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.