Monday, December 31, 2001

Still mostly clear weather here, and with the full moon over the last few nights, the light at night has been magic. There is something absolutely sublime about a forest bathed in moonlight.

I'm adding some links to the left hand column of this page so people can check the current conditions here on the island.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

What a great Christmas present we have had from the weather god. For almost a week now we have had clear skies, dry air and no wind. It has been cold at night, dipping below freezing with frost on the ground and then warming up in the day time to sweater weather.

We had a nice Christmas with Caitlin’s parents and sister visiting. Nice to spend the first one here, with a young Douglas-fir cut down from behind the composter serving as our Christmas tree. Living here, I immediately feel more connection to Solstice aspects of the mid-winter. There is little commercialism to speak of on the island, and avoiding town for the last few days has meant the focus of the season turns to friends and family and what is happening in the natural world around us. And what is happening of course is that the North Pole is tipping back towards the sun, and the days are becoming longer. There is a palpable feeling of this change in the air around.

We have discovered a new walk too, along the slope in front of our house. It’s a mile long loop that goes around through Miller’s Landing with lots of views through trees of entrance of Howe Sound to our south and the peaks of the Brittania Range stretching away to the north. Yesterday, Finn and I walked up to the beach at Miller’s Landing and sat together watching gulls whirl in the clear late afternoon air. The moon rose through a clean blue sky, and the sun began to set, turning the mountains, snow-capped and silent, into purple ramparts.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

After all the rain and wind, we have had three full days of cold, dry weather. Each morning there is a frost and there is ice everywhere. Where there is water dripping over rock faces, the ice forms a sheet beneath which black droplets of water creep.

We celebrated solstice in style last night, with a party at my friend Pauline Le Bel's new place on the water right below our house. Pauline is a truly neat woman; an actor, singer, writer, bookseller and all round fascinating person. A wide sample of Bowen musicians gathered at her house to jam and sing and make all kinds of wonderful and strange music.

Under a cloudless and moonless sky tonight, I stared up at the stars, getting a long look at Orion and Sirius and Auriga, all the winter constellations and stars that we rarely get to see. The rain is supposed to return for the weekend, so it pays to enjoy the clear cool weather now.

We have put up our Christmas tree, a douglas-fir sawed down from right beside our house where it was showing signs of growing into the eaves. It's about 7 feet tall, and stands in the corner of the living room now. Finally feeling Christmassy now.

Monday, December 17, 2001

This is what we put up with over the weekend:


That warning was from Environment Canada, and it truly came to pass. The wind drove the rain against our front windows, which is unheard of. On the ferry this mornining people talked about this being the worst storm in two or three years.

We sustained a little damage to the house, with a small leak appearing in the ceiling in the living room. Nothing to worry about, as it only started dripping after six hours of wind driven rain and it only dripped for a few minutes, but nevertheless, the water found a way in.

Weather aside I had the great pleasure to sing tenor with Bowen's Women's Choir, Nota Bene last night. Nota Bene is directed by Alison Nixon who is a wonderful conducter with great taste. The concert, billed as a concert of Peace and Light, was held at the Cates Hill Chapel, a beautful church on the island. Four of us men joined the choir for two pieces by the American composer Mortens Lauridsen from his suite called Lux Aeterna. Stunning pieces both of them and a real treat to be able to sing with the women. It ws a peaceful cap to a torrid weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Written on the morning of December 11...

The Island awakes with the dawn in the summer time. When there is light early in the morning, everything opens and rises long before the humans do. But in the winter, in the dark and rainy mornings like this, it is the arrival of the first ferry that awakens the island.

The first commuter ferry is at 5:40am, and in order to guarantee a spot on it, and enough time to get a coffee at The Snug, people start arriving in their cars by about 5. in the depths of late fall, this means that humans stir long before the owls have stopped hunting and the feral cats have retreated to the woods.

This morning, I am a foot passenger, walking in the pitch black and the pouring rain from our house down to the Cove. And I eschewed a flashlight this morning too, preferring to walk in the darkness and quietly falling rain simply to be present at the daily rebirth of the island. Many people who visit here and experience the night comment on how dark it gets on Bowen. The only streetlights are the three that line the last stretch of Government Road down to the ferry dock. Other than that, the only source of light is the light from houses, Christmas lights or the glow of the city reflecting off the low clouds. Walking in this half light can be hazardous if one is timid, but a confident footfall ensures steadiness.

