Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Left Hander's Day for the Right-Handed

August 13 was Left Hander’s day. A unique and special minority, left handers are celebrated and revered with their own day – and rightly so! 1 in 9 men and 1 in 14 women are left-handed – they’re rare, but they ARE out there if you look hard enough. As a kid my friends and I always wanted something different than what we already had – typical kid stuff – and it was usually what the ‘popular’ girls had. If you had straight hair, you wanted curly, and vice versa – or whatever the trend was at that time. Only the cute, popular girls had braces, so you longed for the glint of metal on your teeth. Left-handed kids were deemed SUPER special – despite knocking elbows with a right-handed person when desks were side by side. They got special scissors, they held their pencils at different angles, and teachers would always make a big deal of them being ‘special.’ We all longed to be that special person, if only for a day (despite trying to be like everyone else the rest of the time).

Oh the troubles and dramatics of childhood!

And where 40 to 50 years ago left-handed kids in school were reprimanded for writing WRONG, nowadays we celebrate and embrace the special – with a special day AND a website! http://www.lefthandersday.com/

So now that I’m seemingly/supposed to be grown-up, although I DO have days where I wish my hair was something other than what it is, for the most part I’m happy with who I am. I never got braces (kids hate them, I know, but I still think they look cute with them), and I write with my right hand; no special scissors or tools required to get through my daily life. I do have moments where I see a movie stars’ lips or much-photographed trademark mole and I have a twinge of green envy. ‘They’re sooooo special....’ my 10-year-old self secretly, wistfully moans.

BUT I’m mature, content and rational and I accept who I am, what I am, and how I am.

As a kid I wasn’t a sporty person – I’ve been a ‘creative’ all my life – so I never had issues with needing special sports gear, should I have been born left-handed. I was relatively stress-free to my parents (they would argue that, I think) – they didn’t need to run around town looking for left-handed scissors or baseball gloves. I wasn’t special, I was just ‘me’, and I was doing fine just the way I was. I eventually married and had kids – one kid writes with his left hand and plays sports with his right, and the other kid both writes and plays sports with his right. I love them both equally. Scissor challenges aside, no left-hand-sport-equipment-needs challenged us and life carried on without a second thought.

Until I picked up an archery bow two years ago – specifically an Olympic-style recurve bow – and my right-handed world changed.

You see, there are right-handed bows and left-handed bows. The TRULY unique can shoot with both left AND right-handed bows; the epitome of ambidextrous. But the ‘hand’ of bow you shoot with has nothing to do with what hand that is your most dominant – or the hand you ‘write’ with.

It’s all to do with what EYE is most dominant.

If you are left-eye dominant you shoot left-handed, but hold the bow in your right hand (drawing back the string with your left). If you are right-eye dominant you shoot right-handed, but hold the bow in your left hand (drawing back the string with your right).

And as it turns out I’m a left-handed archer – a somewhat rarity in the archery world.

This discovery shocked and confused me to the core. My 10-year-old self so longing to be ‘special’ back in grade five rejoiced! LOOK AT ME! I AM special!

Yet at the same time I couldn’t understand how I could be left-eye dominant as my left eye is the more blurrier of the two. But I was soon told my blurry eye was due to an ‘age’ thing and that it has nothing to do with eye-dominance (I’m forty-something-years old - so much for my 10-year-old self). I had to stop over-thinking things (as I so often do with everything) and accept the fact that I was not who I thought I was.

Because what I was now was a left-handed archer who was also a right-handed writer.

Although I have very much enjoyed doing this archery thing – something I would have NEVER EVER imagined doing before – doing so has come with its own challenges. Sure I am ‘special’ – my 10-year-old self secretly glows with pride when someone comments ‘Oh! A lefty archer, huh?’ and then go on about how ‘rare’ we ‘lefty archers’ are – but I would soon realize I should be careful what I wish for. Everything comes with a price.

