Crows & Leaves

On a bare branch a crow is perched – autumn evening.” – Basho

It’s the first day that feels like fall – we woke to a tropical-like rainfall that fell in cool, misty sheets rendering the dark green forest in tones of grey. Outside there was a flurry of feathers as crow, gull, and wee sparrow raced for cover, the languorous days of summer becoming a distant memory.

There are four apples from this year’s harvest waiting in the crisper, to be eaten on a day that still feels like summer as we walk through that same forest restored to lush green. Summer and fall feel like two different worlds, seasons embracing light as well as darkness, reminding me of the journeys we take each day whether out in nature or in the man-made worlds of the cities and towns we live in, it’s the shifting shadows we encounter that reveal these differing worlds. At this time of year I prefer to spend as much time as possible in nature’s world, marvelling at the too many blades of grass still to count, the many falling leaves to keep track of and birds flying free through the air.

That luminous day of apple eating has not come to pass, the months of September and October unfolding in storms and lashing rain. Three seasons of summers past now known as fire season have resulted in quite a few trees having to be taken down, their root systems weakened by previous drought-like conditions. Whenever I hear the sound of chain saws outside our windows, I wonder what beautiful tree will be missing from our neighbourhood – several catalpa trees have gone and just recently, a large chestnut and a dying silver birch. Lately, after stormy weather, I’ve noticed tangled limbs and mossy branches lying on the grass often surrounded by yellow caution tape, ready to be dealt with by our city workers.

Among the crows and leaves are lovely glimpses of grace – dear Charlotte (a neighbour of my Mom’s) sitting on a bench facing a calm English Bay, my late father’s walker by her side (a timely gift given when I found out that her own walker had broken), the sweet calico cat who walks down our street, trotting behind her owners’ as they step out for coffee, claiming a spot underneath a hedge until they head back home and on a recent stormy day, small tornadoes of glowing leaves swirling amid gale force winds, an ancient dance heralding the arrival of winter. Crows and leaves, forever weaving a skein of magic that never fails to enchant…

Some of that autumn magic captured on a beautiful trail that leads to Brockton Oval in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Stellar jays have come down from the mountains to feast on the nuts and berries of the forest, we can hear there raucous calls throughout the West End!

In almost every direction, our eyes are greeted by glorious colour! We are currently enjoying a record-breaking 13 dry days in a row…

 

 

 

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Longing

Every leaf speaks bliss to me. Fluttering from the autumn tree.” – Emily Bronte, “Fall , Leaves, Fall”

During the last days of summer, I decided a wander through the tiny garden patchwork of our neighbourhood and the still lush green canopy of the forest would still the longing for a season not yet passed.

The community garden at the edge of the park that once showcased stunning lilies and a swathe of fragrant sweet pea vines, now welcomes a multitude of berry-coloured rosehips, jewel-like berries and gently swaying sunflowers. There is still enough colour to attract bumblebees and butterflies – the sunny yellows, cobalt blue and creamy pinks reminding me to gather up these remaining summer days, to keep them close even as the uppermost leaves of the rain deprived trees start to change.

My feet took me on a different route today through the tall firs and cedars to my writerly spot at the Urban Forest Café (soon to close for the season and be reborn in October under a different moniker). The path I walked skirted the Rose Garden where the many bushes still held their showy blooms sharing that heavenly scent, at the end of that magical meander, I came upon a Narnia-like lamppost I must have walked by many times, never noticing the simple plaque at the base. It originally stood illuminating the Georgia Viaduct downtown before being restored and donated to Stanley Park, its carved stone and milky globe whispering gently of a storied past.

The late summer breeze carried the clean country scent of the Mounted Police horses stabled nearby as I breathed in pure oxygen mingled with the mystery of the trees, their aromatic oil tickling my nostrils as they soothed longings not ready to be named yet. I’ve sat here at the café at least once a month this season to write on these pages with a golden chai tea dancing on my taste buds surrounded by greenery, cheeky black crows and today, a mama raccoon ambled by my small table with 6 babies in tow!

