Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

Prisoner for a night

May 21, 2010

It was hot this past week.

As we stumble out of winter and into spring, bravely facing the elements in the garden to start the yearly ritual of planting so that we can sit back in the summer and watch the vegetables grow, we complain. It doesn’t matter what we complain about. We simply are in the habit of complaining.

It starts this way:

“Spring will never come. It’s so rainy! Aren’t we ever going to get some sunshine?” followed by:

“It’s too hot!” This last complaint comes after the first morning of sunshine in a week – but this time with a bit of force behind it. It’s not the weak thready sunshine of winter. No. This sunshine has some punch and it heats up up to a whopping sixteen degrees. “We’re not complaining though, ”  we follow on, but really we are.

We start to wear layers and can be seen tossing off one of them or putting one back. The sleeveless padded down vest is replaced by a fleece one. We rake up the leaf mould and put it in the compost to rot some more with kitchen  compost and the first grass clippings, mixing as we should the brown with the green.  After a few moments of such labour, off comes the sweater. It’s too hot.

Stand in the shade – it’s too cold.

On Tuesday, the sun came out in full force. It was mightily pleasant and I wore my shorts in a devil-may-care attitude although I shouldn’t be seen in shorts in public any longer. No matter! I was in my own garden and sure to be overheated if I remained in my winter fleece.

In late afternoon, I took the car to pick up some bread and milk at the grocery store. The black interior had absorbed the day’s heat with a vengeance. The black leather was ready to barbecue my tender flesh, but I had changed back into decent leggings and sat for a few minutes to let the hot air out and to soak in the delicious heat.

When I got back, both front windows wide open letting in the eighteen degree weather, I reflected that it takes a bit of time to adjust to temperatures. Normally even in winter, I only keep the thermostat at nineteen degrees throughout the house, so why was it, on this day, that I was feeling cooked while indulging in temperature that was a degree less? It’s all relative. I would have to adjust to summer one more time. For summer was surely coming. Four more days of this heat were forecast.

So as I  left the car, I opened the skylight a fraction of an inch to let hot air rise and leave and I left only one of the front windows open a wrist’s worth, not open enough for a car thief to get in, but open enough to let a breeze go through. I parked it in the shade of two grand cedar trees that surely began life in the early 19oo’s. They are easily one hundred feet tall.

Next morning, we had a mission, Frank and I. Yes, Frank has come back into my life a little bit, returned from the Far East where he wintered for a couple of months, and he phoned up to see if he could help me turn the decommissioned sauna into a storage space. That was last month.

I went on a trip of my own to Victoria to visit some friends a few weeks ago and he, knowing that I wanted some work done in the garden, asked if he could help me with that as well. He’s at loose ends and is looking for company.

It suits me. I know that he has a work ethic bar none, and that I can trust him to do a good job. That being said, if he doesn’t approve of what I want him to do, he pulls an adult tantrum and I often bend, if it doesn’t really matter to me.  I might also end up with something that he wants rather than what I asked for, another familiar manipulation that a gal learns after twenty years of marriage and ten more of on-and-off relationship.

It was in this manner that my two garden beds shifted ten feet to the west and lost their unique U shape.  He insisted that the sun I would get would be much better where he wanted them. I didn’t hold my ground (nor stick to my brand new, not yet fully paid for,  garden design). It seemed like a little concession and I could fudge the design back into looking much like it was supposed to.

All the way up until the end, we talked about the U shape. When he laid the planks out in the garden to show me where it was and for my confirmation that the beds were parallel to the fence and acceptable for my design, the U was still there. But when he called me to see his final product, somehow the little end  of garden had disappeared.

“What happened to the U?” I exclaimed is some disbelief. But with a sinking feeling, I knew what had happened. He didn’t approve of it. I wouldn’t be able to get the wheel barrow in t either end. I would have had to back in with it to roll it out forward. With both ends, I didn’t have that problem. He recognized that the design was prettier than it was practical and with out saying, just made a one-sided decision.

What was the point in protesting. If he didn’t want to do it, I would have to get someone else to do the work. It wasn’t worth the argument and the bins looked quite handsome the way they were. I let it go.

But this little detail of my story comes after my saga of the prisoner, so now I regress.

