Saturday, April 29, 2006

Betty Boop in a China Shop

Improv dance is challenging---what will I do? How will I look to the audience? What if I don't know the music? What are my arms and legs doing ?!...

Yes, we tried out some dance games at Thursday night's bellydance class. It was the end of a dance session, with one favourite teacher passing the next session on to another favourite teacher due to other life committments, so we were all feeling a little bittersweet. We were sitting in a circle on the floor, discussing upcoming dance parties and recent epiphanies, and not really feeling much like dancing, when someone had the bright idea to fetch a bottle of wine from a nearby shop to toast our teacher.

Well, it's amazing how much more energy we had in us after downing a mere thimbleful of wine: we decided to play a game to practice our improv skills. We wrote a "location" or "environment" on one piece of folded-up paper, and then an "emotion" on the other. We put them in the middle and randomly drew one from each pile.

My first random dance instructions were to combine the feeling of "euphoria" with being " in a favourite childhood place (like a fort)". And then the other dancers watching me had to guess what I was trying to convey. Ah, belly-dance charades! It builds character, I'm sure.

Other class members danced being "joyful in an ocean", "overwhelmed in a greenhouse", and a very saucy portrayal of being "sultry in the kitchen".

We played a second round where we now chose a "character" as well as a location.

I guess its a good thing to challenge oneself... that's how I ended up dancing "Betty Boop in a China Shop" to a Turkish dance tune the other night. I got the Betty Boop idea across in a satisfyingly short time, but how exactly does one belly-dance being in a china-shop?

And then a third round---yes, I think any self-consciousness had dissolved by this point in the evening... we were laughing too hard.

I danced an improv duet with my teacher as my partner: she portrayed a medieval knight and I had to personify Spring Equinox--strewing flowers from an invisible basket and pretending to run my fingers through my imaginary long, flowing hair.

I also watched a dance duel between Super Woman and a sword-fighter, and a stand-off (in dance) between a female wrestler and a flamenco-dancer! Now that's something you don't see every day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Urinetown, the Musical

Little Sally I don't think too many people are going to come see this musical, Officer Lockstock.

Lockstock Why do you say that, Little Sally? Don't you think people want to be told that their way of life is unsustainable?

Little Sally That, and the title's awful.

---quote from Urinetown: the Musical

My mother and I went to see a musical with the unlikely title Urinetown the other day, a Broadway production put on by the local highschool players. It was getting great reviews for a production about pee. "Ya gotta go!", they said. :)

Yeah, well when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Excuse me, gentle readers, but I will be mentioning natural bodily functions at least several times more in this post.

Urinetown takes place in a future time when severe water shortages and drought have resulted in the government and big business (the Urine-Good-Company) taking charge of the local amenities---the poor citizens have to pay to pee, and are subjected to ever-increasing fee hikes. Some citizens may not have enough money to pay the daily toll, but penalties are harsh for those trying to avoid paying by peeing in the bushes, as it were. In fact, violators of the public urination rule may just find themselves hauled off by the local police force to a mysterious and sinister place known as Urinetown.

Well, eventually the people revolt and try to take back the toilets---starting with Public Amenity #9 !

This is one of those musicals that manages to be a satire of both society and other musicals. There are heavy underlying themes here: corporate greed, environmental destruction, the slippery slope of the good guys losing the moral high ground. But all the misery is played out in cheerful song-and-dance routines and subtle (and-not-so subtle) pop-cultural references to other musicals such as Les Miserables and West Side Story . The more musicals you've seen, the more you will appreciate it.

Some will find it heavy-handed. Some will find it intelligent. It definitely made me laugh, mostly from the humour, but sometimes from the surrealism. I thought it was a lot of fun, and the only time ever I've heard the word "piss" in a high-school production.

It's funny, I mentioned I was going to this musical to one of the parents at the preschool where I work.

She looked wildly around to see if any children were listening, and said in hushed tones: "Isn't that the play where they talk about...pee?"

I tried not to laugh. After all, we talk about pee all day, every day with the children: Don't forget to go pee! Have you peed yet? Don't wait to pee--go right away! Wash your hands after you pee..and so forth.

Anyway, I leave you with some trivia about toilets that was posted in the hallway outside the theatre....

* The average family uses 119 rolls of toilet paper in a year.

* Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.

* Germs in human waste can pass through 10 sheets of toilet paper.

* Only 30% of the world's population uses toilet paper.

*Each day, North Americans use 4.8 billion gallons of water to flush toilets.

* The average person spends three years of their life on the toilet.

This may be too much information. :)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Visit From the Compost Fairy

Once upon a time my brother asked me what he could get me for my birthday, and I answered from the bottom of my gardener's heart: a load of manure, pretty please.

"I can't give you manure for your birthday", I remember him scoffing. "What kind of present is that?"

Apparently pooh was not an acceptable birthday present. But that was in the days before he became a gardener too. I suspect he'd have a different opinion now.

Jeff and I came home from work today to find the Compost Fairy, otherwise known as Jeff's mom, busily shovelling a truckload of well-aged fish compost onto the side of my driveway. The stuff is black gold in the garden. It's a token of appreciation for Jeff doing her taxes--it's much welcomed...yep, give us a pile of well-rotted fish innards (as long as they're not smelly anymore) and we're content. :)

I spent the early part of the evening tonight hauling it around to my garden beds--eighty buckets worth and then I stopped because my arms told me to and I was red-faced and somewhat sweaty. Also, I hadn't had any dinner yet.

On my brother's blog the other day I read a description of all the work he went to installing a little Zen garden with pond in his yard. He's getting his yard ready for the wedding in July. I seem to recall that he hauled about eighty loads of gravel to the new garden site. My sympathies, brother. I have a new understanding of your project.

The pictures in this post are all of flora blooming in my garden at the moment...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day Fashion with Bugs and Bark

Here are some images from a Earth Day fashion show I went to at the Abbey yesterday.

The designer, a girl I know who is also a local hula-hoop teaching master, makes luscious bellydance costumes and is promoting her line of clothing made with natural dyes from insects and marigolds and cherry-bark and such.

Of course, I went for the belly-dancing!

The fashion lines ( Goddesswear, Naturally Dyed, Funwear and designer Tracey Mantha's personal Costume Collection ) were loosely grouped around the theme of the four elements-- Earth, Water, Fire and Air-- and a different dancer introduced each line of clothing in an outfit made by Tracey.

Heather danced Earth in a green and white outfit hung with quartz crystals--she always looks so relaxed as she dances.

Edith danced Water in silky blues with a beautiful jewel on her forehead. I loved the other dances too, but Edith's was special--she was like a naiad gathering water in a otherworldly forest.

True to her personality, fiery Taiya danced the element of Fire, in a peek-a-boo ripped velour outfit with a lit candelabrum on her head. She once danced a Fire-Finger dance at a show I was co-producing (she had long lit tapers on the ends of her fingers), and I was certain the smoke was going to set the fire alam off....she's pretty amazing.

Cathy danced Air combining gauzy veils, trailing white flowers and feathers. She used the breeze from a portable fan for artistic effect.
Between dance numbers the models (at least two of them pregnant) pirouetted to the strains of Slammin' Jack and Declining Amphibian Phenomenon .

The fashions were funky and fun to look at, although few were my personal style. I liked the ruffles added to denim effect though--just the other day I saw someone wearing a skirt of hers and admired it. I thought the long hooded velvet outfits were quite lovely too, in a medieval/witchy way.

I was also impressed (nay, blown away) by the colours produced by the natural dyes: organic raspberries can create a fabulous shade of purple. A Mexican insect produces a soft blue shade. Tree barks coloured clothing in oranges, yellows, browns, and greens. Marigold flowers dyed things a yummy yellow. I remember long ago trying to dye cloth and experimenting with beets and onion skins--my colours were in comparison disappointingly bland.

My favourite piece of clothing today was a soft and velvety fringed, sleeveless brown dress with mushrooms appliqued on the front and a matching shoulder-bag. Super cute. I would definitely wear it:

" Mushroom Girl glows in this simple and natural frock, perfect for a walk in the coastal rain forest with her handy mushroom-picking bag......"
Other clothing made by Tracey was recycled from vintage pieces and even garbage. One girl modelled a costume known as The Recycling Queen : it featured a chest-piece made from take-out food cartons and a skirt fringed with old CD's. She was crowned with old Christmas tree lights. Oddly enough, the look somehow worked on her.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bless my Little Scanner

I can use my scanner! I can use my scanner!

* giddy grin and excited hand waving from Spider Girl *

I'm not a Luddite. Regular readers of my blog would have to surmise that I spend a fair amount of time communing with my computer after all. And I'm quite fond of my camera, and my DVD player, etc.-- all those entertaining little gadgets that make life more complicated and more fun.

But I sometimes have a hard time warming up to new technology. Even old technology for that matter. I have to be convinced of its worth. I don't want it to be an unholy headache figuring out what buttons to push. Said gadget needs to earn my love by being child-like in its simplicity.

In this case, my poor scanner has sat to the left of my monitor for time out of mind: untouched and unloved, looked upon as an unfortunate waste of space and money. Once upon a time I had owned another scanner. Oh! I had so many plans for it!

But let's just say it was not user-friendly. Henceforth, all other scanners appearing in my home were to be on my "Bah!-I-can-do-without-it" List. Until....

Last night, as Jeff watched me painfully cutting out felt pieces to make a felt-board story for my preschool story-time, he suggested I just scan the pictures from the storybook and glue them onto the felt. He suggested it would save time. He suggested it would be easier.

I suggested I was skeptical and not terribly keen to learn.

But he was right! It's not hard to use at all. Boy, am I feeling sheepish. My scanner is no longer an extra shelf- to- put- things- on.

I stayed up past my bedtime fiddling with my newly-beloved technology.

Now I can scan old photos...the picture in this post was one taken before the days I owned a digital camera. (Yes, the conversion from film to digital was painful for me too. Now I promote digital photography with the religious zeal of the newly-converted.)

It's a photo of me taken by my friend Tai on our back-packing trip around the British Isles in 1999. I am sitting among the stone columns in the Roman Garden and Hypocaust in Chester, England, a shady, peaceful park next to a ruined abbey and the remains of a Roman amphitheatre.

I've been hoping to put more travel journals on line eventually and I can't help but hope this new scanning ability I have is going to be helpful. Oh, I'm just so tickled. :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chocolate Buddha and the Real Easter Bunny

This is the closest I got to finding chocolate Easter eggs this past week...big coloured rocks in the forest. :)

Oh, wait! I did have a chocolate: a yummy organic ginger chocolate too! Of course, it was shaped like a Buddha and not a bunny, but it was fabulous nonetheless.

And now I shall tell you a happy memory of mine...

It was very late the night before Easter about two or three years ago...

I was driving back from a friend's house and the road in front of me was bathed in bright moonlight. For some reason I slowed the car; a movement must have caught my eye.

And then I saw the most enormous white rabbit I've ever seen! He loped lazily into the centre of the road and hopped nonchalantly down the yellow line in front of me.

Then he sat up on his hind legs for a moment and seemed to look around at me before hopping on again. He was so big .

I drove slowly following him and he zigged and zagged a few times before hopping slowly to the safety of the trees by the roadside. Then I lost sight of him among the undergrowth.

I've never seen a bunny that large before or since, and the timing was so serendipitous that I smiled all the way home. Ever feel like a kid again?

I think I may have seen the Easter Bunny. :)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Porpoises and the Awe of Orcas

Last night was lovely as only a calm April evening with the full moon rising can be.

My friend Sherry and I crossed to Denman Island on the little ferry as we do once a month or so. Tonight we were looking forward to an evening with a group of wonderful women around the year's first campfire.

We met friends we hadn't seen in a while among the foot-passengers and we walked to the bow of the boat to chat with them.

As we talked we looked out over the water. There were seagulls in the air, but Harmony was sure she had spotted an eagle. As we looked, a movement below us caught Sherry's eye.

There were porpoises! A brief glimpse of fin and shiny grey back and the animal went under. Then rose up again. And then another one!

We squealed like children---the sight was fleeting but so unexpected and marvellous. It was a good omen. The inner shiver of joy seeing those sea creatures gave me lasted the entire evening.

It reminded me of another time.

Three autums ago, on my tenth wedding anniversary, Jeff and I were paddling in a two-seater kayak up by April Point on Quadra Island. The whole day long had been an exercise in feeling grateful we lived here on the coast of Vancouver Island. Sometimes you can live in a place all your life and forget that it is beautiful and special, but we were reminded today.

We drifted over forests of waving kelp lit by afternoon sunshine, watched the great blue herons fishing in the shallows, saw bald eagles soaring, and let our kayak slide noiselessly into a community of river otters playing and chattering among a group of rocks.

But the image that will stay with me forever from that day was of an orca whale.

We heard a sound---a sound I'd never heard before---a loud and breathy, blowing sound. We held our paddles still and stopped our kayak to listen.

Chii-CHOO! Chii-CHOO! Chii-CHOO! The sound travelled towards us at great speed. We looked around wildly for its source.

And then we saw the great black fin and the broad shiny back and the white eye-marking as the killer whale passed our fragile boat at the speed of a living torpedo. I remember my eyes widening in awe and my head swivelling to watch the whale's passage, but it was gone in an instant.

We paddled around in the bay hoping to see it again, but that one brief moment was all we had with the orca. I think the feeling of joy it gave us was a real gift.

