Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Pilgrim is Home

We picked up my mother-in-law, our family's zany and lovable adventurer, from the airport tonight. She travelled with us to camp on the Serengeti last year, she's roamed Scotland since then, the year before she was back-packing australia, and the winter before all that she was volunteering in Nepal. And now....

She is just back from completing the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. She walked 800 kilometres across northern Spain these last six weeks with a heavy backpack. She'd rise before dawn, walk a fearsome distance before the Spanish sun got too hot OR (on the flip side of that) walk all day in the lashing rain from the tail end of a tornado's storm. And then she'd fall asleep at a refugio , a waystop for Santiago pilgrims which sometimes housed more than a hundred people in co-ed dormitories. And after that relaxing vacation, she has to go off to work bright and early tomorrow morning: gahhhh!

Amazingly, she is still cheerful and not particularly footsore. Although the same can't be said for all of her travelling companions.

Me, my feet get sore just thinking about walking that much (up to 30 kilometres each day).

Early in her planning for this trip, she asked me if I wanted to be part of the group of friends going with her.

I thought about it. I did. I've read some really fascinating books about the pilgrimage route and the sense of physical accomplishment at the journey's end would be fantastic. But after some serious pondering (and some discussion with my friend Emily who also walked from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain a few years back), I decided it was not the journey for me.

Besides the potential for tender feet, I am not so sure that the trials of St. James in his quest to convert the Moors should be the inspiration for my own personal quasi-spiritual journey. By the way, St. James didn't have much luck. According to the folklore, he converted a whole eleven Moorish people. Medieval Christianity was obviously a tough sell.

And after hearing some of her tales of her friends' blisters, shin splints, tendonitis, and general exhaustion, I'm glad I've saved my money for tickets to Italy next May.

But it is still an amazing accomplishment and part of me is sad I wasn't with her. (The part of me that is not my feet.)

I'm hoping to post some of the photographs of her journey soon.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Shark Kite

The Kite:

Six feet of terrifying jaws and black nylon, dredged fron the depths of Spider Girl's basement, and about to embark on its maiden flight.

A Fierce SHOWK! Tew-Wor of the Seas! (Note: You had to be there).

The Dog:

Loki, soulful-eyed, stick-carrying, and not much interested in kite-flying, but happy to be along on the mission.

The Beach:

Gartley Beach just past high noon on the first full day of autumn. The tide is far out, the driftwood stacked high, and our picnic is eaten while we lean comfortably against the logs. We contemplate the skies and test the wind.

The Plan:

To make our shark kite soar majestically throughthe air, say, MORE than five feet off the ground. A challenge on this gorgeous, but rather windless day.

Kim told me of another day of kite-flying long ago. She had won a large Coca-Cola themed kite in a store promotion. It was the kind of large kite that comes with a warning label that it is not to be flown by a person weighing less than 120 pounds.

They can have amazing lift apparently, a thought which brings to my mind a scene from the novel The Wasp Factory in which a little person is inventively murdered by being tangled in a kite string and swept off over the cliffs.

Anyway, Kim and a friend(themselves little people) were on a beach near their university trying to fly the giant kite and having a varied amount of success, although thrillingly the kite would sometimes lift them a small ways off the ground in their attempts.

They later returned to the university common room which overlooked the beach where someone greeted them with:"Hey, you shoulda seen it! Two idiots were down on the beach trying to hang-glide!"

Tai, another friend of mine, keeps a kite in the trunk of her car, an essential along with the spare tire one presumes.

I remember the day we flew it was so windy that we just sat cross-legged on Jericho Beach as Tai's kite (the Batman logo I believe) went higher and higher all on its own. None of this running about backwards over the sand kind of effort!

I've read about kite festivals in countries like Afghanistan where hundreds of kite-flyers gather to pit their kites against the others until only one remains. The kite strings are covered in a sticky mixture of ground glass and cut like knives through their rivals' strings (as well as being cruel to the hands). There is an excellent novel called The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in which he describes a young boy's determination to win this competition.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Friend's Next Magnet

I love these magnets .

This was the magnet that I first gave my friend. (And she may be yet be deciding how to use her powers... )

And then she found a fabulous gardening magnet for me.

And indeed my garden does.

Well, leastwise if I squint a bit so I can't see the weeds ...but I appreciate the thought.

Now I am deciding which magnet will next carry on the tradition.

I had an amusing conversation with my dear magnet-gifting friend tonight. There is always something new going on in her life.

The lucky ducky is seriously considering a maid service, because after all why should one waste one's valuable time fighting about who cleans the toilets and does the laundry? Why indeed?

My first reaction is that having a maid is a bit over the top, but probably that's because I instantly visualize myself fretting that the maid will think I'm a bad housekeeper. And I can't see myself paying someone to clean if I'm running around tidying up before "the help" arrives.

But, after some thought, I acknowledge that there are certainly less satisfactory ways to spend your money if you really REALLY despise vacuuming that much.

I may get her this one...

But if the maid service doesn't materialize after all, I'll consider getting her this next magnet in lieu of the one above.

I think she would appreciate the sentiment.

Someone has to set a bad example, after all. And I love her for it. :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Good Vegetables But Not Enough Pie

WARNING: This blog post may mention pie. Maybe more than once... mmmmm...pie....

If what you want is fresh juicy vegetables, organic chicken products, or pots of homemade jam, (or pie), then get up early and come on down to the Farmer's Market.

Me, I settled for sleeping in, and then wandering down there around eleven o'clock to have a really good strong cup of coffee and a hot spinach and cheese tamale wrapped in a corn husk for breakfast.
I seldom go to the Farmer's Market because usually Saturday morning belongs to reading in bed, but I haven't had a chance to see Sherry and Susan much all summer and they invited me along to have a boo at all the fresh produce. Turns out practically everyone I know was down there yesterday morning at the market, sampling the salsas and buying organic spelt bread at six bucks a loaf.

Well, not you or you or you but, well you know who you are..
Anyway, I thought I'd post these pictures to give a visual to my friends who were asking me about the Farmer's Market the other day.

There's usually live music, which is often much more entertaining than vegetables. This weekend it was Helen Austin, who has a very pretty voice. Sometimes it's a group like The Island Girls who are rather fantastic,though perhaps not very famous yet.

And did I mention there was pie?

Well, there was. My friend Susan bought a slice of extremely delicious rhubarb pie while I was eating my tamale. She wouldn't even sample the tamale after she'd finished the pie, because she said it would ruin the amazing flavour left behind in her mouth.

It looked oh. So. Good.

Boy, she really built up the legend of that pie in my mind. I decided I had to have some.

But, alas! When I got to the stall selling the baked goods, the lady said she had just sold the last slice to this man (she pointed) and it was so good, he'd come back for his THIRD slice. Did I see him smirk in triumph?!

Bah, I say! I felt thwarted. No other sugary bickie would do. I wanted to be able to say I had hot tamales and pie for breakfast.

Anyway, at the Market there is also the booth of the Lavender Lady, who used to be my art teacher in junior high. She is lovely and I know that certain of my friends (Tai!) will be happy to know where they can buy her sweet little lavender sachets. There's nothing more heavenly than the fresh smell of lavender on your pillow.

Well, there's rhubarb pie. Sigh, that's pretty heavenly too...

And, at the Market, you might also buy fresh venison from a farm rather eerily called Twin Peaks. I dunno, the skull and pelts on the table didn't make me feel very hungry... except maybe for pie.
There were also chickens that Just Say No . 'Nuff said.
And pumpkins. Lots of pumpkins.

I guess it's that beautiful harvesty time of year again, but I just saw a bunch of tacky Halloween things in the stores today, and I really do think THAT is jumping the gun just a wee bit since summer is not quite finished properly yet...

Oh yes, and there were flowers. Lots of pretty flowers in buckets and bouquets to be bought.

Maybe I should have bought some. To console me on the loss of my pie.

My friend Susan used to sell flowers from her cutting garden here and she said it was a frantic, zoo-like job. But I didn't see too much of that side of things from my casual market-goer's eye. The flower lady looked like she was having a rather nice cup of tea in the sunshine actually.

Anyway, Sherry bought a bag of apples, Susan sought out garlic and a rare variety of spinach and I ended up seeing more friends in one morning than I have in a long while.

I even saw Emily! And she's a hard lady to track down. Turns out she's off on a trek in Nepal this April. I'm hardly surprised! She's always off on an adventure. That's what I want to be like when I'm in my sixties.

Oh hey, did I mention Jeff baked me a pie today? What a lad!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chalk and Charcoal Effect

Life just looks better with the Chalk and Charcoal effect...

I was going through my bazillions of photos on the computer deleting a few tonight.

I almost deleted this one of myself at the Bug Zoo because it was horribly blurry and my eyes were glowing red.

And yet...and it I am holding some exotic species of enormous leaf-hopper and there just aren't that many photos of me out there with such a handsome bug, so I fiddled around with the effects on Photo Editor..and now I rather like it.

I wish you could tweak life a little like that sometimes.

Theoretically, then anyone could wake up, bleary-eyed, much the worse for wear after a night of mayhem and debauchery, and, after wobbling unsteadily to the mirror, smile and say "I think today calls for a little chalk and charcoal effect!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fourteen Years

Hey, everybody. This is a picture of me and Jeff: we make a cute couple, don'tcha think?

Yesterday we celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary, and our seventeenth year together. Yes, we've been a couple since that awkward teenaged phase we went through together in the eighties!

I don't want to get all mushy here but he's a fabulous guy. I'm a lucky girl.

And he's a lucky fellow.

We have marvellous taste in people.

Just ask any of our friends!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Creepy Crawly Saturday

I dedicate this post to my dear 'ol Dad, who believes that when a spider sees you, it wants to leap straight for your jugular....

Mom, when you read this, bring Dad over to the computer and show him these pictures.

See the Mexican red-leg tarantula sitting on my hand? Her name is Nora and she felt like a soft little mouse sitting on my hand. Lovely.

There were other kindred souls at the bug zoo. One girl held Nora and said to her skeptical boyfriend, "How could you not like her?"

There are so many interesting creatures at the Victoria Bug Zoo : it was the perfect place to spend my Saturday afternoon. I can hardly believe I 've never been there before!

This is just a short post. I'll write more on the insects I met here later. But a friend of mine was on the phone the other day and was talking to another friend. The side of the conversation I heard was like this:

"Yeah, we just got back from the Bug Zoo....Um, the Bug Zoo....what do ya mean you don't know what that is? Let me break it down for you.....BUG...ZOO!"

So, dear friend, I hope these photos are more illustrative.

I must have held fifty unusual insects and arachnids that afternoon.

The one that left the greatest impression on me was the Emperor Scorpion. He was as big as my palm!

Was he venomous you ask? Well, yes. You had to be 18 or over to hold the scorpions and tarantulas. But the venom is apparently no more traumatic than a bee sting and I just couldn't resist the opportunity. Besides, this is apparently a very mild-mannered species.

And his name was Steve. It's just not as scary to hold a scorpion named Steve.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Full Moon Pajama Party

My pagan friends on Denman Island invited me to a Full Moon Pajama Party this last Thursday night.

I went (of course! how could I not!) but I never got to the pajama part as I had to work the next morning early and so had to catch the last ferry back to the mainland (which is an Island too, strangely enough).

But it was still worthwhile going--the evening started with two killer whales rocketing by off the side of the ferry on their way to parts unknown. I didn't actually get a good look at them--there and gone--but I watched a very relieved-looking seal who popped his head out of the water and looked around with a look that said that having been spared thus from being whale-chow he would henceforth go and lead a worthy life.

It was such a gorgeous evening!

And the food at my friend's house was incredible! Fresh things from the garden. Vegan chili. Fresh watermelon juice. Ripe figs from a neighbour's tree. It's the end of the summer and so the theme of the meal was harvest-time.

(I'd never had fresh figs before, they only existed in my world as dried brown things, not pink and green and somehow sensual fruits. I love it when I try a hitherto-unknown yummy food. It feels like, I dunno, (I'm sleepy as I write this), I'm trying to articulate this, like a present. Like the gods just invented something new and said 'Hey, Spider Girl! Try this, something we just whipped up for you!' Anyway...mmmm. Figs good.)

I don't grow a single vegetable in my garden, so I brought flower seeds to share instead (white hollyhocks) and somebody else brought big dried sunflower heads from their garden.

We sat and ate and talked and talked--tales of love past and present, of festivals in the desert(The Burning Man: thanks, Dagoth), moonlit rituals, bad movies, herbal lore, the pros and cons of non-mainstream religions becoming churches, and whether or not the internet is a valuable resource or a scary unnatural force in the world. I know which one has MY vote! :)

I was sorry to go.

But crossing back over on the boat with the full moon making a path of light on the water was lovely. And on the drive home a small herd of deer, including two fawns, slowly paraded across the road in front of me.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Camel Called Sungura: A Year Ago Today

Have you ever noticed when you set yourself a deadline the time just flies by?

A whole year has flown past and I'm still working on putting my journal from my trip to Africa last summer on my travel blog.

Thing is, I said I'd finish it before a year had passed and I'm cutting it pretty close. Today I'm working on the journal entries for September 7, 2005 and if I'm not mistaken it's the 4th of September of this year. So that's why I haven't been writing much in my regular blog this week.

Last year, on September the 4th I was riding a camel out to visit the Maasai village of Meserani in Tanzania.

Now you can go to my travel blog and read the entire account of that if you like (the link is at the left margin of this page), but in a nutshell I chose a very nice camel with a flair for individuality and he decided to break the rope tethering him to the rest of the caravan.

Sungura the Camel danced nimbly away from the camel handler (that's the fellow in purple) and resisted all attempts to be roped again for a few minutes.

So there I was, taking pictures and looking down from the tall back of a camel, and laughing my head off. Good times, my friends, good times!

I crossed something off my "Things to Do Before I Die List" that day.

What's on your list?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nitobe Gardens...Somewhere Quiet to Go

My summer has been loud. How about yours?

The neighbours have been going wild with a chainsaw in their yard, the digging machines rumble as they build a new ring-road around my workplace, and the sound of children yelling merrily at the daycare is background noise in my daily life as ever.

So what do I do on vacation? I visit my friends in the city--home of traffic jams and blaring sirens....and yet I revisited there a place that always brings calmness into my heart and serenity to my ears.

I went to the Nitobe Gardens on the UBC campus and walked there a while with my friend. The excursion was almost an afterthought that we fit into a whirlwind of a day.

It is an oasis of quiet in the city. And on a hot late summer afternoon it was as refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade.

It is filled with shade and dappled sunshine under trees shivering delicately in the breeze. Fat koi fish swim lazily in a pale green lagoon edged by stone lanterns and ferns. The moss grows thick on shady pathways and I slipped off my sandals to feel its coolness under my feet.

I think Tai and I need to come back here in the fall when the foliage turns red and yellow and the mists swirl over the water.

I was glad we stopped here. I think I needed it.