Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Winter sunshine

December 29, 2009

You need to read yesterday’s post to see why these photos are amazing. Yesterday was fog. Today is sunshine. Each with their own beauty.

This brilliant winter sun shouts “Hallelulia!”

There is incredible warmth in the landscape despite the winterization of all the vegetation. We are exceptionally lucky to have the blueberry bushes that go  flaming red on the landscape and then the river grasses that go gold.

The long shadows help define everything in crisp delineation. No more commentary required: the pictures speak for themselves. If you flip back and forth, you will see that several of these are of the same spots in the landscape.

You can see the Coast Mountains and specifically here, the Golden Ears

And on a good day, you can see Mount Baker beyond the Canadian border in Washington State,

and all this blueberry planting gone red for winter:

After the heavy rains last week the fields filled with water, but the ponds are abating now. There were a hundred ducks and and a few seagulls in this field last week, swimming inland.

The tree below is one of the trees I showed in the previous post, in fog.

Mallards and a Bufflehead making ripples on an otherwise glassy river:

And then the sun started to fade…

sunk, in brilliant glory,

and was gone.

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Resuming walks on the Alouette Dike

December 28, 2009

Weather and business. Great excuses. I haven’t been out walking for a long time. Christmas, though, came with some beautiful weather. There was actually some sunshine.

Non-sequitur: I jumped on the bathroom scale. Oops! Christmas baking gain! I kicked the bathroom scale. It has the nerve not to be lying. Five pounds last year. Five pounds this year. Time to go do something about it.

Midday on Boxing day, it was two degrees above, Celsius.   I put on my Winnipeg parka with fur-trimmed hood and plenty of fluffy down. I zipped on my warm winter boots. I found my gloves with lambskin lining that I purchased when I went to Ottawa to see Hugh for Christmas two years ago.

Non-sequitur #2 : Hugh has his Masters. Whoopee! 93% average. Good going Hugh!

I picked up my house and car keys; set the house alarm; exited North; got in the car; drove down the hill and into a bank of fog, to the Alouette Dikes.

There is an eerie beauty in fog. I took lots of pictures. It only slightly detracts from the walking exercise. Well, maybe a bit more than slightly, but if  I didn’t have the camera along, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to go.

I am going to have to go walking more than once if I am to have any effect on my winter waistline. I will also have to go to the gym. Regularly. Rats!

Sunday, the day after Boxing Day (that’s today), I went back to the dike. There was a full winter sun flooding the marshlands. The winter grasses were crisp and precise.  In places, the river and ponds have frozen over. In others, the water is still beautifully liquid, absolutely unruffled, still,  clear and reflective. Two days. Two widely varied landscape conditions.

The fog obscures things. It takes away the non-essentials. When I photograph a tree, that’s all there is – the winter skeleton, bare and lacy. The details elsewhere are not necessary. The object blurs. The background unifies; or you might say that it has dropped off the edge of the continent. It’s gone.

In the sunshine, every leaf, every twig, every tree trunk shines with a golden self-importance. The shadows are long.

On Boxing day, there were a lot of people out walking with their mates,  their children, their friends.  Dogs are pulling on leashes or running after fluorescent coloured tennis balls. Hardy souls are running for their lives. Some are pumping away on their bicycles, weaving in and out amongst the throng of walkers. New cameras and field glasses abound.

A group of twenty-somethings came towards me just as I was listening to a most beautiful sound: Ice that coated the twigs was beginning to crack and melt. It was like a whispering of bells. No! That doesn’t quite describe it. It was like the tinkling of wind in a distant crystal chandelier, faint and delicate.

“Listen, ” I entreat them. It is a fragile innocent sound.

“Oh, it’s just the ice melting off the tree,” says one annoyed young man, satisfied to have explained it satisfactorily. He moved on, calling “Come on, guys, let’s go!” He was missing an essential element of wonder.

The group went forward taking only seconds to reinstate their happy chatter, drowning out the miracle of crackling ice on tiny twigs. Two girls lagged a bit, still stretching their ears towards the delicate sound.

Today, the only sound of note was by the big lagoon, frozen over, skittering like a bird with a high pitched call as three children threw stones across the new drum of ice.  Today, there were scoters and bufflehead ducks in amongst the mallards, swimming together in a multicultural harmony. They are happy that the river mud has unfrozen and they can dive into this murky brown liquid to find edible treats. Their ducking and diving create patterns on the still-water surface.

I’ll post the sunny ones on the next post.

Jason’s bridge

December 8, 2009

With a slightly hurt expression on his face, Jason asked,”What took you so long?”

Heather  took her coat and hung it in the closet by the door. She may have answered but it wasn’t clear.

“I didn’t go on the hike this morning so that I could take Kay up to the bridge we are building at Holden Lake. It’s two thirty already. There won’t be enough time to get back for your choir concert; and I’m supposed to take my Photography class homework pictures up there.”

“How much time does it take to get there?” asked Kay, mollifyingly. It was unlike Jason to ever criticize. He was a man of well-practiced patience.

“Half an hour there and half an hour back. But we need at least twenty minutes for the photographs,” He replied. Kay calculated rapidly. It would be nip and tuck. He  was such a generous brother-in-law that she hated to see him miss something he had his heart set upon.

“Give me five minutes,” said Kay. “I’m not going out into the forest with you in the only good outfit I brought with me. I have to look decent at the concert tonight. I can’t risk cedar juices in the bottom of my pant legs and mud on my shoes from having tramped on wet hiking trails.”

It was agreed then that the two of them would go though the timing was tight. Heather would have a nap.

Jason looked sufficiently appeased.  True to her estimate, Kay was ready in a hurry.

It was a lovely day. After three weeks of rain, the sky was beautifully clear. Though it was early, the sun was already headed toward the horizon. The shadows were long. With the clear skies came low temperatures. Early morning frost had not evaporated in all locations and a fog was coming up between the trees as they passed a small lake. Kay questioned Jason about his photography assignment.

“It needs to be done in full light. We have to find and use the manual settings to try three different f-stops on the same subject and see what difference it makes to our results. Next, we have to use the three different metering options with someone at a distance and then mid-distance and then closer up.”

As they came to the forest company’s logging road, a large truck bearing a full load of stripped logs came towards them. Jason waited while the behemoth lumbered out of the way and then proceeded up the dirt road.

After passing several ATV enthusiasts along the forest company road, (all retired men) they stopped at a nondescript location. Jason turned his truck to a right angle across the road, dipping dangerously, Kay thought, to the shoulder of the road which dropped off into the forest at a steep angle.  She prayed that no more logging trucks were on their way. Jason then backed up, challenging the shoulder on the other side of the road. When he finished his manoeuvering, he was facing in the opposite, in the right direction, to go home,  and he parked at the side of the road on the narrow gravel border.

They got out. Kay followed Jason down the steep path into the forest, holding onto his collar to prevent herself from slipping on the steep muddy trail thus losing balance. Only when the path levelled out did she let go. Under foot, there was a thick pad of partially rotted and very wet cedar debris. It was springy like peat and about the same rich reddish brown.

A narrow path led to a narrow wooden bridge that spanned a raging torrent. It had metal grating nailed to its surface to prevent people from slipping. A narrow log railing was covered with ice on either side of the bridge. Here in the forest far from the warming sun, the temperature had not risen during the day.

“Our men’s group is starting to replace the bridge on Thursday,” he explained as he pointed out two straight trees that had been felled and stripped of their bark.  We’re taking off the one railing on the left side and those two logs are going on that support piece that you see down there at the side. When they are in place, then we will take away the next log and put in a new one. ”
Kay marveled that, even with the river raging below, the men, all retired and most of them over seventy, could replace this bridge without ever losing use of it.

Jason continued, “Last week with all the rains, the lake rose eighteen inches. All that you see on the side there was dry. Now it’s filled up with water and overflowing. There was no torrent there before – a little bit of rushing water where the big boulders  are, but not  anything like this. It’s come down six inches this week, but it’s still raging.”

They crossed the bridge, Kay tightly holding her camera and barely touching the icy rail for balance.  There were beautiful quiet pools at the edges of the bridge with smooth green and gold rocks below the shiny surface. M magnificent waters running in the middle.

White water was dashing against the stolid boulders. Looking back toward the lake, mists were rising, separating out the various layers of trees. The sun was dipping between the cedar branches. It was getting gloomy at three-fifteen even though the sun had an hour before it would set for the night. The winter shrubs were sepia-coloured and overlaced with russets. Above them, the cedar branches were a deep green and between them, the lake was black with rising mists a bluish smoky grey.

Jason set up his tripod at the other end of the bridge. His homework papers sat illogically white and brittle in this beautiful gloom, on the last step down off the bridge, as he fiddled with his tripod, his metering and his manual settings of f-stops. Kay  meanwhile explored things on her own – the pile of cedar logs for Thursdays fire to keep the workers warm and to cook the midday meal; the translucent greens in the quiet pools; the twigs that etched their signatures on the soft shapes of the mists; and the fallen leaves suspended in time in the clear still waters near the stream’s edge.

