Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday Walk

Yesterday was rainy and since Crofton dogs dissolve in the rain, we decided against a walk of any length. But by early afternoon there was only a fine drizzle and so we met in the fields at the top of Osborne Bay offleash park to let the dogs run around for a bit.

Treat time!

We were joined by two dogs you've not seen here before. There was Teddy, who lives with one of the volunteers at the SPCA and is being doggy-sat by my friend Else....

Hi Mom! I'm havin' lots of FUN!

...and Chi Ki who lives with Mary and my favourite bulldogge, Tarben. Chi Ki was awaiting surgery, and then recovering from it, and so has not been on our walks during the six months I've been here. But now she's baaaaaaccckkkk..... and what a character she is!

I took lots of photos but as I'm still trying to figure out focus and exposure with the new camera, I discarded most of them. I did use the continuous setting to take a series of Teddy with one of the wolfhounds, and from that series couldn't resist adding captions to these two:

Maybe if I play dead, he won't eat me!

Let's play hide and seek. I'll cover my eyes and count while you go find a place to hide. One..two...three.....

And lastly, I love this shot of red berries on a rain-soaked tree taken with the zoom lens from about 200 feet away: (Note: Click on photo to get the full impact, then use back browser to return to the blog).

It is the last day of 2009. Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009



Tuna boat in the marina (taken from parking lot)


Sunset in the bay


Footprints in the sand - me and my dogs


Dogs at play - shot from about 1000 feet away


Bird on back fence - shot from back door.

Testing..... my new camera!

After much research and testing out numerous models, I have decided on a Sony Cybershot DSC H20. The above shots were taken before reading the instruction manual or figuring out how everything works - just messing around with the basic menu to get a feel for where things are. They were also taken just as the light was fading - not the best conditions for taking pictures.

It handles really nicely, has a great one-handed grip, and fits in my pocket. It doesn't have the viewfinder I would have liked, and it has a removable lens cap which may irritate me (on the other hand, the built-in lens cover getting dented or becoming immobilized with dirt or straw from my pocket meant death to my last three cameras!).

It has a bit less of a wide-angle than some I looked at, but the wide angle is the same as my old camera which I never found that problematic as I don’t take that many “wide angle” shots like groups of people. And the plusses of this camera far outweigh the minuses, in my opinion.

It has a great zoom, which can be made even more powerful by reducing the amount of megapixels. Lots of flexibility here. In fact, the camera can be used as a basic auto point and shoot, or switched to manual exposure mode allowing the user to set her own shutter speeds and aperture sizes.

Best of all (and this I didn't learn until after I bought it - but is a HUGE plus to me), it has the capacity to accomodate additional lenses with the use of an adaptor. In other words, by adding telephoto, wide angle, or closeup lenses (and filters, if desired), and using the manual exposure mode, I have a simplified form of a DSLR camera. The best of both worlds - portability of a pocket camera yet the option to do a bit more. And it has less shutter lag than any others I looked at or have previously owned, and a pretty good shot-to-shot and continuous frame speed which is somewhat faster than my previous camera.

At $299 (on sale at London Drugs this week), plus $30 for a spare battery and about $20 for a new memory card (my old one isn't compatible with Sony cameras), I came out well ahead price-wise compared to the Nikon P90 and the Panasonic I'd tried out before Christmas and ended up with more features and greater versatility. I'm a happy camper.

Now to learn more about how to use it effectively.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Foggy morning walk

View from the seawall at 8:00 AM

No, that's not an overexposed photo - it is a shot of the same bay in yesterday's post - yesterday morning in sunlight, this morning in thick, thick fog.

Sadie walks with her nose to the sand, like a bloodhound following a scent, as she tries to satisfy her appetite for shells. I try to steer her clear, but every few minutes I hear the crunch,crunch, crunch of yet another crab shell. In the fog, it is hard to even see the ground a few feet ahead.

The thick eiderdown of fog covers the beach, obliterating the views of yesterday. The little ferry blows its whistle non stop as it glides through the channel between Crofton and Vesuvius terminals. Though the whistle and the line of cars tells me the ferry is just about to dock here, I can not see it at all - let alone Saltspring Island, fifteen minutes across the bay. It is the first time in the six months that I have lived here that I cannot see the islands. It is the first time that I cannot see even the end of the pier.

By later in the day, the fog has lifted a little, though visibility is still poor and the ferry still blows the whistle every few minutes. The smell of pulp from the solitary pulp mill nearby hangs heavy in the air, the one blight on our beautiful piece of the coast. Yesterday the pollution was a paradox – endangering our environment yet creating beauty in the sunrise. Today, the emissions from the stacks cannot even be seen, though its scent will be trapped in the houses long after the breeze has blown the fog away. It is not a pleasant smell - I frequently find myself checking my shoes, wondering what I have stepped in or which dog has had an accident.

Pollution Paradox from yesterday

Ah well, when the sun returns I will open the windows and air the place out as best I can. There is far too much beauty here to be deterred by a few days of unpleasant odor every now and then. Even in fog, this town is beautiful to me.

Oliver checking the fog, 3:00 PM

Friday, December 25, 2009

A very good day

From an early morning walk with Oliver, watching the sunrise on the misty bay........

to the gifts under our unconventional "tree" .........

to an afternoon traipse in Osborne Bay Park with Charley, Sadie, Else and Tess .....

to the fun of watching Allie play with her toy mouse gift from my granddog Becky.......

And Charley warn a teddy bear to leave HER treats alone......

To the shelties sharing an afternoon nap ......

