Saturday, December 24, 2005

christmas tree

Sun and Douglas-fir makes a Christmas tree, from in fornt of our house during last month's foggy spell

Merry Christmas to all, islanders and those from away, who read this blog. Thanks for joining me here for another year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm an Ontario boy by birth, and an islander by choice. I've lived out here on the west coast for ten Christmases now, and I've spent four of those on this island. In Ontario, my favourite time of year is the fall. Starting in October, the leaves begin to turn, and the air grows crisp and clear, the November rain come, cold and sometimes choosing to fall as snow and then December rolls in, less windy and wet, and the frost settles in and the snow starts to accumulate. Sometimes the cold snaps arrive too and the air grows dry and everything grows brittle and frosty. In my genes, that is what Christmas weather feels like.

So today, i have to say that I'm no in the Christmas spirit much. My soul is really tied to the weather, and right now that weather is blowing a classic Pineapple Express. We are in a heavy rainfall warning expecting about another 35 mm of rain on top of the 30mm that has already fallen. The winds are gusting to 70kms, which they hit last night a couple of times and the air is warm - 8 degrees at the moment. I was chopping wood in my shirt sleeves this morning which is as improbable a state of affairs as you can imagine.

If you have a peek at the weather map you'll see that the cause of all this is a series of lows out in the north Pacific. Three lows are lined up in a triangle. with one south of us and one way offshore. This is pushing the jetsream further south and as a result, it is picking up warm wet air from the tropics and delivering it on the west coast. Pineapple Express systems are characterized by a "tap" that streams moisture onto the coast beneath the jet stream. That tap is lying a little south of us at the moment, across southern Oregon and northern California, but even though we are dryer than we could be (avoiding 100mm rainfalls), the winds are relentless and the air is warm and the snow is gone from the mountains.

We've had some great weather this fall, with fog, cold, sun and snow and now this, on the first day of winter. It doesn't make me feel very Christmasy, but I'm in awe of this weather even still, of the last power and the wildness of it. My spirit says I should be in line with the season, but the wind and rain battering my house calls me to rest in the storm instead.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Tunstall Bay, Bowen Island, Canada

A quick update on this incredible weather we are having.

in November, the local weather station here recorded 91 mm of rain which is a virtual drought for this time of year. Most years we get that in a day. The weather has been clear and cold, with heavy frosts at night.

Last night was exceptional. It's a full moon and very near solstice, and I had to come back on the water taxi. The moon is directly overhead and the tide is exceptionally low around midnight. The gantry from the government dock down to the float was so steep, I had to literally walk down it like you'd walk down a ladder. Once on the water I rode outside on the Cormorant and the view was incredible. The moon shone down from Taurus, the Big Dipper, standing on its handle, rested on top of the Brunswick Range to the north east, Mars shone well above us to the south, and the snowfields and glaciers at the head of Howe Sound glimmered in the moonlight. It was bright and calm and cold on the water, and outstandingly beautiful all round.

Friday, December 9, 2005

I haven't seen them yet, but there is a pod of transient killer whales hanging around Bowen this week.

The first I heard of them was from Alison Morse, who lives on the south side of the island. She and her husband watched them in the Strait for a half and hour on Monday mornings. Then friends Karo Johnson and George Milligan had a stunning encounter with the pod at Bowen Bay. From the beach they watched as the pod cornered a Steller's Sea Lion and then broke it's back and proceeded to tear it apart. Most of the dirty work was done by three of the whales although the heavy lifting was done by a huge male who lurked on the edges until there was a need to make the kill. Steller's Sea Lions are huge, and Karo estimated this one at one ton, easily.

Yesterday I got another report of the whales off the west side of the island from Ellen Hayakawa who was out paddling in the Collingwood Channel and spotted the pod off Paisley Island. They got close enough to them to be surrounded and sprayed with whale breath, although that's a hell of a lot closer than I'd want to get to a pack of sea wolves.

Transients are not unknown in our waters, especially at this time of year. They wander solo or in pods up and down the coast all year and are the only ones that eat mammals like seals and sealions on a regular basis. They are skilled and vicious pack hunters and pursue their prey up on to beaches if need be. The resident pods of killer whales are tamer in comparison. We don't have any in Howe Sound anymore, but there are some in the Strait and they are occasionally spotted from the ferry. These ones eat fish and following the salmon and herring around. They linger all summer in the Gulf Islands and the San Juans and are usually the ones who see photos of.

I'm going to try to get over to the west side to see if these whales are still about. If anyone else is looking for them, try to get a picture of their dorsal fins. The Vancouver Aquarium would probably be interested in knowing who these guys are, and they can identify them from the dorsal fins alone.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Here is how we start things on Bowen.

Every three years, since 1999 we have held elections for a municipal council. Every three years we have what can only be described as an "inaugural ball" in true Bowen fashion. Tonight was a fantastic example.

The evening began with a singing of Oh Canada, a blessing from a Squamish minister, and invocation from the Island padre, Shelagh MacKinnon and the official swearing in of the new mayor and council. Mayor Bob Turner missed his cue on his oath of office prompting past mayor (and councilor) Lisa Barrett to express concern that maybe he had had a change of heart. From there on in, it was all fun. Council made it;s first two decisions - to send Peter Frinton and Alison Morse to the Islands Trust, and to borrow some money so we could conclude a long time process and buy some green space right in the village. Each of the councilors said a piece with Alison Morse topping it all for me with a comment that she spent 30 minutes this morning watching killer whales feed on herring off her south shore property.

After that, the artists took over. Pauline LeBel offered a couple of songs and bestowed rocks to each members of council, Wendy Merkley, dressed as "Ricardo" and Mad Mabel passed out awards and ribbed and mocked and brought every one back to together and then present the official trappings of office for the mayor: a pair of size 12 gumboots, a sou'wester and a golden scepter made out of a spray painted plunger. Adorned in these robes of office Bob introduced me for a rousing chorus or two of "Our Island's Ours Again" and we adjourned to eat cheese, drink wine and pass a merry hour while Brenda Reid and Teun Schut gamely lilted standards in the background.

This is an inauguration unlike any that happened across this province tonight. It is a uniquely Bowen event, combining the sacred and important legal stuff with the ribald hilarity and high spirit that really represents this place. I hope to God we never lose this sense of fun, and that our municipal politics never strays from the honest good fun of tonight. If they ever should do so, may they always remember to come home.
Just a note that out there in the wide wide world are other people blogging on the other islands.

The BBC decided that it would aggregate a bunch from Scotland. Reading through these, I think we have lots in common, despite being in a different ocean half a world away.
Toboganning on Cates Hill

It has been snowing a fair amount this week. Unusual for Bowen Island, to get snow so low down in November, but Bruce Steele says it's going to be a long winter, and who am I to argue with Bruce?

Finn and I climbed up Cates Hill today, through the new subdivision, up to the top where Tir na nOg Theatre School is. There is a new field up there and it's great for toboganning. He and I slid for an hour or so and then we did something really daring and stupid...we slid all the way down the road all the way back to the Cove. The road wasn't completely slick, so we kept a nice controlled speed, but we nevertheless had a great luge down the whole half mile or so, stopping at the bottom for coffee and grilled cheese and soup at The Village Baker.

following that, we boogied over to Phoenix Photo, our island toy store, and Finn tried to get all the tops in the shop spinning at once while I chatted with Alison and sipped some tea.

It was a great islandy, father and son Canadian snow day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First snow of the season yesterday. We had about five centimeters at our elevation, but there was more higher of course. Now it's sunny and the mountains are beautiful. Photos soon...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

We have just had the most lovely local election. It sounds strange to say, but there was a great campaign conducted in person and online and I knew probably three quarters of the candidates personally and the resulting vote gave us a Council that everyone seems pleased with. The candidates who were unsuccessful in their bids for office were gracious in their praise for the new Council. Well met, hard fought and no bad feelings. It's the first time in my life I've felt that the democratic process can actually produce the kind of results that a community as a whole can get behind.

So with the glow still emanating from Bob Turner (who, in his run for mayor had 74% of the vote) and a council which had five people return and two great new additions in Lisa Shatzky and David Hocking, imagine my surprise when I discovered an article in The Undercurrent this week from our local federal Conservative candidate, John Weston.

Reporting on a trip he took to the island "recently" to listen to our concerns, he issued a press release and had this to say:

My visit to this beautiful island highlighted for me the issues that are front and centre among residents. People here are rightly concerned about health care, child care, education and high taxation levels needed to prop up a cumbersome bureaucracy. And as island residents, they are particularly worried about the Canadian military's inability to respond to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes."

I am shaking my head. First, I think that the federal government is probably the smallest it has been in a long time, and certainly smaller than when the Conservatives were last in charge. Most of the folks I know in the federal public service are stressed out of their minds trying to keep up with the work. And anyway, what exactly can the Conservatives do to improve on childcare, into which the feds have recently poured billions of dollars? And, Weston, health care and education are provincial responsibilities, but affordable housing, one of our TRUE island issues, has long been a joint federal responsibility.

But I quibble. Here's where Weston really got it wrong. To make matters worse, our new mayor is a long time member of this "cumbersome bureaucracy" Weston speaks of and as a public servant has done more than anyone I know to raise awareness about issues of water use, environmental sustainability, the health of our island's ecosystems and earthquake preparation. He published a book about the geology and water system of the Lower Mainland that is a brilliant and accessible volume on the geology of the region and the hazards that the region faces. So that's just bad form, coming into a community who has just elected a public servant par excellence to office and slagging his place of employment while at the same time telling us that the things we are concerned about have actually been his overwhelming interest for something like two decades.

And any way, if Weston really asked an islander or two, he would have discovered that flooding is just not a problem here. We live on three humps of rock surrounded by ocean. Water tends to run right off. About the only flood worry that keeps islanders awake is the threat of a septic system backup, and that is truly scary. Given the stuff Weston is pushing however, it would seem that he might have some latent expertise in this problem.

And these Conservatives...what about their libertarian roots? Surely Weston knows that we are a small island next to a big city and that in the event of The Big One we have no hope whatsoever of receiving help from the military. Nor do we care I think, for we have other assets such as a strong community that and individual and neighbourhood preparation. Big government is not going to be there in our time of need, so we tend to rely on each other. If Weston is really interested in supporting our emergency preparedness I would like to see him advocating for federal government support for our own citizen based plans here on the island. Giving armoured personnel carriers to the military, useful as the are in Afghanistan, is not much help in a disaster here at home.

As the federal election campaign warms up I'd like this to be a lesson to federal politicians that happen to stumble onto our rock. Don't patronize us and try not to insult our own local politicians (some of whom garnered numbers you will never, ever see). We have just had the most amazing experience with politics. It's a shame that the mainlanders slutting for votes can't learn some real lessons from how the campaign was conducted here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fog over greater Vancouver

Farewell to the fog
Shot of fog over Greater Vancouver yesterday, on my way to Prince Rupert

The fog has gone, getting so dense I suppose that it just precipitated into rain and fell out of the sky. It was lovely while it lasted, and photographers all over Bowen Island are thanking the gods for some of the shots they got.

We now turn to more mundane pursuits, although today I stumbled across my friend David Cameron's account of chasing a rat out of his house.

Screamin like a little girl...

That was me yesterday when the rat I was trying to vacuum up from behind my stove decided to leap into my face.

The central vacuum we have usually does the trick. Even the big ones don't get stuck in the hose. This one though is a vicious beast and even my big tabby is keeping his distance. He used to be a great ratter. He would munch up a couple a day but now he just brings them home alive and releases them for entertainment.

I set my rat trap last night-the one that can break your finger if you're not careful-and baited it with a gob of peanut butter. I adjusted the release mechanism so that if you breathed on it, it would snap. And in the morning every bit of the peanut butter was gone and the trap was not sprung. Should we not be training these creatures to defuse bombs or perform micro surgery?

What follows in the thread at Bowen Online is neither for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach. But it is among some of the funniest writing I have ever read on the subject of sharing space with unwanted rodents. We islanders are not a sentimental lot when it comes to rats, but we do know how to entertain ourselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fog in the morning

The fog just keeps rolling in and it keeps giving us beautiful things to photgraph. This was the view from my office window this morning as the sun moved behind the Douglas firs below us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Took me cruising to someone else's photo album to find this pranked sign on our island. Look carefully, or follow the link to the larger photo.
Fog bank and sun rise

What I woke up to yesterday

The fog continues to haunt the Sound, coating the island. In the mornings it mostly stays low above the water, thick as anything you have ever seen, but above the skies are clear and sunny. It has been so spectacular that I have created a whole photo gallery of fog pictures, taken from my house (as above) and up on top of Cates Hill.

It looks like we have one or two more days of this awe inspiring stuff, before our regularly scheduled autumn returns.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Don't lean on the windows

It's hard to resist not jumping through the window!

I've posted a photo essay on my Flickr site about the route I take when I have to walk home from being in Vancouver. The essay starts with boarding the ferry and details one of the routes I often walk over the mile between Snug Cove and my home.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

View from the office

The fog horns are sounding in the channel as ferries and shipping traffic creep through the thick fog banks that have been moving in and out all day and evening. There is a strong high pressure zone over us at the moment bringing beautiful sunny weather except right at sea level where the fog is pea soup thick. Today, driving over the Lion's Gate bridge into Vancouver, the towers were just peeking out of the fog and Stanley Park was subsumed in it but for the tallest tree tops.

There are times on the coast when it can be like this for one or two weeks at a time. This high pressure system will break apart early in the week, but while it's here, the weather is enchanting.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A salmon for Kathryn

A heart felt thank you to the soul that left a copy of the new issue of The High Tide on my backdoor. It's probably been close to two years since the last issue came out. It's perfectly timed.

Walking a dear friend today, talking about the state of things on this island and the kinds of questions we might ask of one another led me to reflect on this quote, from architect Christopher Alexander on the "quality that has no name":

Places which have this quality, invite this quality to come to life in us...It is a self-supporting, self-maintaining, generating quality. It is quality of life. And we must seek it, for our own sakes, in our surroundings, simply in order that we can, ourselves, become alive.

With the sun shining in the forest, the salmon running and the winter held at bay a little, it is a great day to come alive on Bowen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My friend and fellow skywatcher Richard Smith posted this beauty of a shot of Bowen to his Flickr page tonight. This is one of the most stunning sunset photos of our island I have ever seen. That's the kind of day it was today - completely clear and the mountains of Howe Sound had snow above 800 metres or so, so the whole inlet was ringed with whitecapped monuments reaching into a clear blue sky.

It reminds me of some of other bits of beauty that I've witnessed in the past couple weeks around here:

  • An entirely Bowen made film production of Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang which featured dozens of local kids, and the grizzliest jury you've ever seen with Eddie the Yeti as Foreman.
  • The chum returning to the weir, swimming along the beach to avoid the seals in Mannion Bay.
  • The publication of the Salish Sea community atlas that captures community maps from islands all around this body of water we call home.
  • Remembrance Day ceremonies in which a couple of hundred islanders turned out to stand in the pouring rain as we remembered those that died in the madness of war.
  • A beautiful scene of Joan and Heather, two elder Bowen Islanders sitting outside VONIGO in the fall sun, one leaning on her cane and the other, nearly blind, relaxing in a cedar chair, just passing the time of day and stopping their conversation once in a while to close their eyes and turn to warm their faces in the sunlight.
  • Posters all over the place for a concert for Sam Knowles' baby Oscar who was badly burned a few weeks ago. A dozen or more musicians have thrown together a benefit extravaganza to raise money for medical fees.
It's all what being in a slow and beautiful place is all about.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I went down to the Cape today. Cape Roger Curtis comes alive in the fall rains, and there was a swell on the Strait from the windstorm last night, so the waves were pretty cool.

Last week, in the Undercurrent, there was a centrefold spread of the three options that the owners have for this amazing piece of land. All three options have lots built on the most sensitive ecological regions of the land, places where rare plant communities and unique ecosystems are still intact. These three options were also presented at a community meeting, hosted by the developer.

The developer of CRC and the owners have been paying for a process to engage the community in dialogue around values, ostensibly so that the development that happens at the Cape will be in line with the Island values. I have been steering people toward this process because I feel that some dialogue is better than no dialogue. The Cape is private land after all, and I thought the process was a bit of an olive branch to the community.

Having seen the three options and heard about the way the developer conducted himself at the community meeting, I think it's time to change tack. Something deep down inside of me is not in alignment with the developer's dialogue process. Part of it is what I sense as a dishonest intention. I don't think the developer is being fully honest about the role he wants to play with this development, and the aims he has for the dialogue process. Part of the discomfort also lies in the fact that they developer is clearly intent on a limited set of ideas for the Cape, and even after "listening" to the community he hasn't "heard" anything in a way that matters.

So I think no we need to cut through the bullshit on this and start asking the real questions. There are those of us that want large parts of the Cape preserved, and there have been several efforts over the past year to convince the developer that an ecological worldview needs to be considered.

For the developer's part, he is a generous man, having donated buildings and land to various cause around the Island. But one thing he is not is an environmentalist, and it strikes me that it is increasingly a waste of time to try to convince him to be something he is not.

It seems that all he cares about really, on this issue, is the interests of the owners and that is how it should be. He is their developer and agent and they want to realize a return on their investment. I assume they want that return to come as easily as possible as none of the owners live on the Island, and there is no indication that they care to become part of this community at all.

No one disputes that the owners of the property have a right to extract value from it. But surveys and dialogue and statements of values and principles are not the way to convince these folks that monetary value is not the prime motivation for ownership. And so I think maybe the strategy needs to change. I think we need to ask the question "How can we make it as easy as possible for the owners to realize some gains from this property and be gone from our community?"

My assumption in asking this question is that the owners want to cut and run. They want their profits and then they want to be done with us. I am certain that they don't want lengthy legal and regulatory processes to eat up the gains they are expecting from the process. I also assume that those on the "other side" of the question also want to avoid lengthy process wherever possible. But for those of us who aren't owners, process and cost are our only bargaining chips to salvage something of the precious nature of this spot.

So by asking the question about ease, we would be asking the owners and the community to figure out a way to work on getting rid of the off-island investment in this property. I can see that the owners may have to lower their profit expectations to buy peace and efficiency, and the other side will have to stay in the game raising money to buy back lots and what will be exorbitant prices for the purposes of preserving large chunks of land. In the end the Cape will be developed, but perhaps with fewer houses and less impact on the sensitive and important areas of the property.

If I was offering advice to everyone involved, this is what I would say. I think the developer's process is not opening him up to anything of value from the community and without the intention to do so, there's no point engaging there. Better we should spend our time asking the other question, and continuing to raise money to stay in the game.

there is still room for dialogue, but we need to change the focus, and we need to be clear on all sides of the intentions and resources that everyone brings to bear on the conversation.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Bowen Island from the air

Bowen Island

Here is a shot of Bowen I took today on a float plane flight to Victoria. You're looking across the mouth of Howe Sound to Cowan Point, Apodaca Ridge and Mount Gardner.

Click on the photo to have a peek at the whole set of shots I took as we cruised over the Strait of Georgia in the late afternoon sun today.

This is the ONLY way to travel the coast!

Sunday, November 6, 2005

My friend Patricia (soon to be a Saltspring Islander) came with me on a walk down to cape Roger Curtis the other day and she recited this poem on the way:

Stand Still.

The trees ahead and the bushes beside you,
are not lost.

Wherever you are is called Here,
and you must treat it as a powerful stranger;
ask permission to know it and be known.


The forest breathes.

It answers,

I have made this place around you
if you leave it
you may come back again saying


No two trees are the same to Raven
No two branches are the same to Wren

If what a tree or a branch does is lost on you,
then you are surely lost.

Stand still.

The forest knows where you are

You must let it find you.

-- David Wagoner

Friday, November 4, 2005

Celtic music at The Snug

Our little celtic music session at The Snug is going well. Every Friday, a group of us gather to play tunes, learn tunes and generally make a small group of listeners happy. We have a good time down there, and this is what it looked like a couple of weeks ago when we were joined by Keona and Neil of Cleia on a rainy Friday night.

Come on down and join us if you play Irish or Scottish tunes, or if you just want to listen to a bunch of islanders banging out the tunes.

Two pieces of news that are important to place.

First, the salmon are running at the Causeway. With a great fall storm in progress, the fish have started coming into the Lagoon, so go down and watch them struggle on the long and hard journey of all of 30 yards to the gravel bar! These are not the greatest example of the mighty BC salmon - a little precious when set beside their Stuart River cousins - but they are ours and we love them nonetheless.

And also, the Salish Sea Community Atlas was launched last week on Saltspring Island. The author and artist who drew our map, Kathy Dunster, is hosting a launch of the Atlas on Bowen at The Gallery on November 18.

Go have a look at this book and buy one for the coffee table and one for the Christmas tree. These are stunning maps, representing the communities of the Salish Sea and capturing our essential islandness and what makes us tick, ever so slowly, as groups of people living on rocks that are swept twice a day by the tides of the Southern Strait of Georgia.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Here's an updated list of sites and blogs for candidates. I've also listed other candidates I know about who are running. If you know of others leave me a comment. Any blogs that continue to be updated after the election will be added to the sideroll and welcomed to the ongoing meaning-making noosphere!

Candidates for Mayor

Terry Cotter
Wendy Merkley
Bob Turner

Candidates for Council and the Islands Trust

Lisa Barrett
Kathy Dunster
Peter Frinton
Richard Goth
David Hocking
Bruce Howlett
Deborah Kirby
Duncan Phillips
Lisa Shatzky

Candidate websites are also listed at the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce site.

I'll update this list as I find more sites. Feel free to drop yours in the comments box.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Sam Knowles, whose son Oscar suffered a horrible accident a couple of weeks ago, wrote a moving letter about why living here is great.

If there was one thing I'd like to ask candidates in this election, it's how they see their role in preserving and protecting that kind of spirit. How a politician aims to care for the intangibles that make community work is high on my list of criteria for voting.

So candidates, what do you think? How, as municipal politicians do you see your role in protecting this precious resource that Sam and Dale and Dave and so many others rely upon when overwhelming needs appear?
My annual post that marks the beginning of the snow fall. On Thursday night while I was away in Victoria a cool rain storm came through the Strait and on the weekend when the clouds lifted, there was snow on the mountains. Seems to be only around the 1500 metre level at this point, as there was no snow on Mounts Black and Hollyburn, but Brunswick and Harvey were whitecapped.

The juncos are here now, coming down from their high summer homes and on Saturday, sitting on the beach at Cape Roger Curtis, we watched the snow geese flying down the Strait towards their staging grounds in the Fraser estuary.

Most of the maple leaves are down on the ground and the alders, which haven't really gone yellow at all, are starting to shed as well.

Happy Halloween. I'm stuck in Victoria while my kids take part in the Bowen National Holiday. There is the usual trick or treating in Deep Bay, a community haunted house in the Cove and the annual Volunteer Fire Department fireworks display off Sandy Beach.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Richard Smith over in Tunstall Bay captured the perfect light from this week's fall windstorm. That's Paisley Island you're looking at and the Strait of Georgia behind looking north towards Texada and Lasqueti, which are hidden in the clouds.

Friday, October 21, 2005

After the big rain earlier in the week I have been keeping a keen eye out for the return of the salmon. Yesterday morning I left early for the 6:30 ferry and spent about a half hour sitting by the causeway at the Lagoon listening in the dark for the salmon. I heard three splashes in the estuary and wasn't able to see anything in the dark, but it's clear that they are back.

If you're down in Deep Bay or hanging around the Cove, now's the time to watch for the chum. The coho will be along in a couple of weeks.

And in other news, speaking of things on a three year return cycle, our municipal elections are next month and the campaigns are up and running. I have a number of friends and neighbours running for office this year.

Here's a list of sites and blogs for candidates. If you know of others leave me a comment. Any blogs that continue to be updated after the election will be added to the sideroll and welcomed to the ongoing meaning-making noosphere!

Candidates for Mayor

Terry Cotter
Wendy Merkley
Bob Turner

Candidates for Council and the Islands Trust

Peter Frinton
Deborah Kirby

Candidate websites are alos listed at the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce site.

I'll update this list as I find more sites. Feel free to drop yours in the comments box.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

We're under our first heavy rainfall warning of the season right now and the marine forecast for Howe Sound includes these words:

a broad frontal band with a tropical tap of moisture is streaming across the north coast and will slump southwards tonight and Monday.

"Tap" is a good word. Outside right now, it's as if someone has turned on a tap and let it run. We found another leak in the roof, over the north dormer in the loft, so that'll need some attention.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A little neglect in this corner of the blogosphere, but James left a comment that prods me to write.

Indeed, the weather here has been by turns springlike and stormy. Coming off a few days of sun at the beginning of this week (which dried out Thanksgiving rain) we got our first big blow of the season last night. The wind whipped up in the early morning and howled for a few hours - not a big storm, but a taste of things to come.

I'm not much good at predicting how cold the winter will be, but two signs have pointed to this being harsher than usual. First the arbutus tress are covered in berries like I've never seen them before. Some of them are red, and you can't even see the leaves. Second, my friend Bruce Steele, a long time resident of these parts, tells me that when you can smell the pulp mills up Howe Sound, it's a sign that the cold air is coming down. The earlier you can smell them, the theory goes, the longer the winter. We caught our first whiff around September 25.

The rain from last night has stopped and the ground is littered with yellow fir needles. We're getting ready for another cozy Irish music session at The Snug tonight, so come an join us if you're on island.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fall is here.

