Tag Archives: city life

Arts and Sciences

Last week was the end of DOXA fest here in Vancouver and, while I’d planned on putting up a little post about it while it was still on, I happily spent all my spare time casting shadows in the flickering light of the projectors at the Cinematheque and the Vancity Theatre watching intensely beautiful and, sometimes scientifically themed documentaries.

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In the well-planned variety of films chosen this year, I saw men driven mad by probable government agents feeding them stories of aliens so as to distract them from the stealth bomber testing they’d observed, a wordless scenes of a life and death in a rural Brazilian village, doom metal from the apocalyptic landscape of post-financial-crisis Las Vegas, and astronomers peering up from the Atacama desert in to the past life of stars while old ladies searched the sand with small shovels for the bones of their loved ones taken from them during the ‘disappearances’ common under Pinochet’s rule.

The theme of the festival – secrets and lies – ran through all these films. But something else surfaced from within the stories of the people and the places on screen. Something linking science to art. Through the science most of us are exposed to today, we know so much about the way the world works. Whether it be tourism, astrophotography, animal husbandry, or government atrocities, there’s a reality that can be studied and documented.

What I felt was being captured in the festival – the art of it – was the showcase of how individual’s emotions fit into the documentable reality, and, more importantly, how they sometimes don’t. The resulting pictures are of sorrow, longing, and misplaced happiness and how people fit their own emotional lives into the reality of the world.

Not too long ago I saw another kind of artistic capture of something from the world of science in the photography of Rose-Lynn Fisher and especially in her studies of human tears. I won’t copy the images here, but her site has a series of pictures which capture the differences of tears between persons and between feelings. I was especially struck by an image called “Tears of change” where a large, squared rather solid-looking crystal is surrounded by a sea of shattered wavy ripples. Each image is unique and I’m sure connected to the person’s thoughts and feelings at the time the tears were shed.

So now I wonder if this is the role of the artist – to capture the emotional life of a being’s living reality. How much of this reality is based in our surroundings, our situation? How much of that situation does the artist need to show in order to help the viewer understand the emotion? The documentary format is, of course, the ideal platform for the kind of presentation that provides that context.

In the images of tears, we have to wonder about the person’s situation based on the title of each image. This is powerful too – in order to identify the situation that could have caused the tears, we look inward to an experience of our own we could conjure. Something our reality has included that made us cry similar tears.

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Snow Falling on a Blog Break

February draws to a close and I realize that, without my realizing it, 2014 has started off with a bit of a blog break, but a lovely little snowstorm this  past weekend reminded me of how much I do  miss sharing things with you, dear readers.

This winter has been a cruel one for most of North America – including my home town in Florida – but here in Vancouver things have been thankfully forgiving. Sunshine makes it into at least a few afternoons each week and, while the wind is cold, the irises and witch hazel are already in bloom and the rain hasn’t gripped with the strength it had last year.

That said, last weekend in rolled a wonderful little snow storm that, in true Vancouver fashion, dusted us for a few days then quietly slipped away. Not, however, before letting me take a few little snapshots of a cold, white evening layered with all the eerie loveliness of the woods in winter.

Cedars with just enough snow to show off their architecture.

Cedars with just enough snow to show off their architecture.

Snow clouds catching city light.

Snow clouds catching city light.

It’s a shame that house things and work  has let two months slip by already with me barely keeping up, but I  hope to see you again more frequently soon. In the meantime, keep warm out there everyone, wherever you are!

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30 Cakes (20, 21/30)

This time last year, I had a little mini obsession with thinking being 30 would be hard. Days of dread, anticipated shame, and fear of having to start spending more time looking at wrinkle products drove me to finding something fun to ring in the year. What did I decide? That for something as eventful as turning 30, a single cake didn’t seem fitting. Thirty cakes, however, did. 

When the day finally approached, none of the bad feelings had really materialized and , 300 or so days later, I can this has turned out to be one of the most fun challenges I’ve set for myself. I say challenge because managing the cake schedule has turned out to be harder than turning 30 every even dared to be. Rolling toward the end of this endeavor, I’m  two cakes closer to the goal with an eight item to-do list ahead of me.

I swear I almost always eat hummus and pepper sandwiches at work because I’m super cheap, but sometimes I wind up in a little cafe watching the rain and all the downtown business people out an about. Doing so over a latte and lemon cake for number 20 is a pretty nice way to spend a half hour once in a while.