When soon the photography was done, Jason drove them back home, fingers frozen but their eyes full of the forest wonders.

Kay reflected on the curious shape of days.  A single event could make or break a day but here was a day that would give her three thrills. The octagenarian joy ride and the church luncheon had been one; this walk in the silent forest had been such an unexpected visual surprise; and there was still Heather’s choir concert to come, in the evening.

To be continued.

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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Wing nuts

July 2, 2009

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I had trouble focusing the camera on the wing nut. Most likely I had the camera set on the  wrong focusing mode or the wrong light setting. But I rather liked the first fuzzy pictures, above. There are delicate colours in it. No matter that it is not sharp.  You can still tell it is a wing nut.

The remainder of the pictures were fun for me as compositional exercises.

Rain

August 9, 2008

It’s been brilliantly sunny for the last ten days. It’s a special day for the Haney Farmer’s Market down at the Laity farm. There are ponies for children to ride and a small maze of hay for little ones to negotiate. There are local farmers and artisans – bread makers, jewelers and the like. I thought about going and still will, but I’m waiting for the rain to stop.

At midnight there was a light haze in the sky obscuring the stars. At six this morning, the rain was coming down in a steady stream – the kind you need a rain coat for – and it hasn’t stopped. I keep looking out the window to see if it’s easing off.

But, no.

On one of these rain quality assessments, I noticed a baby stellar jay huddled under some rhododendron branches. I had to look twice to figure out if it really was a jay or not since the brilliant blue feathers don’t develop until later in their adolescence. It was the crest that gave it away. A huddled crow and a huddled baby stellar jay look much alike from behind.

He ruffled his downy feathers and scrunched tighter into himself as if to say, “Why was I born into this wet, wet world?” The rain wasn’t getting any quieter and the broad waxy rhodo leaves were taking direct hits of rain and then gathering them to drool onto the poor bird’s back. When he finally caught sight of me, he flew off. And by the way, the picture I’ve added above is of a stellar jay, but not this one. It’s just to give you an idea of their magnificent blue feathers.

Meanwhile, out in the backyard, there was avian convention and it was snack time. It’s quite unusual to see crows, robins, stellar jays and starlings all placidly high-stepping about together, cocking their heads, waiting for worms to appear.

I was out there in the late afternoon just yesterday pulling out clover when an earthworm came directly out of it’s hole, straight up, just like an automatic car radio antenna. I’d never seen a worm do that before.

I touched it’s pinky little body with an ever so gentle touch and the worm went straight back down again, quick as a wink. These are good guys in the garden, aerating the soil, munching up organic matter and converting it into rich humus. When it rains, the theory goes that they are drowning in the soil and have to come up for air. Their subclass in animal nomenclature is Oligochaeta. I’m going to call my wormy guy Olig from now on.

When I’m gardening and I move a pot or rake up leaves, often I find Olig and company struggling to get back to a protected shade area, so I help them out by picking them up, usually with a stick because I’m squeamish, and landing them back on garden soil or grass where they can get back to work.

I presume this morning’s peace conference with the multi-variety of birds (who usually dispute territory quite vociferously) were there not so much for subject matter as for the cuisine.

Now it’s eleven fifteen and I can’t see steady streams of rain coming down. I guess it’s time to get on my galoshes and my rain gear and get down to the market.

It’s their special event of the year, so I hope it clears up by noon and gives them at least a few hours of Mr. Sunshine.

Blueberries, painting and a bike ride

August 6, 2008

It was the British Columbia Provincial holiday and August 1st long weekend and my friend Dorothy came out from the city to stay for the weekend. She’s preparing for a two hundred kilometer bike ride early in September so she brought her off road bike. I don’t do that kind of valiant exercising, so she was on her own for four hours doing the lovely dike roads and trails that go along the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. I agreed to meet her up at Pitt Lake but I’ll never do that again on a long weekend.

The lake is a popular place to go for canoers, kayakers and speed boaters. The place was crawling with half clothed, well-tanned people. I guess one of the reasons it was so popular this particular day was that we’d just gone through a week of summer rain that felt more like late September and everyone was very glad to have that burst of hot, hot weather and brilliant sunshine again.

I took my paint box, a selection of watercolour tubes, a desk easel to prop my painting on and a folding director’s chair. When I got up to the Lake parking lot, it was packed. Cars were circling to get a space in case someone left mid-afternoon. I circled three times before I parked in a five minute zone for kayak drop off and then stayed ten minutes. Dorothy still didn’t show.

