A thing about living right downtown here is I mostly see sparrows and pigeons. Starlings, sometimes. Grackles and gulls, for sure. I’ve had cardinals and finches in the tree outside my window, there’s a young raptor who taunts me on Queen Street when I’m out without the big zoom camera, and I can go to the lakeshore for ducks and cormorants. It’s not as though the birds aren’t here.
But, day to day, it’s mostly sparrowkind.
In Vancouver last week I caught glimpses of all my faves: crows (commuting crows, by the hundreds!), starlings, great blue herons, three species of duck, bushtits, cormorants, and a glimpse of northern flicker. I thought I’d have to content myself with the scolding of a Stellar’s jay in the bushes, but it turns out my sister-in-law feeds them. I almost collided with one Monday on my way out the door; it was headed to a clutch of peanuts on the kitchen windowsill.
It was satisfying and soul-nourishing, and a nice concrete example of a difference, neither good nor bad, between Then and Now. But not truly between Here and There, because if I’d got a house outside of the downtown core, I’d be hip-deep in feathery company.
My weekly routine is going to take me past the oldest cemetery in Toronto every Wednesday, and it connects in two directions to parks I want to explore. So you can expect to see more pictures of graves mixed in with the birds.
The epiphany that came yesterday, along with my first decent shots of bluejays and cardinals, is that I like to shoot gravestones because of the part of my writerbrain that is always looking for cool names.
There’s some morbid in there, I’m sure. But if you tap through you’ll also see something genuinely life-affirming: it’s a plot for a couple of married guys, and it made me laugh and then cry.
The tall ship festival made for a fun morning. It would have been worth it just to finally make it to the shores of Lake Ontario, after five weeks in the city without a glimpse of water. The harbour is very pretty, and I could see Billy Bishop Airport and Toronto or maybe Ward island.
I shot my first Toronto cormorant, paddling in the fresh water:
The ships were fun to tour. I didn’t pick up anything I hadn’t learned on my day sail with S.A.L.T.S., but I did learn about an organization called Sisters Under Sail, and am contemplating whether my next research sail might be with them. In the meantime, I’ve bought their T-shirt.
Birds, birds, birds: We now have four bird feeders. Two window cafes, one hummingbird feeder, and a shiny new one with suet. We haven’t seen a hummingbird yet, but the level of syrup started diminishing last week. We have named them BBC1, BBC2, ITV and CBC. (Because, you know, it’s all Cat TV.) BBC1 has until now offered the most active program offerings, in the form of very feisty goldfinches. But CBC is a strong starter…
Doing this makes me want to become the Johnny Appleseed of apartment feeders, and roam the city talking people into installing seed, syrup and suet stations all over the darned place.
Yoga: Kelly and I are making it to yoga regularly, at a studio that is blessedly close to our place. This is our new favorite thing about the neighborhood: only having to walk two blocks for the thrice-weekly stretch. We’ve been here long enough that, much as we love The Drive, I needed a new favorite thing. So yay!
Teaching: My Writing the Fantastic class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program has been wrapping up its workshop phase: fifteen writers, doing fifteen critiques each on a wide (and interesting!) range of short stories and novel fragments. They’re moving into considering revision now. My next class will be Novel Writing II, beginning in mid-April.
One of the things I’ve started doing as of this quarter is keeping a pinboard (of course!) of links to the writing essays I’m sending to the group. This means that the list of optional readings will be growing ever longer over time. Pinterest being quite picture-driven, I’ve noticed–not a big surprise–that writing essays and articles about publishing tend to be rather low on snappy graphics.