There is a deep low hanging just southwest of the Kenai Penisula in Alaska and it is creeping down the coast towards us. Tonight Haida Gwaii is expecting winds in excess of 90 km/h and the rain will be with us tomorrow. Follow it here.

I finally secured my firewood yesterday - two honest cords of fir with a little hemlock thrown in. Enough I think to compliment the two or so cords of mill ends I have left over from last year. The driveway and storage area under the house looks more like a lumber yard than anything else these days. So we're all ready to tuck into fall and winter. The rains are coming, the summer is gone and the temperate rainforest will soon resume its verdant and lively rhythm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Very sad news this morning. On the heels of Constable Mike's cancer fighting initiative comes word today that Jan Daly has died from cancer.

Jan was a quiet and beautiful soul, a musician and the partner of my friend Murray Journay, geologist and Lawn Dog. I knew her mainly through music. She played guitar and sang with outfits like Contraband, the Ruby Slippers and the community choir. I remember her as someone who always enjoyed making music, who played with a smile on her face and a joie d'esprit.

She had struggled with cancer for a number of years and fought her way through various recurrences of the disease. She was loved widely around this island and I know she had close support in the end, and that when Murray returns to us from her bedside in Vancouver, he too will have dozens of friends to draw upon for support.

My father in law passed away not a year ago from this same bastard disease. I can appreciate what Murray is going through now. If you're reading now pal, you have my whole heart.

This is when small communities are at their best, when one of us needs the rest. Last Sunday at Evensong, we dedicated the readings and the service to Jan, as almost all of us in the church that day had made music with her at one point. It was a hard service to sing with that intention in it. But it was all we could do with Jan off-island in palliative care.

All we can do is send notes into the air to find her, and get some food to Murray to wrap him in the support he needs now. Jan had a lot of friends around the Island too who are all keenly feeling this loss.

If you are on island and want to help, it would probably be best to call Linda Cannon to see what is needed.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Constable Mike reports on the Cops for Cancer golf tournament held at the newly opened Bowen Island Golf Course. Yes, it has finally been unveiled. After years of fundraising, chopping of trees, blasting of rock and digging of ponds, the golf course has finally seen its first play.

As for Constable Mike all this guy seems to do is keep the peace and raise money for charity. How lucky are we to have cops like that?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Noted this morning: The essential guide to living on a Gulf Island.

Read it and weep for the truth.
Now hear me out on this. I love the BC Ferries.

(Bowen Islanders are now staring at their screens in disbelief).

I love the Queen of Capilano, I love the inconvenience of taking a boat to get to the continent, I love the ferry workers for their general cheerful demeanour, and their ability to load cars like a jigsaw puzzle to get as many people on as they can. No question that BC Ferries has its problems, but I live on an island, and I have developed a pretty good "forgiveness" capacity. If you can't forgive BC Ferries its problems, you are going to drive yourself nuts around here.

Having said that, there is a part of BC Ferries that has always come across as "dark" to me. The upper echelons of decision making in the corporation have always seemed less open, less accessible and less responsive to the concerns of local ferry users and even more so since BC Ferries ceased being a Crown corporation and became some kind of quasi-private company. Since then it's been really weird.

Now, we've been having our fair share of ferry marshaling issues over the years and some of them have been downright hot. We are certainly in need of a larger ferry because Bowen isn't getting any smaller population-wise. BC Ferries knows this, and they have made a big stink over the past couple of years about going out to buy a new boat for the Bowen run.

Today comes word (from Powell River no less) that the corporation is having trouble negotiating for the contract on the new ferry because among other things "The infrastructure hasn't been upgraded to accommodate the larger vessel."

This is true. We are a small island municipality and it has been shown that creating a two lane loading situation in our village as it is currently constituted is downright impossible. We do have two lane unloading at the moment however.

There are solutions to this problem and every Bowen Islander has their pet ideas, and they are all expensive. The longer term and more effective the proposal, the more expensive it is. What has been missing though has been the participation of BC Ferries. As I understand it, the Corporation has not been at all interested in participating with our island in constructing a new facility. So without the new loading infrastructure, no new ferry.

There are probably 2800 property tax paying households on Bowen. That is not a lot of folks. Construction of a new facility could be a nice partnership between various levels of government if only folks saw the ferry system as part of the highway system. But apparently that isn't the case, and it really hasn't ever been the case.

Now get me straight on this. I don't necessarily want a bigger ferry here right away. I think that we haven't explored the options of foot passenger ferries deeply enough. I think there are many other things we can do to facilitate the movement of people across the Queen Charlotte Channel. What is need though is an approach from BC Ferries that is more pro-active than the one they are taking, and more pro-active of all levels of government including our own.

I think it might be time to bring together Bowen Island Municipality, BC Ferries, the provincial government, the GVRD, Translink and others, including ferry users and Bowen businesses to seriously imagine our way into the next period of growth on Bowen. And I don't mean a one time thing - I mean an ongoing dialogue around these issues so that we can discuss them in a way that leads to better thinking than simply issuing press releases washing your hands of the local situation. Expecting immediate responses to long term growth issues from any party in this situation is ridiculous. We can't expect a bigger ferry overnight. BC Ferries can't expect a new facility tomorrow. So let's drop the rhetoric and hunker down to some real work on coping with ongoing, and constantly emerging challenge.

We are all in this together. Together we have to find a way forward. If anyone wants to get this kind of a process started, give me a call.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Our first ever weekly Bowen Island Irish (etc) music session was convened last night at The Snug. Wonderful tunes all round and a packed house with great energy. It felt like a kitchen party in there.

If you are at all interested in Irish music, come on down Friday nights from 7-10 for tunes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The interregnum begins...a strange time of year when it is still summer but human activity makes it seem like fall. The day after Labour Day is some kind of strange new year, more so than the first of January, especially as we move away from life based on the seasons. It's still good swimming weather.

With the fall season beginning, some transit news. Bowen lies within the Greater Vancouver Regional District and our island is served by community shuttles which drive around the island and make getting around pretty easy if you are on a route. Thanks to the fact that Bowen Fuels have recently just started selling a 5% biodiesal blend at the gas station, these shuttles are now the only transit buses in BC running on biodiesal. Our community is, I believe, the first community in the country to have exclusively biodiesal pumps. It's only 5% but it's coming along. And with entrepreneurs Doug Hooper and Ian Thomson of the Canadian Biofuels Technology Corporation on island, we are poised to get the blend even higher.

In other transit news, Translink, the regional authority made Bowen Island part of the same zone as the North Shore, meaning that it should only cost $2.25 to from Bowen to anywhere on the North Shore (plus ferry cost). Anything to get more people out of their cars works for me. This year, I have slashed my own use of the car, making only 8 work trips to town in my car and driving less than three times a month on island with only me in the vehicle. If I'm alone, I always look for hitchhikers, but usually I just ride my bike down to the Cove (and back up the 300 feet of elevation home - pant pant).

Sustainability starts right here, baby.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

At about half past four last night my eyelids shot open just as the air around the house exploded.

Sounds like a scene from a war movie, but there was an incredible thunderstorm last night. By all accounts, several places on the island took direct hits, Somewhere within flash/bang distance of us, something attracted a bolt, and it was simply one of the loudest thundercracks I have ever heard. The sound rumbled around Howe Sound for something like thirty seconds

No evidence of damage anywhere. Only side effects were an adrenaline rush that kept me up until dawn.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A great Bowfest yesterday, the official end of the summer social season here on Bowen. This year was both more subdued and more fun. The perennial beer tent was gone, and with it was the phalanx of police officers that made last year's so - interesting.

In its place were a bunch of highlights including:

  • A great teen lip synch won by my friends Calder, Davon and Toby who did a wonderful version of the Arrogant Worms' "The Mountie Song"
  • More people watching the parade than I have ever seen, and more marching too.
  • An adult lip synch that was too raunchy for description, and anyway, words would not be adequate to describe the winning entry. Let's just say it involved the tucking of a ten dollar bill into a pair of gyrating pants.
  • An unfettered performance by Bowen's own The Naive, who also defy description. None of these kids could get into a restricted movie legally, but they play hits from the psychedelic era like they were there. No comment on their parents!
  • A rambunctious visit from the Coast Guard hovercraft again.
  • A two to nothing tug o' war victory by the kids over the adults, proving once again that we just have to promote a more active contraception plan around here if we are ever to stand a chance of pulling against the ankle biters and actually winning. Even with the firemen anchoring our side, we got killed by the crowd of pre-teens at the other end.
  • A two-horse slug race which was over long after anyone remained interested in the result.
And just on schedule, the rain and wind arrived today as if to say, that's it, your short summer is over, lay in the firewood.

Props to the Mollineaux clan for hosting another great gathering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The blogosphere continues to grow here on Bowen. Today checking the Blogger profiles for Bowen Island, I found two new blogs: one from ex-pat American Jennifer Hansen called Life on Bowen, and one put up by a member of our local RCMP detachment, Constable Mike who, after I gave him a two minute tutorial, is blogging about his pet project, Cops for Cancer.
Here is the user's guide to enjoying life alongside a North American lion.

Everyone interested in cougar safety should bone up on this. Prior to our feline friend taking up residence on Bowen the most dangerous animal was the biting swan that lives at the lagoon. When you're used to living with a swan as the top of the food chain, it pays to be a little more mindful of what the cougar might do.

One interesting fact is that there have only been five fatalities from cougars in 100 years or so while two people a year in BC are killed by bees.

Watch out for the bees!
The Fog, the movie that was made here in the spring, is due for release in the fall. THe trailer is out now. This is not what a typical night on Bowen is like...most nights anyway!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

We have a cougar among us. My friend Lisa Shatsky told me this story again tonight while I was helping her celebrate her 40th birthday .

There are persistent rumours of cougars on the island and from time to time people say they might have seen one, but this cat is the real thing and is striding around probably eating fawns. As the only predator on the island, the cougar has its pickin's at the Bowen all you can eat smorgasbord.

Pauline Lebel's astounding play, Voices In The Sound which was mounted last month told the story of Bowen when the cougars and wolves ran free and the humpbacks filled Howe Sound. I can't help but think her evocation of that time has somehow manifest this cougar onto the island.

What is the Island dreaming now? Cats.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friend and travel writer Julie Ovenell-Carter had a nice piece in The Vancouver Province recently on BC's most affordable cruise - to Bowen Island.
This week the crickets have appeared. Summer has seemed shorter this year than in the past, and the chirping of crickets always indicates the immanent end of swimming season.

Still, I'm squeezing everything out of the beach I can. See if I can swim well into September.

For the record, the blackberry harvest has lived up to expectations making this the best berry year I've seen for everything. We picked and ate a lot of salal berries on Cortes, and not so many here, but the freezer is filling with blackberries.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bowen Island resident and friend Ellen Hayakawa has written a piece in Common Ground about her family's experience with nuclear weapons at Hiroshima. The article is called The Day the Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's finally beach season.

Every night this week, snorkelling along the rocks at Bowen Bay, the sea is pretty warm and there is lots to look at including big schools of perch, huge moonjellies (the size of dinner plates), starfish, flounders and crabs galore. Lots of plankton in the water too and reportedly good bioluminesence at night.

At Bowen Bay the last couple of days there has been a seal pup on the beach. Yeserday its mom was checking in on it and it left on its own around 9:00 pm. Today I didn't see the mom, but it left on the high tide also around 9:00pm. It's hard to tell if the seal is a little malnourished or not, but it is leaving the beach every night and the mom is around. Alistair Westcott, the island vet posted this advice to would-be rescuers on the Bowen Online forum today:

We have been receiving a lot of calls regarding seal pups on beaches around Bowen. It is common for mothers to leave their pups on beaches for up to 12hrs at a time (regardless of the heat) while they forage for food. These pups just lie around and wait for Mom to return. Usually Mom drops them off at daycare (the beach) in the early morning and returns at certain times during the day. Mom will generally not return until much later if a lot of people are crowding around and fussing over junior.

Abandoned pups or sick pups are rare; they usually look obviously sick, thin, may have external wounds and will not respond vigorously when touched. Many times it will appear as if the pup has been on the beach for several days (only because they go off at night and then are dropped off on the same beach early the next morning). The best thing to do is leave them alone, keep dogs away and check back once the sun goes down. If the pup is still in the same spot after dark then there may be a problem. Call us then, or the Vancouver aquarium SEAL rescue dept. at 604 258-SEAL (7325). There are times when they need to be transported to the rescue facility."

What I've learned is that it's important not to touch the seals and if in doubt, check with the Vancouver Aquarium before you do anything to disturb a seal pup. Usually they are on the beach for a reason and helping them can sometimes be the worst thing to do, especially if the pup is in no obvious distress (bleeding, having a hard time breathing, etc.). They spend a lot of time asleep on the beach. This should not be confused with being dead. They are babies. Babies tire easily, especially when a lot of people are crowding around them, as anyone with kids knows.

The seal at Bowen Bay is in a risky place as there are so many people around. I'm willing to be that when the mom takes the baby in in the morning no one's about and she can't figure out where all these folks come from. It's like leaving your three month old at The Snug all day, while you go off to work. It upsets a lot of people.

Hopefully this one will do fine, but if you're down at Bowen Bay and you see it, give it a lot of space.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

There are few summer pleasures than taking in a fastpitch game at Snug Cove Field. In The Undercurrent this week, there was a great article by Marcus Hondo, the writer of the weekly League roundup known as The Rallycap Chronicles that captures the spirit of the games that unfold down there:

During the playing of a game in the Bowen Island fastpitch league we players know lots of different things: who showed up, when the ferry pulls out, what time the General Store closes, where the toilets are, things like that. There is one thing however that we do not seem to know.

The score.

We try keeping count, only distractions like keeping half-an-eye on the kids, yakking with fans, kibbitzing with teammates and choosing a batting helmet that fits our heads inevitably causes us to miss a run or two. Or an inning or two. As a result, before you can say 'who's on first' we've lost track of the score.

There is of course a very nice scoreboard at Snug Cove field but that is used for the Shaker kids and other fans to sit on, it's not used for putting the score on.

Back a few games ago during a break in play - I think it was the time Gypsy the Jack Russell terrier was recruited to chase the geese out of right field - I realized that once again I myself did not know the score. I was sitting in the dugout surrounded by teammates so all I had to do was ask, right?

"What's the score?"

There was a silence. A pretty long silence. I saw brows wrinkling. "Doesn't anybody know the score?"

"Ahhh," one of my teammates stammered, "Yeah-I think we got three."

"Terry hit that homerun, I know that," someone else offered.

"Yeah with two guys on base. So we got three," reasoned the first guy.

"Right. Three for us," said another.

I recalled Terry Cotter hitting the homer all right. But I still didn't know the score. I tried again.

"I see," I said. We got three. That's great. What about the other team though?
Isn't that meaningful? I mean doesn't anybody know how many runs they got?"

"Humph. No," said one.

"Oh I think they have-no, I don't know," said another.

"More than three?" suggested a third.

It's not just our team either. I'm convinced that other teams often don't know the score. About half way through one recent game I was hustling out to take my position up on the mini-slope in left field when I asked the Cruiser running down the other way if he knew the score. He told me that my team was leading by -two or three runs".

"Are you sure?" I stopped and asked. Because I thought that it was you guys who were leading by two or three runs."

We started counting innings and runs but that was hard work so before too long we gave it up. But he continued to insist that we were leading while I, the Celtic, was certain that it was the Cruisers in front. We were each of us arguing that the other one's team was winning.

Mercifully, our second baseman, Don Nicholson, overheard us and waded in to settle things. "It's tied," Don said.

It takes a few games in the league before you figure out how things really work: at crunch time in the last inning with runners on base and two out, the catcher decides that now is the time he desperately has to know how close the game is. He needs to yell at his pitcher and his fielders to tell them how hard they should try to get the final out. He turns to the umpire - it's pointless to ask teammates (see above) - and asks for the score.

The umpire, naturally enough, has absolutely no idea what the score is, so he walks over to the backstop and calls up to the scorekeeper in the stands. The scorekeeper, often it's Chris or Mara or Glen or George or Mary or Jeff, all excellent scorekeepers, stops yakking with friends, hunches over the scorebook for a longish moment and then calls out: "Hold on. I better count again."

"Just play ball," says the ump. And back we go to playing without knowing the score.

Even the following day many players continue to not know the score. We won," they'll tell you, I think it was-oh, I'm not really sure of the score but we had more runs." Or in the case of some teams it's more often, We lost. I think it was-oh I'm not really sure of the score but they had more runs."

I have this theory that the real blame for all of this not knowing of the score falls upon the surroundings. As teammate Sean Delaney told me once, sometimes he'll be standing on the Snug Cove Field diamond and "-suddenly I look up at all the trees and the mountains and I realize what a great place to play ball we've got. It's just so peaceful. At times like that I don't really care about the score."

Sean's right of course. And besides, at the end of every game handshakes are delivered, banter is exchanged, the kids are rounded up and there's plenty to talk about during the journey home. So what's the big deal about the score anyway?

All right now, in keeping with the spirit of all this The Rally Cap Chronicles did not call scorekeepers to find out who beat who by what this week, nor did I pay attention to the scores when I stopped by games. For this week at least there will be no scores.

Only you still wanna know you say?

You might try asking a player.

League games are played Monday night through Saturday, except most Tuesdays and some Thursdays, at 6:30 (or often a little later).

Saturday, July 2, 2005

BC Ferries is implementing a fuel surcharge to help offset the increase in fuel prices. The BC Ferry Commission is taking public input on this issue. I have sent them the following note:

I am not opposed to the fuel surcharge but I would like to suggest a way that this charge will go beyond a simple band-aid solution for high fuel prices.

I would like to suggest that BC Ferries use the opportunity of collecting this surcharge to earmark some funds for the investigation and development of alternative fuel sources for the ferry fleet. This could begin a long term process of research, development and deliberation to move the ferry fleet away from a dependance on fossil fuels. I have no doubt that the price of diesel will continue to stay high and to increase over time, so as a ferry user I would love to see the Corporation beginning now to explicitly address this issue. Knowing that some of the surcharge was being allocated to this long term planning would make me feel better about paying it and would be a prudent move for the Corporation and a global example of a corporation addressing long range sustainability issues.


Chris Corrigan
Bowen Island

You can let them know what you think by emailing the Commission before July 18.

Friday, July 1, 2005

Excitement and thankfully no injuries yesterday morning in Horseshoe Bay where the Queen of Oak Bay lost power and ran into the docks at Sewell's Marina adjacent to the terminal where it beached. There was a fair amount of destruction on that side, and lots of delays as a result but no injuries. By 5:00, the tide had come in and the ferry had been towed off the beach and into the berth where it began offloading. As usual, the Bowen Online crowd tracked the story as it unfolded and a Google search will tell you more.

The Shawn Atleo quoted in many of the news stories is my friend and the BC Vice-Chief of the Assembly of First Nations who was aboard the ferry at the time. I'll have to get a first hand account the next time I run into him.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

At the end of June, a month typically characterized by its unsettled weather, comes news that this year we will set a record for the cloudiest June on record.

It usually rains in June, that isn't news. It always comes after a period of early summer weather which we get in late April and early May, duping us every year into believing that the wet months are over and the dry ones are here. But the transition to summer is always longer than that, and it never really arrives until mid July, when the drought begins.

This June has been different though. It has been a lot less rainy than usual but it has been a lot more cloudy. There have been a series of weak lows in the Gulf of Alaska bringing moisture to the south coast but not precipitation. We've had 139 hours of sun, 10 hours less than the previous low record,

There must be some kind of correlation between this unusual weather and the bumper berry crops. I suspect it's the lack of rain, but perhaps the lack of sun keeps the berries fresher and on the bush longer. Botanists out there, feel free to weigh in on this one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Back on July 2, 2001 I made the first entry in what has become this weblog. Four years ago to the day, we moved to the island. My favourite memory of that day is the four of us, huddled together on our bed in the loft looking out over Mannion Bay and watching the last ferry leave at 10:05pm. We all said together "There goes the last ferry. We're not on it. We live here."

That line goes though my head every time I hear the last ferry sound it's whistle and take off for the continent. It cements my commitment to this place, and I never take it for granted that I live here, not once in four whole years.

Thank you for joining me thus far in this ever emerging story.

Monday, June 27, 2005

This is the best berry year of the four I have spent on Bowen Island. The long and easy early summer days have us wander the paths and roads for huckleberries and black raspberries. Yesterday we picked a litre of the red huckleberries and a quarter litre of precious black raspberries. Some of the huckleberry bushes are literally bent over with the fruit. I've never seen the like. I'm pick them as fast as I can, getting some in the freezer and just eating the rest by the spoonful. What a rare luxury.

The salal and blackberry bushes are showing huge potential right now too, and the first few salal berries are plump and sweet. Blackberries are also overburdened with fruit, and I'm looking forward to a jammy August.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

She hasn't posted for a while, and now I see why. In this week's Undercurrent, the results for the Round Bowen kayak race were published and Sue Schoegl took first place in the solo women's category. I hope we can expect a blog post of her race soon. Congrats Sue!

The Round Bowen race is a fantastic event and is becoming one of North America's premier kayak races. The racers start at Snug Cove, head south along the east side of the island, turn into the open water of the Strait of Georgia, battle rip and chop at Cape Roger Curtis and then cruise up the west side, turning at Hood Point and coming home. The conditions vary every year, and this year, the racers were lucky to have a tail wind in the Strait, fairly smooth water at the Cape and an incoming tide pushing them up the west side. Coming home was the challenge, with a head wind and tide making it slow going. Still, the winner made an incredible time of two hours and 37 minutes. Unreal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

It's been a funny spring so far, with that spell of nice weather early on and now cooler and rainy. However it has come to us, it has made for a great berry year so far. The salmonberries are just finishing and this was a bumper season for them. Huckleberries, true to form are following right along in the same abundance, and they seem sweeter this year than usual.

Swainson's thrushes are about too, with their haunting spiralling call. It's my favourite west coast bird song, and it says "summer." More so than the robins, who are year round residents, the Swainson's are the real harbingers of spring.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

It barely counts as a blog, but it IS often about Bowen Island, and so I added it to the noosphere: Spider Robinson's Online Diary.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Aha...perhaps I have found my mystery bird?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Down at the Dallas Marine this afternoon, I went to sit on the dock overlooking Snug Cove and read a little. I heard a strange bird call, a loud CHEEP above me and saw a small bird flying out over the water with a short glide and relaxed but rapid wingflaps. The bird seemed a little smaller than a crow and much slimmer in profile. It had white wing bars. It had a very prounounced V-shaped forked tail with a long tail feather in the middle extending past the tips of the V

I thought it was a common nighthawk at first, as it had the wingbars and the stuttery flight. What puts doubt in my mind was the call was less raspy than the nighhawk's - a CHEEP rather the nasal PEENT - and the forked tail. Also the flight seemed a little less frantic and the bird was aloft during the height of day. The bird also perched on a branch, instead of the ground, and it was very slim and sleek looking in profile, sitting about 40 meters from me up in a cedar tree.

The deeply forked tail makes me wonder. That was very obvious, to the point where I continued watching the bird as intently as I could. The white wing bars almost certainly make it a nighthawk, but I can't quite square that bird, which I know well, with what I saw.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

All Islanders at some point have forgotten themselves and showed up on a Saturday evening in Snug Cove for a 7:05 sailing to Horseshoe Bay, or (more frequently) rush to make the 7:35 home and remember once they get there that there is no sailing at that time. From 7-8pm on Saturdays, the Queen of Capilano ties up in the Cove and the crew spend an hour doing drills - mostly fire drills I think. And every ten days on a crossing, the ferry will stop and the alarms will sound and the crew will muster at the the Zodiac on the ferry's sundeck, lower it into the water and head off to rescue a target.

Occasionally people moan and complain about these drills. But today the value of all those "un-sailings" and mid-sailing drills paid off.

The ferry was nearly an hour late today as we waited to board the 12:35. It's not unusual on a weekend for the ferry to run late, and we just rolled with it - what can you do after all? When it arrived it didn't take long to learn of the reason for the delay.

We have had a pretty wicked spring storm the last day or so and the waters of Howe Sound are sloppy - chop on top of rolling swell. There were still heavy winds out this morning, and around 11:00 the mate glanced off the bow and noticed two men crab fishing in an open 12 foot skiff. They were waving frantically. They were swamped and in danger of capsizing and motoring as hard as they could towards the ferry. The alarm was sounded and the rescue team got into action, and by the time the Zodiac had reached the men, their boat had capsized and the men were in the water. Howe Sound is never very warm, especially in spring, and you would have a hard time surviving for more than a few minutes if you were swimming in this morning's seas. The ferry crew rescued the two men, brought them on board and - quite literally - saved their lives.

When the captain announced the reason for the delay on the loudspeaker, the passengers broke into applause for the crew.

During the ferry worker's strike a couple of years ago, lots of disparaging things were said about the ferry crews. BC Ferries even tried to staff up a ship with less than a full crew, many of whom didn't have rescue training. Despite the inconvenience of that strike, many Bowen Islanders - especially those that spend any time on the water in boats and kayaks - had lots of time for the ferry worker's cause. They don't just sell coffee, load cars and vacuum carpets. These folks play a significant role in coastal safety and anyone who knows that holds the training and professionalism of the ferry workers in high regard.

