Wednesday, June 30, 2010

cheering from the shore

Sun drenched ducks on southern ponds sense the arrival of spring in the north. This past April, like migrating mallards, we sniffed the air and headed north to Dutch Lake. There was still plenty of snow on Raft Mountain, the defining landmark of the area. It's mirror image lay perfectly reflected on the still surface of the lake. Several pairs of Canadian geese were leading their newly hatched goslings through the lilies at the shoreline. The babies swam with their watchful parents, first in a tight bunch, and then breaking into a long wavering line behind them. The sun caught the fluffy tips of their feathers and made them glowing balls of yellow. The flock came ashore to graze, the goslings hurrying over the pebbles, large webbed feet reminding me of boots too big, borrowed from older brothers and sisters. The families mingled on the shore, but when parents called, their own little ones magically separated, and followed them back onto the lake. I was just pondering the ease with which geese parent, when I spotted a tiny gosling make a solitary dash to the water's edge. It flapped its stubby little wings and began cheeping frantically. It briefly considered setting out alone on the water and then paddled back onto the sandy shore, cheeping plaintively all the while. It had one thing right, its family had left by water, but they had come to shore further up the beach and had circled back. Its mother now honked encouragingly and the tiny gosling, turned and made a dash. The other parents hissed unkindly, as it stumbled and flapped past. It didn't look for an easy route up the little knoll to where its siblings calmly grazed, but cheeped and flapped and struggled, straight up through the underbrush. Its mother rolled her eyes and helped it up the last difficult bit. I'd been cheering for the gosling, but I should have cheered for the parents I think, for all parents in fact, in recognition of their watchfulness, patience and encouragement.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

pencil sketch beauty

Yesterday morning felt like I had somehow driven into a black and white photo. The sky was a thick, quilt batt of gray, the road a charcoal ribbon. Even the string of oncoming traffic seemed muted and colorless, except for the sequin brightness of the headlights. A car in front of me was gray and so was the van behind me. Why have so many people chosen to drive something the color of fog, I wondered.
A women trudged toward the bus stop. It seems that people walk differently on damp, dark days. Gray is a heavy color to many.
But not to me. I like to see the distance fading into mist, and feel the lowering sky gathering round me like a comfortable wool sweater; like a cocoon. I think of gray as a soft color, as soft as dusty winged moths, and pussy willows.
Today the sun shone and the clouds fled away. People ventured out in shorts and sandals, their steps light. The trees were layers of green against a crisp blue sky.
Which is more lovely, the colors of a warm June afternoon or the pencil sketch beauty of a gray day. It's hard to say.

Monday, June 28, 2010

beware the coughing crow

We heeded the siren call of Krause Berry Farm on Saturday morning, happily luring our, "new to Langley" friend to join us for lunch. The corn pizza was as deliciously smokey as ever, and their milkshakes thick and fruity.
A couple of crows were loitering on the railings of the sundeck. They knew as well as any waiter, who was sitting where, and what they were eating, and were poised to strike any plate left unattended. "I think that crow is nervous, look how it's yawning," My husband pointed to a crow just a few feet away on the railing. It bobbed forward now, its mouth gaping. That crow's in trouble, I thought. Its mouth opened wider and it stuck out its slender tongue as it jerked forward. "It's choking!" Is there a Heimlich maneuver for birds, I wondered desperately, and watched in horror as that wretched, retching crow coughed up an indigestible wad. Ewwwwww, ohhhh, awwwwhhrrrgg, we all chorused in unison. We looked at each other and at our unfinished milkshakes in dismay. "I'm glad I never looked," our lucky friend gloated, keeping her eyes averted. That crow recovered much quicker than the rest of us did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

birthday safari

Happy Birthday to you, you belong in the zoo........I agree heartily with the sentiment. We live less than a five minute drive from a wonderful zoo. Our grandson is four today, and so we have leapt into our cars and pulled into the zoo parking lot one after another. The exotic, the dangerous, and the rare abound, but the birthday boy is overjoyed with the playground. Rain has watered the slides but the swings dangle invitingly. He scrambles on and I obediently assume my post. Soon he is sailing up, up, and back, "Higher, higher," he sings out. "Up to the sky. Look, I'm big enough for this swing," he calls out exultantly to his parents, leaning back dangerously. A peacock sways and swirls past and in the distance a huge turkey struts stiff legged in its pen. "Let's see if we can make the turkey gobble," I beg. Crouched before its fence, at eye level, I make a chirring, whirring sound. What the turkey lacks in brain, he makes up for in vanity. He swivels round and struts toward the fence importantly, fanning out all of his feathers. His gobble is so loud and unexpected that we jump and stumble backward, laughing. " I don't want him to gobble again," my grandson confides. We hasten on to a quieter zoo resident, an ancient turtle gazing about his heated quarters. Wallabies are next. A tiny face appears briefly at the edge of the pouch and disappears. The mother turns her back and lays down. When she shifts and stands, the little fellow is left standing bewildered on the damp, cold ground. He dives into his mamma's pouch head first, and somersaults completely around and out again onto the ground. This is repeated to our delight, a second time. Three times the charm and he finally, amazingly, dives into the deep warm safety of the pouch, long lanky back legs, tail and all. The giraffes, large, medium, small and extra small are almost an anti climax after that performance. It's suddenly train time and we lope off to the station. All aboard, past lion and tiger and wolf, past bison and swimming hippo; Large nosed moose, spotted deer, camel and zebra. The train picks up speed and flies up the home stretch, its wheels shrieking. Hang on, hang on. A white owl glides over the upturned heads of visitors and grips the outstretched, gloved hand. Up to the station we sweep. "That train needs its wheels oiled, Gramma," my grandson informs me soberly. Little boy, so wise, may you always find joy in the simple, safety on the journey, and love all around you.

happy birthday

This poem by Robert Louis Stevenson is dedicated to my grandson in honor of his fourth birthday.

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

thinking green

It's funny how the meaning of words change over time. New meanings for old words are often just a new way of looking at an old idea. My Dad rescued things from the local dump and we "made over" second hand items, often completely changing their original use. This was before "handcrafted" was a compliment and "home made" implied less than the best. Recycling and upcycling have many passionate devotees these days.
Thinking "lite" is another new concept that's the old, redressed. The Great Depression, followed by war time rationing had a lightening affect on many old family recipes. My mother developed a taste for tartness because sugar was in short supply in her growing up years. It served her well because my father developed diabetes and she spent the rest of her cooking life seeing how much fat and sugar she could remove from a dish and have it still be edible. This culinary experimenting had its spectacular successes and ghastly failures; soups with the kaleidoscope flavours of the summer garden and cookies that offended even the dog's taste buds. My own philosophy toward food was forged on this anvil and I have often thought, " I'd rather have a little bit of wonderful, than a whole lot of mediocre." I'm thankful though that baking bread and canning and cooking from scratch without recipes were presented as the norm, an easy rhythm, caretaking both body and soul. It's good to see society recognizing the urgency and value in being guardians of the earth and its resources. But that's not a new idea. Thinking green was mentioned when time as we know it, began. It was Adam and Eve's mandate when they lived in the garden of Eden.

Friday, June 25, 2010

humming along

I winced and squinted one eye in pain. The high notes of a flute can pierce your eardrum, especially if they are played loudly, and my hand flew to the radio knob. Advertisements seem to be recorded at a higher volume I thought bitterly. I could no longer hear the voice speaking, just an indistinct drone like Charlie Brown's teacher. Something went sadly awry when the two soundtracks were mixed, I mused. I could still hear a distant flute and it made me think of the power of music in advertisements.
I once hummed a bra commercial for an entire summer and didn't realize it until I sat bemused before the television. I'm not sure how effective advertisements are anyway. I often remember the music or the laughter but couldn't name the product if I tried.
The ads of the first half of the century were "jingles." Words set to music seem to be recorded in a more permanent spot in our memory. Advertisements of today though, tell a little story. We may remember the story, but not necessarily the product.
Many years ago, there was an ad for perfume or shampoo that showed a woman oblivious to her own charm, gliding down the street with a serene expression while a handsome stranger, clearly smitten, pursued her with a bouquet snatched from a street vendor.
Life has a way of imitating art in such funny ways.
I had popped into Safeway to pick up a few things and fresh dill was on the list. A young clerk had helped me scour the produce area but to no avail. As I was leaving the store, I heard a voice behind me, some sort of distant commotion, and turned to see him running ( in slow motion) after me with a bouquet of fresh dill clutched (ardently), or triumphantly. "Well," I thought to myself, "that's the closest I'm going to get to having a stranger rush after me with a bouquet."
Too bad it was dill.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

budgeting for beauty

Change is good, and so I'm taking a new route for the morning commute. Fraser Hwy. has plantings in the median and they are flourishing and flowering now in late June. What an unlikely place for a plant to thrive, blasted by exhaust fumes and whipped by the wind of passing cars. Mounds of coral and bubblegum pink roses are interplanted with purple echinacea, and the many colored grasses that have become so popular. Wind and grass are wonderful companions and they ripple and sway as the cars roar past. I love the chartreuse foliage of the spirea. Their muted dusky rose flower heads have a wistful feel of gardens of an age past. Some master gardener hired for the task, selected these plants for their hardiness and ability to thrive I'm sure. City planners have many demands on their coffers. I'm so thankful that Langley and Surrey have budgeted for beauty.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

thank you Big Bird

I'm not always an organized person and menopause hasn't helped.
A place for everything, and everything in it's place is a wonderful motto
but I can't remember where the place is right now.

The best advise I've ever gotten was from Big Bird on Sesame Street. When you need to remember something, he suggested, "just walk backwards through your day." I can't count the number of times that's saved the day.
I think being more mindful and in the moment rather than running on auto pilot would help too.
I'm sure my elementary teachers would stand in unison and applaud if they could see me write one hundred times, I will pay attention.

"Now where did I put that number," I muttered. I'd just been handed a bidder's number and had promptly dropped it into The Black Hole, my purse.
"I turned fifty and my eyes and my memory both went," I complained to the clerk.
"Oh, stop, you're scaring me," she moaned, " I'm almost fifty."
"Well, start sweating," I warned. "Oh never mind," I added, "You'll be doing that anyway."
There's no way around aging. It's like whizzing down a slide. We can't change our mind part way down. Gravity will carry us to the inevitable landing. There may be some screaming and we may hold our breath, but we'll feel the wind in our hair and we'll get our feet under us just in time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

sweetness shared

When my car exited the freeway at 232nd street, I knew the subconscious mind had won again. I'd been thinking about strawberries, sweet and fragrant, ripening in the June sunshine. In a blink, I was pulling into a parking spot at Krause Berry Farm. A heady scent wafted on the afternoon breeze. People sipped pastel milkshakes and smoothies. Flats of glowing scarlet berries lined the counter. I was soon on my way with a heaping basket of very toothsome fruit on the seat beside me and a plump, juicy strawberry turnover in my hand. I never knew about domestic strawberries as a child. We grew up picking little wild ones. It seems that the flavor of wild fruit is somehow condensed and intensified. One tiny wild strawberry can bombard the taste buds and is everything a strawberry should be. I have a very clear memory of a childhood summer in Blue River. Sweaters were needed even on summer days it seemed, if not for warmth, then to slow down the mosquitoes. I remember coming upon a patch of wild strawberries on a solitary ramble and running home for a cup to pick them into. The June sun warmed my back as I crouched to pick, a very tiny harvest and a very tiny harvester. A melmac mug, brim full was proudly presented to Mom who doled them out atop ice cream for dessert. Sweetness shared.

