Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thinking of some favourite bloggers/sites

Note: I began this post before Valentine's Day, but then came midterms and reports, and so, here I am, more than two weeks later, writing its conclusion.

Some time ago, I received my first ever blog award. It came from EvenSong, and was passed on again by Jean, at MyLifeWithTheCritters. It is called The Stylish Blogger Award, and it turns out, all three of us consider comfort to be a much higher priority than style. I guess I would have to say we each have our own particular brand of style:) There are rules that go along with the award, but I have a feeling EvenSong and Jean will forgive me if I bend those rules quite a bit. I hope the flavour of this post will reflect my thanks to them, and that a few more readers will discover their blogs. EvenSong is a teacher who also raises horses. Her "Jill of All Trades" talent boggles my brain. Jean writes with honesty, pathos and refreshing humour of her adventures, as influenced by a variety of her rescued critters.

So, interspersed among the usual photos, will be more links than usual to blogs and sites that I enjoy. There is only one recently discovered one, but all offer food for thought and point out interesting aspects of the world around us.

This American Wigeon was at the shoreline in North Vancouver, on Thursday.

As a photograph, I'm not so sure it works, but I love the way the sun caught the brilliant splash of green extending back from its eye. That brings me to four photographers who are not bloggers, but their sites are awe-inspiring and their photos always seem to work. You can find them at the following links: Shiprock, Iputts, Michelle and Henrik. If you have time to check out these sites, I feel certain the time will be well spent.

I often take pictures of plants and birds, and although I mostly make some sort of effort to identify birds, I rarely do the same for plants. I forgive myself with the reminder that there are only so many hours in the day, and sometimes, with a full time job, recording the beauty around me has to be, as Jean would say, "good enough." I took the following two pictures of a sign at Stanley Park that identifies some of the plants growing there, thinking they might come in handy if ever I decide to work harder at plant identification. With my huge lens, I had to settle for the left half of the sign in this shot,

and the right side in this one.

Two blogs offer a wealth of flora and fauna information to the reader. Wanderin'Weeta's stories add warmth and compassion to the biological details we learn about creatures and organisms of every size and shape, some so tiny, only a microscope can bring them to her eyes.

Another close-up view of B.C's flora and fauna is given to us by Dave Ingram at a site called Island Nature. He lives on Vancouver Island, and I find it interesting to compare his findings on the island to those of Wanderin Weeta's on the mainland.

My stop-off at Lost Lagoon on Thursday was a short one - perhaps only about fifteen minutes, but those minutes were rich. Someone had left this beautiful bouquet of flowers just above eye level in some trees by the water.

Since the story that must surely go with them is unknown to me, I will put their beauty to great use by awarding my photo of them to Maria Pavlik. She is the author of a children's book, With My Umbrella I can: the Magical Journey of Penelope Puddle that I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading, but it is now a must find for me. There are a few young children in my life and I have a strong feeling they would love it. Penelope also writes a blog entitled: Penelope Puddlisms; BC Life is a Whale of a Ride. Her blog takes you around the Lower Mainland, and also has a beautifully photographed and carefully detailed series of posts about her trip to Europe. That series should be required reading for anyone planning such an adventure. Penelope's curiosity and appreciation for her world comes through in every post. It is a heartwarming, imaginative and always fascinating blog.

*Special note: I have edited the above paragraph, as I mistakenly assumed Maria's book was one I remembered from an elementary school teacher's reading list, but in fact, that was too long ago to have been her story. My apologies to Maria!

This swan was in the lagoon, looking coyly back through its gorgeous wings.

Watching it interact with another swan, I interpreted the four or five 360 degree turns it made (while the second remained quite still) as courtship behaviour. However, I've checked some Mute Swan sites, and have found nothing to substantiate that belief. I've even watched video footage of the mating ritual of a swan couple, and their actions did not look at all like the pair I watched in Stanley Park. Nevertheless, the dance was beautiful to see. Around and around the one on the right went, at quite a dizzying speed, almost touching the other, each time it circled. Do you suppose it could have been a threatening behaviour?

Surely not. The heart-shape of their two heads and necks seemed made-to-order just in time for Valentine's Day.

Here, I love to think that the male's dance had the desired affect, and they swam away to build (or restart) their life together.

After the pair left, this single swam up to me, hoping for a handout.

Mute Swans are not native to BC and the ones brought here from England have to be pinioned to prevent them flying out of the park and mating with native species. It is rare for the young at Stanley Park to survive to adulthood. The few that do must be pinioned as well. I have written about this before, and it is something that still bothers me. Surely, there must be a way to correct a mistake made many years ago when the swans were brought from England to entertain visitors at Stanley Park. Couldn't they be slowly phased out? Or, taken back to England? If they were able to make the trip here, surely they could make it back again. At least there, the young could fly away when they reach maturity, and the older pairs could be protected as they live out their life. If you are interested in finding more information on the subject, this article presents quite a balanced viewpoint. I do think the light shining through their wings is a stirring sight.

I resisted the look in this one's eyes with difficulty, and obeyed the signs not to feed the wildlife.

One blog that inspires me is that of Marianne and Bill at Addourmusic. They are a retired couple and have great FUN exploring their world. They travel around BC, but also do some long-distance trips. On their blog are accounts of a journey to The South Pacific and if you look back to May, 2010, there are fascinating descriptions of their trip to Egypt. They do the blog together. Bill loves to compose, using his Yamaha Clavinova, and Marianne is a keen photographer. I met them while osprey-watching, and hope to have as much fun with retirement as they are having!

And, speaking of fun, the final series of pictures that day at Lost Lagoon were of this seagull taking a bath. They weren't spectacular photos, but if that seagull wasn't having a rip-roaring good time, I would be hard pressed to attribute any other words to its expression. It was the whitest of a flock of seagulls, all busy with their bathing routine. Surely, its whiteness was due to a particular love of being clean. Here, it ducks under.


stretches tall with satisfaction,

and swims away, in my mind, mightily pleased with its immaculate appearance.

I included this last picture of the same seagull, just for the droplet of water on its bill.

My last photo before leaving the lagoon was of this Lesser Scaup (I think). I love the patterns in these ducks, but what really gave me pleasure were the water ripples.
On that lovely stop-off by the Lagoon, I was absolutely convinced that Spring had arrived. As I write at this moment, there is snow - yes, you read correctly - snow falling outside my window. It seems particularly fitting to show the flowers on Denman Street that day, as I left the Lagoon and walked toward Beach Avenue. I have biked by this flower shop and seen petals on the hedges many times. Each time, I have thought I should stop, and on that day, I did.

The lady in the shop was very friendly when she saw me taking photos. Aren't the flowers beautiful? I hope they remind you that Spring isn't really that far away. I feel sure, in spite of the white vista outside my window, that it is truly just around the corner. You can check out the flower shop here. The web site is almost as beautiful as the shop.

I came to know of this last blog only a couple of days ago. Black Jack and I were out for a walk, when we met a young Sheltie. Black Jack began to run around the grassy area as fast as her little legs would carry her. Pixel wasn't quite sure what to make of that, but in the end, they played together, and I (of course) snapped a couple of photos, even though my huge lens was all wrong for the job. Pixel was with two young women, and I gave them the google words to find my blog, should they want to see Pixel's photograph. I didn't really expect to hear back, but that evening, there was an e-mail message from Margarita. It turns out that she had thought I looked familiar, and indeed, she was correct. I was her teacher, twenty-five years ago, in Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec! As soon as I saw her name, I remembered Margarita. She was Maggie to me at that time, and she stood out in the class for her sensitive and thought-provoking writing, peacemaking spirit, and musical talent as well. She has since graduated with a Fine Arts degree, discovered love in the myriad of forms it takes, established two successful businesses and travelled the world. I am thrilled to be afforded the opportunity to reconnect with a very special person. She has just begun a blog called "Love Matters", and it will, I know, reflect her life's journey with honesty and insight. I have linked it at the side of my page, and look forward to following it for a long time to come. Here is her adorable dog, Pixel.

As for the rules of the Stylish Blogger Award, they were to:
  1. Thank and link back the person that awarded it to you
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Pay it forward to 15 recently discovered great Bloggers
  4. Contact those Bloggers and tell them about their blog award

Not so bad:
  1. Check
  2. Perhaps, it counts that I did this exercise once, quite some time ago, in a post called "My Seven Factoids." Some of you may remember my story about swimming with the whale (1990, not 1980, as mistakenly told in the story), or stealing Scott (my last dog), or having a motorcycle, or perhaps you remember some details about my eye condition. One detail in that post is no longer true. I have not joined a hockey pool this season.
  3. Only about half of the requirement, and not even that, since only one of the blogs is new to me, but I like them so much, perhaps they count for double:)
  4. Instead of contacting the bloggers, I'll just repeat my thanks here for their wonderful stories and photos, and hope that a few more readers will find their sites.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rainbow of colours

Lots of pictures over the past two days, taken in short bursts of time. There didn't seem much to post about, but as I looked over the range of colours, perhaps every colour of the rainbow was represented.

This was taken Monday afternoon by the bike path in North Vancouver leading to the Lions Gate Bridge. I looked up to see a very faint rainbow. It will take a superhuman effort on your part to detect it, but this was all that remained by the time I got off my bike and took the camera out of its case. There were guards waiting near the entrance to Park Royal, just to the left of the path. I have no idea why they have been there for the past few days. A google search gave me no answers, but they asked me what I was doing when I got off the bike. When I told them I was trying to take a picture of the rainbow, they smiled.

From the top of the bridge, the sky was quite dramatic. The silver lining of many poems seems more like gold to me.

I zoomed in on the fire and smoke section of the sky.

The tugboat and Seaspan carriers passed over pale water that held only the tiniest hint of the drama overhead.

Yesterday, I spent just a few minutes by the river around lunchtime. This heron was busy hunting. I saw pink reflections, splashes of blue, silver highlights, mossy green, white cap and chin, pale orange bill, and steel grey rocks.

Not so much colour here, but the crow was watching me, and I like crows a lot. With a little imagination, you may detect some cobalt blue against the black.

A Fox Sparrow walked on gold flecks.

Reddish brown tail feathers, silver eye detail and textured green in the rocks blended nicely.

There is always a painting on this wall, and I noticed that it has changed. I tried to find a long-ago post to show the former version, but it will take more time than I have to find it. The unhappy face is hopefully cheered up by the surrounding colours.

As I step from the rocks to the ground above, a small section of blue crystal twinkles in the light.

These curlycue branches don't have much colour, but they have character. Heart images in preparation for Valentine's Day? Or...

stick-figure people leaning back in a hearty belly-laugh?

Later, Black Jack's walk by False Creek caught yet another series of sunset images. Tangerine tire tracks on powder blue-grey sky. Or, pale river flowing through pink-orange land.

A few minutes later. Front row seats for the show.

The ducks sit on pinkish water.

Darkness falls, lights come on.

The camera makes the tree branches a bit too chaotic. This is one of those shots that look better with the naked eye.

One-third of a silvery moon against purple sky. These shots are in succession, and seconds apart.

Now, the ducks float across a golden path.

Monk's throws a little red into the mix.

Lemon yellow windows over layered blue houses.

Silhouetted trees over polk-a-dot mystery lights as the show comes to an end.
Procrastination comes to an end as well. Time to do some school work. Happy middle-of-the-week to you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My world last week

Tuesday, February 1st, riding to work.

I arrived at the Lions Gate Bridge just as the sun peeked over the mountains.

Wednesday, February 2nd

A short walk by the river near my school yielded just one bird photo, but what a lovely bird it was!

One of the students left this on the piano at lunchtime, and I thought about the change to my teaching world since the birth of the computer. Everyone is required to have a laptop in the classroom, and the trick now is to convince students to go to the library and read some of the fine books available to them when they do their projects. Google and Power Point are the research tools of choice. Most who come to the music room in their spare time bring a laptop, an Iphone or a Blackberry. Printed music is still used in band and choir classes, but most of the piano and song repertoire is available on line, and much of that is free of charge. Would I go back to computerless days? No, definitely not, but sometimes, I feel grateful that my growing up years were before the age of technology.

Saturday morning walk to English Bay

It was mild on Saturday, but the forecast was for rain. I was happy to see clouds but no raindrops, and it was fun to take Black Jack for her walk. There is a small off-leash dog beach near the Burrard Bridge, and although the water looked cold and uninviting to me, this pretty lady was enjoying her spa treatment.

When she came out of the water, I thought she might like a brisk towel-down, but she knew of a better way to massage every inch of her back while drying off.

She repeated the process over and over.

This youngster had no interest in swimming, and balls were also ignored, but running in the sand was most entertaining.

We met an old friend, Roxie, from years ago when Scott (my last dog) was still living. Roxie's human had a pet shop where Scott always felt sure of a kind word and a treat. Roxie is now eleven, and suffers a little bit from arthritis, but on Saturday, she thought a good ball game was the perfect way to spend her morning.

Black Jack had a little run with the other dogs, and then we continued on our way. She was clearly wishing that I had remembered to bring her ball along, since one of her small-dog survival strategies is never to challenge another dog for their ball.

As we walked along the beach, she suddenly stepped into the water, eyes fixed on..

a scrap of ball that some dog had abandoned.

She doesn't have much insulation, and I used her long leash to encourage her to turn back, as the ball was floating out to sea. I worried she would be cold,

but she was just fine. Black Jack is quite a hardy little dog.

We left the sandy beach, and walked up to the street (aptly named Beach Avenue) to return home. This Flicker was in a tree at the side of the street. It was calling, perhaps to its mate? I spent a little time watching it.

Just before we reached the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, I noticed this table, set up under an overpass, and looking as though company were expected. My big lens could only fit in bits of the table and chairs, but..

this red basket (hat?) added warmth to a grey day.

I've been noticing signs of Spring for a couple of weeks now, but these pink-mauve berries seemed brand new. I wonder what flower they will become.

We returned to the beach path for the remainder of the walk. These Inuksuit were new as well. I wondered if the man at the back of the photo was the artist. (I have just now learned the plural of inukshuk.)

Again, colour created warmth. Tall ones,

and little tiny ones covered most of the waterfront path between Granville Bridge and David Lam Park.

I watched a crow struggle to crack open its meal, dropping it from a great height, but..

finally choosing to jam its beak right into the centre.

On Saturday afternoon, we spent a couple of hours at Greens and Gourmet restaurant with two wonderful friends, Jock and Kitty. They took time from their busy life to celebrate my birthday (it's today) with us. I didn't take pictures, but we laughed and talked and laughed some more, as we always seem to do when we are together. There could be no better celebration than to laugh with friends.

There was some nap time later in the afternoon, and our plan for the evening was to attend a play. Before we left, I took Black Jack for another walk, and again, brought along the camera. This time, we headed east, towards the Cambie Bridge. The camera always seems to pick up blue light at dusk, and the marina sign added to the glow.

Under the overpass, two young men worked on their skateboarding technique. I am in awe that someone can approach a bench,

jump up from the ground while the board magically stays attached,

roll along the narrow path,

without falling off,

come to the edge,

and slip to the ground, board still magically stuck to the shoes.

Here, the second fellow also has what to me appears to be a miraculous run. They were methodical in their practice. Over and over, often observing each other and offering advice,

they risked life and limb (well, certainly limb) in their effort

to perfect their skills. They kindly allowed me to watch, and to take pictures in the challenging but not completely impossible light. It was most enjoyable to see their companionship and energy.

We continued on, and I took a shot of city light reflections before returning home.

Later, as we walked through David Lam Park, on the way to the truck, we saw this racoon. I sometimes forget that there are many inhabitants of the park other than birds.

The play, Marion Bridge, was outstanding. All the performances were strong, but Rebecca Husain's left me in awe. The set was perfect - cozy, simple and so

close to us, you can see that if Bill stretched his legs out just a bit, his feet could rest on the carpet. This photo is really poor, but shows the tiny little theatre where we have twice enjoyed excellent plays.

It is at the back of a very busy restaurant on Commercial Drive called Havana. It feels strange to walk through crowds of bustling waiters and patrons, before being admitted to the theatre, but this arrangement works well. I look forward to going back there again soon.

It rained quite a lot on Sunday, but we enjoyed a meeting at Brazza's in North Vancouver with Dianne and Doran, two more wonderful friends. The lattes and vegan muffins were absolutely excellent, and again, the laughter and stories made the time fly. We walked over to Harbourside Park for a walk in fine mist, and I even managed a seagull shot,

one of Haley trying to figure out why Dianne's face is covered up,

a very blurry one of a Turnstone walking from rock to rock,

and a slightly less blurry one of the same Turnstone hunting for food.

Supper and a movie called "Quiet Chaos" concluded a great weekend. It is just over two years since a serious bike accident, and I am most grateful to be alive and able to celebrate another birthday with precious Bill, with wonderful friends, and with all of the pleasures that Vancouver so generously provides. Thanks for reading, and happy Monday, everyone.