Snippets of my Son

snip·pet (noun) 
  • a small piece or brief extract
  • e.g. “snippets of conversations with my son”

I’ve been away travelling for the last six weeks and it was the first week-end back. I made a big Sunday dinner so that Daniel, my son would come home to visit.

My boy is going to be twenty two soon. It’s his final year in Engineering but it’s still hard to think of him grown up and living on his own. Well, not on his own exactly. He’s sharing an apartment with three other boys young men, all engineers.

“So what’s new Daniel? How’s it working out with your house mates?”

“It’s fine,” he said.

“No more eating their food?” I said, referring to the first week when he’d unceremoniously opened and cooked food from someone else’s stash. He’d said the food had been sitting there untouched for days. Shortly after, house rules were clarified in an impromptu meeting.

“It’s fine,” he said.

“How’s the house keeping going?” I said, dusting out a memory from my own university days. I vaguely remembered a fall out, something to do with the shower and hair.

“Aah. Sometimes I get fed up and just do it,” he said.

I am stunned. Daniel, getting fed up with mess and cleaning up. My son. Where did he go?

“Yeah. I’m the only one who doesn’t eat onions but there’s always bits and pieces of onion peel all over the kitchen. I wear socks and it was gross. I had to clean it up.”

I am so impressed. My boy is growing up.

“But then I realized I was the only one not wearing slippers. So I got some slippers and I don’t do that anymore.”

Hello. There he is. My son.

Toronto, Canada. 2017



It’s just the ocean

I’m back in Toronto and I’m telling my Dad about the wildness and beauty of British Columbia.  Sure I have photos to show and blog posts to write but videos are what he appreciates most.

So I’m thumbing through YouTube and stumble upon this video.  It’s my introduction to Canadian spoken word poet Shane Koyszan.

This is not his most famous work. That would be “To This Day” about bullying, shown here in a TED talk .

For me though, this video is my favorite.  The words and images reflect my awe and wonder of the wild Pacific Rim in beautiful, wonderful, super natural British Columbia.

British Columbia. 2017

Pacific Rim Totems and Legends

Totems by Doug LaFortune

Surrounded by the natural wonders of BC’s rain forests and wild life, it is easy to appreciate the myths and legends of the First Nations people.

The original inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest relied on oral tradition to record their history and carved totem poles to create a permanent record of  events. Typically the totems were carved from the single trunk of a cedar tree.   Totem artists often speak of a spiritual connection to the original tree.

When a great tree is chosen for a totem pole or a canoe, there are ceremonies to celebrate the rebirth of the tree into a new existence. These ceremonies reflect our understanding that there is a spiritual connection between man and tree, that we are all aspects of a greater whole, and that the apparent differences between flesh and wood are insignificant compared to the kinship between the spirit of the tree and the spirit of the carver.” (Richard Krentz, Salish artist. Nov 2012).

The city of Duncan aka “City of Totems”,  has one of the world’s largest, outdoor collection of publicly displayed totem poles. They were created in a joint community project with the Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) people.  Altogether  some forty totems are placed around the city, on land acknowledged as traditional Quw’utsun’ lands.

In another city Sooke,  is an artfully painted fiberglass bear “Kody”.

Kody was part of a  public art initiative and was created by local Sooke artists Gene Sebelius and Bonnie Spencer.  He captures the Kitasoo legend where Raven, who created all living things after the great ice age, went among the bears and turned every tenth bear white as a reminder of the time when the world was pure and clean and covered with ice.

As a point of fact, the Spirit bear does actually exist.

In modern science he is called the  Kermode bear and lives only in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. He is not related to the polar bear nor is he an albino. He is a Black Bear with a recessive gene that causes about 1 in 10 bears to be white. Families of these bears can consist of both black and white bears.

Interesting, yes?

A wonderful meet up  of myth and science, history and life, coming together in art.

Made only in Canada.

Duncan & Sooke. Vancouver Island, BC. 2017 


Walking Through the Pacific Rain Forest

The best way to experience nature is to take a walk.

