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Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

Now that people world-wide are finally waking up to the reality of the planet’s climate crisis, isn’t it time for all of us to start talking together about what is happening, how we feel about it, and what we can do to help Mother Earth? Our planet and the life upon it have many other names, including “the Biosphere”, “the Earth”, “Nature”, “Mother Nature”, “the Web of Life”, “Gaia”, and “the Living Planet”. Does it really matter what we call this incredibly beautiful, fragile, little fragment of the Universe?

THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS is saving and enhancing what remains of life on Earth. For far too long, humans (not all, but many) have used and abused the planet we live on, forgetting that everything is inter-connected, and that every living thing deserves respect. Gratitude, gentleness and awe seem to have disappeared from the manner in which most people live on this Earth which sustains us all. We humans are an integral part of the web of life, and everything we do to other species will in turn affect us.

Greta Thunberg’s talk, in the above video, gets right down to the most important aspects of this overwhelming challenge, this never-before-experienced crisis facing humankind. And not only humankind, but all of life is being swept up in a huge transition, a massive, unstoppable storm of change. It is no longer a question…the climate crisis is human-caused. We may have time to at least help the Earth to recover in some ways.

When you think about this situation, about the now undeniable fact that humans world-wide must change the ways they live on the planet, a sense of despair may set in. The dilemma seems almost insurmountable, too daunting to even begin to deal with. How will we ever recover from our addiction to the use of fossil fuels, which is one of the main causes of climate change? How will we keep fossil fuels in the ground, rather than continuing to recklessly extract and burn them, creating massive carbon emissions, thus rapidly warming the climate?

Well, we won’t solve anything by mindlessly sailing along, blinkers on, business as usual!

We all have to work together: citizens of ALL ages, students, politicians, law-makers, environmentalists, scientists, people in the “corporate world”, activists, educators, volunteers, health-care providers, workers in every area, farmers, etc.! It seems to me that this time of great transition on Earth is happening at an ever-increasing speed, out of necessity, and we have no way of knowing where the changes are taking us. This is where ACCEPTANCE of what we cannot control becomes necessary. But we can all do something, however small, and be involved in creating positive changes.

This is just a little blog, one among millions of others, and I cannot pretend to know the answers to enormous questions. However, getting back to my original goals for the blog, which are to express and share ideas about Beauty, Positivity, and Simplicity, I can at least focus on what I think might help some of us to face the huge challenges, using those three guidelines.

***BEAUTY: look around you, out in the world, and really notice the beauty of nature. Even in the depths of the city, one can look at a leaf, a bird, an insect, a cloud, a tree, a flower, an animal, a human being (!), the life-giving soil, a plant, water, the ocean, a stream or river, and see how beautiful they are. Put away that smart phone, and re-acquaint yourself with the real world!

***POSITIVITY: please don’t despair! We can begin to face our reality by talking with each other, communicating, sharing our ideas and feelings in a truthful way. Let’s be honest about this: we have a problem, we humans and our wonderful planet! And it’s time to talk about it, about “the elephant in the room”! Expressing our concerns can lead to the beginnings of positive changes. Acceptance of reality is a key step in keeping positive. Grieving the losses which we will inevitably face is better than repressing our grief about (for example) the loss of so many species, losses which are currently happening at an alarming rate. (See links below.)

***SIMPLICITY: keep it simple, and take it easy! One step at a time. We can work together. People of all beliefs, all backgrounds, all political stripes, must learn to listen to and respect each other. This does not have to be complicated, even though the problems which we face are complex. People have gone through crises over and over again through the ages, and have learned how to change and adapt. The time has come, in my opinion, to get active, as Greta Thunberg suggests! Individual actions may not solve the problems, but the process of trying to solve them, and of working with each other and WITH “Mother Earth”, is all important. Perhaps we need to SIMPLIFY some of our SYSTEMS, such as how and where we grow our food, for example. And we can SIMPLIFY our lives by cutting back on consumerism. Use less, re-use as much as we can, travel by air less (much less!), drive less (much less!), eat less meat, (the production of “meat” causes carbon emissions, pollutes land and water, and abuses animals), use fewer animal products, use less precious water, do not use toxic products (read the labels), never use pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, protect the bees and other pollinators, avoid the use of plastics wherever possible, GROW SOME OF YOUR OWN FOOD (even in pots on a balcony), tear up the lawn and plant vegetables, and on it goes!

