Sunday, May 31, 2009

Original Poetry Sunday, Vol. 1, No. 3


Walking there again,
stepping in my own steps,
wondering who that was who
walked so surely in two-inch heels
through a life in sharp
relief, before the edges blurred

and the blossoms faded into sepia.
Trying to remember the certainty and
feeling only a kind of bemusement.
A girl glides past on a motorcycle,
silently. She wears a helmet and
a leather jacket, floral skirt and sandals

She was the one who wanted to hear
Blackbird played at her funeral,
who sang "You were only waiting "
absently, as if rehearsing. Her
hair tries to blow free of its
constraints. Her legs are tanned.

On every shelf in every cupboard,
there is a poem. Open any drawer,
and they spill out like her hair
when she tugged at the comb that
bound it. She walks on the edges of
things. Even typing that is again.

Sorry to be late this morning. Life happened. I must send you quickly over to Yes Is Red, where René has posted another one of her miraculous poems. Meanwhile, I'm going to Robert Frost's Banjo to see what John has to say today, and to Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes, because Kat said yesterday that she'd be joining in.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I figured it out!

Remember when I said I had a video on my camera, but I couldn't figure out how to upload it to Blogger? What I did today was upload it to YouTube, and from YouTube to here. I trust it works, as it is now visible (to me, anyway) on YouTube. The video is nothing special - just an experiment - but it has sound. Wooooooo.

Friday Shoot-Out - Water

This is my first post to the Friday Shoot-Out series, and the topic turns out to be a perfect one for getting my feet wet. As it were.

Yesterday, I had to go to the north end to shop at the Superstore, so on the way home, I stopped to photograph just a few particularly pretty places. The photographs are in the slide show below, which I uploaded onto YouTube. I also added a couple of shots I had taken over the past few weeks - two, I think, of the harbour, and one of a ditch alongside the trail where I take many walks.

Nanaimo is located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Thus, we face the Strait of Georgia. From our shore, we can see the Sunshine Coast on the mainland (That's not far north of Vancouver.) The strait is the biggest piece of water we have, but if I were to photograph all of our watery bits, you would be here all day, looking at pictures, so I'll just offer a sampling.

Brannen Lake is very near the Superstore. It is very popular with boaters. On the shore opposite where I stood to take the photograph, there is a campground, and there is some farmland. There is also the Nanaimo Correctional Centre. I'm not sure whose bright idea it was to put a prison alongside the lake, but there you go. If I'm sent to prison, I want a cell with a lake view.

Long Lake is ten minutes south of Brannen Lake, right beside the old highway. It features a canoeing club. A hotel called Inn on Long Lake sits on its northern shore, and to the east is a neighbourhood called Long Lake Heights. Many of the houses there have private docks. They also have nightmarish driveways, but I think I would deal with that, for a chance to live beside the lake. I took a picture of the Canoeing Club with its mural by Jeff King. Mr. King's murals, many of which depict marine wildlife, are a delightful part of our cityscape. Click here for his website.

If you go up Brechin Road from the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal and turn right onto Departure Bay Road, you will see a church on your right, and beside the church, if you look carefully, you will see the entrance to a park/wildflower sanctuary. The park features a long, winding staircase through a cool, damp ravine. In the middle of the descent, you'll come upon the waterfall. I hadn't been down there in years, but when I was working my way home, taking pictures, I remembered the waterfall and stopped by to revisit it. The stairs were much harder to climb than they used to be, but the waterfall was just as charming as ever.

Here is the video. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Theme Thursday: Suitcase

I once knew a man who flew to England and back several times a year. Unfortunately, he was more than a little absent-minded. His family delighted in telling me (and anyone who would listen) about the time that my friend, freshly arrived for a two-week stay in England, opened his suitcase at a London hotel and found nothing in it but books and a trombone. From then on, his efficient wife packed for both of them.

There have certainly been many suitcases in my life. I have moved a lot, and I have traveled a lot. As time goes by, I find that my suitcases grow fewer - and smaller. A few years ago, I even managed to pack for three weeks in England while staying within the 25-lb. luggage allowance of one of our local float plane operators. The laptop I was using at the time weighed ten pounds, so that left fifteen pounds for all my clothing and toiletries.

But if I did want to give my biceps a little more exercise (and pay lots of excess baggage charges), I could add this item to my luggage. I could use it for getting around in airports, and it would be really handy to have along on our narrowboat journeys. Presenting: the Suitcase Bike. I think it's a great idea.

Or - I suppose I could bring along a suitcase sturdy enough to double as furniture, like the one Clark Gable used in "It Happened One Night". Look at that monster. Remember when suitcases were as big as armchairs and didn't have wheels?

That brings me to the end of my presentation. I will leave you with a poignant song - the first image, in fact, that came to my mind when I saw that the theme for this Thursday would be suitcase. From Evita, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall".

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The things I learn by watching Jeopardy -

Woo-hoo - I've got myself a goal.I want to look like Helen Mirren. Not Helen Mirren as The Queen. Helen Mirren as the nearly 63-year old bathing beauty photographed on the beach in Italy. Click here.

How timely, this article. I'm just about to launch (officially) into a 12-week fitness/weight loss program, at the urging of Joshilyn Jackson (Faster Than Kudzu). Somehow, I don't think I'll be giving Helen any competition at the end of the program, but I will certainly give it a try. I will not, let me state categorically, be buying a bikini.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blue Heron Park

As if it weren't enough to have a 40-minute Nordic walk this morning while Robin rode his bicycle, I got to spend an hour at this gorgeous park in the afternoon.

Blue Heron Park is about twenty-five minutes from home, to the south of Nanaimo. We were fortunate to arrive while the tide was still fairly low, which allowed for walking on the rocky shelf. Robin took advantage of that by walking as far as he could before the shelf ran out. Meanwhile, I played with my camera. I even managed to take a short film of the water lapping on the rocks, but now I can't figure out how to post it, so I think I'll settle for stills.

When we first arrived, there was one man walking along the shore, but the afternoon was so beautiful, more people soon arrived, and by the time we left (all of us, because a cool wind came up), there were nine of us on the rocks. A crowd!

I couldn't decide which was more fascinating - the shore itself, or the driftwood that lay on the rocks. I wrote a couple of quick haikus:

Curious wasps taste
the ends of logs washed ashore -
A briny delight.


At Blue Heron Park,
children kick balls on the rocks -
intertidal life.

and I sat on a log, meditating, for a few minutes - but mostly, I wandered around with my camera, seeing what I could see.

Every year, the beauty of this island by sunlight seems to sneak up on me and amaze me all over again. What a beautiful day.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Look at what I just found. I have been awarded an award by the fabulously Mad Aunt Bernard. My goodness - I didn't even know Aunt B. read my blog. The world is so full of a number of things..Anyway, I'm going to display my pretty new shiny thing right over there on the sidebar, where I can admire it. It's the "Your Blog is Fabulous" award - the one with the picture of the slim young thing in the sheath dress. Doesn't she look just like me? Thank you, Auntie!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Second Childhood

I dreamed of life on the underside of leaves and in the cavernous depths of half-blown tulips whose velvet petals dyed the sunlight red. The redness stained the skin of the slim young girl whose deep brown hair hung past her shoulders in gentle waves. It glowed from the walls of her soft house. There was yellow there, too, that dusted everything. It was more than the girl could do to keep up with the yellowness. She swept and dusted from morning to night, and still the yellowness was there, filtering the red sunlight and turning it to gold.

It has been many years since I first dreamed about that girl - daydreamed, really. I was taken by the notion of very small lives - a whole world in miniature - that I could watch quietly, holding my breath, sitting very, very still - a world unaware of me and the land of giants in which I lived. I read about Thumbelina, and I saw the cartoons that came with my father's newspaper. There was one strip that chronicled the lives of a village of tiny people. I am tempted to say that it was the Teenie Weenies, but there is one thing I remember about the little people I read about, that I don't see in references to the Teenie Weenies. The little people I remember wore acorn cap hats, and they lived in a tree (an oak tree, I must assume). I have searched and searched, but I cannot find any reference to them. Maybe I've rewritten the story in my memory, moved the Teenie Weenies from their village under the rosebush up into the giddy heights of an oak tree. I don't know.

The issue of Teenie Weenies and Thumbelina (and Tom Thumb) has come up again because of my recent decision to embark on a second childhood. I know that the term second childhood has
connotations of dementia, and that's not something I'm eager to experience. What I am looking for, instead, is a door back into that world of imagination that has receded over the years, buried under an avalanche of everyday concerns and self-consciousness. I've tried to jump start the process by bringing Wilson and Steinbeck into my life, and that has been very helpful. Wilson, in particular, has helped me learn to play again. Still, I am inhibited.

Thus it was a special pleasure to attend the poetry reading given by MaryAnn Moore at the library on Sunday. Among the poems Ms. Moore read was this one:

Frida's Advice

Mary Ann Moore

Ask me why people are so fascinated with
my crazy life, mi vida loca,
and I answer:
it's the combination of sinister blues, yellow love, gangrene
the difference they see as exotic,
my body,
of work
the flame in the pain.

I was in anguish and
the smell of the paint, the brush
in my hand -
transcended the pain.

I say:
Go to the centre of the fire.
See what's there.
It may not be as hot as you think.
It may be blue cold.

Write in bed.
Surround yourself with what matters.
Explore red.
Come to Mexico.
Read Octavio Paz.
Free yourself from the still

As for my pain
it was always there
but an angel with cut-lace wings kept me breathing
kept me examining every fissure
on my face,
every symbol of my lineage
every radical expression
left in me.

I will write to you with my eyes, always.

Ms. Moore invited a special guest, dancer Holly Bright, who danced to two of the poems. The emotional quality of the poetry was tremendously enhanced by the addition of this visual dimension. I commented that the other day - was that over a week ago? I was frustrated, trying to use a poem to express how I felt about the young man weeping at Departure Bay. I remember saying at the time that I wished I could get up and dance - that that might help me to express the whole thing - not just the part I could access verbally. Now, I watched that happen.

In the discussion that followed the reading, Ms. Moore suggested that when we are writing poetry, (and I think I could extend that to prose, as well) we should consider getting up and dancing. She suggested that not just dance, but any kind of movement, could help to unlock the feelings we are trying to express.

