Friday, September 28, 2012

Celebrating the letter "H"

Hello, fellow bloggers and blog-readers!  I seem to have taken an unplanned hiatus from posting and with that, have also lost touch with many of your wonderful blogs.  It is my hope to catch up over the next few days.  In the mean time, my contribution to ABC Wednesday is four letters behind schedule.  That site is now at the letter "k" but I enjoy the exercise too much to skip a letter.  Perhaps, plugging away slowly will be my best strategy.

*As always, I have gone on and on so do remember that it is fine to read only one of the sections shown in titled headings. 
"H" shapes
This lower case "h" was in a tree root near the end of our hike at Brother's Creek in West Vancouver a few weeks ago.  

This upper case "H" appeared during our week with Raven on Salt Spring Island.  One of my great pleasures was watching the squirrels outside her kitchen window.  They were busy preparing for winter, so there were many trips down the tree, across the bough, onto the balcony railing, and into the feed dish.  

Ha Ha (ho ho, hee hee)
I have posted about Yue Minjun's "A-maze-ing Laughter" several times.  

"H" at the beginning of a word requires one to breathe and expel air with some energy (unless the h is silent, as in the word, honest).  This article, promoting the benefits of laughter, talked about "increased breathing, oxygen use, and heart rate, which stimulate the circulatory system."  One choir director I knew started many of his rehearsals with a laughing exercise.  We would begin quietly and gradually increase the volume until we found ourselves laughing genuinely and most heartily. 

It would have been easy to become lost in the research about laughter.  There was a fairly lengthy paper by Eric D. Olson entitled, "The Horror of Humor."  I can't link that one, as it seems to download automatically to a word document, but for anyone with a lot of time to devote to the subject, it articulates some of the situations that bring humans to a state of laughter.  Although many of these situations have negative implications, there is no question in my mind that the ability to laugh at oneself is a huge help in promoting a sense of well-being.  The question I have about these statues is whether they are laughing at others, with others, or at themselves.  Perhaps, a bit of all three.

Happy.., I think, one of the best "h" words.  Here are some recent examples around me:
Black Jack enjoying a roll in the grass.

A pug cooling off in a Vancouver water fountain.  

His expression may not appear to be overjoyed, but the scene before me was a harmonious one, with his human reading a book just behind him, and I do think the.. 

temperature had been tested and proven just right.

Here, Bill and I have stopped for a photo to record our first time hoofing it together over the Cambie Bridge.  Black Jack's favourite part of bridge walks is investigating the smells in corners, an activity that I confess gives me the heebie-jeebies.  

This is David, of The Pet Shop Boys.  My world was hunky-dory when I took this picture, because he had just cut Black Jack's nails.  There wasn't a squeak out of her, the cost was only $10, and David donated the fee to the BC SPCA Paws for a Cause fundraiser.  In fact, he and his partner, Christopher, handed over all of their nail trim earnings for over three weeks to this cause.  I haven't tried their other services (doggie day care, dog training, pet grooming, sedation-free tooth cleaning), but on the basis of two visits, I am convinced the Pet Shop Boys are knowledgeable, capable and very, very caring.  They will be my choice for Black Jack's non-medical care whenever my own skills aren't quite up to the job.

A new-to-me "H" artist
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was an American artist famous for his marine subjects.  He was well-known but my education in art history has been very, very sketchy.  It feels good to be taking a small step to correct that. 

I found many examples of his work at this site.  Perhaps you will see from the ones I have shown here why I found them both appealing and haunting.  To go directly to a slideshow of his complete works, click here.  

There is a hypnotic quality to many of his paintings;  they draw me in, as do some of the details in his biography.  His father, a man who spent much of his life chasing get-rich-quick schemes, found Winslow his first job as a commercial lithographer.  For two years, he led a "treadmill" existence working on sheet music covers and other commercial assignments.  This quote in the biography stayed with me: "From the time I took my nose off that lithographic stone I have had no master and never shall have any."  His choice to paint strong, working women, his stint at the front lines of the American Civil War sketching "battle scenes and camp life, the quiet moments as well as the murderous ones" and his period of reclusion are just three of many stories that will stay in my mind. Other quotes describing Homer as a "Yankee Robinson Crusoe, cloistered on his art island" and "a hermit with a brush" make me realize I have just touched the surface in getting to know his art. 

Musician for the letter "H" 
Howlin' Wolf (1910-1976)was not entirely new to me, but I realized that I had not really given his music or his story much attention before.  The link above takes you to his home site, maintained by his biographer, Mark Hoffman. 

This link will take you to a full length (1 hour and 25 minutes) documentary of his life and his music.  The person who posted that video said these words (I took the liberty of correcting a couple of grammatical errors): "I have posted this video (in line with my role as an educator) in the hope it will inspire and educate people to learn more about the history of the blues music masters, My intention is not to infringe on any copyright but to educate people about the history of music. THIS IS A NO PROFIT POST UPLOADED TO TEACH AND IS BEING USED UNDER THE FAIR USE CLAUSE. 107: Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use.There is also a Wikipedia link that I found interesting.  I learned quite a lot about the blues but, as with Homer, the personal stories add much to form the picture of a unique man.  Born in Mississippi, his parents separated when he was a child.  He was sent to live with an uncle after his mom kicked him out of the house because he didn't want to work on the farm as she demanded.  His uncle is described by a childhood friend as "the meanest man between here and hell."  At age 13, he ran away, found his father (after walking 85 miles barefoot), and discovered  the local blues musicians.  Many years later, when he was at the peak of his career, he went back to visit his mom, but she refused his money and reduced him to tears by throwing him out of the house again, saying his songs were "the devil's music."  The beautiful part of this story is that when he finally married, he remained absolutely devoted to his wife and family to his dying day.  I enjoyed this quote from the Wikipedia article: Though functionally illiterate into his 40s, Burnett eventually returned to school, first to earn a G.E.D., and later to study accounting and other business courses aimed to help his business career.  Wolf met his future wife, Lillie, when she attended one of his performances in a Chicago club. She and her family were urban and educated, and not involved in what was generally seen as the unsavory world of blues musicians. Nonetheless, immediately attracted when he saw her in the audience as Wolf says he was, he pursued her and won her over. According to those who knew them, the couple remained deeply in love until his death. Together they raised Bettye and Barbara, Lillie's two daughters from an earlier relationship. Howlin' Wolf was huge (6'3" and 300 pounds) and his booming voice and stage act gave him, apparently, quite a fearsome persona, but I also came across the word "hero" several times in my readings about him.  It has been an enlightening and inspiring experience to explore his life and music.

Heart, as in Hearts on Noses rescue
A few weeks ago, Bill and I spent a morning at this sanctuary.  Pigs, pot-bellied, feral and the farm variety, are very, very intelligent.  As a vegan, I am sad that humans kill them, but what bothers me even more is the inhumane way so many are treated during their lives and the horrible deaths that way too many suffer. Janice, of Hearts on Noses, is doing all (and more) that she can to make sure the pigs under her care never again have to suffer at the hands of humans.  Below is a picture of a truly happy pig named Rose.  Can you see how the sanctuary got its name?  I love this picture.  Janice was busy pouring water to make a nice wallow, but Rose couldn't wait for her to finish.  She began with her rear end, 

but she carefully made sure that every part of her body was treated to the spa.  You can see many more pictures from our day at Hearts on Noses in this facebook post.

These are the three feral pigs adopted fairly recently.  You can learn about them, and about pigs in general, either at Janice's Facebook site or at her web site and blog.

This is Rose again, and guess what?  She loves roses!  She doesn't just smell them, 

but she eats them too!  And best of all, no one at Hearts on Noses thinks that is a no-no.

Below is Roscoe.  He's a happy pig too.  He is following Janice of his own free will back to his pen, after having enjoyed an hour or so of free roaming throughout the huge property.  The work Janice does is emotionally and physically and financially draining, and she does it after working her full time job.  She appreciates every bit of help people can offer.  There are grant applications to fill out, apples to deliver, manure to scoop up (that's what Bill and I did, and it was surprisingly fun), water dishes to scrub and refill, pigs to be sponsored ($25 a month), and many, many more jobs that, even if we just offered a couple of hours a month, would, in the long run, be helpful.  Spread the word, folks.  Pigs are among the most intelligent of all animals, and they (and Janice) sure could use a break.

High Places
We saw this gentleman exchanging banners when we walked over the Cambie Bridge.
This was taken several weeks ago, when I stopped for a photo/rest break during a bicycle ride across the Lions Gate Bridge.  This is looking over West Vancouver.  Ambleside Park is just to the left of that little railroad bridge.

This was from the top of Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island.  The photo doesn't do justice to the breathtaking beauty around us. 

I was told, but can't remember, the names of the places we could see from that vantage point.

Black Jack just wanted to head down the other side.  She was stoked on critter potential.  Thank you, Bill, for your endless patience!

There they go!  There was just a narrow place for Bill's feet, but he hates to hold her back, so let's just say, it was a quicker descent for them than for yours truly.

(Another "h" word that seems to go hand in hand with "high places") This is still on Mount Maxwell.  Black Jack often makes Bill retrace their steps if she gets on the trail of something.  She is interesting to me in that her sense of smell and her sense of sight seem about equally distributed.

I think this is one of my all-time favourite photos.  Three very tall trees (much taller than my camera was able to capture) had grown from a fallen one.  Jean told us that we call that a nursing tree.  For some reason (don't laugh), it brought tears to my eyes to see this and with Bill and Black Jack framed between two of the trees, well..  the pièce de résistance :) 

All this talk about hiking and descents may have led you to believe that we had quite a workout that day.  In fact, we drove up (quite the workout for Bill's truck!) as far as the road would take us, so our actual climbing time was very modest.  However, we did run around a bit (or Bill and Black Jack ran around and I took pictures when I could catch them) in the top section.  The road was truly rough.  I wasn't kidding when I say that Bill's truck had a workout.  We traveled at the speed of tortoises, and even then, were seriously jolted by  bumps in the road that seemed to appear out of nowhere.  I think it was about two thirds of the way back down when Bill spotted this grouse at the side of the road.  It halted in its tracks at first, but when I got out of the truck, it..    

..flew to a tree and gave me a stare that spoke volumes. 

The light was tricky and the automatic focus on my camera quite confused by the camouflage talents of this lovely bird.  Still, the memory of the moment makes me love the photographs. 

(Another "h" word that blends with some of the hikes we've enjoyed).
When we met Jean (see last post), she told us that Ruckle Provincial Park was probably her favourite place of all the beautiful places she has been.  Well, that was high praise indeed, and we put it on our list of must-see's before returning home.
I took photos of the signs that explain how this beautiful park came to be.

The very first critters to hail us were turkeys.  Well, "hail" may be a bit strong, but they did emerge from behind trees..

to check us out.  I discovered that, as homely as they may first appear,   

they have expressive features that hook me in to a sort of amused affection.  I loved this picture that Jean's daughter took of that same flock of turkeys.  It shows their curiosity and it made me laugh.  It was Jean's 1000th post, and it really is worth a moment to stop by.
I believe this is the original homestead, still in use.

Bill noticed this little critter.  It looked quite similar to one that I saw near Sunset Beach in November, 2011.  With help from blog and facebook readers, we eventually identified that one as an American Mink so unless someone corrects me, I will assume this one is the same species.  It was very quick, and I was happy to catch this blurry photo before it disappeared.

One of the things I loved about Ruckle Park was the variety of terrain.  We walked along the water's edge, 

stepped (or in Black Jack's case, bounded) over smooth rocks,

and came to open water spots every once in a while.

There were also forested trails, and even fields with ancient relics that Bill spotted.

As we were driving home, I noticed these sheep and caught a quick photo from the truck.

Just as I was trying to figure out how to get a better photo of the sheep, some deer came bounding through the field.  Quite the photography challenge, but as with the mink, I was..

happy to at least record the memory of the exhilaration of seeing the deer float so smoothly over the fence.  That, for me, is how an animal jumping over barriers should look.  Not the forced and schooled ride that we make horses do in a show ring (and I did that too), but the "do what has to be done to get to the other side" in the most natural and free (it seems to me) way.

And speaking of horses, there have been some beautiful ones lately.  This is Dior and he lives the kind of life at "Hearts on Noses" that I would wish for every horse.  Yes, Janice not only has pigs but two rescued dogs (one of them three-legged but able to bound through the fields with his buddy) and two horses.  The horses have this barn for shelter, but they can come and go as they please. 

While Bill and I were picking up manure, I enjoyed lots of nuzzles that were pure delight.  Just the sweetest horses and it did my heart good to be around them. 

Here is Lacy, Dior's constant companion.  They were sure enjoying their snacks and the sunshine and life in general.

We were driving back to the ferry after a great week on Salt Spring Island when we spotted these two horses.

We stopped to enjoy the tranquil scene for a few moments and I took photos while Black Jack and Bill explored the adjacent field.

How many legs does this horse have?  Honestly, just four.  The second horse is hidden.

Harvest and a little piece of Heaven
I am not a religious person in the traditional sense but there are several little pieces of (my idea of) Heaven in my world.  One of those pieces is definitely at Salt Spring Island, where Raven lives, and where she and Bill still own a house.  Raven is an extraordinary cook (understatement), and she took me to a farm where she buys some of her produce.    

We didn't spend a long time there, but in a few minutes, I inhaled a feeling of back-to-the-earth well-being.  These two cuties were watching the action from their spacious pen.

Raven arrived home one day wearing this colourful top that I thought went perfectly with her beautiful smile and nature-loving persona.

Her world is a haven of colour and critters and.. 

early morning ocean views, and

sea creatures..

rocks with personality and..

birds that soar past her front window.

I slept so well in her home, it was a struggle to make it up for sunrise.

When I finally did manage to rise with the sun, I was rewarded not by dramatic sunrise shots, but with golden light on the barely rippling water, and on the birds that flew over it.

In the evening, Bill and I took a little drive and stopped by this field to watch the cattle.  I will call them Long Horns, because if that isn't their name,

I think it should be : )

One last picture to close this post.. a sunset to remember, taken just down the road from Raven and Bill's house.  Thank you, Raven.  Thank you, Bill.  Thank you readers, for stopping by.  To meet other bloggers from around the world, and to read about their take on a letter of the alphabet (K), don't forget to check out the ABC Wednesday blog meme.