Category Archives: nature

Traveling in Europe: Den Bosch Part I–Canals & Countryside

Den Bosch, moat, Holland, Dutch history, travel, culture, fortress

Den Bosch's ramparts and river served as a nearly impregnable fortress.

My last stop of four cities in Holland was Den Bosch. The full name is ‘s-Hertogenbosch and I think you have to be Dutch to pronounce it. Most people call it Den Bosch now and pronunciation seemed to differ between “den bos” and “den bosh”. Den Bosch is south of Utrecht and north of Eindhoven. It’s not large but considered a place to get away “to”. I probably would have missed it completely if it wasn’t that speculative writer and editor Jetse de Vries lives there and I emailed him to meet up.

cream puff, Den Bosch, profiterole, puff pastry, food, culture, Holland

Boschenballen; worthy of making a stop in Den Bosch

Once I started reading about Den Bosch it sounded interesting enough that I stayed for two nights, couch surfing with Will. Jetse and I played a bit of tag at the train station, trying to find each other. Once we met I put my luggage in a locker and off we went to a cafe where Jetse introduced me to Den Bosch’s own claim to fame, the Boschenballen. If you’ve ever seen a profiterole (cream puff), imagine one bigger than your fist, covered in yummy dark chocolate and inflated with creamy goodness.  I wasn’t sure I could eat the whole thing (and shhh, but I’m allergic to dairy) but I took a bite and another and somehow managed to polish it off. I certainly didn’t need lunch till much later.

North Brabant, Den Bosch, fortress, Holland, history, canals

A very larg cannon is housed in the structure atop the walls built in the 15th century.

By the 1500s it turns out Den Bosch was once the true mercantile center of Holland, with three rivers (Dommel, Aa and Maas) converging nearby. The Dutch are also masters of the water ways and trade came and went by land and water. It was second in population only to Utrecht. ‘S-Hertogenbosch means Duke’s Forest and the original Duke was Henry I, Duke of Brabant. Over the centuries, with fortifications increasing, Den Bosch was considered impregnable and nicknamed the Marsh Dragon. They had built a moat from the rivers and water ways; if invading forces came near, they flooded the lands around. Too deep to walk through and too shallow to put a ship on, the city’s defense’s held strong.

raft, canals, Den Bosch, travel, history, culture, The Netherlands

To get over one of the many bodies of water, there is a hand crank raft to take people across.

That is, until 1629 when Frederik Hendrik of Orange, using Dutch ingenuity and a goodly portion of purloined coins from a Spanish armada, built a dyke around the city with windmills and then pumped out all of the water. He managed to break through the one weak spot in the wall’s defenses and then rebuilt that section making it stronger. The ramparts still stand and are integral to holding back the waters. Den Bosch is considered one of the better fortress cities in Holland. A nature reserve now borders one side of the town, giving great pastoral views and nature walks.

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The underground canal tours are lovely and a great way to see the city.

Jetse had booked a canal tour and Den Bosch’s canals are unique in Holland because they’re mostly covered, unlike the open canals elsewhere. While the tour was in Dutch, Jetse was able to tell me much about the rich history of this small town. It seems people were not allowed to build outside the wall and as the city became more crowded they actually built over the canals. At one point the city was going to pave over the canals but instead the government made it a protected townscape, preserving the historical ramparts and the canals.

Heironymous Bosch, canals, Den Bosch, Holland, history, art, canal tours

Boschian fun on the canal.

The weather was perfect in late September, around 25-27 degrees Celsius. The tour went under the city and then outside around the ramparts. It ended with ducking into a darkened alcove where they showed a short film on Hieronymus Bosch, the city’s most famous painted. The water level was relatively high so we really did have to duck. And along the canals were large sculptures of some of Bosch’s strange creations.

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Den Bosch's canals were very beautiful.