Monday, June 21, 2010

girls just wanna have fun

Do you ever feel like something has to change. Snakes shed their skins, moths struggle out of cocoons, and I rushed from the house one evening last week and headed for a hair salon. So much of what makes up our lives can't easily be changed, but hair, well, you can always cut your hair. As I was sudsed and rinsed and snipped and shaped, BTO's Taking Care of Business thumped away in the background, followed by Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. I pondered the yawning gulf of time since I'd first heard these songs. Must be some Oldies station on the radio I mused. I was jolted from my reverie by my hairstylist holding a bottle of shampoo up for my approval. "Have you ever thought of using purple shampoo? brighten your grey hair?" I believe the color wheel was mentioned and her grandmother and I heard myself croak," You mean, I could be a little old lady with purple hair?" I was hastily reassured that brightness was my goal, not bingo parlor purple. I bought the shampoo. Here's hoping grey is the new blonde.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

number five

"And the winning number is.... five." Five!! That's me. I'm number five. I won?! Aurifil thread, a whole rainbow case of it, straight from Milan was placed into my eager hands. Our quilt guild had a mystery challenge. Instructions were posted, and we blindly cut and sewed until at last, a pattern took shape. Mistakes equal lessons learned, and I've never learned so many things from one project. The challenge deadline arrived and twenty three quilts festooned the room. It was like a family reunion of sorts, something vaguely familiar, a family resemblance but that was all. In quilting, as in other visual arts, color value is more influential than the color itself causing parts of the design to dominate or appear to recede. Twenty three versions of one quilt became an amazing object lesson. Uniformity and sameness, are reinforced by popular culture, but when it comes to our creative self, the beauty is in the differences.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

love is the answer

My Quilt Guild offered a challenge to any takers. A fat eighth of fabric, a poem to interpret, and list of guidelines. Seemed simple enough. The fabric had a wonderful 60's vibe and so did the poem for that matter.

It's the thread that binds
hearts to hands, souls to minds.
It's the thread that creates life from nothingness,
it gives strength and courage
it gives enlightenment and caring
The thread connects one to all,
it weaves its pattern
on all things, great and small
It's the thread that makes the quilt
that warms us on the coldest night.
The Thread © 1997 V.Crouther

I pondered the riddle of the thread and decided that love must be the answer.... or God...... or God's love.
What would be a symbol of love I wondered? Hearts were out, too 80's.
I wanted to let the fabric "speak" but it just suggested a mini dress, circa 1960.
The deadline for submission was suddenly upon me. We were instructed to carefully measure our quilt, and submit this information along with the quilt's name and the three embellishments of our choice.
Ah choice, that was the problem.
Not to be deterred by procrastination, or quilter's block, I randomly chose a size, pulled a name out of the air, filled out the form and signed my name with a flourish. I now had to produce a 13 by 18 quilt that included lace, ribbon and embroidery and represented the title, Divine Love.
Amazingly, boundaries helped. I cut the fabric into pieces following it's design. Then, I just moved them around until, magically, a picture emerged. Swirling clouds, a rocky hillside, a path...... I continued the swirl theme with Van Gogh inspired stars and blanket stitched the works. That took care of the embroidery thread. The shepherd was created using snips of color that were scattered across the table like autumn leaves. The sheep, safe on his shoulders took care of the lace requirement and ribbon was inserted into the binding and the shepherds scarf. A message also emerged; found, forgiven, loved forever. I stamped it with some enthusiasm in the center and finished it off with a swirl of hand quilting in variegated blue thread.
True to family tradition, I was stitching up to the eleventh hour but arrived at the show, clutching my quilt in a brown paper bag as instructed. How amazing to see the interpretation of others; an African village, a peacock, a hot air balloon, a mother and child. Poetry and art, so personal and so universal. I'm glad I was a "joiner." The process really was the reward, and the quilt wasn't too bad either.