Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Observations gleaned while pruning a blackberry thicket

On a beautiful day, it is important to find meaningful work to accomplish outdoors. A winter-tangled blackberry hedge provides such diversion. Such a job is perfect, as it requires just enough concentration and judgement to allow the mind to focus on other matters and takes up enough time to generate a number of observations.

Notice how the brackets where last year’s berries grew look remarkably like gnarled hands. Express gratitude to them for last September’s bounty.

Consider following the lead of golfer Tommy Gainey by wearing two gloves, not just one on the ‘pulling hand’. Add one for the ‘pruning’ hand too. It may be more difficult wielding the secateurs, but there is little doubt that there will be fewer scratches on the exposed hand and, as a result, less blood.
Note the differences between dead and living branches. Colour is the obvious marker: green as opposed to brown. But living branches also have much bigger thorns, though the thorns on the dead ones seem sharper, pointier as if they have withdrawn into a harder, tougher form of themselves. The biggest difference though is their weight. The dead ones, some of which are completely dehydrated, are oh so much lighter than the nourished (wet) living ones.

Next time, wear a baseball hat. The thorny branches seemed to enjoy grabbing me by the hair. At one stage, I considered using the pruners to chop my way out. Fortunately, with patience as my guide, my messy braid emerged intact.

Think about writing a letter to the City, requesting a larger ‘green bin’ container, as this one is now full to its 360-litre capacity brim. Luckily, pickup is every week.

Stand back and admire the important task of the season’s first prune.

Meditate on the sour-sweet flavour of blackberries on the tongue. Think of all those jars of jam that will result from autumn's crop. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

No groundhogs in sight

Just this robin and a few of his friends, digging around for worms today. They looked like a more reliable sign of spring than any rodenty shadowplay.

But hearing that 'the Donald' didn't win in Iowa also feels like a sign of better things ahead.

Oddly, there are two bi-elections taking place today right here in B.C. and there's hardly been a peep about either of those.

Maybe I'll be happy with just the happy-sounding peeps of the birds.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Plus and minus

A day of positives and negatives equals what -- not a zero -- life isn't math. Although zeroes are what happened on Jeopardy the other night. Apparently, it was only the second time that all three contestants finished up with a total of zero dollars. Bye bye was the negative message they got. Out the door with them.

And I'm not sure how today's negatives and positives weigh out to any kind of balance.

A positive is the fact that it's Australia Day, though by the time this is getting posted, the fireworks displays will long be over. Yet even that day of celebration by many is observed as a Day of Mourning by that country's Aboriginal people.

An announcement about the Doomsday Clock also spelled out worse news today, as the clock has again moved closer to midnight.

Yet today while I was out walking on errands, I encountered a Peace rose in bloom. Not far from it, I found another bunch of those happy little flowers I've been seeing everywhere, those early harbingers of spring, the snow drops.

With those in mind, I'm counting this as a plus kind of day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A loo with a view?

Or is this really just an inflated case of affluenza. Free toilets by the side of the road.

Sure, a toilet might need to be replaced. But all three at the same time?? Maybe white is no longer in vogue.

It's hard not to agree with the comment made by the graffiti artist: waster.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Half a month, half a month...

...half a month onward -- already. And it feels as though I've accomplished very little. But for once at least, I have an excuse: the flu.

This hasn't been an ordinary flu. It's one that heard me cough more times than maybe in the rest of my life, or that's how it seems -- endless.

I've had rounds of advice from family and friends -- everything from apple cider vinegar to tea and honey. As you can see from the photo, I've invested in just about every kind of cough drop in town, most of which were soothing, but only offered the most temporary ease.

One good thing about this bout of illness is that I've had to stay upright. Attempts at horizontal sleep nearly always failed. But as result of my enforced verticality, combined with an amazing lack of energy, I've been able to do a fair bit of reading.

Best catch-up read was Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last. I bought it last fall, but never even opened it until this month. The ending is a bit lame, a little too happy-happy for me, but most of the book with its too-believable scenarios kept me turning pages.

Less engaging was Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins. Although I may yet persevere, I gave up at page 86. And yes, I did read her previous novel Life After Life, which also took a while to understand enough to follow. This may be just a case of the same sort of wizardry on her part.

But my most fun reading discovery was a series of tiny messages -- not just the ones on fortune cookies (though we did read plenty of those as we relied on takeaway food more often than usual) -- but the ones on the wrappers of all those Hall's cough drops. Almost too small to notice at first, the tiny words offer various encouragements: "You can do it and you know it" or "Nothing you can't handle" or maybe my favourite (I'm translating from the French here) "Don't let yourself fall down," especially appropriate for the icy-deck mornings we've been having.

But now, back to heeding Tennyson's word, the one that follows after all those 'half a league's: Onward -- and please, with no more flu-ish distractions.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Finishing up the Christmases

Yesterday was Orthodox Christmas, the day when thousands of Christians around the world celebrated the holiday that most of us have already put behind us.

The amaryllis that burst into blossom on December 25th has finished and its flowers are shriveling into what looks red crepe paper. Even the Christmas cactus has begun to drop its spent petals.

So today seems like the day to finally get the last of the decorations down and put away.

I've already put a few of the sugary treats into the freezer. I'm sure it'll be fun (and tasty) to have a butter tart or two in June.

For now, it's a time look forward, onward to a still pretty shiny-new year. It's one with no explicit resolutions, but plenty of already-formed and half-dreamed plans.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Water over the dam

Year's end and I think about events of the year, accomplishments, failures, happy times, family, and friends. I guess it's all considered just so much 'water over the dam', a phrase that apparently means the same thing as 'water under the bridge'. Though in this case, it's water over the falls.

Of all the definitions, Google's is the closest to what I am thinking about tonight. They suggest that those past events going over the dam are simply that -- the past -- so, "consequently, no longer regarded as important or as a source of concern."

But concern is exactly what I am feeling tonight -- that unfinished tasks from 2015 might be abandoned if we don't keep them in focus.

I have a list of them, and it's hard to arrange them into any firm priority. So, randomly, a year-end list of questions and causes that need some attention.

Why do the BC Ferries charge a reservation fee? The Washington State Ferries reservation only costs if you fail to show up when you said you would. Face it, it's a convenience for the company to know how many to expect. Maybe people showing up should pay an inconvenience fee for throwing out the count. And really, a higher rate if it's a last-minute reservation? I am shaking my head.

How does Christy Clark get away with acting so bossy? Does she think she is the Queen? Why did BC's taxpayers have to pay administration costs for a referendum with results that were a foregone conclusion (despite the $7 million campaign put up by the 'Yes' side). Why doesn't she have to have a referendum before she can commit ten billion (plus, you can bet) dollars of our money on the Site C Project. And how can she declare BC as not willing to participate in the strategy proposed towards repairing the Senate -- I'd think, where that's a federal proposal, she wouldn't have the authority to make such a decision.

But my last question is the saddest of all -- and the most important. Why has Rodney Watson still not been accepted as a refugee? He's been living in sanctuary since 2009 -- for a crime that should not have been considered a crime: leaving the US Army because he didn't want to kill. I don't want him going over the waterfall. I want our new federal government to recognize him as a seeker of refuge in Canada, to renew the promise of what our country stands for.