Even without understanding Dutch the tour was worth it for the sheer beauty and scenery. The following day I took a walk outside the city walls and got to see Den Bosch from afar. Of the cities I visited Den Bosch definitely felt the most pastoral, because of the flat fields and the winding river around it. In my next post I’ll talk more about the cathedral and other aspects but it was definitely worth the visit. I’ll also have the full album posted once Picassa stops being persnickety.

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Treasures in the Park: Geo Caches

Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, Geocaching, parks, sun, ocean

Lighthouse Park

On Saturday I spent a great day at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver with a bunch of friends. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, hot and perfect. We hung out near the water on the rocks, talking, playing drums and didgeridoos and wandering down a few trails.

geocaching, geocache, Lighthouse Park, hidden treasures

The Geocache

We’d been there quite a few hours, taking a breaking from the sun under a couple of trees when one of my friends said, “There’s a box here, hidden under some bark and leaves.

We looked and sure enough there was this scruffy dark green box. Speculation arose. Why would a person hide a box? And fear as to what might be in it. Being curious, I moved more of the bark and found that it said Geocache. That rang a few bells and we pulled it out.

geocaching, Lighthouse Park, treasures, hide and seekGeocaching is a game where people hid boxes of stuff in different locales all over the word and then with the help of a GPS, or GPS enabled phone one can track them down. You log your find in a log book, add something to the cache and maybe take something to deliver to another cache. Then there is the whole geocaching site where you list what you found.

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Daisy Duck looks out over the Strait of Georgia

Although we did have a couple of GPS phones, we’re not actually playing the game, nor registered. We pulled all of the trinkets out of the rather full box and looked at them all. I guess, as the game goes, we could have taken something. However, we logged our discovery, noticed that there was Daisy Duck, a special geocaching item in which you needed to log her journeys. Since she took extra responsibility we left her for those more involved in Geocaching but we did take a picture of her close to water as requested. She got to look out over the Strait of Georgia, which leads to the Pacific Ocean.

geocache, geocaching, hidden treausures, Lighthouse Park

The full cache spread out

We didn’t take anything from the geocache and did add a little purple glass bead I found in my pocket, adding to the treasures for explorers to come. One of

the interesting (read: scary) items in the cache was a trading card called “American Terrorist” with highly hyperbolic information on the infamous Charles Manson. And to think this was put out by the Piedmont Candy Co. Eat the candy,  kids, but don’t talk to murderers.

After we returned the geocache to its hiding place for other intrepid adventures, we continued our own exploration.

Lighthouse Park, parks, Strait of Georgia

The rocky shores of Lighthouse Park

Mine included taking many photos so It added a bit of unexpected adventure to the day, finding the cache and I can certainly see the fun of finding hidden treasures. I’ll end this with a few more pictures of the geocache, and the beauty of the day that we were lucky enough to have.

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Low tide at Lighthouse Park

 

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Fun With Thunderstorms

Creative Commons: El Garza, Flickr

When I was a kid nothing was more exciting than a thunderstorm. The frenetic energy that charged the air electrified us as well. My mother, who grew up in a small coal mining town, insisted we unplug everything and go into the basement, turning off the lights. Sometimes the power went out so it was flashlights and candles. As we sat in the dark, not standing too near the window, which would just entice the lightning to find you, we watched Nature’s amazing show.

Grey and bilious green roiling clouds, sometimes tinged with yellow, pregnant with dark anger. Eye searing forks of lightning stabbing the earth, sometimes reaching out to grab a bit more. Angry voices cracking through the sky. It was amazing. It rattled windows, it shorted out power and sometimes it caused fires.

We never experienced fire but lightning and thunder were both thrilling and terrifying. I imagine this is why people go to slasher/horror/thriller movies; the on the edge-of-your-seat tension and terror, the relief that it’s not real, the huge adrenalin surge that tells you you’re alive.

Adrenalin is an intrinsic part of our physiological reactions and is called the flight or fight reflex. In intense or dangerous situations, as well as sports, it gives us that extra burst of energy to move faster, lift heavier weights, just survive a bit longer. We can’t control it.

