Saturday Snapshot June 15: West Coast Birding

Spent a few days in the Metro Vancouver area last week. Didn’t see a lot of variety of shorebirds, but just catching sight of some Great Blue Herons was gratifying enough.

About half a dozen of them, far from where I was standing. They were peaceful and enjoying themselves until a Bald Eagle headed towards them, in a not-too-friendly manner. What was he thinking? He was alone and there were half a dozen Herons. An altercation soon followed, I could only hear the battle cries from afar but couldn’t snap the photos quick enough. But I can tell you, the Bald Eagle had to fly away subdued.

Here’s the approach. Whatever happened next you’re free to imagine:

Bald Eagle approaching Great Blue HeronsAnother time I got the chance to see a solitary Great Blue Heron up close and personal. It was a mesmerizing moment:

Great Blue HeronTakes flight:

GBH takes flight… landing:

GBH landingAnother day at dusk, above a pond were Swallows mingling in the evening sky. They were flying so swiftly that I could hardly capture them on camera. But after I uploaded the photos, this is what I saw… looks like another mid-air altercation. But since they are of the same species, shall I say this time, a little domestic dispute? Or perhaps just friendly frolicking…

Swallows mid-air disputeHere’s a more serene Canada Geese family outing, a quiet evening swim before bed:

Quiet evening swimDay is done:

Day is done


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.


More Herons photos here:

Sign of Spring: Nesting


The Tranquil Side of Vancouver

I’m not a hockey fan. I go to Vancouver mainly for the tranquility of forests, gardens and greenery. There are places where one can be utterly alone, in quiet solitude. Especially now after the ugly Stanley Cup riot, I must show you this side of Vancouver, the quiet gardens and forests that offer one a haven far from the madding crowd.

The flora on the UBC campus… the budding irises, hanging wisteria, exploding rhododendrons, and the unknown flowers and foliage (I’d appreciate your identifying them for me below the rhododendron)… and the sequestered Nitobe Japanese Garden:


The Nitobe Japanese Garden:



Art of gardening

nature reshaped, redesigned

 prune the riotous heart


All photos and writing by Arti of Ripple Effects, June, 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Arti disappeared from Cowtown for a few days and reappeared in Ketchikan, Alaska.  That’s the cause for the delay in replying some of your comments from the last post.  I decided to rid myself of all internet and phone access so I could make these short few days a real getaway.

But herein lies the nagging dilemma:  Is there a better way to access nature other than the commercial route?  Arti had to follow the crowd and board a cruise ship, not her choice of transport, but … what are the options?

So here it is, a visual account of my journey at sea to Ketchikan, the south-western tip of Alaska, north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

We set sail at the Canada Place Terminal.  On deck looking out, Port Vancouver’s famous architectural sails look slightly surreal, a virtual outdoor gallery of sculptures larger than life:

Canada Place View from Deck

Leaving Port Vancouver:

Leaving Port of Vancouver

After a couple of days at sea, we arrived at Ketchikan, Alaska.  Among  other things like being the salmon capital of the world, Ketchikan is famous for its rain, measuring its precipitation in feet, not inches.

Here’s Ketchikan under overcast sky:

Ketchikan under overcast sky

A little  more cheery scene:

Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan is also home to The Tongass Rain Forest, the largest national forest in the United States.  It is part of the Pacific Temperate Rain Forest Region, which is second in size to the world’s largest Amazon Tropical Rain Forest.

Moss on treesArti ventured into this area with a naturalist. Together with 15 others in our group, we trod the trails of the Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary.  Here are the sights I’ve sailed all the way for:






Berries UndergrowthColorful undergrowth




MushroomOne of the many species of mushrooms, some giant ones grow on trees.



Devil's Paw Food for the BearsDevil’s Paw, food for the bears.  Underneath are poisonous hooks, but the bears deftly eat off the stems of the plant.



Ferns and mossFerns and moss: Even tree branches are covered with moss.  As the branches grow heavier, they will break off the tree, fulfilling a natural pruning process.



Momentarily, we came to a creek.  Yes, salmon swam up here: Right in the middle of a rain forest we saw gulls gathering, competing with the bears for the salmon in the water.  We were fortunate to see a mother bear with two cubs.  Here in this fuzzy (sorry, Arti was too excited) photo, you can see, even though ‘bearly’, the mother and one of her cubs on the left:

Bears having lunch

And this next one is out of this world.  Gulls flying all around above the creek, a magical, even mythical sight to behold:

Rainforest Gulls


We next visited a reindeer farm.  I’ve seen elks and deers in my neck of the woods in Alberta, but this is the first time I saw reindeers.  Here’s a curious fella:

When we left Ketchikan, it was pouring rain:

Leaving Ketchikan in the rain

On our way back to Vancouver, we cruised through the Inside Passage.  It offered one of the most beautiful sights in the whole journey:

Sailing through the Inside Passage


Of course, it’s Arti’s nature to find ripples everywhere:



Ripples 3





The Inside Passage at dusk, the silence punctuated only by the calls of gulls and frolicking dolphins splashing in and out of the quiet water.  Yes, I saw the synchronized dances of two dolphins jumping out of the water and diving back in, but it was just too impromptu to capture by my camera.

The Inside Passage at Dusk

This is my best memory, sunset along the Inside Passage:

Sunset in the Inside Passage


Photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, September, 09.  All Rights Reserved.

Of Film and Faith

Now, the reason to be… in Vancouver.   As I mentioned in a previous post, I was at Regent College for two weeks in May to learn the language of film, and its interface with elements of theology.  I came home much gratified.  I’ve delayed writing about the course per se because it would mean the difficult task of capturing the Genie of ideas back and recapping the bottle.  But I know I need to do it sooner or later, for I want to record down a learning experience that’s, well, let’s just say epiphany is not too far-fetched a word.  It could well be that the little I knew initially made it more gratifying as I could gobble up more to fill the empty vessel.

My thoughts are random here, but that might be the best way to capture whatever that comes to my mind that I think is important and meaningful.  Allow me to ruminate freely.

The language of film is multi-faceted, but it more or less can be condensed into the phrase mise-en-scène: what the director puts into the scene by means of setting, camera angle, lighting, staging, wardrobe, blocking… all the cinematic elements.     Like the artist of a painting, the director conveys his point of view and aesthetics through a frame or a scene.  And for us viewers, it’s a matter of honing the skill of observing the obvious, and the not-so-obvious.  Our pleasure is to decipher and savor that which is created on screen.   It all relates to the Auteur Theory, the director as the author, the concept of caméra-stylo, the camera as pen.

The power of the cinematic pen is mighty indeed.  Take the Disney movie Bambi for example.  The screening of Bambi resulted in a huge decrease of hunting licenses sold after it was released, and subsequently the term ‘Bambi Effect’ was coined.  Or, the movie Billy Elliot, which resulted in a significant increase in ballet school enrollment.


Knowing the history of motion picture is essential to appreciate films, and this is the major emphasis of the course.  I’ve come to appreciate the pioneers of motion pictures whose works have become the exemplars and the artistic foundations of modern cinema: Vincente Minnelli, Preston Sturges, Charles Chaplin, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Orson Welles, Frank Capra…

Fjilm Noir Third Man Alley

Further, it’s most interesting to trace the influence of German expressionism has on Film Noir, how the idea behind Edvard Munch’s The Scream can effectively be transformed into cinematic expression, revealing the inner state of modern man.

Over the intensive two-weeks, we’d only have time to cover mostly black and white features, savoring their richness in techniques and their multi-layered meaning.  I’ve come to understand why the years 1930  to 1946 are called “The Golden Age of Cinema”.

And where does theology come in?  While knowing some Kierkegaard and Buber might help, but basically the content is very accessible.  Herein lies the ingenuity of the auteurs and their works.  The process of exploring the transcendent in the movies viewed by the populace is just fascinating.

Citizen Kane

I’ve learned how Citizen Kane (1941, produced when Orson Welles was just 24!), generally considered one of the best movies of all time, like the Vanitas still life of Vermeer’s time, expresses the theme of Ecclesiastes, and asks the question, “So one has gained the whole world, then what?”

