Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

West Coast winter haiku

December 5, 2016

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

wet city(2).jpg

(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.

winter rose(2).jpg

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.

confused cherry blossom3

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

Getting ready for Chinese New Year

January 22, 2014

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden -cropI didn’t expect to see much in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in the middle of January, but when I visited last Saturday, I found it blooming with red lanterns and bustling with preparations for Chinese New Year. I was also surprised to see winter jasmine in flower and many trees full of early buds.

The Chinese  lunar New Year (which begins on January 31 this year) is a time for sweeping away the old (dust, clutter, debts, worries) and welcoming in the new (renewing hope for health, happiness, and good fortune). Staff and volunteers at the garden were busy cleaning, tidying, tying up loose-ends, and decorating in preparation for the upcoming Year of the Horse Temple Fair, Feb 2 (2014). Red lanterns are hung around the garden to bring good luck (red is considered the most auspicious colour because of its association with fire, the sun, energy, light, and life-blood, which demons fear, so it also keeps demons away), and they welcome back the light of spring.

A few images and haiku from my visit:

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New Year’s lanterns─
the courtyard mosaics
swept clear

P1150415

preparing for
the New Year─
peony buds

P1150404

still pond─
finding the courage
to say goodbye

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P1150406

P1150457

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Chicken Soup for the Soul & the lure of a frozen pond

December 1, 2013

book cover4Everywhere it snows, kids love winter. The first snow of the year is always the most exciting ─especially if you live in a place like the south-west coast of British Columbia, where snow is not guaranteed. When my boyfriend and I moved from Vancouver Island to Toronto to go to university, we were looking forward to escaping the cool, rainy winds of Victoria and experiencing a real Canadian winter of sunshine sparkling on snow and ice hockey on frozen ponds. We packed all our essential possessions in two large hockey bags (including two pairs of skates and a toaster oven). The morning we left, we discovered that our friends had graffitied a sarcastic message on the road in front of my boyfriend’s house: Craig loves Harold Ballard (Harold Ballard was the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team at that time, and my boyfriend was not a Leaf’s fan). [Note: scrawled on the road in front of my parents’ house were the words There is no pie in Toronto, but that’s another story.]

Our first winter in Toronto did not start the way we expected. We discovered very quickly that the York University campus, where we were living, had the apt nickname, “Siberia,” and that we had exchanged the damp but relatively gentle winds of Victoria for the bone-chilling, driving sub-zero blast of what we were beginning to think of as a flat urban wasteland. Did things improve? Did we finally get that beautiful Ontario snow we were expecting? Well, you’ll have to read my story in the new collection, Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter: 101 Stories about Bad Weather, Good Times, and Great Sports.

But seriously, Craig and I ended up having many wonderful winter experiences over our four years of living in Ontario (including snow-shoeing over pristine snow north of the city, seeing my first Snowy Owl and Snow Buntings on an outdoor education field trip, and gazing down at the frozen Niagara Falls as we crossed the bridge to the US to watch a hockey game in Buffalo). By our second winter, we had a car, and two of our good friends, Mark and Donna, had moved from the westcoast to Hamilton (an hour’s drive from Toronto), and on weekends we explored a lot of the countryside together. Craig and Mark were on a constant quest to find the best pond on which to play ice hockey. In warm weather, they scouted for accessible ponds with potential. When the temperature started to cool, they monitored the thickening ice. The moment the ice could hold their weight, they were out skating and passing a puck around (long before locals were ready to brave the ice). Donna and I skated too, but we never lasted as long as Craig and Mark.

When I saw the call for submissions to a Canadian winter themed Chicken Soup for the Soul, I knew I had to write something about our Ontario experience and the siren call of frozen ice. But which of our many winter memories should I pick? Should I write about the Christmas day we tested the ice on a pond in the middle of a deserted conservation area? Or the night we skated on an old outdoor rink ─with boards around the outside and lights overhead, canned music, and a warm-up hut with a wood stove? Or should I write about the time we were house and dog-sitting on a farm north of the city, and we skated on the farm pond as the two big dogs slipped and skidded around us? No. I decided to start at the beginning ─with the first winter and the first pond.

pond-skating

Bamboo & Basho

June 27, 2013

Interested in haiku poetry or how to use bamboo in your garden? This Saturday I’ll be joining other poets from the Vancouver Haiku Group at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden for a celebration of bamboo. Angela Naccarato, poet and Intuitive Consultant, will lead haiku workshops (open to anyone visiting the garden, with three workshop times between 1-3pm), and I will be sharing some of my photographs of “bamboo in Basho’s footsteps” (from my last visit to Japan).

Bamboo haiku workshop

A haiku I wrote on my last visit to the garden:

bamboo haiku

Things are looking up

February 1, 2013

It’s been a grey rainy week here in Vancouver, but downtown today, I had an unexpected glimpse of cherry blossoms and sunshine ─appropriate for the start of National Haiku Writing Month (February, the shortest month for the shortest poetic form).

blossoms-downtown3
early blossoms─
a new spring
in my step

Click here for more info on National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo).

Inspired by fall leaves and history

November 23, 2012

I thought I’d share a glimpse into the wonderful writing retreat I experienced last month at Spark Box Studio near Picton Ontario (with funding gratefully received from the Canada Council!). A whole week without distractions, focusing on the craft of writing historical picture books! I was particularly interested in exploring the question, “How do I take a huge topic such as the War of 1812 and hone in on a small story suitable for children?”

To help me get on the right footing for my retreat, I stopped in Toronto beforehand to meet with children’s book author Monica Kulling, for a thoughtful and inspiring discussion about writing historical stories for children. Her latest book, Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, about a little dog who touched the life of Pablo Picasso, was hot off the press, and provided a great example (I love the dog, illustrated by Dean Griffiths).

Next, I took a side trip to soak up some War of 1812 history and watch the reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls. The boom of cannons, smell of smoke, calls of the soldiers, costumes of the military and civilian reenactors, and the cool, damp fall day helped to cast a spell that opened a window into the past.

At Spark Box Studio, I started each day with a solitary walk between farmers’ fields. The empty fields, subdued colours, and the whispers and rustles of leaves and grasses that followed me as I walked, made it easy to imagine a young girl two hundred years in the past, standing on the edge of a field, hearing the distant boom of cannon and cracks of musket fire. I felt like I was walking with one foot in the present and one in the past as I wrote these haiku:

.

autumn wind

on the lonely path

many voices

.

 

whispering grasses

the words always

out of reach

.

While it was great to have so much time to myself to think and write,  talking with the creative hosts and other guests at Spark Box Studio was also enriching. And, despite that last haiku, the words weren’t out of reach. I finished the first draft of a picture book story and concluded the retreat feeling buoyed in spirit, recharged and reinspired to continue writing…

Fraser River flood flashback (and book giveaway)

May 21, 2012
On this day in 1948*, the town of Agassiz’s Victoria Day dance was interrupted by news that the Fraser River was about to flood. Men, young and old, quietly left the dance to build up the sandbag dyke along the river and begin what would inevitably be a lost battle to keep the water back and protect their homes, farms and businesses. A few days later, children waded through waist deep water on the school grounds, men rowed boats down the main street of town, and hundreds of dairy cows choked the road west of town as farmers herded them to higher ground, murky water licking at their heals.

Tom, the main character of my new chapter book, Flood Warning, wishes he could join his father and the other men fighting the flood. He’s sure his favorite radio hero, the Lone Ranger, would do no less. At the very least, the Lone Ranger on his firy horse, Silver, would escort the evacuation train safely out of town. But Tom has to go to school, and when school is dismissed early, he has to stay home and help his mom around the house. Until the flood comes to him, and Tom must become a real-life hero and help save his family’s dairy cows. (Info on book giveaway at bottom of post.)