This last week of true summer is warmer than normal and the coolness of this green space is an oasis from the bright sun. It’s been a pleasure to find myself here, reading a few pages from a recently found book on a library visit or writing down thoughts inspired by a forest garden nestled near a vibrant city. There is news that our part of the world may be in for a wetter fall than normal, so any burgeoning longing will have to be put away for another day, it’s time to get out there.

No matter the season, the forest is full of magic here in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Sitting on a bench in the heavenly Rose Garden, one can find windows into other worlds!

With Halloween just around the corner, this Chinese carved dragon looking towards the North Shore (located near the seawall at the edge of Stanley Park) adds an atmospheric note!

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Unravelling

We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” – Henry Rollins

It was on the news again, a reminder that these high summer nights were the best time to see nature’s own fireworks display glancing off the earth’s atmosphere. Deep in a night closer to dawn, I stood in front of the open sliding glass doors nine floors up to catch the show. There was a beautiful temperate breeze cooling my skin and when I looked up into the dark sky, I could see the sparkle of stars and knew I might be in luck to see the Perseids meteor shower once again as the earth made its way through the ancient dust of meteors long gone. As I waited, it felt like I could hear the velvet night breathing, the only noise, a soft cooing from a sleepy pigeon and the odd raucous call of a gull. No one else seemed to be watching, even though a few windows were lamp-lit but not enough to obscure the two bright pulses of light streaking across the sky, the only ones I spied before heading back to bed.

It’s worth some interrupted sleep to marvel at something bigger than ourselves, a mystical distraction from the unravelling of the world taking place on our screens and sometimes just outside our doors. Each time we turn on our TV or computer, we are met with the sight of protesters from all four corners of the globe, unimaginable sorrow and tales that echo sagas from the world of Lord Of The Rings. Was the world always this way, unravelling at the speed of light that captures the innocent, monetizes the wild beauty of nature and dumbs down the miracle of life into swathes of data to be mined by others whose unravelling has reached a peak I hope never to climb?

Each brand new day gives us a chance to capture the frayed edges of this unravelling, hopefully binding them into some kind of wholeness, stopping the momentum just for a moment, helping all to imagine a different world and new horizons before the unravelling stops cold because we’ve all run out of time.

Our favourite trail near the Urban Forest Café in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.), it’s now closed until next spring and I’ll miss seeing this lush green.

The urban rainforest of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) is filled with stunning shots like this! We are forever grateful to be able to explore this natural gallery…

Autumn’s golden touch is starting to make itself known, all that lush green will start to burnish as the days fly by!

 

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Amor Fati (Love Your Fate)

Fate is inexorable, fate is immovable” – popularized by Bernard Cornwell

Some mornings I wake up dreaming of abalone shells, their ocean blue outer skin revealing eternity within, there once was so many, my younger self could pick one up off any West Coast beach and bring it home. Its shimmering iridescence inside evoking childhood summer holidays, a magical Harry Potter-like talisman capable of taking me back to those sandy shores each time I held one in my hand. They can only be found in galleries and museums now, creating a longing within for the ones I let go…

In this place and time, I can honestly say, I love my fate. There are people, places and a more youthful energy that I miss but I’m forever grateful to have been able to collect those rare shells, remember a warm Barcelona night sitting in the soft dusk anticipating a delicious meal and playing in what us kids coined, the haunted soccer field in the Black Forest of West Germany, the scent of lemon trees in Cyprus another layer of memory to contemplate. An unwinding fate that has led to this moment in time, an Arabic language rising and falling nearby as I sit writing at an outside table at our corner coffee bar, with a refreshing ice chocolate, breathing in summer, thankful for the occasional soft breeze.

Each generation finds their own magical touchstones and talismans to mark their fates, they come in many forms – a beloved book, a soaring summer anthem or the still point between lakeshore and forest, free will and choice their constant companions. Sometimes, it’s hard to love our fate if we aren’t feeling well, if we’ve suffered a loss so terrible we think we might not survive, some of us may not have shelter or enough food to eat, we may even have had to leave our homelands.

In this ebb and flow that informs our unique lives, I hope we can all live lives of meaning in between words, the notes of exquisite music and nature’s healing touch. Fate is ever-changing, it unfolds, full of surprises, starting with our first steps out the door – will we go left or right? As we make our way, we might find ourselves changing someone else’s inexorable fate, often with just a smile or a kind word, we may even purchase a hot drink for the soul we come across huddled against the rain. Love your fate and if you can, change someone else’s!

