Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ghost Hunting Weekend

This is Helmken Alley at eleven o'clock yesterday night, a squalid and ghost-infested little hole between buildings where all manner of dark things have occurred all around and nearby. Prisoners beaten and murdered. Hangings. Suicides. Mysterious bodies unearthed in the foundations of buildings.

And recently it seems, a number of folk have also taken a whiz here. Grim.

So what was Spider Girl and friends doing in such a place you might ask?

Well, we were listening to local historian and talented storyteller John Adams tell us unearthly tales and spooky legends on one of Victoria's nightly ghost walks, a walk which took us from the Inner Harbour where the Tall Ships are visiting--- past the very-haunted Empress Hotel, past haunted walkways, haunted restaurants, haunted hotels, and even haunted chocolate shops. We concentrated on the Bastion Square area.

It seemed as if every building had a tragic story or a tale of passion and woe, indubitably ending in a resident spirit or two. Even the pub we'd had dinner in (The Bard and the Banker) was rumoured to be haunted by the poet Robert Servicewe found out afterwards.

Victoria is often billed as the most haunted city in British Columbia. Easy to believe that (or not believe I suppose, depending on your level of skepticism).

In fact, a four-day paranormal conference is being held here just next week. I'm predicting a imminent rise in spook-based tourism.

As for me, I'm quite interested in the possibility of ghosts. Although I've never seen a ghost, enough things have happened that have raised the hairs on the back of my neck to make me go hmmmmmm in a thoughtful fashion. That, and I was raised with many, many family ghost stories which I would bug my dear old great-auntie to tell again and again.

Aside from the Ghostly Walk walking tour (which I'll recommend as good for both exercise and entertainment),this weekend in Victoria took me from the haunted fairways of Victoria's golf course to the peaceful lanes of Ross Bay Cemetery to eating samples this morning in the delicious chocolate shop that was on the ghost tour the night before.

Saturday afternoon my dear friend Tai drove me out to the golf course where one of Victoria's most famous ghosts resides. It was a glorious summer afternoon out there on the manicured green where I briefly trespassed (most assuredly not being a member of any golf club whatsoever). I wasn't sure where the notorious seventh fairway was located, but if we were anywhere nearby the ghost of poor murdered Doris, she was lying low. Apparently she can be quite a startling spirit to observe--flying around in the air and even walking right through cars on the road we came in on. No such luck this day.

Next we went to the very old and beautiful Ross Bay Cemetery. It's my favourite kind of cemetery with mossy mausoleums and tall, leaning moss-covered gravestones. Not like those soulless modern places where evey marker has to be flat as a pancake so that the ride-on lawnmower can sail over without a fuss.

And the best thing about Ross Bay is the huge, beautiful trees that grow along the carriageways and among the old graves. Wouldn't you love to be buried underneath a tree like those? So serene. A walk here left me feeling tranquil and happy.

It's rumoured to be haunted of course. But the only unusual thing we saw was an extraordinarily approachable crow that lit in a tree right beside us and studied us closely as we looked at the graves.

This morning, after Tai once again showed off her mysterious powers at finding a parking spot in the hideously crowded downtown core, we retraced some of the steps on the ghost-tour. We revisited the yucky haunted alleyway, purposefully walked along a street where a ghost has supposedly shoved a few people into the path of traffic (yep, we laugh in the face of danger, uh huh), didn't get shoved...
We also had a delightful conversation with an employee of the Maritime Museum (the former site of the coutroom of Matthew Begbie, the "Hanging Judge"), which is known as a place just chock-full of grumpy ghosts.
He was one of those folks that starts out the conversation seeming to call the whole idea of ghosts "ridiculous nonsense" and then goes on to qualify that statement by mentioning all the times things have mysteriously levitated across the gift shop in front of multiple witnesses. Including himself. Heh. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pond Building Party

A chance conversation with a waterscape designer led to an invitation to a Pond Building Party this weekend. That's the kind of party where instead of BYOB the invitation says: Bring Your Own Shovel .

Strangely enough, this kind of party seemed like just the way to spend my Saturday. I've been trying to make connections with other gardeners and horticulturalists of various types. I have an inkling if I ever decide to make a career change, this is the field I'd like to be in.

Doesn't hurt to network, right?...Well, unless you hurt yourself networking by carrying large rocks to build a pond. Nah.....I'm stronger than I look. :)

In the beginning.....There was only lawn.And then there was digging. A whole lotta digging. It was like that show Two Feet Under . Or something. Of course, with fifteen people digging, the work seems a lot less arduous than you might think.

Also, our spirits were kept buoyed by good coffee and treats from Tim Horton's.
Three feet deep is not extraordinarily deep for a body of water, but regulations classify anything deeper than that as a swimming pool, so we had to keep our depth to about two and a half feet. It may not sound like much, but that's a lot of dirt when the pond is going to be eleven foot by sixteen foot (plus a ten foot stream with waterfall). The dirt that came out was recycled into a large berm that the stream would run down.

Dave (our very charismatic pond-building teacher) taught us how to dig a pond in several tiers.... to fit the two layers of liners.... and how to select and place the rocks.
The shape and size and location of each rock is important to the overall effect of the finished pond, Dave taught us in his enthusiastic manner. I've seen some of his stream/waterfall work around town and in gardens and he has quite a talent for making the whole effect seem genuinely nature-inspired.

He showed us how to construct "fish caves", natural hiding-places for pond fish fleeing from the inevitable herons and raccoons attracted to backyard ponds.
I learned about pumps and filters, acid-producing rocks, PVP piping, Ph levels, and the biological cycles of pond bacteria.
I learned nifty ways to lift boulders using two-person slings, the value of constantly applying sunscreen, and to never ever get any of that black gooey stuff used for sealing rocks together on your hands. It may never come off till you're dead. :)
It was a hot day. It was hard work. But frankly, I came away from this event inspired.
When the pond was filled and the first water came tumbling and rushing musically over the edge of the waterfall that I had toiled to build, it was a beautiful moment. Sweaty, but beautiful.
The owner of the home has invited me to come back when all the plants and edging and gold fish have been added, and I think I will.