Here are the titles of three books which are helping me to “TAKE HEART”:

***Intrinsic Hope–Living Courageously in Troubled Times

by Kate Davies, M.A., D.Phil.

***The World-Ending Fire–The Essential Wendell Berry

essays by Wendell Berry

***The Great Work–Our Way Into the Future

by Thomas Berry

During my neighbourhood walk today, as I basked in the leaf-dappled sunshine, watched a foraging crow, admired the gardens, and breathed the fresh air, I realized that it is next to impossible for some people to believe that the climate crisis is actually happening. For various reasons, they are not yet ready to see the writing on the wall. I’ve talked to people who think that some of us are imagining a disaster where there is none, and that Earth has gone through extinctions and huge climatic changes before. This may be true, but never have the changes happened so quickly, and never before have they been totally human-caused, and so devastating to a high percentage of the planet’s other plant, animal and insect species. I have noticed massive changes in my own lifetime, here in the south-western corner of British Columbia. For decades now, it has been obvious to me that many species have already disappeared, that the climate and weather patterns are changing radically, and that the Earth is in trouble. Now, she is finally reacting. Many people are becoming aware that things are out of balance, and that our “systems” must change if life on the planet is to continue to flourish, or even to survive.

Here is a  link to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report to the United Nations, from October, 2018:

Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments

And a link to the recent United Nations report on species extinctions:

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

Here are two quotations which I find helpful:

***As long as we are here, we have a responsibility to work for the Earth….I don’t think we have the option for despair.

—Vandana Shiva… is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and author. (Wikipedia)

***Do the best you can, in the place that you are, and be kind.

—Scott Nearing…was an American radical economist, educator, writer, political activist, pacifist, and advocate of simple living. (Wikipedia)

Another reason to feel at least somewhat hopeful for the future of life on the planet:

https://globalclimatestrike.net/?cmp=newsletter-What+on+Earth%3F+May+30

Adults have been invited to join the youth in the September 20th to 27th Climate Strike, world-wide. I plan to join our city’s Climate Strike, and I hope that thousands, even millions of others will join their demonstrations as well!

****If you would like to Follow my blog, just click on the “FOLLOW” button in the right hand side-bar, or click on the “FOLLOW” button in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Include your email address, and WordPress will send you a short email telling you each time I publish a blog post. This is usually once a month, or less.**** Thank You! from Val, at JoieduSoleil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.


—Albert Camus (French novelist, essayist & playwright, 1913-1960)

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Beach Asters

These bright little yellow blooms surprised me one day at the beach. I don’t know how they managed to settle in beside a log, in the sandy soil, far from any garden. Perhaps the wind or a bird carried a seed head to this unlikely spot. I wish I knew the name of this delightful plant! For now, I call them “Beach Asters”. They’re most likely a plant native to our area.

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As seen from the beach, the ever-growing Vancouver city skyline. The shift in seasons could be felt in the air on this September day.

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Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Chinese Plumbago or Leadwort)

An all-time favourite of mine. Who could ask for more? Green leaves change to burgundy, and blue flowers appear in September.

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Violas…I love them, and plant them every fall. They bloom all through winter, and well into spring, which is a treat! Cheerful little flowers!

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This year’s leaf colours were magnificent! Here are some from Acer rubrum (Red Maple), Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), and Acer macrophyllum (Broad Leaf Maple). So Canadian!

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Hallowe’en 2018 was a quiet one in our neighbourhood, but it’s always fun!

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Woven twig star in a neighbour’s garden. Can Christmas be far off?

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Acer macrophyllum (Broadleaf Maple, Broad Leaf Maple, Bigleaf Maple, Big-Leaf Maple)

This is a venerable old tree, managing to survive so far on a boulevard. It’s a tree which is native to this part of the world, which makes it an especially important one to protect as part of the inter-connected biosphere (what’s left of it!) Licorice ferns grow from the mossy crevices of its branches, and mosses cling to its trunk.

https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/documents/treebook/bigleafmaple.htm

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Betula (Birch)

A Birch tree at dusk, already ‘bereft’ of all its leaves. This is looking west, towards Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC golf course, where the Pacific Tree Frogs will be chorusing, come April. If you’d like to, you can see my previous post on Pacific Tree Frogs, also known as Pacific Chorus Frogs: https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/urban-trekking-2-frog-songs/

A snippet of the frogs’ chorusing is included in the above link. It’s rare, these days, to hear frog songs in the city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Birks Building, at West Hastings & Granville Street, built in 1908, was originally a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Vancouver, a modern and growing city, is home to an increasing number of stark-looking concrete and glass structures which, it seems to me, are lacking in beauty. With this in mind, I decided to embark on yet another “Urban Trekking” mission, in order to discover some of our oldest, most imposing buildings in the downtown core.