Many of the bits and bobs that go with a bow is specific to what hand of bow you shoot; meaning certain left-hand bow equipment will only fit on left-handed bows and not on right-handed bows. Archery companies often have equipment on sale – but it’s usually right-handed bows and their accompanying equipment. Why? Because there are more right-handed archers than left. Archers swap, sell and hand-down gear to fellow archers, whether it be they have outgrown what they have or because they are upgrading their own equipment. But much to my dismay it’s usually right-handed archers doing the wheeling and dealing and my left-handed archery-girl-self can’t benefit from any of it. Left-handed archers rejoice when they meet another ‘lefty shooter’ and often moan the struggles faced in being so ‘special.’

So where I am thrilled beyond thrilled to not only be practicing a different and historic sport, AND finally get to be UNIQUE and SPECIAL, it turns out that being left-handed is not as easy as I thought. Be careful what you wish for.

So for now I will embrace who I am, JUST THE WAY I AM, enjoy my new-found activity, and embark on a quest to have Left-Eyeball-Dominant Day become a national holiday. With presents, of course.

I could use a new bow ;)



For info on how to determine your dominant eye, please visit Archery 360. They can explain it better than I can. While you're there, you can watch an archery how-to video by multi-Olympic Silver medalist Jake Kaminski - he's pretty cool.






Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Photograph a B17 In the Rain - And Survive

As I waited in anticipation at the ferry terminal in Victoria, BC, the raindrops from the overcast sky above speckled my car’s windshield. My dad was coming from Vancouver for the day and we had BIG plans. I leaned forward in my seat for a better view of sky above. White and grey clouds resembling antique, mottled aluminum threatened to ruin our visit. When Dad was in the car moments later, we planned our day and vowed not to let any rain ruin our time - all in the name of photography.

We were about to get up close and personal with the B17 ‘Aluminum Overcast’ bomber that was staying at The Victoria Flying Club during the Father’s Day weekend. The 65,000 lb vintage bomber built in the early 40’s was in town on one of its many stops during its North American journey. Ground tours and short flights were being offered in the spirit of keeping military history alive. It would be a perfect photo opportunity for my dad who specializes in aviation photography.

As we sped to the airport and planned our photographic attack, it was hard not to keep our eyes to the skies. We knew the old plane wouldn’t be flying quite yet, and we knew ground tours were only allowed at specific times. I would have loved to be able to send my dad up for a once-in-a-lifetime flight, but the costly flight was a bit beyond my tiny wallet - a tour of the plane would be better than nothing. We would still be spending time together and that was all that mattered. With another glance up at the sky my dad, the knower-of-all-things aviation and weather-related, wondered that with a “ceiling of 1000 feet broken, and visibility 8 to 10 miles” if the old plane would even go up. We hoped to get some photos of the plane taking off.

The light drizzle of rain had stopped by the time we arrived at the airport, but we weren’t allowed up close just yet. It was about to take-off for its first flight of the day! We made it on time!

We quickly readied our cameras and took a few shots of the plane from the viewing area. After the pilots and guest passengers were settled inside the plane, the ground crew hand-cranked the props a few times to initiate oil flow to the engines. Then in anticipation everyone stood back and waited. It wasn’t too long before the props started to move on their own, picking up speed with every rotation. Oil-rich smoke billowed out from the engines creating a picture-perfect shot. CLICK CLICK CLICK went our cameras and we waited in anticipation for the plane to start taxiing out to the runway. More great photo opportunities were on the horizon!

But just as the old plane started taxiing down the runway the rain started up again – and not like a drizzle as before. Dad did get some footage of the plane taxiing out, but all too soon the rain forced us to the semi-protective overhang of airport building. As rain trickled down our necks as we protected our cameras tucked under our coats, we worried that our fun day was about to be a washout.

We soon learned that tours would, indeed, be available to us later in the afternoon. There was hope! Dismayed but not to be outdone we went back to my house, dried off our gear, and after a cup of tea we headed BACK to the airport. This time the rain had stopped but the clouds still threatened from above. Our determination to get great photos would not be over-shadowed by any finicky weather.

Back again at the airport we unloaded our gear and set up our cameras. Hadn’t we just done this before? we chuckled. By then we could approach the plane: under the wings, between the props, under the fuselage, and behind the tail we skulked about with our cameras. A mannequin depicting an airman sat at the ready in the tail gunner. These planes were definitely designed with lanky young 18-year-old in mind. The tiny close-quarters of the ball turret gunner and the tail gunner made me cringe. I wasn’t claustrophobic, but I could only imagine sitting there for hours at a time would make anyone eventually hate small spaces.

Finally it was time for our tour! I climbed up through the hatch into a crawlspace behind the bombardier then pretzeled my body in the cramped space to wait. The other visitors in the plane had to move along before I could crawl through to stand up behind the cockpit. Both my dad and I are not exactly accustomed to crawling around such tiny planes so it was a challenge, to say the least, but I was determined to see us through the tour. Finally there was enough room for me to crawl/shuffle/inch forward until I could stand. Then my dad, too, made his way up through the hatch and through the tiny crawl space to stand beside me behind the cockpit. We did it! We survived the tiny obstacle course!

But our adventures weren’t over yet because….

…in order to get through the rest of the plane from nose to tail we would have to inch our way through the bomb bay. It wouldn’t be the 5-foot drop to the ground through the open bomb bay doors should we trip that would be our undoing, but the possibility of getting stuck trying to get through that could be a problem. We would have to walk across a horizontal beam barely 6 inches wide flanked by vertical support beams barely 20 inches apart.
With a deep suck-in-your-gut breath and camera gear carefully passed across the bomb bay to a waiting tour guide, we each inched, squeezed, and scooted along the beam and between the supports. There were some tense moments where we each wondered if we would be stuck there forever, but with a promise to God to be pure of heart forever should we make it out alive, we finally made it through the bomb bay to the radio room! We looked at each other and nervously chuckled, ‘Phew – good thing we didn’t get stuck,’ and then proceeded to take a few photos as if nothing had happened.

Because we're cool like that.

We continued through the radio room to the main cabin, admired the guns, and then stumbled out the back door. Dad and I took many memory-cherishing photos, but what had us bent over laughing on the runway was the forever-memory of us making it out of the B17 bomb bay alive. Barely.

See? We never let a little rain bother us after all.

For more information about the B17 ‘Aluminum Overcast’ Bomber visit Experimental Aircraft Association

Friday, May 27, 2016

Tupperware® List

I took a week off from my too-busy day job. I had months of catch-up to do – household organizing and cleaning, computer stuff, writing-related fun things to do, general sewing and mending – and basically I just needed some R&R. I knew I would be busy, but I was also going to make time to rest. So I made a list – a long list, despite my desire to find time to rest. It consisted of stuff I needed to do as well as stuff I wanted to do. I knew if I didn’t have a list, nothing would get done and I’d end-up going back to work feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything. My week off wasn’t about going away on a trip, nor was I thinking I was going to write a novel in a week. I just needed a break to catch-up.

I was determined to complete that list, yet I gave myself permission and allowance that I might not get everything done. I’m a busy momma – there are just only so many hours in the day! Heck, the week before I was so busy I had to write a note for myself to remember to make a list, and THEN I even jotted down a few things to remember to put ON the list, just so I wouldn’t forget

So determined was I to stay on track and finish the list, I eloquently told my husband that I had a list of things I needed/wanted to do during my week off. It was my subtle way of saying ‘don’t bug me.’ I assured him I’d make time for him, of course, but I knew if I didn’t clearly state my intentions for the week early on, I’d get wrapped up in other projects around the house. It sounds mean of me, I know, but I had to create and set balance for my time – for me and for my family. I would still be there for my family – I always would – but I needed to step back from everything and catch-up a bit. I gave him a few examples of things on my list, just so he had an idea of what the purpose of my week-off truly was to be. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I was gentle yet I was firm and ready to stand my ground should any misinterpretation of my intentions arose.

After a moment of thoughtful reflection he said, “So you kind of have a Tupperware® List.”

So mildly geared-up I was for any resistance that I immediately assumed he was insinuating my needs and wants were trivial little things that could be tucked away in a random plastic container. My feminist hackles rose at the thought he was implying my list was merely housewife-worthy things to-do, a woman’s place in the kitchen with her Tupperware®, and all that.

I took a deep breath – in through the nose, out through the mouth, as I didn’t want to start off the week in a squabble over metaphors – and calmly said “What do you mean Tupperware List?” I tried to keep the sarcastic drip in my tone at bay.

I’m a better actress than I thought as he clearly didn’t detect any froth in my calmly-spoken words. “Well, you know. Some people have a Bucket List of huge things to do – climb Mount Everest, go to space, visit the Great Wall of China – you know, things like that. But your things – smaller in scale yet still very important, easier to do and more of them - are perfect for a Tupperware container. They are things you want to do, but just not as big as typical ‘Bucket List’ things. And instead of a Bucket List, it’s a Tupperware List.”

Oh. So that’s what he meant.

I turned my head in shame. Serves me right for being a little snot, hinting at him to not ‘bug me.’ Here I was ready for a battle and generally being an assuming-the-worst cow. I was no better than a pesky little fly.

And his idea was brilliant. A Tupperware List. It made complete sense! A Bucket-type List for tangible and doable day-to-day, everyday-items.

I’m using ‘Tupperware’ here as a proprietary eponym (for more on propriety eponyms, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_trademark). My husband wasn’t meaning at all that my to-do list wasn’t worthy or less important or frivolous in a little-housewifey way as I had so thought. Oh no. He was just equating the importance of my to-do list to that of the much-important little plastic containers, often referred to in a general sense as ‘Tupperware.’ I swear by Tupperware the brand, and would never trivialize their product’s quality or importance in our lives. He was using the word Tupperware in a generic term.

I told him he was brilliant and we went on with our day, and subsequently my busy week. I was able to balance my to-do-list-completion-time with time spent with him and my boys, all while completing my list and adding in a few extras along the week. Staying focused, determined, yet balanced made the week much more productive than I ever thought. Having an understanding husband made it all the better.

And the extra bonus? He gave me something to write about, too.

For Tupperware® product information, to find a consultant near you, or to become a consultant yourself, visit www.tupperware.ca

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sidetracked

I had been carrying around a card in my purse to mail to a friend. For almost two weeks I always had it with me, but I just couldn’t get around to buying a stamp. Something was always sidetracking me from the simple task of stopping at mail depot in the drugstore by my house on my way home from work. Just a few steps over from my usual route going home through the center after work and badda-bing, badda-bang, I could get the stamp, mail the card, and all would be right in the world.

But in my busy life – teens to referee, houses to clean, meals to organize, general chores to do all while working outside the home – I kept getting blown-off course and forgetting my important errand during my rush and daily grind.

And then one day it happened. I had time – I was of sound mind and disposition from my usual busy panic – and I remembered to get that stamp. So after the bus dropped me off at the shopping center near my home after work on a Friday afternoon, I made my way to the drugstore. Just as I was almost there, I happened to glance back and noticed firefighters standing in front of the grocery store collecting donations for a charity. I felt guilty passing them by, but I was well across the parking lot before I noticed them. I vowed to donate next time I was by.

I picked my way through the parking lot of the shopping center, keen to stay away from the sidewalks that would lend to window-shopping and distractions. Sure it was a bit risky that busy Friday afternoon making my way through the chaotic parking lot, but I was determined and focused. I had one thing on my mind – get across the lot to the drugstore, get that stamp, and FINALLY mail that card.

The mail depot at the back of the store was busy, so I bought a stamp from the front cashier. Proud of myself for FINALLY getting the stamp, I went outside through the automatic doors of the store, eager to get to the mailbox just outside. My head was down as I busily shoved my wallet in my purse with one hand and gripped the stamped card in my other. I was determined, focused and pleased with myself for finally have carried out such a simple task!
Just as I stepped through the doors into the hot afternoon sun, I heard a man’s voice cooing gently just outside the doors: “There you go....watch it now, careful....there you go....”

Before I could wonder if someone was kindly cheering me on in this great postal feat, I looked up to find one of the firefighters from the grocery store guiding a mother Mallard duck and her babies across the parking lot. The firefighter, along with another shopper, held back traffic to protect the young family as they made their way towards the sidewalk.

Just as Mom and babies climbed their way up and over the curb of the sidewalk, everyone (the babies, not the growing crowd of onlookers) decided they had had enough. Too pooped to go on they suddenly all huddled together and as one downy, fluffy mass plunked down for a rest. I couldn’t blame them: heck, I was tired from walking all the way across the parking lot, myself!

After patiently waiting a beat or two their mother gave a loud QUACK and up they rose in one fluffy mass. For a second Mom seemed to ponder which way to go and the firefighter and I looked at each other in question. Going one way up the sidewalk would only lead them further into the shopping center, while going the other way would take them out of the center and in the direction of the pond. They had a long way to go, still, to get to the pond, but all we could do was our best as crossing guards and ensure their safety across the nearby busy street. So I followed along shepherding them in the right direction, while the crowd of duck-enthusiasts oohed and aahed and snapped photos, parading behind the little waddling duck parade.
‘Stay away from the drain!’ I exclaimed as they each hop/stumbled off the sidewalk just beside a storm drain and onto the road. We blocked traffic once again, steered them away from another storm drain, and then watched with relief as they hopped up and over the opposite sidewalk and then made their way under a fence through someone’s back yard.

Where did they come from? It’s a quite a big parking lot, the nearest ducky pond is too far away for the seemingly freshly hatched babies to have travelled all the way up to the shopping center. And why were they choosing that moment to pick their way across the parking lot? Why then? Why there? They didn’t belong in the parking lot! Had they got sidetracked? Had mother and father not quite made it to the pond in time to nest their little eggs? Had they been too busy window shopping to do their chores and failed to ready their home in time for their little brood?

They had gotten sidetracked, somehow, but Mom was focused and determined to get them all back on track, even if it meant making their way through a chaotic parking lot.

But wait! Who was I to talk of getting sidetracked and not stay focused?

Because as I made my way home relishing in seeing a fellow busy mom hustling about her day – even if it was a duck – I realized I still had the card in my hand. I had forgotten all about it and never mailed it. Sidetracked, AGAIN! I had a lot to learn from that mother duck about staying focused and getting back on track.

I never knew if they found their way to the pond. As I made my way to my own home I kept watch for the sidetracked little family and listened for the juvenile ‘quacks’ and chirps of the little babies accompanied by the occasional instructional QUACK! QUACK! from their mother hurrying them along.

So despite me failing in my mission and NOT mailing the card, I had been part of something good. I helped to get someone else to get back on track.

And it was Friday the 13th, at that. Go figure.

(And yes, I did eventually go back to the shopping center later that night and mail the card AND donate to the firefighter’s charity)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Thing About Spring...

We made it – we survived another winter. Spring is here on the West Coast and I’m loving it. It was just what the doctor ordered to pick up my spirits after a dark winter.

