City gardens for country souls

urbangardenSummer gets a little sweeter whenever the opportunity for a meander through a garden arises. Even better if you do it with a friend, through their own garden pathways, overgrown and bumpy, and better yet if it’s smack dab in the middle of a city that desperately needs to add to its green spaces.

gardensThe chats that arise in a garden can be as meandering as the clematis vines weaving their delicate tendrils along the roughness of an old back fence.  More often than not the interactions sound a bit like this. “How’s it doing now that the weather has been so hot this summer and how are your tomatoes coming along? What? You have a purple tomato? I didn’t know that was even possible. I’ve never seen one. What’s it called? And how’s so and so? Oh, that must be hard. Yeah, you just never know…”

appletree

These are the words and the clustering and the dreaming that are inevitable, usually grafted over the dreaming about next year’s garden, as one meanders through, vines overhead, little green grape pearls twining themselves around whatever is nearest to cling to.grapes

It’s heavenly in August when the sun is hot and the chairs are placed under the shade of a tree and guest are awaiting lemonade.  It is imperative to create little clusters of conversational possibilities via the placement of chairs don’t you think?

summerpunch

And there’s the community gardens that have popped up in spare lots wherever communities have decided to enable those who don’t own their own land, to access land, to grow vegetables or flowers. Squash and sunflowers mix with the garlics all underneath the fig tree.garlicMy friends Gwen and Penny are garden lovers with three plots between them. I can envision them in retirement, toiling past dusk in their own market garden. Another friend, Karen, even came up with a name for them – Freefield Market Gardens – which is a combination of one part of each of their last names.

GwenandPenny2014

They invited me to the Burnaby Heights Garden Tour that we went on last year and had a lovely time. I don’t have too many photos this year. There were less backyards on the tour but it was still a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

applesA little bowl of gems set off by the beautiful deep hues of freshly cut Hydrangea.

kittycat Her missus wondering what all the fuss was about and why all the people were streaming through disturbing the tranquility, her peace. So tedious.

thistleI had no idea that artichokes turn into thistles. How could I not have known this until now?treesculpures

These are the weirdest trees. I’m not sure if they have something wrong with them but they’re like a mystical forest of misfits who just weren’t interested in growing straight.

carvingsI love it when people decide to put art or carvings into their gardens in inconspicuous places. The ancestors looking over, keeping watch, listening.

Floathome memorabilia that fits

binocular case

I’ve never been a collector. Mostly it’s because once you start collecting something then I expect every birthday, every Christmas, every single occasion, someone will give you something related to what you’re collecting whether it’s a tasteful version of what you’d want or not and pretty soon your house is crammed full of angels or elephants, owls or bird nests, robots or wooden tugboats, turning you into the next contestant on Hoarders Anonymous.

If you move a lot, the challenge is to collect as little as possible.

The two women who own the floathome that I’m staying on may or may not be collectors. I don’t think they are collectors in the true sense of that word but they do have a knack, and I’m not sure which one of them to credit for putting together the interior of this place, their West Coast home, in a way that means everyone who comes here is impressed. From the artwork to all the little touches that add up to create a unified physical space the way a painting can, or a garden, or even an office, when it’s designed with love and attention.

Last night, I had six friends over for a BBQ, and one of them asked me, “Do the people who own this place have roots in Newfoundland and Labrador?”

“I don’t know, why?”

“Oh, it just has that feel to the place.”

“Oh, I said, absentmindedly, “well, they do have a house in Newfoundland and that’s the only reason I get to stay here.”

Oh yeah! Then it all made sense.

We had been focused on familial roots, sharing how we had arrived in B.C., either by leaving Ontario or Boston Bar or Nelson and from as far away as New Zealand, so my attention had been focused on the past and family roots, not the present when I answered the question.

This person had just come back from a first-time trip to Newfoundland in June and she said the house really reminded her of being there.  Of course it would.

Here are some of the treasures I like here.

beach chairs

These beach chairs are lined up on a kitchen ledge. They are always facing in the same direction and that always bugs me. People would never sit at the beach one behind each other like that. So, I moved one. They, of course, will move it back as they should.

bathing beauties

There is a three -foot long line of bathing beauties from another time in a wooden frame in the kitchen. This is only a fraction of the bevy of beauties lined up in it. You can never have too many female friends.

painting by Bobbi Pike

Who wouldn’t want to sit outside just soaking in the scenery from the vista of this yard painted by a person named Bobbi Pike.

wooden fish

I sit in front of this fish every day and do my work on the computer. I like him.

shellbox

This is actually an entire box covered in shells. Sometimes those are beyond tacky. Strangely enough, this one isn’t. It’s in front of the fireplace.

fish wall

They have a whole fish wall with fish heads and starfish. This guy facing you as you climb the first set of stairs means business. No getting away with anything around here.fishing basket

It’s imperative to have a basket to put all your special things -flys and lures and bubble gum cards. Huck Finn would have had one of these.

beaver teethmarks

The wood on the bottom left has been branded by a beaver. The other morning, I was at my computer (where else?), and I heard this weird sound and when I looked out the back screen door, I saw a beaver knawing on something right out the back door. He dove under before I could photograph him. For reasons I’m not sure of, Pat likes to collect these branches that Mr. Beaver has sunk his big teeth into.

What would you collect if space and money were no object?

River rituals on Annacis Channel

Annacis ChannelSimple pleasures.

Coming downstairs into the kitchen and opening the back door onto the floating deck. Cool river air seeps in through the screen door first thing. Noticing the flow of the river and how that changes every day. A tap. A stream. A languid pool.

Of course, there’s no escaping the ever present hum from the traffic pushing towards the Alex Fraser Bridge, a deep rumble, a constant whiz, air through a wind instrument, every so often the sustained roar of a big truck rising above the steadiness, a more consistent note.

This morning, three Canada Geese flew eastward.  A Blue Heron, barely visible in the shadows, sat perched near the neighbor’s deck last night.  I remembered it from last summer. Was it the same one?

Late yesterday afternoon, I watched a massive eagle, plucking its way in the shallow waters of the shoreline across Annacis Channel. I watched him through the scope from the second floor and he spent the longest time standing in those shallow waters, occasionally dipping his hooked, yellow beak into the murky water, bug hunting I suppose.  From a distance a geometric pattern wove the dark feathers on his body together and his thick legs, feathered and strong, held his body like a cup. His eyes beady, intense, all seeing.

Later on, he was joined by two smaller eagles and they began to dive bomb into the middle of the river, swooping in a triangle, up and down, gliding, trying again,  catching nothing that I could see but converging like synchronized swimmers putting on a show. My camera lense isn’t good enough to capture them from this distance.

Back on the deck, the spiders are spinning their webs off the Adirondack chairs and I want to remove them.  I want to sit out there, but so far, I haven’t the heart to destroy all their work, rip apart their delicate homes. Their days are numbered however. I want to sit out there first thing, coffee in hand.

Every once in a while, I’ll hear a big splash, and look up to catch water twisting and then the rippled circles on the river’s surface. Sturgeon? Salmon? I’m surprised that fish can live in there. It’s easy to pretend the splash is more sinister. What was that?

The river turns glassy and golden-green at night. Its flow slows as the clock ticks off hours on these long summer days.

In the morning, there are dew drops on the fanned strawberry leaves shading roots in the pot tight around their base.

Once Norman, the cat, has gobbled down his breakfast, he sits at the door waiting to be let out. Lately, I’ve been keeping him in. I saw a documentary on the disappearance of song birds and I know, if I stay strong, he’ll eventually give up, go upstairs and lay down and be quiet.  In the notes, it clearly says, “there’s no need for him to go outside.” I say, it’s not for him. It’s for me. Peace.

Small things to be noticed at the beginning of a day have a way of becoming rituals in the long run.