Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

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

Snow birds

February 19, 2012

Snowy owls, who spend most of their lives in the arctic, have descended on southern Canada and parts of the northern United States in record numbers this winter. Well, not so much record numbers, but large numbers that we only see approximately every seven years (and I’ve lived near one of their stopping spots for over twenty years and never seen them before this!).

Snowy owls usually remain in the arctic all year, and I’ve read two somewhat contradictory-sounding theories about why large numbers of them head south when they do (both theories involving lemmings). In the arctic, the owls’ main food source is lemmings (those small rodents that are said to follow one another over a cliff –which is a myth to account for their sometimes sudden population drops). Lemming populations naturally rise and fall (no cliffs involved). I’ve read that when lemming populations are down, the Snowy owls venture south to look for food, but I’ve also read the opposite. When the lemming population drops, so do Snowy owl births, and when the lemming population rises, the number of owls rises as well. So, a second theory suggests that it’s after a big lemming year that there are so many owls, many need to head south to look for winter food. Maybe it’s a combination of both: more lemmings, more owls, then the lemming population drops and there are still a lot of owls but not so much food. Whatever the reason, I benefited this year by getting to see a lot of these wonderful birds up close!

We counted 21 owls sitting on logs and stumps near the walking path on the dike along the edge of Boundary Bay in Richmond (near Vancouver). They appeared to be mostly just resting, undisturbed by the human onlookers, though occasionally one would take flight and glide a short way to another rest spot. It was especially impressive each time an owl slowly rotated its large stocky head and pierced me with those uncanny yellow eyes.

While most owls tend to hunt at night, Snowy owls are active in the day, feeding mostly at dawn and dusk. During their southern stopover they eat mice, voles, ducks, hares and even fish. They also need to conserve energy for their flight back to the arctic, so it’s important not to disturb them.

Click here for a New York Times article on the Snowy owls: article

You can also see more (and better quality) photos of Boundary Bay Snowy owls on A Powell River Photo Blog

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 (!)

Spring arrives in Vancouver’s Chinatown

April 11, 2011

I have been spending a lot of time on the computer lately, preparing for the launch of my new book (more info in a future post). But I was lured away by the spring sunshine Friday afternoon and decided to visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

As I neared Chinatown (walking from Stadium Skytrain station) I was met by these two Canada Geese who also seemed out for a spring walk (it’s the time of year when paired geese and their nests turn up in some strange locations around town).

Vancouver’s Chinatown is the second largest in North America (after San Francisco’s). It’s been in existence since the late 1800s, surging in growth after the Canadian railroad was completed in 1885 and many out-of-work Chinese railway workers found employment in Vancouver.

I love the colors and historic buildings in this part of the city and couldn’t resist posting some photos.


(Gate to Chinatown, looking east on Pender St. near Carrall St.)


(Shops along Pender St. –near entrance to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden)


(Tiny pink building is “Kitty’s Beauty Studio”)


(I’m not sure what purpose the niches in this old brick wall served originally, but they seem to have no current one other than to act as cozy pigoen perches)


(Like the two geese, and perhaps the pigeon pair, these crows seem to be a couple with nesting on their mind)


(Chinatown banners)

Ooops, I hadn’t mean to post so many photos of Chinatown, but actually meant to focus on Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden. So, if you’re still with me, garden photos are next.

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden is modeled after private classical gardens of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is the first full-scale classical Chinese garden constructed outside of China, and was built through the cooperation of Canada, China, and the Chinese and non-Chinese communities in Vancouver. It is named in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the “Father” of modern China, who played a role in leading the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and was the first president of the Republic of China.

(You can glimpse the moon-shaped gate to the public park section of the garden beyond the stone lion)

When I stepped into the garden, I left behind the hussle and bustle of the surrounding city (and the shouts from a nearby soccer game), and entered a tranquil oasis.

The design and materials of the garden reflect the Daoist philosophy of yin and yang. Light is balanced by dark, rugged and hard are balanced by soft and flowing, small is blanced by large. It also has the four main elements of a classical Chinese garden: buildings, rocks, plants, water.


Even the pebbled courtyard ground has symbolism. The stones are rough to balance the smooth of the water, and the pattern of one section represents “masculine,” while the pattern of the opposite section represents “feminine.”


Bamboo represents quiet resilience, bending but never breaking.


Turtles symbolize long-life, while the koi fish represent strength and perseverance (due to their ability to swim a long way against the current).


The drip tiles at the edge of the roof represent bats, which are symbols of good luck (the Chinese word for “bat”, bianfu, sounds like the Chinese word for “Good luck”). Bat images can be found throughout the garden.


The water is intentionally cloudy to intensify the reflections (Magnolia tree reflected in above photo).


The garden is open all year, with something different to see with each season. There is a fee to enter the inner courtyard and associated buildings, but the public park section (seen in the above photo) is free. More info is available on the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden website.

Woven through with crows

December 30, 2010

Late this afternoon the setting sun lit up the trees behind my house. It’s hard to see them in this photo, but as I looked up through the branches, wave after wave of crows passed over as the birds headed to their nightly roost (if you look closely, you can make out at least four blurry crows, but there must have been close to 100 flying over).

 

sunset painted trees
bronze threads woven together
by black crow stitches

What I like about winter

March 16, 2010

Winter in Vancouver is damp, grey and colourless. Or is it? There are so many subtle colour variations that I enjoy in winter –muted greys and browns, unexpected yellows and purples.  Nothing bright and showy, but perhaps more rewarding because you have to look more carefully to see them. I also love the shapes of trees in winter and the secrets the bare branches reveal. I don’t think of their shapes so much when they are covered with leaves, but with their branches exposed, the shapes seems more emphasized to me — like hollow wire sculptures or woven baskets.

 

row of bare-branched trees

each, a lacy sphere or cup

to hold a bird’s nest

 

(photo of trees along Marine Drive, taken out the bus window)

Visitors

December 19, 2009

I was looking out my bedroom window this morning at the chickadees flitting from branch to branch in the nearby ravine trees, wondering why they haven’t yet found (or are ignoring) the two new birdfeeders we put up earlier this week. Then, something caught my eye in the middle of one of the larger cedar trees, and I spied these guys:

(Four of them)

I’ve been wanting to blog about something else, but…

December 8, 2009

It seems that all I ever have time for these days is a quick haiku. Here’s one from yesterday, when four eagles pulled me out of the fatigue and cold I was experiencing at the end of a tiring day:

waiting for the bus
cold stone step is a hard bench
above, eagles soar

I snapped a quick photo as the bus pulled up, but all I managed to get was blue sky (which was, itself, amazing) and one blurry eagle:

Meanwhile, unpacking and setting up my office/studio space continues:

November morning

November 27, 2009

 

Exciting to wake up to sunshine instead of rain again this morning (that’s two days in a row here on the wet coast!). The view from my kitchen window inspired a quick haiku:

mist weaves through tree trunks

as houses warm this morning

sunlight holds last leaves

 

And another image from this morning:

I have yet to see a coyote since we moved beside the ravine, but I’m keeping my eyes open (especially late at night when I let the dog out to pee before bed — and hoping the dog won’t give chase if we spy one).

As for writing, I’m actually back working on my neglected novel (yeah! I was getting a bit worried I’d forgotten how to write), but progress on unpacking boxes and setting up my office seems to have stalled.