I was a bit worried about someone getting on my case, or worse, giving me a ticket, so I puttered with things in the trunk of my car, bringing the bag of painting supplies to the front seat, shifting the remainder of things around, getting out my camera, et cetera, et cetera. I took some pictures of a young lad at lake shore standing in the water, picking up stones and throwing them in. He was about five and he had a rather admirable persistence in his task and a dismal record at distance throwing. Most landed just inches from his feet.

On my fifth tour of the parking lot, perspiring away in the humid heat whilst stewing, so as to speak, cooking on slowly but inexorably in my black, heat absorbent car, I decided that I’d missed Dorothy somehow. I hadn’t seen her on the road in and the hour I had spent moving from one illegal spot to another in the gravel car park was not productive, not to mention the waste of carbon fuel. She goes on these lone bike rides often. She’d just probably lost her way. It was only slightly possible that she’d gotten there before I did and given up waiting for me.

A park attendant came up to my open car window and reminded me that I couldn’t park at the stop sign. I had been waiting, wasting a few more anxious minutes, figuring I’d move when a car came up behind me and needed me to move on.

“You can’t park here, y’know,” she said gently.
“I know. I’m just leaving,” I replied faking a bit of chagrin. However, her softly spoken reminder was my signal. I wasn’t staying any more.

“Oh, you’re leaving then?” she said, still gently.

:I’m on my way,” and I put my car in gear and drove out the parking lot and down Meaken Road. About two kilometers out, there was finally a parking space. I shook my head at the persistence some people have to get their boats in the water, then go park their car far away, then walk back a kilometer to their launched boat and then go rowing or speeding around as an afternoon diversion.

Two kilometers down the road, I found a shady tree with room for about three cars to park. I got out to explore. It would have been a safe and flat enough place to sit out and paint but there was no view. I crawled through the metal tubing gate and walked a few feet up an unused road but found nothing of paintable interest. The grasses were beautiful and tall, a whole field of them. It was a crop, but I couldn’t identify it.

So I drove down another bit of the road and found a drainage ditch, a dike perhaps, filled with water reflecting land and sky. I followed that for another short way. Eventually there was a space for about six cars to park and I stopped in the shade of a tall cottonwood tree. The colours of the ditch water were simply beautiful. My photos, when I saw them later, simply did not do them justice. I did a painting there of the ditch water. It’s one of three times I’ve stopped to paint in the last year, so I can’t say it’s wonderful, but I’ll share it with you anyway:

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As I was painting, Dorothy rode up a little worse for wear, struggling with the heat. Thirty degrees Celsius is not really an advisable heat to go cycling in, in my opinion, but she is a hardy sort and rides in all weather. She’d missed the turn off that led to access Pitt Lake but she’d found another way to get there and all was well. Not counting where she had ridden through brambles, nor where a branch had whacked her on the way, she said it was quite easy. She had a large black grease spot on one leg which belied her bravado. She had fallen. Like all good athletes, she had just gotten back up again and continued on.

She’d only done twenty six of her eighty kilometer goal, so she only rested a half hour while I continued to paint and then she was off again. I stayed and painted these two sketches before I went down by the Little Red Barn fruit standing hoping to find some fresh yellow beans and some juicy blueberries for dinner.

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We met up backat the house three hours later, both within minutes of each other. I was unloading the director’s chair and the paint pots from the trunk when she called urgently to me. She stood only ten feet away on the asphalt of the round-about.

“Look at them!” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was gloating or amazed or disgusted. Besides, I couldn’t see anything, at first. And then I saw this creepy but amazing convention of little flies amassed on the ground, swarming apparently aimlessly. There were so many of them they were bumping into each other. I could just just hear the conversation down there.

“Excuse me, just, get out of my way!”

“You bumped me.” (peremptorily) “Can’t you look where you are going?”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to. We’re supposed to be going south, y’know.”
“South? Our directions were north. Did you see the queen? Some babe, don’t you think?”

“Nah. Royalty is royalty is royalty. They all look the same. Big, important, lazy, making the rest of us work for them.

And all the time these fly-like creatures are swarming, bumping into each other, squirming their way around each other like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was as if the tarmac itself was coming to a boil.

Dorothy is scientific. She’s done lots of lab experiments and observational studies. I’m a gardener at this point. At the same time as I was watching. fascinated by this horde of winged creatures which we decided were adolescent ants. I didn’t want them in my lawn and I didn’t want them in my garden, really. I started to stomp them out and got quite a few of them, they were so closely packed. They had no sense of impending danger and so the foot fell and slid across their bodies them into oblivion.

