Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The light snow has been falling for 30 hours now and has acculmulated close to a foot of puffy but wet stuff. We are now snowed in, and the road is pretty slick, so we're not going anywhere. The kids are stoked and this is perfect snowman weather so pretty soon we'll hit the septic field with meaning, and get some snow structures built.

The weather forecast is for snow and flurries right through the weekend which will be nice. I fully expect all of this to be gone in a couple of weeks once the weather warms up a little. Before that happens though, there is every chance of the conditions coming together to produce utter magic as the clouds lift and mountains blaze in a coating of white from the peaks 5000 feet down to the sea. There are only one or two days in a year when that happens, and hopefully we'll get one of those days this weekend before the rains come to wash it all away.

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Snow here today. A couple of days ago it tried really hard to snow, but it ended up just raining on the lower slopes of Mount Collins where we live, which is at about the 200-230 foot level. . However, the air was really cold and I suspected that it had snowed and stayed elsewhere on the island. Taking a drive into the middle of the island, we discovered that he snow line had descended as far down at the turn at Cates Hill Road off Grafton Road. From there through the Adams Road corridor it was really snowy, like nearly 8 inches on snow on the tress and ground. At this time of year, we call that relatively high stretch of road "Adams Pass" for it's tendency to have more winter than we do closer to the sea.

The kids and I went tobogganing up high on Apodaca Ridge in the Sunset Drive area. We went up to a spot where the land is being cleared for some new houses, on a small peak called Bob's Knob which has views across the valley to Mount Gardner and then north up Howe Sound, as well as views up the Strait of Georgia to Texada Island and Vancouver Island. There was a lot of powdery snow up there, at maybe 800 feet above sea level.

Today a light snow is falling, with small flakes. It's foggy out in the Channel and the wind is totally calm. Winter comes to the coast.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Even though Thea Partridge lived most recently in Toronto, she was very much a part of Bowen Island. She passed away a couple of days ago and left us with this amazing site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Back to weather blogging. We've had a wind and heavy rainfall warning in effect since last night, with something near 80mm of rain on the ground and storm force winds gusting above 90km/h which is rare for the inner coast. The sustained blast from the southeast has produced a leak in the roof for only the second time in two and a half years. Water seems to get in when it is driven into a seam where one of the dormers connects to the roof. The only other time we saw a drip in the living room was Christmas two years ago when similar weather conditions - heavy rain and sustained southeast gales - produced the same result.

The weather warning has been downgraded to a gale warning and things should lighten up this afternoon. I might be mistaken but it seems to me that the really heavy winds hit at night. It must have something to do with the earth cooling that accentuates winds. This time of year, the inlets on the coast are windy at night with either outflow or inflow winds being channeled through the coastal fjords. I imagine these regular blows simply compound the storm winds.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Well the ferry strike ended on Friday, but not before I took the Kinbasket Queen along with 39 other commuters into Horseshoe Bay, riding the fading swells of a southeasterly. There were really no major inconviences to me, and probably to the vast majority of Bowen Islanders. Cormorant Marine did a great job with the water taxi service, and Al Leigh got a barge of fuel over to the island for gas and heating oil.

In fact the comment that best sums up how Islanders dealt with strike was uttered by a commuter on Wednesday morning. Faced with a CBC TV camera crew on the dock at Snug Cove first thing in the morning, he responded to the question "How has the ferry strike affected you?" with a classic Bowen answer:

"Well, no one's shined a bright light in my face at 6:00am before."

Friday, December 12, 2003

Those of you who read this blog regularly or who may be familiar with British Columbia will know that we are currently in the midst of a ferry strike, which means at this point, there is no ferry to or from Bowen Island, and we all have to rely on water taxis to get where we are going. It's a curious situation from a community standpoint, one of the those defining moments that marks a certain period in Bowen history. Years from now people will say "Were you on the island during the strike in 2003?" in the same way as they say "Were you around in 1990 for the week long power failure?"

Anyway, for those of you interested in what life's been like, here's a bit of chronology:

Last weekend

BC Ferries and it's union reached a stalemate in their bargaining and the union indicated on the weekend that it would strike the ferry system. This meant that service would be reduced to essential sailing schedules, designed to offer the minimum required service for island communities off the BC Coast. For Bowen, this meant losing only 3 sailings, but it meant that on Monday the last ferry would leave the mainland at 6:30.

Unluckily for me, this is the first week in 2.5 years of living here that I had to be in town every day. So I went into one-sailing-at-a-time mode.


On Monday I had a meeting in town all day, and so not knowing what the situation would be, I left the island at 5:35am. I had a lot of time to kill before my meeting began at 9:00am so I parked at Spanish Banks in Vancouver and listened to the radio. There was lots of confusion at the major terminals on the routes across the Strait of Georgia. Some sailing were cancelled because of disputes over crews assigned by the union or accepted by the company. It's really impossible to say.

However, the union did say that they would be lifting the picket on the smaller runs, like Bowen and the Gulf Islands and that we would have full ferry services restored on Tuesday. They still planned to picket the major routes.

I got out of my meeting in time to get the 5:35pm sailing home. No problem.


On Tuesday I bussed into town, sailing off Bowen on the 6:35am sailing. My meeting ended at noon and I headed back to Horseshoe Bay for the 2:35pm sailing to Bowen. When I got there around 2:00pm the situation was ugly. A group of passengers who had been stranded overnight and had been waiting nearly 24 hours to go home to Nanaimo had blockaded earlier Bowen and Langdale ferries and would let them unload. It was tense as there were cars parked all over the marshalling area and foot passengers confronting traffic.

At 2:15 or so an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the provincial minister of labour, Graham Bruce, had called for an 80 day cooling off period during which full service needed to be restored and the existing contract would be honoured. However, only a few minutes prior to this, the union and the company had actually reached an agreement on how to manage the essential services issues that had gummed up the service on Monday.

Our ferry services was already fully restored but after the Minister became involved, the union got angry and vowed to walk completely off the job.

I got home fine, and the pumped up crowd who had got their way also made a 3:00pm sailing to Nanaimo, but I wondered at what cost.


We found out the cost on Wednesday. I had an afternoon meeting, so the whole family traveled into town on the 10:35am sailing. The ferry workers on board were wearing orange buttons which said "Shut It Down" and they told us they were probably walking off the job at noon.

We proceeded to town, did a big shop and subsequently discovered that they had indeed shut the ferry system down. There was no way to get home except by water taxi, but the kids were tired and suffering a little from colds so we stayed in town at Caitlin's parent's place last night.


Still no boast running, but the excellent folks at Cormorant marine were running the water taxis to Bowen, so I dropped the kids and Caitlin off at the government dock in Horseshoe Bay and headed back to town for a noon meeting. I was finished in time for the 2:35pm water taxi, but I had to leave the car with a trunk full of groceries on the other side. I managed to stuff a knapsack full of mandarins and broccoli and and few other perishables.

All this time, Islanders had been coping fairly well. Al Leigh, the owner of the gas station barged over a fuel truck and a truck full of food got towed over too. Several people like me had cars stranded on the continent, so there was lots of hitch hiking going on. Peter King the bus driver made a special trip out to Tunstall Bay to pick up my family who were visiting friends there and he drove them down to the Cove. The Bowen spirit flowed beautifully yesterday.


It's early Friday morning and I'm still preparing for a full day meeting tomorrow. There is no end in sight for the complete strike, although the company has a court date tomorrow to get the service restored. I'll head down to the dock early and hop a water taxi to try to get to my meeting on time and play it by ear.

For all the news, check these sites:

I'll post again when I get a chance.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Finisterre Island, by Ian Fry

Every year on this weekend in December, Bowen Island artisans and crafts people take over the community school for the annual craft fair. This year almost every room, hall way and corner of the building was full, with the gym being the centre of attraction, but many folks were squeezed in all kinds of nooks and crannies selling their wares.

A prime example of the kind of Bowen ingenuity that appears at this time of year is embodied by my friend Julie Andres, who is married to Ian Fry, a brilliant painter. On Monday Julie woke up in the middle of the night and thought "we need a calendar for the craft fair." She assembled 12 of Ian's paintings (some of which can be seen at his website), contacted Brian Creswick to do the design and had them printed at The Office. The whole thing was ready yesterday, and they sold 60 at the craft fair, and sales are swift elsewhere. I just bought one myself.

