Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Garden Patience

How ironic that having waited summer after summer after summer for close to a decade for this Acanthus mollis to bloom, disappointed every year that the dramatic foliage didn't reveal any of the bear-breeched stalks, once the pergola was put in place so as to considerably obscure the plant, the darling blossomed quite happily. Was it just shy?

An up-close view of the flowers -- perhaps you can discern the bear-breeches shape that give the plant its common name. The acanthus leaves, I remember reading once, were, with the ivy, two central elements in classical (Latin, Greek) ornamentation -- carved on temple pillars, for example.
It takes some sneaky camerawork to present Mr. Acanthus as if he were not hiding behind a pergola -- just for you, readers, I twisted into the necessary angle. . . .
I'm hoping to get my mom into the garden today for some puttering, although it's raining now, serious rain for the first time in at least six weeks -- very welcome rain for the garden.
But in another irony, having finally managed to get mom to a garden she can work in to her heart's content, she seems to have little sustained motivation. Spending the day with her yesterday has made clearer to me the encroachments of her Mild Cognitive Impairment. Other than walking, which she can do for hours daily, if not at a time, she has no ideas for filling the day. At home, she does still visit the library regularly, and brings books home, but, by her own sheepish admission, she often returns them unfinished (as I reassured her, it's not as if there's going to be a test). Previously a talented knitter and seamstress, capable of turning out garments without relying on a pattern, she started a pair of socks six or eight months ago, but left them as ornamentation on her coffee table (the yarn is a colour that matches her cushions!). Occasionally, she'll start something simple at someone's prodding -- one of those cotton dishcloths, a baby neckwarmer -- but she never perseveres.
Having a non-reading guest is a challenge, especially since I feel an obligation to entertain her. I don't so much mind answering questions for the third and fourth time, but do get exhausted by the afternoon. Luckily, Pater is so very patient, and he also reminds me that I don't need to take on responsibility so completely -- he sees her as quite content even if she's just sitting on her own in a chair. He makes sure she has a good view, then lets her be.
Last night, I remembered, brilliantly, that I had the DVD of Ratatouille tucked away somewhere -- we had two very pleasant hours watching it together with her laughing delightedly. I've dug up Finding Nemo and hope that will do the same trick this evening.
Meanwhile, I'm drawing on the patience that the Acanthus finally rewarded me for, although all too conscious, sadly, that the blooms I'd hoped to draw forth from my mother are gone for good. Different compensations must be found, perhaps in the patience itself rather than in any expectation of reward. Must. get. to. zen. . .


Monday, August 30, 2010

Family Celebrations and Obligations . . .

A very busy weekend, familias-style. Saturday night, our kids celebrated Pater's retirement with a pizza party, homemade dough and toppings for customizing. Nola had a great time with aunts and uncles to indulge her every wish.
We started the evening with Sparkly prosecco to celebrate the Sparkly ring on Daughter #3's left ring finger, given to her by soon-to-be Son-in-Law Rob, pictured below. Congratulations! Much happiness!
I also got other pockets of Nola time on the weekend, some solo baby-sitting while everyone else in the family hiked the Grouse Grind -- girl's reading up a storm here, but she can still flash up a "Cheese" and big smile as soon as she spots a camera!

And we did an all-day-all-night stint of N-sitting as well, which included a trip to the Petting Zoo. Goats are not shy. Nola can be. Thank goodness for Granddads.

I'm grateful for all your thoughtful comments to my post on my teenage perspective on my visual self, and I'm beginning to work on the follow-up post, but meanwhile, we're picking my Mom up today and bringing her back to the island with us for a few days. I'm partly inspired by Diana Athill's Somewhere Towards the End, which anyone at all concerned with facing old age with dignity and style should read. I quoted from her here and here but I'm also very moved by her comments about caring for her mother and her response to her mother's death. And I think she's spot on about the good fortune of those aged who still enjoy making things -- and for so many, that "thing" was a garden, and my mother's had to give hers up.
So we'll take her back to ours and see if she can still enjoy that kind of creative and physical puttering. I'll let you know.
With any luck, I'll also find a minute to tell you about a couple of movies I think you'd enjoy. Meanwhile, let me know what you're up to this week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Drawing on the Past . . .

Before I tell you about my most recent portrait, I realize I need to spend some time with this image of my 17-year old self. I have to say, first off, that I'm a bit surprised to realize how pretty she is, that girl on the threshold of womanhood, of a life beyond her immediate family, beyond high school. I say that because although she/I occasionally believed herself attractive, and hoped romance-novel style for the young man who would see right through to her beauty, she was most often convinced otherwise by the gap between what she saw in the mirror and what she saw in the most popular girls at school, the shapely models in Seventeen magazine, the television commercial actresses selling everything from cars to shampoo.

First of all, those girls and women never wore glasses -- unless they were part of a narrative that used the glasses as a prop which, when removed, would reveal that the uptight bookworm was, secretly, a stunning beauty. And, indeed, to achieve the prettiness Ms. Aspa created for me, she had me remove my glasses. While a photographer might have a good reason for such a basic alteration of my image (and indeed, my grad photos taken the same year have my glasses removed, supposedly to avoid the flash), I'm not sure that lenses are terribly difficult to draw. The change made it clear that I would be more attractive if not for the specs -- but what if seeing vies for importance with being seen?

A second contributor to the gap I saw between mirror-me and Popular Pretty Girl was my curly (and often frizzy) hair. Those shampoo commercials might allow bounce, and within several years the Afro perm would rule, even in Vancouver, but in 1970, Peggy Lipton straight (remember the Mod Squad?!) was the way to be. While there's some truth to the sketch above, it's a limited truth based on proximity to a strict grooming -- within half an hour of the drawing being completed, the volume of my hair would have doubled. I spent hours and hours and hours, so many wasted hours, trying to tame my hair into some nod to coolness. Not until several years later did a brilliant hairstylist on Robson Street (Shape Unisex -- anyone remember?) give me a cut that released the curl into a world which actually came to admire, even envy it.

But my biggest shortcoming, an absolutely unnegotiable deficiency in my mind, was my flat-chestedness. Looking back, I recognize that I was shapelier than I could see at the time, but as a late maturer (really late, menarche at 14!) a year younger than my classmates (I skipped a grade), and short to boot, I was overly sensitized to looking young for my age and the small breasts were a part of the problem. Yes, Twiggy should, perhaps, have convinced me that a small bust wasn't a problem, but even she, gorgeous and successful as she was, elicited jokes that reaffirmed my position rather than weakened it.

I do remember exceptions to what I saw as the near-universal equation of confident female attractiveness with a sizeable bosom, and these both fascinated and confused me. Two classmates, one in Grade 9, then another in Grade 12, got my attention by joking about their lack of endowment, joking in a way that suggested they nonetheless knew they were good-looking, sexy even. The one in Grade 12, I remember, joked about how she didn't need to worry about anything popping out of her prom dress, 'cause there wasn't enough there to fall anywhere. And she said this in Chemistry class. In the earshot of, get this, boys! I could no more have spoken about my shameful shortcoming publicly -- or at all, really -- than I could have taken my shirt or pants off in class.

Does "shameful" seem too strong a word? Perhaps. Yet I know it was true at the time. Since then, thank goodness -- and Pater -- I have learned that small breasts can also be attractive, sexy, and pleasurable (if you're a "small" girl, you may have heard that corny "More than a handful's a wasteful," and you may even have been grateful to hear it!). Since then, as importantly, I have learned that small breasts can fulfill one of their purposes just as well as larger breasts AND I've had the dubious opportunity to walk around with bigger ones thanks to hormones and good ol'lactation -- mine managed to grow four babies to a healthy plumpness quite nicely. So what's with the shame?

I always knew that came from my mother, whose natural (non-pregnant) weight was never more than 115 pounds (she's now perhaps 105 after a DQ banana split!). Slim, attractive, great legs that my father would embarrass her by pointing out to all and sundry, my mother was very small-breasted. She was also very self-deprecating about this aspect of her body, as if it were the only element that mattered. I was aware of this before I was ten and must have absorbed, even before my own body began to change, that lacking sizeable breasts meant being less womanly. Mom once told a story about swimming with friends, in her teens, and having the foam padding float out of her bathing suit, clearly a deeply humiliating experience. In that era of the Betty Grable pin-up, the padding was both a requirement for those who lacked the natural filling and a signal of the deficiency. My generation was the one that burned the bras, let our clothes reveal the secret that breasts had nipples (Gasp!), but my mother's shame had already seeped its way into my cells.

But the portrait above gives no hint of this shame -- indeed, although this portrait covers the area that, in a sculpture, would have it called a "bust," by the time it gets to that anatomical feature, it has become indeterminate. It is, to pun weakly, a more heady portrait, offering 17-year old me as a thoughtful or dreamy girl -- there's very little of the body here. While it's easy to imagine this young woman having romantic notions, she doesn't seem at all sexual. Fair enough, in terms of my experience at the time, although perhaps a more committed, more imaginative artist might have played with a different template -- this dreamy profile has hosted countless configurations of noses and eyes and cheekbones through the centures, and altho' it's recognizably me, here, I wonder what might have been revealed if I'd looked directly at the viewer.

