Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears,

Oh, my.  I finally had a day off, and so did Robin, so we decided to have one of our walk/cycle outings. Robin dropped me off at the Harewood Mines Road entrance to the Parkway Walkway, and I walked from there to the bottom of the trail - about fifty minutes away. As I got out of the car, Robin warned me that if I saw a cougar or a bear, I should run out onto the highway. (I'm still wondering which would be the most dangerous -- a bear, a cougar, or an 18-wheeler.) At any rate, I set off on my walk, smiling to myself and chanting "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!" That lasted about two minutes, until I heard a noise behind me. It was sort of a "Thwump" sound -- a growl? Something landing hard on the ground? I wasn't sure. Whatever it was, it caused my blood pressure to soar. I whirled around to face my attacker, who turned out to be a pleasant young man walking his German shepherd.

"Oh, my god -- you scared me out of my skin!" I said, smiling to take the sting out of the complaint. I couldn't stop my voice from shaking, so the poor fellow started apologizing. "I'm so sorry -- I was talking to my dog," he said.

I guess he had said something to the dog to keep him from running up to me, which was just as well, as I'd probably have dropped dead from fright if I'd seen a large furry thing appear beside me just then.

We walked along together for a few minutes, chatting about how having a dog by your side is great for keeping bears and cougars at bay. "However," said my companion, "if you want to see any wildlife at all, you're out of luck if you have a dog with you."  He and the dog turned off the path soon after that, but I still didn't see any wildlife on my walk except for one poor slug that was making its way across the path. I am pleased to report that it didn't attack me, either. Oh, and there were a few dragonflies, but they wouldn't stay still long enough for me to photograph them.

There were wildflowers everywhere -- this is summertime in paradise, after all. The pea plants dominated, but there were also various yellow flowers -- buttercups, dandelions, and so forth --  and these lovely blue cornflowers.

Best of all, there were the blackberries - greenberries, I mean, but soon-to-be-black berries -- all along the path.

Soon it will be time to walk and glean, walk and glean, turning the 50-minute walk into a one-hour-plus adventure.

About halfway down the walkway, I saw Robin approaching on his bicycle. He had left the car at the bottom for me and cycled up. We chatted for a moment, and then he rode on home while I finished my walk.

I was nearly at the bottom of the walkway when I saw something that is new this year. Someone has posted a sign to guide the weary (hungry, thirsty) hiker to the great Canadian watering hole, Tim Horton's. (Oops, sorry. Tim Hortons. The doughnut shop chain has lost its apostrophe somewhere along the way.) In case we can't make it all the way to the bottom of the trail and back along the highway to Timmy's, somebody has helpfully cleared a trail through the forest, complete with a sign. 

I am finally getting serious about taking off the weight that has been creeping back (Nasty, sneaky stuff, that weight. It's so hard to get rid of it, and so easy to get it back.) so I ignored the sign and the seductive trail, and finished my walk.  When I got home, I finally had my wildlife sighting for the day -- there were a couple of young deer wandering up the alley behind our house.

They didn't attack me, either, and one of them even allowed me to take her picture. Actually, I think she was too busy munching to pay any attention to me.


In preparation for this  post, I went hunting for a photo of Dorothy and her pals, or maybe a You Tube video of the "Lions and Tigers and Bears" song from The Wizard of Oz (the movie) -- but I didn't find those. What I did find were videos of several stage presentations. I thought you might enjoy this one. I do love the Cowardly Lion.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jet-lag Sunday

Jet lag is becoming a weekend tradition for me. I change shifts between Friday evening and Saturday morning, and it isn't until Monday that I really start to wake up. Thus, I still haven't got back to see all the Theme Thursday blogs yet -- but I trust that I will do so tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I've had a lovely, dreamy sort of weekend. The grandbabies came for a visit yesterday afternoon. We went out to a nearby water park, where  Robin discovered that one of the benches along the edge of the spray area had a kick to it. He nearly discovered it the hard way, when he went to sit on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, because it would have been very funny to watch) the bench started spraying as he approached it, and he managed to avoid a drenching.

Jujube, the taller-and-willowier-every-time-we-see-her granddaughter, didn't mind getting wet, though. She ran around and around the park, engaged in a (water cannon) shooting war with a couple of boys, checked out the shower bench, and finally had to don her father's dry t-shirt in order to get warmed up. After that, she looked like a large bat. Meanwhile, her brother (Jumping Jack) had to be torn away from the playground equipment, but once he discovered how cool the water was, he had a wonderful time.

