Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Good Life

It was nearly dark as the dogs and I made our way along the seawall tonight, though we are no later than we have been most nights. It is almost fall, and the signs are everywhere. The Indian Bean tree in my neighbour’s yard is draped with long green beans, the flowers a mere summer memory.

The same neighbour gives me a bag of tomatoes from her garden, and I give her a bag of apples from mine. The plum tree near the start of the seawall has dropped its fruit, now rotting on the ground, and the feral cats and their kittens who live in the shrubs along the foreshore are licking the juice and nibbling the flesh. The leaves of the maples seem to have turned yellow overnight.

The day was warm, and so I wander past houses with lights on but windows and drapes open to let in the cool night breezes. I snoop. It is like peering into a dozen little doll houses, the mama and papa dolls in their armchairs in the living room, the children playing on the floor at their feet, the baby in its crib.

Summer visitors have abandoned their ocean-front spots in the RV park at the end of the seawall. Though never a busy town even in the height of summer, the exodus is sudden and apparent. It is quiet, it is peaceful, it is home.

I love to walk the beach as darkness falls, watching the lights of the boats and the ferry dock reflect across the water, listening to the gulls making their last evening calls “Time to come home, time to come home”.

I have not yet learned to photograph at night – my pictures turn out fuzzy or streaky, yet I like them nonetheless.

I have already chosen one or two photography courses from the community brochure that appeared at my door – a good fall time activity, now that I am retired, being a student instead of being a teacher. Have I mentioned I love retirement?

New colours replace old, permanent residents outnumber the tourists, new opportunities to learn emerge, new sounds and sights and smells herald the arrival of autumn. The circle of life, unfolding as it should.

It is a good life I live, in a beautiful world. Contentment fills my soul.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Still Here, Just Busy

When I begin to get phone calls and messages saying "Jean, are you okay?" I know it's time to take a moment to sit down and blog.

Things are a bit chaotic around here - I took a three day trip back to the mainland, cramming in a thousand errands and visits, and came home to find my bathroom renos were to begin the very next morning instead of a day later. And my dogs are taking turns having the runs (Charley and Belle), feigning weakness or mental incompacity (Sadie and Oliver), learning new tricks AKA "countersurfing" (Sadie), stealing each other's food (Sadie and Belle), developing new lumps and bumps that send me scurrying to the vet(Belle),and being generally upset at the extent to which renovations disrupt their lives and constrain their freedom. However, a couple more days and we will have a nice new bathroom with a new soaker tub and tub surround, new flooring, new sink, new counter, new faucets, new paint....and all I will need is a new supply of bubble bath and a lottery win.

The trip to the mainland was primarily to return my university computer and to archive my gradebooks and exams from my last semester. But I also stopped by Hearts on Noses to finish off a grant application I'd been working on for Janice and to deliver a ton of apples from my tree for the piggies.

The vehicle was full of crates of apples - in the back cargo space and on the back seat - over 200 pounds of them, and that's not counting the two cratesful I kept for myself or the 1/2 boxful my daughter took home, or the several dozen more still on the tree. In fact, I only picked what I could reach without a ladder - and I'm only just over five feet!

It was great to see the piggies, though I didn't have time to do much more than feed them a bunch of treats and give them all a little luvin's. I didn't take any pictures - I was going to do that after we'd finished the grant proposal, but time ran out on me. I had dinner out with Ellen, but didn't get to see the Whippet Boyz. I stayed with my friends Ann and Ken, then next day ran around doing other errands - the university, returning a phone that didn't work, picking up things I can't find here on the island, visiting with my Emma, and then back to Ann and Ken's for a scrumptious dinner. Day three was a visit to my mom, taking her out to lunch and then to the beach for a while, before heading back to the island.

On the ferry home I finished up some financial tables for Hearts on Noses, and then took a few minutes to just enjoy the surreal blue-hazed mountains on the horizon.

I came home to a warm welcome from my canine and feline crew, who had been spoiled rotten by Else while I was gone, and the message that renos were to begin in the morning so please clear and clean the bathroom......

And that's what's going on in my world.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Day on the Island

Beautiful BC flag

Saltspring Island, that is. My daughter and son-in-law, with my granddog Becky, came over to see my new home on Vancouver Island, and we decided to take a daytrip to Saltspring Island, just a twenty minute ferry ride away from Crofton (my home) to Vesuvius Bay. Even though my home is only a block or two away from the dock, we still ended up in the ferry lineup for a one-sailing wait.

Waiting in line

But even that was a blessing, for I got to stand on the ferry dock and watch the jellyfish swim and manoeuver using their long parachute-like tentacles. What is a flat red disc on the beach, becomes a two or three foot long red and white amazing sea creature, almost octopus like, in the depths of the salty water. I tried unsuccessfully to capture it with my camera, but to no avail.

