Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Boats and Lilacs


We belong to a small boating group with the only criteria being that the members have to have owned, at some point, an Albin boat. Quite a number of these Swedish-made boats were imported to British Columbia in the 1970s, and ours is one of them. They are small and very sea-worthy. 

Between May and September several rendezvous bring a number of Albin boats and owners together. We enjoy chatting, and there is a lot of looking at boats and engines and other boring-to-me things, as well as a potluck barbecue one night. This past weekend was one such meet-up. On Saturday morning we pulled out from the dock in the pouring rain and made our way to Port Browning, about 1.5 hours away. In the end, it was a small, select group of four boats, each with two people. Rain and wind caused quite a few to cancel. 

Late afternoon the skies brightened and I took a few photos. We stood and watched the heron hunting for a few moments. How quick he is, darting that menacing beak into the mud with ferocious accuracy and coming up with a bite to gulp. 

In recent posts I may have mentioned been whining about the chilly weather. I felt vindicated when I read that this is the coldest May in 100 years. Farmers are worried about their crops and the lack of bees.  

The cold weather caused we hardy sailors to cancel the barbecue plans and eat dinner together in the pub, seen above. We were warm, dry, and much more comfortable. 

Apple blossom in the evening light is a beautiful sight. The rain returned with a vengeance on Sunday morning as we made our way back to our island. It was so lovely to take a hot shower and put on warm clothes at home. 

Today we are between systems. I watch the clouds moving in, covering this morning's blue sky, and I'm glad I went for a walk early. As I type, the lilacs outside my window wave at me. 

My piano is being tuned this morning. The tuner came last Tuesday and after a bit asked me if I wanted an adequate tuning, or a really good one. It was VERY out of tune. The really good tuning requires this second visit. A job worth doing is worth doing well! Even last week's tuning was a great improvement. I'm looking forward to playing more often now that it sounds better. 

There is a vase filled with lilacs on the mantel. How lovely they smell when I walk through the room. Their season is so short that I make every effort to enjoy it to the full.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday Thoughts on Writing


Outside my window this morning layers of white and grey clouds drift inland from the Pacific, promising more rain. The garden is lush with green, but the flowers are slower to open because of the chilly spring temperatures. But wisteria hangs in fragrant clusters over the garden shed and just standing under it is intoxicating. 

Every spring I smile at the way fig trees begin to leaf out from the very tips of their branches, looking like butterflies about to fly off. 

In a writing group I belong to, the question of the month is "What writing projects make your heart sing?" I've been thinking long and hard about this topic and have come to a few conclusions. 

I love writing this blog. Few of my real life friends read it, along with a few family members, but for the most part, I've never met my readers face to face. Yet something connects us. How could that connection be defined? I'm still thinking about that one. 

I love writing about nature, and combining words with images. Not in a scientific way, but just observing the wonders of creation - what goes on in my garden, and in the geographies I visit. 

I love writing little stories about my life - short interactions with strangers, or sweet things I observe about my grandchildren.

Yesterday I went for a walk with Iris and Cora. Cora is slow to talk, but doesn't miss a beat. I mentioned the word 'park' at her house and she made a beeline for the door. Later, on the walk, she stopped occasionally to cup her little hand behind her even tinier ear as if to say, "I hear something" - a dog or construction machinery, or a bird, and she nods vigorously, and says 'yes', when I mention what it is. 

Not all stories make it to the blog, of course. I'm working on a memoir of our family's time in Ecuador. It's been derailed by teaching this semester, but I will soon continue work on it. 

I love to write the kinds of things I love to read - mysteries (they are hard to write!), poetry, essays or paragraphs about food and home-keeping, stories of the past and the present.

In my collected quotations this one, again by L. M. Montgomery in Anne's House of Dreams, where Anne is conversing with Gilbert, perhaps describes my favourite writing projects best, 

"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. 
"I don't exactly want to make people know more...
I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time 
because of me...to have some little joy
or happy thought that would never have existed 
if I hadn't been born."

I'll leave you with one last cloud of fragrant wisteria, and wish you all a lovely weekend. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Early May in the Garden


The bright sunshine outside my window looks like spring, but the chilly blast that greets me when I step out the door assures me that we're still below normal temperature for the season. Looking on the positive side - the tulips and rhododendrons are lasting longer than usual. 

And the lilacs are in bloom! I have a small vase on the window ledge beside my computer and the fragrance is so sweet. Lilacs make me think of Anne of Green Gables. One of my favourite things about L.M. Montgomery's writing is how in tune with the seasons she was. Anne's affinity for the natural world is evident in every book in the Green Gable series - she delights in blossoms and light, and mourns the loss of beautiful trees. She said, "The world looks like something God had just imagined for his own pleasure, doesn't it?"

In 2016 Tim had a business trip out to Prince Edward Island, and we took a week's vacation before his conference. It was June, and a very late spring on PEI. A friend took me to the Green Gables site and I was so pleased to see the lilacs blooming all around the white house. 

More than lilacs are blooming in my garden just now. There are hopes of strawberries, the wisteria is draped over the garden shed in profusely scented clusters, and tulips still stand proudly. Little Italian Wall Lizards are awakening from their winter sleep and scampering all over the garden. They are invasive and I do wish there was some way to be rid of them. A number of years ago a man had a private zoo in our area and when he died, or was done with the zoo, the lizards were set loose. They have multiplied like crazy and are spreading throughout the south island. 

Cornflowers (centaurea montana) are also considered invasive here, but I enjoy seeing them in my garden. They are easy enough to control here, and I haven't seen many of them while out in the woods. How happy I was to see a half-dozen bees busy about the blue flowers on Sunday. It's been so cold that many insects have not yet appeared. We have done some pollinating with a paintbrush on our apricot and apple trees. 

I'll leave you with a quote from Anne, "Dear old world, you are very lovely and I am glad to be alive in you." 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Tulips on a Whim


On the spur of the moment, I took myself out to Butchart Gardens yesterday morning. A bit of mizzle covered the car windshield as I drove and I wondered if the rain would continue. It did not, although the sky was heavy all day. Let's walk together through this beautiful site. 

As we walk from the parking lot, through the trellised walkway and into the patio surrounding the cafĂ© and gift store, you might, as I did, feel the corners of your mouth lifting involuntarily. It's such a happy place with huge pots of tulip adding colour to the patio. 

As we enter the gardens themselves, wave after wave of tulip heads nods a welcome. Stand still for a bit, to simply admire the explosion of colour and texture. Behind the tulip beds blooms rhododendrons and azaleas, and a few late prunus trees. You will feel like you are inside a painting. 

The fountain waves a cheery greeting at all of us behind not-quite-open tulips. 

Behind an open gate blooms bright pink tulips. There are so many wonderful combinations - fuschia tulips planted with white hyacinths, lots of blue or pink or white forget-me-nots underplanted with red, yellow, or pink tulips. Some beds focus on contrast; other beds are more monochrome. 

Delicately scented narcissus still bloom in many beds, interspersing the glowing tulips with paler shades. 

Many of these photos were taken in the Sunken Garden, seen above from a small shelter where we stand admiring the flowing colour below. Just under the center red flower you might notice a pair of black legs. Three employees stood in front of one of the beds, each of them holding a three-ring binder and a variety of flower catalogues. I heard them talking about "not variegated here" and "dahlias". As we passed by, we complimented them on their design work. 

Isn't it beautiful how your eye is drawn further into the garden to the narrowing river of tulips surrounded by shrubs and trees? Along with plenty to admire, there is much to learn here.  

Along with many hues and tints, the tulips display a wide variety of shapes and textures. There are ruffled petals, fringed petals, short round blossoms, tall thin blossoms, and everything in between. With our cool spring, the tulips are lasting a long time, and there are still plenty of tightly closed buds. 

We exit through the Italian Gardens where mass plantings of single colours fill each geometric bed. Our mouths are still curved up, as the beauty of this place stays with us for a long time, filling our minds and hearts.

There was no time for tea this morning, but you can be sure there will be another visit soon.   

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Wildflowers in the Woods


(photos enhanced with a digital watercolour pencil effect)

A very quick post this evening. This afternoon we went on a hike in the woods with our eldest daughter, her husband, and their daughter. We walked 10 km (7 miles) in 3.5 hours. My daughter and I were busy taking photos and were told that if we didn't stop we would be in the woods until quite late. So we hustled more on the last half of the hike.

So many wildflowers are blooming just now - from left to right on the top: Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary, Trillium, Yellow Wood Violet. On the bottom there is a Lady's Slipper Orchid, and unfurling fern, and Wild Bleeding Hearts. 

I'm sure we'll sleep well tonight after all the exercise and fresh air. What a beautiful world we live in. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

A Spring Tonic


Tonic: a medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being.

In spite of the continuing cooler-than-normal temperatures, spring is bursting out in gardens and parks across town. All the plants are in a mad dash to leaf and bloom and grow wildly. In January it was the lonely hellebores on display, followed by daffodils, cherry blossoms, and croci. Now it's a wealth of tulips, apple blossom, bluebells, daisies, and rhododendrons. The sight of all this beauty is a tonic in itself, and hardly medicinal. 

The birds are not very pleased with us lately. We are using up a bag of mixed bird seed given to us by someone who no longer needed it, and it doesn't appear to be as tasty as the one we usually put out. The sparrows continue to come, but not the finches or chickadees. If you'd like to put the word out to the flocks, the less-delicious birdseed is finished now, and tomorrow there will be the usual delectable fare. 

In days gone by, rhubarb was a favourite spring tonic, good for the blood and the digestion according to Victorian folklore. I can imagine how delicious fresh food would be after a winter of preserved vegetables and stodgy fare. I doubt that there is much medicinal benefit in a Rhubarb Streusel Muffin, other than being so satisfying and delicious - surely good for emotional health, if nothing else. One tasted very good with my morning tea. 

When I was a child, my mother would say, "Blue and green should never be seen, except in a washing machine." It wasn't considered fashionable to wear those two colours. I think they go together perfectly, as illustrated above with pale green hellebores, dark green leaves, and stems of bright bluebells. Alas, they are not the famed English Bluebells, but the Spanish variety that lacks scent. They are still pretty, and all we've got here, so I enjoy them fully. 

Spring itself is a tonic, full of life and colour. Now, if only the temperatures would warm up a little.

A number of readers have mentioned that they are unable to leave comments on my blog. I changed the comment format once again - this time to a pop-up box - and I'd love to know if that's better for anyone. I know of one blogger for whom it worked. 

I hope your weekend acts like a tonic to perk you up, whether you live in the northern half of the globe where spring is arriving, or in the southern half where autumn is making an appearance. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Tuesday Evening Thoughts


Outside my window the pale blue sky is fading. A sharp wind tosses branches and flower stems to and fro. On dry afternoons it's becoming my habit to step inside the house, change my shoes, and set off on a little walk before returning to prepare dinner. Today I added a pink floral scarf tucked into the neckline to keep that chilly wind at bay. Pink seems to be the colour of the day with the blossoming of another variety of prunus trees. 

These full double blossoms are a froth of pink, and with the wind, pink "snowflakes" are falling and beginning to drift along the roadsides. I'm so glad we have this kind of "snow" rather than the chillier white stuff others are experiencing. 

Warmer weather over the weekend had us working in the garden. Since we took out the hedge, Tim's erected a not-so-pretty chain link fence. We've moved a magnolia tree and a rhododendron bush from the front garden, and after two months they seem to be doing fine. We'll keep them well-watered over the coming months. I've had a hankering for a birch tree and found a paper birch with multiple stems that will hopefully grow into a clumping birch. 

Tiny sprouts of spinach, radish, lettuce, and arugula are appearing in the garden bed; such itty-bitty slivers of green that will grow into lush plants. I'm always amazed by the potential in those little seeds. It's a yearly miracle. 

Soon the fawn lilies will die back, but in the shaded woodland path I take, they continue to dot the ground like stars. Bluebells now step to the forefront. 

Blaise Pascal wrote, "In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart." On Easter Sunday, the house was filled with family. The children played indoors and out. At one point little 16-month Cora disappeared. She loves the stairs so I went up to find her. She was there and greeted me with a big smile. In her hand was a glittered egg pick she had pulled from the vase of flowers on the hall table by reaching through the stair railing. Like a little sprite she waved the glittery egg back and forth, happy as a lark. When I find traces of glitter, the memory of her little face and waving arms makes me smile. 

My reading has been mostly dipping in and out of books lately. I read Patti Callahan's novel "Once Upon a Wardrobe" and loved it so much that as soon as I finished it I turned back to the beginning and read it again, more slowly. It's a wonderful book for lovers of Narnia, Oxford, and C.S. Lewis.

I took a couple of cookbooks from the library. When I began "A Table for Friends" I wasn't very impressed. Roast Chicken, Roast Lamb, etc was how the book began and there was not much inspiration. Then I came to the sides, and discovered several new ideas for vegetables. I do love vegetables, more than fruit, truth to be told.  

I'm getting my garden beds ready for spring and summer planting, so I pulled the last few leeks and made an adaptation of her Creamy Leeks with Mustard and Parmesan. My version included less cream and mustard, and we found it very tasty. 

I picked the first rhubarb of the season, chopped it up and cooked with a little sugar. It's in a jar in the fridge, and lovely to eat with plain yogurt. Seasonal food is such a treat.

This has turned out to be a long and meandering post. I'll close with these little daisies dotting lawns all along my walk today. Iris loves to pick them and make bouquets, and I have one of hers in my kitchen. That's another bit of beauty that I carry with me. There is so much beauty when I am attentive to my surroundings. 

Wishing you joy and delightful moments. 

Boats and Lilacs

  We belong to a small boating group with the only criteria being that the members have to have owned, at some point, an Albin boat. Quite a...