Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Bonny Tale on Saturday

Today, I am doing a second blog post.  That's because I have a Bonny tale to tell.  

But to start at the beginning.  Bill and I walked together with Black Jack this afternoon.  Here, she is very focused on catching the ball that Bill has thrown for her.  We have just crossed over Drummond Drive, and are walking along the grass, to the right of Chancellor Blvd, heading towards the forest.  There is a lot of green space, and with Black Jack's long leash on, it feels pretty safe to let it trail, as we play some ball with her.
Here, she brings the ball back to Bill.  I love to watch them play.  

Now, we've entered the forest.  Bill did the four-leash thing today, and although he prefers his own two-leash method, he comments that Black Jack is getting a better than usual run.  But the next two pictures are in his "I hate it when that happens" category.  It might be difficult to see here, but a branch has attached itself to the leash.  That happens when the leash drags along the ground, and picks up debris in its travels.

This is the second "I hate it when that happens" photo.  That wood, half in and half out of the earth, behind the leash, has just snagged it, as they walk on.  It's not so bad when there's a second person behind (me) to free the leash.

Does anyone see a ballet slipper in these mushrooms?

A possible sign of Spring?

The walk, to this point, has been fun, but I wouldn't call it a Bonny day, until this little dog approaches Black Jack.  They begin their interaction with a hug.

Then, Bonny (we only learned her name much later) tries to assert her dominance.  Black Jack, not usually one to argue, is fine with that.  Bonny really isn't all that much bigger than Black Jack, but in this picture, she seems huge in comparison.

They play and play, as Bill and I scan the surroundings, hoping to see Bonny's human.  Some people at the golf course tell us she's been running around for a while.  Hm....  I begin to worry.  She shows every sign of following us home, and ignores our instructions when we feel it's time to stop playing.  She finds Black Jack's size just right.  Not too big and not too small.

Bill finally picks up Black Jack, and I tell Bonny to go home.  She lets me know what she thinks of that idea with a little woof.  Then she goes right on following us.  Now, Bill and I decide to use one of Black Jack's leashes to take her home.  The plan is to call the pound to see if anyone has lost a dog.  Not so easy to catch this little dog.  She stays just out of reach, even as she continues to play with Black Jack.  Each time I lean down to take her collar, she easily avoids my hand.  She is interested in the treats in my pocket, but not so much that she is willing to give up her freedom.  Finally, after many attempts, I manage to grab her collar, and attach a leash.  She isn't impressed, but then relaxes and continues to play as we head for home.

Once in our backyard, Bill goes inside to call the pound, while I watch her play with Black Jack.  Black Jack becomes little bit more assertive, which Bonny accepts as her right in her own space.  They play and play.  Both Black Jack and I like Bonny a lot.

Black Jack is having one heck of a good time.  Bonny is doubtful about her intentions, but still cooperative.

The more Bonny and Black Jack enjoy themselves, the more I feel terrible about calling the pound.  I don't want her to spend a horrible, lonely night, with no one to reassure her that this is for her own good.  Two very, very kind ladies show up with a van, and my guilt and sadness intensify.  However, they tell me we have probably saved her life, and being such a sweet little thing, more than likely, a frantic human will be calling before the evening is out.  Bonny really does not want to leave our yard, and her expression breaks my heart.  

Headless dogs on Friday

Some of you may know that the Food Lady inspired me to start this blog.  Mostly, though, I stay away from dog photos, except for Black Jack, because nothing comes close to being worth a look, after the amazing shots she produces in every single post!.  But, Friday was a sunny day, and dogs were having such a blast in the park in front of my school, and they made me laugh so much, and the camera was hanging over my neck, and so I offer you the amazing Headless Dog series.  Honestly, I didn't think it was possible, but see for yourself.  They may not be clear, they may lack composition, but every single one (okay, with the exception of the last one), presents at least one dog with a missing head.

The fellow on the left was the winner of the headless shot category, paws down. 
Here, he's in the middle, but still headless.
I don't think he's shy..  at least, many aspects of his position would deny that possibility, but even in twosome shots, he hides his head.
And this one!  Wasn't there a dog in wolf's clothing or some such story?  This dog must have read it.  He's superimposed his body over the Ridgeback, and taken on the otherwise occupied and oblivious dog's head.
I finally convinced him to show his head.  Phew!  I really was worried for a while.  But, you guessed it, the other two hide theirs.
A new little spaniel appears on the scene, and you may say, "So what's headless in this shot?"  I know... that's what I thought as well.  But take a good look at the Ridgeback.  Superimposed again, is the back half of the headless wonder.
I really thought I had four complete heads in this one, but no, three and a half was the best I could do.
I think there's a headless middle dog here, although it's hard to tell which end is up.  The Ridgeback is confused as well.  As for the headless wonder, he's doing his best to present his better half (he thinks) but I do see a bit of his head.  I might add, I've used "he" and "his" all the way through this post, but I think there's a small possibility "he" could be "she".    
I was going to include this little cutie, in spite of giving the lie to "headless" in my post title, as a sheer, unadulterated SPRING joy shot.  It would have been perfect, except for the coat, which testified to the somewhat coolish temperatures.  I'm not convinced the coat was absolutely necessary, but it didn't hamper the mood, I can vouch for that.  It was impossible to do anything else but enjoy the day, maybe even as much as the dogs, as I watched them, headless or otherwise, throw themselves fully into FUN.

And the rest of my day?  Well I discovered a new cafe that didn't quite equal The Wicked, but came pretty close.  I liked the original art, the friendliness of the baristas, and the fact that it was right on my route as I walked down Granville to the Seabus Station.  I hear it's one of, if not the, best place for cheesecake in the city.  Maybe, I'll take Bill to try it out today.  He's definitely earned it.  He's been cooking and catering to my somewhat grouchy head for most of the week.  He listens and nods and says, "Don'tcha hate it when that happens?" in all the right pauses, and just makes me feel better.  Thanks, Bill!!
This was my best Friday SPRING shot.  I'm not sure what it is about it, but it makes me happy. 
There were a few bird shots too.  I saw this seagull in the Waterfront Park between the Seabus and Mosquito Creek Marina.   
And this one in the marina. 
This flicker (I'm fairly sure) was the first I've seen in North Vancouver.  I was walking towards the Seabus, around six o'clock in the evening.  The first part of the walk is quite nice, but the last part is less pleasant, as the Marina locks its gate at 4:30, and I have to go by a busy, and hillyish street.  I was feeling tired and a bit grumpy, but a taxi happened to come along right after I took this shot.  Yay...!
Here's a very bad shot of a crow that I saw in the Waterfront Park on the way to school.  I liked it because it chose to hop down the step rather than use its wings.
I took a couple of mountain shots too.  This one, from the seabus, on the way to school.  The school can be seen in this photo, something I either hadn't noticed before, or the result of a slightly different route by the seabus driver.
And this one in the evening, from just about the same place where I saw the flicker.
I love light on water, and took this from the seabus in the evening, just as it was arriving at Waterfront Station in Vancouver.  Bill met me at Greens and Gourmet, where we ate supper.  Then we came home and I pretty much crashed.  Blogging this morning has been fun - a way of remembering all the happy yesterday moments before I get going on whatever ones today will bring. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hope springs eternal

This post is in response to a comment from my sister, Sherrill, and one from Bill's sister, Phyllis.  Both said they would love to feel encouraged that Spring is indeed on its way.  I'm thinking Phyllis may need this more than Sherrill, since she lives in Winnipeg, where they were apparently in a deep, deep freeze yesterday.  Sherrill lives in Ottawa, and I think the temperatures there today are not all that different from ours in Vancouver.  Rather ironic that they mentioned this yesterday, just as BC was hit with varying amounts of snow.  Vancouver got off fairly lightly, but my blogging friend, dp, in a comment on Jean's blog, mentioned impressive amounts in Deroche and Jean posted the pictures to prove it in her corner of South Western BC.

Anyhow, I took a few minutes to seek out signs of Spring around the school today.  Not the most encouraging of searches, with a definite chill in the air, and a shivery feeling that sent me scuttling back into the school after only a short time.  But, as Alexander Pope said, "Hope springs eternal."

A close-up of a bud might be the strongest evidence.    
These seem to me like pussy willows, but they're greenish, when I believe they should be brown.  I cheated on this one.  I took the photo through the window in front of my desk.  
A close-up of the pussy willows, or whatever they are.  I like staring off into the window space, and imagining the buds unfolding, little by little.
I looked up that quote, "Hope springs eternal."  Well, to be truthful, Bill looked it up first, and I was intrigued to check out a few more details.  I learned that Alexander Pope is the third most quoted English poet, after Shakespeare and Tennyson. Just look at the long list of quotes attributed to him.  I also learned that at least one scientific study shows that, overall, mankind is more optimistic than not.

But even at my most optimistic, I couldn't come up with many more sign of Spring.  Then, I decided that birds getting ready to prepare a home and raise young must count.  So, one more photo of my now favorite bald eagle couple.
And one of a pair of geese, coming in to roost as the sun went down.  Oh.. and another sign of spring - the geese are roosting a little later each evening.
 I just like this crow.  I think it's the same one I photographed a couple of days ago.  I imagined it is looking at me with a friendlier expression lately.  It's leaning its head on that little branch, and I'm pretty sure there are some buds there.  I found a blog once written by a fellow who vowed he would take one new picture of a crow or crows every day for a year.  So, my repeat crow shots may be okay after all.  

Okay, I looked up to the mountains before I went, shivering, back into school, and had to admit, signs of Spring were few and far between today, but I tell you I feel it in the air.  That study of optimism was correct.  It's coming, I promise, to Ottawa and to Winnipeg too!  Hope Springs Eternal!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lattes and Life

Yesterday, I walked into our teachers' room where we gather to eat lunch.  There are always several newspapers on the table, and conversations sometimes center around story headlines.  At the top of the front page of the Vancouver Sun, I saw this photo.  "That's Arthur!" I said.  I recognized his magnificent tattoos, and then confirmed my identification when I saw the three lattes lined up between his arms.  When I wrote the post and took the picture of him in that link, I didn't know his name.  I enjoy all the baristras at The Wicked, but Arthur was the first to stand out, and I still love to admire his tattoos as he makes his picture-perfect lattes, each one with the tender attention of an inspired artist.   
These pictures are photographs of newspaper pics, and very poor quality.  This one doesn't do Arthur justice at all, but the staff members at school, who witnessed my immediate recognition, were impressed as they quickly pointed out the article several sections back in the paper.  
There were even detailed instructions for doing one's own latte art at home.  I tried this morning, but though they make it look easy, I'm still struggling with even a rudimentary image.
I think about my addiction to beautiful lattes sometimes.  There are a few cafes about town that I really enjoy as well, perhaps 9.8's to the Wicked's 10.  Pinpointing the pleasurable aspects of a latte experience is a lengthy process but I'll try: having a few minutes friendly conversation with the barista, watching the gentle swirling image appear, sipping and savoring the flavor (no one equals the Wicked's flavor), feeling the smooth, creamy texture, and leaving for work or climbing into Bill's truck on weekends, with warm gratitude for all of the good things that came together to make the experience a great life pleasure.  Even knowing that dp, someone I've never met, understands the passion, is part of that picture.  I do think about my indulgence and realize it's a selfish one, in light of the many who lack the most basic needs.  On the other hand, maybe the fact it's so completely appreciated (rather similar to the way dogs fully immerse themselves in their joys) brings the experience a step beyond simple greed.  I don't know.  Balance in all things, I guess.  A recent Ruby Isabella post entitled "Enjoy Yourself" possibly said it best.  If you have an extra minute in your day, you can share in another of my pleasures by reading that post.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wondering and Waiting

On Saturday, I posted about the rabbits at Jericho Park.  That evening, I read a post in Carol's blog over at Saints.  It made the uneasiness I was trying to suppress, in the interest, perhaps of not being negative, come to the surface.  How did those rabbits come to be there and what is their quality of life?  Years ago, when I used to go there with Scott (last dog), someone told me a lady in the area buys up all the pet store rabbits, and releases them in the park, thinking she's giving them a good life.  That person said many of the rabbits are caught by owls or coyotes.  I have no idea if that was a true story.  I did feel on Saturday that the rabbits seemed strangely relaxed and secure.  With the exception of the white one, most came right out in the open, and showed no concern about Black Jack (who was quiet and on a short, short leash whenever rabbits showed up).  I was also surprised there were no large dogs on the hunt.  One lady said dogs don't go into those thickets because of the thorns.  (Hm..  maybe bramble-type bushes are good for something, after all:)  Does someone feed the rabbits?  How did they manage in the winter?  Should I be thinking about trying to rescue them?  Lots of questions. 

