A walk through our James Bay neighbourhood

The Swengwhung people lived here first. Hudson’s Bay Company ‘bought’ the peninsula for 75 English pounds. Artist Emily Carr was born just a few blocks away.  

Sadly, like Vincent van Gogh, in her lifetime she was mocked and ridiculed. Now we have Emily Carr House, Emily Carr College of Art, an Emily Carr statue, in fact Emily Carr here there and everywhere.

So sorry, Emily . . . never mind, she continued on doing what she believed in despite adversity and scorn, to fulfill her calling. All those critics and people who made life difficult for her are gone, while Emily’s status as an icon continues to grow. Most of the street names here were coined by Hudson’s Bay officers. They must have been homesick or lacking in imagination since we’ve ended up with streets named Montreal, Superior, Toronto, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Belleville, Oswego, Quebec and Niagara, just to name just a few.
Nowadays we have horse-drawn carriages (which I mentioned in an earlier post) that carry visitors from all directions of the compass. While they zigzag through James Bay village, at least they also get to know “Canada” a bit with all those names from other parts of the country. James Bay village is a sidekick of Victoria. It’s a pleasant neighbourhood for walking (if it's not raining) en route to shop for groceries, strolling past many small gardens and old houses. And how about those street names? In a way they provide a strange kind of history and geography lesson for all those visitors, so perhaps the Hudson’s Bay officers weren’t nostalgic or short on imagination after all.


Teaching Mermaids the Splits

These blog posts are like talking to you without you actually hearing a voice, yet it ‘speaks’. You can share thoughts, memories and experiences all in one. Like some kind of magic. But then is life itself not magical? It gives me the willies just thinking with full consciousness of all that goes on in the body. The invisible but vital systems which keep us going. So it is with all living creatures. There’s supposed to be more atoms in our thumb than grains of sand on all beaches. If that’s true, doesn’t that give you goosebumps? “Amazing”, said Charlie Chan. He also said, “Human mind like parachute, works best when open.” Good old Charlie Chan. You know what else he said, when speaking to his Number One son?It is easier to teach a mermaid the splits than teach you anything.” I wonder if he also had in mind the arrogant and indifferent world leaders. Speaking of world leaders, there is an old Flemish saying, “When the calf is drowned, they cover the well.” 


the colour of the universe

Have you ever noticed those adverts to relieve headaches never mention how to prevent a headache in the first place? There seems to be something amiss (in our brains) sometimes. We seldom look at the cause. 
Take butterflies. (I call them 'flutterbys', they flutter and there is no butter or fly on them). Scientists say they're disappearing. "Maybe the birds ate them?" they say. Well, before they come out of the cocoon, as you know they're caterpillars. These are eaten by birds (but birds are also at risk, remember Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"?) and other creatures. Of course there is no chicken without the egg. So, no colourful flutterbys without caterpillars. There may be another cause: pollution?

Then we have problems with the bees. Cause? Scientists are "baffled". That is becoming a household word, baffled, as if we know everything. One day, coffee is not good for you. Next day, it's not only good, but very good for you. Eggs: too much cholesterol. Now, eggs are good for you. Et cetera. 

Even the colour of the universe changes. Yes, it was blue, then turquoise. Now, they say it's taupe (!). Speaking of colour, in the early 1960's, during a visit to Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain, I encountered a couple having a fierce argument while looking at a painting.

"It's green!", he said. "It's blue!", she said. On and on, their voices raised to higher and higher decibels. Finally I went over to look. It was a work by Velasquez. I observed the picture, and said quietly to the couple, "It's neither blue nor green, but turquoise."


the english language and challenges

And now for something completely different. English is not my mother's tongue nor for that matter my father's. Had to learn it in order to communicate and survive as an immigrant. Just so you know what we're up against when learning a new language like English, I thought I'd pass along some of the confusion. Maybe you can send some others along?

Squirrel: but pronounced "skwirrel"
Knight (noble) and Night (evening)
Beach (shoreline) and beech (tree)
Wave (water) and wave (hi/bye)
Sea (ocean) and see (look)
Dear (person) and deer (animal)
Grave (cemetery) and grave (serious)
Plot (garden) and plot (conspiracy)
Hair (human) and hare (animal)
Rain and Reign
One Leaf/Two Leaves
One Fish/Two Fish
Bear (animal) and bare (naked)
Present (now) and present (gift)
Wait (for someone) and weight (kilos)
Vacuum Cleaner - which vacuum, the whole cosmos? In Netherlands it's a "dust sucker" which is what it does.

There are many more, it would take too much space. Speaking of the Cosmos -- where does all that
Space come from, before-the-before? Before the Big Bang.


modes of transport & wonders of the world

A question came in about what kind of transport would I recommend to see the world. Other than traditional ocean liners, my ways of getting from here to there have covered dugout canoe, dhow, schooner, mailboat, jumbo jet, rickshaw, freighter, dive boat, Piper Cub, icebreaker, helicopter, horse, bicycle, camel, ferry, train and last but not least, donkey. 
Ah yes, by foot too. Which sights to recommend? Tastes, expectations and wishes vary widely in the human family. Not to speak of experience. For me, looking back, five places stand out or have never left me. Pyramids of Egypt - amazing. Macchu Picchu - a wonder. Taj Mahal - the greatest ode to love in marble and semi-precious stone. Petra, Jordan - an awesome wonder. Finally, Alhambra in Andalousia, Spain - breathtaking, spine-chillling. Poetry in stone, intricate carving, precious filigree work. Gardens, fountains. All designed by the Moors with views of the snowclad Sierra Nevadas.
Of course there are more sights, natural and manmade. For pure Nature -- Lake Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. Clap your hands and the sky is full of bright pink flamingos, an unforgettable experience. 

Here's a picture of me in the Antarctic, at South Georgia, with thousands of penguins. The Banda Sea between Bali and Ambon - snorkelling and seeing 'jewels with tails and fins'. Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Enough, enough. One wonder at a time. Although life itself is a wonder and a mystery.


flowers - the first advertisers?

Our building has an outdoor pool which is surrounded by lots of flowers in ceramic pots. Petunias, impatiens, pelargonium, labelia, gazanias and of course geraniums. Also a small rose garden -- all tended by a volunteer, a long-time tenant who lives on the ground floor suite right beside the pool. Once in awhile she gives us a cut flower after our swim. This makes me think of my childhood in the Lowlands. I was surrounded by flowers, especially tulips. 

Now, why are those flowers there at all? Surely not for us to adore. They're on this planet much longer than we Homo Sapiens. We know bees pollinate flowers and in turn get their nectar, future honey. Also fruit trees when in blossom need the bees to pollinate for their fruit. Hummingbirds depend on flowers, to sustain themselves, to survive on the nectar and energy it gives them. Maybe flowers were the first advertisers? They flash their gorgeous colours and scents, to compete and to survive. Not unlike Las Vegas with all the glittering casino lights. "Come to us. You'll be glad you did. The jackpot awaits you!" So too flowers say, "Come to me, my nectar is the best." So why do we cut the flowers? We don't do them a service, nor the bees (or our honey). But who does not love flowers. Shall I tell the friendly lady? Ah well, maybe not.