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.