And waiting.  Yesterday, my hand cast came off.  A good thing, although, as with the only other cast I've ever had, sobering to see how quickly muscles, even finger ones, and even in just over three weeks, atrophy when not used.  But waiting.  I waited in a traffic jam on the Burrard Bridge (as I watched cyclists speed on by), I waited to register at the hospital, I waited for someone to take the cast off, I waited for the x-ray, I waited to see the hand assistant doctor followed by the hand expert doctor, and I waited to see the hand therapist.  Each wait required a "take-a-number" procedure.  I tried to think what Ruby Isabella would have thought about all that waiting, but mostly, I worried I would be late for school (I was, by about 15 minutes, but life went on, with no earth-shattering consequences).  Through all the waiting, at a hospital that appears to be old and over-stretched in its capacity to serve its patients, I was struck by the kindness of everyone who had a hand:) in taking care of me.  There was real concern, I felt, to make sure I would be able to do the musical work required by my job.  And, one doc even reminded me to work on strength for braking on the bike - good people, and I left (to wait for the bus to North Van), reminding myself just how fortunate I am.  We live in a good place, and waiting, with time to enjoy my book, and knowledge that my hand will work better in the long run, isn't so terrible after all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This picture of Black Jack was taken on Saturday, a beautiful, sunny day.  I know at least one dog that loves the shade, and will, even during a walk, find a spot under a tree on someone's lawn, and just lie down, staring up as if to say, "You go ahead and walk in that hot sun if you really think it's wise."  Black Jack has never, ever lain down during a walk, and shade holds zero appeal for her.  If out in the yard, she will find the hottest, sunniest spot and lie down with a sigh of absolute contentment, usually with her eyes closed, or open just a slit.  If indoors, she does pretty much the same thing, seeking out the sunniest spot in the room.  Dogs have a way of figuring out what they like, and then enjoying it to the utmost.  When I took this picture yesterday, I thought of Ruby Isabella, from Australia.  She is another black dog who knows exactly how to get the best out of life with the least fuss and bother. 
Today was a different day, rainy at times, and dull except for about a one-minute window of sun.  Black Jack somehow found that momentary light and warmth.  I'm not sure what her expression was telling me, as I snapped the photo, but I found it endearing.    
I heard the flicker announce its arrival, shortly after I got up this morning and couldn't resist running out to take yet another picture.  It looked quite satisfied with itself, although I wondered if it wasn't just a tad embarrassed about the suet on its beak.
Fortunately, the rain stopped long enough for Black Jack and I to have a very pleasant afternoon walk along some lovely Vancouver streets.  I liked the shapes and images in this tree and thought of Jean.  Check out her comment on my Comical Duck post.  Her keen eye always seems to see images that I miss. Bill sees the lion from The Wizard of Oz here.  I thought I saw a little dog face, Black Jack saw squirrel potential, and I guess some might simply see a beautiful old tree.   
Our walk took us into the forest.  Spring greenery everywhere I looked.
The last two days, I have arrived home from our walks absolutely covered with mud - the long leash drags on the ground, and as I gather it up or release it, it leaves its mark on my pants, jacket, camera, and especially my cast.  Tomorrow, I have an appointment to see the hand doctor before work.  I have no pain in my hand now, and am hoping the doc might decide to take the cast off for good.  Bill would appreciate that, I think.  Apparently, the night before last, I bopped him in the head with it, as I slept.  So sorry, Bill!  As for me, it will feel good to properly wash my left hand, type with all of my fingers, and maybe even be able to play some of the band instruments and the piano.  Slow but sure steps back to normal, but maybe better not to get my hopes up too much.  Enjoy the moment, Ruby Isabella would say.  Good point, happy dog.  After the walk, Bill and I fit a lot into the remainder of our day - a take-out latte from The Wicked,  a movie (Wendy and Lucy) and supper at The Foundation.  A good week-end, and time now to sleep.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Three-day post of birds, bunnies and dogs

With blue skies and Spring in the air, I took lots of pictures over the past three days.  I'll start with a great walk with Black Jack at Jericho Park this morning (Saturday).  We went down the Point Grey hill, snuck through a little gate at the military grounds, and heard the tap, tap, tapping of this Flicker before we saw him.  I've always wondered why some woodpeckers will tap on metal rather than wood.  Do they like the sound, or the feel on their beaks?  Does it somehow jar the bugs loose?  Whatever the reason, the sound sure does carry.  I wonder if the nearby residents approve.  I know I still experience a thrill every time I see a Flicker.     
Black Jack and I followed that Flicker around from pole to pole, and then to some bushes, and it finally met its mate (I think) on this wire.  Poor quality photo, but I was excited to see two of them together.
We headed across 4th Avenue to Jericho Park, and saw ducks gathered at the little pond.
Black jack trembled with interest, but remained quiet as I took a few close-up shots.

Then, a couple of people appeared on the little bridge, and the ducks quacked and conversed with each other as some flew and others swam to the other end of the pond.
Black Jack and I continued on to the next little pond, which had only two ducks in it.  I heard this Red-Winged Blackbird before I saw it.  I"m beginning now to recognize and enjoy a few bird calls and sounds.  I can really understand how the musician, Olivier Messaien, became so fixated on bird sounds.  I did some analysis of his works when I went back to McGill to do some music courses in Montreal in the 1990's.  I was working on an assignment with my window open, and kept playing the same passage over and over.  All of a sudden, I looked up to discover my window ledge lined with birds.  Strange, because at first, the music doesn't sound all that birdlike to the human ear (or it didn't to me) but the birds certainly recognized their language, and slowly, I began to as well.  
We walked on to a kind of marsh pond that had all kinds of activity going on, much of it under the reeds and between the bullrushes.  Black Jack quivered and cocked her head, and I tried quite unsuccessfully to capture the beauty of the grasses, bullrushes and forest behind.
A zoomed in shot worked a little better, perhaps.

We continued on, past the last pond.
I took one more shot to record a black duck that looked different from any I've seen.  No identification yet.
As we walked around the corner, we came to the spot where Scott (my last dog) and I used to walk every morning.  I always think of an ancient TV program called Maggie Muggins (or that's what I think I remember).  She used to dance around and through trails in the mulberry bushes made by rabbits.  Black jack sensed the rabbits here long before we saw them.  When I used to walk with Scott, I always called out to the rabbits to warn them about Scott.  I'm happy to say he never caught one. 
She became really animated, but remained strangely quiet.  Not a peep out of her...
She checked out the holes and peered into the bushes..
.. but unlike the last time we walked here (Phyllis and Bill will remember that occasion), she did not make a sound.  Has she learned new hunting skills?  I was really vigilant, snapping the photos with one hand, and keeping a really short leash on her with the other.
Another view of the trails around the bushes.
Rabbits began to appear everywhere.  This white one was somewhat shy, and I think, convinced if it didn't move, we wouldn't see it.
But many of them came right out in the open.
A family here.
.. and the dearest little brown fellow.  (Well, actually, not all that little.)
When I was ready to head back home, Black Jack was extremely reluctant to come with me.  She walked slightly behind me all the way back across the park to 4th Avenue.
I took a few shots of the ocean..
..and of the city buildings across the water..
and one of the blue sky behind the trees (with one requisite crow) and then we retraced our steps back home.  A fun walk and a new Black Jack behavior to ponder.  

When I walked out the door Friday morning, the Flicker was at my neighbor's feeder.  This was the first time I took a photo of it that wasn't through a window.  The sun was in my eyes, but I did manage to get a few angles that show some of its beautiful markings.  Here, the red on its face, and a hint of pinkish under its tail.
Again, just a hint of the tail color but I love the bend of its body.
Finally, its beautiful red under-feathers.
It took four shots to capture only some of what attracts me to it.  Here, the arrangement of stripes and patterns.
I start work later on Friday mornings, and I had a little time to linger at Lonsdale Quay.  These cormorants seemed fine with one seagull member at their gathering.
The close-up of these two, with sunlight on them, revealed rich colors I had never noticed before.  Up until Friday, I thought of cormorants as being black birds.
I walked along the shore, picking my way carefully over the rocks and pebbles, heading toward school.
My reward?  A seal sighting.  Very difficult to get much of a picture.
The sunlight on its back created a star.  It sure was a noisy fellow.  Its loud breathing had me worried at first.  I'm wondering if there may be two in this picture.
Then, as I rounded the corner where the river begins, I saw my first ever kingfisher.
The view looking up the river.  
One beautiful little finch, before I climbed up the rocks to the school.
As I landed on the ground above the river, I was disappointed to catch only half of this crow landing on a tree right in front of me.  That shot would have been amazing, with its wings open.  Still, I think this might be one of my better crow photos.  Finally, not a silhouette!
Before going in to school to begin my day, I looked down to the river and snapped this Barrows Goldeneye.
Much later in the day, as I was heading home, this little dog's ears caught my attention.  They were huge!  I wish I could have shown that with a front view, but this was the best I could manage.
As I walked over the Fell Street Bridge, it was almost dark, but I caught one shot of the Lions Gate.

Not so many shots on Thursday.  This one of the goose was my favorite.
The crows gathered in the Bald Eagle's roosting spot.  Quite daring behavior.  First time I've seen them do that.
One Towhee in the front of the school, but my camera didn't capture its striking red eye.
The one blue heron that I've talked about before seems to spend quite a bit of time across the river, in front of these rocks.  It's hard to get much of a shot of it, but I wanted to show its seemingly friendly relationship with the crow.   
My last photo of the day was of Tia (I hope I have her name right.)  Her human has been away for months and months, but she is lucky that one of the teachers has moved in with her, and is taking wonderful care of her.  I know he'll miss her when her human returns.  She's a beautiful and very sweet-natured dog.  
Phew!  A very, very long blog.  If you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading!