Archive for December, 2006

Story of a Christmas tree

December 21, 2006

Here is a page from my Christmas photo album:

(Given last week’s wind storm, I’d rather have a tree fall in the house than on the house!) Merry Christmas!

Dumpster decorating

December 18, 2006

Some graffiti is just plain ugly vandalism, with no display of creativity (the tag and run variety). But some adds a touch of colour and character to stretches of drab urban landscape. The graffiti in the header at the top of this blog, for example, lends a feeling of life to a strip of characterless industrial buildings along the Skytrain line. The wild blackberries that threaten to swallow the graffiti, add another dimension, insinuating nature’s presence back into the scene.graffiti

To get the  photo for the header, I had to jump a ditch, walk along an overgrown stretch of abandoned train tracks and push my way through some bushes. I’m not sure what the few people who noticed thought I was doing. I also took this dumpster and Skytrain photograph (one of my favourite graffiti photos) near that same spot. What do you think? Vandalism or art?

When I came across these pink hearts painted on a blue dumpster near my house, then discovered pink hearts painted on other blue surfaces, I couldn’t help smiling and wondering about the whimsical artist who was compelled to go out in the middle of the night and clandestinely paint hearts all over the neighbourhood. graffitiIntriguing things happen in the city at night (aside from drug dealings, etc.). There’s a whole other world layered over top of the day-time one — populated by roving raccoons, coyotes and graffiti artists……

Wind in your face haiku

December 15, 2006

Our snow is now gone, and we’re back to the usual rain (plus this not so usual wind). The haiku mood seems to be hanging on.

Outside Metrotown mall:

 dancing yellow leaves

chase each other in circles

across the pavement


Walking home from the skytrain:

above me, crows swoop

when wind lifts my shopping bags

I almost fly, too


Check the comments under the “flurry of haiku” post for more haiku.


Blizzard of birds

December 12, 2006

I didn’t plan to write about crows today, but I went to pick up my daughter from school, and it was like walking into the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” There were crows everywhere! So many, that it was freaking out the kids. I tried to take photos, but the wind was blowing in black clouds and rain, and it was getting so dark there wasn’t enough light to focus properly.

I’ve seen crows out sky surfing on windy days before (they actually seem to enjoy the wind), but I’ve never seen anything like this in my neighbourhood — they were in the sky, on roof tops, on the ground, on fences, in trees.

It was like being near the roost when the crows all start arriving for the night. And it was all focused mostly around the school.

I wonder if the loss of trees at the crows’ usual roost has set them searching for somewhere new to hang out. . . .

a flurry of haiku

December 7, 2006

Until recently, I hadn’t written any poetry for quite awhile. Then we got this sudden cold and snow, which I am totally not used to, and almost every time I looked out the window or stepped out the door, I was struck by a haiku moment.

On one of the coldest nights, my dog went outside for a quick visit to the backyard. When I opened the door to let him back in, I stood for a moment, caught by the smell of the cold, the closeness of the sky, the breath of the house billowing out into the night…. lines of haiku began to form and reform in my mind, so that I had a hard time getting to sleep after that.

sharp scent of cold air

clouds drift out the open door

absorbed by stillness


gathering close

pale sky touches white trees

hushed in snow


And from the next day:

icicles drip

decorating eaves troughs

warmed by house breath


during the cold snap

rats take refuge in my attic

the cat’s ears twitch


Haiku is supposed to contain 17 syllables in lines of 5-7-5, but I don’t think it matters if you follow that exactly. What matters is the moment shared. Anyone else care to share a moment?

In my November 29 post, “haiku snapshot,” I included a poem about a crow:


black shape on white snow

fathomless as a deep hole

until the crow caws


In the comments, my friend Jean-Pierre, who has lived in Japan for over 15 years, translated my haiku into Japanese:

Yuki ni yurei

 Fukai ana soko nashi

 Karasu naku


When he translated it back to English again, it came out:

Ghost in the snow

Deep hole no bottom

Crow cries


creating a totally different poem. Check out Jean-Pierre’s comment for more details about the translation process.

Starring George, the rat!

December 4, 2006

book launch, me with George the ratI launched my new book this past Saturday at the Vancouver SPCA shelter. “The Truth about Rats (and dogs)” is the second novel in a series the SPCA asked me to write about kids and animals. The first book, “Dog House Blues,” which came out last year, was also launched at a shelter event. I had three dogs as special guests at that one (rats, of course, at this one).

The highlight of last year’s event was when the dogs all ran to the front of the room where I’d been doing my reading, and my dog, Dylan, immediately (and messily) drank up my whole glass of water. The kids thought that was hilarious. The highlight of the recent launch was probably when George, the rat, escaped from my hands and scampered onto my back, where I couldn’t reach him (see above photos). George the ratI’d like to think the best part was when I read from my book, but as usual, I was upstaged by the non-human guests!

(George, in the photo on the left, has been living at my house for the past few weeks, along with his brother, Sneaker. They are both available for adoption at the Vancouver shelter. Believe it or not, rats are becoming more popularly adopted pets than the dogs and cats.)

 You can read a different perspective on the launch and see more photos at

The truth about rats

December 1, 2006

Like crows, rats are another sometimes maligned species. They are associated with disease and filth, considered dirty, sneaky, etc. Usually they get cast as the bad guy in children’s cartoons. Although, there are exceptions (the wise martial arts rat who teaches the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for example), and rats can have different significance in different cultures. If you are born in the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac, you are supposed to be charming and attractive to people of the opposite sex, as well as thrifty, honest and a hard worker.

Athough their public image may not be as bad as it once was, rats are examples of urban wildlife that we generally don’t enjoy catching sight of. Still, I do get a kind of covert thrill when I see a rat run along the underground part of the Skytrain tracks, and I imagine a whole secret world existing under the noses and feet of all the busy business people in the city above. I have to admit, though, that I don’t get the same thrill when I hear rats scrabbling around inside the walls of my house.

book coverWhen I was writing my latest novel for kids, “The Truth About Rats (and Dogs),” I fostered a rat from the SPCA shelter, so I could experience what pet rats were like and what it would be like to look after one. I found Oscar quite enjoyable and modeled the rat in my story after him. It did seem ironic, however, to be pampering a pet rat inside my house, while scheming of ways to get rid of the wild rats outside my house and in my walls. I’d be sitting at my computer in the basement writing my rat story, and a wild rat would scuttle along outside the window on his nightly rounds, as if to remind me of who the real owners of the city are.