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Archive for the ‘Outside’ Category

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Gosh, I just heard the mayor of Brandon, Manitoba on the radio: “Minus 17 this morning. We wonder what we’ve done to deserve this.”

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And a psychologist from the University of Manitoba was quoted as saying there’s been a higher number of cases of depression this winter and he thinks it might be weather-related.

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My father just telephoned from “sunny” Manitoba, as he likes to remind me, to say there’s a huge snowdrift out by his bee hives and he can’t get out there to check on them.

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Poor bees. So much to do and so little time.

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Umm, Dad? Mayor Decter?

All those times you laughed about the west coast rain, the grey skies, the foggy mornings, afternoons and evenings… We kept quiet because  while we envied your days of cloudless blue, we didn’t really envy your frigid car-won’t-start winter mornings or your itchy bug-bitten summer evenings.

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But now? Well, we don’t really know what you’re talking about.

However, if you’re searching for a peaceful place to contemplate the spring thaw, you’re always welcome to wait it out in our guest room.

Toast and honey on the house!

Nicholas B photos

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A few years ago I attending a thrice-weekly workout program with a solid Serbian named Svetlana. Embracing her was like hugging a tree.

Her name in fact was Suzana but in my mind she was better suited to ‘Svetlana.’  When asked if her family members had spent any time in the army she replied, “Loyse, we were the army.”

Her exercise program was called GI Jane Boot Camp, her company was called MYA Fitness. I asked another hapless question: Why MYA?

“Loyse, I’m gonna get you to move your a**!”

Got it. Ma’am.

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Well now, that was then, this is now.

Meet my new personal trainers.

They bark at me, just like Svetlana, and they have no patience for the fact that I continue to be woefully out of shape. Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!

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So just about every morning we tackle a walk out the door, down our driveway, past the mailboxes and further down to the water.

This brand new set of stairs was constructed last spring by the municipality. I don’t know what it replaced but I know I’m one of the few users. It’s not exactly for the faint of heart and certainly scared me off for a while.

This set of stairs is one of two, the second half that takes one down to the water.


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And this is the other, the set that takes one back up to the road. I’m standing on the small patch of level land between the two.

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And here’s the coach. Come on, Loyse. Let’s go let’s go let’s go. I want you to move your a**!

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Done for today.

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At Christmas time or her birthday or when I needed a break I’d bring Svetlana some treats. And on rare but very pleasant mornings after class she’d make us thick Turkish coffee the way she’d learned from her mother and we’d sip and listen to a few guarded stories about life in the homeland. And the reasons for the move to Canada were pretty clear — a better life for herself and her family.

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As for me and my trainers, after we’ve completed the final upward hike on the drive we enjoy some treats as well. A nice cappuccino for me and some butcher discards for the coaches, who then settle in for a nap.

Life in the homeland is pretty good.

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Bonked

The day dawned bright and sunny, blue skies long overdue but the perfect antidote to the day-before-school blues.

Sadly, the glare of the light deceived a number of the feathered guests who visit our various feeding stations and this little one took a dive to the window and ricocheted on to the deck.

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Selasphorus rufus, the rufous hummingbird, so named because of the brick-red feathers on its back and sides.

It lay on its side for a few seconds and we thought its end might be nigh. Of primary importance, however, was keeping the feathered one protected from the furry ones who are keenly attracted to avian creatures which cannot become airborne. Dogs 9, chickens 2.

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But given a little pat as we enjoyed a too-rare opportunity to stroke the feathers of a hummingbird, the creature suddenly righted itself and while unsteady, managed to remain upright.

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Hummer  271And I guess we got a little annoying with our paparazzi moment and the little guy flew upwards. Unsteady however, it steered itself directly at the leaf-green structure directly ahead and then dropped down for a respite.

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Some solid attempts at taking flight…

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… and it managed to get itself over to another finger, until…

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Not airborne for very long nor for very far but somewhere sheltered and green.

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If it looks like a tree and feels like a tree…

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And that’s how they sat for the next half-hour: Homeboy in the sun, reading his homework, the little one relaxing in the warmth and safety of the leaf-green nesting spot.

A more perfect day before school could barely be imagined.

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Happy New Year! From beautiful Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, North America.

If I knew them I’d include latitude and longitude, if only to reassure I’m back on Canadian terra firma following our gastronomic adventure in the south of Spain. It turns out I failed to conclude our travelling story once I departed Barcelona and arrived in Marseilles.

What’s that? you say. There’s more?

Yes, my friends, still a week in France, more good food, some travel and warm evenings in the company of dear friends.

Kind of dizzying, really, how mind-bogglingly good our lives have been post-Orville and Wilbur.

But now, firmly rooted on the rock where we live, life runs more or less as normal.

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The Japanese have a word for what transpired out the window this morning — unkai — sea of clouds. It turned out that much of the Lower Mainland (Vancouver and environs) was cloaked in a thick blanket of grey which had settled in the night.

It must have been fog soup down below for the ferry and every few minutes we’d hear the long low drone of the foghorn, alternately warning and guiding, I guess.

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Some of the fog burned off as the sun came up but mid-morning I drove to another part of the island, a home closer to the water where they were still encased in a cloud of humidity. They stayed that way for a few hours more while I came home to blazing sunshine.

It always depends on one’s perspective, doesn’t it? That’s a quote from the book of mothers, BTW.

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Thanks to Adam Taylor’s friendly foray into the briny sea, a couple dozen Islanders got up close and personal with some colourful denizens of the wet Pacific, courtesy of the Bowen Island Nature Club.

Among the creatures Adam retrieved was a nudibranch — I don’t recall the precise species and the shy creature did not take well to photographs through a plastic bag.

 

Also from Adam’s take-out bag emerged a sea cucumber — appearing near-solid when inflated with sea water — but immediately collapsed when held in the hands. Returned to the water it almost instantly refills itself. A creature of which I know nothing, except that it used to appear — cooked and sliced — in the hot and sour soup my brother would drink from a beaker during late evenings in a research lab at the University of Manitoba.

No telling what other ingredients those beakers would contain.

And near the final tally of crustacean critters we found fascinating were the aptly named “decorator crabs,” so called because of their attempts at better obfuscation through seaweed.

The crabs take bits of sea plant material with which they adorn their spiky little selves, thoughts of disguise or seaside summer fashion running thru their tiny little brains. Fascinating to think that such behaviour — so deliberate and bizarre — is still completely instinctive.

Wish I’d been born with that kind of fashion sense!

And finally, squid eggs. Oeufs de calmar. Pearls of the tentacled one.

 

About 30 potential squidlets per pocket.

Anyone for a swim?

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The Bowen Island Nature Club, bowennatureclub.blogspot.com, is a group of Islanders dedicated to teaching the rest of us about the beauty, mystery and preservation of Bowens’s diverse natural bounty.

Last weekend they organized a deep sea tour in which participants didn’t even get wet.

Adam Taylor ventured out on the west side of the island to return with a startling array of wild sea creatures — a fantastic reminder that the earth always offers up much more than we ever remember to imagine.

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Pretty. Simple.

Like a new mystery novel whose ending cannot be predicted, a new home is full of unportended discoveries.

Who’d have guessed a garage wall could delight the eye upon every arrival home?

My meager research indicates this clematis as a ‘Montana’ variety — no scent, but a perfect harbinger of sunnier days.

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