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December 14, 2012

The Shire & Christmas Favourite Things

By Maryanna Gabriel
Owner & Farmer

Funny as you grow taller, one’s Christmas stocking grows smaller. One learns to compensate. The invaluable love of those that are treasured weighs in heavily. Cinnamon sticks wrapped in brown velvet ribbon, the sounds from the fire, the glow of candles, glorious music. Then there is Tolkein. I made a promise, in writing, when I visited the Shire set in New Zealand that I would not publish my photos until the movie The Hobbit was released, which is now. I kept my promise. They had filmed only three weeks prior to my visit. I was so excited I could barely hear what I was being told about the set by the farmer who owns it. When Peter Jackson, the director, was flying around looking for a perfect place the chopper landed in this farmer’s field with the cute little lake. The famous director knocked on the door. A woman opened the door and told him to come back in two hours, her husband was watching the All Blacks play rugby, which Peter did! Little did they all know how impactful the fateful and historic encounter would be for them. Now the set is as important is their farm. You can see the idyllic setting dotted with their sheep. I have seen the movie today and it is as good if not better than the Lord Of The Rings. It was adorable, funny, and filled with drooling mountain trolls and all of the philosophy, action, and enchantment one needs to feel truly inspired. The younger Bilbo’s acting was absolutely wonderful, don’t pay any attention to that Globe and Mail reviewer who panned it. I saw the movie without 3D and it was absolutely fantastic. The local movie theater is playing my photos before the movie if you would like to see the photos. All very exciting and a great way to spend some holiday time. Happy holidays everyone!
Bilbo's House

December 8, 2012

Thinking Of The Nazarene

By Maryanna Gabriel
It has been a long while since I was in Jerusalem. As a younger woman I felt overwhelmed by the maelstrom of people and the fervent concentration of the churches of the world there. The ancient lane-ways and cobblestone streets literally sent me into a swoon. I was overcome by some malady as I strove to steady myself. Later, when I was better, a trip was made to Nazareth. It was a little disappointing. I remember staring at a bland Sea of Galilee, it seemed so nondescript, and there were bubbles on the surface of the water. I don’t know what I expected. Blind illumination. Perhaps some morphic resonance of the sacred. It seemed important to see these places right out of the starting gate of life and it all resounds profoundly regardless, as I listen to Handel's Messiah. Christmas is a time where what is abiding and enduring comes to the fore and all else falls away. What is abiding of course is eternal and that is the unraveling of the great mystery we all must journey.

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,
so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
Matthew 10:16

December 1, 2012

The Word Christmas Has Jesus’s Name In It

By Maryanna Gabriel

Sometimes we forgot the point of the December hullabaloo  I studied and worked in archaeology when I was younger and I am currently following the documentaries by Canadian filmmaker and academic Simcha Jacobovici with avid interest. In 1980 a remarkable  tomb was discovered in Jerusalem often referred to as the Talpiot Tomb. The implications of the tomb and contents have languished in dusty basements since but recently Professor Jacobovici has made some exciting extrapolations, and integrated noteworthy findings. The tomb has several features that are remarkable but primarily the ossuaries (bone boxes) contain names of principal characters and family members associated with Jesus Christ and also includes a box that may be that of Christ’s. What is more remarkable is the context. The statistics for finding a cluster of this type that dates to the time is worthy of serious consideration.  I was further compelled when I saw a documentary made to refute these findings. Not only was it scant and emotional, it did not, to my mind, directly refute the careful research that has thus far been presented.  Professor Jacobovici is working with many experts, including a DNA laboratory in Canada, and has published a book in conjunction with Dr. James Tabor, of the University of North Carolina, entitled, “The Jesus Discovery: The New Archaeology That Reveals The Birth Of Christianity.” Over the Christmas season these documentaries may be played again. They are definitely compelling and well worth checking out. These bones of contention in the holy land are ground breaking, earth shattering, and cutting edge and all very apropos for December 2012.

November 17, 2012

This Isn't Lombok Anymore Maryanna

By Maryanna Gabriel

I am not allowed in the stores right now. I know myself. I have no self control. Well, I did need lights, didn’t I? It was a sale after all. I can manage a string of lights without going right off the rails. No worries, I have got this covered.  As I eyed the wares, I listened to a  woman say, “There ought to be a law against putting Christmas decorations up before December first." She seemed aggrieved. I nodded and said nothing. My eyes went to the artificial poinsettias in plastic vases on either side of the door. I smiled fondly. You see my last Christmas was in Lombok. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I vaguely knew what I was getting into but as we left the country I said to myself, well maybe I could have done with at least one Christmas bulb. Nor did I feel welcome there. It is Muslim being influenced hundreds of years ago by Saudi traders. I remember the monkeys on the roof, the enormous spiders, the rice fields, the downpours, the calls to Allah before dawn as today I unpack my Christmas decoration box, take cookies out of the oven, and write Christmas cards by the fire. I love Christmas. 

November 10, 2012

Losing That Canadian Edge

By Maryanna Gabriel

When I was travelling I used to marvel at how people shivered and shook for what was for me an absolutely balmy experience. “I’m a Canadian,” I explained as I jumped into a pool that others just stuck their toes in and withdrew shaking their heads. Australians warned me about Tasmania. “It is so cold there,” they said. “I’m from Canada,” was my unconcerned reply finding Tasmania a relief from the steamy sun. Here I am at home, it being not even winter yet, the temperatures are hovering well above zero. I can barely manage. Yes, I know the eastern seaboard is suffering great travail, and  yes, I know most of Canada is blanketed in snow where we have none here in the coastal west, yet still here I am, my robe clutched madly around me, with heaters going in every room and fire roaring.  Yet still my bones whisper their icy message. I am trying to not to whinge and whimper but I can’t help noticing that I have lost my edge and I am wondering at my nonchalance mere weeks ago. “Oh winter. No problem. I have just had a year of summer. I can do it.” I think I am running a fever. Every room has a box of kleenex that I shuffle desperately towards. I am remembering meeting a woman from Kauai who looked at me compassionately. “Your winters, it must be so very hard.” It startled me. She felt genuinely sorry for me. I remember her now as I realize I have become one of them. Those others. A snow bird marooned north of the 49th.This nipping, biting, stinging of temperature creeping into one’s bones feels so very wrong. How could this happen to me? 

