From the desk of...

Light…

As last year was winding down and I wrote my advent reflection on love I was a little bit surprised at how many moments were influenced by the word/idea I had chosen to guide my yearlong evolution…  The process was so good at making me come back to what was essentially important, even as life got dark and overwhelming in places.

 Over the last week of December I gave a lot of thought to a word for this new year that could be as inspiring and representative of the journey I am taking.  Unlike last year, when I knew that Iove was my word instantly, I needed to think a while this time.  So many words were suggested by friends and family but the one that kept coming back to me, the one that was perfectly simple and incredibly complex, the one that made me feel a spark inside was… light.

 Such a simple word but filled with so much meaning.   To lighten up, to tread lightly, to bear light, to light the way…

 A quick dictionary search tells me that the root word “light” is part of at least two hundred fifty other words in English alone. (Delighted! Enlightened!  Lighthearted!) Defining light, though, is often easier done by stating what it is not: not heavy, not dark, without burdens, difficulties or problems.  Or more philosophically: a source of illuminating grace and strength.  Can I be those things?

  
Looking back through the photos I have taken recently I see light represented over and over – I find myself drawn to it like a moth.    

Thinking back even farther, I remembered that light has long been a theme in my favourite books (Epiphanies!) and an underlying current in my regular writing…  It seems I am trying to write light into my life like a photographer captures its imprint on film.  This year, I hope more than ever, will be about light.  And more than ever I am looking forward to sharing it!

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” (Edith Wharton)

Ready to take flight… 

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From the desk of...

Thoughts About Heaven…

My littlest one has been asking questions a lot lately about heaven.  He is curious and thoughtful about what happens after we die, and as we have told him that we will go to heaven he is curious and thoughtful about that too. 

Every day he has a new thought or question about heaven, and his own thoughts have inspired me to think more about what I believe and how it can make sense in the world I see around me…

Everything I see around me in nature makes me wonder at the complex beauty of  it all.  Each leaf and petal is more complex in design and execution than any of my most profound thoughts…

And yet it is through the honest and unaffected questions of a preschooler that the most profound ideas find their way:

“Is heaven part of earth?

Is heaven all around us?

Are we standing in heaven right now?
When we’re both in heaven, how will we find each other?”
This last question makes me cry even now.  I am moved by the great big loving heart my little one has, and his worry that we might be separated from each other in a place too great to comprehend…
“Does heaven ever end?
Why is heaven forever?  How long is that? Why is it so long?  
Why isn’t this life as long as that?
How do people go to heaven?  How long will it take us to get there?
 
Will we need to have wings?  Will our things be with us?  How will we live without anything?
Once you’re in heaven can you come back to earth?”
 

His questions are so human.  They remind me that there is more in life that I don’t know than what I do, and that maybe, like him, I should make the most of every moment as it happens.  How long is life?  I can’t say.  But this moment we have together today is a tiny piece of heaven for me… and I plan to hold onto it with all my heart.
 

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From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow? (Volume 2)

After a long winter we are just now venturing out into our much neglected garden…  The greatest thing about it is that the garden grows in spite of us!  Each little spot of green is a moment of hope for the new season…

My mom has always loved her garden – I have great memories of her trucking in dirt and digging up holes – but I never knew the joy of the garden until Mr.Martini and I bought a house with a large yard and began to plant our own.  We have been at it for well over a decade already, and still somedays I look out and wonder when we will ever be close to filling up the space.  Patience, the garden whispers.

“A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” (Gertrude Jekyll)

Plant by plant the garden starts to grow into the light.  First there were the snowdrops…

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…and then came the crocuses…

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“First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus —
Crocus.” (Lilja Rogers)

Next came the daffodils…

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…followed by flower after flower in a tumbling symphony of colour and light.

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” (Geoffrey B. Charlesworth)

Helleborus…

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“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke)

Camelias…

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Violas…

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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” (Anne Bradstreet)

Magnolia…

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“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” (Ellis Peters)

Muscari…

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Bluebells…

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…Ranunculus…

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…and gorgeous double cherry blossoms (hand grafted to wild cherry stock by Nonno – the garden whisperer…)

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“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.” (Hal Borland)

…and my favourite (of course!)… the tulips:

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The way the dirt smells, the way the wind blows, the way the garden creatures begin their scrambling explorations of the  hidden garden places… all these things inspire me and remind me that the garden grows green and new each spring – and so can we.  (Patience!)

“Hope is a roving gypsy
With laughter on her tongue,
And the blue sky and sunshine
Alone, can keep her young;
And year by year she lingers
Under a budding tree…”
(Dora Read Goodale, “The Chorus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902)

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Places to Go

Queen Elizabeth Park – Bloedel Conservatory…

Vancouver is a beautiful city… the grey wet winters sometimes cloud our vision but the promise of early spring makes up for it every year.  One of my favourite sights – inherited from my grandmother – is the moment the cherry blossom trees burst forth with wild, reckless abandon.  They are a symbol of life and optimism that can’t be ignored…  as if their personal motto is “why do it when you can overdo it?”

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There are a few places in the lower mainland to hang out with the blossom trees… This year we went to see them at Queen Elizabeth Park.  On such a sunny, temperate late winter day we weren’t the only ones with that idea – the park was filled with locals, tourists and countless cameras.  My photo taking was mild by comparison; there were photographers everywhere!  Still, we found a few quiet places to enjoy the flowers and sunshine.

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The view down to the quarry garden is gorgeous – even at this time of year when not much is blooming.  I was instantly reminded of many many visits to the park and gardens as a child with Oma and Opa – this was one of their favourite places to visit.  We would come on sunny Saturday afternoons to marvel at the flowers and the colourful wedding parties visiting the park for photographs…

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The north facing view over Burrard inlet and toward the mountains is also lovely.  Notice there is no snow on those mountains.  No snow!  What a year.

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At the top of the hill is the Bloedel Conservatory.

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This space like dome is the home of some incredibly beautiful birds and flowers – with half an hour left on our parking ticket we gladly spent the 15$ for our family of four to tour the garden inside…

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The birds roam free through the garden and are quite tame – they are comfortable with the visitors and we were able to observe them eating and grooming at very close range!

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Who are these crazy birds?

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Something about birds makes them seem so human.  They have a way of looking right at you as if they’re thinking “Yes, I’m beautiful. Of course, I’m intelligent. I’m a bird.  Don’t worry, silly human, you can be intelligent and beautiful too – you just have to work a little harder.”  I’m afraid I have my work cut out for me – I feel this spring may be a transformative moment.

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (C.S.Lewis)

Outside the fountains of my childhood still burst forth in celebration of the coming spring too:

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Are you starting to feel it too?

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Places to Go

Gastown…

This one is for Ms.K and Ms.J who, in spite of their own busy lives and to-do lists, took an hour to wander the streets and see the sights with me.  (They may be the only people besides my own family who are patient enough to put up with my constant camera use…)  As we were in the city with some “free” time we walked through Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighbourhood.

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Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and is named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton – a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the town’s first saloon.  (You know a city is fun when the barkeep is important enough to name a neighbourhood after…)

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The statue commemorating Gassy Jack stands on another historic spot:

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There is no shortage of history or character in the area.  Between the historic buildings and the interesting shops (art, fashion, furniture, etc.) there is a lot to look at:

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Vancouver’s own flatiron building…

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Every town built around a bar is going to need a jail…

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My favourite sign…

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(because Ms.K pointed out the back side…)

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This one functions as a self portrait…just realized I can see my picture taking self in the window reflection…

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The local businesses are interesting too – my favourite Vancouver shoe legend John Fluevog has returned to Gastown where his Fox and Fluevog shoe business began decades ago, and architects, galleries and studios mix with the restaurants, clubs and street people.  Gastown has always been an artsy fringe area, which makes it  interesting but not always neat and tidy… There are many stakeholders and often disagreements about how the area should be developed (or not).  The tensions between new and old, business and social development or government and culture have always seemed a part of the local character.

A riot between the hippies and the police in 1971 over marijuana has become legendary – the incident is commemorated in a grand way with an art installation by Stan Douglas on the site of the old Woodwards building.  (I’m expecting real life anecdotes from those of you who were there in the comments…)

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These old Woodward’s signs get me every time… we have a lot of family history tied up with that store… (Mimi?  Comments?)

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Sentiment aside, Gastown is a great “wander”.  The mix of old architecture and modern life never fails to entertain.

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The traditional favourite place to stop in along the way is the Cordova Street store Salmagundi West…  My mother brought me here when I was young and I have returned over and over again.  The store hasn’t really changed, but it is always different…

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Everything you never knew you wanted… (taxidermy bear, anyone?)

On the corner of Cambie and Water Street stands Gastown’s beloved steam clock.

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The clock was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather.  (Again, long history of tension!) The original design was flawed and after a breakdown the clock was powered by electricity.  However it has become a major attraction in the neighbourhood and so, with the financial support of local businesses, the clock was temporarily removed and completely restored.

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I have to admit I’m a sucker for that Westminster chime…

Thanks to my lovely companions for the time to reminisce and explore – it reminded me (once again!) how lucky I am to live in such a colourful, interesting, evolving place…

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Places to Go

Bowen Island…

Bowen Island is a special place.

My grandmother moved to Bowen in 1934 – just after her wedding  –  and raised her first three daughters in a tiny house with no luxuries or modern amenities.   Both my grandparents are on the island still – their ashes were left on the beach below the tiny house they lived in for the first 20 years of their married life…

These days when I visit the island it is with love in my heart for the family history that unfolded there, but also to show my own children how different life can be in other places, even a short distance from our own home.  it takes us less than an hour to get there from our house, including the very short ferry ride, but it is like entering another place and time completely.

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The Bowen Island ferry leaves from Horseshoe Bay – just outside of downtown Vancouver at the bottom of the Sea to Sky highway…  it is the only ferry I know that you can walk on and walk off right into the village proper… no car or other transportation required.

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Even on a (sort of) drizzly day we loved the very short ferry trip for the view and the wind!

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The village of Bowen Island is completely walkable – you can get off the ferry and wander up the hill past boutiques, artists studios and restaurants as you go.  I always take a picture of the Union Steamship sign to remember Papa Lawrence and his time in their employ…

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We wandered for a bit before stopping for lunch at the Ruddy Potato…

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By this time we were ready for eating (having spent all of our hunting and gathering energy on the slight climb up the hill…) and so we ordered just about one of everything from the café.  Thai seafood chowder, grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches and hot cocoa all around (plus banana bread, because it looked delicious…) – well received by all:

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Finished just in time to run back down the hill and catch the ferry back to the mainland…

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Places to Go

Granville Island (Volume 2)

Just over a year ago I wrote about a family trip to Granville Island so I am thinking enough time has passed to post some new photos… Of all the places to go in this city Granville Island is one of my absolute favourites.  I have many many childhood memories of wandering through the market stalls and shopping for farm fresh fruits and veggies interspersed with crafts, soaps, honey, flowers, trinkets and treasures of every imaginable sort.  It has evolved over the years, I suppose, but all of the character and creativity that inspired me as a child is still intact.  I love to visit today as much as ever. This trip was on a busy, sunny Sunday afternoon so we parked at the east end.  This painted wall next to the parking lot greeted us as we got out of the car: IMG_5252 (Side note: my friend Rose inspired me to take up the #oneword challenge on Twitter on New Year’s Day – my chosen word for 2015 is love.  I have been seeking and sharing love as often as I can, and am always thrilled to find it in environmental print… thank you Granville Island!) We walked down Railspur Alley toward the market, stopping for the occasional photo op… (Hard to tear artists away from giant paintbrushes…) IMG_5255 …chatted with the locals… IMG_5258 …and then stopped to marvel at the artwork decorating Ocean Construction.  My kids think the best thing ever is their painted cement mixers… see the one that looks like a giant strawberry? IMG_5264 IMG_5265 Next stop was the longhouse where Clarence Mills and his apprentices have totem carving underway in various stages… IMG_5278  IMG_5272 …after which we stopped to watch two talented tap dancers show off their moves.  My two young tappers were suitably impressed; maybe one day they’ll make enough money busking to pay me back for all those tap lessons? IMG_5277 Next up: into the market.  Since my childhood the gorgeous stacks of fruits and fancies have been a thing of beauty.  I still love to wander up and down the aisles admiring all the wares, and this time I managed to take some photos worth sharing!  I hope you like them: IMG_5281 IMG_5283 IMG_5284 IMG_5285 IMG_5286 IMG_5287 IMG_5288 IMG_5289 IMG_5290 IMG_5292 IMG_5300 IMG_5301 IMG_5302 IMG_5304 IMG_5305 IMG_5303 In spite of wishing for one of everything we managed to stay focused and only bought two big bags of apples for pie.  (After the black bear jumped our wall and ate all of ours – from two trees – in the fall Mr. Martini has been craving apple pie ravenously…)  All the sightseeing had given us great appetites so we ordered lunch from the Mexican booth and ate out on the patio with the best view ever and musical accompaniment: IMG_5294 IMG_5293 IMG_5295

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After lunch we walked back to the car, first through the loft with it’s many wonderful stores (one entirely dedicated to hats)… IMG_5306

…and then through the Children’s market… IMG_5307

…and lastly past the old yellow crane, standing sentry since the 1920s… IMG_5310

…already thinking of our next visit… (Do you have any childhood market memories that live on?)

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