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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Territory

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.” -Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

On a downtown walk with the urban forest behind me, I traveled the length of my own street and unexpectedly found a lost piece of myself. I crossed through a lively parklet one street over, enjoying the quiet community of older houses, condos, and towers. As the early spring sun shone down, I came upon a pop-up art show in front of a large wooden brown house. Several canvases were for sale propped up against a fence – landscapes depicting that very forest and the ocean left behind. A homemade sign advertising painting lessons added to the bucolic feel and stirred a longing within to go on a road trip, notebook in hand, to draw upon the creative threads this scene inspired – I could imagine my senses wide open, the joy of collecting all kinds of ephemera, and exploring unknown paths. It’s always a delightful surprise to come across a part of one’s self in this place, the territory of our own sacred selves, casually walking down a street both known, yet unknown.

Another part of my self was found at a reading at our local community centre, the Indigenous writer-in-residence invited by the downtown main public library to read from his collection of children’s stories. Our small group was at once transported by the cadence of his spoken words, enchanted by the magical sturgeon, the romance and heroism of a sasquatch and  lyrical frog renderings. The part that awakened a self quietly slumbering was prodded by the haunting songs sung in newly reclaimed language, filling the lecture hall with the echoes of ancient forests, fast running rivers, and lands now known by other names. I left the hall feeling that I had entered another’s sacred territory…

Spring increases access to all kinds of territory – we find ourselves outside more often among leafing trees and fragrant blooms. The language of light and shadow invites us to sit awhile, breathe in the scent of Sakura wafting through the air and open our senses to the new unfolding all around us, creating spacious territory within.

Spring is painting Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver. B.C.) with Monet colours that take one’s breath away!

A lone Great Blue Heron fishing quietly in Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Another Monet-like capture of pink tulips in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.). Can you see the lone orange tulip?

Today, after a break from blogging (to celebrate my May birthday and spending time with Terry’s sister out from Toronto, Ontario),  I notice on a recent walk home from downtown that time has moved us deeper into spring. There is now an exuberant green lushness amid the receding winter grey on the mountains and flourishing beside the deep blue of the ocean. Ten days of warm sun gifted us with days for wandering the cobblestone streets of Gastown, the bustling market stalls of Granville Island and the enticing stores at the Park Royal mall in West Vancouver peppered with tasty lunches along the way. The falling rain today has slowed down time, bathing that lush green in sparkling droplets – the busy streets much quieter now and friendly faces hidden beneath colourful umbrellas,  leaving a sense of mystery, creating precious space between seasons and territories.

 

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We Can Do Better

Music comes from an icicle as it melts, to live again as spring water.” – Henry Williamson

If the pale pink blossoms of the tulip trees and the dark purple crocuses weren’t already announcing the arrival of spring, then the sight of people perched on low stone walls reading underneath a waning winter sun certainly will, letting me know that our neighbourhood is waking up from their winter slumbers.

Today finds me watching an all ages, male and female rugby match at the edge of our urban forest after a savoury lunch of freshly cooked fish and chips. There are several eagles flying against the chalky blue sky and the sun feels warm on my exposed ankles, winter boots tucked away in anticipation of spring, sneakers and sandals having come out in their place. The shouts, scrum and kick of the ball a beautiful melody among many – the hum of float planes, bicycle bells ringing and children’s excited laughter. A wonderful tension exists in the air between seasons, there are still bare trees to behold inviting one to indulge in hot frothy drinks and enough new growth to usher in some white and green teas into the mix. My tea shelf is bursting with new spring flavours!

On the first day of spring, a wander downtown to the Vancouver Art Gallery to spend some time among the paintings and sculptures of the French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950 exhibit left me yearning to sit in lush gardens, create still-life groupings upon my tables and find myself in a sultry olive garden reading a book. With over 60 paintings and sculptures to admire, another visit before it closes in May is definitely on my wish list.

A few days later, the haunting lyrics to a song playing on a portable speaker attached to one of a pair of bikes belonging to a couple perched on a rock overlooking the ocean beseeched us all to do better. On my own walk down to the seawall rejoicing in the sound of the pounding waves, it gently reminded me to shake off the white noise of this busy world and make more time for active listening, more random acts of kindness, and love. This tickle of awareness sweetening each errand of the day, bathing each interaction in a warm glow.

Later, on a walk to my favourite nook for a cloudy day creamy hot chocolate, I noticed heady floral notes of hyacinth and cherry blossom in the air, nudging out the winter scents that I love – the coming season, a brand new page, waiting for my ink and inspiration murmuring that beautiful refrain, we can do better.

A stunning shot of those pale pink tulip tree blossoms captured in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Spring is starting to decorate our favourite pathways!

This natural cedar sculpture lies on a forest path just beyond the oval where we watched that exciting rugby game…it reminds me of an ancient dinosaur head still lying where it fell so long ago.

This post is dedicated to the people of Paris, France as they mourn the tragic loss of the Notre – Dame Cathedral’s iconic spire and rooftop due to an unfortunate fire.

 

 

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Sensory Perception

No matter where I am, whether on a cold winter walk home,

 or a sultry stroll in a warmer country than mine,

the scent of wood smoke rising up from condo chimneys

or from tiny eating places tucked into jungle,

stir up buried images:

of me wrapped in my grandfather’s wool cardigan, on my way

to the Pacific Ocean every chance I get, to nestle in damp sand,

underneath a million shimmering stars as wood smoke rises

from a glowing fire on the beach, igniting the primal and

blurring the borders of here and there,

the sense of other, closer than I think, as time dissolves,

leaving my heart wide open.

A pair of Merganser ducks captured on an early spring day at Lost Lagoon on the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

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