Sunday, November 25, 2012

For ABC Wednesday, Letter "S" and Watery Wednesday

My grandfather, Captain John Smith, seems the perfect way to start a post that highlights the letter "S" and that also features the sea and the sky.  I didn't have the opportunity to meet him as he died before I was born, but his story is seldom far from my mind.  It was described in a book of sea disasters by Robert C. Parsons called Wind and Wave.  I have also told some parts of it in a previous post.  
Below, you can see his 70-ton schooner, The Nelson.  She sailed for the last time in October, 1939, sinking during a sudden storm that was the tail end of a hurricane.  Although I had been told the story many times and thought I had read Robert Parson's account carefully, it only fully struck me recently how a seemingly small detail caused the ship to sink.  It had been rebuilt from the keel up only a couple of years earlier and the crew was experienced.  My grandfather's wisdom and skill as a sailor was renowned.  Although they knew when "the glass suddenly went crazy" that they were in for a struggle, they trusted The Nelson and were confident they would come through this as they had severe storms before.  But, the wind caught a rope (halyard) and put it where it wasn't supposed to be.  The vessel came around to the wind before they could get it straightened, the rudder caught back water and that broke the rudder post.  That was the beginning of the end for The Nelson. My grandfather (70 years old at the time), his grandson and two of his sons, as well as two other crew members survived, but a third son and a cousin were lost.  They had been fishing for cod along the Labrador Coast for six months as they did every year, and were on their way home to their village on Conception Bay, Newfoundland.  Along with the grief of losing family members, they had to deal with the fact that a year's income was lost.  My grandfather's oldest son, Will, wrote his sister (my mother) to describe what had happened.  Although she had served several summers as cook for the crew, she had emigrated to Montreal by 1939.  (Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.)  In his words: "We all came within a fraction of death and now we are home destitute saved nothing and no insurance except on the vessel. Jack and I haven't got a stitch. All the boys find it hard but they are single. I'm just beginning to realize my case now. Just the same as if I was dropped from the moon, cap, shoes, bedclothes, nothing whatever saved and not a cent to replace it."  

Any time I am tempted to complain about my life, I think about those words.  In Will's letter, he described the water like a "tub of soap suds" and the photograph below brought that image to mind.  It was taken at Hog's Back Falls in Ottawa when Bill and I visited my sister and her family last February.

There's my sister, Sherrill, my only sibling.  Bill and I had just got off the plane from Vancouver and I had rushed out of the airport to let Black Jack relieve herself after her 5 hours in a little carrier at my feet. In fact, I was so anxious to get Black Jack out, I ran right past my sister without seeing her.  She was laughing because she knows how I am and she knew what was on my mind.  No need to explain.  Sisters are like that.  I love her and I love this photograph with laughter in her eyes and her smile so happy.  Thank you, Jean, for reminding me to let her (and the world) know that. 
Along with ABC Wednesday, I am posting this to a new blog meme called Watery Wednesday and another familiar one called Skywatch Friday.  Looking through my photographs, I'm guessing about 80% of them include water or sky.  

The picture above and the following three were also taken during our walk at Hog's Back Falls.  The artificially created waterfalls on the Rideau River in Ottawa are an impressive sight, especially on a crisp, blue February day.  The story of their construction is told by Ken Watson and is a spellbinding read.  Watson has spent years learning all he can of Ottawa's Rideau River, a waterway that he clearly loves.  He makes all of his research available on line (the link above will take you to that site), as his way of bringing history to our doorstep.  

Of the many ridges in the rock formations, one of them resembled a hog's back.  Nature and man obliterated that particular view, but the name has stuck, even though the official name of the falls (rarely used) is Prince of Wales Falls.  

This photo brings out the blue reflected from Ottawa's February sky, but.. 

taking you back to Vancouver and False Creek, you will see that the colour blue has been quite rare lately as we've been in a grey phase for some time.  The sun made a momentary attempt to break through here, but was overpowered by dramatic clouds.  But, there is something else I want to point out.  This is directly in front of David Lam Park and about a half-minute's walk from my apartment.  See that walkway and the steps going down to False Creek?  There are actually three deep steps that are more like six normal-size ones.

