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.