On the inside back cover of the calendar is a little text by Ian which really captures the spirit of what art making here is all about:

One of the fine things about being on an island is the potential of 360 degree sea views. Being an artist on Bowen Island gives this opportunity in spades. Even after years of being here, the beauty of my surroundings never fails to move or leave me short of good ideas. From my view across Bowen's west side to Vancouver Island, the ever-changing light and weather patterns give me anticipation of events to arrive - the west wind for ravens and eagles overhead, the Squamish for whitecaps roaring down the channel, scattering birds like chaff.

Who could live long enough to say that they have found all there is, even on this small rock?

The thing I love about the calendar, in addition to Ian's art, is that each week starts on a Saturday, which is a very Bowen thing to do.

Friday, November 28, 2003

My friend Corbin Keep, who is the Jimi Hendrix of the cello, has just had a profile done in the Georgia Straight, Vancouver's answer to the Village Voice. There is a paragraph in the article where he talks about "Aliens," a track off his new album, which goes like this:

"I had a woman call me up about a month ago," he adds. "And she said, 'Corbin, listen to this.' Her kid is three, and he has this ritual: he puts all thse pots and pans on the staircase in their kitchen, and then he puts on that song and bashes the pots and pans during the verses, then stands at attention to sing along during the chorus. So I guess it's funny and goofy and kids seem to like it."

That kid is my son Finn.

Our little newspaper, The Bowen Island Undercurrent is now online. I have added it to the noosphere links at left.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

On Bowen we celebrate often. In the summer, we stage Bowfest, a festival of music and humour that serves as our island's national summer holiday. The High Holiday on Bowen is definitely Halloween which features a fireworks display from the volunteer fire department from Sandy Beach on Mannion Bay as well as a haunted house interactive multi-media perfomance and scads of trik or treating in Deep Bay.

Once the weather turns dark and wet, we get ready to Light Up The Cove, beginning the annual Christmas season. This year the agenda looks like this:

6:00-6:20 Music at Artisan Square

6:20-6:30 Lantern Parade walks to Village Square

6:30-6:40 Carol Singing at Village Square

6:40 Light up Village Square

6:40-6:45 Parade continues to the Creche at Orchard Square

6:55 Three Wise Men lead the parade to the Cenotaph

7:00 Cannon sounds to Light Up the Cove

7:05 Santa arrives at Union Steamship dock

7:00-7:30 Carolers and Santa at Docs Patio for goodies

7:30 Santa departs by Fire Truck

7:30 Celebration of the Nativity continues at the Creche at Orchard Square

Santa arriving on a boat at the USSC dock and getting carried off by the fire truck is an annual highlight. It's usually pouring rain on the day, but this year the clear cold weather we have been enjoying all month is expected to continue.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Snow for real this morning..a small crisp dusting of it as we awoke this morning. Several people have said that this winter will be colder than normal. The evidence seems to bear out the trend, at least for the fall so far.

It reminds me of a story told by my friends Mary Everson who lives on the Comox First Nation up the coast. When her ailing mom was in hospital at nearly 100 years old, the nurses asked her one fall if she thought it would be a cold winter. When she said it would be, they asked her how she knew that.

"Well," she said, "white people have a lot of firewood."

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Had a little bit of wet snow last night around here. This morning the clouds are beaking up and the mountains are resplendant. I love it when the seasons transition like this...fall easing into winter.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The craziness continues. Today there is an editorial in the Vancouver Sun about our little learning centre. It's weird. I know organizations that would kill for the press coverage we have got, and we never even seeked it. CBC radio and TV have run stories about us, the Sun and the Province have run articles and now this editorial.

I'm sad that the story seems to actually be one where the writers are using what we are doing to find division and negativity in the system. If it bleeds it leads I guess. The good thing that has come out of this is that lots of folks have started emailing and phoning us for information about what we are doing and how to do it where they live.

My advice is be positive and inclusive and remember that this is about suporting a community of learners, not setting up some kind of alternative to school just for opposition's sake. We're not about that.

Here is the editorial in full:

Choice in schooling a necessity, not a luxury: Bowen Island program shows how entrepreneurial system works

Vancouver Sun

Monday, November 17, 2003

Despite the West Vancouver school board's misgivings, the New Westminster school board's unprecedented decision to open a school on Bowen Island -- which lies within West Vancouver's jurisdiction -- is good for everyone involved.

The new school -- the Bowen Island Supported Home Schoolers' Program -- brings home-schooled children into the public system and gives them contact with certified teachers. It also provides them with the opportunity to leave their computers and participate in meaningful group activities, something educators argue is crucial to learning.

Education Minister Christy Clark praised the New Westminster board, saying its entrepreneurial actions are exactly what she has advocated. Parents of students enrolled at the school seem thrilled with the program, since it offers them the less structured environment they've long wanted.

Not surprisingly, the only people who seem disturbed by the development are members of the West Vancouver school board.

"Competition between school boards is ludicrous," said trustee Jane Kellett, who also worried that the new school might draw down the enrolment of West Vancouver's Bowen Island Community School.

Those two concerns are entirely unfounded, and for the same reason. The children who will benefit from the new school were all home-schooled, and were not members of the community school. Therefore, there's little reason to believe the new school will have any effect on the old one.

Similarly, the development of the new school doesn't attest to any direct competition between school boards.

If both West Vancouver and New Westminster were attempting to provide the same service to the same kids, that would really be competition. But in this case, New Westminster is simply providing a service that didn't exist before.

In fact, West Vancouver, and all other school boards in the province, have much to learn from this affair. If school boards don't provide the services that parents and children want, then another board could well step in and fill the gap.

Boards should therefore learn that they must be entrepreneurial and offer choice in education. That's something the provincial government -- and this newspaper -- have long advocated.

Choice is something that shouldn't be viewed as a luxury, but as a necessity.

Some years ago, the provincial government noticed that parents were sending their children to private school in ever greater numbers, because private schools offered things the public system wasn't matching.

That trend was not seen in places like Edmonton, though, because that city has long stood as the model of school choice in Canada -- there's virtually nothing private schools can provide that the city's public system doesn't offer.

The Edmonton approach gets high marks from parents: Fully 90 per cent of parents are satisfied with the city's educational system, compared with a 63 per cent satisfaction rating in B.C.

If this province wants to raise that level of satisfaction, it has to ensure that school boards provide the broadest choice possible. That's easier said than done, of course, because board trustees are sometimes set in their ways and have to be nudged into making changes.

The New Westminster decision could be just the nudge they need.

It could also herald the beginning of a new era, an era where British Columbian children's educational opportunities are limited only by the imaginations of B.C.'s school boards.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Kids at our learning centre

For about three years now, a group of us families who homeschool have been working to develop a learning centre here on Bowen. After lots of hard work by my wife Caitlin and many other, we opened our centre in September. Our oldest daughter attends there along with other 11 kids for up to 2.5 days a week. There are about 30 kids in our program.

We were really fortunate to be supported in this effort by a public school board in New Westminster, which is not our school board. When we went to the West Vancouver school board for support, they indicated that they didn't have the money or capacity to support us. That's understandable as not every school board is prepared to support home learners.

New Westminister stepped up for us and included us in their distance program, for which we were grateful. Last week, the Vancouver Sun wrote about us, I think as an effort to try to uncover some kind of bad blood between school boards, as if New Westminster was "poaching" students from West Van, and keeping them out of the community school here on Bowen.

I'll reprint the whole article here with a couple of notes. First, we aren't a school. We're a learning centre that supports homelearners and their families. Second, we never "complained" that the West Vancouver school board would not support us. We asked them, they said no, and we understood and moved on. We are always open to their support, but we have never run them down for not providing us with funding. We are a community of homelearners. We are used to doing things on our own and creating community and resources where we need them. I don;t think any of our families feel entitled to public funding. We are grateful for it, that's all.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that the vast majority of our kids are not actually in the public school system. If we didn't have the learning centre, the kids would stay home and we would organize groups and trips and activities together just like we did last year and in previous years. I don;t think it's fair to characterize New West as poaching students. And anyway, the Nechako school board in northern British Columbia has been offering an e-learning support program to homeschooled children for years. They aren't poaching either, just providing choice.

Anyway, read on to see what other's think about the amazing little centre, and community of families, we have built together.

The New Westminster school board has taken an unprecedented step to provide choice in public education, moving beyond its boundaries to open a school on Bowen Island after parents complained that West Vancouver school officials were ignoring their needs.

The tiny school, located in a church hall, serves about two dozen home-schooled children, who had previously been outside the public system. The students, from kindergarten to Grade 7, now have a full-time teacher, access to publicly funded resources and a place where they can meet for group learning.

New Westminster says it simply responded to government directives to provide educational choice and draw home-schooled children into the public system for contact with certified teachers. The district says it has developed a home schooling program that many parents like and considers itself a leader in attracting students back into the public school system.

West Vancouver trustees, who thought they had sole jurisdiction for public education on Bowen Island, are miffed.

"It's a little bit alarming," said board chair Clive Bird, who knew parents approached the New Westminster board but didn't realize a school had opened until contacted by The Vancouver Sun this week.

The two boards have not discussed the matter.

"Our reaction was, 'What's going on here?'" he added.

West Vancouver trustee Jane Kellett, a Bowen Island resident, said the parents' proposal was rejected by senior officials because West Vancouver has never had a home-schooling program and wasn't prepared to start one this year.

Furthermore, she said Bowen Island already has an excellent public elementary school --Bowen Island Community School -- and she worries that any new program might draw down its enrolment.

"This doesn't make any sense at all," she said, adding that boards usually make decisions about services based on priorities and funding without having to worry that another board might step in.

"Competition between school boards is ludicrous."

When they first learned that parents were approaching New Westminster, West Vancouver officials appealed to the education ministry, asking if New Westminster had legal authority to set up shop in another district's backyard.

It does.

New Westminster trustee Michael Ewen said his board isn't poaching students because the children involved were never part of the West Vancouver public system. Rather, it is providing a service where none existed, he noted.

"These children weren't receiving professional education services," Ewen said. "This was bringing them into the public school system, albeit in a different way."

Ewen said he doesn't see anything wrong with the Bowen Island satellite and would be willing to establish similar programs in other parts of the province if there were requests, although he doesn't know if his colleagues on the board feel the same way.

"I'm prepared to do whatever we need to do to meet kids' needs -- as long as the program is educationally sound and fiscally viable," he said. "I guess I wonder why other districts wouldn't be open to offering alternate programs."

Some school boards have been more willing than others to offer choice programs and, until now, parents were expected to live with those decisions. Their only options were independent schools or distance education, which could be arranged with an outside school board and delivered via computer.

The ministry said it knows of no other case where a school board has moved into another board's territory -- especially without that board's permission -- to open a school.

Education Minister Christy Clark praised New Westminster for responding to student needs.

"That's exactly what I've been talking about when I say I want school districts to be more entrepreneurial," she said this week.

"If New Westminster thinks they can make this a success and West Vancouver doesn't, why should those students --just by virtue of the fact they happen to live in the West Vancouver school district -- be limited in where they can go to school or who can provide them with an education?"

New Westminster is one of several districts to develop home-schooling options this year as a result of a ministry decision to provide per-pupil funding for home-schooled students equal to that of regular students.

New Westminster associate superintendent Russ Pacey said home-schooling enrolment jumped to 180 this year.

The New Westminster program is popular among home schoolers because it emphasizes meaningful group activities for students rather than a fixation on computers, he added.

New Westminster is interested in "pushing its mandate," Pacey said, noting it is one of several school districts negotiating to set up schools abroad. If it can offer education in China, why not Bowen Island? he asked.

The Bowen Island school won't make money but is expected to break even, Ewen said. New Westminster would likely hand the program over to West Vancouver if that board were interested, and would even provide direction about how to work with home-schoolers, he said.

Parents of students enrolled in the school -- officially called the Bowen Island Supported Home Schoolers' Program --said New Westminster's approach to home schooling fit perfectly with what they had long wanted for their children.

"They were offering what we were looking for," said Tim Moynihan, whose two daughters are enrolled in the program. "It's absolutely perfect."

Deborah Thomson, who also has two children in the program and was part of the group that approached New Westminster, said she is not opposed to regular school, but while her children are young, she wants a less structured environment. "It's a mistake to believe every child can thrive to the same degree in the same environment."

Al Saugstad, the teacher in the Bowen Island satellite school, said West Vancouver didn't really understand the Bowen Island parents' proposal, which had been developed over two years.

It was "shoved to the back of the agenda," he said, but with New Westminster, "it was a match made in heaven."

Saugstad's own children are among the approximately two dozen who attend the centre roughly half time.

He gives them guidance as needed and assesses them as regularly as students in New Westminster schools are assessed. He also works with some distance-education students elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.

Saturday, November 8, 2003

My mom has come and gone from Ontario and since her arrival on Hallowe'en until today, there has been no rain at all. We have had clear blue skies and sub-zero temperatures. More like a fall in Ontario than here on the coast where 327mm of rain officially fell last month.

a foot of rain one month and nothing the next. Best just to take it all one day at a time!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

My friend Louise Loik had a piece published in the Globe and Mail today about rescuing salmon which jump out of the fish ladder at Killarney Creek, a hald mile down the road. Here story is hilarious and touching:

Salmon that can leap tall waterfalls, can also throw themselves over the side walls of the fish ladder. The evidence is before us. A salmon that, incredibly, has made it along the ladder to just below the last waterfall, has landed on dry earth. It flaps with futility. There's no way to get back into the water. My children plead for my help.

I consider my options. I look at my daughters. I look at the large fighting fish, and then at the nearly vertical slippery trail leading to the top of the waterfall where the salmon must go to complete its life's mission. The girls watch me in a big-eyed slow-blinking way. I can't just toss the fish back inside the ladder to have it just jump back out again.

I attempt to grab the salmon. This fish is the size of a cat and, like a wildcat, it is now fighting for its life. Salmon, unlike fluffy cats, are torpedo-shaped, and happen to be covered in slime.

Undeterred, I keep trying. The creature responds by slapping me in the face, leaving a fishy mucous on my cheek. My kids have now lost their look of grief and desperation. Overcome by laughter, the girls are flapping about on the ground like goldfish out of their tank. What am I to do?

Somehow, I wind up with a huge fish waging a battle for its life inside my jacket while I attempt to rush it to the water. I jam my elbows into the sides of the embankment to try to get up past the waterfall. We get to the height of the waterfall and must dash across the street to get to the headwater. Drivers stare in disbelief as I run across the road to release the writhing mass to its home. There's a splash and the beautiful Chinook immediately swims behind a rock and releases her eggs.

The whole story is well worth the read.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Last night's aurora from Alaska. This is pretty much what I saw too

There was a strong northwest wind yesterday, sustaining blows over 80km/h for the other side of the island. I haven't heard reports of tress down, although I was nearly hit by an inch thick alder branch as I was walking through the forest to my Taekwondo class. The northwesterlies bring clear and cold weather to Bowen, and for the first time yesterday, I could smell winter on the wind; not the wet blustery winter of the south coast, but the real Canadian winter, frosty and cold. I could smell snow.

These winds turned out to be a blessing because they cleared the skies for a spectacular display of the northern lights last night. North Americans have to be living in a cave not to know that there is unprecedented solar activity happening now, which means auroras far south of their usual latitudes. Last night around midnight I drove up to Hood Point, which faces north into Howe Sound to see what I could see.

As soon as I stepped outside and looked up I could see the green glow in the sky. I knew that it could be a special night. During the 15 drive up to Hood Point, I sneaked glances at the glow which seemed to be intensifying although remaining quite diffuse. Once I arrived at the point, and turned off the car lights, I could see that the whole northern sky from the horizon to about 70 degrees over my head was filled with green light, bright enough to cast a shadow on the ground below me.

For about 15 minutes, nothing much happened. Some spikes developed, and the glow shifted in intensity a little, but otherwise stayed steady. Gradually however, a reddish tinge developed near the top of the glow, which was almost overhead. Simultaneous to that, the light coalesced into spikes rising the length of the sky to meet in a point that was overhead and a little south of me. Blood red patches developed in the east and west and the light started to flicker and pulsate above me. Huge, rapid waves of energy surged through the upper atmosphere, sending chills up and down my spine. The red colour grew and faded in intensity as did the definition. When I left an hour later, the light was diffuse again, but there was already a sharp definition along the bottom of the glow, up above Mount Garibaldi to the north. I had no doubt that curtains would develop later in the night, but by 1:00am I was tired and cold, and afraid that if I didn't start home I would fall asleep and have to drive back along the deer infested roads too groggy to be careful.

We don't often get the auroras this far south, but when we do, I usually see them, and they rarely fail to disappoint. Last night's outburst was the second or third best display I have ever seen, behind a spectacular 1993 display in Ottawa featuring a red whirlpool directly above us, and the multicoloured 90 degree high curtains I saw on a canoe trip near James Bay in 1986. Last night ranks one above a beautiful and subtle display of the auroras I saw at Hecla National park in Manitoba in October 1997 which was of the dancing curtain variety and also topped a display seen from the roof of my apartment building in Vancouver in August 1998, when spikes flashed across the sky like lightning.

The auroras were a global phenomenon in temperate latitudes last night. Did you see them where you are?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

For those of us that are newcomers to Bowen, it's worth remembering that there were people here long before we arrived who made this place very much what it is now. One of those people, Buster Roueche is leaving Bowen after living here for ages. He was a force behind the Legion on the island, and contributed much to the community. It's great hearing "old time" islanders talk about him. It's important to remember that all the growth of the island in the last 15 years has sort of eclipsed the community of people who lived here when it wasn't a convienent place to get to.

When people like Buster move on, or pass away, we get inklings of this community and culture in the obituaries in the Undercurrent or the odd posting at Bowen Online. These "old timers" are the history of this place, and as they die, our collective sense of place changes. I worry a little that too much of this loss will mean that Bowen becomes a suburb in that it seems grounded more in development and newness than in the stories of the people like the Davies, the Buchanans, the Carters, Millers, Collins', Taylors and others who settled here and created the community we now call home. Their silent hand runs deeply through everything we are here. Forget them and we become another new place, devoid of personality, history and collective care.

My mom sends a photo of the fall leaves from the top of the Blue Moutains, on the Niagara Escarpment near Collingwood, Ontario.

This is what I miss at this time of year. It's a little call home to my ancestral place.

Monday, October 20, 2003

It has started raining again and we are under another heavy rainfall warning. The flooding is serious up in Pemberton and Squamish. Eight hundred people have been evacuated from their homes and two people have died. I used to work a lot up in Pemberton when I was involved in Treaty negotiations there in the late 1990s. I know the mayor and several leaders in the surrounding First Nations. Flooding is nothing new to these folks, living in a flat valley that often backs up with ice or just bursts its banks when it runs too high. Many of the houses and farms in the Pemberton Meadows are built on raised berms to keep them out of the historic flood plain so hopefully the damage will be minimized by the good precautions they have taken. The biggest concern for many will be the seed potato stock that is stored in root cellars. Pemberton is one of the few blight-free places in Canada, which means that seed potatoes grown there are highly valued. Even though nearby Whistler drives a fair chunk of the local economy, agriculture and logging still make up a lot of the enterprise in the Valley. And seed potatoes are the cream of that crop.

At this point the communities of Pemberton, Mount Curry, Birken, D'arcy and N'Quatqua as well as the In-SHUCK-ch Nation communities of Skatin, Samahquam and Port Douglas are cut off from the rest of the world by washed out bridges, so the bigger concern for all involved is getting food and essentialls in to the Valley. Government says a temporary bridge should be in place over the washed out Rutherford Creek in a couple of days. I know they can all hang on, being flood veterans and pretty self-sufficient up that way.

So I'm sending out best wishes to my old friends and colleagues, Allan McEwan, Phil Perkins, Hugh Naylor and mayor Elanor Warner as well as the folks down the Lillooet River Valley in the In-SHUCK-ch Nation communities and up in D'Arcy and N'Quatqua.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Wait a minute...the sun's out.

For the first time in five days I can stick my head outside and not hear something trickling. The sea is flat out in the channel and there are large trees floating in it, still with branches on. Howe Sound will be full of douglas-firs that have fallen into the water from the eroding mountainsides, or travelled down the Squamish River and its tributaries in what are ominously called "debris torrent flows." And it's warm out: 15 degrees at the moment..

The low around which the jetsream has been bending, has moved north and landed in Alaska, depriving it of any more energy and robbing its ability to suck water out of the central Pacific Ocean and drop it on my house. There is still rain in the forecast, but it looks like it will be normal rain: showers, steady drizzle maybe. Nothing you can catch in 15 minutes in a coffee mug and drink.

There is another system approaching the coast but this one looks like it will actually keep moving. Temperatures are forecast to stay warm until the jet stream dips south and the Arctic air starts to flow in later in the fall. Right now, it's nice just to feel the sun, and remember what "dry" means.

This is a graph of the total rainfall we receive on this part of the island. You can see that our average preciptiation for October is 200mm, which we did in the first 30 hours of this storm. Our average annual preciptiation is about 1880 mm, of which we have done about 16% since Thursday. I've run out of ways to describe this rainstorm. Now I'm talking like an accountant.

It's now being called a century storm, reflecting the fact that these kinds of events only happen once in a hundred years in these parts. There is serious flooding at the north end of Howe Sound, in Squamish, Whislter and Pemberton, and that's a worry for folks up there. We're fine here, perched on a hillside with our house on piles embedded in the bedrock. We have Niagara Falls running in the rock cut below the house, and under the woodpile. So we're okay, but spare a thought for the folks up the highway a little.

Thankfully the storm seems to have an end in sight although it's still a couple of days away. The rain is more sporadic and there have been more extended periods without rain yesterday and today. I'll leave you with this graphic for now, which shows the system as it has been streaming over us since Wednseday night. It's as if Hawaii is a tap and someone left it running. You can see the band of precipitation literally streaming towards us.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I just have to record these weather warnings for posterity:






At the moment it is actually NOT raining. We had 147 mm of rain recorded in Squamish yesterday in total. There is dangerous flooding conditions now there at the top of Howe Sound. You would not believe the water pouring off the land at the moment. These are record rainfalls. Yesterday Vancouver recorded it's highest ever single day rainfall at 62 mm, but it has been substantially more here in Howe Sound as the clouds pile into the fijord and dump their rain closer to the mountains. The air is really warm, probably 20 degrees C right now. Sattelite phots show a stream of warm wet air coming straight from Hawaii, a classic Pineapple Express. The difference this time is that it has stalled over the coast, and it has just rained and rained and rained. By the time the system is through, we will have had upwards of 300 mm of rain fall on us in a three day period. That's one foot. If it was snow it would translate into three meters which is more than nine feet. That's what we are talking about here. It's just unreal how much water is falling from the sky.

On another note, as we remember this day for its moisture content, we bid farewell tonight to Miriam and Remy who are the owners of La Mangerie, an eatery that was an important live music venue here on Bowen. They are leaving for Holland and the restaurant is closing, and with it goes a great Bowen musical incubator. Everyone who plays anything has at some point been on stage at La Mangerie. I played there a number of times. The closing of La Mangerie represents a real loss to the Bowen music community. We shut it up tonight in a really appropriate fashion with a band featuring Moritz Behm on fiddle, Teun Scheut on guitar, Gino Rutigliano on bass and Buff Allen on drums, joined by Bazil Graham and Julie Vik on vocals. This is a band that came together around the Bowen Island Music Exchange CD we put out in the summer, an effort that was largely born out of the mix and match nature of gigging at La Mangerie.

Hopefully new owners will keep the music, but one never knows. Good luck to Miriam and Remy.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Turns out that the rain, which is still falling heavily, has set new records. All the resevoirs are full again, and memories of the water shortages of just four weeks ago seem like another time.

I loaded the last of the small mammals into the ark. By consensus of gardners everywhere, we're leaving the deer behind!

New expressions are being coined by the hour: it's so wet, the fish are coming up for air.
We had 120 mm of rain yesterday and it's still raining. Prior to yesterday, we had 820mm of rain ALL YEAR. We had received 12.7% of our annual precipitation to date in the last 24 hours.

There are waterfalls in my backyard, flooding on the roads and ditches are all running over. It's just unbelievable how much water is falling out of the sky.

Enough blogging about the rain...I'm off to build an ark.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I love this...this crazy weather!

We have had about 5-8mm of rain fall every hour since midnight. That's something like 100mm of rain so far today and look what's in store:










Don't you love that language? The front is "draped over the south coast." That pretty much describes the scene outside my window at the moment. Not windy right now, but cloaked in moisture. The gales are expected tonight.

The rainiest day so far this year was 33mm back in April. We did that before the sun came up. Do you have any idea how much 100mm of rain is? That's four inches. Somthing like a CD case standing up. More than the average annual rainfall for Saudi Arabia.

And we have three or four more days of this, meaning that between now and Sunday night, we should have had close to a foot of rain if it all falls according to schedule. If it sounds like I'm writing too much about rain it's because, well, it's raining A LOT.

Have a peek at the weather links on the left for the various photos and obersvations of this system that is currently soaking us and blasting us with gales.
Here on Canada's "wet coast" we have as mnay kinds of rain as there are kinds of snow in the north. On the west coast of Vancouver Island the Nuu-Chah-Nulth folks have lots of different names for rain. I'll have to collect some of them some time.

Since I have lived out here I have collected lots of different names for rain too, especially at this time of year, when discerning the differences between types of rain passes for a semi-serious avocation. One day I'll publish the list.

Today though, I invented a new name. Last night's rainfall was heavy and steady, like a summer cloudburst that lasted seven hours. When I looked out at the rain in the cold steely grey morning light it occurred to me that this was "rain-that-is-being-thrown-from-the-sky."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

When I first moved to Bowen Island, I wrote a piece on the place names of Howe Sound which stands up pretty well today as my contribution to the Ecotone Wiki's collective blogging about place names for today. From that original post, I wanted to reiterate something Robert Bringhurst wrote about the Squamish name for Bowen Island, "Xwlil Xhwm." Bringhurst referred to that name as "a stony protuberance of meaning cloaked in a forest of evergreen consonants" which of course perfectly captures the sense of the place here. "Bowen" was a British Navy captain who never saw this part of the world. "Xwlil Xhwm" is all about the creation of the earth, the transformation of humans and the origin of the black-tailed deer.

Lately, there has been a wonderful effort underway to write history back on the land. Julian and Kathy Dunster have been busy naming all of the creeks on Bowen. Julian is a forester and Kathy is a biologist who hand drew a four by six foot map of Bowen for the Islands of the Salish Sea mapping project. Together they have been covering every square inch of the island searching for watercourses, and naming the ones that haven't been named yet. All of this naming reflects the post-European settlement and character of the island. Among the names of the creeks, streams and rivers are a bunch that reflect the names of Bowen Islanders past and present, and then there are these whimsical ones:

  • Bong Creek

  • Bang Creek

  • Drum Beat

  • Purple Haze

  • Kill Creek

  • Whine Creek

  • Stream of Consciousness

  • Drinking Cougar

  • Hanging Deer

  • Om Creek

  • Donny Brook

  • Dharma Creek

  • Dogma Creek

Wonderful, eh?

Monday, October 13, 2003

Aine and Finn and I went for a bit of a drive today, up to Hood Point West, to see if we could see any seals in the Collingwood Channel. No seals, but a couple of Kingfishers, and eagle and some young gulls fishing were all we saw. The clouds in the Sound were hanging around the mountains, but the weather has cleared a little. Once in a while the peaks of the Brittania Range poked through and lo and behold, at about the 1700 meter level, there was a fresh coat of snow. The weather that delivered the rain and wind at sea level on Saturday dusted the mountains with the first snowfall of the season.

As if to take the cue, we received a load of a couple of cords of alder today to burn with our mill ends. It's all about wood, fire and keeping warm and dry now.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Fred's interested in the weather around here now. So here is what it looks like when a wind warning is issued for the Sunshine Coast, which forms the north edge of Howe Sound. I pay special attention to these, because southeasterly wind warnings affect us, given that we are about 100 meters above sea level looking out over the water directly southeast.:

Weather Warnings - Environment Canada: "SUNSHINE COAST 9:07 AM PDT FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2003





There ya go. Looks like a wet weekend coming up.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

We're in the lee of the first Pineapple Express of the season. Yesterday morning, the rain, which had been falling all night suddenly starting falling horizontally in sheets and the wind picked up. The waves in the channel were pretty big, coming right at us, indicating strong southeasterlies. Trees bending and shedding needles and branches. We've had the fireplace up and running for a couple of days now, taking the dampness out of the air. (So has Fred by the way).

Autumn has taken hold on Bowen. The rain storm has drowned the last crickets, and I've heard Barred Owls the last couple of nights, scooping up rats and mice in the long grass in front of the house. A change has come, a tilt of some kind, that has brought new weather and washed the colour out of the landscape.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Just out for a walk with fellow Bowen blogger John Dumbrille, downing coffee at La Mangerie and walking his dog through the meadow. John and his partner Michelle were recently the subjects of a television program on Zen Buddhism.

I don't know what it is about Bowen, but we seem to have our fair share of Buddhist practice communities, including regular sittings in the Vipassna and Dzogchen traditions. There are also a number of martial arts offered here, including Wu Shu, Taoist Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do and Karate. My whole family is taking Tae Kwon Do right now, and I'm due to sign up soon. The teacher, Master Kook says "the family that kicks together sticks together."

Why an island community of 3500 should be home to so many Asian disciplines is a mystery to me, but I like it.
Fog horns are blaring out in the Sound this morning. A bank of fog moved in last night and I can hardly stand to glimpse out to the water, as the sun is glaring off the fog making it seem as if the sun itself has descended into the Sound. It is clear where we are, but very thick just below us. Always eerie, these autumn fogs give one a glimpse of peering over the edge of the earth into nothingness.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

This week's Ecotone topic is Ancestral Place

I have a friend who was raised in the farmland of the St. Lawrence River valley on a farm near Cardinal, Ontario. He moved out to British Columbia for a couple of years in the early nineties, but he came back saying that he could make it out here. He said that from the time he was born he ate food that was grown in the soil of Ontario. It was as if his body had been constructed from the raw materials of that land, and when he moved out here, he resonated on a different frequency.

Homesickness for the ancestral lands is what that is all about.

This place, Bowen Island, is not my ancestral homeland. This is not the land I grew up on, and as we move into fall, I feel most acutely that sense of displacement. In fall in my ancestral land of Southern Ontario, the climate changes in particular ways, the snow starts to think about flying and the days are crisp and clear with a sky so blue that it seems as if nature has conjured up sheer light from the natural pigment of air. Here, we get to clear days, but we start in fog and soon enough, we'll be drenched in rain as the Pacific Ocean soaks us for the winter.

I think we resonate with parts of the land that live in our genes. I felt at home the moment I arrived in Saskatchewan for the first time, having never been there before. My great grandparents farmed that part of the world and as a result gave me a piece of that place for my own. Other relatives lived in Toronto, Port Perry, Grey-Bruce and a myriad of other Ontario towns and villages, some for thousands of years, some as recent immigrants.

My ancestral place is not here. As much as I love it here, the ancestral place draws me home at this time of year.

Urge For Going:

by Joni Mitchell

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town

It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down

When the sun turns traitor cold and all the trees are shivering in a naked row

I get the urge for going

But I never seem to go

I get the urge for going

When the meadow grass is turning brown

Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in

I had me a man in summertime

He had summer-colored skin

And not another girl in town

My darling's heart could win

But when the leaves fell on the ground

Bully winds came around, pushed them face down in the snow

He got the urge for going

And I had to let him go

He got the urge for going

When the meadow grass was turning brown

Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout

And all that stays is dying and all that lives is camping out

See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow

They got the urge for going

And they got the wings so they can go

They get the urge for going

When the meadow grass is turning brown

Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Michael Herman has gone home. We had a fun two months, opening space, creating community dialogues, swimming in bioluminesence, working and playing together. He left his mark on Bowen Island, having inspired the mayor to write a column in The Undercurrent and hold weekly coffee chats. He helped us to understand the connections between power, vision and heart as they relate to municipal governance and communities and he taught a bunch of kids to do Horse Lips.

Sad to see him go, but he knows he's welcome to return.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Yesterday, being the first day in about two weeks when I had time to sit and notice the world around me, I had a sudden awakening. I checked the date and found that we had eased into fall, although today's sunny and hot weather belies no hint of that. I caught myself looking out over the water in the Queen Charlotte Channel and just noticing what's going on.

The soundscape of Bowen at the moment is founded upon a steady drone of crickets, which call all day and night, chirping away looking for mates. Birds are quiet, although there have been more flocks of black-capped chickadees and young robins, who hang out silently, trying to look cool. Flickers, Stellar's Jays and nuthatches are all about. The towhees are inconspicuous at the moment, and the eagles and vultures a little more scarce too.

Today walking down along the causeway at Deep Bay, Finn and I watched the coho and the chum salmon jumping in the salt chuck, practicing for when there is enough water for them to enter the fish ladder and swim up to the gravel beds on Terminal Creek. There is no telling what they might find there this as there has been some very reckless dredging of Grafton Lake this summer, with the result that a lot of silt has made it's way into the Terminal Creek system. Along with the complete loss of a batch of coho fry earlier in the summer, this is not good news for this amazing fish. Some of the coho in the bay are two feet long, and are flying a full two feet out of the water right now. Weaving among them was a little grebe, diving for shore crabs and tossing them down.

I harvested some sweet grass yesterday from a clump that my friend April gave me in the spring. I'll braid it and use it for smudging this winter. Maybe have some on hand to give away to Elders.

The traffic is still a mess in the Cove. A bunch of new signs have been added to help people try to navigate the whole situation. They can best be summed up by a large sign that now greets drivers as they unload from the ferry: "Unique Traffic Pattern Ahead." Fair warning I suppose, although it doesn't help. This traffic experiment has become so BIG that it seems impossible to let go of now. Everyone is pulling to hard on everyone else. It's as if we are all standing on a log and leaning away from the other person all the while hanging on for dear life. Let go, and both of you fall in. The only solution is to ease up and move together, but I don't see that happening. It's frustrating, because there is a lot of work to do on the Snug Cove Plan, but at the moment, all of the energy is tied up in this ad hoc road system. With no stated deadlines, evaluation criteria or other parameters, it'll require change that allows someone to save face in order for this thing to move ahead.

In the meantime, I'm of the opinion that our village is a much more unsafe and unappealing place to be.

I can't quite feel fall in the air at the moment. It's close to 35 degrees in the sun right now, and although we have had a little rain and some cool weather, the nights seem to contain and inversion at our modest 200 foot elevation, making the evening air unseasonably warm. Hints of things to come have started appearing though, as last night we had the first Squamish for quite awhile, whooshing out in the Channel and occasionallybreaking over our ridge and swirling around to buffet the house with modest winds. Soon enough, those winds will blow at gale force with an icy edge to them. For now, we're enjoying the respite.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Maybe it's because I've been on the road in Whitehorse, and now Victoria, but I have been trying to turn my mind to the idea of writing about islands and place, and I realize that I am so far inside that conversation that it's hard to write outside of it. This whole blog is about islands and place, so I am forgoing a formal contribution to the Ecotone collective this time round and suggest you simply visit the archives dating back to when I first moved to Bowen to see what I thought of our island back then.

Once I'm home and rooted again I'll be able to be a little more lucid.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

This week at Ecotone: Islands And Place. I am in the midst of writing someting for this topic, but at the moment I am too busy getting ready for a trip to Whitehorse to polish it up. It'll come.

In the meantime, get thee to the Ecotone.

(As I write there is a rare thunderstorm raging outside...we are clear of the drought now)

Sunday, September 14, 2003

It just occurred to me that living here on Bowen, my feet touch the unmediated earth everyday. That was not always the case when I lived in cities.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

It's raining...all day it has been raining! After nearly two full months of drought, the earth is finally soaked again, leaves and Douglas-fir needles litter the ground and mist hangs in the air over the Channel and in the tops of the trees.. It feels like fall, and it feels like such a blessed relief.

Monday, September 8, 2003

The Discovery Passage, photo by Kevin Monahan

Got a lick of rain last night. The jet stream has shifted southwards now and the systems that were being blown on shore far to the north have started kissing us with the promise of autumn's dampness. When I awoke this morning out on the sleeping porch I could see my breath.

I flew home from Port Hrady yesterday evening. As there were a number of little rainshowers along the way from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Vancouver we flew low, probably 1000 or 1500 feet the whole way. This was low enough to see gulls on the water below us and, in places where the sea was dead calm and reflecting rainbows and grey clouds, the splash of whales coming up for air in the Discovery Passage.

It's times like this when I feel so lucky to be able to live in this part of the world and have job that occaisionally takes me whirling at 250mph through indescribable beauty.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

It hasn't rained since July, I think. We're almost out of water in some parts of the island. We might get some showers on the weekend, but it's getting a little desperate.

Monday, September 1, 2003

A map of Bowen Island

This week's Ecotone Wiki topic is Maps and Place

As a kid two of the most prized possessions were my stamp collection and my atlas. I learned more from those two things about geography than anything I learned in school. I learned about the shapes of countries, why some were coloured red (the Commonwealth, of course)

More importantly, I learned from those things how we see the world, and it wasn't until I was in university and I had read Hugh Brody's Maps and Dreams that I began to see all of these representations as maps of place. The map itself, the topographic representation of a place was merely the beginning. What a country chose to put on its stamps was also a map. Certain countries other than the USA for example, honoured US presidents, a fact completely inexplicable to me in my childhood, but absolutely clear in the geo-political consciousness raising of my late teens (although why Poland issued a stamp in 1975 with George Washington on it is still a mystery to me).

At any rate, suffice to say that my twin interests in philately and maps led me to thinking deeply about representations of place.

* * *

Maps are tools that help us make sense of place. We create maps of any number of scales in many different media all to tell stories about what we know. The very best maps contain exactly enough information for a specific purpose, be it wayfinding, hunting and gathering or planning. The maps that are most real are those that accurately reproduce our experience of a place, in three dimensions with sound and texture.

We normally think of maps as flat reproductions of the elements of a landscape. They are pictures, with physical geography represented by lines and colours. Peering at these maps can help us understand the forces that shaped the land, or the best place to build a house. Maps are animated by a keen eye, and eye which understands both what is being represented, and what it really looks like.

But maps are just pretty pictures without a sense of place. Only when you have visited Bowen Island does the above map mean anything substantial to you. It is only after you have walked through the old-growth of Cape Roger Curtis that the 600 acres in the lower left corner of the map resonate so strongly for the wild jewel that it is. Only after standing on my deck overlooking Mannion Bay - the large "bite" on the right side of the map - can you know what it is to look out over log booms and ferry traffic to the rocky shore of Whytecliffe on the mainland.

* * *

Stories are a little like maps of place. They help us to understand place and to navigate a little in someone else's boots. Over the 2+ years I have kept this blog, several people have told me how much they appreciated getting to know one islander's perspective and how it helped to inform their life on Bowen. That is why I have provided links to the Bowen Island noosphere, a group mind that exists on the internet, fed a steady stream of content by the likes of Markus and Marian, Michael and Penny, John and Mark and Richard and the contributors to Bowen Online.

And then there is the Bowen Island GeoLibrary which in many ways is the sum total of everything our municipal government knows about this place. It contains maps of water sources, land use, geological composition, rainfall, roads, structures, plans, beaches and dreams. It also contains a way of understanding some of the stories contained in this blog and in other story gathering projects, as the Local Stories module charts our semantic relationship with the landscape.

In a very real way we are connecting stories of place to maps here on Bowen Island. What use it will have is unknown. In a generation perhaps people will look back at the stories and the ways we were and recognize them as earlier steps on a path, deepening their understanding of place and how they arrived where they are.

In the end perhaps that is the value of mapping place: it establishes our mark in time, like a "Kilroy Was Here" etched in the landscape for others to know that we tried to understand this place and live fully within it.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

I'm very, very sad about what is happening in Snug Cove right now.

Less than a month ago, for those of you who don't know the story, the entire traffic plan for Snug Cove was arbitrarily changed. One councillor took some initiative (not a bad thing in itself, I might add) to investigate a scheme to load two lanes of traffic on the ferry in the morning and off-load two lanes in the evening. I am still not clear what the motivations for the change were, but whatever they were, they were deep and the plan - which was supposed to be a "trial" - was undertaken in earnest.

What we have now is a whole bunch of lines on the road, handwritten signage, two lanes of traffic parked in the middle of two through lanes and a crosswalk that has been moved to a blind corner with no sidewalk. No one in their right mind can look upon this scene and say "what a nice village." It's neither village nor parking lot, but a grotesque fusion of the two, as if one or the other had suddenly sprung a parasitic twin.

But mostly it's not safe. It feels really dangerous. And here is the sad part.

Someone was finally hit the other day. She wasn't seriously injured but she was mad. She went up to the RCMP station to report it and was informed that actually there was a meeting happening at that very moment at the Municipal Hall and perhaps she could fill Council in on the situation. She went to the Council meeting to plead her case and was told that there was no public input to happen at this meeting. She persisted saying that she had been hit by a car and she wanted to share the story with Council. The reply she got from one female councillor who wasn't the mayor was along the lines of "you were able to make it up here so it couldn't have been that bad."

This is just about as cold a response to human pain as I have ever known on this Island. This is a peaceful place. It is known all over the world as a peaceful place. But this kind of thing is happening more and more. I was yelled at by a ferry marshall on the weekend. There was shouting match in the line up the other day. One councillor, Terry Cotter, bravely wrote that he had personally alomost run over a child twice in the Cove. People have been advised to "hold your kids tightly."

There is something very starange happening with our municipal government. Arbitrary decisions are being made, public process is going out the window, and there is an awful lot going on out of the sight of citizens. There is a veneer of "at least someone is doing something" pasted over the whole mess to deflect criticism.

What I would like is if our Councillors stood up and each stated their positions clearly on the Snug Cove traffic situation. I want to know who is happy with the situation and who is not. I want opinions to be transparent and positions and motivations laid out clearly. And I will use those statments to inform my vote.

In the meantime, I pray to God that no one gets seriously injured, that there are no fist fights between citizens and that no one goes out of business in the Cove.

I've just found another Bowen blog in my referrer log. It's from computer whiz Markus Roemer and it's called Stinky Cat.

In addition to a great little blog, (whose archives disappeared a couple of weeks ago) there is other great stuff on the site like Markus' raytracings and instructions for building a serious tree house.

It's good to find Markus out there. Now at least 2 percent of Bowen's population blogs. If we lived in Toronto that would be something like 60,000 people.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

For Coup de Vent, the commonly eaten berries of Bowen Island.

Clockwise from the upper left corner: salmonberry, salal, thimbleberry, Himalayn blackberry and red huckleberry.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Mark Groen explains a few things about tugboats, log booms and Orcas.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

A swim tonight in the cool waters at Bowen Bay beach, but this time with a difference. I don't know why it has taken me so long,. but I finally swam around the bay with a snorkle and mask and was treated to an amzing array of life. The usual crowds of ochre stars stuck to the rocky sides of the bay where surrounded by hundreds of little perch, who were gleefully ripping barnacles from the rocks and fighting over them. Cruising around the beach, in water maybe ten feet deep, I took a few dives to the frigid bottom and chased flounders and crabs.

Why haven't I stuck a mask to me face before? This was an amazing thing to do. Read more about real diving in Howe Sound here.

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Ecotone community is blogging about weblogs as place today.

Look very closely at these words. If you lean into your monitor you will see that they flicker a little. Peer even closer and you see that each letter is made up of little squares. Take a magnifying glass to the screen and you notice that there is space between the pixels.

This weblog is about a place, but it lives everywhere. At the moment it lives right in front of you, little more than light shining in your eyes. Reading it may invoke a feeling of being here on Bowen Island, but it is not Bowen Island itself. It lives only on your monitor. Once I publish the words, they reside as tiny 1s and 0s on a server in Vancouver. When you reach them via a URL they fly at the speed of light to where you live and they embed themselves in your context.

Edward Hall and Marshal McLuhan and others talked about how technology extends our bodies from one place to another. The phone moves our voice boxes thousands of miles, past ears that are travelling in the other direction. Weblogs do the same with our thoughts. Those that I get down onto the keyboard become thoughts that you can read, thoughts you can interact with.

In as much as I believe that landscape lives in the mind, it is possible that what you are staring at is actually one kind of Bowen Island landscape. I recognize this, which is why I have mapped this inner landscape onto the maps of stories at the Bowen Island GeoLibrary.

But are weblogs places in themselves? I don't believe so. Come to Bowen, swim with me in the phosphoresence on a late summer evening with crickets and nighthawks chirping away and you will know what it is like to be consumed by place. The next click you make will take you away from this weblog, but it's not that easy in real life. When we are in place, we are rooted. We cannot leave without some part of us remaining behind, stretched out behind us, eventually catching up to where we now find ourselves. But with this weblog, perhaps with any weblog, we skim the surface, reside in the moment perhaps even try to peer into the depths.

And all we see when we do that is light.
Crickets, juncos, flying termites. All of these are signs of fall, and all are upon us now. Very strange. After a dry year and a half, it seems as if an early autumn might be upon us, given these signs. Plus the salal and blackberries were several weeks early, and both crops were HUGE.

Not a good huckleberry or thimbleberry year though. Small dry berries, not like last year. Salmon berries were probably average.

So what does this tell us? We had a dry spring and early summer, but fall is fast approaching?


Monday, August 11, 2003

Days of peace and light here on Bowen. Mark blogs the Dog Days events and the Men's League Fastball Tournament, Michael Herman (now a summer resident) blogs some Open Space Technology work we cooked up, and adds some strange pictures of what looks like me getting my head shaved, but is in fact Michael playing with Photoshop.

Avner Haramati, from Jerusalem, was here with his family for a few days and we just had the best time together. We kicked off his visit with a talk at Ashoka House, Jim and Anne Ironside's place. Avner spoke about his work in Israel facilitating dialogue and Open Space between Palestinians and Israelis. We then enjoyed a community Kabbalah Shabbat and capped it off last night with a third potluck in the field at Collins Farm followed by late night swimming in the most intense phosphorescence I've ever seen at Tunstall Bay. The glow was so bright that when I swam under water the light around my eyelids was so bright that I couldn't see anything else. It was unbelievable.

Two years ago, Avner asked me what it was like to live here. Caitlin was trying to tell him her version of the answer. She mentioned that hardly anyone seems to get angry here. "Really? asked Avner. "Well," she said, "someone got angry last month over the new ferry marshalling. It was in the paper."

Avner was incredulous. "Someone gets angry and it makes the newspaper." He slapped his brow. "What kind of place is this?"

I think he had a good time. Same goes for his wife and daughters, who were a treat to have on the island. I can't quite put into words how lucky I feel we are to be living here, eating flowers at potlucks, and swimming in light.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Catch it while you can! CBC recently did a special show on the artists and musicians of Bowen Island and you can listen to it here. I'm not on this program, but I am on a new CD of music recorded by a bunch of Bowen Island musicians. The idea was to write a tune, stick it in a hat and pass it around between about eight bands. I got a tune by Teun Schutt and Wayne Kozak, who are brilliant jazz musicians. I am not a jazz musician, although I have a jazz ear. But the keys on my flute don't lend themselves to harmelodic exploration.

Undaunted, I enlisted my good friend Chris Coon, a brilliant drummer and a refugee from the San Francisco punk scene of the 1970s and early 80s (he lived with Jello Biafra for a year...although the memory is hazy). We recorded the tune as a flute and drums duet with a wonky off kilter solo in the middle. I then pulled in my friend Randy Vic and we recorded a straight ahead Irish slow reel that I wrote for our friend Paul Hawtin.

The Bowen Island music exchange project CD will be out in time for BowFest on Auguist 23rd. We're playing there, so come on down and hear the results.

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Yay! Another Bowen Islander joins the blogging fold. John Dumbrille is now online, and with his perspective on life here on the rock, the laughs are sure to follow. Welcome aboard John. Go visit him at Bowen...Bowen... Bon.

Friday, August 1, 2003

My contribution to this week's Ecotone collective blogging project on trees and place:

Have you ever seen an orange forest?

There is a moment every fall in Ontario when the maple trees turn orange and red and the sky becomes deep blue, the deepest blue you have ever seen, and the air sharpens up a little. I lived for that moment every year for about the first 26 years of my life. For me, living in Ontario was epitomized in many ways by the experience of that moment. When I ask the question to folks out here on the coast and describe the experience, I am met with genuine awe.

The year I moved to British Columbia, I was surprised by how overwhelmed I felt by missing this scene. Here the fall progresses through deeper and darker shades of grey, and the forests become greener and wetter and more pungent. Mushrooms sprout everywhere and the trees seem to sigh and draw a breath to gird themselves against the winter wind storms to come. I was sorely disappointed when my mid fall moment never materialized. I remember feeling totally dislocated.

It took me a couple of years to anchor myself to the moods of the trees on the coast, and it happened in 1995 on Cortes Island, about 150 kilometers north of here. One hot day in July I was sitting on the porch of the cabin we frequent, reading and writing a little when I suddenly noticed that everything had stopped. There was no bird song, no wind, and strangest of all, the tress had stopped moving. Not so much as a Douglas-fir needle stirred. I became acutely aware of a feeling that the season was turning; that everything that had grown and sprouted to this point in time had reached its peak and was now turning towards decay. It was a profound moment, as narrow and fine as a knife edge, and just as palpable.

I have a new relationship with trees, and they certainly define my place here. In the fall there are days when the term "rainforest" seems so appropriate. The rain falls and when it stops, the trees keep it going. They drip and spray water on the forest floor for hours afterwards.

And in the winter, when the Pineapple Express winds blow at speeds exceeding 80 km/h, it's the threat of a Douglas-fir limb coming through the ceiling that puts the profundity into the moment.

So surrounded are we with the big trees of the coastal Pacific rainforest - the Douglas-firs, hemlocks and red cedars - that I almost take them for granted. I don't think of them much on their own, neither their overwhelming presence or huge size.

Once in a while though, like last week when my brother was here from Toronto, the sheer breathtaking girth of them is brought to my awareness again. Out on a walk in Crippen Park last week, my brother pointed to an old Douglas-fir that rose straight and cylindrical out of the forest floor up a couple of hundred feet and said, very quietly, "Look at that."

And it truly is an amazing thing. a tree so huge, five people can't join hands around it. So tall that it rakes the clouds for moisture. So green that the light beneath it takes on a permanently cool hue.

As amazing as an orange forest against an azure autumn sky.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

My brother Tim and his wife Laura were just here. What a marvelous visit we had. It was really nice to connect with them as a couple and as an aunt and uncle to my kids. We all had kind of a down day around here after they left.

They brought along an absolute treasure. Laura's dad, Albert, spent a lot of his childhood on Bowen in the late 1930s and 1940s. HIS father shot a lot of movies of the place, and Albert gifted me with two copies on video of footage of life at the Union Steamship Company (USSC) Resort filmed, IN FULL COLOUR, in 1941. There is footage of the USSC ships coming in to the dock in Deep Cove (now Snug Cove, which you can see with this webcam). There is footage of the grounds at the resort, including the gardens and the bowling lawn. And there is footage of the old hotel too, and the cottages that people stayed in, some of which are still dotted around the cove and Deep Bay in various states of repair.

I do believe these videos are the oldest existing motion pictures of Bowen and as such it's a rare treat to have them. One copy will be provided to the archives and another copy will go to the Historical Preservation Society who are interested in showing it at the tourist information cottage in the Davies Orchard. And one copy will stay with me.

So thanks to Albert!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The lines are being drawn in Snug Cove. In more ways that one.

Hot on the heels of the Snug Cove community planning process being finalized (more on that later and elsewhere, but especially here) comes the painting of new lane markers on the Bowen Island Trunk Road leading on to the ferry.

This is all part of a new ferry marshalling experiment which has people ranging from positive to confused to outraged but generally willing to give it a chance.

I was in the cove this morning watching the lines getting marked out and painted. The experiment, which is the initiative of one councillor, is to last six months. My own little jury is out until I see how it works, but I can't help thinking that the Cove will look a lot more like a parking lot and a lot less like a village in the mornings and on summer weekends.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hot today...over 30 in the shade on the back deck. We were called over to the west side of the island this afternoon to lend our hands to the annual Bluewater neighbourhood Super Soaker Fight. There was something like 30 kids and adults, divided into two teams armed with all manner of squirt gun technology, water balloons, gardening equipment, cups and buckets taking on each other in mortal combat limited only by the amount of water we had to draw out of the rain barrel or from the hose trickling run-of-the-stream creek water into emptied spray gun resevoirs.

It was a battle that was not about staying dry, but rather about trying not to be humilated with a skillfully designed and executed attack. The height of good form was having a couple of kids draw an adult out with some smaller water guns and then have another adult sneak up behind them and pour a bucket of muddy rain barrel water over their head. I thought our side was especially good at this kind of tactic, although I certainly took my share of well executed soakings.

It must have seemed strange to see thirty people drenching each other while the Bluewater Water System has a water use restriction on due to our recent hot weather, but we were very water conscious. All of the water we were using had been drawn from the creek or a rain barrel especially filled for the occaision. Our hosts Ray and Lisa were very accomodating with their water, Lisa's garden got nicely freshened up, and we all cooled off in the most delightful way possible.

We ended our evening tonight at Bowen Bay, mixing with friends on the beach, munching an improvised supper of potato salad, tomatoes, Boursin cheese and baguette and swimming in the ocean.

This is it. This is the heart of summer in the Salish Sea, and we're relishing every minute of it.

Monday, July 7, 2003

Around the Bowen noosphere these days:

Just another sunny week in paradise.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

Don't delay...go visit the photo gallery of Sewell's Marina, a Horseshoe Bay based institution. Select "Howe Sound" from the drop down menu and let your eyes feast on the nicest collection of photos of Howe Sound I've ever seen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

News today fromthe Czech republic that the2010 Winter Olympics are coming to our neighbourhood.

Bowen Island lies just off the Sea To Sky Highway, which starts at Horseshoe Bay where we get our ferry. The highway connects Vancouver to Whistler and beyond. Obviously too early to say what will come of the decision, but as with everything change is inevitable.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

How are we defined and shaped by the places we live?

My response to the latest subject being contemplated by the Ecotone blogging community.

When [a bhikku] dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world; when he dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, the mind in the mind, and mental objects in mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world, then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; having the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge.

-- Buddha, Mahaparinibbana Sutta

I am standing on a beach on the south east corner of Bowen Island in the protected cove of Seymour Bay. It overlooks the Queen Charlotte Channel that separates us from the mainland of continental North America. Out at the mouth of the channel, little Passage Island sits, battered by waves and wind rolling up the Gulf of Georgia from the southeast. To the east of Passage Island, the towers of downtown Vancouver rise in the distance against the darkening evening sky.

What becomes immediately clear is that this whole scene unfolds from the surf line at my feet moving further and further "out there." The limits of the view are defined by the rising peaks of the Cascade Mountains 100 miles away. I can take in the sight, but then I have to turn back to get home. It's clear that I don't live "out there" anymore. I live "in here" now.

This island is a rich psychological metaphor. We turn inward to go home, peering ever outward from our shoreline at the world beyond. Taking trips to the ends of roads that terminate in beaches that sink into the frigid waters of Howe Sound. Living beyond our boundaries is fantasy. Living within our skins is real.

Moving to an island affects us deeply. We cannot escape the idea that our connections to the outside world are severed, and we turn instead to the inner connections for our reliance and sustenance. For me, physically moving here was accompanied by an psychological and spiritual inward turning as well. It invited me to explore my inner resources and creativity. And this whole place is populated by many people who have taken this triple journey inward, so we invite each other to play with the notion continually. We hold storytelling sessions, coffee houses, concerts that marry classical music with Brazilian instruments and African dance. Poetry that accompanies art that depicts the landscapes we inhabit daily.

We are trained to wring meaning out of every experience. Our eyes become accustomed to reading the place as a canvas for the play of our spirits. We drink in observation and churn through ideas, looking for a myriad of ways to express ourselves. Our raw materials are the land, the people, and our connections. Our outputs are our art, our structures and our communities.

Everything about this island invites us to go inward. One cannot help but follow the physical journey with a spiritual one. We retreat into our selves, examine what we see there and find ways to bring it forth into the world. Being an islander does not mean isolation; it means knowing where your edges are and constantly creating connections, following trails and exploring details. You grow aware that the limited landscape in fact draws you deeper in so that it becomes an infinite journey through fractals of detail. The island and the soul become holograms, every part reflecting the whole and encompassing the perfect fullness of its presence. It's impossible to live for long on the surfaces.

Eventually, we take the shape of the island itself: windswept shorelines exposed to the elements, and rich and verdant interiors full of growth and solitude.