher in fresher air from the hallway. One or two suppers consisted of take-out carried down to a shady bench (prime real estate!) in the park hoping for a wayward breeze off the lagoon or a sense of coolness from hidden places amid foliage not touched by the sun.

As we revel now in a summer just a touch warmer than normal, fire season has started early (there are over 300 fires burning in our province at the time of this writing) with another heatwave warning announced for the Interior. One town (Lytton) up country has already been destroyed by a raging fire that may have been human caused, two people died and many others have been left to grapple with losing their homes and businesses as well as their jobs. Adding these worrisome notes to the layers left behind by the ongoing pandemic, I’m left wondering, are there any golden hours left to savour?

One golden hour led me downtown to my favourite gallery space again to lose myself in two photography exhibits, one showcasing vintage storefront signage of corner stores (often run by families) disappearing fast from our local communities to make way for new development and the other, a series of colourful photographs capturing unguarded moments of inhabitants and visitors in a Chinatown struggling to survive. I was on my way to visit the main library after not perusing the inviting stacks in almost two years, to my delight, the photography exhibit was an unexpected detour before finding my way there…

Another hour resulted in a much anticipated visit to the Imagine Van Gogh exhibit at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Nothing prepared me for the subtly moving panels graced with Vincent’s iconic works and the unexpected thrill in seeing a few lush flower and creamy blossom paintings slipped in among simple black and white line drawings and his intriguing portrait series. Camera phones constantly captured the beautiful fluid images which even appeared on the floor. The pre-booked hour flew by and I reluctantly left the exquisite soundtrack and art behind, an after image of autumn yellow, glowing reds and the midnight blue of a starry night carried with me to linger over as summer wanes.

Today I find myself stitching those golden hours together underneath a bright blue outdoor umbrella at the Sunset Beach Pop-Up Patio, sitting at one of the nostalgic pale blue picnic tables facing the creek before it becomes ocean. There are about thirteen brightly coloured kites on the other side fluttering underneath a pale blue sky heralding other people’s golden hours, an echo of summers past awakening again. I’ve just finished a lovely amble through Granville Island noting the loss of favourite shops and anticipating the new. It was a joy to revisit the sweet coffee bar tucked underneath the Granville St. bridge and enjoy a delicious gelato while watching the world go by via boat and ferry. Hopping on the False Creek ferry boat myself was something I had hoped to do this summer, a small city getaway to somewhere local to support a small business.

There are always golden hours to be had if one is willing, hours to be carved out or embraced in between our day to day – hours to be savoured despite the vagaries of a worldwide pandemic and climate change.

This tongue in cheek sign greeted me as I eagerly got in line at the Vancouver Convention Centre!
What a gorgeous immersive hour I spent! It was lovely to see everyone’s delight amid the blue…
These images took my breath away with their ethereal colour!
So many phone cameras pivoted towards this single image, Starry Night.
I took so many wonderful photographs it was hard to decide which ones to post but I seemed to be drawn to his saturated blues…

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Feed Your Soul

Explore the earth, soak up her beauty, and let it feed your soul. Love her like your own, and then leave her be.” – April 2021 Alive magazine

Deep verdant green and fragrant gardens draw me most days to paths winding like a fairy tale beneath clouds of falling petals. Plaintive crow young hidden amid an explosion of new leaves are a constant chorus punctuated by the prehistoric squawks of adult herons hovering over their own offspring – happy harbingers of the warmer season to come, feeding my soul each day…

May has unfolded between the latest restrictions to stem the tide of the pandemic in year two and a newly cautious embrace of some kind of normalcy resulting in busy weekends and much quieter days during the week as folks begin to move around once again.

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been keeping my eyes out for breadcrumbs leading back to past pleasures and was thrilled to come across a note advertising a free art exhibit at one of my favourite gallery spaces downtown.