Jellyfish in water

And I liked looking at the old wooden guides that draw the boat to the pier - colourful wood made more colourful by purple starfish clinging to its sides.

Old wood and starfish

We had all been to Saltspring in the past, but only from the Vancouver side to Fulford Harbour, so viewing Crofton from the water was a new experience for me. Here's the views from Crofton ferry dock as we pull away from Osborne Bay:

Leaving Crofton harbour

Heading out

Crofton from the water

Osborne Bay from the water

Making tracks

We joined the throngs at the Saturday Market. Saltspring Island is, as my daughter put it, "a hippy community" - a combination of "artsy" and "green". We bought fresh organic produce from the market and ooh'd and aah'd over the homemade goodies - from sweet treats to soft woolen hats - for sale at the many stalls. I could have spent thousands just on beautiful watercolor originals or soft green and blue glazed pottery.

Dogs aren't permitted in the actual market area, so son-in-law walked the periphery with Becky, as daughter and I walked the inner core. We'd meet at the corners, where Becky would be waiting patiently with her papa.

Happy, happy Becky

The bay at Saltspring was much busier than our sleepy little Osborne Bay - sailboats everywhere, tourists trying their hand at kayaking, locals out for a day on the water.

The bay at Ganges, Saltspring Island

We found a place for lunch where there was an outdoor patio table conveniently located beside a post and low brick wall where Becky was welcome to rest.

Table for four, please. Three humans and one canine.

The restaurant staff at Bouzouki's were fabulous and so was the meal. As the staff took our wine order, they spontaneously asked if Becky would like some water, which they served directly to her with all the aplomb that they served the humans. When our food order was taken, they asked if Becky would be permitted a few tidbits of meat from the kitchen - again the staff took it out to her personally and handfed it to her bit by bit. I think Becky has decided eating out is pretty special!

What's for dessert?

We humans were also superbly looked after. My daughter and I had tender tasty seafood crepes with a light creamy sauce that didn't drown the seafood or mask its wonderful flavour. It was accompanied by a delicious salad of local greens, fresh young cucumber, and sun-warmed succulent Black Russian tomatoes which had been grown by our server (who I think was co-owner, though I'm not positive). My son-in-law chose the lamb burger, made from locally raised lamb, served openfaced on a tasty panini-style bun, accompanied again with fresh greens and tomato. A delicious coffee to finish, and we were set for more exploring and the homeward journey.

Mid-water between Saltspring and Vancouver Islands

Home to a tasty dinner of fresh sockeye salmon bought from the wharf at Saltspring, and fresh dug nugget potatoes, tender young beet tops and tasty beets from the market, all cooked to perfection by my daughter and son-in-law. A stroll with the dogs, a glass of crisp wine, a cosy mother-daughter chat. A roughly perfect day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oliver's Happy Morning Dance

Fifteen year old Oliver has a morning ritual that never fails to start my day with a smile. Immediately after he has done his business, he does a very energetic happy dance accompanied by a big smile on his face and a lot of verbal encouragement from Princess Belle.

I turned off the camera a little too soon - seconds later he bounced up to Belle and barked right in her face. "C'mon, Princess, DANCE with me!!!". She graciously declined. He then twirled and bounced and danced until he crashed into the raised bed and toppled right over (he is a bit of a klutz!), but he picked himself up and danced another lap around the yard.

Here's wishing you a very happy morning from Oliver!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pitti Party in the Park

A pitti in her party dress

On Sunday, Else and I went to a Pitti Party in the Park - an annual Hug-A-Bull Rescue event. The public gets a chance to meet pittis (pitbulls) and see what proper training, socialization, and responsible ownership can do to bring out the absolutely loveable, sweet personalities of this much-maligned breed. (Anyone who watched the Global newscast of Ginger, will have seen how much these dogs LUUUV peoples! I was disappointed that the newscast never told the public Ginger is a pitbull).

Anyway, back to Sunday. Other breeds of dogs are also welcome - a great chance to practice social interaction for humans and dogs alike. Else and I took her youngest, Tess, and picked up Alva (also known as Goodfish, after the area where she was found) from her foster home to give her some exposure.

My camera pooped out on me after just a few minutes, and the spare batteries I took with me were duds, so I only have a few pics to share:

Alva checking out the action at the end of the leash

A man and his pitti

Furry pitti? NOT!

A fine looking dude

And just to add: Alva Goodfish is still looking for her forever home. She is a real gem - walks nicely on leash, dog and people social, quick learner, knows basic commands, and a lovebug. She is about five months old, I think. The breed of rescue dogs is often unknown, but I would say she is a yellow lab cross, perhaps with sharpei. If you know anyone looking for a great companion, tell them to contact Dogwood Rescue after checking out Goodfish's petfinder page.

Monday, August 17, 2009


The sun had just dropped below the hills when the dogs and I went for our evening walk. We took the route around the neighbourhood first, then down the five flights of steps to the ocean. The high tide was just on the turn, leaving behind a beach covered with.....jellyfish! Lots of large red jellyfish! As a friend of mine commented yesterday, it is apparently "jellyfish season".

I learn something new every day. I didn't know jellyfish had a season. I didn't know they came in many colours. I didn't know some species of them can be eaten (but I think I'll pass on that delicacy).

The solitary one I saw on the beach yesterday was the harbinger of a smack of jellyfish. (Yes, a whole bunch of jellyfish is called a "smack" - it checked it out here ).

Smack - it fits so well! I can just imagine the noise a jellyfish makes as it lands on the rocks or the beach - SMACK!

In the fading light, the red isn't as scarlet and gemlike as it was in the sunrise yesterday morning. Yet even so, they were mesmerizing, especially those that had come to rest on the white and orange shells in a symbiotic relationship - the jellyfish magnifying the beauty of the shells while the shells highlight the red of the jellyfish.

I hope jellyfish season lasts for a while - I have a feeling there are many beautiful images just waiting to be captured through the lens of a camera.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Those camera-less firsts.

I took the dogs for a quick run this morning, and didn't bother with the camera. When will I stop doing that????
For the first time since I've been here, the tide was soooooo far out the dock by the RV park was totally on dry land, it was sooooooo far out one could walk all the way around the point, it was soooooo far out it looked like one could practically wade across to Saltspring Island!

For the first time, I saw a jellyfish on the beach. I don't know how it compares internationally, but the jellyfish I saw when I was a child living near the beach were only a couple of inches across, at most, and transparent. This was a good foot across and bright red! Ohhhhh to have had my camera!

For the first time a murder of crows - fifty or sixty at least - darkened the sky overhead and then landed in the trees right beside me, from which they proceeded to chuck down maple wings and branches and pieces of leaf. What a picture that would have been!

For the first time, I saw TWO herons standing side by side in the surf, discussing the liklihood of finding fish with the tide so low, herons that didn't fly away when the dogs and I approached. I've often seen herons, but seldom together in the surf, and never as close as today.

For the first time this year, I noticed the maple trees have turned red, and with the morning sun their scarlet coats reminded me of the scarlet jackets of last weekend's RCMP Musical Ride.

And sadly, for the first time, Sadie was barely able to make it back to the house. She has been increasingly tired lately (she was supposed to have bloodwork last week, but it was postponed to this coming Tuesday), but this is the first time I thought I might have to call for help. We made it home at Oliver-pace, and she is now sleeping soundly.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The week in review

I haven't had my camera with me as much this week, though I did take a funny video of Allie balancing precariously on the top of a door - two paws on the top of the door, two on the top of the door frame, as the door slowly swung open. Unfortunately, in the business of transferring materials from one computer to a another, I seem to have lost or deleted it. Darn!

The new couch was finally delivered and before I could even remove the tags, Sadie gave it four paws up, the Canine Bark of Approval.

Allie also gave it four paws up. Unfortunately her paws had claws extended as she practiced her yoga stretches on the most accessible corner. She felt it should become the next Ratty Chair, so it now has double-sided tape all around the corners to dissuade her from using it as a scratching post. She is reconsidering the couch's function, and seems to have agreed that it is better for sleeping on than ripping apart.

The new computer is finally fully operational, thanks to my friend Chris and computer guru Andre - everything is safely saved or transferred (except that one video, which disappeared into cyberspace), and my wireless router means I can now take my computer anywhere in the house. Of course, no matter where I go, Allie promptly plonks herself between me and the screen - what is it about cats and computers???

(By the way, you can blame Chris for the lack of blog entries this week - she put a bunch of games on the new computer for me and...well.....can we say A D D I C T I N G? )

Sadie, Charley and I did go on the Wednesday Walk - six people, sixteen dogs this week. We went to Swallowfield again - it is so beautiful there, with the view over the estuary and the lovely clear pools of water.

Karen tossed treats in the water:

( I love Dolly's ears in the forefront of this picture!)

You get it! No, you get it! (Photo by Mary - thanks!)

Drew just wants to swim, swim, swim! :


River dog rising (Photo by Mary)

Drew doing the butterfly stroke?

Vimy agrees the water is nice, but a quick dip is enough for him:

Ha ha ha! That felt good!

And Charley and Pearl think water play is just plain silly:

What ARE they thinking?

They're just plain silly!

Quinn and Vimy take a break and retreat up the hill a bit to watch the action :

Then Dolly checks Vimy's dental hygiene:

Vimy! Your breath is baaaaaad! (Photo by Mary)

And to end the week, Charley and Sadie and I had a lovely evening walk just as dusk was falling: