Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saints 'n Stuff

It's well after midnight as I begin to write, but I never think of it as the next day until I've wakened in the morning, so for me, it is still Tuesday.  My day began with a phone call from my neighbor.  She wanted to let me know that a Flicker was at her feeder.  She knows I enjoy and love trying to photograph the birds in her garden.  This sounds a bit over-dramatic, but honestly, my heart welled up with gratitude that she would take the time to call me, so my day was off to a euphoric start.  I rushed outside, but never did see the Flicker.  At least I don't think I did.  For someone who enjoys birds as much as I do, one would think I would have more information at my fingertips.  One of my goals for future spare time is to get the bird book out from my pile of stored boxes in Bill's basement, and learn the names of the ones I see.  My neighbor described the Flicker, and her description did not match the ones I saw this morning.  However, I did get a few photographs that I really love:  First, this Towhee with the berry in its mouth.
And this one, because it seemed to be looking right at me.
And this one, although I couldn't identify it, even with a full view (shown in the following picture).  I wonder if anyone will be able to tell what it is, with only the tail, or the tip of the head, as clues.  

My uneducated guess is that it is some type of woodpecker.  I'm going to get that book out.  I really am.  But in the meantime, if someone wants to help me out here, that would be great.

After that perfect start to the day, I figured my luck was running strong.  So, I took my bike out for the first time since this snow and cold spell.  I didn't cross any bridges and I walked down the Point Grey Hill, but it felt good just to be on it again.  I made it as far as Arbutus and Broadway, did a little gym workout, finished reading Mr. Pip while I was on the elliptical trainer, started Water for Elephants while I was on the stationary bike, had a very good latte on 4th Avenue afterwards, did a bit of shopping, and just generally enjoyed being on vacation and having no time deadlines over my head.  Special note: my reports are finished!!!!!!

When I arrived home, I talked with Bill about my reaction to Mr. Pip.  Yesterday, I came to the climax of the story, and to use a cliche, felt as though my heart were tearing apart.  I won't describe the scene here, but I had to put the book down and wasn't sure I would ever be able to pick it up again, even though I was so close to the end.  I was angry with Bill's sister, Phyllis, for lending it to me and I was even more angry with Lloyd Jones, the author.  I had read up to this point, even through some painful parts, with a kind of trusting abandonment.  I loved the characters and I loved the tone of the story and I believed, in my best escapist certainty, that Mr. Jones would take me gently through whatever the outcome was to be.  He didn't do that at all and the hurt was a physical pain in my gut.  I told myself there is enough ugliness in the world and why would anyone want to put themselves through a fictional world of more of the same.  I've just read about Mr. Lloyd, and realize that the world he wrote about wasn't fictional at all, and that he did extensive research.  You can hear him describe how he came to the story, if you go to the link above.  Anyhow, I did pick up the book again, and though I steeled myself for more pain, Mr. Lloyd shocked me once more by being able to bring me to terms with the ugliness.  In fact, he left me with several small revelation moments, one of the ways I know a book has touched a place in me that had lain dormant.  So, Phyllis, if you're reading this, thank you!  You haven't missed yet, in the books you've recommended.  Here is one small quote near the end of the book:

I have tried to describe the events as they happened to me and my mum on the island.  I have not tried to embellish.  Everyone says the same thing of Dickens.  They love his characters.  Well, something has changed in me.  As I have grown older I have fallen out of love with his characters.  They are too loud; they are grotesques.  But strip away their masks and you find what their creator understood about the human soul and all its suffering and vanity.  When I told my father about...  he broke down and wept.  That is when I learned there is a place for embellishment after all.  But it belongs to life - not to literature.

(I left out a couple of words in that quote because I don't want to give away any story details for those who might choose to read it.)

Another of the many qualities I love about Bill occurs to me as I write this.  He hasn't read the book, and probably won't, as fiction isn't his thing. Yet he is able, from the things that I have said, to bring me to a fuller understanding of my own reactions.  I'm not sure how he does that.  

After eating another of Bill's delicious home-cooked meals, we headed off to the Roundhouse to see a Belly-Dancing performance.  That was definitely a first for both of us:)  And that brings me to the "Saints" part of this blog entry.  Below, you see Nicole on the left and Zoe to her right.  They volunteer at a place called SAINTS.  That stands for Senior Animals in Need Today Society.  If you go to my blog list on the right, it will take you to the web site.  A lady named Carol runs it, while holding down a full time job.  The web site will take you to her blog, and it's one I now read every day.  I know she would hate being called a saint, as would the girls in the picture, so I'll bite my tongue (well, restrain my typing fingers:) but all I can say is, if you have any interest in, or love for, animals, read that blog.  It will stay with you, I think, as it stays with me.  But to make the connection to belly dancing.  Nicole and Zoe have a friend (actually, I think she's their room mate), who teaches belly dancing.  She and some other teachers put on a wonderful performance tonight, and all of the proceeds went to SAINTS.  What a great idea!  And believe me, I have new respect for the variety of movements the human body can execute.  It was fascinating to watch.  I may even get out that belly dancing instructional  DVD I bought on impulse almost a year ago.  I promise - no public performances!  
I love this picture of Nicole and Zoe.  Thanks, girls.  You are pretty damn special in my book, but I did not use the word Saints.  No, I didn't.
And here are just a few of the dancers.  This lady, if I understood correctly, now teaches in Montreal, but was the first instructor for many of the dancers we saw tonight, inspiring them to continue their belly-dancing journey.
The girl in pink is Zoe and Nicole's room mate.  I wish I remembered her name, but to her and to all the others who performed tonight, a heartfelt thanks.  In the next two pictures, three teachers do a dance together.  The mirror reflects Nicole and Zoe watching.   
And here she is again.

Below are a few Monday pictures.  Monday wasn't as much fun as today, with a long bus and seabus trip to North Van to deliver my reports.  I know I'm supposed to appreciate our transit system, but all I can think to mention is how much I missed my bike.  At one of the transfer points, I stopped for a latte, and took this picture of a painting.  It reminds me a bit of Emily Carr.  I realized as I admired it, that shafts of light in the forest always grab my attention.
I did enjoy this scene, taken from the seabus.
Yesterday morning, I heard Black Jack moaning from her perch at the living room window.  I looked to see this familiar cat lurking right under poor Black Jack's window.  I really think that cat may drive her crazy.
I like this cat.  Probably, deep down, Black Jack does too.  Okay, that may be a stretch:) I hope it's going to be okay.  It seems to run loose a lot of the time, and I know there are coyotes around.  
Well, I've finally run down after a very long blog entry.  Time to sleep, so Wednesday can begin.


  1. I read Water for Elephants a few months ago and I HATED it. It looked so promising in the store that I actually bought it (rare) and I ended up leaving it on the West Coast Express book exchange counter so that I would never have to see it again. Curious to find out what you think (I won't lose any respect for you if you love it).

  2. Hi Carol. The bird on the suet block is a Downy Woodpecker. It is a female - the males have a little bright red patch at the crown of the head.
    I should qualify that identification: I am assuming the suet holder holds a typical 5x5 block, which would make the bird the size of a large sparrow. However, if the bird is the size of a healthy robin, it could be a Hairy woodpecker. Both are found in Vancouver (though the Downy is more common)and they look very similar except for size.
    I hope you get to see your flicker. They are truly beautiful birds, and in flight show brilliant colours underneath from the feather quills on their flight feathers. I have a pair that seem to winter here each year and hang around until mid spring. I am waiting for them to return this year.

  3. dp, Promise? :) I'm about half way through it and can see what I think are quite a few reasons why you would have hated it, but HATED suggests some emotional involvement, which to me, often indicates good writing. Did you finish it in spite of itself? At this point, I find myself irritated at times, bored at times, but also drawn in at others. Curiosity wouldn't allow me to put it down now. Sara Gruen apparently did her research (although I haven't checked that out except for a quick look at some reviews) and I guess those depression era circuses were not pretty. More after I finish it.

    Jean, thank you! I really appreciate the time you take to comment. Yes, it's a 5x5, so I now have one more bird to add to my short list of those I can identify. Will keep looking for that flicker. I went back to an old post of dp's for the photo of the sad little one she tried to rescue and will check out some google images as well.

  4. I always finish books that I start, and I just rant to David about them as I am reading. Books that I don't like get read much more quickly than books that I do like.

    Mostly I like to read books written by good writers. A good plot does nothing for me if the underlying prose is clumsy or contrived. In this case the writing was poor and the plot was trite. The historical details were fascinating. Have you watched Carnivale? I suspect that you would like it.