I haven’t ventured downtown very much in the past year having only seen a very small showing at the same venue last summer. This exhibit’s title was a nod to the restrictions in place here in our province – Essential Travel, an artful voyage. This yearly exhibit (ParkerArtSalon.com) is usually held in the artist’s own homes in the east end of the city, an outing I’ve often longed to go on!

I was the only patron and enjoyed a lovely wander through curvy sculptures, colourful abstracts, serene landscapes and a haunting work of Marilyn Monroe (travelling back in time!). With face mask on and strategic hand sanitizer stations, my time inside the airy gallery felt very safe. As I was leaving, I was delighted to see an eager young couple enter on what turned out to be the last day of the exhibit.

That last day ushered in a mini-heatwave and I found myself taking my latest read and a thermos of tea down to a bench beside a friendly tree with jewel-like hummingbirds and noisy flickers to keep me company. With the lagoon just steps away and the sun shaded by leafy green, I imagined a plethora of summer days spent on various benches throughout the park or above the seawall overlooking the sparkling ocean. Other afternoons I retreated to Veranda Cafe beneath a lush green canopy, sitting at a shiny red table with warm sunlight creating delicately moving shadows upon two intersecting neighbourhood streets – a perfect spot to watch the world go by with a cup of jasmine green tea fragrantly steaming or a frothy almond milk hot chocolate waiting to be sipped.

On my way one day to my outdoor table I came across a young couple standing on the sidewalk – the father cradling his newborn daughter face up to the bright sun and when I noticed how tiny she was, he said they had been given a prescription to bring her outside to receive some sunlight. When I heard this, I thought – what a beautiful gesture for their family doctor to make and how joyous it would be if we all could find ourselves open to receiving this grace and healing, feeding our souls and forever taking in the beauty that surrounds us.

This capture reminds us of travels yet to come! It faces the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge just off the Stanley Park Seawall (Vancouver, B.C.)
Beaver Lake is ringed by observation decks and sunny benches, I hope to find myself here often throughout the summer!
Terry came upon this unusual nurse tree on one of his afternoon walks in Stanley Park, another heatwave is unfolding and when I look at this photo, I feel a sweet coolness come over me…
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But first, spring

It is so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.” – Matthew Arnold

Tiny, barely there snowflakes lazily fell from the blurry grey sky this week with the promise of more to come. And as predicted, the first snowfall of a waning season arrived in the predawn to paint our world in “picture postcard” stokes evoking distant holiday memories.

Snowfalls are a rare event here on the West Coast and I eagerly looked forward to moving through the forest and our neighbourhood breathing in the cold air wafting down from the north while fluffy snowflakes touched mask-less faces keeping six feet apart.

A long winter’s walk through fragrant cedar and lacy bare trees beckoned – the snow covered trails offering a hushed respite from the everyday. We walked the upper trails, an area I haven’t traversed in a long while and the snowy vistas that greeted us were magical. We were wondering if we might come upon an elusive coyote but it may have been too cold for wandering. There are about twelve coyotes co-existing in the park although two aggressive coyotes were recently euthanized for nipping at joggers on trails bereft of human activity pre-pandemic. Thankfully, the rest have been left in peace and not seeing a coyote was good news after almost a month of trail closures to modify their behaviour (sadly, some park users may have contributed to this behavior change by befriending or feeding them).

Our snow day only lasted forty-eight hours resulting in walks near the edge of the park to look for remnants of snow at the base of trees and spread upon gardens. Mountain air and glorious sunshine merged to leave one feeling exhilarated – hearing the haunting sound of a French horn being played above the seawall by a young woman sitting on a bench and a few steps later, hearing the shivering notes of a lone bag piper added yet another sensory layer to a winter day hinting at better days to come…

Meteorological spring arrived March 1st with softer air, brighter blooms and longer days with exquisite smudged sunsets lighting up the buildings near us on fire. On a recent warm day knowing that many more will come, we made our way to our go-to park concession, Lumbermen’s Arch, for perfectly cooked fish and tasty chips, sitting outside with the welcome sun caressing our faces.

