Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Love Affair Continues…

Since reading about the Pacific Marine Circle Route published in the latest edition (winter 2013) of the BCAA magazine WESTWORLD, the road had been calling us. Last Tuesday morning we were greeted by sun and warmth; a spectacular day for goin' down the road.

Rod and I had both, on separate occasions, traveled the rugged, unpaved logging inland roads of southern Vancouver Island in the '70's. Back then one needed either a 4 wheel drive or a substantial suspension. Lacking those, an intrepid driver with excellent reflexes and nerves of steel was needed to maneuver all the obstacles along the way. It wasn't about getting anywhere in particular but about the thrill of the drive.

The article promised a paved road through the interior (completed in 2009) linking Port Renfrew on the west coast with Cowichan Bay on the east, winter storm waves, and "some of the biggest and oldest trees on the planet". As if I needed further enticement, I knew that baked goods awaited at TRUE GRAIN in Cowichan Bay, yum!

I packed some snacks and water for the trip. We jumped into the car and took off at 9a.m.

There was so much to see along the 255km loop that we had to choose what to pass by and save for another day or our day trip would become an overnighter, the kitties would be ticked off and there would be poo. I looked longingly as we passed: Sooke potholes, Sandcut Beach, French Beach, the Deja vu café at Jordan River overlooking the ocean, and Sombrio Beach.

2 lone surfers hanging out in calm waters at China Beach
We stopped to stretch our legs and hiked down a well groomed trail so I could revisit China Beach. In contrast to my last visit here in the late '70's when I came to watch the surfers (surfing in Canada!) no bushwhacking was required to get to the beach.

mood lighting at China Beach
We stopped in at TOMI'S HOME COOKIN' in Port Renfrew. I thoroughly enjoyed a bowl of some of the best ever coconut curry chicken soup with home made bread while Rod chowed down on a burger and Cesar salad. When I commented on the picture on the wall of the Red Creek Fir the world's largest Douglas Fir and talked of my intention to visit it (actually hug it,  though I didn't say it in so many words) and the San Juan Sitka Spruce (Canada's largest Sitka Spruce tree) our host pulled out a map of the area detailing the Tall Tree Tour in Port Renfrew area, the many notable giant trees that could be found, and how to get to them. She gave us a timeline and further directions.

We realized that this quest would require a trip of its own. Oh, well just another excuse to come back and have more soup along the way.

Just down the road from the restaurant and a short walk through a forest, unlike any I've seen on the island before, are Botanical Beach and Botany Bay separated by an outcropping of rock. These have got to be the prettiest, most magical little beaches I've ever seen. We hit them at high tide so few tide pools were available to explore but I could have stayed all day just watching the surf roll in.

Botanical Beach
At Botany Bay a sociable, pot-smoking, former hippy/logger/surfer dude showed up and struck up a conversation with us. How wonderful it is out here especially on a beauty of a sunny winter day when there is no one else around. How blessed are we to be living here. His sentiments hinted that he too was an import from another place; true. He assured me that the growth of the area was natural. Due to the lay of the land and the prevailing winds, little pockets of micro climates are created throughout the island, each with their own distinctive flora and terrain.

He told us, "It's either pissing rain or sunny up here while down in Victoria you have more consistently good weather mixed in with drippy, dull days. If you don't like what the weather's doing where you are just hop in your car and drive to where it's better." I'll keep this in mind.

Huge Heron swooped in to sit for a spell
Sensing that he was eager to strip off and soak in the sun in privacy we said our goodbyes. The sun would be set before we got to Cowichan Bay and there was still much to take in.

Logged areas scar the landscape of the interior but this wasn't the unbroken desolated moonscape that stretched for miles and miles, as far as I could see, that I'd remembered from my past travels here. Signs are scattered along the coastal route noting dates of reforestation. Most of those forests are younger than I and much taller than I would expect, beautiful and lush with a wildness and density due to the effects of the western rainforest climate. And so it is in the interior. Fortunately stands of old growth still remain and I pray this will always be so. My hope is that this route will expose people to the majesty of these ancient beings; in their presence reverence is born.

Just a side note: Another excursion to undertake is to walk amongst the old ones at Cathedral Grove as we did on our trip to Tofino. You'll come away intoxicated and rejuvenated by the smells of cedar and fir which will linger in your hair as you drop into bed assuring a delicious night's sleep.

An island fit for fairies in Ferry Lake
Ferry Lake was a Zen-like magical little stop along the way; another excuse to return for further exploration.

We emerged at Cowichan Bay shortly after the sun had fallen and grabbed a bite at COWICHAN BAY SEAFOOD - a rich, hearty smoked salmon pasta for me and loaded fish chowder, turkey sandwich with a small salad for Rod. While Rod waited for the food to come I trotted over to TRUE GRAIN just under the wire (they close at 6 p.m.) and I stocked up on bread, shortbread cookies and carrot raisin & pumpkin seed spelt cookies.

We enjoyed our leisurely meal before hitting the road again and rolled in about 8 p.m. and were greeted by two starving, vocal kitties but… no poo!

Is it possible to love a place as you would a person because I swear that I'm in love with this island.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Yup, this appropriately describes how I feel about this island and its beauty.

Last week we went "up island" to Tofino for a few days to participate in a local past time; storm watching. This time of year the winds blow pelting rain in all directions and the waves roar, tossing tree trunk sized logs onto the beach like matchsticks. This storm day is relatively benign yet the shore tells another story of crashing waves heaving heavy loads into the tree line rimming the sand and I'm awed by the untamed, fearsome beauty of nature.

The first night we walked MacKenzie Beach and were blessed with this magnificent sunset. I sat under the cloudless evening skies that graced our nights, watching shooting stars dance above as I played my drum to dream the dream forward.

Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre aka Kwisitis Visitor Centre at Wickaninnish Beach, Tofino - the centre is being redesigned to reflect the area's cultural and natural landscape. I could spend hours digging into the visible storage and interactive displays. There's still more to see but I'll save that for another visit. The restaurant offers a place to sit by the fire to dry off because you'll be drenched from your beach walk. You can enjoy light fare, warm drinks and treats, like we did, from a window seat - the perfect vantage point for storm watching.

This glistening, lovely totem welcomed us as we walked through the woods along the well-manicured trail leading to the beach, a short distance from the centre. Bear eats salmon as killer whale dives into his head and eagle just sits atop it all.

One of the many coves that dot the way.

Here's our vantage point from dog and family friendly Ocean Village Resort on MacKenzie Beach. The perfect location -  a 5 min drive into Tofino and a short drive the best surfing beaches on the island. The little kitchenette; cozy, well laid out space and most comfy bed ever makes one feel right at home! We headed out later in the day so that we could lounge around in the belly of our cedar cocoon, reading while listening to the waves, the rain on the roof and the wind. From our 2nd level perch we could see the beach and ocean beyond. A solitary swim interspersed with dips in the hot tub was my reward upon our return from the beach walk. Ah, the capping of a perfect day!

Another beautiful sunset lights our easy as we head home after visiting family in Campbell River.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sea lions barking & fresh bread baking

Tues Nov 5 - Wed Nov 6th

We're off to my friends' place in Maple Bay on the east coast of Vancouver Island, about 90 minutes from Victoria. Though this isn't a huge distance to cover, we have to go "over the Malahat" a very scenic and often treacherous part of Hwy #1. You don't want to drive this stretch in inclement weather or the dark of night, so we are staying over night at their place. The last few times we've passed through it's been shrouded in fog but, when the sun shines its stunning scenic views are revealed and one feels blessed to be alive.

Our gracious hosts take us on a round trip boat tour from Maple Bay to Crofton. Midway we drop anchor in a sheltered bay to enjoy a picnic lunch onboard and watch porpoises and a pair of sea lions as they pass by. Though our hosts have navigated these waters for 10 years and the other guest has lived here for 16, these sightings still excite. We jump up and herd from window to window to witness their passage, spilling wine in the process. I swear I can hear the male sea lion snorting each time he breaks the surface of the water as they undulate with surprising speed and grace.

