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.