When I was still living in Calgary, there was a massive thunderstorm one night. My boyfriend and I lived near the river and several streets back the terrain became a small cliff with houses upon it. We watched from our balcony window as the lightning streaked out of the sky. It was close, extremely bright, the thunder loud and booming all about us. The closer the sound of thunder to the lightning the closer in proximity to the eye of the storm. As kids we would count from the time we saw lightning (one thousand and one, one thousand and two…) and that would tell us about how many miles away the storm actually was. This site says count the seconds and divide by five to get a mile so maybe that lightning was always closer than I imagined. http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/lightning/thunder.html

Well, that night as we watched the dance about us we were suddenly washed in blinding light as a loud boom instantaneously raced through us. My boyfriend and I, devoid of thought, pure instinctual animals jumped and ran, and found ourselves across our apartment in seconds. The lightning storm had been pretty much on top of us and had hit a tree on that cliff behind. That adrenalin reaction was so mindless it made me realize that we are animals after all. That was the closest I ever got to lightning and that was close enough.

But along with thunderstorms, we would often get hail, and this post today is inspired by the fact that we had little pea sized hail falling this morning in Vancouver, which is very rare. We might get a thunderstorm this afternoon.

Hail in Calgary was often an event in and of itself. I remember that it hailed so hard one July that we were playing in two-foot hailbanks afterward. The hail could flood areas and would be fast and furious, biting holes through plant leaves and cold enough to turn your hands blue. Being pelted with little chunks of ice was never fun.

One hailstorm that happened shortly after I left Alberta dropped golfball sized hailstones. Everyone’s car was badly pocked by the hail and people ended up with good goose eggs and bruises if they’d been out in the storm. Hailstorms are even rarer in Vancouver than snow, and that’s uncommon enough. I don’t miss hail as much, though it’s fascinating to watch but I do miss thunderstorms. And I still thrill at the charged air of a good storm.

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Traveling in India: Toilet Terrors

Ancient Greeks had it rough but not that rough.

I have had some pretty interesting toilet adventures when traveling. Mexico City didn’t flush their toilet paper but had open garbage cans beside the toilet for people to put the soiled pieces into, which was especially disgusting. Singapore required you to squat in the right direction and if you didn’t flush they would fine you. Britain used something akin to parchment paper with the absorbency of stone. But India was perhaps the place where I experienced the most travails. I was there for two months and on top of that, contracting dysentery meant I had many intimate moments in the can.

Toilets (or ditches, troughs, or trenches) could always be found but if you’re of a culture used to sitting, the other style can be a challenge. Squatting is something that takes more work if you don’t continue to do it from childhood. The muscles and tendons shorten and it’s not as easy to even achieve a full squat without having the feet jutting out at 45 degree angles. In Nepal, while on the bus, we’d pass people on the side of the road, just squatting right down, arms wrapped about their knees and doing their business, watching the cars go by. I presume they used their hands to wipe as they do in some Arab countries but I never asked. And after seeing one man walking along and blowing a booger into his hand and then flinging it, I didn’t want to know, nor shake anyone’s hands.

On one trip, there was a little shack where they served up rice and dhal bat (some sort of lentil stew that I can’t eat because of food sensitivities.  Behind that brick shack was an old piece of cloth over a very short vestibule. At the back of this was a thin culvert (about six inches wide) of water running through. You squatted over that culvert of water and did your business. Toilet paper isn’t something the locals use and they probably shake their heads at our finicky ways.

My time in Meghalaya was fine since every home had flush toilets with seats and the Khasis tend not to squat at home though I’m sure they’re used to the squat version too. By the time I made to Delhi I was desperately sick with dysentery. I didn’t know if I would puke or have diarrhea or both at the same time. The worst version of toilet is the one that combines the squat with the Western style. These were porcelain toilets with no seats that people squatted over. It’s much easier to squat full to the ground, than halfway as if you’re skiing. And if you’ve ever been so sick that you just want to lay on the floor and hang onto the toilet, well, there was no way to do that with this style of toilet. The floors were filthy with everything including the grunge from using a toilet. And the porcelain rim, without seat was just as mucky. What to do (as they said in India). Try being steady when you feel like fainting and vomiting into the fecal void. I hated this toilet style most of all.

The most adventuresome one was taking a train from Delhi (it might have been Varanasi) to Calcutta. It’s a long train ride and eventually you’re probably going to have to use the toilet. I waited as long as I could, partly because I didn’t want to leave my pack alone. But eventually I had to go. I wore long skirts a fair deal in India because they were cooler and because it was culturally more acceptable. On the train, the toilet is only a hole in the ground, where you can watch the tracks shooting by beneath. In fact, you’d never want to walk along the tracks there because everyone defecates onto the tracks. I can’t imagine it being pleasant at all.

So here I am in this darkish metal box, bunching my skirt up about my thighs and squatting down. What does a train do when it moves? It rocks, so there was a bar to hang onto. But being a Western person I also used toilet paper. One hand is holding up my clothing, one is hanging on to the bar. How do you wipe yourself? It took some judicious bunching of fabric and balance. My fear was I’d fall onto the disgusting floor and contract a disease.

But I managed. And I brought my own toilet paper know it’s not something used by all cultures and it’s a good thing I did or I would have been using my hands. And after seeing the Ganges River, with ashes from the burning ghats, dead cows, marigolds, people washing clothes, themselves and doing spiritual ablutions, there was no way I was going to touch the water. I was raised in the cushy Western society and I’m not used to other styles of toilets. But if I had grown up in Asia  I would probably sport a limberness that aid me in other ways. I still wonder what happens when a person gets too old and rickety to squat though.

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Cornucopia List: July 26

I’m running out of time these days to write here. Which means I don’t seem to have time to write my fiction and I really really have to finish a story soon. So with the five things (since my last list) for which I am grateful, I will start with:

  1. Time–I am grateful that I have time, perhaps never enough but time is a great thing. I would love if time were timeless but although it isn’t it is endless. Time to breathe, time to sleep, time to love, time to think, time to have fun. Sometimes these times are not equal or in the amounts we wish but I’m glad I have time and I’ve had the time I’ve had. I also look forward to having way more time.
  2. Old Friends–I have lately reconnected with Kathy, who I was best friends with in high school. It’s been decades since we saw each other and a lot of life has happened. She reconnected via email a few years ago but we got to see each other in person for the first time this weekend. Sometimes such reunions can be odd or uncomfortable because the only things that people have in common may have passed on. And sometimes in a long interim it’s possible for what pushed people apart to resolve and for people to find they still have things in common. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, you can have good friends you don’t see frequently and when you do, it’s almost like picking up where you left off.
  3. Cherries–They are not my all time favorite fruit but the are one of them. And oddly I still haven’t had many this year. Cherries are like little flavor and sugar bombs, not too sweet and fairly thirst quenching. They have a nice little pit that you can easily chew around unlike grapes with all their little seeds.
  4. Water–Of course without it we would die. I have had people tell me they don’t like drinking water. I love drinking water, if it’s cold. It’s light and tasteless and quenching. Water is also an amazing medium that can be liquid or solid (ice, snow). It’s almost always moving and flowing in some way or another, carries vibrations, supports or submerges and is one of the great mysterious elements of life. Watch a pond, a pool or an ocean over a few seasons and you will see the mutability and changing temperament of water. I could watch it for hours looking at the patterns and colors.
  5. Heat–Yeah I will repeat some themes because I am constantly grateful for the sun and the heat it gives. I love being warm and tend to get cold easily. We’ve finally immersed ourselves in summer hitting the third week of hot. Now hot for Vancouver, is 25 degrees Celsius and 22 is comfortable. It means not needing a jacket and sleeping in a light sheet and wanting to drink cool drinks in the shade. Hooray for summer and the heat.