There is something otherworldly about walking in the pre dawn darkness and falling rain. It is as if the world slips by me rather than me walking through it. Certainly until my eyes adjusted to the meagre light this morning it almost felt as if I was floating in space, the darkness enveloping me like a blanket. Strangely it is a feeling of at once claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Both fear of being smothered and fear of being in a wide open space. This anxiety can really eat away at one’s psyche. Overcoming this is a rite of passage for anyone moving from the constant brightness of the city to the real night of the island.

In this pre-dawn world, the 5:40 is almost entirely a world full of men. The tables in the lounge are full of men talking about taxes, work, their houses. It is conversation full of shrugs and started threads that fade away in half truths and speculation. This morning they are talking about why the ferry is 30 minutes late, what is taking so long to get us away from the dock. The perennial favourite topic of conversation is BC Ferries’ ongoing incompetence. It seems as if every mistake, unanticipated delay or mechanical failure somehow indicts the whole corporation. The good stuff gets lost, like the fact that they are going to call ahead and let the 6:30 Nanaimo ferry know that I am running late, so I don’t miss it. They even sold me a ticket at the snack bar. So now I can float a little more confidently over all the talk of the ongoing revamping of Horseshoe Bay, the delay in getting the Queen of Capilano back in service and this interminable delay this morning.

There is a little light creeping into the early morning darkness.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Days are all running together lately: a little rain, a little sun, once in a while there is a little snow that washes away as soon as it falls. The ocean is slate grey below us. The silhouette of Whytecliff is charcoal grey. The sky is ash grey.

The other night, as it snowed I heard strange noises coming from Deep Bay. Noises like those that a dolphin would make. Sort of high pitched buzzing or squeaking noises.

No one knows what it was; some say an owl, but it didn't bark or hoot like Barred Owls do. No one who lives closer to the water than we do has heard them.

Just another Bowen Island mystery.

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

The weather has definitely taken a sudden change for the wintry. Yesterday morning, I awoke to frost on the ground, and little bits of ice covering puddles. On an afternoon walk with my friend Richard Schulz from Calgary around the lake, we noticed pockets of ice, even later in the day.

Eventually, at about 7:30 in the evening it started snowing wet snow, much to Aine’s delight, which made for a hairy drive down to the ferry to drop Richard off. Our driveway is really steep, and backing down, even in a small coating of wet snow was almost impossible. I slid around for a while until Richard finally helped me out and eventually we got in the road. We drove all the way to the Cove in first gear. It was easier coming home as a plow had cleared the way and the commuter traffic melted the rest. By about 10:00pm the snow had turned to mixed snow and rain, and things were looking sloppy.

Today the snow is still on the ground but it is crusted over with a thin layer of frozen rain. It’s toasty here now, in front of the fire. Turn out to be a very cosy place to write.

It was a busy weekend. Friday night Randy Vic and Paul Hawtin came over for a gig at Doc Morgan’s, my first on the island. We were pretty well received, and, more importantly we had a ball playing. Paul is leaving for Ottawa in December, so getting a chance to play with him was a treat. He is a DADGAD guitarist par excellence. Randy was on fiddle, with the odd banjo piece. I stuck to the flute all night as my whistle had unrecoverable intonation errors.

Friday was also the arrival of our dear friend Vivienne Weitzner from Ottawa who was in Vancouver for a conference. She joined us for the annual (second year now!) Lighting of the Cove on Saturday which is a great event. Starting up the hill at Artisan Square, people bring lanterns (or buy them from the folks at the Family Place) and stand around singing carols led by the Artisan Squires and the Morris dancers. About 100 or so folks showed up.

After a short countdown, someone threw a switch and all the lights went on in Artisan Square, following which we traipsed down the hill under the watchful eye of the RCMP 4x4 and repeated the process at Cates Square, where the Ruddy Potato folks were handing out hot apple cider and Bowen’s Celtic ensemble, Contraband, was playing.

The next stop was in the Cove proper, after a brief look in at the nativity play going on at the Breakfast CafĂ©. Down at Doc Morgan’s, there was a fire juggler and a last lighting of businesses down by the ferry dock. Then the main event began with Santa Claus arriving on the water taxi to the absolutely beaming joy of all the kids. He disembarked and made his way up the Union Steamship Company marina ramp into the waiting throng of kids. Rondy, the owner of Doc’s was handing out hot chocolate, carrot cake and brownies while Santa distributed candy canes.

By this time it was absolutely pouring rain, but as there was no wind, no one seemed to be getting very wet. Nevertheless, Vivienne remarked about how strange it was to see so many people standing around in the rain getting soaked. It’s an acquired survival skill for living on the coast I guess.

Friday, November 30, 2001

[11/30/2001 2:44:39 AM | Chris Corrigan]

Here is something I've been meaning to write about.

Ever since we arrived here on Bowen we have followed with interest the life cycle of the Western White Clematis, aka Virgin Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia). It's a native plant that climbs anything, sometimes reaching 10m or more. They grow all over the place, colonizing Douglas-firs and weaving around Ocean Spray and salmon berry bushes. They have a little white flower that blooms in July and stays bloomed until September at which time the seed heads form on long tendrils, tripling the size of the flower.

By this time of year the seed heads are mature and have grown fluffy and huge. They catch the sun and from a distance look like massive cherry blossoms. Right now this is the state they are in. There is a huge one growing up a tree on our neighbour's front yard which we can see from the living room window. For most of the day the sun shines through it lighting the whole thing up. Caitlin says they seem to take whatever light there is and multiply it, so that in the twilight they fairly glow.

Here is a photo of one in all it's seed head glory:

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Winter is creeping down the mountains. Today was crystal clear and pretty cool. The snow on the North Shore mountains was breathtaking, down around the 1700 foot mark. There was a dusting on Mount Gardiner too, but the snow on Mount Apodaca yesterday, lower at 1500 feet was gone after rains last night.

Clean cool air, gllistening water, everything perfect.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Right now I'm in a period where I can do most of my work on the island, which means steadying the never ending writing assignments with some ritual break in the day. Either this takes the form of the Globe and Mail cryptic, playing some flute tunes, or, more frequently, wandering down to the Cove for the midafternoon siesta.

There is a period in the middle of the day where almost nothing happens in the Cove. The ferry takes a 2.5 hour break at lunch and so there is hardly any car traffic down there. That's when I love to go to The Snug and douse myself in a latte and maybe their soup of the day. And it is always interesting in there. Today, just as I was about to leave in walked my friend Bob Doucet and we chin wagged for a while about working from home and so on. Then Andy Hilhouse joined us, stopping in for a somoza on his way home to North Van after his weekly teaching stint at Island Pacific School. Running into friends in the coffee shop is just about the finest way I can think to pass the afternoon by.

The other reason I love walking lately is that I get to watch winter creep down the mountains. There is fresh snow on the North Shore mountains almost everyday now and it is getting lower and lower. The air is growing crisper and the light is starting to get that wintry lemony tint about it. It's just spectacular in the still afternoon air to watch this season descend from the alpine down to us. Our first snow fall cannot be far off. We're within about 3000 feet now.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Cold night, relatively speaking. This is one of those nights when the temperature is down well into the single digits and the smell of snow is lingering in the still air. Thin cloud out there, but too much of it to see the aurora storm that is buffeting us right now. As I write a late night tug is towing a barge or a boom north into the Sound.

Friday, November 23, 2001

By the way, I've been building top down fires. They seem to burn longer. And it is a neat trick...

The thing I love about the walk between our house and Snug Cove is exchanging waves with drivers heading in the opposite direction. I used to wave at cars going the same way as I was too, but they would stop and see if I needed a lift, so now it's just folks that are going the other way. This is something which is a prevalent aspect of island life, no more so than on Cortes Island, but seemed to me to be a waning activity on this island. I have set out to change that. I now wave at every car passing me. More and more, people are waving back. Maybe they think I'm crazy, but lots of people also smile when they do it. Little tiny acts that create community.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

More wild weather lately. We've had a series of lows come in off the Pacific bringing furious south easterlies. Not the same amount of rain, but strong wind, gusting to 70km/h again, and leading to wind warnings. There are lots of small branches on the ground, Douglas fir cones and needles.

We're getting more and more weaved into the island social scene. On Sunday night we went over to our friend Brian and Shasta's house for a drum circle and a potluck dinner. These two are serious community builders, a pair after my own heart. It seems that whenever some interesting business gets going, Shasta and Brian are behind it. They are thoughtful stewards of the island community and great musicians. Good cooks too.

We've started to get some dinner invitations too which feels like we are settling in. Once winter descends on this part of the world, people begin to reach out and open their homes, in the hopes that we all can hang on for the wet months.

Speaking of which, it has felt more like fall this week, although yesterday the sun peeked out and illuminated the low clouds clinging to the slopes of Mount Gardiner. A few ravens about, but the flocks of juncos and kinglets have puffed themselves up as if there is both safety and heat in numbers. That's as sure a sign of deep fall as any. The other sure sign is the humming of our little woodstove as it consumes the firewood I bought last month from some enterprising and hard working students. We had some nice dry alder that came with the house, and we still have a lot of it left, but it burns so hot that I've added the newer wood to slow it down a little and keep the stove warm longer. It's taking a while to get the science of wood burning down pat, but I've getting the hang of the variables of wood and stove and now almost ready to try building a top down fire. Seriously!

The Leonids were amazing by the way. The nice weather held long enough for me to go out at 1:30am and spend an hour watching the meteors streak across the sky. They came every few seconds until I got cold and went in. Others who saw them reported busy activity at 5am too. Nice to have a dark sky to see them for a change.

Saturday, November 17, 2001

Living on an island means having to accept what you are given a lot of the time. You have one lumber yard, one general store, one bookstore. If you are lucky it's a good thing. If it isn't, there isn't much incentive to change.

Here we are blessed with one great breakfast spot for weekends. The Breakfast Cafe, owned by a lovely English couple with a passion for traditional music and a real good set of skillet skills. It's a treat for us to wander down there and order up a "Paisly" (poached eggs with smoked salmon and asparagus on an English Muffin with Hollandaise) or a Pear Waffle with caramel and yogurt. Or the "Aine Special", which is scrambled eggs and hashed potatoes smothered in cheese.

And that's what we had today there.

And what a beautiful crisp fall day. There is not a cloud in the sky and no wind to speak of. There is a boat out on the channel right now valiently trying to find a breeze. It's going around in circles. It looks like the weather will hold for the meteors tonight to which is wonderful.

Belly full, tea in hand, I've settled down to work on a Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours.

Friday, November 16, 2001

Summer returned, so it seems today. One advantage of the heavy wind is that it tends to clear the clouds out pretty quickly, and that's what has happened. Now the sun is sinking in a mid-fall early afternoon kind of way closing what was a really warm day. I had to go into town early this morning to get one of my eyes looked at and came back on the sparsely populated 10:10am ferry. It was just beautiful on the water. Warm, with a light breeze. As I walked back across The Causeway at the foot of The Lagoon, there were Chinook and Chum making their way up the fish ladder, the Chinook flshing red and green and the Chum all mottled grey and white.

Now the water looks slack out in the Queen Charlotte Strait. No more wind. Douglas-fir needles piled up like snow on the side of the road. Hopefully the weather will hold until Sunday when the Leonid meteor showers are on.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

No damage from the wind last night. Power stayed on and trees stayed up, so everything survived. There was a big swell at sea today, made all the more rolling by the narrower hull on the Bowen Queen.

Parents left today, and I travelled with them into Vancouver. We had a nice visit, seeing a little of the Island, whetting their appetite for more. They had a nice stay at the Lodge At the Old Dorm, which is the old Union Steamship Company staff dorm. renovated and converted into a great B&B - very much a labour of love for Dan, the proprieter. It's a lovely place, and he has a nice touch.

Ferry overloaded so we wandered somewhat aimlessly around the Cove for an hour mostly trying to stretch out my dad's back which had spasmed after he fell on some wet stairs.
We are in the middle of what feels like a hurracaine. The house is making strange noises. The weather office says that the wind is to reach 70km/h tonight, and I think that it just gusted to that 30 seconds ago. There was a heave, and a draft actually flowed through the house. Fir needles hit the front windows like bullets. My heart lept there. This is really scary. I had to wait for the sweat to leave my fingertips before I could start writing again. Whew.

Everything seems to be holding together. At least my firewood will dry out.

There is a term for the kind of storm that is raging outside the house right now. Here on the coast it is known as a "Pineapple Express." These kinds of storms deliver strong south-easterly winds and heavy, heavy rains right to the front of the house. Water literally cascades off the roof. Yesterday we had 100 millimetres of rain projected, which is 10cms. Which is the equivalent of one metre of snow, should it have precipitated that way. Luckily, the Pineapple Express at this time of year is also accompanied by mild air temperatures, and despite the heavy rains, there is no snow on the mountains.

The Chinook love this weather. They are all massing at the bottom of the fish ladder on Kilarney Creek and valiantly leaping into the waterfall. It's punishing to watch them try to get up there. The smart ones are heading for the ladder where they jump in discreet leaps up the gentle grade to the calm water above.

My parents have been here visiting for the week, which has been great. They complained about my Bowen Island journal not being updated frequently enough, so I've converted it to a web log which is much easier to post to and maintain.

Chaos at the ferry these days. The Queen of Capilano, which is our regular ferry went in for her annual refit and was replaced by the much older Bowen Queen which holds 15 fewer cars and is a lot more cramped upstairs. Combined with a berth closure at Horseshoe Bay for regular maintenance, and you have the makings of half hour delays, frequent overloads and the odd irate islander. It makes for a wonderful chance to practice patience...