Saturday, December 26, 2009

What do we need to preserve and protect? (and grow more of?)

Preserving and protecting is the mandate of the Island's Trust, and it's something that provides a nice jumping off point for conversations about what "green" means for Bowen.

Appreciative Inquiry is a well honed, and long used methodology for guiding communities and organization through changing times.  It works on the principle of "what we give our attention to grows."  The idea is that we find a positive topic choice around which we initiate a process of Discovering what is working, Dreaming about what might be possible, Designing strategies to move that direction and Doing it.  With our upcoming Open Space on January 2, I'm interested in using Appreciative Inquiry to initiate a community wide conversation on moving forward in a green way.

For me this does not mean starting with a list of things we don't have, but rather looking at what we do have on the island that provides the starting place for being a "green" place.  Yes there are many challenges, but the AI approach is an asset based approach to meeting challenges, and so we start with a series of interviews and conversations about what we have and we build in from there.  It is much easier for example to change behaviours in a system if you work with what people are already doing rather than introducing radical departures from their current ways of doing things.  For example, most people on Bowen currently recycle at BIRD.  It is easier to get start community composting at BIRD therefore then it would be elsewhere.  If we were to introduce a second place that folks would need to take compost on a weekly basis, that leap might be too much to get started.  So it makes sense in the community planning process that some zoning happen around BIRD that would provide for community composting.

I think if we can come to some common understanding about the nature of the green culture already on Bowen - even if some declare it to be nascent - then we have a better chance of bringing many different people and skills into the fold to create pathways forward for many futures.  I think we don't need to negotiate values or positions with one another either, but rather co-discover these values.  That is a proven way to create ownership over the direction of the future and to amass momentum especially for the tough challenges that lie ahead.

It's not the wish list of things that actually binds us together.  Wish lists are negotiable.  I'm interested in exploring what we have already that defines us as green, without even thinking about it.

Using a quadrant model, I want to pose four questions, that result in stories:

  • What is important to you about ecology, sustainability or green thinking?  Tell a story about how you cultivated that value.  Where did it come from?
  • Tell me a story of how deeply the culture of ecology and environmental consciousness runs in the community?
  • What are some of the things that we do or have as a community that makes us green?
  • What are personal actions you undertake that are environmental, sustainable, ecological or green?

My goal with the session at the community Open Space is to pilot these questions, practice using them with participants and then have folks spread out into the community to collect some results over the next couple of months.  From there we can compile a collection of interesting stories from which we can move to the Dream phase, which is a visioning phase based on what we already have and what we already do, rather then what we don't have and what we think we need.

Here is one of many examples of this work being done, with the Skownan First Nation, who looked at doing a community land use planning process using Aboriginal values.  This is very similar in scope to what I am wanting to initiate.

Leave a comment if you are interested in taking a role with this initiative, or show up on January 2 to engage in the pilot.

(And here is a powerpoint deck my friend Peggy Holman and I have used for training people in AI)

Monday, December 21, 2009

A place in the Islands

Doing some research for our upcoming Open Space on "What Green Means for Bowen Island" and I came across this lovely .pdf of a book produced by the Islands Trust called "A Place in the Islands."  Required reading for anyone living in the Salish Sea.


Other than a snowfall early in the month, December has been relatively dry on Bowen.  Until today we had had about 41mm of rain for the whole month.  That changed yesterday with a steady 20 hours of rain giving us another 30mm.  The rain has stopped how and the wind has swung northwest, bringing clearing skies which should result in some sunny cold weather leading up to Christmas.  The creeks are quite swollen, the Lagoon is brown and there is a great deal of detritus in the bay.  No sight of salmon today, but everything was murky anyway.

Pine siskins are active at our feeder, coming down from the higher elevations in search of seeds to eat.  They have been joined by juncos, nuthatches and steller's jays.

Happy solstice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snow is falling, community is breathing

Light flurries as I leave the island for my last trip of the year.  If you are worried about the road conditions, have a look at the Road Status Map, and update your section to gift information to your neighbours.

Last night a lovely community gathering at the Library, where 100 of us gathered to hold a candlelight vigil in support of the global call for a real deal on climate change.  Caitlin organized the whole thing and she and Aine spoke.  Aine talked about the need for world leaders, especially older ones, to make decisions with their grandchildren in mind so that they can tap into the perspective of the youth who are to inherit what we leave for them.  the choir sang dona Nobis Pacem and I helped the group in a rousing rendition of "With my own two hands," the great Ben Harper song.  We even added and improvised verse, being islanders:

We stand with Tuvalu
With our own two hands
They're an island too
With our own two hands
They're sinking into the blue
With our two hands, we support them with our own two hands. 
Pacific Islanders unite!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December pushes on

december has been dry and cold, but with clear skies and dazzling sunshine in the mornings.   Now the clouds have moved in and some snow is on its way.  The longer we wait for it though, th ebetter a chance it will rain instead.

Two events Saturday evening for your pleasure.  First, join us at the Library for a candle light vigil in support of a climate change agreement in Copenhagen.  THat starts at 530 and afterwards there will be Irish music at The Snug, so drop in to listen or play.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why is it called Seven Hills?

Why is it called Seven Hills?

A great thread on the history and folklore of the little neighbourhood we live in.

Seven Hills refers to the stretch of Miller Road between the United Church and the Legion. It's sort of a fill in between Deep Bay on one end and Miller's Landing and Scarborough on the other. If you have only ever driven on our road it will be familiar to you as "one hill" probably, but there are several little rises that get us to the top, which are very noticable when you walk or bike. As Murray Atherton says in this thread, the road has been evened out over the years, so the bumps aren't as noticeable but you can still see them.

My kids and I had a little song we sang when they were young as we walked up the hills. Goes like this:

We're climbing up Seven Hills
Hup hup, hup hup
Climbing up Seven Hills
hup hup home.

First we go past Collins Hall
Hup hup, hup hup
First we go past Collins Hall
hup hup home.

Subsequent verses are sung as you reach various landmarks. Some include:

Wave hello to our friend Michel... (who is always out working on his house)
Crossing over Collins Creek...
We rise again at the B and B... (Seven Hills B&B owned by Horst and Ann Mann)
Take a rest at old Wayside.. (a cottage without power, and at the first hill)
Past the trail down to the beach...
Only two more power poles...
Beaner and Tango bark at us... (sweet dogs that lived two doors down)
We climbed up Seven Hills!

Often we improvised if we needed a verse and a friend drove by in their car or the ferry sounded down in the Cove. Sometimes we would incorporate things that had fallen on the ground like fir boughs, leaves or snow. At any rate, the song got me and two little kids up that hill for years, and I still hum it to myself once in a while.

Jane Siberry visits Bowen

One of the great things that sometimes happens here is that amazing musicians come through and play our intimate temporary performing arts venues.  Over the years some great acts like Froot, Pied Pumpkin and Garnet Rogers have graced our stages,  On Tuesday night Jane Siberry is coming.  Yes!

Be there or forever regret your silly decision not to.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only On Bowen: Generous offers of Eggs Benedict

A tale of innocent inquiry and a full on breakfast for the family:,1212942

Only on Bowen!

Big wind

Storm number two this week...winds gusty to near 90km/h.   Lots of fir boughs down, and heavy rains everywhere.  Power has been in an out.  A real Pineapple Express.  The above unusual configuration of lows is delivering these gales.

Monday, November 9, 2009

First autumn storm

The first serious windstorm of the season hit last night, with winds gusting to 70km/h coming howling out of the southeast.  They built in steadily over the night, becoming strongest at about 5am and then the rain started, deluging everything.  This morning, taking a late morning ferry into town, the Sound was choppy with swells and whitecaps and full of logs that had been lifted by this week's 15 foot high tides and scattered hither and yon by the wind.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hallowe'en 2010

On Bowen Island, Hallowe'en is our national holiday. Islanders celebrate at the pubs and the Legion, at house parties and in Deep Bay where hundreds of kids trick or treat. The demand is so high on the householders of Deep Bay that the rest of us bring extra candy to empty into their bowls so they never run out. Also there is a candy depot at the General Store so Deep Bay homeowners can stock up without bankrupting themselves. Also, some public space is usually taken over for a scary performance. This year is was the north dock in the Cove, which hosted a pirate show, a sea-hag and a demented butcher having his way with a chainsaw on a couple of moose carcasses.

