Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Goodbye sweet old girl.

I said goodbye to a beloved friend today. For thirteen years she has given love, comfort, companionship, and play. We have hiked up mountains together, and shared a tent in the snow and in the sand many times. She has been a pillow for my tears and happy playmate in good times. A protector of her household of humans, cats, and her buddy Henry. Part lab, part German Shepherd, she was so gentle with little kittens and puppies, but took her job as our family protector seriously. She was not so keen on most other adult dogs, unless they were males with all their dangly bits intact. She was a bit of a slut that way.

She was a mutt named Tika. I got her as a refugee from the Vancouver city pound when she was about 9 months old. She was big, untrained and rambunctious; throwing herself  against me and licking my face when I went to the pound to walk her as a volunteer at the pound. I bought her a condo. Really. When I met her my 11 year old son and I were living in a rental house that did not allow pets. I loved that old house. But I loved Tika more. So I borrowed a down payment from my sister, and bought a pet friendly condo so I could adopt the dog who had stolen my heart. I had never had a dog before. Or more correctly, a dog had never had me before. And she had me. Oh, she had me.

She loved to hike. On future hikes I will always feel her spirit jogging ahead of me down the path,  waiting for me to catch up when I lag. She loved to sing and play with our cat Oliver, and if any of the cats tried to eat from her bowl she would step aside for them. She accepted our new puppy Henry five years ago, a little reluctantly at first. But they became great friends, wrestling, playing, and chasing chipmunks together. Henry will miss her as much as I will.

Cancer finally took her spirit. In the last few weeks her body was here, but her eyes held no life. She was often miserable, could barely walk, and on pills for pain. My heart ached for her. On the weekend we made the decision that it was TIME. We made the fateful vet appointment for today at 4:00. At the vet's, we were shown into a special quiet room. Everyone was so kind. The vet tech put a catheter in Tika's leg vien, then the vet came in and gently explained exactly what would happen, and said we could take as much time as we needed. Finally, I nodded and sobbed "O.K. it's time."  A few seconds later, as I held her, Tikas's head slumped in my arms and it was over.

Goodbye my beloved Tika. A big chunk of my heart went with you today. It will heal, in time. But you will have a place in it forever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year

No, your browser has not screwed up and sent you into a post from December. Christmas is O.K., but it does not compare to the first really HOT WEEKEND AT THE LAKE.

It was the weekend  the deck  got a good scrubbing, and the cobwebs were washed off the umbrella. The boat got cleaned of its winter debris. The screens and windows got a bath.

So did Henry:

The deck chairs were pulled out of storage and the spiders were sent packing.

Then we had lunch al fresco on the gleaming table and chairs, talking about the summer ahead. Swimming, wakeboarding, the rope swing, B's famous margueritas and friends visiting.

As the sun headed west we sat on the dock with cold drinks, reading, dozing, and making plans for the many long hot weekends to come. Bliss.

P.S. The beach in the previous post is Carter's beach, Nova Scotia.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Back from...

I have not just been away from the Internet, I've been away from home. Although, one is never very far away from the Internet, at least not in most of the places I've visited. I've logged into cyberspace from Kathmandu, the Serengeti, Koh Pan Gan Thailand, Guatemala, and tiny villages in Canada's north... Oh. Does that sound like I'm showing off? Putting on airs? Of course it does, because I was. But I'll stop. For now.

Anyway, I had a lovely time away. There was leisure time to take long walks, read, drink a cold brew in the sunshine, spend time with family, and feel the warm white sand on my feet as turquoise waves lapped at my toes.

You may be thinking, "she must have gone to the Caribbean, or Mexico, or maybe Hawaii. Or even the South Pacific." It takes as long to fly to those places as it did to the place I really went,  but it wasn't one of them. I'll give you a hint:

We did not eat this monster, but we sure enjoyed several of his great-grandchildren.

Have you guessed where I was? First person to get the country and region gets a big round of applause. The first person to name the actual beach in these photos gets first prize: an all expense paid trip to anywhere in the world you can toss a ball to from your own home. Really. I am that generous.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wet nose wisdom: Lessons from my dogs

I herded the dogs into the car for the short drive to a park not far from my home. In this city of beautiful parks, this one is not. It is a ribbon of land along the Fraser river, not more than 200 metres wide, bordered by light industry on one side, and log booms on the other.