I wish I had pictures to show you of that day but I left my camera at home--heh, the days before I carried one everywhere. I borrowed someone's photo of a killer whale to show you what we saw. Perhaps it was better that I was just there in the moment. The images from that afternoon are forever imprinted in my mind.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Books in the Trees

My friend and I went for a walk in the woods the other day.

It was a cloudy cool day--the moss was lush and springy underfoot, the trilliums nodded white between the ferns, and the exuberant yellow skunk cabbages decorated the swampy parts of the forest floor like oddly-perfumed daffodils.

As in a dream, music wafted through the trees---harp and flute and piano. And adding to the dream-like quality of the paths, there were strange sights in this part of the forest.

Flying wooden fish suspended from trees, rock sculptures painted in primary colours, creatures constructed from twisted metal parts....the art of George Sawchuck is part Alice in Wonderland and part Blair Witch Project.

His woodland gallery is located partially on Crown land and extends into his adjoining yard. It's one of those places that even locals are not much aware of, I think. There are no posted signs to inform random folk rambling in the woods that these trails contain rather eccentric (occasionally eye-brow raising) art, not to mention some political commentary reflecting the artist's rejection of organized religion and his professed communist leanings (at least he professed them in the seventies).

What appeals to me most are the books in the trees. Yes, I can't go anywhere without reading a book. It's a curious thing to reach into a tree, pull out a book, and read it. Mind you, the books contain only one page. You can read a lot of them...if you can find them.

Sometimes the wooden pages lay on tables by a pond, sometimes they were chained to a rock.

Other messages were left on posts or stumps.

And occasionally I'd open a wooden cupboard in the forest today and find not pithy sayings, but say,little wooden severed heads, reminding me simultaneously of punked-out tree spirits and cheesy B-movies involving voodoo curses.

Have you ever felt as if you were not really awake?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Librarians and Their Wonderfully Subversive Plays

Long, long ago I worked at the local library as a page.

I wandered through the aisles of books with my heavy wooden cart, shelving and organizing and reading. Oh yes, reading!

I certainly did a fair bit of that over the course of my shift. It was almost impossible not to flip through intriguing books and do a little skim-reading before replacing them on the shelves.

(Mind you, I most certainly shelved more books in my allotted hours than my dear brother--he'd actually go so far as to retire to the children's section and get comfortable on a bean-bag chair with a book. He was amazingly adept at appearing busy before a senior librarian appeared around the corner. My brother pointed out that usually this librarian was our mother, so he was not too likely to get canned, although I do believe he was pushing his luck even so.)

The many, many books that caught my attention went on my Stack-'o-Books-to-Take-Home. There were not many job perks to being a library page perhaps, but one of the immunities in the three golden years that I worked there (for under five bucks an hour) was the freedom from library fines.

Oh, the joy of taking home eleventy-million library books and reading them at leisure. Sigh, those were the days.

Alas, all good things come to an end. Library Page was a job available only to high-school students, and so eventually I had to seek my further fortunes in less-missed positions such as Video-store Clerk and Gas-station Girl.

I've always remembered my time at the library fondly. And after all, I am a librarian's daughter.

My mom retired last week from the Library after twenty-five years. But of course, there was a party! And hurrah, I was invited!

Two dozen librarians descended for food and merriment at Diane's house. I've met most of them over the years, and they still give me privileges such as going behind the Desk to the back room to get my pick of special books for my Preschool storytimes. I feel loved. :)

My mom was treated to birthday cake (her 65th), guitar sing-a-longs, gift certificates, speeches, and new luggage for her trip to Italy, but I think the highlight of the evening was a wonderfully subversive (well, for librarians) puppet-play. It poked a little bit of fun at all my mother's favourite types of annoying patrons (that's library-speak for customers) as well as a few pointed jabs at the High Mucky-Mucks of Red-Tape down at Library Headquarters. They are so, er, *cough cough* beloved to my mom's heart. The sweetest little librarian puppet represented my mom. And it all unfolded under a large sign that reads Shh!

I thought the play was hilarious! There was one wizard puppet whose broad Glaswegian accent left little doubt that it portrayed some particular someone in middle management who has gone over to The Dark Side .

"Och, woman!", the puppet screeched in answer to the librarian puppet's question at one point in the script. "How should I know?! Just click your heels together three times and say: 'There's no place like the staff room! There's no place like the staff room!' "

Heh, I laughed so hard. Hmmmm. Perhaps you had to be there....Anyway, trust me, it was all true to life.

Oh, and I'm including this picture of my mother's hair for my brother's benefit. She cut eight inches off it in honour of her retirement and it looks fabulous. Very healthy and thick-looking and I hope my own hair is as dark at her age. Drat it, I have a couple silver hairs already. Perhaps the secret is becoming a librarian.