Me looking at the pond

A birthday message

Been around the sun 53 times! Is that an accomplishment? Yes absolutely. Accomplishment for my parents too, and testament to all the nurturing and caring that friends, community, and the earth have provided. If staying alive is the principal goal, I’m doing good so far. The basics are there. I am so grateful.

I’ve had a year. This time last year I was getting a biopsy for the possibility of endometrial cancer. It never occurred to me that it would be positive. Honestly. I barely contemplated that option. So when I got the call from the doctor, I had no mind rehearsals to fall back on. I went blank. Maybe I would have gone blank anyway. It’s possible. When reality suddenly shifts like that, it may be almost impossible not to blink in paralysed disbelief.

From there it was appointments, scans, blood tests, surgery, chemo, radiation. It was a big change. But it also had a quality of being completely ordinary, part of the human experience. I stayed curious throughout and there were interesting moments, lonely moments, despairing moments, delightful moments.

I’m enjoying being done with treatment. It’s a rebirth of sorts. And like any birth, it’s terrifyingly exhilarating. I am emerging from this intense period of my life with less fear and more love.

One of the first things I noticed about my rapidly changing mind after the diagnosis was that there were two voices that became louder. One was saying: “Well, we’ve had a good life, dying is ok.” And the other saying “NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” These two voices had always been there, but now they were duking it out. What would you do to stay alive? Every treatment decision was a tussle between those two voices with a large supply of statistics mixed in.

For years I’ve pondered the will to live. Where does it come from? What makes life want to stay alive? In the end I came to the conclusion that though love is not the mechanism, it is definitely the manifestation of it in our bodies. We stay alive by going towards life-giving things, that’s love. And we are all of us hopelessly in love with the world. Those two voices are both lovers. One feels the sadness of impermanence, losing the things we love. One wants to drink in every possible moment of love that can be had. They are a good pair.

Right now, 3.5 months after the last treatment, I feel strange. Not in a bad way. Deconstructed in a way that I’m not sure I want to reconstruct or at least not as solidly.

And we’re in such a strange moment anyway, aren’t we? I think that might be a shared experience? Much stability lost, and a lack of shared vision at practically any scale. A legacy of decades of individualism. It’s weird to say this as an introvert but man I gotta join some groups! Or form one! Or both!

A couple weeks ago I finished reading Naomi Klein’s Doppelgänger (highly recommend). She urges imagination, to collectively come up with something different and then just go for it, adjusting as we go. As much as our doppelgänger wants to destroy, we can want to build. Creation will always have an edge over destruction. It’s the nature of life. But we do need to pick up the pace…lots of destruction happening. I read in one of the newsletters I follow that instead of “resilient” in the face of climate change we should use the word “courageous”. The thinking is that it changes it from a defensive stance to a creative one and might help us keep our eye on the ball. Not a bad idea.

Less fear more love – my wish is for more of that. And more strangeness, and more oddballs, and more laughter. A commitment to enacting some great personas. There are some ideas percolating and I’ll write about them soon. Meanwhile, I thank the oddballs in my life for all the sparkles. I love what we create together. Let’s team up more.

With love and oddball courage,

From the last year, here are some books and concepts that made me go aah.

– Doppelgänger by Naomi Klein
– Moonbound by Robin Sloan
– Not Too Late – essays edited by Solnit, Young, and Lutunatabua
– Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
– Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
– The First Rule of Mastery by Michael Gervais
– Tuesdays with Morrie
– Markov Blankets
– Any talk by Joscha Bach
– Many many articles and podcasts about AI and experiences with AI.
– The many conversations I had with the trees.
– The many hours I spent observing the ducks, crows, chickadees, wrens, sparrows, etc etc
– The generous sky

No doubt I’m forgetting a lot but it’s a good sampling. I feel well nourished and ready for whatever.

The photo is from early April, about two weeks after the last treatment. Taken by Steve McGinty.

August 20 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (August 20)

low expectations
lifted by flowers
figs plums
beans grapes peas

punctured by tribal
cars hogs
mislabeled serbian
when I say East you say Van!
the Hall of the Slain
propels us back

grid now
uninspire gardeners
inspire pallet collectors
hog tinkerers
artificial sod

almond funded pit stop

return by Boundary
the flipper communicates
from the gutter
Call Dave!

Start 2:16pm
End 4:49pm
Starting at the Telus excellence in telecommunications building, on Boundary, to Vanness, meandering streets with sweet gardens full of flowers, banana trees, figs, plums. Generally Northward. Sometimes back to Boundary. Through a old car showcase with a tribe not our own. Then a more grid like suburb with fewer gardens but still lots of Vancouver Specials. A break at a gas station near Grandview. Then back mostly on Boundary to Lola.

August 12 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (August 12)


when did we walk?
whence did we stop?

on Mathieson Crescent

we seek our past
here along Red Alder
there on Black Cottonwood

trails and memory

trace a fence, a house, a clearing
red and yellow plums
overlay activate

our journey

Milk & Honey
tempting adventurous flavours
surprisingly strangely devout
fearfully and wonderfully made
Mint Lemonade

now truly starting
sure of nothing
but curiosity

ah! errant dark pruny plums
taste good! here, taste!

the trees pull us
across the Boundary
mini putts and ponds

a clutch of clovers
luck for anyone

a fern to one
barely noticed
is Sweet Cicely
to another and now both

move with this machine!
be different in the future
or the same
walk to the next machine!

what happens if we slow down
with the machine

centennial+ bush owls
are owls so territorial?
one for each province
and territory it seems

Vancouver special
v2 3 4
nostalgia of a kind(er)
view of the city
before the artificial
rent divide

seeking shade
to the beginning

Start 2:07pm
End 4:48pm
From an unknown starting point we looked for familiar markers, to the top of Matheson Crescent, down Red Alder to just past Black Cottonwood until we recognized the past trodden path, then to Milk & Honey, back to Red Alder, through Champlain Heights Elementary school, across 49th (becoming Imperial), into Burnaby Central Park, to BC Parkway/Skytrain, past living sculptures at Swangard to the Canfield Excellence in Telecommunications building, along Vancouver Special (v2) streets on the Vancouver side, back to Lola.

sky and clouds from a plane window

late pandemic travel

travel after so long
ripped out of a cocoon
one and a half years in the making
into another cocoon
the rumbling kind
never mind that it’s flying

August 5 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (August 5)

pre-amble on salvage island
twisted metal in wait
glimpses of old world
conveyor cowboys
log wranglers

factory canned beach

hark a nameless park!
wild mint aspiring oregano
eclipsed (finally) by blackberries

not so hopeful start
factory canned district
hopeful forest sighting
trail maybe?
yes! and quietude

salvaged land(fill)
from dump to cute
heir of Avalon
and french colonials

parched stressed golds
ungraspable plums
gold and violacious damsels
in amaranthine drought

glimpses of Floridian chaos
snows of alder
search for elders

gratitude for paths
borderland forests

Start 4:10pm
End 5:45pm
After a tour through Mitchell Island, lunch at Burnaby Foreshore trail, walk through new River District neighbourhood (Olympic Village v2?), to Marine intersection, greeted by steampunk cyclist, sighting a forest we sniff out a trail (and an entire park!). Buoyed, we go up red alder trail, with some offshoots onto grey gum and blue elderberry trails, through cute co-ops. No streams in sight. We head back down, greeted by lovebug dog, down to Lola, more hopeful for the next leg.

July 29 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 29)

glad to be at gladstone
eager to pick
thwarted to the way back
we agree
it’s pleasant in pleasantville after all

riverside living
groomed wild community
careful peace
gardens for the curious
noted garbage absence

heavy machine interrupts
gas side living – naturally

heron floats into the booms
adjacent camouflaged geese
perfectly distanced

three pink tugboats

comfortable joy
solo walks
family noodle picnics
signs of birthdays
makeshift bonfires

so hot
some sweat some overheat

grateful for
cottonwoods maples mountain ash
and unnamed sun shields
paths among friends

sustained by plumpest blackberries
baked to perfect sweetness
and hospitality

four paintings
relate a change of relation
river as witness
wesgroup looks away
river as district
commodity community

boundary achieved!
a gate greets us
tempts us
to burnaby beyond


Start 1:49pm
End 5:15pm
Start on a very hot day at gladstone park, follow the river path, the railway, around a fortis gas construction, to the shore, back to the path, lunch at riverfront park, best pesto ever, to adcy beach, past a lot of log booms, to the new river district, arriving at burnaby fraser foreshore park – the end of this side of the epic walk, back along the paths and railway, collecting blackberries, to lola and air conditioning.

July 22 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 22)

perforated walk
greeted by gurgling starlings
and putrid scents

you test the mud
I wait anxiously
not snapping a picture
so close to the 007 boat
the mud won
special mud

fire in our thoughts
not sightlines
still     we watch water

jets of water for rocks
starving plants nearby

sidewalk fragments
protect the banks
or us rather

gothic highlife in style
a mural in best (uncanadian) color
type with character
and cancel canadian

another rat another railroad

the shoreline apportioned
to industry columns
concrete human-made remains wood
material mountains

hopping column to column
gobbling fat juicy blackberries
no access no problem

lo the northern cafe!
a family oasis with history
solid red vinyl booths checkered floors
low uneven roof
we eat like family
yelp family

the shore gentrifies
groomed for plants fishers readers
not crows ducks gulls cormorants
though community all


Start : 1:07pm
End: 4:44pm
Start at Prince Edward and Kent, to the muddy shore, into the mud, back to the car, drive to the next access point, onto the cement fragment shore, back to the car, drive to the next access point, no access to shore, cautious permission given through concrete supply yard, onto bike path, unde Knight St Bridge, to Northern Wood Products, lunch at surprising (and popular!) family run Northern Cafe, past the Cold Fish store, onto walkway through river district, past fishers and readers, to gladstone park, and back along the railroad and bike path, with a lot of blackberry stops, to Lola.

July 15 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 15)

the smell of cedar
breezy wheezy dusty and loud
by a too dangerous—for you—lumber mill

delivered onto old technology
rails and slats
a spike! the First Spike, not the Last
flying grasshoppers – with action timelines
dried rat husks, two unknown ends
stagnant canal imagined mutated life
lined with corn flower

a guy on the fence
a bag on the pole
both wave in the wind

cement wombs
hiding spiral blades
enticingly empty, inert cocoons
perfect for songs of resonance

shoreline refuse refuge
new old fibre shredded, pulped
molded, wetted, watered, sliced, diced
we smell the rot

finally the jade river
grasses and mud
aster surprises
iris pods
skunk cabbage masquerading as bananas
papyrus? we may be denihilists

a brutalist abandoned boat
a heron on set

detoured again
this time by the shore itself
delivered to bracken water nettles brambles spiders
oh the memories

ground zero of cheesy rot
high or low road?
we go low
alarm sounds – shrug

rocket for the middle class
sends us to the trestle stoner bridge
a fitting dead end


Start: 1:02pm
End: 4:15pm
North Arm Bridge to Mainland Sawmills, denied entry, follow railway to Southernstar Enterprises, to Kent bike path, past Lafarge, Mason Sewing, lunch at the riverview private park with a cool breeze (technology for living), onto the shore, under the bridge, around an inlet, scramble up to a smelly pile of reclaimed wood, down the embankment, to an abandoned bridge at the foot of Prince Edward Ave, back onto Kent, retracing steps and picking up stored steel spikes along the way, back to Lola.

July 8 Detail of gathered materials

Epic Walk Diaries (July 8)

rebooting reorienting retracing
losses changes and pivots
mark a half century

lo a saint in the sea grasses
among lovingly arranged boulders
strewn slabs of long discarded concrete
iron cast-offs

what is lively here? what lives here?

fenced fallow asphalt lots
separating spirit from soil
united by wild flower determination

rusted remains of metal supports
sculptural now

air land water machines
compose a mechanical symphony
with a chickadee lift

escaped logs lazily float
easy as
the taste of first sweet blackberries

a square column of cattails

spatial imprints of clovers
crisped in place stoically unwilted
in sudden heat death

no people
not this time not today
their smeuses a true gift

Start: 12:40pm
End: 2:50pm
Bottom of Shaughnessy, backtrack along the shore to remember where we were, to oak stree bridge, walk on beaches, rocks, slabs, up onto deserted paved parking lots with traces of buildings and habitants long gone, through holes in fences, to the north arm bridge, through the parking lot, over a fence, squeeze through a close gate, onto Kent avenue, and back to Lola.


birds gathering at dusk

the geese and the ducks arriving
at the pond at dusk

the geese flying in
deftly finding a spot
on the crowded pond
honking warnings
splashing down in unison
no accidents
ever it seems
they are experts

the geese walking in
waddle awkward gate
one by one two by two
slipping by quietly
there is a truce
almost a trust
between us

a short distance away
smaller ducks huddle
will they sleep on the water too?

From a chance encounter on Friday January 15, 2021
Who knew this dusk gathering was such a social event