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The Cornucopia List: June 18

I think I missed my list last week of five things for which I’m grateful. I hit a really busy period so I’ll just list five things for the last two weeks.

  1. Pastoral Foothills–I drove to Osoyoos last weekend, a very dry part of BC, and even drier in Oliver where the large mudslide happened. BC is mostly the Rocky Mountain range from the coast to the border so much of our towns and cities are situated near mountains or in rolling hills. Osoyoos and area is rolling, humped hills, in shades of green with small copses of trees and a smattering of cows and horses. With the fluffy clouds overhead, interspersed with hot sun, it gave a dappled pattern to the earth. Truly beautiful.
  2. Happy People–Of course we’re not often grateful for the grumps but being around people last weekend just taking it easy, mingling, chatting and drinking made me realize I’d missed many of them.
  3. Illumination–I’m not talking about the light that shines from the sky or from electronic bulbs. I’m talking medieval manuscripts and the illuminated borders and capitals. The “illumination” in a scroll or manuscript was the laying down of gold leaf, which gave the piece  a certain brilliance especially in those tallow candle times. Those old pages, worked on painstakingly by monks for days and weeks on end can be truly astounding. I know people who do this and I have done such illuminations in the past though my skills pale next to what I can see some people do. In fact, some of them might have been seen as blessed by God in the good ole days. This illumination was taken from the Fitzwilliam Museum’s site: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/
  4. Estate Wineries–I really want to do a wine tour through the Okanagan, but when I have enough money to actually buy some of the wines. We did stop at the Forbidden Fruit winery on the way back from Osoyoos as we didn’t have a lot of time. They had some ice wines (for $20 it’s much cheaper than you can get in the liquor store), a couple of ports, and one or two white and red wines. I bought a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Plumiliscious ice wine (sort of an ice wine I think). They had about eight different types with cherry, apricot, apple, plum, white grape, peach etc. Maybe later this summer…
  5. Genealogy–It’s interesting and fascinating to see where our roots lead. My aunt, who passed away recently, had tracked one side of the family tree, the part I knew least about. I knew there was Danish and Italian in our family but I didn’t know about the Norwegian, a line that can be tracked back at least to the 1600s. My ancestors were part of Rovang Gaard, being the Rovang farm families. Good ole peasant stock, no special people except for everyone being special in their own way. I look at the branchings, all the surnames and all the people in those families and think about track the other three branches and how they  would branch and branch all the way back to the first awareness of self. It’s truly possible that we’re all related to half the world. When thinking about it this way it’s even more bizarre to think you could hate or be racist against part of your own family but then families don’t always get along, do they? Still, I’m fascinated by the names.

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The Cornucopia List: June 4

Sometimes it’s hard to think of just five things to appreciate in the week, whereas we can always think of a long list of ills, disasters and problems. But by concentrating on this it does take me away from the more dire thoughts. This week’s Cornucopia List includes:

  1. Mushrooms–Some people hate shrooms and consider them slimy, or get all squeamish about them being grown

    Irish shroom outside a Benedictine abbey

    in manure but the truth is that many of the vegetables that we eat are grown in some form of fertilizer made from cow, horse or fish excretions. That’s a lot of what earth is made of: decomposing waste in the form of leaves, bark, animals bones and wastes, and ground down rock. But mushrooms are just amazing in their variety of shapes and colors, are deadly poisonous or delicious, and can be found in many places.  They have flat caps or little pointy gnome hats, red spots, yellow stems, brown, grey blue. They grow round like puffballs (which I have yet to try) and ruffled like the chicken of the woods which grows on trees. And yeah, they are a fungus, unique in and of itself and reproduce through spores. There have been enough horrors stories spawned from this form of reproduction. And they do have a certain alien lifeform to them. But I like ’em, with garlic, in sauces or soups, or on their own, cooked or raw.

