Trees I Have Known

February 23, 2017

I just spent about an hour trying to finding an old photo of my daughter on a swing in a big old cherry tree that used to be in our backyard. I couldn’t find the photo, but refound this post and thought I would reshare (I can’t seem to find the time to write these kinds of posts lately).

wild ink

Anyone else have a favourite tree from childhood? The tree in the photo is one of several Broadleaf Maples that I grew up with. Its branches have held a Tarzan swing (placed there by my dad) for over 40 years, entertaining neighbourhood kids for two generations.

The branches of one Maple reached right to my top floor bedroom window, its broad green leaves playing with sunlight in summer, rustling orange-yellow in fall –always nourishing my spirit.

Another Maple tree supported a sturdy playhouse built by my dad, with the trunk of the tree growing up through the middle of the house and offering the perfect climbing route to the playhouse roof and from there further up to where my brother later built a smaller, more precarious-looking tree house. The small tree house was like a crow’s nest at the top of a ship mast, offering views of all the neighbouring…

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Breaking the ice (haiku reading and upcoming workshops)

February 5, 2017

For the month of February (which is National Haiku Writing Month), I’m partnering with Vancouver’s Joy Kogawa House to celebrate haiku with events leading up to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. Last night, I was joined by other members of the Vancouver Haiku Group, as well as visiting poet Carole Glasser Langille, to kick off the month with a reading of prose, haiku and other poetry.

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The weather was more wintery than I expected when I picked the theme (there were more hints of spring in Vancouver by this time last year), but despite the snow, the house was full, and by the end of the evening we’d fully moved into the spirit of spring.

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Cherry preserves in anticipation of the blossoms to come . . .

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In partnership with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF), renowned haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch (from Sammamish, Washington) will be teaching a “How to Haiku” workshop at the Terry Salman branch of the Vancouver public library February 18. More info on the VCBF site.

I’ll be teaching a “Haiku Secrets: beyond the basics of writing haiku” workshop at Joy Kogawa House on Feb 25 (move away from 5-7-5 and learn how these tiny poems can express powerful experiences in both nature and urban life). More info on the events page of Joy Kogawa House. To register contact info@kogawahouse.com.

Both workshops are followed by an opportunity to decorate a giant koi “scale” with haiku for a koinobori installation at Sakura Days Japan Fair, which will be held at VanDusen Garden April 8-9 (2017). We’ll also be encouraging participants to submit haiku to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival international haiku contest.

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koi-installation

(Above photo courtesy of the VCBF and Powell St. Festival)

 

West Coast winter haiku

December 5, 2016

One thing I actually enjoy about Vancouver’s winter rain and early darkness is the neon reflections.

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(A version of the above photo-haiga was published in the last issue of A Hundred Gourds)

Today, we even got some snow. It’s days like this that I’m happy to work at home.

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A taste of Japan – through photos, haiku and food

July 7, 2016

Reminiscing, I decided to repost this haiku-photo collaboration from 2010. Sad to say that Ruriko, the owner of the cafe-gallery exhibit space, died of cancer a few years ago.

Note: Yokan is a winter citrus fruit. Also, I feel compelled to point out that my haiku have progressed since this time, and these older haiku have some problems, though I still like the yokan haiku and the collaboration with Jean-Pierre’s photos.

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Recently, Jean-Pierre Antonio, a friend who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years, asked me to write some haiku to accompany a series of photographs he took in Tokyo and Kyoto this past December. Usually my haiku is inspired by personal experience, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have any success trying to write in response to someone else’s photographs, but Jean-Pierre’s multiple images of  bright winter yokan fruit, calligraphic wisteria vines, and mysterious crows immediately evoked a strong feeling of place and mood, and the first haiku quickly took shape. Writing something to go with Jean-Pierre’s photos of young people engrossed in manga-reading and close-up sections of ancient fabric took a little more thought. To write about the fabric, I had to, in a sense, reach back across time to imagine what was going through the minds of the long-ago fabric artists…

The result of our collaboration is currently…

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West Coast flash fiction

January 30, 2016

I love flash fiction (very short stories that you can read in one quick gulp). Here is my attempt at one, inspired by summer camp memories and a First Nations legend of the west coast forest:


D’Sonoqua

I scrunch deeper into the salal, loosening the sweet scent of ripening berries, letting the thick leaves close around me. The twitter of birds stops suddenly, and I freeze as footsteps pound down the forest path. No one sees me. From further up the trail, girls’ voices drift through the trees.

“I see you, Cara!” Olivia, the girl who is IT, calls shrilly.

“Home free!” another voice shouts.

Then silence. It’s as if the sounds have been smothered by the thick moss that covers everything.

Something snuffles on the other side of the salal. A wild animal? No, it is probably that girl from cabin 6 who breaths through her mouth. I keep as still as possible, holding my breath.

“I see you, Madison!” Olivia’s voice is a thin thread, tangled and lost among the big trees, the ancient ferns and the absorbing moss.

The snuffling beyond the salal moves on.

Then Madison’s theatrical scream pierces the forest. It’s the same scream she used to end the lame scary story she told in the cabin last night. As if the scream was enough to make it scary. No murderer with a bloody chainsaw. No crazy knife-wielding hitch-hiker. Just some Wild Woman of the Woods who catches children who wander into the forest. Not much of a story, but the other girls in the cabin hang on Madison’s every word.

I listen for another shout from Olivia, or Madison’s triumphant laugh. Ha Ha, I scared you. But there is nothing.

I consider emerging from my hiding spot and running for Home. But I don’t move.

The forest is silent. Even the birds remain quiet. Waiting.

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 *  *  *

For more flash fiction, check out author kc dyer‘s Festive Flash Fiction Advent Calendar posted in December, which includes flash fiction by kc and other authors. Here are the links to the flash fiction I shared there:

Fight or Flight

The Small Green Snake

Yarn bombing

Seismic Lab

December 30, 2015

 

Yesterday’s 4.9 earthquake, felt by people in the area of Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island down to Seattle, prompted me to share this story, which was first published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? (2014). Unfortunately, Dylan, the dog in the story, is no longer with us, and our new dog does not have the same talent (the photo below is Dylan looking heroic, about the time the story took place).

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Our dog Dylan was a lousy watchdog. He was a large Lab mix and had the potential to be intimidating. But instead of barking when strangers came to the door, he’d greet them with an eager wag of his tail.

One night, my husband Craig left Dylan in our van parked by the ice arena where Craig was playing hockey. Dylan was happy hanging out in the van (he always jumped in as soon as we opened a door, never wanting to be left behind). And Craig figured the presence of a big dog would be a better deterrent to would-be thieves than a car alarm. When Craig came out of the arena near midnight, he was surprised to see Dylan running loose around the parking lot. It took Craig a moment to register that the van was gone. Not only had Dylan not deterred the car thieves, he must have happily jumped out of the van to greet them when they forced open a door (which was just as well, because we’d rather have lost the van than Dylan).

Despite Dylan’s failing as a guard dog, we soon learned that he had the ability to raise an alarm of a different kind.

From the time we first adopted Dylan from a local animal shelter, he slept in a crate in our bedroom. When Dylan wasn’t yet house-trained, we locked him in the crate at night. Later, we kept the door open and Dylan would head into the crate on his own as soon as Craig and I began preparing for bed. The crate became a place of sanctuary and security for Dylan. When anyone mentioned the word “bath,” Dylan instantly hid in his crate. It was, therefore, out of character one night when Dylan refused to go into his crate. We pushed and coaxed, but he would not get inside. Instead, he slept on the floor at the foot of our bed. The next night was the same.

Coincidentally, shortly before this episode, I had been doing some research into the behaviour exhibited by animals before earthquakes. I had read that birds often stop singing moments before a quake hits and that dogs and cats have been known to avoid enclosed spaces (even to the point of running away from home) over a period of three days before an earthquake. On the third night that Dylan refused to go into his crate, I pointed out to my husband that Dylan might be displaying pre-earthquake behaviour.

“That would mean we should get an earthquake tomorrow,” Craig said, half intrigued, half laughing. We both went to sleep without giving it much further thought.

The next morning around 11:00 a.m., an earthquake hit. I was in the community centre swimming pool with my daughter at the time, and we didn’t feel it. But the rest of the city did. It was a small quake, with no damage reported, but it did give people a bit of a scare. As one woman interviewed on the local news said, “It was like standing on Jell-O.”

That night, Dylan returned to his normal pattern of happily bedding down in his crate, and Craig and I went to bed with a new feeling of security. Dylan might be a lousy watchdog when it came to burglars and car thieves, but when the next earthquake hits, we’ll be ready.

~Jacqueline Pearce

Fall is cherry blossom time?

December 1, 2015

 

While spring is the traditional time for celebrating cherry blossoms, fall is when we hear the results of the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational contest. This year, I was excited to learn that one of my haiku (inspired by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team making the Stanley Cup playoffs) was selected as the top winner in the “Vancouver” category. And, seeming in honour of the occasion, these rather confused cherry blossoms were blooming in November when I visited Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

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Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational Top Winners, 2015

Vancouver

Stanley Cup playoffs
the last cherry blossoms
still hanging on
                      Jacqueline Pearce
                      Vancouver, British Columbia

British Columbia

cherry blossoms
come and go
my seventy years
                      Dan Curtis
                      Victoria, British Columbia

Canada

Alzheimer’s ward
cherry blossoms
in the fog
                      Marco Fraticelli
                      Pointe-Claire, Quebec

United States

cherry blossoms
no room in the selfie
for me
                      Joe McKeon
                      Strongsville, Ohio

International

cherry blossoms
falling
in love again
                      Brendon Kent
                      Southampton, England

Youth

cherry blossoms—
grandma tells me about
her first date
                      Cucu Georgiana, age 12
                      Botosani, Romania

Click here for commentary on winning poems

Fall is also a time when local cherry trees are filled with beauty of a different colour.

fall cherry trees

Fall is in the air

September 2, 2015

Technically, it’s still summer, but with many people heading back to school and the long summer drought finally ending here on the BC coast, it feels like fall has arrived. The long string of dry hot days has also turned many leaves prematurely brown.

For years after I finished high school and university, I used to get itchy feet this time of year and feel that excited flutter in my chest that comes with the anticipation of seeing old friends again, the potential of meeting new ones, and (in university years) wondering what exciting vistas new classes might be about to open for me. In more recent years, this feeling seems to have morphed into a yearning to travel in the fall ─to explore new places and admire fall colours in different locations.

 

autumn wind─
I have the sudden urge
to buy school supplies

 

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Winter haibun

February 17, 2015

Jean-Pierre Antonio and I have been friends since elementary school, when we shared the grade five classroom art corner and snuck off with class-mates to explore the nearby creek during lunch hours. Jean-Pierre has lived in Japan for the past 25 years. I’ve enjoyed hearing about his experiences, have visited him there, and we’ve done some collaboration featuring Jean-Pierre’s photographs (taken in Japan) and my haiku written in response to the photographs (here’s a post on our 2010 exhibit at Sawa restaurant-gallery in Vancouver). Recently, I found myself responding to one of Jean-Pierre’s emails with a poem that seems to be part haiku, part tanka. Together, the two pieces form a kind of haibun (a writing form combining prose & haiku). Perhaps this will be a new trend in our collaboration.

illustration from The Lion, the Witch & the WardrobeIn the Depth of Winter

The clouds rolled down from the mountain today, bringing drizzle just this side of snow, and drawing the heat out of my body as I rushed home after work. I thought of the scene in the movie version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ──the one in which Lucy meets the fawn, Mr. Tumnus, by the lamp post. It’s snowing, and she is wearing just a light skirt, blouse and sweater, and she is very cold. He invites her for tea, and they go to his cave-home. Inside, there’s a fireplace with a warm fire already lit, and he brings out the pot of steaming tea, along with sugar, milk and toast. That’s what I want today ─a warm fire to put the heat back into my bones, the orange tinted light to drive away the grey outside, and a soothing pot of hot tea.

tea buns
by candle light─
in the depth of winter
the sheltered ember
of spring

The Siege is on!

October 20, 2014

My new book is out! The teenage characters in Siege dodge ghosts and smugglers during a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp at Old Fort Erie, Ontario. For several months in the real War of 1812 (which actually ended in 1815), Fort Erie was occupied by US soldiers. One of the biggest and deadliest battles of the war occurred there in August 2014. (Siege is a short easy-to-read novel in the Orca Currents series for ages 10-14). (Review)

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