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.