Friday, March 16, 2018

Maggie says.....

My mama has been too busy hiking with me (or too tired afterwards) to blog.  That means I'm more important to her than you.  So there!  Love Maggie. 
(Mama says that was rude, and to tell you she'll post sum pictures of our outings soon). 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The new dog in town

I've been too busy lazy to work on a post lately, though I have lots of photos and adventures to share.  But here on Vancouver Island, spring keeps beckoning me - get outside and enjoy nature when the sun is shining, stay indoors and spring clean (or at least declutter and organize) when it's raining. 

My plan yesterday was to put together a post on our rather unstable weather of the last couple of weeks, and what we did and where we went in rain, sun, snow and wind.  Instead, I went down to the park in the sunny but cool weather and did a photoshoot of a good friend's newest family member, Blaze.

Blaze is an American Cocker Spaniel, nine years old.  At one time he earned his championship.  Not all dogs who are adopted at an older age come from shelters or rescues.  Breeders, even the best breeders, age like the rest of us, or succumb to serious illnesses, or both.  And sometimes that means they can no longer look after the dogs in their care.  When that happens, the breed club often steps up to the plate, arranging fosters and eventual adoptions.  Working through breed clubs is a good way to find an adoptable older dog of a breed that isn't often found in shelters in Canada - or at least, not in my area of Canada. 

Through asking for recommendations of responsible breeders, then networking, being patient, and engaging in phone calls and emails asking and answering questions, my friends were able to find the kind of dog they wanted.  And I was able to have a new subject to photograph on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Welcome to Crofton, Blaze.  I hope I'll get to see you (and your new mom, of course) a whole lot.  Maggie and I know some great hiking trails you may enjoy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lowly seagull

I grew up in a seaside town, where seagulls were an everyday part of our environment.  We saw them so often that we seldom gave them any notice, except perhaps when they flocked down in droves as we sat on a log on the beach eating handcut, gloriously browned french fries with salt and malt vinegar, from cardboard containers wrapped in newspaper.  Dare to toss one of these delicious morsels to a lone seagull, and soon a hundred gulls were flapping and flocking and squawking all around us.  As Richard Bach wrote in that delightful fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating."

There are no take out fish and chip shops along Crofton's waterfront, and the gulls here eat clams or starfish or mussels or young crabs far more often than fries.  Unless, of course, they have access to a smartphone.

Hello?  Salty's Fish and Chips?  Do you deliver to Crofton?
You do?  Oh, good, that'll be two extra large sides of fries, please! 

On my morning and afternoon walks with Maggie, I find it relaxing and fascinating to watch the gulls as they dive for crabs, tear mussels from the side of the wharf, wrestle with starfish bigger than their beaks, or drop clams from on high to the rocks below to crack open those tightly closed shells. 

Come here you darn sea star!  It's dinner time, and you're it! 

Now, where did I put my beer?

I've noticed they nearly always seem to wash their food - or, at least, the shell fish - dipping them at the water's edge or dropping them into shallow water before retrieving them and flying high to smash them on the rocks below. 


Mussels for breakfast!  Clean, fresh mussels! 

The other morning, I saw a gull spend a good twenty minutes locating a small crab amidst the rocks, catching it, washing it, and then prying each part open to suck down the insides.  By the time he was done, all that was left was a very clean, intact back shell and a few crumbs of shell from the legs.

C'mon, you, I know you are in there! 

Off to the water's edge to rinse him off!

Yum!  Fresh crab!

They are clever, crafty, and often beautiful birds with full and interesting lives, and seem to live quite harmoniously with the ducks and herons and oystercatchers who share their environment.

Gulls and heron on the wharf

I think she's talking about us!  Is this our fifteen minutes of fame?

One thing I have learned from watching the diversity of birds on Canada's west coast: there is no such thing as an 'ordinary' bird.  Each is unique, and remarkable in its resourcefulness, skill, social interactions, and problem-solving ability.  And even the lowly seagull brings great joy to my life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Heart Tree

On Friday, I returned to Moorecroft Regional Park, previously mentioned in my post on the halcyon day in January.  This time, I went with my friend Pat and we took our dogs.  The scenery - bays and beaches, forest and meadow and swamp - was just as beautiful as ever.

Pat and the poms check out the swampy little lake -
which was deeper than the dogs expected!

The dogs like the beach the best - Cosmo and Lexi, the poms, eager to get into the water, and my Maggie always scanning the water for ducks.

No ducks here....let's move on!

Ha ha ha - can't catch me!

Maggie wasn't too upset at not getting to herd ducks, though.  She has become quite the little hiker now - content to follow the trail, content to wait patiently while I take photos or rest a bit.

Happy Maggie at Vesper Point

Each time I return to a park, I see something I didn't see before.  Like this dried fern protruding from a stump, looking just like someone had given the stump a french braid:

Or this arc of dead or dying trees against the sky:

Or this.  One tree split in two when just a sapling, or two trees whose roots entwined, but now covered with moss and gracefully curving apart and together.  It made me think of a heart.

See what I mean?  Happy Valentine's Day, Mother Nature.  I love you.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Springing forward in leaps and bounds

In many parts of Canada, February is the longest month of the year.  Cartoonist Lynn Johnston once had one of her characters describe it as "the four month period between January and March".  I identified with that quip because, at that time,  I lived in Canada's Northwest Territories, where the first frost arrived in August, and spring breakup wasn't until late May.  February was a very long, cold, dark month.

But here on Vancouver Island, February is one of the months I most enjoy, because most years it is when spring emerges.  And that is certainly the case this year.  I began capturing a few 'spring is almost here' photos about ten days ago - shoots poking through last fall's leaves, leaf buds swelling on the Indian plum trees, trees heavy with catkins or fuzzy pussywillow-type buds, crocuses poking their heads up, and of course the snowdrops in full bloom.

The first new growth appears through old leaves


Fluffy buds on a magnolia tree

Indian Plum, one of the first bushes to come into leaf here.

But before I could even get around to editing those photos and blogging about spring, those spring signs grew and blossomed exponentially, and more appeared - swelling daffodil buds (and one wide open in a friend's garden),  periwinkle blossoms, perennial herbs emerging in the pots on my patio, magnolias about to burst into flower, an early rhodo showing its red tips, new red growth on the photinia shrubs, a lone anenome in my garden.

Oregano, chives, parsley and mint




And today still more -  green leaves opening on the lilacs and hydrangea and willows, an iris in full bloom in my garden.

First iris of spring in my garden

It's hard to finish up other blogs I have stacking up, when spring is calling out my name. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I see this fellow quite regularly on my morning walks with Maggie - a large  raven high atop a tree, calling in his raucous voice, waking up the world. 

Monday, January 29, 2018


Last night, just days before her 94th birthday, Pearl passed away.  Mother to my sister-in-law Bev, and mother-in-law to my late sister Carole, Pearl holds a special place in my heart.

I first met Pearl about forty years ago, when she welcomed me - a young single mom - into her home for Christmas.  And she continued to welcome me, to make me feel loved and cared about and special every time I saw her after that.

She made the best ginger cookies and the most delicious canned peaches.  She sewed wonderful gifts, and I still have a beautiful lap quilt she made for my mother, a stuffed mouse she made for me, and some amazing outfits she made for  the teddy bears who were always a big part of our family's story.

Peark having a chat with Henry W.,
one of several bears who often accompanied us on picnics. 

Pearl loved animals - her own and mine - and always asked after my dogs and cat by name.  She had the best laugh, a full-bodied, whole-hearted laugh that expressed her genuine delight in what had been said or what she had seen.

One of my favourite photos of  Pearl,
enjoying a good laugh.
But mostly, I loved her for how she loved my sister - unconditionally, enthusiastically, loving her like a daughter. I wrote the following poem for Pearl's 88th birthday, two months after my sister's death, to express how grateful I was for the relationship Carole had with Pearl.

                                                              For Pearl, on her 88th birthday
With loving thoughts, from Jean.

If my sister was here, she would say
Thank you for being my second mom.”
If my sister was here, she would say
You have given me laughter and love
If my sister was here, she would say
Thank you for accepting me for who I am,
For supporting me when I needed support
And for loving me like a daughter.”

If my sister was here, she would say
You make the best canned peaches and ginger cookies.”
(Okay, maybe that is what I would say…..but I’m sure Carole liked them too!)
If my sister was here, she would thank you
For being such a big part of her life.
If my sister was here, she would give you a hug,
And a bag of silly little gifts that she’d bought throughout the year and stashed away in boxes and drawers and closets, but each bought because she’d been thinking of

But my sister’s not here.  So trust me…..
She still thanks you for all that you are,
For all you have done for her,
For all the fun times you had together,
For your laughter and smiles and hugs and love.
And on this special day of yours,
 Please feel her arms around you
As her spirit hugs you tight and whispers in your ear:
Happy Birthday, Pearl.

Yesterday morning, when we knew the end was very close, Bev and I talked about how we could feel, could see, Carole reaching out to Pearl, ready to meet her and guide her on her journey.   And last night, she did just that.  I know there will be tears and hugs all round - both here and on the other side.

Rest easy, Pearl.  You are forever part of my heart, my memories, and my family. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Heron

Thursday, and unexpected break in what had been a rainy day gave me the opportunity to take the camera - and Maggie, of course - down to the beach for an hour or more.  The tide was out, so we were able to wander quite a distance along the shore, away from town.  Around the point, we saw a heron perched on a rock.  Herons are a frequent sighting here, but this one was particularly fluffed up and statue-like, not watching the water for fish as is usually the case but instead gazing out across the bay.  Maggie and I sat on a log watching him for the better part of twenty minutes, and he moved not a muscle nor a feather.

I wonder what he was thinking about?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January's Halcyon Day

Halcyon days:  a period of peace and happiness; an idyllic time; also, a period of calm weather during the winter solstice. (

The day began like any other.  I dragged myself out of bed  at 5 AM, to the persistent mewing of a hungry cat and the excited chattering of a sheltie who needed to make sure I knew the cat was calling me.  I shuffled around doing the usual early morning chores: let dog out, let dog in, feed animals, make coffee, check facebook, make bed,  scoop litter box, have shower, get dressed, and, as it was Monday and one of my regular hiking days, pack my lunch and thermos into my backpack alongside my emergency supplies. The weather forecast was for a nice day - a welcome relief in a sometimes stormy, sometimes foggy, and often grey and wet month.

My friend and I planned to explore a park about an hour's drive away - one we had not been to before - and because I was not sure what the terrain would be like I opted to leave Maggie at home.  Handling trekking poles and a dog leash on unstable or slippery or muddy ground is a recipe for disaster for this falling-apart-at-the-joints body. So before I could head out hiking, Mags needed a good walk. And as we stepped out in the breaking dawn, magic began to happen.

The fog that had encased us the day before lifted, layer by layer, and the skies and seas turned orange and yellow with hints of purple and blue.

I love our island sunrises - they are frequent and beautiful and they chase away the winter doldrums like nothing else can do. Well, maybe like 'almost' nothing else can do, because the day just went from beautiful to outright fantastic.

Maggie fully exercised, fed, and toileted, I threw my gear in the car, picked up my hiking buddy, and off we went to Moorecroft Regional Park in Nanoose Bay.  Once a girls camp, then a United Church camp, it is now a beautiful ocean front park with well maintained easy trails, a meadow, a small swampy lake, an old cabin, rocky shores and small bluffs....and never ending views of tiny islands.

We tromped around the beaches for awhile,  admiring driftwood and windswept trees, and watching cormorants on a rocky outcrop.  They reminded me of tourists watching the surf  at Tofino - standing there admiring the view until that  surprise sneaker wave rolls in and drenches them completely.

Then we took the trail through a lovely forest with lots of bright sword fern. We checked out a few side trails, then crossed through the meadow and stopped by the lake to admire the mirror-image reflections of foliage in water.

Returning along the loop trail, we found ourselves back near the ocean, where we enjoyed the view of the snowy mountains on the mainland as we ate our lunch to the sounds of ocean waves, bird song, and the rustle of leaves.

It was only early afternoon, so rather than head home, we decided to check out a second but smaller regional park nearby -  Beachcomber Regional Park. There we followed the short trail down to a rocky beach with plenty of flat sandstone and shale rocks and tidal pools, and more incredible views.

We heard eagles calling, and turned to see a pair high in a tree above us, their eyes scanning the waters for fish

We watched the colourful Harlequin ducks, who look like someone has meticulously painted their feathers with intricate designs in grey and white and black and brown.

We chatted quietly as we admired the nearby mountain  (Mt Arrowsmith, I think),  and a bare tree clinging to a small rocky bank, and the many geological formations, one of which we likened to an anvil.

And then, as we were trying to decide if that was a seal or another rock beyond the Anvil Rock, the sea lions that had been barking in the distance for much of the morning suddenly gave us the show of a lifetime. First one, then three, then groups of five and six and three more and another five, on and on they came - an endless stream of sea lions slide past us not 30 feet from shore, some even closer as they skirted the overhanging rocks. And they raised their heads and barked at us, barked at each other, splashed and fished and played  and dove and barked some more.  Dozens of them, all coming from across the bay, down the shore, and congregating just beyond the anvil rock.

I live within sound of a sea lion colony and hear them often for their voices carry far, but never have I seen them up close, and even my best telephoto lens can only capture their general shape. For the eight and a half years I've lived here, I've wanted to see them at a distance more amenable to photographing their faces.

All it took was a halcyon day in January and a serendipity stop at a little regional park an hour from home.

Life doesn't get much better than this.