On the morning where we were going to pick up the lumber for my raised beds,  we headed out to the car and nothing looked unusual.  It was when I opened up the driver’s side door that I was confronted with a robin-sized bird flapping with panic.  It had somehow thought that my car was a likely candidate for a summer’s nest.  That wrist-sized opening had just been enough to get into the car but the configuration of things had not been sufficient for him to get back out.

I looked him up in my bird book later. It was a fairly rare Rufous-sided  Towhee.

He must have cried for help because both rear-view mirrors were decorated with a thick layer which I imagine was deposited by two family members, one on each side, keeping the prisoner company.

Frank opened the two doors on the passenger side and I opened the back driver’s side door and the panicking bird flew off without so much as a thank-you for its liberation.

Talk about decoration! We spent half an hour getting the car cleaned before we could drive away in it. The steering wheel had made a perfect perch for the night but it wasn’t the only place to be cleaned, by any means. All the frustrated wanderings of the poor bird to discover some means of escape had been marked of the passage.

As nests go, it was spacious and luxurious – leather padded lining, plenty of wing-room, some practice-flying space but it lacked in accessibility – or should I say exitability.

In the afternoon, I spent an hour and a half re-cleaning the interior of the car and then the outside. It was a good thing.  I rarely do cleaning, not to say that anyone else does it for me, so it had become dusty and full of Sierra’s dog hair – my sister’s pet whom I had dog-sat for the month of May.

I just want to add this little bit of adventure, which relates to our search for lumber.

On the bird’s liberation day, we went to a big-box hardware store to find the wood we needed for my raised garden beds. Good grief! It was very expensive. With my green thumb which tends more to a dainty pink colour, I would never grow three hundred dollars worth of vegetables. This really was a hobby farmer’s luxury! Each two by ten by twelve was worth almost twenty dollars.

On an off chance, the day that we picked up the wood, I insisted on going to the local lumber yard /hardware store to see if we could get a better price – or even just support local business.  Wouldn’t you know, there was someone very knowledgeable who directed us to something called garden-grade lumber. It was really all that we needed.  There were some faults to it, but nothing major. Instead of twenty dollars a plank, we paid  seven. That’s a mighty savings.

Frank insisted that a six foot plank would fit into the car if we simply put the front seat down as far as it would go. He would travel back and forth in the back seat behind the driver (me).

Now if my car was a clunker, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so worried. But my car is a Lexus with black leather upholstery and I would never have had this car on my own doing if Frank hadn’t insisted that it was a bargain that couldn’t be passed up.  I would never have thought of buying a luxury car.

Last year when the prices came down on cars because of the market crash, I looked for another car, a newer one with less intrinsic faults than this one. It is, after all, seventeen years old now. But anything I drove was so heavy to drive, so clunkerish, so tinny, even though it was new.  The clincher for keeping this vehicle of mine is that the car dealers will only give me three thousand dollars for it! Some luxury! I’ll just keep the thing and run it into the ground!

But by that I didn’t mean losing the ceiling cover to some rough piece of cedar, nor scratching up the fancy leathers. I cringed at the thought.

Once again, I bent to his insistence. I did not gain my way to have the lumber delivered for fifty dollars.  We made three trips in the pouring rain (and the temperature fallen to ten degrees once more) back and forth with eight pre-cut six foot long planks piled on the passenger seat.  I admit that I prayed for the leather and was prepared to curse if anything befell it.

Frank’s smiley face at the end of the third round tells the tale. “See, I told you so” he says. “Trust me!”

So those were the adventures that surrounded my new garden beds.

I must say though, I can’t help thinking of that poor Rufous thing locked up in the clink all night, weeping and gnashing its “hens-teeth”, abetted in its frustration by two watchful friends on the rear view mirrors. Poor Towhee!

I bet his lady isn’t buying the “Trust me!” quip.

In fact, I might even have heard her saying, “I told you so!”

Another day in Paradise

October 12, 2009

I was walking in paradise again this week after a long absence from the Alouette Dike, partly because I was away on summer holiday and then in Vancouver looking after cats.

Birds are flocking prior to their migration south. It’s getting colder. Up by the big oak tree, I could see black birds arriving like dive bombers with a tic. They would flap their wings furiously for a half second then bring their wings close to their body and propel forward like a bullet. When the momentum failed the wings would start again flapping furiously.

With wings outstretched, a cape of scarlet red spread wide across the shoulders. In bullet form hurtling through space, the red could no longer be seen. So these flashes of scarlet kept coming on towards me and the tree, but of course, they were going so fast there was no hope of a photo.

These are red-winged blackbirds and we seldom see so many at one time. There are ones that live here all year long; but there are some that have summered up north and will winter down south. They stop by here to see their more (relatively) sedentary cousins, then go forth. It seemed like there were hundreds of them in that one tree plus the ones coming from afar to catch up with their local kin.

There is an excellent Wikipedia description of this bird and their habits, if you care to go looking. Just Google red winged black bird.

Our days have been sunny, but the temperature is dropping dramatically. It was 3 degrees above, Celcius, last night and tonight it may hit zero. There was hard frost in Burnaby but none here.  While the afternoon was pleasant at about 14 degrees, the evening became crisp and cold.  Knowing this would be so, I have brought in all my tomatoes from the garden with the exception of the “cherry” tomatoes that are hard and bright green, no trace of yellow.  They look like marbles that kids would play with.

In the back yard when I went out to the compost pile (which by the way is a haven for compost denizens these days with all the fruit peelings I’ve been contributing – nectarines, peaches, pears, quetches and the like) I heard a clamor in the trees that was unusual.

I don’t think I ever had seen so many robins flocking together at once. They are stocking up on food for the long flight south. All our fruiting trees were plentifully adorned this year and there is lots left to glean. Both in the cherry tree and in the mountain ash, there are fruits that have gone to alcohol. The dear little robins are a little cocky. They don’t fly away when I get closer to them. Some are a little less steady on the branch. Some are greedy, with little bunches of red berries hanging from their beaks as they ponder how they can have them and eat them too.

I savor these moments.

I remember mama when she could no longer hear the birds, and so I am always thankful for my still good hearing and my still good sight.

It is, over and above, the Canadian weekend for celebrating Thanksgiving. I went with a friend to Dorothy’s new-to-her house for dinner this evening. It was scrumptious and wonderful – ham, fennel in garlic and parsley butter, scalloped potatoes and Concord grape pie with ice cream for dessert. Dorothy had invited one of her friends too, so we had some riotous conversation that had us laughing merrily.

I’m especially thankful for friends and for family – Hugh, Ron,Lizbet, Heather and her husband. Here’s wishing that you, too, recognize the Paradise that we live in, whatever that may be for you, and enjoy it while it is here.

Happy Thanksgiving, to all.


July 19, 2009

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I set the house alarm and left, locking the door behind me, then realized that I didn’t have my camera.

I’ve walked the dikes so many times now, I should have them in my mind by memory, but I don’t. I don’t seen to have visual memory, funny enough, and I keep trying to record what I see either in photography or paint so that I don’t forget.  It was getting warmer out by the minute and I made a conscious decision to leave it at home. I would walk faster, and anyway, I’ve already photographed everything thirty times. You’d think I’d already had the ultimate image, but no…. it’s always the penultimate.

And so there I was, on Sunday morning, walking in Paradise.

There were very few cars in the lot which was a good thing, because in this unusual heat wave, parking under one of the grand willows at the entrance to the dike walks,  there is a large pool of shade and there was one parking spot left, right up by the big concrete dividers that delineate the edge of the lot.

I extracted my walking poles from the trunk, locked the car and set out. There wasn’t a human in sight.

Without the camera, I was able more acutely to hear myself and the birds.

I’ll always remember asking Mom if she could hear the birds that were chirping loudly, a flock having chosen her back yard for an early evening town-hall meeting.  “Birds?” she asked, puzzled. “Hear them?” She strained to listen. “Are there birds”  She shook her head. She couldn’t hear a single peep.

I vowed to listen to them while I could and here, early morning there was a leading edge symphonic composition of unrelated tonal  sounds going on with each orchestral section doing it’s own thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many different birds competing in a battle of the bands before. There was a persistent, overriding one going “Chi, we,we,we,we” . There was a beautiful melodic one, about sixteen notes long, whose tune I could not imitate nor remember. There was a ticking one going, “chi, chi, chi, chi” and a starling imitating a chickadee with a throatier version of the “dee, dee, dee” sound.