And back to the beach as the sun set .......

Yesterday was one very good day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

It is a different kind of Christmas for me this year. My plans to help serve Christmas dinner at a nearby homeless shelter were kiboshed December 23rd when I phoned to check what time we were expected and was told they’d canceled the dinner. There is a Christmas lunch being served to the needy by another organization, so the shelter decided doing a dinner was redundant – but forgot to phone the volunteers to tell them. I phoned the other organization to offer my help, but they have been inundated with volunteers and have more than they can use. As I don’t have two-legged family with me this year, and was looking forward to helping out in the community, I felt a wee sense of disappointment.

But that feeling didn’t last for long. It is hard to be melancholy when Christmas Spirit is all around. It is especially hard to be melancholy when one shares Christmastime with animals. Animals never fail to bring me a sense of peace and joy, to show me the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas is the laughter that wells up from deep inside me as I watch Oliver do his happy dance all around the yard despite his age, his cognitive disorder, or his visual and hearing disabilities. Life never gets him down.

Christmas is the joy of seeing a frail old sheltie named Belle do her Princess routine, soundly scolding any dog or human who fails to show her the right amount of deference.

Christmas is the pleasure I experience when I feel that persistent little tap on my arm from Allie as she persuades me to give her a treat.

Christmas is the bittersweet memories of the critters who have passed, held safely in my arms as their souls were released from their wrecked earthly bodies.

Christmas is the gratitude I feel when I look around me at the SPCA on Christmas Eve and see dedicated volunteers walking and playing with dogs, and generous visitors delivering armloads of gifts.

Christmas is the pure joy I feel as I watch an old dog whose family no longer wanted him and who left him at the shelter several weeks ago, happily jump in the van of his new foster-to-adopt dad, huge smiles on both their faces.

Christmas is the sense of community I feel when I walk Sadie and Charley on the seawall and we are greeted by smiling people whose names we do not know yet who always say hi and stop to give the dogs a scratch behind the ears.

Christmas is the awe that fills my whole being when I look around me at Sadie and Charley and Belle and Oliver and Allie, at the dogs in the shelter and the deer in the trees, at the glorious sunrises and sunsets, at red rosehips on leafless branches and blue kingfishers on sun-washed posts, at the gulls and the herons and the fine bits of shell on the beach, and at everything else that is so good about this beautiful, beautiful world in which we live.

Christmas is not found in brightly wrapped packages and bags under a tree. It is found all around us – in the welcoming bark of a dog, in the noise and chatter of volunteers, in the contented sighs of the the hungry around a free Christmas dinner. It is found in the smiles on the faces of dogs and humans who have found a home with each other. It is found in shared experiences and solitary moments. And it is found in friendship – whether that friendship be with dogs and cats and human family members, with people we meet face-to-face on the street, or people we meet in cyberspace through a blog.

We live in a world where the Christmas Spirit is truly available all year round. And so it should be.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I am forever thankful for your friendship, your support, your words of encouragement, your laughter. I thank you for sharing my joys and my sorrows, my frustrations and my celebrations. My critters and I wish you and yours the very, very best of the holiday season. May the spirit of Christmas surround you this day and always.

Jean, Charley, Sadie, Oliver, Belle and Allie.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Beauty of Winter

Swallowfield in Winter

December 23rd - how did it get to be so close to Christmas so quickly? I am, in some ways, fortunate to be exempt from the pressures which so many others seem to feel at this time of year. My sister is taking care of my mom this year, and my daughter and son-in-law will be going to my brother's for Christmas dinner. A few small gifts for family, delivered on my last trip to the mainland, and my shopping was done. I am horribly negligent when in comes to sending out Christmas greetings - cards just never seem to make it to the postoffice though my intentions are always good when I buy them in November.

As much as I love family gatherings at Christmas, I equally love a quiet Christmas week with my animals, a Christmas drink or two with friends, a few volunteer shifts at the SPCA and the Chemainus theatre, a walk on a deserted trail or beach. And although it is technically just the beginning of winter, I love that winter solstice has come and we are now headed for longer hours of daylight. Before long, the crocuses will be popping up, followed by the daffodils in their skirts of yellow, and the scarlet tulips and brilliant blue irises.

But even on this third day of winter, there is colour and beauty everywhere - not just from the artificial lights that adorn the houses but in the fields, along the streams, across the estuary.

The Wednesday Walkers headed to Swallowfield once again. It had been a few weeks since I last took the dogs there, weeks in which the trees had dropped the last of their leaves and the yellows, browns and golds had changed to silvers and greys with touches of scarlet from the rosehips that line the trails like cranberry strings on a Christmas tree.


With a borrowed camera, I snapped away at the dogs as they rambled along the trails, splashed through pools of water, climbed the bluffs above the estuary, taste tested water-logged sticks (and a dead fish and a dead bird and some bear poop, but we won't mention that, will we, dogs?)

Wolfhounds on a walk


Estuary in winter

Dogs exploring water

Are ya comin', mom?

My stick, Mine, MINE!

Archie and Hugo


A beautiful walk in a beautiful place.

And... a few pictures from yesterday, when the sun was shining brightly and the dogs and I wandered down along the beach in the crisp morning air:

Winter weeds on the beach

The bay on a cold winter's morning

Sunlight on Wood

Blue water, green grass

Shasta - a neighbour's dog who clearly likes having his picture taken!

Gone Crabbing

The Beach in Black and White

No matter how hectic your week, no matter how much more you still have to do before Christmas Day, take a moment out to enjoy the beauty of winter.