Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mother Nature's Rest Day

Mother Nature has declared today a Rest Day.
She's lowered her clouds like shutters, obstructing the view of the Gulf Islands.
She's calmed the waters of the sea, making a gentle waterbed for gulls and pigeons to rest on
And has provided fish for sleepy eating.

Mother Nature has declared today a Rest Day from the fierce winter storms that blow the ocean into tantrums.

Who doesn't feel sleepy with a gentle, but steady rain?
We need to listen to her and see the rain as an invitation to just be still.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Granville Island--Five Senses Rejuvenated--Part II

Granville Island ignites your senses so much that to really focus on any one sense is cheating the experience.  Smell was a strong and delicious one and often a fishy one.  However, they all overlap here.  You smell the fudge and candy in the market but you also see its mouth-watering creation.  You smell soup, but see the fresh, colourful, and delicious ingredients that go into the soups, stews, and chili. 

Beyond smell and sight, you hear different languages being spoken and people calling out their orders.  Children squeal out in delight at seagulls or out of frustration that their parents have to do "just one more thing" before the family can go outside and feed the gulls and pigeons, not to mention chasing them. 

You can't go without eating (of course) and the market, not to mention, the WHOLE island, is filled with a dizzying array of tastes.  I guess you could decide not to eat there, but it's all there in front of you: fish and chips, Thai food, Italian food, ice cream, specialty coffees.  I sat with a veggie burger and it was delicious with caesar salad on the side.  The trouble with eating there, in many ways, is that the gulls and pigeons also know you are there especially when you're sitting on a bench outside.  I had one very cocky fellow, a beautiful and silver seagull, waddle over to me and just stare at me eating.  He literally watched every bite I took.  He'd cock his head this way and that, hoping for either a piece of bun or salad.  Patient guy, he did walk away but came back as if to say, "so, have you had enough?"  No, I must say I was quite selfish.  I was also listening enraptured as a young man with long hair was playing classical guitar.  I found the whole scene quite moving.  No one seems in a hurry when they are outside eating, watching the boats, or hearing beautiful live music. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Granville Island--Five Senses Rejuvenated--Part I

Today, I went to Granville Island.  Feeling slightly discouraged from job hunting, I felt I needed to go somewhere that was ALIVE with energy and stimulation. 

Granville Island is synonymous with energy and stimulation of all five senses.  Though I had a difficult moment where I saw what I thought was a look-a-like of Jason, it didn't take long to wipe the tears and take a breath. While I took that breath, I was amazed I wasn't overtaken by the variety of smells that hit me when I went into the market to find something for lunch.  The minute I went in, I smelled fish.  No kidding, really?  Fish in Vancouver?  It wasn't unpleasant in any way, although I don't know that I'd bottle it up any day soon for perfume (eau de crab?).  As I walked down the aisles of Granville Island Market, the smell of coffee was also strong.  Now that was a wonderful smell!  If I didn't already have my daily coffee ration of a grande cinnamon dolce latte, I'm sure I could've have floated very happily to any of the vendors that were selling it.  If you're not sure what you want, the market can be confusing with so many delicious choices (eg. Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, Thai, etc.). Curry was a strong draw for me, it's earthy scent almost making me immobile with indecision. There's a brewery in another building, but I haven't yet experienced it.  The smell of baked goods and candy would've attracted Hansel and Gretel.  Fudge is actually made right there and you can see them do it.  The sweet smell will remind you of how you need to jog the next day (well, I do).  There are so many things to smell that I can't list them all.  With my veggie burger and caesar salad in my hands, I go out onto the large walkway and eating area.  I perch on a somewhat damp seat and proceed to eat, inhaling the gentle sea air.

I leave it at that for now as I'm getting hungry again just remembering it.  Too late for coffee...hmm.  Dream of fudge...hmmm...dream of going to the gym...but what a life!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter in White Rock--Remembering the scarf.

I just can't help but be drawn to the West Coast.  Not everyone feels that way--especially in the winter.  It rains a lot during this season and it does get dark with clouds. Many miss the snow they would get in other parts of British Columbia or in every other province in Canada. I do not miss the snow!  You don't have to shovel rain!

The nice thing about the Coast is that, if it snows, it doesn't last long--Jason and I were thrilled one Christmas that a beautiful snowfall came Christmas Eve day and then was gone by Boxing day.  Some people, who have lived here for a long time, might disagree with me on this, but it rarely feels cold.  Yes, the cold moisture can leave you feeling chilled; but, it rarely gets below freezing.  You never feel like you can't move even if you have a few layers between you and your raincoat.

 I don't know how many people have seen the movie, "Christmas Story".  In it, the youngest boy in the family is being dressed by his mother in so many layers of sweaters that he can't put his arms down.  I felt like that last winter.  It was -25 PLUS a WINDCHILL that brought the temperature for a few days down to -35.  I think it could've even reached -40 at one point.  I remember having an undershirt and...and a dress shirt, sweater, scarf, hat...etc.  I could barely move and struggled to figure out how I'd not only get to the train, but get my HUUUUGE mits inside my purse to get my keys out.  I'd put my winter scarf back on over my nose and my glasses would steam up.  Then they'd FREEZE.  Not only did I look, sometimes, like a bear walking upright with arms in the air, I couldn't see anything.  There had to be an angel watching that I didn't walk into any posts.  Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not too much.

My glasses rarely steam up out here; though, with the changing climate, we could have another series of freak winter storms where the snow and cold lasted longer than West Coasters are used to.  I'm still new and I know that the lower mainland and the islands suffered horribly for a couple of weeks.  It could happen again. The most anyone really seems to need here is an umbrella, raincoat, rain boots, fleece, and--scarf.  It is beautiful out here, though, enough that people will sniff the air and get dressed in their shorts.  When it's sunny and warm, you tend to forget you're still in the winter.

 Everyone wears a scarf out here.  It's a popular accessory everywhere in the world now, but so far, I think there must be a law that makes it MANDATORY to wear one here.  There should be a sign on everyone's front door (on the inside) that asks, "Are You Wearing your Scarf?".  Since I've been living with my mother and step-father, I seem to have attained at least 3 new ones (one of them a purple boa style).  It sounds very minor, I know, but I actually hate wearing scarves, especially winter ones.  I always worry about being strangled (I have no idea of how I died in a past life) or that my glasses will get so steamed up so I can't see.  Out here, it's more the strangulation factor I think. Seriously though, do NOT let your scarf get too near an escalator!  On that note, I think I'll wrap this for now, as I'm getting kind of wound up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Winter in White Rock and the Coast

White Rock is a four season municipality.  While busier in the summer to the point, sometimes, of being over-crowded, Marine Drive is a special attraction even in the winter. Being on the White Rock beach in the winter, you see how hardy people are.  Storms whoop up a great fuss in the ocean with large waves and rain.  While not as popular for storm-watching as Tofino, people of all ages layer their winter clothes and head out.  Even with the wind whipping their raincoats, the moist air causing zippers to be pulled higher and scarves wrapping around necks, people love to go to the pier.  The best place is at the end of the pier. 

It's almost like a game as the waves defy the breakwater sometimes and spray the people who insist on staying where it's windier. 

Seagulls fight against the wind, seeming to hover in space, flapping wings with amazing strength through the relentless gusts.  There is a kinship between walkers as everyone who comes out is celebrating the noise of the wind whaling, seagulls crying, and the size of waves.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Moving On (originally Introduction 3)

Jason underwent open-heart surgery to replace a faulty aortic valve in June, 2007. After surgery, when he was given permission to travel, we headed to Vancouver in the summer. Jason wasn't able to go far very long without needing rest, but I could already see signs of his energy returning. I could't help but smile after we got off of the plane in Abbotsford--Jason already seemed energized and commented on the sea air. That summer, Jason and I went beyond dreaming and started to plan a future to live at the coast. New hope came as Jason's new valve did its job making us read more andmore about Vancouver, encouraging us to believe how healthy it would be for us to live there.

Unfortunately, Jason suffered his first stroke 8 months later and died March 24, 2008, after suffering a massive stroke while still in the hospital. I thought that was the end of the story--as a matter of fact, I was certain of it...

After a year of pain and numbness, which still threatens to freeze me from time to time, I faced the need, as many who've lost a spouse can imagine, to start living and working on a "new normal"--whatever that is. I spent ten days of a summer holiday in Vancouver with my mother and step-father. They showed incredible hospitality and kindness, but I felt no joy. I felt incredible pain, but there was no significant enthusiasm for places I loved. I was almost afraid to love Vancouver. Chapter's Bookstore? ABC Comic and Book Emporium? Big deal. All I could see were "ghosts" that seemed to resemble him. I couldn't happily bounce down West 4th Avenue as I had done before. Strange thing was: I still loved the coast.

One day, while walking in Ocean Park (a village in South Surrey), I just literally stopped walking and sniffed the air. It was January and the air was crisp but not cold. i felt like I could breathe I think from that moment on, I was destined to live there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Move

I went into a fever of excitement, a sense that I was finally going make something happen. Again, like I originally did with Jason, I looked at real estate ads, checked rental rates, and searched the want ads on every part of the West Coast. I began to make it my mission to research the city I loved so much. I wanted to live again. Realistically, I felt that it would still be a year or two before I could even think of relocating. I completed a term position as a school librarian just after the anniversary of Jason's death and started sending resumes to positions in Calgary, thinking it would be good to start work and save money when it was time to move. I did still love Calgary. I no longer liked the winters, especially in 2008/2009. I also found I no longer felt desire to be in Calgary at all. As lethargic as I felt, I spent more and more time on the computer, seriously looking up rental rates and starting to see what I could get for work on the coast. These activities kept me from retreating into a deeper shell which would keep me from socializing with even my closest friends. In the middle of the summer of 2009, I phoned my mother, telling her I had seen some computer courses at Vancouver Community College that I could take. Oh, I knew that there were courses in Calgary, but wanted any excuse to move near the ocean. After two days on the road over the mountains, we--my mother, my step-father, and I--arrived in Surrey. I wasn't used to the idea, after living in my own home for many years, living with my mother, but I was thankful to be there. It was a gift of residence which allowed me to save money while I got settled. While I was eager to get on my own feet, I was desperate to explore! Between moments of grief and mood swings, I went into Vancouver with camera, film, pencil and notebook stuffed into my daypack. I boarded the 351 bus over the Bridgeport station and then went downtown. I was a free agent even though I was uncomfortable with my own company after having such a wonderful travel companion in my husband. As I looked around, I felt the tension begin to seep out of me as Vancouver's beauty mixed with with ocean and mountains, began to fill me. Even with the city's busy-ness and hard concrete, the early architects of Vancouver knew to utilize the ocean to make it attractive even on rainy days.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vancouver Introduction

As I grew older, I continued to visit Vancouver more frequently. I stayed with my mother between my jobs and school, loving already the constant green of everything there. I married my wonderful husband, Jason White, in 1989, in Edmonton, Alberta, and moved several times before settling in Calgary, Alberta. Once we settled and after my sister moved to the coast, Jason and I spent more summers there. We went once for Christmas, and then started looking forward to Easter and summer and Thanksgiving holidays. Jason had also fallen for Vancouver's charms. We'd get off of the plane (or sometimes the Greyhound) and I'd look at him. Near the ocean, his expressive brown eyes sparkled and his beautiful fair skin glowed with good health and enjoyment. We did travel to other places over the years such as, London, Ontario and Toronto. However, we mostly visited Vancouver, often travelling on the ferry across to Victoria and Ladysmith (where my brother and his family moved). We found that our holidays approached, we yearned for the sea air and moderate climate. If it got hot, we'd just go to the beach and sometimes join my family for barbecues. While Vancouver is criticized often for how much it rains, the expense of living there, and the crime, Jason and I found, during our visits, that the benefits far outweighed anything negative. Don't get me wrong, we did quarrel about it and discussed negatives as well as positives, but somehow we couldn't get rid of the plan to move there.

Vancouver Intro

I've had an ongoing love affair with Vancouver for as long as I can remember. The summer after I turned 7, my family drove from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver Island. I don't remember very much about that summer except that I loved the ocean and beachcombing. I had a little pixie haircut and cats-eye glasses. We drove in an old Pontiac Parisienne. In those old cars, it was amazing what you could pack into it. In the front were my mother and father. There were 3 of us kids (Steve, Sheila, and I). We stopped in many places that summer (I always loved an adventure). What I wasn't prepared for was how excited I was to see the blue water peaking between buildings. I'm sure I drove my family crazy: "Is that the ocean?", I asked many times, as I couldn't believe that we were finally there.