October Pause

the fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light” –  Malcolm Lowry, October Ferry to Gabriola

There is a post waiting to be published but my world has gone sideways with the hospitalization of my 82 year old father 6 weeks ago…he was admitted with a very serious infection that started a cascade of life-threatening illnesses that have resulted in a frantic visit to the hospital to learn that he is now moving from the medical intervention/monitoring model to palliative care.

There are no words to share at the moment…it’s time to take a pause from blogging to be by his side if I’m able and to ensure that he makes his way through this transition peacefully.

Be good, Dad and take good care!

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Awaken

There is a time in the last few days of summer when the ripeness of autumn fills the air.” – Rudolfo Anaya

The marine air that we were promised has come to blow the coastal smoke away, although there is still pewter coloured smoke weaving its way through concrete and organic structures alike. The sky is a milky blue, the sunlight filtered and because of our very dry summer, there is a scent of autumn in the air. Walking through our favourite trail after a tasty lunch at the Urban Forest Café, we’ve found ourselves once again sitting on a bench at Beaver Lake listening to the sound of the leaves talking as a lone raven takes to the sky. We have a perfect view of the float planes as they crest the stand of forest on their way to Coal Harbour to drop off passengers from points unknown.

We all need places that are green, places far from the fray of everyday life where we can gather our thoughts, to read like the young Harry Potter look-alike we came upon on Cathedral trail as we made our way home – bare feet perched on a crumbling log, deep into mysterious pages, a fairy-tale image just waiting to be captured on my own pages. Apparently he reads here most afternoons, tucked off the main trail, and I think that’s magical.

These are some of the fleeting summer moments I’m compelled to gather in spite of the rising red sun and a sense of foreboding as smoke continues to touch our world. Today, the warm scent of cedar and wild mint is keeping us company on our summer trail after another picnic in the park. Blackberries are hard to find as autumn gently wanders in, so we settle on a log in a clearing to watch a preening Rufous-Sided Towhee sunning itself on a hill of moss as robins fly over our heads in search of berries, too. The rich, oxygenated air is a joy to breathe in after waking up to an eerily beautiful red sun, we are thankful to have  big sky to look at without smoke to mar one of the last days of summer. As I make my way home I stop in at the Stanley Park Community Garden for a wander, it’s quiet now, bathed in colours of scarlet, copper and gold. White and currant coloured berries alongside tightly closed seed pods have replaced the pastel hues of spring – how sweet to see tiny sparrows perched inside a changing bush feasting on the insects found there. This is autumn asking us to awaken from the languorous days of summer…the season of foraging wasps and orb-spinners lighting the way before the rains come.

A hidden trail in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.), where majestic trees bear the marks of lightning strikes from many years ago.

This beautiful capture on the same trail reminds us of scenes from “Lord of the Rings”!

Sometimes there is beauty to be wrought from lightning…

The beautiful trees found on this hidden trail have left a stark record of an intense period of lightning strikes from a time long ago…

This post is dedicated to a beautiful artist in our neighbourhood who succumbed to the smoky skies, Judy Cameron (February 19, 1938 – August 19, 2018) – I still look for her selling her cards at the corner of Haro & Cardero.

 

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High Summer

We are invited to slow down and join in a Goethian noticing…of a particular bird with its particular gesture.” – Talbot Kelly & family (www.talbotkelly.com)

I found myself sitting on a still-green hill after another delicious fish and chips lunch outside, sitting near a young midnight-hued Common Raven. We noticed its majestic wing-span and large dark beak as it landed on the stone wall near our table at the concession at Lumberman’s Arch. I thought it was a large crow as it swooped down to capture a bit of someone’s leftover picnic. We watched as it flew into the shade (where we are now) to eat its prize – as we got up to leave we passed the raven resting upon the cool grass and stood curiously nearby as he didn’t fly away at our approach. We noticed that the raven was favouring his left leg, so we stayed awhile to keep him company, sharing some of our farmer’s market cherries as we softly talked to him. He settled about 8 feet from us as he rested and the peaceful energy between us felt very sacred in this natural setting. Ravens are sky people and to be able to commune closely with this young one was an unexpected gift.

It was hard to leave our new feathered friend but we were eager to walk the trails and keep cool on yet another hot day. On our way, we found another hill to sit on at the base of a large cedar with a view of the strait to our right as we sipped our ice tea and took in the beautiful setting before heading deeper into the forest. The trail we walk takes us through lush green down to Beaver Lake to hear the frog chorus and watch shimmering dragonflies hover near our shady bench. There is still generous foliage to admire among the delicate pinks and pure whites of the lilies crowding the surface of the brackish water still housing a beaver lodge that’s been here for years.

The undulating heatwaves haven’t left their mark here yet, there is still fresh air to breathe and gauzy blue sky high above a wall of jade-green forest to look upon. Walking here, no matter the direction, always gives me the feeling of having escaped to the country, the hum of the city muted by the drowsy buzzing of bees and the call of the odd Wood Duck perched on gnarled branches almost touching the water. Nearby, the sunflowers are starting to raise their sunny faces to the sky and berries of all different colours are starting to appear on some of the trees. A Northern Flicker brought her young one to a tall tree with dark orange berries, its excited calls drawing my attention, another gentle reminder that high summer is upon us…

Our new feathered friend, a young Common Raven sharing some sacred space with us near Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park (Vancouver, B.C.).

Resting in the cool grass about 8 feet from us after indulging in farmer’s market cherries from the Okanagan!

A high summer view of Beaver Lake from our shady bench in Stanley Park (Vancouver. B.C.).

Beaver Lake is surrounded by beautiful trails and forest, it’s hard to believe that this beauty is just minutes from our West End apartment!

As I sit here, polishing this post, that high summer day seems dream-like now as smoke from the almost 600 fires burning up country and up north blanket our city and beyond – in the past two days we have been blessed with fresher air, it’s a joy to leave our windows open to summer again.

 

 

 

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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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