Friday, January 30, 2009

Insect Compassion

I am reading an excellent book for children called Haiku: Learn to express yourself by writing poetry in the Japanese tradition by Patricia Donegan. It is part of the Asian Arts and Crafts for Kids series. I am studying it as part of my morning meditation ritual. Today I read that the Dalai Lama thought it was a good idea to help children learn compassion by teaching them to respect insects. Donegan says:

"Seeing and writing haiku is a way to practise care and compassion, and is a reminder to love nature as well as people. Haiku is a way to remember how everything is connected in our world, and if we feel connected, then we will not harm things, but rather care for them."

This is exactly how I feel. In my Beespeaker art classes we will be writing haikus about bees for this very reason.

I love this poignant haiku by Basho:

dying cicada--
not showing it
in its song

It reminds me of a poem my friend Sheena wrote in high school. I can't quote it precisely, but it was about aging and went something like this:

Damn these cobwebs
I will climb this tree anyway.

I couldn't forget that poem because of its expression of playful tenacity, but also because my friend died shortly after high school and never got to experience something she had imagined in her poem. Attention and imagination are the human qualities that compose a haiku. The rest is up to Nature, with a little bit of luck in there too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bees on YouTube

Just a word of warning from Madame Beespeaker: I have screened this videos ahead of time to see if they are age appropriate. YouTube contains quite a bit of mature content, so I advise you if you are one of my art students, these videos are safe but do not surf YouTube unless you are with a parent or you have permission from your guardian!

1) Hinterland Who's WhoTube: An excellent Canadian video about pollination. 7.5 minutes

2) Le même video en Français: "La pollinisation, c'est extra-super! La pollinisation, effectuée par des insectes tels que les abeilles et les papillons et des oiseaux comme le colibri, est l'un des processus écologiques les plus importants de la planète.

Regardez l'épisode Web afin d'apprendre ce que vous pouvez faire pour aider ces petits êtres occupés."

3) A PSA by Burt's Bees on Colony Collapse Disorder. 1 minute

4) Silence of the Bees: A fragment of a PBS special. 2 min. 40 sec.

5) A very funny Haagen Dazs Bee Dance--Hip hop style! 2 min.

6) Same deal, but this time disco style! 1.5 min.

7) A very short operatic style video by Hagen Daas. 32 sec.


8) A video explaining how bees pollinate vanilla orchids. Does this defy evolution? That's up to you to decide! 3 min. 42 sec.

The Bee Dance

1) A short video of real honeybees doing the waggle dance. 1min.

2) A more detailed video of the bee dance. Good content, but poor sound and fuzzy visuals. 3 min.

3) Bob and Byrne: A couple of silly bees. Good for a chuckle. 2.5 min.

The Crow Hour

Yesterday I went for my Wednesday ginkgo walk around Tea Swamp Park. A ginko walk is a meditative walk with the intention to write a haiku. There were a variety of beautiful cloud formations in the soft, late-afternoon sun. As I passed Sophia and 19th I noticed seagulls circling in a thermal updraft. Then the crows came--innumerable murders of crows heading off to Burnaby to roost. This is a daily occurrence in Vancouver. You can set your coffee break to it. It still amazes me every time I see it.

One day I was sitting on the bus once with a bunch of skateboarders sitting next to me. One looked out the window and said, "It's the crow hour." His friends looked out the window in silent meditation. It was a haiku moment.I had even thought about doing an art project about it--getting other artists to blog about what they are doing when the crows pass overhead, but I found someone has already done a major project focusing on this behavior.

I found info on Suzanne Northcott's Crossing Boundary Installation, an article about the show in the Canadian Universities Press website, and an article about the installation in the Georgia Straight.

there is a birch tree in my heart,

its bark

breaking, mending

breaking, mending

Sweet snowdrops!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Urban Knitting

Now that we're in the awkward period between New Year's and Valentine's Day, stores either jump the gun and go for the candy hearts, or they let the sale signs linger.

The artist collective called Instant Coffee has launched an commissioned art series on Main Street called A Bright Future. I was excited to hear they were putting a therapeutic light in the bus shelter at Main and 20th, but it has never been on when I've passed by.

Still waiting....
You promised...!

I did however get to ride on the bus covered with the photograph of colorful afghans. It looks beautiful and brings a wistful smile to people getting on the bus, but somehow we wish it was a real bus cozy and not just a photo of one.

I love projects where people actually knit and crochet onto urban objects. The photos on the this web site are very heart-warming. Billing urban knitting as the world's least offensive graffiti is very clever. I also like the spirit of the Satva Connection:

"Living in Tel Aviv for so many years, the city has become an important part of our lives. It makes us happy when it blossoms with parties, with beautiful people, with life, and it makes us sad to see its buildings falling apart, the dirt on the streets, and the walls peeling off on every corner.

We, the people of Savta Connection, wish to give something back to the city we love, and the way we see it, there is no better way than Urban Knitting."

I found a couple of videos on a group of guerilla knitters called Knitta on YouTube. This is a five minute video about urban knitting, plus a bonus on some art cars. This video on the same group is even better, and it is in French, with some English dialogue.

MOP Willow Harvest

Brussel sprouts peeking through oak leaves.

Peeking parsley too.

It's time to cut down the willow before it starts to bud. Here we are cutting the poles quite close to the ground. Ruth says she will come back the next day with power tools to make clean cuts. The best twigs are the ones that stay straight all the way to the top and don't branch out. Larger branches need to be sawn through.

We decided we needed a pygmy beaver to do the job!

Ruth makes ties for the bundles by deftly looping and twisting thin willow branches around the poles.

So here we have the bundles of poles ready to be made into fences and baskets. We left two yellow and two green willow trees to develop catkins for the bees, and important source of pollen and nectar to build up the spring brood. Ruth is a biodynamic farmer, and a real friend to the bees!

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

There's fat wet flakes of snow falling on the forsythia branches, lilacs, and bamboo in our back yard. Yesterday was Chinese New Year's and I celebrated by vacuuming the house. Somehow I couldn't convince my son and partner that this should be a tradition that the whole family takes part in, not just me.

while I vacuum the white stairs in the hallway,
eiderdown, dust, lint--
snow keeps falling

Temperature is zero degrees Celsius with showers/snow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Van Dusen in January

I went to the garden last week to take photos of the beehives. Wouldn't you know it, it was the one day I decided not to wear boots so I suffered cold wet feet for these photos!

The pond beside the beehives had quite a bit of ice covering the water and all was still and quiet by the hives. I only saw one other person in the whole garden.

The sumac look like velvet flames against the snow.

Apparently the overwintering Anna's Hummingbirds love witch hazel blossoms. I must say it made me very happy to see this early harbinger of Spring. For those who wish to attract and feed these hummers, you can grow plants that bloom in winter such as Fuchsias (which kind, I wonder?) , Abutilons (flowering maples) Schizostylis coccinea (crimson flag), Hybrid Mahonia 'Charity' and 'Winter Sun' , as well as Sarcococca and Darwin barberry, the Oregon grape Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies', hellebores, sasanqua camellias and strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo).

Apparently it is one of the stockier hummers, although I never thought of using the word "stocky" to describe a hummingbird!

The entry to the garden is usually a good key for plants of interest to look for on your walk.

This Japanese cedar looks like coral.

Apparently some varieties of witch hazel are quite fragrant.

The hazel catkins are blooming--still too early to be of use to the bees.

Art's Birthday

I felt unconnected this year. Let's plan for next year. Let's share the weather report next time in sound and image and thought, let's stream the soft fog and the crisp crunch of morning snow. January 17, 2010: where will you be?

More Fog

There are still Christmas trees in the streets waiting forlornly to be picked up and mulched. Dancing drunkenly with melting snowbanks, shedding needles, suffering the indignity of being shoved this way and that by the garbage men and bottle collectors.

How many words are there for fog?

Foggy Art

They showed up one day last fall, or was it early winter? Two mysterious "vehicles" parked on either side of Ontario in a residential area. Whenever I walked by them, a question mark popped up like a cartoon in my brain. "WTF?" My first thought was that it was something to do with the movie industry, which often transports large props that make Vancouver a truly surreal city at times. When the cops had a major take down in our neighborhood a couple of months ago. I couldn't help shaking the feeling it was all just a movie shoot.

I thought maybe it was somebody's holiday vehicles, being stored for the winter. The first time I was moved by curiosity to touch one I could swear I thought the covering was soft. "Next time I'll lift it, I thought." When I touched it a second time I was shocked to discover it the draped cover was molded metal. I rapped it with my knuckled and it rang with a hollow "ping." Now I was truly perplexed. "What the hell is it?", the neighbors asked each other. Shrugs all around. I forgot about them once they were covered in snow and then I saw the article in the Georgia Straight. The jig was up. It's a piece of art by Marko Simcic called Park.

So now they sit, through sun and rain and fog, like two adopted undemanding pets. They smugly claim coveted parking spaces. They don't pollute. They don't advertise. They aren't licensed to kill. They are grey. They are benign. They are art.

Currently five degrees Celsius with fog. Well, that's what the website says. The sun is shining full on at our house.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tea and Haiku

I felt chilled to the bone this afternoon, so stopped in for some warming Calories at Steeps of Broadway. I like the light cakes they have on offer and today's was an Earl Grey and chocolate mousse cake. I read haiku and took luxurious bites of the light, creamy cake.

Cloudy with a high of 6 degrees C low of zero degrees.

Rain Mixes with Snow

The mornings are dark. The sun rises at eight o'clock.

Women meet to plan projects, secure funding, build foundations, draw plans and make schedules for self discipline.

Women meet to cry in each other's tea cups, shed their dark thoughts, share their burdens look for hope in poetry and scraps of flowers.

Blood oranges appear on store shelves.

3 degrees Celius with light rain.

Corpse of a Christmas Tree

rain falls without mercy
on the corpse of a Christmas tree;
Stellar's Jay cries murder

The week everyone puts their Christmas tree out to be picked up by the city and mulched.