But it has an off-leash area the size of a football field, and a three kilometre off-leash trail along an ugly slough. There is a scummy pond to swim in. To Tika and Henry, it is paradise.

As we walked along the trail, I stopped whenever the dogs paused to sniff, or cool off in the slough, and I looked around me more closely. There is beauty in this unappealing park.

(Do you see the snail in the yellow blossoms above?)

An old apple tree survives here. (Can you spot the snail here too?)

A spotted towhee watched me carefully. He may have been guarding a nest.

Even skunk cabbage has a kind of elegance.

My happy dogs had put me in the mood to see the loveliness. The lesson is, whether I look for ugliness or beauty, I'll find it. So look for the beauty.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


Yesterday afternoon as I travelled through my neighbourhood with the dogs, it may have looked like I was walking. But oh, no, I:

Tiptoed through the tulips:

Belly danced through the bluebells:

Rumbad through the Rhodos:

Did the bossa nova in the bleeding heart:

Arabesqued past the azaleas:

Do-si-doed around the dogwood tree:

And fox-trotted through flowers I don't know the names of (do you?):

I even discoed through the dandilions:

Because when flowers are singing in the spring sunshine, my soul has to dance.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My mean streak

I rushed in the front door.

"Hi Honey, how was your day! Guess what, I have exciting news! I have tickets for a lecture tonight."

"Tickets? As in two?

"Yes, we are so lucky. They are sold out but my friend Sue is sick and she gave them to me."

"Um, for tonight?"

"Yup. We will have to hurry, it's at University of the Fraser Valley, and it starts in an hour and a half. It will take almost that long to get there."

"Um, a lecture you said?

"Yes, about the archaeology of the Old Crow site in the Yukon. Dr. Harlan Smith is speaking! I can't wait!"

"You didn't tell me about this lecture Sweetie, I wish you had called."

"Sorry, my cell phone was dead. But you know how much I love archaeolgy, so I knew you would be excited to share this with me. It will be so INTERESTING. And afterword there is an open question session we have to stay for. I want to ask Dr. Smith to explain his statistical sampling algorythm."

My Beloved looked stricken.  I decided to end his misery.

"APRIL FOOL'S!!!! Go turn on the Canucks game, I'll bring us a couple of beers."

Monday, March 22, 2010

In case of fire or earthquake

Recently I wrote about a sculpture I love, and said that it would be the second piece of art I would save if my house was on fire. The first piece I would save is so important, I have always hung it near the front door in the four successive homes I have lived in since it was created in 1991. As I have told the artist, that's so I can easily grab it as I flee from the flames. Here it is, right beside the door:

The artist is my son, and the title is "My Fourth Birthday Party". But there is no need to tell you the title, because of course you knew it depicted a birthday party as soon as you saw it. Right? The orange birthday cake with glowing candles (very Dali-esque in perspective) gives the subject away:

The wild, fifteen-toed creature lighting the candles to the left of the cake is me. Clearly, my kid will spend many future hours on a shrink's couch dealing with mother issues. The happy person in red to the right of the cake is the birthday boy artist.

There are many gifts with lovely loopy bows and ribbons, which you can see stacked on the left of the painting. In fact there are more gifts than people, perhaps indicative of the relative importance of the former over the latter in the artist's psyche. On top of the gifts, depicted in orange with five legs, is the cat.

It was a sunny day, but there was also a rainbow, because rainbows are such happy additions to a party. The sun looks rather piqued about being upstaged by the rainbow.

If my house ever catches fire, or gets rattled in an earthquake, I will be standing on the street in my pajamas (such disasters are always at night you know,) clutching this masterpiece. Other than the people and the furry creatures, there is nothing else so precious in my home.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Paddy's day

Top o' the marnin to ya!

I always feel like smiling on St. Patrick's day, though I can't explain why. There is nothing remotely Irish about me except the shamrocks currently blooming in my front yard.

(Aside: I have not seen any other outdoor blooming shamrocks here in Vancouver except in a plant nursery. I found a tiny clump of these in a hidden corner of my side yard when we moved into this house six years ago, and transplanted them to the front. They have thrived and colonised, even through the nastiest of winters, and delight me by blooming every year around leprechaun day.)

As I was saying, despite the red hair and a fondness for a bottle of O'Hara's Red, I have no Irish blood. I am seventh generation Canadian, a Heinz 57 mix of Scot and several other nationalities, including native Indian.

So why do I have an affection for St. Patrick's day? Bartenders ruin beer in his name by turning it green. Leprechauns are greedy, gold chasing little buggers. Irish people talk funny so. I don't even know an Irish person.

Wait a minute, I do know an Irish person. Or did, once. Dilip Kerrigan. He was Indo-Irish, with caramel skin, licorice hair, and deep navy eyes. His smile radiated sensuality way beyond his 16 years. I was 15, and Dilip was my first boyfriend. We met at a party of ex-pat teens in Dar Es Salaam in 1973. We were both home for holidays from boarding school, his in Dublin, mine in Nairobi. We had four weeks before we had to return to school, and we met every day after that party.

Dilip had a motor scooter. We would ride it to one of the empty beaches north of town and swim, then make out under palm trees. I learned from Dilip that kissing could transport me to an exquisite new world, and  the shy touch of his fingertips on my breast could ignite a fire that thrilled and terrified me.  In the evenings when most ex-pat parents were at the gymkhanna club playing bridge or snooker, we met up with friends and went to Etienne's. Etienne was a French bar owner with a passion for African bands and no scruples about serving beer (but no hard liquor) to under-age kids. That month I developed a taste for beer. And kissing.

Etienne's was an open-air bar with rickety tables and a dirt floor. The drumbeats would reach up through the ground and free our  timid western limbs into wild dancing, leaving us sweat soaked and breathless when we hurried home to make our curfews.

When Dilip and I returned to school we wrote to each other for a while. Dilip wrote me vaguely suggestive poems which I hid in my Swahili textbook and devoured nightly after lights out. I never saw Dilip Kerrigan again. Our next school holidays did not coincide, and later that year my family and I returned to Canada.

Perhaps St Patrick's day, with its reminders and celebration of all things Irish, evokes the sensation of the first awakening of sensual passion in my life by that sweet Irish boy. Now that's a reason to celebrate.

Beannachtam na Femle Padraig!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Puck, Prime Minister, people swilling beer:

At ten o'clock on a Saturday morning. Oh Canada.

I was at the first sledge hockey game of the Paralympics last week. Generally, Paralympic athletes do not get the recognition they deserve. I have to admit, the Paralympics would hardly be on my radar, except that the sister of a friend of mine was an Olympian in wheelchair rugby some years ago, making me a little more aware. Now the games are here in Vancouver, and I am happy to see them generate so much excitement.

That excitement was evident at the sold out Canada versus Italy game last week. It is Hockey, after all, and this is Canada. Our red blood cells look like microscopic pucks. Our passports are the same shape as the blade of a goalie stick, and their covers are dyed to match the blue line.

At the game, the beer was flowing, the flags were waved, and the cheers were deafening. There had been no tedious security checks coming in: in fact the only hold up at the entrance was the line up at the beer taps.

Our Prime Minister was there, looking like someone had shoved a pickle up platform. His advisers forgot to tell him this was not a somber occasion. Someone should have brought Stephen a beer. Are we sure he is Canadian?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Water therapy

"I'm going out in the Kayak," I informed B on Saturday morning. "I'll just be an hour or two."

It was a glorious spring day. I decided to paddle up the lake to Seal Bay, about two kilometers away.

It was silent but for the drip of my paddle, and the little rivulets of melt water cascading from the rocks, onto me (and the camera lens)when I went in to explore a little cove.

I got to Seal Bay, and decided to continue further north, by then mesmerized by the rhythm of paddling, and the sun on my shoulders. Our weathered old kayak, which we bought from a friend for a case of beer, is fast and sleek. She whispers through the water. I decided to head for the Indian pictographs, painted by ancestors of the Katzie First Nation.

When I had been gone longer than expected, my pit crew showed up with lunch. I was happy to see them, and hungry, but I enjoyed my solitude again after they went back to the cabin. I paddled on.

Eventually, as the sun dropped closer to the mountain tops, I turned for home. As I paddled into our bay, the snow on Golden Ears Mountain gleamed, and the afternoon light sparkled on the lake.

Days like that are imprinted on my soul.