When a person pays attention with all one’s senses, it’s amazing what there is to hear and see. And smell also. There was a decided scent of mown hay permeating the air with an attenated sweet manure smell behind it. It had been spread more than a month ago and the awfulness of it had sunk into the ground, nourishing it, leaving the hot earth with this pleasant farm smell.

Without the camera I beetled ahead at a rapid pace, which is what I should be doing most days but never do if there’s something to photograph. But I havn’t been serious about walking as I should, so I was happy to halt, catch my breath and watch two birds grasp the same tall branch of a pink-flowered shrub. They were the size of bush-tits but all brown and they were swinging around the twig like a pair of acrobats.

When I resumed my walk, I reflected that not having a camera forced me into having conversations with myself.  I thought it might be a great exercise to go home and paint what I saw today.

I dismissed the problem of colour. I had that down pat – the brilliant summer sky, a mix of cerulean and French ultramarine; The far mountains,  a wash of French Ultramarine and closer ones simply a deeper version of the hue; the trees, a mix of viridian and burnt sienna; the sunnier greens mixed with a lemon yellow and a sap green.

It was the composition that I couldn’t carry with me – the way the shapes nestled together, the way the shadows defined the shape, the rhythm and flow of it. I tried to memorize one or two.

There was the way the dike path split the marsh grasses like a bolt of lightening diminishing to its pointy end far off in the distance, only to be stopped in the mid ground by two small poplars and the heron tree. Overpowering everything were the pure blue  mountains, receding in distinctly shaped layers of progressively lighter hue.

There was the way the dike sweeps down into the farm lands where the blueberry fields are ripe and ready. At the edge of these, the windbreak is made up of mid sized shrubs entangled with blackberry and wild rose. It’s an image full of curves and warm, golden grasses.

As I approached the Neames Road bridge, I tried to memorize the shape of it – its four creosoted posts on either end, the white railing with three tiers, the water flowing underneath,  everything reflecting in the water with the addition of a good swig of sky and a dollop of a single cloud floating in the water. Sounds like a blueberry float with whip cream on top!

On the way back, the sun was coming straight for me, as were a number of late starters their dogs or their children in tow. A few runners sped by, coming and going. I concentrated on trying to find word equivalents for the  bird songs and repeated them as one of my memory exercises. I wasn’t sure whether I would be racing for the brushes or the keyboard when first I got home.

Chi, we, we, we, we, I was repeating to myself as I was interrupted by a “kitty-wake” sound but I was sure it wasn’t a kittiwake because there were no gulls around. I stopped to listen and joined a conversation unfolding before me.

A middle-aged woman in a broad raffia hat sporting two braids down to her shoulders had stopped two petite Iranian ladies more or less appertaining to a leash-free teacup-sized dog with a tiny bow on it’s head.

“There’s a coyote hanging about. Several people have seen him this morning,” counselled the braided woman.

“Oh, we’ll be okay,” said one of the Iranians, smiling as they continued to saunter along. They clearly had not understood, neither the message nor the import of it.

“It’s your dog. The coyote will eat your dog. It’s like a wolf,” insisted the woman with the braids.

The Iranian women stopped, trying to make reason of the message.

“You had better carry your dog,” insisted Mrs. Braid.

Their eyes popped and one of them let their mouth hang open in horrified understanding.  They both nodded. The little muffet was called and one of them scooped up the handful and tucked it close to her breast.

“Oh, look,” cried Mrs. Braid. “There are two birds chasing an eagle.”

It broke the conversation and everyone looked. Two small birds, likely the size of robins or starlings were bearing down on the eagle high above the poplars. One flew in so close it could have dropped six inches and ridden on the eagle’s back without having to do any wing flapping himself.

The bald-headed eagle was angrily chastising his pursuers with that ki,ki wake sound . I had at least matched one of the choruses  from the bird symphony, now.

Mrs. Braid and I talked then about having seen coyotes and bears and other wildlife. We traded stories for quite a long moment before she announced that she had just retired from working as an art teacher.

“How coincidental!” I said, very happy with our conversation that just flowed. I explained my connections to art. Then I explained what I was doing to integrate myself into the art community as a newcomer, inviting groups of artists to salon-like gatherings so that I could get to know them and they, me.

“Would you like to come to one sometime?” I asked.

“Oh, I would love to,” she answered and started to cry. Not the sobbing kind, but the sniffly, trying-desperately-not-to kind, with an index finger reflexively wiping away moisture from the side of her eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she apologized, dipping her head so that with the shadow of the had, I could not see them. “It’s so recent. I’ve just put my husband in a residential care facility this week. Alzheimers. ”  She struggled to force the tears back into her eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I replied, with a look of concern for her.

“I’m only fifty-five. He’s only sixty-four. For the last four years, I haven’t been able to get out. It’s the first time I’ve had any time to myself. I’m not used to having time. Not that I’ve just left him there, though. I go every day between six and ten at night. That’s when I can be most useful, getting him to bed. Sometimes he recognizes me. Mostly he doesn’t. And I’ve never had time to go anywhere, not even grocery shopping, because he had to be watched. He didn’t understand anything anymore. While we were out walking, he would see a house and construct a story around it. He would think it was ours and we had renters. He would want to climb a fence to get into the place to see if they were treating it properly.”

“Like a two year old,” I sympathized.

“Yes, exactly,” she replied. “I couldn’t leave him for a moment, and I couldn’t take him anywhere. But finally, I stopped being humiliated and embarassed by the situations he got me into.”

Her situation came out in a torrent. The relief that she felt in finally having the burden of his care lifted from her shoulders alone and shared with the health system was huge, but at the same time, she felt guilty. A new round of tears escaped from her eyes. She was really in quite a fragile emotional state.

I thought to myself, I guess this was the reason I came out to the dike so early this morning. It was a bit like this chance meeting had been engineered by the invisible and all powerful Higher Power of the universe.

I tried to distract and reassure her. I told her about caring for my mother in a similarly senile state, though her husband seemed to be  far more difficult than my mother had been.  I told her about the drawings I was doing about feelings. How I had originally pounded marks onto the paper, in anger, and beat away the frustration in long, attacking strokes.  I told her about standing in front of my paints and closing my eyes to see what my feelings were and then finding colours that matched and images that expressed those states.

She had pulled her emotions together and stuffed them back in their box.  She said, “It’s the first time I’ve been back on the dikes. My husband and I used to walk here. I’ve been frustrated and lonely and feeling guilty to be enjoying all this beauty, this paradise. I had no idea I might talk to you or anyone. It’s so strange. I think I must have been sent to meet you here today. It is as if it  was meant to be.”

The similarity of our our situations and our thoughts amazed me. I said so.

Again, I invited her to join up with us at one of our artist groups.

“You know, you will not feel out of place. We’ve all had our griefs. Elizabeth’s mother has died of Alzheimers just recently and she cared for her daily for several years. My mom was getting senile and slipping deeper and deeper in to geriatric states of confusion, so I understand perfectly. Mrs. Stepford is going blind, and Thelma is desperately trying to get her granddaughter out of the Ministry’s foster home care system. Her daughter is too sick to look after the child. You’ll feel right at home. And you don’t have to wait until I throw another potluck. Just come for tea.”

It was time to be getting on. We exchanged names and promised to be in touch.  We said goodbye and I walked hastily back home, this time regretting my camera very much.

A young family with two children under the age of six  riding bicycles and parents afoot, pushing a baby in a stroller. The mother’s shadow was imprinted on the gravel walkway in perfect silhouette.  Just in front of her, the four year old was peddling furiously on her red an blue bicycle with training wheels.  Her shadow too was at a perfect ninety-degree angle, flattened upon the light gravel path. The moving shadow’s legs pumped up and down perfectly, the spokes were more noticeable here than on the bike, turning round and round like some fair ground ride.

It wasn’t long after that I got into my nice cool car, hiding as it was, under the willow tree, and made for home. I went straight for the computer before I could forget Mrs. Braid’s last name. I took the information and put it in my address book immediately, then phoned up to leave a message.

Someone on the other end picked up. I hadn’t thought she could get home so fast.

“Mrs. Braid?”

“Speaking,” the voice replied, quite formal.

“Mrs. Braid, it’s Kay here. I just met you on the dike a short while ago. I didn’t think you could get home so fast.”
“What did you say your name was? Kay? Kerrer? Is that right? I just looked up your number and was about to call you. Is this the right address. I just had the phone in my hand to call you….   I think we were destined to meet.”

By the Alouette

July 17, 2009

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A large heron lifts from the river’s edge. He flies low, an angular cut against the bright blue sky and then dips below the level of the tall river grasses into a secluded pool. Here it is, the height of summer. The height of grasses. The pathways are overgrown to the point where a single person can hardly pass, edged with wild eglantine, the true rose; with blackberry encroaching, with small shrubs tipped by fluffy pink flowers.

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Coming towards me are two dogs. One is small, wiry white one with a black patch on his eye and a small Shepherd cross, both dripping from an early morning swim. Their masters follow, shading their eyes from the hammering sun, apologizing for the liquidity of their dogs.

Last night, Mrs. Stepford declined the offer to accompany me on a walk saying, “Let’s go early in the morning. I’d like to walk. How about leaving at seven.”
I’m not normally a morning person but this hot weather is not conducive to sleep. At six o’clock, Soleil had been up a few hours and  is shining through my windows, laughing at my sleeplessness.  So this morning, bright an early, I bathe in cool waters before I  get ready for our walk.

It’s seven thirty. Mrs. Stepford was going to telephone by seven to make sure I was up but the phone is silent. It is I who phones.

“Are you ready?”

“Heaven’s no. I’m just awake. I don’t think I’ll go. I’m too sleepy. Besides, I have to call the computer contractor at nine.”  So I go alone.

The parking lot is empty of all but a half dozen early cars. Once I’m atop the first rise of the dike, the lagoon spreads before me like a sheet of glass, reflecting back-lit trees. There’s not a ripple. The lily pads form a contrapuntal perspective of overlapping round shapes.

There’s not a person to be seen. I’m in paradise alone. A dragonfly zooms by, a little moth flutters over the grasses, birds are discussing the quality of their early breakfast and deciding where best they can shelter from the coming heat. In the background, I can hear the steady drone of an excavator. It’s towards this yellow machine that I make my way through the overgrown path. I want to see what Mammon is up to in Eden.

It lifts its jaws and swings about, lowers its voracious head and snaps up a rotted chunk of log, tosses it high in the air and deposits it high up on the embankment. Once again it swings, grabs a mouthful to be spit out in the pile of waste accumulating on the verge. Were it not that brilliant orange and growling steadily with its industrial motor, one might think it was some prehistoric dinosaur grazing in the marsh.

That was a rather short path, so I return. A woman wearing logger-shirt plaid is tossing a Frisbee into the lagoon for her Labrador dog. The water spreads with liquid ripples. Something is un-Labrador-like with this dog. He gazes up at her as if waiting for something. He won’t go in the water.

We chat.

“No,  the dog won’t bother me as long as he doesn’t jump.”

“Did you notice the water lilies?”

“When I came by half an hour ago, they were all closed up  Now they are fully open,  white, pristine.”

“Funny, heh?”

Then I start my usual walk. A kilometer out and the same back, up to Neames Road. There are a few more walkers now. A woman with two children in a stroller is jogging at a slow pace. Another comes in a long running stride towards me dressed in black shorts and a halter top. She is tall, bronzed and fit. Her hips alternate forward as if driven by an inner clockwork. The light falls on her deliciously. If only figure drawing classes could capture all that aliveness!

The morning light is so different from the evening light. It’s about at the same angle but lights things from the opposite side. I stop and take pictures and then get serious about the walking. I’ve been a slackard on that account lately with excuses of visitors and seasonably high heat, but I’m missing the serotonin fix and energy that I get from the exercise.

I watch more Great Blue Herons squabbling in the sky, one chasing another away. A lone heron sticks out of the top of a tree, a sentinel.  It must be a territorial thing.  Here down on the path way, two small dogs face off with a heavy set German Shepard, but it’s all friendly posturing, it seems. Tails wag. Sniffing rituals begin. More territory.

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On my way back, there are more runners, more mothers with children in strollers, more dogs.  By the parking lot entrance, there is a single thistle plant in bloom, their furry pink Busby hats capped with a tiny butterfly decoration. It made my day, and it’s only nine in the morning!

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Quite a day

June 12, 2009

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For a woman who usually rises at  nine, the seven thirty wake up call came too early. Despite all my early preparations, I was not functioning well enough to get out of the house before ten, and even then, I missed the self-imposed deadline because I took a phone call when I could have let it ring through to the answering machine.  At ten thirty, I started the car in the driveway, only to shut it off again and return to the house. I had forgotten to put the box I was delivering to the Historical Costume society into the car. It was the principal reason I was going to Vancouver for the day.

I went back to the house, turned off the alarm, picked up the box and returned to the car. Then I dug into my bag to get the directions only to find that I had taken it out just before I left in order to use a phone number on it but I  hadn’t put it back. It too was in the house.

I felt like I needed one of those rote punishments we used to get in school where a miscreant had to write a hundred lines:

I will not forget the box. I will not for get the box. I will not forget the box…. I will not forget the phone numbers and the directions. I will not forget the phone numbers and the directions. I will not forget the phone numbers and the directions.

I took all of mother’s precious dresses for them to preserve and use for their purposes of displaying and educating in the field of costume and fashion.

Cathy was waiting for me on the roadway when I got to their offices. They are situated in Burnaby Village Museum in the attic of a house built in 1926. Quarters are quite cramped since most of the space is taken up with storage. One room, about 1o foot by 12, previously a small bedroom, contained a table and two chairs. There were five us – myself, Cathy, Bill and two other women  – watching as we unpacked Mother’s pale blue wedding dress complete with matching gloves and veil; a ‘Forties little black cocktail dress in faille; a black velvet winter dress with a handmade lace collar; her pink ball gown from the ‘Fifties, lined with taffeta, but missing the crinolines that would have made it flare out. It had a sheer pink bolero jacket to match; a stunning white ballgown  all made of lace and silk netting, with a little jacket to match; and a jacket with real jet beading and sequins on silk netting.

This last one, they determined was pre-1900. It couldn’t have been Mother’s but it might have been Granny’s. Not that she would have worn it. She had no opportunity. Bill said it was common for the women of great houses to give the maids clothing once they were finished with it, and this was likely how it came into the family treasures.

There was a little netted hat and a pair of fine, fine silk stockings. There was a white ruffed collar in cotton that had been smocked at the neckline and hand-embroidered below that with little white apples. The lace on the bottom was also hand embroidered over cut-work.

They were thrilled with their new acquisitions. I was thrilled that someone was actually going to care for and preserve these lovely clothes.

Afterward, Cathy, Bill and I went for coffee and bite to eat, since it was noon already. There is a little Ice Cream Parlour in the Historical Village. They had soup which is right and good for lunch and I would have too, but I was felt instantly dessertish as soon as I saw their three berry pie and I don’t regret it one bit. It was a home made pie with plenty of berries, topped with ice cream.

Next stop was Vancouver to visit Mother’s old friend Gordon who is ninety-six this year – his birthday was in May. He’s getting frail but his mind is so clear and bright. Doreen, one of our mutual friends, came to visit as well.

When I told him of Hugh’s experiences at his conference in Vienna he began reminiscing then caught himself and apologized. He had rambled on, it’s true; but it was fascinating. He had been part of the UN Committee that was looking into the effects on health, in the early 1950’s concerning the atom bomb and nuclear disarmament. We could not persuade him to keep on talking about it.

Looking at it from his perspective, it was just something he did. Nothing special. But looking at it from my perspective now, it seem extraordinary that I was sitting in the room with a respected scientist who had formed part of that committee at a time when atom bombs were in their infancy.

Doreen hoped he had written down some of the marvelous things he had done, but he just chuckled deprecatingly and said there was really nothing to write down. It was just committee stuff.

The meter in the parking lot was ticking away its last minutes. I had to go. Heather and her husband were coming to stay for a few days and I had to go get something to feed them.
As I drove down the on-ramp to Highway One, cars were streaming from all westward directions. It’s a four lane highway at that point and there’s a lane for the on-ramp besides. There are cars that are trying to juggle their way to the right, to  the off ramp. There are cars merging on the right trying to get to the left-most lanes – the High Occupancy Vehicle lane and the fast lane, beside it.

