Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Ultimate Birthday to Me: 42

The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything
--from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

So this is the week I turn older every year, and sometimes I have a big party, like the year I turned 40 and had a 1940's party (the good parts of the 1940s). I was Rosie the Riveter. That was fun.
Most other years, I just make a point of feeling grateful--not in a smarmy way, but honestly taking stock of where I'm at and who's around me and how cool everything  is without anyone trying too hard.

This is a random picture from my birthday this year, which captures a lot.

Jordana made me a batch of Birthday Balls (pictured). I made up a rule that I was allowed to wear whatever I liked on other people for my birthday moment, so that's Radha's purple scarf and Sarah's Christmas moccasins. This scared them a bit because they wondered if they were going to get their things back, but that is not the point ;) There happens to be an easel in the photo, which makes me happy because I've been painting. There's also a tiny rocking chair because I'm involved in an African fundraiser, but it also represents the awesome time I'm having with the children's outdoor preschool. My hair is looking gray, which is good because I have a list of things I want to do when my hair is full-on gray. People yelled 'Hip Hip Hurray' instead of singing happy birthday, which really just gets to the point. (And I'm pretty grateful for all the good-hearted and totally-engaged-in-life-people I seem to be surrounded by in general. Good company.) We drank Bellinis with champagne.  And the sign behind me reads:

What you are in love with,what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.It will decidewhat will get you out of bed in the morning,what you do with your evenings,how you spend your weekends,what you read, whom you know,what breaks your heart,and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.Fall in Love, stay in love,and it will decide everything.

Whoa. Whoa-ho. How's that, 42??
This year is a particularly good year to hand it over to the Universe.

Oh. And here's my Birthday Tree. (Just called it that because everything in March is my Birthday ____ )
This magnolia branch broke off in the enormous snow and I couldn't bear to throw it away, so it's in the Christmas tree stand. If it blooms in the living room, my brain will evaporate. Poom!

Every Child in the Woods..

A winter shifts into spring, I thought I'd blather on a bit about the outdoor kids' camp I've been playing with...Saplings Outdoor Program in West Van. I regularly blog on their website, but as we are dealing with the little folk, the blog is accessible to parents only, and the wonderful pictures as well. This is why, below, I have carefully incognito shots of the idyllically frollicing waifs. The second pic is actually of my friend Monica with her almost-year-old baby dabbling in Lynn Creek. (General theme of Babes in the Woods.) The really good shots are so cute that I'm afraid everyone would be exploited by the marketing directors of nature-themed townhouse developments or bottled water companies called Cherub Springs.
When I told people I was going to help with a morning outdoor preschool of mainly 3.5-4 yr olds this winter, someone told me to expect to be wiping noses, taking one after the other to the washroom, and trying to stop them from crying the entire time.

This does not happen.

No one, in two programs, has ever cried (7-10 kids each). No one comes sick (and they rarely miss a day) and these kids rarely, if ever, pee. They do not question the fact that their parents are leaving them in the woods, no matter the weather: snow, sleet, or monsoon rain. (Sometimes it's so gloomy the camera flash comes on at 10:30 a.m.) They arrive in full muddy-buddy suits and gumboots, backpacks with snacks and extra socks & mitts, and forge up the trail like a pack of tiny pioneers with a little red wagon. The wagon carries thermoses of hot tea and water, reuseable handwarmers, a bag full of mud-kitchen tools, a first-aid kit, a hand-wash station and a porta-potty for rare occasions.

We find a good place to pitch our tarp camp for the morning. Sometimes it's a huge rotted hollow stump with a tarp roof. Sometimes it's a macrame of knots holding the tarp between trees. Sometimes it's a shelter provided by Nature: an ivy-covered sideways-growing tree. 

We proceed to play games and tell stories and find so many interesting things that the morning is gone in a flash. Sometimes the kids bounce on a downed tree for half the time. Sometimes we crack ice in the creek with our boots. Sometimes we climb stumps. Sometimes we get cold because we're telling and acting out stories so long we have to jump up and play Frozen Tag. One time, we looked up after playing in one spot for half an hour and an OWL was sitting above us, the week after we told Beatrix Potter's story of Squirrel Nutkin and Mr. Brown (Owl). We even found an owl pellet full of mouse bones on the ground below. 

Outdoor preschool is clearly a good idea--and relatively easy to do on the North Shore, with so many wild greenbelts and parks. There's a well-established program in North Van as well, called Fresh Air Learning. I've always chosen to live here because of this as well--I'd rather have a wildish river valley close by than the admittedly awesome neighbourhoods across the inlet in Vancouver. That being said, I don't own here. Ha. hahahahah. etc. And part of having access to natural spaces and green spaces--for ourselves or children--is living close enough...or having enough foresight to keep them or incorporate them into our cities.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farewell to 2013

I realize I'm a little belated for a Christmas post, but that's how 2013 rolled by...

Autumn was a flurry of excitement and mindfulness, if the contradiction makes sense :) Quite suddenly, it was time to decorate Bean Around the World's patio for Christmas (photo above).

I have to go back, to recount some of the significant developments that kept me from blogging...........

With the significant multiple-of-7 age of 42 (The Meaning of the Universe and Everything) approaching, I decided to do something for this hard-working body that has served me so well, and took up Tai Chi in September. This was largely due to meeting fellow garden goddess, Lucy McCrank (pictured below, next to a handsomely pollarded Paulownia). Lucy is also a Tai Chi goddess who teaches across the street from my house, and has so much energy that you just might 'get' that we are spiritual beings in human form. At some point, I will go on at length about Tai Chi and its amazing-ness.

Then I decided to remind my mind how awesome it can be by starting Mindful Warrior training at the Shambhala Buddhist Centre in Vancouver. So that sounds cool, right? hahaha 
So there's two groups of lovely people right there.

Another lovely group of folks from 2013 was the Swamp Angels/Acapellaboratory gang in good ol' East Van, led by Patti Pow(ell). Here's the Swamp Angels, singing for the Kickstart Festival of Disability Arts at the Roundhouse in September. We had so much fun, a lot of us rejoined Patti with her regular Acapellaboratory gig until Christmas.

Also from September to Christmas, I joined the ranks of Saplings Outdoor Daycare in West Van, as their visiting gardener once a month. Suddenly, I was supposed to play with kids in a garden instead of pretending-to-work-in-between-pretending-not-to-be-playing-with-kids in a garden.
As of January, I've been joining them once and sometimes twice a week. Outdoor daycare is probably the best idea since God designed trees. I'll be elaborating on this in 2014 as well!
Here's a nice incognito shot of kids in a tree last week:  

And just to shake things up a little bit more, I decided to push the bicycle/scooter-gardening envelope, and took the Pro-Ride motorcycle training course in September. As you may know, you don't need a motorcycle licence for a 49cc scooter, but for anything above (that can go highway speed) it is required... I hope to be on a 250 in 2014...something like new homie Robyn's 250 Kawasaki, below. He doesn't know I've posted this pic ha.

But if the Motorcycle Fairy is listening, my blow-out-the-candles wish is: 


And this brings the tale of 2013 around to my House of All Sorts. According to Chinese tradition (for this house is steeped in some strong and wise vibes from a Chinese monk...) the New Year is the time to make a fresh start. Beginning in December, we started a gradual turnover of my steadfast crew...first, my good company duo, Alejandro and Carlos, returned to Mexico...then founding homie Dryden--who helped establish the good vibes here from the beginning--moved on to Calgary for a new job...and now jill-of-all-trades Jordana, who famously defined the 'Girl Cave', is planning her exodus to live in her DIY camperized van.
This is a pre-flight snack fest for Carlos (centre) in our somewhat barren living room at the time (the carpets had just been cleaned)...and a potato chip, ginger ale, beer and chocolate milk 'Cheers' to next adventures. (Yes, this made us all feel like students hanging out in a dorm ;)

I have to post a pic of the same space in the fall, when my indoor plants were peaking early...(pink-white and hot pink Schlumbergera/Christmas cactus and the red Gusmania lingulata, of the Bromeliad family. Both are epiphytes, or tree-dwelling. Pot-dwelling with good drainage.

So now, I forge onward with a new crew--they keep comin'!
Here's a Solstice crown for the new year, courtesy of Van Dusen Garden's light show the day of our first Vancouver snow before Christmas:

And a makeover for the Commercial Drive coffee cup: Strength Lies in Differences Not in Similarites.
Okay. I feel like the expression got scrambled a bit but the message is, um, clear enough. (Something like 'our strength lies in our diversity' ...or something.) Nice snow-latte.
My last farewell for 2013 is this series of pics of the Bridge River Valley; have not been up this way for a good 7 years, after years of going up so often it felt like the only place I'd been! Family and friends convoyed up right after Christmas for a last salvage from my late grandparents' house before it sold, at long last.
So much family history up here, but we were ready to let the homestead go.
One last pic of the view out the kitchen window to Truax Mountain...

On the way down the valley, near the old flooded townsite of Minto, an oldtimer has set up a memorial for the other oldtimers who settled the valley back in the '30's and '40's. My grandparents were among them, and have memorial plaques on the outcropping, in good company. In true Bridge River Valley style, there's a guest-book in a red box clamped to a post, so passers-by can leave a thought or two.
Grandma passed away in 1993, Grandpa in 2003, and we said goodbye to the house in 2013.
Slainte and Skol! To the smiling Irish eyes and the Hooshum berry. (Also known as soapberry. Soopolallie. Sheperdia canadensis. Grandpa's famously terrible wine.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lyndon Penner's Somewhat Premature but Enthusiastic Book Fan Club

Here's Lyndon, standing next to the Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' in my garden--a plant he is poignantly envious of, since maiden grasses don't flourish in short-season gardens east of the Rockies.

I, along with an unknown number of Lyndon's garden/nature/wild kindred spirits west of the Rockies are eagerly awaiting the forthcoming publish-ment (I made up that word) of his BOOK in 2014 entitled something pious like The Short-Season Yard but promising to be oozing with his irreverent, way funny, at times scalding, borderline restricted--yet thoroughly educational--scribings on Horticultural Matters of Import.

I have to say I'm simply astonished at the dimensions of Lyndon's knowledge and enthusiasm for the Green World and secretly wish I had a 'Lyndon App' to fill in my gaps with fascinating facts.

Lyndon has been a New Friend highlight in this past year, as he gypsies his way to and fro, teaching horticultural courses from Alberta to Saskatchewan, leading nature interpretive walks in Waterton National Park, and roving to the West Coast when the rainforests call.
This is his first book contract and he wrote it so fast the publisher's head is spinning.
I'm starting the book fan club now.

The link to the Amazon order-your-book-here page: Short Season Yard

His Jadecypress blog link: One Voice Calling Out From the Garden

This Dec/Jan  :)

Liz & Len's non-profit Made-in-Nepal Jackets!!

Here's the link to friends Liz n' Len's website for their fundraising business. They met a family during a trek in Nepal in 2011 and have, with tremendous effort, organized the import of these super-colour-fragilistic jackets, which are selling like hotcakes here in North Vancouver. All the proceeds will fund the education of the two little kids in Nepal..

Check out their new website and line up for Christmas!      Jackets for Jasper