Wednesday, November 30, 2005

First snow of the season yesterday. We had about five centimeters at our elevation, but there was more higher of course. Now it's sunny and the mountains are beautiful. Photos soon...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

We have just had the most lovely local election. It sounds strange to say, but there was a great campaign conducted in person and online and I knew probably three quarters of the candidates personally and the resulting vote gave us a Council that everyone seems pleased with. The candidates who were unsuccessful in their bids for office were gracious in their praise for the new Council. Well met, hard fought and no bad feelings. It's the first time in my life I've felt that the democratic process can actually produce the kind of results that a community as a whole can get behind.

So with the glow still emanating from Bob Turner (who, in his run for mayor had 74% of the vote) and a council which had five people return and two great new additions in Lisa Shatzky and David Hocking, imagine my surprise when I discovered an article in The Undercurrent this week from our local federal Conservative candidate, John Weston.

Reporting on a trip he took to the island "recently" to listen to our concerns, he issued a press release and had this to say:

My visit to this beautiful island highlighted for me the issues that are front and centre among residents. People here are rightly concerned about health care, child care, education and high taxation levels needed to prop up a cumbersome bureaucracy. And as island residents, they are particularly worried about the Canadian military's inability to respond to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes."

I am shaking my head. First, I think that the federal government is probably the smallest it has been in a long time, and certainly smaller than when the Conservatives were last in charge. Most of the folks I know in the federal public service are stressed out of their minds trying to keep up with the work. And anyway, what exactly can the Conservatives do to improve on childcare, into which the feds have recently poured billions of dollars? And, Weston, health care and education are provincial responsibilities, but affordable housing, one of our TRUE island issues, has long been a joint federal responsibility.

But I quibble. Here's where Weston really got it wrong. To make matters worse, our new mayor is a long time member of this "cumbersome bureaucracy" Weston speaks of and as a public servant has done more than anyone I know to raise awareness about issues of water use, environmental sustainability, the health of our island's ecosystems and earthquake preparation. He published a book about the geology and water system of the Lower Mainland that is a brilliant and accessible volume on the geology of the region and the hazards that the region faces. So that's just bad form, coming into a community who has just elected a public servant par excellence to office and slagging his place of employment while at the same time telling us that the things we are concerned about have actually been his overwhelming interest for something like two decades.

And any way, if Weston really asked an islander or two, he would have discovered that flooding is just not a problem here. We live on three humps of rock surrounded by ocean. Water tends to run right off. About the only flood worry that keeps islanders awake is the threat of a septic system backup, and that is truly scary. Given the stuff Weston is pushing however, it would seem that he might have some latent expertise in this problem.

And these Conservatives...what about their libertarian roots? Surely Weston knows that we are a small island next to a big city and that in the event of The Big One we have no hope whatsoever of receiving help from the military. Nor do we care I think, for we have other assets such as a strong community that and individual and neighbourhood preparation. Big government is not going to be there in our time of need, so we tend to rely on each other. If Weston is really interested in supporting our emergency preparedness I would like to see him advocating for federal government support for our own citizen based plans here on the island. Giving armoured personnel carriers to the military, useful as the are in Afghanistan, is not much help in a disaster here at home.

As the federal election campaign warms up I'd like this to be a lesson to federal politicians that happen to stumble onto our rock. Don't patronize us and try not to insult our own local politicians (some of whom garnered numbers you will never, ever see). We have just had the most amazing experience with politics. It's a shame that the mainlanders slutting for votes can't learn some real lessons from how the campaign was conducted here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Fog over greater Vancouver

Farewell to the fog
Shot of fog over Greater Vancouver yesterday, on my way to Prince Rupert

The fog has gone, getting so dense I suppose that it just precipitated into rain and fell out of the sky. It was lovely while it lasted, and photographers all over Bowen Island are thanking the gods for some of the shots they got.

We now turn to more mundane pursuits, although today I stumbled across my friend David Cameron's account of chasing a rat out of his house.

Screamin like a little girl...

That was me yesterday when the rat I was trying to vacuum up from behind my stove decided to leap into my face.

The central vacuum we have usually does the trick. Even the big ones don't get stuck in the hose. This one though is a vicious beast and even my big tabby is keeping his distance. He used to be a great ratter. He would munch up a couple a day but now he just brings them home alive and releases them for entertainment.

I set my rat trap last night-the one that can break your finger if you're not careful-and baited it with a gob of peanut butter. I adjusted the release mechanism so that if you breathed on it, it would snap. And in the morning every bit of the peanut butter was gone and the trap was not sprung. Should we not be training these creatures to defuse bombs or perform micro surgery?

What follows in the thread at Bowen Online is neither for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach. But it is among some of the funniest writing I have ever read on the subject of sharing space with unwanted rodents. We islanders are not a sentimental lot when it comes to rats, but we do know how to entertain ourselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fog in the morning

The fog just keeps rolling in and it keeps giving us beautiful things to photgraph. This was the view from my office window this morning as the sun moved behind the Douglas firs below us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Took me cruising to someone else's photo album to find this pranked sign on our island. Look carefully, or follow the link to the larger photo.
Fog bank and sun rise

What I woke up to yesterday

The fog continues to haunt the Sound, coating the island. In the mornings it mostly stays low above the water, thick as anything you have ever seen, but above the skies are clear and sunny. It has been so spectacular that I have created a whole photo gallery of fog pictures, taken from my house (as above) and up on top of Cates Hill.

It looks like we have one or two more days of this awe inspiring stuff, before our regularly scheduled autumn returns.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Don't lean on the windows

It's hard to resist not jumping through the window!

I've posted a photo essay on my Flickr site about the route I take when I have to walk home from being in Vancouver. The essay starts with boarding the ferry and details one of the routes I often walk over the mile between Snug Cove and my home.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

View from the office

The fog horns are sounding in the channel as ferries and shipping traffic creep through the thick fog banks that have been moving in and out all day and evening. There is a strong high pressure zone over us at the moment bringing beautiful sunny weather except right at sea level where the fog is pea soup thick. Today, driving over the Lion's Gate bridge into Vancouver, the towers were just peeking out of the fog and Stanley Park was subsumed in it but for the tallest tree tops.

There are times on the coast when it can be like this for one or two weeks at a time. This high pressure system will break apart early in the week, but while it's here, the weather is enchanting.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A salmon for Kathryn

A heart felt thank you to the soul that left a copy of the new issue of The High Tide on my backdoor. It's probably been close to two years since the last issue came out. It's perfectly timed.

Walking a dear friend today, talking about the state of things on this island and the kinds of questions we might ask of one another led me to reflect on this quote, from architect Christopher Alexander on the "quality that has no name":

Places which have this quality, invite this quality to come to life in us...It is a self-supporting, self-maintaining, generating quality. It is quality of life. And we must seek it, for our own sakes, in our surroundings, simply in order that we can, ourselves, become alive.

With the sun shining in the forest, the salmon running and the winter held at bay a little, it is a great day to come alive on Bowen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My friend and fellow skywatcher Richard Smith posted this beauty of a shot of Bowen to his Flickr page tonight. This is one of the most stunning sunset photos of our island I have ever seen. That's the kind of day it was today - completely clear and the mountains of Howe Sound had snow above 800 metres or so, so the whole inlet was ringed with whitecapped monuments reaching into a clear blue sky.

It reminds me of some of other bits of beauty that I've witnessed in the past couple weeks around here:

  • An entirely Bowen made film production of Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang which featured dozens of local kids, and the grizzliest jury you've ever seen with Eddie the Yeti as Foreman.
  • The chum returning to the weir, swimming along the beach to avoid the seals in Mannion Bay.
  • The publication of the Salish Sea community atlas that captures community maps from islands all around this body of water we call home.
  • Remembrance Day ceremonies in which a couple of hundred islanders turned out to stand in the pouring rain as we remembered those that died in the madness of war.
  • A beautiful scene of Joan and Heather, two elder Bowen Islanders sitting outside VONIGO in the fall sun, one leaning on her cane and the other, nearly blind, relaxing in a cedar chair, just passing the time of day and stopping their conversation once in a while to close their eyes and turn to warm their faces in the sunlight.
  • Posters all over the place for a concert for Sam Knowles' baby Oscar who was badly burned a few weeks ago. A dozen or more musicians have thrown together a benefit extravaganza to raise money for medical fees.
It's all what being in a slow and beautiful place is all about.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I went down to the Cape today. Cape Roger Curtis comes alive in the fall rains, and there was a swell on the Strait from the windstorm last night, so the waves were pretty cool.

Last week, in the Undercurrent, there was a centrefold spread of the three options that the owners have for this amazing piece of land. All three options have lots built on the most sensitive ecological regions of the land, places where rare plant communities and unique ecosystems are still intact. These three options were also presented at a community meeting, hosted by the developer.

The developer of CRC and the owners have been paying for a process to engage the community in dialogue around values, ostensibly so that the development that happens at the Cape will be in line with the Island values. I have been steering people toward this process because I feel that some dialogue is better than no dialogue. The Cape is private land after all, and I thought the process was a bit of an olive branch to the community.

Having seen the three options and heard about the way the developer conducted himself at the community meeting, I think it's time to change tack. Something deep down inside of me is not in alignment with the developer's dialogue process. Part of it is what I sense as a dishonest intention. I don't think the developer is being fully honest about the role he wants to play with this development, and the aims he has for the dialogue process. Part of the discomfort also lies in the fact that they developer is clearly intent on a limited set of ideas for the Cape, and even after "listening" to the community he hasn't "heard" anything in a way that matters.

So I think no we need to cut through the bullshit on this and start asking the real questions. There are those of us that want large parts of the Cape preserved, and there have been several efforts over the past year to convince the developer that an ecological worldview needs to be considered.

For the developer's part, he is a generous man, having donated buildings and land to various cause around the Island. But one thing he is not is an environmentalist, and it strikes me that it is increasingly a waste of time to try to convince him to be something he is not.

It seems that all he cares about really, on this issue, is the interests of the owners and that is how it should be. He is their developer and agent and they want to realize a return on their investment. I assume they want that return to come as easily as possible as none of the owners live on the Island, and there is no indication that they care to become part of this community at all.

No one disputes that the owners of the property have a right to extract value from it. But surveys and dialogue and statements of values and principles are not the way to convince these folks that monetary value is not the prime motivation for ownership. And so I think maybe the strategy needs to change. I think we need to ask the question "How can we make it as easy as possible for the owners to realize some gains from this property and be gone from our community?"

My assumption in asking this question is that the owners want to cut and run. They want their profits and then they want to be done with us. I am certain that they don't want lengthy legal and regulatory processes to eat up the gains they are expecting from the process. I also assume that those on the "other side" of the question also want to avoid lengthy process wherever possible. But for those of us who aren't owners, process and cost are our only bargaining chips to salvage something of the precious nature of this spot.

So by asking the question about ease, we would be asking the owners and the community to figure out a way to work on getting rid of the off-island investment in this property. I can see that the owners may have to lower their profit expectations to buy peace and efficiency, and the other side will have to stay in the game raising money to buy back lots and what will be exorbitant prices for the purposes of preserving large chunks of land. In the end the Cape will be developed, but perhaps with fewer houses and less impact on the sensitive and important areas of the property.

If I was offering advice to everyone involved, this is what I would say. I think the developer's process is not opening him up to anything of value from the community and without the intention to do so, there's no point engaging there. Better we should spend our time asking the other question, and continuing to raise money to stay in the game.

there is still room for dialogue, but we need to change the focus, and we need to be clear on all sides of the intentions and resources that everyone brings to bear on the conversation.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Bowen Island from the air

Bowen Island

Here is a shot of Bowen I took today on a float plane flight to Victoria. You're looking across the mouth of Howe Sound to Cowan Point, Apodaca Ridge and Mount Gardner.

Click on the photo to have a peek at the whole set of shots I took as we cruised over the Strait of Georgia in the late afternoon sun today.

This is the ONLY way to travel the coast!

Sunday, November 6, 2005

My friend Patricia (soon to be a Saltspring Islander) came with me on a walk down to cape Roger Curtis the other day and she recited this poem on the way:

Stand Still.

The trees ahead and the bushes beside you,
are not lost.

Wherever you are is called Here,
and you must treat it as a powerful stranger;
ask permission to know it and be known.


The forest breathes.

It answers,

I have made this place around you
if you leave it
you may come back again saying


No two trees are the same to Raven
No two branches are the same to Wren

If what a tree or a branch does is lost on you,
then you are surely lost.

Stand still.

The forest knows where you are

You must let it find you.

-- David Wagoner

Friday, November 4, 2005

Celtic music at The Snug

Our little celtic music session at The Snug is going well. Every Friday, a group of us gather to play tunes, learn tunes and generally make a small group of listeners happy. We have a good time down there, and this is what it looked like a couple of weeks ago when we were joined by Keona and Neil of Cleia on a rainy Friday night.

Come on down and join us if you play Irish or Scottish tunes, or if you just want to listen to a bunch of islanders banging out the tunes.

Two pieces of news that are important to place.

First, the salmon are running at the Causeway. With a great fall storm in progress, the fish have started coming into the Lagoon, so go down and watch them struggle on the long and hard journey of all of 30 yards to the gravel bar! These are not the greatest example of the mighty BC salmon - a little precious when set beside their Stuart River cousins - but they are ours and we love them nonetheless.

And also, the Salish Sea Community Atlas was launched last week on Saltspring Island. The author and artist who drew our map, Kathy Dunster, is hosting a launch of the Atlas on Bowen at The Gallery on November 18.

Go have a look at this book and buy one for the coffee table and one for the Christmas tree. These are stunning maps, representing the communities of the Salish Sea and capturing our essential islandness and what makes us tick, ever so slowly, as groups of people living on rocks that are swept twice a day by the tides of the Southern Strait of Georgia.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Here's an updated list of sites and blogs for candidates. I've also listed other candidates I know about who are running. If you know of others leave me a comment. Any blogs that continue to be updated after the election will be added to the sideroll and welcomed to the ongoing meaning-making noosphere!

Candidates for Mayor

Terry Cotter
Wendy Merkley
Bob Turner

Candidates for Council and the Islands Trust

Lisa Barrett
Kathy Dunster
Peter Frinton
Richard Goth
David Hocking
Bruce Howlett
Deborah Kirby
Duncan Phillips
Lisa Shatzky

Candidate websites are also listed at the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce site.

I'll update this list as I find more sites. Feel free to drop yours in the comments box.