Friday, October 31, 2014

Elegant canape

Simon Fraser University special events are always good from a catering standpoint.

At a recent event hosted by SFU to celebrate the contributions of its non-regular faculty, we were treated to canapes the like of which I'd never seen.

This canape, a feast to the senses, consists of fresh asparagus sprig "planted" in asparagus cream.

This crisp little cone is held up for inspection by celebrated Vancouver poet Renee Sarojini Saklikar.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Off-season picnic table

While the squirrels and badgers love to take advantage of this quieter time of year to hold their annual conventions in the park, the humans have stopped eating outdoor meals for the season.

This gives the picnic tables in Bear Creek Park a seasonally deserted look.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Badger convention?

Also held in Bear Creek Park, the Badger Convention was a far more secret affair.

It was held underground, so nobody would suspect what was going on.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Squirrel Convention

Beside a walking trail in Bear Creek Park, a group of local squirrels called a convention. When Number 3 scampered into the bushes, there were only two individuals left. Lacking a quorum to start the meeting, Numbers One and Two returned to foraging for the coming winter.

Monday, October 27, 2014

View from Sunset Beach

A friend's tenth-floor apartment on Beach Avenue affords a delightful October evening view over Sunset Beach in Vancouver.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Joys of Surrey International Writers' Conference

Left: The view from the top
Sheraton Guildford is the SIWC conference hotel

Right: Jack Whyte carries on a conference tradition that is rather hard to explain to the uninitiated: he sings an old music hall song of mud and hippopotami. Along with Victorian mystery writer Anne Perry and the original and wildly popular time travel storyteller Diana Gabaldon, Whyte is a veteran of the SIWC who admits that "you may see the occasional ravage of time" on his face. In fact, he's been writing so long that he began his career not with a keyboard, but "using a cold chisel on stone."

Left: Susanna Kearsley (centre)
converses with Michael Slade (of the infamous Shock Theatre) and the celebrated puppeteer and author Mary Robinette Kowal.

Right: Chuck Wendig inspires the crowd with reports of characters who behave "like chimpanzees loose in a shopping mall," and recounts a hilarious memory of his first fan: "Oh my stars and garters!"

To add to the annual work and fun fest for writers, we have the inimitable MC Carol Monaghan, wearing her unforgettable dealy boppers, not to mention her alter ego Madame Zamboni.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Up close and personal with some of Canada's top writers

On Wednesday evening I attended an enjoyable event organized by the Vancouver Writers Fest. When I asked these two gentlemen if I could take their picture, Joseph Boyden insisted that I be in it too. He then found someone to take a shot of all three of us.

Boyden, who hosted informal chats with other writers, is a leading light in Canadian writing today, teaches us about our darkest history in his brilliant fiction. Stephen Galloway has just completed a biography of escape artist Harry Houdini.

Other luminaries included Thomas King. He and his wife Helen Hoy chatted to me in the most friendly way. I was impressed to learn that Hoy painted the picture on King's latest book, The Back of the Turtle. It delighted me to hear that many schools and colleges are adopting The Inconvenient Indian. As I've said on this blog before, that one should be required reading for Canadian school kids.

I met both the Newfoundlanders in attendance. Novelist Michael Crummey introduced me to his tall wife Holly and I learned a lot about trends in journalism today from a chat with journalist Russell Wangersky. Turns out he's familiar with the street in St. John's where my aunts lived.

John Vaillant and Ian Weir were friendly and talkative, and I conversed with Charles Foran about regrets. It was interesting to hear Madeleine Thien, Rawi Hage, Carrie Snyder and Anne Kennedy speak briefly on stage. Turns out that Heather O'Neill used a lot of memories from her Montreal childhood to create her previous novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, and her current one too.

Circulating, I talked to fellow attendees including CBC radio's Alison Broddle and an American consul. Overall, a stellar event.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tim Winton appears at Vancouver Writers' Fest

Tim Winton signs his recent novel Eyrie at VWF event

For twenty years or more I have been a faithful attender at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, and I'm excited that it is starting in just two more days.

This year, the Vancouver Writers Fest was kicked off by the great Australian novelist Tim Winton. After growing up in a remote town in Western Australia, the independent-minded Winton has the distinction of having earned his living as a book writer for over 35 years. It was as pleasing to hear him as to read his evocative prose.

Through the year I attend writer events at St. Andrews Wesley in Vancouver. Run by the Artistic Director Hal Wake, these stellar evenings feature many of today's top wordsmiths.

In the past few months, I've seen David Mitchell, Louise Penny, and Khaled Hosseini. Ian McEwan has been featured there, as have the redoubtable Scotsmen Ian Rankin and  a kilt-clad Alexander McCall Smith. (This obliged me, when touching the hem of his garment, to resort to a shirtsleeve.)

Winton's talk sparkled with witty examples of the gallows humour Australians like to indulge in, as well as a captivating and poetic description of how the landscape of the world's largest island and smallest continent affects the psyches of its people. His enthralling words were completely off the cuff; they came in response to a question from the audience.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith

Cover image from

Skating to the edge of whimsy, this latest book in Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street Series dances at times into territory that can properly be called ludicrous.

Bertie's seventh birthday is coming up, and the redoubtable Irene tells her son to invite Tofu's ruffian friends and Olive's bossy gaggle of girls to his party. Not only does his mother hijack the guest list, she vetoes her husband's plan to get their son the gift he has long hoped for: a Swiss Army knife.

But this time, fate intervenes to derail Irene's plans. When Bertie learns his Dad will host his party, he's delighted. He and his friends will be allowed to partake of sausages (shunned by Irene) and play rough games like "Chase the Dentist."

How he longs to be eighteen, so he can get out from beneath his mother's iron thumb. However, as he turns seven, he manages to get to Scout Camp, where he finds he can be of use to his friend Ranald. Then the bully Tofu manipulates Bertie and Ranald into a rash and dangerous adventure. Fortunately, the children are rescued by kind strangers and return to camp before the adults notice their absence.

Chez Domenica and Angus, Antonia returns as their guest to visit her former flat. Tactlessly, she raises the mortifying memory of the blue Spode cup caper. However, the newlyweds focus on their better selves and behave with aplomb toward Antonia and the Italian nun she has brought along. 

Pat may be experiencing love at first sight for Michael, a young man who makes inlaid wooden tables, cooks scallops and plays her a song called "Pythagoras's Trousers." But she is mortified when on their very first date, they run into her divorced psychiatrist father with an unappealing woman.

Faithful fans are delighted when Irene gets her comeuppance for her overbearing treatment of Bertie. Her trip to the Literary Festival in Dubai, far from providing another soapbox from which she can expound, goes badly awry. On the plane, Irene's clothing is accidentally soiled, and she arrives at the Grand International Hotel in a borrowed Air Emirates uniform. When her luggage is lost, she must manage to eat a hearty hotel breakfast while wearing a burqua.

Meanwhile, Big Lou decides to become a foster parent and is deceived by the social worker. Stewart and his boss Andrew engage in a ludicrous conversation about relative air allocations for English and Scottish lungs. And Bruce is the victim of a cosmetic accident, then falls for a Danish au pair as narcissistic as he is.

It's all a ton of fun, and heartwarming too, a delightful hallmark of this author's fiction.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Violet photo from

A violet is one of a group of tiny but lovely flowers that includes the larger violas and the velvety napped African violets

Violet is a woman's name, though it is now seen as rather old-fashioned, and is rarely used today.

Violet, the colour of the seventh or crown chakra, is associated with higher consciousness and is a healing colour.

Violet purple is associated with spirituality and also with royalty. In the past, only kings and queens were permitted to wear royal or Tyrian purple, a rare dye made from murex shells.

It is a secondary colour, made by mixing two primary colours: warm red and cool blue. Thus it has both the cool calming features of blue and the hot intensity and energy of red.

Violet has the shortest wavelength of the colours on the spectrum, and is hard to discriminate.

Rarely, people have violet eyes. The movie star Elizabeth Taylor was one on them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


 Indigo tulip image from empower yourself

Indigo, the hue of the brow or third eye chakra, is considered a spiritual colour. It is associated with indigo children. This group of young people, born mostly since 1980, tend to be creative. They often question or rebel against certain values that society tries to inculcate into the young. At the same time they share an intuitive sensitivity and the idea that as humans we are all one.

Indigo is a purplish blue dye that comes from a plant called anil, a legume native to the West Indies. It is widely used in dyeing cotton and denim, including that used for common or garden bluejeans.

Anil, by the way, is also a man's, and more rarely, a woman's name, as it was in Anil's Ghost, the novel by Michael Ondaatje.

Near the highest vibrational end of the spectrum, the colour indigo symbolizes perception, intuition, and cosmic consciousness.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Image from 4bp

From space, our earth looks like a blue planet. Blue is the colour of the sky and sea, of distance. It evokes feelings of freedom and optimism.

At the same time, we may feel blue, sing the blues or have the blues; this shows how blue also carries a flavour of sadness.

People of aristocratic or royal lineage are said to have blue blood, and top quality items are classified with the blue ribbon designation.

Blue has also some religious associations: it is associated with the Virgin Mary in Catholic art, is seen as emblematic of God the Father in Judaism, and is often used to decorate mosques, like the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, a symbol of Islam.

Blue is the colour of a few rare foods, like blueberries, which are healthy and nutritious and contain antioxidant chemicals that are said by some  to support memory and learning.

Blue is the colour of the throat chakra, and represents our energy of expression and communication. Any shade of blue is soothing and relaxing when used for clothing and decor. Indeed, more blue clothing is worn than any other colour, especially by men. Many uniforms for military and airline personnel are blue. Blue cars are also very popular.

Blue is also the colour of the ancient stone lapis lazuli, which is used as a gem and also ground to use as dye. This ultramarine dye has been in use since ancient times, and can be found on the blue and gold death mask of Egypt's ancient Pharaoh Tutankhamen, or King Tut.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Image from wallpapers55

Green represents growth and renewal, since most plant life is green. Looking at green views is thought to be restful on the eyes.

Green is also the colour of healing. In the middle of the spectrum, green represents balance between mind and emotions and corresponds to the heart chakra.

Yet we can also be "green with envy" or taken over by the "green-eyed monster" of jealousy.

Furthermore, green is associated with being a novice, as reflected in expressions such as "greenhorn," and "green recruit." On the other hand, there are the US special forces. This is not a group of greenhorns; to be a Green Beret requires rigorous training and lots of experience.

Green is used as a noun in such expressions as "the green" where golf balls fly, and the "village green," traditional centre of English village life. Mythical figure Robin Hood lived in the green- wood, and many pubs in the British Isles are named after The Green Man of the forest, who has roots in a distant and shadowy past. This past summer he was celebrated at a music festival in Dublin Castle.

Then there are greens, like lettuce and broccoli and kale. Those are the Vitamin A-rich anti- oxidant vegetables that maintain a healthy nutritional status.

"The Wearing of the Green" is a song about the English attempt to repress Irish rebellion by outlawing the wearing of the symbolic colour green. Today, the green part of the Irish tricolour flag still represents Catholic and republican Ireland, while the orange represents Protestants.

In fact, green is an important colour symbolizing the rain-rich and largely agrarian "Emerald Isle."  However, it is not the only land of green; in his hymn Jerusalem the poet William Blake also extolled England as a "green and pleasant land."

Green, purportedly a hue favoured by the Prophet Mohammed, is also an important colour in Islam. It is featured on the flags of many countries with large Muslim populations, and frequently worn by people of Islamic cultures.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Image from fine art photo blog

"Yellow is the colour of my true love's hair," sang folk artist Donovan in the sixties. It was also the era of the advertising slogan "Blondes have more fun," and memories were still fresh of the saucy blonde curls of a young Marilyn Monroe.

Good for hair, bad for courage. Yellow-bellied used to be a slang term for cowardly. Strange, when we consider that yellow is the colour of the solar plexus chakra, the seat of decision and determination. Yellow is also associated with the intellect.

In Chinese symbology, yellow was the emperor's colour. As was the case with royal purple in Europe, once in China only royalty were allowed to wear brilliant yellow robes.

Yellow roses have traditionally meant goodbye, as Bobby Darin sings about this in his song "Eighteen Yellow Roses Came Today." Another great version of this old song is by Sean O'Farrell.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Image from

The colour of originality, joy, movement, flow and fun, orange is an optimistic colour of social communication.

This bright hue shines from some of our most tasty and nutritious foods: oranges, apricots, papayas, and saffron. It stimulates, invigorates and encourages healthy appetites.

Orange represents the sacral chakra, and is said to invoke enthusiasm and support creativity. Yet some feel it is over-bright, even abrasive.

Orange is also the colour of autumn, the harvest, falling leaves and pumpkins. In opposition to the black that represents the dark side of Halloween, orange shows the light and fun side.

Often used for decor and clothing in hot countries, orange is an arresting tropical colour that gives the feeling of heat and pleasure.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Image from tumblr

Red is the colour of blood. This can symbolize health, as in a ruddy complexion or red cheeks, or it can mean violence, as in red with blood.

Red is the colour of passion, energy  and motivation. The hue of fire as well as blood, it is associated with the Root Chakra, where we hold our deep unconscious beliefs about the  basic safety of the world.

Red is also the colour of embarrassment; we blush red. In like manner, it indicates anger, as when we "see red." The simile "like a red flag before a bull" reflects the same idea.

Red-blooded people (a term usually applied to males) are full of vigour, virility and high spirits. Red also expresses love and passion. Red roses symbolize love and the ruby is one of the four precious gems, its hardness second only to that of the diamond.

Red-green colour blindness describes a visual condition that makes it impossible to distinguish red from green. Red is one of the colours of autumn leaves.

Red means danger. Both literally and metaphorically, a red light means stop. And red also symbolizes communism, leftism, socialism. Paradoxically, a redneck is a conservative, often bucolic type who occupies the opposite side of the political spectrum.

In China, red is the colour of happiness, widely used in New Year decorations and wedding clothes.

Lots of red foods are healthy: think tomatoes, beets, strawberries, and watermelon. But wait -- beets are really purple, aren't they? Maybe, but that doesn't stop us from turning beet red.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Image from healthlines

An interesting aspect of the Bush Flower essences is that the flower (or in this case plant) we find least attractive can also benefit us. Even though the reaction is negative, the resonance is indicative of need or usefulness at a given time.

Lichen is a powerful essence. Used judiciously, it can be beneficial when administered at times of great and deeply challenging change.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Green Essence

Image from ausflowers

Green essence alleviates emotional distress related to skin disorders. It is made not from blossoms, but from the stems and leaves of fresh green herbs.

To help those who are suffering from yeast, molds or parasites, it can be mixed with water and applied topically to the skin. However, it is recommended to refrain from taking the remedy internally at the same time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumn Leaves

Image from ausflowers

Ian White formulated this essence to help with spiritual seeing. Sometimes on this earthly plane, we lose contact with our spiritual aspects.

This remedy helps us to move beyond states that no longer serve us, to enter into the necessary transitions of life, and pass to the next stage.

It also helps us come to terms with the passing over of people we love when they move on.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Yellow Cowslip Orchid

Image from ausflowers

One of 600 orchids native to Australia, the Yellow Cowslip Orchid, caladenia flava, is the source of an essence that combats tendencies to be judgmental, bureaucratic and nit-picking. Such attitudes occur when people are aloof and cut off from their own feelings. This essence engenders impartiality, as well as the ability to arbitrate and discover constructive solutions. It also supports the pituitary gland.

Yellow Cowslip Orchid is a remedy for the Brow or Third Eye Chakra, and is associated with the mental and causal planes.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Image from ausflowers

The Australian Bush Essence made from the vigorous and fragrant vine wisteria sinensis benefits both women and men who experience discomfort around sexuality.
According to Ian White, this essence alleviates destructive beliefs about physical intimacy. The remedy can resolve painful memories of sexual violence and restore openness, pleasure and relaxation.

Wisteria supports the Sacral Chakra and is associated with the causal and emotional planes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wild Potato Bush

Image from ausflowers

This crumpled purple blossom yields an essence that relieves feelings of heaviness, frustration and encumbrance. It restores belief in our ability to move on, to reclaim our freedom, vitality and enthusiasm.

Related to the tomato, potato and tobacco plants, the solanum quadriloculatum is sometimes called a wild tomato. However, its fruit is poisonous.

Wild Potato Bush supports the Root Chakra and is associated with the mental and etheric planes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wedding Bush

Image from ausflowers

The Wedding Bush, ricinocarpus pinifolius, is a remedy that helps with commitment. Sometimes, when a partner keeps triggering our issues (this always happens after the "honeymoon phase"), we find it hard to stay committed to a chosen relationship.

Other times, we flag in our dedication to our goals or shrink from following our life purpose. This remedy can help in both situations.

Related to the plant from which castor oil is derived (ricinus communis), this flowering shrub is valued mainly as a garden plant.

The Wedding Bush remedy supports the Sacral Chakra and is associated with the causal and emotional planes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Image from ausflowers

This is the flower that is used in the Australian Bush Essences logo. This ancient Proteaceae, telopia speciosissima, has a blossom of unique and spectacular beauty. 

Waratah provides a powerful remedy that can aid those falling into despair or experiencing a dark night of the soul. It combats the inability to respond to crises. It engenders courage and alleviates feelings of hopelessness.

This flower is emblematic of Australia, which is sometimes called the Land of the Waratahs. Ian White quotes Aboriginal activist Burnum Burnum, who relates a Dreamtime legend that explains how the waratahs, once white, were dyed red by the blood of a faithful pigeon who was killed by a hawk while flying high in search of food for her mate.

This essence supports the Base and Solar Plexus Chakras and is associated with the mental, causal and emotional planes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Turkey Bush

Image from ausflowers

Found mainly along the northern Gulf Coast of Australia, Turkey Bush essence can be given in cases of creative blockage.

Turkey Bush remedy, made from calytrix exstipulata, can inspire creative focus and expression, and renew confidence in one's own artistic abilities.

This remedy can also address infertility and other uterine problems. For such applications, it is frequently taken in conjunction with She Oak.

Turkey Bush supports the Sacral Chakra and the mental, astral and emotional planes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tall Yellow Top

Image from ausflowers

Tall Yellow Top aka Camel Weed, senecio magnificus is used to alleviate feelings of loneliness, alienation, and isolation.

It engenders a sense of belonging, being at home with oneself, and accepting both self and others. It helps those suffering from a deep sense of disconnection to open their hearts and rejoin their weakened connections to Earth too.

This essence supports both the Root and Crown Chakras and connects with the Mental, Causal and Emotional planes.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tall Mulla Mulla

Image from ausflowers

Along with Mulla Mulla and Pink Mulla Mulla, this variety of the flower is used for a remedy.

The essence of ptilotus exaltatus benefits loners, those who feel ill at ease around others. It is useful as well for those who fear and avoid confrontation so much they are willing to go against their own beliefs in order to keep the peace. It can help asthmatics too.

A member of the Amaranthaceae family, Tall Mulla Mulla promotes more relaxed and harmonious social interaction, and encourages a sense of relaxation and security.

Tall Mulla Mulla supports the Heart Chakra and is affiliated with the causal and physical planes.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sydney Rose

Image from ausflowers

The Sydney Rose is a fragrant flower with a powerful vibration. Its rich pink hue suggests the pure healing love of the heart. This essence is a key to the evolution of the new expanded phase human consciousness is now entering.

The lesson of the Sydney Rose is that we are all one. By accepting this premise, we achieve compassion, tolerance and love for the other.

This attitude also enables us to help one another as we move together into a new evolutionary phase. No longer feeling unloved, separated or deserted, we reach forward to the compassion, safety, and heartfelt love that arise from the understanding of our oneness.

The Sydney Rose, says ABFE developer Ian White, is the crowning glory of all the Bush Flower Essences. It supports the Heart and Crown Chakras.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sunshine Wattle

Image from ausflowers

A cheerful looking fluff ball tinged with yellow, the acacia terminalis provides an essence that can lift us out of states of hopelessness, gloom, and feeling stuck in the past.

The remedy helps bring us into the present. It helps us enjoy the now and engenders happy expectation for the future. Sadly, it is listed in Australia as an endangered plant in the wild.

The Sunshine Wattle supports the Root Chakra and connects to the causal and emotional planes.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Image from ausflowers

Sometimes we feel vague and disconnected, or split and indecisive. This tendency to daydream rather than focus on what we want or need to do can be alleviated by the essence of drosera spathulata, or Sundew.

These carnivorous flowers, which were studied by Charles Darwin, are incredibly sensitive to touch. With the least contact, their sticky leaves can trap, devour and digest insects, including dragonflies. On the other hand, according to a report on BBC (2012), promising new research suggests they may soon be applied in innovative medical technologies to help heal wounds.

Sundew is a grounding plant; it is associated with the Root Chakra and the mental, astral and etheric planes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sturt Desert Rose

Image from ausflowers

The Sturt Desert Rose, like the Sturt Desert Pea, is named for the early explorer Charles Sturt. Other names are Darling River Rose, Australian Cotton, and Cotton Rose.

The virtue of the Sturt Desert Rose essence is to engender courage, conviction, and integrity. It combats the tendency to be led by the whims of others, as well as relieving feelings of remorse, guilt and low self-esteem.

This bloom bears a strong resemblance to the Rose of Sharon, a member of the hibiscus family. Though Sturt's Rose does not produce cotton, this flower belongs to the cotton family.

The image of the floral emblem of the Northern Territory, gossypium sturtianum has been used on Australian flags, stamps and official stationery.