Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Van Jones - my inspiration for 2009
Photo by luxomedia

I've blogged about Van Jones before, but last night, as the wind howled outside, I listened to a podcast of a talk he gave at a Social Change Forum at Hollyhock on Cortes Island earlier this year. With a powerful mix of humour and truth telling, he describes the confluence of social justice and environmental justice and calls for a new politics that transcends dualities, us vs, them thinking and win/lose outcomes. He also make a powerful point about how our absolute reliance on deliverables, outcomes and achievables makes us liars, as we pretend to be able to tell our donors, funders and stakeholders how we will shape the future. Van makes a powerful point that when we tell the story that we are successful, and hide that fact that half the time we don't know WHAT we are doing, we prevent the ability to learn from one another.

The world is a complex, chaotic and changing place, and what is needed now is not winning against but winning over. We need to invest in prototypes not pretend we know the solutions. We need experiment, relationship and integrity. That is the new politics of activism - it is the new politics period - and it is what I am committing myself to here at home on Bowen Island, and in my work in the world for 2009.

Happy New Year and see you out there.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The wind is howling again tonight, but this time it's a southeasterly gale blowing up the Strait. Power is flickering a litle, and may well blink out although I've been impressed with the extent to which the power has remained on here in Seven Hills during the past could of weeks. Other areas have lost power but other than a few blips, we've been fine. Tonights gales though - winds gusting to 90km/h - may change that, as the wind is coming from the east rather than the north which is how the Squamish blows. There are many more major power lines exposed to the southeasterlies, so we'll see what happens.

But what is really capturing my attention at the moment the above graphic. This current weather map shows a confluence of four low pressure systems rotating around a common core with developing hurricane force winds south of Kamchatka. Whatever that thing is - and I've never seen anything like it - it'll be here in a few days and it fixes to be interesting.

Snow is melting - maybe half gone - but we have huge banks of ice and slush at the road sides, some of them piled up four feet or more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's a classic Canadian moment here today. If you don't like the weather, come back in 15 minutes. It rained hard last night, and was a little sunny this morning but then thick cloud rolled in and it has been raining showers of thick drops all day. Just as I'm heading to Snug Cove to get the ferry, it starts to snow again. There is no rhyme or reason to this. It's like some petulant child is fooling with the weather controls - windy, calm, rain, fog, snow. Even the meteorologists have given up. The forecast for the next four days is partly cloudy with rain and snow with occaisional wind. That is covering your ass par excellence.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The thaw is on today as the roads go from sheets of ice to waterfalls. Neighbours shovelling out neighbours is what it's all about now. Especially considering the fact that there is another load of snow on it's way. A sunny afternoon has gioven way to forboding cloud and the temperature has strated to drop again.

You'll be happy to know that the mood is improving in the Cove. The General Store this afternoon was busy and upbeat with war stories shared all round.

One side benefit to helping out neighbours was that I discovered one of them, Lauryn Oates, had a piece done about her in the Globe and Mail last week. In the annals of Bowen Islanders who make a difference it turns out that Lauryn is one of our best. For 15 years she has been tirelessly working on women's right inAfghanistan and she's undaunted in her work and outlook. Read more about her at the Globe.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back in 2002 my friend Avner Haramati and his family were visiting Bowen Island from Israel. He asked me if everyone was always so nice to each other here. Caitlin replied that, no in fact people were sometimes quite angry with each other and that just the day before, a yelling match had broken out in the Cove over some ferry marshaling issue. She offered to go get the newspaper to show him.

"Wait a second," Avner said. "Two people yell at each other and it makes the news?"

Well, yeah. It's a funny place.

We're usually pretty politic to each other around here, and skirmishes between neighbours are sometimes the only news going. At least it's the news you WANT to hear about, which is why gossip is the high speed internet of small towns.

Today, the weather has warmed up and if it hasn't exactly started raining, everything is melting. And then freezing again somewhere else. What was yesterday a fluffy three foot high bank of joy-snow is now an immovable pile of hate-slush. Getting through it is hard and slow and wet work.

This morning I desperately tried to dig the car out in time for Caitlin to make an 11:00 am water taxi to Vancouver. I couldn't get out in time, so Caitlin hitched a ride to the Cove and made it off the island. I continued on and with the help of a friend - thankfully a former pro basketball player and member of the Slovenian national women's team - I got out.

Turns out Caitlin was one of the few to find an escape pod from Fortress Bowen. The ferry isn't running today due to a problem with the ramp on this side - almost certainly to do with the melt-freeze-melt-freeze dynamic that is all the rage. We did finally make it to the Cove and it's a mess there. Cars everywhere, piles of snow all round, people trying to liberate one from the other with small shovels and strong backs. If the last few days was otherworldy and downright magical, today is some kind of shadow version of hell, where everything is frozen and wet, and it's not looking like things will be clearing up any time soon.

All of that perhaps explains why there is much grumpiness and just pure asshole-type A behaviour this morning on our fair and happy Island. For example, the caretaker at Village Square, who I don't know, was going ballistic at people trying to shovel out cars. He screamed something about trying to get the place ploughed, but people kept driving in and parking. I don't know what his problem is this morning, but taking it out on folks who are just trying to do their best is not the way to go. He put a damper on the whole mood around the Ruddy Potato and Phoenix. In general, mean people suck, but mean people yelling at random strangers for no reason takes you from "mean" to "prick" in an instant.

So we transacted some basic business in the Cove and climbed back in our car to head home. Not sure whether I would be able to get back in my driveway, I parked on Miller Road with my hazards flashing and took a run at shovelling out the bottom of the driveway so I could get the car off the road.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nearly unending admiration for the job our plowmen have been doing the past two weeks. But I discovered the end of my admiration this morning. As I am gamely trying to hack away at the foot of frozen slush that the plow left, who comes barrelling down the hill but the plowman himself, resplendent in his big yellow truck with gaily flashing light atop. He leans on his horn, swerves around my car heads straight at me and coats me from waist to boot in ice mush. Nice. Merry fucking Christmas to you too.

So if you are on Bowen, stay home. If you are not on Bowen don't come here today, unless you are coming over to hang out with the Manns at Seven Hills B&B. The island has awoken from a lovely week of indulging itself in winter, and the hangover isn't pleasant. We're not at our best, so please move along and come back later, when the snow is gone and the rainforest is awash in new year's light as the fog hangs in tendrils on the douglas-fir canopy of our peaceful Island home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Another 15cms today. It's starting to get wet and heavy now and large branches are breaking around the island. Helped clear two off of Lenora Road in Deep Bay this afternoon.

Once the rain arrives - and it will arrive - we can only hope that the water will find its way to the ocean before doing much damage. Us, we have no basement, and the roof sheds water and snow beautifully - if a little alrmingly - so we'll be fine. Caitlin and Finn are clearing off the trampoline right now so that it doesn't succumb to its transformation to a lake.

Not sure what normal is anymore, but I think we'll be returning to it soon.
Boxing day and the snow keeps falling. Yesterday we got a break from it, and we were able to travel into Vancouver to celebrate Christmas with family. On the way, the ferry was a veritable floating party and I found myself wishing that the journey would take an hour, just so I could catch up.

Brad Ovenell-Carter reported that the snow fell Christmas Eve at the rate of an inch per hour, and all told, I'm pretty sure we took 18 inches or about 50cms of snow. This morning it is falling heavily again, although today or tomorrow we expect it to start turning to rain.

Power is still out on the west side of the island, and they have been in the cold and dark for a couple of days. Other friends at Xenia are at the end of a private road that has two feet of snow on it, so they are only going somewhere with snowshoes.

In the early morning quiet, there are lots of birds around - towhees, juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, and bigger birds like ravens and a lone eagle which spends its mornings down by the water. There are glaucous-winged gulls, crows, Canada gees and mallards on the bay and occaisional sightings of common mergansers and grebes at the lagoon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow has stopped, although we are expecting some drizzle and mixed snow and rain for tomorrow. All told, it seems like we got at least 30 cms of snow today and it is hanging heavy on the trees. We've had five power outages, but none lasting more than a minute. It's entirely possible that things will get dark soon, but we've eaten supper and have plenty of dry wood laid in so all is well.

With the heavy snow, tonight will surely be filled with the sounds of cracking branches and trees toppling, especially if there is any wind. Hopefully everyone will be well. Lots of snow on the roofs for sleighs and reindeer. Wonder how the black-tailed deer will react to their cousins' annual visit.

Peace and best wishes to everyone who reads this. May your Christmas be filled with solace, hope and good friends and food.
Christmas Eve 2008

It started snowing at about 10:00 last night and has just continued all night. Over the last 12 hours we've had about 15 cms of snow, maybe more, and everything is soft and quiet and bright. Every so often a little puff of wind comes and the snow cascades off the fir boughs in great sheets of powder. Our car is snowed in - snow tires being generally optional in this part of the world - so we're off to walk to the cove, sled in tow to pick up some groceries and some packages that have arrived and to maybe enjoy some coffee with neighbours.

If I have a wish for the new year and beyond for Bowen Island, it would be that village life would continue, that we would remember what it is like to live and celebrate together, that we will find ways to come together and talk respectfully about who we are and what our future would look like.

I wish the best for you too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heading into Christmas Eve, a low is approaching, with storm force winds on its front. It is about to hit a jet stream flow which is pushing Arctic air as far south as Mexico. The resulting collision will give us 10-20 cms of snow tonight and tomorrow and result in the first white Christmas across the whole of Canada since 1971.

It's a time for staying indoors and baking bread, and stoking the fire and enjoying visits on foot and sled with friends and neighbours.

Wherever you are, Merry Christmas.
Sunday night we trekked down through the snow to Collins Hall for the 10th annual dramatic reading of "A Christmas Carol" staged by Graham Ritchie, Tina Nillsen, Angie McCullogh and Martin Clarke. These four are the vetrens of the Bowen theatre scene having acted for many years in productions of Theatre on the Isle, Kingbaby Productions and all kinds of other scripted and impromtu performances. Their version of A Christmas Carol is becoming a holiday classic, and the full house was a testament to that fact.

The snow these past few weeks has made everything definitely Christmassy around here and we are heading for the first white Christmas I can remember on Bowen. We are even expecting more snow as the cold weather holds. Yesterday and last night were clear and cold and this morning the pre-sunrise sky was graced by a thin old moon hanging low in the clear sky.

We have had a new roof put on the house - a tricky job owing to the pitch of the roof and the height above ground at the front. The new roof is metal and is slick as anything, and we have been treated to the occaisional rumble of snow avalanching off and plunging to the ground.

Loving this taste of winter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It is shaping up to be one of those days where, after a heavy snowfall, the front passes through and the cold air fills in behind bringing with it sunshine and clear skies and the mountains looked dressed in their absolutely finest regalia, covered tip to toe with a rich blanket of white. As my friend Richard Smith said yesterday, this is a reset for us on the coast, used to so much green and gray, that we experience a landscape of white and blue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lots of snow now on the ground and more coming. It has been snowing now for 14 hours and there is no sign of letting up. There is at least 15cms on the ground, the Upper Levels Highway is closed, and more is to come. This will be an epic snowfall. Kids are thrilled!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Squamish has died down this morning although there are still gale warnings up and freezing spray warnings to boot. The air is calm this morning for the first time in days and as the sun crests Eagleridge everything is blues, greens and oranges with white snowcapped mountains as a backdrop.

Could I live in a more beautiful place?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Squamish continues to blow. I see that the Granville Island Water Taxi is bravely continuing to run through the wind. Has anyone travelled with them during the blow?

This morning the wind is whipping the spray into water spouts - big dust devils rather than the tornado types you sometimes hear about

Last night Caitlin and I dropped our kids at Tir-na-Nog Theatre School where they were performing a mash up of The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night's Dream and we went for dinner at Blue Eyed Mary's. After supper we drove up to Hood Point West to get a taste of the wind. On the way we saw three down trees, one of which had landed on an SUV parked in Eaglecliff. The road to Hood Point West was a carpet of fir boughs, and the wind was loud and wild coming down the Sound.

This morning, beautiful and clear, the sun cresting Eaglecliff Ridge, moving towards the point between the trees in front of us where it rises on the winter solstice.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Robert Ballentyne, down the road from me, recorded the sounds of the Squamish blowing through Miller's Landing this afternoon. Impressive stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Expecting storm force outflow winds gusting to 60 knots tonight in the Channel. Just to give you a sense of how strong that is, 64 knots is hurricane force, so yeah, it's windy. A mile away out in the Sound, you can hear the roar of the wind on the water and the white caps breaking in the Challen. There is snow falling at the moment and it's cold out there, currently -3 and dropping and the wind chill makes it seem like -13.

Along with the storm warning, there is a freezing spray warning for How Sound as well. This is a classic Squamish blowing right now. Just around the corner, at Point Atkinson, the wind is light, blow at 1 knot. We're expecting 5-10 cm of snow and then some clear and cold days ahead making for a lovely week leading up to Christmas.

Last night, out on the deck the wind was calm until 2am when a wall of it slammed over Collins Ridge, lifted my son and I out of our sleeping bags and carried on down the hill to play havoc with materials at a building site a few doors down. In 1990 a similar Squamish got locked in to Howe Sound for two weeks, knocking the power out for more than 10 days in most parts of the Island. Hopefully we won't have that, and the power has stayed on so far, but this is the strongest winter storm we've had in a couple of years, and the irony is that it's so local, folks in Vancouver, less than 10 miles away, are frolicking on a crisp fall evening, catching snowflakes on their tongue.

And just in case you think this has me spooked, I'm heading outside to spend another night on the sleeping proch, wrapped in down and taking it all in. Welcome to winter life in Howe Sound!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Heavy snow this morning as a cold front has descended on us from the north. We are expecting a pretty moderate accumulation today and then a few days of crisp cold weather to follow.

Winter is nearly upon us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

If you have never bought a Christmas card from Bob Doucet, you are really missing something.

He's selling his usual designs plus adding a couple more for this season. Get yours while you can at the usual spots around the Cove (Phoenix, the Pharmacy and Donna's gift shop on the pier) or from him directly.

I just ordered an assortment of 10.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A very mild November ends with a warm and foggy night. The Channel was clear but I was awoken several times by the fog horns in the Strait. There have been some fierce storms out in the Pacific, including one bucking hurricane force winds last week, but so far a ridge of high pressure has pushed them all north. We've had a mostly calm month with warm temperatures and below average rainfall. We'll see what the rest of the fall brings.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lots of cool animal news from around the island this fall:

  • Last week in the rain we saw a family of trumpeter swans on Killarney Lake. There were two adults and five cygnets paddling in the water on the west side of the lake off the gravel bar.
  • In the lagoon at the moment there are no salmon (weep!) but there are mergansers, least grebes and buffleheads. The Goldeneyes haven't arrived yet.
  • This morning in the back there was a doe and a young fawn. A late birth that one.
  • Confirmed reports of skunks in an around Deep Bay and Miller's Landing. The only way they could have got here was with human assistance. What a lot of work to do that. Anyway, they're here, and rooting through compost piles and nesting under decks.
  • Nuthatches are doing strange things. Usually ubiquitous to our neighbourhood, they come and go now in little flocks. There has been a lot of tree cutting in the neighbourhood the last few years, and wondering if that has impacted them at all. At any rate they were around at dawn yesterday morning, so that was nice
  • Ravens and eagles haven't been about my place too much. Sue Ellen Fast (I think) was talking about the eagles the other day. The lack of salmon has them predating heavily on the herons this year, and there was only one heron chick hatched in the nests around Deep Bay. Herons are less common these days, especially around the Cove, but we see them regularly at the lake and on the shore.
  • I haven't seen too many seals lately, although there was one in Deep Bay eating salmon last week, which was a good sign.
  • All the birds are quiet...the resident winter wrens and towhees only chip in the bushes now. The loudest creatures on the morning air are the chickadees scrapping over suet, while the juncos wander around beneath them cheeping and picking up scraps. At night the geese down in the lagoon can be heard at our place, honking at the threat of a night prowling cat I suppose. The weather is colder and drier this month and it's as if everyone is waiting for something. Lots of stillness in the mornings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My friend and Elder Anne Ironside died on Saturday morning. Anne and her husband Jim were former residents of Ashoka House, an amazing place in Bowen Bay, with a river runnign through it. Anne was an equally amazing person, intensly curious and always seeking improvement in the way the world could be. I'll write more about my memories of her later. For now a marker that another of Bowen's dear Elders has left us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vancouver Magazine hit the stands this month with an article about how we're doing on Bowen confronting the issues of sustainability and conservation while living in a small rural community next to a big city. The article was written by James Glave author of "Almost Green", a book that describes the societal implications inherent in the construction of his Eco-Shed up on Cates Hill. What I appreciate about James is his eye to the complexities and realities of the choices we face and the degree of difficulty in the work of becoming green, especially for a community like ours which is blessed and cursed by a relatively high degree of comfort.

True to form, James names names, and talks about the real issues we are facing from the Snug Cove Village plan, to our carbon footprint, to the turf war of last summer. I think James makes a great case for why we need to think about our impact on the world (comparing our carbon footprint to other municipalities in Metro Vancouver is startling - we are more than three times bigger than Maple Ridge). Some who ran for Council this year poo-pooed the preoccupation that some councillors have with larger environmental agendas, but I think if we continue to stand out in that regard it won't be long before we are made to pay for our luxurious incineration of carbon and sulphur.

James is a gift to this community. He is dedicated, committed to staying here and he brings a very sharp eye to what we are up to. Would that we had more fearless recorders of our paradoxes and pathways forward.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pretty good Squamish out in the channel last night. I cam through it on the Cormorant, coming home late from some work in Victoria. We hit the stream of wind just outside Tyee Point on the North America side of the channel and steamed through it for a little over a mile until we got in the lee of Gambier, maybe a half mile off Dorman Point. The water was choppy and hadn't really built into a bad swell, but a couple of hours later, the winds were gusting at 60km/h and it was easy to hear it. At my house, on the east side of Bowen there was no wind at all, while a mere 3/4s of a mile away a gale was raging, the wind and water in the Channel making a dull and steady roar for the whole night.

After three days of beautiful weather, the rains are due back and hopefully that spells good things for the salmon. So far, I've only heard reports of one chum that has returned, although there may have been a few more riding the very high tides we are having at night. It's getting late for them, and winter is coming on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our election results are in and we have a new Council for Bowen Island.

This is the fourth Council for our Island Municipality, since we incorporated in 1999. It shows a fairly typical pattern in Bowen Island voting which has emerged over the years. First of all, Bowen Islanders vote in droves; our turnout is always in the high 70% and I'd be surprised if it was any less than that this year. Second, Bowen Islanders seems to prefer keeping a certain amount of experience on Council. Third, an incumbent mayor has never lost. And fourth, the high turnout results in a Council that reflects the will of the population, and as much as this has changed over the years, Bowen Islanders seem to favour a mix of people who campaign on fiscal responsibility, preserving the natural environment and getting things done. If you are an aspiring municipal politician you'd be well advised to think about adopting one of these three perspectives in your campaign.

So who got elected? Three Councillors got returned: Alison Morse, Peter Frinton and David Wrinch. All three have served multiple terms on Council. Three new Councilors were elected, Cro Lucas, Doug Hooper and Nerys Poole. Doug and Nerys are well known environmental campaigners, deeply involved in the Cape Roger Curtis Trust. Cro was very involved in the golf course and campaigned strongly on the "getting things done" ticket. Finally Mayor Bob Turner was returned with a strong majority mandate.

Outgoing were the two Lisas, Barret and Shatsky, both of them friends of mine. Lisa Barret was our first mayor, and has sat on the last three Councils as mayor and Councillor. She has been deeply involved in our community's relations with the GVRD (now Metro Vancouver) and was especially involved with the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee. I think we owe her a debt of thanks for nine years of public service, undertaken with a fierce commitment to social justice, peace and the environment. She has always seen municipal politics as a microcosm of a bigger picture, and while lots of people felt that her perspective was too broad, I think that in an interdependent world, you cannot simply pretend that what is going on elsewhere doesn't affect you.

Lisa Shatsky wasn't returned to office either. Lisa is a poet and a therapist and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She talks beautifully about her commitment to Bowen, her care for the place and for the preservation of its character. I don't think we are missing that perspective on the current council, but I especially respect Lisa's stance in bringing care and passion to her public service. I know that she won't be shy about reminding Islanders about the essential character of this place.

The third non-returning Councilor was David Hocking, who declined to run again. Again, we owe him a debt of thanks for his hard work and for bringing a deeply informed green way of thinking to municipal issues. It is not an easy road to hoe, especially when you are holding down a full time job and making decisions that puts you on the receiving end of blistering criticism. But David was a good Councillor, and brought a very important skill set to Council, and his contribution is appreciated.

So our new Council has a very full plate. There are huge public process challenges emerging in this term, including development concerns, Snug Cove planning and the granddaddy of them all, the Official Community Plan process. I have been musing rather openly that now might be the time to get involved again in this kind of thing, building on some of the work we did with the Bowen Island Life Long Learning Society back in 2002 and 2003. I'm especially interested in how we can create ongoing containers for community conversation that invites creative, generative and involved community participation in an ongoing way and that has the effect of creating capacity in our community for this kind of conversation so that we don't default to positional debate.

So if you are interested pursuing this with me, let's get together soon and talk about how we might do this. Initially I'm conceiving of something of a citizen led initiative in support of our decision makers on Council and on the various committees that do the big work of caring for life on our island. Let's see what we can do together.

Good luck to the new Council, and big thanks to those retiring and those who ran, and to those who continue to be involved on committees, task forces and community groups. There are no "special interests" on Bowen...just associations of citizens trying to make this place the best it can be. We are luck to have so many that care.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It feels like it could snow today.

I have been watching the pattern that last few days. A warm and wet Pineapple Express followed by northwesterly gales yesterday that blew the moisture and cloud from the skies and gave us bright and sunny fall day. At night, with no cloud cover, the temperature dropped to near freezing and at the same time condensed the mopisture in the air. By 9pm there was a ring around the lately full moon. This morning the sky is an even grey tone, with a yellow rime along the horizon, and it feels like it could snow.

And, the nuthatches are back. I hadn't heard nuthatches since the summer, which is strange considering that they are ubiquitous around here. They seemed to have all disappeared until this morning. As I awoke outside, they were the first birds of the muted fall dawn chorus, meeping together all around me as the sky brightened.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kelli Turner and the folks at Granville Island Water Taxi are not the first people to try and make a go of a foot passenger ferry to Bowen Island from downtown Vancouver. Others have tried and found the operating costs prohibitive and the price just too high. Last night, I tasted a little of what they have to offer though and it worked well for me.

I arrived home on a flight from Prince George that got in at 7:45. Ordinarily, I would take a cab from the airport to Horseshoe Bay (at a cost of $70) and wait for the 9:30 ferry (at a cost of $6.50, or whatever BC Ferries is charging today). Last night though, I called from Prince George and booked myself on the Bowen Express which left at 9:00pm from Granville Island. Jumping in a cab, I ended up at Granville Island with 40 minutes to spare at a cost of only $30. I had a piece of pizza for supper and them headed over to the water taxi, paying $10 (the price of a commuter ticket on the Express) and arriving at Snug Cove at 9:30. We were ten minutes late because the driver misplaced the tickets. I was at home about the time the ferry I SHOULD have been on left Horseshoe Bay and I did it for about half the price. My client will be happy.

The crossing itself, in calm seas like last night, is scheduled to be 22 minutes, and the Bowen Express is running a pretty ambitious schedule. I don't think I want to be on it in a Squamish or a strong inflow, and indeed the story from two nights ago about taking air as they ploughed through five foot swells sets my stomach churning a little. So if you're planning on doing it, check the winds warnings and make sure there is no gale blowing. Winds in Howe Sound are very local and can come up very fast, with swells building quickly depending on the tide and other factors. You can start across Howe Sound in calm seas and get blasted before you get to Snug Cove.

But last night the water was fine and the three of us steamed out of English Bay and home with no hitches at all. It was surprisingly, scarily fast. If they keep it going, it will change the way people visit Bowen and the way we visit the mainland, and if it really takes off, BC Ferries will have to pay some attention. As it is the price doesn't make it the preferred way to travel, but when circumstances warrant, like last night when I'm travelling on someone else's dime and cabbing all around the lower mainland, it will be the way I get home.

So good luck to Kelli and the crew and thanks for the great ride last night.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Went down to the causeway to gaze upon the waters and see if any salmon had returned yet. Alas none to be seen, and no seals in the bay either. I don't think we've had enough rain yet, although we had a good dump last night, the spray coming deep onto the deck where I was sleeping.

I worry for our salmon. Hoping to see them soon. News is that the killer whales are starving in the Strait of Georgia and I haven't seen seals for ages.

Snow on the mountains...the season has begun, and the fish are welcome back any time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Things change all the time in communities. Sometimes you don't notice them at all - the ferry seems more overloaded than it was before, the salmon seem to come back later and later, there are kids at the beach you've never seen before. Sometimes the change comes fast, like this week at our house when two 75 year old douglas-firs on our neighbours property were cut down. Our neighbour was worried that these tress posed a threat to her house, and she had them taken apart by Dave Affleck's very capable logging crew. We lament these gentle beasts, but we know too that things change and that every time something significant changes, it can be a chance to come together and do something new.

That's kind of how it is with things on the island at the moment. I was reading Peter Frinton's excellent post on what we are facing and it got me thinking. We're in the midst of an election campaign that will choose the council that will embark on a formal review of our Official Community Plan. The OCP is the document that outlines all of the tools a municipality has for guiding it's growth and change and protecting its character. It's a tremendously complex task and is often greeted with the groans of a painful process to come.

I certainly don't see it that way though. I think the OCP could be a unique opportunity to bring our community together in an unprecedented way, to invite everyone who lives here now to have a hand in shaping the future and to emerge with a vibrant sense of co-ownership and pride in who we are and what we are becoming. All of us who moved here after 1996 inherited a Bowen Island that was shaped by a previous generation, and everything I love about this place was the result of those who came before me. We have a chance now to make an immediate future that will create and maintain that character of the island that we love so much. Rather than dread the OCP, we can look forward to the process and for the unity that it brings.

This is by no means a slam dunk. We have a choice in how to approach this work. If we as a community approach it from a place of dividing the community into discrete interests and agendas, then we will get a plan that is mired in divisions that focuses on the parts rather than the whole. The OCP review, being as significant as it is, has the chance to cleave us apart. So I have a number of ideas that I'd like to share with the candidates running for council and with the citizens of our island. These come from my years doing community planning and engagement in many contexts around North America:

  1. Remember what community is. I recommend that everyone running for council read Peter Block's new book Community: the Structure of Belonging. Communities are not problems to be solved. They are places in which people live and grow and in which individual achievement and health is supported by a fabric of neighbours, and relationships. However we do the OCP review, it should be a problem solving approach. You can find a summary of Block's inspiration here.
  2. People in communities are citizens and they don't belong to special interest groups. What some people call special interest groups are simply groups to which they don't themselves belong. Associational life is a strong part of community, and groups are critical to the fabric of community. But social capital - the capital needed to grow community - is best served up BETWEEN groups. There are no enemies in this community. People are not divided into camps, and so us against them posturing doesn't work here. To engage in that kind of view of the world results in finding out down that road that people you need are not there for you. We are too small a community to suffer those kinds of divides.
  3. Use participatory processes that build relationships between citizens.
  4. Use citizens themselves to do the planning. While we have experts on staff in our municipality, we are a community of thoughtful and experienced people, and there are countless ways in which citizens of all ages can take responsibility for the planning process. After all it is we who will be responsible for implementing and living with the results. If the planning process is done by a small group of people who ultimately make the decisions about how it all unfolds, it will be a document that is not inclusive of the very community that it plans for.
  5. Citizens themselves should be invited to participate in planning processes as contributors and co-creators, not as consultees in the process. This involves using processes that invite that contribution rather than simply filling in surveys or attending community meetings as passive consumers of the circus.
I could go on actually, and a lot of the blogging at my other weblog, Parking Lot is about the details of how to do this. Suffice to say that I'm interested in how this change will unfold, because I live here and I love this place and I'm not going anywhere.

And the trees next door? They are lying in the driveway at the moment, but in the next few days myself and two other neighbours will buck them up and split them and share the firewood between the three of us. Turning radical change into a chance to cement our friendships and keep each other warm.

Monday, October 20, 2008

We had a good old fashioned barn raising on Bowen last week.  The producer's of Harper's Island, an American horror TV show that is filming on Bowen, donated the materials and the community donated the labour and everyone put together a nice temporary ferry shelter on the south limb of the government dock.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Today under rainy and blustery skies, we had our apple festival in the historic Davies Orchard in the Cove.  There were displays of all the varieties of apples grown on Bowen from the four historic orchards as well as music and food.  I had an apple chicken ginger sausage with pesto mayonnaise from Alderwood Farms, and I think it was the best thing I have tasted all year.  

All of the apples on display were from trees that were more than 100 years old, and some of them, such as the trees in the Davies Orchard right in the Cove are 130 years old, planted in the early 1880s and late 1870s.  I got a chance to talk with Marion Moore, one of the daughters of John Collins, who was himself an heir of one of Bowen's original settler families.  At the Collins Farm orchard there are a variety of apples grown to this day.  Marion gave me a tour of all of the varieties on display.  Here's what we have on Bowen:

  • Yellow Belleflower (Sheep's Nose)
  • Porter
  • Gascone Scarlet (unique to Bowen now.  These apples were provided to John Collins by a Mr. Freshwater who lived on the salt water on the shore of Mannion Bay)
  • King of Tompkins County
  • Alexander King
  • Kyslo crabapples
  • Famuse
  • Gravenstein
  • Belle de Boscoup
  • Rhode Island Greening
  • Edward VII
  • Russet and Winter Russet
  • Davies Pippins
On Bowen we have five historic orchards.  In Snug Cove there are trees in the cottages planted by Mr. Davies in 1882.  On Collins Farm there are old orchards which Marion and her sister Jean look after.  Up on Hummingbird Lane, on the crest of Dorman Point is the remnants of the Dorman family orchard, now divided throughout several private lots.  Likewise, in Deep Bay the remains of a 200 tree orchard is now scattered among private lots.  This orchard was started by the Podavin family in the 1880s and later owned by the Terminal Steamship Company and later still, the Union Steamship Company.  Once the USSC broke up their lands in the 1960s, the lot was subdivided and many of the trees were cleared for housing.  Several remain however.  Finally on the west side of the island, the King Edward Bay orchard still produces apples.

It was a delight talking to Marion, who also filled me in on some questions that were lingering.  For example:
  • There was a penstock and a generator at the base of Bridal Falls in Deep Bay which the USSC built in the early 1910s.  The penstock provided power to the resort and although several of the cabins were hooked up, the company turned off the power at 11:00pm every night.
  • Mr. Malkin built the dam at the head of Kilarney Creek were it flows out of Kilarney Lake.  Malkin bought the land in 1912 from Marion's grandfather, who owned the whole of the lake and the lands that are now Crippen Regional Park.  The dam was built around 1915, which backed up the lake and flooded wetlands on the north end of the lake.  To this day, the trees that were flooded out in 1915 are standing in what is Bowen's largest wetland.  
A great day of community, history and food. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interesting to see the results of the beach testing for Bowen Island this summer.  The big surprise for me was seeing that Pebbly Beach, with the exception of a strange Island wide spike in May turns out to be the most consistently clean and safest beach on the island.  Surprising because it is about 200 meters across Mannion Bay from the most polluted beach that anyone swims at.  Snug Cove Beach is just not a swimmable beach at all, and the marina there contributes to the horrible condition of the water.

Not tested are Crayola, September Morn, Cates Bay, Miller's Landing, Seymour Bay and the Roger Curtis Beaches.  Be interesting to know about these ones.
The first taste of the fall storm season has arrived.  It's blustery and raining today and last night's air was sharp and cold.  There may be some nice weather left in this year, but the taste of autumn is in my mouth and the feeling is in my heart.  Time to chop some wood and start making squash soup.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Just coming off a terrific summer weekend. On Saturday a large group of Celtic musicians form the island and from the mainland gathered at The Pier to play tunes in the sun. There were lots of people there, stopping in to listen to us play or to watch the dancers clog around on the pier top.

Yesterday we met up with my old friend Chris Robertson who brought his boat over and took us back to Soames Beach on the Sunshine Coast side of the Sound. I was a perfect day, with a steady northwesterly blowing through the Collingwood Channel. The sky was crystal clear and the air was free of moisture. Caitlin described the air as “delicious” and indeed it was, especially in the early mornings, when it was still and warm and dry.

The barred owls are making all kinds of noise these days, hooting and calling at night and in the daytime. There seem to be a lot around, living mainly in the Killarney Creek valley but occasionally wandering up to our place. They call to each other all night, ringing out loud hoots and the odd screech and growl.

Summer continues, despite what the calendars say. The rain that rotted most of the blackberry crop has stayed away, a high pressure ridge has re-established itself out in the Pacific and we continue to enjoy sunny days and warm nights.   

Monday, September 1, 2008

You know, we have a lot of problems with BC's a compex relationship between us on the island and the corporation that helps us cross the moat.

But today I read about a BC Ferries employee who is leaving her job as a ticket taker because she gets yelled at a lot by Bowen Islanders.

Now, frustration with the ferry system comes in two forms: corporate and in the moment. There is lots to talk about at the corporate level and that's a whole other conversation. At the momentary level, it is frustrating when we show up late for a sailing or the ferry is delayed or something has happened at the terminal to keep us on the mainland an hour longer than we expected. Such things are part of living on Bowen. They get under your skin, but it's rare that they have life shattering effects.

At any rate, I would be willing to bet that you could count on the fingers of your hand the number of total annual frustrations that are actually the fault of the ticket taker. For crying out loud, it is totally unfair to unload on someone just because she has a BC Ferries logo on her shirt. It would be equally absurd to have BC Ferries people yelling at your beacause you were a Bowen Islander.

So the next time something gets to you, remember two things: first of all, you live on an island and there is an element of personal responsibility that you have to take for the situations you find yourself in. That's just real. And secondly, chill out. If you want to unload on someone, write a letter, but for God's sake leave the workers alone. It's just mean.
Found via whiskey river

To the Light of September

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew
- W. S. Merwin

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Just came from a brilliant performance of George Bernard Shaw's "You Never Can Tell" at Tir-na-nog Theatre School. The play is a bittersweet comedy set on the threshold of the 20th century and it pits the old world against the new, the values of the old century against the new dawning world, and it does a brilliant job of articulating the struggle to rationalize the spaces between competing world views.

It's a great play, and it has a superb cast, my favourite cohort of the Tir-na-nog School. Mariah Fleetham, Beverly Rapley, Kailie and Sam Speares, Calder Stewart, Natasha Wehn and Justin Fitzpatrick are joined by Jack and Julie Headley in what may be the last performance that these kids will put on together for a long time. They are all perfectly suited for their roles, and Kailie and Sam especially are briliant - this is easily the best production I have seen them in. Their comedic timing is sensational and the exude the same kind of playful confidence that their characters play.

The perfromance is being done as a fundraiser for the school, and it runs with one more performance next weekend. It is WELL WORTH ATTENDING, and I can't emphasize that enough. It is an outstanding production from a troupe of seasoned young actors who have worked together for more than 10 years in some cases and who are all making tranistions in their lives. We may not see them together again for quite some time (although here's hoping) so catch their brilliant chemistry while you can.

Also next weekend at Tir-na-nog, Jack's son Hamish has returned from New York with a couple of his acting buddies from NYC and they will be staging a couple of short plays to raise money for Tir-na-nog as well. This is another not to be missed opportunity from one of Bowen's truly great acting alumni.

See you there!.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A slew of great articles from the Undercurrent this week, recounting Bowen's social history, highlighting islander achievements and updating us on the Cape Roger Curtis plan.

Susanne Martin wrote a great account of the history of Bowfest, looking at its various iterations and the events that have come and gone on the roster over the years.

There is an article abou the recent plans for the Cape and the need for community voices to be strong on what the public interest is in the lands. I'm amazed at how much the proposal has changed largely due to the tireless work of the Cape Roger Curtis Trust and the voiciferous public input that has advocated strongly for ecological values at every stage. If anything, the current iteration of the plan shows that the community's public interest makes sense and that the approach being used is influential. I hope it continues to build towards a sustainable solution for the Cape.

Lastly, Spider Robinson, our resident science fiction superhero was awarded a Heinlein medal for his lifetime body of work. It's a thrill for him because Robert Heinlein, or whom the prize is named, is Spider's hero. Spider talks about him like teenagers talk about their celebrity gods with stars in his eyes and deep appreciation in his voice. When I ran into him at Bowfest, he couldn\t find enough superlatives to describe what the award means to him. In the news story about his recognition, he has the line of the year I think, something that sums up the feeling of many of us about living on this rock: “About the only ambitions I have left now are jamming with Sir Paul McCartney, spoiling grandchildren and living forever with Jeanne ... on Bowen”. Congrats Spider.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today another day of work in Vancouver, and another evening walk home from the ferry. It's pouring today, fall rain, a heavy salmon calling rain, almost heavy enough to wash summer away.

There is a rain every year that comes, usually with colder weather than this, that brings down the fir needles, rots the blackberries and signals an end to the drought. It's not usually in August, but this one has that feel to it.
Sad news of another passing. Bowen has many famous residents, regionally and internationally, but one that was loved by all was the sportswriter Jim Kearny. Jim died this weekend, and Peter King, our bus driving all-rounder wrote a lovely, personal story of spending time with Jim over the years. Here it is reprinted in full, from the Bowen online forum:

BC lost a giant in the sports media field this past week with the passing of Jim Kearney. I lost a very dear close friend. I always enjoyed getting that phone call every other day to take him and wife Patty around to the post office, the pharnacy or down to the ferry. It was always " Kearney here" on the phone and it did not matter if I was on the Eagle Cliff run or the Bluewater run, Jim and Patty had a bus in front of their house. To drive and listen to Jim and Jen Wheatley rattle off batting averages and goals against was poetry. How he remembered it all I will never know. Same holds true for Jen.

Jim was an encyclopedia of sports and world history. I remember reading his column in the paper when I was a kid and that was a long time ago. To hear him talk about the Canucks, the Lions or the Whitecaps it was pure sports. At a time where sports reporting is more of the business of sports, what with binding arbitration, salary caps and salaries in the millions, Jim was from the old school. His type of reporting is greatly missed these days.

When I found out that he was in Evergreen Extended Care at Lions Gate, I visited him as soon as I could. It is a nice facility but Jim was bored to tears. Just as lunch was being served he asked me if I could contact a few of his friends and associates to visit him. Putting pen to paper I was compiling a list of the who's who in sports and media. First on the list was Pat Quinn, then Bob Ackles, Jim Taylor, Ted Reynolds, Bob Lennarduzzi, Bob Costas, Jim Pattison........ Needless to say it was a challenge but I was able to contact everyone except Bob Costas. At the mention of Jim's name and the reason I was calling, it was like I was talking to an old friend, not someone I would hear talked about on the radio or written up in the paper.

Jim Taylor, a fellow sports journalist talked for half an hour not only about the two of them reporting on sports for the past 50 years but also about the personal side of Jim. Jim was truely a class act.

I thanked Jim for giving me this gift of contacting his friends as I don't think I would have any reason at all to call Pat Quinn or Bob Ackles at home and have a chat. Not exactly in my calling circle. It also showed me how one person can make a difference and have such an possitive impact on others

In talking with Jim about local sports, he took a particular interest in the BC Lions. I contacted the BC Lions Jamie Taras who arranged for Jim to attend the Wall of Fame banquet with his daughter and see the Lions take on the Blue Bombers. It turned out to also include the Tribute to the late Bob Ackles. Having lost my mom last year, this game was also a good father/son evening for me as my dad not only enjoyed football but he also had met with Jim during his move to West Van. Jim was in a wheelchair at Evergreen so what better opportunity to practice using the wheelchair lift on the bus.

We arrived at Evergreen with Jim and his two daughters at his side. He looked sharp, what with his sports jacket, cap and black framed Raybands. After some confusion around having the accessible entrance locked at the dome, Jim and his daughter enjoyed the banquet where new inductees were introduced and oldtime Lions stalked the buffet tables. Hats off to the Lion's staff who assisted him at the banquet and in getting him to the accessible area to watch the game. It was a win for the Lions but for three quarters it was a bit of a sleeper. That didn't matter as Jim had already had a full evening of seeing all
of the old timers of Lions teams of the 60's and 70's. It was an evening we both will never forget.

I will miss Jim, his whit, his stories and his advice. Its true, they don't make them like they used to. I will heed his advice in that one has to work to live not live to work. Driving by the house in Deep Bay just won't be the same again. My heart goes out to his family. BC has lost a giant, Bowen has lost a true gentleman and I have lost a dear old friend.
Walking home tonight from the Cove...herring in Mannion Bay jumping in the evening light. There was a warm wind blowing down the mountainsides making little swirly zephyrs on the lagoon.

I notice that it is often warmer in Sung Cove than in Horseshoe Bay on evenings like this. Don't know why except it must have something to do with the way the wind enters the Bay. At any rate, it was one of those evenings that was like a warm loaf of bread, it was so comfortable.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An array of bread

The day after a great Bowfest, sunny, well attended, busy parade...the perfect community fair.

Today it's rainy and cooler, and the garden is enjoying it. Peas are still producing and the zucchinis are finally flowering. I spent the day inside making bread, and came up with this
inspiring and tasty trio. That's a half loaf of whole wheat at the back, some cranberry-pecan whole wheat rounds on the right and some fougasse on the rack cooling.

Time to make some soup.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our ferry causes us no end of pains and trouble, but it's worth remembering that those folks who work on board are trained to save you life at a moments notice with no questions asked. THey don't care if you yelled at them or grouched at the perfromance of the Cap or anything else. When there is a an emergency on the water, the luxuries of customers' narcissistic puffery go out the window.

Life saving hapens on a regular basis for the BC Ferries crews, and the most recent event for our guys was a couple of days ago when they had to stand by while a boat ran into trouble off Tyee Point in Horseshoe Bay. No one had to get wet, but here's a timely thanks anyway to the crews that have marine safety on the top of their priority lists.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Great day at the ball park today. The Men's Fastpitch League tournament wrapped up with the final two games of the tourney played this morning and then the semis and the finals played this afternoon. In the first game, the Diggers miscalculated the amount they needed to win by and let up on the Celtics who squeezed into a playoff spot as a result. The Cruisers cruised to a victory over the Shakers and the semi finals were set.

Game one saw the Celtics playing the Firemen. The Firemen had a good start but their bats went cold in the second and third innings allowing the Celtics to catch up. They never fully caught them though and the Firement rallied well in the late innings to win. In the other semi, the Cruisers made a valiant attempt against the Twins, but no to no avail and the game ended on a mercy rule.

Going into the final the Twins were the favourite over the Firemen, who have won the last three years in a row It was a tight game early on, even tying up at one point, but errors killed the Firemen. They made four errors in the game, all of which scored runs, and the Twins fielding was impeccable. Other than catcher Zak Ma letting a runner advance to third in the last inning, they played perfect ball. There were a lot of homeruns, the traditional streaking incident (this year by the Blomberg and Thompson ne'er do wells) and the Twins pitching was great, playing the umpire's wide strike zone to great effect. The Twins walked away with it after a couple of five run innings and the Firemen were left out of gas, despite a final inning rally in which the made 5 of the eight runs they needed. A great final altogether.

Bowen Island baseball is one of the treats of a Bowen summer. The season starts in May and concludes in August with the tournament. The games are played on a gorgeous field in the Cove, kids are paid a quarter for every foul ball they return (or 50 cents for a homerun ball). It's free, it's local, it's non-toxic and it's community building. All the right requirements for perfect summer entertainment. The league has been around forever and many kids have grown up with dreams of playing for one of the six local teams. It's all volunteer, from the commisioner to the scorekeepers, enjoys great support and, despite the occasional outburst, the games are tough fought between good sportsmen.

(More photos from Graeme Campbell)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Men's Fastpitch Tournament is all on weekend down at Snug Cove Field. Tomorrow is the playoffs and finals starting at 9am.

I caught two games today: Cruisers and Celtics and the Firemen and Twins, both of which ended in a tie. The league is close this year - closer than ever - and the three ties today were unprecendented. Should be great ball tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2008

One GOOD thing did appear at the forum recently...this story of our local vets heroically saving a nursing doe from abroken leg.
Life on the sleeping porch

We have pretty much moved out here for the summer. THis is our front porch which faces out over Mannion Bay and the Queen Charlotte Channel. In the fall and winter, this porch lies between us and the gales of the autumn, but in summer, the covered deck keeps the sun off and drinks in the cool air off the water. Even on days of 30 degrees or more, it's never more than 23 or so on his porch.

As a result, our lives have become focused on this space. We are all sleeping out here at night and as you can see from the foreground, the office has moved here too. Meals are eaten on our little teak table and we look down upon the garden and the sea and just relax into summer on this beautiful island.

And it has been a great summer. Weather has held steady and unlike last year, we've had hot and sunny days punctuated every couple of weeks with a burts of rain. We're expecting more this weekend, during the Men's Fastpitch tournament.

In news, the turf war is proceeding full on. The debate centres on the installation of artificial turf at the BICS field. Different groups of people are taking each other on over process, cost, environmental impact and the removal of trees. These four issues seem to be hot points.

For me, it's interesting. Many people I know and like are on both sides of these issues, and the thing that keeps me from getting involved is thatI'm hearing lots of personal comments and attacks against friends of mine on both sides. It's strange because the stories I'm hearing don't equate with my reality. So in general, in case you want to know where I stand, I'm with folks who are working on finding good information and working with each other to see what can come from co-creative planning and collaboration. I am put off by rants and people trying to convince me of the merits of their position, and I'm especially repelled by people who are just making up suppositions and implications about people I know. So if you're reading and you think I should agree with you, or line up against so and so, please hold your thoughts to yourself. If you'd like my opinion on how to work together, I can help out with that.

Our innocuous little forum has become toxic over the issue and I don;t even go there anymore. The link is on the sidebar. Visit at your peril.

Bottom line: at the end of the day we need each other. There is a mega earthquake scheduled for this part of the world at any time, and given that that might happen tomorrow or in 100 years, we need to be on good terms with one another. And anyway, this issue will pale to that one. There are many other things facing this island that need neighbourliness to be intact, ike affordability, sustainability and other good things. So my advice to the combatants in this is do your best to get a good resolution, but if you find yourself alienated from neighbours over this issue, put it in perspective. Bring them a gift of a jar of jam, or some fresh baked bread and apologize for offenses intended or otherwise, and remember what is most important here. Getting along is more valuable than any other solution to the turf war.

And that's my piece spoken. Back to enjoying the summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Undercurrent is delivering great online stuff finally. Along with Bowen TV, we're rocking...

This weeks wrap up:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The best of the loveliest of days. The weather is perfect, and we hosted a noice little party for friends this evening, capping a day in which I spent a terrific few hours hanging out with my friend Jeremy Hiebert from Summerland. Jeremy and I are old blog friends, and we get together every few years with that natural kind of "pick it up where we left off" kind of feel. Today I picked Jeremy up in the Cove, we came back up to the house for some beers and then we went for a little drive about, poking around Artisan Square and then hitting Hood Point beach for the nicest swimming of the year so far. Finn came with us and sniped at us from behind the big old tree there with a super soaker water gun. It has been a perfect summer so far. Not even the 24 small lacerations on my leg caused by an errant weed whacker have managed to make a dent in the vibe.

Lots of folks are leaving Bowen these days, many of them heading for Gabriola Island. Corbin Keep and Cindy Marsden left last week and Mara Brenner and Stu are looking at leaving soon as well. Our good friends the Hardin's are moving back to Manitoba next month.

I suppose it has always been like this - people coming and going - but it seems unfair that we are losing all of these good people. The economics of Bowen are not easy at all - it is hard to make a good living on island and commuting into Vancouver is becoming prohibitively expensive. BC Ferries operates now as a business rather than a public service and the fares increase once and sometimes twice a year. When I moved here in 2001 the price of a book of ten walk on tickets was $27.00 making a return fare to Bowen less than the price of a bus ticket into Vancouver. That same fare is now $5.20, with the commuter discount. Rents on Bowen are expensive and there are very few spots available for a family. The irony is that the economy is so high end now that the businesses like Tuscany Restaurant can't get the help they need to take advantage of the wealth in this market. With no affordable housing, service sector employees are coming to work from the continent, and with that ferry fare, they have lost a good chunk of their first hour or two of work just getting here.

I know lots of people read my blog here as they are deciding to move to Bowen, so my advice if you are thinking of it is to be careful about whether you can actually afford to live here. At this point the housing market is going a little soft, and you can get nice houses under $600,000, but in most of the rest of Canada, that would buy you half a province. So think about it carefully.

The economics are hard if you didn't get here when we did, when the housing market was cheap and interest rates were low. That's the reality, and I count myself as lucky that we are able to stay here, even as many of our friends head to more affordable and prosperous climes. It's funny to think of Bowen as so rich, we're impovrished, but that seems to be the case. Alas, we still have the great beaches, and good friends and sockeye salmon and veggie burgers to grill on the barbeque. Summer is what it is.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer time means things are dry. The Alska high has taken up residence in the Gulf of Alaska, funnelling beautiful weather our way. Yesterday there was a might northwesterly blowing -- all kinds of seaweed at Bowen Bay tonight -- and while we were overnigting it in Vancouver a small fire broke out on the mountainside not far from our house. James Glave, across the valley took some video of the water bombers that were called in to douse the flames, and they did a marvelous job. Everything is safe and sound, but for the love of humanity people...NO OPEN FIRES!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

John Dumbrille posts a modest report about his team's successful defence of their University Master's World Cup title. This is a world class seven-a-side soccer tournament that John's team won last year as well.

Yeah Canada! Yeah Bowen!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tao of the garden

Strange night last night. We had thunderstorms all night for the first time since I can remember being on the coast. It was a very Ontario kind of summer evening. The water was very still and the air got quite moist before it unloaded around 10:00 and kept going until dawn. A great soak for the garden.

The day before, Canada Day was a hit, with Morris Men and organic carrot cake from the Ruddy Potato and the firefighters soaking the crowd to end the festivities.

Summer is in full swing, and the garden is coming up beautifully, considering this is our first year. Today we ate the first two snow peas, and the tomatoes are coming along. Beans,, brussels sprouts, strawberries and blueberries are all promising. In the forest, the salal is turning from flowers to berries and the huckleberries are almost ready to harvest.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ross Carter passed away yesterday.

I first met Ross when he and his wife Lois shared a B&B with us on Gabriola Island in 1998 during the Gulf Islands Celtic Music Festival. He was there with his wife Lois, who plays fiddle. They talked of Bowen over breakfast with us and those conversations were among the many that eventually brought us to this island.

Ross lived here for more than 45 years I think. He served the island as a municipal councillor and our rep to the Greater Vancouver Regional District as well as in the capacity of a patron of the arts, an artist in his own right and a gentle but influential voice for the community. I have two stories of Ross that stay with me, both of which speak to the kind of roots he set down here, and the kind that I have since set down as well.

The first was a couple of years after we moved here. One non-descript fall day, as we were travelling on the ferry, I came across Ross gazing out the window at the view up Howe Sound. "Look at that," he said. "Isn't that something?" I was struck by the fact that he was still taken by our landscape even 40 years after moving here. He never took the beauty of this place for granted, and I often tell that story just to reinforce the incredible luck we have to live in this stunning inlet.

Another time I was working with a group of citizens looking at sustainability and change. There was a lot of handwringing at the time over the huge changes to the island brought about by a lot of new people coming to live here. I was curious about change in perspective, and I asked Ross what the reaction was on Bowen when the first painted lines on the road. He chuckled and said something about people predicting the end of the world.

This island constantly changes, and with each small change we take a step in a different direction. Like Ross and Lois, I am committed to this place, regardless of the changes that come. There is something about staying in it, witnessing it as it were that seems to be an important role to play.

Now seven years after I moved to Bowen and started this blog, we are faced with another small change: the loss of another of our community elders. I will miss his warmth, his quiet reflective voice and his way of seeing this place.

My heart goes out to Lois. We'll have a tune or two for them at the next session.

Finally home for a good stretch. In the last six weeks I was here for five days. In the interim my beans have come up, the peas are climbing higher and we've eaten the first strawberries from the garden. Yesterday was our first ocean swim of the year and today we gathered a bunch of salmonberries for this year's jam (a jar of which will be entered at Bowfest, to defend my title).

All in all, summer has arrived and the sleeping on the deck days are here to stay...more photos here

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No blogging for quite a while here. You have to be here to blog about the place, and I have been elsewhere a lot.

Salmonberries are coming in and everyone is complaining about a cold and wet spring, but it's been good for the salal which looks great. Tomorrow we'll go pick our first patch of slamonberries and freeze them for jam.

I turn 40 tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today the first violet-green swallows are daning in the air above my house. They have returned to feast on th eemerging insect population. It put me in mind of the flock of snow geese I saw three weeks ago as I walked off to another journey away from my island.

The snow geese are amazing. Every year they make the 4000 km trek from their breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic on Wrangel Island down this way where they overwinter at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in t fRaser River Estuary, about 30 kilometers due south of here. They come in huge waves, by the thousands in the autumn and the leave again in early April or late March to head north. They can be heard flying high over head in honking and enthusiastic clouds. It is an impressive sight, and on many occaisions I have witnessed life in the Cove come to a standstill as people gaze skyward at the noisy pepper above.

The geese are almost archetypal to me. The represent the opening and the closing of seasons. When they appear overhead in March, it is as if they are opening the door on spring, trailing with them the promise of warmer weather and fertile ground. When the head south in the fall, they take with them the harvest and the last remnants of summer and the signal the beginning of the storm season. The gees always seem to make it back here befor ethe hurracanes come, Flying in the fall storms would be suicidal, so once they are tucked down in the fields and marshes of the estuary, it's as if the rainy season is welcomed.

So I was remiss in noticing their passing north to Russia. The season is truly shifting now and the geese have left to begin their renewal on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, leaving us to plant, harvest and steward a nother year of living on Bowen Island.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's a bright sunny morning here on Bowen Island. Still cold, but there is not a cloud in the sky.

Last evening we went harvesting nettles for an iron packed nettle lasagna. We picked probably a pound of netle tips which reduced to about 8 cups. This was layered into a casserole dish with lasagna noodles, onions and cheese for a traditional spring treat.

There is a a great nettle patch at Cape Roger Curtis, surely one of the gems of local food on the island. To pick nettle tips, just break off or cut the top of the plant below the third bract. Anything lower than this is woody and tough. Use gloves of course, and when you get home, chop it finely and steam it up. You can freeze what you don't use right away. The steaming will reduce the greens and takes the sting away as well. You'll notice a wild, almost nutty smell as the nettles are cooking too.

I am so looking forward to the wild foods harvest this year. I was out in the berry patches yesterday, looking over the Oregn grapes and the huckleberry stands I usually pick from. There are a lot of flowers and the huckleberries have already gone to fruit. As I was inspecting one bush an immature fruit came off in my hand. It was little more than a flower at this point, but loath to waste it I popped it in my mouth and got a huge surprise. The fruit tasted like honeysuckle nectar. here is a small quantity of syrup in thes fruits, which gives one an extremely sweet little drop. Surprising, given how tangy the red huckleberries are.

Salmon berry plants are look healthy with lots of flowers as well. In another six weeks or so, they will be ready for the harvest, and my prize winning salmon berry jam will be cooking up.

As for our garden, our builder has abandoned the work of constructing a gate, which has been a huge pain in the ass, as we have been all ready to plant seeds. I rigged up a temporary solution on Sunday and will finally get the salad green in and some peas and things as well. I'd finish the gate myself, but the location requires some tricky concrete work. If anyone knows of someone who would be willing to come help out with that, I'd appreciate it.

I added some fish fertilizer to the top soil to see if I could boost it any, and I'm off to see about seaweed, as we have some great low tides right now and yesterday's northwesterlies should have brought some sea vegetables to the west side of the island . This summer will definitely be an experiment with the garden, to see what grows and what doesn't and see what we need to do with the soil. But it's exciting to be on the path of local, homegrown and Bowen harvested food.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

For the record, Saturday night I walked home at 4am from the kitchen junket through a half inch of snow on the road.

It's sunny, but cold. A northwesterly has been blowing all weekend, and it arrived with snow squalls right donw to the shore.

Spring is coming in fits and starts again this year. Reminds me of two years ago.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our first warm spring day yesterday, with temperatures cracking 20 degrees. Our new garden is finished, but the deer fencing isn't complete, so we're a little reluctant to plant yet. Got some things growing in small pots to get started.

The dawn chorus has been beautiful and strong lately with chickadees and winter wrens making most of the noise. Not as many towhees as susual yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring makes it's grey and rainy appearance. Lots of things blooming and blossoming, including salmonberries (another cold spring, anothe rgod salmonberry year) and Indian plum. Daffodils and hyacinths are up, the latter somewhat surviving the curiosity of deer.

We've had heavy showers and snow at 1000 meter elevations. Our garden is looking lush and we're up to planting food soon.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Paul Stewart and I juggling

Paul Stewart and I were on the front cover of The Undercurrent last week, juggling together.

We have a very cool juggling club here on Bowen Island. Paul is one of the founders of the Club. As a bus driver, he was on strike in 2000 and was looking for something to do on the picket line. He took up juggling and hasn't looked back. He is familiar to most ferry commuters, seen always juggling three balls on his way to and from work. If you ask him how to do that, he puts the balls in your hands and teaches you how to juggle. That is a practice I do as well.

I first started juggling with Paul's son Calder and our friend Toby Volkmann. We used to juggle together as a warm up for taekwondo training. One day Toby suggested that we put together a juggling club. It took a while, but last year the club was launched. We meet at the BICS gym every Saturday from 1-3 or out on the field if the weather is nice. We average about 40 people out every week ranging in age from age 2 to folks in the their late sixties. No experience is necessary, no equipment is necessary and there are no fees. Donations are always welcome. It is a true community experience, full of intergenerational creativity and is great training for the mind, the body and the heart. There is always someone to teach you what you want to learn or to introduce you to challenges that push your abilities.

We have a weblog, a video promotion done by Bowen TV and this week a dozen or more of us are heading over to Victoria for the Victoria Juggling Festival.

Playing together is the best part of being a Bowen Islander.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A garden in progress

When we moved into this house in June 2001, I had a clear vision at some point that the front of our place could be a garden. This was a bit of a pipe dream initially as we had a deck out there, the front is a rocky cliff top and steeply sloped and there is no real access to there, no flow with the rest of our living space. Still, I've been called optimistic to the point of uselessness, so my aspiration was in character.

Last year, our deck rotted off the front and in the course of tearing it down and do some work on the foundation of the house, it suddenly became a lot more possible to do something about the front. We started spending a lot of time walking around down there and visualizing how it might all work out. We courted a few exorbitant estimates for the ladscaping work and were dissuaded by the cost, especially considering that we need a new roof this year.

This past week things changed. Andy at Bowenshire had an opening and his costs were pretty low. Sensing that if we did it this week we might have food this summer, we went for it. In the past four days, there have been diggers and rocks and fill tumbling hither and yon around the front of the property. A deer fence is going in and the rock work is in place. There are two fellas down there laying a flagstone patio and some steps, and we're going to have our builder put in access steps from the front porch and the downstairs office to create a flow.

Finally, after seven years, it looks like we'll be growing at least some of our own food.

And just in time for the announcement of Bowfeast, this August 11-17. Excellent.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sad news from Vancouver Island. Longtime Bowen Islander Heather Croil passed away last week. She moved to Ladysmith a couple of years ago and took a place near the school. The last converation I had with her, she said she was looking forward to learning some skateboarding tricks.

Heather was a delightful Island neighbour. She was very active in the arts community, which is where I often ran into her, at concerts and gallery events. She was curious, supportive, positive and always interested in talking about big ideas, beauty and life on the Rock. She was one of the first people I met on Bowen and I never had a "stop-in-the-Cove" conversation with her that wasn't full of insight and joy.

Condolences to her friends and family who may stop by here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Home for a brief jot. Was able to get out for a leisurely walk this afternoon, around the Cove. The hatchery folks were releasing some coho in the Lagoon and that was fun to watch.

Weather was raining really hard yesterday, but beautiful today and likely to stay the same for tomorrow. There are buds on everything and the crocuses are up in the Memorial Garden. Winter is fading away now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nice high pressure ridge over our coast over the past few days, bringing sunny skies and fog to the region. Makes for some great photos.

La Nina is in full swing, which means that this kind of weather will be rare over the next six months Expect a wet spring again and possibly another wet summer. Might make the early berries a bit mushy, but the huckleberries and salal should come out fine.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My friend and neighbour James Glave has just published a mini-book on learning to hunt deer called "Buck the System." This is a brilliant 26 page story about his quest to bag a deer right here on Bowen. It's a moving piece of work and a phenomenally told story, and it captures beautifully the melancholic state of intention that lacks ultimate execution. James pokes at the folly of middle class environmentalism with a modern day parable that is about much more than aiming arrows at ungulates..

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mount Townsend

A lot of snow around here these days. Last night we had a significant wind and rain storm
but this morning was sunny and bright and the snow line is up above 300 meters again. We seem to have had more snow this winter than any I can remember since moving here to the west coast in 1994.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rob Paterson is experincing some emergency conditions on PEI as the power has been out for a few days now. He has posted a great set of musings on 21st century emergency communications as a result. Some of these are quite adoptable to Bowen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Snowy morning

We awoke to ten centimeters of snow on the ground this morning. I was stranded at home, having failed to get to Regina last night, and took a few photos of the winter storm on my way back to the Vancouver airport.

And finally, from the annals of "no small change goes unnoticed" BC Ferries has installed some new automatic gates at the Snug Cove terminal. I noticed that they left them open when we departed though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Mordor (eye of Sauron is only visible at night)

While I am on a bit of a rant about greed, I should give a little update about the Gash on Black Mountain.

The Sea to Sky Highway is being upgraded to improve access to Whistler for the Olympics. A major piece of this is building a by pass over the top of Eagleridge Bluffs along the skirt of Black Mountain. Black Mountain lies across the Queen Charlotte Channel from us and the construction is 5 kms away as the raven flies.

They had the option of building a tunnel through the mountain or blasting a gash across it. The provincial government choose the "blasting a gash" option and destroyed a significant coastal bluff ecosystem and a beautiful arbutus grove in the process.

The work has continued unabated for months now. To build a four lane highway across the base of a mountain that is essentially a cliff, you need to blast a lot of rock. For some reason, they choose to do this at night. Last night, just as I was talking to Caitlin about how sad rampant greed was making me, there was a blast from the mainland that shook our house FIVE KILOMETERS away. It took 20 seconds for the sounds of falling rock to become silent.

Before, with all the blasting and cutting along Miller Road near our house I was comparing life here to living atop Vimy Ridge.

Now we just refer to the other side as Mordor.

The Eagleridge Bluffs Coalition website is still up and they seem to be still doing good work.

Monday, January 21, 2008

View of Mount Strachan from Artisan Square

Another pristine day here on Bowen. Snow on the mountains and crisp sunlight everywhere. Took a few photos around Artisan Square this morning, waiting for Aine's singing class to end:

Off for 10 days to Whidbey Island and Regina, Saskatchewan. Will see how the island has changed when I'm back.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

And on a happier note, George Zawadski is doing a huge community service with his launching on Bowen TV on YouTube.
Late afternoon, January sun, Cape Roger Curtis

Let's destroy this for profit shall we?

Had a great day down at Cape Roger Curtis with friends Neil, Keona and Jack Hammond. It was a beautiful day here, and the Cape was resplendant in winter light. Something sank in about the Cape and it's development. I had a strong sense today that this beautiful piece of land is in the wrong hands. I think there is nothing the current owners can do that will give me any assurance that they have the interests on Islanders at heart. They don't live here, they will not bear the consequences of what they do to that land and they don't care now what we think. They have bought the land to make they don't need. In the process of developing and destroying the character of this land, they will create a return on their investment and never be involved with us again. Their legacy will be a housing development and an island full of regret.

The ownership group is now proposing that they protect most of the land at the Cape if they can build a village of 800-1200 residential units
. That would nearly double the population of the whole island. It would tax our infrastructure, destroy the coastal ecosystems around the Cape and generally leave the island with a huge burden in exchange for keeping some of the land undeveloped.

Not to mention that developers don't build villages. Human communities build villages. Developers build "lifestyle locations."

Over the past several months, some unknown and condescending public relations consultant has been running full page editorials in the Undercurrent (and there have been terrific rebuttals) making it look as if the Cape's development proposals are sustainable and an excellent balancing of interests. Well, I've given up. These owners are untrustworthy and are operating solely on the basis of maximizing their money - money they don't need. I'm officially making myself immune to their stories. At every turn they want more. And they have no intention to live among us, pay the additional taxes their greed will create or participate in the future of the community.

i think the time for niceties is over. It's time to stop the butchery of this place for greed.

Join the Cape Roger Curtis Trust Society to save what we can before the windigos feed..