The photo below is taken from the same location.  The tide has risen to completely cover the steps as well as the walkway.  In my two years at this location, I have never seen it that high.

Not a soul was using the benches that day.  There was just one little spot where I could stand to take the picture.
Both of the bikes in the photo below have appeared in recent posts.  One day, I saw the red bike locked to the railing, and another day, I noticed the white one in the exact same place.  Then came the day when I saw both bikes together, and I began to wonder about the humans connected to them.  A few days later, I was really happy to meet Frances and Vicki.  I feel there is more to their story, so I'm hoping to have the chance to ask a few more questions,  but they were friendly, kind enough to pose, and I have a feeling they want to safeguard their environment too.  As for the connection to Watery Wednesday, they ride to the ferry stop, secure their bikes and then take the Aquabus across False Creek.      

Bill and I took Black Jack on that ferry yesterday.  Here's a peek at the inside.  You can see quite a few water droplets on those plastic windows.  Still, it was warm and cozy inside, and Black Jack was happy.  She loves these short rides across False Creek.

Some days, when the wind is up, it's quite a feat for the drivers (captains) to stop, jump out and hold the ferry so that we can board and disembark safely.  I am happy for the colour in the ferries on these grey days,

 but Mrs. Mallard, seems perfectly satisfied, whether or not blue appears in her world.

Black Jack, however, is a sun lover and savours those clear skies.  She wasn't really looking for blue here but it makes a good story :)

I don't read weather vanes or wind patterns very well, but this unique vane high on top of a building near my apartment, seemed sure that no blue was expected on Wednesday.  The artist is Rodney Graham (introduced in my "G" post), the rider is Erasmus and why he reads while sitting backwards on a horse can partially be explained at this link.  The crow was, I think, reading over his shoulder, maybe hoping for a sunny forecast :)

That wasn't to be, but the rain held off and there was an emotional sparkle in the day.  Black Jack and I walked along Point Grey Road, on the way to meet Bill for an outing at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC.  The walk took us by many small parks and lots of trees and i kept an eye out for "S" shapes.  Below is a zoomed-in version of one find.  
It is more challenging to spot the "S" in the zoomed-out version.  Hint: it is at the centre, right.
We took a tour at the museum and only touched the surface of what can be seen there.  There are over 2 million specimens, representing mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, plants and fungi, insects and other arthropods, fish, marine invertebrates and fossils.  Days could be spent poring over the treasures, and most wonderful of all, they are perfectly okay with photography as long as a flash isn't used.  One fellow had opened a drawer of butterflies and set up his tripod.  I had the feeling he has spent many hours at the museum.  I took a lot of photos but will post just two with blue connections for today.  Here, a Eurasian Jay looks as though it could fly..

and the Blue Whale is a huge draw to the museum.  Bill solicitously removed some signs..  

so that I could have an unobstructed view of the whale.  (He skillfully returned them in a most subtle way, so that staff members still smiled in a friendly way at the end of our visit.)  

Driving back to Yaletown, we stopped several times.  We were going back the same way I had walked earlier, but somehow, there was magical light in the sky.  Bill stopped and we checked out the view looking across the water towards downtown Vancouver.

We had an idea to try a downtown vegan/raw restaurant called Gorilla Foods.  As it turned out, we couldn't find it, but that's a story for another day.  Meanwhile, our downtown drive was colourful and there were some sumptuous blues.  I hope to post a few pictures from that drive another day as well, but in the meantime, perhaps you are sensing a blue theme here.  I'm going to call it sapphire blue and will state that it is my favourite colour.  Below is a shot taken through the truck window of Birks jewellery store.

A quick decision to eat tostadas at Salsa & Agave (we love that place) worked out really well, and then we were off again, this time to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver.  We are on a mission to photograph the moon with the Lions Gate in the background.  It has taken us to quite a study of moonrise and moonset phenomena.  Who knew that the moon's cycle repeats every 17 years?  Okay, probably that was old news to many of you, but it was new to me.  With so many grey and/or rainy skies lately, that project hadn't been going so well, but at least it wasn't raining, and a full moon was coming up soon so, as Bill said, it was time to do some reconnoitring.  Although we couldn't do much about the fact that the moon was so high in the sky, I was pretty happy with this shot, and we sure did have fun. 
The moon is missing in this one, but two of my favourite beings in the world make up for that.  Black Jack was beside herself, smelling critters by the water's edge.  Bill, bless his beautiful heart, made it his mission to keep her amused and happy.

Our next stop was at Prospect Point.  The moon was in the wrong place for a combined shot, but I loved the span of the bridge here.

Another day, another boat ride, and miserable weather, but amazingly, Black Jack (who had started whining about the rain as soon as she stepped off the boat) led me to a viewpoint along False Creek where the stadium roof gave me that sapphire blue fix.

And, yet another day, walking the same route with Bill and Black Jack, she insisted on a detour that Bill simply couldn't deny her.  It took me to these watery droplets that I love.

No blues, no skies, but just a sweet picture of Black Jack peering at me in the hopes that we are about to play a game of ball as a substitute for outdoor rainy activities.

She is sanguine now (my new "s" word, hopefully correctly used), and really playing up the "cute" factor.

From my chuckle, she knew she had me, and playfully pounced as I was taking her picture from a sitting position on the floor.  I fell back, and snapped this through the balcony window behind me.  Can you picture the moment?  Black Jack brings so much laughter into my life.  The thought flashed through my mind that living without a dog is not and never will be an option.  And, somehow, the sun found one break in the clouds that lasted just long enough.. 
to hit the cookie jar on the shelf.  There's that sapphire blue again.

As with all of my ABC posts, I like to find one new-to-me artist with the appropriate letter in their name.  How perfect to discover Charles Sheeler (1883-1965). A painter who then found photography, he is one of my favourite finds thus far. 
No time to say much about him, but the blue theme as well as sea and sky connections are easy to see.    

I have had a great time exploring some of his work at this link.
And look! There was even a sailing theme to take us full circle back to my grandfather Smith.

Finally, for a new-to-me musician, perhaps you will want to listen to Sharon Knight seeking to return to her Celtic roots with this Song of the Sea.  Thank you so much if you have made it to the end of this post.  As stated earlier, you can read about other ABC, sky, or watery themes by checking out the links given. I hope your week ahead will be a scintillating one!


  1. the saga of your grandfather's ship is a sad one. loved the bridge photos. and blackjack is always a cutie.

  2. That SEA tale would be exciting if it were fiction; but tragic, because it's true.

  3. You really did arrive full circle masterfully! The story of your grandfather is an interesting illustration of the struggles people have faced and still endure today. “As if I were dropped from the moon” is such an apt description of life, from the first moment we are born and have nothing to disasters where all is lost in a storm.

  4. What a fascinating post about the sea and your grandfather. I'm sorry you didn't get to know him. My grandfather died when my mother was 2 months old so I didn't know him either. Wonderful shots. The icy ones in the water are very beautiful. I enjoyed all the shots for that matter.

  5. Enjoyed your post this week so much, the icy cold blue water is so beautiful. Your Grandfathers story is so facinating but sad that he lost family members. You are so fortunate that you and your partnes have so many wonderful times exploring.

  6. Carol, you really are a wonderful story teller.And how you manage to 'tie' it all together is beyond me!

    Your grandfather's story is one of a very hard life here along the Atlantic coast.It must be somewhat rewarding, if that is the word, to know you come from such hardy stock.

    That was a very high tide indeed and as you said happens not that often there!

    Thanks for the intro to the artist Sheeler....I really like that last painting of the sails.

    I know I couldn't live without a dog in my life and Black Jack is one lucky gal to have you in hers.

  7. Nice post - but the words of your surviving grandfather will stay with me for a while. Its an interesting thought.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  8. Your photos are lovely but it's kinda hard to enjoy them all in one setting when time is limited.

  9. Very interesting story about your grandfather's ship, such a tragedy. And thank you for sharing such an array of wonderful pictures.