Funny little strawberries

Funny little strawberries

That’s what I grow in my garden – funny little strawberries. They aren’t much to look at, not like the huge store ones, but they have 10x the flavour. A lot of soil up here in BC is pretty acid because of all the conifers around, I suppose. Our yard is full of moss and surrounded by conifers, so it’s no surprise the strawberries grow well. They like acid soil and have crawled all over the place. They’d take over the entire apartment lot if I would let them.

This year, I found a way to keep them off the dirt without buying straw or other mulch. I just used pinecones. There are plenty of them everywhere around here, because of the conifers – pines – that are on the property. And it works! A couple of baskets of pinecones fixed my strawberry plot.

When I leave, my neighbours will eat the berries. One neighbour, in particular, I expect, who cleaned up that plot and ate the berries when I was away for a year.  The other gardener.

Which reminds me of another gardener, or so I thought. These people moved in next to me and I noticed they had a lot of plants on their balcony. Almost like a hedge, a privacy screen. When I saw them arriving home one day, I said a friendly “Hi” and “We’re gardeners, too.” I didn’t see much of them over the years, though.

Then something weird happened. I had a run-in with someone. She was blocking the door to the freezer room where the kind landlord has allowed people to keep freezers and in my case allowed me to use his extra freezer. Nice! Is this because he’s a nice guy or because I’m responsible? I guess a bit of both. I took over the garden when someone else who was supposed to didn’t get to it and weed it.

So, anyway, this person blocked the freezer room door open with her cart.  I said something like, “Hi – I’d like to come in.” But I didn’t want to move her cart, so I waited. I said something just to fill the time. Suddenly she snapped and accused me of saying something wrong, basically told me to shut up. “You made another comment.” Damn right – this ain’t a Russian firing squad. She was so hostile. She said, “You’re always so rude.” WTF? I donno. I called her a bad name.

Then I went and told the manager that I did that and that I was confused why this happened. He said I probably did nothing because this person basically did the same to him. She is the one who’s always rude, she said. She was trying to blame him for something. I’m sorry, he’s a pretty decent guy, and he is also the manager so there is no point trying to blame him. He’s just doing his job.  Cut him some slack. He doesn’t create the policies, man. I’m probably biased because I got a free freezer and two free gardens, but even so doesn’t that make it seem like he’s a decent and kind guy?

Oh, yeah, and he lent me a battery charger and found a neighbour to help me charge my crappy old truck. More about that on another day. I need to sell that damn thing.

The kicker – I said I didn’t know her, but the manager pointed out, based on my description, that she lived right next to us. Oh, yeah, she does vaguely match the dimension and coloration and age of my neighbour. Thing is, I wear glasses and if you aren’t within a metre of me, I might not recognize you. Apparently, then, I don’t acknowledge people, and that’s rude. Why don’t people assume I’m semi-blind, distracted, autistic, or a ditz and say, “Hi – I’m your neighbour, we’ve met.” But they don’t. They’re passive til they blow up like a psycho and say, “You’re rude.” Okay, lady – but that’s not the female word I called her, though.

I have no one to talk to, I’m lonely as hell, I still want to be friends with my crazy ex even though he divorced me, and I am going to be moving to a new area soon. Hopefully, I can make some real friends one day. Actually, I have a few friends up in the Okanagan. People who are actually happy to see me and are kind to me. It’s too bad they’re all religious. We atheists aren’t all nasty like the freezer-room-lady. No idea if she believes in anything, either, except that everyone else is the problem.

Bike lanes

Bike lanes

So, all the hullaballoo on the street the last few nights was about painting on these new bike lanes. The bike symbol, though is not new. I donno if you can see that it’s slightly yellowish or faded compared the other other white lines, but in person it’s more obvious than in my photo.

Now the bike symbol is in a place where people are actually supposed to park. The drivers of cars int he back of the picture haven’t figured that out yet. I see my neighbour’s old truck is there, too, on the opposite side of the street. Maybe it didn’t get towe “away” last night but just out of the way – across the street. So, yeah, my interference was not needed. Hmm!

I didn’t understand the new bike lanes at first either. I thought, wow, that looks like a good way to be doored, if you cycle on the new paint. But that’s because people are parked in the bike lane.

I think this’ll function as traffic calming, too, because the road has been greatly narrowed and it’ll be less easy to go speeding through at 60 kmh, which is not uncommon. Or faster. Or maybe there’ll be more accidents now.

I’m a cyclist, and it seems like a bizarre way to make a bike lane, but maybe it’ll work. I donno.

Parking has been decreased on the street now. Since parking was already tight here much of the time, I’m sure drivers will complain, possibly blaming it on cyclists.

 

Tow time

Right now, while I’m typing this, my neighbour’s crummy old pickup truck is being towed away. I wondered if this was going to happen. It’s because the city is doing some road work. There have been signs posted for days, and there’s been a flyer on his windshield. Had I known exactly which apartment he lived in, I would have said something to him days ago. Probably would’ve left him a note. I had the nagging thought of saying something to the manager, for the owner’s sake.

And it would have helped me, too, because then I wouldn’t be listening to this noise at 10 p.m. and the road painting might have been completed by now, too. His is the only vehicle out there. Maybe he’s dead. He’s old enough that that is a possibility. But for once I didn’t interfere. I see myself as the kind of super-conscientious person always butting in to give unasked-for assistance. Noticing problems in the building and letting the manager know before they get bigger. Mostly he’s been quite appreciative.

When it’s been something in my interest, he’s a bit less responsive, but back to the truck that is now on the tow hook and heading away. How very odd to know I could have done the usual, saved the workers some trouble, saved myself some trouble, and saved the owner some trouble.  If he’s not dead, that is.

Apparently I am changing. How very odd. I’m taking care of me instead of everyone else. Does it have to be either/or? Well, it’s not just that. I felt I had become almost a busybody of some kind and wanted to refocus my interests. Back off and try on the “None of my business” attitude. Not like me, I assure you.

I have a garden at this apartment. A couple years ago we had a terrible drought, and I would make the effort to water this row of little rhododendrons or rhododendron-like plants that were shrivelling next to my veggie patch. Watering this year’s veggies recently, I noticed there is no longer any sign of those plants. Many larger dead-looking shrubs and small trees have been hacked down, too. I got it: this landscaping is not important. It was put there at a time of higher moisture, and they are not adapted to the current climate change and higher water demand. Actually, there’s another big local change that might have bigger effects than both of those, in this small yard area.

A neighbouring tower building redid its garden a couple years ago. Our yard used to be swampy and mushy to walk on, but when the other place cleaned up its standing water, our place became much drier. Hard as a rock much of the time. I had a good view of the works during the process. Not a pleasant experience at all, but I did notice their garden with its standing water was built over their parking garage, just like ours is. Not much drainage, at least not straight down. I guess their land is a tiny bit lower than ours, because when they “pulled the plug” to dry their land, the water in our mushy mossy “lawn” drained away. The installed a lot of big river rocks below the surface landscaping. The drainage is rapid, and there are no more pools there.

So, our place is dry. The plants are drying out and dying. And the management quite reasonably is not concerned about that. It’s the multimillion dollar 10+ storey building that matters, and not breaking watering rules so you don’t get fined. Money down the drain.

Dramatic little changes. The big picture is important to consider, and let some of the small changes happen. I still kinda wish I had said something about the truck before it got towed, but I’m experimenting with new paths, and that was the result. Putting my energy into things that are important to me. I’ve made some big changes this week, and I hope they pay off.

Rant Dance Orthotics

Rant Dance Orthotics

I’m glad I got orthotics; they really helped ease the pain. I could walk up the steep hill from the river without suffering a day or two or weird leg and hip pain afterwards. It’s a 90-m climb up to where I live, called “Uptown” as opposed to “Downtown” which is five metres up from the Fraser River. That was a few years ago now.

I’m taking my second belly dance class, with Angelina from Scarlet Lux. I saw their show last month in Richmond, and she wrote this article about 10 songs every belly dancer should know. I’m a bit of a song fiend, so I saved that article to my desktop. After my first class with Angelina, I looked at the article and realized, hey, it was by her. She had mentioned in the class she’s a music geek. I thought I was, but she sure knows more about belly dance music than I do.

She introduced me to new soloist drummers, Hassan Ramzy and Issam Housham and then coincidentally I stumbled upon an awesome dancer who was dancing to their music. Check out Tito Seif, and have your mind blown. He also does a crazy thing where he stands ON a doumbek drum and dances, including squatting way down and doing piston hips at the same time on there. A major stunt. He has acrobats in his family background, and that’s not surprising when you see his body and what he can do with ease. I haven’t seen any other dancer that can get down and up with such ease and grace. He’s built like a brick shit-house, pardon the language, but still has tremendous flexibility and grace.

So anyway, about me and my orthotics, my physiotherapist, a few years ago, told me to do some Thera-band exercises, but I didn’t understand why, and they didn’t feel like anything special, and so I didn’t do them. Now that my wonderful student intern massage therapist at WCCMT a massage school here in town, taught me a few things, I’m highly motivated to do these exercises every other day as recommended. (Thanks, Matthew H. and I expect you’ll have a happy career ahead of you.) See, they are muscle strengthening exercises, so you do them every other day, just like weight lifting, so your muscles have a chance to recover. It’s just boring dorsiflexion with Theraband and also ridiculous easy exercise to strengthen gluteus medius, but the reason I’m doing it is because now I understand.