After the candy scramble, everyone heads down to the Causeway for a fireworks show put on by the fire fighters, who also hand out hot chocolate. For the rest of the night, explosions and screams go off all over the place in random bursts, especially when Hallowe'en falls on a weekend, as it did this year.

The weather held beautifully this year, with a clear sky and a near full moon shining on the proceedings.

Photos from our recent Agriculture Alliance meeting

Last weekend, the Bowen Agricultural Alliance held its inaugural community meeting, all in Open Space. Photos are now on the web.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spawning Salmon are back!

Bill Newport reports that the spawning chum salmon are back. Seems like we've already had more in the Lagoon than in the previous two years combined, a total that was less than 10. Hooray! I'll try to get some photos and we'll keep an eye on the abundance.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Living in the Salish Sea...for real

Word coming through that Washington State has approved an application to name their part of the Salish Sea, well, the Salish Sea.

This is exciting, to finally have a name that addresses the historical stewards of the part of the Pacific that we live in.  Just a matter of time before all the official paperwork is wrapped up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Soccer finals in the teeth of a Pineapple Express

Today is the final of the inaugural season of the Bowen Island Co-ed Soccer League.  Caitlin and I are on Team Red, and we'll be taking on Team White tonight, a team we have yet to beat.  The final starts at 5:15 on the new artificial turf field.  We expect it to be raining and windy...perfect conditions!

It has been chilly the past coule of days and rain too, but today the weather has warmed up significantly and the rain is resting.  This has all the signs of a pineapple express building, perhaps our first autumn wind storm.  We'll see how it progresses.  It will be a wet Hallowe'en.

Update: we won 5-4 against our rivals, winning after being down 4-2.  The rain held off long enough to get the game in, and the skies opened up as we left the pitch.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

OOB: Free car!

Starting a new category here on Bowen Island Journal: Only On Bowen.

And here is the first post: Free car!

Rainforest maples

It's autumn and there is a big leaf maple along the Alder Trail in Crippen park that sheds monster orange leaves. Here is Aine holding one up.

Our Bowen Elders

A great tribute to our Island's oldest resident, Jan Furst from The Teachings of Elders: Ellen Hayakawa's Blog:

"I will never forget the time, 4 or 5 years ago when I met Jan on the ferry on a Sunday morning. I asked him where he was going. He said that he had entered into an over 65 team fencing competition (which is one of his loves). Two days later I saw him and it turned out that his team had placed 2nd or 3rd out of 10 teams. Knowing nothing about fencing, I asked him how many people he had fenced that day expecting him to say 2 or 3. It turned out that he had fenced with 30 people!!"
I once asked Jan about his fencing and asked if he had done it all his life. "No," he said. "I did it in school and then took a little break, about 70 years or so until I took it up again."

One time he told me he was heading back to Norway for his annual return visit but this year he was going early. I asked him why and he said "My son is retiring!" I looked at him blankly. What do you say to someone whose son is retiring? "You must be very proud!" I said. He just beamed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Respite from the fall rains

Fall rains have begun in earnest but not with heavy winds yet.  Lats night it poured straight down and this morning a northwesterly cleared the air and brought a chill to things.  Snow on Mount Brunswick today and a definite chill in the air.  The salmon should be home very soon, if they survived running the gauntlet of fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago two years ago when they went to sea.  Most of the salmon runs who pass by those farms have been decimated in the past few years.  Sea lice kill the young ones.  Our chum and coho both swim through there on their way to the sea.

So we'll start to keep a vigil for the chum that return in November when the conditions are right.  In the meantime, enjoying this beautiful day before the rains come for good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opportunities for community dialogue

This fall I have begun putting my money where my mouth is in terms of supporting more nuanced public conversation on Bowen Island. I am a member of the Bowen Island Ourselves team, a group that is looking at doing citizen governance and public engagement differently. One of the practices we are initiating is a series of monthly Open Space gatherings. The next one happens on october 25 and is focused on new ways to put vision into action for Bowen, although the conversations don't have to be limited to that. here is the link for that gathering:

Community Open Space - Bowen Island Ourselves

Also, I am facilitating two forums to kick off the Bowen Agriculture Alliance. We'll be looking at food security and our local food assets. The first will be held on November 1 and a follow up gathering is scheduled for November 28. You can find the invitations to those events and more information on the BAA website.

All are welcome to attend these events. And if you are wanting to hold a public conversation on Bowen to talk about anything at all, please give me a call. I'm happy to find time to volunteer with your group.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why I blog about Bowen Island

Thick fog in the Sound this morning, and I was awoken by the acrid scent of it mingled with pulp mill exhuast combined with the ferries filling the inlet with periodic wayfinding blasts.

Reading this marvelous essay by David Abrams. Captivated by these paragraphs:

Each place has its rhythms of change and metamorphosis, its specific way of expanding and contracting in response to the turning seasons, and this shapes, and is shaped by, the sentience of that land. Whether we speak of a broad mountain range or of a single valley within that range, at each scale there is a unique intelligence circulating among the various constituents of the place—a style evident in the way events unfold in that region, how the slow spread of the mountain’s shadow alters the insect swarms above a cool stream, or the way a forested slope rejuvenates itself after a fire. For the precise amalgam of elements that structures each ecosystem exists nowhere else. Each place, that is to say, is a unique state of mind, and the many beings that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and tree frogs no less than the humans—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.

Of course, I can hardly be instilled by this intelligence if I only touch down, briefly, on my way to elsewhere. Only by living for many moons in one place, my peripheral senses tracking seasonal changes in the local plants while the scents of the soil steadily seep in through my pores, only over time can the intelligence of a place lay claim upon my person. Slowly, as the seasonal round repeats itself again and again, the lilt and melody of the local songbirds becomes an expectation within my ears, and so the mind I’ve carried within me settles into the wider mind that enfolds me. Changes in the terrain begin to release and mirror my own, internal changes. The slow metamorphosis of colors within the landscape; the way mice migrate into the walls of my house as the climate grows colder; oak buds bursting and unfurling their leaves to join a gazillion other leaves in agile, wind-tossed exuberance before they tumble, spent, to the ground; the way a wolf spider weaves her spiraling web in front of the porch light every spring—each such patterned event, quietly observed, releases analogous metamorphoses within myself. Without such tunement and triggering by the earthly surroundings, my emotional body is stymied, befuddled—forced to spiral through its necessary transformations without any guidance from the larger Body of the place (and hence entirely out of phase with my neighbors, human and nonhuman). Sensory perception, here, is the silken web that binds our separate nervous systems into the encompassing ecosystem.
This is why I blog.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Managing our visitors?

Down in the Cove, there is a lovely cottage next to the library that has served as Bowen Island's Visitor Centre for the past few years. Visitors coming off the ferry wander up Trunk Road and stop into the cottage for maps and information about what to do on Bowen. The visitors centre is run by the Chamber of Commerce, so naturally people received brochures and information about where to spend their money on Bowen. It never felt like a pitch or a hard sell, but a friendly service.

This fall the cottage funding ran out and the Chamber wrung its hands a little about what to do. Marcus Hondro, the new editor of The Undercurrent, suggested in an editorial that Bowen Islanders step up and welcome people to the island. If you see someone wandering lost around the village, give them a hand. A kind of citizen-based welcoming committee, if you will.

I liked the idea, because the truth is that is what happens anyway. I don't think Marcus was calling for that as an actual strategy so much as he was recognizing that this is what we do as islanders, friendly people, we are.

Today, Daniel Heald, the head of the Chamber, wrote a letter in The Undercurrent though that basically rejected that approach as asking too much of islanders and he concluded by saying:

The answer is for less “kumbaya” and a more professional management of the visitor through appropriate Municipal funding.
Now I don't begrudge the visitor centre the funding they get for the service they offer, but I do have a problem with having our visitors "professionally managed" as they arrive on the island. I would hate to think that that was being done to the 18,000 that stopped in this summer. When I go to a place to visit, I HATE being professionally managed. I like being welcomed by genuine local residents, shown the ropes, maybe even offered a cost-free way to spend my time in the place.

Neighbourliness is not "kumbaya." It's actually what makes our community a pleasant place to visit. So the answer is for MORE people to welcome visitors AND for a visitor centre that offers good information to people, answers their questions and helps them find what they are looking for. Let's professionally manage our businesses and welcome our visitors instead. Let's just be a community, and not a Big Box Island Community Experience.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Things come to life

One thing that is interesting about the fall here on Bowen Island is that this is the season in which things return to life, like a compliment to spring. After a long and dry summer, everything gets very tired, and with the onset of the rains, things start to perk up, animals get livelier and the salmon return...hopefully at least.

Last night, a thunderstorm, wigeons on the lagoon and snow on the highest peaks of the Brittania Range.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The foest returns to reclaim

In the front of our house, which has been transformed from a dusty cliff top to a beautiful food garden, we have a small Douglas-fir that broke a few years ago and started to die. We had it removed, all but a spar standing about 15 feet high. Part of the reason the spar remains is that there is a tree house attached to it.

But the forest has been working it's magic on this tree and slowly has been converting this spar into a snag. IN the temerate rainsforests of our region, snags are the islands of life in the woods. They hold a huge amount of anuimal and vegetable biomass, and are the primary locations for small organisms that eat things and break them down to create the rich forest soils that make possible the extreme growth of our trees.

Last week a pair of pilleated woodpeckers began visiting the spar to dine on the small bugs that are making it a home. One was back this morning, and it aroused me from sleep with its pecking and calling. I had a sudden realization that the tree has transformed from spar to snag. It is now crawling with enough small creatures, that woodpeckers are beginning to accelerate the deconstructions of the tree. This morning around the base, there are small piece of bark that the woodpeckers have removed and already there are woodbugs on the underside of some of that.

In the middle of the garden, with an apple tree espaliered to it, our Douglas-fir has become a soil factory, a buffet, and a home to a thriving community of industrial little forest creatures.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thoughts on place

More musings from the BIO thread, in response to Wynn:

The major difference with the work I do in First Nations communities and the work I do in non-Native communities is that in the first place and belonging are essential and in the second, place and belonging are dispensable. First Nations have no choice but to first and foremost consider where they are, because who they are IS where they are. For Bowen Islanders - for the most part - you have a choice about where to live. Non-native communities are all about choosing your affiliation. So place doesn't matter much. Very few Bowen Islanders have lived here more than two generations. Very few Bowen Islanders would suffer if they moved away. In a culture that is born from migration and movement, place becomes "location" and "location, location, location" becomes a mantra.

I think an honest discussion is in order here. As a Bowen Islanders does place matter to you? I know it matters to you Wynn, and it matters a great deal to me too. I made a declaration a few years ago that I would live out my days on Bowen, and while never saying never is a good policy, having that kind of perspective changes things. I'm not looking to flip my property or move when the "the old Bowen" disappears. I'm here to make it work to become in essence someone who is as native to this island as he can get. My kids think of themselves that way, and I think there is something very important about seeing the community like that - very important for the social fabric and social capital in our community. That we see ourselves as part of this place.

But not everyone sees life like that. Many people have a line in the sand. The first time a chain store appears on Bowen they are leaving. Or when their property value peaks, they'll sell out and move somewhere else. Or they are here as long as the work lasts, or the relationship lasts, or it's time to put the kids in high school and they leave. For people with no intrinsic tie to place, the kinds of goals and visions and notions of character we are talking about don't matter, and they don't make much sense. To include them in an OCP seems idealistic in a way that is different from what Paul is talking about. It seems impractical. These folks often raise objections to the Islands Trust mandate as standing in the way of useful development, because the mandate is about protecting character among other things.

This is a very serious cultural divide on the island. It is the root of some conflict but it is alos the root of a lot of apathy. If you don't care about place other than what it will do for you, then an OCP seems like a fanciful process, and one that, unless it optimizes your property or business opportunity, is a waste of time. Or unless it impacts your property or business negatively. Then you show up. But that is a kind of apathetic way to participate. It is not co-creative and not driven by the need to collectively own and steward the future of this place.

For those of us who treasure place, thos other people look insensitive and opportunistic. For them we look like dreamers. But both of us know that deep down our perspective makes sense for a livable community and that for THIS community, the Official Plan needs to recognize both mindsets in a way that brings us together.

Bowen is not a First Nation, and so the mindset that does not recognize place needs to have a place here too. The conversation is about including each other in the future of our Island, creating a useful collective future and living together well. My hope is that the intangible goals and visions are recognized for what they are - foundational to the very feel and character of the community, without which we become "just another small town." I don't want to live in just another small town. I want to live on Bowen Island.

Generic IS our is the enemy of human community.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The kinds of goals we need for Bowen

There is a wonderful thread going on at Bowen Island Ourselves which Paul Rickett started by talking about the OCP process. It has morphed into a discussion about green house gas reduction, development and population growth which is very rich.

I added a few thoughts on Paul's initial musings that our OCP needed mesurable and attainable goals. Here are my thoughts:

It seems like this thread has concentrated largely on GHG and development, but I wanted to say something about the measurables. I think with our plan we have a chance to revisit how we measure things and discover new community indicators that would give us a sense of how we are doing without making us slaves to short term numbers. One of the dangers with choosing measurable goals (and even designing things that are "attainable") is that we fail to shoot high enough to change for fear that we will not be able to measure what we are doing, or that perhaps we might even fail. The GHG discussion is a good case in point: what is attainable or even measurable here? The concern I have is that specific indices and numbers work well for small things that are controllable, but a lot of what happens in a community is complex behaviour, even emergent behaviour, and not subject to control or measurement or management. In fact the "character" of a community can be neither controlled or measured, but it is as important a quality as any. b This is where "idealistic" goals as you call them come into play: they give us something to strive for. We could adopt self-sufficiency as a principle of our community, and commit to seeing that roll out in a number of ways, including trying for 20% food self sufficiency, 50% energy self-sufficiency and 100% water self-sufficiency within 20 years. We already have the water goal achieved! The goal would be to keep it there and not require water to be trucked from the mainland in the 20 year time period. Adopting self-sufficiency as a community principle gives us something to strive for and something to gauge our efforts against. Are we making decisions that take us in that direction or away from it? If we refuse to zone any more farmland, are we compromising our ability to feed ourselves, and lower GHGs in the process? So I am interested in finding community indicators that let us know that we are on the right path. For instance, a demand for more affordable housing in some ways is a good indicator of economic diversity: you don't have that indicator in exclusively rich gated communities. If that demand were to disappear, I would worry about the economic diversity of Bowen. So while it remains a pressing need, to me it is an indicator of a rich community populated by people who are trying to make a living in unorthodox ways. Increased demand for affordable housing is not a goal we want to pursue, but it tells us something about who we are. There are some very interesting community dashboards at Integral City which, despite its name, is an organization that is doing work with applicability to many types of communities. I have been using some of their work in a project I have been doing to measure the impact of Native public radio stations on Native communities in the US, and they have piloted some of their dashboards using Bowen Island indicators. It might be worthwhile bringing Marilyn Hamilton to Bowen for an evening conversation about different ways to measure community goals and host a conversation about what indicators make sense in this round of OCP discussions. What do you think?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall is trying to get in

Stormy weather last night and today. The rains and winds have returned and there was even a thunderclap or two this afternoon. The Channel was churning with great waves crashing against the Bird Islets. Still warm, but the odd scent of woodsmoke is on the air.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How much prouder of Bowen could I be?

This has just been a fantastic month of community. If you really want to get a sense of how this island celebrates itself, you need to spend the last two weeks of August here. We have been celebrating, visioning, playing and socializing a plenty this month, and as Sally Freeman said "I'm in love with my island again!"

A couple of weeks ago, Bowfeast ran down in the Cove. In front of the library, two dozen stalls were set up featuring food from local farmers, gardeners and kids. We had everything from veggies to preserves, flowers, bees, honey and books. There was live music courtesy of us buskers, a picnic in the orchard and across the road, the weekend market was in full swing. There was a great vibe in the Cove that weekend, and I WISH WISH WISH we could do that every weekend all summer long. A vision of some great possibility there.

Also last weekend, the OCP review (follow the link to fill in the survey) on the island got going with the first public meetings, including a well run visioning session. The process seems to be off to a good start, and so far it's meeting my prime criteria of increasing social capital while designing and plan that works. There is a long road to go, but all is good so far. Our Bowen Island Ourselves site has been made a part of the process, and a community gathering we're sponsoring on September 13 will have some contribution to make to the overall process.

Yesterday we had our traditional end of summer gathering in Crippen Park, Bowfest. IN the last three years, the community has really taken over the festival and it has been outstanding ever since, with renewed life and energy. This year, I think for the first time in years, ALL of the musical talent was Bowen based (including honorary lifetime citizen Corbin Keep!). This included an excellent songwriters contest and a variety of music entertainment on two stages with rock and roll, folk, jazz, jugband, and all kinds of interstitial musical genres besides. The weather was beautiful and dancing in the evening to the Bowen Divas and Tony Dominelli was great fun.

It has been a summer of good stuff happening, and now we begin to wind it down in earnest and start to welcome back the fall, with hope for good rains and salmon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Local Recipe contest!

My friends at OneDayBowen have a recipe contest. Using all local ingredients, you can enter the contest to win a local foods cookbook from Phoenix photo. Contest closes August 23.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Certainly feels like things are turning...Ocean is cooling and the recent rains are distincly late summer. But, we have had a pretty strong El Nino this year, and if my interpretation of the North Pacific weather map is right the high pressure is building again and a long stretch of sun and warmth might be in the offing. For me, early signs of fall are the call of crickets and the way low cloud builds into the Sound, with a layer of it hanging at about 1000 feet against the wall of the Britannia Range. That signals cool and wetter air. We often get a spell like that in summer before it a last blast of heat returns to ripen the blackberries and shine on Bowfest (fingers crossed!). First week of September is rainy, then usually a nice stretch of cool nights and warm days for September before the Salmon Calling season begins, and the streams fill with rain.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another season at the ball yard draws to a close

Spent the weekend down at the ball field in the Cove watching the 24th annual Bowen Island Men's Fastpitch Tournament. All six teams play three games each and the top four go through to a knock out round.

There weren't too many exciting games in the round robin, but the first game between the Diggers and the Celtics was fantastic. The lead kept switching back and forth and the Celtics won 8-7 holding on to secure the victory over the Diggers. The Diggers are a great young team, coming into their own with excellent defence. During the regular season they won their last nine games in a row to finish well. They are definitely the team to watch.

All of that youthful vigour however comes at a price, and in the semi-final they drew the Twins, a long standing and very experienced team. The Diggers were one out away from victory when an errant throw from third led to two runs scoring. Needing to bat again, the Diggers had the tying run on third with two out when the runner was called out for leading off, which is of course illegal in softball. The umps had no choice - he was at least two paces down the third base line, nut it was a heartbreaking way to finish their season.

The Firemen beat the tired Celtics in the other semi-final and a rematch of last year's final was set. The Twins put on a clinic, with their years of experience showing as they couldn't let the Firemen get started. Despite a late rally, the Twins won the Championship again this year making it two in a row and moving to an all-time record of 12 wins out of the 24 tournaments dating back to 1986.

So fastpitch on the dry field in the Cove wraps up for another season, and the first signs of the end of summer are upon us. Bowfeast next weekend, followed by BowFest two weeks after that. As if to foreshadow the change, a low pressure system has moved in today and it is cool and raining, heavily at times, and the southeast wind occasionally shakes the trees.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bowen Island songs now online

I have finally put my Bowen Island songs back up on the web. There will be a new one added to this list after Bofest when I unleash the newest Bowen song in the songwriting contest.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


The cloud is moving in...a couple of cold fronts and some low pressure zones have found their way through the high ridge and are builing in to the coast. This will bring welcome relief to those fighting fires up higher in our airshed, which extends up towards Lillooet, but only if it rains. The weekend looks to be completely wet which will be good news.

This has been the worst fire season in BC history with hundreds of forest fires bursting out all over the place. The big ones near Lilooet are send smoke down our way so there is a fine veil of haze in the Georgia Basin hanging under the high cloud.

The sky feels pregnant, like it wants badly to rain, but so far, nothing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The return

The heat has broken, the clouds are moving in and the sky is lowering. Much needed rain is on the way.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Into the blue

The flying Finn

Lovely day in Howe Sound was friends Chris and Nairn Robertson. Chris has a sweet boat, a Farrel hull cruiser, that we sometimes ride around in. He lives over in Gibsons and comes to meet us in Galbraith Bay and then we usually head over to Keats Island and swim and carry on. Today we ended up at Pebble Beach on Keats, jumping from the boat into the water which has reached 26 degrees now, and is positively tropical.

More photos of our day are here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

At the beach

Everyday, at the beach, swimming two or three times a day both to keep the heat off and to enjoy the incredibly warm water. Yesterday I was snorkeling at Tunstall Bay and when I dove down 10 or more feet there was no thermocline, the line at which warm surface water separates from the colder, deeper water. The water has been incredibly warm - the water temperature tonight at Halibut Bank is 21 degrees, and that's in the open. It's more like 23 or higher close to shore, especially at the surface.

Lots of seaweed coming up now. I've been out collecting for the garden. Also lots of wasps around suddenly this week at the beach and elsewhere.

The high we are living under right now is unusual in that it extends high into the atmosphere and it's very difficult for anything to make a dent in it. Not complaining mind. The high dry air has trapped smoke from the forest fires near Lillooet giving us beautiful sunsets and mercury coloured water. I haven't seen a plane contrail in weeks.

Summer lingers on.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Details on the turf field, and Chris finally weighs in

Good article in The Undercurrent this week on the details about the new artificial turf field being installed at BICS. Turns out that the materials being used for the field are entirely recyclable and even biodegradable which seems like a bonus. Seems like even if the field was ever completely taken out, it would be a simple matter to replant the area with grass. That's good news, but probably not good enough to bring peace to the raging debate here. Actually it hasn't so much been a debate as an extended protest and counter-protest, and folks are now so entrenched that there is very little chance of minds changing on the issue. Seems people are either opposed to the field at all costs or in favour of it. Those opposed cite environmental, financial, political and cultural reasons for their opposition. I find some resonance with some of those objections, especially the notion of what it means culturally to have an urban type amenity in a rural setting. On the other hand, I enjoying playing football as does my wife and son, and we will be grateful for a safe playing surface on which to play. Caitlin has already sustained two injuries on the pitted and chewed up natural grass field, and she hasn't been alone. I have a funny ambivalence about the whole enterprise, that strikes me as unusual. I would probably prefer NOT to have a field, but as we are getting one, I'm happy to use it.

What I am most interested in with respect to the field debate is the way that folks have been vilified, slagged, denigrated, investigated and blamed for what has happened. This happens in the Online Forum and it happens on the sidelines and elsewhere face to face. The whole process has had more than it's fair share of name calling and witch hunting and I have heard outright lies and speculation about friends of mine from other friends of mine, on both sides of the debate. That has caused me to distrust and remain aloof from any of the vigorous support or opposition to the field. On several occasions, as I was defending a friend from a character attack, I was lumped in with one or the other camp. The issue is so polarized now that if you see it in any shade of grey, anyone that cares just sees you as blacker or whiter than they are.

So that's why I haven't weighed in on the issue with any kind of forcefulness. My only plea is to stop the personal name calling and I ask people not to speculate on other people's motives without asking them outright where they are coming from. Gossip, innuendo and speculative slander really does nothing to advance ideas, but it's a dandy way to destroy community, the very thing both sides say they want more of. And in this plea I mean BOTH pro- and anti-turf folks. I don't expect my plea to change many minds, but I think I'm not alone in wanting people to find some way to move to a more sophisticated level of engagement with each other.

So, I finally weigh in on the debate, right in the middle of the scale.

Another hot Saturday

A cooler breeze is coming off the water, but the day is still hot in the sun. Took the recycling in today with Finn after which we headed to the Cove for breakfast at The Snug. Busy but fast response on my food, which is nice. It's hard for The Snug to get things done fast on a busy weekend morning, but they were managing well today. At any rate, speed is not what eating at The Snug is all about. Got home and worked the garden a little, developing a bed for next year created entirely from a compost heap.

Last night, we ate a Blue Eyed Mary's. still my favourite dinner spot on the island. The new menu came out yesterday (it changes every month) and I had a beautiful salad of gravlax, bannock and blueberries with maple syrup and a crab and shrimp fritter with fresh veggies. Very nice light summer menu, although I was quite full afterwards.

It's a long weekend here in BC, and things are busy on the island. An extra ferry sailing was on this afternoon, with one leaving at 1:55. The dock dance is tonight which means loud music coming from the Cove until late and probably some dangerous driving on the roads. I'm amazed that after this summer of fatal accidents that people still drive drunk AND fast. Whether you are a tourist or a resident, remember that there are lots of people walking out at all hours this summer and a truly HUGE number of deer around too.

Off to juggling club this afternoon and then the beach. Safe weekend all.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hooray for the Bowen Agriculture Alliance

A new website is connecting Bowen food producers through the Bowen Agriculture Alliance (BAA). One of the first things they are doing is facilitating the sale of Bowen produced food at the Sunday market in the Cove.

In related news, I think I pioneered the concept of Willing Workers on Bowen's Organic Farms. Yesterday I helped out with the harvest at the Ruddy Potato garden. We brought in some beans, peas, kale and carrots as well as some basil and squash. No better way than to learn about organic farming than to help out on one.

And if you are a Bowen local, get that good food at the Ruddy Potato, sold under the blue labels. Grown and picked by your neighbours.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reflections from a stormy night

There were many photos taken of the storm that raged across Bowen last weekend. My favourite one so far has to be the slide show time lapse from the webcam at the Burrard Street bridge. When we lived in Vancouver, this was our view of Bowen Island, and I've always been fond of it. The old header from the previous incarnation of Bowen Island Journal was a screen capture from that webcam.

This one shows the eerie light that filled English Bay. My friend and neighbour Alison has a shot from Deep Bay that rocks, and shows the double rainbow we saw.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Most awesome thunderstorm at sunset

We never get thunderstorms here on the coast, not like this. Last night at around 7:00 the sky started to cloud over and a little bit of rain started falling. As the evening progressed, two large thunderstorm cells moved down the Sound and across the island. The sun was setting to the west below the storms as so the air was filled with the most intense orange - pink light. A double rainbow appeared over the Channel. All the greens of the forest looked as if some one had saturated them with yellow.

Then came the lightning and thunder. For two hours, the storm raged all around us, lightning strikes coming literally on top of each other. Several times the top of Mount Gardner was hit, where the communications towers are, and other strikes clearly ground on Apodaca Ridge. Paul Rickett reported that the fire department was called out to a small fire near Grafton Lake which got put out quickly, but I have to admit that the potential for a devastating fire was enormous last night and had me mentally reviewing my evacuation plan.

As it turned out, all is well on the island this morning and we are just left with the most amazing display of natural energy and light.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer and seals

The North Pacific high is well established bringing calm, hot and clear weather to the south coast of BC. This is turning out to be a massively dry summer, fuelling forest fires in the interior and creating drought conditions all over the place. It reminds me of 2003, when the salal in the forest margin behind our house dried up and died. The huckleberries are thin and mealy and the cedars are drying out.

Most significant of all, Bill Newport wrote yesterday that Terminal Creek has dried up for the first time in recent memory. Terminal Creek feeds the fish hatchery, and disaster could have struck the coho and the chum fingerlings, but the hatchery stewards got water pumped through in time. The note of alarm in Bill's voice is distinctive though, and I'm surprised we haven't yet heard of water restrictions on the Cove Bay system.

IN another note, the ocean has been stunningly warm and the swimming is excellent. Yesterday Finn and I went over to Bowen Bay and I swam out to the float to relax. While I was lying there with my legs dangling in the water, I felt a kid bump my foot and when I looked down I saw that it wasn't a kid at all but a seal pup bobbing in the water. I said hello, it looked at me for a few minutes, and bumped my foot with it's flipper again before slowly swimming away. It kept coming back to the float though, playing around with kids and adults who were swimming out there.

Cute and all, but remember that if you go out there, try not to initiatie contact with it. If this little seal grows to be curious about humans, it could create problems later in life if it approaches boats. So as with all seal pup events at Bowen Bay, give it it's distance.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finally home for the summer

After a busy year of travelling, I'm finally back home on the Rock and learning to slow myself down. Yesterday was the first full day at home in a month and I had every intention of going berry picking - huckleberry and salal are ripe and some early Oregon grape - and working in the garden and going for a swim and instead I just lay out on the front porch at 1:30 to listen to some podcasts and I fell into a deep slumber, awaking at 6:30 in time to make some supper. I notice that I just need to sink in here.

While we were away in Atlantic Canada for the past month, the deer got into our garden and had their way with it. They stripped the strawberries of leaves and whatever fruit was left, ate all the peas, the beans and the squash plants. They also ruined the tomatoes, but they left potatoes, onions, garlic and beebalm alone. We have several crops growing under row covers - beets, carrots, lettuce, asian greens - and these all survived. The garden is now hermetically sealed and the deer are keeping a watchful eye on things, but so far they are unable to get in.

And speaking of deer, there are a couple of families around our place. Two handsome bucks and two does, one of whom has had her pair of fawns in the last couple of weeks.

We are having a divine summer here on Bowen - probably heading for a water shortage - but the sun and sea are glorious and I intend to soak it up as much as possible.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The miracle of garlic

So, next spring, if you have never done so, plant a garlic clove in the ground. One small clove does amazing things. First it produces a small green shoot that looks like a spring onion. The shoot grows and grows and branches and eventually comes to look like a leek. In fact you'd be fooled into thinking that it IS a leek, and you will wonder how so much growth could come from a humble little garlic clove.

But the show doesn't end there. After pushing up a whole leek, the clove produces the most amazing spiral tendril topped with an elegant onion dome that rivals the architecture of Ukrainian churches. It's as if there is a nuclear powerplant lurking just under the soil.

You stand there looking at all this growth and think to yourself: jeez.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Our small community has been hit with a spate of very sad deaths over the last couple of weeks. Four people have died, including two tragically, and people are starting to feel very besieged. There are few long time islanders who will not have been touched by the deaths of these four.

Caroline O'Neil was a long time islander, a familiar face in many places including at the Ruddy Potato and at Nancy's Taco Shop on the Pier. She died suddenly last week. Also passing soon after her was George Proudlock, another long time islander. When people like this die, a part of the community dies with them. They are such a part of the fabric of the place, that we change when they are no longer among us.

And hard as those passings have been, nothing has been harder than the deaths of two young people in road accidents. Lance Mulligan, a new islander but one who made himself friends in the fastpitch league, and amongst his colleagues in the tree business died doing what he loved, which was skateboarding. Bowen's roads are just not safe enough for boards of any type, and Lance's accident near the school has given many pause for thought on road safety.

And then last night, a tragedy down the road from us when a car with three young people in it went off the Miller Road by the bend at Kilarney Creek. Speed was certainly a factor in this accident in which one of Bowen's 19 year old youth lost his life. There has been a vigil of young people at the accident site all day grieving and comforting one another. On another beautiful summer day, folks have been out and about and enjoying the sunshine but the death of this young man has been spoken of in whispers and shared silences.

Too many roadside memorials now, too many funerals. A keen awareness of the fine line between living on and dying, even in the generous beauty of the early summer weather. Please, for the sake of all of us, slow down, be careful and use prudence and good judgement.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What birds are singing?

Here is a great link to a chart done by a Vancouver Island birder who is tracking the evolution of the dawn chorus.

To the Cape

Finn and I went out on our first salmonberry picking trip of the year, and came back with a couple of pounds of fruit, some of which will be baked into a salmonberry cheesecake for my birthday this weekend! The bushes are good, heavy with berries and very healthy this year.

Last night Caitlin and I put the canoe in at Tunstall Bay and paddled to Cape Roger Curtis. I have never been down to the Cape by water before. Most of the shoreline is rocky cliff along the water, much higher than it seems from the land. There are only a couple of beaches but there are several little coves. Some of the trees are amazing. There is one shore pine that looks like someone has literally thrown it against the side of the cliff and it has stuck there. Next time I go, I'll take a camera.

The Cape is really the most wild and beautiful place on this island. We picnicked by the lighthouse watching tow boats and ferries lazily move by while overhead planes made their wide turn over the Strait to make final approach at YVR. Closer to the sea, there were four eagles out and about trying their luck at fishing but only a nearby heron was having any luck. We had an escort seal for the trip back who seemed also to be having some luck chasing salmon out in the channel.

We have high spring tides right now, and the beaches and reefs were completely submerged making for a leisurely trip back poking into the coves and caves on the way.

All in all a nice end to a summery day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Perfectly afloat

My mother in law owns a 16' Clipper canoe that has a semi-permanent home at our place. This spring I have been taking it out on the lake and, more recently, the ocean.

Last night, we took it down to Bowen Bay to spend the evening at the beach, relishing the heat wave that is hitting us with 30 degree heat and setting new records for June high temperatures. In the evening, there was nary a whisper of wind and so I took the canoe out for a solo paddle heading well out of Bowen Bay and out into the Collingwood Channel. There were no boats around and only the very gentlest of swells. My boat drifted on the ebb tide, being watched by a seal that popped up at various intervals off my stern with a little puff of rancid breath. I lolled around out there until the sun set behind the gentle low slopes of Mount Elphonstone and then headed back in, paddling towards the waxing moon, which is now skirting low on the southern horizon.

Perfectly afloat.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer fauna

In the last week a bunch of summer fauna have appeared:
  • Bats
  • Swainson's Thrushes 
  • Spring Azure butterflies
  • Mosquitos
  • Tanagers
It's still hot, the smoke has cleared and I can hardly believe that we'll get the June rains, but I'm optimistic we will.  Berries need it and the garden too.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Smoke on the water

A most glorious weekend here on Bowen.  The weather has been amazing for the past week and our garden is in.  Saturday we went up to Tir na Nog to see Aine's latest performance, another retelling of The Neverending Story.  After seeing this play for the fourth time in about eight years, I think I finally get it, and the blur between reality and fantasy is a resonant trope for Tir na Nog families.

Later Saturday night I caught up with Corbin Keep, who moved over to Gabriola last year.  He was back for a performance at The Gallery in front of a small group of friends.  Most of the arts loving islanders were over in Vancouver at a concert that Alison Nixon put together to raise money for a therapeutic community she is helping to create for families living with mental health challenges.  Corbin's crowd was amused and amazed by his antics, songs, satires and sheer hubristic bizarreness.  Much ink has been spilled about Corbin's ability to wring a symphony of sounds out of a cello, but to see him is really to believe.  And to see him at home among friends is a lovely treat.

Sunday, I went with Aine down to the Pier for some tacos and sat in with some of Bowen's fine bluegrass players, including Murray Journeay, Bob Doucet, Jeff Scouten and Paul "One-Winged" Grant among opthers.  some soccer with Finn and Caitlin.  During Caitlin's scrimmage between her women's team and the U14 boys at the Bowen Island Football Club, she got caught in a hole in the field and tore her hamstring.  Poor one...she's laid up in a pretty peck of pain and her season is probably done.  

This morning, coming across to Vancouver with my friend Steven Wright, we noticed the smell of smoke on the wind.  Once we got to the Cove we could see why.  There is a 550 hectare forest fire burning up at Gold Lake near Lillooet and the light Squamish wind that had come up in the night had sucked smoke from there down to the Coast.  From Vancouver there is a brown smear across the horizon and the sun rose angrily through it this morning, promising a day of 30 degrees and probably more smoke to come.  

June always brings rains, so this taste of summer is usually shortlived, but by God, it feels like July out there already and one gets the feeling that a long hot summer is in the works.  

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Getting locked in

BC Ferries`security paranoia has caught the attention of my island neighbour Richard Smith
, who is a communications professor at Simon Fraser University and who is very interested in public and private spaces and issues.  

What do they expect us to become?  The locks aren't on the gates yet, but who's to say when that will happen?

And just coincidentally, the ferry staff seemed unsually stoney faced today.  Not even a response when I greeted them with a good morning.  Maybe it's already working?

Music, peacocks and choice in eating

Another touch back on the island between trips, this time heading from Victoria and going off to Cornwall, Ont. Last night there was a big group of people at The Snug, eight mainlanders joined us for Irish tunes and the weather was so fine that we sat outside for the whole evening, only going in at 10:00 when the mainlanders headed for the ferry.

It was a glorious night last night, punctuated only by the plaintive chirps of a couple of Tessa Goldie's peacocks who have been hanging around our place lately and who decided to roost last night in the fir trees. Plaintive chirps is a joke, as anyone who knows peafowl will realize. These creatures make a loud piercing cry, and they seem to like to do it at all hours. By the dawn, they had carved out a space of 100 meters around them, where no other bird dared go. I was by then fervently wishing that the ravens or eagles would dive bomb them and force them out of the tree. Alas, the peacocks left under their own steam.

Heading into the Cove this morning, I met a friend getting out of his car. To open his door, he had to reach out the window and pull the outside door handle. I remarked that I liked his Island car move, and showed him the jury rig parking break on my car. Seems that my 1996 Honda Civic has a problem whereby the button that releases the handbrake has disappeared into the handle itself. When I take it to Honda they never have the part, so the only solution, rigged up by our island mechanic, is to take a four inch long bolt and tape it into the hole left by the retreat of the button. My friend laughed at seeing this. We're actually proud that our once pristine brand new Civic has finally become an island car. Other friends have cars whose doors open only from the inside, or with some magic combination of enchantments and hope. Still others are missing hubcaps, aerials, wing mirrors – stripped off my close encounters in ferry loading – and other assorted bruises and scrapes. Island living is hard on the car, by Chris Leigh, our local guy, has a great triage operation/hospice program, and he is able to nurse a lot of life out of otherwise dying beaters.

And while I'm thinking about the Cove and prolonged life, there is a new restaurant in the place of the short lived Bow-Mart. Mik-Sa opened last week, offering tapas and cocktails and a rotating menu. The food business is heating up in the Cove now. Blue Eyed Mary's is going to open for breakfast, The Snug and the Happy Isle are both opening for dinner and there is one new place “downtown” All in time for the summer, we'll see how long it all lasts, but right now, you can feel the life building in the village, as everyone welcomes the influx of traffic and the warmer and drier weather.

Snow? Did we have snow this year?

Friday, May 15, 2009

More scenes from the lake

Very much enjoying the ritual of canoeing on Kilarney Lake in the evenings.  Last night the lake was glassy, and we quietly cruised along the east side, coming near to many families of mallard ducks and Canada geese.  Vaux swifts on the air and some scaups flying circles around the lake too, and a small flock of common mergansers were seen.  As the sun crept down over Mount Elphinstone, just barely visible to the west, two barred owls began hooting and calling, echoing over the still lake.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Black Sheep on tour

OUr very own Black Sheep Morris Dancers on tour in the UK.  We are so lucky to have this legitimate village side in our presence.  The Sheep return this week from their first world tour.  

Monday, May 11, 2009


First canoe day of the year. I'm determined this year to get out in our little green boat as much as possible. Tonight, the kids and I went to Kilarney Lake and paddled around. There was lots of action on the lake: small trout jumping for bugs, a large flock of Vaux Swifts hunting the same, bitterns booming in the reeds and the beaver out for a swim. Goslings are hatched too. Out in the lake is magical. You can only see about six houses up in the woods, so the whole place has the feel of being in the middle of the wilderness. Mount Gardner dominates the view to the south, with tendrils of cloud clinging to the peak. The water was like glass, with a little mist in the sheltered bays.

And speaking of fish jumping, this afternoon, walking home from the Cove, I noticed many many coho fry feeding in the Lagoon. Good journey to those little guys and hopefully we'll see them in four years or so, bright red and desperate to get home and spawn.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Touch the rock

Twenty days on the road and back for an afternoon. Tomorrow I leave for Vancouver island for a couple of days.

It's raining hard tonight.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A sweet day

First salmonberry blossom

Such a sweet day on the island yesterday. Finished work around 2 and together the four of us walked down to the Cove. We did it my favourite way, along the foreshore, starting at the north end of Pebbly Beach where a trail from Miller Road leads down to the water. The air was clear and still and there was much life in Mannion Bay. Saw the first seal I have seen in ages, a grey harbour seal that was drifting around looking at what was happening. Lots of birds down there as well, including migrating common goldeneys, scaups, buffleheads and a lone merganser. Pelagic cormorants, and flocks of white-winged scoters zipped around the mouth of the bay. Mew gulls and oystercatchers patrolled the beach with the crows, herons, geese and mallards.

