Monday, June 30, 2003

A night of heavy rain and now a day of cumulus clouds and cat's paw winds on the surface of Howe Sound. And news comes our way that our fire chief, Alan Still, passed away suddenly in his home on Sunday night. He was found as his crew went to fetch him to manage the fallen tree situation on Adams Road.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

By the way, today marks the beginning of our third year on Bowen Island. The weather was exactly the same two years ago today: sunny and hot. In fact, today we had a rare summer power outage as well, as a tree fell across Adams Road, cutting the island in half and knocking out the power everywhere. The day we moved here in 2001, a tree also feel on some power lines, something which eveidently has never happened on a calm summer day before. We thought it was just us moving to Bowen that sparked the rare event. Now we know better.
Hot here now. The morning soundscape is changing, as it does around this time of the early summer. The robins aren't nearly as vocal as they have been, and just this morning the cicadas started buzzing.

I was riding on the 6:35 ferry yesterday morning, sitting on the upper deck in the open air with some friends. We seemed to be crawling out of Snug Cove. Turning to investigate, we saw why the ferry was moving so slow. there were five tugboats crisscrossing the Queen Charlotte Channel in front of us. Three were towing barges full of woodchips, one had a barge with propane tanks on it and one was towing a big log bom.

We started laughing at the prospect of telling our employers in town about the early morning traffic congestion. It's a whole different kind of commute.

Friday, June 20, 2003

There is an interesting little discussion on the Bowen Online forum about wildlife. I added these thoughts:

There is an increasing inability of people to actually see what does exist in our midst. Miles said he hadn't seen a salamander for a long time. I said that I see them almost every time I look. The point is that we are steadily losing our ability to see the natural world in which we live and that without that skill, species will just continue to disappear without our noticing.

How many people have picked up a yellow-spotted millipede and smeeled the sweet almond smell of it's defensive mechanism? How many people know that most of the wildflowers in bloom in Crippen Park are actually invasive alien species? Where have all the (wild)flowers gone?

Did we even notice?

Red-breasted sapsucker

Lots of these little guys around these days. They love mountain ash and fruit trees around these parts, driling little holes in neat rows all up and down the tree trunk to lick the sap out of the tree. After the holes are laid into the tree, the sapsucker visits on a regular basis to drink. Rufous Hummingbirds sometimes help themselves as well.

The endearing thing to me about these little birds is that when they call they sound like little squeaky toys.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

This is the first of an ongoing series of collaborative blog posts written alongside members of The Ecotone blogging community. This post is a reponse to the question of how we came to write about place. Other writers on this subject can be read at The Ecotone wiki.

When I was a boy, probably aged 11 or 12 I had a strong experience of being and ex-patriot. I was living in England at the time, and not getting along very well with several of my school mates in the boy's school I was attending. For many of them, small differences were enough to put targets on one's back, and I suffered some fairly alarming indignities at the hands of a few louts.

It was just after one of these episodes that I was sitting in a music class, idly flipping through a book of folk songs, when I stumbled across "Un Canadien Errant." It's the song of a rebel, exiled after the rebellions of 1837-38. If you don't know the words, the English goes like this:

Once a Canadian lad,

Exiled from hearth and home,

Wandered, alone and sad,

Through alien lands unknown.

Down by a rushing stream,

Thoughtful and sad one day,

He watched the water pass

And to it he did say:

"If you should reach my land,

My most unhappy land,

Please speak to all my friends

So they will understand.

Tell them how much I wish

That I could be once more

In my beloved land

That I will see no more.

"My own beloved land

I'll not forget till death,

And I will speak of her

With my last dying breath.

My own beloved land

I'll not forget till death,

And I will speak of her

With my last dying breath."

I wept reading these words. I had never before read anything that evoked in me a sense of place so strongly that I wanted to return. From that moment I became a keen reader of things which evoked the sensations of Canada, the feelings I was missing living thousands of miles away.

After I returned to Canada and as I grew through my teen years, I paid a lot of attention to reading and writing. A part of me always has always sought out writers that connect their words to the land, and especially northern lands. Farley Mowat, W.O Mitchell, Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence, Hugh Brody, Stan Rogers, Bruce Cockburn, and Barry Lopez all held me spellbound with their songs and writings about the place I lived in, the Canada I knew. Many of these people were writing about the towns I knew in Ontario, giving them a whole new treatment in my mind's eye.

I was also a fanatical fan of Morningside, a program that ran on CBC Radio from 1982 until 1997. For much of that time it was hosted by Peter Gzowski, who was a remarkable man. He made his major contribution to Canadian life by interviewing our people and telling our stories back to us. And his attachment to First Nations communities gave him a particular insight into what it means to have an attachment to land and place. He was a major influence on how I and many others grew to think of Canada, and how we were situated in it.

In 1994 I moved from Ottawa, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia which is five thousand kilometers away. In many ways this part of the country is like another world. Geographically I am as far away from my birthplace in Toronto as London is from Cairo. When I moved here I had a very strong sense on myself as an outsider, and the gift of this perspective is that I am able to see things here almost like an anthropologist. I am no longer a fish unaware of the water. My writing immediately began to take on the flavour of a participant-observer account of my life, and that perspective stays with me to this day.

Moving to Bowen Island in 2001, combined with the samizdat opportunity of blogging led me to start this weblog to capture my experiences for myself, for my family who are scattered across North America and for friends in Israel, South Africa, America and the UK. As I have been writing about my life here, I am increasingly conscious of how blogging has brought a sharper awareness and attention to my life here. For me, blogging place is drawing attention to links in the elements that make up the landscape. As this blog has evolved, I have become acutely aware of the landscape that is forming in my mind and heart of who I am and what Bowen Island is as a place and what relationship exists between us. I have even begun posting stories of my life here on an interactive GeoLibrary which in essence returns the stories to the place that birthed them, and coincidently introduces my readers to these places in a more concrete and connected way.

A project that started in exile, now continues with an exile's eyes, writing a landscape that surrounds and holds me, and constantly inspires.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

This song I have been singing for a long time now. I use it as a lullaby to put my son to sleep and I sing it to myself on the ferry or when I need to anchor myself in the beauty of this place:

All The Diamonds

Bruce Cockburn

All the diamonds in this world

That mean anything to me

Are conjured up by wind and sunlight

Sparkling on the sea

I ran aground in a harbour town

Lost the taste for being free

Thank God He sent some gull-chased ship

To carry me to sea

Two thousand years and half a world away

Dying trees still grow greener when you pray

Silver scales flash bright and fade

In reeds along the shore

Like a pearl in sea of liquid jade

His ship comes shining

Like a crystal swan in a sky of suns

His ship comes shining.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

On the ferry ride home this afternoon, the only thing I could think of, spinning like a mantra in my head was this:

It is SO beautiful here.

Saturday, June 7, 2003

I have just spent the past hour or so writing my stories on the land.

Thanks to GreenMapping technology, I can now link stories from my blog here to specifc places on Bowen Island. You can see these stories by visiting the Georgia Basin Explorer website and clicking on Bowen Island. Select the "Bowen bloggers" community group and turn on all the icons. Parts of the map will light up, indicating that there is a story associated with that site.

If you are one of the few Bowen bloggers out there who wants to join our group and blog your stories on the land, feel free to sign up, or contact me for more information.

Friday, June 6, 2003

Greetings from the Bowen Island ferry dock! That's me waving, as captured by my friend Michael Herman who blogged this occaision as I was talking on the phone to him.

Thursday, June 5, 2003

I always get a little suspicious about summer weather this early in June. We usually have cooler temperatures and rain in June, bring total deflation to the anticipation that a nice May always creates.

But this year, and right now, it is beautiful and we are looking at sunny weather with a high temperature of 30 degress this weekend.

Makes me wonder what's in store...

I've been sleeping outside again.. With this high pressure system currently parked over us we are experiencing a phenomen of strong inflow winds at night. As the air cools over the glaciers and ice fields at the head of Howe Sound, the pressure drops and the high pressuer air lying off shore rushes in to fill the gap. As a result, we have calm days and really windy nights.