I get horrible muscle cramps at night. I didn’t used to get these. They started about 10 years ago, i.e. in my 40s. This is past the point where either you do something about y our body or you ride it out as it rots underneath you. In other words a lot of maintenance work is needed after age 30-40. I’m pushing 60, aka 55 and holding. 55 is the new 35, but only if you work at it, and I’m willing. I don’t mind getting old and dying, but I wanna minimize the suffering. I want to get rid of the muscle cramps and be strong and balanced overall so I can enjoy dancing more and more without pointless suffering.

So, wonderful Matthew H taught me about agonist/antagonist muscles. To cut to the chase, if you have a muscle that’s cramping, it may  be because the counterbalancing muscle is weak. This allows the muscle in question to get very tight, because it’s strong and there’s a weak muscle pulling on it. Now I have to strengthen the weak muscle, and that’s where the boring exercises that are no longer boring come into play.

So, tight and cramping calves means I gotta strengthen the anterior tibialis with those dorsiflexion exercises. And agonizingly cramping adductors (inner thigh) means strengthen the gluteus medius with some weaksauce easy side leg lifts with bent knee. Later I’ll graduate to tougher exercises based on my googling.

Thing is, I have orthotics and wickedly flat feet — of course they’re gonna be flat at that length (11.5 inches, almost 30 cm) and my weight — but I wanna strengthen them so I can do lovely dead lifts again and more squats than just a few. I wanna be strong, not hobble to my damn grave. Maybe I can live 20-40 more years, but no matter how short/long it is, I’d rather be strong all over than crumblingly weak, thanks.

 

Solitary Sunday

Solitary Sunday

Title above makes a song pop into my head, as so often happens. Words and rhythms trigger memories of related words and rhythms. Right now, that song is “Manic Monday which was a giant hit in some time past and keeps coming back on the radio or as background music in stores, because it’s a catchy confection, I suppose. “Wish it was Sunday”? Though I do understand that sentiment when one has a fulltime job, I can’t say that’s relevant to me now.

I sure want a fulltime “real” job – because I want a good mortgage on a good property, a home where I can live out the rest of my days with some space for a garden. A real garden, not some community garden or mercy plot in an apartment complex, as I have now. I want fruit trees and berry bushes, again. I want to own the land so someone is much less likely to be able to swoop in and have a big influence on my use of it. I want a real job and acreage.

But today is Sunday. Generally I don’t mind spending most of my time alone. I’ve been feeling really good this week, too. Then I was out watering my little garden and many people in the building coming and going on their weekend activities. There is a nice couple with two kids, and I saw them drive out in their car, park, and wait a bit outside the building. I saw them as a couple, whereas I usually interact with each one of them separately. And I felt that pang of lack of connection, lack of coupleness in my life. I felt the sorrow welling up as I walked back to my place. Turbulence developed, just like water starting to boil. And finally the tears came, fully felt.

I felt the lack of even a group of friends I can turn to. Most of my friends are Internet friends. I have some work colleagues. I have acquaintances. I always wanted close friends and never had them. I could never find people to be close with. The few people that wanted to spend time with me were, frankly, tiresome. I spent the time, tried it out, and wanted to get away. I’m enjoying my bellydance classes and the friendly bellydance community, and I’m looking forward to attending more events, but this is new and no friends there yet.

The many people I’ve wanted to spend time with weren’t interested or said things like “We have to get together for” lunch, coffee, whatever. But I’ve been told – because it’s not the kind of thing I can figure out for myself – that this is a typical Vancouver thing people say but don’t mean it. I’m sure the pattern is broader than just the Vancouver area.

And with such difficulty fitting in, never mind belonging, how am I ever going to find a job at all, never mind one I’m actually content in. “That ship has sailed” keeps coming to mind. Too late for me, at my age. Not that I was ever any good at it, at any age. I don’t fit, belong, and there is nothing for me. Yes, I’m crying, but I’m not despairing. It’s a factual description of the overall pattern of my life. A summary. I’m trying to make the future different. I’m trying to change it. I want a real job. I want to belong.

I am still having difficulty connecting with people. And myself, being real, authentic, not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m sick of that and it doesn’t work for me. My teaching job was like that, an everyday undercover role play. I like learning, so I was able to teach/facilitate it, and I’m organized and responsible, but this constant fake front was terribly exhausting. My free time involved recuperating. I don’t look like an introvert, but I still am one.