That's enough for now. This kind of remembering and thinking is tough work, and I'm going to take some time before I try to bridge the many decades between this charcoal sketch and a large watercolour executed by a good friend, a talented and perceptive artist. More to be revealed . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sunrises and Drawings . . .

No, I have neither forgotten nor neglected my promise to tell you about the second portrait of myself, and the big reveal, along with some meditation about visual portrayals of women, is currently in the making.
But it's been très, très busy at work, not only with prep for upcoming classes, but especially with a Selection Committee I'm serving on for a Research Chair. This week we had public presentations, interviews, and then deliberations, so very full days. AND I'm fighting one of those summer colds -- quite mild, but requiring as much sleep (and kleenex!) as I can fit in.

So, instead, you get yet more pictures from my deck of the sun rising over the Coast Mountains across the Strait from us. Sorry, but I am continually fascinated by the literally countless permutations in which light and H20 and particles of pollution combine to dazzle. . . And I must say that while clouds so often point toward less pleasant weather, they also make for more varied, generally more dramatic dawn displays. Without being too trite, perhaps there's some sort of life metaphor there.

And to assure you that I am thinking about drawing, getting ready to write more about portraits, here is a pertinent passage I serendipitously came across yesterday in the wonderfully wise and perspicacious late-age memoir by Diana Athill, Somewhere Towards the End. Highly recommended reading.
Given a lot of money I would collect art, both drawings and paintings. There are many ways in which a painting can be exciting, but a drawing that thrills me is always one that has caught a moment of life. Drawings are what artists, great or small, do when they are working their way towards understanding something, or catching something they want to preserve: they communicate with such immediacy that they can abolish time. I possess a drawing by a Victorian artist of his wife teaching their little girl to read by candlelight; in a book about Pisanello, who lived in the fourteen-hundreds, I have four quick sketches he made of men who had been hung. Each, in its different way, makes one catch one's breath: one might be there, looking through the eyes of the men who did those drawings. (Perhaps oddly, drawings presented as works of art are less likely to have this hallucinatory effect than private notes or studies.)

No frailty in that 89-year old voice, is there!
We're heading over to the city today -- we've got some time booked with a certain toddler, and our youngsters are putting together a family celebration of Pater's retirement, very sweet of them. We'll try to sneak in a dinner out to mark our recent 36th anniversary (already observed with a very nice meal at home), another visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see those drawings, and perhaps even catch a movie (I'd love to see I Am Love!). Sounds a bit too ambitious overall, and I suspect some goals will be jettisoned along the way -- any weekend plans shaping up at your place?




Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Modern Women . . .

This photo -- of Paul Helleu's Woman Leaning on a Table accompanied Robin Laurence's Georgia Straight piece on the VAG exhibit.

The August to Autumn transition I've been nattering about lately does not only concern the impending Fall weather and the return to school. Vancouverites, as well as tourists to our fair city, should also be aware that the fabulous exhibition -- The Modern Woman: Drawings by Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Other Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay, Paris -- at the Vancouver Art Gallery is entering its last days, as it will close September 6th.

This is a wonderful collection of drawings, and what's exciting about it is that while these have long been held by/at the Orsay in Paris, they have never been shown there -- given the vastness of the Orsay's collection, many, many works rarely see the light of day. And because that light can be so damaging, particularly for works as delicate as these -- drawings on paper -- and because travel is also perilous, the works seemed doomed, to languish well-protected, but unseen. However, new technologies (containers which keep each drawing separate and protected from any external pressure) and an inspiring collaboration between the Orsay and the Vancouver Art Gallery have brought these drawings outside of Paris for the first time anywhere, ever. Lucky us!


Many of us already know how the paintings of this period, particularly those of the French impressionists, reflected the social change of the time -- the urbanization and industrialization of the landscape and the class and gender changes which accompanied these. The drawings capture the same changes, but, as drawings tend to do, they capture them more intimately, in smaller gestures, nuances, closer up.
I'm going back again this week to check on some favourites before they're shipped back to their home in Paris. After all, given how long they've been sitting in the dark, I am unlikely to get another chance to view them, in this lifetime, despite regular trips to Paris. My favourites include Edouard Vuillard's Portrait of the Countess Anna de Noailles, 1931, charcoal on paper of the countess sitting in bed, writing, with her books and treasured objects surrounding her. I loved Pissarro's Bust of an Old Woman Knitting,if only because it was so difficult to discern the eponymous activity, even with my own knitting experience. For sheer prettiness, Jacques Emile Blanche's Young Women in White, with two sweet young things in Gibson girl hairdos lounging on a long ottoman. And the portrait featured above by Paul Helleu -- the photo hardly discloses the sweeping, often jagged, lines of the pastels, the puzzle of how those transmute themselves into the portrait's restfulness.

The exhibition sent me home to scout out my copies of John Berger's Ways of Seeing and, even more relevant, T. J. Clark's trenchant analysis The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. And, inevitably, got me thinking more about the male gaze, since an important section of the exhibition is devoted to the nude, and since so much of our visual self-awareness, in or out of clothes, is conditioned by that gaze. Interestingly, the only two portraits I've ever had sketched have been done by female artists. Besides pulling the aforementioned books of my shelves, I also dug out this portrait, sketched when I was 17, just graduating from high school. If any of my sisters are reading this post, I'd love to know if you still have your portraits -- the artist, Jean Aspa, was a friend of a friend of my parents, and she agreed to come to the house and sketch all of our large clan, as I remember, although not my parents, sadly.
Decades later, in another city 2000 kilometres away, my second daughter and I were in a mall when I spotted the same woman sketching likenesses at a booth she'd set up. Somewhere, I've stored away a portrait I had her make of Rhiannon in her red plaid jumper . . .

More next post, on nudes, and the male gaze, and the only other portrait I've ever had sketched . . .

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blackberries, Jam, and Sunrises . . . All Sponsored by August

Cloudier skies, cooler temperatures, but the sunrises are still stunning, if moodier.
I'm nursing the hint of a cold -- sore throat, general fatigue, slight temp -- but besides lying around reading, I did muster up the energy to turn my blackberry pickings from earlier this week into another batch of jam (my second batch from this year's crop with at least one more ahead).

So my morning's reading has been punctuated by that delightful sound of success: ping! and then a bit later, ping! and then again, Ping! -- so far, seven jars have chimed in with their vaccuum-sealed results, and there's only one left as a possible candidate for immediate consumption.
Jam-making, a perfect August-to-Autumn transitional chore. . .


Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Films at Summer's End . . .

How serene are these sunrises? They're all from the past week of hot sunny days. Now, it appears, we may be seeing cloudier skies for the foreseeable weather future. Given the temperatures I observed in our non-air-conditioned classrooms this past week, that's probably a good thing. September's a tough enough shock to the student body, without having to sit in a crowded, overheated classroom, and enough shock to the professorial body without having to lecture above the sound of an inefficient fan to faces made soporific by the heat!
I'm working on a post in which I expose my, erm, thoughts -- you'll see!. . . It will be revelatory and humourous with a soupçon of culture and education thrown in for good measure -- how's that for hype?
Meanwhile, I'm recommending some films you might enjoy. There would be more, but my memory's shot, and my Moleskin notebooks are so unfortunately dependent on someone remembering to write things down!
Memorable enough, though, are these three:
The Kids Are All Right. Mia Wasikowska is truly a young actor to watch! I loved her in In Treatment; she was great in Alice; and she's delightful again in Kids. And Julianne Moore and Annette Bening? Women of a certain age who choose their roles thoughtfully, who show their age naturally and beautifully, whose intelligence and commitment underline everything they do. And Mark Ruffalo? Icing on the cake! Pater asked me if women found him (Ruffalo) attractive. Um, yes. This one, anyway. . .
As for the premise, the plot, the character development, all convincing enough -- and if the situation seems specific to a very particular configuration of family -- two lesbian mothers, their teenage children discovering the identity of their sperm-donor father -- the family dynamics, the generational relationship, is familiar and relevant to all. Plus there are many, many laughs with the drama, and laughter is good, right?
Chloë, also featuring Julianne Moore, is another family drama, but of the thriller variety, offering few, if any laughs, but considerable tension. It also features Liam Neeson, whom I would have to tell Pater that women find attractive. It also features the gorgeous Amanda Seyfried (you know her from Big Love, perhaps) who I can well imagine men find attractive -- this role is easy to imagine Scarlet Johansson in, but Seyfried brings something fresher to the film, more vulnerability to her character's charm and danger. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that this is the first Atom Egoyan film I've seen, despite having had him on the list forever -- after all, he's a bit of a national treasure. I will now step up efforts to view the rest of his work: this takes a plot which could veer easily into cliché, but in Egoyan's hands and through these very talented, well-cast actors, it stays instead in uncomfortably thoughtful territory. I found it close to unbearable at a few spots, the same kind of tension I've felt in some of Woody Allen's work (although Allen, for me, allows the tension to last long past the point where it can be effective -- with such a long-delayed release, I slip into boredom).
And if you like your humour mixed with a big dollop of poignant (or is it the other way round?), you should check out the animated film, Mary and Max, with voicework by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The premise is a correspondence between an overweight, lonely child in Australia and the awkward, overweight lonely New York bachelor she chooses randomly as a penpal in an effort to deal with her unhappiness. You'll laugh, you'll cry . . . and along the way, you'll marvel at the medium -- the animation is brilliant, the social satire clever enough without getting in the way.
So there you are: some recommendations for some weekend film viewing. Meanwhile, here at the beach, since it will probably be too cool to swim today, we're watching the mailbox and hoping the Dexter Season 4 DVD I ordered arrives today. I've steeled myself to listen to that creepy, creepy opening music again . . .
Any film or TV recommendations? or are you still outside, enjoying the summer's last gifts?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August to Autumn . . .

I know that's a rather confusing photo above -- what I'm trying to show you is the flower plume on a miscanthus grass in my garden.

See there, below, the vertical pluming line at about centre. . .
What's the big deal, you ask? Same big deal as you might notice if you peer very closely at the Sedum spectabile 'autumn joy' pictured below. Can't see it yet?

Well, let's look a bit more closely. . .
Those wee pink centres revealed as the teeny individual buds open . . .

Soon, that whole flowerhead will be a rich rosy hue, living up to the plant's name -- Autumn Joy -- and heralding the start of fall. Heralding the new season just like those plumes on the grasses. I know these signs well, now, from so many preceding years -- I know that before too long, the plumes will dominate the grass, and they'll be festooned with spiderwebs, themselves decked out with dewdrops while their fat predatory inhabitant readies herself for winter. Yes, I've already tumbled myself imaginatively right smack into winter, all thanks to a few feathery spikes on a clump of grass and some teeny-tiny dabs of pink on a fleshy perennial.
I'm particularly sensitive to these portents of cooler, shorter days because I was working on campus today. I picked up a new parking permit, organized a pile of material that must be read before some hiring meetings I have to attend next week, and bought my new academic-year day-planner. I also realized that my book order for the term's courses is missing an important text, and, worse, that the error was my own!
Ah well, the books have been ordered and will probably make it in time for the second week or so of classes. And when I got home, Pater had embarked on his brand new hobby -- breadmaking! -- so there were good smells in place. And there were children playing on the beach and people swimming and I went in as well and had a deliciously cooling swim. So while summer is on its way out, it is still with us for the moment. I'm going to make the most of it each day, even though I'm joining the working folk again.
The words "August" and "Autumn" used to confuse me, when I was young, because they look and sound fairly similar, and they refer to something that seemed almost the same to me -- and yet when I replaced "Autumn" with its synonym "Fall," the similarity turned to difference. August/Summer: : Autumn/Fall. We often speak of September as feeling more like a New Year than January does, what with the start of the school year, the end of summer freedom. That may be so, but I'm more intrigued by the transitions -- and, yes, the portents -- of August/Autumn. Perhaps because I'm rather at an August/Autumn place myself, life-wise, reaping the harvests, the benefits, but aware they're not unlimited.
So for the next few weeks, when I'm not preparing course outlines, sitting in on hiring interviews, and attending department and faculty and committee meetings, I'll be picking blackberries, reading in the hammock, having G&Ts on the patio, and swimming, swimming, swimming. What plans do you have for making the most of summer?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 Photos

Sexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 PhotosSexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 Picture
Sexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 PhotosSexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 Photos
Sexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 PhotosSexy Girl from Ultimate Street Car USC 2010 Wallpaper

Picture Via : www.modifiedcars.com

August, in the garden

An August garden is seldom, according to most gardeners, as attractive as a June garden. This is especially so after weeks and weeks with almost no rain. But some stalwarts continue to bloom, particularly this delightful honeysuckle, Lonicera serotina -- talk about bang for the buck, this beauty just goes and goes, bloom after sweetly-scented bloom. Walking into my garden morning or evening, its rich, honeyed fragrance is the first thing you'll notice. And it's lovely opened, as above, or just about to bloom, as below.
Another garden stalwart is the Crocosmia. Not that it blooms and blooms all summer -- it saves its orange cheer for right when it's needed to add colour to a dried-out, rather dull palette. But what does go on and on, Crocosmia-wise, is the foliage, broad straps of green that clump together thickly to fill in holes as needed. There are hort-trendier varieties -- I have a few in my garden, the bronze-leaved ones are quite nice -- but most of my plants were inherited from whoever planted them long before we arrived here some 18 years ago. I rip clumps out regularly, as they do tend to spread, but I don't think I could be without them in the garden, especially in August.

And then August's star, the commonly-named Rose of Sharon, more accurately called hibiscus syriacus. We have another my dad brought over from my parents' garden and planted here many years ago, which I love for that reason. But for my favourite bloom, we have the Blue Bird, with its rich shades of blue contrasting the creaminess of the stamen. This is a nicely compact shrub so I get to see the blooms very nicely, unlike its more unruly cousin across the yard.

