Monday, March 21, 2011

Lucky Stars

I changed the title of this post from "Catch-up" to "Lucky Stars" as the realization of my good fortune hits home with greater insistence with each photo uploaded. It is sometimes easy to forget our privileged life as we become consumed with day-to-day "stuff."

I found this picture here. The site includes instructions to make your own lucky stars.

There has been lots of rain lately - not so great for photo taking, but okay for riding back and forth to school. In the big scheme of things, rain is much better than ice or snow.

And, in the big scheme of things, every day with a roof over my head and food to eat is a good day. Teaching at an international school, the heartbreak in Japan is very close to my heart. I see it in the eyes of my students and colleagues; no friends or relatives were lost to those at my particular school, but all are feeling their distance from home acutely. One of the teachers sent out this link to some incredible pictures. You can move the slider to show the transformation from Japan's "before" to its devastated "after" images. The good news is that so many countries of the world (26 this semester) are represented in the school, and students and teachers from every one of them are doing their best to show their concern and support for their Japanese classmates and colleagues.

In memory of those lost in Japan's earthquake and Tsunami of March, 2011

While counting my lucky stars, I include the one that allows me to travel about my city freely. Libya and other countries of the Middle East are on my mind, as are the young men and women being sent on fighter planes and ships to protect unarmed citizens. Below is a CF-18 plane, one of six being sent from Canada to enforce a no-fly-zone. I dream that the personnel manning these planes may find a peaceful way to stop the killing, but know the reality is that there will be more bloodshed. My thoughts are with them.

So, with those thoughts at the top of my mind, I proceed to post my lucky-star moments over the past couple of weeks.

Last weekend, I bought a new camera, a Nikon Coolpix P500. I haven't come close to taking advantage of its features, but the 36X zoom and its incredibly light weight make it one I can carry easily with me in my daily travels. My D90 with its 150-500 mm lens is still my favourite by far, but there are days when poor weather and an already heavy load on the bike make bringing it along impractical. Most of the pictures in this post are taken with the P500. (The cherry blossom shot and the final eleven pictures are with the D90).

Here is the first shot of all, a seagull sitting on a street lamp. I took it through the window, and across the street from my apartment. We were enjoying a small "Happy Birthday" celebration for my dear friend, Kitty. I met her and Jock about twelve years ago, on one of my first walks with Scott (my last dog) after moving to Vancouver. Meeting them, and their now-fifteen-but-still-going-strong Sheltie, Lucy, was definitely a lucky star for me.

After Kitty and Jock left, Bill and I went up to the rooftop of my building. I've now lived here for six months, and that was the first time we checked out the view from the top. Only nine floors up, but definitely a different perspective. Look to the right, and the view is big city life along Pacific Street. Look to the left, and there is David Lam Park, with an enclosed area of construction, and then False Creek, with the beautiful seawall route that I take to school. I admit that if it were up to me, there would never be another construction project of any kind in Vancouver, but perhaps, it is everyone's lucky star that I am not in charge:) Apparently, this hydro project is necessary. If you are interested, you can read more about it here.
Bill and Black Jack, two of my favourite lucky stars, take in the view.

Bill took this picture of me with Black Jack. I post it because Bill is such a good sport about letting me post his picture, and because I think an updated picture of me is probably due, but please do not click on it. I confess I cheated just a little, brushing over a couple of the wrinkles :)

Later in the evening, we walked along False Creek, and I tried this picture to see how the camera handled low light at dusk.

Then I came home and took this picture of the TV screen. I think the program was about Queen Elizabeth 1, but confess I didn't watch the show - just snapped the photo and then turned the TV off. Sunday nights are "prepare for the work week" time - something I often leave to the very end of the weekend.

On Monday, I took this picture of the Burrard Bridge as I biked homeward along the seawall. You can also see the Granville Bridge in the distance. I love my commute route.
I also tried the Macro feature on my camera by closing in on this growth (?) on a small tree.

This Cormorant shot was really poor but look at that open mouth. Yawning, perhaps?

On Wednesday, I stopped for a few photos on the way home. I thought I had lots of time, but must have been experiencing a senior moment. I was actually an hour late for supper and for Bill's piano lesson (more about that in a future post). We had to cut the lesson short, as we had plans to attend a concert later. I felt really, really sorry about that, but here is a seal that I took in North Vancouver just after leaving school. They have returned and I am happy about that!

I also stopped on the Lions Gate Bridge. Grey skies made the view a bit drab, but the message under the yellow notice was interesting, and I wondered about the possible story behind the words. The spelling of "arrr" suggests the cyclist may have been letting off steam, but also indicated a sense of humour that I appreciated.

This heron was standing at one of the little roundabouts along the seawall.

I zoomed in for a close-up.

The concert was at the Heritage Hall at 3102 Main Street. All of the music was composed by Vancouver's own Murray Schafer. This review describes my impressions of the concert rather accurately. Harpist Heidi Krutzen and flutist Lorna McGhee were especially enjoyable. Lorna's sound on two low register flutes (alto and bass?) was luxuriously rich. Heidi played with astoundingly controlled passion and confidence and spoke in a most entertaining fashion. I loved her story of music-student days in Manhattan. She and another harpist friend drove a beat-up car to Toronto to see Murray Schafer in person, in spite of exams scheduled for the next day. The car broke down, and the mechanic who patched it up answered her question as to whether he thought the car would make it to Toronto with words to this affect, "Honey, I wouldn't take that car out of my driveway, let alone to Toronto." Undeterred, they forged on and did make it. Here she was, not all that many years later, playing a work written for her by the very musician she so admired. I was also delighted to be able to listen to Murray Schafer speak about some of his ideas on sound in our environment. He mentioned the 60's as a time when the world became much noisier. Commercial jets, muscle cars, amplified rock music - he talks about all of these in this youtube interview. The questions are written in French, but Murray Schafer speaks in English. His imitation of a muscle car, about halfway through the interview, is worth the wait. His music, to the uninitiated, can be a difficult listen, and I would recommend him in smaller doses than the almost 3-hour concert we heard, but to miss "our" Murray Schafer's view of the musical world would be a shame. In googling his name, I also came across this NFB film about him -- it is six minutes long, and for me, is a powerful reminder of the riches available to our ears and eyes.

Most of the instruments you see in this picture were used in the last piece of the evening, Arcana, with soprano, Robyn Driedger Klassen and the Turning Point Ensemble.

There was a pink glow in the room that was clearly planned, but its purpose was a bit of a mystery to me.

This was a painting on the wall. If you have lived in Vancouver for a long time, you may recognize some of the buildings.

After the concert, we spent a little time admiring the moon. This was not the supermoon to arrive a couple of days later (pics of that to come in the next post), but it...

...cast a spell over this mural on the wall of Burgoo Restaurant, across the street from Heritage Hall. Bill, standing in front of the mural, noticed what I had missed, as the moon's light was also bringing out the...

..the fairytale elements of Heritage Hall and the magic of what I remember as... enchanted evening.

The next day, I spent a few minutes by the river near my school in North Vancouver. A trio of Common Mergansers were going through an age-old drama. Here, the female waved provocatively at the two competing males (in my anthropomorphic interpretation).

She then dashed by one of the males without so much as a glance at him.

Ist male: "Well, young lady, just take a look at what I can do."

"I can fly over the water at great speed - much faster than that fellow who is practically drowning in my wake!"

2nd male: "Oh yeah? Well, take a look at my big, strong chest, young lady. You would do well to choose me."

I watched as the males did countless pass-by's. Sometimes, nonchalantly...

...but more often, churning up a storm to impress her. They were still at it when I had to leave , so I never did find out which aspiring mate was chosen by the irresistible temptress. Another lucky star to have such dramas played out near my work place, and along my route home.

On Friday, I spent a moment or two watching the seals on my way home from work. I love the way they flip their tails up every once in a while as they change positions.

Their expressions are both comical and endearing.

Passing by Stanley Park, flowers along West Georgia were impossible to resist. I tried again to get a macro shot, but couldn't seem to get a sharp focus. This was my best attempt.

Black Jack and I went out for a walk after I arrived home, and this time, I took my D90. This Barrow's Goldeneye was finding lots of nourishment in False Creek.

This bushtit also seemed to be eating well.
We walked on as far as the Cambie Bridge, and I took a picture of the Cavalia tents. I am really, really excited that we have tickets to see the show on April 10th, and we will even get to visit the stables after the show. Bill found this interesting article describing the approach used by at least one of the horse trainers. I like her explanation that she is more of a "horse listener" than a "horse whisperer."

I am out of time, and really want to post, so the commentary will be limited in these final few pictures. Here, two geese landing on a roof across the river from my school.

A very busy crow preparing to build its nest.

A heron by the riverside.

The same crow on its way to the nest.

It flew back and forth many times. Sometimes, it seemed almost to pull the entire tree with it as it grabbed branches that were reluctant to leave.

The heron moved quite quickly... times.

Then, it sat, contemplating its world, maybe even counting its own lucky stars.
Another Deer Lake trip, some red shoes, more heron watching, a Dachshund beach convention, another concert - these things hopefully to be posted soon. In the meantime, I hope you will see lots of lucky stars in your world this week.


  1. Lovely photos, in spite of the rain. (I notice that you snuck one horsie in there, too!)
    Yes, events around the world, whether "natural" or man-made, should remind us to count our blessing each day!

  2. Carol, your photos as always reflect the enchantment of life in the city of Vancouver. Each glimpse is a window into the richness of our environment, from natural wonders to manmade creations through art and architecture. It is not easy to cast worries aside, particularly during these epic troubled times. But your images and smiling face sure help along the way. Have a great weekend … I think the sun is coming through!

  3. Thanks, EvenSong and Penelope! I had posted pictures accidentally and then quickly clicked on the edit function, so was surprised (but happy) to see your comments. Here is the finished version:)

  4. Whew! Nice to see the added commentary, Carol. I missed your informative notes and personal observations. Thanks as always for sharing your “lucky star” route to work. :)

  5. A great post, so interesting, thoughtful, and beautifully illustrated with your photos. I envy you the new camera. My 'new' one of a year ago seems to be less and less efficient and I am chomping at the bit for another.

  6. Whew! Nice to see the added commentary, Carol. I missed your informative notes and personal observations. Thanks as always for sharing your “lucky star” route to work. :)