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From the day we arrive on this planet………

A robin has set up home under the eve outside our basement door. Initially she took flight each time I opened the door. Even a saunter past in the garden would put her defences up. That was 2 weeks ago and a lot has changed since then. Both Mr and Mrs Robin are doing stints of duty on the 3 dainty blue eggs. They appear to have built up enough trust or maybe the recurring pyjama drill has worn them down. They remain firmly ensconced in their nest while I carry out my daily gardening rituals. The keen observers now know my movements and my habits. I hope that they will choose my garden next summer!

The young robins….

It’s the circle of life……

The importance of having HISTORY with others was brought home to me yet again this week.  There is comfort in knowing you have both walked a similar road albeit for a short time in your life.

Whatever happened to …….?  There were so many questions and stories to tell and much to catch up. Both of us had moved countries so there was recent common ground too. Oh how wonderful it felt to sit and talk to someone who actually knew who I was in my ‘other life.’! We all need that sense of commonality with others as it reminds us what it is like to experience ‘the familiar.’  Shared memories are triggered by the familiar idiosyncrasies that have long been forgotten. We experience this when we get together with old friends or those that just feel like ‘old friends.’ There is comfort when you have walked a road with someone. They know where you come from, have experienced some of your highlights and sad moments and just know all your ‘streke!’

A visit from a friend….

Till we find our place on the path unwinding…..

Although the feeling of having your ‘old’ history brought home to you is comforting, it is essential that you create new history with the people you meet and the new places that you discover. I enjoy creating new rituals too. This can take the form of something simple like having a regular coffee bar.  The barista smiles as she recalls your order, “One shot latte coming up!”’ You might take it one step further and have your favourite spot near the window. This is where you observe the world go by. How basic is our need to belong?

Relocation means creating new history and a new friendship circle. In order to do this I need to don my brave hat and put myself out there! I am embarrassingly spontaneous so I just let this happen. If I feel the urge to talk to someone, then I simply do! Sometimes I get a strange look but I don’t let that deter me. You just need to find the common ground and then you have a jumping off point.

Would you like to join me for coffee after class?

Coffee with a friend along the sea walk….

Unfortunately I have been remiss. This blog was started during the summer but the amazing weather did not allow me to complete it. I was too busy creating new history! My computer could not compete with long walks along the seafront and my summer garden. But the Vancouver rain has come and we all pull our rain jackets from the back of the cupboard. I am getting used to the rhythm and what to expect here on the west coast of Canada..

It is the Circle of Life.

 And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

 On the path unwinding

The twins making history together…..

 

 

 

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Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

You got a fast car……..

Officer Singh looked at me quizzically through the pouring rain. I stood before him with the raindrops pouring down my face. He opened up his window.

“What seems to be the problem?” He had been parked there on the side of the busy road for ages. I think he had noticed me as I frantically charged back and forth along the street.

“I have lost my car! I parked it right there.” I pointed to the other side of the road. I was confident that this is what happened. But let’s go back a few hours…….

I had done my due diligence and checked all the road signs. I even remembered what was printed on them. Parking for one hour only……tick. No parking in front of driveway…..tick. Parking for two hours…..tick. I even checked to see if there was a fire hydrant as there is an even heavier fine for that one. As in any busy city, parking is a problem and there are so many rules here in Canada that one has to obey. Need I say that they are strongly enforced?

I was convinced that my car had been towed away. Officer Singh thought so too and phoned around for me. I stood at his window soaking wet. I knew that I had NOT parked illegally or had I? He opened the window again and announced that no car of my description had been towed. He then added that it could have been stolen. No, I did not believe that for a moment, not here in Canada!

He saw the look of desperation on my face. He jumped out of the car and walked round to the back door and opened it for me. He was tall and had a confident and strong manner.

Is it fast enough……..

“Get in and we will try to find your car.”

I duly jumped into the back. It was cramped and I manoeuvred myself onto the bench- like hard seat. Not sure what a tall criminal would feel like if he was made to sit in the back. I struggled to get my legs in! Once in, I leaned across and spoke to officer Singh through the opening in the glass window.

“This is the first time that I have driven in a police car.” There was silence other than the roar of the cruiser as we sped off down the road.

It was almost as if he had done this before. He turned at the next corner and doubled back on the road which ran parallel to the one that I had been charging up and down on. There she was…..all white and shiny. Rain drops trickling off her gleaming surface.

Officer Singh helped me out of the cruiser.

“Are you sure this is yours?”

“Yes, I am sure. Thank you so much.”

He waited for me to start the car and I sped off down the road. But before I took off I said to him through the window……

“I am sane you know. I have not done this before.”

I am not sure if he believed me, but was courteous enough not to show it. He just smiled.

Am I ever going to live this one down?

Another rainy day in Vancouver…..

 

 

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Music stirs my soul and I have such fun finding just the right piece for my blog. Sometimes it is the lyrics that resonate but other times it is just the voices that make it pertinent. The rich sounds waft through my house as I listen and enjoy. This recording is no exception as these voices really do justice to Queen’s famous rendition. They just add to the Hygge in my house on this beautiful sunny day in Vancouver.

I recently came across the term Hygge. It fascinated me as it is something that I have always practiced without giving it much thought. This also explained my endless preoccupation over the last year with getting my house cosy and inviting. It is a difficult concept to translate as it vague and has many interpretations but here goes….. It is from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well being.’ The Danes, who are regarded as the happiest country in the world, practice this concept in their homes and in the way they live. If I was to give you a practical example you could imagine this…..I am sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold Canadian winter’s night with a glass of red wine in my hand and my dog curled up at my feet. That is Hygge! Another could be sitting in a steaming hot tub on a cold January evening with the snow lining the trees and an equally satisfying beverage in my hand. This is Hygge!

You could be curled up under your duvet in your apartment, watching your favourite television programme while you chomp away at a decadent box of chocolates. It could be as simple as lighting a candle just to create the right atmosphere. Or having friends over for a relaxed potluck. These are all Hygge!

My garden, a cup of morning coffee and Josh…..my idea of Hygge.

It is about being kind to yourself, indulging in simple pleasures and not denying or punishing oneself because of it. I like the sound of that. What is life all about if we can’t have a little bit of what you fancy?

But it has wider applications too and not just confined to the comforts of home. Certain aspects have been introduced into the workplace to reduce stress levels. I noticed on a recent visit to the Amazon headquarters in Seattle that principles of the idea were being implemented. Amazon staff were encouraged to bring their dogs to work. Special areas were created to accommodate their needs. There was an outdoor play area where they could socialise with their canine brothers and do the necessary ablutions. These dogs have added another ‘Hygge’ dimension to an otherwise stressful day in the life of a software engineer. It makes you think……

Leo catching the number 9 to work…….

As far as I am concerned, a little piece of Denmark is alive and well at La Ravine …..our home in the forest.

Rhododendrons beckon you to draw closer…..

 

You might like to read the book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russel

Been rusting in the rubble…..

Goats are not one of my favourite animals. They smell and are often bad tempered. This is certainly the case with the ones that I have encountered. They do however, have a talent that I covet……the ability to climb up steep and rocky mountains. It is another grey Vancouver day. I am lying on my back among our trees with the Mission Creek stream snow- melt pulsing in my ears. In usual Vancouver style the water is falling from the skies as well as from the mountains. The world appears magical from this horizontal position.

When last did I just gaze skywards here? Probably on another occasion that I came scooting down on my rear on La Ravine! I seem to exercise this involuntary move a great deal lately. I scurry around along our steep river course in the quest for removing the previous owner’s building rubble and garden waste. This is when I covet the acrobatic ability of the humble goat the most. His prowess would be such a valuable asset on our steep river bank. We are fortunate to be surrounded by a forest of tall conifer trees so my tumbles go unnoticed. My red face goes unnoticed.

I am learning from the news……

According to the weather bureau we had the grand total of 75 hours of sunlight for the whole month of March! This rainy weather accompanied by the grey skies is getting to the most experienced locals. They assure us that this is not the norm. I think I have heard that somewhere before…..when we moved to Toronto and we endured temperatures of minus 40 C. Torontonians assured us that this occurrence was most unusual too. So what are we to do when a garden beckons?

Nothing quite like mucking about in a garden….

Fall like the rain…..

My short fashionable all weather trench coat just did not cut it anymore. One walk to the bus stop and I was soaked! On a recent trip to a consignment shop, I found a long, very long red raincoat. It was probably relinquished with glee when the previous owner moved back to Toronto……no rain there, only deep snow! Once donned it looked a bit like a bag lady until I accessorised it with a pair of shiny navy blue Wellie boots. Now I can take on any storm.

Now I am hypnotised……

There is nothing like a garden to ground you and to keep you present. I while away the hours as I dig, make new features and discover lost treasures under the soil here at La Ravine. The steep slopes have their challenges and the miserable weather a test of patience. But slowly I chip away at my Canadian soil and carry my Canadian rocks to new corners of my garden. With each spade full of earth, I feel that I am getting closer to making Vancouver my home. I am most grateful for my red raincoat!

 

The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there. Ellie Rodrigues

There are rocks to be carried……

 

 

I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

I got this feeling inside my bones……

Starting again is a great leveler. It takes courage to try something new whether it be a new career path or to move to a new country. But if you need to be brought down a peg or two, just move countries! All this newness makes you feel like a kid again. Whether it be in acquiring the rudimentary skills of making new friends of a different culture or learning to drive on the other side of the road. I still jump into the passenger side of the car and then creep out in case someone has spotted my idiotic act. It infuriates me that so much patterning has taken place in this brain of mine. Now I have to spend hours trying to reprogram this geriatric head!  So in order to survive I have had to learn to laugh. I laugh at myself and the mistakes I make.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired 'big boy'  rain gear.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired ‘big boy’ rain gear.

It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on….

As part of the LETS MAKE IT NEW AGAIN campaign we decided to buy an old house and to blow new life into it. Would I do this again if I had the choice? Not easily…..but I have learnt some home truths about myself through this whole process. I have mastered the art of just GETTING ON WITH LIFE while the walls tumble and shake around me. I find a small unused space and just get on with ‘it.’  Bear in mind that at times there are at times 4 different workmen here all going for it in various corners of the house. Once settled into my little cocoon I am able to shut out the world, turn on my computer and just get on with my writing. I do have the odd day when I just feel crazy and cannot handle another buzz or clunk. I grab poor old Josh and go and pound the pavements. Thankfully there are not too many of those days.

The other art that I have mastered is the one where there is A LACK OF PRIVACY. I am gregarious by nature so I do enjoy having people around me. On one particular day last week I had found refuge from all the clanging and banging in my bedroom. It was cold as the central heating was also part of the upgrade and had not been hitched up yet. I tucked myself up under a throw with my long suffering canine companion. He is taking major strain with all this noise and sometimes just sits and whimpers. Softie that I am, I now have him sleeping at the foot of our bed and at times he lets out a yelp. Who knows what those dreams are about……a bear chase or possibly a pneumatic drill?   Anyway to get back to my solitary pursuit. I managed to bash away on my computer for a while. But it was too good to be true, my tranquillity was to be invaded. This was all in the name of the barn door installation and was to be placed between the master suite and the bathroom. I was excited by this as I could see some of my ideas being implemented. So much energy had been put into more of the manly interests like a workshop, heating and lighting. I did see the reasoning behind all these upgrades and I was not wildly enthused by it all. So the installation of the said door continued. Before too long the other members of the team arrived and I had 3 young men in my bedroom. They admired the new addition and chatted about the building plans for the coming weeks. Suddenly my eyes noticed my black feather boa that I had tossed across the mirror when I had unpacked yet another box that morning. I am not sure why but I felt a hint of embarrassment. I had used it for a fancy dress occasion a few months before. I then wondered what else might be lying around in my bathroom…. My laundry basket was overflowing as the washing machine had been disconnected to attach a few more pipes. What secrets were about to be revealed? They were all young enough to be my sons so I shrugged this one off quickly.

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My girlie laundry in the process of transition searching madly for her inner beauty!

I got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet…..

The most important art that I feel I am well on my way to mastering is the one of PATIENCE. I think the builders might differ on this one. There are days when they can sock it to me with all the sorry tales of delays and I am gracious and understanding. Then there are other days when the ‘ crazy’ just rears its head and I just can’t handle another mishap. Then the inner child escapes and I go off at a tangent. But all too soon we reach a compromise and things are brought on track again. Thanks go to Adrian, Nico and Angela. I think I will have to invent some award for this category as I feel I have earned my stripes!

I am practicing my happy dance………the end of this renovation is in sight.

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough....

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough….