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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….

All the walls would fall around me…..

 

One thing about living in a ‘cardboard,’ alias drywall, house is that sound travels! The drills drone, power tools whine and hammers bash. There is no relief in the never ending cacophony that resounds from the depths of our cabin in the woods. All in the name of RENOVATION. I thought that years of listening to the ‘white noise’ of my classes of children would have conditioned me to this rumble. But it is not the case! My nerves cry out but it falls on deaf ears…..

 

Our cabin in the forest....

Our cabin in the forest….

 La Ravine, as she has been aptly named, teeters on the edge of the Mission Creek ravine. She is perched elegantly on safe ground above the white water and is serenaded by the swirl of the waves that plummet down the rocks. This sound has become our indicator of the upcoming weather for the day. The density of the crash of water is indicative of whether we wear the light and pretty weather resistant raincoat or if it is time to pull out the big guns. The papa bear of raincoats is hardly glamourous but it does the trick! Donned in my sensible waterproof shoes, I am bound to add just a dash of colour with the swirl of an infinity scarf.   Oh my…this Vancouver, is wet, wet and more wet!

These never ending worries, pulling on my sleeves.

But back to the renovation……I think you all know that all our efforts are going into getting ourselves a place to call home again. I thought the first move was hard enough but little did I realise that I would have to do it all over again. What a sucker for punishment! The test has been the lack of order and stability in my life. Unpacked boxes still abound! But I do have the excitement of the unpredictable. The question being…..do I actually need this excitement in my life?

Today it is a bulldozer ,tomorrow who knows....

Today it is a bulldozer, tomorrow who knows….

 Is it furnace fitting or is this the day that the bulldozer will be taking out half the garden? I never know how it will pan out. These workmen beaver away with intent and I marvel at their progress. Thank goodness for the capable hands of Matt, Adrian and Nico. They are out there and certainly don’t shy away from the Vancouver drizzle! I wander around and record the transformation through photographs. These get fed to the family who want to be kept abreast with the progress.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it....chimney sweep's assistant today.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it….chimney sweep’s assistant today.

It’s gonna be okay!

So I am having excellent training at just living in the present. I don’t think further than tomorrow and I have got really adept at improvising. Whether it be for a make shift curtain or a quick bed for a guest.

Yes, the Morkel guest lodge is open for visitors as long as the patrons don’t mind a rather eclectic stay.

Our brave visitors.....Jon and Sarah.

Our brave visitors…..Jon and Sarah.

 

Life is older than the trees…..

My canvas bush hat is pulled right down over my eyes. I peer up at the grey skies and the drizzle wets my face. The hot water swirls up against me and the warmth soothes. This is hot tubbing Vancouver style. Sometimes we resort to the protection of a golf umbrella. We jump into said hot tub and prop up this useful apparatus. There is some skill attached to getting the angle just right. This alleviates the possibility of icy rain drops trickling down one’s back. Then all that is left to do, is to indulge in our daily medicinal ritual. There has to be a way of beating this weather at its game!

Here's to acclimatisation....

Here’s to acclimatisation….

The wild storm had raged on through the night. We lay and listened to the pine cones that crashed and hit the skylights.  Our forest succumbed and branches flew off and tumbled down the embankment. The eco-friendly ‘green roof’ was thick with its carpet of leaves.

 

“Please tell me, honestly……does it rain like this all the time?”

My new friend looked at me long and hard. She drew in a deep breath and paused. I think she was trying to decide whether she should give me the information in the form of a ‘white lie’ or whether I could handle the truth. It was to be the latter……

“It rains pretty much all the time….. till March.”

My heart sunk. Minus temperatures are one thing but soggy rainy days are another!

Almost instantaneously I felt a surge of energy. Survival mode kicked in and ideas rushed into my head. How would I manage these endless soggy rainy days? But a plan began to formulate…..

I am always partial to a spot of clothes shopping. I had recently eyed a rather fetching shiny navy spotted raincoat. I could envisage it with the rain drops sliding off its gleaming surface. I had pushed this rather frivolous idea into the far reaches of my brain. After all the recently acquired sensible khaki one would have to suffice. But that was 3 weeks ago, before the harsh reality of the Vancouver winters had set in.

So it is off to the shops for me. I do hope that the little spotted number is still around. In fact I think my green fishing wellies could do with an update!

Fishing wellies ready for an update....

Fishing wellies ready for an update….

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

Our creek is filling up after the rains.

 

 

 

♫ Rise♫ by Katy Perry

I must stay conscious
Through the madness and chaos…….

 

“You do know that the rain never stops in Vancouver!”

It was move- in day and true to form, it bucketed down. Soggy people and boxes filled the front doorway. The movers lurched down our four flights of stairs and the piles of boxes steadily climbed towards the skylights.

“Where would you like this?”

I looked up from my pile of paper in the kitchen.

“I really don’t know! Find a space……anywhere.” I wanted to weep.

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare....

Boxes,boxes everywhere and no inch to spare….

So I call on my angels….

I lay and listened to the loud squawk of the Steller’s jay and the deep blast of the cruise ship’s horn that resonated from the harbour. My brain was still trying to process ‘all that is new’ from my unfamiliar environment. These sounds sooth the jaded unpacker’s weary muscles. I decide to lie just another 10 minutes. I can see down to the river from my uncurtained bedroom window. I jump up and open the door onto the balcony…..just a fraction. Enough to keep the cool morning air out and to let in the sounds of the bubbling stream. It is still too early for our grey heron who has regular fishing trips along our banks. He must be having a lie in too! I have begun to recognise the clicking hoop of his call and the enthusiasm of his flapping wings through the giant cedar trees.

Our resident Stella's jay...the national bird of BC.

Our resident Stella’s jay…the national bird of BC.

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas....

The ceremonial placing of my African pot that has traveled the high seas….

I won’t just conform
No matter how you shake my core
……
My days disappear as I fill them with trying to create some order out of this chaos. I am making headway with the unpacking of boxes and am slowly becoming an expert at discarding unwanted clutter. Yes, I am still at it! My heart has hardened and am able to toss that favourite scarf or special ornament. This is round two of my clear out session! Hopefully the thrift shop will find a home for all these once ‘special things’ that have no place in our downsized abode. Fortunately we still have a Black Hole which runs under the house. It is slowly filling up with the camping gear, Christmas decorations and seasonal items like the skis. I hesitate to place anything there. It is dark and awful and I hate going down there! It feels like any piece of furniture or box that gets put down in the hole, is being committed to a stint in solitary confinement.

Josh on his morning fishing expedition....

Josh on his morning fishing expedition at our river.

Victory is in my veins…..

Nature reminds me of the rhythms that surrounds me. I feed off the familiarity in the sounds of the birds and the consistency of the flow of the river. Some things don’t change.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay...with some tech assistance.

The view across the bay from the north shore quay…with some tech assistance!

 

It is close to midnight and something evil is lurking in the dark…..

It was dark in there with a narrow shaft of light filtering through the small window near the roof. There was something sinister about this area. It was dank and had nothing going for it. My house renovation had me thinking about how to maximise space and to attract light into our home in the forest. I had visions of creating a happy space down there. This would make the tedious job of laundry day a whole lot more pleasant. It was the one area that I could afford to make as ‘girlie’ as possible, as I did not envisage the Morkel men frequenting it on a regular basis!

There are holes everywhere.....

There are holes everywhere…..

Suddenly a shrill scream rang through the house. What sounded like wooden shelving crashed onto the floor.There was shouting and then silence.

“Shine the torch this way…..”

The skull was perched up behind the broken dry wall. It caught the light and gleamed in the darkness.

“What do we have here?” said the foreman as he climbed the stairs into room. He had come to investigate the cause of the commotion.

You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes…..

Another light source was found and the inspection continued.  The skull was examined from all angles. The question was…..Where was the rest of the body? A fleeting glance was cast around the room and then everyone made for the door. It was unanimously decided that digging up corpses was not part of the job description.

The police arrived with their forensic team and Horace the Horrible was taken off to the lab for further tests.

You close your eyes and hope this was just imagination…..

We have been in our new house in North Vancouver for a few weeks now and I often wondered why none of our neighbours had called around to welcome us to the area. I reasoned that they were probably all busy or tied up with vacation visitors. At one stage I had thought it was the Quebec number plates on our hired car. But I can only imagine what they might now be thinking after Horace the Horrible made his appearance. What with a forensic team and the police on our doorstep, they must think their new neighbours are part of the Addams family.

I suppose that will give them something to think about…….

By the way, Horace the Horrible was an extremely good replica of the real thing.

The local fauna came to greet us....a Grey Heron perched on our deck.

The local fauna came to greet us….a Grey Heron perched on our deck.

A quiet moment at the bottom of the garden.....

A quiet moment at the bottom of the garden…..

 

This rendition is by Heart at the Kennedy Centre with the original group in the audience. It was performed for the first time in 1971.

There is a lady who is sure all that glitters is gold

And she is buying a stairway to heaven…….

My legs ache as I trundle up, what feels like the 100th time, the four levels of our staircase to the road. The garden debris duly deposited, I make my way down again for the next load. The overgrown garden is getting a facelift. I tug away at strings of rampant creeper and slowly the magnificence of this garden is being revealed. There are all sorts of treasure troves beneath this blanket of green…..two earthenware pots, old garden tools and discarded lights. As I unearth each object there is an unraveling of the story behind this house.

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth....

Two earthenware pots emerge from the undergrowth….

There is a feeling I get when I look to the west…..

This wild child was designed and built in the 70’s and is a real mix of eclectic west coast charm. Plenty of light pours in from the large windows and skylights. Besides her cheerful disposition, this old rocker was due for her Botox rejuvenation.  It seems that she has had 2 other owners besides us. Each adding their own taste in style with ‘creative flair.’ As a result some cohesion and updating was necessary. I can assure you…..not all of it cosmetic either! Most of the updating centres on the damp issue. The house is built on rock and where you have rock, you have water. The scourge of any home owner up near the Grouse Mountain.

The original plans

The original plans of house in the forest…..

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
And the forests will echo with laughter…….

I hear you saying……why no house inspection? The Vancouver house market is so vicious that if you request a house inspection, you lose the house. We had already looked at so many mouldy oldies and this one certainly captivated us with her forest and her stream. It was a choice we made with our eyes wide open. We had to just jump in and swim! And swim we did, with the reality of what lay ahead of us. In record time renovators were organised. Matt, you are a gem! You have taken charge with such professionalism. Each week brings progress and with that my sleep pattern improves. So far floors have been ripped up and it has revealed this lady’s checkered past. We deal with each of these transgressions in turn. A gas line will be brought down from the road for heating and cooking. Areas are being damp proofed, gutters replaced and electrics updated. But always the one to prepare for the unforeseen. I have bought myself a really fancy new bathing costume…..just in case!

'n Ruskansie ......

‘n Ruskansie ……

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder……..

Our lease on the apartment expires this weekend, the fate of our cars unknown, we have an unfinished house and our dear hound sits in the kennels! We are joining the ranks of the homeless in Vancouver! On the bright side, we have a 70’s rocker who is dusting off her dancing shoes. She is about to emerge from her chrysalis and will be rejoicing in her new found splendour!

Her second childhood has begun……

There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold……