Wednesday, January 31, 2018

So Long January!

While it may not be the rainiest January that Vancouver has ever seen, it has rained a lot according to this chart. For those of us who are metric challenged, that translates into nearly 10 inches! And they told me that November was the rainiest month.

Nonetheless, in spite of the weather forecast, this lucky couple accepted an invitation from Giovanni and Pina for breakfast and sightseeing on Sunday.
As a rule, I am terribly unphotogenic, when Giovanni turned the camera on us, after I took their photo,
I was pleasantly surprised with the results. As a refresher, this sweet couple owns the furniture making business that supplies all of the Earls restaurants. Both of them were raised here in Italian families and they once took us out to dinner some months ago. After picking us up at the condo, as we were driving through downtown, I asked "where are were going?" The Pan Pacific was his reply. Perhaps it is too much to ask that anyone recognize that name, so I'll go ahead and tell you why it was so coincidental. Six months, pretty much to the day, we arrived in Vancouver and spent our first few days in that hotel. Seriously, what are the chances that he would take us there when there are a gazillion hotel restaurants in town? I mentioned, once we were seated, that it was bittersweet coming there because, when last we did, Baxter was with us. If you can imagine, only three days prior, they had to put down their 16 year old cat, so we were able to console one another. :(

After breakfast, in the pouring rain I might add, he drove us all over showing us neighborhoods we'd only read about. After a bit, we arrived in New Westminster, a town we'd gone through on the Skytrain a few weeks ago. Once the capital of the new born Colony of British Columbia, it is a town with a rich history and historic buildings. Asking if we minded walking in the rain, we said that we were now pretty used to it, so no, not a bit. Our destination was a coffee shop on the bottom floor of a former bank. Turns out, they own that floor.
He also stopped at an Italian bakery in Burnaby, insisting on sending us home with a box of real-deal pastries. Our tour included a drive down Commercial Drive, that I have now learned, was formerly home to many Italian immigrants, so many that, the light posts are adorned with "Little Italy" banners. When they dropped us off at 3 in the afternoon we could not thank them enough for a very fun day that would have been way less so without their company.

Around two in the afternoon, the rain finally quit on Monday and you know who went for a walk. And, by now, you can guess where that walk led to. In a round about way, I made it to Stanley Park, although when I got to this intersection on Beach Avenue, my hopes were not too high as to it being a dry walk. I promise, there are trees and such behind all of that gray. Mountains too.
I actually took a right at the light, roaming a bit in the West End because I love seeing the wide variety of housing options there. Every time I wander I notice something new, and on this, by now, rainy day, a low rise apartment building, completely covered in tile, caught my eye. I think it would make an excellent quilt, don't you?
Because so much rain fell on Sunday and Monday morning, water was pooling all over the place in Stanley Park. Unlike our sandy soil in Florida, where the water generally drains quickly, here it can take days to seep into the ground.
You can bet I visited the birdy area where I saw someone give the GBH a piece of bread. Yup, the whole piece.
My appreciation for Wood Ducks grows daily. Their colors are so magnificent.
I got super excited seeing a new type of duck that was hard to photograph as it swam around quickly and then would dive down for a bite to eat before emerging again. This would be a Common Merganser my friends.
Not that I knew that when I saw it, so I asked a passing woman if she liked birds and if so, did she know what it was called. She did tell me, however, I must admit I promptly forgot the name as we began talking, and eventually walking, together. We had to take a detour on our way to see where the beavers live because of all the ponding water.
Normally a path along the banks of Lost Lagoon, Marilyn told me she's lived here for years and had never seen it like this before. The ducks don't even know it is not the pond!
Marilyn lives on the 25th floor of the tower on the far right and walks in Stanley Park most days so her knowledge of the area was invaluable to this newbie. After showing me the beaver area, we made our way back towards the seawall and home. By golly, as we were getting close to the seawall, I began seeing some light in the sky, the sight of which made me happy once we got to the water.
It is only natural to point your camera towards the sun, however, oftentimes that sun does a number behind your back, and in this case, the midnight blue sky was caused by that setting sun. Highlighting some of the apartment buildings in the West End, I love that green grass caused by you know what.
Parting ways here, I continued walking along Beach as dusk fell. It has been some time since I saw one of the towers lit up like this from the setting sun.
I can't say that being this close to the condo was not a welcome sight because it was. Although I wear several raincoats, one on top of the other, it still feels good to take all of that off once inside. I was being lazy that day, not wanting to use my umbrella, so I put my very full backpack on UNDER my raincoat. Can you imagine what I looked like? No doubt some young person passing me by thought I was a crazy old lady and for good reason!

Once we are home again, it may take me a while to get used to having to consider my appearance  again. Being anonymous has some perks! Speaking of back home, about one month from today we will be in Orlando for Bill and Fallon's wedding. Actually our entire family will be together for the first time in quite a while.  Now that is something to look forward to.

yours truly,

Gail

Monday, January 29, 2018

Six Months!

I would be the first to admit that during these months in Vancouver I feel as if I am living in a bit of a bubble. Rarely do I even know the date, so it came as a bit of surprise discovering this morning that six months have elapsed since we arrived on July 29, 2017. Doesn't it seem as if were not that long ago that I was writing this post? Now that was fun to re-read that post! I was wrong, the building I photographed was not ours. Terribly sad to read about Baxie..

So, what do we think six months later? We do love the city, but this weather, yikes! I also read in that post that I was bound and determined that I would not complain, so we'll leave it at that.

Every day last week, in both rain and weak sunshine, I made myself go out and about, not wanting to sit in the condo alone while Bruce is at the office. I visited places both familiar, and not so familiar. More often than not, I began my walk when it was not raining, finishing them when it was. One morning I saw that the rain was meant to hold off until 10, so I left at 8. Dreary, yes, rain, no.
I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating; every afternoon, about a half hour before sunset, hundreds of crows fly by our windows on their way to their overnight roost in Burnaby. Now I've seen where some of them hang out in the daytime.

Reading somewhere how we are often more apt to celebrate the novel, and that paying attention to the ordinary can be worthwhile as well, this large group of pigeons reminded me of that sentiment.
So much for the forecast because by 8:30 AM it was raining while I was walking to Stanley Park where I saw my very first daffodils of the season.
There are other winter flowers that I'll be posting soon; very exciting indeed.

Gray skies make for a blank canvas behind these unoccupied heron's nests.
As I walked, looking for signs of new life in my surroundings, the rain pattered loudly on my pretty umbrella. Eventually I remembered something a person told us, that if you get under a Douglas Fir tree you will stay mostly dry. I wish I could remember who gave me this advice because I would thank them indeed!
After a while I knew it was time to hit the seawall and go home for lunch. You will be happy to know that my feet were warm and dry throughout.
I bought the latest National Geographic the following day and was interested to learn that they are deeming this the "year of the bird." Isn't every year, "the year of the bird?"
One of the big differences between Orlando and Vancouver, as far as the weather is concerned, is that here it rains all night long and well into the next day, maybe quitting here and there, more likely closer to sunset, such as it is this time of year. We are used to lots of rain, but it is generally the "fast and furious" type, unlike here where it goes on for hours. Well, days, for that matter.

Having said that, it was a somewhat dry start to another day last week and I decided to walk across the Cambie Street bridge, a first for me.
So far, so good. One thing I love seeing here is the darling young children in their weather gear. So cute!
From the apex of the bridge I pointed my camera North to get a shot of the city, the streets running between all those towers which have now become very familiar. Homer, Hamilton, Richards, Nelson, Cambie, Helmcken, Pacific, and others are, at least for now, etched in my mind.
The rain held off as I came to the other side of the bridge,
but not for long. I crossed a few streets, wandered around in the Winners on Cambie, before heading back over the bridge to walk to Costco for a few things. Mostly butter. :)

It was raining cats and dogs when I walked back outside with the wind whipping my umbrella around like nobodies business. Needless to say, by the time I returned to the condo, I was relieved to be indoors.

Now, where should I go? It must have been Friday morning that it actually wasn't raining, nor even threatening to do so, allowing me to set off free from worry. This time I walked over the Burrard Street bridge on the newly opened pathway.
Sweet heavenly sunshine!!! Here's how some folks live in Vancouver,
while, sadly, others live like this.
My destination was the Museum of Vancouver to see what I could see. Mostly I was interested in the Neon signs from the past. Here's a bit of an explanation for the exhibit:
And here's a few of those signs.
From the neon sign controversy, to any other cause you can think of, another exhibit explores that theme. There was a large screen set up in the middle of the room with shots from the Vancouver Sun spanning decades of protests. Apparently, affordable housing, or the lack thereof, is nothing new in these parts.
Here's a protest that surprised me, although I don't know why it would.
Very interesting that they passed a bylaw about this because one thing we've noticed while we've been here is that the laws seem somewhat flexible. Just last week a street market of pot vendors was shut down. We'd seen them for weeks, set up, as it turns out, illegally in Robson Square and nothing was being done about it. Well, they were arrested, however no charges were filed, and by golly, several of the vendors were back on the street selling within hours. Crazy, right?

Loads of interesting, well at least it was to me, stuff to learn about how they transformed themselves from a sleepy logging town into a glittering metropolis. So, here you have the background info on that Burrard bridge I crossed to get over to the museum.
Count me as thrilled that when I came back outdoors, there was still some blue in the sky, with even a few patches where the sun shone through. Looking towards Stanley Park and the North Shore in the shot below. All those big green trees, many hundreds of years old too.
Making my way back home, I was even more excited when the clouds broke enough to show off those beautiful, snow capped mountain views.
Rain began falling in the evening, continuing non-stop until the middle of Saturday, however, Bruce forged ahead; it was a soggy walk to the vet's office. :(

Keeping busy is very important right now, so I dreamed up an activity Bruce and I could share. We took the train to Waterfront Station where we boarded the SeaBus for the 15 minute ride across Coal Harbor to the North Shore.
Seating 400 people, it was lovely seeing the sun light up the mountaintops on the North Shore.
And, an even better view on the way back!
This has run on way too long, by which time I'm sure you are all bored. Lots more to say about that little trip, but let's wait until another time as there is a tiny break in the rain and I MUST get outdoors.

It sure has been an interesting six months, don't you think?

yours truly,

Gail


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Empty Nesters

There was a period in my life where I was not well for a significant amount of time. While there's no need to rehash all of that, there is one important thing that came out of that time that was to change my life in a good way. Bruce bought me a digital camera.

He had the notion that the camera would help heal me, not so much in the physical sense, but more as a distraction and if I were distracted enough, I would get eventually become myself again. It worked. I used that little pocket Panasonic every single day, whether my body felt good or not. Over time, I thought more about taking photographs than I did about how I was feeling, and the rest is history.

While thinking of that initial camera, I remembered how much I loved it and what great photos I was able to get with it, long before people began using phones for taking photographs. It was what you called a "point and shoot" camera, and I did plenty of that. I began selling my photographs taken with  my "baby camera",  and while other photographers looked down on me for using it, I was too naive to know the difference. Apparently, it was somewhat revolutionary in the sense that it was not a DSLR, a term I had not even heard of at the time. In other words, it didn't cost a whole lot!

These days, people are lauded for the photographs they take with their phone, which is basically a "point and shoot" that does more than take pictures. Funny how times have changed.

Something that I remembered in the last few days is how it came to be that I no longer have that camera. Back then, Baxter liked to take walks, and Jonathan used to call me every day to make sure I was alright. One day, while doing both of those things, I somehow dropped it on Pershing, the next street over from ours. Not that I noticed it, of course, but when I got home, I realized it was not in my pocket. Unable to find it, you can imagine how sad I felt. Never one to invest in expensive equipment, it was not the monetary loss so much as the mental loss--my "medicine" was gone, perhaps because I was getting better. In any case, I've had other cameras since, but none as beloved as that first one.

Isn't that always the way? What comes first sets the standard for the future doesn't it? Baxter was our very first dog. After my mom died, I wanted no part of taking care of another living thing. And then along came Baxter. Nearly thirteen years later, we are finally "empty nesters". Just me and Bruce. And while I hesitated before taking this photograph of Baxter's last hour with us, I'm now glad I did because there is just so much love here that I want to remember it forever.
Whereas other photographers have no qualms about photographing people at their most vulnerable, that has never been my strong suit. This time I've made an exception because, in the future, when our hearts are not nearly as heavy, this will be part of the precious memories we have of our sweet Baxie.

Perhaps, after reading all of the above, you are wondering how the two subjects tie together and I can't blame you for that. After writing my last post I was a mess and couldn't bear to stay in the condo by myself. Aha...now you get it, right?

With my backpack carrying my camera and lens, I set off in search of, well, whatever came my way, somewhat like I did all those years ago. We finally had a weather break after days and days of wet, windy, and just plain miserable weather. I am not one to squander that kind of opportunity. Taking the bus down to Denman Street, from there I walked into Stanley Park and was rewarded nearly immediately.  About a dozen Robins were flitting about. Now for some folks seeing an American Robin is no big deal, but for a Central Floridian,  it is a treat as they only come through our area once a year.
Not far from there, I watched a Northern Flickr dig away in the soggy ground. Never have I been so close before, as the only pair I'd seen in Orlando were very high up in a tree at the cemetery.
I began walking on the seawall and couldn't help but think of what it looked like in this area only two weeks before with the huge waves that I later learned were from, what around here is called. a King Tide.
Walking along I began hearing some horn music, a term I use loosely because it was not very good. Where in the world could that be coming from? Here's where:
Continuing my walk I came to Third Beach where the shoreline was littered with shells probably due to the big wind storm on Sunday.
Standing near this seagull with a starfish in his mouth was, for lack of a better term, really something. Apparently they keep them in their mouth for a period of time before eating them, sucking out the juices. Nature at work...
It was right about then that Bruce called to check on me. As we were chatting I noticed another bird I'd never seen and told him I'd have to call him right back. By the time I'd gotten my camera out of my backpack, the two birds had flown away, however, before long, I came across them again navigating the big rocks while searching for food.
Once I was home I went in search of identification and learned that this is a Black Oystercatcher. I love seeing new birds, that's for sure! Alissa and Jon gave me a beautiful handmade journal that will be getting used to keep track of my bird sightings, lest I forget, and we all know how forgetful I am!

Because there was no reason to hurry home, I kept going, further than I'd ever been. The people in the photo below give you a notion as to the size of the cliffs.
Finally, around the bend, the Lionsgate bridge came into sight.
One of the container ships from English Bay on the way to Coal Harbor. Was it only six months ago that I'd never heard these names, let alone know what they signified?

By now you've learned that I have a bit of a bridge phobia, but for some reason, this bridge does not bother me. Seeing how huge the pilings are makes me all the less afraid.
It was not long after this that Matt and Tom called and we had a lovely Facetime chat. I was able to show them the scene below while I sat on a bench to talk.
Unbelievable that there are actually fluffy clouds in the sky, so please discount what I'd written earlier about how they never occur here. Not only did they call, but they sent flowers on Friday,
as did David and Michelle. Such a sweet surprise.
Once I sat down I realized I was getting a wee bit tired and the lunch hour had long past. Looking to cut through the park, I took this muddy path which reminded me that there is yet a lot of park to explore with my camera, hoping it will work that same healing magic.
The phone just rang and it was Urban Animal Hospital calling. The young woman said she just wanted to let me know that "we got Baxter back". I'm not sure how else she could have phrased it, however, sadly, there is no getting Baxter back. He will, however, never be forgotten.

yours truly,

Gail


Limping Along