The final week of November seemed like a good time for a quick visit to the west coast of Vancouver Island, a magical realm that includes the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet, and between them the Pacific National Park Reserve. I had hoped to go last July, but that didn’t work out.
Late November isn’t as warm as July, but it was just as bright and sunny, with nippy nights and daytime temperatures reaching 8 C (46 F). Amazingly, there wasn’t much wind, which meant no wind chill.
I’ve mentioned recently that we have been repainting our living room. For 27 years, walls, ceiling, and woodwork were a dingy, flat, chalky-looking white. There was no incentive to change this until the sagging plaster of the ceiling was repaired. This happened early in May, when we finally connected with an actual, real live plasterer.
Once the plastering was finished, we beavered away for weeks, stripping multiple layers of old paint from the window frames, door frames, and baseboards. Stripping (with heat guns) and sanding (a miserable business, in my opinion) was the hardest part of the project. Picking colours was the most fun.
The world of paint colours is fascinating. Each one has the retailer’s alphanumeric code, but they all have names — in both English and French here in Canada. There must be people whose job it is to think up names for the thousands of paint colours available. It may seem frivolous and silly to name colours, but it does have a certain appeal.
I now have a sizable collection of paint chips for various pale greys and off-whites. It’s interesting to compare names to colours. Examples: Starry Night and Daydream have hints of violet; Rhinestone, Sea Salt, Tinsmith, On the Rocks, Skater’s Pond, Waterscape, and Rainwashed are all greys with different degrees of blue or green. Passive, not surprisingly, is a kind of beige. Some actually have colours in their names: Silver Strand, Slow Green, Lazy Gray, Agreeable Gray, Accessible Beige. (So I’m wondering — is there a Speedy Green? Industrious Gray? Or Aggressive Gray? What about Remote Beige? I could have fun with this!)
For what it’s worth, our renewed living room ceiling is now Alabaster (Albâtre). That colour, a warm white, is called Fuzzy Mitten (Mitaine en peluche) in another company’s scheme. The walls are Window Pane (Carreau), which is a lot like a tint elsewhere called Bluegrass White (Blanc bluegrass). It’s a pale and subtle mixture of blue and green. Parts of the woodwork are Morning Fog (Brouillard du matin), one of a million shades of grey.
Having worked so hard to strip layers of paint from the wood of the window and door frames, and because it’s old growth fir of a quality no longer available, we couldn’t bear to cover it with paint, so varnished most of it instead. Traces of the former paint are still visible in spots, but they are part of the house’s history, like scars and wrinkles on a body.
On Saturday, November 24th, I spent a few hours surrounded by objects from ancient Egypt. After a couple of years immersed in researching and writing a novel featuring such items, I was delighted when the Royal BC Museum hosted a travelling exhibit called Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. (It continues until December 31st, for anyone who might be in or near Victoria, B.C.)
And I was intrigued to hear that on this particular day, an anthropology class at a local college was to stage a mock ancient Egyptian funeral right in the exhibit space. The project was part of a course called Anthropology of Death. The students did a lot of work to create the atmosphere and physical objects. They had even mummified a chicken, which was on display just outside the exhibit space.
A human dummy mummy (not a real one!) was carried along the twisting path through the various dimly-lit rooms, into a life-size replica of the tomb of Sennedjem, an artisan of Thebes. It was placed into a coffin (a borrowed theatrical prop), and the correct ceremonies were performed, including the all-important “Opening of the Mouth.”
Photos taken with a phone in dim spaces with lots of reflecting glass (exhibit cases) and small spot lights, among crowds of people jostling around, aren’t the best. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) I focussed (yes, indeed!) on items of special interest to me, either because they appear in my recently published book, or, in the case of the cat statue and mummy, just because.
This photo of the Bennu Bird was one of the best, along with the one of the Osiris image at the top of the post.
This stone sculpture of the head of an unknown queen was in a dark corner, and my photo (somewhat enhanced) makes her look quite creepy.
False doors (or “spirit doors”) appear in my novel, so of course I took a photo of this one. It dates back to the Old Kingdom, which makes it about five thousand years old.
Shabtis (or ushabtis, or shawabtis) are small human figure sculptures that were placed in tombs so they could work for the deceased person in the afterlife. They were pretty much mass-produced, but sizes and materials varied somewhat. This one struck me as looking quite sinister, so I touched up the image to emphasize that.
Most people know the Egyptians had a reverence for cats. At least I think it was reverence, since there was a cat goddess, Bastet. Many cat mummies have been found, and this exhibit included one. My photo makes it even weirder than it looked in real life reality. The covering is quite intricately patterned, and the fake eyes and ears are touching.
As always, one exits through the gift shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pair of fake shabtis. (You have to read my book to find out why.)
I’ve always been a sucker for blue glass, so this little jug was an obvious choice. I like that it was made in Egypt (as were the shabtis) from recycled glass.
One of the final days of summer 2018 was perfect for a walk in Uplands Park with The Dog (otherwise known as Nelly the Newfoundland).
Nelly wondering why I’m falling behind
This park is surrounded by suburbia, but it’s big enough that you can imagine yourself miles from a house or paved street. Technically, it’s an example of southern Vancouver Island’s vanishing Garry Oak meadow ecosystem, but in reality it’s probably way different from 150 years or more ago. In past times, the native peoples of the area cleared out brush by doing regular burns. This preserved the open meadows where camas bulbs (an important food source) were harvested. Now, with zillion dollar homes close by, there is great resistance to any suggestion of burning, no matter how controlled.
Setting all that aside, here are a few close-ups of plants and rocks that caught my eye as we walked to the shore at nearby Cattle Point. Despite its overgrown state, this is a special place. In spring, a multitude of wildflowers blooms, but I appreciate the rich and muted shades of late summer.
Foliage of the native Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
Eroded volcanic rock with yellow lichens at Cattle Point
Today — Thursday, January 25th, 2018 — I typed the final sentence of my work in progress, followed by finis. Why finis instead of THE END? No reason, except that’s how I’ve envisioned it for the last few months. (Besides, finis is cool).
Well, okay, it’s only the first draft. And it’s still steaming. I’ll leave it to cool and solidify, and then start poking around, cutting out bits from here, adding some stuff there, reworking and massaging — in other words, editing.
But right now, I’m relishing the state of completion. I started writing this novel a year ago, picking it up after a false start and a couple years of dormancy. Now it’s complete, even if rough. No more worrying about cranking out the next section, and the one after that. No more visualizing action scenes, contriving conversations, and wondering how long it would take to get from A to B. And no more fictitious meals to put together.
Facts and figures
Title (provisional): She Who Comes Forth.
Word count: 104,816, but that includes notes to self like [CHECK THIS!] and [LUMPY! REWORK!]. So this number is subject to change.
Genre: Uncertain. Maybe “Women’s adventure fiction.” Is that a genre? With a coming-of-age element, and the necessary injection of the supernatural. This is, after all, a spinoff from the Herbert West Series.
Setting: Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.
Time period: Autumn, 1962.
Publication date: Uncertain. Late 2018 or early 2019, depending on how editing goes, and other factors.
Things to do immediately: save to flash drive, external hard drive, and the cloud. Email a copy to self. I don’t want to lose the document to some sort of computer ailment. I’d still have the handwritten manuscript (pictured above), but it’s only the proto-draft. The real first draft is a lot better quite different.
A Revelation (otherwise known as a “duh” moment): First you write the text, and THEN you add the pictures.
Blindingly obvious stuff follows. Expert WordPressers may wish to ignore.
I’ve been writing posts for this blog since 2010. Most of them, and especially the Garden ones, include photos or other images. When I wanted to get the effect of text wrapping lovingly around a couple of well-chosen shots, I tried the alignment feature — left, right or centre. But it never worked for me. The text would be awkwardly placed, or pictures would end up on top of each other. Aargh. Rather than stop to figure it out, I just centred all the pics with text above and below.
Last week I actually looked at some of the Help notes WordPress provides. Turns out the alignment refers to text, as in, “Do you want to insert the image to the left or right of the text?” Which suggests the text should be written before the images are added. I’d been creating posts this way: Type the title in the “Title” space. Type text in the post text space. Insert a photo. Type some more text. Insert another photo. Type more text.
No. Text first, pics later.
Like this. When I inserted the crescent moon picture, I selected “align right,” which put the picture to the right of this text. For the full moon picture above, I chose “align left.”
Okay, so I’m a slow learner. If there was a Clueless Blogger Award, my blog might be a contender (if it wasn’t Award Free, that is).
Spanish Poppy (Papaver rupifragum)
Now that I’ve figured this out, I can have a bit more fun putting posts together.
Okay, it wasn’t as big a thrill as in the fabled Path of Totality, but Victoria BC was the best place in Canada to view the Eclipse of 2017.
Homemade solar eclipse viewer in use.
This is as close as we got to totality.
The dimmest part of the garden at 90%
The weirdest thing for me was the 3 degree (C) drop in temperature even though it was technically sunny. It’s also amazing how much light the sun emits even when it’s 90% obscured. I suppose that’s why so many people travel to zones of totality.
I just got back from this year’s MBTS, having attended three concerts and spent more time exploring this unique community on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Highlights for me included the Sunday matinee concert, which featured chamber music by Brahms and Smetana performed by some excellent young musicians. I was sharper and more attentive than the previous evening, after the four hour boat trip down the Alberni Inlet. The clear light of noon in the superlative performance space made this matinee concert a treat for both eyes and ears. Evening concerts are enhanced by sunsets that create a magnificent backdrop behind the performers.
Rix Centre for Ocean Discoveries at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
The view from the Rix Centre’s balcony.
Other highlights included visits to Brady’s Beach near Bamfield, and Pachena Beach, several kilometres away.
Brady’s Beach on a perfect July day.
Then there were the Gunneras…
A huge patch of huge plants — the Gunneras that might eat Bamfield?
I’m not sure which species these are, Gunnera manicata or G. tinctoria, but it doesn’t really matter. Apparently they can become invasive, which is a scary thought.
Sadly, the calls of the Swainson’s thrushes, which so entranced me in 2015, were not as evident this time. Apparently, these birds have a short breeding season, and Music By The Sea 2015 was held in early July, so it may be this year the thrushes were mostly finished with the singing which is used by males to claim territory. I hope their numbers haven’t declined; they migrate to South America for the winter, flying by night, so may be killed by collisions with windows, radio and cell-phone towers, and tall buildings. It would be unfortunate if these little singers disappeared from a place that celebrates music every year.