Monday, January 31, 2005

Appreciating nature involves savouring the present moment. When you take a minute to feel the wind on your face, or listen to the sounds of the wind, you begin to see the world for what it really is.

But there is another faculty which perhaps equally important if not more so. It is the ability to connect the present moment to other moments both past and future. These skills are important for example if you are a hunter and you can read the present signs around you and tell both what has passed by and when and where it will emerge again.

I discovered on the weekend that the Laichwiltach people, whose territory is up the coast around Campbell River, have words to describe the present moment in terms of the thing that has just passed. For example just around the subject of thunder that have a word that means "the sound of thunder right after the initial clap" and "The sound of the sky after thunder."

As I was walking to the Cove this morning I noticed these moments. Here, this morning, there was trickling all around, the sound of the island on a morning after a night of rain as the water is draining away. Or the sound of the forest in which the rain continues to fall long after the storm has passed. Or, on a bigger time scale, the sound of the first redwinged-blackbird after the cold snap of January, when he calls in Deep Bay with a hoarse and unformed territorial song.

There are sights too. By laying eyes on the soft grey clouds filling the sound from the northwest, I can tell what the weather was like last night - windy and wet. If I arrive back on the island from being away and the sky looks like that, I can recreate the previous day or two of weather in my mind's eye. There is also the clean white of a mew gull's head, a new adult emerging in the post-winter, ready for the spring.

Certainly all of these harbingers of spring are the early signs, and we'll see more rain and winter storms over the next six weeks. But this time of year around Groundhog Day seems about noticing what the present is saying about what has finished and what is about to come.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The sun returned for most of the day today. Sunlight on the coast is the colour of blue and green, restoring those hues to the washed out landscape.

The warm weather made for an unusual sight. During the winter it is common for several days of rain to be followed by a clear spell when the clouds lift and the mountains appear gloriously coated in white. After the warm southwesterly air flow of the past couple of weeks there is hardly any snow below about 1500 meters on the mountains, meaning only the tops of Mounts Brunswick and Harvey had anything like a prominent snowcap today.

Finn and I played cricket and soccer in the back, with the smell of mud rising to our noses, in a delightful scent of spring. Daffodils are peeking through the now thawed ground and it won't be long before the salmonberry bushes and the ocean spray start to bud their new greenery.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The rain lets up for an hour or two and then starts again. It switches between torrential downpour and fine mist, sometimes lingering in slight drizzle. Everywhere there is saturation. The roads are so soft now that school buses and garbage trucks can't travel on them. Roads that are seal coated have opened up great wounds where the water pools in potholes as deep as six or eight inches.

But Bowen Island is a rock and most of the water - something like 1 billion gallons of it this week alone - has flowed quickly off the island in the creeks and streams that lie in hardened channels. They flow off into the ocean which is now the colour of pea soup, with many huge trees still floating around like stricken bodies, roots clutching at the sky in some kind of arbour version of rigor mortis.

There is fog everywhere too, swirling past the house, making it impossible to see on the roads at night, or lying in still patches out in the Sound, seemingly fixed, but gone when you turn to look at them again. There is no colour in the landscape that does not include to tone of the fog. The greens and blues of the mountains now look like gunmetal grey and the sky and the sea are one timbre.

This is not so much a weather system as a way of life now. We can hardly remember a time when everything was dry, when the wood on the house was not coated with a layer of slime, when the roads did not glisten and hiss. When the season changes here, it is more like the coming of another world, and we change our lives accordingly, throwing open windows, basking in the sun, setting out our blankets and bedsheets to fill with the fresh air of spring.

But now, we huddle inside, stoaking the fire to stay dry rather than warm, watching the ravens sip their fill from the puddles in the grass.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Yesterday's tally was anothe 37.4mm of rain, measured at Squamish. It felt like more, although I was sick in bed most of the day. That brings our grand total this week to 274mm.

We kicked off the inaugural contradance of the Bowen Island Folk Dance Society last night at Cates Hill chapel...American and English country dances in the church.

Good fun for those who were there, and for those who weren't, we'll be at it again in March.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

No rain yesterday, at least none to speak of. I think we only added 2mm to the running total. It was very much a lull in the storm. Late last night though a new front moved in and the downpour has recommenced. I am certain that by tomorrow night (if not tonight) we will have our foot of rain.

To give you a sense of how much that is, even here, on the edge of the temperate rainforest we get something between 1900mm and 2400mm of precipitation a year. This week already we have had more than 10% of that fall.

One other marker of how devastating this rain can be is floating out in the channel in front of our house. There are hundreds of trees out there floating in the murky water with their rootballs still intact. These trees have slid of slopes in the watersheds around Howe Sound and plummeted down the fast moving creeks and rivers in what is known as a debris torrent. They litter the water and make it really hazardous for small boats.

The rain is due to continue tonight, and we're expecting upwards of 60mm in total for today and there is no sign that the rain will let up even into next week. Another couple of low pressure systems are keeping the southwesterly flow of air coming, and there is a huge deep low lying off the end of the Aleutians that is, for all intents and purposes, a hurricane. It has a low pressure centre of 952mb which is just incredibly low. It's acting like a big hole out in the ocean, sucking in air from all around it, bringing wet warm air up from the tropics to feed it and loading up on more moisture which it will deposit on us later next week.

I'll keep the tally going until a high pressure system clears us out.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Another day, another 46.2mm of rain making about 235mm this week. It's calm and not raining at the moment, but we expect another 30mm or so tonight, getting close to our "week of a foot of rain" forcast from Monday.

Progress on the ark is coming along nicely.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The tally continues with another 66.4 mm of rain falling yesterday. It's just after midnight and pouring buckets still. The heavy rainfall warning has been renewed for tonight with up to 80mm expected before the rain eases off.

We're up to 188.4 mm of rain in three days. That's seven and a half inches. Of rain.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Another 59mm of rain yesterday making for swollen creeks and heavier cascades all around the island. No flooding here that I can see although the ground is saturated and the water is pooling on grass and in meadows.

Elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, a major landslide in North Vancouver swept two houses away and likely took some lives. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from the slopes of Mount Seymour. In some parts of the North Shore, stations recorded up to 300mm of rain in 48 hours. The major problem is that the rain began falling on frozen ground, meaning that the earth couldn't absorb it. Then the temperatures rose dramatically - it's 18 degrees C in Abbotsford right now - meaning that the snowpack couldn't absorb it either. The snow just started to melt. All that water traveling over frost heave makes for a muddy soup on the mountain sides, and slides are inevitable. They are happening all over the Lower Mainland, but so far the only casualities have been in North Vancouver. The rivers are rising too, and there is a risk of some minor flooding, on the scale of a two or five year flood. It's not quite October 2003, but it's not far off.

As I write this morning the rain has resumed pouring after a break for a couple of hours. We expect one more day of rain, perhaps 40mm more and then a break before the rain returns on the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Okay...this is going to become a weather blog this week. Charting the flood.

Saturday we had a little snow fall but by midnight, it had turned to rain and it has been raining since then. 62.8 mm of rain fell Sunday and Monday and it hasn't stopped. At times it feels like the water is just flowing out of the sky. Up on the sceptic field there are five waterfalls pouring out of the forest and along the gully behind the field, which is about 45cms full of water.

At the moment it has stopped raining, but we are expecting as much as another 200mm by Thursday. Yesterday the forecast was for about a foot of rain this week.

It's times like this I'm glad my house is on pilings.

Friday, January 14, 2005

If you are on Bowen Island on January 22, which is a Saturday night and you are looking for a good time, come on to the contradance at Cates Hill chapel. My music mates Randy Vic and Dave Marshall will be joining me to play some jigs and reels while June Harmon teaches and calls the dances. It's high energy, fast paced, easy-to-learn fun. You are guaranteed a good time.

y friend Zelik Siegel had the thought to start up contradancing on Bowen. We're hoping to make it a regular event, so come on out to this one to get it off to a good start.

Call me at 9236 or leave a comment if you want more information.

Last night was about as cold as it ever gets around here: dropped to -8.

Wednesday night I came home late from the continent on the water taxi and we had a low low tide of 0.3 meters. Walking home in the dark, the water was so low, all I could see in the lagoon was a rime of frost around the edges of the mud flat.

Yesterday morning, as I went back to Horshoe Bay to fetch the car, The tide was high again, just coming down from a 5.0 meter height. We actually had to walk UP onto the Bowen Queen, which is very unusual as that little ferry ride very close to the water.

I'm amazed at the volume of water that sloshes around the Pacific Ocean.

In atmospheric news, the high pressure that is giving us the cold weather is sustaining the outflow conditions, meaning that out in the channel every night, we have gale force Squamish winds, blowing at 40 knots. It's been a largely cold and dry week around here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Emergency preparedness
Important and useful safety information if you live on Bowen Island.  Worth a read.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

We've been living in the teeth of a ferocious Squamish for the last couple of days. The snow fell through Thursday and Friday, but since early Friday morning - and I mean early; I was on the 5:30am ferry - the wind has been blowing at gale force approaching storm force out of Howe Sound. That means it has gusted upwards of 80km/h at times, with the attendant windchill in the low -20s for some parts of the island.

We have survived most of the wind, although there are times when it bends down over Collins Ridge, or swirls in Mannion Bay that we get blasts of it. The whitecaps out in the channel though have been streaming southward solidly, lashing ferries and tugs. As a measure of just how local these winds are, I can look across the channel to Whytecliff and see that the trees near the water have no snow on them, while the trees at the top of ridge, less than a kilometer up behind Horseshoe Bay, are laden with many centimetres of snow. In Vancouver, there has been much more snow, but none of this wind or windchill at all. That the nature of these focused katabatic airstreams.

Yesterday the kids and I drove up to Hood Point to see the full fury of the the storm, and there was so much wind that Smuggler's Cove Road was at times covered in green douglas-fir boughs. White snow on the sides of a green road. Very pretty.

This kind of sustained Squamish is not common, but it can be very damaging. In 1990 a similar event kept blowing harder and harder for a number of days, knocking out the power on the island for up to two weeks in some places. People talk about that storm as one of the defining notches of true Bowen identity. Either you lived through that one, or you missed it, and there are two types of islanders as a result. This week we've had power flickers and outages of a couple of hours - nothing out of the ordinary really - but we have been spared any major inconvenience. Still, it's nice to have the wood stove stocked full of mill ends humming away while the wind and cold assaults us from all angles.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

There is a common myth in the rest of Canada, that British Columbia is a land of pleasant winters and early springs, where it never snows and is always wet and rainy. That is true for a very small part of the province, the part on the south coast, inland as far as the 1000 meter level. From there on, and from there up, winter is the long, bitter, frigid experience that it is in the rest of Canada.

Having grown up in southern Ontario, where proper winters can be delightfully experienced from December through March, I have to say that living in Canada's temperate zone has been a mixed experience. I love winter. I love snowy days, cold air and crisp blue skies. I love the feeling of warming up by a fire, and bringing life back to my extremities. I do. Really.

So today, Bowen Island's annual week long snowy season began. Early this morning, light snow started falling, and now at lunch time, there is probably 3 centimeters coating everything. As usual when it snows here, the air is just below freezing, there is not a breath of wind, and everything is silent. It is so still and gentle, that the snow has lightly capped my snapdragons that, being the hearty little flowers they are, are still in bloom in early January.

It's a delightful day.