Isn't it gorgeous?!

Sadly, I have to leave my August garden and head to campus for a slew of administrative chores, tedious ones that are the first nasty step in getting ready for the coming term. But it will be here waiting for me when I get back later. Are you spending any August time in a garden? Do you notice changes? Tomorrow, I'll show you some more portentous blooms . . . Cliff-hanger, eh?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Smooth Kayaking Too

The same breeze that keeps us cool on hot days makes kayaking too much work for me. There's enough chop by 8:30 a.m. that I'd have to wiggle into the sprayskirt and, of course, the paddling is that much more of a workout -- good for the biceps and triceps and whatnot, but I'm on holiday, no?

But by early evening, the breeze has died right down, and the sky is a study in feathery blues and pinks; when Pater suggests we paddle around the island, I put down my book and follow. Last night was one of the calmest ever, the water glassy smooth, the air still enough for sounds to drift across, motorcycles gunning their engines in town to harmonize with teens laughing at their campsite on a nearby island, a dog on a boat barking at a canine competitor guarding one of our neighbours' properties, seagulls comparing vocal range with the purple martens swooping into their nesting boxes posted in the causeway.

Although there was very little breeze, smells assailed us almost as vigorously as sounds. Beef being grilled on a barbeque mixed unpromisingly with the musky fishrot announcement of an otter's hangout but both were happily erased when we turned the corner into a strong note of ozone mixed with the clean iodine-y scent of the saltchuck. And around another corner again, into the freshcut wood smell pulsating off the log booms.

Last year, on a similar evening paddle, I was mesmerized at this same spot by a procession of gulls flying ever so purposefully across the darkening sky towards what I could easily imagine as a meeting in some known-only-to-The-Gull-Lodge location. Tonight, instead, I was besotted with the huge drums that mark the edges of the log booms -- fifteen or more feet long, at least five or six feet high, giant barrels, anchored presumably, which serve to tie the log booms up while they're awaiting transfer to the mill. The drums are painted a bright red-orange, but are rusted from the waterline up several feet, and the setting sun, or more properly its candy-coloured residue, turns their homeliness into the most sublime objects. The perfect demonstration of a colour wheel's lessons, they transform the dullness of the blue water below them. Together, the gently undulating blue-grey-silver and the momentarily glorious rust-red-orange form a spiritual union, a synergistic satisfaction for this happy viewer. I mark the page: last year, the meeting-bound gulls; this year, the heavy richness of industrial beauty; what will I read here next year?

And finally, back on our side of the island, the east side, and heading northward home, the quarter-moon takes over lighting from the sun, and while it's not yet dark enough for the bio-luminescence to brighten our way, the lights of the big ferry heading to the mainland sketch a magical castle on the dusky horizon. The greys and blues and pinks are all muted, slightly hazy, the colours of a velvety, powder-free chalk, oil pastels, smudged. With no resistant breeze to work against, I paddle easily, steadily, my arms caught in a rhythm requiring no thought. An insistent rhythm, though, that I catch yearning toward those ferry/fairy lights -- for an odd little second or two, I recognize a willingness to paddle off toward the horizon, mile after calm mile, my thoughts suspended, my breathing deep and relaxed.

Of course, I do no such thing, and instead round the last corner after Pater and crunch the kayak up on the beach, swinging myself out and onto shore. Remembering the words of Louis Armstrong: what a wonderful world, oh yeaaaaah!

Smooth Sailing . . .

It's supposed to get to 34 degrees in Nanaimo today (about 93, Farenheit), a bit too warm for me, really. Luckily, it's always a few degrees cooler by the water, and as you can see from these photos I took the other day, there have been some decent breezes -- enough to fill the rather odd sail on this somewhat unusual (welded aluminium?) sailboat.

And as if we weren't already lucky enough -- sunshine mitigated by the breeze off the water -- today's high tide happens at 11:30, so we'll have some prime swimming right when we need to cool down.

So I'll be out on the deck, reading the weekend papers, soaking up the morning sunshine, and waiting for the water to come in over that beach you see pictured below. (If it makes you feel any better about my stint here in Paradise, I have to head back to campus tomorrow and get my course outlines to the print shop. . . . )

May you have a sumptuous, indulgent Sunday (or at least an indulgent moment or two) wherever you are, whatever the weather!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sunshine Stylin'

This guy is such a good sport. He favours clean and classic lines, generally, but almost never shops for himself, relying on gifts and so, coincidentally, on my taste and that of our son and daughters. As well, he Makes. Things. Last. He loves that his Blundstones are six years old. For many years, he wore Doc Martens with his sports jackets/pants/shirt-tie combos to work (altho' not with suits; he drew the line), gleeful if he got three years of almost-daily wear from them (he walked 20minutes to work and back each day). I just gave him a pair of dark brown Sperry Top-siders mocassins that I suspect I'll be hiding from him six or seven years down the road.

These OP (Ocean Pacific)Oakley sunglasses I bought him five or six years ago, when he tried on a pair our son was wearing, and realized that paying $150 for sunglasses DID indeed provide sharper vision. The last year or two, I've noticed that the only ones still wearing this style accessorize them with a different lifestyle than Pater's. (As our daughter says, "I'm worried he's going to start wearing Ed Hardy t-shirts").

Although Pater showed some signs of weakness when he realized our kids were agreeing with me on the glasses, he wasn't going to buy new ones. These still did the job they'd been hired for, and did it very well. Why replace them?

Until he saw our SIL (ADDED Later, Son-in-law, Adam) wearing a very nice, simple pair of aviator-style (but not one that screamed "aviator"-- these assert themselves very quietly, authoritatively, just like Pater). Turns out SIL had bought these -- the style is called "The General" -- at Mr. Lee's on Broadway, just off Main, in Vancouver. I'd read about Mr. Lee's at Thomas' blog a few months earlier and wanted to check it out. And when Pater heard these sunglasses were only $80 . . . .


So we're ready for sunshine, more sunshine -- and we're getting it. Another 31 degrees Celsius today. We've got friends driving up-island from Victoria to visit, rosé and beer chilling in the fridge, the makings of a steak salad ready to go, and I may make a blackberry clafouti for dessert. Tell me what you're up to this sunny weekend.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sunshine, Vancouver Treats, and Shoes, Again . . .

Through the long, rainy winter, living on this island is a commitment of love that means rough crossings in small boats with layers of rain gear. And through all seasons, it means lugging groceries and other supplies into a boat on one side, then out on the other side, an extra, cumbersome step to whatever one usually does when fetching and carrying. Garbage has to be hauled to town, more lugging, messier lugging. When we realize we've forgotten an overdue DVD, or the book we'd promised a friend, or more importantly, our lunch, or once even my purse, we can't just zip back home for it -- ferries go every hour on the hour. . .

But in the summer, when we look at the weather forecast and see sunshine and 31 degree temperature (88 Farenheit) stretching right into next week? And we're sitting at the beach? It's worth every drenched bike ride on every muddy road.


If you're still in the city, though, and if that city is Vancouver, and you know it's too hot to cook, you might want to head to Nuba (three locations, but we head to the one on Seymour and Davie)and pick up one of their falefel-filled pitas. The lamb hushwie pita is my current favourite, but I'm still working my way through the menu -- vegetarian goodies abound. The prices are so reasonable, the food is so nutritious, and it's so delicious that you'll be scooping up all the messy extras that keep dripping out of your pita.


And since you're stuck in the city, why not play tourist this weekend? Vancouver offers many possibilities in the summer, obviously, but you could get to the beach AND take in a great exhibition at the Vancouver Museum on Chestnut Street (right near the Planetarium) -- Fluevog & Friends, a very cool look at the history of our very own long-gone-international
shoe designer.

You'll get a glimpse into the design process, following preliminary sketches to the finished shoe,


and you'll see how an investment made in the 1970s could be paying off todayand if that realization doesn't send you scurrying off across the Burrard Street bridge to the Fluevog stores downtown, then maybe you'll be inspired by this visionary platform from the early years.Besides a collection of shoes ranging from the beautiful to the bold to the absolute beyond, the show illuminates that period of Vancouver's history in the 1960s as it pivoted from the provincial to the cosmopolitan . . . or at least tried to. Peter Fox's British connection helped bring the whole Carnaby Street influence to a city that had not previously been known for its sartorial exuberance. And Fox, Fluevog, and later, Rice, were also instrumental in the revitalization of Gastown -- and that whole movement to small, funky retail establishments of a kind we hadn't seen before.

And check out the letters Fox and Fluevog sent home, respectively, from their various buying trips -- ah, the days of snail mail! Pages and pages recalling anecdotes, expressing frustrations, brimming with excitement over new products, and decorated overall with brilliant little sketches of potential new designs.

So go, have a fun weekend in the sun, and get a little air-conditioned shoe history when you need some cool (both kinds!). And all my non-Vancouver readers, when you get back from booking your flights to our great city (or ordering yourself a consolatory pair of Fluevogs!), let me know how you play tourist in your own town. Or does it take a visiting guest to get you out there?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Finally, a Wedding Story . . .

As I began writing this post around the photos I'd uploaded over the past day or two, I noticed the date: August 11th. How fitting, and probably not quite a coincidence, that after waiting and procrastinating since the wedding (eleven days ago), I chose my parents' anniversary to post about the beginning of a marriage. Dad's been gone over ten years now, and with Mom's unreliable memory, the date may pass her by, but it will always be significant to me. . . This would have been their 58th. They didn't quite get to their 48th . . . And we'll hit 36 ourselves later this month. I wish the young 'uns as much and more . . .
Besides being the only decent shot I managed to get of my niece at her wedding, this photo expresses the nuptial attitude in all its Country-with-a-hit-of-Goth-or-Punk-but-not-enough-to-offend-the-Mennonite-component very well. The gleaming classic black pick-up, a real working truck, was minimally decorated with the oh-so-classic wedding-car flowers, no tin cans trailing, no "Just Married" sign, but just down the road, the (black) escort (muscle) car did a brakestand or two, sending plumes of exhaust out to announce the newly-hitched couple -- those who didn't see the exhaust would surely have heard the squealing tires.

Anticipating this attitude and noting the heat, Pater had argued that shirt-tie-jacket were surely not necessary. Sadly for Pater, I disagreed. A wedding is a wedding is a wedding, said I, and the bride should be able to count on her side of the family to show up dressed for one. And see? Worth the effort. He's on the left, my brother's on the right.


Of course, there were the usual family rabble-rousers who tried to incite rebellion, and argued for a different look. They were very comfortable, neat, even attractive, and they fit in very well with the rest of the wedding congregation (many of whom were even wearing jeans).


That's my chief rabble-rousing BIL at the end there, setting the example for his wonderfully good-natured, entertaining, talented, and v. charming sons -- it was great to have the younger generation represented, especially given the travel distance/time (away from friends, confined with family) to get there.


Here they are outside the church (a beautifully northern log design) unwittingly displaying their brotherhood through their body language.


The dress their mom, my sister Leona, is wearing, was one I helped her find in Seattle this spring -- it took some chasing down to find (in fact, she could only track down the next size up from what she wears, but bought it anyway and paid $40 to have it altered). It was perfect for the occasion!


The rebel BIL, my sis, and the boys rented a big hospitality suite with a patio and generously hosted us in all the in-between times that always happen at weddings, so our travel was rewarded with ample family time. I can't believe I didn't get a shot of my sisters and I together, but at least someone had the good sense to create groupings and holler for smiles. Finally catching on, I snapped a few. Below, you can see two more fruits of the Seattle shopping harvest -- my sister Rachel, 2nd from right, and the gorgeous Mother-of-the-Bride, my baby sis Hilary (Hilary, by the way, was very good about no longer introducing me as her "oldest sister" after I gently pointed out that my appearance probably already said enough about my age. So good that I have to tease her here by calling her "baby sis.")


My SIL was lovely in her floral sundress (she's on the left) a beautiful complement to her husband, my baby brother, that big guy on the right, another rabble-rouser. And on the left, the very proud (and very nervous, rehearsing the toast to the bride his daughter had asked him to make, insisting it be "as good as the ones Auntie Materfamilias makes" -- way to make me the bad guy, girl!) Father of the Bride, absolutely resplendent in his suit.
And even though I never thought to get a shot of the sisters, one of them decided we should at least get the toes -- too bad I didn't zoom in or do something fancy with filters or whatever to get the colours, mint green, ice blue among them. . .
Luckily, the paparazzi BILs were working the cameras, the appropriately-dressed one Front, Right and You-Know-Who just left of centre here.
And I handed my sister the camera to get this shot for me -- I love it, me and my closest-in-age sib, once upon a time my baby brother. . . There's something very special about the ones who remember those long-ago details that perhaps no one else ever knew, or, if they did, the adults had long forgotten. Why did Dennis B. and his "gang" take after us that summer night nearly 50 years ago? How long did that little feud persist? And what did Grandpa finally let us spend our quarters on when he took us to the PNE one day in the late 1950s? What a different world that was! And here we still are . . .

I didn't do as well with my camera as I should have this wedding. But I did get one shot that truly pleases me. Because while we were keen to celebrate a new marriage and to wish the new couple our support and our best wishes for a long, happy life togheter, we also enjoyed observing the family marriages that were going strong decades after that first set of weddings we'd attended together, once upon a time.
And since I've used that fairytale phrase twice, let's close with a magical kiss between the Mother of the Bride (who stubbornly refused to get married until today's Bride was several months old -- NO ONE was ever going to say she HAD to get married! Such were the times. So quaint. . . ) and the Father of the Bride. The story's not over yet, but so far, they're still living happily ever after. . . .