The story, while fiction, is based on what really happened during the 1948 flood. Agassiz was the first town to be evacuated (read Flood Warning for the unusual role played by the town cemetery), but communities all along the Fraser Valley were affected. In total, 30,000 civilians (local farmers, townspeople, and volunteers from other areas) sprang into action to fight the flood, rescue stranded people and animals, and bring in supplies. Sixteen thousand people (including 3,800 children) were forced to flee, and hundreds of animals were also removed to safety (750 cows were evacuated in Agassiz alone). Roads (including the Trans Canada Highway) and railways were swamped, people who remained in the flooded areas were cut off from the rest of the world, and even the city of Vancouver was isolated from the rest of the country except by plane.

When the water finally began to recede two weeks later, it left devastation in its wake. Orchards and field crops were destroyed, debris was everywhere, floor boards of houses, cupboards, stairs, etc. were warped and rotting, carpets were ruined, walls stained, water-soaked furniture falling apart, and dark stagnant water and mud remained stuck in low areas. Yet, throughout the ordeal, there was a sense of camaraderie and mutual support, and people’s spirits remained high.

For more information on the Fraser River flood, Nature’s Fury, a first-hand account by newspaper correspondents and photographers who witnessed the flood, is available to download from the city of Chilliwack’s website.

Check out Flood Warning for a child’s eye view.

Book giveaway!

I’m giving away a signed copy of Flood Warning along with a bookmark, special button, and a DVD that includes episodes of the 1950s Lone Ranger TV show. Add a comment here, or “Like” my Facebook page to be entered in the draw. (Draw deadline: June 15, 2012.)

Of course, you can also ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order it through Amazon.comAmazon.ca and other online sources.

Flood Warning is part of the Orca Echoes series for grades 1-3 and is illustrated by Leanne Franson (Leanne also illustrated my previous chapter book, Mystery of the Missing Luck, and I love her work).

* Note: Today is Victoria Day here in Canada, and it was on Victoria Day in 1948 that the flood warning began, however, in 1948 Victoria Day fell on May 24th.

Celebrating Cherry Blossoms -Vancouver style

April 9, 2012

This year’s Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival got off to a perfect start Thursday, April 5, with sunshine and cherry blossoms both cooperating. The Akebono cherry trees alongside Burrard Skytrain station (site of the festival kick-off) were in full bloom!

The event included Taiko drumming and other performances of Japanese music, as well as energetic Bollywood-influenced dancing that got the crowd joining in (led by Shiamak dancers, who are choreographing a flashmob umbrella dance to happen April 14).

The blossoms, people, and multicultural celebration inspired this haiku:

downtown Vancouver
oasis of blossoms
welcomes everyone

(Note: the festival also hosts an annual international haiku contest)

The celebration of blossoms continued at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden over the weekend with Sakura Days Japan Fair.

Signs of spring?

March 2, 2012

I spotted the first cherry blossoms (and bees) in my neighbourhood on February 7, and soon after came the snowdrops and crocuses. It seemed that we had seen the last of winter and that there was plenty to inspire some spring haiku. What better timing than February being National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo)?

I had been looking forward to NaHaiWriMo (writing a few short lines a day seemed much more do-able than the word output required for National Novel Writing Month!), but was struggling a bit with throwing out the 5-7-5 syllable structure (see this NaHaiWriMo post for background on why 5-7-5 is no longer considered correct for haiku in English), and just wasn’t finding myself paused in any haiku moments. That is, until the very last day of February, and the return of snow.

Was winter finished, or not? Were blossoms covered by snow a negative or a positive image? The seasonal ambiguity and my current mood of life evaluation (partly prompted by turning a certain age I won’t mention) inspired me to play with a glass half full/half empty theme. The result is maybe not worth sharing, but here it is (with all thought of syllable count tossed aside):

blossoms

under late snow

buried hope

or

blossoms

under snow blanket

wake