While exploring Tofino we took a hike to Schooner Cove in the Pacific Rim National Park.  The web page said it was a short and relatively easy trail, leading through lush rainforests and over gentle meandering streams.

“How long is it?” I asked.

“It’s not far,” hubby said. “Less than ..” he mumbled into his shoulder as he turned away to get something from somewhere else.

So we walked.  It started out easy enough.

But after walking down and around for what seemed like forever, we came to this extended ramp.

Down and across …
… and across some more

At this point, with only the faint promise of  surf in the distance, we had too much vested in the walk to turn back.  We continued walking, going up and down several more ramps and valleys until we faced the final ascent.

On paper it is  only a two kilometre hike. However most of it is climbing up or down stairs. It could have been worse.  If there wasn’t a board walk for instance.  But then I probably wouldn’t be taking this hike.

How was Schooner’s Cove, the final destination?  It was good.

After the walk we went back to the hotel.

Thoughtfully displayed, for our post-walk reflection were these warning signs.

Cougars, Wolves and Bears. Oh dear.

Pacific Rim National Park in Tofino, Vancouver Island. BC. 2017

Quirky Coombs

On the way from Nanaimo to Ucluelet is a quirky little place called Coombs.

Coombs is a small community on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, situated on provincial highway 4A approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) west of Parksville. Coombs is home to approximately 1,327 people and is renowned for its Old Country Market (which features a family of goats living on the roof), Butterfly World (which includes a small indoor tropical rainforest ), and the Coombs Bluegrass Festival held every B.C. Day weekend.  

-Wikipedia. November 2017

We arrived looking for the ‘goats on the roof’ but couldn’t find them.  Instead we were diverted by this Seussian structure.

Captivated we wandered into a courtyard of humongous stone monuments.  Native American gods, Chinese and Hindu Buddhas, Disney-esque orangutans and the Lion King?

Welcome to Coombs Emporium.

Inside the store was the largest collection of wood carvings and hand carved items I have ever seen in one place.  Individually, I’ve seen them in night markets and souvenir shops all across South East Asia, but all together in one shop?  It felt like someone had gone to an Indonesian island and said “I’ll buy everything.”

The fellow in the cafe said that the display was the result of forty years of collection by his parents. The statues which had cost a couple hundred thousand to ship back twenty years ago were valued at half a million each today. I could believe it. If I had a 500K to spare I would buy a three storey high statue of Buddha.

We never did see the goats on the roof. Apparently they had been taken in for the winter.  If we had seen them, they would have looked something like this.

Goats (with woolly coats) on the Roof

Coombs, Vancouver Island. BC. 2017 

Summerland in Winter

“It’s the fourth driest city in Canada,” he said. “Summerland is at the edge of Canada’s only semi-arid desert.”

“Kelowna looks like it’s right near there,” I said pointing to Google Maps on my phone.  “They closed down the airport due to snow two days ago.”

“But Kelowna is way north of there. We’ll be fine.”

According to Maps it’s a four hour, high-way drive from Vancouver to Summerland in the Okanagan valley. Ample time we thought,  to take the morning ferry, disembark at noon, drive and arrive before dinner.  That might have worked, except that ..

  • It was mountain range driving.
  • It had snowed the previous two days.
  • After leaving Hope, the BC-1 exit signboard warned of fog and ice on the mountain pass.
  • Extreme caution and tire chains were required.

I didn’t recall seeing a snow brush in our rental car.  I didn’t think there were tire chains hidden in the trunk.  I was the trip navigator (Google Maps reader) and with hubby’s assent, we doubled back to Hope and took the slightly longer (30 minutes)  but more southerly BC-3 route to Summerland.

After three hours of driving, Maps said that we still had another 259 kilometers and three hours left to go.

I spent my time looking at the mountain views, peering for deer and big horn sheep.

“Pretty scenery,” I said. “I see a deer! But don’t look!  Sharp curve coming up ahead.”

By 3pm darkness was falling like a blanket over the winding and steeply descending road. We had forgotten that Daylight Savings Time had pushed the clock back one hour.  By 4pm the Maps screen had gone black for the night.   It said we still had three hours left to go.

