Friday, December 31, 2004

THe sun is setting on 2004 through a high cold blue sky here at the mouth of Howe Sound. The Brittania Range across the channel are respelndent in a new coat of snow cap, dazzling the ey in the late winter afternoon, as the sun lit them from across the Strait oif Georgia. A Squamish wind that was blowing most of the day has tuckered itself out, packing up just in time to make New Year's Eve visting a pleasant round.

Our gas station has closed here on Bowen, for some strange reason that I can't understand, having to do with posturing, face saving, Council decisions and a plethora of communication that didn't happen. THis will make it very difficult for people here who rarely go to the continent, and with the Queen of Capilano's annual refit all set to go, we'll all be packed in like sardines on the Queen of Bowen Island going to West Vancouver to fill up.

But now, with blues and pinks and oranges so vivid out my window, nothing can take away from the beauty and peace of this place.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas is coming here on Bowen. Cocoa West is doing a brisk business, the shops in the Cove and up at Artisan Square are burning up the till tape, there are trees and lights and good vibes everywhere. Lots of handshakes and smiles here on the rock.

And some good news. The Snowin on Bowen CD is now sold out, according to Bernie up at A Little Bit of Everything. There are still a few left at Phoenix Photo, the Pharmacy and Bernie's place, but other than that, they are all gone. An island of 3500 people consumed 1000 CDs in three weeks. That is astounding, because it means that we have raised $14,000 for the performing arts centre building and $6,000 for Bowen Island Family Place. Incredible.

Mad Mabel has made her annual return to Bowen's shores. The popular play, penned by local guy David Cameron stars his partner Jackie Minns as Mabel an old woman who lives in a garbage dump and discovers the true spirit of Christmas courtesy of dustman dave McIntrash and his daighter Anna (played by Corbin Keep and the inimitable Molloy Montgomery). Kat Bernards, in danger of typecasting, played Raphaella, Mabel's feral cat. The Legion has been sold out for the performances this week and last. It's a great production, yet another reminder of the quality of talent around here.

So, tis the season. We hunker down by the woodstove, wait for a little snow to fall (Bowen's snowy season is usually the first week of January) and reflect on how fortunate we are to be clinging to this rock off the west coast of continental North America.

Happy Christmas, if that's your gig.

Monday, December 20, 2004

It is truly developing into a classic El Nino winter: calm, mild and reflective. The moisture in the air just hangs around at different levels. Sometimes it forms a layer of cloud that turns pink in the sunrise. Other times it sits on the water as thick fog, as it did the other night when the fog horns out in the Strait sounded long and dreary as the freighters plied the inside passage. And some times, like last night, it dissipates into the air and we get a clear day and a night full of comets and planets.

There has been very little rain and no real wind yet, not like we had back in 2001 for example, when the southeasterlies lashed the house several times during the fall. There is no new snow on the mountains, and the water is so calm it looks slack all the time.

Take lazy summer days and move them to December, make them 20 degrees colder and that's what we have.

Also, the coho have returned. A small school of them were gleaming in the lagoon the other day, their red sides glowing eerily in the murky water.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Fall is drawing itself to a close with some wild weather variation. Over the last week we have had a little snow, a lot of rain and some very warm temperatures. On December 8 the temperature hit 13.3 degrees which was a record high and we got 26 mm of rain which is a good load.

The winds have been less strong than normal this year, although in saying that we are bracing tonight for a southeasterly storm. We have had more Squamishes than normal here at the house. A Bowen oldtimer tells me that this wind is changing too. She mentioned that 15 years ago, the Squamish would blow straight into Horseshoe Bay, necessitating the bolting of doors at Trolls. These days, it flows through the channel and further west, often cascading over Collins Ridge and through our house. She had speculated that this was the result of logging in the Squamish and Elaho River Valleys changing the flow patterns of the air.

The other day while we were gathering slitstone pebbles at Bowen Bay beach, Finn stood in the spray of the crashing waves and reported that th water was quite warm. He was right. If this balminess keeps up, the Polar Bear swim on New Year's Day will be a breeze.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Just in time for the Christmas Season comes another great compilation CD of Bowen Island musicians called "Snowin' on Bowen." It features 20 tracks in the usual Bowen electic aesthetic, with jazz, lounge, classical, folk, rock, pop and Corbin Keep being the gamut of genres. Proceeds from the album will go to building a performing arts centre and supporting Bowen Island Family Place.

I have the pleasure of appearing on two tracks, in wildly different styles. On one I am playing flute and siging with Alison Nixon (viola and voice) and Carol MacKinnon (voice) on an old carol called Myn Lyking. On the other I am adding didgeridoo to my friend Chris Coon's tabla beats on another very old carol along with a wild soundscape of guitar, cello, percussion and vocal arranged by Julie Vik.

We are launching the CD on December 3 and 4 at Cates Hill Chapel with two nights of live music. Alison won;t be joining Carol and I but instead, Bazil Graham will add his sonorous tenor and Moritz Behm will be stepping in on violin. Tickets available at Phoenix Photo, The Office and Family Place. See you there if you can make it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Raining right now. Not unusual for the fall, but it's steady rain with no wind. I've just done a bunch of scouring around and discovered that there is a warm front crossing over us with high pressure to the west and south. No low pressure, no wind. Interesting. It's a new kind of rain.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

After a few days of heavy rain, the creeks are swollen and the coho and chum salmon have the taste of their birthplace. They have started running on Killarney and terminal Creeks, part of the cycle that Finn helped to initate last spring.

This is a photo of a coho chum coming up the weir from Deep Bay into the lagoon.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The first snow appeared on the tops of the Brittania Range mountains last week. This photo was from October 19, when a chilly overnight rain at our elevation resulted in the first high level dusting of the fall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Returning to Snug Cove last evening, the October sunlight filtering through a lemon sky.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

As you may have heard, Mount St. Helens is erupting again. It's a long way from here, in southern Washington State, but back in 1980 when the mountain well and truly did her thing, there was some ash that fell in these parts. That was in the spring when southerly winds are not so prevalent. This time of year, it's not unusual for the wind to come out of the south, so hopefully, when the mountain does blow, we're not in the throws of a Pineapple Express or it will be ash, wind and rain we'll have to contend with.

Follow all the action through the new earthquakes link at the left.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

For those of you new to the island, or just visiting, or contemplating a move here, take heed of the most important information you will ever need to know: ferry line-up etiquette

  1. parking in the ferry line lane and leaving your car there over a ferry loading time is a no no. In fact, using the ferry marshalling lane as a parking spot between ferries can be dodgy. Getting back to your car (or truck) after the vehicles have unloaded from the ferry is pushing it. Driving around a driverless vehicle is OK if the line in front of that car (truck) is moving to load

  2. parking on the faint painted cross hatch lines is also a no no

  3. leaving gaps between your vehicle and the buggy in front is not to be done

  4. filling in gaps when there are no vehicles in the ferry lane west of the crossroads seems to be OK

  5. when irritated because you just missed the ferry (for any reason) try to think of an aphorism that Ed Sanders would quote

  6. letting lineup rage overcome you, even when you’re totally in the right, will eventually put you in an early grave. Just get in your vehicle, close all the windows and scream.

  7. try to understand that the ferry is what makes this place the place it is. A bridge would make it just another Richmond.

  8. it is not appropriate to assume that catching this ferry is more important to you than it is to anyone else in line.

  9. try to give in and go get a coffee when the lineup is dangerously getting past the school

  10. always carry reading material.

  11. do not idle your engine in th eline up and don't start your engine until the car in front of you has started theirs (and even then, make sure it's just for loading). Bring blankets or a close friend to keep warm in the winter. And never start your engine when the footpassengers are waiting to get off in Snug Cove. There is nothing more unpleasant than standing in a cloud of carbon monoxide in the pouring rain waiting for the ferry to berth.

The last one is a bit of a rant, I admit, by hey, it's my blog! So That is the current state of collected wisdom on the subject. Ignore it at your peril!

Note: Post updated October 2 with the last two points

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Another stunning day.

The leaves are turning now. Not as spectacular a display as I grew up with in Ontario, but they mark the seasons nonetheless. It's the Big-leaf Maples that are putting on the real show at the moment, as their huge leaves turn yellow and stand out in stark contrast to the evergreen shades of Douglas-fir and Western Red-cedar.

More alarming though is what seems to be happening to the Western Red-cedars. Many of these trees, especially along Miller Road and in Crippen Park are changing colour. Substantial numbers of their leaves are going yellow, curiously, only on the inside of the branch closest to the trunk. The leaves at the end of the branches are green, but the pattern seems to be that along each minor branch, several sprigs close to the trunk are yellowed and dried up.

I've never seen this before, and my instinct is that it's the result of the last few years of stress on the trees from the soils drying out. Cedars like moist conditions, scarce in the droughts of the past three summers. It seems like the trees are focusing their energy on growth and on the leaves at the edges where the light is, sacrificing the shadier branches which perhaps don't produce as much food for the tree.

What do you think is happening?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Ahhhh. Back to what we normally expect in Spetmeber. Clear skies, no wind, morning fog. It's lovely. The trough of low pressure that has given us the wettest September on record has dissolved and it's nothing but high pressure systems languishing here on the south coast.

You can see from this weather map that the nearest trough of lows is lying just east of Kamchatka at the moment. That should give us days and days and days of fair weather.

The orb weavers are starting to come out of hiding now, covering a stand of Japanese Knotweed along Miller Road and appearing in their usual haunts under eaves. My friend Will Husby, and entomologist, tells me that they probably did suffer a population decline from the heavy rains.

I'm off for a walk in the woods now. Enjoying it while we can.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

It's official. It's been the wettest September on record, and we're only two thirds of the way through. We've already had double the average precipitation.

All that was forgotten today though. Coming across tonight on the ferry from Vancouver Island, the sea was a little sloppy but the sky was clear blue, turning a million shades of orange with a fat crescent moon hugging the horizon just over the Malahat Mountains.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Man. At the moment it's hailing. I expect a decent snowfall any day now.
For some strange reason, I haven't seen any orb weavers this year. These beautiful little spiders build the classic spider web and they can grow quite large over the course of the fall as they consume the various flying things that get stuck on their strands.

But this year there is narry a one of them. Not on my house, not on the blackberry bushes. It could be this spell of downpours we've been having but something tells me it's something else. Are these critters cylical? If so, why, and what determines their abundance year to year? If not, what's going on?

Research findings will be posted as they emerge. Leave a comment if you can help.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sue posted a comment that points out that west coast weather forecasts are as often wrong as they are right. There are several reasons for this.

First of all weather on the coast is local. VERY local. So what might be happening in Vancouver, less than 15 kilometers away as the raven flies could be totally different here. Two obvious examples are the rain and wind. Bowen lies nestled in the mouth of Howe Sound. When clouds are driven into the sound, they pile up against the North Shore mountains. Naturally they drop rain there, as the air loses density and temperature as it rises to flow over the mountains. It can be pouring for days on the north shore and be dry in Vancouver. And at the same time it can be sunny for days on end in White Rock, 50 kilometers to the south.

We have unique winds in Howe Sound. Typically in the fall, we get the southeasterly winds as the low pressure systems move in from the Pacific. These winds swirl around and deliver massive amounts of rain to our doorsteps. That's the kind of wind we're getting now. THese systems tail off a bit in the winter, but they are still the source of our heaviest rainfalls. They are known here on the coast as "The Pineapple Express" because the warm, wet air they funnel up here originates in Hawaii. Some days you would swear that you smell flowers on the wind.

When the systems pass over us, the winds back to northwesterly, coming down the Georgia Strait. This brings clear skies and cooler weather and big waves to the west side of the island, and to the beaches in downtown Vancouver. In Vancouver on stormy, rainy and windy days you would be surprised how calm it is on the water. Once the winds back and the rain stops, the big rollers make their way into English Bay, slopping over the seawall and bring great windsurfing conditions to the city.

Here in Howe Sound we also get katabatic winds which are caused by huge masses of air cooling over the mountains and flowing downhill (cold air is heavier, remember). These winds, called "Squamish winds" rip through Howe Sound in the winter, bringing bitter windchills on winter days, toppling trees and bringing down branches on the north and exposed eastern sides of the island. Typically the Squamish blows like a narrow river down the Queen Charlotte Channel between Bowen and the mainland, and can be so strong that it whooshes clear across the Strait of Georgia and right into Nanaimo. Next time it's blowing really hard I'll post a picture. In 1990 a sustained Squamish wind toppled hundreds of trees on Bowen and knocked the power out for a week. It was one of those seminal events in Bowen history for which you were either here or you weren't.

When the Squamish outflow wind is howling, it'll be calm and pleasant in Vancouver. The Squamish is so consistent at the head of the Sound that the town of Squamish has become a major destination for windsurfers. The winds blow all day long during the summer and let up around 5:00pm. Most days, if it's hot at sea level, the glacier cooled air can rush down hill at speeds of 40km/h or more making for great windsurfing conditions. In summer these winds, despite their speed, generally dissipate before they get to Bowen in any kind of force.

Bowen is also subjected to anabatic winds, which are inflow winds caused by the air rising over the land at the head of the Sound and drawing in cooler air from the Strait. These winds are not so strong right on our island, but the can get up to speed further down the Sound at Pam Rocks and Anvil Island. They aren't cold like the Squamish winds.

To make matters more confusing, the east side of Bowen gets a little more rain that the west side, and the north side gets different weather than the south. So if you live on Hood Point, you might be bracing through a cold and wild squamish wind, dodging falling branches and stopping leaks in your roof while your fellow islanders in Tunstall Bay are remarking on how pleasent the wether is. And vice versa, when the northwesterly is blowing.

For this reason, my weather links contain reports from many different stations. The Point Atkinson and Gibson's stations give me accurate weather when the southeasterlies are blowing. The Pam Rocks and Squamish stations are good for gauging the strength of the Squamish winds, and the Gibson's station is my "go to" for the weather produced by northwesterlies, although I know that I won't suffer the winds here on the east side of Bowen.

For regular weather, a combination of the Squamish and Vancouver forecasts generally gives me an accurate temperature and rainfall forecast. I usually split the difference between the two.

By far the best general source for weather information is the surface analysis maps produced by the NOAA in the States. The north Pacific weather maps shows the major systems, where they are coming from and what they are doing. Generally I can predict our weather from these alone. Low pressure systems passing over head will bring southeast backed by northwest winds and lot of rain. If the system passes to the north, pleasant weather will ensue and if they pass to the south, it'll be cool and a little wet. High pressure is nice, but will also produce the inflow and outflow winds. In the winter the Squamish will be cold, and in the summer the temperature will be hot and the air reasonably still.

So there you go Sue. That's what I have learned from watching the skies around here for three winters. Your mileage may vary, and you only live a couple of kilometers away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It seems that El Nino is back. While this usually means crappy winters all over North America, here on Bowen it usually means that we have a lot more clear weather than normal.

Over the last couple of days we have had low pressure systems trailing along the coast and so it's been wet, with the most recent downpour last night filling about 10 centemetres of our buck placed in the mudroom. This is just about the time of year when this blog becomes a weather log! Feel free to follow along by visiting the geosphere links on the left.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Folks who live on the coast here are blessed with meterological amnesia. This is a helpful condition in the winter time, when weeks of rain and darkness can be instantly forgottne the moment the murk lifts and the mountains reveal themselves in all of their snowcapped glory.

However, it works both ways. Today is a wet cool day, with fog and rain and low cloud, and suddenly we have forgotten summer, donned the Gor-Tex and started building fires.

Gary the roofer stopped by and plugged up the leak, which turned out to be a hole in the shingle covering the valley of the mudroom dormer. He gooped it up and we'll give it a day or so to dry out and see if that has done the trick. I hope so, because the option is taking off the roofing and properly sealing the connection between the house and the mudroom, a small addition which was added after the house was built. I'll take a few tubes of goop over that calamity any day.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

First Pineapple Express of the year last night. It rained hard for a few hours overnight and soaked everything. There was a few inches of water in my bucket in the mudroom. The leak will be fixed soon.

Usually September is very nice, with clear skies and little rain, but this year it has turned out to be a little wetter and a little cooler than normal.

The snowberries are out on their bushes and the maples are starting to turn yellow.

Friday, September 3, 2004

We've had a spot of trouble here over the weekend. A soggy Bowfest seemed to have ended with a lot of strange activity. Police running around arresting people and pepper spraying youth, folks getting drunk, kids in trees...crazy stuff.

Bowfest is a family festival and usually ends in the night with a band a dancing. There are often house parties afterwards where young people make a lot of noise. I have no doubt that there's drinking and drugs involved, but I've never heard of any major problems.

The past two years though, there has been vandalism, and the local RCMP have called in additional officers to patrol the festival. These guys clearly aren't from the Island, and they aren't familiar with the people who live here or the way we do things. This is not the big city; it's a very small community and everyone pretty much knows each other pretty well. Having off island cops working the festival without any previous exposure to the island is a recipe for disaster.

I know a lot of the people in this story. Ella Barrett, the mayor's daughter, babysits my kids sometimes and is a great kid. She is wise beyond her years in a lot of ways. She was sitting in a tree waiting for a ride when she was stopped and accused of being high. Kids on Bowen sit in trees all the time. It's one of the reasons people move here with their kids.

And I know Corporal Greg Lui as well. He is in my taekwondo class and I spar with him all the time. Earlier in the day he and one of his constables shaved their heads to raise money for cancer. I've talked to him about introducing new cops to the island and having people get to know them a bit. We have good conversations. This year Greg took the initiative of setting up an outdoor leadership training program for at-risk youth here on Bowen which I have heard good things about. He invited me to help out if I was needed, on the basis of the work I do with youth.

So I klnow these people and I like and respect them. There are scads of rumours going around about what happened, and everyone has an opinion. Me, I'm keeping my opinions in check, and instead I'm willing to let the complaintants work out their difficulties between themselves. It's not my place to judge anyone involved in this mess. I'll bear witness to how this all plays out, but I don't see things as black and white here. The kids are not "thugs" and Greg is not the "George W. Bush of Bowen Island." I don't find those characterizatins all that helpful in a small community.

What I do like though is the idea that we engage in a dialogue with our local RCMP about the kind of policing we want here as a community. Our mayor, Ella's mother Lisa, has offered to convene that discussion, and I think that's good. It's a way we can all have a voice in what happens here in the future. Lots of people who weren't involved in the events on the weekend have an opinon. I think we would all be better served as a community if people expressed that energy through a community meeting to talk about what we value here and what we want.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Yikes...pouring rain tonight. We've probably had close to 10 mm of rain this evening. It's warm but it does feel like a fall soak. We really needed this.

Unfortunately what we don't need is the rain inside the house. Tonight as I write we have a leak in our mudroom and some damaged drywall. I think it's a result of overflowing eaves which filled up with fir needles last week in the rain. We've got a big bucket catching water and first thing in the morning I'll be on the little porch roof drying everythig out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sort of crappy weather lately. Sunday we had a full on autumn downpour which was much welcomed by the parched earth on the island. As it felt autumnal, we all headed out to the trail around Killarny Lake to hang out in the forest trying out various new pieces of rain gear. Notable was the preponderance of both Red-legged frogs and Pacific tree frogs hopping all over the place.

Friday, August 20, 2004

We're home from a trip to Ontario, and as usual things have changed.

The ocean is very warm, warmer than Lake Huron even! Night skies are opaque due to smoke from the hundreds of forest fires burning around BC. We are low on water again this summer. The crickets are out in full force, having started in July and chirping steadily stronger since then. There are eagles dancing in the sky above Deep Bay.

There is a Waco of development happening on the island and I'm starting to feel it. Three new houses are being built nest to each other here in Seven Hills. One of them is replacing an old cottage but the other two have been erected on lots carve from the bush. Cape Roger Curtis is selling and there is great uncertainty and controversy about its fate. It will probably be developed for houses. There is a lot of shouting and worry at the moment, which will have to eventually settle into something more constructive. The developer Wolfgang Duntz, who I have always had some respect for (he has gifted a lot of stuff to the community) is having a bad summer. First he overcut on the golf course development, invoking the wrath of private landowners and the environmental regulatory agencies. Now he has circulated an essay on why preserving Cape Roger Curtis would turn Bowen Island into the West End of Vancouver. The essay makes no sense, and really skews the purpose of those of us who want to see the Cape preserved in some fashion, even if some development has to go ahead.

The tone of things is bitter, bringing to mind the debates of last summer over the ferry marshalling. Perhaps we need the fall to cool our heads and find our way. But I don't think this issue is going away that easily.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Finn has discovered the remarkable pleasures of first swimming and now snorkeling. In the past two weeks he has taught himself to swim with his face in the water and today he has learned to use a mask and snorkel so he putters up and down the surf line looking at rocks for long periods of time. It's funny to see a three year old skin diver, Cousteau Jr.

Tonight was the annual firefighter's dock dance, and evening of live music and reverie on the dock at the Dallas Marina. It's a fundraiser for the volunteer fire department and one of the highlights of the year. We waited too long to get tickets and got stumped at the gate. That wasn't the only tragic news of the day though. More importantly, the firefighters had a substantial amount of the pre-dance sales receipts stolen from VONIGO, the pottery shop in the Cove that sells tickets.

Whoever stole the firefighters' money has a hard life ahead of him if he's caught. I hear they are looking for a specialist to send into burning houses to save people's pets. It's just the kind of community service a thief that steals from charity deserves. Not to mention the fact that this moron stole from firefighters. These are big strong guys, well known and respected in our community with narry a single enemy among them. Where does this fool think he is going to hide? If I were the guilty party, I'd be making an anonymous return of the money in lieu of a creative public humiliation.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

We're into another year of big forest fires here in BC again. A fire in the Chilcotin is causing smoky skies over Vancouver and Bowen Island. This has made astronomy kind of hard as the sky becomes very bright from the light pollution reflecting on the smoke. The moon however, which is waxing gibbous at the moment, appears red on the horizon as it sets.

This is turning out to be another drought year, the second and half in a row. If we get another relatively dry winter after this summer, I worry about fires in the lower mainland and on this island. Just around our house after two years of drought the salal is dry and brittle behind our house and the wood on the ground isn't retaining as much moisture. When the salal dies, it basically creates tinder in the understory and even though the big firs, hemlocks and cedars are still living, the whole forest is getting crispier and crispier. It's only really the winter rains that keep it all together at this point; I wouldn't say that the forest behind us is thriving at the moment.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Sue mentioned Roberts Frost's poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Here it is:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Look who was grazing in the forest behind the house this afternoon. It's not that common to see mule deer fawns at this time of the year. They usually breed in the fall around here and so the babies are born in the spring. This one is a late bloomer; most of the male spring fawns are getting their antler buds.

Cute eh?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Today is the day of turning.

Every July there is one day during which it seems that all of nature has reached its pinnacle and is turning towards decay. I can always sense this moment; it comes in the middle of a hot and still day when there is just a hint of wind, but where the stillness is like the point at the top of a parabola where an object is neither rising or falling, but is held still in itself, and perhaps begins to look at the next half of its journey.

Today things are held like that. It is very hot here, 30 degrees C in the shade. On the deck in front of my office, the wood is too hot to walk on. The sun is baking the oils out of the cedar decking and so the air has the scent of cut wood.

The ground is dusty and dry, and our rainforest tempered trees and shrubs, the cedar and salal, oceanspray and sword ferns are desperate for moisture. Only the arbutus trees seem to be truly in their element.

The night air is still except for the occasional katabatic breeze from cooler air flowing down the mountainsides towards the sea. The breeze refreshes, and is just enough to make sleeping possible. The ocean water beckons, cool and inviting. It no longer chills the body when you enter, and there is no urgency to retreat to the beach.

The salal berries are ripe and drying on the bush. Blackberries are already in season, a month early it seems. Some canes are loaded with the dark purple fruit while blossoms still flower on others. Everyone seems widely astonished by the early black berry season. Every other berry this year except for the thimbleberries have enjoyed a great season. The thimbleberries were small and dry and flavourless.

This is what the months of growth and vitality have produced in the land around our house. And today seems to presage the decline that will accelerate with the shortening days. Already by midnight, Pegasus has moved into view in the gap to the southeast of the house. The summer triangle is moving off to the west and the Andromeda galaxy is climbing high into the sky. I think about ordering firewood for the winter.

The I Ching advises that the fullness of a moment contains the seeds of its opposite. Today that seem more apparent than ever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Full on summer time now. We've been swimming in the luscious water and the berry seasons are moving through their progressions. Good year for all berries so far and especially for the elusive black raspberries, a large patch of which I found near the Municipal Hall.

It's a season of festivals now too. Tir Na Nog, the island theatre school just wrapped up it's spring festival of plays which this year included The Tempest, Arcadia and adaptations of Cold Comfort Farm and The Neverending Story. All of these works were performed by young people, including Aine. The Canada Day festivities took place in the picnic field in the Cove and Artisan Square held their third annual car show and festival at which I played music with the island Celtic orchestra, Contraband.

There are lots more tourists this year and more and more new faces moving to the island. This is changing things, to be sure. A couple of friends and I were talking about the changes and we discovered that we have all asserted our "islandness" by resolving to drive at the posted 40km/h speed limit this summer. In addition to being safe on these windy and unpredictable roads, we've discovered that it slows people down, including ourselves.

Some of the long time residents are making noises about moving, but I am finding some great connections in those who are moving here. Determined to find ways to surf the changes, I look at each of these minor epochs as characters in our island's story, playing out before us.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

With all the election furor around here, I missed out on our third year anniversary of moving to Bowen. We set foot permanently on the island on June 28, 2001, and this blog started that very week, as soon as the computer got hooked up.

To those of you who have been following our exploits over the past three years, thanks for riding shotgun.

Friday, June 25, 2004

We're already under drought conditions here on the west coast. Yesterday a big sign went up in the Cove indicating that there is now a burning ban on the island. Now is a good time to use your rainbarrel if you have one, which we don't, owing to the fact that our gutter system is problematical at the moment (i.e. it lleaks all over the place making water collection a problem). Our lot however is ideal for rain water collection, so maybe next year.

Monday, June 21, 2004

My good friend and business partner Chris Robertson lives over in Grantham's Landing, which is a small community on the Sunshine Coast. That's on the west side of Howe Sound, about three miles away by boat.

He has a 16' Hurston Glascraft which he uses to putt around the inlet. Yesterday he called up in the morning and asked if we wanted to spend Father's Day on the water. Duh. Anytime, I say.

He and his son Nairn picked us up at Galbraith Bay, at the Mount Gardner government dock and we headed out to Keats Island, a populated but unserviced island at the mouth of the Sound, between Bowen and the Sunshine Coast. We pulled up on the beach above and spent the day swimming, eating Brie and baguette and generally just enjoying the sun and the sea and the view. This was the beach that was used most often in the old Beachcomber's days, when the film crews would need a shot of Nic and Jesse out on the water.

We admired the odd boat that pulled into the bay, and then a beautiful gillnetter slipped in and dropped anchor. It had gorgeous lines, kayaks stowed beneath a boom and three people who kept themselves cool by jumping from the flying bridge into the water. It wasn't until we were leaving that the captain hailed us, and it turned out to be our mutual friend and sometime business client, Mike Mearns and his family. He welcomed us aboard and gave us a tour of his boat, which was originally his dad's boat, operated full time as a commercial fish boat. Mike uses it now for touring in the summer and for catching his quota of food fish the rest of the year. It's a pleasure boat which is fully equipped for west coast fishing. It's so well designed that neither use impedes the other in any way.

I don't have a boat (yet? hmmm...), which seems kind of absurd, living on an island and all. Days like yesterday remind me that it's really the only way to know the coast, and it bestows a precious degree of freedom to wander through the islands and pitch up on whatever remote beach suits your fancy, away from the crowds and the cars and the tourists.

Friday, June 18, 2004

It's hot a muggy now, and in f act over the last couple of hours a squall came up and a couple of thunder claps were heard. It made 30 degress today here on the coast. Summer is two days away but we're living it now: sweat, ferry overloads, ripe huckleberries and dusty lavender in full bloom.

Off to the beach!

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Today a lesson from Finn in how to release juvenile coho salmon into the wild.

Begin with a tank full of coho fry which have been raised at the Terminal Creek Hatchery and are ready to make their journey to the sea.

Place a dozen or so in a bucket and carry them through the forest to the creek.

Gently tilt your bucket into the creek so that the coho swim out into the cool water.

Repeat as necessary or until the 9000 or so fry are in the creek. Reward yourself with a handful of juicy salmonberries.