The stunning new roof garden at the downtown Vancouver Public Library (Vancouver, B.C.). Its architectural envelope reminiscent of the coliseum in Rome.

When the coliseum in Rome was built centuries ago, no one imagined a future where its likeness would be sitting in the centre of a bright, modern city!

I found myself taking these shots after wandering through a quirky summer exhibit, I’m glad I turned left as I exited my building on that sunny day!

This post was inspired by a heartwarming write-up by a local writer and musician, Grant Lawrence. His article can be found at: https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/2019/07/17/hermit-desolation-sound-vancouver/

 

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The Hunt

No matter what you write, you actually can’t help retelling a fairy tale somewhere along the way.” – Catheryanne M. Valente

There is still a scent of jasmine and mint in the air and I’ve just slipped into my writerly space at Veranda Café. After a local walk to drop off the recyclables at various stores and venues, it’s nice to find myself with a hot drink on the table, notebook in hand. Our city neighbourhood is also lucky to have other spaces harbouring second-hand books for sale and I’m often on the hunt for vintage volumes (some with passages underlined), new British design magazines (what a luxury for only 25 cents each) as well as recent bestsellers. Today is a good day, a 2018 soft cover is tucked into my tote, to be read when darkness falls.

The hunt informs our lives on almost every level – we wake up to natural light leaking into our rooms or by the shrill ringing of the alarm clock, hunting for that first bracing cup of coffee or soothing mug of tea. Depending on whether we’re off to work hunting for a timely bus or creating a list for the shops we have to visit, in between, we’ll be on the hunt for that one item or piece of music endowing us with the power to change our mood, if not our day – sometimes we hope it might even change our lives.

Today finds me on the hunt for the sun and I’ve walked through the green lushness of the park to sit underneath filtered light, a golden chai tea steaming on the outdoor table at the Urban Forest Café. My favourite trail awaits, I walked it not long ago but the weeks have been flying by and I’ve missed its shelter from the hustle and bustle of our West End summer.

The sky above the towering cedars is filled with the whisper of clouds huddled against the pretty blue we haven’t seen for days, although most people are thankful that the smoky skies of last year haven’t yet made an appearance. As my pen scratches away, tourists ebb and flow around me, on the hunt for hot food and tickets to ride the train through the cool forest. For the moment, hunger for the hunt has abated until a rather large raccoon travels by the café, a truer member of the hunt than I, bridging two worlds, reminding me for a moment of who I truly am, a sister of the wild.

The beavers that reside at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) have created this beautiful lush landscape over the years!

A stunning capture of the lovely Dogwood trees to be found in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

There’s that pretty blue sky glowing above the bullrushes at the edge of Lost Lagoon!

 

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Do What Moves You

Love Yourself. Then Forget It. Then Love The World. – Mary Oliver, Devotions

The Canada Geese are doing it – I laughed out loud as the adults and growing goslings walked single file across the wide expanse of beach towards the ocean that recently hosted three transient Orca whales, launching themselves into the salt water as if on holiday. I wonder what the tourists and the kids, their school year having just ended, think about sharing this summer ritual with not just one or two geese but a whole flotilla!

Summer is so fleeting up here in the North (now known as Raptor country!) that it behooves us to do what moves us, to make sure we don’t miss a thing underneath the lingering light. But it seems, this wondrous season makes sure we don’t – on any given day filled with errands, visiting loved ones or a dear friend, the exotic fragrance of the Catalpa trees will tickle the nose or the creamy petals of the peonies catch one’s eye.

As I’ve mentioned before, a plethora of events, exhibits, and festivals spring up at this warmer time of year, enticing us to be more present in our world. When our local newspapers hit the stands each week, I read through each carefully, cutting out every announcement that makes my heart sing.

One exhibit that called to me is currently on at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art downtown. This hidden jewel came to my attention during an open house last year to celebrate the gallery’s tenth anniversary, as I wandered through the two floors among the wood carvings and sparkling jewels, I knew I would be back to once again enjoy the sense of sacredness amid the curated quiet. This summer’s exhibit (Womxn and Waterways – water honours us) is a haunting collection of photographs taken by or created by a group of Indigenous women artists celebrating the precious element, water. Some of the women portrayed can be seen crouched on dark rocks immersed in a pristine river, scuffed workman’s boots in stark contrast to the bejewelled necks and wrists while others embraced by waters elsewhere raise a gleaming copper bowl to the sky. There are traditional language words threaded throughout the two floors with powerful black and white images, as well as a painted and beaded canvas with silky black thread pooling down to the floor like a wild horse’s tail but actually represents a potential oil spill from the many tankers entering our coastal waters, it hangs in mute protest, a reminder to stand watch and protect the waters that honour us. There is also a small memorial to the artist, Audrey Siegl, who passed away this year – upon a small stand, two crossed cedar fronds in front of faded photographs mark a dynamic presence now lost to the world, her striking visage rendered in black and white just to the left, warrior eyes challenging us to continue the fight.

Summer has left us for the moment, riding on the jet stream to warm our eastern provinces and it’s under cloudy skies that I find myself attending lectures and the opening of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s latest offering, the magnificent bronzes of Giacometti (Alberto Giacometti – A Line Through Time). Despite the change in the weather, I’ll continue to do what moves me, show up, and love the world.

The words, theatre of the sky, coined by my neighbour Huguette are in play during the West Coast’s stunning sunsets!

A fiery sunset captured outside our windows above the West End here in Vancouver, B.C.

And not to be outdone, daylight’s first act – a stunning shot of the sky above beautiful Third Beach (Vancouver, B.C.)

 

 

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Fierce Grace

Dwell On The Beauty Of Life” – Marcus Aurelius

Living here in our changing city requires a fierce grace, once quiet areas are frequently overwhelmed with the noise of destruction and within moments it seems, the sound of construction. There are new faces daily to gaze upon as towers rise, making it harder to find respite, the amenities we take for granted (our local community centre, library and favourite coffee bars) slow to catch up. I do love it when the tourists arrive, they bring new energy and colourful maps into our world, enlivening mundane spaces, making those of us who live here appreciate them all the more.

A few weeks ago, I became a tourist of sorts myself, catching a bus downtown to meet a dear friend at Lonsdale Quay. As I entered the busy train station to catch the SeaBus for a 15 minute ride across the water, the excited voices of tourists taking pictures of the North Shore mountains, a massive container ship from Mumbai, and the verdant green of Stanley Park, filtered through the air. Lonsdale Quay is a bustling spot brimming with market stalls, eateries filled with delicious aromas, tea cups and baked goods as well as boutique-style shops. Our plans were to walk up a San Francisco-like hill to wander through a second-hand bookstore stuffed to the rafters before sitting down somewhere quirky for lunch. We ended up at an organic/vegan bakery that reminded me of the very cool Bliss Bakery upcountry in Peachland that Terry and I enjoyed last year on our road trip to the Okanagan. Afterwards, we explored some sweet gift stores, making sure to peek into the new Polygon Art Gallery’s eclectic gift store before stretching out on the adjoining dock on smooth metal sculpted loungers facing the iconic glass city of Vancouver, its mesmerizing vista reminding me how lucky I am to live here.

A walk up to our local farmer’s market this past weekend revealed new builds, the architecture and design catching our eye, the city’s vision of combining market and social housing unfolding on streets not walked upon often enough. Fierce grace resulting in a more culturally diverse and vibrant city, providing inspiration for my pages if I’m willing to look and accept these inevitable changes to a city that finds itself on the world stage. So here I sit in the shade, overlooking a sparkling English Bay on this summer-like day, taking a sweet pause before immersing myself in one of the first free festivals of the season (the West End Car-Free Festival), holding close both the old and the new as our city by the sea continues on its journey to becoming a butterfly (we hope!).

Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) is filled with gorgeous blooms (Rhododendrons) this time of year!

One can always find a Great Blue Heron fishing at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

A new favourite! This beautiful trail runs along the iconic seawall of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) with beautiful views of the North Shore mountains.

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