Seasons of Salmon

salmonSince my arrival to Vancouver in June 2014, I’ve become more and more intrigued by the life cycles of salmon. I went salmon fishing on the Fraser River (and caught two sockeye), swam with the salmon in Courtenay on Vancouver Island, and crossed paths with the salmon on their journeys upstream outside of Pemberton on the Birkenhead River and on the Adams River in the Interior.

Last year, I was confronted by a story that was new to me: the lost salmon streams of Vancouver. In the backyard of my home, the grass barely grows and it is a muddy mess most of the time, even when it hasn’t rained for days. A housemate mentioned to me that our yard is smack dab in the middle of an old stream, which connects to the sea down at Kits Beach.

Whenever it rains the yard turns into a pond. Rain boots are absolutely necessary to get to the garage where our bikes are stored, to the compost and recycling bins, and to the chickens in their coop. They say that because of the new construction of big condo complexes, the water gets backed up in our yard. I decided to write about palindrome poem about this mysterious discovery, which I will share with you now.

Lost Salmon Stream

They tell me
there used to be a stream
running through the backyard –
down where rain drowns
the last slivers of summer grass.
Faded leaves ground to mush, lay decomposing
under my gumboot like soggy cornflakes.
I imagine the lost souls
from inside the crimson house.
Ghostly salmon that swim uphill
winding by garden beds,
through mud, brewed like weak coffee in my cup,
between overgrown kale and collard stalk, they pass
around the chickens huddled together as one big rock.
I shut the window looking around –
this house is built
upon a lost salmon stream.

Upon a lost salmon stream
this house is built.
I shut the window, looking around –
around the chickens huddled together as one big rock
between overgrown kale and collard stalk, they pass
through mud, brewed like weak coffee in my cup,
winding by garden beds.
Ghostly salmon that swim uphill
from inside the crimson house,
I imagine the lost souls
under my gumboot like soggy cornflakes.
Faded leaves ground to mush, lay decomposing
the last slivers of summer grass.
Down where rain drowns
running through the backyard
there used to be a stream,
they tell me.

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dear friend

I hear your news, dear friend
and my heart breaks for you.

Sympathy pains pulse on top of scar tissue
beating a bass drum in my chest.

You are strength, I reassure you
and falsify my own story with these words.

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Sowing

I till the dry, cracked soil

then cover it with nutrient rich compost.

Patiently evening out the surface,

so it is ready to receive the seeds.

 

Drawing a line in the dirt

to begin the row,

I count methodically the measurements,

boundaries, distance, time, space.

 

How much does each seed need to grow?

 

Delicately placing each tiny fleck on the line,

nudging them into the luscious earth,

covering them with care, burying them just so.

firmly I press my palm on the surface layer.

 

The sun casts a sharp angle onto my brow,

my eyes squint with joy

as I water the newly seeded soil

and the breeze blows hair across my face.

 

I am content with only this. With all of this.

 

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February Crocuses

Down by the creek, crocuses are sprouting.

Tiny precursors to spring,

they huddle tightly together.

Vibrant purple in contrast

to the greyish-brown hues of winter,

wet earth and stark trees.

 

Dogs in the park run around with glee.

A short, stocky dachshund,

covered in mud, digs his way to China.

Local mallards putter about in the stream,

floating along in pairs,

with no sense of urgency.

 

Looking ahead I spot the old tree–

low-lying, knobby, and wide.

Months have passed since my last visit.

Placing my palms on her bark

we stand together once again,

side-by-side on level ground.

 

I sense the energy exchanged between us,

of mutual love and respect.

She calms me with her subtle, rooted nature

And I don a simple smile.

Without reflecting on the past we commune

in the simplicity of this very moment.

 

 

The winter has thickened her skin,

and inside I am cracked and worn.

For the first time in weeks

I can be real to her, to me.

In this ritual, I bring my truth

and her branches offer solace.

 

Once I continue along the path,

I look back, to find that she has never looked so beautiful

with sunshine on her branches

And bunches of crocuses

scattered in clusters at her roots,

banding together in the crisp February air.

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modern murder ballad

after the murder he collected all the evidence.

and before blood could stain the couch

he began the process,

of cutting us up into little pieces–

all except for the heart.

we were in pain but still in shock

wide eyes in disbelief

of what he was capable of

as he dropped each hunk of flesh

haphazardly into cardboard boxes.

 

then he started on the hard work:

excavating through deep junk,

memories barbed and fragile alike appear,

buried in the back of the closet–

a pack rat’s delight.

all the while with voice intact

we call to him to stitch us back together again

it is not too late, after all

he saved the heart

the heart is still whole!

 

but he can’t stand the screaming,

so he snatches the boxes

and shoves us to the empty space in the back.

from the darkest corner we plead

“don’t shut the door on us,

it is so dark in here!”

but as days pass by we grow weak

and with a last breath we whisper

“please, just open the door once more,”

before we turn to dust.

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Sometimes all you need is a new bike.

I’ve been riding around Vancouver for the last 6 months on a beach cruiser. A seriously heavy, cranky beach cruiser. A baby blue, Schwinn wayfarer to be exact.

After months of labored commuting and transporting myself around the city, I knew I needed to make a change. So, last weekend I borrowed my roommate’s bike to ride up to UBC.  A 2012 Garneau Urbania that rode like a dream. The experience was, well…life changing. I’m talking seriously empowering, perspective-altering stuff. All through a simple change of bicycle.

But seriously, who knew it was so easy to bike up that UBC hill?! This whole time I thought I was a horribly weak cyclist. I was constantly trying to keep up with my friends. I was exhausted from hills and long distances.

I knew from that day on it was time to get something new…and FAST!

Yesterday I stopped by my neighborhood bike shop, Ride On Again, to see what they had in store. Well, my second test ride of the night was, drum roll…the 2014 Garneau Urbania! On sale for almost $200 off. I rode it around and I felt light and free, effortlessly pedaling my way up and down the hills of Kitsilano.

When I came back from the test drive, my only question was…do you take debit?! Done.

With my new bike, I feel like the world is my oyster and I’m truly psyched to ride to new places around the city. I’m a new woman! Maybe life can be that simple and easy. Sometimes all you need is a shiny new bicycle.

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A Case of You

A Case of You has always been one of my all-time favorites by Joni Mitchell. Brutally honest, heartbreaking, and beautiful, this song tugs at my soul.

She sets the stage in the very first line: we are dealing with a love that is no longer. Despite her declaration that this love is forever broken, she dives deep into the core of “after-love” that still pulses through her veins. This love is not the same as that which exists between two people, but the residue of love that is left behind. Like a drunkenness that won’t wear off days later, this song portrays the everlasting impact of love on body and soul.

She can handle herself after a case of this love wine, and we assume that her tolerance is much higher than for any regular wine. She is an addict, who drinks to fill a void. Even still, her drug, however destructive, is a ritual, therapeutic and spiritual, hence “holy wine”.

She is drawn to the wrong type of people, or maybe just to the people who challenge her fears and beliefs. The love from this former partner still runs strongly through her veins, overflowing into her present life. She can’t prevent the little bit that seeps out onto even in her art, it inspires her.

This song also strongly addresses place; her home country: Canada. She calls out to Canada tragically and tenderly, “Oh, Canada”, in a minor key rendition of the national anthem’s opening line. She is far away and misses not only her former lover, but her original home.

But as tragic as it is, her lyrics get to the heart of the matter: love is touching souls. With such intimacy comes the everlasting impact of one soul on another. This is the beauty of love.

Joni Mitchell Live at the BBC 1794 

Case of You Lyrics

Just before our love got lost you said
“I am as constant as a northern star”
And I said “Constantly in the darkness
Where’s that at?
If you want me I’ll be in the bar”

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh Canada
With your face sketched on it twice
Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
oh I would still be on my feet

Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid

I remember that time you told me you said
“Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine
‘Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said
“Go to him, stay with him if you can
But be prepared to bleed”

Oh but you are in my blood
You’re my holy wine
You’re so bitter, bitter and so sweet

Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
Still I’d be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

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