Rosemary for Rain

Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike

As bikes flow past behind the wooden bench I’ve found to sit on, I’m grateful for the dappled shade surrounding me on another day caught up in a heatwave. On my way down to the beckoning ocean to catch a breeze or two, I made my way underneath a towering green canopy filled with the prehistoric squawking of Great Blue Heron young, with the immense shadows of the adults flying overhead, I felt like I was wandering through a hidden jungle at the edge of our burgeoning global city. I have already met a friend and there are too many strangers to count claiming their own patch of shade – it seems if I gathered all the news of the day, it would be shouting out loud, “our world is burning”, in fact, the whole Northern Hemisphere has become victim to climate change, experiencing its hottest year on record. Sadly, it looks like the tipping point is upon us…

Hopefully an evening at the beach to hear cello playing beside the sound of ocean waves will be a balm for worried hearts. I walked down to English Bay with a Mason jar of ice tea to meet my Mom, eager to hear the cello player, a traveller who asked to join in for the sunset revel that we love so much. Each song played that night drew people closer to the sounds of the accordion, guitar, and drum as the red sun set behind the haze of smoke drifting in from Alberta, Saskatchewan, California and as far away as Alaska, Russia, and Greece, a reminder of how connected we really are!

We woke this morning to the acrid scent of wood smoke permeating an apartment open to any breeze that might blow in during tropical nights reminiscent of Mexico. Each summer we hope for days redolent with soft, warm sunshine and enough rain to keep the grass cool and green. Instead we are left with thirsty leaves falling in late July and grass so dry, a careless cigarette tossed can start a brushfire. As I move from room to room up here in my aerie, my eyes anxiously scan the horizon looking for smoke, a sense of menace overshadowing what should be idyllic days.

There are still good things to contemplate – sitting on my balcony in velvet darkness to watch the yearly fireworks display over the bay with a glass of dark red wine, delighting in the scent of magnolia in the air on walks through my neighbourhood and rosemary for rain (a beautiful Italian saying I came across recently!) as temperatures drop leaving behind the hottest July on record.

A beautiful shot of one of a trio of “forgotten beasts of the forest” near Lee’s trail in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Another beautiful beast captured near Lee’s trail, one of our favourites, in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

…and drumroll, here’s the third beautiful beast to be found near Lee’s trail in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

At the time of this posting, no rain has fallen in over 30 days…

 

 

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Magic Realism

Summer is for surrendering; winter is for wondering.” – Debasish  Mridha

Early summer has brought changing skies, muggy air and the rumble of thunder. Looking in four directions yields a bank of dark clouds, stunning blue sky, a butter-like glow from the sun and soft rain leaving a shimmering iridescence behind. Gone for the moment are days held hostage by yet another heatwave and the threat of forest fires, but with this weather pattern starting to become our new normal, these moments will be a short reprieve from a new reality. 

With a blustery sea breeze, early morning and afternoons are the perfect time for cool walks in the park and lunches to be eaten outside. Today I’m patiently waiting to share a box of fish and chips with Terry at a favourite concession in the park. We’ve found a sunny spot where we can enjoy our Stash Lemon Meyer and Sunny Orange Ginger ice tea with our own tubs filled with a brightly coloured green salad (lovingly prepared with the generous produce from Saturday Farmer’s Market visits) – we try to picnic weekly during the fleeting months of summer, choosing the day based on the weather forecast.

Afterwards, I couldn’t resist stopping by the Pollinator’s Paradise, a beautiful pagoda structure located across from Lost Lagoon housing native Blue Orchard Mason Bees (Osmia lignaria). The waters of the lagoon are dark brown with sparkling waves bumping against the lush edges of the gravel path. There is still some ice tea to sip as I sit on the low stone wall watching swallows skim over the water and breathe in the subtle scent of salty summer air. There are exotically attired butterflies and dragonflies sharing this space and the many languages floating on the air makes me feel far away from the domestic life waiting for me behind closed doors.

