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.