Sunday, March 30, 2008


Dad plants a few more daffodills every year; this spring quite a variety sprouted.

These are very small and, I think, technically narcissus, not daffodills.

Narcissus up close.

Another unusual coral-colored daffodill.

And one that had a little disagreement with a light socket.

Un caballo

We stopped for breakfast at our favorite Mexican restaurant this morning. The owner is always very hospitable, and today he went so far as to show us a stack of pictures from his family's ranch in Jalisco. I was surprised to see that his part of Jalisco is not too different from our part of California: grass-gold hills, pines, cows, oak trees (the oaks are a variety of live oak, much more spindly than those we have here, they looked a bit more like our blue oaks). The picture which caught my attention the most, however, was of a parade in Frank's town. It was a pleasant enough shot of maybe half a dozen horses and ponies being ridden down the street. The horse in the foreground was something to make you stare, though. I don't know all the technical things a horseman would expect in a good animal, but from a literary point of view, well, this one looked like it could have stepped out of the grandest legend man could devise. It was a trimly-built thing, without the gawkyness of a thoroughbred, but somewhat leaner for its size than an Arabian. It did have a slight suggestion of Arabian about the neck but overall (to prop my lack of horse-savvy on a literary crutch) whereas an Arabian always makes me think of breakers of surf or billows of sand, a mezmerizing flow of movement, this horse was sharp, keen, like a ray of light. The impression of light was only heightened by the sheen of its hide. The first impression was of silver; it was only a second glance that showed it was a light like the sun on dark water. I stared a while, shuffled through a few other pictures, then returned to stare again. Finally I had to call Frank over and get him to identify the breed for me. It was something I had never heard of before, an Azteca , a cross between an Andalusian and a Quarter Horse. Take a look at the "Gallery" in the link; though it takes a good deal to match the horse in Frank's picture, there are some beautiful animals here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Well, I'm a day early on this, but here it is anyway. I had a splendid morning because I got to ride back from Mass with my sister and thus had my hands free to try and get a few pictures out the window, just in time for tomorrow's feastday. (Admittedly, most of the pictures turned out on the blurred side, but the morning was such a riveting combination of clouds, sun, and early spring flowers that it delighted me considerably to at least get a shot at the scenery.) These are the hills along Highway 58 between Tehachapi and Bakersfield, but they do look rather Irish this time of year, eh?

Pennies from. . .

It was a bit chillier today than it has been in a while and when I came back in after taking the dogs out, I stuffed my hands as deep into my coat as they would go, trying to pull out any warmth that might lurk in the depths of the pockets. What was lurking in the depths, I found, was rather cold. American change in my left-hand pocket and Canadian change in my right-hand pocket.

I took out the Canadian handful and rolled it around in my hand. I keep remembering on and off that it’s in there, and that I know several youngsters who would probably like it to add to their coin collections. I should remember to give it to—but I looked at the big, dull yellow wheels of loonies and didn’t want to give it to anybody. Four loonies, three toonies, and enough smaller change thrown in to make a generous pile. Four loonies and two toonies are useless here, except for deciding heads and tails, but in Vancouver they would buy you a Translink day pass. You could get on the train, go down to, say, Stadium station, and walk up the harbor. The waterfront houses are alarmingly stiff, manicured, and modern, but the air smells of the sea and the breeze tastes of it and there are boats of all descriptions out on the water. Maybe it would be raining. I looked at the change again. I didn’t quite remember what a water taxi cost, but I was fairly certain the remaining toonie and the small change would cover at least a one-way ticket to Granville Island. That would, of course, cut a bit out of the walk, but then again, what is walking to compare with watching the water churning white a hand’s length away, and feeling the boat roll over the swells that were thrown up by the tide, or by larger vessels? By boat or afoot (and preferably in the rain) you would come at last around a bend in the harbor that faced out to English Bay. There was the gray-green finger of Stanley Park and the mountains, almost black in the rain, beyond Burrard Inlet. Then, if you were on the boat, you might disembark at Granville Island and wander around the market, trying to find an unoccupied space (there were hundreds of people there, all looking very purposeful and moving very quickly) where you might stand and marvel at the variety of orchids that the flower shops offered. When this paled, you might follow the waterfront even further seaward, up to the Maritime Museum to look at the vessels tied up at their dock. There would be an astounding collection of wooden boats, and even more astoundingly, these would fade into the background, unremarkable and unremembered alongside the charming Munin, the Viking longboat with its trim overlapping strakes and mesmerizing figurehead.

If a toonie and some change would not buy you a water taxi ride, or if you followed Granville Island with a trip back to the mainland on the bus (using the day pass), there was always the sea wall on the downtown side of the harbor. Some slight excitement lay in remembering to keep out of the bike lane and trying not to become so enthralled by English Bay or the freighters, or the fireweed growing up through the rocks at the waterside that you caused a roller blading accident, but the main excitement came from the water itself. The water was alive, harbors breathed, rising and falling as the tides wore on, unveiling the glimmer of a starfish, the frenetic lives of tiny blue-green crabs, or the ballet of a jellyfish, a rose swaying in a windless world.

You would have to turn right when you came to Stanley Park. There would be nothing to prevent you from turning left except that it would bring you to the beach almost immediately. It would be preferable, no, mandatory, to walk the three-odd miles around the north side of the peninsula, watching the mountains across the inlet, until the road took you under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and you began to see glimmers of the open sea. It would never matter how many times you had seen English Bay that day, or in all your life; when you would come around the shoulder of Stanley Park and, with the inlet, meet the sea, you would be seeing it for the first time, a great grey plain, with the rain softening the far suggestions of islands that marked the edge of the world.

I put the change back in my pocket. Someday, I will lay out the toonies, find a set of smaller coins to go with each, and put each stack into a small fist that appreciates the intrigue of money from far places. But meanwhile, I'd like to spend it a few more times.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Time Jumpers

I know I must be getting old because I grouch at the smallest provocation. Music, in general, I find to be a rather large provocation. You turn on the radio and get the same half a dozen songs, sung by the same half a dozen singers, with the same half dozen licks in the background. Music is surprisingly un-musical, and I'm not talking about the obvious offenders, such as rap. I usually have to turn off the country station because it is hazardous to my health: I could be bored to death.

It was water in the desert, therefore, to be loaned a video of a Western Swing band called The Time Jumpers. Wow! Their songs may not be deeper than the average country song, but they are a gazillion times more enjoyable to listen to. They put a very strong emphasis on musicianship; their pieces are probably twice as long as anything on the radio because they allow time for a solo by the musicians--maybe several solos. It's not just a semblance of music out there to turn a dollar--it's genuine music, and lots of it!

Well, listen for yourself!* (The website starts playing automatically, so be sure your volume isn't up full blast!)

*Short for--"I would probably rave about these guys all night, but my computer is running out of batteries".