Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Flicker and Fassil

This morning, I finally saw the flicker in our backyard, and he was kind enough to wait while I got my camera out.  Beauty bird.  My heart thumped a wildly enthusiastic welcome, thank you, please stay a while.  I wonder if he felt it. 
When I told dp I was reading Sweetness in the Belly, she suggested an Ethiopian restaurant on East Broadway called Fassil.  As I read a passage about injera, a kind of bread that is eaten with almost every meal, my mouth watered, and I couldn't wait to try the restaurant out, so Bill and I enjoyed an excellent meal there this evening.  Below is Deresse, the owner and very kind host.  He and his wife, Lumlum, take good care of their customers.  Deresse told me he comes from Harar, where much of the novel is set.  He wanted to know more about the story, but I'm only about 70 pages into it. I promised to bring it with me the next time we go.

This morning, Black Jack and I picked our way through a slushy walk in all its wet and more frozen forms.  When we returned, I photographed a few birds in the yard.  Later, I read a Peter McMartin newspaper column that described with great accuracy and wit the current walking experience in Vancouver. 

I love the reds in this little finch.
The hostess tray is ugly but the birds accept function over aesthetics.
This little fellow must have a death wish.  He's hanging around right at our back door.  Black Jack tore out of the house so quickly today, I thought they might meet, but the squirrel was a step ahead of her.
Walking along 7th Avenue this afternoon, I chuckled several times as I remembered Peter McMartin's column.  I stopped at Fir Street to look more closely at this mural under the overpass.  I've walked or biked past here many times, but this was the first time I noticed some of the details in the painting.  I love the perspective, the casual pose of the man looking at the painting, and the person coming through the doorway with their bike.  

That was my day.  A good one.  I close now, thinking of dp's (linked above) greatly enjoyed post, Six Degrees of Penguination, and wondering about some tidbits I might share in the next blog.    

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food Fights

Yesterday, I decided to try reading two books more or less simultaneously (not a successful experiment in the past),took Black Jack for a walk, observed some bird disagreements over food, had a latte at The Wicked (superb), went to the gym, met Bill downtown to see Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, had a latte afterwards at Artigiano's (Bill and I agreed it was good, but not up to Wicked standard) on Hornby Street directly across from the gallery, and came home to another of Bill's wonderful suppers.

The books I've started are: Harvest for Hope - A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall and Sweetness in the Belly 
by Camilla Gibb, the latter a kind recommendation from dp.  A non-fiction and a fiction.  So far, I see a link between the two books, with talk of hyenas and hunger and the phenomena of food wastage.  There's even a link to the art exhibit, one which I'll think about a bit more.  I'll only say for now, after about ten pages of Sweetness, that it's a really easy book to get into, and my favorite descriptive line is ...his whole body an exclamation mark as he stood on his toes and paused for effect.  As for Jane Goodall, she talks about the natural habit of animals and man to fight for food.  I have hated that greed for land and organized religion are the two causes that I see for war.  I hadn't thought it through another step to realize land is food, and food is survival. Higher dominance rank gets the best food and thus a more successful reproductive career.  Little scenes seemed to pop up yesterday to keep that thought spinning.

Two starlings argue over the suet that I finally bought and installed in our back yard.
One is forced to wait its turn.
Some pigeons spar over a dirty piece of old pizza at the corner of Davie and Granville.  The lovely one with the map on its back (that's how it appeared to me) stands on its toes to shove the black one out of the way.
Map continues to shove, but Black appears to stand his/her ground.
Black retaliates.
Fairly even match, it seemed to me.
Black was the winner.
Maybe not?
Map is leaving.  In disgust?  Pizza wasn't worth fighting for?
These three seemed to share the goods more or less equally.  Who said pigeons lack intelligence?
I followed Map for a bit, who, Bill thought, danced a jig in this one.
Slim pickings along Davie Street, but Map didn't appear discouraged.  I kept trying to capture the map affect with my camera, but it isn't immediately obvious in any of the three photos to follow.

And WACK? I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it left me cold.  It came highly recommended by art people who know, and I came of age (if indeed I ever did manage to do that) in a historically important time for women.  I'm thinking I just didn't give it the time and energy it deserved.  It also occurred to me that if I had lived in some of the places the protagonist talks about in Gibb's novel, I may have had a very different response.  I left without my customary "I'll have to go back and see this again before it leaves" feeling.  Still, I did find an interesting site with lots of information to wake up my reluctant curiosity.  My favorite of all the works was one done completely with pebbles, but the feminism aspect in that piece completely escaped me.  I haven't located any more information on it, but that will be my first step in response to the show.

Just three and a half days left until school begins.  It's raining now, but I'm beginning to think it could be a long time before my beautiful bike feels the road.  Just for the record, I'm not whining:)  The bus isn't all that bad.  There is more time for reading,  And stop-offs at transfer-point cafes sweeten the inconvenience quite a bit.  

Friday, December 26, 2008


I've never been a Boxing Day shopper, or much of any kind of shopper, for that matter, unless all those coffee shop lattes count.  But today, I did want to buy some suet for the birds and get to the gym.  With most stores closed, the suet as I've seen it in my neighbor's garden, was not to be found.  A Safeway butcher kindly gave me a bag of fat, well laced with bits of blood, trimmed from the meat being packaged.  It was truly a labor of love to bring it home, let alone hang it outside.  I'm a vegetarian, not for health, but because I can't bear the thought of eating animal flesh.  Not a popular view, I know, and not one that I advocate for others, but there it is.  I don't know if any birds tried it out because I was gone most of the day after hanging it in a plastic container on a line that goes from the house to the little garage/shed where my bike waits quietly.  Most likely, tomorrow, I'll throw it out and go looking once more for the suet block.

It was tricky getting to the gym, but I made it.  It was much trickier coming home.  With many buses stuck, there were long waits at every stop.  I finally walked up the hill from Alma, along 10th.  Sometimes, the path was well packed but sometimes, it was slow going through deep, slippery slushy snow.  Every once in a while, there was a hedge leaning so far out over the hidden sidewalk, walking resembled a gym exercise, knees bent to 90 degrees.  And sometimes, there were tunnels formed by laden down branches.  I took a picture of the last one.  Those headlights at the end of the tunnel come from a car going up 10th, and that path is the sidewalk. 
This was taken yesterday.  Undisturbed snow on the garage/shed roof.
This was also taken yesterday.  Just snow on the hedge and a view of Black Jack's run around the yard that Bill continues to shovel faithfully.  Thanks, Bill!  The talk, as I traveled the buses, was that most people do not ever remember this much snow in Vancouver, or at least if there was as much, it lasted for only a couple of days.  I did hear some people mention the year 1971.  I wonder if we've beat that record yet.  I continue to wish for rain, but also count my lucky stars.  I'm warm, safe, well-fed and still able to get out and about, albeit a tad more slowly than usual.

And I am just about to begin the last chapter of Bel Canto.  I dread the ending, both because I am hopelessly in love with several of the characters, and because I fear Ann Patchett's brilliant descriptions will steal the luster from future reading.  Here is a description of a grandmother sharing a very special book with her grandsons: 
I was not allowed to even touch the page until I was ten, but still I washed my hands just for the privilege of looking.  She kept it wrapped in a quilt under the sofa in the living room where she slept.  She struggled to carry it but would let no one help her.  When she was certain the table was clean we would put the quilt with the book inside it on the table and slowly unfold the quilt.  Then she would sit down.  She was a small woman, and we stood beside her.  She was very particular about the light over the table.  It couldn't be too strong because she was afraid of fading the colors, and it couldn't be so weak that she felt the paintings could not be fully comprehended.  She wore white cotton gloves that were perfectly plain and saved for only this occasion and she turned the pages while we watched.  Can you imagine this?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Look Around

A quiet and good Christmas day.  

On a walk with Bill and Black Jack, these berries seemed a wintery, Christmasy symbol of good cheer.  
My seeds drew a few birds, but no flicker photo shoot yet.  I saw one, the flash of red at head and tail unmistakable, but I was inside the house, and it didn't linger.  I did enjoy this Towhee, in my neighbor's garden
And this chick-a-dee.
This cutie (a new and rare breed to include all birds I can't name) came to our impromptu feeder - one of those hostess folding trays my mother used to bring out for company.  I guess Bill's mother may have used them for the same purpose, and he brought it up from the basement when I arrived home last night with the bag of seeds.   I set it in the middle of the backyard snow pile, and the birds found it pretty quickly.  I didn't get this one in focus, but love the spread of the delicate wings.
This is where the branch broke off from my neighbor's tree.  
A surprisingly thick and heavy branch.
The tree is still very beautiful.  Black Jack would miss it for her TV entertainment, and I would miss its beauty.  It looks down from well above the upstairs bedroom window to the living room window below, and feels a part of all that defines this house.  Hopefully, no more branches will crack under the strain of heavy, wet snow. 
This was one of two snowmen we saw on our walk.  I like it for three reasons: 
1. Snowmen in Vancouver are rare.  
2. It looks like the ones we made growing up in Quebec - lopsided and imperfect and steeped in kid energy. 
3. The carrot nose.  
The movie we saw was The Reader.  Bill has a theory about people who like depressing movies.  He thinks they are basically happy people who enjoy seeing a slice of life different from their own.  The reverse may also be true, but isn't as set in stone.  Anyhow, he feels this movie was one of the best of the year, and I loved it too.  I guess that makes us happy people, because it could not be described as a happy movie.  The bottom line is that we both recommend it.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hoping for green.