I’m specific about what seasons I like. Hot and dry summers are not my thing, and even though I’m lucky because the winters here are mild – salt and ice scrapers only sometimes make an appearance – everything gets so colourless and blah. I’m more of an autumn person – the cool, crisp afternoons where the sun skitters through rust-coloured burnished leaves is my favorite time of year. In a close second to autumn comes spring – a zillion colours are around every corner, and there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air, in everyone; we are leaving dark, drab winter days behind.

Spring is a time of beginnings and birth. Everywhere you turn something is growing, blossoming, and regenerating. Lambs run amuck through their fields, mallard ducklings start to waddle across busy streets, and cherry blossoms pose for countless cameras. It’s a time of starting – kind of like starting fresh.

But this year I’m looking at spring as a time for ME to re-start and re-set myself. With it being only just three months into the new year, I figured it’s a perfect time to look back and review the goals and resolutions I made on December 31st . Have I veered off a course I tried to set for myself? Have I achieved anything so far? Or had I simply forgotten what I had intended on doing this year, and allowed external factors to deter my plans? I’m not putting pressure on myself – too high standards and too much pressure can only lead to disaster. But it’s easy to forget about those little goals set at the new year when the novelty of resolutions wears off.

And I know because I’ve done it.

So I’m checking-in with myself and if needed, starting anew. Again, no pressure – but I’m taking the time to re-visit and re-assess what I’ve done or tried to do this year, and maybe start again. Heck, we were fortunate to have a leap day this year (happens only every four years, you know), so it’s an added bonus! It’s an extra day this year for us to accomplish the great things we can all do if we set our minds to it.

We started fresh and new on January 1st, but life is life and we all get busy and forget about these great things we said we were going to TRY to do this year. It’s never too late to start something new – to change. But for some of us who had vowed at the new year to do this and that as well as BE this and that, sometimes we need to sit back part way through the year and see where we’re at. And why not do it in spring, the ¼ mark of the year, when everything is blossoming, blooming, and starting new?

The first day of spring this year was on Sunday March 20th and even though it rained a bit, that didn’t dampen anyone’s springy spirits. On that rainy day I pulled out the list of goals – or ‘intentions’ as I am calling them – I had written out in the new year. And I was pleased with myself. Some things I had actually been unconsciously doing all along (that’s what writing them out does – cements them in your head), and some things I had forgotten about. Seeing those ‘intentions’ – both accomplished and newly ‘remembered’– was just the kick-start I needed. The year is young, all is not lost, and there’s plenty of time to accomplish what I set out to do. Sure I hadn't started a few things yet – and that’s okay. This is what spring is for; a second chance to start fresh. Slowly but surely I'll get there.

So while many bulbs are just starting to poke their way up and out of the dirt – the same bulbs that were in the ground last year and are now taking another chance at another fabulous year of colour and beauty – I too will also be starting anew and taking another chance at doing what I set out to do: to have a fabulous, colourful, beautiful year, and no matter what the season.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

I'll Be Back, Mr. Otter

I’m a firm believer in the thought that creativity begets creativity. I know that if not feeling creative in one medium (drawing, writing, painting, sculpting – and yes, colouring), dabbling in something else creative will get the imagination going. I’m creative and when I’m not making something, anything, even if it’s baking a cake, I kinda go squirrely.

For the last few months, too many of life's stressors have zapped my well of inspiration. My creativity has been slowly drying up and I've stalled in many areas of my usually-productive creative world. As far as writing goes, determination to keep writing despite having to step back from projects had me writing every day using daily prompts (check out my other blog at www.lisamcmanus.com ). I have had little bursts of writing inspiration here and there, but my productivity for already-started projects has been zulch.

Sigh.

And yes, I know I have to keep perspective. Life could be a heck of a lot worse.

But all that changed recently. In January my Dad gave me something that has helped me get back creatively to somewhere close to where I used to be.

He gave me a camera.

But it wasn’t just about a camera. He not only gave me a diversion away from my recently stressful life (which I suspect was his plan all along), but ha also gave me a path to get me back to my creative little self. Photography was something I had dabbled in before but never had had the right camera to fully explore the creative outlet.

It turned out that that super-fancy Nikon D3000 would be just what the doctor ordered.

So I’ve taken to pounding the pavement with my camera in tow, focusing on the world with only one eye through the viewfinder. I’m an amateur; I’m learning. And while I’m learning I’m wandering, always on the hunt for more than just pretty picture as I stalk, kneel, and crawl on the ground trying to get that perfect shot. I know I look like a lost dishrag half the time. One eye is usually always devoid of makeup from winking it shut for each shot, the cold air at this time of year making my eyes water and my makeup run. My hair is always a mess from outside adventures, usually in the wind, fog, and morning mist and often at a beach. I can only explore in the morning before work now that it’s getting lighter earlier, and then if I can I get out for a lunch break from work and see what I can find. One knee is always dirty and my nose is always running. I’m always weighed down with my purse and camera bag; I have to get an all-in-one setup.

I know I look like a lost and rumpled bag lady carrying around all my bags and seemingly aimlessly roaming around, but I don’t care. I’ve been having fun pretending to be a photojournalist for National Geographic.

So one morning I was ‘on assignment.’ I had some time before work, it was light out and I had arrived downtown Victoria earlier than usual. It wasn’t raining which meant I could roam and not worry about destroying the camera – AND preserve my hair-do. I made my way to Beacon Hill Park with my camera around my neck ready for that perfect shot. The birds were chirping, the ducks were quacking and the peacocks were just starting to emerge. It was serenity at its finest; classical, spa-like music should have been playing in the background to add to the ambiance.

I found myself at the pond – the duck-friendly, fountain-spewing pond of tranquility, complete with a lovely picturesque bridge. I was at-one with nature, giving thanks to Mother Nature and all her creations.

"Ah - a lovely little bridge. National Geographic, here I come!" I thought as I lifted my camera, closed one eye, took aim and CLICK! 1, 2, 3 pictures I took, but then just as I snapped the third and lowered my camera, there was a SPLASH and I caught the tail-end of a...tail.

Was that a...? Yup – an otter I didn’t know that had been in the photo dove into the pond at the click of my camera. Seconds later he broke through the water’s surface, saw I was still there, and then with another flick of his tail went down again.

And in a flash – I didn’t actually need a flash, though (photographers humour) – away went my serenity and I was suddenly on safari. I was gonna get that elusive otter! I tracked and stalked and tracked and stalked. I switched lenses twice, an overhead seagull just 'missed' me, and I skidded and slipped on the shore of the pond. I followed the trail of bubbles the otter left in his wake as he skimmed just below the surface. Click, click, click. Photo after photo I took but he was a smart one. He'd come up for air again, see me there, and then dive back down before I could get a good shot of him (or her - I didn't check).

Alas, fifteen minutes of tracking left me with a zillion photos of blurry bubbles, an extra-blurry shot of him (he wouldn’t hold still and I didn’t have a long enough lens), and nearly late for work.

As I packed away my camera and hurried to work I realized the most important thing about my ‘safari.’ For a moment I was on an adventure and somewhere else, doing something entirely different and creative and focusing on something I could do, and in turn creating a story to share.

Thank you, Dad, for the camera.

And as for the otter?

I'll be back, Mr. Otter. I'll be back.

(If you're not too busy on your own safari, be sure to visit my photography site at www.lisalange8.wix.com/clickandgo)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

One Last Time...

One Last Time

I was on my way to work early on Monday morning, January 4th, and with time to kill, procrastination slowing my step, as well as the need for a washroom, I made my way through the Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC. I, along with everyone else, was getting back to my usual routine, post-holidays and was dragging my feet at bit. Even though foreboding about returning to work gnawed at my gut, at the same time I felt a sense of ‘new beginnings’ in the air; self-reflection and plans for self-transformation are on the minds of many at that time of year.