Monday, May 31, 2004

They really are orcas! Reports from commuters on Tuesday last week that the 6:35 ferry was amazed a small pod of orcas, two adults and two calves, but all accounts. And Steve adds another sighting to the thread below.

All very cool, to have these whales back in the Sound, even if they are just passing through.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Just come through a couple of days of heavy rain, which has been a welcome relief from the dry conditions. Big puffy cumulus clouds are filling in the Sound now, lifting from the low stratus that has been dragging through the treetops in recent days, as if the forests are breathing.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Following up on a comment below about a whale seen off Keats Island, today I got a report of a pod of orcas off Tunstall Bay. I am assuming this was out in the Strait of Georgia, and probably not visible from land.

Sometimes at Tunstall Bay, and at Galbraith Bay, one can see spray out in the water maybe 500 meters off shore. This is often confused for whales blowing, but actually it is from seals chasing fish and splashing around at the surface.

The report of orcas is just about right for this time of year though, as the resident Georgia Strait pods move up to Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago for their summer jobs of entertaining tourists in Telegraph Cove and Robson Bight.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bowen's own star fiddler Moritz Behm has just released his second CD. He got a nice review in the Whistler Question.

Go visit his website and buy a record or two.
Lots of things going on around here these days:

  • First Swainson's Thrushes calling in the evening. Haunting, delicate call which you can hear here.

  • Salmonberries are ripe and being eaten. Looks like a good year for them. Thimble berry blossoms are thick on the bushes and promise a better than average harvest this year. Huckleberry looks average, and salal looks good but if it gets really dry again this summer, they may not get as big and juicy as they are able to.

  • Western Tent caterpillars, which had invaded the west side of the island last year have moved over here and are eating foliage on the alders, ash and cherry trees. Not as bad an infestation as last year on the west side, but we hardly had any over here last spring.

  • No carpenter ants in our house so far (knock on what's left of the wood). I think I found their lair last summer and drenched it with water, probably drowning the queen.

  • Lots of development along Miller Road. A large stand of alders has been completely clear cut for Abbeyfield House, which after many years of planning and fundraising, is now beginning construction. Further along there is a new house being put up three doors down from us. Our neighbour two doors down, Gord, is in the process of tearing down his cottage and building something new. He's is one of the hardest working men I've ever met. Our next door neighbours, Brock and Kim are blasting some rock today to build out their driveway a little. The piles on our house shake every time the bedrock trembles.

  • And finally, it looks like we are in for a very dry summer again. Several days this week it has threatened rain, but it's almost as if the sky has forgotten how to drench us. With summer drought and aumtumn deluges, we're becoming more and more like California every year.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Round here we're a small and friendly community. Everyone knows what everyone else is up to and if they need to get the word out fast, folks use the un classifieds in the Undercurrent. On any given Friday you can find a decent rundown on the REAL news on Bowen: who lost what, who found what, where the garage sales are, how to get your tickets for the choir show. A couple of years ago a roofer who had been notoriously unreliable even posted an apology in the unclassifieds, promising to return phone calls from now on.

in other words, the unclassifieds section of the paper is not just a place to sell and trade, but a finger on the pulse of our island.

So you can imagine the outrage as the Undercurrent has started taking classified from the mainland. The paper is owned by a chain and obviously the chain wants to put the same ads in all of it's papers. So now we have ads for lost dogs in Langley and car wash attendants in Slave Lake Alberta. It's absurd. Nothing lost on the mainland is going to find it's way to Bowen Island without help and a ferry ticket. But to make matters worse, our little colourful slice of local life is now buried in tiny print amid all of this uselessness.

Read the thread on the Bowen Online forum at the link above. Folks won't let our identity slip quietly into the inky black noise of offshore classifieds. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 10, 2004

We celebrated Mother's Day with a hike into the wilderness of Cape Roger Curtis. It was a beautiful day and the tide was really low, so I was able to get a photo of these ochre sea stars.

These are the dominant intertidal starfish of our island. Down near the bottom of the intertidal zone, you'll see them piled up one on another in these large groups, feeding on barnacles, mussels, sea urchins and other hard shelled creatures. The stars eat by pulling open the shell of the prey and then inserting it's stomach into the animal, where it digests the prey from within. The results of course, are beaches littered with all kinds of shells. Yesterday I found a small sea urchin shell, an unusual find in the intertidal zone.

These are pretty remarkable creatures as any number of sources will tell you. They are tough, and resist drying, and so they can stay out of the water for up to 50 hours. Like all sea stars, they can replace broken or eaten limbs and they can live up to 20 years.

Sea otters eat them by chewing off a limb and then throwing them back, which does no lasting damage to the sea star. Gulls on the other hand ingest small sea stars whole which leads to the common and amusing sight of a gull with a broad lump in its throat as it takes a few minutes to swallow its spiny meal.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Sad news on Bowen as Helen Holte passed away on May 1. The tributes have been coming in, acknowledging a piece of Bowen history that has passed into the books. Her family posted a modest little item in The Undercurrent today which reads:

The family of Helen Holte would like to thank her many friends and acquaintances for the concern and kind words expressed over the past few difficult weeks. We would especially like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Kit and Frank Dale.

When Helen left us on the morning of May 1 the folks at the hospital couldn't tell us exactly why. An email posted on a local Bowen Forum suggests a reason that is probably as good a diagnosis as any: When there were no more "Senators" sitting at her counter, I think she chose to join them and run the big Bowmart in the sky. I will sorely miss her, she was the last of the Titans, may all the gods bless her.

This comment, and many more like it phoned, printed, emailed or left in cards on the steps of the Bowmart, have reminded us just how many lives Helen has touched in some small but memorable way. This has been of great comfort to us.

Helen requested there be no service for her. Perhaps at some quiet time and in our own way we could all reflect for just a moment on the values and joy of a more simple and gentle era. Thank you all.

But just as one life passes, a new life joins in and in a typically Bowen Island way.

It seems last weekend that a most unusual birth took place. A woman went into labour and, for whatever reason (I hope it wasn't an emergency) a medevac helicopter was called in to transport her to Lion's Gate Hospital on the mainland. Apparently, the helicopter only got a few metres off the ground when it was clear that the baby wasn't going to wait, and as a result, the child was born on the playing field at the Bowen Island Community School. I expect that the regular Saturday soccer games had to be cancelled. Whether the child qualifies for a lifetime of free Parks and Rec programs is yet to be determined!

More details if and when I find out more of the story.

The eternal doesn't just happen normally around here.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Finn and I were wandering around Snug Cove yesterday when Finn spotted this guy hopping around on the lawn outside Blue Eyed Mary's, one of our favourite Bowen eateries. Later on it had crossed the road and was perusing the grass in front of the library.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are rare in this part of the world up until April 15 when they return. I have never seen one on Bowen before (my only sighting has been near the Vancouver airport). Not sure if this guy is here to stay or just munching some bugs before continuing on north. I was lucky to get a picture of him though.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

For generations, Bowen Island kids have gathered at the government dock to fish for "shiners," little fish that hang around in large schools and will nibble at anything. Today was Aine's first crack at landing some of these little guys and this morning she caught her first four fish. Hooking her first one, she squealed at the sensation of the line tugging and shaking in her hand, and she gently lifted a little fish out of the water, to her utter delight and amazement. And with that she joins a long line of kids who got bit by the fishing bug on the Snug Cove dock.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

In response to a comment wanting pictures of spring on the coast, here is a shot of my little rhodo bush from this afternoon.

We have just got a little digicam up and working, so expect more images to compliment the entries here.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Aine has built a garden for herself up in the rocks behind our house. She found a little sunbaked nook and started gathering forget-me-nots, grape hyacinthes, a small lavander plant and an iris (which lost it's bloom in the process) and planted them in the rocky soil. Upon proudly showing me this little creation, I suggested that we really do it up right and build it into a little rock garden.

So on Monday we picked loose rock and made a little wall, and filled it with two bags of topsoil and yesterday Caitlin brought home a bag of morter from the Bowen Building Centre, so we are all ready to cement it all in place.

Aine has put a little bench in and hung a wicker basket off an overhanging branch of ocean-spray. She retreats up there behind the blooming broom bush and stays out of sight in the afternoon sun, pushing little piles of soil around and dreaming up new plans for terraforming the rest of the cliff.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

We have had glorious spring weather the last few days. Bright sunshine in the day with t-shirt temperatures and the smells of spring and summer all around - sunlight baking the fallen fir needles on the side of the road, and warming the vernal sweetgrass in our little meadow in front of the house.

The tulips are in full bloom and the camillia bush which has sat for so long on decks and patios for years without flowering has put out a dozen big pink blossoms.

The other day I took the kids down to Pebbly Beach, which hugs the north edge of Deep Bay a couple of hundred feet below our house. They played on a huge old cedar log for four hours, foreshadowing the kinds of summer activities that they usually get up to.

We have towhees at the feeder, which is new. They hop around on the railing outside my office window and try to figure out how to get on the feeder. Juncos are still around as of today, but they'll be gone soon. And the robins are flocking together, and the warblers are back in the forest.


Thursday, April 1, 2004

More on the benefit for Remy:

"In light of Remy Jannenette Walen's recent accident, many people in our community have expressed their condern and wish to assist him and his family during this difficult time. A group of volunteers has gotten together to plan the first fund raising event for the Bowen Island Community Emergency Fund and the Jannette Walen family will be the first recipients of the funds raised during this event. On Saturday, April 17, 2004 at BICS, we will be featuring a dinner of delicious home cooked food, salad, bread and dessert and great entertainment is provided by many of our very talented local musicians, including: Rob Thompson and friends, Toni Dominelli, Brenda Reid, Moritz Behm and the Fiddleheads, Teun Schut, Wayn Kozak, John Bottomley, Jay Rosen, the Morrice Dancers and More!!

Doors will be open at 7.15, dinner starts at 7.30 pm and the $25 tickets can be purchased at VONIGO, Cates Hill Pharmacy, A Bit of Everything and at the door. Babysitting may be available.

Volunteers are still needed for a variety of jobs. If you would like to help, please call Mo Miller (947-9494), Christine Smith (947-2347 or 2113) or Betty Dhont 947-9237. Financial contributions and/or goods and services will also be gratefully accepted. Please call Pernille Nielsen at 947-2210 (P.O. Box 19) if you care to do so. Tax receipts are available.

Thank you in advance for your support and concern. Let us once again prove what a wonderful community we live in."

If you're on Bowen that night, come on out. Remy did much to support musicians when he and his partner Miriam owned La Mangerie, and now it's time for us to give back.

Helen is out of commission for a while.

Helen runs Bow-Mart, a remarkable place, if only because it is the oldest business on the Island, attracts the same five or six guys for coffee every morning, and never seems to be open.

The Bow-Mart is an institution, couched in more history than I can go into here. The patrons are few but loyal, and Helen has served them coffee for decades now as they discuss the current state of the rock. The guys that meet at the Bow-Mart in the morning are sort of Island Elders. There is almost nothing they haven't seen or talked about. And taking a place in this pantheon is next to impossible. When one dies, as sometimes happens, the stool is still referred to as "his" chair for evermore. There is no farm team for the Bow-Mart boys. They are in a league of their own.

All of this I have only heard about, of course. Having lived here for merely three years, I cannot come close to laying any kind of claim on the knowledge of the inner workings of this place.

But I do know one thing. Helen is revered as a stalwart in the community, and the fact that she can't be there to sling coffee for the boys in the morning is an event of astronomical importance.

We all wish her well in her recovery.

In related news, Remy, the former owner of La Mangerie fell from a roof and ended up in hospital with serious injuries to his hands and head. There is a benefit concert for him being planned. He and Miriam were so good to the musicians of Bowen when they ran La Mangerie, that it is only right that we pay him some tribute and raise some money for his recovery. Prayers are with him too.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Back from New Zealand. It's warm tonight, the air holds scent from the blossoming trees. Birds in full spring song now and the flowers are dotting the garden. Daffodils, grape hyacinth and Camillia in bloom. Time to think about really fixing up the garden this year, figure out how to keep it alive during the drought and free of weeds during the rain.

Monday, March 15, 2004

I live in a neighbourhood that is called "Seven Hills" by locals. I still don't know whey it is called that. It lies on a hill between Deep Bay and Miller's Landing. But it's only ONE hill, not seven.

At any rate, the neighbourhood has given its name to a B&B at the bottom of the hill, and the propritor of the establishment, Anne, has a blog!

So welcome to my growing list of the Bowen noosphere, Ann! I'll pop by next time I'm heading down the hill to pickl up my mail.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

What a great day yesterday. I hooked up with my friend Leslie, father of four kids, and all seven of us bundled off together to do some beachcombing at Tunstall Bay. Leslie was in search of some cedar which he was planning to split and turn into a gate for his garden.

It was a really nice day yesterday, sunny and warm with a slight wind coming from the northwest when we set out, so it was a little chilly on the beach. But we quickly found a beautiful log which Leslie sawed in two with an old four foot crosscut saw. As we were hauling the log off the beach and tying it to the roof of his van, a couple of carloads of Saturday visitors from the mainland arrived in new luxury automobiles and fine clothes and stood around watching us. I had this distinct feeling of myself as a spectacle...a couple of hardy Islanders salvaging their own building materials while their kids ran around popping bladderwrack floats and looking for crabs, and playing in the caves on the rocky shore. It was like a scene out of an Enid Blyton novel. I could hardly restrain myself from laughing out loud.

To make matters more fun, one of the Island oldtimers and his son showed up right at low tide to launch a boat on the primitive boat ramp. Primitive begins to describe the ramp, only because there isn't a word that comes to my mind to describe pre-primitive. The ramp bascially consists of the road ending in a small drop off onto a rocky beach, which at low tide, extends about 40 feet out into the ocean. Buddy showed up with a rebuilt 1970s Jeep and they pushed and bounced their way into the water, pausing only to force the whole apparatus over a sizable boulder that didn't show up in their rear view mirror. I thought the trailer was going to come right through the bottom of the boat.

At any rate, they got the boat into the water where it started up in a cloud of blue smoke, took off a couple of hundred yards off shore and then gave out. It limped back to the beach and got hauled out on the trailer and they took off to make the necessary repairs.

By this time, the wind had died down and the sun was really warm. We sat on the beach watching seals and oystercatchers, mergansers and loons ply their trade near shore while out on the water fishing boats jockeyed for space with log barges, log booms and skiffs full of woodchips motoring up and down the coast.

Friday, March 12, 2004

On and off the island...travelling to various parts of the country and then home again for short all makes for a very disengaging time.

So now I am surprised when I see that the daffodils are in bloom, the heather and lavender are flowering as well and the birds have really started into their mating calls in earnest. Black-capped chickadees and towhees are whistling and whirring in the forest and warblers are returning. It's lighter in the mornings and dusky until 7:00pm and the quality of light has changed too. Instead of grey scale landscapes, Howe Sound is painted in shades of blue. The old fruit tress in the lost orchards around Deep Bay and Crippen Park are in full bloom.

Spring really just arrives on the coast. One day you wake up and you're outside in short sleeves enjoying the sun, cutting kindling for the nighttime fire, becasue it's still cold. You notice the change in the soundscape and the colour and the light and it's just so clear that something has shifted. No more storms, lighter rainfall, more sun.

Bring it on!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I'm getting ready to hit the road again for a week, so yesterday I took advantage of an offer from my friend Roch to hike down to Cape Roger Curtis.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, a solid reminder that spring is on the way, and the soundscape in the forest is changing as red-winged blackbirds return and the chickadees launch into their two note territorial calls. The day was calm to begin with as the night's light Squamish wind dissipated and the wind swung north west. Over the course of the morning we watched as it came into Tunstall Bay out of the Strait of Georgia, developing into whitecaps by noon. And by then we were on the trail, having abided the morning at the Tunstall Bay Community Association clubhouse, overlooking the beach and a couple of river otters at play among the goldeneyes.

The Cape is the windswept south western point of Bowen and it sticks out into the Strait making it a great place to see wildlife and to taste the salt spray at the prevailing waves break on the rocky beaches. We built a fire on a secluded beach and roasted bison sausages, talking all the time, and watching guillemonts, geese and a young bald eagle. At one point I pointed to a seal that had come into our little cove and then stood in astonishment as it turned to face us and showed us its paws. It was clearly not a seal, but an otter, and an otter of that size could only be a sea otter, an extremely rare endangered speicies on this coast, who are making a comeback from the fur trade that decimated them. But they are a rare sight nonetheless and if I can get someone else to assure me that this is indeed a sea otter, this would be my first wild sighting of one.

I still smell of woodsmoke and salt. It was a good day, a day that reminds me about what is really important.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I've been off the island a lot lately, travelling in darkness mostly, out of bed at 5:45am and back home at 6:00pm. The life of a commuter.

Yesterday I had a very startling thought. I realized that I have become very disconnected from the island. Commuting does that, especially in the winter. I am out of touch with the tides, the birdsong, the sun and wind and rain. I couldn't tell you without looking what phase the moon is in, and I was taken by surprise at the sight of Jupiter high in the early morning sky the other day. I am just not as aware of this place, of nature, of me in my surroundings.

Today I got to stay at home and do some writing and Finn and I tracked a deer for a while in the woods behind my house. This old doe kept darting in and out of salal bushes, but she was leaving good prints and there was lots of scat on the regular deer runs so she was pretty easy to catch up to. Finn was thrilled, and so was I...finally reconnecting with this place.

THis whole experiences has given me a pretty profound insight into what it's like to be a citizen of Bowen if you are a commuter as opposed to someone who lives here full time. As we get deep into the community dialogue on the Snug Cove planning process, some this sharp delineation, between people who need convienence and are disconnected from the flow here and those who live here all the time and are sensitive to large scale change without context, well, this shapr delineation actually begins to mean something.

It's nice to walk in both pairs of shoes for a while.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Our family, and a large number of the kids and parents in our Learning Centre have been training in taekwondo. Our school,Bowen Island Taekwondo now has a website with some beautiful pictures. Have a peek.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I've been travelling: away to Saskatchewan, in and out of Vancouver, travelling with the commuting masses in the darkness of early morning and late afernoon. It has seemed that the island is really a dream, more a rock upon which my house stands than a real place. It is shrouded in darkness and covered in rain.

But today something is different. Today the day began with a sunrise that, from the Lion's gate bridge going into Vancouver, threw the silhouette of Mount Baker towering over the fog that enveloped all but the highest buildings downtown. And the day bloomed like a flower, becoming clearer and bluer as it went on until this afternoon, returning on the 3:35 ferry I was absolutely struck by the character and the spirit of this place. Sunlight glinting off a calm sea, air as clear as crystal, mountains green-grey and topped with pure white crowns. I remembered the island and the landscape as a continuing character in my life here, and started singing my summer song:

All the diamonds in the world

That mean anything to me

Are conjured up by wind and sunlight

Sparkling on the sea

It feels like winter is leaving.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The ever shifting world of Bowen Island eateries is in for another change. La Mangerie, a nice spot at Artisan Square, folded up their tent in the fall and the building, which has the nicest view of any restaurant on the island has been sitting dark since then.

Losing La Mangerie was big for me becasue they were both a bakery and a live music venue. Their bread was phenomenal: huge loaves of multigrain, one slice of which was enough for dinner. And for a couple of years the restaurant played a valuable role in promoting the vibrant and eclectic live music scene on Bowen, with Friday night performances.

So last week, the loaves appeard at the Ruddy Potato, Bowen's natural food store. Upon investigating further, it seems that the room on the hill is getting a facelift and a new name, and although they are baking bread, the new restaurant under the name of "Bowen Bistro" is yet to open. SHould be exciting when it does, and hopefully live music will follow.

Down in the Cove itself, Lily Hooper's Teahouse has also changed hands, sold by Liz Fincham to daughter Sam. Liz and Sam have been running it together since it opened, and Sam is an amazing talent with the soup pot. The most amazing soups have come out of the tiny kitchen in the back, the smells wafting out to mingle with the scent of dozens of jars of loose tea. Sam made a Laotian coconut noodle soup a while back that blew me away. I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Robert Brady at Pure Land Mountain is chopping wood again:

Doing the firewood-splitting extended meditation today I was feeling how good it feels to actually be physically involved, flame-for-flame as it were, in the heating of your own home, as opposed to working 40~50 hour weeks at a desk in an office to pay an oil truck to now and then come and dump a few thousand gallons of anciently gathered nonrenewable solar energy into a very expensive oil tank to run through a very expensive central heating system at prices that will soon be skyrocketing, as we slurp up the last of what the sun laid far down in the earth hundreds of millions of years ago.

I know in my body, with my muscles, the actual cost of the heat I get, the ergonomic cost of every kilocalorie. I know how much breakfast it takes and how much energy it takes (my own and the firewood's) to heat my house for an hour or a day, and what my own muscles have done and must do to make it so. That knowledge (physical, spiritual and mental) keeps me warm on several levels.

And by respecting and fostering the source, and doing my own best to minimize general waste (which this intimacy makes patent), I am fully and directly involved in maintaining a broader aspect of my life. Who drilled your oil/gas? Where? Off the coast of California? The Alaskan wilderness? Have you ever seen an abandoned oilfield? An oil drum dump? Soon your oil/gas may be coming from Yosemite, or Yellowstone, or following more unexplained wars in the Middle East.

In any case, oil/gas is energy borrowed from the past, and one day it will all run out. If we are still around despite our depredations, what will a bit of heat cost then? Best to keep our bodies in good shape, with natural exercise, so that our children can see the worth of it. For total fluidity of movement and use of every muscle while being pleasantly productive, nothing in a gym can touch gardening or firewooding, a couple of good natural routines.

