Deep Time

Thou art the journey and the journey’s end.” – Michael Mayne Dean 1986-96, noted in Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Our time in London was spent in a beautiful family-owned modern flat in the Docklands area near North Greenwich – on our first day we found ourselves jumping onto a Thames Clipper boat, a sleek machine that takes one up and down the river. Along the way, there were many sights and bridges to take in while sipping on a creamy English hot chocolate, perfect on a misty winter morning. We got off at Westminster to go on a whirlwind walk through the iconic city on New Year’s Eve day, on the hunt for some craft beer to try – most pubs were closing at 3 pm to get ready for the night’s celebrations, we finally found one, a modern-looking affair called the Bridge Tap before heading back to the flat. It was wonderful to sit for awhile and take it all in! The next day or so were spent on a Big Bus Tour, another Thames Clipper boat jaunt to Westminster to take in some of the New Year’s Day parade and exploring the enchantment that is Convent Garden. It’s hard to believe that on the day we landed at Gatwick airport, we ended up on a lovely drive through the English countryside of Surrey and Kent after a filling homemade traditional English breakfast. The sun came out just for us, revealing winding roads and hidden valleys on our way to a castle by a lake.

At this moment, after a day spent wandering through Westminster Abbey and along the river, I don’t want to think about time winding down, however, the Tower of London and another tasty meal at a pub or restaurant awaits us before we take the train back to Surrey. We have spent time in some unique pubs, some wearing their long histories well and others sporting a more modern look. London is a popular destination for many travellers at this time of year and at most of the pubs we found ourselves in, some menu items could not be had as the establishment had run out of bread or had simply run out of food! The dear staff although weary, “carried on” and left us with some wonderful memories.

Some of those memories are now stitched into my soul – falling asleep with the blind up and window open to watch the tide gently roll in and hear the boats chiming upon each incoming wavelet, their sound a gentle lullaby after a busy day of sight-seeing. One of my favourite memories is a steam-punk moment, looking up above busy London peppered with medieval buildings, I saw quite a few airplanes crossing the sky, some leaving intricate designs in their contrail wakes – one even created a pattern of a cross!

The scent of wood smoke weaved through our senses on the days we spent with family in Surrey and in London, the sweet candy-like scent of caramelised peanuts and almonds infused the cool air on walks through ancient history. Other tangible moments never to be forgotten – the facets and sparkle of the Royal Crown jewels displayed in London Tower, the raucous calls of the Tower Ravens, birds that seemed twice as large as our own West Coast ravens and the graceful dance of a flock of starlings above the waves rolling in from the Channel beside colourful Brighton Pier where we gambled for awhile with 1 pence coins.

London is a city awash in colours of cream, dark brown and matte black with shocks of spring-like green and after a rainfall, it just shimmers. A magical city that burrows under one’s skin, resulting in a recent trek to a downtown candy store in my own city where I bought creamy English chocolate, longing to return.

Our lovely view from the flat on the Thames, the fabulous O2 is just minutes away and our favourite fusion restaurant, Wagamama! I had a wander through Paper Chase and came away with some unique stationery items.

Iconic captures from our Big Bus tour through London, it gave us a great overview of this magical city.

We never tired of these stunning views outside our Big Bus windows, I can hardly wait to go back!

An outside view of the Prospect of Whitby pub where we tried a London Pale Ale glass with lunch!

Our time in London was pre-pandemic, so much has now changed or is changing daily there and all over the world – I hope this note finds you all well, thank you so much for all your support and kind words as I wander safely through our WordPress world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shard

A piece of the world fell today

in the form of an ink-black crow,

falling swiftly upon a city grate

its voice silenced forever.

Other pieces fall in the form of fire

supplanting summer’s eternal beauty,

fall in the form of cyclone bombs

unleashing ceaseless rain,

and then there are the countless lives lost

to war, famine and disease.

I walk in what’s left of this world

noting every spring flower and blossom

hoping they can stem the tide and heal

what might be forever lost.

A piece of the world fell today…

The Shard building never failed to shine, its beauty coloured our days in London, England no matter the weather!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London Calling (Nov/Dec)

A pub can be a magical place” – Rhys Ifan (a lovely quote found on a signboard at the George Pub in London, UK)

The scent of sweet maple and evergreen commingle on dry November days not seen in decades making walks through the forest a sensory delight. There are still drifts of orange and burgundy lying in fairy rings below almost bare trees, the neighbourhood crows tossing the abandoned leaves about as they forage – this November weather providing an embarrassment of riches for all winged and furry creatures before the bite of winter descends.

We are on the eve of travelling back east to spend part of the upcoming holiday season with family with a first time visit to London, England to catch up with other members, some for the very first time – a winter holiday like no other! I imagine returning home, my inner world changed and rearranged, filled with whirling mosaics of new sights and sounds.

Sitting here now at YVR (Vancouver) airport, we are bundled up for the colder temperatures to come, the apartment locked up and tidy- we have lovely neighbours looking after our boisterous spider plants and keeping an eye on our front door ( thank you dear Huguette and Trevor!) as we’ll be gone for almost a month.

After a smooth flight, we land at YYZ (Toronto) to begin the first part of our journey, it starts with a wonderful road trip up north to Haliburton, Ontario among lakes and forest, part of the rugged Canadian Shield. With holiday carols playing on the radio we pass lovely homes festooned in bright red ribbons some with cheerful inflated winter figures waving as we pass by. As we got closer to our destination, we came upon a small century old church with a delicate stained-glass window sitting by the road in a winter wonderland. This part of the world guarantees a magical Christmas feeling everywhere you look! In front of a warm fire, the first breath of true winter arrived amid the light and sparkle as fresh glasses of rose-coloured wine over ice were sipped, laughter and reminiscing filling the air. The next day, we were delighted to see wild turkeys on the property, their dark feathers in stark contrast against the downy snowdrifts.

Christmas Day finds us in Paris, Ontario at the stone house that wants to be a farm on a country road surrounded by leafless birch and evergreen. We stayed two nights and heard the Great Horned owl hooting in the large walnut tree before we closed our eyes. Our days were filled with tasty slices of turkey, squares of delicious egg casserole and glasses of dark red wine. Seventeen people sat down for Christmas dinner, four tables set with pewter chargers ready for laden antique blue and white plates, the dining room glowing with lit lanterns on each table. On our last night, Longfellow, formerly a stray cat, graced our bed for a few hours, his purrs sending us off to restorative sleep.

Other days were spent in Ajax, Ontario on the edge of Lake Ontario walking the family dog through woodland touched with ice. After a good meal, we often settled in to watch movies, hockey and basketball on TV with a glass of Harp Lager anticipating our impending trip to London. As we pack for the next part of our journey, we’re feeling very relaxed and blessed to have spent time with family this holiday season.

On our first day in England, sunshine and a wander through the romantic 750 year old Hever Castle (once the home of Anne Boleyn) set amid 125 lovely acres near Edenbridge, Kent.

These glorious arches were captured on the beautiful grounds of Hever Castle.

On our last day in England on yet another sunny day, we wandered through the ruins of Bodiam Castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England. This pictureesque castle was built around 1385!

A view to the courtyard through stunning arches before climbing the towers and exploring secret places!

 

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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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