Archive for June, 2007

More strange weather

June 26, 2007

My daughter and I spent this past weekend on Vancouver Island and took the ferry back to the mainland late Sunday afternoon. As we sailed south from Nanaimo to Tswassen we travelled in sunshine, but the ocean was an eerie pale green around us, and the mainland was hidden by a wall of black, sliced periodically by lightning. My husband phoned from somewhere in the middle of the blackness to say he’d be late picking us up at the ferry terminal, as he was waiting for a thunder, lightning and hail storm to ease off.

As we neared the ferry terminal, the captain announced a pod of orcas off the port side of the ship. They were too far away to see clearly, but we could make out dorsal fins breaking the surface. Once we were off the ship and my husband had picked us up, we drove in bright sunshine, obviously just behind the retreating storm. The road was still wet, a bald eagle sat on top a lamp post above the road, drying its wings, and we also passed several hawks doing the same.

We took our time getting home, and arrived just in front of another approaching shower. hailEven though the hail storm had been over for almost three hours, and the sun had been out, there was still unmelted hail on the roof nextdoor (looking like unseasonable snow), and the air was cold. (Sorry, I’m sure you’d rather have seen a photo of the orcas than my neighbour’s old mossy roof.)

The second shower passed, and a double rainbow filled the sky.

To top off the wierd weather, parts of the Okanagan (normally the hottest spot in BC during the summer) had actual snow Sunday night! (the cold lower mainland storm must have hit there next).

Check out Brainripples for a rain storm inspired haiku story (which you can add to).

June haiku

June 25, 2007

mock orange bushHaiku traditionally begins with a seasonal reference. This goes back to old Japan when haiku was part of a party game. The host often started off the game by poviding the opening stanza (called hokku), and the guests took turns adding stanzas to create a longer linked poem (known as renga). The seasonal reference in the opening line was a way of dating the poem (or at least letting people know in which season it was written). The party poets took their renga seriously, and eventually a book of rules was created, which included lists of objects (mostly plants and animals) associated with each season. The opening hokku written at parties was often more popular and better remembered than the rest of the renga, and eventually it became an independant poetry form called haiku.

My list of seasonal objects for June would have to include cottonwood seed fluffs (first one or two, then hundreds float through the air and collect like snow along roadside curbs), mock orange blossoms (the bush in the photo above started as an unidentifiable bare stick that I almost pulled out of the ground), and shedding dog hair (our dog, Dylan, sheds so much that we’d be knee-deep in dog hair if I didn’t vacuume every day).


first cottonwood fluff

drifting over my backyard

summer I was twelve


white dome of flowers

as tall as the neighbour’s house

began as a weed


white flower beacons

glow as the evening light fades

calling out with scent


fur falls to the floor

as I scratch my dog’s backside

it doesn’t matter

Disappearing song birds

June 16, 2007

Wilson's WarblerEvery year in mid May small yellow birds (which I’ve figured out are at least two kinds of warblers) make a brief appearance in my backyard. Their bright feathers and musical song contrast with the modest browns and plane chirps of the usual backyard crowd. I always enjoy seeing them, and somewhere in the back of my mind I knew they may have migrated a long way to get here, but the epic quality of their journey never really hit me until I heard bird researcher Bridget Strutchbury speak last month.

Strutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds, spoke about the double life of songbirds who winter in Central and South America and breed in the north, the huge “storms” of birds migrating north each year (flying mostly at night), and the alarming decline in the numbers of breeding birds (a drop of 30-50% since 1965).yellow-rumped warbler

That little yellow bird passing through my backyard has faced loss of its tropical forest winter home, been forced to survive in scrubby left-over habitat, dodged toxic agricultural pesticides (often pesticides restricted or banned in the north), then flown the long gruelling route north with fewer places to stop and city lights disrupting night-time navigation, then arrived in the north to find breeding forests and grasslands smaller and closer to cities and farms where predators such as crows, jays and feral cats lurk.

Put in this light, the fact that these little yellow birds have even made it to my yard at all is pretty amazing. I find it really distrubing to think that one spring they might not. If this happens it wont just mean the disappearance of birdsong from our neighbourhoods. Strutchbury points out: “If a species goes extinct or its  population drops to very low numbers, the ecological roles that it played in nature are lost. Some species are so specialized that their services can no be replaced by other animals, so their loss creates a ripple effect. . . . Their jobs as pollinators, fruit-eaters, insect-eaters, scavengers and nutrient recyclers will not get done, and this will disrupt ecosystems and affect everyone on the planet.”

Things we can do to help save the songbirds:

– drink shade-grown coffee

– buy organic produce (especially from Latin America)

– create backyard habitats

– keep lawns pesticide-free

– turn city lights out at night

– keep cats indoors

– buy recycled paper products

– buy wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council

– pressure companies manufacturing pesticides to meet international standards

The books have hatched!

June 11, 2007

JacquieThe first Spring Book Hatching, held at the Vancouver Public Library on Saturday, was lots of fun! There were crowds of people and over thirty B.C. authors and illustrators showing their creative stuff. I shared a table with Diane Haynes, author of mystery-wildlife-rescue Dianenovels for teens, Flight or Fight and Crow Medicine. Diane was inspired to write her first novel in the series after rescuing an oiled seabird and volunteering with the Burnaby Wildlife Rescue Association. The crow book came about after Diane rescued a baby crow from a busy road. She was also inspired by crows’ intelligence, playfulness and love of all things shiny. I recently profiled Diane’s latest novel (as well as the first book in Clem Martini’s Crow Chronicles, The Mob) in a double-page spread on crows, which I wrote for the latest issue of Bark! the magazine of the BC SPCA Kids’ Club. With both Diane’s and my books focusing on people and animals, and with both of us being crow fans, we were a good match.

A few highlights of the Hatching (most of the photos taken by author/illustrator Cynthia Nugent):

Hatching images

new angel sightings

June 7, 2007

angel at construction siteangels under the Skytrain

More one-inch art

June 5, 2007

Here are some buttons I made featuring local graffiti art (my thanks to the unknown artists).

graffiti buttons