Wanting to linger on this glorious of summer days, I wandered over to the Stanley Park Nature House to admire the new landscaping where I spied a small green turtle sunning itself on an exposed rock and upon climbing some stone steps, noticing some guerrilla yarn bombing in vibrant shades of lemon yellow, pale blue, slate gray with magenta and emerald green wrapped artfully around some black wrought iron fencing. A shady bench with a view of Grouse Mountain in the distance and the last of the ice tea are perfect footnotes to a spontaneous lunch out in the wild.

A walk down by the ocean on my way to buy coffee for my Dad’s cupboard this week had me yearning to join the swimmers bobbing gently among the undulating waves. The colour of the water, a rare sight, replacing the typical Pacific cobalt blue were tropical shades of dusky green and azure creating an otherworldly moment, making one feel that time travel exists if we are willing to go for the ride.

But in between this summer magic, niggling bites of reality leak in…blood tests not ordered in six years, my family doctor suggesting I don’t look when I take my requisition to the lab in preparation for my first yearly check-up after being cancer free for 5 years and the harrowing days of waiting for another shoe to drop when magic left my world briefly all those years ago…what a relief to finally see the results and magic’s return, I’m still here, happily writing down my world, in wonder of what might be around the corner waiting to find itself on my pages.

A beautiful shot of the Pollinator’s Paradise pagoda across from Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

A sweet birdhouse nestled amid the lush greenery of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.)

Mid-summer finds us seeking the shade-dappled trails of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

This post is dedicated to my Mom who shares her Farmer’s Market bounty with us each week and surprises us with tasty soups as well!

 

 

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Summer’s Green Heart

I can breathe where there is green. Green grows hope. It keeps my heart beating and helps me remember who I am.” – Courtney M. Privett, Faelost

Glancing out the bedroom window overlooking the alleyway, I was struck by the image of two women, walking separately, both tethered to their cell phones, heads down – connected, as defined by 21st century living and a thought occurred to me, connected to what? To work, the endless feeds that distract us, or more hopefully, loved ones – I could also see nature unfolding all around as my eyes alighted upon fully leafed trees eager to share their lullabies on the faint breeze, shading shiny young crows learning how to forage, their crimson throats calling out to the adults when a grub or two was unearthed, as the scent of freshly mown grass filled our nostrils with the promise of endless summer.

Gentle reminders after too many days away from nature myself, prompting me to pack a lunch and head into the park ahead of the second heat wave of a season still clinging to spring. Our favourite spot at the Urban Forest Café (known in the off-season as the Railway Café) is always cool, hidden from the main pathways behind a screen of tangled green. After ordering some freshly cooked fries from an always friendly Travis, we settled under an umbrella at a weathered picnic table to enjoy our al fresco lunch. The peaceful trail we love to walk on is still only open on the weekends so we took advantage hoping to do some foraging for dessert. As we approached an area known for its abundance of salmon berries, it looked like other dessert hunters had been there before us until we came across a patch of juicy jewel-like orange berries glistening in the sun. The berries were at their peak, falling into our hands with just a slight touch. After we ate our fill, it was time to make my way home and Terry to his beloved hill at the edge of the forest.

Spending time in nature is like rediscovering paradise, igniting a thirst which has led me to this wooden bench at Barclay Square (here in the West End) underneath a towering green canopy, listening to the sweet sounds of live jazz at the annual Strawberry Festival after indulging in a bowl of scarlet strawberries topped with a scoop of still-cold vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream on a bed of golden shortcake. There is a wonderful sense of community here, I often run into good friends and neighbours among the leafy shadows in between the stately older homes flanking the flagstones and grass. One of many beautiful summer rituals, summer’s own green heart helps the lost and distracted find a corner of paradise, raining down words for anyone to capture, the taste of strawberries still on my tongue!

I have sat in this beautiful community garden at the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) with a Mason jar of homemade ice tea to capture words!

A view to the distant mountains of the North Shore from our local community garden here in the West End at the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.)

Sunsets also grow hope and lately, we’ve seen some beautiful ones over Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.) from our balcony!

 

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#exploreKelowna (Part 2)

There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand.” – Charles Morgan

Our hotel, the Best Western Plus (a pretty Cali-style complex) just off the main artery, Highway 97, was a welcome sight nestled below some lovely hills near many familiar restaurants and stores. The room we checked into was quite large with a small terrace outside the sliding glass doors beside a refreshing expanse of plush green grass creating a courtyard effect. A large birch tree, some shapely cedar bushes, and beds of dark purple iris added to the secret garden feel – our own cool oasis to retreat to each afternoon to escape the dry heat and blazing sun.

The four days we spent in Kelowna went fast, there was the lakeshore to explore on day one – we parked the car near downtown to wander by the teal coloured water of Okanagan Lake and take in the sun. The many benches facing the lake were prime real estate but we eventually found some cement seating placed around a sculpture of a large white sail by the marina – with the khaki coloured hills before us and the very blue sky crisscrossed with contrails from the many airplanes coming and going, we settled in to inhale the sublime view. Tourists and locals alike provided a never-ending parade for us to watch on the boardwalk at our feet until it was time to leave in search of lunch. The hotel provided a breakfast buffet for its guests each morning in a bright, airy space near the indoor pool and I indulged in fragrant cups of English Breakfast tea, freshly cooked cheesy omelettes with crisp hash browns and a mini croissant along with a variety of fresh fruit and juices – a wonderful way to greet the day and make plans for that days’ adventure including lunch even after a big breakfast!

Kelowna, one of many cities and towns located in the Okanagan Valley is known for its many wineries, orchards, and farms, sitting in an area that shares its geography with the Sonoran desert of the United States of America – the scent of sagebrush in the air quite different from the lush cedar notes of the lower mainland. Day two found us, maps in hand, eagerly setting out to visit one of the wine trails in the area, there was clear signage and we settled on the Lakeshore Drive route where some of the oldest vineyards are located. After a steady climb with a stomach-dropping view to the lake on one side and blackened forest limbs scattered on the hills to the left, we kept on the road until we hit a dead end. The beauty of the lake was mesmerizing and when we turned around we stopped at a small provincial park, stepping outside to breathe in air that still carried the story of the devastating fire from 2003. Our only companion, a lone raven calling from tree to tree as we walked among freshly fallen pine cones lying on the gravel parking lot. I wanted to stay and luxuriate in this wild place but there were wineries waiting for us down the road.

First up, was the wine estate of St. Hubertus and Oak Bay (st-hubertus.bc.ca), a modest looking winery that we might have overlooked had we not driven up to its prime location high above the lake – as we made our way into a parking spot and stepped out ready to explore, a tiny brown tabby cat came ambling towards us from one of the outbuildings, talking away and keeping close, to our great surprise, she walked with us until we reached the estate’s gift shop and wine tasting counter. Once we arrived, she stretched out on the cool ground, her work complete, to bask in our wonder and attention. As I took in the pastoral atmosphere, I felt like I had stepped into a corner of French countryside – leafy green trees shading a table and chairs faced the vineyard with an old truck left nearby that was destroyed by that same 2003 fire, not only was there wine tasting to sample here but one could learn about and touch the history surrounding this 80 acre vineyard owned by the Gebert family since 1984. In no time at all, we were called up into the dusty vineyard by one of the sisters who own the estate – she was teaching a few workers to move through the new growth on the trimmed back branches to pick off any withered leaves and wanted to give us a close up! Another sister greeted us and upon hearing our praises of the tiny tabby, introduced us to September, who becomes a little sad in the winter after wine season finishes. It was too early in the day for wine tasting so we purchased a bottle or two of their delicious wine at the gift store to enjoy later back in Vancouver.

The beautiful St. Hubertus Estate Winery located in the Central Okanagan near Kelowna, B.C.

A pastoral shot of the restored antique truck that was destroyed in the Okanagan Park fire of 2003 on the wine estate of St. Hubertus near Kelowna, B.C.

It was hard to leave this lovely spot at the St. Hubertus Estate Winery near Kelowna, B.C.

Our next stop was the Summerhill Pyramid Winery (summerhill.bc.ca), the largest certified organic winery in the region, recommended as a perfect spot for picture taking as there is a very large marble-white pyramid on site, an example of sacred geometry adding its own cachet to the peaceful setting. There was no friendly September greeting, so we bid farewell to the stunning view for a proper wine tasting at Tantalus Vineyards (tantalus.ca), in their gallery-style tasting room with the words from their business card setting the stage…be tempted! The only winery to be LEED certified, their sleek setting sits among other-worldly vineyards and quirky art installations, as I write this post, I’m sipping on their chilled rose…

The iconic shot of the Summerhill Pyramid Winery above Okanagan Lake near Kelowna, B.C.

A colourful glass weathervane art installation just outside the picture window of Tantalus Vineyards as we tasted their terroir-driven wines near Kelowna, B.C.

Day three found us lakeside sharing a decadent date square while tucked into the popular Bliss Bakery in the tiny hamlet of Peachland, just across from the boardwalk, which we later walked as loons surfaced from the azure water. Summer-like weather still dazzled our eyes as well as a lush shell-pink Dogwood tree on a nearby property facing the lake. Before we left this lakeside retreat we drove along the lakeshore drinking in the scenery and lifestyle of Peachlands’ residents – many take their camp chairs down to the edge of the lake to take in the changing sky and water.

A beautiful capture of Okanagan Lake on the boardwalk in Peachland, B.C.

Our last tasty breakfast on day four sent us on our way leaving me with a myriad of images – the pair of beautiful magpies tending to their young one hidden in the cedar bush, grunting softly each time we sat in the cool outside our hotel room, the riot of purple lilac growing wild everywhere eyes could see and the soft green of the hills cradling spring before true summer arrives to claim us all.

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#Route97 (Part 1)

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve never heard the ocean singing until today (down by Second Beach), as the waves slowly made their way to shore, each wavelet moving over the rocks and pebbles added to the melody already created by the moon’s eternal pull – what a beautiful send off before our long awaited road trip to explore the Thompson Okanagan region of our province, aiming for Route 97, a connector route inviting travellers to explore the Columbia Cascades area and North Central Washington, our final destination, the ever-growing city of Kelowna.

On our way out of Vancouver, after about one hour on the road, we found a sunny picnic table in the lush woods of Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park (reputedly named by a romantic, located between Chilliwack and Hope) beside a fast-moving creek, the run-off from still snow-capped mountains melting at historic levels not seen in a decade. The rushing water keeps this moss-laden world cool despite the present summer-like temperatures, the park already an extremely high humidity area allowing 250 species of mosses to flourish and delight our eyes. There is even one species of moss found only here in this verdant forest and in Scotland! Thick homemade sandwiches eaten outside added another blissful layer to the perfect rest stop before heading up country.

We took the Coquihalla highway up through mythological mountain passes and yawning canyons, memories of previous trips shimmering below the vistas passing outside our rental car windows. Massive waterfalls tumbling down sheer shale slopes dotted the landscape some still covered in layers of pristine snow. It was this ghostly moonscape now threatening the valleys below with potential flooding…a sobering thought as we continued to climb the summit.

On many trips back east to Ontario, I always kept my eyes open on travels up north hoping to see one of Canada’s iconic symbols, the majestic moose – no matter how hard I looked, this beast remained elusive until a casual look outside my window on this road trip here in British Columbia beheld a beautiful dark brown moose calf drinking from a culvert filled with cold, fresh run-off from the snowpack above. During dinner out one evening with my uncle and his wife who live in Kelowna, he said that in almost 25 years, he has only spotted two moose, proving they are elusive no matter which province I travel in!

As we crested Highway 97 after fours on the road, we stopped in at a very welcoming and brand new visitor centre (Route 97 Connector Visitor Centre) to buy an ice cream cone and get our bearings. After collecting some information, we stood outside high above a lake glistening in the sun and marvelled at the 30 degree Celsius temperatures with patches of snow still visible here and there. This stop was the apex of #Route97 and just over the ridge on a long, meandering highway, Kelowna sat among the ponderosa pine waiting to welcome us.

The perfect view from our picnic table in Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park located in beautiful British Columbia near the city of Hope.

An aerial view of some of the incredible mosses draping the ancient trees in the park (Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, B.C.)

This is my Knight of the Green Wood found among the broadleaf maples and cedars of Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, B.C. Can you see him?

A shout-out to Terry’s sister Karen who came out from Ontario to spend one of the warmest and driest May months on record with us and made this special trip possible!

 

 

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Summon Down the Spring

Time and space are the tools of the observer.” – Emmanuel Kant

Pale sunlight paints the sidewalk in charcoal shapes, revealing delicate calligraphy previously hidden by cool rain. Patience has fled as winter keeps looking back, finding ways to linger and chase away any warmth.

The signs are all there – the wood smoke of autumn replaced by the exquisite scent of flowers, the crows who were playing just days ago now scouting for leafing trees in which to build sturdy nests for the young yet to come and in the lush green enveloping great swathes of the park whenever I look out my windows.

On a day without a book, a spring-scented rain is falling again, the air alive with the perfume of poplar trees making one dream of summer. Thankfully, photography and art exhibitions are claiming my attention in between bookish worlds – I recently enjoyed a free photography exhibit at the Pendulum Gallery downtown, showcasing the work of Canadian photojournalists bravely documenting our dynamic world, ranging from the tragic earthquake in Mexico in 2017 to last summer’s wildfires up near Williams Lake here in British Columbia. After this rare interlude, I met my friend at the Vancouver Art Gallery (we often meet on a Tuesday to take advantage of the admission by donation hours!) to check out the wild and colourful Takashi Murakami exhibit, spending over an hour taking in all the wonderful ice cream dripping details.

The city is full of photography at the moment with the Capture Photography Festival in full swing – I came across a cool quote (which opens my post) as I took in a small exhibit at the Moat Gallery located at our downtown public library, my next wander is slated for the Listel Hotel on Robson St. to check out, Capture Dreams Powered by Fujifilm, another Group Exhibition taking part in the festival, lovely distractions as my next read remains elusive!

A weekend walk by the ocean yielded some welcome sights underneath a sunny sky – an older gentleman sitting on a worn bench engrossed in Ernest Hemingway, his eyes intent on the pages with the briny scent of the sea wafting through the air, colourful rubber balls being thrown back and forth by happy children on the damp sand and the appearance of once hibernating neighbours on the seawall, faces smiling in the burgeoning warmth, summoning down the spring.

Lush cherry blossom trees found at the end of our street at the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Our favourite trail near the Railway Cafe in Stanley Park is open on the weekends now…we had our first picnic of the season here recently near the Stanley Park Railway ticket office.

There is nothing better than lovely shadows captured on a warm spring day near the Grove in Stanley Park!

 

 

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Fractured

Startling the reverie among newly

green trees,

dystopian voices undulate over 

autumn strewn paths,

piercing through well tended worlds

regardless of  collected dreams.

These are our brothers and sisters

thrown to the wolves of winter,

spring but a distant memory

as out of reach as remembering mother’s

gentle touch,

leaving us nameless and summer yearning

for a better world.

Lush cherry blossom trees captured near The Chapel at the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

 

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