Number 21 is a bit of a cheat but it feels right in my heart – after all, what’s not cake-y about confetti cake batter? Thanks to a recipe found over at Tasty Little Crouton and a wonderful guy who understands that an ice cream maker is a romantic gift, a frozen version of my either birthday is now sitting happily in my favorite mug. 

Lemons for lunch.

woah, icecreamy.

woah, icecreamy.

 

 

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Falling leaves, falling temperatures

For a person who grew up in a place where driving 400 miles north to “see the leaves change” was something we considered tourism, being in a city full of deciduous trees is a sort of treat every October.

The skinny pines of north Florida don’t offer much of  a show any time of year – steadily they live in needle-floored forests usually towering over palmettos that don’t turn for fall either. We did have a single Turkey Oak tree in my yard as a kid with leaves that reddened and then crisped up to to make one little corner of our yard a hard place to sneak around in for the noise of crunching leaves. Other than that, things were pretty green most of the year.

Here in Vancouver, the leaves are turning all around us. Orange, green, and golden showers of leaves pulled down in the wind litter the streets. Bags of yard leaves line the streets during what the city calls and “unlimited leaf collection period.” While others rake, I look up for color, deeper into my closet for  warmth, and on the ground for the found fruits of Autumn.

Green turns to red.

Green turns to red.

Blazes of orange.

Blazes of orange.

Golden and blue.

Golden and blue.

Other fruits of Autumn.

Other fruits of Autumn.

 

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30 cakes (19/30)

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Normally, I’m not a believer in organized fun. Events at work, group concert attendance, meeting strangers at coffee shops to discuss a common interest, none of these are what you might call “up my alley”. Thankfully, I seem to have usually had a nice little circle of close friends – people who are up for whatever and don’t need to plan things in advance. When we arrived in Vancouver, that circle shrank considerably, so I started looking for places to meet people outside work.

Adding to or building up a group of friends can shape your impression of a place. Even on vacation, we often judge the entire place we’re visiting on the few interactions we have with the locals. Where I grew up, people would often say that they didn’t like New York after visiting – “Everyone was so stuck up and busy,” “No one would talk to us” – these kinds of comments are thrown around as the official judgement of an entire city.  Whereas, if you have pleasant encounters on a trip, you tend to head home with warm feelings and happy stories more so than I think we often realize.

Vancouver is sort of notorious for it’s icy attitudes. People I meet here who are from other places often describe their friend-making experience as a challenge. Vancouverites have a class to attend or special interest group work to do or allergies to wheat, all of which can make going to grab a beer with someone more complicated than I’ve certainly ever encountered. Also, it’s a transient city, and that’s something I do know about. Living in a beach community as a kid meant summers filled with new kids to hang out with and weird, empty feelings when everyone went back home. In Tallahassee, where we lived last in Florida, the college atmosphere seems to make people want to “move on”. It was a place where attending going-away parties was pretty common. Since moving here, I’ve said good bye to a half dozen of the buddies who were drug away by work permits, calls to their home town, or jobs far away.

What I did find is one totally excellent group of knitters who are brought together by stitches and coffee and Thursday evenings. This is, technically, organized fun, but I have to say that seeking a interest group pretty soon after we arrived has been one of my best decisions yet. Found originally on meetup.com (Eek! How organized does that sound?) this group has strengthened my appreciation for how good we can be to each other without even knowing it. What you might call general chit chat and laughs over this or that thing we all experience in our knitting or in our lives has made a lovely little impact on me over the last few years. In the midst of people not making eye contact on the side walk or talking to their neighbors, there’s a little cluster of us who bring our own backgrounds and stories while we happily step away from our various jobs and kids and partners for a brief moment.

For this reason, I’m super happy to have indulged in cake #19 with my knitting buddies. When this sweater finally gets finished, I’ll be reminded of a chilly October evening with friends at Trees coffee shop where, by the way, you can get an absolutely delicious pumpkin cheesecake. And, if you’re someone living somewhere new, let me take a moment to tip my hat to those to are pulling together strangers at some coffee shop on some corner in your town. The work of connecting people sure isn’t easy these days, and a little appreciation to the talkers and the planners was given with each of this cake’s bites!

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Summer, according to my phone.

Recently, I was asked what thing about people bothered me the most – as in, did I have an irrational fear of the elderly or an instant dislike of people who perpetually told you the gritty details of their health problems. It was one of those things that you can only talk about with close friends, but we all have ‘peves’ with each other and it makes for pretty good fun to identify the minimally terrible and often hilarious things about your friends that you so enjoy.