After the park, there was dinner at the Fox & Hounds, and then there was me falling into a deep slumber that lasted until the alarm rang at 4:45 this morning. Have I ever told you how rude I think alarm clocks are?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Okay! Okay! I get it!

Sometimes it feels as though the world is trying to tell me something. I shot the photo above while I sat at a red light yesterday. Well, I had errands to run, so I kept going anyway, finished my errands, then went home to cook a bit of salmon on the barbecue and serve it with new potatoes and peas. After supper, Robin wanted to go out for a ride, just to feel a breeze on his face -- so off we went, through Cedar, into Yellowpoint, and around a circle that brought us back to the Crow & Gate
for a quick pint before heading home. There was one point at which I had to brake because I couldn't see anything except the sun. I half expected to hear a voice saying "Sandra, go into the light."  If there had been anything on the road right there, I would surely have hit it. I was glad to pull into the parking lot at the Crow & Gate.
Even in the pub, the sun was right there at eye level, reflecting on this painting beside the bar.

 We bought our beer and took it out into the garden. Do you remember how I talked about English country pubs and how lovely it was to be able to sit in a beautiful garden and enjoy a quiet beer? The Crow & Gate has brought that tradition to Cedar, just south of Nanaimo. Since the last time I was there, they have expanded their garden They've even added a palm tree and a banana tree - with a label in front of it for the benefit of those customers who've never seen a banana tree before. I ended up abandoning my beer (and Robin) in order to wander around the garden, camera in hand. Robin didn't mind. He had his pint and a beautiful view.

I saw three women taking photos at one part of the garden, so I wandered over to see what all the fuss was about. It turned out that there were two hummingbirds engaged in a bit of a fracas in the middle of a flower bed.

I did manage to photograph one of the birds. I hope you can find him (just to the left of the main group of flowers).

After that I just walked around, admiring the display, thankful that somebody takes the time to build such a beautiful garden for me to enjoy.

When I got back to our table, Robin nodded toward the edge of the garden, where we saw Trevor and Jane, the proprietors of our local, the Fox & Hounds. It turned out that they live in Cedar, and the Crow & Gate is their local!

I suggested to Robin that we just camp out in Cedar for the night, but since we didn't have The Turtle (which  is in the shop, by the way, having some work done in preparation for our trip to Ontario) we decided to head for home. I'm glad we took our drive, though. The farmland was lovely in this sudden, exuberant summer we're having, and the fragrance of fresh-mown hay was everywhere.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Theme Thursday Post - "Ball"

How interesting. Even though I've spent the last week (two weeks?) engrossed in football (soccer) and tennis, my first thought on reading this week's theme had nothing to do with sports. The first thing that came to mind was The Secret Policeman's Ball. In case you aren't familiar with this gem (actually a series of gems, shows produced to benefit Amnesty International), I've embedded a sample skit below...

....and the second thing that came to mind, predictably enough, was The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.

Disclaimer: I recommend that you watch this second video either alone or in the company of a tolerant friend/mate. It made me howl. Really. Consider yourself warned.

Maybe I had simply had enough of sports for the time being, and I needed a little comic relief. In any event, I ended up spending quite some time working my way through YouTube's Secret Policeman collection, and I'm glad I did. Dare I say it? I had a ball.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I've Been Running for the Bus --

-- the Poetry Bus, of course. Unfortunately, I've missed it. I had to abandon the laptop for a couple of days while I subjected my neck and right shoulder to  chiropractic treatments and a whole bunch of acetaminophen.  I thought I was pretty well back to normal after my accident, but now I suspect that was because I hadn't really tried to do much of anything.  A week or two ago, I tried to do a little gardening, and that set my back off. Now, this week, I tried to water my hanging baskets, and that was a really, really bad idea. So I spent a couple of days whining and moaning, and meanwhile the bus went tootling off across the countryside, probably driving on the wrong -- I mean the left -- side of the road, because The Weaver of Grass was the driver this week. I hope she brought her Border Terrier along. I love Border Terriers. They're such rugged little fellows.And I do hope everyone had a great time. I'll try to get to the bus stop on time next week.

Meanwhile, I'll have a look to see what everybody else did with Weaver's challenge, which did look awfully interesting.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

On a Lighter Note: Sunday Dinner

We seem to have developed a family tradition. It started in England, where we got into the habit of going to the pub for dinner on Sunday. Now that we're back at home, it seems only natural to keep doing that -- so off we go this evening to the Fox & Hounds.  I've talked about this pub before. It's what keeps Robin's homesickness for England at a bearable level for most of the year. Jane and Trevor have brought the British pub ambiance along with them to Nanaimo. Even listening to the accents of many of our fellow patrons brings back memories of our English Sunday evenings.

Because the Fox & Hounds has a restaurant licence, families -- children and all -- can come in for dinner if they like. Of course, the children are expected to be well-behaved.

Now, if only folks could bring their dogs along, the illusion of being in an English country pub would be perfect --
but our local regulations don't allow for that.

On Sunday, Trevor prepares roast beef, roast chicken, and roast lamb, each served with Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, and veg - and all quite reasonably priced. Those of us who prefer not to eat meat can still find plenty to please our palates -- and if we're very, very good, we will manage to resist the sticky toffee pudding.  I am making no promises.


I did resist! I did resist! Dinner was delicious, but even better was the eavesdropping in which I shamelessly indulged. The people at the next table were chatting about a sing-along Messiah scheduled for Victoria at the Christmas season. That caught my musicotropic ear -- but then one of them mentioned a sing-along Grease and The Sound of Music (not my cup of tea, either of them) and --oh, my -- South Pacific -- and suddenly I had visions of a theatre full of joyful noise -- "Honey Bun" for 500 voices, rows and rows of bodies swaying to "Some Enchanted Evening". Doesn't that sound wonderful? Wouldn't you just love to be in that audience?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Engage heart before putting pen in gear --

Some time ago, I reconnected briefly with a friend I hadn't seen or spoken to in about fifteen years. We had one long phone conversation; that was all. There was too much time between us. There were too many changes, and too many miles, for the reconnection to hold, but we did both enjoy our talk.

I told Libby that I had just been thinking about her, remembering an evening -- it must have been in the late seventies -- when we were at her house, cleaning up after a dinner with our young families. Libby was washing dishes, and I was drying -- but before Libby washed a single dish, she carefully cleaned out the sink. She smiled and said to me, "My mother taught me always to clean out the sink before I do the dishes, and now whenever I do dishes I think about Mom."

Now, on the phone, she said "Funny -- I always do that, but I don't remember telling you." That's okay. She didn't have to remember, because I did. When Libby washed dishes, she thought about her mom, and now when I wash dishes, I often think about Libby, even though it has been more than twenty years since I last saw her.

A woman in her fifties told me something her own mother had said to her when she was a little girl: "It's all right, dear. We love you even though you aren't pretty." Of course, what made the biggest impression on the little girl, and what brought tears to her eyes more than forty years later, was "...even though you aren't pretty." I'm sure this lady's mother meant to reassure her, but by her choice of words she did just the opposite.

I wonder how many things I've said in the course of my life, small, offhand remarks, have taken root in someone else's memory. There are people I've known whose names I can't even remember -- and yet, I recall something they said; I hear their voices, see the look on their faces. I remember kindnesses -- and hurtful remarks, too -- some of them my own -- and it makes me realize the importance of thinking before we speak. I would amend the dictum "Engage mind before putting mouth in gear" to read "Engage mind and heart..."

And here I sit, writing a blog entry, stopping to remove a word here, add one there, ponder the best choice of word to get my meaning across. Writing of whatever sort requires a multitude of such choices. Perhaps that is why we need to write -- not just as an exercise in imagination, but because it is our chance to slow down and say what we really mean, not just what fills the silence or keeps the conversation flowing. I know that, even though I enjoy books that simply entertain me, I truly love to read books whose authors open themselves to me through their characters, give me a glimpse of what they really think, what they really feel. At its best, the experience of reading feels like a heartfelt, honest conversation with the writer, and it is a privilege.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Breaking News --

The second edition of Kim Richardson's  The Unbreakable Child

is coming out on Amazon October 1. The Unbreakable Child has a new publisher -- Behler Publications -- and a gorgeous new cover. You can even pre-order it from Amazon. Just click here.

