Large Flakes?

Looking out the window this afternoon, I saw huge snowflakes. Or were they leaves? But they were floating so easily, like snow. More and more flakes came down, and yet, not enough to say, “It’s snowing,” and besides, it was just a tad too warm. Something didn’t feel right. I went to investigate.

I picked up some of the “snowflakes” and saw that they were feathers. They kept falling from the sky. I thought of the German folk tale about Frau Holle who shakes the featherbeds (goosedown duvets, in our modern western world) in the sky and makes it snow.

I traced the path of the feathers to their origin and strained my eyes to study the top reaches of a fir tree. For a few minutes I saw nothing, but at last I made the culprit nervous.

A huge eagle took off from the tree with its dinner in its talons.

I knew from the feathers that the eagle’s meal was a duck. The harsh reality of  life and death in the animal food chain always leaves me with mixed feelings. Both are beautiful birds, but why does one have to eat the other? Couldn’t they just eat pancakes instead?

 

 

Seize the Moment, Seize the Camera

 

I was lying in bed awake, thinking, “Five o’clock. Too early to get up. Still dark!”

But my mind was nagging me to make some changes to the manuscript of my latest novel (work in progress), so I sneaked over to my laptop and worked on those changes. I was so engrossed in the writing, I barely noticed that daylight had crept in. As I looked out the window, I saw what you see here below.  If I had hesitated I would have missed it.

My first thought when I saw this sudden light on the trees, was “Wham!” and then, “Morning has broken.”

 

Luckily the camera was handy and I seized the moment. Seconds later, the fir went back to its dark green colour and that’s how it stayed all day.

It got me thinking about how close I came to missing that photo, missing the sight completely. What if I’d stayed in bed like millions of normal people were doing? I would have missed this splendid light show.

Life is full of gems like this, that we might miss out on if we don’t seize the moment.

Quilting Retreat

Anybody who loves to quilt or sew, knows that it’s a time-consuming job. Often we have to leave our sewing to deal with everyday chores like cooking and cleaning. Even answering the phone takes us away from  projects we’re working on and the momentum is often lost. This could be why so many quilters have UFOs (unfinished objects) in their sewing rooms. Wouldn’t it be a dream come true if we could just take a step back from regular chores and concentrate only on our quilting projects?

If you belong to a quilting guild that books a place like Camp Homewood on Quadra Island (a short ferry ride from Campbell River on Vancouver Island), you might make that dream a reality. Imagine four days for yourself. All you have to do is eat, sleep, sew, and maybe go for a little walk now and then to stretch your legs.

This building is the main lodge for the camp. About 40 quilters from the Schoolhouse Quilters’ Guild have booked in here to work on their sewing projects.

Sewing machines, boxes of fabrics and sewing notions, folding tables, irons, bedding, toiletries, and clothing are unloaded at the main door on the left. From there the sewing  equipment is taken into the main part of the building where the women (no men this time) set up their machines and tables. The bedding and clothing is taken to individual rooms that have been assigned at registration time, weeks earlier.

 

013

My friend and I slept in rooms in the guest house below tucked under a canopy of Douglas firs. It’s a short walk, maybe 100 yards, from the main lodge. But most of our time was spent in the big building working on our sewing projects.014

Below you can see the newer addition of the lodge. Huge windows have been placed all around to take advantage of the fantastic view on the front.

015

Let’s climb up the steps on the far right of the building. Just inside this door we set up our sewing machines. Once in a while we might glance up and see a gorgeous view of the salt water passageways and small islands. On a clear day, the mountains are visible in the distance, but not today.

016

Stepping out onto the deck on the front of the building, this is the view that greets you and bathes you in peace for the next four days.

019

In the next post I’ll show you some of the work the quilters have done during their stay at this quiet retreat.

 

Spring Has Sprung

I’ve been impatiently awaiting signs of spring this year. I don’t have many daffodils in the yard, but this bunch always comes up in the same spot at the side of the driveway. Daffodils make me think of my mother because many years ago, as a new Canadian, she could never get the name right and always called them daffy-dolls. It still makes me smile today.

005

I find the narcissus prettier, but I don’t have many of these either. Just this one precious bunch.

003

The sun was out for a change, so I rushed around taking a few quick pictures. The azalea shrub I bought for $5 at Buckerfield’s Feed Store over twenty years ago is still going strong. Buckerfield’s, sadly, is not. They went out of business a long time ago.

006

The primroses are a gift from a friend who was getting rid of extras. They seem happy here. Thank you, friend.

007

I was about to put the camera away when I noticed that “the nice light” had come out. So I have to include a couple more photos with the evening sun shining on the trees. The maple is just getting its first leaves. This winter was cool, damp, and dark, and the moss on its bark grew rampantly.

012

The firs that strike terror into my chicken-heart when they sway and roar during storms look beautiful today with the warm setting sun on them.

013

I was about to come back into the house when I saw that I’d been watched – for quite some time, judging by the steamy glass pane on the screen door.

“What are you doing out there?” she asks. “Can anybody play?”

011

Wood and Water

One of the perks of having company is having an excuse to be a tourist in your own territory. Normally, I don’t go visit the waterfalls near Qualicum or Cathedral Grove, the forest of huge trees at MacMillan Park. It has been two years since my last long-term guests were here and I had a reason to make this wonderful combination trip of wood and water.

I parked the car and before we even started our walk, I looked up and saw two interesting sights. A huge arbutus tree (on the left) showed off its beautiful barkless trunks and evergreen leaves. To the right, a burl had grown on a Douglas fir. Because a burl has a lot of knots and gnarly growth patterns, it is often cut into slabs and used as a top for a small table. The knots in the grain make a beautiful design and you’ll see these tables lacquered or varnished to give the table a high-gloss finish.

002

But follow me down the path into the woods and let’s go see Little Qualicum Falls.003

007

010

012

From the middle of Vancouver Island, when you drive from the east coast of the island to the west coast, you’ll come to Cameron Lake, a very deep lake next to a winding road that can be treacherous in the wintertime. Little Qualicum Falls is a camping area on the east end of Cameron Lake and if you wind your way beside the long, long lake to the other end of it, you’ll come to MacMillan Park (or more commonly called Cathedral Grove by the locals).

One of the trees in this park is over 800 years old. A sign says that when Columbus came to North America in 1492, this tree was already about 300 years old. It is taller than the famous leaning Tower of Pisa.

024

The trees cling to any grip they can find to keep their feet firmly on (and in) the ground, so watch your step.035But sometimes in a big windstorm, some unfortunates may topple and their roots will reach up, wondering where the ground went. This tree root has been filled in by sandy soil from the blowing dust of many years, and possibly tamped down by many a footstep. I would guess that the footsteps have been made, in large part, by  children needing to go up to see the lizard-like creature face to face. Do you see him standing up on the right of the sand-filled roots?029Last but not least, I must show off my very sweet 93-year-old mother-in-law as she investigates the hollow cedar tree. If she went into the hollow of the tree, she would disappear inside – it is that big.

038

The Cathedral Grove trees never fail to impress.

Broom Busters

It’s that time of year when the first colours brighten up the neighbourhood. To me, colour means spring, even if it is only from that prolific weed, Scotch broom. Locally, broom has fallen into disfavour because, like the introduced rabbits of Australia, it is trying to take over, crowding out the indigenous plants such as the Garry oak. There is a case to be made about what is indigenous. How far back do we go? Do we call it an introduced species if “man” brought it from somewhere else? What about the seeds that are spread by sticking to a dog’s fur, or a wild animal’s fur, for that matter? Are those plants then called introduced species?

002However you may want to rationalize it, the broom was not here on Vancouver Island until Captain Walter Grant brought it to his garden in 1850. “Bad move, Walter,” say the Broom Busters who are now almost as annoying as the invasive plant they are trying to eradicate.

I don’t mind if the Broom Busters want to cut down broom that is growing rampantly in open fields, but most people take care of their own yards and the broom doesn’t go crazy there. I happen to live in a rural area just outside of town, and this is where the birds come. They find the broom a good place to hide and many a young quail has found protection under the thick broom growth that borders my property on two sides.

I like the fact that the thick bushes give me a bit more privacy from the hordes that walk past here, usually lagging behind dogs that have been let loose to do their business on the properties that have grass that is longer than one inch. I like that extra hedge beyond my own cedar hedge.

One evening I heard the snipping of pruners  just in front of my hedge. A  woman had chosen to show me how my yard frontage should look. She snipped off the blooming broom and left the ugly stalks  looking like empty tenement housing. I told her I would look after my own yard, thank you. She was convinced that she was doing a good deed and I should want to be rid of this ugly plant. It was invasive. And so are you, I thought.

I wondered if she would also cut down the big blackberry patch that is growing next to the broom. Blackberry is officially considered an invasive plant, yet everyone loves to come to pick the berries.

013

I agree that broom is invasive and I do keep it under control on my own property. But broom is not shade tolerant so since much of our natural land is fir forest, I don’t believe the broom is that much of a threat there. This hedge of broom in the photo above is only growing at the sunny edge of the trees.

Meanwhile, I happen to like it in small amounts.

Watch out, people. The Broom Busters don’t like broom and will cut it down whether you like it or not. I shudder to think what my vegetable garden would look like if some of the Broom Busters decided that they didn’t like broccoli.

The Nice Light

I know “nice” is a tired word and I try not to use it, but in this case, I have to. When the sun dips low in the sky, for a few minutes the rays pass through the lower atmosphere where, I presume it’s the dust particles that enhance its golden colour. Any objects this late evening sunshine rests on, are turned to gold. Where does “nice” come in? Whenever I see the trunks of the fir trees turn gold, I always say, “Oh look! There’s that nice light again.”

In this post I don’t have much of a story, but I wanted to share “the nice light” with you.

The big maple and the firs soak it up.??????????

The tall firs reach up to catch “the nice light.”??????????

Through the gaps in the trees, the trunks of the neighbour’s trees are dabbed with light.??????????

The green leaves in the foreground (left) are part of the same maple tree as the golden lime-coloured ones. The trees to the right are hollies.

??????????The show is nearly over as the sun sinks lower yet. Now it’s mostly the clouds that are touched by colour. The same cloud that spat twenty drops of rain on our parched grass, is painted pink by the sun as it says, “See you tomorrow.”

??????????