My marriage was too much togetherness, but I didn’t have enough self-knowledge to know that and give myself what I needed. I was waiting til we moved to a bigger place, so I could have space of my own. Never happened. Anyway, point being I’m an introvert and lots of jobs are okay for that. I can handle working with others and even a tiny bit of office socializing. but I think heavy-duty office politics would kill me. I’m clueless about those. Explanations in hindsight blow my mind re other people and how they act and think. People in groups. Yikes.

And yet I really want connection – with more than one individual, ie a group of a kind. But not the kind of group you study in sociology. I took a college class in that once. What a mistake! I. Don’t. Understand. It. (As the kids say nowadays.)

What if I go around and just be me? Well, people will think I don’t like them. I’ve had more than one person tell me that! Because one day I engaged with that person and they were taken aback, and after a while explained they thought I didn’t like them. It’s because I’m socially clueless about the normal friendly social lubricant stuff. It feels so fake to me. At least I can be mostly in touch with my own emotions. I’d say more than half the time now, so that is a huge improvement over uncomfortably numb almost all the time.

 

Fire!

Fire!

Thunderstorms are exciting in the city, but at this time of year, when it’s been so dry, living out in forested areas makes thunder and lightening more of a nerve-wracking thing. The serious fires aren’t yet near my friends who live off the grid halfway up a forested mountain, but they are troubling many many people in the province right now.

The picture above is from the provincial government’s wildfire website for 11:30 p.m., July 8, 2017. Yesterday there were only 3 major “fires of note.” Today that’s doubled.

I’ve often thought of living in a remote area, but apart from my lack of extreme outdoor skills, the fire fear has killed it for me, hands-down. Forests and fires are not that well-managed here, meaning that we don’t do controlled burns. I’ve seen them done on the prairies, so I was surprised to learn a while back we don’t do them here in BC.

Just to review a cliche that should be common knowledge – Smokey the bear and the “Only you can prevent forest fires” from my childhood in the 60s. Yes, it’s good not to throw cigarettes out on the ground, especially in dry or wild areas. However, preventing all forest firest causes problems because we are not going with nature. Nature, at some point, wants fires, and the forest needs them. Nature – natural ecology. The natural patterns of wild forests include fires. Another cliche: Some seeds need fire to open. Another cliche: Fires create variety within a forest, which increases biodiversity and resilience. Stopping fires but leaving fuel on the ground leads to bigger fires in future.

So, yeah, that makes it even more scary than a natural fire pattern, because we’ve made it worse. And likely so will climate change. More energy and variability in the system (ie climate change showing a higher average temperature on the long-term) means more and bigger fires, generally speaking.

So, right now some beautiful rain would be great, because it’s shaping up to be an ugly fire season th is year.

 

Fireworks in the sky

Fireworks in the sky

It’s firework season in Vancouver. I missed a big event on July 1 because I didn’t want to deal with transiting through downtown while 350K people who like fireworks are also transiting, but there are much bigger reasons why I have no use for fireworks.

The main reason is that they are just ugly compared to the beauty of the sky. I say look how many painters and poets have attempted to capture the beauty of the sky, or referenced it in their love of nature or wonder at it. Apologies to Turner’s painting of train smoke, but neither that nor mere human-man fireworks come close to the gorgeousness of the sky. No camera can capture it.

Now, my bias is not hating crowds and noise. It’s also that my colour acuity is in the highest human ranges, top four percent. Subtly rippled, shaded, highlighted and textured clouds send me into a trance of wonder, easily. It’s a good thing I don’t drive a convertible, let’s just say.

And cheesy boom-boom fireworks, explosions of chemicals in the sky, can’t touch the beauty of a sunset, or broad expanses of cirrus or cumulus clouds on a bright day. Even low stratus in a drizzle is amazing, geographically, though I don’t usually wonder at its beauty! Seen to much of that here in Vancouver. Even a night sky, out of the city’s light “pollution” is more beautiful than fireworks, something akin to a glittering embroidered blouse, but tented above us. Wow.

And yes, golly gee, it’s amazing that transitory patterns can be traced in the sky in such a grand way by tubes of chemicals packed by humans and thrown into the sky. Yay, physics and chemistry. Being a spatialist myself, fascinated by spatial phenomena, I was interested to read up about the packing of the tubes. Basically, the spatial orientation of the packed materials, including timing set by distances, determine the expanded spatial positions of the projectile chemical bundles. And gravity does the rest. But it has always bothered me that these materials end up on the land or in water bodies. For fireworks are often done over water, seemingly for safety reasons. Safety of people – not of water ecology! It seems like fireworks is something it would be nice for our culture to outgrow. But I know I’m towards the end of that curve, and currently that’s not what most people want.

For me, fireworks obliterating the beautiful sky is ironic to the point of ridiculous. I will stick to enjoying the glory of the sky and its quiet, subtle, ever-changing beautty. Okay, not always quiet – but thunderstorms are glorious, too.