Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beasts and Blooms in Vancouver

Yesterday, a woman shopping next to me said she was so disgusted with the election, she felt like leaving Vancouver.  Like dp, voting with my heart has never resulted in a win for my party, but I still found the woman's sentiment a bit shocking.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we live in one of the best places on earth. Okay, I haven't traveled all that much, but I feel that to the core. 

A short break from teaching in North Van the other day yielded blooms and greenery everywhere I looked.
I think this flowering bush is Forsythia.  I had one like it in front of the house I was renting when I lived in Fraser Lake, but the ones this year in Vancouver seem to be the most brilliant yellow I have ever seen.  
A closer view of the flowers.

Yesterday was a try-to-get-organized day.  There was satisfaction in yet again solving the mystery of my ancient stereo components, and in having somewhat orderly cupboards and drawers, but it's a fact that I would much rather be outdoors.  Still, without moving from my modest apartment, there is greenery, wildlife, and great entertainment.  This squirrel was about six feet in front of my balcony.
When I stepped out to take a better look (and to settle Black Jack down), we both noticed this resident on the balcony overhead.  It had found a way to get its paws through the netting, but fortunately was well enough contained that I only briefly wondered if it might jump.  It appeared to be fascinated by the squirrel, but took a few moments to look down at Black Jack.
As I zoomed in for a close-up, it did me the honor of looking right into the camera.  I don't read cats very well.  Maybe someone will tell me whether it was saying "hi", or whether it was more inclined to tell me what I could do with that clicking, black box.  Whatever it was saying, I found it to be mesmerizingly beautiful.   
And Black Jack?  Well, let's just say she wasn't bored. 
I know that everyone is not so fortunate as to work and live in the midst of a park-like setting, and I surely do know that the cost of housing in Vancouver makes even a modest dwelling barely affordable for the vast majority of us, but even in shopping districts, it doesn't take a lot of searching to find beauty.  This was a little stretch near Alma Street, on West Broadway.  My camera skills couldn't capture the delicate flowers, but clicking to enlarge these next two will bring them a bit closer to what my eye saw.

Even in what is called the Downtown East Side, I believe I could find evidence that we are fortunate to live here.  Perhaps I'll make that a project for a future post.  No question, there are environmental and housing concerns, and there is work to be done.  If I can ever afford to retire, I hope to do my small part towards making Vancouver an even better place to live.  I love it here.  I guess, that's the bottom line

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happiness is...

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about different perceptions of happiness. My happinesses are a bit strange to some, and they come in small bursts, several times each day. There are also unhappy moments in my days, but I realize that when I choose to photograph something, most of the time, it is because it in some way gives me that little surge of a kind of joyful energy that isn't very easy to describe. I have known people who never, or at least very rarely, appear to be happy. My sister and I once talked about that and came to the conclusion that some people enjoy their unhappy state. Maybe that is their happiness.

Here are a few of my happy moments from the past couple of days. I realize this is a very Pollyannaish post, but hope I'll be forgiven. If anyone reads this and has time to describe or show a few of their happinesses (or even one) in their own blog, or in comments to this one, that would be great.

I was looking over the river by my school, when a dog suddenly raced down the little bank, flew into the water, and began swimming.
A young fellow came along, looking for his dog. The dog heard him call, and turned to come out of the water. The fellow then saw his dog, and told him it was okay. It could go back in the water.
My pictures caught some of the dog's energy.These flowers are in front of the building where I live. As we walked by on Thursday evening, the sun shone directly on them. Bill held Black Jack and encouraged me to take photos.
We went to the rabbit bushes at Jericho, and I've never seen so many little ones. Again, Bill held Black Jack while I snapped away. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. The rabbits seemed very content.
These two rabbits were chasing each other around and around at great speeds. I think they were playing.  Bill and I saw them again on Friday evening when we had supper at the sailing club.  I forgot my camera!  Can you believe it?  But, there was beautiful light over the water as the sun went down. This little white one came running out of the thickets.
This one seemed to be enjoying the sun.
Bill and I wondered about the rabbits' diet, and what they eat when people don't bring veggies.  This fellow stood up and answered our question.
The light over the pond was magnificent.
On the way back to my apartment, we passed these flowers.  I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I have lived before in the building I am presently living in.  It was when I first moved to Vancouver, about ten years ago.  I had Scott at that time, and we used to walk down to Jericho every morning.  I always loved this corner because of the colorful flowers.  On Thursday, I took pictures of the same bushes I had admired and photographed years ago.
I was having trouble catching the brilliance of the colors, and Bill suggested I try from another angle.
Bill remarked on these trees, just around the corner from the bushes. 
Bill has been coming over every afternoon to take Black Jack for long walks.  The last couple of days, he has taken pictures, added captions, and sent them in e-mails.
"What are you looking at?"
"Ok, maybe 10 lamps and 2 coffee tables." (referring to how we could use that log)
"Oh no, he's gonna stick me on a log again." (Black Jack's thoughts.)
(That log has been around for at least the 10 years I've been in Vancouver.  I also took pictures of it when I first moved here.)
"I spy with my little eye."
"Everybody, get in a straight row for that guy with the camera."  
Bill pointed out the baby geese for me.  His pictures are in small format, so clicking won't enlarge them. 
Finally, this last picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.  I have already posted about this walk, and the seagull eating the chicken neck.  That night, the sunset was spectacular, the seagulls were flying in and out of camera range, and I was on a high trying to capture them.  I didn't get any great photos, but I sure had a lot of fun trying.  Bill was holding Black Jack, and encouraging me to take as many pictures as I wanted.  Two young girls were watching us, and asked if they could take our picture.  I include this because it was a happy moment, but also so Phyllis can see a picture of her handsome brother.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meeting the neighbors

There are a lot of neighbors to meet, especially if I include those at Jericho Park, which is close enough to feel like my back yard.  I was happy to discover these ducklings yesterday morning, near the marshy area, swimming under the watchful eyes of their mother. 
All in a row, just for dp.
I loved the colors in this scene, even though the mallard at the center of it refused to turn towards the camera.
He was watching me, though.  I only discovered that when I put the picture full screen, and saw his eye.  (Click on the picture if you want to see too.)
On the other side of our balcony, Vegas wasn't shy at all about introducing himself.
As I said...
Black Jack wasn't completely sure about having her personal space invaded.
She accepted that better once Bill arrived and she could survey her world from the vantage point of his arms.
I guess in a way, the mountains could be considered neighbors as well.  Not the best photo, but I took it at dusk, night before last, from Jericho Beach.  I've always thought this layered look in paintings seemed rather artificial.  It was a bit of a revelation to see that same look in the photo.

This was taken moments later.  Jericho sailing club, with the downtown skyline behind, all with a familiar sort of neighborhood feeling.

It is now Sunday around noon, and Bill has just arrived.  We watched Paul, his nephew-in-law, perform with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra last night.  I loved so many of the works, but one of my favorites was a piece for two violins and continuo.  I think it was by Biber.  Paul never ceases to amaze me.  Talented, humorous, unbelievably warm and friendly, and a joy to know.   

I feel ridiculously fortunate.  Right now, Bill is assembling my TV stand, and then we're off for a day of shopping for apartment odds and ends, sipping lattes, and walking Black Jack.  Black Jack has had a very entertaining morning, lying in her luxurious blue bed, surveying the action in the courtyard, and meeting a few more neighbors.  So far, we have met Chicken, a white Samoyed, Pollo and Castor, the two very sweet Catahoulas next door, Phillip, a 12-yr-old poodle, rescued a year ago in Toronto, and lucky enough to have found a young owner who wouldn't for a minute consider leaving him behind when she moved to Vancouver, Harvey, a 14-yr-old Bassett Hound, and Mary Lou, an older lab/pit mix rescued a year ago when she was found wandering in Surrey, lost and pregnant.  Good neighbors.  I 
know that by their animals' stories.  All is well with my world.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Change is sometimes challenging, but when I can remember to go with the flow, it is also refreshing.  I reflected on that yesterday, as I took a short walk around the school where I teach in North Vancouver.  I hadn't really looked about since returning from the two-week break, and the feeling was familiar and new at the same time.

There was a lot more green and some new blooms, looking over the little river at the side of the school.

Looking across the water from the back of the school, different boats, an anchor I had never seen before, and again, more green.
Just outside the building, new plants. 
Biking home, I stopped on the Lions Gate Bridge, something I hadn't taken time to do for a couple of weeks.  Intricate cloud patterns and ocean swirls, not so different from my drifting thoughts.
Looking way down, Barrows Golden-Eyes, melded into the swirls.
I watched for a few minutes, and in that time, they formed shape after shape.
My life has changed a little bit too.  It has its challenges as I adapt to a new space, but the renewal in my friendship with Bill feels right.  Being the true, good soul that he is, he has made the transition as smooth as it could possibly be.  We have walked together, eaten together (he made supper and brought it here last night!!!), watched hockey games together, and Black Jack figures it's all good.  She has had him all to herself for a walk each day, and has even gained altitude to watch the squirrels, by lying on his belly, when he napped in the afternoon.  Just down the hill from Bill's house, and a five-minute walk from Jericho Park, Black Jack and I live in a building where every single resident, I believe, has a pet.  She has a ringside view of the action from our ground floor apartment, which looks into a nature's smorgasbord courtyard.  As the previous tenant told me, she saw all the seasons from her window.  There will be lots of stories to tell.  Someone once said something to the effect that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I think there is truth in that, but the process, or maybe illusion, of change gives a new dimension to the familiar things I understood and valued.  

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Let's see.  A couple of beasts (cats), lots of birds (including a Serena/Sam development), some blooms, and a sunset.  A hodgepodge for sure, but here goes.

On Thursday, Black Jack seemed intent on rousting out cats from their hiding spots.  During the morning walk, she found this one.  It was sure it had found the perfect vantage point to survey its world.  It remained motionless, as I held Black Jack on a short leash with one hand, and snapped the photo with the other.
The sun as we returned home from our walk caught these blooms and reflected their light back to me.  
On the evening walk, just a few feet down the lane from our house, Black Jack again was up to her tricks.  Bill took her along, and I stayed back to get the photo.  I'm not sure what the expression in those eyes was telling me, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't inviting me to come closer.
We continued on to the endowment lands, and found a swampy beaver dam.  Although the light was fading, I loved the reflections in this shot.
Smelly but pretty skunk cabbage was all around.  The beaver dam can be seen across the middle.
On Friday morning, I stopped to photograph these blooms by the park at West Georgia Street, just before the Lions gate Bridge.  I talked to the gardeners, who were pleased that I was enjoying their designs.
The gardeners warned me, as I watched this red-winged blackbird, that it was nesting, and had pecked a man on the head that morning.  The man apparently complained to them, and asked them to kill the bird.  Hard to believe people think that way, but easy for me to say - I was wearing my bicycle helmet:)  I did take the picture quickly and continued on my way, not wanting to stress it too much.
And if you remember, the last time I posted about a visit to the heronry, Sam and Serena's nest appeared to be abandoned.  And for several visits before that, there had been no sign of Sam.  So, I was quite excited on Friday night to find two herons in the nest, and I feel they must have been Sam and Serena, since I don't think any new pairs are setting up housekeeping at this late stage.  They were working away busily, and the nest definitely was beginning to look more substantial.
They appeared to be very lovey-dovey.
Both looked intently at...  a twig?
Serena, I think, is in the background, possibly sitting on eggs, since I'm fairly certain I saw them mating a couple of weeks ago.  Sam's plumes appear to be in mating form.
On the other side of the road, I looked at Stella and Stanley's nest.  No sign of Stanley, but Stella appeared to be dividing her time between preening herself and working on the nest.

Friday night, Bill, Black Jack and I walked down to Spanish Banks Beach.  The sunset from the fishing dock was quite spectacular.  A warning to stop reading here if you gross out easily. It really is a good point to end the blog, but I can't resist showing pics of a seagull that we watched eating chicken necks.  It wasn't pretty. 

Here is the series of the seagull eating a chicken (or maybe turkey?) neck.  

1. Pick it up.
2. George Burns cigar pose.
3. Half way down.
4. And, just about gone.  Yuck!  Told you it was gross.  How can they do that?