Saturday, December 28, 2002

Apparently we're not the only ones out looking for mushrooms today. The recent rain has been good for sprouting mushrooms and today Aine discovered another kind new to us: Mica cap. This particular mushroom was covering a large cedar stump near the hatchery, very beautiful in it's glory, dusky brown caps, grey gills and slender pale stem.

The weather has turned cold and wet now, and a walk down at Cape Roger Curtis a couple of days ago was mostly along the path-cum-streambed. When we got to the beach there were loons and seals to watch out in Tunstall Bay. On the way and back there were friends and neighbours all enjoying a Bowen Boxing Day ritual: being in the woods.

Yesterday we had snow and rain and sleet for some of the day. Nothing stuck here, but today there is snow on Mount Gardner, the first of the season. Tonight the stars were amazingly sharp in the cold clear air. Jupiter rose high above Whytecliffe, followed later by Venus and the waning crescent moon, only a fist width apart.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Christmas Eve and the typical Bowen response to these kinds of high holidays is, of course, music.

We had a beautiful Choral Evensong at the United Church on Sunday night. Just me, Alison Nixon (our director) and Carol MacKinnon, as beautiful an alto as there is. We sang our usual repetoire of chant but we did a twist for the anthem. With only the three of us there, Alison and Carol sang a duet while I filled in on flute and Alison added some on violin. It was great. Must have been a strange thing for our little audience of five to hear, the choir suddenly becoming a band and then going back to being a choir again.

If you're on Bowen, I hertily invite you to spend every second and fourth Sunday evening from 8-8:30 with us at the United Church. The service is all music with one reading and generally the people that come out get into a meditative state pretty early and stay that way until well after we finish singing. Our repetoire is a mix of Gregorian Chant (from the Missa de Angelis), contemporary chant (some from the Iona Community) and classical liturgical anthems.

And in the true spirit of do it yourself music, it seems that carolling broke out down in Deep Cove this evening. Beautiful. We have no snow but we have the voices of the people rising into the cool night air, breath swirling by the light of the waning moon, bringing on a deeply reflective season.

Merry Christmas to all...

It's coming on Christmas

They're cutting down trees

They're putting up reindeer

And singing songs of joy and peace

Oh I wish I had a river

I could skate away on

But it don't snow here

It stays pretty green

I'm going to make a lot of money

Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene

I wish I had a river

I could skate away on

-- Joni Mitchell

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Today the clouds become much higher and thinner and a trip across Howe Sound in the teeth of a moderate Squamish revealed peaks dusted for the first time with the first snow of fall. And only a day before winter begins!

As I was cruising the web, I found a nice description of mountains, from a blogger in Japan at Notes From Pure Land Mountain


These mountains, like all mountains, are written up by ecologists in a scientifico-pretentious kind of way, sort of like accountants talking to each other, in a distancing style that has by default become the way people talk about natural things now when they want to sound authoritative, which is a damn shame, in view of the fact that there is so much more involved than science and sounding authoritative. I like the old mythological mystery ways, in which one could actually talk with mountains, as being more real, and far closer to the point, which is to unite us with our surrounds. Or sing the mountains. A mountain is a helluva lot more than rocks and trees, as everybody knows in their hearts; yet that is what we are told to save. As if this whole thing were a Saturday matinee serial in which we were the heroes in white and the mountains (or the entire earth, no less!) a fair damsel in distress tied across some railroad tracks as the great steaming black juggernaut of civilization roars nearer, when of course it is the big black juggernaut that will be the one to go off the tracks into the abyss...

...and other fantasies. But when the mountains look like this, they really do sing, a song of cold pure tones and long notes of unrivalled clarity. There is no harmony in them at this time of year, only the thin single voices that ring across the inlet, more vibration than tone, like the metal of a temple bell that has just been struck.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Well the talk is turning to BC Ferries and a bunch of changes they are making to their fare pricing system, among other things. Not just here but on the less populated Howe Sound Islands of Keats and Gambier as well.

Basically, the new direction for BC Ferries, as summarized in this document will see the Corporation become privatized, but highly regulated.

As usual the Liberal government's reasons for doing this are a little contrived:

After extensive review, the new structure emerged as the optimal solution to the challenge of ensuring a sustainable future for coastal ferry services. This structure resembles the Vancouver International Airport Authority.

It meets the objective of creating a modern, safe and reliable ferry system that provides superior service while removing the financial risk for British Columbia taxpayers.

Whatever that means. One thing is for sure, and that is that there was an appallingly small amount of consultation done on this. That alone is typical of this government, and especially our invisible MLA, Ted Nebbeling who is more concerned with padding his bank account from a successful Whistler Olympic bid than engaging his constituents in any kind of meaningful discussion about really important issues, like what they want their ferry service to be like.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

It's been busy around here lately but here's an update. The weather has changed and the last few days have seen heavy rain and high winds. Our chimmney cap blew off today and is hanging from the top of the stovepipe rather forlornly flapping in the wind.

Tonight was our community choir concert and we all had a ball singing everything froma jazzy version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town to serious Bach. Lots of fun, and a great community event. As we were about to begin our set tonight, the heavens opened on Cates Hill Chapel where we were singing and the rain literally thundered down. The first piece we were singing was very quiet and subtle and the rain was an amazing bed in which to lay down the music.

Hopefully the weather will clear fairly soon. I have a good friend visiting from Chicago and he hasn't seen the mountain tops in five days.

Friday, November 29, 2002

This morning, sleeping on the front porch, nestled in a down sleeping bag, I was awakened by the sound of an eagle whislting in the tress below our house. When I opened my eyes, and turned to see him, my head was filled was the most astonishing light. The sunrise was turning the altocumulus clouds blood red and the sea was the colour of a pale rose. This lasted for nearly twenty minutes, the colours growing more and more intense and the washing out as the sun finally rose and shone brightly through the small gap between the bottom of the cloud deck and the horizon. We had sunlight for ten minutes before it rose above the grey clouds, and the sky and the sea returned to the colour of steel.

The eagle, the grey, the coming winter, especially when contrasted with the unreal colours of the sunrise put me in mind of a poem by Denise Levertov about settling in to life on the coast:


I was welcomed here—clear gold

of late summer, of opening autumn,

the dawn eagle sunning himself on the highest tree,

the mountain revealing herself unclouded, her snow

tinted apricot as she looked west,

Tolerant, in her steadfastness, of the restless sun

forever rising and setting.

Now I am given

a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,

a grey both heavy and chill.

I've boasted I would not care,

I'm London-born.

And I won't. I'll dig in,

into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.

Grey is the price

of neighboring with eagles, of knowing

a mountain's vast presence, seen or unseen.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Here on Bowen we have a pretty funky little alternative school called Island Pacific School. Every year, the Grade 10 students there have an opportunity to create a Masterworks project, which is essentially a thesis developed over the course of the year with an academic advisory committee and community mentors. Every year the Undercurrent, our little local paper publishes a list of these theses as a call to community mentors to help students learn in their chosen fileds. Every year the community gets blown away by lists like this:

A Voyage Of Faith

Buddhism: A Cultural Study

An Analysis of Social Morality in Modern Society with Reference to Lawrence Kohlberg

Black Holes: Theories Then and Now

Britannia Mine: An Environmental Issue

An Overview of Developed World Automobile Emissions

Power to the People: A look at anarchy and it's implications in our lives

Mission Impossible

Messages in the Ice Cubes

Greek mythology in our world

Nationalistic views surrounding Israel

Haunted Heroes: The Reason for Military Ethics

Fractals and Chaos: Exploring Reality

Now how scary is it that we have 15 year olds running around studying these things AND community mentors who don't even bat an eyelash at the prospect of helping out?

File it away in the "Reasons I love this place" folder....

For a complete list of the IPS Masterworks projects, have a look at their site.

Friday, November 22, 2002

It's a beautiful day out there right now, lots of low cloud and fog on the Sound which is currently drifting and breaking up in the morning sun. We've had two dry days in a row now, which has compensated for the wet start to the week. Over a 30 hour period on Monday and Tuesday we had 210 millimeters of rain fall. That's something like eight inches. Take a piece of letter sized paper and stand it on its side. That's how much rain we had.

The result is that the creeks are flowing again, and how! The salmon all moved when they had the chance and apparently on Wednesday the fish were thick on Killarney Creek heading into the fish ladder past Bridal Veil Falls. Across the channel, on the continent, there is snow on the tops of the highest peaks: The Lions, Mount Harvey and Mount Brunswick are all white capped now. A high pressure system that came through after all the rain forced some strong Squamish out winds on Wednesday, but the last two days have been calm and really warm. It'll probably be +10 or higher today. We're expecting a cold front later to day and temperatures will drop to below freezing tonight.

It's all a sign that winter is coming here in the Sound.

Last year when I started this Journal, it was suggested to me that doing so would have real value for me as I reflected on what it was like to first move here. Later, as I shared news of this site's existence with people, it became clear that one role of this writing is to document life in a peaceful place, and to hold it there for people like my friend Avner who lives in Israel and facilitates dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians who are searching for peace.

Now there is another reason to write. Last weekend my brother got married in Toronto, and his new wife is the daughter of Albert Plant, who spent a lot of his childhood in the late 1930s and early 1940s with his family ensconced in No. 5 cottage on Snug Point. Meeting Albert and his sister Elva was a delight, and, despite all the pressures of a wedding and entertaining, I managed to spend a couple of wonderful hours with them reminiscing about what Bowen was like sixty years ago. Every time Albert came into the room where we were talking he had another comment or story about Bowen, his "Paradise Island" as he called it. He told me of days spent starting his first business, recycling the beer bottles that party goers left strewn around the Cove after the famous dances at the Union Steamship Company resort. He shared stories about lashing together logs into a raft and sailing around Mannion Bay, or falling on the rocks on the Cove side of Snug Point and wandering around Deep Bay confused by a concussion. Alva and Albert used to sneak into the Sunday school picnics that came to the Island every weekend. They would enter races and try and sneak a hot dog or two before a bemused Minister would recognize them as not of his flock and shoo them away.

In the midst of our whirlwind story telling session, Albert produced a reel of film that his father had shot in 1943, which was the last year the came to visit. By that time, the USSC parties were too much to bear for a young family and they took a place in Crescent Beach instead, where Elva now lives. Albert promised to transfer the film to video. I'm dying to see it, see what life was like here back then, and I'll be sure that a copy gets to the archives.

So here's another reason to keep writing this little log. For Albert and Elva and anyone else who stumbles across this piece of Bowen in cyberspace. I heard some great stories last weekend in Toronto; it's the least I could do to share some of mine.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

The election results are in and our purple booted mayor won re-election. The work certainly begins now for the new Council, who, among other things, have to deal with water, the Snug Cove plan and offloading provincial responsibility for policing and roads.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Bowen in the news:

We may be the first place in Canada to sell "biodisel", a fuel made from reprocessed vegtable oil. Geoff Hill, a young UBC graduate is currently producing the stuff and running his car off it. And as this article tells, it may not be long before our new gas station is offering it for sale.

There is talk in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, of which we are a small, small part, of amalgamating several of the 21 municipalities into four or even one mega city. A recent poll has shown that many Lower Mainland residents are in favour of this, but it remains to be seen how Bowen Islanders feel about joining Lions Bay, and North and West Vancouver (from whom we sort of split in 1999). Funny the things that come to light during municipal campaigns.

And leaving aside the noosphere for a moment and peering at the geosphere (many new weather links on the left), we have just come through our first Pineapple Express of the year. We had more rain in the past two days than we have had since the early summer. More is promised all week. But what has really signalled the harbinger of fall is our first windstorm that happened last night and this morning. We had winds gusting at 70km/h, and up on the northern part of Vancouver Island they were gusting at hurricane force. My friends Chris Robertson who lives on the west side of Howe Sound on the Sunshine Coast watched as a maple tree lost all of its leaves in one sudden gust this morning. The leaves enveloped his neighbors house like a yellow cloud.

Thursday, November 7, 2002

Somehow our own little village got a website. came online this week. Take a peek around. My favourite part is this picture:

Ooooo. Ahhhh. That's one of the nicest photos of our little inlet I've seen anywhere. You can see Point Atkinson on the far right and then the mainland curving around to Whytecliff. Directly above Whytecliff, that tall triangular peak, is Mount Ellesemere. Below Ellesmere to the right in the haze is Anvil Island and to the left is Gambier, and next to that is Mount Collins, on Bowen. At the far left edge of the photo is Dorman Point rising to Mount Apodaca which juts out in front of Mount Collins and forms the southern promontory of Mannion Bay (usually, but not officially, called Deep Bay). Little Passage Island lies at the entrance to the Sound below Dorman Point.


Monday, November 4, 2002

We have an election on and the silly season is beginning.

Bowen was incorporated three years ago after many years of discussions back and forth on the issue. The first Council had a lot on their plates, getting a municipality up and running, staffing it and making it work. And now here we are at Bowen's second ever election, with a slate of good candidates and two folks running for mayor.

Go Lisa! How can you not vote for a mayor that wears purple boots?

Wow. It's been a while since I have blogged about life here. Maybe that's because it seems like nothing has changed much over the past little while.

The fact is, that I think a huge part of my motivation to to notice and write about things here on Bowen is tied to the weather. The more changeable the weather is, the more I notice. And right now we are sitting in a period of incredible continuity. In all of October we had only 18mm of rain. That was an all time record for this region. For the most part the month was sunny and reasonably warm with frosty nights just beginning in the last week. With the exception of a moderate Squamish wind a few nights ago, it has been very calm. We are basking under some kind of freak high pressure zone that just keeps delivering unseasonable beautiful weather.

But while the weather has been gorgeous, it hasn't been without cost. Notably water levels are very low, and with the dry summer we had, there are creeks on Bowen that are still dry, a never seen before phenomenon in November. Killarney Creek, which boasts a coho and a chum salmon run has only a trickle of water in it, not nearly enough for the salmon to even get a taste of their homestream let alone move up it. Without significant rainfall in the next few weeks, the salmon will weaken and their breeding liklihood will decrease.

But salmon aside, no one is complaining, and the Douglas-firs on Mount Gardner seem to be raking barely enough moisture out of the sky to keep the forest moist if not ideal for mushroom hunting. The water resevoirs are low all over the coast, and hopefully we'll see them top up soon. At least no one is needing to water their gardens too much, this being November and all.

The nice weather was welcome on Haloween, which is a very special time here on Bowen; it's pretty much the national holiday. The community pulls together to puit on a number of events, the centre piece of which are the Haunted House and the fireworks display. The Haunted House is more of an interactive theatrical performance than a simple trick or treat gag. The whole of Collins Hall and the grounds of the United Church were converted to a very creepy set of scenes, featuring a labyrinthine passage through the Hall and past scenes of frightening surprise and pure horror. The actors, set designers and sounds techs who all make Bowen home were all over this project and it did not disappoint. And good of the the United Church to let the community use it's facilities for a faux-Satanic pagan festival eh? Only on Bowen...

The Haunted House was followed up by trickortreating (all one word) in Deep Bay, the oldes neighbourhood on Bowen. Literally hundreds of kids from all over the island descend on the houses of Deep Bay in a Halloween equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. The demand is so overwhelming for the residents that helpful parents from other parts of Bowen always bring bags of candy to replenish dwindling stocks. And so, for a few hours every year, Deep Bay becomes a centre of whirling madness, the little streets clogged with flashlight toting dinosaurs and witches, walking corpses and Vancouver Canucks wannabees (same thing?).

All of this if followed by 20 minutes of pyrotechnical madness hosted by the volunteer fire department who discharge loads of very serious fireworks into the ari above Mannion Bay. Thousands crowd around the beach cheering and applauding and ducking the odd stray rocket and bits of shrapnel. Hot chocolate is served on the Causeway and everyone goes home happy. It's an amazing community event.

This year Finn declined to take part. He made it in the gate of the Collins Hall grounds, but was too spooked by anything else to go further. So he and I went home to watch the fireworkds from our place, which worked out fine, except that he exhibted a previously unknown deep fear of explosives. Instead of truly enjoying it, he shook like a leaf on my lap for tenty minutes and then refused to belive me when I said they were done. Even three days later he still peers suspiciously out the front window at the lights of Whytecliff across the channel and babbles incoherently about the experience. Poor traumatised guy. He turns two years old later this week. I guess we have to think seriously about not putting sparklers on his cement mixer cake.

Monday, October 21, 2002

And just as a little cool exercise, when one types "lives on Bowen Island" into Google, you come up with this amazing collection of people:

Cool, eh?

Bowen Islanders in the news:

Islanders have been in the news lately, whether it was Commonwealth Games multimedalist Cynthia Meyer or part time resident Michael Ondaatje, or newcomer Wade Davis.

But Michael Henderson takes the cake for the most grandiose Islander to date. At least that's what some are calling his vision of a Las Vegas casino called "Moon":

Somewhere on his way to becoming a medical-business tycoon, Michael Henderson suddenly found himself sitting on the sidelines, exiled to his gated, ranch-style home on Bowen Island, some 30 kilometres west of downtown Vancouver. It was mid-2000, and for the previous—often stormy—20 months, Henderson had ruled Lasik Vision Corp., the fastest-growing laser vision surgery company in the world, with an iron fist. After a flurry of lawsuits, management infighting and a bitter proxy battle, however, the board turfed Henderson as president and CEO, effectively sending him off to “retire.” For the first time in his working life, Michael Henderson had time to think. A lot of time.

Two years of nonstop reflection can do funny things to a man’s head. Especially a self-made man like 40-year-old Henderson, who has been grasping for something better since dropping out of high school at age 16. Daydreaming amongst the roaming deer and thick evergreens that surround his fenced-in island retreat can even make a man think he’s capable of wondrous things. Like flying to the sun. Touching the stars. Selling the moon. And that’s precisely what Henderson now has in mind. No, not the real moon. His Moon. A hotel resort casino and entertainment complex so grandiose it’s boggled the minds of those who’ve worked on the project so far. A development so enormous that the model alone covers 96 square feet and took 4,000 man-hours to build—at a cost of well over several hundred thousand dollars. (more)

Sunday, October 20, 2002

When the lights go out everybody notices. from Here on Seven Hills, all the way down to the Cove and up Dorman Point Road to where my friend Mark Groen sits on Hummingbird Lane. In fact the whole island lost power last night around 8:00pm due to the a tree falling on a power line. BC Hydro had it back in time for bed time.

It's a more autumnal weekend now. The weather was summery this week, with temperatures in the low 20s. The record run of dry nice weather continues.

Randy and Dave came over to play a gig at La Mangerie, which received a nice review. We played to a small but appreciative audience. I'll take that any day over a bar full of a hundred people who aren't listening to a note.

And last on Thursday I went out canoeing with Aine and Ian Thompson and his boys on Killarney Lake where among other very cool things, we saw a water skiiing spider. This is one way spiders get around, by spinning a thread of silk and letting it catch the wind. Then they stand on the surface of the water and let the slightest air currants carry them. The Lake itself was flat as glass, but when you are a tiny spider attached to a thin strand of silk, a sneeze is all you need to cross large bodies of water.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

In another vein, the history of a writer's colony called "Lieben" that thrived in the middle of the last century here on Bowen is being assembled and disseminated far and wide. Recently, the Toronto Star published an article about the retreat saying:

Einar Neilson, the son of a Norwegian sea captain, whose working life had included driving a tour bus in Banff and selling carpets, purchased 10 "unimproved" acres on Bowen Island.

Although not an artist himself, the tall and handsome Neilson had experienced his own epiphany in the beauteous landscape. Using his savings, his own considerable building skills and the salary from his new job driving a taxi on Bowen, he rebuilt one of two derelict cottages on his land, inspired by the open-concept designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Overlooking the Strait of Georgia, the much-improved house became a magnet for the artists and writers he'd met through his wife, Patricia, daughter of painter Lemoine Fitzgerald, who was principal of the Winnipeg Art School.

The Lieben guest book reads like a Who's Who of Canadiana: Earle Birney, Alice Munro, Dorothy Livesay, Margaret Laurence, A.J.M. Smith, Jack Shadbolt, Eric Nicol.

The whole article is a very beautiful and moving description of life on this little rock.
The weather is gifting us over this Thanksgiving weekend. Crystal clear blue skies, warm in the day, getting colder at night. The stars are brilliant points of light after the moon sets, which is early in the evening. Not a breath of wind, not a hint of rain, nothing to complain about. Aine, Finn and I went walking in the now bear free woods today, looking at straight branched corals, alcohol inky caps and oyster mushrooms and other flora and fauna.

Yesterday my friend Carol Mackinnon and I and the folks from the Bowen Island Lifelong Learning Society and the Bowen Island Sustainable Community Task Force ran an Open Space meeting around the theme of Bowen Island 2042: Why we STILL love living here. The gathering was intended to kick off an extended process aimed at looking at sustainability here on Bowen and designing some strategies to take us down the right path for the next forty years. About 30 people came out an talked about everything from governance to transportation to agriculture to storytelling. The proceedings are online and make for an interesting sourcebook of ideas, and touchstones for why people love this community. It seems like people had a pretty good time.

In the closing circle I remarked that the day had reinforced my enduring belief that great success derives from invitation, and that one of the stories of Bowen Island is the story of invitation. For years in the early part of the century, the Union Steamship Company invited people to come here to party on "The Happy Isle." Scattered around the island, especially at places like Doc Morgan's and The Lodge at the Old Dorm are mementos of that time period: brochures, posters, guides and pictures, beckoning people to come to Bowen.

Today that spirit of invitation is embodied in the fact that at our major 4 way intersection (we really only have one), one whole corner is given over to a space for community events to be annouced on sandwiched boards, large and small, elegant and simple, hand drawn and professionally designed. They are a constantly changing bulletin board of invitations, everything from golf course donations to community choir practices, to signs about salmon and tuna for sale at the government dock. That we have given 25% of our prime four corners real estate over to invitation says a lot about Bowen.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

El Nino is on the way for this winter, meaning drier weather and warmer temperatures here on the coast. It could be a disaster for the prairies where they have already suffered a long drought this summer, but generally El Nino gives us pretty tolerable winters on the coast. There is not likely to be any snow and we probably won't get a killing frost even, meaning that I can try to overwinter my osteospermums.

Anyway, you wouldn't know it tonight where the rain is falling heavily now, but the air is warm and there is no wind. It was quite mild today and seemed a little unseasonable. The winter is coming for sure, but it seems like it'll be one of those special ones.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002

Sitting in my office, looking out over the grey water and the grey sky, waiting for the first cold rain of the autumn to move in from the outer coast today, I caught a glimpse of a pine siskin bouncing around on the deck eating the husks of seed where I had fed them last winter in the snow. There is an eerie stillness to the air right now, a chill at night and the ominous sense of anticipation brought on by the cloud deck building down rather than in.

Last night the barred owls were at it again (yes, I'm still sleeping on the porch!), this time down in fromt of our place probably on the edge of the clearing of houses on David Road. One was calling for about 20 minutes until another joined it, and possibly a third one too. They hooted and growled for a while and then went off somewhere at midnight, probably looking for something to eat.

I noticed last night too that the crickets are getting fewer and are chriping less vigourously. There is a well known relationship between colder temperatures and slower cricket chirp rates. Counting the number of chrips in 8 seconds will give a fairly good approximation of the temperature. Last night it was about 7 degrees out.

And so with the cooler weather, we have got the wood stove humming again. I took a delivery of 5 cords of mill ends last weekend, which should last us about a year and a half. Not bad for $300. If anyone wants to know, I got them from Eric at 604-533-9663. He's out in Langley and is a great guy. He delivers in loads of 10 cords or 6 cords and the wood is almost all hemlock, untreated and kiln dried. It burns like anything. Tell him I sent you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

The sunrises are beautiful at this time of year. There is a lot of moisture in the air, which turns to fog as the dawn breaks, and the sky is brilliant yellow and red in the minutes before dawn.

Chet Raymo, writing recently in the Boston Globe captures the glory of aumtumn sunrises in this column.

Surely there is no more godly hour than the dawn. Mist pools in the hollows of the meadow. The water in the brook slips under the bridge with a dreamlike languor. The stillness of fading night is broken by the tip-tip-tip of a nuthatch...

This is the hour when the mushrooms shoulder up in shadows, flexing their caps in the early light. From the top of a distant pine, a red-tailed hawk assumes its morning patrol. As I leave the woods and step into the meadow, there is always the possibility that I'll see a grazing deer or two; they bound into the underbrush at my approach, white tails flashing.

The world holds its breath.

A waning crescent moon joins Jupiter in the eastern sky, its ''unlit'' side made visible by a faint glow of Earthshine. A day later, the moon will be only two days from new, and eyelash thin. A thinner moon is almost impossible to see.

At dawn, the atmosphere empties out its bag of optical tricks - reflection, refraction, scattering - to great effect, spilling sunlight over the horizon, parceling out components of the sun's white light in pale washes of color. The reeds along the pond and the trees at the back of the meadow are daubed like stage sets, eerie tints of rose and violet ...

Monday, September 30, 2002

Our life here presents a great opportunity to live by practicing invitation. The homelearners community we have set up through a place called Wondertree is all about inviting children to learn and inviting families to engage in that learning with them. Since the homelearning community has been up and running, invitations have flown around our email network for things as diverse as a tour of a bear rehabilitation sanctuary, and art class, swimming lessons and sea shanty singing.

The sea shanty singing was my idea, based on a real passion Aine and I have developed for singing sea songs. So we put out the invitation for last Friday and gathered on a sort of rainy Tunstall Bay beach. We built a fire, watched to sun set as a rose coloured hole in an otherwise grey sky and sang shanties for a while until the darkness enveloped us. Before we left we played in the water, throwing handfuls of gravel in and watching the sea light up with phosphorescence. That’s the kind of thing the living by a practice of invitation leads too.

* * * *

Now speaking of invitations, here are some of my favourites, from the Unclassifieds section of the Bowen Island Undercurrent:

OVEN, good working condition, trendy almond colour. Will trade for case of beer.

LOST – Many golf balls on 1st pre-cleared hole at golf course @ Cowan Point. Come have “tee” with us. Open House/Walkabouts every Staurday and Sunday noon – 3 pm. Bowen Island Golf Association.

FOUND: Inflatable tube drifting off of Bowen Bay beach. Can be collected…

MORNING TAI CHI: Fall Session starting. New students welcome. Great time to review for old students. Tai Chi: Health Self Defense, Legs Strong Like Bull.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Salish Sea shook a little this evening as a magnitude 4.1 earthquake rattled things around 6:00pm. I didn't feel it as I was making supper, but it was felt on Bowen.

The earthquake was 16 miles below Friday Harbour, on San Juan Island about 150 miles or so south of here.

In other news, we solved at least part of the mouse problem this morning, as I removed a fatally concussed Norway rat from behind the piano. It had sampled some peanut butter on my mousetrap and although it didn't get caught, it sustained a nasty whack and was lying in rigor mortis next to the remains of its last meal. .

We think there are still mice cowering beneath the dishwasher, and that the rat was a single case. The traps are set for the mice, and we'll see how they do.

And speaking of fatal encounters with humans, it turns out that the bear that was captured and removed from our island was killed by the "conservation" officer who caught it. Bruno was killed by an overdose of tranquilizers. The consensus is that maybe the bear didn't have to die but that budget cuts in the Ministry of Land, Water and Air Protection have caused policy changes that prefer a quick disposal to a prolonged wild rehabilitation for human-curious wildlife.

Hey, if Bruno was living under my piano, I would suffer no crisis of conscience in dispatching him either, but this bear was on his best behaviour, sampling only the goat, which most observers think was actually killed by one of the dog packs that roam the island terrorizing the deer.

Busy day for a Friday.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

There are many ways that the change in seasons makes itself known around here. The obvious change in weather, with storms beginning to make their way down from the north and the wind changing to the east, is a clear sign that the wet season will soon be upon us. But the season shows itself in small things too, like the proliferation of certain kinds of bugs.

The Pacific Dampwood Termite takes wing at this time of year, as sexually mature males swarm on the hot still days of late summer to establish new colonies. They are clumsy fliers, and if there is even a hint of wind they don’t appear. But in the still evenings, as the sun sets, they can be seen very often silently flapping around looking for a place to alight. They generally prefer wet and rotting wood, and I haven’t heard of these termites causing much trouble in people’s houses. They certainly pale in comparison with the damage done by Carpenter Ants.

”CherryAnother flying insect that seems more abundant than usual at this time of year is the very beautiful Cherry Faced Meadowhawk which is as elegant as it’s name. They actually start to fly in July, and they love to bask on rocks, perching in wait for pretty much any insect to come by. They eat mosquitoes, ants, termites and even moths. We have several dragonflies, damselflies and the like around here, but these ones are my favourite. They are they only ones who will regularly perch on me, making them almost pet like.

Taking advantage of all of this flying activity are the mature orb weaver spiders, who spin huge webs every evening, often over top of blackberry bushes where lots of insects seem to congregate. There are large spiders running around the house too, and some of them look big enough to hunt mice.

If it were the truth, that would be a good thing, as we have a mouse or two freelancing under the dishwasher in the kitchen, seemingly immune to the lure of peanut butter laced Victory traps. We’ll get them yet…

Friday, September 13, 2002

Apparently it has come to pass that the bear is gone. Bittersweet here, but at least we are free to turn over logs in the woods this fall and look for mushrooms and reptiles.

Monday, September 9, 2002

First hand account from the recently arrived Mark Groen of moves afoot to remove our resident bear in a humane way.

The bear has been getting up to some interesting exploits lately, including eating a goat, which seems pretty out of character for a bear to me. It seems to spend a lot of time swimming in the local lakes, including Grafton Lake which is the source of our drinking water and Killarney Lake which is the "stroll" for islanders and visitors alike..

There can be no doubt that it is developing a keen sense that humans can be its sugar daddies, even unintentionally, and it is getting more and more used to living with us bipeds.

So, the decision time is coming near in terms of this bear's future, and the only real option that works for everyone is to convince the provincial government to live trap it and take it away before it hurts someone and has to be shot dead. Last week our municipal council voted to have the bear removed in this way, and although they didn't have the power to do anything about it, it seems from Mark's post anyway that they have been successful in convincing the province to come get Bruno.

The decision obviously has profound implications for Bowen. With that motion passing, I think we have officially announced that all 50 square kms of Bowen Island is no longer wilderness. If we can't allow a bear to roam free here (and we can't...people are just not willing to accommodate it) then we have said that no longer will bears, cougars and other predators be allowed to live here. In short, Bowen has officially gone from wilderness to garden.

This is not a bad thing in and of itself, and is certainly a lot better than having one of my kids mauled by a bear, but I do think that it merits noticing, and maybe grieving. We have officially passed a mark that we may have passed in practice years ago, but there will be no going back, at least as long as people live on this rock. More and more residents will be flocking to our shores in the years to come, and many more of them will be unprepared for the next bear that makes its way over here.

So if and when the bear is trapped and relocated to the continent, maybe I'll organize a send off party for it, and we can see a piece of Bowen history fade into the ocean spray, gone forever.

Saturday, September 7, 2002

We were driving around this evening running errands. Taking a bunch of stuff down to the recycling depot, heading down to the end of Mount Gardner road to drop off some resources for our start-up homeschooling learning centre and reflecting on the kind of community that exists here. It was timely that the conversation seemed to peak as we passed The Tacky Shop, with Caitlin openly musing what life would be like here without that little institution.

The Tacky Shop is a "store." Partly it is a store in a very traditional sense, in that it sells thing to people, and also forms an important node in the community, like all good old time stores. It is somewhat non-traditional in that what it sells is "junk," or stuff that people drop off there during the week. And it is non-traditional in that it is open only on Saturday mornings and it runs out of a garage/shed next to a house on Mount Gardner Road.

Parents especially love this place for the cheap kids clothes and toys. There is hardly anything priced above a couple of dollars, and on any given Saturday one can find almost anything big enough to move for sale. Clothes, toys and old kitchenware are popular, as are books, records, tools, furniture, and a myriad of other things that have been previously used. There is a sheen of the 1970s to a lot of the stuff, but that somehow doesn't stop the inventory from turning over.

The shop was closed for a while due to an illness with one of the proprietors but it's open again now and it's absence caused us to reflect on what it meant to the Island. Just by being there it changes things. We actually factor The Tacky Shop into our budgeting for kids cloths and we weren't relishing the prospect of going to the continent to outfit the kids for winter. But beyond the money aspect and the obviously valuable recycling job, it brings a smile to my face to see something somewhere that was bought there, and people talk fondly about having bits and pieces of their life scattered around the island taking on new lives and functions. Once formal clothes now get worn as work wear, old buckets get turned into planters and appear on roadsides, and earnestly acquired bead collections sell by the handful to become fancy currency and craft supplies for kids.

It's possible that stores like this can survive in larger communities, but I wonder how likely it is that they would weave an invisible thread between people and ideas in a city in the same way as The Tacky Shop does here. It literally invites us to walk in our neighbour's shoes, with the ever present chance that the neighbour will notice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Labour Day, and right on time the rain arrived. It rained most of last night and well into the morning, prompting us to light our first fire in aboiut four months. It cleared towards the evening as we headed down to Collins Hall for a potluck supper with the families in our homelearners group. But even with the late day sun, it got dark around 8:30 and the taste of fall was definitely in the air.

Aine and I went down to the ferry dock in time to send off the 9:05 ferry full of mainlanders heading home. There was little evidence of the traditional gathering of rogues who, in previous years, had been discouraged from mooning the cottagers as they departed their summer homes. Still, the occaision warranted a song, and so I wrote one:

Our island’s ours again

(Tune of “Rolling Down to Old Maui”)

On the first of May of every year

They come by boat and plane

The ferry starts to overload

And the traffic is a pain

All summer long down in the Cove

The shop doors open wide

The rest of us head for the hills

And find some place to hide

Chorus: Farewell to all you mainlanders

And welcome to the rain

So raise a cheer, the autumn’s here

Our island’s ours again!

Their money spent, the continent

Will accept them in its fold

The beaches are available

Though the water’s freezing cold

Once more we can find our favourite seats

On a barstool down at Docs

And the women who run VONIGO

Can replenish all their stock


Now the nights are cool, the air is brisk

Mount Gardner wears a shroud

The wind has swung southeast again

And the Sound is full of cloud

For the next eight months we’ll hide away

And slowly go insane

But what care we, we’re finally free

Our island’s ours again!


The Squamish winds will blow for days

And the breeze will chill our bones

But the firewood’s stacked and the pantry’s packed

And we’ve battened down our homes

We’re done with yard work, cleaned the eaves

And there’s nothing left to stain

Let winter send its best at us

Our island’s ours again!


Friday, August 30, 2002

“Islands attract two obvious groups: workers who settle there to make some sort of living, to build a community; and others who come to escape, to find some sort of refuge but are ultimately disappointed. So there’s this collision between small-town politics and disappointed idealism, those who welcome new business and those who view it as an invasion of all they’ve left behind in cities….

Island make up seven per cent of the earth’s land surface, so they’re by no means insignificant. On the West Coast, thousands of islands shape, obstruct, and adorn the Gulf of Georgia and the Inside Passage; you can’t turn around or swing a cat without seeing or bumping into an island. And islands – Lesbos, Eeelba, Bikini Atoll, Skye, Alcatraz – are central to the mythologies of love, politics, religion, and justice that we have constructed.”

- Gary Geddes, Sailing Home: A journey through Time, Space and Memory, pp 125-126

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Last evening was one of those times that makes me wonder why I didn't move to an island sooner.

We had supper on the beach at Tunstall Bay, swimming and hanging with whoever happened to be there. The water was amazing, just like a bath, and floating in it was an astounding experience. I don't know why, but all of a sudden, I've become addicted to swimming.

Later, the sun set behind Pasley Island and the colours seemed much more intense than normal. The sky was a deep luminescent turquoise and airplane contrails shone silver. As the sunset waned, a cloud on the horizon turned the most intense shade of pink I have ever seen. It was as if someone had shone a light through a rose petal.

Breathtaking late summer days here on the coast.

Monday, August 26, 2002

From the "How Bowen Celebrates" file...

Saturday was Bowfest, the traditional culmination to the summer season with a full day of food, music and activities in the picnic filed down in the Cove. The most amusing part of it is that the tickets are deeply discounted if you buy them prior to the day, meaning that the tourists get bilked, in a kind of good hearted "welcome-to-our-community-event" kind of way.

This year featured the perennial teen lip synch contest, which was won by a trio of youngsters doing "It's a Hardknock Life" with all the moves from the musical. A surprise appearance was even put in by the Three Tenors, consisting of Bowen Office System's Richard Goth et. al. It was a stunning impersonation of Pavorotti, Domingo and "the other guy" (Carreras...).

Some things were different this year. The tug of war didn't happen becasue there was a large wooden singletrack bike structure dominating most of the filed upon which four cyclists rendered heart stopping stunts every hour on the hour. World class local talent, these guys defied logic and saftey standards by plummeting from a sixteen foot drop onto a wooden ramp and barrelling at high speed for the VONIGO pottery display. Not one mug was cracked on the day.

The slug races somehow never got going, and the United Church folks eschewed two weeks worth of pie baking for a fish and chips operation, but the event still had the air of tradition about it. As they have done every year for decades, the teen agers huddled together in little groups occaisionally bombing each other with water balloons or creeping off into the forest together. The beer tent was packed and the Tir na N'Og theatre school did a brisk business off the grill in their annual fundrasier. As the evening progressed, the Legion got the salmon barbecue running and several victims of sun and lager attempted to run the gauntlet of six - count 'em SIX - RCMP officers as they tried to find the straightest line home.

Bowfest is a must attend for Islanders. You are almost guaranteed to see people you haven't seen all summer, catch up on what's going on and have a good time. It's one of those big days in the life of a small community.
It hasn't rained for a month. As a result the deer have started getting desperate for fluids which has made them venture further and further out of their comfort zones in search of moisture. Last week they stripped a honeysuckle which would have required them to go up the stairs, on to the back deck and down another set of stairs UNDER the house. This week they went one further, continuing under the house to my office door where they ate the nasteriums. Amazing. Those who know less than I do now say that deer will never ever walk over wooden stairs.


Deer will do ANYTHING to get what they want, even if it's something no one has ever seen them eat before.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Living on an island means living in a closed system. For example, all the fresh water that is used on Bowen is water that the clouds drop upon us. A huge amount of that water makes its way quickly into the sea through creeks that spill it off the mountains almost as fast as it falls. There are five lakes on the Island which store water, but other than that most folks don't make an effort to collect what falls on us for seven months of the year.

It's a big issue of course, because being surrounded by salt chuck means we only have a limited supply of fresh water. Limited in the sense that we can only use what falls here. By international standards, we are literally drowning in it.

As the Island becomes more developed, and there are no flat places to put more reservoirs, and conservation seems a last resort for most of us, the issue of water becomes a tricky one. On the Bowen Island forum, fresh water use has lately been discussed along with a variety of alternatives, such as desalination, a process not without it's own costs, both financial and environmental.

Recently, people have made the comparison between Bowen and Bermuda. Bermuda is about twice the size of our island, but supports 60,000 people. It has limited groundwater, tapped by special shallow wells that draw it off the brackish water that dwells beneath it. Water is collected on roof tops and stored in cisterns and if you run out of fresh water, you have to pay for it dearly.

There is very little water collection on Bowen although some folks are good at it. We may be a long way from running out of water here, but we have to start looking at alternatives that reap the bounty that cascades from the skies every year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

More bits and pieces that tell me summer's drawing down:

Winter is inherent in August, because a huge number of plants are going to seed. The promise of next year's crop is dropped on the ground awaiting the rains to activate it. In the case of foxgloves, from which I collected several thousand seeds yesterday, it is the promise of bloom in two years. I have scattered them about our land and hope to have the meadow in front and a few of the beds in the back blooming with them in 2004.

We spent a couple of weeks in Ontario, on the shores of Georgian Bay and a couple of days in the Gantineau Hills in Quebec. When we came back on Saturday, on the 8:30 sailing, the ferry workers were busy putting the covers on the wndows to prevent light from impeding the captain's view. This immediately stuck me, because this time of year, the days begin to lengthen faster, and now it is almost dark by 9:00.

Sunday, August 4, 2002

A few little changes are afoot.

Sarah Allen, the proprietor of the Breakfast Cafe and Tuscany has had to close down the BC on Saturday mornings. It's only open on Sundays now. The strain was too much, and according to the circular that she sent around this week, she was having trouble finding staff, after her regulars all opted to work nights at Tuscany.

Sarah is a genius. When Tuscany opened she met the Bluewater commuter bus at the ferry dock with a couple of free pizzas. They got passed around inside, and according to a friend, hardly anyone actually got OFF the bus. They just chewed away on the pizza and asked the driver to drop them off on the way back to the Cove. God knows how much business she got from that move, but it is true that her pizzas speak for themselves. Especially the brie, pear and caramelized onion one. ESPECIALLY that one.

Other little changes: high speed internet arrived , Madame Rose's used books is going out of business leaving us without a bookstore on Bowen, a new coffee/gelato place opened up in Artisan Square (very nice one too), and just down the hill from it is Bowen's first roundabout, at the junction of Artisan Lane and Roocroft Lane. Crazy. What next? A traffic light?

The mergansers in Mannion Bay which were babies for so long have suddenly become adolescents. I tasted my first decent handful of blackberries today. It has been a great year for berries, and the blackberries will be no exception.

A new enterprise has sprung up on the island and it’s one I really love. Behind us is a tract of land called Collins Farm which is about 70 acres, currently divided into 6 2 acre lots with a bunch of common land. It was originally pre-empted by James Collins at the turn of the 19th century and he farmed it for a while. He called it Collinsia farm. His granddaughters (or they might be daughters) still live at the entrance to the land and have begun encouraging a market garden there. They have resurrected the name “Collinsia” and tonight we had our first salad with lettuce grown right over the ridge.

The Dock Dance is tonight, an annual event down in the Cove that raises money for the volunteer fire department (bless them!). Doug and the Slugs are currently rocking it up down there. Summer chugs along, and the nights are becoming just a little bit cooler. Foreshadowing the return of the storms. Even as we sit in the middle of the annual drought, it is clear that things have turned and that fall is a distinct possibility. Still a good month to go before the jetstream swing south for good and the pineapple expresses start gearing up, but living out here, it's a little easier to sense it.

Friday, August 2, 2002

Last night Aine and I paid a visit to our spring evening stomping grounds at Hood Point West. During the summer, the tide peaks around supper time and that makes the rocks at Hood Point West disappear leaving only a small rocky beach and a few logs to hang out on. But these days the high tide comes later at night and so the rocks and tide pools are still around.

Mostly last night we watched rain showers head up the Sound, mostly along the mountains of the Brunswick Range to the east, with another shower falling on the lee side of Gambier to the north. The rest of the sky was grey, and so was the sea.

River OtterThere was no sign of the seals we had seen there in the spring, but we did see a family of river otters swimming in the swell. They scuttled up on to the beach at the base of the cliff to the east of us and other than some little squeaks, we didn't find any other sign of them. They must have taken shelter in a little cave or crevasse where the rocks meet the water.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Out in the wide wide world, Bowen Islanders excel at many things. Until today, I had no idea that one of the world's best trap shooters lives here. Today Cynthia Meyer won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in singles trap shooting, which adds to the silver and the bronze she won with her partner Susan Nattrass of Edmonton. A complete set.

Monday, July 29, 2002

This summer weather and the new pastime of going to the beach at every chance is creating a strange feeling for me. Tonight we ate dinner at the dining room table for the first time in about a week and a half. We have been eating on the deck or at the beach for what seems like a long time. Finn won't go into his high chair now. I think he's forgotten what it is.

And the sleeping outside thing is also contributing to the strange feeling.

So what is this feeling? Well, it's about being a little bit ungrounded but in a good way. I feel like the past few months have said" live in the moment" very strongly, and with all there is to do and appreciate on Bowen - and much of it unscheduled- this is the correct attitude for the summer. Winter requires so much more planning and consideration. You don't want to be too spontaneous or you'll get soaking wet. In the summer, everyone seems to let their schedules go. Sometimes the phone rings and we're off to the beach with friends at the drop of a hat. Or sometimes we just go on our own and run into people there.

I don't remember ever feeling like this in the city, even before we had kids. In the city there is so much to do and see and it all STARTS at a certain time, so one has to plan every evening. Not so many city folk just let go and surf the moments full of late sun and air that brushes your skin like an embrace.

This is what living on an island is doing to me. It changes a person very deeply.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

In another vein, our evening rituals are changing with the weather. It has been hot here lately, with highs in the high 20s/low 30s every afternoon, bright sunshine and no wind. We have taken to packing a picnic supper and heading off to the beach for sun and sand. The water has been outstanding, almost soupy warm. For the past three nights, as the moon has become fuller and risen later it has appeared ruddy emerging from behind Whytecliff in a sight that has literally stopped us all dead in our tracks.

It's important to remember these dog days when January rolls around.
My comments on development and sustainability elicited this comment from Mark Groen, who almost moved here, but who maintains an "out of Bowen" Bowen blog:

"Interesting quote from RS; I know that some people will make a lot of money with the development going on at Bowen, but is anyone figuring in the cost of that many more people? Besides the obvious profits of increased traffic for the ferry, restaurants, et al, what kind of price are your Municipal leaders going to charge for the peace and quiet, clean air, and lost fawns running through your camp looking for Mom? Surely that has more value than 200 new chunks of land - it simply does. Are the present island dwellers going to be compensated for their loss of serenity? A large piece of serene land on the British Properties would run you 1.5mil+ undeveloped, divide that by ten years and tell 'em that's what you want for your future losses.

To which I replied:

"There are folks looking at the sustainability issues of cramming that many people on the island. So far they aren't having a lot of success in pushing a wide spread sustainability agenda, but in some ways more people might make that easier, as I've noted. That is due in part I think to the fact that, like the rest of Canada, a sparse population in a large land thinks it can live forever. When we start to get crowded and the water supply starts becoming unreliable and the fawns mewl at night, it has a way of convincing people that maybe there is a price to pay.

But we'll see. That's what makes this point in time so interesting, and why it is important for me to blog it. I'm noting the changes and every day is a benchmark. It's like taking note of what temperature the water is so that when it reaches boiling it'll be a little more obvious that I haven't let myself get poached..."

Just thought I would note that.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Things are about to change on Bowen Island. And fast.

If you look over the documents at the Islands Trust site you will note that lots of by-law amendments are being proposed relating to how development is proceeding on our little island. We cuirrently have two major developments underway, one on Cates Hill overlooking Snug Cove, and one on the southern slope of the island at Cowen Point, which will include a golf course, a dock in pristine Seymour Bay, and a little community services development like the one that hosts the Ruddy Potato and the Post Office in the Cove.

All of these developments will bring a further 200 families to the island which could mean another 1000 people or so over the next few years. Our official community plan caps the carrying capacity of our vessel at 7000, which is about double what we have now. But so far I don't think that any development has happened as quickly on Bowen as what we are about to witness.

It's hard to comprehend it. We try to imagine what it will be like with twice as many people at the beach, in the ferry line up, at Doc's on a Friday night. It still seems manageable, but at a human scale a community of 7000 is a lot different from a community of 3500. And that again is different from the community of 1500 that was here 20 years ago.

My fellow Bowen blogger Richard Smith has written recently:

How big is a community? Seems an odd question, sort of like the famous say, "How long is a piece of string?" But the implied question -- how big should a community be? Is interesting. Especially in the virtual world, where it is possible to build communities at an optimum size. If you knew what an optimum size was. I am thinking about this partly because I live in a small community (approx. 4,000 people) and enjoy it. I also study the social side of on-line technologies, and one of the people I interviewed recently observed that "everyone is trying to build the biggest online community," but the magic lies in having the community that is the right size -- the one that is the most compelling, the most interesting, the most dynamic. And that might not necessarily be the one that is the largest. Especially in the on-line world of virtual communities.

His comments about the optimum size of online communities apply to real ones too. There is a server side scaling issue, as the techies put it, and also there is the challenge of sorting out the circles to find the crowd that you want to run with.

In theory more people, and more diversity, should make for more robust and self-sustaining communities here. And people choosing to live on an island will always share a desire for introspection to some degree. So maybe we'll be able to keep the evensong chorale going with a full tenor section, and the sustainability committee will be able to find a critical mass to create sustainable sustainability.

Regardless it will be interesting to watch over the next few years how this all sorts itself out, and what the implications are for ths potato shaped chunk of volcanic rock poking out of the clear blue waters of Howe Sound.

If you want to see what we could use to becnhmark our progress, I would recommend a tour of the Bowen Island geolibrary which is available on CD ROM, but also in beta form at

Friday, July 19, 2002

The morning soundscape is changing.

Back from our annual trip to Cortes Island and back sleeping on the front porch, I awoke the other day to note the disappearance of the robin section from the morning avian symphony. It was really quiet without them; only the rattle of the jays, the chipping of towhees and the high tweet of a flock of kinglets greeted the sunrise. There are still robins about, although not as many as there have been. Is it possible they have started moving south already?

Sunday, July 7, 2002

Yesterday we were at Sandy Beach, perhaps the most popular beach for tourists, as it is on the south shore of Mannion Bay, a few minutes from the ferry dock and within easy access for boats who moor in the bay. While we were enjoying the last light of day with maybe a dozen other people scattered across the beach, a strange thing happened.

From around the little point by the CNIB camp a small fawn came bounding. As it was high tide, there was very little beach between the water and ourselves, but this little deer was determined to get along it. It had a look of slight panic in it's eyes and was being driven by some strong instinctive intent, becasue even Finn's attempts to scare it away did little to dissuade it from traipsing through our little camp. Nervously moving back and forth, the deer at once shot in front of us all, oblivious to the people around it and headed into the sea. It swam across Mannion Bay to an otherwise fenced in house on the other side of the water where it made a b-line for a stand of delphiniums. The occupants of the house put a quick stop to that endeavour by scaring it back onto the foreshore where it wandered for a while, wondering where the beach went, and how tides work, and where mom could have got to.

Funny to watch a young deer learn about where it is.

Thursday, July 4, 2002

Once a week on Wednesday, BC Ferries runs the dangerous cargo run for gas trucks, propane tankers and other things. People often get stranded by these runs and try eagerly to plead with the ferry workers to let them on ("Ok, if my cargo isn't dangerous then *I* am dangerous...grrrr).

So take it a step further and imagine how the bear got here. Maybe even write a skit about it. Or as Adam Taylor wrote:

"I would love to see the 'bear' expaining to BC Ferries workers that it is allowed on the run. Continue as a satire on the various island issues and have the bear elected mayor / to council on a platform of no waste leaving the island, the bear will then live at the island garbage dump of course..."

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Two nights ago we had a huge thunderstorm. It began with a lightning strike atop Mount Gardner with a boom that echoed around Howe Sound for what seemed like 30 seconds. Then the rain started falling and the sheet lightning took over. It was loud and raucous and refreshing. I had my heart in my throat when it started, awoken from a deep sleep at midnight by the loud blast.

The bear has moved back towards our place and seems to be ensconced in the meadow. She is bigger than previously thought, weighing in at around 300 pounds.

Friday, June 28, 2002

We have been here a year.

I read recently an essay by Barry Lopez about storytelling and landscape and narrative, the gist of which is that landscape is the relationships between things on the land, and there is an interior one as well as an exterior one. The exterior one is composed of mountains, sky and sea, and the way those elements interact is the landscape. Likewise the interior one draws together elements from the interior world to create a landscape. Storytelling, Lopez says, draws together these two landscapes.

"The shape and character of those relationships in a person's thinking, I believe, are deeply influenced by where on this earth one goes, what one touches, the patterns one observes in nature - the intricate history of one's life in the land, even life in the city, where wind, the chirp of birds, the line of a falling leaf are known. These thoughts are arranged, further, according to the thread of one's moral, intellectual and spiritual development. The interior landscape responds to the character and subtlety of an exterior landscape; the shape of an individual mind is affected by the land as it is the genes."

Living on an island leaves one with a natural frame to lookat narrative. Looking back over this journal from the past year, I am struck mostly that it is about observations of the exterior landscape of living on an island. But implicit in the very fact that there is even a journal at all is the fact that living on an island causes one to become much more inward looking. The boundaries that are real and topographical, the shoreline as it where, exists both within and without. One can probe the edges, biut at the end of the day one retreats to the centre. When you live on an island, you live somewhere WITHIN the island, and one's life soon mirrors that.

Living within an island, both externally and internally brings forward huge levels of creativity. One cannot rely on entertainment from the outside for long. One has to create one's culture, and this means delving deep into personal resources to draw out ways and means of expressing oneself. For me this year that has meant this blog, and several companion blogs on other subjects (see if you can find them) as well as singing, and a different kind of flute playing, making music that is as much for me as it is for anyone listening.

It's been a year of constant blossom, wonderous revealations at the interior landscape, and ongoing exploration of the nature that is here so close at hand.

Thanks for joining me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The air is still and thick today. Nothing seems to be moving, and right now in the heat of mid afternoon, all the birds have stopped singing. There are patches of calm on the water out in the Channel, an unusual occurrence at any time of day.

The thick air seemed to build last night. Sleeping on the front deck, I awoke at 3am, brought out of sleep by some noisy barred owls hunting by the light of the full moon. I lay awake for awhile listening to the night sounds, the owls, a deer walking around the little meadow below me, the odd goose down in the bay getting startled awake. It was a remarkable night, as quiet as I have ever heard it around here with the moonlight tinted pale yellow from the haze that accumulated out over the Strait.

This morning was more of the same. Awakened by raven babies calling out from a nest in the Douglas-firs in front of us, I was absolutely astounded by the variety and clarity of the bird calls. Pilleated woodpeckers drumming, flickers calling, robins singing their morning songs. Even the rooster away in Miller’s Landing seemed to be singing to me.

It must be the air or the humidity and the calm, but it’s like living inside a set of headphones today.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

We have had a most remarkable drop off in the number of .Carpenter Ants patrolling the kitchen.

It's well known that these ants can be devastating pests. These ants, which are the largest occurring in our region, aren't really dangerous, although the big ones can lock their mandibles into flesh. Finn knows this. A junior entomologist, he often picks up bugs and examines them. A few months ago he came running into the kitchen with a shocked look on his face and an inch long ant hanging off his fingertip by it's jaws.

Where these ants do the most damage is in their nest building They make their nests in wood by carving out galleries. The structures they create can be fatal to wood house, creating really instable areas in walls, beams and foundations. So naturally we were a little worried when we first noticed them last year. We cleaned up their trails with vinegar and soap and spread cinnamon around the places where we thought they were getting in and this led to a major drop off.

In March however, as soon as the weather warmed up, the ants were back, and they kept coming in more and more numbers until we finally took the bull by the horns and called a pest control operator. He asked if we had seen any with wings. The day before we called him (10 days ago) we had seen an ant with wings. This was a clear sing of summer, and the fact that the ants were preparing to move.

Since we phoned him, we have seen maybe one or two ants. The rest have vanished.

Other islanders confirm that the ants really do come and go. Some years are worse than others, but most people have never had them hang around. All that remains for this year is to find the nest, see if it was in the house and assess the damage if there is any.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Settling into summer here. The weather over the last few days has been quite hot, and that has driven us to the beaches. Beaches here are gathering places in the summer. When we don't know what else to do, we head for Bowen Bay or Tunstall Bay or even Sandy Beach, set up and wait for people to arrive. All manner of interactions and conversations take place, with friends, neighbors or visitors.

Berry season is in full flight, and the salmon berries are disappearing as fast as the can be found. Seeing the salmon berries ripen reminds me that we have been here almost a year.

Nothing new to report on the bear, other than the fact that it is actually about 300 pounds and it was hit by a car last week, although neither the bear or the car sustained much damage.

On the "it could only happen on an island" front, there was one weird story from last week. Ferry workers discovered a car that hd no driver when the ferry unloaded at Snug Cove early in the week. This set off a panic, as the workers feared someone had been lost overboard. A search and rescue effort was launched, with the result that the owner turned up, on Bowen Island. Apparently he had forgotten that he drove on the ferry and he walked off. Amazing, really, when you think about it. It's only a 20 minute crossing.

Aine and I have created a new ritual for after supper. While Finn goes to bed, we head out to find new beaches. A couple of nights ago we uncovered the beach at Cates Bay on Hood Point, which is a really beautiful beach, mostly consisting of small stones and big pieces of bleached drift wood. There is an old cedar log on the beach that must be about 500 years old - we'll count the rings one day. The beach is hard to find becasue the locals at Hood Point keep taking down the sign which points to the access path. Last summer the municipality built a staircase down the short cliff to the beach, over the objections of the Hood Pointers. Anyway, we found it.

Aine and I have been sleeping on the front deck in sleeping bags over the last couple of weeks. It is amazing sleeping outside every night. It is silent except for the occisional train on the continent or the low rumble of a tug in the Channel. Sometimes deer crash through the salal below us and once or twice I have heard and owl out hunting. Last night it rained most of the night. A soft hiss like a down pillow to sink into.

Thursday, June 6, 2002

I’m thinking about things arriving here these days.

The other day we went for a walk in the woods to look for a reptile that everyone calls the “Dragon Lizard” but which has the more technical, if no less more fearsome. Name of “Northern Alligator Lizard.” These reptiles frequent rocky lairs around our place, and the neighbours cats often drag them in. Aine and I wanted to see if we could find one in it’s natural habitat rather than at the bottom of a yoghurt container, so we went walking in the woods.

On our trek around Kilarney Lake, we turned up a number of rocks and logs and so on, and discovered lots of interesting creatures, including red-legged frogs, big dingy ground beetles, fiery hunter beetles, and the prize, an Ensatina salamander, lying pale pink under a maple log. No lizards, but lot’s of this sort of thing.

It set me to wondering about how these things get to an island that lies two miles of shore. I was still pondering the question when the bear arrived.

The bear is a young black bear that swam over here from somewhere, for some reason. After hanging around our place, and nearby Collins Farm, he wandered down by the school (causing a fair panic) and the around Artisan Square. Once folks got locking up the garbage, the bear moved on and was last seen around Cowen Point, in the far southern part of the Island. There are no plans to remove the bear or shoot it, as it has not become a nuisance. There are several people calling for it’s expulsion though, but the wildlife folks contend that Bowen is occasional bear habitat and they have no plans to move it.

It puts in question a deeper issue for me. Many people are saying that it is only a matter of time before the bear makes trouble, at which time it will be shot dead. They don’t relocate bears anymore. This raises the question about how wild Bowen really is. We are lucky that we have no human predators on Bowen, and are relatively free of cougars and bears. If we take a decision that these animals should not be allowed on this island, for whatever reason (including for good reasons) then we have sadly increased the human footprint here rather dramatically. These are larger philosophical questions, but worth asking none the less.

Other things continue to arrive here as well, especially people. The tourists are flooding on to the island, wandering aimlessly around the Cove, looking for things to spend their money on. There used to be a little button at The Snug that said “Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them.” That certainly sums up the mood of folks who get stuck in ferry overloads.

There are lots more summer cottagers around now too. And the good news is that Chris and Danusia and Annabelle, friends from Vancouver, moved here this week. They have a really nice place up above Artisan Square with a stunning view of the mountains in the Tantalus Range and the North Shore.

Monday, May 13, 2002

The Spring Azures have emerged now with a spell of hot weather we are having. These little butterflies are pale blue or lilac on top at this time of year and they dance around the meadow of sweet vernal grass that we have in front of the house. They are joined at this time of the year only by the Cabbage Whites which are a little bigger.

The Azures actually hatch in two broods over the summer, with the later brood being a lot paler. No one seems to know why this is so.

The butterflies are just one more sign that spring is drawing to a close and that the really warm weather will be here soon. Over the last few days it has been hot, with temperatures in the 20s, which is about as hot as it ever gets in the spring. Funny to think that we had snow on Monday last.

Overnight we have had a low pressure systems move in from the coast bring south easterly winds and rain. The wind blew a large number of blossoms off our cherry tree and covered the driveway with them like snow. Our dogwood tree, sitting next to the cherry, burst into flower, but it does not look well. The leaves are very small and the flowers are misshaped.

That air smells incredibly sweet at this time of the year, from the alders I think. It's like a perfume, especially in the rain. The garden is loving this soaking this morning

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Okay...we think that spring has finally arrived here. Yesterday there was a few inches on snow on the ground in North Vancouver and an ever so slight flurry here, but today was beautiful. Aine and I went over to Tunstall Bay on the west side of the island after supper to peer at the sunset, collect quartz and watch the planetary alignment shape up.

Tunstall Bay is my new favourite beach. It is a wide bay with a long beach cut into three by two piers. The heart of the beach is an old seawall and the brick remnants of an explosives factory that operated there in the early part of the century. It blew up three times, and the third time, the blast could be felt across the Strait of Georgia in Nanaimo, some 12 or so miles away. Following the demise of the factory, the land was bought by MacMillian-Bloedel and in the 1960s the company started to subdivide it. There is now an active Tunstall Bay Community Association which maintains a couple of tennis courts, a pool, a clubhouse and a private wharf.

Thursday, May 2, 2002

It’s been a busy month.

I travelled to Alaska and Williams Lake for work and missed a whole lot of spring arrive here n the coast. Our garden is starting to bloom, with the daffodils and cherry tree leading the way. Rock daphne and tulips, lavender and rhododendrons are also flowering now. We have started a new flower bed kind of as an experiment nto see what the deer will eat and what they won’t. So far it has been planted with heather, yarrow, chrysanthemum and swan river daisies. The scent of wild plants like the sweet elixir of laurel and alder and the sharp tang of skunk cabbage fill the air.

Aine and I joined the Bowen Nature Club and went to hear a talk on the black tailed deer. We discovered that the reason they like to eat garden plants is the fact that these plants contain so much nitrogen. Nitrogen is critical to maintain a community of bacteria in the deer’s rumen, their first stomach, which allows them to process all kinds of food. Without these bacteria, the deer will die, and several have been recorded dying from malnutrition with a full stomach because they couldn’t digest what was in there.

We had a taste of summer this week. A high pressure ridge parked off the coast, bringing our typical summer weather pattern to us. We had clear sunny skies with temperatures in the 20s and no wind. We have all spent time at the beach and are already starting to tan. Down at Deep Bay the other day the tide was so low that Aine crossed the bay on foot and dug for small clams and heart cockles with her friends.

Today the clouds have moved in and we have had a little rain. The cooler wetter weather is good for the new plants, but lousy for the stargazing that we could do. There is a rare planetary alignment right now and the sky is awash with interesting things to see, including a naked eye comet which Aine and I glimpsed from Hood Point.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Well the snow is gone, the weather is a little warmer and the birds have resumed their spring songs. We still have juncos hanging around, but they should be gone soon. For some reason there has been a bald eagle circling over the house.

Other signs of spring include daffodils and a hyacinthe that has blossomed under the protection of a rose bush, which means the deer haven't clipped it to the ground. Down at the hatchery they are getting ready to release coho fry this weekend, and a big Easter egg hunt is planned for the picnic ground in the Cove. I get the sense that Easter picnics are somethign that have always gone on on Bowen, and I recall seeing pictures at the library of Edwardian women in long dresses doling out crustless sandwiches from wicker hampers.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Since 7:00am yesterday morning the snow has been falling. The hints of spring we have received over the past few weeks are distant memories now. Altogether we got about a foot of snow. All day there have been fog horns coming up from ships in the Channel. Today is sunny and cold with another Squamish wind battering the island.

We have had strange weather here this week. Over the weekend a Squamish wind veered a little east and ended up getting us. The cold literally blew through the house. The Squamish winds are caused by the high pressure air in the interior flowing out to the low pressure regions off the coast and that low pressure arrived yesterday with no winds, heavy snow and temperatures around zero.

We have a humming bird visiting us these days along with the little seedeaters who continue to feed off the front porch. With the snow today it’s been a rare treat to see all the birds, calling with their spring songs as they dipped in for a bite.

The temperatures are supposed to warm up over the next few days, ending this blast of winter. The old saying about march coming in like a lamb and out like a lion speaks to the really changeable nature of weather during this month, but with the snowfall and cold records that we have set this week, we have exceeded even the limits of that old saying.

Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Man is it cold here today. -3 with wind chills down to -20.

Here's what Environment Canada said happened this morning:

WWCN20 CWVR 061417












Winds EASING to gale force. You get that? EASING. To GALE force. That's how windy it was here last night. A strong gale is a welcome relief. The water in the Queen Charlotte Channel looks like a river flowing south full of rapids and everything. There were some sailing cancellations on the Vancouver Island ferries this morning, but I've seen a couple go by recently.

No rain at least. Sky is turning blue now and the colour of the sea is following.