So here I'll be, this week, working on a poem for Original Poetry Sunday - dancing around the living room, twirling Wilson (and even Steinbeck, if he'll go along with it), dancing into the world of that little girl that saw tiny people in the flowers and under the leaves. I promise not to post a video.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Original Poetry Sunday - Vol. I, No. 2

My submission for this week attempts nothing more ambitious than to capture a moment - although, come to think of it, we try to do that all the time, don't we? Ask Kodak. And somehow, time just keeps flying by, heedless of our efforts to stop it.


Still Life: Summer

by Sandra Leigh

A child perches on the edge
of a grey-worn wooden porch.
She is five, and her hair
moves in the breeze
like a field of ripe wheat.
One tanned leg is bent tight,
close to her body,
and she rests her head
upon her knee.
Her bangs shade eyes
as green as the leaves
of the Shasta daisies
that bloom against
the grey weathered wood.
A lock of pale hair
tumbles free
and catches on her lip.
She blows idly
at the errant strand,
breeze on breeze,
then rests her head again,
arms tightly hugging her leg.
She looks down at her toes,
splayed pink against
the grey-worn porch,
toenails like tiny shells.
Her other leg hangs free.
It swings back and forth,
back and forth,
brushing the stems
of the Shasta daisies
that front the wooden porch.
The stems are cool, and
the deep green leaves whisper
against her skin.
In the distance, a dog barks,
startled by the noise
of playing cards
on the wheels
of a passing bicycle.
Near at hand, a bumblebee
uncovers the secrets
of a Shasta daisy.
The child splays her toes again,
dreams of bright polish
pink like candy floss,
taps her toes one by one
against the weathered porch,


Obviously, I did not take ReadWritePoem up on its challenge - to use rhyme this week. It's just not me, or I just don't try hard enough. I'm not sure. Actually, I'm a little uncomfortable even listening to rhymed poetry, much less writing it - unless the rhyme is very sneaky. My apologies to centuries of masterful poets who used (and use) rhyme very effectively. I am defeated.

This week's prompt, though, should be a little more approachable. Change. We are asked to write about change. I can do that, I think.

I did listen to Joe Milford's Poetry Show - at least part of it - the other day. I had to abandon it in order to attend WordStorm, which takes place once a month downstairs from Acme Foods. As it turned out, I didn't regret missing the radio show (I trust I can find it again in the archives) because WordStorm was great. The featured poets were Susan Stenson and John Beaton. There was an open mike at the beginning, but as a first-time attender, I didn't feel comfortable taking anything to read. When the group starts up again in September, (of course, I found it just in time for it to break for the summer) I'll be there with bells on. Meanwhile, I found out about a few other poetry-related events here and in nearby towns. The first is a reading by MaryAnn Moore at the central library tomorrow.

The radio show that I kinda sorta heard featured Alan Shapiro. I am now trying to remember the line that he talked about, and I just hope I get it right. It seems that he overheard this line while he was eating dinner in a restaurant. A married couple at a nearby table were arguing, and everybody was trying not to overhear the argument, but everybody did. Shapiro tried for years to write just the right poem for the line, and he finally did it. He read the poem on the radio broadcast. I haven't been able to find it online yet, but I'll keep on trying.

The line, though, (if memory serves) was this one, spoken by the woman to her husband:

"It isn't the egg rolls, Harry. It's the last ten years."


Poem and photograph © Sandra Leigh 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Holy smoke! It's almost tomorrow!

I did intend to write a post today, truly I did, but events overtook me. Remember those Nordic walking poles I tried out at Florencia Bay? I decided to give them another try, this time at Piper's Lagoon in Nanaimo. I took my camera along and of course ended up doing more clicking of the shutter than walking. When the little battery icon on my camera started flashing, I finally put the camera away and did some serious walking - or as serious as it can get at the lagoon, which features a path that no sooner gets started than
it runs into an enormous, tree-topped rock,
thus making it a little difficult to get any kind of stride going. I did my best, and then I scurried around the town, running errands, finally ducking into Starbucks to have a cup of coffee and work on the poem I'm submitting for Original Poetry Sunday tomorrow.

When I got home, it occurred to me that I really should go online and check out a site that would confirm that I was using the walking poles correctly. What I found was a site that told me I was doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. Oh, dear. Back to square one.

Now - the reason I really wanted to post today was to thank Angie Ledbetter (Gumbo Writer) for taking time in the middle of her hectic life to host a writing contest last week. I entered the contest. I didn't win, but I did earn a rating of four crawfish (out of five), and my piece came back with the cyber equivalent of red pencil marks - most of them very positive. The experience was both humbling and exciting. |Thank you, Angie, and thank you as well to Nannette Croce of zine writer, who joined Angie in judging the entries.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Road Trip!

Bright and early this morning (though not until after I had done my five minutes' meditation) we set out for the west coast of the island. In the 41 kilometers between Tofino in the north and Ucluelet in the south, lies Pacific Rim National Park. We used to take the three-hour drive to Pacific Rim several times a year, but since we started traveling to Mexico and England, our trips to the park have been few and far between. Now we find that things change between our visits. This time, the Tseshaht Band has built a new, cedar plank office building outside Port Alberni. Parts of the road have been repaired; others have deteriorated. (Subsidence is a major problem on the twisting, treacherous road between Port Alberni and the coast.) The scenery is still beautiful, though, so I decided to 'write' this post as a photo essay. I hope you enjoy it.


Two hours away from home, we arrive at The Breakfast Spot. Once we make our way down the overgrown track that passes for a road into the Breakfast Spot (and I'll never know how we found it in the first place), I wonder why we want to go on to the beach at all. I could happily spend the day walking around on the rocks, staring into the water. Upstream, the water is glassy, and the rocks underwater glisten in the sunlight. We unpack our brunch, sit on a rocky shelf beside the waterfall and look downstream, where the water boils down a multitude of cataracts, then rushes off toward the sea.

If the laneway that leads into the Breakfast Spot is narrow, the one going out is more so. When Robin suggests we should get going (sigh), I comment that I hope we will be able to get through. We can't. First, there is a broken limb hanging at windshield height. Robin moves that and proceeds while we listen to the screech of smaller branches against our car's paint job. Then there is a whole tree, fallen right across our path. There is no moving that. I get out of the car and check. Then I follow (behind, in front of) the car while Robin backs it down and down the lane to the clearing where we parked. I suppose that if we didn't take our Buick to places meant for Jeeps, these things wouldn't happen.

I climb in, and we retrace our steps, as it were, using the in door to go out. We get back onto the main road, and this is what we see ahead.

That's when I remember that going on to the coast is, in fact, a good idea. One remarkable thing about traveling through this area is that there's really nothing around us but trees and water. This is what the screen on Maggie, our GPS, shows:

Us, our road, our destination. No towns, no side roads.

Of course, that means it's really hard to get lost. We drive for another hour, and finally, we're at Florencia Bay, off the Wickaninnish Road in the park. Our first view of the ocean is from a viewing point at the top of the cliff.

I've brought my new Nordic walking poles, which I intend to use for the first time on the beach. (This turns out to be a good idea. I like these things.) Donning my backpack, strapping my camera case around my waist, carrying my poles, I follow Robin down a very impressive flight(s) of stairs to the beach.

Down and down and down, until we clamber out into the sunlight,

and there we stay for the next three hours, walking, making little pointy holes in the beach with our walking poles, looking for jetsam (Robin), reading Joshilyn Jackson's The Girl Who Stopped Swimming while sitting in the sand and leaning on a log (me).

I take big, spectacular shots, but really, what I look at while I'm walking the beach are things like this.

And this.

And this.

Three hours later, we leave the park and drive back to Nanaimo, wishing it weren't quite such a long and winding road, but knowing that if it weren't, we would never be able to experience the beautiful, palpable solitude that this beach gives us.

On the way home, we take note of this one last special place, the mountain we call Witch-i-poo because of its pointed hat. We have no idea what the mountain's real name is, but we're very fond of it. We can't even recognize it on the westward journey, but on the way home, it's hard to miss.

So -what do you think of the new header? Good? Bad?Yes? No?
If today is Friday,

then it must be time for a relaxing day, a day to rest and regroup after the frenzy of Theme Thursday.

Over the past few years, I've discovered that for me, the best way to relax is to sit in silence and meditate.

Let me rephrase that. The best way for me to relax is to sit in silence. The sitting is the meditation. Although some people find it helpful to look at an image - perhaps a candle or a mandala -

or listen to music - especially music like this - I don't. I enjoy the music, but I don't find it useful for meditation.

When I'm faithful to my meditation practice, every other part of my life seems a little easier to deal with. When I neglect it, I manage for a while, but little by little, the chaos takes over. It may be weeks or months before the situation reaches critical mass. Then I slap the side of my head in that universal gesture that means "Duh!" and I start meditating again. I start with five minutes, first thing in the morning, and I work my way up to half an hour.

I set this post to publish itself at 4:00 a.m. PDT, so when I get up, instead of heading here to see what's going on in the Land of Blog, I'll sit down, wrap a shawl around my legs for warmth, and stay there for five minutes. Baby steps.

I haven't had any moments of mystical transport, no visions. I don't expect I will. What will happen is that every morning, for as long as my resolve holds, I will sit still for a few minutes, eyes half-closed, and notice my breath come in, notice it go out.

Then I'll come here to see what's happening in the Land of Blog.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Theme Thursday - Vacation

Picture it: The week after Christmas, some time in the 1980s - a last-minute holiday package, a mother and young son traveling together to South Padre Island, Texas.

It was snowing in Toronto when we left, but we didn't care. We were on our way to the warm. We boarded the plane and found ourselves seated across from a very jolly woman - let's call her Helene - with a purse full of little airplane booze bottles. She was traveling with her friend Carol, but they hadn't been able to get seats together. Carol was at the other end of the plane. Helene was not prepared to wait for the flight attendants to make their rounds, passing out drinks. She rummaged through her purse, brought out a handful of bottles, and passed them out to all the passengers in her vicinity.

When at last we were in the air and the flight attendant came by, Helene buttonholed her.

"Can you do me a big favour?" she asked.

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, do you see my friend Carol back there? The blonde in the aisle seat - the one who's laughing?"


"Well, it's Carol's birthday. Do you think you could ask the captain to wish her a happy birthday over the PA?"

"I'll see what I can do."

A few minutes later, the captain's voice filled the cabin. He thanked us all for trusting ourselves to him to fly the plane, then said,

"I hear we have a birthday girl aboard. On behalf of (mumble mumble) Airlines, Carol, I want to wish you a happy birthday. The flight attendants will be bringing you a complimentary champagne."

"That was nice of you," I said to Helene.

"Oh, I do that every time we fly together. It isn't really her birthday."

That was Helene. She was incorrigible. Over the next week, I came to appreciate that quality, as watching Helene's antics was pretty well all there was to do on South Padre Island. (I should point out that this was a long time ago. I passed through there a couple of years ago, and found that the place was buzzing.)

Anyway, back to the eighties. We stopped for fuel in Memphis, then proceeded to Harlingen, Texas, where we were picked up and driven by bus to our very unsatisfactory hotel on South Padre.

When we landed at Harlingen, the temperature was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was raining. During the week that we were in Texas, the temperature never went any higher, and it never stopped raining. We spent most of our days in the hotel, which didn't even have a bar. Some time in the afternoon, while my son played chess with the young daughter of another passenger (or so they said), we three women - Helene, Carol and I - would scamper along the beach in the near-freezing rain, trying not to step on any of the thousands of dead jellyfish littering the sand. Ten minutes or so down the beach, we would pop into the Hilton for a drink. One day, having had an extra drink, Helene donned three green garbage bags (one for each leg, one more for the rest of her) and hitch-hiked home. Carol and I opted to make the beach run, figuring Helene would end up being carted off to a padded room. She did make it home, though.

The high point of the vacation was Wednesday, when we all boarded a bus and went to Matamoros, across the border in Mexico. I bought a serape at the market, so I could finally get a little warm. I still have the serape. The day was made really special by the fact that it wasn't raining in Matamoros. The rain was waiting for us, back in Texas.

At last, it ended. The holiday, not the rain. Come Saturday morning, we all had to be out of our rooms by 11 o'clock - but the bus back to Harlingen wasn't coming for us until 3:00 in the afternoon, so for four hours, we all milled around in the lobby. From time to time, somebody would pop out to the local liquor store and buy a very large bottle of something or other (mostly gin), upon which the assembled inmates would leap with an eagerness born of desperation. I heard somebody say:

"They're going to let us go home today."

And they did. Shortly after we got back to Canada, (We did not kiss the ground when we got home, but only because our lips would have frozen to it) there was a story in the papers about a religious cult in Matamoros that had been kidnapping children and killing them. My son capped the whole vacation experience with his request:

"Mom, the next time we go on holiday, can we go somewhere that they don't practise human sacrifice?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today, I got caught in the rain.

It was supposed to be a forty-minute walk on the Nanaimo Parkway Walkway, but it was cut short at twenty minutes when the rain began to fall. I huddled in a little shelter and waited for Robin to pick me up. I felt a little silly, because as soon as I made the call, the rain stopped. However, by the time we got home, it was raining in earnest, so I felt better. I wasn't wearing rain gear, and that would have made for a cold and soggy hike.

Just as I got home, the CBC played "I Have Loved Flowers That Fade", a part song by Gerald Finzi. It is a setting of the poem by Robert Bridges.

I rushed inside to find the piece on YouTube, because I really, really wanted you to hear it - but it sn't there. Drat. I did find the poem, though. I found it here.

I Have Loved Flowers That Fade

by Robert Bridges

I have loved flowers that fade,
Within whose magic tents
Rich hues have marriage made
With sweet unmemoried scents:
A honeymoon delight,
A joy of love at sight,
That ages in an hour
My song be like a flower!.

I have loved airs that die
Before their charm is writ
Along a liquid sky
Trembling to welcome it.
Notes, that with pulse of fire
Proclaim the spirit's desire,
Then die, and are nowhere
My song be like an air!.

Die, song, die like a breath,
And wither as a bloom;
Fear not a flowery death,
Dread not an airy tomb!
Fly with delight, fly hence!
'Twas thine love's tender sense
To feast; now on thy bier
Beauty shall shed a tear.

The poem is lovely, but the poem set to music by Finzi and sung by Musica Intima was breathtaking. I proceeded to scour YouTube for more Finzi or more Bridges, and I did find lots more Finzi - mostly recordings of his well-known "My Spirit Sang All Day", which is also a setting of a Bridges poem. This version features Chanticleer.

To backtrack a little, yesterday's trip to Victoria was fun but frustrating. We ran seven errands here in Nanaimo before we left town, so by the time we got to Victoria it was well after noon and we were famished.
We picked up our friend Clarence and went to Spinnakers, where we shared a delicious lunch. I am proud to say that I did not succumb to the temptation presented as soon as you walk in the door, a case full of hand-made chocolates that include the candy of my dreams - dark chocolate with black pepper and lavender, which sounds awful and tastes heavenly. There's another case off to the right, which contains the artisan bread that Spinnakers also makes. It's an evil place, I tell you.
Then we went back to Clarence's place, because he had a collection of photos to show us. His father had a long navy career, and the photos document that career. It was all very interesting, and it included some pre-WWII and WWII snapshots (of people, not ships) that I found fascinating. Unfortunately, by the time we finished looking at pictures and documents, we had to rush to get out of Victoria before rush hour. I didn't get a chance to see the things that I love best about Victoria. I love to walk on the sea wall at Dallas Road, to wander the gardens at the Provincial Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, and to stop in at Starfish Glassworks to watch the glass blowers at work. All that will have to wait for our next trip, I'm afraid. We did manage to beat the rush, though, so I have no complaint (not any more. I complained bitterly at the time!)

The sun is out again, so I think I'll prune some of the shrubs outside the house, else the sunshine will never reach our windows.

n.b. This is my second attempt to post this message. The first one got garbled in the translation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ready, Fire, Aim!


I'm on my way to Victoria for the day. I guess it's not all that sudden. We've said we would make the trip one of these days when the sun was out and we were both free - but today, all of a sudden, the sun is shining in spite of the forecast of rain, so we are going to make a run for it.

Yesterday, I composed a haiku for the Pet Haiku contest at, and I submitted it. The deadline is May 22, so I wanted to make sure I didn't wait too long. I should have waited at least long enough to read the rules. Casually thumbing through the site after I had tweeted my entry, I found the rules, read them, and saw that I'm not eligible to enter the contest, because I don't live in the continental U.S. Well, damn. I can be in the continental U.S. within three hours - less, if I really hurry. Anyway, I sent SFGate an e-mail asking them to withdraw my little effort, which was this:

So there's your fair warning. Don't enter the contest if you don't live in the U.S. - but if you are eligible, and you want to enter, you'd best do it quickly.

Anyway, I'm off. I'll be strolling along the Dallas Road shoreline, having a look at the flowers in Beacon Hill Park, and generally having fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

For René

This is the Elizabeth Bishop poem that I posted in the sidebar yesterday. I'm glad you wanted to see it again, because it's one I would like to keep track of.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop
Palabras Como Rosas

Last night, I came home from dinner at the Fox and Hounds, and found that John Hayes of Robert Frost's Banjo had bestowed another award on me, the Palabras Como Rosas. I am very flattered. Here's what John had to say:

Amazing Voyages of the Turtle: When I awarded Sandra Leigh the One Lovely Blog Award, I was kind of shocked that someone who’s been blogging for quite some time & at such a consistently high level had only been picked for one of these. So to remedy that, here’s the Palabra Como Rosas, which richly fits the excellent writing at Amazing Voyages of the Turtle. Sandra also was the creator of Original Poetry Sunday, a grand idea that I believe will attract more folks as time goes by. In addition to my contribution, please check out Sandra’s poem here & René Wing’s poem here; René’s blog Yes is Red is also very much worth repeated visits.

I want to join John in recommending René's beautiful blog, Yes Is Red. I am honoured to be numbered in such company. René posted two poems yesterday for the inaugural edition of Original Poetry Sunday, and their beauty left me nearly speechless.

I am particularly grateful for the award because it came at a time when I was feeling very insecure about my writing. I needed a boost, and I got it. Isn't it great when that happens? I've given Palabras Como Rosas a place of honour on the sidebar. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to hire someone to come in and dust my trophies (because I know I'll never get around to it!)

While that was happening, I had a lovely dinner (spinach/feta quiche, Caesar salad - how quintessentially British!) at the pub. I'm hoping that you can click on this image (with the Union Jack) to enlarge it and read it. Just in case you can't, though, this is my favourite line:

"All food is cooked to order, so please be patient if we are busy - Our chef is getting on a bit and his wife nags him enough as it is! Our son works weekday lunches and some nights, so service may be a bit quicker then! If you are in a hurry, please let us know...We'll do our best."

It's a delightfully friendly place to eat, and the food is good. As a non-drinker, I miss out on some of the pubbishness, but they do have a few non-alcoholic drinks for the likes of me, and everybody else gets to choose from a wide variety of beers and ales, both British and local.

So this is the skinny - If you're ever in Nanaimo, The Fox and Hounds is one place you shouldn't miss. (It's hard to miss, actually. It's the place with the British phone booth out front.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

At Departure Bay, Part II

by Sandra Leigh

To the young man who cried:

I saw you, and my heart broke. Not knowing where to look, not wanting to intrude,
I looked everywhere but into your eyes, where the pain shone, but your eyes insisted, called out,
drew me like a leaf drawn into a fast-moving stream. I was a stranger – did you know that? What could I do for you? I've never been in your world. I don't know my way. I'll be lost. Please. You're frightening me. If you weren't disintegrating, if you were yourself, you would see that. I can not help you. I wish I could help you.

I came home, then, and tried to write it down, tried to make it real on my screen, on paper, make it real to someone who wasn't there, who didn't see you, whose heart didn't break, but it was words on the page, black on white, a picture in two dimensions, and it wasn't good enough for you. I couldn't see your eyes there, the hollow, grinding sorrow, the silent cry for help, nor hear you gasp for air and feel the muscles tighten in your arms as you tried so hard to hold yourself together by sheer force of will and then gave up, gave yourself to hopeless, fathomless grief.

I hope she was able to comfort you, that girl with the hair like cornsilk. I hope her heart broke just enough to let your grief in, to warm it and soothe it and give it back before it broke her completely. I hope that when it came back to you, you could find a place for it, a place where it would lose its power to destroy you, because that is what was happening there, at Departure Bay.

I was not happy with the poem I posted this morning. I'm told I'm being too hard on myself, which would not surprise me - but at the same time, I knew how much more I was trying to say than I could say in that poem, and my inadequacy made me want to throw something. I've come back to write down more of what I was feeling, so that if this is the poem I'm to write for the next week or month or year or more, I'll have a somewhat more faithful rendering of the experience to fall back on. If you've gotten this far, thank you for your patience. I shall try not to bleed all over the blog again, at least for a while.

Hear ye! Hear ye! It's Original Poetry Sunday, Vol. 1, No. 1.


At Departure Bay

by Sandra Leigh

Yesterday, on a bench beside the sea,
in a woman's arms, a man wept quietly

his eyes betrayed his ruined heart,
her hair lay over him like cornsilk

(walking quickly,
eyes averted ,
guarded fragile hearts)

her hands practised helplessness
his eyes were wounds that love left

Yesterday, on a bench beside the sea,
in a woman's arms, a man wept quietly


Here's Diana Krall's take on the same subject. (She's a Nanaimo girl.)

Fiddling online - well, Twittering, actually, I found my way to a site that's a perfect way to launch our new venture - It's the first annual Pet Haiku Contest over at If you feel inclined to exercise your haiku muscles this week, and you're interested in winning a prize, that's the place to be. The contest ends May 22, so we have to write fast.

I also discovered something called The Joe Milford Poetry Show. I've linked to one of his shows, in which he interviews a poet named Lisa Forrest, founder of the Rooftop Poetry Club at SUNY in Buffalo. I'll be listening to the shows and reporting back.

And - ReadWritePoem wants us to put a little rhyme in our lives this week. Click here for more information.

That's all the news. Now I'm going to go visiting, in search of Original Poetry.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

Last night was such fun. I met Robin and our friends Jane and Franco for dinner at Acme Foods - which is really called Acme Rib and Sushi these days, but nobody pays attention to that. Remember J&F? We spent the day with them in Laughlin, Nevada/Bullhead, Arizona a couple of months ago. They have since returned from their holiday as well, and have settled back into real life.

Places in Nanaimo tend to change their names a lot, but the residents just call things by whatever name appeals - the old, the new, one everybody else has forgotten - It all works. In this case, Acme Whatever occupies a spot where there was once a restaurant called Filthy McNasty's. Everybody calls the place Acme.

I'm posting a photo of part of Acme's interior, and also a shot taken from out front, looking across the old highway and up Commercial Street.

Every second Friday is Frugal Friday at Acme, when all the food is half-price. This time, Frugal Friday coincided with a performance of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers at
the Bailey Theatre, so we made a night of it.

After dinner, we went over to Jane and Franco's for an hour or so, and I took a picture of their pink dogwood. I'm using it over in the sidebar. In the last few days, I've taken photos of several of our Spring blossoms, to hold me over until next year. They will take turns gracing the top of the Sandra's Poetic Picks segment.

The play was very funny. It was dated, but the audience was old enough that it brought back fond memories, so the theatre rang with laughter for a couple of hours.

Robin hated it, though, so I ran him home after the first act, then scurried back to catch the rest of the play. Note to self: Don't drag Robin to Neil Simon plays.

Theatre season is quickly drawing to a close, but I'm hoping to find one or two more performances. We are within easy driving distance of several other communities that have theatre groups, so with a little extra effort, we may be able to prolong the fun.

Okay. Tomorrow is Original Poetry Sunday. That means I have to get busy and compose a poem - or unearth one that's sitting in my Open Office file.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'll be gone all day, then off to dinner and theatre this evening - see you much later, probably tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I almost forgot to write anything here today. This morning, I set about writing a piece (actually, a piece of a piece) to send to Angie for her writing contest. I finally finished it and screwed up my courage, sent my work off by e-mail, then printed it and discovered a typo in the first paragraph - a stray comma. I hadn't been able to see it on the screen. Ah, well. Lesson learned: Print, then proof, then send. This being Friday*, I want to write about what I'm grateful for - in the case of the writing contest, I'm grateful for the opportunity - but terrified at the same time. I am such a baby.

After that, I set about reading the Theme Thursday posts, but a glance at the clock warned me that I was running out of day.

So I went to the gym, where I spent half an hour walking on the treadmill - without benefit of a book, I'll have you know. I had already driven to the gym, paid my fee, stowed my gear, and stepped onto the treadmill when I realized I had nothing to read. It was a long half hour. Nonetheless, I did it, and I used some of the other equipment. When I was finished there, I headed off to the pool, only to find it full of children. Also, somebody had used ropes and bumpers to divide the pool into lanes, I think - or maybe just areas. In any event, I walked into the pool and straight out again. The hot tub was seething with adolescents in heat, so it really had no appeal (for me, anyway). In the end, I went into the very hot steam room and stayed there until I was done.

Speaking of lobster with drawn butter - Yesterday, I started paying attention to what I eat and trying to exercise some control. I'm still doing that today. So far, I haven't starved to death - and now, having been to the gym, I am aware that I have muscles. So far, so good.

*Uh-huh. Actually, it isn't Friday at all. I've gone 'round the bend. Do not reset your calendar.
Theme Thursday - (Wh)oops!

And I thought this would be easy. It turned out to be quite a challenge. The first thing I did was google Whoops! to see if anything inspiring came up. No. So I decided to take the liberty of checking the more commonly used Oops! - and even that wasn't particularly helpful. I did find a Britney Spears YouTube video called Oops!... I Did It Again. I watched it. I was surprised to note that I really had no idea what Britney Spears looked like, except that she was blonde. I could have passed this performer on the street and not recognized her. That was actually rather heartening. There's apparently one aspect of popular culture that hasn't permeated my brain.

It was a couple of hours later when suddenly I knew what I wanted to talk about. I was curled up on the sofa, reading Tender Graces. I came to a scene in which Virginia Kate learns to ride a horse. Bingo! I remembered a (Wh)oops! moment in my own life. It had to do with a horse named Bingo, in fact.

I was not yet 40 years old, and I had already managed to do some fairly nasty things to my back, so I was a little fragile. My son, whom I'll call Bumble (that being his baby nickname), decided he would like to take riding lessons, so we sought out a riding school. Every Tuesday night we would drive out to the riding school, and I would watch the class go through its routine. One night, I said to the teacher that it was like watching somebody shave or put lipstick on. My muscles wanted to move in synch with the riders. "If you want to ride," said the teacher, "I'll bring out a horse for you next week, and you can have a go." Cool. Really cool. I was so excited.

The following Tuesday, when we arrived for the class, I wasn't sure that the teacher would remember his offer. I wasn't going to say anything about it, but he came out to say hello, and he said "You can ride Bingo. He's very gentle."Bingo was also huge, but I had seen him in action, and I knew that he was perfect for me to ride. The challenge would be to get him moving.

So off we went, Bumble on his horse, I on mine, and we joined the group of kids. Soon we were all going around in a circle, walking slowly and gently.

Next came posting. For those not familiar with English riding: this is a technique whereby you clamp the saddle firmly between your knees and ride without actually sitting down right on the horse. "Posting trot!" called the teacher, and that's what we did. It was easy, and it was fun.

"Sitting trot!" came the next instruction, and we all sat down. Things are getting a little more jostly here, but I'm still okay.

"Feet out of the stirrups..." Out came my feet, and there I was, bouncing around on my tailbone, not having any fun at all, and meanwhile, the teacher was finishing his instruction - "...everybody except Bumble's mother." Oh. Right. Now He tells me. (Wh)oops!

The following day, I couldn't go to work, because I couldn't lift my foot far enough to climb into the commuter van. I could get into my car, barely, and I went straight to the chiropractor. His reaction was predictable. "You did WHAT?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scattershot -

Is that the term I'm looking for? I have several things to say today, and they don't actually fit together, so I'm just going to blather on in my usual fashion, hoping I don't lose you along the way.

First of all, I'll send you away. How's that for a plan? I recently discovered a blog that delights me. It's called First 50 Words. I went over there yesterday and kept playing until I got embarrassed about the post clump I was creating. Do, please, click here and check it out. It's great fun and, as I said to its author, Virginia DeBolt, it's great exercise. But don't forget to come back.

Next, I'll send you away again....hmmm. I see a pattern forming. This time, I would like you to check out something that's good for what ails you. Joshilyn Jackson of Faster Than Kudzu issued an invitation to all of us to join a program that starts on June 1. It's called BetterU and it is part of Go Red for Women. I won't try to describe the program. I'll just suggest that you go on over to Joshilyn's place and she'll tell you all about it. (That will be her May 12 post.) I told someone that I joined Joshilyn's posse because I figure I'll be laughing too hard to get hungry, so I'm bound to lose weight.

When you get back from Joshilyn's, you can check out my photos. I told you yesterday that I had found a companion for Wilson, and I have. Here he is. I found him languishing in a pile of stuffed animals at the supermarket. I thought I recognized him. "Steinbeck?" I said. "Steinbeck? Is that you?"

No, I thought, that can't be Steinbeck. He was much larger. This little guy must be.....Son of Steinbeck! I was wrong, though.

Steinbeck fixed me with his reproachful eyes and said scornfully, "Of course I look smaller. You're bigger than you used to be. It's still me, and I've been waiting for you for years, I thought you would never turn up."

Needless to say, I bought him. I brought him home and introduced him to Wilson, who welcomed him eagerly, delighted to have someone to pick on when I'm not home.

Today, the three of us took Robin out to Biggs Park, which is next to the Duke Point Ferry terminal, and we all went for a walk. The tide was very low, as you can see in this photo. You may also note that our window of opportunity for a walk was limited. The rains were coming. The rains were coming.

So while we could, we walked. The cannis was in
bloom - and that's mostly what we went to see.

The cannis comes out right after the bluebells, so for a while, each Spring, there's a whole lot of blue out here.

I took this shot of a bed of cannis on the edge of a cliff. Beyond the flowers, all that grey-whiteness is another bed - this one a bed of oysters.

We stopped to check out some wildflowers whose name I did not know, and my two little LM&TOs spent some quality time together.

Shortly after that photo was taken, it became uncomfortably wet out on the trail, so we got into the car and took a bit of a joyride before we came home to a nice cup of tea.

Altogether, a lovely day.

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