the mood of the rainforest

Pacific Spirit Park, Vancouver

If you live in Vancouver you’ll have noticed we’ve been drowning for the last month, now known as “Juneuary”. While one side of me grumbles with discontentment, the other realizes that this temperate rainforest city I’ve grown up in has made me the moody, introspective artist that I am. Nearly everything I work on has a little bit of that dark, dreary, day-dreaming quality to it. While I often curse the grey skies, I am also attracted to grey tones and the pewter colour of the ocean when I ride the ferry to one of the islands on an overcast day. Even our pint-sized house interior colouring has a natural west-coast influence in the colouring and materials. There’s no escaping it – it’s in my blood.

Sombrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Besides all the lush greenery and fresh-smelling air, the thing that really makes a rainy city great is when the sun comes out, there is nothing more exciting. It feels like the city suddenly transforms from an insular, head-down hermit into a vibrant, smiling socialite. People drop everything and head to the beach, a patio, the forest, the mountains – they leave work early, call in sick, soak up the vitamin D and dry out their damp bones until the sun goes down.

Sunset in August – backyard view

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve traveled to tropical places, deserts and the like, and love it. Between the constant warm temperatures, the flora and fauna, and the intense sun, it can be heaven for me and a welcome break from life under a sheet of grey. In 2003 I spent three months in Australia and felt more at home than I did in Vancouver at the time. I spent years trying to figure out how I could live in Melbourne instead, but for various reasons it never happened. I did believe that Vancouver would grow and change to become a city like Melbourne, but when I was 21, time was of the essence – I had to get everything I wanted NOW.

Melbourne’s architecture never ceased to make me fall in love with the city over and over again

Well, time has passed, my impatient nature has mellowed (slightly), and I’m still here. In Vancouver. I still get incredibly nostalgic for Melbourne, but you know, I wasn’t wrong when I predicted that Vancouver would make its way towards being almost as cool. What’s even better – being 30 isn’t actually as old as I thought it would be. We still have a ways to go in our moody city, but how far we have come. We encourage bikes, public spaces, and car sharing. The artist community has grown and diversified beyond upscale South Granville and hipster Main Street. Music fills the streets of downtown more than ever with a variety of buskers from solo synth-guys to four piece bands. There are markets all over the place these days. Rain or shine. I find that incredible sometimes – the stuff that gets done in the rain.

There are still several things that annoy the hell out of me in my hometown from time to time, and the rain really doesn’t seem to help sometimes, but complaining just makes it feel worse. I think what it comes down to is that human beings are always changing and looking for things to vent their own issues onto, whether it be their city, their spouse, or the weather.

So no matter how dumpy I might feel after days on end of grey skies, I will try to play in the rain, bask in the clouds, and embrace my moody vitamin D deficient self for what it is. And if I just want to sit inside and play Skyrim for three hours… well, that’s okay sometimes too. Because that’s how I roll in the rainforest.

I invite you to listen to one of my favourite grey-day musicians: Beach House.


dig dig dig dig dig dig

Another mud-puddle day in the trenches! (As I sit here warm and dry indoors). Our corner of Dunbar holds a striking resemblance to Vimy Ridge.

vimy ridge

We even lacked flush-able toilets this morning! That was interesting.  But all this is in the name of progress.  We’re very close to having the sewer line trench coming up to the main street. Then it’s up to the City to connect us.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t take a ‘coon’s age for them to go down their list to get to us.

The old-things/antiques nerd in me that has been showing up more prominently these days was very excited to see what the guys found in the muck this morning.

lydia e. pinkham's vegetable compound, patented in 1876

It didn’t take long to find out that this empty bottle of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is likely around 100 years old. Who knows what the story is behind this little gem, and how and why it landed 10 feet underground on the property, but I think it’s a pretty neat little souvenir to have on display in the new house to remember the days and days of digging, and how far things have come (both in our little world of the laneway house, and the world of medicine for that matter!) Lydia Pinkham died in 1883 and never saw the full success of her medicinal empire, but her Vegetable Compound made the family fortune, grossing $300, 000 annually by her death and peaking in 1925 to $3.8 million.

An interesting and rather frightening  side note:  the same year as the Vegetable Compound was patented, a prominent American physician was urging the removal of healthy ovaries as a treatment for menstrual cramps. Yikes!! I’d rather go with the Lydia’s medicine “for the female discomforts” thank you.  I think it can go without saying that I’m  glad to be living in 2012…

Well, enough about history I suppose.  Back to the present: The roof is on, the windows and doors are in, and the electrical and plumbing will be going in shortly as well.  Excitement abounds in our little corner of the world! More photos to come soon.

In keeping with the theme of history, I thought I’d share this video passed on to me the other day. It’s footage from 1907, going through the streets of downtown Vancouver.  Probably around the same time that Lydia E. Pinkham’s bottle landed on our little street corner and got buried. Pretty neat.

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a time for new beginnings

The sad part of building our laneway house is the inevitable loss of garden space. We don’t just have any old yard either. It’s had years of dedication from my mom and dad, making it into a lush sanctuary for the birds and bees. I admire my parents for their willingness to accept such a big change to their space and routine.  Their love and kindness to me growing up and into my adult life has always been amazing, and this laneway house project is more proof of that. I know we’ll have a new and lovely garden and patio once it’s all done – but I’ll always remember the little Dunbar oasis that my mom created here. I took some photos in August to document it before things had to start being taken out and moved into pots. This post is a little tribute to the beauty and the care that was poured into the garden. Gardens are classic symbols of growth and change, so it almost seems appropriate that now that I’m seeing my parent’s garden being taken apart, I can feel our new beginning is on it’s way.

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