Friday, January 29, 2010

Where'd The Snow Go

AS THE TOP PICTURE from a previous year shows, snowy winter weather has appeared in the Fraser Valley Region of BC. I'm sure it wasn't a dream. I recall shoveling several times in winters past, especially in 2008/2009 when unrelenting flakes seemed to never stop falling.

Ironically, now that the 2010 Winter Olympics are soon upon us and weather pressures are high, there has been plenty of rain but almost no snow in Vancouver or surrounding areas so far this year.

Although I was probably looking in all the wrong places ...

I recently went "puddling" in and around the Ocean Park area of Surrey in search of the fluffy stuff.

There were no sightings. I was not able to find a trace of winter white anywhere.

But since there have been many sudden snowfall surprises in the past ...

fresh flurries could make the landscape quite slippery …

frosty and chilly VERY fast!

Do YOU Believe? A lot of people are hoping it will snow in time for the games.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Dash To Stop Proroguing Parliament

TICK TOCK, tick tock ... the stoic and inscrutable Olympic Clock might have said, if it were not digital and could talk.

We dashed past the Flying Girl seen through the Vancouver Public Library window, thinking we were late for the Stop Proroguing Parliament Rally.

Although in a hurry, we couldn't resist stopping to admire the library's marvelous mass of architectural arcs and swirls.

Surprisingly, at the Vancouver Art Gallery where the rally was to be held, we instead found a lone woman at the foot of the historically ornate building who explained the group had left and was marching to Victory Square.

Time relaxed for a moment when a mother, with her adorable daughter and doll, caught my attention and she allowed me to take a picture. They were each accidentally dressed in a pretty pattern resembling the giant floral panel decorating the gallery walls.

Arriving at Victory Square, we discovered a notable crowd. There were buttons, waving flags, and a variety of signage to show objections over the closure of Parliament until March 3, 2010.

Standing in the mud-soaked grass, we were immersed in speeches and the hearty organized shouting of slogans by a conscientious crowd.

It was encouraging to see such a rousing civil display of democracy. The rally was just one of several groups voicing their views last Saturday.

People expressing themselves throughout the city covered topics such as: Save Christians In Egypt; to Haiti Needs Emergency Relief, Not Military Intervention; to Canadian Troops Out Of Afghanistan. There were also several folk out and about protesting the upcoming Olympics.

The peaceful array of democratic opinion was somehow as comforting and colorful as the unruffled rainbow circling one onlooker's hat.

For more information about the purpose of the rally we attended search for Proroguing of Parliament online.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I See You: Proroguing Parliament

WE NOTICED A YOUNG woman handing out flyers as our vehicle crawled along a busy Vancouver street last Sunday. We were on our way out of the City after seeing Avatar at Scotiabank Theatre. Several people rejected what she offered and quickly walked by. I rolled down the car window and asked what she was doing. She smiled and handed me a small piece of paper, bringing me back to earth from Avatar’s imaginary planet Pandora and its breathtaking beauty.

The flyer was about an upcoming Rally on January 23, 2010, at the Vancouver Art Gallery, 1 pm to 4 pm. Leaving the paper to wrinkle in my pocket, I was, nonetheless, impressed with the woman’s willingness to get involved. My instinct is to reject the notion that Mr. Harper can simply shut down Parliament at his whim. Those wanting to know more about Prorouging and the reason for the rally can visit here.

In the Avatar movie, there is a greeting the people of Pandora give to one another that means more than a simple 'hello' or 'how are you'. The 'I see you' greeting seems to offer a greater sense of connection, understanding and appreciation between people. I suppose when one turns to politics, however, 'I see you' can also represent people paying attention when some leaders hope to quietly move their agendas along, assisted by public apathy.

1001 Steps, Ocean Park, BC

WEATHER CAN CHANGE suddenly in BC. Although the wind is howling and whipping through the evergreens this early morning, the mood last Saturday was serene in Ocean Park, Surrey, where I ventured down the 1001 Steps. Not a single drop of rain squeezed out of the sky and my inner Penelope set her umbrella aside for a while near the entrance. I went 'puddling' down the stairs, admiring the contrast of lacey patterns on the leafless trees and bold lines of the wooden stairs along the way.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Friday, January 15, 2010

When Too Many Leaves Fall

THE EARTHQUAKE CATASTROPHE in Haiti, the boy soldier carried to his final resting-place in a coffin draped with a Canadian flag, the random death of an aid worker in the wrong place at the wrong time all bring to mind our fragile existence. Whether by natural disaster, manmade trauma or strange twist of fate our time on earth is uncertain and probably not fixed.

It would, indeed, be reassuring if we could depend on gracefully passing away at a ripe old age the way Freddy the leaf did in The Fall of Freddy the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia.

Buscaglia’s lovingly told story about the circle of life has been appreciated by all ages for nearly three decades. In the classic, Freddy has the good fortune to experience all the seasons the way only some of us do. Nonetheless, the tree and leaf metaphor is a timeless treasure that sensitively illustrates the interconnectedness of life and death. It speaks of a higher purpose and offers a simple yet comforting perspective of the inevitable. The book can be a useful tool to discuss life and death issues when questions arise during difficult times. Over the years, it has helped many through the process of grieving.

Of course, the extent of grieving is unfathomable in Haiti when one hears an unimaginable estimated 50,000 lost their lives within minutes when the earth grumbled and shook. Naturally, all hearts go out to the victims. The incredulous psyches of people everywhere have been deeply shaken.

These recent events, coupled with perpetual earthquake predictions in BC due to its fault lines, bring home the value of every moment and the uncertainties. Our place in time and in the universe is a riddle we have yet to solve. But along with the mystery and misery, precious moments inscrutably go by for anyone who cares to savor the fleeting miracle of being alive.

Postscript September 9, 2010:
Since the original writing of this article, it has been reported that as many as 200,000 people might have died in the Haitian earthquake.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bettas Deserve Better

AT FIRST FIN it would seem a Betta is an easy pet to care for. Although definitely less demanding than pets living outside a fish bowl there are challenges that should not be overlooked.

I remember hearing about one Betta owner’s shock when her much-loved fish slipped through her fingers while transferring it for a regular cleaning of its bowl. Imagine her horror when the Betta swirled down the unplugged drain to its one-way final destination.

There was also the frantic hunt for antibiotics for another Betta that eventually died from a mysterious illness. And there was the guilt of ownership of a lonely male Betta when it stopped making bubbles it had happily been working on for weeks ... as if it realized a female would never arrive to leave eggs in the nest it was constructing.

Whether its loneliness was perceived wrongly or not there is much to learn about Bettas. When provided with a suitable environment they do make wonderful first pets for kids and for people unable to care for four-legged animals.

Bettas not only add warmth to a home they show their distinct personalities and quirks over time and are a colourful living creature to come home to.

Interestingly, the search for Bettas also reveals something about the stores that sell them. Often, the bigger the pet store chain the worst the care of Bettas. In some stores, Bettas (also known as fighting fish) are housed in tiny plastic cups containing less than 8 ounces of water for several weeks until they are either sold or die. The awful sight of these solitary fish trying to survive in tiny cups with little water can be disturbing, particularly to kids.

Hopefully, people will speak out when they see such cruel treatment and not accept the rationale that Bettas don’t suffer in cramped quarters because their natural habitat is low-lying rice fields and swamps. The truth is stores keep them in these tiny cups as a cost-cutting measure. Also, the water is likely kept low to prevent the fish from jumping out of their prisons.

The challenge is that Bettas are fresh water fish that do not live peacefully with each other. Therefore, the more responsible and intelligently run pet stores keep them in tanks with other species of compatible fish or in separate vases and bowls they can’t jump out of but that still contain ample water and the reachable surface air they need to survive.

There are many important details to explore before plunging into a Betta purchase. Searching for information about this interesting species and discovering suitable containers for Bettas can be a creative venture for both young and old. An educated start to pet ownership will help you and your Betta get along swimmingly well.

Visit Postcards From Penelope Puddle to view scenes from BC.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Monday, January 4, 2010

Long & Short Of The Pete & Pickles Tale

I’M A GROWNUP known to enjoy a good children’s book now and then. This Christmas, I was gifted with a picture book that compels me to write the first review I’ve done in a while.

Pete & Pickles by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County fame instantly caught my interest because of its quirky characters, crisp writing style, and bold illustrations filled with creative detail that jump off the page.

Also, the birth of the book’s theme and its hand drawings with a possible blend of digital art are relatable to me because they are kid-inspired.

Just as my daughter’s watercolor drawings moved me to evolve the Penelope Puddle character, Breathed was inspired by his daughter’s crayon sketch coloured at a safari-themed restaurant. Not only did Breathed flesh out his daughter’s art, he expanded her thoughts about the characters to create the story in his book.

Pete & Pickles tells the tale of a fastidious and lonely widowed pig (Pete). Pete has a respectable fear of drowning, a worry that probably many kids and even some grownups (such as myself) can relate to.

Pete is lured out of his comfort zone by a good-natured elephant (Pickles). Pickles is a messy adventurer with a huge imagination that eventually sweeps them both into fantastic and fancifully faraway places.

In Penelope Puddle’s world, it is a sidekick umbrella that sparks the imagination. In Breatheds’ story, it is the elephant that clearly sparks imagination, luring practical Pete outdoors into unruly fun and adventure. Yes … from my perspective, Pickles IS, indeed, Pete’s “sidekick umbrella”.

Nonetheless, the pair develop a mutually beneficial relationship because Pete rescues Pickles, a circus elephant who has no one to care about him until Pete, grudgingly at first, comes along.

Some moms and dads might view the near-drowning and widower aspects of the story as somewhat “dark” for 6-year-olds and under. Other parents might not want their children delving into the book until they are nine years of age. However, if handled age-appropriately, a glimpse into love lasting beyond death, the warmth of a budding relationship, learning to overcome fears and challenging oneself could all likely supercede any concerns.

There are subtle moral lessons and nuances to Pete & Pickles that will appeal to both young and old. My main observation is, however, that long and short noses CAN get along and complement one another in the end.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms