Archive for the ‘miscellaneous musings’ Category

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).


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

The artful rusty tractor

July 30, 2012

My father-in-law has what you might call an en plein air tractor shop (or graveyard, depending on your point of view). Yesterday, in the low-angled sun of early evening, the rusting tractors seemed to speak of nostalgia for a disappearing way of life and, at the same time, to take on a new and different life through their wonderful colours, textures and shapes.

December Interlude

December 9, 2011

I took yesterday and today off to escape to Vancouver Island for a pre-Christmas visit with my sister and parents. The -4 degrees c. cold woke me up early this morning, and I wasn’t sure if I was up for voluntarily stepping out into it, but a visit to the town where I grew up isn’t complete without a walk along the Cowichan River with my dad. So I borrowed a toque and scarf, and we set out.

As we walked, a V of geese passed overhead (heading toward Cowichan Bay).

We stopped by the sewer lagoon to check if there were any eagles sitting in the big nest in the cottonwoods (none this time), then walked on top the dike beside one of the creeks that flows into the Cowichan.

Mist rose up from the water, and rays from the low sun slanted through the trees.

Two kinglets and a wren poked along the shore, a pair of mallards floated by, and two pale salmon moved like ghosts beneath the surface of the water, appearing and disappearing as the rippling reflections moved and changed.

Further along, the red fin of a male salmon sharked up above the water as he splashed upstream.

Beyond the creek, closer to the river, I caught sight of an eagle sitting on a branch, and then another. Counted seven sitting in the one tree. A few more in other trees.

We walked along a dry stream bed to get closer, stepping over the decaying bodies of salmon that had swum upstream to spawn (in vain) weeks ago when the creek was full from the fall rain.

Back on the dike again, we glimpsed a great blue heron through the trees.

Passed two eager dogs, checking out a frozen section of creek.

On the ground, frost fringed leaves and grass.

Above, blue, blue sky.

A good day to walk and look (or sit on a roof and contemplate the day, as this cat we spied on the way home seemed to be doing).

Later, sitting on the ferry on my way back to the mainland, something made me put down the book I was reading and look out the window –just in time to see a pod of dolphins arcing above the waves along side the boat.

The perfect punctuation to end a beautiful, pause-filled day (!)

Sci fi Christmas lights

December 13, 2010

After dark last night, the fog crept in, shrouding my neighbourhood and turning street lights into strange floating orbs of glowing colour. The effect was science-fictionish –as if the lights were some form of UFOs or alien message. However, as I was falling asleep last night, the memory of the lights transformed into a dream image of choral singers standing in a row, each with a long white robe and a giant glowing faceless head. Bizarre, but also Christmasy.

In the words of a young man I overheard on Granville Island today, “Have a wonderful seasonal holiday based on the solstice!”

Trees I Have Known

July 20, 2010

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 yards and the prefect retreat for hiding away with a novel or a notebook in which to scribble story ideas and secrets.

The Broadleaf Maples were like good friends throughout my childhood, and I missed them when I moved away –especially when I moved back east where Broadleaf Maples don’t grow. When I returned to the westcoast, the familiar large rounded canopies, huge leaves and companionable wind-stirred rustle called out to me like old friends, welcoming me home. They still call.

(The same tree in the 1970s –you can glimpse the treehouse my brother built in the tree behind at the bottom of the photo)

(A fall leaf from a Broadleaf Maple tree near my new house –gives you an idea of how aptly the tree is named)

Grandma and the Storytelling Shell

September 23, 2009

This morning I listened to an interview with author/illustrator Lee Edward Fodi in which he mentioned that his interest in writing and illustrating books goes back to when he first picked up a crayon. He also said that, for him, the visual images always came first. I was thinking that, although I loved to draw as a kid, the written story always came before the visual image for me. Then I remembered the pictures I drew for my grandma.

For most of my childhood, my grandma lived several hundred miles away, and I only saw her a couple times a year. We used to write letters back and forth, and for a brief period, we also did something special. I would send my grandma a drawing, and she would send me back a story to go with the drawing. The story she created from the picture would be a total surprise, and I always waited for it with great anticipation. (I still have at least two of those drawings and their accompanying stories –perhaps I’ll post one here when I find it.)

My grandma always encouraged my interest in being a writer, but I’d forgotten how much she modelled storytelling herself and inspired creativity by her approach to life and the things she had around her. There was always a mood of fun around my grandmother. She had a big encompassing laugh, sang lively French songs, made paper dolls with us, played cards, and always had a lazy-Susan tray of Bugles, Cheezies, chips and dip at the ready. She loved Hawaii, dressed in a bright floral muu muu at home, played Hawaiian music on her stereo, called her grandchildren by Hawaiianified names, and always had little shells and tiny toys hidden in her flower pots. And, there was the story-telling shell.

My brothers, sister and I loved to curl up next to my grandma while she held the storytelling shell on her lap (like a mother-of-pearl bowl), traced lines and patterns with her finger, and told stories about children who sailed the sea and had encounters with pirates. It wasn’t so much the content of the stories that made the stories great, it was the personality, warmth and love with which my grandma told them.

So, some stories begin with pictures, some with words, and if your’e lucky, some begin with a storytelling shell.


Where do you stand on doors?

July 12, 2008

Photos of picturesque doors have become a bit of a chiche in recent years. There is even a Simpsons episode in which Bart and Lisa go antiquing with a new gay friend of Homer’s, and Bart photographs doors.

I admit that I too like to photograph doors. Perhaps it’s their mundaneness and, conversely, their universally symbolic quality. Doors are an ordinary part of everyday existence, but they can also imprison and hide secrets or they can open to freedom and new possibilities. They contain thresholds over which we may fear or yearn to step.

Here are some doors that caught my eye in Vancouver this past year:

And one more that I stumbled across when I was somewhat lost in East Vancouver recently:

Stories are all around us

December 17, 2007

I was walking through a different part of town the other day, when I looked up and saw all these shoes hanging from the utility lines. I couldn’t help pausing to wonder what the story was (or could be) behind how they got there. Who threw them up there? Why? Why this spot? How did the people feel who lost their shoes? It reminded me of a section of road on Vancouver Island where people come from all around to leave their jack-o-lanterns after Halloween is over. Will people be coming from all around to throw their old shoes to the sky or pay a kind of homage to the ones already up there?

shoes on wires

Action springs from the belief that you can make a difference

August 17, 2007

This quote from a fellow blogger struck a cord with me today:

“I’ve been both an idealistic child and a realistic grownup, and I think I was a better person when I was an idealistic child…..Realism does little but protect the status quo. Being optimistic, on the other hand, is the most radical political act there is.”

No Impact Man, August 19, 2007

Granville Island colours

May 8, 2007

Today, errands took me to Vancouver’s Granville Island. The sun was out and so were the tourists (checking out the food market, artisan shops, etc. and avoiding the cement trucks and other “working” elements of the island, which is not really an island). Here are some images from my visit:


And two images as I left the “island” and headed for the pedestrain tunnel under Granville Street: