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.