This evening, there are two more people who now know this too. Lucky to be alive.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Last night a thunderstorm over Vancouver, the sky above Whitecliff flashed with blue between 10 and 11pm. Above us the moon veiled hung in the south, lightly illuminating the thunderheads to the east. There was no wind and I sat on the porch watching the storm and listening to the muted and distant thunder. Heavy showers passed over us all night, some of them as heavy as we ever get, rain pounding on the roof. But there was no wind and in this respect this was rain unique to mid spring - showers, warm air, sea fog in the morning clinging to the mountains 1000 feet above the water.

Every year the warmth of early spring gives way to a period of cool and wet weather for a few weeks before summer takes hold. It's different than the fall or winter, a different kind of transition; it is the decay of the low pressure systems off the coast and the building of a high, and so the storms come and go gently and gradually, take their time building in and leaving us, and the sun warms the land and water when it finally burns through the fog.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A couple of new Bowen Island blogs showed up on my radar. The PIKO Experiment is the blog of Chris Hansen who is heading up a screenwriter's retreat for five writers over five months. John Mark Huckabee, whom I previously noted, is one of those writers. I'm meeting Chris for coffee tomorrow morning.

Also today, surfing through the Blogger profiles of people who list Bowen as their location I found "A work in Progress" which, judging from the tagline "Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians" is one of the better double entendres for a blog name I've seen in a while. Give us a shout Eileen, if you read this. Y'all have been added to to noosphere!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here is a not untypical work day:

This afternoon, I biked down to the Cove and sat in the newly revamped Snug, drinking espresso and working on a report. While I was there, I shared a few jokes with a neighbour, bantered with Holly who was proudly making shots of coffee and I surfed the Snug's new wireless service. Dr. Sue walked in and joined me for lunch (after borrowing five dollars for a sandwich - she left her cash in the jeans she wore while volunteering at the recycling centre this morning). We talked about Ontario and Bowen and I found out she has started working one day a week on the island. While we were talking our RCMP Constable Mike strode in and asked me to show him how to start a blog so he could journal his Cops for Cancer fundraising initiative. Our outgoing Corporal Greg was there too, and we tried selling the new cop on the merits of the Bowen Island Taekwondo school.

I made an appointment to see Dr. Sue and she took off after lunch. Finished writing and went up to see Sue, who returned the five dollars and gave me a good referral. While there I talked to my friend April, who also looks after our Taekwondo school and who shares some similar interests with me around groups facilitation and writing.

Biked home where we ate lasagna made with stinging nettles picked yesterday at Cape Roger Curtis.

Everyone does two things around here, and we know one another from circles that intersect with circles. It's these multiply aspected relationships that keep things tight - sometimes uncomfortably so. But in general, knowing that you'll see someone in a few different places makes it hard to hold grudges, be negative or act dishonourably. It just behooves everyone to make small contributions to everyone else's well being.

That's not to say that Bowen is some idyllic community without politics and alliances and gossip and histories. It's just that, in the bigger scheme, we all get along here pretty well, a condition that is supported by the intricacies of social relations in a small place.

Monday, May 9, 2005

The whole Cove has been trasnformed. There is a movie being made - a remake of John Carpenter's The Fog - and Bowen Island is standing in for Anotonio Island. The lower Cove is covered in red, white and blue bunting, which is the traditional sign that a Canadian location is standing in for an American one. The Bowfest field is covered in styrofoam and wood headstones and mocked up as a really convincing graveyard, and all the young girls are going ape over Tom Welling walking around the place.

It's a bit of a circus actually. It's funny having 150 people invade your community and treat it like a set. They're nice enough and all, and they're dropping a lot of cash on the island but it's clearly just a workplace, like any other film set. Seaplanes have been carrying the high priced talent in every evening and away in the morning and the whole scene is urreal.

I'll post some photos soon.

Salmon berries


Ann Mann photgraphed these Salmonberries along Miller Road, and Finn and I came along yesterday and ate them, our first handful of the year. Seems a little early for them, but we aren't complaining.

Lots of warblers still around, including Wilson's and Orange Crowned spotted at the Cape yesterday.

We have a humming bird nest in the back yard. It sits and shakes on an Ocean Spray bush as the little ones wriggle around within.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More movie people coming to Bowen... although this man is arriving temporarily. John Mark Huckabee, the son of the Governor of Arkansas is coming up to our fair shores to work on a screenplay about a movie full of political intrigue. He'll be here during our own municipal political season next fall, so maybe he'll pick up a few north-of-the-border ticks for the film...

Welcome aboard!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Lots of firsts in the last few days. Yesterday walking down at Cape Roger Curtis we experienced a number of firsts, including the first shorts day for me and the first swim of the year by my cold-resistant kids.

On a subtler level, there were a number of other firsts this weekend:

  • First sighting of Mourning Cloak and Spring Azure butterflies
  • First sighting of an Audubon's Warbler in the alders at Cape Roger Curtis
  • First sighting of a pair of Common Loons on that water at CRC
  • First sighting of frisky behaviour among the several thousand Black Scoters that are hanging out off the Cape.
  • First salmonberries forming deep with a cup of the flowers that have been pollinated by the Rufous Hummingbirds, the bumble bees and the first Yellowjackets of the spring.
It seems this year that we took a quantum leap into summer. I've been munching sword fern fiddleheads, peeled salmonberry shoots (not dipped in sugar like my Kwagiutl and Nuu-Chah-Nulth friends like them!) and eyeing the nettle patches. I'll have to go harvest some nettles soon, while they're still young and tender.

Walking home late Friday night off the water taxi, I could feel a strong cool wind in the Cove and in Horseshoe Bay. As we live about 100 meters above sea level, I had to climb up the hill to get home, and at the 5o meter level or so, I went through an inversion layer and the air seemed at least 6 or 7 degrees warmer. I realized that the cool breeze was in fact the result of cooler air sinking beneath the inversion.

These tiny katabatic winds are a sign of summer, when the energy of the air isn't driven by the large storm systems that slam into us from the North Pacific, but are rather small zephyrs inspired and driven by the local topography.

Sort of like someone I know...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The past month has been mostly lovely but there has been a persistent chill in the air. Anywhere there was wind, or in the shade, I could feel the cold in my bones. The snow level has been hovering around 1000 meters which seems low for this time of year.

However, since Monday spring has arrived. It's warm (breaking 20 degress in places) and even standing in the wind on a dock as I was waiting for a float plane to take me from Nanaimo to Vancouver today, the air was warm. It feels summery now, and the promise of spring seems set to come due.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I set out into the forest behind the house yesterday to do some sketching of the sword fern fiddleheads and came upon a winter wren hopping about around a patch of salal. I "pished," which is where you make all kinds of squeaky sounds to attract the attention of a passerine, and the little bird hopped up to an exposed branch, stared me straight in the eye, and warbled the call I had been trying to identify for years every spring, the one common trilling birdsong that had stumped me.

And to boot, this little wren WHISPERED it, lightly, almost just for me. He (I assume it was a he) then dropped down into the thicket chipping and whistling as he went about his work of presumably collecting nest materials. I stood watching him for about a half an hour, lifting my attention once and a while to engage with a couple of fawns passing through and a pilleated woodpecker who was working on an old nurse log a few meters away.

So finally...face to face with a singing winter wren. For me, these songs are the true call of spring, just as the spiralling trill of the Swainson Thrush marks summer and the low croak of ravens mixed with the weak wheeze of flocking chickadees fills the foggy days of winter. Each season has a sound tag that seeps into one's awareness leading one to unconsciously remove layers of clothes, switch from rain hats to ball caps, move from Gore-tex to wool. Bringing these markers to one's awareness brings us closer with the changes and more in line with the ways in which we are held by this little island.

Friday, April 8, 2005

On Wednesday, Finn and I went out bird watching. Here's what we saw:
  • 60 Common Goldeneyes rafting at Hood Point
  • 4 Pigeon Guillemots at the same location
  • Song Sparrows, robins, Towhees, Stellar Jays, Ravens, Crows, a wren I can't place and White-crowned Sparrows making merry with mating calls and nest materials.
  • Red-shafted Flickers and Hairy Woodpeckers calling and wood pecking.
  • Mallards, Common Mergansers, Buffleheads, Harlequins and Least Scaups being ducks
  • Canada Geese and the resident Mute Swan in Mannion Bay.
  • Gulls, both Mew and Glaucous-winged.
  • Redwinged Blackbirds Brewer's Blackbirds and Starlings being dark.
  • An immature Bald Eagle soaring above the Channel.
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Redbreasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins feeding at the feeder.
  • Rufous Hummingbirds looking BEAUTIFUL and danincing their elegant loops in the air, between sips at salmonberry blossoms.
  • Warblers...darting and being elusive and being highly unidentifiable in the alders by the ball field in the Cove.
That's a good day of wandering. It gets more interesting when you actually start looking for these birds!

Thursday, April 7, 2005

We have a choice to make on April 30. The residents of Bowen will be voting in a referendum to purchase the GVRD surplus lands around Snug Cove. This is an important vote, because owning those lands will mean that the community will control their development. That might include preserving some of them as parkland, constructing a community centre for performing arts and building our own municipal hall. If we don't buy these lands, it's likely that private developers will buy them, subdivide them and sell them and Bowen will have lost a chance to develop civic amenities in a prime location in the Cove.

There is a good set of reasons for voting YES at Bowen Online.

Now I don't generally publish rumours here, but this time I will, only to tease out some more information. A Bluewater resident today tells me that an off-island developer is building 37 new houses in Bluewater using off-island labour and generally being quiet about it. This is the area of the island that has the least water, and faces extremely severe shortages every summer. Thirty seven single dwellings is a huge increase to that neighbourhood. Unless the houses have their own water collection systems and very large cisterns, they are going to have a major negative effect on the surrounding water sources.

I have a lot of questions about this development, not the least of which is the sustainability of this new construction and whether or not prospective homebuyers know that they are buying into a virtually guaranteed suspension of water service in the summer. If you have info, or can clarify these speculations, leave a comment below.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Home late last night coming of the 12:30 water taxi, the wind was howling. It was choppy in the Channel, but we were in the big boat - the Apodaca - skimming the wave tops so it seemed. I dozed off to the rhythm of the boat and the white noise of the engine so that when we arrive in Snug Cove it was like still being in a dream. There was a high high tide, and the gangplank off the government dock was nearly horizontal. Walking over the weir which separates the Lagoon from Mannion Bay waves were breaking over the top which is very rare and salt water was flooding up into the fresh water lagoon. Once I had walked through Deep Bay and was heading along Miller Road, the trees were shedding boughs and branches and at one point, inside the Park a little a whole alder cam crashing down.

It was surreal, beautiful and awesome to be confronted with the raw and wild power of this early spring storm.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Great April Fool's article in the Undercurrent it here.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

In like a lamb and out like a lion:

Heavy rainfall warning for Howe Sound issued

Heavy rain is occurring over west Vancouver Island - coastal sections
and north Vancouver Island. Up to 80 mm has fallen so far over parts
of these regions and additional amounts of 30 to 70 mm are expected
before the rain eases tonight.

15 to 20 mm has also fallen over Howe Sound and northwestern sections
of greater Vancouver. Total rainfall amounts of 40 to 60 mm are
expected before easing early Friday morning.

This is a warning that heavy rain is imminent or occurring in these
Regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An intense pacific frontal system is moving southward along the British Columbia coast. In advance of the front southeast winds of 50 to 70 km/h will continue over the Sunshine Coast east Vancouver Island and west Vancouver Island - coastal sections. The strong winds will ease after midnight as the front moves inland.

In addition the frontal system continues to give heavy amounts of rain to west Vancouver Island - coastal sections and north Vancouver Island. Total amounts of up to 150 mm are expected in these two regions by Friday morning. Howe Sound and greater Vancouver will also receive heavy rain with total amounts of up to 60 mm falling by Friday morning.

As I write the wind is clearly gusting in the 60-70km/h range. That's the speed at which you can actually feel the air move through the house. Not so much rain is falling, but the wind is something fierce. I'll have to get out the battery powered alarm clock to rouse myself in the morning. Got a ferry to catch to Vancouver Island if they aren't cancelled. I'll take some shots of Bowen from the Strait and post them here for your enjoyment.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

We went down to Pebbly Beach today, which is just below our house on the north side of Mannion Bay (the beach on the other side is called Sandy Beach). We went down because this morning after Finn and I did the recycling, we were sitting in The Snug having an espresso and some sandwiches when Ken told us about a barge that had washed up on the beach. Said we should go have a look at it, maybe salvage some wood off it.

So we headed down around 2:00 and sure enough there was an enormous mussel encrusted barge pitched up sideways on the beach at the mouth of Rosebank Creek. It was about 25 meters long and stood probably 2.5 meters high, probably 10 meters wide. All wood, mostly rotten and built from huge beams bolted together with long bolts of iron. It looks for all intents and purposes like a beached whale, and it had that same air of forlornness about it, discarded, dead, smelling a little ripe, at the end of its days.

After exploring the barge we hung around the beach and timed the Barrow's Goldeneyes who seem to stay under water for between 25 and 30 seconds per dive. We also saw three Pelagic Cormorants flying north out in the channel, a small plane registered C-GNZI (here's a picture of it - it flies out of Pitt Meadows airport) and a Kingston class naval patrol boat (number 702 "Nanaimo" I think out of HMCS Esquimalt) heading out of the Sound. Towards the end of the afternoon, a Washington Marine Group tug hove into view towing chip barges (numbers 469 and 473 in the fleet).

It was a day of observing and noticing things.

I've installed new away!
Yes it's true...Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart have become the newest residents of Bowen Island. We welcome them heartily as we all shuffle around to make room. Like all newcomers to the island they are warmly invited to pick something to become involved in. The recycling centre is always in need of help, the community choir is a great place to meet folks and hang out and of course our Sunday evensong (2nd and fourth Sundays of every month at the United Church) is open to all for a half hour of reflection and silent meditation wrapped in Gregorian chant and classical liturgical music. Perhaps the fledgling Bowen Island Film Society would be to their liking as well.

Spring is the time of year that many people do buy houses and move here, and all are welcomed. It's important on this island that we all find ways to become involved in the life of this place. There are a million ways to do that and if there is nothing currently offered that strikes your fancy, it's easier than you think to start something here.

And to all newcomers and established residents alike, make sure you vote "YES" in the referendum on April 30.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

What a storm brewing out there tonight. The winds came up around 10:30pm and got stronger and stronger. They have been gusting above 70km/h and there is a wind warning issued. The rain started falling around midnight. It feels like November, and you can just FEEL the air pressure.

Unusual for spring...usually we get rain but not so stormy. Got the fire burning and just hunkered down for a wet and wild Easter weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Snug has reopened under new owners Andrea and Michael and after a whirlwind renovation featuring new floors, counters and a lovely red-orange paint job, they reopened this week.

It's the same old room, but a little bigger and with a fresh energy to it and a new menu. I'm really enjoying sitting in the corner table looking out at the traffic in the cove and catching up with my work. The wireless in the Cove is a huge asset to the Cove businesses and on island consultants and self-employed folks like me. It means we can come down to these businesses and patronize them and still get work done. I ran into Murray Atherton, the president of the Chamber of Commerce today and told him as much. He agreed. Now I suppose I have to join the Chamber! So I me that application Murray!

Spring has arrived and it truly feels the season today. We had some rain and a last Squamish wind last night, howling through the tress on the mountain above us, but calm where we are. There's a bit of cloud today but it's mostly sunny and I've been able to work outside a little, which has been fantastic. I love this time of year on the coast.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

There is a wonderful collection of photos of Bowen Island being compiled at Flickr.

You can view them seperately or, my favouritie, as a slide show.
If you are up for it, tomorrow night down at the fabulous Bowen Island eatery, Blue Eyed Mary's, I will be performing with my fiddle partner Randy Vic, some acoustic jigs and reels to accompany your special Irish meal.

Stephen and Carol have a fixed price menu whipped up that is NOT about green beer and leprecahns but rather about excellent repaste, beautiful wine and a tribute to some unknown treasures of Irish cooking.

And live music to boot.

Reservations recommended. For a sample of what you might hear, here is Hawtin's Return, a tune we recorded in 2003 for the Bowen Island Music Exchange CD.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Eight days in the North in Prince George, preceeded by four days in Kelowna and I'm finally back home on the rock, sitting at Cocoa West, sketching designs for learning journeys and facilitation processes. Good to be home.

The robins are back, the towhee's are giving their whistle call in the mornings and the dawn chorus is with us for its annual three and a half month songfest. The weather has been balmy lately, with sunshine and temperatures in the high teens. No wind, a little rain. El Nino dries out the tail end of winter, and we're already fearing a drought.

The Snug, my favourite little coffee shop on the Island has closed while it gets a minor renovation. Tanya and Chris sold it to new owners this month, preferring to opt out of running a small business while they welcome their first child into their lives. As long as I've been on Bowen I've seen the Snug owned by four owners and they have all kept it as a great little place for coffee and meeting friends. It is my on-island board room, writing space and lunch counter all in one. I wish the best for the new owners, and for Tanya and Chris and their little one.