I love this too, being connected to the sources of heat that keep us warm. This winter we are heating with alder from the south part of the Island and primarily hemlock mill ends from a mill in Langley, on the continent. A lot of them bear the stamp of the now defunct CLMA, The Cariboo Lumber Manufacturer's Association. That means the wood came from the central plateau, was trucked to the Lower Mainland, sawed, kiln dried and trimmed. The trimmings were piled up on a wood lot, scooped into a large dump truck and driven to my house in October of 2002.

In carefully burning mill ends, we are using a waste product that would otherwise be allowed to decompose, get chipped or be disposed of in landfill.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Community Review of the Snug Cove Village Plan is rooted in some citizen driven processes that some of us put together in the summertime. It's intended to be a citizen-based collaborative response to the Snug Cove Plan. If you are a Bowen resident, you should have a look around the site and add your two cents.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Bowen Islander and big dreamer Michael Henderson has launched the website for The Moon Resort and Casino, a project that is looking for a home.

It is BIG thinking personified...

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I'm back to blogging with the Ecotone community who are looking at Coming And Going this week.

Our regular ferry, the Queen of Capilano has gone for her annual refit, and in her place we have the smaller and much older Bowen Queen. The Bowen Queen was first pressed into service with BC Ferries in 1965 and she mostly fills in as a replacement vessel these days on the islands. Unlike the "Cap," the Bowen Queen is a much more utilitarian looking vessel. Walking on the car deck is hazardous, as there are pipes and spigots sticking out all over the place and the headroom means ducking and weaving between cars to get the passenger lounges. There are two lounges on either side of the first level and one lounge up top. When the blinds are down over the windows in the early morning or in the evening, it feels a little like the inside of a box car.

She's actually a faster boat, but because she is smaller, there are often overloads and delays and the schedule can get pretty messed up. Inconvenience aside, I like her because it feels much more like we live on an island when we sail on the Bowen Queen. The Cap is a luxury liner in comparison, and it's easy to take that boat for granted.

Coming and going gets more challenging this week, but also demands that we become more mindful of the act of getting to and from the continent and that's never a bad thing.

Think of the Bowen Queen as our annual dharma teacher.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Warm southeasterlies last night eatig up what's left of the snow. It's really warm here now, and the thaw seems to have extended all the way up Mount Gardner.

Finn, Caitlin and I went for a walk around Killarney Lake yesterday. The lake froze over last week and apparently there was skating there, a once in a decade opportunity, and I missed it. Around the lake there were some impressive maples that had toppled under the weight of the New Year's ice storm and shattered into thousands of pieces. They leave big clearings in the forest which will help the undergrowth to get going then to be followed by Douglas-fir saplings.

A shattered maple is a awe-filled thing to behold.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Almost all the snow is gone now. Yesterday a haze of vapour hung over the island as the land shed all this moisture into the much warmer air. It nearly hit ten degrees.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

I took a walk through the woods in Crippen Park today to see what effect the thaw was having and I was pretty surprised. On New Year's Eve the rain and freezing rain brought some trees down and some larger branches. Some of these landed on salmonberry bushes, and broke the canes. A couple of the patches of bushes are ruined for this year, but they weren't highly producing anyway so the regrowth will probably be good. One patch that delivers pretty juicy berries on an annual basis was pretty heavily bent over too, but we'll have to wait until spring to see how it affects the berries.

Lots of prints in the snow too, deer and squirrels as well as trampled patches where the juncos have been chasing seed. That's something I miss from living in a place with winter. I love tracking animals.

The snow is more than half gone now and it should be asll washed away by the weekend with the exception of the large piles by the sides of the road.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Raining today. The snow is leaving and so too is winter it seems.

Temperature is getting up near five degrees and the world is covered in a foot of slush.


Tuesday, January 6, 2004

It's snowing heavily again today, all kinds of different snow. We are expecting 30cms or so and perhaps some freezing rain after that. It may be a very nasty couple of days until we get a thaw.

Last night, just before the storm clouds built into the Sound, I stepped out into the night to relish it. It was calm and clear and the fullish moon lit everything up. There is lots of snow already underfoot, crunchy and dry after having all the moisture sapped out of it by a few days of -10 at night.

Now the roads are covered again and the trees are starting to wear a dusting. This snow is much dryer now than the last one so it isn't sticking. It's easier to move with a broom.

It feels funny writing about snow. When I was a kid in Ontario of course it snowed every winter, and I never thought much about it. I always loved it when it snowed, but it never completely absorbed me like it does now. I can spend hours peering out my window at the grey light and the grey sea watching flakes drift to the earth.

Emily, at Stinky Cat, posted some memories of being a kid on Bowen when it snowed. Lovely reflections.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Today's weather, shamelessly ripped from Markus and Emily's blog

I realize that this is not the hardest place in Canada to spend winter, but we are in the middle of what would pass for normal winter conditions in the rest of the country, but which are really unusual for the south coast.

For a start, it's sunny.

The temperature has dropped, and is hovering around -8 right now. But the Squamish wind is incredible, gusting around 80 km/h out in the Channel which drops the windchill to -19. The snow is all frozen now and what is left of it on the trees is falling like small rocks from the heights as the wind blows it down. In the forest behind the house I can hear branches snapping off and plunging to earth. It's crazy.

I haven't seen the waves in the Channel look like this ever. Yesterday morning you could have surfed on the gale. Apparently in 1990 there was a similar encounter with wintry conditions and high Squamish winds that knocked the power out on the island for a week in some places. The grid is more stable these days, but the power goes on and off like clockwork. Every night we lose it for a couple of hours and then it's on by 7:30 or so in the morning. That's fine for us, but my 70 year old neighbour heats with electricity and last night she was up at four in the morning trying to get a fire started with some wet pine she has for firewood. I cut her a bunch of kindling and brought a box of kiln dried mill ends over to her this afternoon.

This has been a freaky year for weather. The predictions for the winter have already come true. Forecast says it'll warm up early in the week, so all this stuff should be gone by next weekend. In the meantime, it's nice that we get the reminder of what it's like to live in Canada in January.

Thursday, January 1, 2004

New Year's Eve was spent at home, watching a video and eating homemade pasta. The snow continued and was changeable , sometimes becoming a light rain, and sometimes becoming big fat flakes. There was a lot of weight being added to the trees, and around 11pm things started to give way. Several bombs of snow, ice and fir needles landed on our roof, shaking the whole house. Predictably, the power flickered several times and then went out at about 1:00am on New Year's Day.

At the stroke of midnight, I stepped out on to the deck and took in the auditory soundscape. The snow was silent, but from far away a din rose from Vancouver where every boat in the harbour was sounding it's whistle. It was eerie hearing it drift across the water in the silent snowstorm. There has been no wind to speak of and the cold air carries sound with crystal clarity.

After a good's night sleep, we decided to spend New Year's Day in a traditional Canadian manner, by putting on swim trunk and driving over to Bowen Bay for the annual Polar Bear swim. At the stroke of 2:00pm, Aine, myself and about thirty other Bowen Islanders headed QUICKLY into the frigid North Pacific for a swim. It was freezing cold. After getting out and drying off, we warmed ourselves around a huge beach bonfire and sipped Shaftsbury Ale and caught up with friends.

Happy New Year to all.