I think I've said before that Kim is one of my heroines. I don't use that term lightly, being of the "We all put our pants on one leg at a time" persuasion, but Kim has earned the title. What makes Kim my heroine is not just the courage with which she survived a childhood that would certainly have broken me, or even that she stood up to her abusers in court, revisiting memories that she surely wanted to put behind her. What I find most admirable is that she never stops caring, never stops putting herself on the line. Just this April, Kim sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI in which she called him to task for the ongoing cover-ups of clerical abuse.  She wrote:

Along with tens of thousands of victims globally, I am still waiting. We are waiting for an apology and an admission of accountability from you and the Church’s hierarchy.

I have an idea. How about if we all buy copies of The Unbreakable Child and send them to the Vatican -- or donate them to our local libraries -- or just share them with our friends and family? Kim's is a story that needs to be told, a story that needs to be heard. Just in case you don't know Kim already, you can find her at her blog, Writer in Waiting,  and you can find her book at Amazon. I hope you will do both.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Where there's a will, there's a way!

So here I was, determined to write a blog entry today, trying to write a blog entry -- and Blogger wouldn't let me. I could read my blog, respond to comments, read other people's blogs, put a maple leaf on the sidebar -- but when I went to write a new post, I got a little icon going around and around and around in the centre of the page. I had no cursor. Hmmm. I called for help over at Facebook and Twitter. Poetikat sent me to a site called Blogdoctor, which looked interesting. I couldn't find help for my current predicament, but I saved the link for future reference.

Then it occurred to me to resort to the K.I.S.S. principle. I turned the computer off and restarted it, then went smugly to Blogger and hit "New Post", fully expecting that all would be well. No. Still the bloody icon swirled and swirled in front of my eyes.

In the end, obviously, I found a solution, and I shall reveal it here in case any of you have a similar experience (and in case it happens to me again and I can't remember what I did).  While the icon swirled, I hit "Save Now" and saved the page. Then I went to "Edit Posts", chose the new, blank post, and hit "Edit".  Presto. I had a new page and, joy of joys, a cursor.

Now all I have to do is remember what I wanted to say, way back when I started this marathon.

Oh, yes. First of all, Happy Canada Day! I have had the day off, and I have spent it in glorious laziness. I did take a cue from one of the many writers I follow at Twitter. (I wish I could remember whose idea it was, but I can't.) The idea was to copy - by hand - a passage from the writing of someone whose work you admire, in order to get a feel for the writing. (Later, there's the suggestion to write something in the style of   a writer you admire -- but first things first.) My first plan was to copy something of Barbara Kingsolver's, but it seems that all my Kingsolver is out in the motor home. I grabbed my copy of Ann Patchett's bel canto instead, and I copied the first paragraph. The experiment was more interesting than I expected it to be.

When I pulled out my notebook, a photo fell out. I bought this photo in England - from a little shop on the quay at Exeter. The shop had hundreds, if not thousands, of old photographs, and I would happily have brought home at least a hundred of them, funds and space permitting, but this one spoke to me. It is a postcard, unfortunately without a date, from a woman named Annie to her cousins. Annie must either have delivered the card by hand or enclosed it in a letter, as there is no address on it. Her inscription reads "Love & Best wishes to all. Yrs affec Cousin Annie."  It seems that Twitterspeak predates Twitter by quite a few years. I think Annie may join my family of characters, though I'm not sure yet where she'll fit on the family tree.

I set the photograph on the table beside me while I copied the first paragraph of bel canto. It seemed as if Annie were there beside me, reading the words, visualizing the scene. As I wrote, I realized that Patchett had used a technique that I would never have used -- at least not intentionally.  She had written

"Maybe he had been turning toward her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands." 

and then

"They did not see a kiss, that would have been impossible."

My pedantic little head nearly exploded when I saw that.  I stopped the exercise and rolled my eyes at Annie, who just stared back at me. Even now, hours later, I had to go back to make sure I hadn't seen commas when in fact there were periods or semicolons there -- but no. There are no periods. There are no semicolons. There are just commas.  Tsk, tsk. And yet -- what I find irresistible about this novel is its musical quality, its lyrical flow. I do remember now that when I first read that paragraph, I was taken aback by the sentence structure, but I decided to persevere, and I was glad that I had. Could it be that the very technique that shocked (and shocks) me is what makes bel canto flow? Well, yes, of course it could. So now, I will do some more copying, and then I will write a piece in the style of Ann Patchett, and I bet that if I try to write it with more conventional punctuation, it won't flow. So I'll loosen up.

I really, really wish I could remember whose idea this exercise was. Whoever you are -- thank you. It is most enlightening.

Canadian Flag image courtesy of Webweaver.

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