Monday, December 27, 2010

Remembrances in November

A November post during the Christmas season - that's a bit of a stretch, but jumping over time to reach the present doesn't seem to be an option for this blog, so the December one will follow later. In the meantime, my holiday wishes for you are reflected in these two pictures, shot seconds apart. They look over the Vancouver Rowing Club, and were taken November 2nd, on the way to work, just as the sun was thinking about peeking over the horizon. To me, they combine drama and tranquility in just the right balance, and that is what makes life good: enough drama to make your life colourful, but an overall sense of peace in your heart.

That same morning, this was the view coming into North Vancouver on Marine Drive. Great start to the day!

The next photos were taken on Thursday, November 4th. That was the last time for the semester that it was possible to catch some daylight on the way home. I came to this spot, and then..

dragged the bike down a long series of steps to the seawall. Sitting on the wall, legs dangling over the edge, it took just seconds before this juvenile eagle flew right over my head. I rocked back, and shot straight up. It was amazing that any picture resulted. Sometimes, the camera seems almost human in its effort to please.

There was a large gathering of Surf Skoters some distance out in the water. Their features are distinctive, as is..

their way of surfing, scooting across the water. (just had an aha moment for the way they earned their name.)

This American Wigeon approached for a close-up shot.

Dark was falling quickly, and standing up to leave, I noticed these trees off in the distance. This zoomed-in shot caught the shimmering shades of yellow/green/purple quite well - another super-human effort on the camera's part.

November 5th, the forecast was for rain all day, and so the camera stayed home. Later in the day, biking homeward along the seawall, a breath-takingly beautiful rainbow appeared. Up the tempo a little bit, notice the smiles and gazes around me, hope to get home before it disappears. Not possible. All that was left when I emerged from my apartment, camera in hand, was a left-over glow and the memory of euphoria.

Crossing the street to David Lam Park, the glow caught the leaves of a Sumac branch.

Saturday, the 6th, there was warm light in the sky. The sculpture Brush with Illumination, positioned over the water and barely a two-minute walk from home, accommodates a large family (?) of cormorants. Expect lots of pictures, since I check on them nearly every day.

Sunday, November 7th, the light and air had cooled considerably, but Fall colours brought their own glow. Living in Yaletown (some have termed it Yuppieville), one does not feel the land quite so truthfully as at Jericho, but there is much in the balance of nature and city life to love.

Birds sit in the tree by my balcony, and last May, a grey whale chose to travel the False Creek water, a story that makes my present location all the more attractive. I feel quite sure that whale (or a close relative) will pay me a visit this coming Spring.

In the meantime, Bill, Black Jack and I enjoyed a close up view of the water from the vantage point of this larger than usual Aquabus taking us to Granville Island. Normally, there are no open windows on these boats.

I love this picture. Bill always makes sure Black Jack has a good view.

Looking back to land, another aquabus, almost identical to the one we are on, comes to the landing. The building I live in is one of the smaller ones at the right of the picture.

After our visit to Granville Island, we returned again to Yaletown. Bill and Black Jack walked up the ramp from the aquabus. The Erickson seemed to wave softly in the background.
The final two pictures for the day were of fallen leaves at the edge of my building, and..
one of Black Jack catching the afternoon rays from the couch in my living room.

Warning: for some reason, I've gone off on a long tangent describing the family history of that couch. Feel free to skip.
The couch was originally in a small Presbyterian Church in my hometown village of Howick, Quebec. My father bought the church (I was christened there), and spent hours with Uncle Clarence (my mother's brother), drawing up blueprints to redesign it into a home for us. It then took him years to bring his blueprints to life. Although a gentle and very kind man, he was not one to suffer fools gladly. Whenever he hired someone to help him, he became disillusioned with their workmanship, and in the end, he did about 95% of the work himself, including hauling the logs home that were discarded after a small bridge was rebuilt in the town (he couldn't abide waste), and doing the plumbing and electricity himself (the latter signed for by an electrician friend). He did more with his grade 9 education than anything I've managed to do with my university one. My mother had the couch reupholstered, with instructions that I was to have it when she died. It travelled to Vancouver, not without misadventure in preparation for that trip. My sister and her husband spent the better part of 24 hours waiting for a dishonest mover whom I had hired over the phone. He didn't show up, but tried to charge several hundred dollars to my visa for his "efforts" (I had to cancel the visa). Finally, after many phone calls back and forth, a second mover was hired. Then, more time spent wrapping the couch (as well as a bookcase, table and chairs) in miles of bubble wrap, before my sister could finally see it off on its voyage. It is stuffed with horsehair, and is a bit of an acquired taste. I cannot honestly describe it as comfortable, but I love and appreciate it. The couch will stay in my hands as long as I'm alive.
All that rambling, and you only get to see a sliver of the couch.

Remembrance on November 10th and 11th

Perhaps, the memory of my father is triggered by the fact that November 11th was, I'm fairly certain, the most important date on the calendar for him. It was the day his shoes were shone, the medals and best suit were brought out, and he and the local veterans marched around the perimeter of our small town to the cenotaph, after taking part in the one service of the year that brought all of the churches (United, Presbyterian, Catholic) together in the school gym. After the march, everyone met in the school cafeteria for sandwiches and goodies prepared by the legion women, and there was an order to the day that repeated, with little variation, from year to year. My father died, and I eventually moved away from Quebec. I wonder if they still prepare a similar Remembrance Day Service in that town.

As I wrote that, I googled, and found an article written by Tad Mitsui in 2003. He doesn't say when he retired from the ministry, but says he served as pastor in Howick for five years after his official retirement. At least during those five years, the ceremony appears to have been going on much as I remembered it. But, the fact that a Japanese minister was hired in that closely knit community speaks volumes. His article expresses some of the inner conflict he experienced on Remembrance Day, since he was remembering the deaths of family members fighting on Japan's side. I read his article fairly quickly, but it is one I will go back to. These words in particular I wish to copy here. They are disturbing.
The dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and the second one on Nagasaki a few days later led rapidly to the end of World War II in the Pacific. Earlier that summer in June, one beautiful day in a fishing port city of Numazu in Japan, to which I had been recently evacuated from Tokyo, I was walking home with my friend from school. Streets were covered by a canopy of fresh green leaves of the trees. An “All clear” siren indicated that bombers had left the area and it was safe to walk. We were happy, kicking stones and just fooling around like typical young boys. Suddenly there was the sound of a bomb falling from the sky. So we hit the ground and covered with our hands ears, eyes, and nostrils, as we were all trained to do during those last days of war. It was close; noise was deafening. When I got up, my friend was nowhere in sight. It was a direct hit. There was only a long piece of intestine hanging from a tree branch. My friend was blown to bits and blown away completely.
His last paragraph is also one I wish to quote, since it adds a new dimension that I hadn't fully expressed in my other Remembrance Day posts.
On August 6th each year during a commemorative ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a few dozen names are still added to the list of those who died from the first atomic bomb dropped on humans more than a half a century ago. People are still dying as the result of sickness caused by nuclear radiation, some of who were mere fetuses in their mothers’ wombs in 1945. For a long time, Koreans who had been conscripted to work in factories in Hiroshima and who also died were excluded from the list of dead. Korean residents in Japan erected a separate monument in the Hiroshima Peace Park. I understand that there was a large prisoner-of-war camp in Hiroshima, mainly from Commonwealth countries. Many of them died when the bomb was dropped. I believe that they, too, should be remembered on the same day. The memorial at the Hiroshima Peace Park simply says, “Rest in Peace. We will never repeat the same mistake.” I believe that the pledge should be made to all who lost their lives on that day, regardless of nationality. I believe that war is evil. And all those who died in any war are the victims. They should not suffer the indignity of becoming ugly dead. I wouldn’t allow indignity to any dead person, but somehow people must be made aware that wars and result of wars are ugly - to both friends and foes alike. Remembrance Day should be the day to remember all the war dead regardless of their nationality or loyalty, whether they were soldiers or civilians, elderly or children. Then I will participate in it sincerely and wholeheartedly.
My present school also goes to more of an effort to remember than any I can remember in my teaching career. As much as I appreciate that effort, I can barely listen to the words of invited veterans without tears of anger and sorrow and empathy welling up. It will always bother me that young men went and still go to war believing they are helping to build a solution for world peace. In fact, many are so young, they have no idea what they are getting into, until they find themselves in the midst of the action. So many die, and how can we count their sacrifice as anything but an abomination? It is wrong, in my mind, and when I listen to veterans who have been to the front, it seems to me that this is what they are telling us. War is wrong. So, with the greatest respect, I have made my remembrance about pacifism. I know/fear that my father wouldn't agree, and this makes me sad, but he didn't go to the front. He lost friends and relatives, but was too young to serve in WW1 and too old to be sent overseas in WW2. He enlisted, and worked as a mechanic on army tanks in Montreal. His training and the friendships he forged during this period of his life made it a time that he treasured. I feel his outlook would have been different, had he witnessed broken men on the fields of combat.

Below are 100 candles with crosses, placed reverently by students of the art department at school, to honour the centennial year of the Canadian Navy. During our school assembly, students chosen to light the candles felt very privileged.

This semester, we had 430 students, and each one of them shook the hands of our revered guests. Mr. Fred Mullen, seen at the far right, is now in his 90's and it is the fifth year that he has spoken to us. He was a radar technician with the Royal Canadian Air Force. I treasure his contribution to the ceremony and I know the students do as well. It is always my hope that our students, representing 30 countries of the world, will understand that peace cannot be a product of war, but rather of bonding with human beings of other cultures and knowing that the likes of disturbed individuals like Adolphe Hitler cannot succeed if those ties are strong.

Some of the people who attended our school assembly were Leading Telegraphist Bob Bell (I believe, 3rd from the right in the photo below), who served with the Royal Canadian Navy during the WWII Battle of the Atlantic. Master Seaman Matthew Williams (4th from the right) represented the modern Navy. Mr. Fred Mullen (2nd from the right) and Mr. Ken Bradbury (I think he is at the far left) represented the Royal Canadian Air Force (WWII). Mr. Frank Zantolas (at the far right) represented the Canadian Army (Italy and Germany – WWII). There are three others in that photo and it makes me sad that I didn't have the time to make certain of each visitor's name. The assembly is a busy one for me, as there are musical contributions. This year, a wonderful student group sang, "A Pittance of Time." You can find a video of that song performed by the composer, Terry Kelly, posted by one of my favourite bloggers at her site: Penelope Puddlisms.

I have just read over these remembrance thoughts, and almost deleted them. The same thoughts were expressed in 2008 and again in 2009. It occurs to me that I haven't done a lot to bring about peace, but then, I comfort myself. Perhaps, every person declaring a pacifist philosophy is a step in the right direction.

With the school ceremony over on the 10th, I spent the holiday on the 11th walking with Black Jack, away from gatherings, but still heavy with thoughts of remembrance. Red flowers seemed to turn up everywhere. These were along Marinaside Crescent, overlooking False Creek.

Nearby, there is an art project by Christos Dikeakos and Noel Best called Lookout. The first part of the project is shown at the link. The second component is a perimeter railing with glass panels. The panels are inscribed with sandblasted words written in consultation with poet Robin Blaser. The picture below is poor - I shot it with the huge lens, only wanting a reminder once I returned home of some of the words. I understood, but learned more after exploring this art a bit more on line, that the words reflect the industrial life that existed along False Creek before Yaletown became yuppified. (I say that fondly, because I am really growing to love this place.) There are many words, and I know I will come back to this topic, but "the roughness of this place not even a memory now" had a dual meaning for me on Remembrance Day.

The next three photos show some of the carved images in the panels in part 1 of the project. They can be seen from both sides of the panel, and reflect the many sights (and sounds in my mind) one might have encountered along that waterfront not all that long ago.

Those carvings are rich with fuel for the imagination. Several visits later, and it feels as..

though the surface has barely been touched in becoming familiar with "Lookout."

Black Jack and I retraced our steps homeward, stopping by the Cormorant perch as..

the eleventh hour approached. As with my experience last year at Jericho, I heard the deafening noise of the Aurora in the sky, followed by some of the smaller planes, possibly from a club called The Fraser Blues.

The sky was very, very grey, reminiscent of typical Remembrance Day weather, no matter where I have been at the time. One more of the Aurora before we made our way home.

Once home, I sat on the living room floor with the balcony door open just enough to point my camera at birds on the railing. This little one was staring intently at the feeder, and preparing to zoom in for the catch.

As I was enjoying the birds, it seemed my Remembrance Day was not quite over. Through that small opening in the door, I saw these four planes do what I believe was their last fly-by. Still sitting in the living room, and pointing the camera upward, it was incredible to me that it caught all four planes. Another super human effort.

The colour red still significant, my last two photos of the day were of this House Finch..

and of this lovely flower. At school, our theme for this year was, "We Remember". It was a pittance of time that we took, but perhaps a step in the right direction.

This next Blue Heron series was taken on Sunday, November 14th. It represents pretty much the only comic relief of this post. Phew! The heron first appeared as we walked along the seawall path, somewhere between the Granville and the Burrard Bridges. The path is shown really well at this site, called "bearspage" and just discovered. I love it, because all of the pictures represent my ride to and from school. Here is the link to bear's home page. It really is an excellent description with beautiful photographs of the seawall routes around Vancouver.

But, back to the heron. It was fishing along a dock where boats were moored.

Suddenly, it standing up very straight and very alert, it walked forward..

and made a sharp right turn to approach the other side of the dock.

It leaned over, and I sensed this was more than a random search.

It was sure of success!

Then, it stood, enjoying its little fish (Can you see it?) while at the same time peering in the window of the boat.

The fish now on the way down its long neck, I wondered what the heron saw through that window. My Peeping Tom heron story.

The following Tuesday, November 16th, I saw the first Hermit Thrush since November 27th, 2009. (There is also a Varied Thrush in that post, but the Hermit Thrush is near the end of the post.) The tail movement, with quick flits up and down, is really distinctive, so unlike the last sighting, when I really wasn't sure I had identified correctly, this time I feel fairly certain of the id.

Lovely little bird, but quite difficult to catch in a photo. They really move quickly.

There it goes. I wonder if it will return again next year.

On Saturday, the 20th, there was snow in Vancouver, and I couldn't ride my bike to school for the music club rehearsal. It was fun, for a change, to take the seabus, and to see the North Shore mountains, almost ready for ski season.

The Autumn leaves seemed shocked, some of them having escaped the worst of the snow, but..

others caught under ice crystals.

The next morning, I woke up, and looked across the street to see this group in David Lam Park. They appeared to be rather cold and miserable, and I googled to see what the significance could be of their green-umbrella gathering. I found this information about a public art exhibition that was to be large enough to be seen from space. Somehow, with the very dense cloud cover, I suspect it may not have worked out as well as hoped and planned for. Interesting idea, though. Perhaps next year.

The sun came out later in the day, and this House Finch on my balcony was so pretty, I later used the photo to make a few Christmas Cards.

This little bird gave me the most comical look. It came right to my open balcony door and peered in. I think it was telling me to hurry up and replenish the food supply. It makes me smile every time I look at the picture.

The Roundhouse is around the corner from my building, and this art, very high on the wall, only caught my attention more than two months after moving to the area. I would never have guessed its meaning, and neither will you from this poor photograph. I am still a bit unnerved by that shoulderless arm, but you can find a little bit more information about the artwork here.

A close-up of one of the birds at the top of the sculpture. There are many public art pieces in the area, and I'm loving the discovery of each one. Only yesterday, I found a new one (to go in the December blog.)

The last pictures for the month were taken on Saturday, the 27th. Bill had come to North Van to pick me up after the music club, and we took a walk along the shore. It was a cold, dreary day, but Bill warmed the atmosphere, as he always does. Here, he tells Black Jack..

to look at the camera,

and smiles when she follows his instructions. (She usually does.)

This cormorant conducted a choir of seagulls under the vacant osprey nest.

We looked wa-a-ay up to see a spec in the sky, and the camera gave me one more superhuman effort in managing a glimpse at what I think may have been a Red-tailed Hawk.

That was November. If you have made it to the end of the month with me, you really do deserve some sort of endurance award:) Thank you for reading!


  1. Carol, what a full month rich with experiences, sights and sounds. Your camera does appear to have some special power designed to please you. The nature photos are lovely as always. Your couch story was interesting, indeed. Imagine you living in a reconstructed church as a child. How cool is that! Also, I could relate to your thoughts about war. It is not easy to speak out on such matters but thank goodness some people do. Thanks for sharing your November. I look forward to more in the near future. :)

  2. Your post is a memorable reflection upon the beauty of nature and the somber remembrance of ugly war.

    Nature can be ugly but can never compare with the massive scale of mankind's efforts at destruction.

    When I despair of ever continuing wars in this century I re-read an article called Why is There Peace.

    A quote: "...violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth."

    You may think that quote is too Pollyannish but read the article before you decide.

  3. What a great read and so many lovely photos - but those first two photos just blew me away. Beautiful, simply beautiful.

  4. Saying that your beautiful photos are the result of a great camera are like saying that a successful writer must have an excellent word processor. Please take some credit for your great eye, remarkably steady hand, hours of practice, and amazing patience. You deserve it!

  5. Nice can also visit our website that provide Electrician Howick services for your home..