True spring has now arrived (the weeks seem to fly by!), the signs are everywhere – 19 Great Blue herons perching like gargoyles on nearby rooftops have begun to face the heronry, some of the previously empty nests hosting one or two pairs already. Leafing and blooming abound – dreams of shedding layers, toting a book and a thermos of freshly brewed tea to a park bench and strolling through sweet smelling forest fill our thoughts. Hardier souls are already pointing the way, a recent sunny lagoon walk revealed a solitary biker sitting against an observation deck, his faraway gaze on the waterfowl and woodland beyond, making me dream of summer but first, spring!

Our spring walks through Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) yield magnificent rainforest sculptures, this haunting sight evokes images from Lord of the Rings, its origins created by a human caused fire years ago.
Terry captured this gorgeous shot just down our street at the edge of the park where for many years he played his acoustic guitar to the delight of many!
We’ve noticed this year that the forest is carpeted in soft green moss, it’s found on the ground, fallen logs and draped throughout tree limbs – it makes for a magical walk filling our eyes with spring!
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Fate

She would find a loyal companion, jump into a jeep

and head to Mexico to ride out the storm.

Borders are closed to me now, so I journey within –

opening windows painted shut over the years

and closing doors on things that no longer serve me.

I collect words lying in the dust and string

them like pearls to wear close to my heart.

Words like strength, beauty and love –

they’re battered and bruised but I hold

them tenderly just the same.

There is polished wood and precious books

and soon there will be fresh flowers, their scent

following the light as there are no curtains,

darkness is not welcome here.

What would she do? I’d like to think

she’d do the same,

live the very best life and keep on fighting.

The snow is gone now but this golden witch hazel tree brightened a late winter walk through Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).





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Wintering

We are all treading the vanishing road of a song in the air, the vanishing road of the spring flowers and the winter snows, the vanishing roads of the winds and the streams, the vanishing road of beloved faces.” – Richard Le Gallienne

Wintering conjures up days of bruised sky, winking raindrops caught in green boughs and brightly coloured berries not yet eaten. It’s a long walk through lush forest and down by the lagoon, eventually finding an empty bench to sit socially distant with an old friend. There is more sun than rain this season (so far) and often, it feels more like spring.

One late afternoon poised between lingering light and enveloping dark, the scent of damp soil and growing things surrounded my senses lifting my heart. Coming home to glowing light, slightly drawn blinds and the tea kettle waiting for water added to the cozy anticipation in those last few steps. Simple pleasures rule the day as we dive deep into year two of the pandemic and now its variants.

Remnants of the holiday season can still be seen in the lone white paper snowflake hanging crookedly in an apartment window, in dangling coloured lights and the odd tree still draped in its December finery. But it’s the signs of spring that pepper my walks and catch my eye these days – the heavenly swathe of yellow daffodils that appear each year on a hill overlooking English Bay, delicate snowdrops appearing like gifts in unexpected places and creamy camellia blossoms poking through shiny green leaves.

January has left us with balmy days and snow-covered mountains, the lagoon and ocean teeming with feathered visitors from far away places and a lone Red Tail hawk haunting an awakening forest. There is random poetry pasted to utility boxes and brightly painted rocks scattered upon garden beds, more small pleasures to shore up against data that can smother one’s senses.

Still restricted to our local community means wintering inside amid a small stack of eagerly picked up books from the library, taking out a beautiful journal I’ve begun bravely jotting down words in and drinking winter teas as notes of ginger and chai swirl around me. It means getting to know the individual crows and sparrows that land on our balcony hoping for a peanut or two which sometimes includes naming them (Hi, Jack Sparrow!).

The languid days of bright spring and warm summer fled this wintering months ago, leaving me to my own devices and much shorter walks. Walks that nevertheless soothe my restless soul and reveal paths back to the time before…

Terry captured this regal pose of the lone Red Tail hawk that visited Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) recently.

Snow finally arrived covering the overhead bridge we walk on to find our way to Beaver Lake here in Stanley Park!

