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!