At the Cove, we stopped for a bit at The Snug and had a game of chess on Bob Bates`big chess board. Noticed that VONIGO had closed up and announced a move, although I'm not sure to where. Ai, at The Snug said they were thinking about expanding into the VONIGO space somehow for the summer.

Walking up Trunk Road to Village Square, we stopped in a Phoenix for books and some collectibles that the kids are acquiring with their allowance. Picked up fixings for dinner and then walked home again along the foreshore, the beds of barnacles and mussels with ochre sea stars scattered about, and the first salmonberry blossoms opening.

Made a fire in the fire pit when we got home and the kids explored various kinds of tinder and kindling, from dry bracken to dead salal to small twigs of pitchy Douglas-fir. Barbecued some veggie burgers and sat around the fire as the sun went down and the stars came out. Finished the evening by pointing the telescope at Saturn and noting the side on view of the rings, different this year than it was two years ago, when we saw so much more of the rings.

Our gate is finished in the garden and all is well here. I'm heading off island for a spell now, and cannot think of a sweeter way to leave than the spring day we lived yesterday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The rhythm of the morning

Another beautiful morning here: clear and still.  In the dawn chorus, there are a pair of chickadees nesting across the road from us that are the champion singers.  They are doing their little call which is a two note descending tweet-tweet.  One chickadee does it and the other follows on with the same song, but sung a note lower.  Their rhythm is steady, and when they get out of synch, they stop and start again.  

In the meantime, the crows and ravens are cawing, the flickers are drumming, towhees wheezing in the undergrowth.  The nature of spring means that everyone is repeating their various sounds on a regular interval, and the forest is full of rhythm.  Once in a while, warblers and wrens let loose with solos over top of the whole thing.  It's as if someone has sampled all of these birds and put them into a bed track.  You could rhyme over top of it easily.  The rhythm shifts and changes subtly but it is so engaging that I lay in my sleeping bag for a full hour listening raptly to the chorus, and feeling all of these beats beneath it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where did David's bench go?

QUite a while ago, David Cameron designed and built a bench at the Causeway that was the best bench in the world. The other day as I was walking along the Causeway I noticed that the bench had gone. I posted a thread on the forum to see what had happened to it and we're investigating. When the GVRD offices open up on Tuesday I'll make some inquiries.

That is/was a great bench...a comfortable and beautiful bench. a bench unlike all of the uncomfortable memorial monstrosities that no one sits in because they don't HOLD you like yours did/does. I've sat in that bench facing the lagoon while a vicious southeasterly gale was blowing and I was warm and sheltered from the driving wind and rain. The thing didn't NEED a was built aerodynamically enough that it was impossible to get wet on it!

When I die, I hope someone will build a bench like that to remember me by, with the option to look forward or back, as the weather or mood warrants.

David has offered to recreate it if it has gone missing for nefarious purposes. Let's see what we can do to get it back.

UPDATE: Good news! Kevin Huskison called from GVRD Parks to let me know that the bench is being refurbished and will be back on the Causeway in 2- 3 weeks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Old haunts

The first summer we moved to Bowen Island, Aine was four and Finn was just a nine month old baby. When he went to sleep at night, Aine and I would take a drive up to our very favourite spot on the whole island, at Smuggler's Cove. We would sit on the rocks and watch the ferries come and go to Langdale, while seals played in the water.

We returned there today, on a day when one of our budgies died, and walked quietly among the bladderwrack and mussels remembering life when Aine was smaller. We didn;t see any seals, but we did see a pelagic cormorant and hundreds of white-winged scoters doing circuits around the island. Also, the young alder saplings were full of warblers and kinglets and robins.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New birds, quiet beaches and coffeehouses.

Yesterday was sweet. Warm again in the afternoon after a cool and rainy start to the day. I was in town yesterday and I walked back through Deep Bay and along Pebbly Beach and then up to Miller Road. I stopped for a while on Pebbly Beach to stand by the ocean and drink it in. Standing right on the place where Wolfgang Duntz, one of our neighbours wants to put a big concrete and steel pier for the docking of his boat. Resolved more than ever that that is a bad idea.

Whilst standing in a state of rapt meditation, a loon called out from water. Always a surprise to hear these birds on the ocean, so strongly are they identified in my mind with my younger years spent on the lakes and rivers of Ontario and Quebec. A common loon warbling in the calm of a spring afternoon was perfect medicine: it made me ache to get our canoe on the water.

After getting home, I wolfed down some dinner and headed out to The Happy Isle Cafe where an open mic night was in progress. A number of musicians and poets had gathered to lay out some good stuff, poems about our place in the cosmos and our place in the family, songs about the soft places inside hard men, and the things we cling to. Aine and I sang together, which is something I love. She has The Gypsy Rover nailed, and she sang beautifully. Then she joined me on a couple of other songs.

A nice way to ease into the long weekend.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Stormy weather

This morning the temperature is dropping and the clouds are building into Howe Sound. A complex of mini lows and a deteriorating front are moving into the coast this morning, and in advance of all of that. the winds have swung southeast and come up. Probably blowing abou 30km/h now, from dead calm an hour ago.

A flock of black scoters just flew by low over the water and there are other birds around too. The last couple of mornings, a yellow warbler has joined the dawn chorus and yesterday, in Horseshoe Bay, I spotted my first violet-green swallow of the year.
George Zawadski recorded me singing my Song for the Cape last week:


Monday, April 6, 2009

Home again and a loss

Returned home from a trip to the States by sailing over smooth waters on a pictre perfect day - the nicest of the year so far. It's warm out even tonight and this evening we had dinner on the front porch for the first time this year.

Got home to find out that Ken Seed died a couple of weeks ago. Ken was a great character, and a purveyor of fish. I always bought my sides of salmon from him, smoked or just fresh frozen. I recently traded a side of smoked salmon I had with an Elder from Northern Ontario for five pounds of wild rice.

I have always enjoyed visiting Ken and Marguerite's house on Woods Road. It is an old cottage with a vaulted ceiling and an eclectic collection of wild animal skins, excellent kitchen ware (Ken loved to cook) and interesting knick knacks. You could never just go over there for a few minutes; there was bound to be a story or an invitation to try whatever was simmering on the stove. You couldn't help but ask about the skins on the walls. Ken would happily chat about his hunting trips and Marguerite never stopped praising his cooking. I once backed into a ditch getting out of their impossible driveway and Ken just dropped what he was doing, rolled up his sleeves and got a chain together to drag us out again. You always remember the folks that have you out of ditches.

So on this beautiful day, my condolences go out to Marguerite on her loss, a loss which is shared by many Islanders today. On to your reward Ken!

Bowen Juggles worldwide

A great report from Paul Stewart on the Bowen Island Juggling Club World Domination Excursion to the Victoria Juggling Festival. Next weekend, Paul and Calder head down to Santa Barbara, taking our little club's imperial plans to the international stage!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bridge to Bowen now official

Here is the artists rendering of the design for the new bridge to Bowen Island.  The bridge is being called the Union Bridge in honour of the historical legacy Union Steamship Company and the union of Bowen with the mainland.

Looks like our ferry woes will be finally resolved!

Thanks to Nat for breaking the news.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nicest day of the year

Sweet air today, the morning full of the piercing calls of Varied Thrushes and a sweet emergence of pollen from the alders. The sun is shining and it's near 20 degress is the sheltered sun - eating lunch on the back porch.

The Queen of Capilano is back in service, plying the calm blue waters of the Channel. All is well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Geese have set off

One more sign of spring...the snow geese that travel annually between their Siberian breeding grounds and the Fraser River estuary were seen today heading north.  A couple of flocks over well over 200 birds passed high overhead in a ragged V formation, honking enthusiastically at the prospect of warmer weather and hot times on the tundra.

Returning home, living in community

Got back early this morning on the 7:30 water taxi from Granville Island.  The water was flat the whole way other than a little chop in the Sound where the night's light Squamish was finishing.  I've been away for a few days in Springfield, Illinois, and coming how was a sweet relief.  I got off the boat and there was just silence all around, a little birdsong, sun beginning its day under a high hazy sky.  