We spent a magical St. Valentine’s Day walking the upper trails in Stanley Park, the air was so fresh and there was hardly a soul so we were free from wearing our facemasks!

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Siege

In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.” – John Burroughs

December has arrived in wreathes of fog and apricot coloured sunsets amid twinkling lights and the scent of cedar. On my walks I’m greeted with the sight of rolls of colourful wrapping paper tucked into backpacks and boxes of caramel chocolates sitting beside neighbourly benches waiting to be shared.

This normally festive month will look and feel a lot different to many but already the cancelled Christmas Market and light festivals have been replaced by a gorgeous downtown Floral Trail (Fleurs De Villes Noel). Earlier in the week as we walked home from running errands downtown, we came across several fragrant garlands tacked above several high-end retail stores reminding us immediately of London. On my wander downtown I made sure to pick up a paper map from The Sutton Place Hotel to note some of the offerings on my way to Indigo Books – I was delighted to come across queenly figures, fantastical stags and floral thrones as well as larger than life hearts and swags, one of my favourites was a black English telephone box filled with fragrant flowers. It was heavenly to stand nearby and breathe in the scent of rose, eucalyptus and pine!

Today the rain is falling, the radio is on playing familiar and beloved carols as I catch up on writing my holiday cards. There’s a cup of rooibos chai tea on the table and my glowing blue cork lights and this after a bowl of homemade vegetable soup with a delicious turkey sandwich studded with slices of good English Cheshire cheese from last night’s charcuterie/cheese board supper…

There are tighter restrictions in place currently, resulting in the cancellation of a family holiday tradition in Stanley Park, attending Bright Nights. It’s lovely to wander through the fragrant forest just after the early sunset to catch the sparkle and fantasy of thousands of rainbow hued lights winking through winters’ dark edges. Now the site sits behind fencing seemingly forgotten, its lights snuffed out to keep us safe with hopes of a phoenix-like rebirth next year.

On recent walks through our neighbourhood I’ve noticed small fledging apple trees and towering cedars tenderly dressed in donated decorations, strings of lights and shiny tinsel outside of apartment buildings. Random bare trees sprout collections of lustrous silver, sprightly red and burnished gold baubles to catch the eye and bring a touch of magic into everyday lives creating their own Bright Nights moments in miniature!

A late afternoon stroll beside dripping raindrop heavy trees and a very vibrant purple beautyberry bush rewarded me with the sight of a tall pine tree swathed in ropes of teal and berry coloured tinsel garlands with the odd decoration glinting in the gloom. A West End neighbour out walking with her exuberant Black Lab, Ruby, was gently hanging some of the decorations that had been knocked down by recent rains and wind. It was a tender moment that touched my heart.

Despite the ongoing pandemic laying siege to our world, I’m heartened by the beautiful light I come across most days – I often walk home after running an errand or two by the ocean where a very large tree sits above the bay entwined in lights, a beacon for all when dusk begins to fall. The salt air always clears my head of the to-do’s waiting there as I come upon four lovely light installations at the intersection of beach and city. There’s a graceful heron, a breaching orca and the tree of life – my favourite is the giant grizzly bear fishing for salmon. On one such afternoon I stood transfixed for several minutes while listening to a soundtrack at the grizzly bear installation, I had never heard it before. There were sounds of birds singing in the forest, the gentle lapping of ocean waves and the sound of salmon leaping from the water, an unexpected moment filled with light.

All these images and sounds are now woven into the myth that this season will become, forever tainted with the words, this will be a holiday season like no other. And now that December has quietly become January, I hope the light at the end of the tunnel shines brightly for us all.

A winter’s walk through Stanley Park revealed a summer scene, the many fungi attached to this stump resemble butterflies clinging in perfect harmony!

The weathered metal fencing resembles a medieval keep as Beaver Lake gets some much needed tending and dredging.

This stunning cedar carving just off a trail in Stanley Park was bare for many years until it was recently painted or vandalized in a coat of many colours. The artist is unknown and was not commissioned…

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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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