One of the things we didn’t bring up was over-use of cell phones that seems to have become socially acceptable. It’s a practice of mine that I don’t use my phone when I’m talking to, sitting with, or generally in the same area as someone I know. Right next to hand written letters, I think people sharing time with each other is one of the greatest things about friendship and family. These days, so many conversations between two or more humans is perpetually stopped or distracted by looks into pockets or screen-based chats. Hopefully this is a trend that will die out as we realize how rude we are being to each other. Not trying to sound like a bossy old lady, but one can only hope.

In the meantime, I must admit that I remain undecided about the addition of phone cameras into our lives. While I’m certainly no professional, I have appreciated photography since I was given access to my dad’s old 35mm Cannon with detachable lenses when I was eight or maybe twelve. Seeing the working mechanisms of a little dark place that made printed copies of things that otherwise exist only in memory made me want to take pictures, study photographer’s styles and techniques, and generally appreciate thoughtful and interesting documentation of the world.

Perhaps mistakenly, I often don’t carry a camera these days because I can rely on my phone to take snapshots. This brings me back round to the over-use issue and, like I said, I actually don’t know where I stand on this. Yesterday, I purposefully didn’t bring a camera or my phone to the release of a hand full of Harbor Seals that I had helped care for as a volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Center. This was the annual volunteer-led release where the people who have helped feed and clean and grow and heal get to carry cages down to the water and release now-healthy seals. The beach is usually cluttered with friends and family and yesterday was no exception. The dry beach where we were was pretty shallow and everyone was standing as close as they could almost piled on top of each other. Amidst the crowded bodies, all arm were up and out; everyone was ready with their phone cameras.

What I’m afraid of is that this sort of photography removes us from the moments we are experiencing. There’s no zoom on those things, after all, so we must push our way to the front and sometimes get so close that we loose the perspective of a regular camera man – one where you take the whole scene into account, where the background matters too.

On the way home, I looked though the things I had photographed this summer and found another layer to the argument – I had not remembered several of the events documented with a quick snap, or should I say finger press, of the camera phone. For this, spy-camera-sized and instantly obtainable photo ability, I guess I’ll have to say I’m glad. But I still think we should put phones down more often and really look around, listen to each other, and try to remember the events of our lives. Here are a few that, thanks to having the phone,  I’ll remember from this summer.

My first 'swim' in BC waters. Can you believe it took so long?

My first ‘swim’ in BC waters. Can you believe it took so long?

Weird things downtown.

Weird things downtown.

That afternoon we went to a neat forest on the riverside with some good friends.

That afternoon we went to a neat forest on the riverside with some good friends.

Neon.

Neon.

Wine and sunshine.

Wine and sunshine.

Cute street scenes.

Cute street scenes.

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

Jorts!

Jorts!

A day at the pool in Stanley Park.

A day at the pool in Stanley Park.

Visits to a muddy border.

Visits to a muddy border.

A picnic at Green College.

A picnic at Green College.

A paperweight at the Vancouver archives embellished with the humor of an antiquarian.

A paperweight at the Vancouver archives embellished with the humor of an antiquarian.

Finding this map of what Coal Harbor was going to look like once.

Finding this map of what Coal Harbor was going to look like once.

The plan I made for my Green Streets garden.

The plan I made for my Green Streets garden.

The walkway into the Anthropology museum.

Appreciating the walkway into the Anthropology museum.

Finding a view of the fireworks form our bedroom window.

Finding a view of the fireworks form our bedroom window.

Meeting this guy.

Meeting this guy.

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Dispatches from Kerrsidale

One of the biggest changes moving to Vancouver brought for us was life in an apartment. Each of us had previously in apartments, technically, but the buildings were more like town houses and the highest floor I ever occupied was the second one.

Our first place here was on the 19th floor and the entire place could probably have fit into the living room of the last Florida  house. The apartment we live in now is a bit bigger, but there’s still an elevator and it’s definitely cramped by my former understanding of living space.

That said, you probably don’t need all that stuff you have – small spaces force you to think about what’s important and I’ve grown to really enjoy the little place we now call home. For the next little while, I get to test that out cause we’re house sitting an actual house in Kerrisdale.

My immediate review of the neighborhood – no big park, no beach. The houses in Vancouver have all been built out almost to the property lines, so not much of a yard either. It is quiet and the houses are all really cute with features like rounded doors, angled porch stoops, and second floor bay windows. It’s also nice to not know exactly where the other person is because, unlike our apartment, there’s more than just one other place to be in a house. The other day it took us nearly a whole minute to find each other in here.

There’s also a hangout kitchen. For anyone like me who has been living in a galley-kitchen apartment lately, I’ll explain. A hangout kitchen more than just a kitchen big enough for people to be in at the same time someone is cooking. It’s a kitchen so inviting and spacious and functional that it is actually the best room in the house.

Other changes -the garbage has to get sorted, the windows have to be locked, and when you walk at night you can see into the separated homes of neighboring families.

We’re also closer to the south end of things now, so I’m hoping to do some exploration of this end of town. Southlands, Boundry Bay, Iona Island are all just a few minutes away now, so, while I will miss the beach, I’ll be happy to see what there is to see from this end. And, when we return to our little apartment, perhaps we can learn to squish back together into a small space again.

 

 

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Bowl of Sunshine

Here we sit at the height of summer.

Here we sit at the height of summer.

In the last few weeks, Okanagan Valley peaches have been making their way into grocery stores here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed. When we lived in Tallahassee, we were never far from famous Georgia peaches. Spotting one of those makeshift farm stands under a tailgating-style tent on the side of some dusty road almost always warranted a stop for berries, watermelons, and peaches.

Up here, the peaches are adorned with ‘organic’ and ‘local’ stickers, which wouldn’t have seemed appropriate at all back home. They also lack the warmth of the ones you’d bite into under 90 degree blazing sunshine who’s orange color seemed to hold onto the sun itself. They did grow under a similar sun, though, and they are so incredibly delicious.

This morning’s bowl of peaches, just as sweet as you could imagine, brings me thoughts of those hot summers even under today’s cloudy skies. Thanks for that, peaches. And please do stay a while.

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The Vegetables of my Labo(u)r

June this year has been kinder than last. I’ve only had to wear rain boots two or three times so far and have switched to my lighter jackets successfully. That said, there’s still a chill in the air and we’ve been spooked out of camping twice so far with temperatures dropping to the single digits (Celsius, people… I’m trying!) still.

That said, one part of summer has already arrived – the happy results of early spring planting.

Bucket of greens fresh from the farm, er, I mean balcony.

Bucket of greens fresh from the farm, er, I mean balcony.

This wonderful little concoction of greens includes some kind of choy vegetable I forgot the specifics of, red and green leaf lettuces and a few pieces of arugula. Having grown up successfully (in spite of a north-facing lack of sun and squirrel who ate quite a few of their seedling brethren) these little greens will keep me from having to buy lettuces for a while.

But not everyone is an enemy!

Garden's friend.

Garden’s friend.

I still have sugar snap peas on the way and fingers crossed for red tomatoes (last year’s were mostly green).  I also have some wonderful flowers starting to come up so come on Summer and bring my little green balcony some sunny days, warmer nights!

Greening.

Greening.

Vegetables of my labo(u)r.

Vegetables of my labo(u)r.

 

 

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two worlds

So the sunny skies that have graced us here lately are wonderful. A break from the famous Vancouver grey and a chance to wear shoes that aren’t made of plastic is certainly nice. The clouds work like a blanket though, so when they leave, the temperature drops. Yesterday we took a moment to check out the frost in the best possible place to do so – Queen Elizabeth Park. Why is it the best? Because it’s really two worlds in one.

 

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The first, rhubarb melted into a frozen puddle (still amazing looking… this is such a cool plant!) I can’t stop being fascinated by the way the water expands as it freezes. It’s like the plants are all wearing a little wig of crystals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013-01-12 12.35.22And then there’s the Bloedel Conservatory. At the top of Little Mountain (where the park sits) the conservatory makes a great little respite on cold days. The Christmas lights were still up last weekend so it really did feel like two worlds!

 

 

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bright lights, big city

Like the song, it sure is Christmas time in this city and Vancouver is actually a really nice place to be this time of year. People huddle together in a few places (shopping on Robson Street, visiting the light displays at parks and gardens, the local coffee shop or out with friends at favorite winter time restaurant) and much of the rest of town empties out. I’m not sure if this is because it’s a pretty transient city so many return home, or maybe we are all just staying indoors unless heading to a friend’s lunch or office party. What do I like best? Balconies on condo buildings showing off the varied taste in lights of each tenant. Seeing people carrying trays of cookies or a side dish getting buzzed into their friend’s apartment. Cute displays in shop windows. The tiny hope everyone holds that this might be the year for snow.

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Christmas at Lost Lagoon
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