Tuesday, April 29, 2014

old red wheelbarrow

old red wheelbarrow
with a yellow tire beside
a white picket fence

The first thing I notice after we disembark from the ferry at Victoria port on Vancouver Island is two red and white flags -- the stars and stripes and the maple leaf -- curling in the breeze behind a blue cedar tree. The island, part of British Columbia, nests between two neighboring nations, and I feel a friendly blending everywhere we go. However, there are definite differences. For example, all of the wheelbarrows I see on the island are red with a yellow tire and a blue stand, whereas wheelbarrows in the U.S. may have a red, blue, yellow or green bucket, but the tire itself is inevitably black.

We are scheduled to go to Butchart Gardens this afternoon but we're lost. The GPS doesn't work, we don't have a paper map and Gabe doesn't have reception on his cell phone, even though he paid extra for his service to extend to this area. And it's raining. After driving around the little town of Brentwood Bay for awhile, Gabe and Susan pull into a parking lot and go into a nearby coffee shop to ask directions. We sit in the cars for awhile and I take a photo of Samantha smiling through raindrops on the car window. Finally, we get out and go into the coffee shop. I order a matcha latte but just admire the sweets on display.

By the time we head off again it's getting late and it's still raining. At the entrance to the gardens, we see a group of Chinese, all carrying black umbrellas, boarding a tour bus. I didn't bring an umbrella, only a rain cape, and I was trying, unsuccessfully, to picture taking photos without getting my camera wet. Gabe asks the woman at the ticket gate whether she would advise waiting until tomorrow. She says, yes, the weather will be clear and the gardens open at 9. I'm relieved. I don't think any of us fancied taking photos in the rain. So we turn around and head for OUR Ecovillage, a sustainable learning community where we will be guests for a few days. However, Gabe doesn't exactly know how to get there and no one answers the phone at the village, so we just start driving north toward Cowichan Valley. On the way, the rain lets up so we pull over at an overlook and get out to take photos of the vibrant, rain soaked landscape.

Finally, someone answers the phone and we get directions, arriving just in time for dinner.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

through the curved windows

through the curved windows
of the ferry, two girls gaze
at the curving wake

In the morning we load up the cars for the next leg of our journey to Vancouver. I learned how to pack from travels with my father, so I jigsaw puzzle the luggage into the trunk (or "boot" as my English buddy says). At the Anacortes ferry dock we join a line (Nicki says "queue") of vehicles waiting to board. The buoys that corral the ferries near the dock look like scifi islands looming up out of the water.

The buoys are crowded with cormorants, graceful waterbirds with sinuous necks, blue-black feathers, orange neck patch and long hooked bill for catching fish. After diving for fish, the birds perch with wings outspread to dry. These fish eaters have painted the dark metal with abstract splotches and streaks of their white droppings, truly visceral art.

Entering from the stern, we park in a double line on one side of the garage, then get out and walk upstairs to the passenger area. The Chelan ferry cruises slowly for about two hours through the San Juan Islands, stopping only once at Friday Harbor before reaching Victoria on Vancouver Island. After reading about the dearth of lifeboats on the Titanic, I check out the location of the life rafts and life preservers, comfortingly colored orange.

Then I gravitate to the open stern deck, a bit cold and windy, to savor the scenery: the curving line of the wake, pine covered islands eclipsing blue islands sliding by under a mottled blue-gray sky, birds skimming the dark water, tiny boats far in the distance. 

Of course, there's people watching: a trio of boys leaning against the deck railing, an older man with a ballpoint pen in his right hand ready to take notes on a piece of paper while his left index finger taps an iPad, a father buttoning his daughters' jackets before a stroll outside.

And then there's the serendipitous discovery of beauty in unexpected places and forms: the undulating lines of oak benches, a sprinkling of blue and yellow rubber bands like bubbles floating on a river of rust.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

flying from flat plains

flying from flat plains,
crossing the Cascade Mountains,
amazed by white peaks

On a Monday morning in early April, I drive seven miles to campus to board a small white bus. Our group of ten are heading off for a photography excursion to Vancouver. My husband drives us two hours to Des Moines, where I say goodbye to him at the airport, I say goodbye to him. I've got my camera bag and tripod in a backpack, my clothes in a small suitcase and a little neck bag the size of an envelope for my passport, credit card, cash and smartphone. At the check-in desk, I inquire about changing my middle seat to an aisle seat, but am told that it costs $25 to "upgrade," so I decline. Airlines now charge for lots of services that used to be free, including checked bags, $25 each way. At the gate we're required to insert our carry-on bag into a slot with the maximum dimensions. The bag of the lady in front of me is too fat. She jumps on it but it still won't go in. Finally, she unzips the bag, takes out some clothes and hands them to her little girl. Now the bag fits, just barely. My hard-sided case easily fits in the slot, but when I lean down to extract it, the silver snake chain around my neck catches on something and breaks, scattering my little pendants. Hastily I gather them up and stick them in my neck bag.
          The plane is full. Fortunately, it's only an hour and a half to Denver, where we have a long stopover. I have time to eat lunch and shop for a replacement chain, which I find in a Native American store. My buddy Nicki and I enjoy examining some lovely carved animal fetishes. She especially admires one carved from clear quartz crystal, but they're expensive and she hopes she can find more when we get to Vancouver. I'm not so sure. These are made by Native Americans in the Southwest, many of them signed by the artist.
          The flight to Seattle is about two and half hours. It turns out that a couple end up separated by the aisle, so I offer to trade my middle seat with the woman, who agrees. I'm happy to upgrade to an aisle seat, but then another couple arrives with a one-year-old to take the two seats next to me. I see that there's a window seat empty next to Gabe and Susan, so I offer to let them have my aisle seat so the baby can sit between them and they gratefully accept. Whether this was an upgrade or a downgrade, at least I'm not in the middle. As we fly over the Cascades, I'm glued to the window. Living in the flat plains of Iowa, it's always amazing to see mountains, whether from a car or an airplane. When I see a couple of big snow-covered peaks sticking up from the long range of mountains, I take my first photo of the journey. I'm not sure, but I think it's Mt. Rainier in the foreground.
          We take a shuttle bus to the rental car place and wait outside as the sun turns a bank of clouds flourescent pink while our two leaders, Gabe and Susan, negotiate ground transportation. They were hoping to rent a van, but none are available, so we end up with two cars, one silver, one black. Nicki and I opt for Gabe's silver car, because we like silver. Susan was not expecting to drive, so she's following Gabe, who has the GPS, though it turns out that the GPS doesn't work. Gabe and Susan want to head off immediately for our motel, a two hour drive, but we're all hungry, so at the exit to the parking garage, Gabe asks for directions to a restaurant. Although it's only a couple of blocks away, we get lost. Gabe accidentally turns into a parking lot full of taxis, all occupied by Sikhs in turbans. One of them kindly directs us to the restaurant, which offers an odd combination of Chinese and Peruvian fare. It's late when we starting following highway 5 north about 80 miles, turn west, cross a bridge to Fidalgo Island and continue to Anacortes at the northern tip, the home port for the San Juan Islands. Finally we bump down a dirt road to a little motel, arriving late at night. The ferry to Vancouver leaves early in the morning, so we just fall into bed.