October 27, 2012

Pumpkin Drama

By Maryanna Gabriel
Here where I live, festivals seem to have become a community signature.  Take Halloween for instance. The type of thing demonstrated in the enclosed exhibits are typical as I drive. One has to admire the island spirit which tends to go right off the rails with haunted houses, fireworks, bonfires and kids out just generally enjoying themselves. I am not sure if I still have the entire Australian contingent following this blog but they do not do anything like this (they
are enjoying summer now by the way). Nor do they in England. There it is Guy Fawkes day. The Halloween tradition is unique to our land mass. This year some friends and I are honouring  the Day Of The Dead, originally a Spanish tradition. Ones who have passed over are paid respect - homage and remembering is offered with food they liked to eat and bringing out their possessions and to this end I tend to gravitate when it comes to it for it makes much more sense to me than this culture’s fascination with the blood-sucking, scary stuff. The mists are arising across the hills herein and rain beats down on water laden cedars as the days grow shorter and the ghosties roam the gloaming. Whooooo.

October 20, 2012

Darkening Tunnel Of October

By Maryanna Gabriel

Then there are the nibblers. You know the kind I mean. The nibbles of the $1.50 at your bank account, or the sales tax off your purchase, the phone calls of solicitation with no care to you, and those that nibble away at your energy, the succubus of spirit. It has been a slow dawning realization that the teenagers parking consistently across the street are nibbling at the wifi signal. The ants come marching, bats in the belfry, rats in the rafters....then there is the garden. “You have a bunny.” The man beside me indicated the rapidly disappearing hindquarters of a rabbit. Suddenly the rows of lettuce and beets in the garden that have not changed their minute stature since August made sense. “I’ll have to cover them,” I muttered to my friend trying not to clench my jaw. Recently I commiserated with a neighbour. We had both experienced a porch raid. My calla lilies were casually crunched through like celery sticks but the chrysanthemum was spat out onto the deck with a pah patooey. Making good of a bad thing, I picked the flower up and brought it into the house where it decorated a vase. Yesterday I was thinking, at least the front deck is safe, as I placed a purchased box there with the intention of planting parsley. Relaxing by the fire last night I drifted off into a peaceful sleep only to awaken
to a loud clunking. There it was. Remarkably, hooves clattered up the six steep stairs to the aforementioned deck . "It’s too early for Rudolph,” I thought to myself and very wide awake now I was determined not to make this a good experience for my visitor. I flung open the door with a bang. It was just a youngling. Mr. Piranha clattered away. “And don’t come back,” came my strangled cry to the retreating deer. To quote Des Kennedy, as we “tumble down the darkening tunnel of October”, beware the nibblers and that which goes bump in the night. T’is the time of the great pumpkin. Time to take measure and tighten the watch.

October 13, 2012

Things Are Looking Up

By Maryanna Gabriel

Maybe by process of elimination the culling has been absolute. Have you ever been really giving, fair minded, contributed generously, and been instrumental for the positive on many levels only to be given a poke for it in a rude way with demands for even more? It happens I know because it has happened to me. You are probably thinking I did something to incur it. It is not like that. It is a fact that some folk are just bad mannered, they can’t help it apparently, and moreover need to transfer their own personal discomfort onto others. Generally this is not a truthful process I have noticed and people will actually come to believe all kinds of blarney. You’d think they would just say thank you and put their head in the sand until the fit of pique passes. That’s not how it generally goes. This lot thinks kind people are weak. Au contraire. Lately I have noticed this has stopped after a particularly long and extended run. Maybe it is the stars, maybe it is the end of the Mayan Calendar as we know it, or maybe it is a shift in the wind. It makes such a difference having good people around, like a reprieve just in the nick. The froggies are also really happy, there is much croaking, as the rain pours on the roof and the wind buffets the eaves. I can feel the roots around me quivering with gratitude as the tree tops sway. Things are definitely looking up.

“I’ve been looking the landscape over,
And it is covered with four leaved clover.” .
Cole Porter

October 8, 2012

Returning To One’s Roots

By Maryanna Gabriel

Connecting to where we all watched each other grow up, to where our bones and blood grew and thrived, where the contour of a mountain and the remembered shape of a face morphed by time has been a most welcome process. I have been honoured to return to a source where kindness and consideration thrive. It has been most welcome. Blessings are many in watching the breaching of salmon, the splash of seals, the sparkle of light on the ocean, the colours of sea and sky, the friendly and happy laughter of old friends and friendships formed anew. It has been just plain fun. Much gratitude for this the pumpkin time upon us.

September 29, 2012

Zip Went The Strings To My Cells

By Maryanna Gabriel

I seem to have joined the growing throngs of people who have developed a wheat intolerance. As the good doctor said, it is not the wheat’s fault, it is what we do to it. I listened to my body communicate to me, via electronic impulse, a startling and effective experience somewhat similar to the principles of kinesiology. How many times have I said, I am really sorry body, but can you please put up with this a little longer while I meet some work deadline, and borrow from my future to pay the costs of today? The future is here and it is payback time. What a chorus of protest, a veritable outcry of complaint, and now I am in a position after about a billion inner nudging and whispers ignored of having to face the fact my cells wants change or else. I listlessly wended my home after this visit, my grocery list lying inert at the bottom of my purse seeming more like a death sentence than a good idea, with a bag of lemons and some millet, feeling rather confused. It’s called breaking habits and this going to take a bit of thought now that I have given myself my undivided attention. Cells rule.