Despite all the merging, rush hour traffic was proceeding at a slow but steady pace.  I managed to get into the low lane. It was then that I saw the mama pigeon sitting on the asphalt with cars racing over it, but missing it. The poor thing must have been terrified.  With the press of cars and the volume of traffic, it seemed no one was going to stop and rescue the poor bird.

Then the traffic slowed and someone was able to see the bird before having to swerve around it or smack-dab-in-the-middle go over it. It was a miracle it had not been hit, or for that matter, maybe it was there because it had been hit.

The car stopped. The pigeon got on its two wobbly feet and then walked three or four steps. It tried its wings and got lift off. It flew onto the scorched grasses of the the median and was safe

The rest of the day (once I got home) was ordinary. Tidying, watering plants, making dinner.

Reflecting back through the day, I want to talk to Bill again. I said little about him, above. He is a retired milliner which is unusual for a man, I think; and I was quite fascinated as he talked about his passion for fashion. I’ll write more about that another day.

Chicken feed

April 8, 2009


This clever farmer doesn’t have to feed his chickens AND he gets paid for it!

This hen run is on a farm that abuts the Alouette dike which is often my walking path.

I’ve been amazed by this curious activity of the hens to create a depression in the dirt and wallow in it, all the while scratching away at the sides of their self-made “burrows”.  When corn candy is offered, the burrowing hen abandons the nest and comes to vie for grains of corn, just like all the others, so it’s not a sick hen. Anybody know why they do it?

Sweetie -eeee

March 21, 2009

“Sweetieeeeeeeeeee! Sweetieeeeeeeee!

The poor guy is out looking for his mate, wailing for everyone to hear. He promises a bachelor that every chick with a nesting urge should explore. He’s quite willing to fly through the air and do somersaults, dance around you, sing joyously when the eggs arrive, will sit on the nest in equal time warming up the progeny.

“Sweetieeeeeeeeeee! Sweetieeeeeeeee!

With vernal regularity, this tiny avian soloist sings his heart out.

I never hear him in the afternoon. He must be out staking territory. He’s rounding up nesting materials; going to the gym and working out his flight or fight muscles. And he spends his evenings contemplating an abbreviated version of haiku poetry.Then, rises the morning sun:

Is that nine or eleven “e”s in  “Sweetieeeeeeeeee!?



May 4, 2008

Goliath rolled up to the traffic light, a huge red-cabbed Mack truck towing a huge bin of gravel behind it’s regular construction bin and stopped short by twenty feet.

The black luxury car saw the green light and would have barrelled through but for the fact that Goliath, the Mack, was stopped and not moving. The black car stopped. Kay instantly noticed the why-for that had halted the giant.

There on the asphalt, directly in the middle of the lane, was David, a tiny robin still dressed in it’s infant clothing, speckled and shivering. Stunned. Goliath had seen and stopped and David was saved.

Kay put on her hazard blinker, opened the door and leapt out. The tiny bird did not move, so stunned it was. Kay came carefully out then, up behind the bird and cupped it in her hands. It fluttered with strength, found a finger to clamp the small talons to, and trembled. Kay held it high for the next motorist to see and understand.

Kay stepped then to the sidewalk, found a potted fir behind a wrought iron grill and posited the creature beneath the lowest branch. It fluttered its wings again and rested, saved.

As Kay drove away, she thought The truck could have driven right over top of it and not touched it. and then, If the bird had shifted or moved, it would have been just one more road kill.; and then she was thankful that there generally were no cats wandering in the downtown area. The bird had had strength. It had been stunned but it would recover.

As Kay drove away, the truck tooted a thanks and proceeded. The driver in the car behind waved. It had taken less than a minute and it had changed her day entirely.

What a twist to the tale of David and Goliath!

Signs of Spring

April 28, 2008

I saw a fat robin

beat upon the earth,

extract a long red thread

of worm, and gobble it.


And then he flew away.

In the small garden

parallel to the fence,

I planted two dozen tulips.

Two pink flower heads

wave slowly.

The squirrel has had

a generous winter feast.

Without the aid of clothes pegs,

rain hangs out to dry

in droplets, all along

the bright blue clothes line.


September 14, 2007



A wing flapped relentlessly

in a careless wind

as if to escape

its tar and asphalt grave

as cars and trucks whish by

without pity


road kill