Finally, my latest YA book is nearly ready for flight. The first draft was finished in the US in 1997 during a leave of absence from my job in PEI. The launch will be in June or September 2018 — I will post the date as soon as I know. The story is fictional though many events are based on real incidents experienced by myself, other dog owners, farmers and real dogs. My characters are inspired by the rural history and immigration of Dutch farmers to PEI, by dog trainers and veterinarians I have worked with and learned from, and by my local community of talented fibre artisans.
I am also indebted to the many people who have given me feedback during the long, interrupted process of writing and polishing this work – from my beloved writing group of sisters, to creative writing fellow students and teachers (thank you, Richard Lemm!), and many others — you know who you are. And to my newest group of inspiring friends, the generous writing community in Tasmania, a huge warm hug of thanks to all of you.
My friend Karen who lives nearby in Burnaby, picked me up this morning for a walk-about along the beaches of the Spanish Banks then up to the Botanical Gardens of the University of British Columbia. Earlier in the morning I was awakened by the start of the annual Vancouver Marathon. The muster point was near my family’s home – 17,000 runners from 65 countries around the world were gathered just down the block from us. Our drive to the Spanish Banks, part of English Bay that separates North and West Vancouver from the rest of the city, was not direct. There were many blocked off roads due to the Marathon in progress.
The Spanish Banks were so-named because Spanish navigators first surveyed and charted the shallow banks on the south side of English Bay.
Karen and I arrived in time for a guided tour of the hanging bridges strung between gigantic Douglas and Grand Firs and other huge, ancient conifers and maples. We learned about some of the many ferns, like licorice fern that live on the bark of certain trees. The design of the narrow, hanging bridges and fixed platforms is such that trees are not stressed or harmed, using a system of adjustable harnesses and rigging. It’s brilliant, though traversing them can be a bit of a thrill for people who have any trouble with heights and wobbly footing.
Back in the city, at my brother’s home, I noticed their little evergreen bush was adorned with the fallen pink petals of cherry trees. In this huge bustling city of concrete and glass, there is a feast of colour and living, growing, breathing plants everywhere I look. Soon I will be travelling south to the dry deserts and natural rock monuments of southern Utah. What an amazing, diverse world we live in.
Early May in Vancouver visiting family and friends, I have found the warmth and colours that are slowly coming to PEI after our long winter on the east coast. During my stay here I also visited the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the work of Takashi Murakami, called The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. Mind-bending to say the least.
I’ve also been enjoying my brother Terry’s fine gourmet offerings, tasting culinary delights at a local craft fair with my sister-in-law Jodie, and watching niece Kira perform in Moby Dick the Musical at the Lord Byng High School. Kira played the part of Moby Dick, encased in a suitably decorated large white box….plus she provided live special effects and sang and danced with the chorus. A lively, colourful and complicated show pulled off beautifully by the huge cast.
Here are a few of the photos from my walks with Kaia, the smallest member of the family, as we wandered the cherry blossom petal-covered sidewalks, and through the magnificent flowers and trees of Queen Elizabeth Park.
My last week in Australia started with an early flight from Gold Coast to Sydney. I was met by a smiling cousin Jan — once we found each other in the pick-up parking maze. This was her first week as a retiree from her decades at a full-time job. Like many of us who find that retirement is also a full time job and sometimes more demanding than the job with the pay check, Jan will be busy. We started off by visiting with a couple of her adult sons and a grandson, and strolling down to the local Balmoral Beach with them.
After a long wait for take-away we returned to Jan’s car up a very long, steep hill. She heard that I liked to walk, and walk we did! It also happened to be one of the hotter days so we needed to pause now and then. Back at Fergus’ apartment the three of them got busy with their mobile phones trying to find tickets to a performance at the Opera House. Nearly everything was booked for the days I had left. What a team effort! We had no idea what we ended up with, just happy to find anything.
The next morning Jan and I drove up to Killdare Beach in the Central Coast area north of Sydney. Her cousin, Wendy, lives nearby and she and her husband Colin and their dog Poco were waiting for us at the Surfers’ Club Cafe on the beach, along with an old time jazz band which played until noon.
Wendy, Jan and I also took a short hike to an overlook of Hardy Bay, the local harbour.
The following day Jan and I visited the Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney. We toured a replica of Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, as well as a famous destroyer, the Vampire, complete with canons and guns, and finally the freighter James Craig.
We also climbed to the top of an old lighthouse re-located from Bowling Green. We then met with Anthea, a visiting friend of Jan’s, for lunch on the wharf. Our order came very late (they actually forgot about us) so we were given complimentary drinks and an extra dish of food (calamari) to share. Jan and I managed to return to her home on the train without falling asleep and missing our stop (all that fresh air, climbing up and down the lighthouse and ships on a warm day followed by 2 drinks). We took a nap, then prepared dinner for Jan’s family, a weekly affair apparently. That day her sons Robert and Tom and Tom’s wife Sharon came over, so now I’ve met the entire brood.
The next day Jan and I drove into the Blue Mountains to view the Three Sisters rock formation and hike along the top of an escarpment to a water fall.
We dined at the Boiler House Restaurant next to the Hydro Majestic Hotel, some of which was roped off for a movie set. But which movie?? We finished our day with a short hike at Govett’s Leap before returning to Jan’s home in Beecroft.
My final day in Australia was a full on cultural experience. We began by taking the train to the heart of Sydney and the Shangri La Hotel, where Jan made New Year’s Eve reservations for some of her local and Canadian family. While waiting for the paperwork we indulged in coffee and a fancy melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-covered mousse roll.
Before and after cake…….
Reinforced with caffeine and chocolate, we strolled over to the Royal Botanic Gardens and were suitably impressed with the huge and varied ferns, flowers and especially the Moreton Bay Fig tree.
We toured the Museum of Art en route to the Sydney Opera House. The display of aboriginal paintings appealed to my colour senses. An appetizer for the play we were to watch after dinner at the Opera House Cafe.
The one hour performance called Chrysalis was produced by a new theatre company that includes disabled, including non-verbal, actors. Impressive!
I was not as sad as I thought I might be, leaving this beautiful, highly diverse country, in many ways not so different from Canada. I was not sad to say goodbye to a number of wonderful new friends (and relatives) because I knew I would have to return. This was a sampler tour. I’ll be back for the main course!
On November 7th I received a warm welcome from Jan’s sister, Sue Lassen, who lives in Gold Coast, north of Sydney. Cousin Sue and I decided on a plan for the week – while she was at work and I would be touring the area.
I took a Byron Bay Tour the next morning, November 8th, a rainy, windy day with spectacular vistas and a non-stop commentary from the tour guide/driver.
On Friday I had a private rainforest tour with Kaylene Whitely in Springbrook National Park. Another soggy day to explore the falls at Natural Bridge and Purling Brook Falls. During one downpour we enjoyed freshly baked lemon cake and mocha at the Rosella Café. Later I saw the work of strangling fig vines which, over time, have ‘devoured’ entire trees.
On the path to ‘Best Ever Lookout’ Kaylene pointed out ancient Antarctic beech trees and her favourite, the ‘sentinel’ trees standing straight and tall and evenly spaced as if they had been planted that way.
Once at the lookout the fog was too thick to see beyond our out held hands, so when the skies opened up again it was a dash back up the track to the car. That evening Sue, Gus and I visited the Spit near Surfers’ Paradise. There were very few other people on our walk to the jetty and along the beach, with spectacular views back toward Broadbeach.
On Saturday, November 11th, Sue and I drove up to Mt. Tamborine. At O’Reilly’s we were surrounded by friendly parrots, lovely villas and hanging bridges over tree-tops on our rainforest walk.
We had a hot tasty lunch at the North Tamborine pub with live music. The local ‘Fortitude’ ginger beer was awesome. Then we toured the Mt. Tamborine Botanic Gardens. It was a gorgeous walk with with brooks, ponds and bridges and many shrubs, flowering plants and trees eg booyong.
I bade cousin Sue and Gus farewell early Sunday morning, returning to Sydney and cousin Jan. The adventure continues….