Time and Place

 Maybe you had to leave in order to miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” – Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

The white gold glow of the setting sun is shining through the living room window bathing the plant corner in warm light – the now tall blue/green cactus and soft green spider plants have not felt this angle of the sun in a long while; I imagine, looking at them that they are as happy as I am taking in this peaceful moment. As the sky erupts in a pink swathe, this time and place, a few stolen minutes, remind me to slow down from the busy day, taking the time to drink in the promise of spring.

With only 8 dry days out of the past 62, spring seems to have cloaked herself in gloom and endless tears refusing to let go of winter’s cold hand. The bare trees can no longer wait for this romance to end and have begun to unfurl their new leaves despite the rain, knowing that summer is impatiently waiting in the wings painting her lips in all manner of vibrant colours!

Our favourite forest trail was opened briefly for the recent holiday festivities and I managed to walk its cool depths twice, inhaling the sweet scent of cedar and wet earth with the sound of the ravens echoing above, this time and place a balm for a restless soul. To walk beneath the heavenly warmth of filtered sunlight was an added joy and the wait for this special trail to be opened again for the summer will seem long to one who drinks in the peace of this place as a thirsty man might do when coming upon water.

Spring has sprung at the Rose Garden in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.), we often walk this way to our favourite forest trail near the Railway Cafe!

Another spring view showcasing the beautiful cherry blossom trees in bloom at the Rose Garden in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Thoughts of time and place were on my mind on a recent skytrain trip outside the city to visit with my second cousin, a trip that was a shock to the system as almost two years have passed since my last solo visit – we normally meet 3 or 4 times per year to celebrate birthdays at a local restaurant out her way with my father and her husband – this trip sharpened my senses to the bucolic slice of life we enjoy here in the West End with the ocean and forest minutes away from towering downtown apartment buildings. The shock came on quick as the train headed east, my eyes taking in the pending destruction of a row of characterful wooden houses surrounded by fencing under the watchful eye of security. I’m not sure if there are squatters living in these abandoned once proud homes but the amount of garbage and hoarded debris scattered all around made me think there might be. A chill came over me as words recently read in the newspaper came to life – renovictions, low vacancy rates, the housing crisis and land values. And it got worse, everywhere I looked there was new construction going on, so many 3 story apartment buildings razed to the ground, thousands displaced from peaceful, quiet communities to make way for tower developments and lucrative rents. Even my cousin’s neighbourhood has been touched by this development tsunami and they are worried…

In my neighbourhood the construction zones are creeping ever closer, leaving empty lots and storefronts in their wake – as I sit at my desk in my aerie overlooking stunning natural beauty, I’m reminded that this particular time and place is about the wild places close to my heart, the lone African drummer on top of the hill overlooking the seawall, the scent of wet green grass, not about any sum of money to be had or made.

I often sit near this beautiful home nestled among the towers of the West End to journal write in the parklet there (Vancouver, B.C.).

A beautiful camellia shrub standing among its fallen petals (Vancouver, B.C.).

 

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Twilight Revels

I’m taking a small break this week to catch up on all the wonderful blogs out there in the WordPress world – I hope you’ll enjoy this re-blog, it has me thinking about summer here on the West Coast already!

anotetohuguette

 The Realm of Fairy is a strange shadowland lying just beyond the fields we know.” – Author Unknown

The wind is whistling and howling up against the glass of the balcony windows, a reminder from Winter, even though my eyes can see cherry blossom petals in a gorgeous heap on the grass at the end of the back alley. I can still see the tell-tale patches of snow on the mountains and just before the wind, there was a furious rain with small pellets of hail – it’s hard to believe that only last week the beaches were peppered with sun bathers and small children digging in the sand. This is the way of West Coast weather and soon the dream of living lighter (good-bye jackets!), thinking about play (hello long seawall walks and outdoor picnics!) will come to life.

My most favourite part of the longer, light filled…

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Finding Eden

What came before, she no longer remembered

there is only damp stone and ruined walls now,

a mean shelter among the tall firs of the silent forest,

this new life a blank slate, waiting for what, she did not know.

Flashes of light and a feeling of immense pressure from the time before

weigh heavily upon her bruised mind,

it seems a destructive wave wiped all parasitic thought dwelling there,

seeding new ones in their place.

Haunted by images of singed snow white wings

no longer aloft naked shoulders 

with the storms of a millennium swirling in her dark eyes,

she stepped lightly upon the path of a new age to seek out her kind…

 

The beautiful gardens at the Lawn Bowling Club in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

 

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Neglected Treasure

 Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring.” – Neltje Blanchan

Mornings here are no longer greeted by the chorus of the blackbird choir, the feathered flock have moved back to the cattail clotted edges of the lagoon to pair up for nesting season. Their voices have been replaced by the haunting sounds of two ravens who have chosen to nest at the edge of the city in the tall trees of the forest. The eagles (there are at least 5 nesting pairs in the park) have returned, startling the gulls sitting on the neighbouring rooftops each time they majestically take to the sky. Spring is making itself known whether lingering winter wants it to or not!

We have new neighbours! A pair of ravens are nesting at the edge of Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

One of five (or more!) breeding pairs of eagles perched on a tall tree in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

I’ve been making sure to take time to walk the neighbourhood, taking note of all the new growth and I’m amazed at how fast once bare bushes are swelling with new green leaves. Mustard yellow and brick red witch hazel trees are adding a layer of colour catching the eye with the star-like beauty of their flowers. The rhododendron bushes are starting to show off their gorgeous colours eclipsing the delicate pink of their neighbours with deep fuchsia and fire engine red blossoms. Sprinkled throughout are the blossoming cherry and plum trees – their dark branches swathed in pale pink and creamy white.

With winter receding, these walks in nature encourage me to gather up my neglected treasure, to greedily take it all in with every sense blissfully aware. A recent seawall walk revealed treasures such as the warmth of the golden sun on my face, the sight of a lone young man in lotus position sitting on an outcropping of rock lost in the sound of the waves and the first picnics set up between towering trees despite the cool temperatures. This hunt for neglected treasure came from a conversation with a friend, we were talking about how parts of our lives are put aside or away – the longing to light candles more often, the joy of sinking into an afternoon bath or reading for hours with a cup of tea nearby, often our busy lives snuff out these desires and they lie forgotten until we are reminded once again by the fragrance of a new season wafting in our newly opened windows.

Spring colours blossoming in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Another colourful spring display in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Journal Entry: December 31st, 1999 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

One dark night, after slipping on my sandals to use the facilities, I think I stepped on a big cockroach! I found it dead near the bed the next morning…aaah, living in Mexico is very different from living in Vancouver, I’ve learned a lot!

We have a very nice spider in our bedroom, he doesn’t bother us and likes it when we leave our shutters open all day. On a neighbour’s roof we noticed an iguana, so even if we are not living near the jungle, we can still see our favourite wild things! These are the treasures that I have collected along the way…

 

 

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Leave It To The Wind

If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” – Khalil Gibran

Winter is holding fast these days, clinging tight with icy fingers to its overdue reign – the trees still bare with just a hint of budding and snow falling like salt from a shaker on the local mountains.

With the new season waiting in the wings, I’m beginning to note some subtle changes, the air is soft and warm on my way to my morning yoga class now – the sweet pink of rhododendron blossoms peeking out from shiny green leaves and the tender spring green shoots piercing winter hardened soil warm my heart. This warm air brings with it a sense of hope, spring is sure to come once winter loosens its tight hold and slips away into the ether.

The winds of change are on the move, bringing with them new energy and growth. Some of these winds are buffeting me out of my comfort zones – a week or so ago, I jumped on the wrong shuttle bus on my way to dinner at my friend Yvonne’s, it shook me up and left me feeling disorientated. I was no longer on auto-pilot but luckily my inner compass kicked in and I made my way up some unfamiliar streets marveling at the architecture, experiencing the energy of this unknown corner of Vancouver (mere streets away from iconic Yaletown!). I was not far from a busy city street and found my way easily to another bus so I could be on my way, left with the thought, that I should do this more often and just leave it to the wind, allowing those gentle currents to blow away the winter weary cobwebs from my mind.

In short order, I found myself on the edges of Yaletown once again, this time meeting up with my Aussie friend Amanda at a new cafe (Trees Organic Cafe). Because it was new to both of us, I found myself arriving early to claim a spot and found a table by a big picture window with a brutal view of almost a city block of construction, reminding me that Vancouver is ever growing. This means more people will be moving into a city with little room left for expansion, another sign of more winds of change. Despite the urban view, the cafe turned out to be a warm and quiet oasis, a perfect place to enjoy a fragrant tea (I happily drank a lovely warming tea, Candied Ginger Peach Rooibos!). As I was waiting for my dear friend, I took a quiet moment to do some writing as Trees has a wonderful bookcase with a big tray of white paper on top with cups of pencils, markers and crayons nearby just calling out to the writer within. Without the wind of change, these two adventures would not have been conjured, leaving me adrift on winter’s barren ground forever waiting for spring.

Weddings and spring are in the air – a beautiful white horse drawn carriage near the pavilion in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

A closer look at the pavilion in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Trees and shadows in the park (Stanley Park), what secrets do they know?

Journal Entry: January 06th, 2005 – Paloma del Mar Hotel, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

…today has been cloudy and sunny, also very humid! It hasn’t rained once since we’ve been here, just sunny day after sunny day…although our Vancouver neighbour who used to own the Roscoe’s restaurant on Robson St. told us that it rained at about midnight on the first night of our stay at the hotel for an hour or so. I remember peeking out our balcony door at about that time, it wasn’t raining but it smelled as if it had – the air smelled so fresh and earthy.

The sister sign (this one taken in the Vallarta Botanical Gardens in Mexico) to one that commemorates the beautiful rhododendrons found in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

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Deep Water

I find myself in deeper water lately

no longer on the shore, 

bare toes finding purchase upon cool sand,

instead I’m treading luminous blue

hoping with each breath that I don’t drown.

Drown among the slippery tendrils of seaweed

in colours of darkest green and brown,

eyes wide open,

adjusting to the undulating new world before me,

my last breath stretching to eternity.

But wait, I’ve been here before – 

floating in deep water, safe in my mother’s womb

the ebb and flow cradling me,

as I wait for light to cleave the water,

allowing me to surface to take that first breath again.

Deep water capture – a shot of Pacific Sea Nettles (jellyfish) taken at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

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Peace & Plenty

The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.” – Henry Beston

I wrote of early spring in my last post with over three weeks of winter still to go and as we made our way to catch the bus to beautiful Horseshoe Bay in late February to connect with the ferry to Vancouver Island, we did so amid softly falling snow. We were finally on our way back to our favourite retreat after a one year absence, having booked 5 nights at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort near the town of Parksville…

Sitting here at the ferry terminal while jotting down some notes (to Huguette & others!), I’m surrounded by gorgeous mountains with their peaks covered in freshly fallen snow and the deep green of the forest. Clinging to the many cliffs are one of my favourite trees, the arbutus with its bare rust coloured limbs, the bark in a constant state of peeling. As I look out onto the water, the wintering ducks are still here, lazily floating on the smooth surface.

We have left for this getaway with thoughts of my father’s health foremost in our minds but are heartened by family and friends who have offered to check in on him while we are away. We are only about 2 hours away and plan to call him daily. As we get ready to board the ferry, the weather is brightening with just the odd snowflake swirling down.

On board, after a delicious lunch, my companions as I sat to enjoy the passing view were Black Tusk mountain and random floating logs with various sea birds perched upon them. I settled in with my latest Harry Potter read, happy to be on the move again! After a relaxing ferry crossing, we were picked up by shuttle and within half an hour found ourselves checked in – shortly after that, we made our way down a beloved woodland trail in Rathtrevor Park to the wild ocean beyond. What drew us besides the sun was the sound of hundreds of Brant geese out on the water, taking a break from their long migration north. Overhead we could hear a raven of blackest night who looked far larger than the ravens in Stanley Park. It felt good to once again breathe in the sea air and hear nothing but the sound of waves.

Each day found us taking long walks on Rathtrevor Beach and through the forest just minutes from our woodland studio at Tigh-Na-Mara.

Our first few days on the resort were winter cold – looking up into the dark sky on that first night outside our woodland studio, the brightly shining stars looked like they were cascading down upon us. Breathing in the scent of wood smoke and cedar was intoxicating, reminding me to appreciate this peace and plenty in my life…

On one of our last nights, the winds came up with a roar bringing with them the gift of a kiss of sunlight for our daily walk by the ocean and through the peaceful green of the forest. It is our last full day here and we were able to make our way to our favourite wild spot (where bear have been spotted in the summer!) near a stand of crab apple trees (hence the bears!). Near the bench we sit upon to soak up the sun, we found a new trail to explore – a trail winding its way through spring green moss so bright it seemed to cast its own light with undulating carpets of primordial ferns all around. It skirts an old farmer’s field where deer are often found, we didn’t see any this trip but did see lots of evidence that we may have just missed them especially with the freshly dug grass kicked up by their hooves!

After a tasty lunch at the charming cafe and bistro “Taste”, the wind picked up again – as I looked out the window at our small table for two, I could see the tall fir and pine trees waving their feathery branches, as if saying goodbye to winter. The wind brought our first rainfall since our arrival and I find myself tucked up in our studio, a glass of dark red wine on the table, taking in this wonderful part of the world, savouring every moment and encounter!

Sitting on our favourite bench near the crab apple trees in Rathtrevor Park (Vancouver Island, B.C.).

This bridge led us to a new trail to explore in Rathtrevor Park (Vancouver Island, B.C.).

Winter pale trees wrapped in spring green moss look otherworldly on one of our daily walks through the forest of Rathtrevor Park (Vancouver Island, B.C.).

 

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