At the south east corner of West Hastings & Granville Street, I spotted what is now called The Birks Building, housing Vancouver’s venerable jewellery store, which we’ve always called simply “Birks”. This store was formerly at the corner of Granville and Georgia Street, in a lovely old building which has since been demolished.

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The Birks Clock, on Granville Street at West Hastings.

The famous “Birks Clock” was moved to its present location in front of the store when Birks  moved north a few blocks. Many Vancouverites, (myself included!) were relieved that this iconic clock was saved. For years, it had been a special place for friends to meet each other downtown. “I’ll meet you under the Birks clock”, we’d say, when planning a get-together.

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The Sinclair Centre, on West Hastings, at the North West corner of  Granville & Hastings.

The Sinclair Centre is actually four historical buildings which were joined and renovated in 1986. One of them is the Winch Building, built from 1908 to 1911. There is a bright and welcoming atrium in the middle of the complex.

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Sinclair Centre (please note: Canadian spelling of “Centre”. Merci beaucoup!)

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The Permanent Building, 330 West Pender Street. Gorgeous doorway. They don’t make doors like this any more!

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This was a delightful find! Especially on the grey, worn streets of downtown, it’s always a treat to discover something beautiful. Someone cared enough to use their imagination in creating this small but lovely “tableau” of living plants and a wrought iron gate. I think this is on the south side of West Pender Street, near Granville. (Note the padlocks!)

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The Dominion Building, (terracotta colour), at 207 West Hastings Street, as seen from the corner of Hastings & Homer. Built in 1910, this was Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise.

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Ceiling lights and decoration on the outside entrance of the Dominion Building.

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Pink Alleyway!! between Granville & Seymour Streets, just to the south of Hastings.

On the day I took this photo, there was a lively “Public Disco” event taking place.

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Inside the amazing Paper Hound Bookshop, on West Pender Street. Not just any old second hand bookstore, this one has a great selection of carefully chosen and  nicely displayed books. Notice the original brick wall, which was uncovered during restoration.

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Vintage sign discovered underneath the plaster on the wall of the present-day Lola & Miguel store on Pender St., in Gastown, during renovations. The Daily World was a newspaper published in Vancouver in the early 1900’s.

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Another original brick wall in Gastown, in The Old Faithful Shop, on West Cordova Street, decorated with a vintage Canadian canoe!

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Waterfront Station on West Cordova Street, in Gastown. Northern terminus of the Canada Line, dock and station of the Sea Bus to North Vancouver, and as you can see, a cruise ship is in port! Also the terminus for The Expo Line and the West Coast Express train.

Originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as the Pacific terminus for their transcontinental passenger trains from Toronto and Montreal, the station was opened in 1914.

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Angel of Victory”, statue of a fallen soldier and angel, at Waterfront Station in Gastown.

Created by Montreal sculptor Coeur deLion McCarthy, this bronze copy of the original dates from 1921.

Just to the right of the building in this photograph, you’ll see two lovely trees. Yes, we have Palm trees in Vancouver. This is the mild and temperate Pacific Coast, after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Sailing Boat with Two Passengers”  (La Barque), 1900, Odilon Redon

Whoever said, “Old age is not for sissies” was certainly right! It struck me recently that living each day, especially during one’s senior years, is like sailing on an uncharted sea. This state of affairs makes life challenging, to say the least. And there’s nothing wrong with facing challenges!

I’ve decided to create a navigational story for myself, and am happy to share it with any of you (no matter what age you are) who are interested. This will be an ongoing project, appearing on my blog from time to time. The navigational entries will always be titled Beautiful Elders: Sailing on an Uncharted Sea.

“As we advance in life, it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.”

—Vincent van Gogh

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“Vincent van Gogh–Self Portrait with Grey Felt Hat”, 1887

Each blog post will contain encouraging, sometimes humorous, and always positive ideas for those of us who are sailing on occasionally stormy seas, occasionally calm ones, and mostly uncharted waters.

For the past few years I have noticed that older people like me are seldom to be seen in much of the media, or even on the streets of my city. Many retirees, (including five of my friends!) have moved away from the city and over to Vancouver Island or to the Sunshine Coast. Living in those places is more peaceful and less expensive than it is in Vancouver.

As for the media, it is full of young stories, young faces, and young bodies. Is this what we are meant to aspire to? Or must we, as elders, become invisible? Must we try to appear younger than our actual years? So it appears!  Of course, keeping fit and healthy, and having good muscle tone is great. But, grey hair is beautiful. Accepting our ageing bodies with grace is wise and positive. And hopefully, our graceful acceptance sends a reassuring message to younger generations.

NOTE TO SELF: KEEP MOVING!

AND: “DON’T LET YESTERDAY OR TOMORROW TAKE UP TOO MUCH OF TODAY”. In other words, try to LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Easy to say, more difficult to practice!

“There is no peace that cannot be found in the present moment.”

—Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor canoeing

In our present-day North American culture, whatever has happened to the concept of respecting the elders? In some cultures (bless them!), such as those of North and South American indigenous people, elders are revered even to this day. It used to be the norm to learn from the wisdom of older people, but in present day Western society, this idea seems to be rare.

However, there is hope! Here’s a quotation from a thirteen-year-old girl I know:

“In another time, being an elder would mean that you had survived. This society has become obsessed with a misconception of beauty that doesn’t include what is real.”

And remember:

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

—Albert Einstein

Until next time, Pleasant Sailing!

 

 

 

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Today’s quotations:

More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always.

–Claude Monet

 

You mustn’t rely on flowers to make your garden attractive. A good bone structure must come first, with an intelligent use of evergreen plants so that the garden is always clothed no matter what time of year. Flowers are an added delight, but a good garden is the garden you enjoy looking at even in the depth of winter.

–Margery Fish

 

 

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Now that we’re in the midst of summer, Southlands Nursery is much quieter than it was in late May, when I posted the first half of this entry. But it is still just as beautiful!

Surrounded by greenery, close to many riding stables, within walking distance of the Fraser River’s North Arm, and a neighbour to the Musqueam Nation, Southlands Nursery is in a very special location.

As always, this nursery is a work of art. It is obvious that the owners care very much about what they are doing, and it involves more than simply making money, important as that may be!

 

 

 

 

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Tucked in between the North Arm of the Fraser River and Marine Drive in South Vancouver sits an area called “Southlands”. Stretching for a few miles, it is a wonderfully “country-like” district, and is home to numerous horse stables, lovely homes, several golf courses, and best of all, Southlands Nursery, which is located at 6550 Balaclava St.

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be invited to share in a few riding lessons in the Southlands area with my best friend Pat and her three sisters. Even way back then, going down to “The Flats”, as we called Southlands, was always a special experience. A part of the city of Vancouver, at the same time it is removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s peaceful there.

And that’s why I love going to visit Southlands Nursery, a magical, other-worldly place of exceptional beauty. Not simply a place which sells plants, this gorgeous nursery is a work of art, a little piece of Paradise within the city. Around each corner appears another stunningly beautiful display of plants, pots, garden statuary, supplies and greenhouses.

Southlands Nursery is the ongoing creation of its owners: Thomas Hobbs and Brent Beattie, who opened it in 1991.

See their website for more details.

I always feel rejuvenated, peaceful and inspired after visiting Southlands Nursery. (And no, I don’t work for them! I just want to share another of my favourite Vancouver Treasures with you readers and fellow bloggers.)

To be continued…

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Today’s Quotations:

If you would like to be happy your whole life long, become a gardener.

–Old Chinese Proverb

When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.

–Minnie Aumonier

 

 

 

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“We are what we think, having become what we thought.”

–Buddha

As the Buddha taught, our thoughts create who we are. I’ve discovered that it is possible to change one’s thoughts, although it’s sometimes not easy! There will be challenges for all of us throughout life, but focussing on the light, the beauty, and the good things in life really helps.

In keeping with Joie du Soleil’s main aim, which is to focus on the positive rather than the negative, I’m posting another upbeat song: “Happy Talk”, from the movie “South Pacific”. Even a tiny dream, even looking forward to some small excitement or pleasure each day can be a way to live more peacefully, more contentedly.

Related links for you to peruse are here as well. One for CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and one for MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The CBT teaches ways to change our thoughts, and the MBSR is Mindfulness Meditation, which helps us to simply focus on the present moment.

“The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

–Pete Seeger, American songwriter and folksinger.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral-therapy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_stress_reduction

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