Our captain takes us to Crofton where sea lions hang out on the docks, log booms or anything else they choose. Their barks greet me when I step out on the deck.
These guys walk on the logs in the water like they're going for a stroll.
Logs are being loaded for transport and milling in China.
I was told that 10% of logs used to be shipped over but it has risen to about 30%
causing the closing of many local mills.
The "cloud factories" of Crofton.

Back at our friends' place, salt-sea-air refreshed, renewed and relaxed, we sit by the fire with our wine and share stories of our lives. All of us are transplants from Ontario; grateful to be able to experience the riches and magic of this place.

The next day Rod and I go to Cowichan Bay on our way back to Victoria. Our hosts told us, most enthusiastically, "You must go there. TRUE GRAINS the best bakery in the area. They use B.C. grown grain and you can watch them mill the flour onsite while you have your coffee and treat." So we did. Melt in your mouth shortbread for me, a pastry (the inspired creation of the day) for Rod and a bag full of bread, scones and cookies for our pantry.

Cowichan Bay is a little community of unique, independently owned shops which picturesquely frame the ocean and take you back to simpler times. In fact "in 2009 Cowichan Bay became North America's first Cittaslow community. Cittaslow communities are characterized by people who: take time to build community relationships, celebrate the community's unique history and traditions, promote craftsmanship and environmental stewardship, maintain the community's distinct character, and engage residents and visitors by sharing in high quality living."*

Fortunately for anyone travelling up island, this place, just off Hwy#1, is on the way.

*this info from Cittaslow Cowichan link found on True Grains website

Sunday, November 3, 2013


On Saturday I was reading through letters and short stories I'd written in the '70's and '80's and came across a piece called MOVING DAY in which I recounted launching into an unforeseen two and a half year venture as a house-sitter.

A synchronic event compels me to post this part of the story and here's why…

Yesterday I checked in to see what's been going on at AMAIA DREAMS' DREAM BOARDS as I'd been absent for quite a few months now. One of the members had started a new category called MAGICAL MOMENTS wherein she suggested we would, "have an ongoing thread where we could share positive things, like a moment of gratitude or delight over something or a little magical moment that made us smile."

I glanced through the comments on the first page and this one jumped out at me, "Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy." These are lyrics from the song Mairzy Doats written in 1944 and much loved by my Mom.

As I was reading my story I wondered whether it was worth posting in my blog.

And then I read the comment in MAGICAL MOMENTS so here is an excerpt.

*       *       *
THE SET UP a summary -

A friend had helped me move out of the co-op house and took me to the house-sit. The owners were  out for the evening so we just dropped my belongings, stuffed into garbage bags, by the front door and headed out for dinner. When Sheib dropped me off, the house was in darkness and I had no idea where anything was. Basically I end up stumbling around, knocking things askew and swearing under my breath.

THE STORY from here -

"Shit!" I hop on my right foot, aiming all the while to grasp my left big toe with my left hand; the bags jostle on my back with a crinkling of plastic. The otherwise silent, still night is disturbed by the thumping of my feet and swearing. And then, giggling wafts down the hallway.

They're laughing at me. They're laying there in bed laughing at me, I am embarrassed by my clumsiness and lack of foresight to study the lay of the land before I'd headed out. No, they're not really laughing at me. They probably didn't even hear me come in. They're most likely having sex, sharing some sort of lovers' intimacy.

I'm just about to call out for some help with lighting when I trip over something at the bottom of the flight of stairs. As I try to keep from falling my hand hits a switch, turning on the light at the top of the stairway, welcoming me with its warm glow.

I trundle up the wooden stairs that creak with every footfall and make my way to "my" room.

Dropping the bags at the foot of the bed, fully clothed, I fall into its downy cushiness, falling into sleep moments later.

"Buckety coo, buckety coo…" the sounds of pigeons in the rafters above my head and the morning light streaming in wake me. I lay there, thrown back in time by the sound.

"No, they don't."

"Yes, they do. They sound exactly like that." And in a soft melodic voice my mother mimics, "Buckety coo, buckety coo. You just have to listen sometime. You'll hear it." She was telling me about her own childhood experience visiting an eccentric uncle who'd kept and trained carrier pigeons. Their chatter would waken her as she slept in a bedroom under the rafters of his home.

I thought she was pulling my leg. After all wasn't this the same woman who would sing, "Mare-zee-doats 'n doe-zee-doats 'n li'l lam-zee-die-vee. Kid-sel e-die-vee too woodn'-chew."

What the hell did that mean?

I think she sang it just to torment me until the day my ears finally deciphered, "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. Kids will eat ivy too. Wouldn't you?" and I smiled, delighted by the playfulness of words.

Laying here now, my ears confirm "buckety coo" as the official language of pigeon.


I had hoped to write a book (and make my fortune in the process) about my house-sitting misadventures; this was the opening chapter. Life happens while you're making other plans.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ah yes, I remember it well?

"You're all a bunch of liars", a fellow newcomer to Victoria says accusingly, smirking at me as he speaks.

Having heard of the tales of the dull, dreary, damp and wet months beginning in Oct and lasting well into April, we've all been psyching ourselves for it (read my last post and you'll see this is true).
Sure there was the amazing rain/wind storm a few weeks ago which would have carried Mary Poppins back to England (and probably stripped her bare in the process) had she dared open up her umbrella but it's been quiet as a lamb since then...and for the most part sunny, dry and warm.

We were told by a Victorian that this kind of storm was a bit of a fluke for this time of year. She also said, "We're really going to be in for it this winter though." Seems such a long stretch of phenomenal weather makes people uneasy in these parts - someone has to pay.

Hell, I lived here for about 10 years, from the mid '70's to the mid '80's and the "reality" I experienced, was that fall is rainy and dull.

From personal experience, what's also stuck in my brain is the "fact" that we don't get a "real" fall out here. A fact I shared with many others...

And then we drove up island for Thanksgiving. The evergreen forest, was resplendently dotted with warm orange, yellow ochre and burnt sienna patches; fields were filled with multicolour autumn hues. Though whole hillsides here aren't blanketed with the lit-from-within, full spectrum brilliance of an Ontario fall, the showing of the season was respectable and left me with that familiar warm glow.

The rowers in training at golden rimmed Elk Lake

A lovely meadow in its fall display at Mount Washington 
There are streets in Victoria lined with trees just like this.
Who knew? Apparently not me.

"You must have been living under a rock," my friend said. "I don't think you ever got outside in all the time you lived here."

It got me to asking, where was I, what was I doing way back then that I didn't see this?

Perception and memory are not reliable pegs upon which to hang a picture of reality.

The financial struggle of those years not only influenced the experiences that were available to me but also my perception of the environment in which I lived. That I loved Victoria and felt that I belonged here were absolute truths despite the fact that I juggled jobs: teaching yoga and weight training, house-sitting, modelling, gardening, waitressing, washing dishes, life guarding, freelancing as an artist; in the support of my hobbies (which I hoped one day would become my profession) yoga and cartooning. When I wasn't working I was taking workshops and classes in yoga or at sketching at my drawing board into the early hours of the morning. I'd hang out in cafés with friends; going out to dinner was a special treat. When work dried up, as it would do now and again, I'd cartoon some more, do longer yoga sessions, run, bike, take more classes (which were free for teachers) go to the shore, or the library.

I got to know the neighbourhoods where I lived, I just didn't travel very far or explore much of what the island had to offer. Nothing existed beyond my own little sphere.

But as busy as I was, as broke as I was, the island gave me time to explore my passions in a peculiarly self-driven, introverted way. This place, this island and the time I spent here, drew me inwards to the depth of my soul.

During my 27 year long absence from the island relationship and family demands drew me out of myself; I related to the world in a different way. When I returned to Vancouver Island for four 2 - 3 week visits it was always in August.

This is my first fall here as a returning resident and certainly my first fully rounded experience of this season. Changes in the circumstances of my life allow me to see things anew. How fortunate I am to get another chance to live here, to take in many of the things that I missed the first time around and explore what is here for me now that wasn't back then.

You can't go back home again and that wasnt' my intention for my life back here. Victoria has changed in subtle ways and I am not the same person who left 27 years ago.

New adventures await!

*        *        *


I'm loving drumming class! It's the perfect way to get the ya ya's out for me. You don't have to know music to make music of a sort - right up my alley. I can feel it doing things to my brain too...good things.

