The White Stuff

Was the first snowfall once cause for excitement? Was it a reason to gaze out of the window, entranced by magical dreams of winter beauty? Face it, gurl, you live in a country where this stuff will haunt you for about six months every year. First times for anything can be magical, mysterious, memorable, or miserable. Snow or not, a walk outside always does me good. Here are a few surprises from yesterdays slog through the slush

Snow lizards make their annual appearance

These creatures emerge in my local park. Never see them in summer!

A sighting last year just before spring

Of course tamer creatures show up too. This chubby bird might have a hard time with lift off.

Settling in for winter

By the time I met my goal of 10k steps evening was making its early appearance. Fruit, snow and streetlight – quite the combination

I wonder if that white bird would like a snack?

Of course one can always opt for the basics. This one is a classic, a witness to wet mitts and calls for hot chocolate!

Snowy needs to work on his abs methinks!

All around my Hat

Rain today -out came the hat

All around my hat, I will wear the green willow

All around my hat for a twelve month and a day

And if anybody asks me the reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love who is far far away

That song was running in my head as I walked in the drizzle and the rain on my daily walk. If you want to hear this wonderful song go on You tube and hear Louise Morrissay or … my favorite version by Steeleye Span with the great Maddy Price. The sprig from the willow, a magic tree was worn as a decoration around the hat of mourners. This song is more one of exasperation at the lover who got transported to Australia for stealing!

Green of bark too

If you want more about magic willows see my flash fiction in the July edition of The Wild Word, an online literary magazine. The piece is entitled They Told Secrets in the Dark

Death is a Trickster

A little reflection?

Where does time go? Where does this reflection go at night? All the leaves that have fallen and will fall year after year simply disappear into …. the earth? And all the dead birds and animals? Do you ever see any? So few that when we do it is a special and sad event. Death is all around us and yet he is hidden, unspoken.

Where is my mother?

Certainly not here! It will be ten years in December since she died. And yet around me are pictures of her, things she created, her voice in my own head, comforting or mocking me in that tone that perhaps only I can properly remember. Where is she? And my father, my grandparents? Death, the trickster never reveals his secrets and we fear to probe too much.

A ghost bicycle

Here in Montreal we commemorate the sudden death of a cyclist with a memorial like this. This one I found on Mount Royal and Park Avenue as I was going up to the top of the mountain to visit my mother’s grave. A young person was suddenly killed in an accident. Why? How? Even more mysterious than my mother asking me on the last day of a long full life, “ Is this it then, Isobel?”

I was going to put the grave to sleep for the winter, but it doesn’t need me for that. My father’s ashes were cast into the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy supposedly at his request, although I never heard him ask for such an arrangement. Whenever I am close to moving water I talk to him.

It is almost sunset on Halloween so you must forgive me writing like this about the mysterious, ever- present companion. Today, tonight, the veil between earth and spirit is it at its thinnest. Today, all the portraits of my uncles and aunts, my grandparents and parents look down on me from the shelf with a special look, a compassion in their gaze. Soon you will know, they say, soon you will understand.

A Point of View

Fall Sky

On an ordinary street between the banal tedium of the shopping centre and the struggling miracle of the big park all I had to do was look up. A row of modest trees that only a week ago were crowned with brilliant yellow leaves are bare now. On the other side of the wide walkway that leads to my house a tree of another sort still blazes against the brilliant sky, decorated with beloved clouds. I only had to look up.

Even in the parking lot

I only had to look up to escape the parking lot. The eternal sky, the vast sky is always there, always waiting to offer its distant, constant comfort.

All fired up

Back to walking in Angrignon Park

After a month on the West Coast it’s time to get back into my routine of walking… and training for my next Camino. This afternoon the temperature was a little cooler than what I experienced on Vancouver Island. The angle of the sun was lower and it was clear that we are in full- on fall mode. The colors are spectacular and I am sincerely grateful to live one hundred paces from this spectacular park. However, I miss the “ wild” feel of the semi-rural community where my daughter lives. I miss the rooster crowing every waking hour and the baa of the sheep next door. From certain spots on my walk I don’t see just this beautiful pond, but a six -lane boulevard, its roar mercifully muffled by the trees in the park. There’s no mistaking the city vibe here.

Salmon Run

I took this picture a few days ago. That bank of stones on the far side of the river would normally be submerged. The big adult salmon working their way upstream are barely covered with water. Already in other parts of BC there have been huge die-offs of salmon that never made it to the spawning sites. Will the salmon I saw this week make it? After a 40-day drought with no rain in the forecast, I doubt it. Vancouver Island is a designated Pacific rain forest area. During the first two weeks of my stay there, my daughter and I enjoyed the sun and high temperatures. As time passed, we became more and more uneasy.

The moon, the sun, all of nature

After unpacking my suitcase and after a good night’s sleep, I made a decision. I’m going to fight for this beautiful world and the creatures that live here. I owe myself and my grandchildren that. I have already written my MP ( the Federal one anyway) and Extinction Revolution to see what I can do. Next on my list … Greenpeace and, how do you buy carbon credits anyway? Even though I don’t drive a car I’m flying around quite a bit lately. Why am I putting this idea out on my blog? Accountability, folks! Nag me about this, ok?

Back Home

Container Ships in the port of Vancouver

After a wonderful month with my daughter, Elizabeth, I am back at home in Montreal. It was fun to share the cooking and shopping, to go on expeditions together and to sit reading or watching a movie in the evenings.

The Hunters’ Moon

The fall moon was spectacular and the days full of sights I can never find here. We went whale watching on a perfectly calm sea and we’re privileged to see hump-backed whales, sea lions and harbour seals.

Autumn crocus in dry grass
Salmon struggling upstream

Yes, the grass is very dry and the salmon may not make it upstream. There is a drought on the Island. For the thirty days I was there, it only rained a little once in the night and for an hour or so on a morning when I took the bus into town. This in an area designated a northern rain forest. Time to put on my activist hat and to gird my sword on my thigh. Time to bother my MP again. Time to fight for nature!

An Autumn Day on Vancouver Island

No trips into town. No long walks. No errands. We are having a “reading day” thanks to a large box of poetry and short story texts left at the side of the road outside a storage facility. Did the owner die? Did she rummage in her cubicle and decide to “ make room” ? Whatever the reason, these treasures are giving us so much joy. “Seven Centuries of Verse” is quite something to delve into!

Shading from the sun

Between stanzas we can look up and see how the old lady who guards the driveway is losing her leaves. They fall slowly as there is not a breath of wind and down they come, broad, sandy-coloured with their own tiny rustle.

She longs for rain while we revel in the sun

Just for today we are detached from gas prices, elections, even our own inner turmoil until … oops, the rooster next door decides to lift his crop and call, call with his loud and rasping crow. John Donne, deal with it!

In the Woods

Old souls

We went walking just 20 minutes out of town. We heard rushing water and came to this beautiful river racing over ancient rocks.

At Nymph Falls

What a blessed day with my dear daughter. And still now that it is night, time for sleep, the water is flowing over the river bed. The tree is standing firm as it has for uncounted years. On this one day we were lucky enough to realize the joy of it.

So happy!

Going into Town

How we get around!

I am staying with my daughter in a semi rural community on Vancouver Island. I really enjoy walking the many beautiful trails close to her house. However, there comes a moment when one starts to talk to ravens and then one realizes it is time to go into town. My daughter works and drives in so …. after an hour of poring over the website of BC Transit we decided on a tentative bus route. Much as I appreciate the web, I know myself and my various dyslexic quirks. I need the whole trip back and forth written down. Strangely enough I had to return by a different route than the one I went out on but….who am I to question rural bus companies.

My destination was a Seniors’ Activity Centre in a rather chi chi part of a sprawling fast growing town on the east coast of the island. Bus number 12 arrived on time and a stern lady driver answered my question about the transfer point ( yes, two busses) and told me brusquely to take my seat. I soon found out why as she pulled onto the two-lane highway and drove off at startling speed. There were no poles to cling to, only hanging straps. I plunked myself down hurriedly and noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a young mother holding onto a deluxe stroller with what I took to be a very pretty red-headed baby in it.

When I had adjusted to the swaying of the bus I turned to bestow my best grandmotherly smile on the baby and found … to my surprise that it was a very lifelike doll. It fixed me with its brown eyes for the whole of the half hour it took to come to my transfer point which was rather disconcerting. A sneak peek at the “ mother” made me wonder if it was a sort of therapy doll I had read about for women who had suffered some sort difficulty or trauma over motherhood.

Thanks to Google Maps I could see that I was almost at my first stop. By then a large contingent of teens evidently destined for some sort of vocational school had come on board. They were enjoying themselves immensely, laughing and joking at the tops of their voices. When I got off the bus they gave me a rousing farewell, waving and calling out to me.

It seemed rather counterintuitive to cross the street to catch my next bus. However the stern driver had simply pointed when I timidly questioned the logic of driving back the way I had come. The second bus soon arrived. This driver was even more formidable than the last one. However at least he got us headed off in the right direction. When I approached him to ask a question about where to take the bus back he ordered me back to my seat “ I don’t speak while I’m driving!” I humbly returned. When we arrived at the terminus he explained that he had seen several people seriously hurt as they moved around in the bus. I could well believe it!

I arrived in plenty of time for my Spanish conversation class and was warmly welcomed. The centre was airy, modern and the coffee was pretty good. I am a qualified language teacher and had my own ideas about how the class was run. A certain shyness and a total inability to express a lesson plan in Spanish kept me mercifully silent. Many of the other participants had lived in Latin America and were quite fluent.

Three of the nine participants were French Canadians which surprised me. We were talking about music and one of the gentlemen shocked me by saying ( in Spanish, no less) that his favorite song was a Welsh hymn – David of the White Rock. That was a song my mother used to sing and a nick name she gave to the David who married one of my cousins. Two hours soon passed and it was time once again, to get moving on the busses.

This time there was a half hour wait between busses. As I was sitting quietly on the shelter bench a smartly dressed gentleman with a very cute Shitz Tsu puppy came up and asked me a question about the route. I offered to look it up on my phone – now that I was an expert at getting around this mixed up town. He decided to go with his gut feeling that this was the right bus and we fell into general conversation. Hmm, a handsome man with a cute pup! About my age too! Things were looking up. Alas it soon became apparent that he was something of a conspiracy theorist. No sooner had I squelched his enthusiasm for Putin than he launched into an attack on hospital workers. “Honestly, have you ever really met anyone with COVID?”

Thank heavens the bus hove into view. He stuffed Fido into his carrier and because I really am a nice person ( take my word for it) I warned him that he risked tripping over his dog’s lead which was trailing on the ground.

Apparently my disgusting left-wing ideas could not be endured any more so once on board he struck up a conversation with a sketchy couple who soon let him know he was on the wrong bus. At this point I learned that if you holler loud enough the driver will simply slam on the brakes, pull over and let you off. Fido was, by now, scratching madly at his carrier and as Mr. Trumpster stumbled down the steps, I had a certain satisfaction in seeing that he had not heeded my warning about the trailing leash. We pulled away too fast for me to get the full view I deserved but, never a dull moment on the No. 12. At the next stop Little Mother and her luxurious carriage complete with the beautiful doll got on. This time she was with a friend and with her attention distracted, the doll was free to once again fix me with her unblinking stare.

The bus meandered off the main road and into wooded turn offs where sullen-looking people lurked in shacks reminiscent of Stephen King stories. I was very glad when we finally pulled into the bay next to Discovery Foods . My old stamping grounds! This was where we buy groceries! I hopped off, scuttled across route 19 and ambled home.

“ How was it? Did you manage OK with the busses?”

“You texted me four times, Liz. Every time I told you I was OK.”

“And the class? Did you like it? Are you going again?”

“It was different. Different in a good way. Yeah, I think I’ll go next week . It’s another world on those busses though, right?”

“Ma, you didn’t talk to people on the busses did you? That’s the first rule..,,,”

“Excuse me, Liz but I need a nap. I”ll tell you all about it later.”

Today I didn’t go into town. I went down to the beach. This is what I saw.

Fishing season starting