  2. Red Wine–Thankfully there are many brands to explore, some out of my price range for now. And of course there are different wines. I like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and if at all possible, a Bordeaux though they’re hard to get. Wine is a bit of an odd duck in flavors. Not particularly sweet, usually slightly bitter or tannic, and made of rotted grapes, yet I do appreciate the subtleties of the flavor.
  3. Salt–We may be made mostly of water but we are of many degrees salt too and it’s essential to a diet to maintain aspects of health that I can’t even explain; electrolytes are one. When we’re dehydrated we need to take in salt and water, what all those horrid Gatorade drinks have in them (yes I find them gross.) But salt, on popcorn, or corn, or eggs, or turkey is a very yummy thing and sometimes it’s salt we seem to want more than the other flavors. My family used to abuse salt (my mother still salts pizzas) and when I hit my late teens I cut down and stopped salting cheddar cheese. But without salt many of our dishes would be a lot blander.
  4. That some people appreciate me–We can’t all be liked universally, nor even hated the same. Some personalities mesh, some people change and some people blame everyone else for their problems. Even if just doing part of my job, it’s nice to know that some people think I’m doing it well. A simple thanks can make a big difference. A word of appreciation to a stranger on their coat, or hat, or shoes, can just add an extra smile to the day. And it doesn’t to do it. I appreciate that people sometimes appreciate me. It lightens the day.
  5. Sleep–Seriously, I love sleep. Of course, we’d be zombies without it but I love drifting away in a restful world and then ending up in all sorts of worlds. I love waking up slowly, though my bothersome cat doesn’t always let me. Slowly coming awake (as opposed to the obnoxious eeeee of the alarm), registering the sound of people talking, dogs barking, birds chirping, cars moving, and then feeling the shift from darkness to a lighter gray behind the eyes is great and languorous. I wouldn’t want to sleep all the time but I do like sleeping.

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The Cornucopia List: May 27

(Some glitch happened with Facebook and this didn’t go out last week, so here it is a bit late.) I’m wondering if I need to differentiate the weekly titles or if it will get confusing calling them all the Cornucopia List. So I’ll start adding a date. The list of five things for which I’m grateful this week follows:

  1. Emotions–They are what makes us. Many animals (at least mammals) have emotions as well and this can

    From the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow

    be seen by their attitudes, such as contentment in cat when purring, or feeling angry or threatened in a dog by growling. There is a range that we may not even quite grasp in animals because we can’t truly ask them. But with people, yeah, emotions can run helter skelter, causing chaos, trauma and tragedy. Without them though we would be mere androids, with less attitude than Spock. I like that we can feel good or bad. With the bad we would not appreciate the happy times and everything would be pretty boring. People whose emotions are out of control can be scary but I like that we can change and feel a range of things. I’d rather a world with the vagaries of emotion than a world of robots. (I took the above picture while in Scotland.)

  2. Sun–Hello, Sun! It’s been somewhat sporadic for a mostly chilly and wet spring, but boyoboy do I love the sun. I don’t love it beating intensely down upon me. I have to move in it. But I love the way it will play light over things, making water sparkle, leaves adding shadows, warming the earth and giving us flowers and life overall, of course. It also takes us pasty white people to a color a little more robust. I wouldn’t want to stare at the sun, nor actually visit it (unless it was completely safe) but I do love the sun and I quite understand  how people would see it as a god.
  3. Limbs–As in legs and arms. Not everyone is born with them and not everyone gets to keep theirs and many people have ones that stop working. So I truly appreciate that I have two legs and two arms (though sometimes I wish I had three arms). They ache sometimes and they may not be the most beautiful out there but they’re functional, giving me a fairly normal range of movement and working in tandem with my mind. I don’t have to concentrate to move my arm; it will just go as I decide to pick something up. I don’t have to put each foot forward in a laborious process, I just do it. Limbs let me move faster, sometimes elegantly and I can crawl under things, or climb over them. I have known people who had limited to no use and those who were born that way adapted well but it made me more grateful for the ease in which our limbs work with us.
  4. Shells

    –They all begin as homes and exoskeletons for sea creatures and they are beautiful pieces of nature’s sculpture. The shapes are myriad and the color diverse. We make them into sculptures, jewelery, food and supplement sources. The ocean’s floor is a foundation of ground stone and millions of shells, corals and other aquatic debris. They hold the secrets of mollusks and of the sea and are worn as lingerie by mermaids.

  5. Babies–I’m fortunate enough to work in a place where there is always a baby or two.  I’ve come to learn much better the stages of development by watching the babies grow. And it’s fascinating to see how much of an individual personality they have from day one; everything from calm to fretful to mischievous to coy to angry. Babies are full of uninhibited joy and use their whole bodies to express their emotions, squealing in happiness, turning red and tense with frustration. They’re very pure, not yet formed by society’s culture and moires, not yet tamed or shaped by conventions and fads. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to attain this state again, but really only in the happy emotions. People do not take well to adults displaying rage and having temper tantrums, so yes we are constrained by society and manners, which isn’t always a bad thing. But babies are a true natural joy of the world.

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The Cornucopia List

Here are this week’s list of five things for which I’m grateful. In the future I imagine I will repeat some things as it will be that which makes me grateful that week, but for now there will be larger items, like life and chocolate. 🙂

  1. Thunderstorms–They’re not as frequent here in Vancouver as they were in Calgary where you could get super hot days and super cold rains. When a thunderstorm was imminent my mother would unplug all the electrical appliances, a very smart thing before power surge protectors when a lightning strike could travel into your appliance and kill it or start a fire. We would then all go down to basement and hang out, without the lights on, just in case of an electrical surge there. The sky would be vein with white light and the loud tumultuous clash of gray, broiling clouds. It was magnetic, dramatic, exciting! I remember one, while still living in Calgary down by the river. My boyfriend and I were watching the thunder and lightning outside our balcony window when there was an electrifying flash and smashing crash of sound that vibrated the building. Instinctively we had both run away from the window and were halfway across the apartment by the time we realized what we had down. That lightning strike hit on the hill not a mile behind our building. Today they warn that we could have a thunderstorm in Vancouver. I hope so.
  2. Turquoise–this is my absolutely most favorite color though I do like the whole range of greens (except for maybe puke green). Turquoise can be blue-green or green-blue, called peacock as well. I tend to like my turquoise on the slightly greenish side of blue, and I love it. I can’t explain but it is almost a visceral hunger to swallow, touch and taste this color. Contrary to what you might believe I don’t swathe myself only in this color though I tend to have more green clothing than anything else and one wall in my bedroom is turquoise.
  3. Cats–besides giving us an excuse to talk out loud without looking crazy for talking to ourselves, cats are lovely companions. They fill a space with energy and fur, they purr and express love for you, even if it is only cupboard love. They warm your feet and make you part of their family. And they certainly have unique personalities. From my first cat Beko, through Ming, Tiger, Banshee, Mango, Figgy and now Venus, they’ve all given certain traits and opinions. They can be a big pain in the ass, getting underfoot, knocking things over, scratching the wrong thing, howling to get in, in fights with other cats, clawing your leg on accident or purpose, demanding food, but hey, humans do much the same (except maybe clawing your leg). So yes, I am extremely grateful for the companionship of cats especially when I’ve been down. Venus, pictured above, is the epitome of a love cat, with people at least.
  4. Being female–Yeah, we have little choice with this unless we want to go through and expensive operation and face ostracization and social isolation. It’s very hard on people who feel they are the wrong sex in a body. And there are women supposedly who experience “penis envy” though I think that was more of a Freudian era than real, though there are women who feel they must act/dress like men to be respected or get a certain job. And unfortunately there are men who feel women are chattel, property to be dictated to, owned and wrapped and hidden away except for their own viewing. And of course, the Catholic church has long blamed women for leading men astray because gosh, I guess men can’t think for themselves. But still, I like being a woman and I feel that I am pretty empowered. If I chose I could give birth and I get to wear a way larger range of clothes. No wonder some men, who are truly heterosexual like to wear women’s clothing once in a while. I’m grateful I’m a woman comfortable in my body most of the time, with all my bumps and curves.
  5. Shoes–yes shoes. That I can afford them, that I have more than one pair (even though I do have foot issues) and that they come in such funky styles from stiletto with pointy toes, to round toes and wide heels, to flat shoes, to platforms, to straps, to slip-ons, to buckles and ties. A myriad of colors and materials of designs and patterns, and even of comfort, but I like them. I had a boyfriend once long ago who really liked shoes and maybe it was a shoe fetish but I developed a love of shoe styles through him, and they can completely ruin an outfit if not right. I have runners (tennis shoes or whatever they’re called in the US) but I only wear those for working out or hiking. They’re not for every day. But yeah, I’m grateful for shoes.

