Archive for the ‘urban wildlife’ Category

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


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:

As the sun sets today…

November 13, 2009

waves of home-bound crows

crest over tops of fir trees

struggling in the wind





The sky is still orange as I type this, so these may be the most immediate images I’ve ever posted! I was concerned that my sunset view might not be as good at my new place as it was at my old. I needn’t have worried. (By the way, it was the crows that were struggling in the wind, not the trees.)

Twitter and haiku

July 4, 2009

I seem to be devoting more time to tweeting than to blogging lately. Perhaps because it’s so quick and easy to tweet, and so far (still novel) I’m finding it fun and challenging to put as much as possible in as few words as possible (kind of like haiku). In fact, one of the appeals of Twitter is that tweets are the perfect size for haiku, as many haiku addicts have discovered. Hashtags like #haiku and #haikuchallenge also enable people to share haiku and challenge eachother to create haiku on specific topics (somewhat kindred to the original Japanese tradition of haiku as socially created linked verse).  Here are some Twitter haiku samples:

haiku sample

Note: reading from the bottom up, the first challenge was to write a haiku using the words 1. crow 2. hole 3. roof, while the second challenge was to use the word “wolfish.” Fun, I thought (the Internet once again distracting me from work on my novel). Btw, my Twitter moniker: Jacquieink

Unexpected haiku

April 3, 2009



pigeons scatter

above the Metrotown Mall

an eagle soars




(Huge birds of prey circling over the city never seize to amaze me, and their presence seems to add a special significance to the day. Yet, I seldom see anyone else stop and look up)

Raccoon rituals

January 9, 2009

We haven’t seen any raccoons since moving to this new place, but we’ve seen plenty of raccoon foot prints since the snow. They seem to take the same route every night, their tracks like invisible ink until the snow reveals their secrets.





raccoon paw prints

mark the ice on our fish pond

washing thwarted




Note: Although it looks like raccoons “wash” their food, they don’t actually do it to be fastidious. Scientists used to think raccoons didn’t have enough saliva and needed to wet their food to swallow it. It’s since been discovered that raccoons do have enough saliva. They may simply be wetting their food to soften it or to enhance the tactile experience (they like to feel their food, and their hands become more sensative when wet).

Evening haiku

December 6, 2008

under the awning

of the Seven-eleven

sparrows shelter

Misleading book cover

November 26, 2008


fweedsPeople often ask me what the image on the cover of my YA short story collection, Weeds and other Stories, has to do with what’s inside the book. I don’t really know (I had no role in the art selection). There are no circuses and no fire-eaters in any of the stories. People (at least people who work in certain book stores) are also mislead by the title. I once found it shelved in the gardening section of Chapters.

In a way, the stories in this book are more in keeping with the theme of this blog than any of my other stories. The protagonists are all urban teens who encounter nature or “wildness” in some way — often in unexpected places or unexpected ways.

Why bring it up now when the book came out back in 2003? Yes, I’d love some new readers to discover it, of course, but what brought it to mind tonight was I was digging through some old files and came across some artwork I did with the book in mind: a kind of alternative cover image, I guess (though it’s not very good and I would have prefered something photographic — perhaps with a coyote disappearing down a dark alley, some graffitti on an urban wall, a dandelion poking out of a crack in the pavement, the shadow of a girl…). Anyway, I thought I’d share it (and in case you’re wondering, that’s supposed to be a coyote in the top left):