Another theological element is the archetype of the Christ figure, and I’m surprised to find it quite prevalent in many of these early motion pictures.  I admit I’ve never watched a Charlie Chaplin movie in its entirety until now.  In The Kid (1921) and City Lights (1931), the savior figure is humorously portrayed in the story, and the concept of unconditional love warmly illustrated.

City Lights

This archetype also appears  in Frank Capra’s  Meet John Doe (1941), where a main character declares the universal significance of the first John Doe two thousand years ago dying for all John Doe’s.  Visually, I’ve learned to identify the Pietà and the crucifix image in the composition of a frame in several of the features, an example being How Green Was My Valley (1941, John Ford).

M by Fritz LangMotion pictures are an effective medium to convey the human condition.  In Fritz Lang’s thriller M (1931), the letter obviously refers to the murderer, a child killer that the whole town was after.  The not-so-obvious is the depiction of universal depravity, from the police to the masses, the message that we’re all complicit in the moral fabric of our society.  Similarly, Mel Gibson puts himself in his movie The Passion of the Christ (2004) as the Roman soldier nailing Christ on the cross.

Fast forward to the 80’s, I was introduced to the renowned Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski.  It’s amazing how in Decalogue (1988), the essence of The Ten Commandments and their relevance in contemporary society are transformed into ten independent, one-hour stories and broadcast as a prime time TV series in Poland.  Decalogue is an artistically crafted and poignantly executed production that has won numerous international awards.  But would we see such kind of meaningful work as a prime time TV program here in North America?  The answer is obvious.

On the last day, I’d the chance to savor Babette’s Feast (1987), a highly acclaimed movie from Denmark (Oscar Best Foreign Language Film, 1988).  Based on a story by Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa), Babette’s Feast is a cinematic metaphor of goodness and freedom.  Its unique story and powerful visual images richly convey the theme of grace and mercy, and the liberating power of compassion.  The table prepared before us is free, sumptuous and abundant, but it takes an open heart of full acceptance and gratitude to fully enjoy it.  An inspiring film to wrap up my sojourn, creating resonance for the journey ahead.

Babette's Feast


Vermeer in Vancouver: Noticing the Obvious

For more Vermeer, Click Here to go to my post “Inspired By Vermeer”.

Vancouver Art Gallery’s premier summer kick-off is the impressive exhibition: Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art. The exclusive show of masterpieces from Amsterdam’s renowned Rijksmuseum includes paintings, drawings, and decorative arts from 17th century Holland. After five hours at the Gallery, I left hungry for more Vermeer. Overall it was gratifying, but I was expecting just a few more glimpses of the great master.

Of all the 128 pieces of art work, there’s just one Vermeer painting. Placed at the end of the exhibit, apparently the highlight and climax of the show, is Vermeer’s Love Letter (1669). From his signature point of view, peeking through a partial opening of pulled-back curtain, we look into another room and see a maid just handed her mistress a letter. By the exchange of their glances, it seems they’re sharing a secret understanding. This is another one of Vermeer’s works that’s full of potential stories and rich in subtexts. Actually anyone of them is a novel to be written, not less dramatic as Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Vermeer's The Love Letter

Love Letter by Vermeer (1669-70)


17th century Holland was a new Republic that had just gained independence from Spanish rule. The beginning of the exhibits sets the stage depicting a young nation with great maritime power. Domestically, it was a country marked by a vibrant economy and a rising middle class, as well as the flowering of arts and science, architecture and urban planning.

In the midst of such affluence and fresh hope, some of the artists spoke with their brushes as prophets of their time. Among paintings of naval glory and conquests, as well as glimpses of domestic life of the rich, there are also the quiet displays of still life. I must have seen them before. Why have I not noticed their significance previously?

They are paintings of withered blossoms, burnt out candles, hourglasses, books and musical instruments, and most prominently, skulls, eerie arrays of them, decaying bones and teeth. Why all these objects? The audio commentary confirms that they are Vanitas still life, the term rooted in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities.” And obviously, they are symbols of the fleeting nature of life, the callous passage of time, the transience of knowledge and human achievements:

Pieter Claesz Vanitas Still Life

Pieter Claesz: Vanitas Still Life (1628)


Skulls on a Table

Aelbert Jansz van der Schoor: Skulls on a Table (1660)


On the piece of writing crumpled up is one last word, Finis, The End:

Still Life with Books Jan de Heem

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life with Books (1625-29)

It’s commendable that the rich and powerful were willing to be reminded thus, considering these were once paintings adorning the walls of their affluent homes, a nagging presence they could not ignore. And they must have paid to have them painted.


One of my favorites in the exhibition is Nicolaes Maes’ Old Woman in Prayer. Maes, a student of Rembrandt, had captured the simple piety of the old woman of lowly means: her earnest concentration, wrinkled face and hardened hands, the earthen wares and simple meal, and above all, her meager possessions on the ledge, an open Bible, a lamp, an hourglass and a prayer book. The warm light on her face almost makes her look divine. Maes did not forget to include a comic relief, her cat at the lower right bottom must have known what’s for dinner:

Nicolaes Maes Old Woman in Prayer

Nicolaes Maes: Old Woman in Prayer (1650-60)


Sources: Skulls on a Table from Vancouver Sun. All other paintings in this post: Rijkmuseum, Amsterdam.

Beauty and Truth

Unlike my previous trips out here, this time in Vancouver is a learning experience. I’m spending two weeks at Regent College on the UBC campus to learn the language of faith and film. The art and architecture of Regent set the inspiring milieu for exploring beauty and truth. Here are a few vignettes:

The True North Wind Tower and Lux Nova Art Glass:

Installed in 2007, the tower stands as a symbol of integration. Its highest point is designed to be in line with the North Star, the beacon of direction through the ages. The structure brings together the seemingly polarized ends of science and art, and accentuates faith in all aspects of life. CLICK HERE to read more about this 40 foot tall distinguished landmark.

Architect Clive Grout designed the self-sustaining, energy efficient True North Wind Tower as a natural ventilation system for the library built underneath it. Artist Sarah Hall incorporated solar cells into a cascade of glass work. They store energy during the day to illuminate a colored, celestial waterfall at night. This is the first installation of solar energy and art glass fusion in North America.

Embellishing this graceful design are twelve dichroic glass crosses, weaving through an inscription of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the spoken language in Jesus’ time. What a magnificent alchemy of art, architecture, faith and science. Just two weeks ago, on April 29th, this beautiful architecture won the prestigious Design Merit Award for Sacred Landscapes from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in San Francisco. CLICK HERE to read more about this Award.

Regent Wind Tower

A closer look at the art glass:

Lux Nova Art Glass Close Up 2

For the magnificent night view, CLICK HERE to go to Regent’s site.

As for the theology library built underneath the tower, it’s another beauty:

Regent Library


A stone-throw away from the Wind Tower is this serene setting:

Garden Bench

Even the wisteria speak to the intertwining togetherness of Beauty and Truth:

Intertwining Westeria Stems 4

Intertwining Westeria Stems 2


Original Photos and Text by Arti of Ripple Effects. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, May, 2009. If you see them on a site that is not Ripple Effects, then they are copied without permission. CLICK HERE to go to the original post

Vancouver Journal

Arti is blogging from Vancouver these two weeks. Here are some initial sights from yesterday’s roaming.

Rhododendrons everywhere:

Rhododendron everywhere

Rhododendron in bloom

Views from Spanish Bank:

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver skyline from Spanish Bay

Solitary Moment

Solitude at Spanish Bay

Woodpecker hard at work and play

Woodpecker at work and play

Despite the temperamental weather, Arti will be soaking in all the views, making best use of her solitary moments to peck away … oh, who cares whether it’s for work or play. The woodpecker knows there’s no boundary separating the two.



Fall on the B.C. Coast

Took a short trip out to the west coast last week. These pictures were all taken on October 30 in Victoria and Vancouver, still lush and colorful.

Fall’s foliage by the sea, composing nature’s own collage:


Or, was it Jackson Pollock leaving his mark?


There must be some lessons for us to learn from theses Canadian geese, in organization and leadership… and integrity too: They walk as they fly.



And in Vancouver, the beauty of fall’s foliage is best seen where they are, fallen, on the pavement, in the gutter, on the bench.





Came back home a few days ago, just in time to greet the first snow of the season. What a difference an hour’s plane ride can make!

All photos above taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, October 2008. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DO NOT COPY.