Eventually we reached our hotel in Summerland, nearly six hours after leaving Vancouver.  It was pitch black over the lake and distant city lights barely flickered through our room’s window.

But here is what I saw the next morning.

View across Okanagan Lake

After breakfast we wandered in to the city’s Information Center.

“Oooh, it doesn’t normally snow this much in winter,” the lady with the maps said. “Normally we’re quite dry and warm.  It hasn’t snowed like this,” she waggled her eye brows in concentration, “since 1995!”

“What can we do today?” I asked.

“Well, let’s see. The wineries are all closed for the season. Otherwise its a lovely wine tasting trail up through Naramata. And the museum… sorry, that’s closed too.  The restaurants … hmmm, probably closed.  You could go up Munson Mountain.  You’ll see the valley and the two lakes. It’s a very pretty view.”

She was right.

From Munson Mountain

Stretched out below is Penticton, Summerland and Lake Okanagan. On a clear day, we could probably see Skaha Lake. Maybe even Kelowna.

It would have to be a very clear day in summer.

We’ll have to come back then and see.

Summerland &Penticton, British Columbia. 2017 

Yet Another Gorgeous Sunset

I have to apologize.

I apologize for taking so many pictures of sunsets.

I apologize for calling them fabulous! gorgeous! stupendous!  I apologize for doing the hysterical equivalent of SHOUTING in caps.

I just cannot help myself. When faced with the spectacular splendor of a setting sun, I am overcome with sappy alliteration and I take pictures.  I take hundreds of pictures. More pictures than I can use. More pictures than I dare to share.

Forgive me as I share one more.

Davis Bay, Sechelt. British Columbia, Canada. 2017

Walking the dog in Tofino

LongBeach Couple--9

After years of living in China and South East Asia it was time to come home.

But after a few weeks in Toronto, hubby and I realized we still had the whole of Canada to explore.

Starting with Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia. The island is off the Pacific coast line of Canada and USA.  It has an unprotected face to the Pacific and is characterized by extreme weather, rugged coastlines and awe inspiring views of mountains, sea and sky.

These pictures were taken at Long Beach in Tofino.  It was an unusually warm (12 degrees!) and sunny day in November.  Normal weather is cold with constant rain and intermittent periods of more rain. With a dour scowl a local resident told me that “last year it rained every day for four months.” This summer though was a good one. It was a dry and sunny. Lucky for me, a bit of summer hung around.

There are two types of people in Tofino.

Those who walk and those who surf.

Photo credit to Luc Charpentier

I fall in the category of walkers.

One day I might even get a dog.

LongBeach Couple--2

Tofino, Vancouver Island. British Columbia. 2017

Coffee, Tea or Hot Water?

A scanned copy of the ‘New Life Weekly’ encourages people to drink boiled water, 1934, Vol. 1 (10). From National Digital Library of China

In my workplace cafeteria I remember  a large hand printed sign posted above the racks of clean water glasses: “Do NOT use for HOT WATER!”

The company had just relocated to a new site in Toronto and the food services group was getting  used to  the strange habits of a two thousand odd tech team.   One of the more perplexing issues was the amount of breakage due to people dispensing hot water  directly into cold beverage glasses.

With some curiosity, I had watched employees (all Chinese) by-pass the stoneware coffee mugs in favor of the more fragile, non-tempered water glasses. They filled them up with boiling hot water and ignoring scorched finger tips transported them back to the lunch tables.  Odd, I thought but cafeteria services being the least of my worries at the time, I forgot about it.

Years later when I was stationed in Beijing, I was charmed at the many little courtesies afforded to visitors in business meetings.  Almost always I would be seated around a meeting table where paper cups of hot water were already set in place.   My first couple sips were surprises and after the startled responses to my request for cold water, I learnt to appreciate the gesture and ignore the paper cups.

In this article from the Sixth Tone ‘The History of China’s Obsession with Hot Water’,  the mysterious habit is explained.  It’s a fascinating explanation of a custom that has followed generations of Chinese from old world to new.  It’s good reading.

Toronto, Canada. September 2017