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The Differences

Dear Readers. I have ventured far from home and have neglected this space in favor of Florida. This holiday, I sunk into a deep relaxation unlike any I’ve known. I went home. The other home and, for the first time in a long time, settled in.

The holidays are always a bit emotional, especially for those of us who live far from those we love, but this year all of that was hidden under the extended time we had to be there. The weeks wrapped me in the contentment of an old quilt and was strong enough to give me time meditating on the differences.

Things are different down in America, down South, and in Florida. People talk differently, dress differently, spend their time differently. As far as I can tell, it’s these differences that make us like or not like something. ‘I’m glad to be here because here people do this or that thing. I like this or that thing better that that other thing from over there.’ Does that make ‘here’ better? More ‘my speed’? I was on this idea so much that I made a list.

Junebugs, pick up trucks, state roads, and styrofoam. Lizards, restaurant inside gas stations, spanish moss, trailers, sandy feet. Screen doors, coolers, creeks, cypress knees, and sensor lights. Saying ‘hi’ to everyone you pass. Waving with your first to fingers to people you pass while driving a car. Vegetables cooked in salt water. Drive through liquor stores. Parking lots. Sweet tea in a to-go cup. Wind chimes. Sand dunes. Woods with floors lined in pine straw.

Then I thought that is this very desire – the need to classify differences – that should be avoided. These things, the strange things, or, in my case, familiar things, are not all there is.  Can we not turn our sensitivities, our perceptions, to what we have in common instead? Would we even want to?

Today, back in Vancouver in the rain and the grey, I’ll make a little promise to look instead  for commonality. The noise of the water on the shore, flip flops, people who like boats. Sea gulls and sunburns to come. My list so far is short, but I’m working on it. Perhaps this will ease the sickness for the homes I have and, if I’m lucky, maybe those I’ll have in the future.

 

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The Woods Down Another South – dispatches from Kerrisdale

Vancouver is a funny place in that a five mile difference in your address can feel like another city all together. From here, the south end of the city, we’re halfway to the southern parks we like, but don’t visit as often. The traffic or the early sunsets of winter, which keep us closer to home most times, have temporarily released their hinderance, so we’ve lately been walking in Pacific Spirit, romping in the low tide at Iona Island, and visiting the bottom end of the Fraser.

Pacific Spirit feel like a silent sister across the water to Stanley Park, which I know much better. It’s bigger, lots bigger, so people seem more spread out. The woods have a left-alone feeling and it’s so quiet. The only creatures I’ve seen so far have been slugs taking advantage of the wetter days. There’s a pleasant lack of tourist attractions making the people traffic minimal – we’ve bumped into  the occasional guys on bikes or joggers, but the walking trails are pretty empty.

There was a nice little moment the other day when we came across a guy walking a big black dog. We were walking south and they were both standing for a long time in a path that cut across and out to the west. They didn’t really move as long as it took us to see them from before the crossing, navigate the fencing to keep bikes out, and cross back into the deeper forest on the other side. The sun was coming down through the hole in the trees the path. I don’t know if was the beauty of the orange blaze  of sunset or something else all together, but the way they were both stopped in contemplation, no cell phones, no companion to speak to, made a lovely little scene.

Iona I have visited many times both to look for birds or just to be in a different landscape for a while. A big, flat place, the island has a long beach at low tide and is free of forest for the most part. The muddy flats look almost alien compared to the rocky beaches I’ve come to know. There are also neat little rolling meadows covered in grasses and moss. Interesting ducks or reed-dwelling birds can be found on the lakes and the little alder (I think) thicket at the back end of the park has a feeling like little fairies could be living under the leaves and branches.

The other neat thing nearby is the bottom end of the Fraser River. Over the summer we visited it further north and east, so it’s neat to see where the water ends up. There’s a little park that follows it along the opposite shore from Iona with an old grey-wood board walk and lots of people brining playful dogs down to the beach. While the criss-crossing trails of the other parks in town are lovely, it’s nice here because there’s only the one place to walk along the river. The other evening, we watched the tide pulling out long grasses from the shallow places under the walkway and the sun going down over the water.

We’re also close to VanDussen and we caught the rare plant sale there last week. It was a neat little scene, but I knew precious little about what I was looking at. I did recognize some tropical plants and also the native Gary Oak, but the flats of tiny-leafed berries and succulents were like little black cups of  mystery. I’ve been reading on one seller’s site and hope to better understand the beauty of these specimens by next year’s sale. By then, we’ll be back home in the West End, so will have to make more of a trek. Somethings, it seems from our short stay in a different kind of south, are worth the journey.

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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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Bathtub Scholar – “A Universal History of the Destruction of Books”

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“The Universal History of the Destruction of Books” by F. Baez is, simply, as sad as it sounds like it’s going to be. Written more like an encyclopedia than a typical pop history title, the author takes us painfully through the years listing instances of fear mongering, political maneuvering, back stabbing, deceit, religious tyranny, unfortunate accidents, and plain human foolishness that makes up the history of the lost written word.

Each instance is given but a cold retelling of events; the author’s lack of emotion in some instances reads like a coping mechanism developed after researching such a dark subject.

What have I’ve learned so far?

Mostly that humans seem to have always lacked recognition and respect for what should be preserved. A change in leadership? Everything from ‘before’ into the flames, if you please. New technology? Well, let’s just copy a few things over and throw out all that other old stuff. Or use them to light the laps (yes, this was the sad fate of many thousands of books).

Perhaps more interesting is the observed power of the written word that seems to permeate every culture, time, religion and political force–the book as a weapon. Since it’s inception, thee written word has been punished with more severity than a common criminal for its association with the ability to change us more than some of our leaders have thought acceptable. The fear is evident in the many instances of fiery ends that our books have faced and I’ve only read through the part on Early Christians.

I’ve been interested by the desire among humans to eat books in order to consume their knowledge that Baez lists. Sometimes done to protect a book, often in history this was seen as way to ‘ingest’ the knowledge contained within in a spiritual way.

Also interesting to read about are the major burnings outside the most commonly known ones (like the Library of Alexandria) including a massive effort to contain Christianity during its juvenile years. Sects like Euchites (proclaimers that the Devil could not be looked upon so harshly since he was, after all, a son of God)  and the Adamites (who wanted humans to return to their original, nude state) threatened to change the shape of the Church so their priests, and perhaps more importantly, their texts were burned.

Amidst the terrible accounts of, say, finding a catalogue of a long-ago-destroyed Ancient Greek library that details hundreds of titles we have simply never seen but now know to have once existed, there are also stories of great courage and beauty. My favorite so far is a story from a Swiss monastery where, in 926, one of the women had a terrible vision and buried the books from the library. A day later an attack came and the library was burned. The woman, Wiborda, lay mutilated and dying on the place where the books were buried. The first woman formally canonized Wiborda is the patron saint of bibliophiles.

I’ll end by quoting a deacon from Spain who was noted as shouting the following as he and his texts came before the flames: “The fire with which you threaten sacred letters will burn you in an act of justice!” As I read more (and save this book safely on my shelf… hopefully) I will certainly be looking for some possibly literal consequences of his curse.

 

 

 

 

 

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moonlit forest memory

All my favorite photos are the ones that utilize the beauty of natural light and shadow. I’m especially taken by photographs taken at twilight or at night that capture the lighting as it is as opposed to how it is with bright flashes. On our trip home this Christmas, I decided to take the night’s moonlight for what it was worth and try to capture some of the remaining woods near where I grew up.

When we were kids, my backyard extended acres and acres as we were one of three or four houses in the neighborhood and the neighborhood backed up against open woods and swamp. My sister and I made forts and named landmarks and kept the place quite to ourselves. Not needing shoes for the soft pine-needle-carpet, climbing on cypress knees, watching for moccasins, and generally being in a quiet place has made me into one of those people who is often happiest enjoying the pleasure of my own company.

Since the time when I was only old enough to have to be home by dark, what I think of as my woods has changed dramatically: a devastating fire, a partial purchased and developed of a gated community, and, thankfully, the rest set aside as a state park.

It’s been a while since I walked these woods so I was happy to find myself visiting under a full moon. Here’s my attempts to capture the beauty and eeriness of the place.

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Goodnight, forest.

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fried and green

Not too long ago I wrote about this bowl of what some would call disappointment.

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I’d waited until way into November to cut the last of these and came up with one singular red in a pile of green, green, green (It was delicious though and full of peppery flavor. Thanks little guy.) I think I know a few people who would have fed this to their compost pile but it’s important not to doubt the beauty and magic of having been a southern girl. A rub in a little flour, a bath in an egg wash, a dip in cornmeal + breadcrumbs + salt + paprika, and a trip to the old oil jacuzzi can turn an unripened crop into something truly lovely.

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And what to do with leftover egg wash? French Toast, of course.

 

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And, cause it’s Vancouver not Vicksburg, a ramekin of leftover tzatziki.

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