“Are you disgusted with me for squishing them?” I asked Dorothy.

“No. I’ve done enough lab experiments to know what they are all about. It must be the heat and the fact that they have graduated from their larval stage. But to see them all at once, it really is quite tremendous.
“No. I think it’s quite alright. There are certainly enough who escaped your heavy footed-ness. They won’t be missed.”

We went in after that. I cooked steak and steamed a corn cob each. I sliced a few tomatoes and a bit of cucumber and that was it. On a hot day, it’s no fun being in the kitchen. Simple is best.

Mrs. Stepford next door is alone for a week while her husband is away traveling, so she came and shared the repast with us. We had a hilarious conversation over dinner and a Tom Hanks, Julia Robert’s movie – Charlie Wilson’s war that kept us engaged for the evening.

Now, I have to go backwards to go a bit forwards.

Before Dorothy came, I was doing my usual cleaning for a guest routine. I changed the linens on the beds. I started noticing spots on the bathroom mirrors, so I wiped down the mirrors. I had to find something for lunch and for dinner. It’s blueberry harvest time so buying some of these was a must. I drove down into the farmlands that lay beside the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. It’s bucolic and redolent of new mown hay. Because of the heat, the grasses are looking golden and ripe. A second haying is in process although I don’t see any of the giant marshmallow-looking covered bales of hay I that saw earlier in spring.

I’ve got two favourite farm places I like to go. There must be at least eight, maybe ten, of these along that one stretch of road. Purewal’s blueberries are always good and ripe, cleaned of all leaves, stems and miscellaneous debris. They’ve got a giant blower that keeps the leaves and twigs afloat while the berries spill onto a conveyor belt The daughter and the grandfather sit on either side of the belt picking off the green, the tiny and the squished ones.

At two dollars a pound, you can’t lose. I bought seven pounds for me and I picked up blueberries for Dorothy as well. The farmer didn’t have enough for my large order so he excused himself and went out to the fields in his little tractor to get me another ten pounds worth, leaving me with his daughter, a child of about ten, and his father who tried to have a conversation with me, with great difficulty. I wondered if he had suffered a stroke, so difficult it was for him to form words.

When the farmer came back, I asked him what he did with the culls. They looked perfectly good for jam with a bit of cleaning up. There were little stems and twigs in amongst them. There were absolutely green ones that would have to go, but there were lots of plump soft ones and some little to mid sized ones that were perfectly good.

“Oh, those? Those go to the jam factories. I can’t sell them. They’re no good. Not firm enough. Not big enough. Green ones.”
“I’d gladly pay you for some, for making my own jam.” I offered.

“Nope. Nope. The berries are no good. If you want some, I’ll just give you some.”

I took about five pounds to try. Later in the evening as we sat watching Tom Hanks acting as a cowboy (and maverick) senator from Texas and Julia Roberts in a ghastly wig acting as the sixth richest woman from somewhere (The United State? Texas? The world?), I cleaned up the box of berries.

I’m an impatient woman. I couldn’t stand not knowing how they would work out. So I put them in a large Pyrex bowl and covered it over with a dinner plate so that if it splurted, I wouldn’t have a mess to clean up. I set the microwave for five minutes and presto, I had jam! It was incredible. A quarter of a cup of sugar stirred into the piping hot mixture and, voila, the berries were an nice sweet sauce.

At the Little Red Barn across the street, I bought some fresh peaches, apricots and green plums for dessert.

Monday morning came early. Dorothy had to get back into town to get ready for her next work day. She took her car and I took mine. We went back to Purewal’s berries and I loaded up on a ten pound box of berries of the cull variety. She bought some fresh fruits at the Red Barn for herself and went on her way. I went back home to sort out my box of free berries. With such a short cooking time, it took me just a few hours to freeze the good berries for winter and to make blueberry jam and ice cream sauce with the remainder.

It was a happy weekend and I only wish I could send you all a little taste of my blueberry surprise! That’s one of the failings of the Internet, so far. But you never know. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have thought it possible for a computer to take dictation, but they do, with voice recognition. But Cyberspace still has a bit of difficulty with sending jam. So, like the little red hen, I’ll just have to eat this up all by myself!

White Rock

April 14, 2008

“This is so built up! I don’t remember this!” Kay complained feeling somewhat disoriented by the massive growth that had developed in the little forested community that she had visited so often in her youth and then not so often afterwards. She was looking for a gallery that Mrs. Stepford had recommended to her. It was Ron’s gallery and Deveraux’s; that is, they both showed there regularly and with good success.

Driving down 152nd, there were new developments both sides of the road. There were massive housing complexes and Senior’s residential complexes and those thirty to fifty store shopping centers. All of this progress had wiped out the fields and the forests and it went on for a couple of miles.

Her tender thoughts of a cottage town with small one-storey houses, many of them beach cottages, were being ripped off memory page. Only a few of these small cottages remained, dwarfed by the pink stucco palaces and monster homes of the ‘Nineties and of the Twenty-first century.

As 152nd approached Boundary Bay, there was a three block shopping district of one-storey stores more reminiscent of Kay’s vacation days. The street curved into another street. It had one more block of three storey commercial buildings with shops on the ground floor and then Kay and Marcel were once again driving through a district of single family residential homes. It was a confusing mix of styles representing a century of habitation – beach cottages, pioneer homes, ranchers, monsters, all higgledy-piggledy as if their order had been arranged by a throw of dice.

The street sloped steeply down to the frontage road that paralleled the train tracks and the beach. At street level, Kay’s heart leapt. The stores were all touristy, most of them were eating establishments. There were at least six fish and chips establishments, several coffee purveyors, a few ice-cream specialists and a dabbling of Real Estate agencies. There were gift shops filled with tasteless tourist gizmos and hand made jewelry stands. It was just the kind of summer resort town beach trade she had remembered from twenty years ago. It felt right. It was human scale and promised good times, a day off, a lunch out, sunshine and soft breezes.

There were only two blocks of this and then the road climbed back up into waterfront homes – no longer the beach cabins of the ‘Thirties but still home-like with well-wooded lots, mature landscaping, bespeaking the aisance, the comfort of their owners.

Kay and Marcel crossed the train tracks and descended the seawall. It was a sanitized affair with a path paved in red interlocking bricks and protected from the sand and surf by a tubular iron rail fence painted in turquoise. Kay reflected that the colour had probably been chosen to disappear from view on a sunny day of summer where the sea just might have approximated the colour. This choice was somewhat hopeful, given that eight winterish months of the year, grey cloud prevailed and grey interspersed the summer months as well.

There was a breakwater layer of large sharply broken rocks that edged the descent from seawall to the beach and a smattering of people. A few with their canine companions had crossed into the nature zone. These hardy souls were strolling in amongst the low tide sand-flats rippled with that curious pattern of sand ridges. The tide was a kilometer or more out to sea. A lone sailboat with three sails hovered midway to the horizon. The view was idyllic.

Kay and Marcel chose a place where the rocks were less cumbersome to cross . Marcel leapt from one rock to another and was down in a trice. Kay picked her way cautiously, carefully testing each foothold for balance; with a delay, she too reached the sandy shore. They walked quietly. The deceptive April day had turned cold at the water’s edge. Kay shivered but did not complain. Being out, doing “nothing” was a treat to be savored.

With her ubiquitous camera, she selected a group of people and their tidal reflection for a shot; and then a seagull doubled in importance by its mirror image. It seemed as if time had been suspended. As they looked back on the shoreline, they could see that the storefronts had been preserved to look like they had long ago, but back of these were massive four-storied apartment complexes built into the steep hill that had replaced the beach cottages of yore. They all had balconies overlooking the sea and some were glassed in to protect their inhabitants from the discomfort of the sea winds.

But the cold reasserted itself. After fifteen minutes, Kay and Marcel turned back, renavigated the rocky pile back up onto the seawall.

Over a coffee at an ice cream shop, Kay and Marcel sat silently, each deep within their own thoughts. Kay was lingering in Autrefois, the Land of Time-gone-by. After a long time, she spoke.

“Father had some work in White Rock one summer. He was off surveying all day long. Mother had us three kids with her. I don’t think Lizbet was born yet. Maybe it was the year she was born because I can remember the motel we stayed in quite well. ”
“It was high on the hill, a very steep hill. Father went down it in first gear it was so steep, and we hated climbing back up it when we went home after a day at the beach. Mother would pack us a lunch and we would spend hours looking for sand dollars and digging moats for the castles we shaped out of our small bucket-filled shapes that were overturned.”

“There were crabs under rocks. There were tiny little pink shells that we collected and blue mussel ones. We took sticks and drew pictures in the sand. When the tide came in, the pictures were blurred at first and then erased altogether. The water came in warm and comfortable over the long hot sand. It was perfect for dipping, for wading, for splashing each other as we shrieked, laughed and cried as children do whilst playing at the beach.”

Kay went silent. Marcel nodded. It was a memory. There was nothing to be said.

The bottom of the coffee cup was showing when she spoke again.

“Aunt Rose lived nearby on a small side street in the forest, the second one-acre lot away from Zero Avenue. It was an adventure to go there in the summer, to stay there without our parents, to go down to Peace Portal Park and count the cars clearing the American Customs and heading for the Canadian ones. That was Otto’s idea of fun. He had us categorize them by make and he knew how to distinguish them, even then, before he worked for a car dealership. Rose’s farm house is gone now.”

“I liked the swings and the simple roundabout that you pushed until it was circling; then you hopped on and kept up the momentum with one foot still pushing on the ground until it was circling by itself without help from anyone. When it slowed, one of us would get back off and push.”
“I remember straining to go higher and higher on the swing, flying through the air until I got dizzy with it all and pleaded to stop, to come back down.”
“And there were teeter totters. Otto was heavier than anyone and he would keep me screeching in the air as his fat bottom controlled the totter and I felt teeter.”

“Rose had a glassed in sun porch with a bed in it for summer time and for guests. I was too little, ever, to be allowed to sleep there alone, but Otto did. Rose taught me to paint. She let me pick a photograph of someone else’s painting, a sailboat with reddish sails on a cerulean sea and sky and I copied it using her oils. She did large sun-filled landscapes of wooded paths that were quite good and quite popular in the ‘Forties. I wish I had one of them now. Who knows what happened to them all.”

Their cups were empty. Marcel had listened with half an ear. His mind was traveling away in other directions and they weren’t his memories. He really didn’t care but he took pains to not let it show.

They went home then, traveling back up the steep hill, stopping by the galleries Kay wanted to see, and back up through the ever-expanding commercial districts of the wealthy middle class with their corporate giants of designer clothing, mega-grocery outlets, world-franchised coffee houses and Realty offices. White Rock had become big business.

It was no use complaining. It was the way of the world to constantly develop; to tear down the small and build up and out and dig parking underground. But Kay mused about how it had been. She had enjoyed the memories and she had had a grand day. She wouldn’t likely be back again.

Snow

January 29, 2008

Not a single sound.

Reaching intently for any sound,

I hear the hum of my own body.

Only my ears producing sound

There is snow.

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The Lower Mainland is covered five inches thick in white cleansing snow. Only locals would know that the Lower Mainland means Vancouver in British Columbia, all it’s bedroom communities, all the way up the Lower Fraser Valley. One big blanket of pure white snow.

Well, really, snow has covered the province, but in the Lower Mainland, we hardly are prepared for snow and the rest of the country laughs at us, simply waiting out the snow. Schools and Universities are closed. No one goes to work if they don’t have to. The roads don’t get cleared and the driving is dangerous, especially this time since there was a hard frost and black ice on the roads last night. There was a train derailment last night and it has disrupted all commuter train traffic for many of the Valley residents.

I love these days. The snow settles as tatted lace on every fine branch. Everything looks so pristinely clean. All sounds are muffled. There is no traffic and thus, no noise.

Now that I am at my computer, I can hear the gentle clack of computer keys, rustling like an icy brook as I type away. The computer is humming a steady electronic burrrr. Suddenly. in a loud burst, the furnace will come on, fanning delicious warmth into the house, then go silent again.

Outside the window, I can see that someone drove around my circular driveway during the night because there is a single car track paralleling the curve of it, if you can say parallel for something round. Equidistant maybe would be better. The track has been filled in with snow, this constant fine dry snow that is still falling, and the imprint is soft edged and clean. There are mysteries to be solved in the tracks of this silent blanket of snow. Perhaps it was the early morning newspaper delivery.

I’m not going to clear the walkway, so the postman most likely will not come.

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I’m cheating a little. This next picture is of my neighbour’s back yard from my upstairs window. I can spend a long time just looking at such beauty as this. Perhaps it’s because it will be gone in mere days – a visual treat that we rarely get needs to be savoured. It can lift the spirits and all cares are taken away, if only for a short while.

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Wherever you are, whatever you do, may you find beauty in the world that surrounds you.

Twirling dirvishes at the wedding

January 28, 2008

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Mrs. Stepford’s son was married in August to his Glasgow sweetheart. His bridal princess wanted to be married in a castle, full regalia for the laddies, and so they did. Both father and son were got up in kilts, sporrans, white knee high socks and Ghillie brogues, those shoes that lace half way up the calf.

Mrs. Stepford missed out on the main event and so Mr. and Mrs. threw a party here in Canada for the bridal pair. It was a good gig with excellent food provided by the Stepfords but also from the parent’s friends who all wanted to excel over the Stepford’s other friends in bringing a specialty dish to feed the cast of thousands that were expected to come.

I had concocted a salad of macaroni, artichoke hearts, laced with finely chopped onions and celery to give it a bit of crunch, then topped with olives and parsley for decoration. I also had cooked a large pre-sliced ham since Mrs. S. didn’t have room in her oven for all three in hers.

I arrived at the reception on time, but barely. I’d had a migraine in the morning and nevertheless chopped a ton of red pepper, cilantro, parsley and green onions for her salads. Mid afternoon I took a nap and arose quite refreshed; but I was late. I had to hurry to get dressed, package up the things I was bringing and get myself out the door.

It was snowing again and I donned my boots for warmth and walking safety – better than just going in my slippery-bottomed leather shoes. Much to my dismay when I arrived, food parcels in hand, I had forgotten the shoes. The locale not being far from home, I returned home to pick up my shoes. This dithering is just an aftermath of migraine days so I don’t worry about it too much. I had realized that the setting up at the hall was well underway and they really didn’t need me for fifteen minutes.

I arrived back at the hall, dancing shoes in hand and proceeded to unwrap – snow encrusted umbrella, Sunday going-to meeting fur lined coat; warm, flat-heeled boots, only to discover to my mortification, that I had neglected to put stockings on. I was still wearing red leg warmers that peeked out with a frill at the bottom of my dress pants and below that bright pastel sky-blue fuzzy bed socks! God forbid that anyone should see this atrocious get up that I wear at home to keep myself warm. It was as if I had turned up in my pyjamas for this prestigious event!

Rapidly I removed the offending pastel blue socks and stuffed them in my coat pocket. I stuffed my now bare feet into my dancing shoes and looked around somewhat guiltily to see if anyone had noticed. It seemed not. Good grief! What was I going to come up with next!

Wedding feasts are wedding feasts; but wedding reception music differs widely and we were in for a treat. Both father and son belong to rock bands, father on bass guitar and son as lead singer. There are also a drummer, a lead guitarist who sings as well. As Stepford son belted out “I can’t get no satisfaction” I wasn’t particularly listening (my tastes run to Classical) and at the end of it and I breathed a sigh of relief that the loudness had diminished, I was quite surprised not to see Mick Jagger on stage, it was so well done. There were several other like tunes, recognizable, excellently played, excellently sung. For a home grown band, it was sounding mightily professional.

Stepford son had been hoping to get the entire invitational list up and dancing, but no one seemed ready to budge after having scarfed a wonderful dinner and several rounds of joy juice. That is, except three little girls who were high on coming to an adult party.

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By looks, I would imagine that the youngest was six or seven, the next one eight and the last one about ten. The only other “child” that was there was Stepford son’s cousin.

I said to this lovely shy girl, “What grade are you in now? Twelve?”

She looked a little frightened at my question and then a bit bit pleased, then enormously proud that I had taken her for an adult. She was only thirteen and in Grade Eight, she informed me. She comported herself so well that it was easy to make such a mistake.

The little girls seemed not to have any inhibitions about dancing. At first, I had only sensed that there was motion on the dance floor. Someone was up there but not worth paying much attention. Then a flash of red racing over the dance floor began to flicker regularly in my peripheral vision and I took my camera with me to see if I could capture the spellbinding dancing that was going on.

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Dance after dance, these little sprites were using up the floor space, sometimes running in circular motion, sometimes twirling; arabesques, pliés, petits jetés, pas de chats and pirouettes. They did not fatigue. There was boundless energy. The little red-skirted child twirled and twirled, then varied her choreography with some runs and graceful flailing of arms.

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The band eventually tired and the children continued to move about, dancing, wishing that music would recommence. Their parents gathered them around and began to say their goodbyes.

I came up and said both to parents, “That’s quite a dancer you’ve got there! Youthful energy! Don’t you wish we still had a fraction of that?”

And then to the little miss I said, ” Are you going to be a ballerina when you grow up?”

She drew her self up in the tallest reproval she could muster, indignant at my comment.

“I’m already am a ballerina!”

How true she was. She knew herself. Dancing, she was a human bundle of self confidence.

Not one of my pictures turned out. The digital camera simply could not focus on such a twirling dirvish. Nevertheless, there is a certain je ne sais pas quoi in these images of speed and innocent artistry.

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