Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Symbols of light for My World Tuesday

Last Thursday, just before darkness fell, the rain stopped and I took this photo.  It was the only bit of light in a sky that had been dark for days.  

Black Jack hates walking in the rain, so when it stopped that evening, there was a spring in her step. We walked by 499 Drake Street, a building I pass every single day, but that night, 
I thought it looked like an enchanted castle. 

On the way home, we stopped by The Roundhouse.  I hadn't taken a picture there for some time, but the green light on the path also had a magical feel about it.

On Friday morning, at about the time that I realized later the massacre of children was happening in Connecticut, I took Black Jack out, and marvelled at a silver light in the sky that was picked up by the water. 

After our morning walk, I headed over the Cambie Bridge on my bike to take a gym class at City Square at 12th and Cambie.  After the class, I heard the most beautiful brass quartet sound and looked over the railing to see a group of young Salvation Army musicians playing Christmas Carols.  I'm not a "mall" sort of person at all, but with the ethereal blend of perfectly tuned and mellow tones, twinkling lights and festive decorations, there was, again, something spellbinding in the air.
I went down to the first floor and met the musicians, who were very friendly.  We talked a bit about their training through the UBC music program.  I don't think they knew the fellow in the wheelchair, but they either gave him the bell or perhaps he just took it, but it was wonderful to hear him ringing the bell in perfect rhythm with their music .  

I biked home, ate lunch, but didn't listen to any news because I wanted to get Black Jack out on this wonderfully dry day.  We walked along the seawall, and then under the Burrard Bridge planning to cross it to meet Bill somewhere on the other side of the water.  Four young people were learning a new manoeuvre on their skateboards.  Two watched..  

one filmed and the 4th worked on perfecting the move.  Then, the four of them checked the video before the next one took his turn on the skateboard.  They smiled when they saw I was taking pictures of them.  I was impressed with their discipline and collaborative learning.

I was going to head up the steps to cross the bridge, but I looked back and saw a light breaking through a dark cloud and radiating over False Creek.

Against the wall under the bridge, these lovely flowers were blooming..

and I also took a moment to admire the community garden that a few people in the area maintain.  The garden brings warmth and cheer to what would otherwise be a dismal place. 

Then, we walked up the steps and onto the bridge.
I took one photo to show the view just before reaching the middle of the bridge.

There was a soft light in the sky..

that seemed to grow more beautiful as we headed down to a trail along the water.
At that point, Bill called to say he was on his way.  I took one more picture of the sky..

and one of the sun on the downtown buildings across the water.  Then we walked up to Point Grey Road where Bill picked us up.  We came home, had supper, and..

headed right back outside for yet another walk around False Creek.  I always love the night view around False Creek, but I don't think my photos..

have ever picked up so much of the sparkle.

Bill noticed this smile.  It shone through the darkness.

Each step we took changed the view, and the sparkle seemed to become more brilliant as it followed us around False Creek.
The last photos of the day were of these tree-trunk carvings.  I had seen them before but introduced them to Bill that evening.  
I only learned about the school shooting when I returned home and opened my laptop to upload the day's photos.  Like everyone else, I was devastated.  My heart was so heavy, I didn't want to look at my pictures and I didn't want to blog.  All I could think was that there was not one word of comfort that could possibly have any meaning for the families and friends of those innocent children and teachers.  I turned to Penelope Puddle and Ocean Breezes, two bloggers that I read regularly.  Maria's thought that the meek will one day truly inherit the earth, and Jim's photo of a hand extended in kindness brought together an idea that slowly took shape over the weekend.  The next day, Jean's post expressed my feeling that no words suffice.  Yet, her beautiful sunset photos dedicated to the students were as eloquent as any words could possibly be and slowly, looking back over my own photos, the light began to appear as a central theme and my half-formed thought took on a bit more substance.  It is a small gesture, but it is all I can do.  To treat every living being with a "hand" extended in kindness, to remove all criticism and all negativity from my heart, to smile, to acknowledge, to respect.   On Monday morning, I walked over to the park with Black Jack, to see the tide higher than I have ever seen it before.

There is a school beside the park, and three teachers were out with three different classes.  The kids looked about the same age as Noah and Jack and Jessica and Charlotte and Grace and James and the other 14 children killed.  The teachers were young, perhaps close in age to Lauren and Victoria, two of six teachers who died trying to save their students.  The teachers and students were open-eyed in wonder and curiosity that their beloved False Creek had taken on a new look.  I spoke to one teacher, thanking her for the "Happy Holidays" display prepared recently by a student.  She promised to pass on the message.  

Later in the afternoon, I returned to the same spot.  The white railing is where the children had been standing and you can get a bit of an idea of just how high the water rose.  There has been something different in the atmosphere lately.  Call it what you will..

but I am choosing to see it as 27 light-and-energy-filled spirits and one very troubled one, all now sending us a message that we cannot let this pass without making some sense of it.  

We cannot let those lives be lost in vain.  I know I will remember them and though I may falter, I will strive to live kinder.  In the mean time, my heart goes out, as I know all of ours do, to the parents and families and friends of each victim.  May they find the strength to go on and may their loved ones rest in peace. 

I searched through comforting music and nothing felt right until I came to this Beatles song called "Octopus's Garden."  It is a happy song and may seem a strange choice, but many years ago, I spent four years teaching in an elementary school.  I had groups of 6, 7 and 8-year-olds combined in one class.  We had a large music room with multi coloured walls and a spacious floor where the kids could dance.  The kids in that age group loved this song the best.  I have a memory of all of us singing, with some clinging to my back, others sitting on my knee and still others dancing and skipping about the room as I played piano for them.  As I moved on to high school teaching, I lost a bit of that happy spontaneity in the effort to prepare concerts and competitions.  If ever I have the chance to teach again, I would try to bring back the unfettered exuberance and joy of those early days.    

One final sound of children's voices to close this post.  Many of you may have already heard these beautiful kids on Saturday Night Live.  Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.  To read about the worlds of other bloggers, you may want to take a look at the Our World Tuesday meme. 


  1. You managed to get wonderful photos even though the weather has been so wet. Your eye sees a perfect photo and you capture it with your camera! It has been a terrible week but the photos show us all that there is still beauty waiting in the world.

  2. I love that first photo. The trees look amazing! :)

  3. Carol what happened in Newtown must hit you especially hard, because you have been teaching. Hope you know it was a case of mental illness (Asperger syndrome/autism). Love your nightpics, and the sun bursting through the clouds - they're my favorite:)

  4. A beautiful post, Carol, in both photographic and prose images. In the short dark days of winter, and especially when tragedy hits us so hard, such moments of beauty witnessed in a sunset or a smile or the ringing of a bell seem all the more precious. While struggling to find solutions to violence, we must never forget to look at the light.

  5. The tragic event of last Friday lingers in our minds. I can see shadows and contrasting moments of sparkle and light in the places you photographed as well as in the two songs at the end of your post. Although one is bubbly and light and the other peaceful and somber, both give a sense of safety we hope to regain. Thanks for sharing your warmth beneath the storm, Carol, with these sights and sounds.

  6. A touching post, Carol.
    But I MUST challenge Jeannette's statement that this was "a case of mental illness (Asperger syndrome/autism)." Neither autism nor Asperger's is a mental illness! They are both developmental in nature, and there is NO RESEARCH that correlates either with violent behavior! Indeed, many are saying (assuming?) that there is mental illness involved in this horrific situation, but the tragedy will be compounded if people who don't know any better associate the many children and adults who live with autism spectrum diagnoses with fear and subsequent discrimination.

  7. Thank you for posting those wonderful photos. The beauty of the world around us is something we need to cling on to. I agree entirely with the comments from Evensong. I have taught autistic children and although their behaviour may have been challenging at times, they do not deserve the label of being mentally ill.

  8. Oh Carol...your heartfelt depth of expression just gathers me up and makes me understand that much better and that much more.
    The trip through Jim and my old haunts prior to False Creek's birth...ie: Burrard Bridge, along that particular path and onto Point Grey. This has been so profound for me this day, this grey day in NS as Sophie lays at my foot.
    Did you know that Jim and I fell in the middle of Burrard Bridge one night coming home from work. It was raining so very hard and we decided to skip across the carless road...and surprise down we went on our behinds. We looked at each other and began to LAUGH so very hard. We picked ourselves up an scooted across and have always thought of this bridge with fond joyful memories. SO you see something light and cheerful can come from sad moments in life, your sad moments with the awful situation of last Friday has triggered this memory within me and I have shared. If I put even the tiniest smile on your face...then...taa daa!

  9. Carol, I really appreciate the flow of your posts.....you create a well-structured story every time.
    I would choose to think that that 'special' light was reflective of the beautiful spirits of those children.
    I struggled what to do on my post shortly after as well. I was conflicted between anger against the use of guns and the overwhelming grief that the survivors must be feeling. Anger results in more anger, so I chose peace.

  10. Lovely set of pictures showing everyday life at your end. Thanks for sharing!

  11. The evening shots are great - I think I'm going to have to do some more low light pictures.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  12. What a wonderful theme for Christmas -- except for the school tragedy. Just too sad and too incomprehensible. Your photos are outstanding as usual.

  13. This post is such a beautiful tribute to the children and teachers who died. As a former teacher, I am devastated that school, which should be such a safe place for everyone, was not. I am beyond despair that we allow people to have guns, that we do not have enough resources to help those who have mental problems, that we have a society where there is so much anger and stress. Your response that we should treat everyone with respect and kindness is a first step. There are other values which we, as a society, need to address. Thank you for your thoughtful and beautifully written letter to remind us to be better people in honour of those little ones and their teachers. Phyllis

  14. So many wonderful photos. thank you