Monday, June 15, 2009

The miracle of garlic

So, next spring, if you have never done so, plant a garlic clove in the ground. One small clove does amazing things. First it produces a small green shoot that looks like a spring onion. The shoot grows and grows and branches and eventually comes to look like a leek. In fact you'd be fooled into thinking that it IS a leek, and you will wonder how so much growth could come from a humble little garlic clove.

But the show doesn't end there. After pushing up a whole leek, the clove produces the most amazing spiral tendril topped with an elegant onion dome that rivals the architecture of Ukrainian churches. It's as if there is a nuclear powerplant lurking just under the soil.

You stand there looking at all this growth and think to yourself: jeez.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Our small community has been hit with a spate of very sad deaths over the last couple of weeks. Four people have died, including two tragically, and people are starting to feel very besieged. There are few long time islanders who will not have been touched by the deaths of these four.

Caroline O'Neil was a long time islander, a familiar face in many places including at the Ruddy Potato and at Nancy's Taco Shop on the Pier. She died suddenly last week. Also passing soon after her was George Proudlock, another long time islander. When people like this die, a part of the community dies with them. They are such a part of the fabric of the place, that we change when they are no longer among us.

And hard as those passings have been, nothing has been harder than the deaths of two young people in road accidents. Lance Mulligan, a new islander but one who made himself friends in the fastpitch league, and amongst his colleagues in the tree business died doing what he loved, which was skateboarding. Bowen's roads are just not safe enough for boards of any type, and Lance's accident near the school has given many pause for thought on road safety.

And then last night, a tragedy down the road from us when a car with three young people in it went off the Miller Road by the bend at Kilarney Creek. Speed was certainly a factor in this accident in which one of Bowen's 19 year old youth lost his life. There has been a vigil of young people at the accident site all day grieving and comforting one another. On another beautiful summer day, folks have been out and about and enjoying the sunshine but the death of this young man has been spoken of in whispers and shared silences.

Too many roadside memorials now, too many funerals. A keen awareness of the fine line between living on and dying, even in the generous beauty of the early summer weather. Please, for the sake of all of us, slow down, be careful and use prudence and good judgement.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What birds are singing?

Here is a great link to a chart done by a Vancouver Island birder who is tracking the evolution of the dawn chorus.

To the Cape

Finn and I went out on our first salmonberry picking trip of the year, and came back with a couple of pounds of fruit, some of which will be baked into a salmonberry cheesecake for my birthday this weekend! The bushes are good, heavy with berries and very healthy this year.

Last night Caitlin and I put the canoe in at Tunstall Bay and paddled to Cape Roger Curtis. I have never been down to the Cape by water before. Most of the shoreline is rocky cliff along the water, much higher than it seems from the land. There are only a couple of beaches but there are several little coves. Some of the trees are amazing. There is one shore pine that looks like someone has literally thrown it against the side of the cliff and it has stuck there. Next time I go, I'll take a camera.

The Cape is really the most wild and beautiful place on this island. We picnicked by the lighthouse watching tow boats and ferries lazily move by while overhead planes made their wide turn over the Strait to make final approach at YVR. Closer to the sea, there were four eagles out and about trying their luck at fishing but only a nearby heron was having any luck. We had an escort seal for the trip back who seemed also to be having some luck chasing salmon out in the channel.

We have high spring tides right now, and the beaches and reefs were completely submerged making for a leisurely trip back poking into the coves and caves on the way.

All in all a nice end to a summery day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Perfectly afloat

My mother in law owns a 16' Clipper canoe that has a semi-permanent home at our place. This spring I have been taking it out on the lake and, more recently, the ocean.

Last night, we took it down to Bowen Bay to spend the evening at the beach, relishing the heat wave that is hitting us with 30 degree heat and setting new records for June high temperatures. In the evening, there was nary a whisper of wind and so I took the canoe out for a solo paddle heading well out of Bowen Bay and out into the Collingwood Channel. There were no boats around and only the very gentlest of swells. My boat drifted on the ebb tide, being watched by a seal that popped up at various intervals off my stern with a little puff of rancid breath. I lolled around out there until the sun set behind the gentle low slopes of Mount Elphonstone and then headed back in, paddling towards the waxing moon, which is now skirting low on the southern horizon.

Perfectly afloat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer fauna

In the last week a bunch of summer fauna have appeared:
  • Bats
  • Swainson's Thrushes 
  • Spring Azure butterflies
  • Mosquitos
  • Tanagers
It's still hot, the smoke has cleared and I can hardly believe that we'll get the June rains, but I'm optimistic we will.  Berries need it and the garden too.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Smoke on the water

A most glorious weekend here on Bowen.  The weather has been amazing for the past week and our garden is in.  Saturday we went up to Tir na Nog to see Aine's latest performance, another retelling of The Neverending Story.  After seeing this play for the fourth time in about eight years, I think I finally get it, and the blur between reality and fantasy is a resonant trope for Tir na Nog families.

Later Saturday night I caught up with Corbin Keep, who moved over to Gabriola last year.  He was back for a performance at The Gallery in front of a small group of friends.  Most of the arts loving islanders were over in Vancouver at a concert that Alison Nixon put together to raise money for a therapeutic community she is helping to create for families living with mental health challenges.  Corbin's crowd was amused and amazed by his antics, songs, satires and sheer hubristic bizarreness.  Much ink has been spilled about Corbin's ability to wring a symphony of sounds out of a cello, but to see him is really to believe.  And to see him at home among friends is a lovely treat.

Sunday, I went with Aine down to the Pier for some tacos and sat in with some of Bowen's fine bluegrass players, including Murray Journeay, Bob Doucet, Jeff Scouten and Paul "One-Winged" Grant among opthers.  some soccer with Finn and Caitlin.  During Caitlin's scrimmage between her women's team and the U14 boys at the Bowen Island Football Club, she got caught in a hole in the field and tore her hamstring.  Poor one...she's laid up in a pretty peck of pain and her season is probably done.  

This morning, coming across to Vancouver with my friend Steven Wright, we noticed the smell of smoke on the wind.  Once we got to the Cove we could see why.  There is a 550 hectare forest fire burning up at Gold Lake near Lillooet and the light Squamish wind that had come up in the night had sucked smoke from there down to the Coast.  From Vancouver there is a brown smear across the horizon and the sun rose angrily through it this morning, promising a day of 30 degrees and probably more smoke to come.  

June always brings rains, so this taste of summer is usually shortlived, but by God, it feels like July out there already and one gets the feeling that a long hot summer is in the works.