And there we go, from nature to fashion, my Cornucopia List for this week.

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The Cornucopia List

If you happen to be reading this (why, even if you’re not), tell me what you think of my blog. Should I change anything, add or delete something? There are other designs and I’ve been using this one for two years. But perhaps I should tweak it or rearrange elements.

But it’s now time for the Cornucopia List for this week, listing five things for which I am grateful, or that are beautiful, but in some way positive, to negate the dire aspects of weekly media and the state of the world.

  1. Irisesthe flowers, not the eyes. There are small ones, which don’t have a scent, to the large ones, which do. This scent is used to flavor Bombay gin and some perfumes. It’s the reason I love the irises

    from Wikipedia

    as my favorite flower. The scent is sweet yet lemony, and the intriguing shape of the bloom is complex and lovely. When I was a kid, we only had the purple ones and the pale yellows. Now there are many more. Yellow irises are also used for filtering pollutants out of water. Last night I stopped to sniff the two-town purple irises. There was also a mauve colored one with rippled edges. This one tends to smell sweeter but it is that tangy lemony scent that I love most.

  2. Life–this is diverse but in this sense I mean my life. It has had its traumas and tragedies, downfalls and failures. It’s not perfect, not what I thought it would be but it is my life. And I have had successes and love, accomplishments and beauty. No matter how terrible it has been I choose it over the alternative. I would rather experience the hills and valleys of living than live in blissful ignorance. I don’t always live my life to my fullest but I try and I love it dearly.
  3. Dance–I never tried anything professional with this and discovered a bit too late that I have a natural ability. I still have to work at dance styles but I can put a dance together intuitively and remain graceful. It’s one thing where I don’t usually tend to worry about how people judge me and I just dance with confidence. I bellydance and do freestyle dance where I can be expressive. I took a tango class last year and that took some work as I’m not used to following. It would take many lessons yet to be really good at it but it’s very intriguing with the different moves. It allows me to be truly expressive, joyful and exuberant. I don’t think I could live without dancing.
  4. Thai food–if I had to be stuck with one food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai food. I am extremely grateful to be able to have this whenever I want. Of course I don’t because that yummy coconut milk is very fattening. And it’s a good thing I can’t make this stuff easily or I’d be three hundred pounds. But the blend of lemon grass, lime, chilies, coconut milk and other secret ingredients makes this a palate pleaser for me. I like complexity in my food.
  5. Silver–not the price of nor the monetary worth but the look. I like silver jewellery far over gold and find something as pristine and bright about it as I do with water. Silver is shiny and it’s what we as humans love, shiny. I’m grateful for this metal for giving me forms of ornamentation. It can be beaten, soldered, smelted, molded, twisted into a variety of objects and I like a great many of them. And it’s not toxic to wear.

That’s this week’s list. Items or things for which I’m grateful.

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