I eavesdropped in on the Spanish conversational cafe night shortly after my previous post. I "read" from my Kindle while catching pieces of conversation here and there. It became obvious to me that I had to check my reactions to what was being said - I had to stifle laughs and keep from looking at the cute shoes someone was being asked about - or I'd be busted. The next week I showed up, put my loonie down and stepped up to the table. I was drenched in sweat by the time I left. It's one thing to understand a foreign language, another to speak it. I've got my work cut out for me.

Tonight I took a vinyasa flow yoga class, taught by Fiji at HEMMA and later wrote in FB...
"I felt very grateful during yoga class tonight to be in such a wonderful centre, in the company of fellow yogis. Grateful that my body still enjoys the challenge and delight of vinyasa flow, especially since my mat (which is over 30 years old) is older than many of the other students in the class.
A fellow student came up to me asking where I got my "travel" mat and I had to laugh. It IS the perfect "travel" mat and fits into my bike bag: light, foldable and durable; they don't make them like that anymore. I think it originally was brought over from India by another teacher. I use it only when weight and size is an issue partly because it leaves little bits behind every time I use it.
I will be sad to see it go as it's gone everywhere with me; hopefully I can get a few more years out of it."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

End of Season

I've been ignoring local news since we got here, most especially anything to do with the weather. Last week's daily weather report announced, "It's going to rain today and for the next few days."

The view just steps from the front of our building
The last cruise ship of the season. They'll return at the end of April

Sure, the days started out overcast and there may have been a drop of two, but sunny skies prevailed. So when I hear such predictions I just nod, "umm hmm" and go ahead with my plans for a bike-ride, walk or drive to a hiking spot.

But when I heard that the last cruise ship was to come in today, this update is real and final and leaves me feeling a little sad. Victoria will go into a slumber for the next few months, sidewalk activity will wrap up and the outdoor markets will close for the season.

And, as of yesterday, the rains have begun.

I will miss the buskers, the sidewalk activity, the energy and vibrancy that the hoards of tourists bring with them. While driving, I won't have to play frogger with so many tour buses, carriages, pedi-cabs and sightseers obliviously wandering out into traffic captivated by all that is Victoria, hoisting their cameras at impossible angles to get just the right shot.
So, you're walking along and you see a captivated crowd hanging over the street wall.
You're going to want to check it out and we did...
...and we came upon this entertaining guy with a great patter,
unicyclist/juggler extraordinaire, AKRON
At the end of the show he tossed his hat up to the crowd
 standing on the street above. The first woman couldn't catch it.
So he tried again and the one who caught it
 was thereby elected collect donations
and return the hat to Akron.

We came upon Ian, the chalk artist a few days later.
I dropped some coins in his tin.
He called us over and said,
"Stand on this X
and look through your camera."
And here you have it. Cool, eh?

This guy is a regular.
Here he was at the Chalk Festival (when this pic was taken)
and you'll often catch him at the inner harbour.
I watched him one overcast, dull and slow day as he stood motionless
for too long a stretch;
 only a coin tossed in his tin will release him from his pose.
So, I went down and made my offering saying, "I think you need a break.
I used to be a model so I kinda know how it feels."
He just put his hands to his heart for a moment
and then took up another pose right away.
Believe me this is a challenging way to make a living.
Here's a little about him:
"CLARK M. CLARK - Master of Stillness -
Life imitates art and art comes to life
as internationally renown human statue Plasterman
 delights and surprises people of all ages
in his hometown.
Strangely and beautifully intriguing!"
Info from the International Victoria Buskers Festival 2013

NOTE TO TOURISTS - If you're coming down to the harbour bring some coin and small bills to fund this great, fun stuff.

So, I extend my thanks to all who made this summer such a great experience I'll hunker down for the fall/winter rainy season and find out just what it has to offer the "locals". I'm told that Victoria has more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada; second only to San Francisco if you take in North America. So, I think they've got their priorities right.

I'm checking out things to do to entertain myself. Weekly drumming classes (started last week with Jordan Hanson) are getting me in touch with my djembe drum and though my hands don't exactly dance with lightning speed - more like stumble along actually - my heart sings as I fulfil a long held desire to play some sort of musical instrument or at least something that holds the promise of someday sounding musical.

Kirtan, a form of bhakti yoga involving call and response chanting, has enabled me to "sing" my little heart out, get the "ya ya's" out and clear emotional and psychic debris while cultivating deep gratitude for all that is and a sense of oneness. More than anything, this has drawn me to yoga centres. I've gone to 3 so far. I attended the musical fall equinox celebration at THE YOGA STUDIO in Sidney. This was a more modern, western influenced, upbeat form. There I was warmly welcomed back to the island by my friend Jeannie who was a fellow yoga teacher trainee in the '70's.

I had another reunion with a yoga teacher/friend from the '70's, whom I hadn't seen for over 27 years, when I attended her class at a local church. Yoga has provided me with life long friends and is helping me make new acquaintances.

Other yoga studios headed by friends are beckoning me.

If, I can work up the nerve, my goal this week is to attend a Spanish speakers meet up at a coffee shop in Cook St Village.

Oh, and my own dream workshops are percolating; the first will happen in late October.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Settling in

This is the view from the front of our building. The glow is from the 3 cruise ships that were in dock that night. The tourist season will be winding down in a few weeks. It'll probably feel somewhat deserted around here. There's a kind of festive vibe when the ships come in. I'm glad however, that we don't face the road.

Maya (black) seems to be commenting on the view to Flip, "So whadda ya think? Not too bad, eh?"
We look on to a courtyard and pathways to the other buildings. Though it's pretty busy during the day: helicopters and sea planes taking off and landing, cruise ships docking, tour buses passing through and fog horns sounding, somehow it adds to the ambiance. Being in the back the noise is surprisingly muffled and when the action's done for the day it's lovely and quite. We're in the city but on the outer edge; the best of both worlds.
This pleases me no end and I'm shocked that it does. The spices have been piled into a basket in the pantry; not conducive to generating enthusiasm over cooking. I thought I'd chucked this shelf before we left but it seems Rod rescued it. It was meant to be here as it fits the space perfectly. The simplicity of this look pleases my eye. With my most used spices visible and within easy reach I've found cooking pretty pleasurable.
Here is our schedule

TA DA! Here is our latest project...the perfect kitty litter box to accommodate"Squirt" aka Maya who has taken up spraying over the edge of conventional boxes and Flippy who loves to poo just outside the kitty box and scatter kitty litter all over the floor. It took a few prototypes before we came up with this beauty.
HOW TO CONSTRUCT: get a big storage bin, cut a big access hole. Surround the bin with a room divider for privacy and improved visual appeal.
HOW TO SET UP THE LITTER: dump kitty litter and baking soda (I add my own) in the box, mix together, shove it to the back half of the bin. In this model there is a small trough around the base so make sure it too is filled with litter or pee will pool there.
HOW IT WORKS: Maya squirts against the back wall. Flippy poos on the floor of the bin so litter is pretty much confined to, the floor of the bin. You know it's time to clean it out when the litter covers the floor, after that they'll spread it further. You have to keep it from advancing like the polar ice cap during the ice age.

 As soon as the box is cleaned Flip and Maya take turns checking it out and making their marks. This picture gives a sense of scale and as you can see Flip's choosing her poo spot just beyond the litter. The screen hides the box from view of our front door to the right of the shot but not from the prying lens of my camera.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bicycles & Chalk

Travelling back in time...

Near Victoria you'll come to this bridge.
I biked part of the Galloping Goose Trail just days before heading to Mosswood for Dream Teacher Training II. As fate would have it this section of the trial crossed in front of RECYCLISTAS bike collective. I peddled sheepishly past as my bike groaned and clunked praying that my chain wouldn't fall off or some other break down occur. Feeling guilty for neglecting the well being of my most trusty steed I vowed to do better.

So, last Saturday I learned how to tune up my bike with the help of the most patient bike repair guy I could have asked for, Theo, and another young student. For 3 hours I addressed long standing issues and got to sit in on how to change handlebars, add a bike carrier over the back fender and glanced now and again as another participant replaced a cable. All this for $25 + the cost of materials (to my surprise all sounded worse than it was; no materials were needed - whew). This is a great deal, I'll be back. Part of their gig is that you can use recycled bike parts or new in your repair.

Sunday, Rod and I walked in to town...yes, I said WE walked.

The Chalk Festival  - be sure to watch the video for 2 reasons:
1. You will hear the music of the O'Briens, a group I enjoyed on my last visit to Victoria

The O'Briens playing last year at Bastion Square.
2. You'll be introduced to the guy who brought chalk art to Victoria.

The festival was underway this morning dominated by a threatening sky. The 2 cordoned off blocks of Government Street were covered in semi-opaque tarps as artists and audience waited for the drippy weather to clear as it usually does by early afternoon. This gave us a chance to chat to many of the chalk artists.

The view down the road. This goes on for 2 blocks.
Realism, 3D and fantasy works are represented.
Artists come from B.C. and the western states (coast) mainly.
"It's kinda hard to see the real brilliance of this piece," the creator, an artist from Washington said with a laugh as we tried to peak through the hazy shroud.
"I look at it as a misty cloak that will unveil the beauty laying underneath gently as it is burned away by the sun." I said.
He paused, nodded and smiled, "Wow, that's a whole lot better than the vision I've had of viewing the work through cloudy cataracts."
I laughed with him thinking to myself how my dream teacher would say I provided him with a better dream. Years ago, a fellow art teacher friend had encouraged him to participate in the chalk festivals and, though his body protests somewhat now, he continues to take part.

3D art happening inside the Bay - done in paint not chalk
I loved this collection of bears,
especially the one up top with the huge salmon. 
Lovely, magical creation; very dreamy!
The story told by another was that this endeavour is part of a healing process to help her recover from a mental breakdown that forced her to leave her job. As we chatted it seemed that the healing was well under way and, perhaps that a new career in the arts is rising out of the ashes.

Ian, the guy who started it all. 
In the midst of all this, unbeknown to most of the crowd, the guy who brought chalk art to Victoria walked over his work adding a stroke here, a dab of colour there, all the while immersed in the flight of the ruby-throated humming bird and the magical world the beat of its wings were bringing into existence.

This looks like so much fun that I might try my hand at it next year, everyone was having a great time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

More than fair crossings

Last Sunday I left, for Dream Teacher Training II at Mosswood with Robert Moss, in very low spirits; feeling worn out. I returned, a changed person, on Friday. I will write about how this amazing transformation took place on my Awakening Choice Dreams blog. For now I'll just recount my experiences on the VICTORIA CLIPPER.

The trip over, via the walk-on ferry the Victoria Clipper, was magical due to the clear blue sky, the brilliant sun that shone on the calm glassy ocean and the profusion of wildlife. Conversations were halted by shouts of, "Over there!" as sightings of cavorting grey whales and orcas were claimed. Never have I seen so many whales during a crossing. To top it off, schools of porpoises gracefully escorted us into port.

A short note: tickets for the Clipper go on sale 7 - 2 days before your departure date. Book your reservation as early as possible or you will be, like I was, on standby. Sailings this time of year are very popular. Add a majour sporting event into the mix and 2 days in advance just won't cut it.

Luckily, I benefitted from a no-show.

As I was one of the last ones to board the packed vessel, a steward escorted me to a seat, placing me at a table with 5 worn out, dishevelled, middle-aged guys. This wouldn't have been my first choice but I thought what the hell, life's an adventure, no? 

Shortly after taking my seat, out of the blue one guy commented to his buddies, "I dreamt last night that I killed a bunch of people and 2 dogs. I felt really bad for shooting...the dogs but definitely not for killing the people". I admired the fact that he had unknowingly tapped in to one of the most important steps in dream work - how did you feel upon awakening. It was hard to resist blurting out, "I'm a dreamworker. Do you want to explore this further?".

However, when I overheard their conversation about the hike they'd just completed along West Coast Trail, a trip that I'd like to do someday, and one that roommates of mine returned from in the '80's looking as if they'd come back from a war zone, I commented on how lucky they were with the weather. Well, this opened up a most delightful conversation filled with stories of their week, hiking and gear advice complete with websites and product displays. Shoes and packs were passed across the table for me to check out. A profusion of pictures were enthusiastically presented to me with more pride than a mother would have showing pics of her newborn baby.

One man gave me his camera so I could scroll through his shots of colonies of roaring and posturing sea lions, grey whales breeching and pelicans gliding just above the water (I didn't know there were Pelicans out here.) Another shared his collection of a beautiful young woman in full make-up, wearing diamond studs that would choke a horse and a diamond ring that would have been the envy of Elizabeth Taylor. He told me, with great admiration, that she hiked the trail looking like a fashion plate whereas they looked like...well, 5 middle-aged guys trudging through the woods. And, she completed the trail in cheerful spirit in less time than they and with nary a hair out of place.

I left the boat refreshed and ready and rarin' to welcome the adventures in dreaming that lay ahead.

On the return sail shortly after leaving port we were engulfed by a mist shrouded terrain where sky and sea merged as one. Only the mournful sound of our ghost ship's horn declared our location; asking for safe passage.  The word "...Titanic..." was sprinkled in conversations throughout the cabin followed by nervous laughter.

During the misty passage I was entertained with the tale of a couples' trip to Ucluelet for storm watching. NOTE: The west coast of Vancouver is noted for spectacular winter storms and people come from all over the world to watch the waves and the surfers who brave them. The woman was captivated by the surfers. Her album was full of winter sky backlit silhouettes riding misty capped walls of waves in muted shades of silver and gold. This brought back my own memories of surfing with the Surf Sisters last year and so here are some pics from that...

Surfing baby waves at Long Beach, Tofino last year.
Perfect for this beginner.
During an "I can't believe I'm doing this" moment,
riding a wave to the beach
 I've spotted Rod.

With 45 minutes remaining we emerged from the clouds into a sunny, welcoming sky. The hint of land came into clearer focus and the passengers became excited at the prospect of exploring this part of lotus land. As Victoria revealed itself I became their tour guide answering questions and recommending sites to see and running trails to enjoy.

About 15 minutes out a flock of Pelicans gliding effortlessly over the now calm sea served as our welcoming committee.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Staycation vacation

Rod and I have been on Vancouver Island 1 whole month now. We are residents living like tourists which is the best way to discover one's new surroundings.

Scenes from the village of James Bay, a five minute walk from our place. This is where we do our grocery shopping, laundry and grab a coffee (I've discovered 5 coffee shops around the intersection that comprises the centre of the village).

Many cottage-like homes with English style gardens line narrow streets.

Fantastic fare to be found here: baking, local produce, honey, music
and even a  tarot card reader.

Drivers have to be alert for carriages, pedi-cabs, tour busses and sight seers
as well as for the young and old alike who just walk slower here.
I admit that this feels a little weird, this staycation that's really a vacation; no phone calls, no clients in need of emergency care, no one wanting to line up a job, workshop or appointment for next week or the week after that or the next...

Rod's taken to his retirement like a fish to water. Suddenly, free from the demands of customers and the estimating that filled evenings and weekends, he's read more books since we got here than he has during our whole relationship! And I used to think he was a non-reader, a trait, which for a Thacker - voracious readers that we all are - was incomprehensible. Years ago I found the most difficult challenge put before me during a vipasana retreat wasn't not talking. I loved that! That was a piece of cake. But, not reading, that was impossible. My eyes would lite on print everywhere: cereal boxes, t-shirts, boxes of tea and the little tab on the tea bags... I fixated on the washing instructions on the tags of my clothes.

This vacation finds me, at unexpected moments: in the middle of a shower, when I awaken, as I'm doing dishes, chomping at the bit to "make something happen". The underlying catalyst for this is a limboish feeling of dropping into space that washes over me now and again. I'm not the one retiring. I'm on vacation. But vacations have a beginning, middle and end and then you go back to work. With undetermined time, place and work to "return" to I feel eerily unemployed; redundant.

So, just as I acknowledged my compulsion to read and got back to the silence of my mind I feel my redundancy and get back into the headspace of vacation.

This time just for me, away from my practice, is precious. I tell myself there will be work again, clients will call and I will be able to remember how to do what I do.