Matters of the Heart in Story Format – Tales of a Vancouver Girl

Category: Landmark

Stop and hear the birds sing, and smell the soap!

I tore down the stairs to leave this house to get to work. I was hurrying. When I got outside, I stopped dead in my tracks. The sound! The birds are back. It is Spring! I recorded them singing. This is a must-hear. It’s like white-noise. Perhaps, that’s what the license plates in British Columbia should say, “The place where white noise is made!”

[audio http://yourlisten.com/channel/content/16964453/birds_in_spring]

(if the player doesn’t show, it’s just a link to the site of where I’ve uploaded the sound clip)

I stood very still by the front door and watched them sing and flutter about in my Japanese Maple tree. They looked and sounded so joyous that my heart began to soar. They sang, I called to them, they called back. I looked up in the tree and one of them looked at me curiously and continue to sing its little song. He was the most adorable black-capped chickadee.

maple in fall

This is my Japanese Maple tree in the Fall. So for this blog entry, imagine it completely naked. Keep it PG, people.

Didn’t take very  much for me to stop and smell the roses…or in my case, stop and listen to the birds sing.

When I got into work, I saw a little package on my keyboard from Teegan. So lovely! At first I thought it was a cookie, which excited me. Then, I found out it was lavender soap, which actually excited me more. If you know me, you know I have a lavender and soap obsession.

Lavender Soap from Teegan

Lavender Soap from Teegan. I love surprises…the good kind and not the bad kind like “Surprise, your goldfish died”

Teegan had stopped by Whole Foods on the way to work and somehow ended up in the soap aisle talking to a guy who uses the lemongrass-scented version. He works at the liquor store and often overhears, “That dude? Yeah, he smells good!” Teegan apparently started to lose track of time. She was getting sucked into the allure of Whole Foods until she snapped out it, “What am I doing? I have to go to work!” I’m glad she got to stop and smell the soap this morning though.

It was sunny in Vancouver, although, still a bit cold. I took a shot of the mountains from the office. You can see that it’s snowing up there. I was lucky enough to capture the birds flying across the water. They seem so happy to be back.

Snowing on the mountains. Cloudless evening sky.

Snowing on the mountains. Cloudless evening sky.

The weather remained clear into the evening, and I snapped a shot of the moon against the cloudless sky near Harbour Centre.


Ma’am, please refrain from frenching the public art

Heavy rain in Vancouver the past two days and I believe it’s going to continue into next week. The galoshes are out in the city! Myriad of colours crossing paths, reflected in puddles. I love seeing them meet and I imagine them saying, “How do you do?”. It’s very “What a Wonderful World” a la Louis Armstrong — civilized and such. Despite their mild manners, I change out of them and into my loud obnoxious blue velvet shoes once I get into the office.


From mild mannered, to loud and obnoxious. These shoes do not get along.

Honestly, the rain doesn’t stop me from doing what I’d typically do on a rainless day. Such as snap a photo of public art. Public art in the rain? Basically, same as public art in the sun. Check out the photo I took of the headless body statues by Broadway-Cambie station yesterday.


I think Vancouver Public Art is peculiar. You can hug them, but no kissing them on the lips.

A little peculiar, no? You can hug them, but I’m not sure how you would french kiss them. Maybe don’t attempt the latter. Because THAT would be peculiar.

Shortly after attempting to french kiss these torsos (kidding), I met up with my sister, Krys. We went for tea and green onion pancake at Bubble World — which isn’t the best place for this, but we were cold, wet, and hungry. Actually, we came from her car with heated seats, so if I were to tell the truth, we were warm and I was hangry (angry from hunger). I think I may have even been HULK HANGRY!


Tea and Green Onion Pancake

Speaking of green onions, did you know that you can regrow whatever you have left after using up the green parts? I stuck mine in a glass of water, and in two days, look at how much it has grown.


Actually, the growth is not that impressive, but I am saving myself at least 35 cents.

Sorry, I went off on a tangent there. I was trying to save you 35 to 75 cents. It’s a neat experiment regardless.

Shortly after, Krys and I had food, we played our usual game of 15-minute-Walmart. To participate, you give you and your buddy 15 minutes to shop at Walmart. When we created this game, it was to basically buy only what we needed. The reality is, with 15 minutes, we buy whatever we can get our hands on. “Twenty foot foldable ladder? IN MY CART YOU GO!” Worry not, we end up returning half of what we buy a week later.

Rainy days in Vancouver? The city waits for no one. Carpe Diem.

Nose and Chocolate Contact

I was anticipating that I would have to run in the rain today. It was supposed to POUR. Lucky me, it was cloudy. I could smell the rain coming though. My mother can sense when it’s raining by how her bones feel. I tell her she’s a unicorn – magical and such. She tells me to hush up and that it’s just arthritis.

Before I laced up my loud ruby red runners and headed out for my run, Miana was nice enough to share some chocolate that she had received as a gift from Bean. Look at how pretty they are. They’re from Mink.

Chocolate and runners. Possibly the only things I need for my run.

Chocolate and runners. Possibly the only things I need for my run…and clothes.

By the way, when I say Miana was nice enough to share, I mean, I was opening up her box of chocolate, and my nose was probably two inches from the nearest piece. There may have been some nose and chocolate contact. In any case, Miana was nice enough to offer me a piece.

I went out for my run in Coal Harbour with my colleague.While on this run, I took the opportunity to take photos of some public art.

I think it says something about housing in the rainy city.

I think it says something about housing in the rainy city.

I’m pretty sure the house on stilts is saying something about housing prices in Vancouver. The big rain drop is definitely saying something about Vancouver’s weather.

The run was excellent. Was alternating between running and walking to condition self. I was hoping that it would loosen up my right quad and tighten up my left one. That hike I did on Saturday really did a number on unbalancing both sides. I am usually quite even on both sides of my body, so I am feeling a bit off. Despite this, I think I made pretty decent time for someone that hasn’t run in two weeks.


Keeping track with the Nike Running app. 🙂

Ex-Monk in Vancouver – Part II

Read Ex-Monk in Vancouver – Part I here.

A week after we went to Year of the Snake Asian Expo at BC Place, Nathan and I met up with our friend, Ronaldo, to check out the Thrangu Monastery (Tibetan Buddhist Temple) in Richmond. I wanted to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism, and also wanted to buy some mala beads for chanting in my meditation practice.

The monastery is beautiful with its golden roof, symbols of the 8 spoke wheel (to represent the eight-fold path), and rows of prayer wheels built into the outer walls.

We entered the monastery from the back, and came upon a hallway with photographs of the lama, and the temple during construction. We followed the hallway and ended up in the gift shop. Nathan was observing some artwork of the many forms of Buddha while Ronaldo and I perused the mala beads in the display case.

Suddenly, I hear someone calling Nathan’s name. Now it’s not uncommon for Nathan to know people in the most random places all about Vancouver. This includes restaurants, pubs, the skytrain, under bridges (kidding), etc. If he meets you, he will find a way in which he is connected to you…like some real life embodiment of Facebook. Seriously though, in a monastery?  Who on earth knows Nathan here.

I turn around, and it’s Ric adorned in monk garb. Ric hugged us both and introduced himself to Ronaldo. He taught us about the different Buddha forms in the artwork, and then in the distance, a gong began to ring.

“Do you have time to stay? The ceremony is about to begin!”

Before I knew it, Nathan, Ronaldo and I are ditching our shoes, and climbing the stairs into the Main Shrine Hall where we felt the eyes of a very large Buddha, 35 Buddhas of confession, and 500 smaller Medicine Buddhas.


Thrangu Monastery – Main Shrine Hall. Photo taken from thrangumonastery.org

A very special ceremony (to end the past lunar year) was about to begin. We sat on cushions and chanted for two hours with the monks of the monastery while following along in a book. Nathan and I chanted in Tibetan which was us basically guessing what we thought the Tibetan words was going to sound like. Most times, I was way off. The chanting was very calming and it brought me great peace. The monks changed the rhythm, skillfully strung together words, and went full force on the biggest gong I have ever seen. You ever see those photos of monks with toned arms? I’m pretty sure it’s from gong’ing (no such word, but I now knight it with the meaning of “tone arms from hitting the gong”).

Ronaldo left part way through because of prior commitments. I had watched as he stood silently, bowed at Buddha and left the room. Just so you know, leaving is completely acceptable.

After two hours of chanting, it was officially break time. Ric took us on a tour of the monastery. He walked us around the outside, and encouraged me to spin the prayer wheels embossed with Om Mani Padmi Hum. By saying it aloud or in your mind, and spinning it on the wheel is equivalent to saying it 100 times.  I ran alongside the building, with my hand out and spun the row of prayer wheels in delight…with hopes that all sentient beings be freed from suffering.

When the break was over, we went back into the hall for another hour of chanting. When this hour was done, it was time for dinner. Ric’s wife and some of the other ladies have been in the kitchen this entire time creating a delicious feast. Nathan and I sat with strangers, and ate our meal. There was going to be a fire show, and another hour of chanting after dinner. However, Nathan and I had decided to go after dinner. On our way out, we met Lama Pema. He serenely smiled and nodded at us as we nodded and bowed at him. The only way I could describe this moment is that it felt very “namaste”.

What we thought was going to be a one hour visit turned out to be five hours of peace, calm, and friendship. Ric is more than just an ex-monk, he is a real-deal kind of friend.

Ex-Monk in Vancouver – Part I

Nathan and I have been wandering for hours now at the Year of the Snake Asian Expo at BC Place.

BC Place – photo taken from office window.

It’s all becoming a blur of colors — mostly many shades of red. Row after row of booths selling remote control cars, macaroons, stinky tofu, trinkets, lanterns, and more. The sound of children laughing on carnival rides, vendors hustling, and the crowd bustling echos distantly in my mind. This event is like a mishmash of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Playland, and Richmond Night Market — all conveniently under the roof of BC Place.

We are at the point where we’ve lost my brother, his fiancee, and mischievous little Luke to the bleachers. They are likely sprawled out on some chairs enjoying…well, the chairs.

Nathan and I dragged our feet to the edge of the earth. This is the last row of booths. To our delight, we saw a man and his wife selling Tibetan handicrafts and meditation tools. His name is Ric and he is an ex-monk. He told us tales of his brother (also a monk) who practiced silence for 3 years. Could you imagine? Anyhow, we became fast friends and exchanged contact information. We left that booth after an hour with a huge gong and a singing bowl under our arms. Ric’s wife had wrapped the gong up in a beautiful shawl. This is going to help us greatly in our meditation practice.


The beautiful gong and singing bowl in our meditation room at home

I had nothing but good feelings about him. Nathan was skeptical. Was this man telling us wild monk (oxymoron?) stories to seal deals? He seemed too good (in the moral sense) to be true.

It is later confirmed that this was not the case.

To be continued…

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