September 22, 2012

Island Moodle

By Maryanna Gabriel

I passed car after car trying to get to where I live as I sought my escape.
By some perverse happenstance I found myself in the Duncan Saturday market, a welcome change from the famous market where I live. I didn’t even know Duncan had a market. I found pumpkins at a far more reasonable price and all kinds of interesting wares. I seem to be born under a travelling star even when I try ever so hard not to. I moodled (coined from a friend meaning leisurely exploration) my way up the “big island” to my favourite restaurant in Courtenay, The Atlas, and treated myself to a beautiful glass of local Pinot Grigio with a lovely pink hue. I was told it was because the skin was left on. A return to Miracle Beach was my final destination and it was lovely with all of this breathtaking weather we have been having to enjoy the sand, sea, and mountains, a truly splendid area. Miracle Beach lives up to its namesake and it was a tremendous accomplishment not only to get the tent pitched but to capitulate to its call.

September 15, 2012

A Lot Of Cockle Doodle Doo

By Maryanna Gabriel

A local author writes this week that the island is looking like a strip mall with all of the roadside stands. I only stopped at two today. It’s because so many people come here and buy plum jam I guess, or else they wouldn’t be here. I hear the sounds of cows bellowing in the field below me and there seems to be a lot of cockle doodle doo. It’s a hullaballoo as hundreds of people prepare to descend for the fall fair with zucchini races and all the other things fall fairs do. I’m a bit of a grump about it all. The first 10 years of island life fall fairs were sort of fun, I even won ribbons and really got worked up about the pies and who won the vegetable cup. Things changed for numerous reasons well beyond the scope of this blog, and the novelty, well , let’s just say, it’s old. I suppose I should be setting out a roadside stand as where I live becomes impassible with cars, surely there is something I have a proliferation of. Oregano. Nah, wouldn’t fly. Instead, I am fleeing for a quiet place. It’s why I came here after all and goodness knows, like a frog in hot water that tolerates it all until it is boiled to death, I am at my saturation point. One has to know these things. I hear the call and I am jumping. I’ll kindly and most firmly be passing on this incredible career opportunity and leave the stand thing to my more ambitious neighbours.

September 8, 2012

Provocative Pepper

By Maryanna Gabriel

It is the harvest and the island is burgeoning with vegetables and ripening fruits.
The other day I found myself in the nearby shop feeling as though something was wrong. The red pepper I specifically needed for a pickle I was making was not from a local garden. I thoughtfully retreated with my purchase. I love my garden but the forest setting makes some achievements impossible. Some mornings start with a chase down the road picking blackberries, then over to the market for a local cheese, then a maneuver to a roadside stand for cherry tomatoes. Hmm. Much sweeter than that bigger market garden at the local hotel. Why only the other day I made a lengthy special trip for a rather splendid roadside pumpkin I had been hankering after. It is all kind of an off-the-grid ,zigzag, that is this island economy chasing local specials down dirt roads, constantly juggling small bills and change. All of this fecund bounty is leading to a canning frenzy that is unprecedented accompanied with an orgy of delicious cooking. It is kind of fun not to be feeding into corporations and to support all of these gentle farmers who have worked so hard to produce such amazing food. It is the simple things that are the inherent treasure.

September 1, 2012

Thotful Spot

By Maryanna Gabriel

“What will I be doing?” said Pooh. “Well, Pooh, you'll be sitting in your thotful spot thinking as usual.”
A.A. Milne

I am feeling a bit like Winnie The Pooh. It only took me 17 years to actually come here. I would walk by and think to myself, I really must return with a picnic and a good book and make a day of it. Years have passed. Today is the day. Lucky me. Here the pretty, white shell beach, reveals this to be a midden in days of yore and the sound of lapping of waves is soothing. The land is dry and the arbutus leaves rattle disconsolately nearby as a breeze moves through them. The grove of maidens are in a state of dismayed dissaray as their bark hangs in great swathes revealing a smooth, sensuous, skin beneath red, blistering, peels. The ladies are bashful it would seem. I look respectfully away sensing something. I glance uneasily over my shoulder. Nothing is there. This land has spirits. I feel it every time I come here. Above, old man’s beard hangs in shaggy strips from an ancient gnarled Douglas Fir twisted by winter storms. Is that a seal making that mournful loud cry? It sounds like a silkie. Despite the sense of other worldliness here, the day is bright and breezy.

The sun lights up the landscape with a palette that is the west coast greens, grays, and gold of the grasses. I dip my brush into my paints. “Thotful spots” are a sense of communing with nature in a way a camera lens cannot evoke nor a canvas convey.

August 26, 2012

Off Gassing

By Maryanna Gabriel

It's not what you think. There are times when this resort town I live in goes a bit crazy. This time of year would be one of them. There are ongoing festivals although I don’t know if the chopper convention would exactly qualify as a festival but judging by the sounds I am hearing they are apparently quite happy. The cupboards I have been dutifully painting all week are starting to affect my lungs and my pallid relationship with Mr. Eraser, amazing as he is, is growing tiresome. While the new paint job is off-gassing I step out into the crowd. The sunshine is infectious. Immediately my spirits lift as I take in the market hubbub, get my tarot read, and drift casually over for some garlic braid shopping. It’s my birthday after all. I sit at a table catching up on magazines and wonder why every page seems to feature the word “bucolic”, or “iconic”, and when overstretched “elan". With a Portobello mushroom burger, I stretch out and hear drifts of conversation from off-islanders.. Time wasted is well spent as these summer days dwindle, the nights cool, and blackberries ripen. It feels good to off-gas.

August 18, 2012

Quoth The Robin, ‘Nevermore’

By Maryanna Gabriel

“Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
Edgar Allen Poe

He’s back. I have been experiencing a robin pecking at my car for what I assumed were bugs as I had just driven across the prairies. The tapping continued after I washed the car, and when he did not desist then I washed the car again. I would awaken from my sleep at dawn to the sounds of the robin (Turdus migratorius) tapping, particularly at the driver headlight. Fearing damage to the car, I began to take evasive action. Lest it be a territorial nesting issue, I moved the car to the edge of the driveway. Still Turdus did not desist. Puzzled I used the remote to make the car honk when he tapped. It only seemed to increase the attacks on the headlight. “How peculiar,” I thought. I began to feel like I was in a strange Walt Disney movie, with the car honking, lights flashing, and old Turdus hopping around without any of the migratorius. I shared what I was going through with a friend who
was staying with me. We remarked to each other that Turdus had a particularly bright yellow beak and the white band around his eyes seemed emphasized somehow. All robins started to take on a nightmarish quality for me and something benign and theoretically cheerful began to feel Hitchcockish. It seemed to me the robin was following me around the property, watching me from the roof eve, and hopping nearby me in the garden. One day I came home and the robin was sitting on the lawn outside the gate waiting for me. Our eyes locked. Ignoring the situation, I came into the house to begin the task of unloading the groceries when suddenly, the robin flew at the sliding glass doors with wings fully outspread. My heart thumping, I thought, “He is trying to come into the house!” I walked into the next room and he flew at those windows too this time leaving beak marks as he tapped. Chills went through me. “You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried,” I thought to myself. “This is so weird.” On a subsequent trip to a nearby nursery, I mentioned to the owner what I was going through. The nursery owner said he had a degree in biology and he felt that the robin was going after his own reflection. “Maybe,” I thought uncertainly, inwardly feeling there was a component missing to this theory. The tapping on the window continued and the smear marks increased and then the day came that he came to the window ledge where I write at my desk, not an easy feat mind, as the ledge is aluminum and quite narrow. He had a large wiggly worm in his beak and he was looking at me as though he was presenting to me something quite wonderful, much like a man with a diamond engagement ring. He seemed so pleased with himself. “Am I being courted?” I wondered. Friends and family visited, there was much coming and going, the robin disappeared, and I forgot about dear Turdus, worms not exactly being the key to my heart but feeling somewhat more warmly now nonetheless. I assumed he had gone off with a much more feathered wife to nest somewhere. This week, he is back. “Is that you?” I silently asked trying to assess the white band around the eye as I quietly went about my business in the yard. Quoth the robin, “Nevermore.” I am just thankful the tapping has stopped.

August 11, 2012

The Mystery Of The Rasping Owls

By Maryanna Gabriel

When I returned to my home after being away for an extended time I strode across the yard and sensing a presence hesitated. I turned and saw an enormous owl on my garden post gazing intently at me. I froze and tiptoed gently in retreat. He was huge. His head swiveled and followed me into the house and he gazed unblinkingly at me through the window for two to three hours. I took this to be a good sign. I have been wondering about the owls, of course, especially as I have been walking in the twilight and listening to their rasp down the road by the canal. As the night deepened an owl swooped down close to my head. Hello, I said softly. Then he did it again. It felt very special. I began to wonder why I am seeing owls everywhere. A couple of days ago at the lake, in broad daylight, an owl and I had a good look at each other. I was motionless for many minutes not wanting to be the first to break the trance. It brought to mind the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, raconteur extraordinaire, in her Mother Night series, for she says the owl sees what others do not and is able to penetrate the mystery of the dark. Feeling somehow like I am being drawn into a mystery myself I contacted an ornithologist friend, asking about the rasps. “Why are they not hooting?” I wondered. “Sounds like Barred Owls,” he wrote to me. He added they are juveniles asking for food from parents who are trying to wean their young. I learned that this breathy rasping sound is the juvenile Barred Owl (Strix varia) begging. I can say with authority, there is a lot of weaning going on around here then. One would think that given they are teenagers there will be hooting soon and hopefully less pesky vermin. Indeed this does bode well.

August 5, 2012

Confidently In The Night

By Maryanna Gabriel

This island where I live is fairly civilized but occasionally there are reminders of how it used to be. This week I was looking on the community notice board and it went something like this. “Cougar, a bit bigger than my friend’s female Golden Retriever, spotted this morning sunning itself.” Last night I ventured trepidatiously forth into the crisp moonlight where an owl was hooting and rasping. Rasping? Owls rasp? I realized he was very close and crept around the house trying to decide if he really was on my porch. He called and not wanting to frighten him off I lay down in the silver light listening. As I mentally reviewed cougar attack protocol, suddenly the bush to the side of me cracked loudly. My heart pounded as a buck bounded away. I relaxed and thought uncharitably, oh good, a decoy, and made my way confidently in the night. Well at least the bear sightings were over a month old, I muttered to myself, as I closed the front door with a testy shove.

July 28, 2012

In Which Liberation Is Not Quite What I Thought

By Maryanna Gabriel

I live a quiet life so being on a Buddhist retreat with all of these people seemed like a social event. I had no idea what to expect. I instantly discerned this was the real McCoy. The staff were dressed in formal robes and a Buddhist nun presided over the meals, much like a quarter master monitoring the food rations, her cold eye missing no spoon unturned. The stricture of silence however extended to a vast coterie of the forbidden. Such wild and illicit behaviours were not sanctioned as leaving the grounds, looking at people in the eye, reading (a distraction), writing (an intellectual pursuit that my heavens is enough to foment all kinds of aberration). In addition to coffee being prohibited so was sugar tabu as apparently such indulgences could lead to buddha only knows what, along with salt and pepper which of course is a wild rendition to any meal. Dinner consisted of soup without any bread, not an endorsement apparently to the liberated mind. I breathed my way into all of this, as after all I was here, wasn’t I? I found myself balking at the master/disciple relationship though as I do equal. Then I caught the lama in a huge mistake during my interview. A furious downpour ensued leaving me soaked. Trees being felled next to my tent on an adjacent property was all the permission I needed to give myself the nod. Gleefully, I shoved my sopping tent into my car and deliriously chuckling thought this must be the laughing Buddha part of the retreat as I wildly drove out and careened towards the ferry. I headed to a lovely restaurant I knew where I indulged in the licentious behaviour of pepper grinding to a good book. I love it here I sighed to the waitress, recent events etching a deepening gratitude for a sumptuous piece of salmon with papaya, and she replied that she loved it here too. We smiled at each other. To each their own I thought and sighing felt liberation as I smiled contentedly from ear to ear.

July 15, 2012


By Maryanna Gabriel

The jasmine is blooming. There is hope. It is magnificent. I feel like Emily Dickinson. I draw into the folds of the leaves, the curl of the petals, the world here suffused with simmering heat. Last night thunder roiled furiously, an event seldom experienced here. There is movement in my life that is different from travelling. Inwardly, I feel abit like Pooh Bear knowing that if I do not roll with it I will be stuck in the hole of the honey tree unable to get in or out. A kind of havoc starts up when I revert to former modus operandi so I am learning to let go. Deciding that I need to cultivate this further I am travelling after all, and going to an island, mid coast, for a five day Bhuddist Retreat with lamas and monks and what not. I have to go through caffeine withdrawal which isn't a pretty picture. I am not really sure what is going to happen except they seem to be a quiet bunch, practicing silence, which is just fine with me. It has been brought to my attention that letting go is the heart of Bhuddism so I go to this heart willingly. It isn't about the Bhuddism. It is about befriending the mind and cultivating a discipline so that it serves the heart, and it is this which I seek. I will have a private visit with a lama every day. I hope it isn't weird.
I will tell you all about it when I get back.

July 11, 2012

Travels In A Different Sort Of Way

By Maryanna Gabriel

Hello again. It has been over three months and I have truly missed you. Blogs are coming at a fast and furious pace to my mind and I have been resisting. I can resist no more… it all must out, and so I greet you once again. I wish to travel in a different sort of way with you, say once a week or so, and you are free to unsubscribe below if this is of no appeal, for I am moving now, not in the same sense, for the traveller has come home. Here in the forest where I live there is material a’plenty and I have so wanted to tell you about the big fat mouse I found in my pear tree, and the robin that seemingly wished to be such a part of my life that he flew at the window when I would come into the house. The robin seems to be off about his business now, the wing marks on the window are old, not fresh, and while there seems to be an abundance of robins around I am not entirely sure it is the robin that watches me as I work around the land. They call the island the “velvet rut”. Before my travels I felt restless, bound somehow by the geography but since I have come home it is different. The initial landing seemed like I had returned from a distant realm, almost as if I was a ghost re-entering my own house, ethereal and detached. What, I own these things, I said to myself? I had forgotten. The urgency of my daughter’s wedding was a re-induction most dire. I quickly reasserted myself here amid the shrubberies. She is most wedded now and I find myself basking in the afterglow of their mutual happiness in rather a new way. The travels I wrote to you of seemingly a bridge from an old life to a new one, and the box I formerly dwelled within no longer fits, my tresses and limbs spilling out in most alarming fashion. I tire of resisting this and I tire of resisting all of the words that want to reach out to you. The letting go is such a release. So here you have it on this day of glorious summer sunshine.

March 9, 2012

Les Marquesas, Fatu Hiva, Tuhuata, Ua Huka & Final Words

By Maryanna Gabriel

“No doubt we shall have to don such apparel at some time during the voyage. Even the most salubrious and posh of vessels feel bound to humiliate their passengers with a fancy dress party of some kind, I gather.” Whispers In The Sand, Barbara Erskine

I have moved into a cabin and I am much more comfortable. Today we saw what the missionaries renamed from the Bay Of The Penises to the Bay Of

The Virgins which isn’t quite as accurate as a visual metaphor as the original. The topography is unique – I have not seen anything like it. The amazing hospitality on shore and also on the ship continues. It really is unbelievable how relaxed, loving, musical and genteel the crew is. They come from the Australs, the Society Islands, the Tuomotus as well as the Marquesas. The meals continue to be superb and I adore French and Polynesian cuisine. I am also deeply moved by the people I have been meeting, the conditions of how we live and the going ashore together creating opportunity for getting to know one’s fellow travellers.
My French has improved markedly and I am told I have a jolie accente (pretty accent). Yesterday I saw a dolphin leaping outside my window. After we leave Rangiroa we will be back in Tahiti from where I will post this blog. It has been very strange to have no internet connection for so long. I am very much looking forward to connecting with my daughters and to returning to all the comforts of home. I am now into my sixth month away.
I have loved it all.

This is my last entry. To you dear readers, I thank you for your encouragement and also the sharing. There are quite a number of people now who have been invited to this blog, from all parts of the world, and I hope it has been interesting. It is you, who I carry in my heart and who are with me now as I return to my home.

Les Marquesas, Nuka Hiva, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa

By Maryanna Gabriel

The heat continues to be humid and heavy. You know that sensation

when you open the oven and you are hit with a blast of heat? It is like that. The landscape is mesmerizing with jagged undulating mountainsides and columnar towers that are impossibly high. We are most certainly in a remote and unspoiled part of the world. The people of these islands have been incredibly hospitable. We have been entreated to Polynesian feasts three days running. We have been given food cooked in earth ovens wrapped palm leaves, ceviche, ahi, crab salads, palm hearts, bread fruit, cooked purple plantain, tapioca and poi flavoured with vanilla that is so delicate and exotic in flavour that I almost did not recognize it. We have been
entreated to dancing and drumming. When we dock the children play on the lines and the crew keep a watchful eye. We visited on Ua Pou, the grave of Paul Gaugin and Jacques Brel. I have seen marae (sites) with tiki (statues) that are quite pulsating with mana (energy). The tiki are quite fierce looking. This was a blood sacrifice culture with strong affiliations to Easter Island to the east (now belonging to Chile). In one marae I was the only person who found it and I asked a Marquesan (in French) about it. Surprisingly we were able to communicate and he said it had been inhabited until the 1960’s. I asked him when did his culture start and he said it was not known. I asked had there been any archaeological excavation done here and he said not. Then he began to sing in Marquesan, which sounds quite a bit different from Tahitian and Maori. He translated the song to me and it was all about the beginning of time, an experience I felt quite honoured to receive. This place is the same as Herman Melville’s first novel “Typee”. I have been reading his book and it is a very good record of what it was like before the French culture infiltrated it. It is written from a Victorian ethnocentric perspective.

“Among the permanent inmates of the house were likewise several lovely damsels, who instead of thrumming pianos and reading novels like more enlightened young ladies, substituted for these employments the manufacture of a fine species of tapa.” Herman Melville.

Marquesas, Nuku Hiva

By Maryanna Gabriel

“South…. the spirit of kindness, rest and recuperation, it represents the time for meditation, dreaming and even slumber. The powerful energy of the south embodies inner knowing and calls upon you to remember who you are…. seek its power when peace is what you need.” Sonia Choquette

I have kind of lost track of the equator but it is very close. The air is stifling. I ate two croissants for breakfast. I tried hard not to. The food I have eaten since coming into French Polynesia has been entirely delicious and the French may be forgiven every snub I endured as a jeune fille au paire in Paris as a teenager, for the pastry alone. French Polynesia is still a territory of France and it is an enormous one.
I write to you from aboard the Aranui3 which leaves Papeete, Tahiti and delivers supplies once a month to the Marquesas. Yesterday we were in the Tuomotu Islands, an archipelago en route to our destination and I swam in a warm lagoon while church hymns drifted past me. They were singing Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Sound Of Silence” but I could not quite make out if it was in French. Nuka Hiva is 935 miles north of Tahiti. This morning we are going ashore to eat, swim and hike. Nine thousand people live in the Tuomotos, mostly Polynesian and one third populate this island of Nuku Hiva. I have been told that only 3,000 people visit the Marquesas a year and that is primarily from this ship. I am travelling with about 160 passengers and half the ship is cargo which we are not allowed to enter. Most of the travellers are from France and there is more a smattering of the rest of the world represented. Not much English is being spoken and I find myself stuttering to communicate while Spanish coagulates and dies on my lips and I say words and then wonder if it really was French or English with an French accent. It is starting to come back. Many people have not heard of Vancouver and I find that quite amazing. Sometimes I try to describe Salt Spring but the effort is usually more exhausting than it is worth. The food on this ship is absolutely the most superb I have encountered thus far on my travels and wine is served with lunch and dinner without charge, as is water, and the trips also that are organized on the islands are also without charge. The crew is mostly Polynesian, heavily tattooed and sometimes on the surly side, their job being primarily the ship and the cargo. Other crew members are specifically dedicated to the passengers and wear many hats, serving the dinner and then singing to us playing on diminutive ukuleles. The smell of diesel permeates everything and is sometimes overwhelming. I am getting better with my bunk which on the first night had me in a claustrophobic sweat between the heat and the fact it was about the size of a large coffin. It is co-ed in my dorm with mostly people who are older than I so I am challenged primarily on the level of privacy and space. I knew it was a challenge when I signed up for this and so I am pushing on through. It will be worth it though and I am finding myself in some rather interesting discussions. If the discussions are difficult or tedious it is impossible to evade certain characters as there is not a lot of room to move. I think

I have a different sense of space than my European companions, a trademark of the geography to which I have been lucky enough to be born. In the next few days we will be visiting such exotic locations as Tahouta, Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Pou, to name a few. This area is a part of UNESCO and is considered a world heritage site. I am looking forward to seeing the Bay Of The Penises that was renamed the Bay Of The Virgins when the missionaries came. It is due to the fabulously shaped volcanic geography.

Aside from the usual death and destruction at European contact with the introduction of guns, syphilis, and diseases this area was bombarded by nuclear bombs above and below ground, primarily by the French but also by the United States and Britain. It stopped when a treaty was signed by Jean Chirac in 1998. There is a really high spontaneous abortion rate at six months and the average age of death of the Marqusan is about 65 years old. And we called them “les savages”.

February 19, 2012

New Zealand – Bay Of Islands

By Maryanna Gabriel

Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, first came here and left very quickly when some of his crew were killed. Captain Cook was a lot smarter. He came with a Tahitian guide (captive?) who was able to communicate with the Maori and it went quite well. There are 144 islands in the bay. The waters are clear and turquoise and laced by scallops of lovely sandy beaches and are incredibly warm. I have been sailing and kayaking here. The kayak guide was a young yahoo that scared me half to death who talked like Crocodile Dundee. When we returned to land I practically kissed the ground. I was so very blessed to see these dolphins from a launch yesterday morning.

Aren’t they incredible? They were 5 or 6 feet long, and they are so giving, so joyful, and so full of play. They leaped in tandem in front of us and some rolled right below me. You can see the photo on the bottom, I felt like I was being given a good look in the eye and being thoroughly checked out. My heart went out to them. They are so absolutely beautiful. Orcas were here yesterday as well. I was told that they like to take the liver of the manta ray as a delicacy and leave the rest of the carcass. They will also attack dolphins if they can trap them in bays. There was a photo in the paper here of dolphins sliding down the snouts of humpbacks in Hawaii, maybe you saw them. Quite amazing. These are Bottle Nosed Dolphins.

When I say I am north you have to factor in that it is the opposite of our experience. North is closer to the equator so that translates to more tropical conditions. I have seen palms, lemon trees and well, orange sheep. The New Zealanders love to pull your leg but I verify I saw the sheep with my own eyes. They were definitely orange. “Don’t be a nana” means don’t be like a wimpy grandmother. The other expression I heard was my company is “tighter than a snappers butt” meaning cheap. I am readying to go to Waiheke Island near Aukland and then I leave this fair country to fly to Tahiti for the final leg of my journey, the Marquesas, in French Polynesia, via a supply ship.

February 16, 2012

New Zealand, Paihia

By Maryanna Gabriel

Summer is coming to a close here and in another week it will be fall. I had heard that this was a sweet coastal town in the north and so I came here.

It is the site of the ancient treaty grounds. I have been reading in New Zealand’s The Herald about this treaty in an article by a Maori journalist. Of course the treaty is rife with the usual forked tongue business. I would have to say though after visiting many places and also taking my own country into account and where for some reason the issues are identical, this being a hallmark apparently of colonialism, that this country clearly has been the most successful in integrating an indigenous culture in a respectful and comfortable way. Everybody benefits including the tourist or traveller. The New Zealanders of United Kingdom heritage, for the most

part, know a great deal about the Maori, speak it in part or at least are familiar with the vocabulary and readily and respectfully share it. Even the beloved rugby, All Blacks, chant the haka. Today I was so privileged to go on an outrigger with a Maori man named Nick operating his own business. We paddled, swam, snorkeled, sailed, caught fish, ate raw sea urchin, cooked and picnicked on the beach, saw dolphins and just generally had a good time. I just loved it.