I slowly made my way through the grand hotel I make every excuse to meander through; and yes, they have a lot more to offer than the use of their washrooms,

The outside of the hotel has been under wraps for a while – but it’s not a secret. With the recent change in ownership came time for a face-lift for the old hotel – not to CHANGE the historical structure, but to give it’s apparently softening, sagging joints a bit of a lift (I know how it feels – could use one myself). The scaffolding on the outside of the building has been covered with tarp, but not the ordinary blue tarps. These tarps have been painted to match the exact exterior of the hotel with red bricks, columns, lighted windows, the whole bit. I love it.

Inside, however, there are to be changes as well, as I would soon learn. But I was on a mission you see, and as I bee-lined my way through the hotel straight for the washroom downstairs, I passed the tea lobby – the roomed famed for serving ‘high tea’ since 1908 to royalty, dignitaries, celebrities and nowadays-commoners like me. I stutter-stopped at what I saw in the tea lobby, but my urgent mission had me promising to return.

And I did.

The tea lobby overlooking the harbor always furnished with heavy, dark wood tables and chairs was empty; furniture-less. Not a teacup, a plant, a sideboard, nor scone was to be seen (and I would have eaten it, too – I was getting kind of hungry); only the grand piano sitting eerily alone, waiting. The vast space usually fully furnished with tables, chairs, privacy partitions and potted plants didn’t feel like its usual ‘cozy’ tea room right then, but more of an empty ballroom with only the ghosts of visitors-past to dance with. Something eerie and raw was in the air – and not the lingering scent of perfuming teas. I got the sense I was invading its space; invading the room’s moment of being nothing other than a room. It was as if it was willing me to go away so it could just be, and not, for once, something for someone else.

The sun had barely started to make its daily appearance. It was still dark outside and the overhead lights cast questionable shadows in century-old corners, warning me to hurry along. The hotel was still asleep and on her hardwood floors I felt I should tip-toe, the church-like atmosphere suggesting I whisper should I dare talk and interrupt its moment of just ‘being.’ Empty and not at-the-ready for once – no expectations, demand for ritual, or need for order – she could take a deep breath and sigh her secrets tighter within her walls. Without any furnishings save for the two pictures over the fireplaces and the heavily tasseled drapes, it was her chance to show everyone what else she could be – herself, simply as she was.


Yes, I know that all sounds over-the-top in giving the old room human-like attributes, but something about the grand space had me honoring it like a person. I felt as though I was in the presence of a great woman with lifetimes of experience in her walls. I was invading her time, space, and moment of just being alone. I had to respect her.

A passing hotel employee broke the spell I was under, and we exchanged pleasantries. I said I was enjoying taking a few pictures of the rarely-empty room and she, too, agreed there was something eerie yet magical about the space. We stood in silence admiring the room that although empty of furniture, was not truly empty. There really was a lot to see in the seemingly empty space - if you looked hard enough.

After another moment of shared silent yet appreciative admiration of the majestic women we so brazenly stared at, the hotel employee hurried on her way, encouraging me to stay as long as I liked. And I did. I suspected, along with the hotel’s other renovations/updates, that the room was destined for the maintenance and up-keeping work it most likely needed. I knew I was likely the last person to enjoy the room as it was. I took as many photos as my cellphone could hold, and was sure to take in as much of the room as she was willing to give me.

At last it was time to go, and when I passed through later that morning (I can’t stay away from the place!) workmen were convening on her floors, their work boots scuffing the hardwood floors. Take it easy on her, I thought as I watched a few men carrying in partitions they would later erect to hide their work-in-progress from prying eyes such as mine. So as if the workmen weren’t there I purposely made my way through the crowd and across her floor so I could enjoy her as she was – one last time.

But I’ll be back....


(I was later assured that the work involved is only maintenance and upkeep to ensures the graceful hotel stays in tip-top shape - the architectural and historical integrity will be maintained. I look forward to going back and seeing her again.)