March 13, 2016

Springtime in Kerrisdale ~ in between the rainstorms the trees are blooming

Rains and winds have battered Canada's left coast for several weeks, with no end in sight. It is depressing.

Yet, between storms, the sun comes out, however briefly, and temperatures rise. Spring is here.

A brief walk through almost any neighbourhood on the south coast, and this particular walk to Kerrisdale in Vancouver, gives evidence of the beauty of the season.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

March 12, 2016

Hiking at Alice Lake Provincial Park ~ Jeem goes out of bounds

Close to Brackendale is the highly popular Alice Lake Provincial Park. In the summer this is one of the province's busiest parks and a favourite for locals and tourists alike. The 411 hectare park was established in 1956. Before that, the area was heavily logged.

The are four fresh water lakes that dominate the park, and Alice Lake is the largest, which isn't saying much as it is only a few hundred metres across at any given point.

There's a walkabout around Alice Lake, which is quite wonderful and easily accessible for most. Along the walk there are many picnic tables, benches and barbecue spots, and it's easy to see why this park is packed with people during the summer months.

It was incredibly warm for the first weekend in March and the skies were a brilliant blue. Signs of spring were everywhere, and it was just what Jeem y Sherry had hoped to find on this brief weekend away from Vancouver.

Alice Lake is surrounded by mountains and forest that can be quite dense in parts. A variety of trails provide for more adventurous hiking and after doing the walking trail around the lake, Sherry y Jeem decided to hike DeBeck's Hill Trail, slightly more difficult and certainly steeper as it made its way up the hill named for a logging company's founder.

Intially Jeem y Sherry were walking together, but as Jeem stopped to take photographs, Sherry walked ahead of Jeem.  Not necessarily a problem, as this often happens on their travels. Ten paces behind, always ten paces behind.

But this time, as the forest enveloped the trail and the sun disappeared in the trees, and the pathway itself narrowed dramatically, Jeem fell further and further behind. Eventually Sherry was nowhere to be seen.

Jeem tried to catch up to Sherry, but to no avail, and, in those moments of transcendental panic that seem to happen to people from Buenos Aires, Jeem began to worry. His major fear was of bears and something he had seen in a video shown in an immigration class he attended. "This is about the time of year  when hibernating bears come out of their winter's slumber and ... they are probably hungry," he thought to himself as he looked around. Nervously.For reasons unclear Jeem decided to venture off the path and cut through the dense forest to meet up with Sherry.

In theory, this might have worked, if only he had any real knowledge of the area, and was prepared, physically, and mentally, to carry out his plan. "It's a short cut," he said aloud in an attempt scare away bears.

And so.... three hours later, Jeem was found, muddied, bloodied, bruised and dehydrated by two park rangers, as he stumbled onto the path not thirty metres from where he started. After a rambling and largely incoherent conversation with the rangers, Jeem was released into the care of Sherry after she promised, on the Argentino's behalf, that he would never visit Alice Lake Provincial Park again.

Alice Lake is a beautiful place, and the trails are great, especially when recalling the sage advice of a much wiser man, "No short cuts!"

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

March 06, 2016

Xoco ~ artisan chocolates in Squamish

Jeem y Sherry were back in Squamish for a brief interlude over the weekend, and the weather was incredible. Sixteen degrees and sunny for much of the day,  and the patio at Howe Sound Brewery was nice indeed.

We walked around town and found, not necessarily for the first time, an amazing little chocolate shop on the main drag called Xoco. Open only a few weeks short of one year, this little mother and son operation features fresh chocolates, and assorted pastries based on chocolate, that are all quite stunning.

Locally owned and operated, with local ingredients where possible, and all handcrafted on-site, Xoco is well worth the visit when in Squamish.

Xoco is another example of why people are talking about Squamish in a new light. No longer a town content to be just a stop along the way to Whistler, or yet another bedroom community for Vancouver, something is happening here, and it's fun to watch its r/evolution. Time will tell if citizens can prevail over developers, but they'll have some great chocolate along the way.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

February 09, 2016

Women's Memorial March on February 14th

The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family. Out of that sense of hopelessness and anger came an annual march on Valentine's Day to express compassion, community, and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, unceded Coast Salish Territories.

All these years later, the Women's Memorial March continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women and all women's lives lost in the Downtown Eastside, and in cities across Canada.

My first encounter with the March took place on Valentine's Day 2010 in Victoria. It was a quiet, powerful experience.

Indigenous women disproportionately continue to go missing or be murdered in our city. Political will to address these tragedies, or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty or racism.

In Vancouver the March starts at 12 noon on Sunday, February 14. People of all genders are encouraged to congregate at the corner of Hastings and Main at the Carnegie Community Centre. The March will proceed through the Downtown Eastside, stopping to commemorate at places where women were last seen or found. Speeches by community leaders and activists will take place at the Courthouse.

Photography is discouraged during the March. No political or union flags, banners, leaflets or posters are allowed at this event.

February 01, 2016

Human Library at the PuSh Festival

Human Library is an experiential work that began in Denmark 15 years ago when a group of young people created a project to promote dialogue, following a hate crime against a friend. Today there are Human Libraries in 65 countries and thousands of people around the world have engaged in conversation with strangers.

Two years ago The Murray Chronicles visited The Human Library at Vancouver's annual PuSh Festival when Sherry was a "book." The Vancouver event has grown significantly since. Located in the Vancouver Public Library's main branch downtown it's attracting more and more "borrowers" every year.

Under the thoughtful direction of Dave Deveau and Zee Zee Theatre, Human Library in Vancouver is gaining attention within the community, and the PuSh Festival itself, as a way to connect in ways beyond the capability of our digital devices. These are real conversations with real people. It can be uncomfortable for some, and rewarding for all.

Up the escalator to the third level, then to your left ,is where you can check out your "books." And it's at this point you begin to realise that it's all about having a conversation with a stranger, without any filters. It's twenty minutes of getting to learn something about someone you might otherwise never meet, and to breaking down the assumptions that limit your view of the world. It's not so much about the "book" as it is about you: the reader.

There are over twenty titles this year, including The Upside of Depression, Life in a Pinball Machine, Single Mom of 3 Boys, Pill-popping, Prostitute, Psychotic…Politician,  Letting go of Letting go, and Gay Teen at the Height of AIDS. And Sherry is back too.

Human Library runs on weekends through Sunday, February 7th. Like public libraries everywhere, it's free and highly worthwhile. No late fees.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.