New Zealand – Cape Rainga (the top bit…)

By Maryanna Gabriel

I am ticketed out of this country so I return with pleasure exploring the north island. I love the feeling of anticipation before seeing a new place.

I am glad to be here, the pure energy of the land and the people are so welcome. I realize anew the many reasons I have been called here.
The trip to Cape Rainga was through mist (this is called the land of the long white cloud for a reason). The sun repeatedly broke through with dazzling rays. I saw a white rainbow. I did not know this was even possible.

We drove to 90 Mile Beach, literally, racing beside the ocean for many kilometers. We then drove up a dried river bed to sand dunes.

Here people surfed down them. The day was brilliant and the mists burned away. Unfortunately, a young Scottish woman came down a dune and smacked into a car. We were worried she was terribly hurt as there was a lot of blood. An ambulance was called. It had to come from 200 miles away. She was alright when she was cleaned up and was very fortunate she was not mortally injured. It cast a pall on the day and in a more somber mood we continued to Cape Rainga.

This is a sacred spot and we were asked not to eat food here. It was a high bluff with a lighthouse, where the Tasman and the Pacific meet in a cross fire of surf. It is said that the spirits of the dead gather here to depart in the hour before dawn to return to their homeland of Hawaii. The company took us out for fish and chips and paid for our dinner as we were late and also to compensate for the difficulty of the day.

I am enchanted again by this country, the top as lovely and interesting as the rest. Vents of steam escape from grassy areas without comment – this is just how it is. Pictured here is boiling mud which I visited– it is fairly common in addition to the steam vents.

February 12, 2012

South America – Crossing Cape Horn: Argentina, Uruguay, Patagonia, Chile

By Maryanna Gabriel

It is a bit of leap I know. Sometimes I even surprise myself. There is an old world charm here in Buenos Aires that hints at deeply ingrained culture, breeding, courtesy, protocol, and the grace of all that is civilized.

It is quite subtle. I really like it. Some of the European history here is older than 500 years with a bewildering catalogue of struggle with borders and invading European countries. What becomes immediately apparent, aside from the tremendous wealth that is here, is that I have the wrong shoes. I need heels. I need…… yes, I need, TANGO SHOES! The Latino rhythms, swarthy complexions, smouldering eyes with deeply banked, combustible heat, Italian cadences and colloquialisms intermixed with rapid fire Spanish, all serve to stir the blood.
I am now on a ship rounding Cape Horn, Tierra Del Fuego, the furthest southerly point where so many sailors lives have been lost and where the Pacific and the Atlantic meet in roiling fomentation. The wind and sea are contentious. The ocean is a boiling cauldron, a heaving vortex of spuming movement set against undulating cliffs punctuated by wild cloud and a moaning, pummelling wind. I can see why they call it the horn, there is a shape in the jagged high formations of the rocky islas that is like a horn. Here a lighthouse sits where the keeper has asked to stay for a further six months. It cannot be the social life. Beside the lighthouse is a statue that is the shape of an albatross representing the souls of drowned sailors, who it is said, return as albatrosses that swoop and cry around their shipmates. The worst was being caught on the lee side of land and being driven onto the rocky shores by the currents and storms. Ships that were damaged here were directed by their financial backers not to go to the Falklands for refit as the harbourmasters there were prone to seizing cargo after declaring the ship unfit. Imagine this now being a tourist attraction for what historically must have filled many with dread and where fortunes were made or lost in its transit. My mother was never one to mope or be idle. She did this voyage, well, I am only doing half of what she did. It was her last major trip before she died. It is a way for me to commemorate her and I draw and paint what she must have seen and in so doing, I honour her memory. The palette is subarctic. Incredibly the sun comes out and a rainbow appears as a storm overtakes the stern. In the night we negotiate narrow Beagle Channel by full moon and I am spellbound by silvery light finding sleep impossible, ever a captive of beauty. El fin del mundo they call it here.

She didn’t tell me about the fiords of Chile. Oh. Mio Dio. Try blue glaciers at eye level a couple of hundred meters away interspersed with jagged snow-capped peaks on a continuous basis for five hours. The camera actually seemed pointless. I could only stare incredulously. I had absolutely no idea this was so unbelievably superlative. Words fail me.
I mourn that Peru is so close and that I won’t be getting to it. After Peru, I would be keening for Venezuela, I suppose. Apparently I am insatiable.
“Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough.” Emily Dickinson

January 27, 2012

New Zealand, Lake Taupo

By Maryanna Gabriel

This photo is of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Mt. Cook, shimmering on Lake Pukaiki, however the Maori call this mountain Aoraki and revere it as the physical embodiment of the greatest of their ancestors. It is considered a link from this world to the supernatural. This south island is extremely beautiful.
I have seen the west side, the east side, the bottom bit, and the middle. Crossing back into the north island I once again see Tongariro National Park, given by the Maori to the world, it has three volcanoes and a vast landscape. The Maori were not satisfied it is a World UNESCO Park it has been upgraded even more due to its cultural significance. This means if the New Zealand government fails in the responsibility of preserving this area then UNESCO can step in and take over. Here in Lake Taupo a local said that he remembers volcanic ash coming down and that as a lad he drove up to watch the rocks the size of cars spewing out of the volcano. From my window I can see the volcano that was filmed in the Lord of the Rings, Mount Doom. All very geologically seething. Two tectonic plates meet here and four fault lines are encompassed in this country. New Zealand is the most recent land mass to be formed in the world and also the most recent to be populated, the Maori coming here around 950 AD. Enough facts and figures. I am leaving New Zealand for awhile and returning to see the top bit while I wait for the final leg of my journey. Stay with me. It is going to be interesting.

January 23, 2012

New Zealand, The Remarkables

By Maryanna Gabriel

Here are photos of the mountains called The Remarkables around Queenstown on the south end of New Zealand. It is a hybrid of Banff and Whistler to my mind.

Everybody is running around having a good time floating around in the sky in flying things, in the water, walking on the trails, or shopping. There are languages being spoken on the streets from all parts of the world with a very strong Japanese contingent.
This parrot is called a Kia and is one of the most intelligent birds in the world that can solve complicated problems. The Kia likes to pick apart cars as is pictured here where it pecked at the bus. The mountain that I am in front of is Mitre Peak and is one of the most photographed mountains in the world;).

January 21, 2012

New Zealand, Stewart and Ulva Island

By Maryanna Gabriel

It is pretty, very pretty, as one follows the east coast of New Zealand southward, rolling farmlands are sparsely inhabited with a mountainous inland studded with turquoise lakes. I am about as far south now as I am willing to go. I am starting to bump into travellers headed for the Antarctic with big jackets. Summer has come and gone here, summer being the month of December only, it is the coldest I have experienced yet on my travels with rain 270 days of the year. The crossing was in gale force winds and if I thought I was fine I started to double check as passengers around me were sick. One person woofed her cookies right beside the skipper in front of everyone, a performance that brought the boat to a complete standstill while we all watched. The captain apologized for the winds but said it typified the 40’s latitude we were in and said at least we weren’t in the howling 50’s or the screaming 60’s. There are men here wearing shorts and gaiters, trekking gear, the back country uniform. The people that live here are descendants of European whalers who married Maori women and the town is culturally integrated. That was after the Maori were shamelessly hunted down and killed. In these parts the Maori were waiting and ready and managed to eat those that had killing on their mind. They spared an American who married the chief’s daughter and this gentleman ended up being the next chief. The wildness of the wind perhaps creates a tough breed of islander bent on reversal of fortune, it is clearly marked Oban on the map and in the signage but apparently nobody that lives here calls the town this. They call it Halfmoon Bay but it was actually historically named Horseshoe Bay. A London cartographer mixed the names up when the map was issued. In politeness that name has stuck but it all seems a bit haphazard and blique for me, surprising, as I am a tried and true island girl myself. If you are going to put me in a gray sheet of howling wind and rain you have to give me a woodstove. “I just love it,” my waitress said, “At least you can still see down the bay. Sometimes it is a wall of black.” She has been here since November and is from Wales. My hotel is like something out of an Agatha Christie novel.

Today I felt a bit better on a boat ride to Ulva Island which is a national preserve for special reason. Enroute we saw enormous albatross and tiny blue penguins. Here we were introduced to plant life that had some unique primeval plants, missing links in a unique and ancient rain forest. There is a plant called Tmesipteris or Chain Fern that is the forebear to vascular plants and our coniferous forests. Here there are no stoats, or possum, so plants and birds are able to survive that normally would not be able to. We were shown an orchid that possum usually destroy, also there were birds that were thought to be extinct and which have found to live on Ulva Island. One was a little bird that looked like a Brown Creeper called a Pipipi. It didn’t at all behave like a bird. If one moved ones foot across the dirt it hopped to the area looking for bugs even if it was inches from your foot. It had no fear. The kiwi also looks for grubs and has evolved so that it has no wings and is susceptible to the same predators but is easily able to survive here. The kiwi is a strange bird that has multiple mammal characteristics. It is believed to have evolved from the moa that lived not so long ago and has now been hunted to extinction.

The plants, and some of the birds still have defenses against the moa (a giant ostrich) even although they have been gone a century or so. This land is part of Zealandia that separated from Gondwarra. Genetic testing has shown that the kiwi and some of the parrots are relatives of Australia while other parrots are relatives of South America. Much of the life here is unique to these islands, Tasmania, and New Caledonia all of which separated from Gondwarra long ago.This island is laced with golden sandy beaches which the travel brochures certainly play up but one just has to wait be patient for that sunshine.

January 12, 2012

New Zealand, Christchurch

By Maryanna Gabriel

My impression on initially walking the downtown core of this famous city was that I thought that it looked alright until closer examination proved

me wrong as my eyes swept over buildings and roadways more carefully. That hotel is completely split in the middle, I noted. A building would seem intact and the building beside it would be shored up, windows would still be smashed in others, signs of recent repair and then teetering street signs, steeples tilting, pavement heaving in places like a funhouse gone awry. I get it, I said to myself, I get it. It seemed to be encapsulated by a sign I saw that said- the heart of Christchurch is broken but still beating. That is how it felt to me as well. Later my host, Jeanette, drove me through the streets and talked of what it looked like before and after. We got out and walked. She showed me a second story restaurant that still at this moment has plates with meals sitting on it from that fateful day, entry to it barred and unsafe. Peering through the window I could make out the dishes sitting there. She mentioned that people had just walked away leaving their keys and jackets when the quake started. We walked down the downtown main street where several cranes were working even although it was clearly well into the evening. Enormous metal crates, resembling train box

cars had been brought in and new businesses were re-establishing themselves in them, their bright colours giving the street a cheerful air. Flowers were out in planters and past chicken wire with keep out signs, older buildings were awaiting their fate. Some historic structures that might have survived , the subsequent quakes completed the structural weakening. We drove past a church that had the steeple sitting upright on the ground beside it. On the sidewalks were tents with restaurants and where groceries could be purchased as well as other businesses. Jeanette commented that streets that were closed on her last visit had been reopened and she was happy to see that as it helped with understanding the flow of traffic, one did not quite know where streets would stop and start. Clearly the historic colleges by the River Avon were also shored up, lovely old buildings also awaiting their fate. I could see this city had once been a thriving and interesting place but I had made up my mind. I was only going to stay here one night. I returned to my room after dinner out and was sitting on my chair writing my daughter when the shaking started. My chair is moving I said calmly to myself. I waited. After awhile it seemed to subside but not before the whole room shook. How do people do this, I asked myself. The following morning I awoke happy to be in one piece and checked the earthquake site. There it was; a 4.6, with the epicenter very close. I checked out and mentioned to the hotel owner that that was a 4.6 last night. He looked at me from under his brows and gave me a sheepish smile. “That was a deep one, a real good one.” “I don’t have a lot of basis for comparison,” I replied. “Er”, I continued, “Wishing you all the best with everything. I am not sorry to be catching the bus out.” He smiled at me ruefully. As the miles between myself and Christchurch increased we headed across the Canterbury planes into the mountains. It was several hours before I relaxed.