This was the view this morning from our bedroom window.  I love that tree on the right.  It belongs to our neighbors. Today, a branch broke off and fell onto their property.  Tonight, there is rain mixed with snow in the forecast, and as of Friday, rain alone is predicted for several days.  I'm hoping that beautiful vista will transform to an even more attractive one, colored in deep forest green.  Any bets as to whether I'll be back on my bike for the first day of work, January 2nd? 
I bought some birdseed this evening, hoping to attract a flicker to our yard tomorrow, for a photo shoot.  I think I caught one today, but my camera didn't enjoy the wet snow, and the  image was fuzzy.  I'm pretty sure I detected a red head, although it doesn't show up in this picture.
This last picture is for dp.  She mentioned that she and David will be playing their new Wii game.  Last year, Bill and I were at my sister's in Ottawa, and had a lot of fun with theirs.  (Their wannabe lapdog, Zoe, is in the background.)  
Wishing you, your families, friends and animals a warm, safe and happy Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

tree lamp light

Just a few pics from yesterday.  I took all of these just before sunset, near the corner of Vine and West Broadway,  

Blue sky, snow and a branch that made me think of a lamp.  
Light behind a tree branch.
Heart shaped branches and blue sky.
A lamp in the Higher Grounds coffee shop.  I usually sit, if I'm alone in any coffee shop, on a stool looking out the window.  I can read, sip, and feel the shop's atmosphere from inside and out.
As I looked out the window, I saw the reflections of the lamp I had just photographed, and a star decoration.
A closer shot of the lamp's reflection.  Bill saw a mask here.  I love to look at my photographs through his eyes. 
We went to the Chan last night for a concert of six cantatas.  Although I've been involved with music for most of my life, I've never listened to more than one cantata at a sitting, ever.  Fate takes strange turns of event, that Bill, a non-musician, would have such a musical family.  Little Oscar was there.  It's mind boggling to me that he's not quite a month old, but has already attended four concerts and several rehearsals.  His parents, Glenys (Bill's niece) and Paul were both performing.  A beautiful concert - I enjoyed it more and more as the evening went on.  I'm not sure if the musicians were gelling as they performed, or if my ears were picking up finer details as they settled into the music.  Whatever the reason, it was a lovely conclusion to the day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A day in the life

A run-down of my day. A good one. I guess because there is time and energy on this no-obligations day, here it is.

Black Jack's first trip outside, this morning.

I walked up to 10th Avenue, taking some tree pictures on the way. I heard a child ask her mother what that lady was doing. I guess photographing trees seems odd to some.

I caught the 99 and got off at Main, for a very good latte and a muffin at Our Town Cafe. I had to jump over a huge puddle, just to make it onto the sidewalk. A lady spontaneously held out her hand, caught mine, and gave a little pull to help propel me over the water. No words to offer help - just a look exchanged and a perfect understanding. Then smiles because it was the right amount of pull, and I landed exactly where I hoped to, on a little patch of non-slip sidewalk. I was wearing runners, a fact dp has already commented on. I thought of her, and regretted not ordering what looked like great boots when she suggested them some time ago.

I came out of the coffee shop, and decided to walk back to Cambie, and then up to 12th for a workout at Fitness World. Nobody to help me this time, and my runners were soaked through, as I navigated Broadway.

The 99 was coming, and, a rare thing, the driver waited for me to run and catch it. He made me pay for that kindness by not appearing to slow down for my stop in Point Grey. When I asked him if he was going to stop, he said no, he was going to take me all the way to UBC. I was just beginning to panic when I caught the twinkle in his eye and the grins on a couple of the passengers' faces. His joke kept me smiling as I began the short walk home in my new, and amazingly comfortable boots. I cannot remember the last time I bought boots. It may actually go back to the 70's.

A pink blush and blue undertone made a candy-cotton sky

And a Christmas scene in tune with the sky.

Tonight, Bill and I walked up to 10th for a latte and supper at Bean Around the World, and then, home to cuddle Black Jack and watch a video: Turtles Can Fly. A painful movie to watch, but the child non-professional actors were outstanding, and I think (my sketchy knowledge of politics aside) it represented an accurate reality of daily life for the Kurdish youth and elderly, living near the border between Iraq and Turkey, just before the U.S. declared war on Iraq. It will stay with me a long time. Bill says he wishes he hadn't seen it, and then qualified that by adding, "I could have just skipped it." His objection has to do with his confusion as to whether the U.S. is being portrayed as the villain, something that he feels is an easy trap to fall into, and not always fair. He may have regretted watching it, but our later conversation was good. Edited in the morning to add some further talk about the movie, Bill felt the real reason the movie upset him is that he doesn't easily handle seeing injured children and being forced to look at the ills of the world. And one more edit to provide a link to an excellent review I found this morning.

And a P.S. I had lots of time to read today. I am loving Bel Canto.

Here is one small descriptive passage about the opera singer's performance:

Her voice, if he could be very honest, was not flattered by the acoustics in the living room. It made him uncomfortable to notice the supreme athleticism of her mouth, to see so clearly her damp pink tongue when she opened up wide and wider still. The lower teeth were not straight.