I waited at The Sniug for the family to pick me up, and got into a nice conversation about the Cape and community and the long furture of life on Bowen.  Lots passed between us, but one thought I was left with was that no one can plan a neighbourhood.  Developers plan developments, but it is up to citizens to make them neighbourhoods.  We have fear about all kinds of scenarios of the future, but at what point do we find ourselves in those stories, helping to turn "developments" to "neighbourhoods."  Regardless of whether a developer has produced a "neighbourhood plan" creating neighbourhoods is the provinces and responsibility of citizens.  So my questions for the medium term and long term for the Cape is, what are we all prepared to do to make whatever happens down there a part of our community?  How do we act as midwives tothe new neighbourhood that will evolve with the new people that will ineveitably arrive?  How do we steward the future community we all want to live in?  If we find ourselves on one side or the other of the debate, can we see ourselves caring after the desicion is made?  Or if "our side" "loses" do we turn our backs on the Cape?  I find my own emotional energy these days invested in these questions.  

In other news, we're doing more work on the front of the house these days, building access to the garden from the front of our place.  Over the past few years we have made more an more of our lives in the out of doors, putting in a hot tub and a garden and patio and using the sleeping porch.  We have a small place, but since stretching out, we are able to make it much bigger, with some many more outdoor rooms and spaces and our lives have stretched correspondingly.  

The work on the front should be finished this week and when I find my camera I'll upload some photos.  

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome the vernal equinox

Spring arrived today. The dawn chorus is in full song, with winter wrens and robins singing their hearts out to attract mates and keep others at bay. Last night was the warmest night of the year, so warm that I had to kick off an extra blanket I had been sleeping with all winter. My three season sleeping bag is back in its zone again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hard rain gonna fall

Falling right now in fact, as it has been most of this week. The water is very much needed, after our dry winter, and probably more on top of this needed to keep the aquifers charged for the summer. But right now, after about a week of mostly solid rain, with some clear days, the ground is lovely and moist.

The humidity right now is 100% too which makes it interesting to be outside. You get wet just standing in the air, let alone in the rain.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New voices

The winter wrens have joined the dawn chorus. For such small birds they have massive voices. They sing to the whole forest, it seems.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Signs of spring

The cool and rainy weather is continuing and last night there were high winds blowing cold from the southeast. Today the kids and I went for a walk around the lake, looking at the way that the forest was coming back to life. The ferns are still flat on the ground, and no fiddleheads have started to emerge yet, but the mosses are verdant and the rain forest is the most vivid shade of green. When a little weak sunlight seeps through the clouds, the yellows and greens and blues come alive, maples covered in moss, goats-beard hanging off the hemlocks and sitka spruce.

The mosqutos are out now, swarming around the water, and doing well with no swallows here yet, and no bats around either. There were buffleheads and scaups on the lake, Canada geese padding around on the ice still formed around the edges of the water and flocks of kinglets and chickadees staking out territory.

In the marshes, the skunk cabbage - ch'├║ukw' in Skwxwu7mesh - is just starting to come up, not flowering yet, but perhaps it will in a few weeks. No horsetails yet either, but you can feel things wanting to burst free. In traditional Skwxwu7mesh culture, this is considered the time when the winter dances draw to a close, and the longhouses close up. All winter, the energy and life that the earth has ceded is available to spirit dancers in the longhouse, but when the earth reawakens for the spring, that energy is no longer available, and the dances stop until the winter again.

The power is returning to the land.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Herring snow

It has been snowing for the past two hours. Snowing I tell you. Why am I surprised?

Around here the joke is that Obama made quick worlk of global warming. Welcome to British Arctica!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Herring rain

The skies are lighter now with the sun rising higher towards the equinox. The rain at this time of year comes in showers or in light spatterings, the first kind of rain I ever experienced here on the coast when I visited Hesquiaht First Nation in 1989. At that time we did some herring fishing, so I have always called this sort of light rain beneath a light grey sky "herring rain."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cape at stake

George Zawadski has put together a film for the owners of Cape Roger Curtis that is interesting stuff. Part 1 is a video about what people think about the current development proposal for Cape Roger Curtis, and documents how the owners feel about the process and why they have chosen a deadline of June 1 to have their current plan approved or to develop the original 58 lot subdivision.

You can find out more at their website.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The promise of spring

It is a beautiful day here, by any standard. Sunny, warming, calm.

Was in the garden today puttering around, hoeing up last year's big veggie bed and fixing up the composter to keep the deer out of it. Garlic shoots are coming up and I want to get some spinach and radishes in the ground this weekend.

Still sleeoping on our sleeping porch. Finn and I have been out there most of the year, through the snow and the rain and everything else, and now we are falling in love with the dawn chorus as it swells to life in the morning and builds through the season, birdsong changing to loud brash territorial calls and new sounds joining the mix.

Three weeks until the equinox, and you can feel it in the air. There is very little snow left - just patches in the shade and roadsides, and the ground is warm.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A sign of dry things to come?

There is a high fog lying over the eastern edge of Howe Sound sitting a few hundred feet off the water, and nestled against the east wall of the fjord. It extends a little of the way across the Queen Charlote Channel and peters out in whisps and tendrils opening to a clear blue sky in the west. The wind is calm and frost lies in the Cove, where the fog visited the pool of cold air that accumulated there overnight.

The dawn chorus comes alive on mornings like this, in early March. All the birds are making new sounds, calling to one another, establishing territory, competeing for their futures.

And it's dry. Killarney Creek at Miller Road has pulled away from it's bansk exposing muddy stream edges that we don't normally see until the summer. If it doesn't rain a lot this spring, we are going to have a drought this year, and the cedars and salal will grow thirsty and brown like they did in 2003.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The intimacy of sharing beatuy

Caitlin and I were up at Artisan Square, at the newly opened Artisan Eats, a lovely deli with very good prices and the great view over the Sound. We were enjoying some soup and pasta and rooibos tea and loving looking at the snow covered mountains, still wearing their cloaks of white from Wednesday's snow storm.

I was telling Caitlin about sharing a breathtaking ferry ride yesterday across Howe Sound in which a friend and I waxed about the beauty all around us, how it seemed hardly possible that we lived surrounded by such gorgeous land and sea.

There is something important about the intimate experience of sharing breathtaking beauty with friends, neighbours and even complete strangers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snow has returned

A spectacular cold front has made its way down the coast, with a low pressure centre travelling directly down the Strait of Georgia Strait.  At 5:20 I left Victoria in a Sikorsky S61N helicopter and just off Swartz Bay we flew beneath the roiling clouds of the front, forcing us to descend from 2500 feet to only a few hundred.  The seas were calm on one side of the squall line and boiling white on the other.  We flew into Vancouver low, staying below the cloud ceiling, and just above the treetops of Stanley Park and by the time we landed, the rain squalls had quickly turned to snow.  I arrived back on Bowen at 8:00pm and there was a centimeter or two of snow on the ground and the temperature had dropped 8 degrees in three hours.  

A brief blast of winter, just to remind us not to get cocky with the early spring plantings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rains have returned

As Caitlin said, we have re-entered British Columbia. It is raining today and thick low cloud hovers in the Sound. It's colder and damper out than it has been since the fall.

We puttered in the garden today, looking for more places to build beds on our cliff face and contemplating this year's crops. Pulled some leeks that overwintered and threw them in a soup pot tonight. Lovely!

Daffodils are peeping up, but they'll hold off for a few weeks now I bet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Birds of the midwinter

Black Turnstones

Even though it is technically midwinter, the spring migrations have started. Yesterday down on Mannion Bay I came across this flock of black turnstones hanging out with the mew gulls stopping off here to feast on crabs and sand fleas. They overwinter here on the south coast. preparing to make their way slowly to their breeding grounds on the Alaskan coast. These ones are all done up in their breeding plumage, ready to return to the breeding grounds, but they have a few more months before things thaw up there.

Also on this little walk, a great blue heron and our resident ornery but beautiful swan. Oh and for good measure, our resident fawn, who hangs out with the feral chicken we look after. We had two chickens, but one succumbed to the red tailed hawk that was hanging around here a few weeks ago. All that is left of poor Huckleberry is a pile of feathers and some well picked over shoulder bones.

It's funny weather right now. Along the beaches and exposed roads down low the smells of summer are wafting around - dry fir needles and dust - while in the forest and the low lying meadow in Crippen Park, there is still several inches of snow. There has been snow on that meadow since December 16, and we have had so little rain - less than 30mm this month - that it shows no signs of washing away anytime soon. Usually snow like that, even in great quantities is gone in a few days, but the extended snow falls of Christmas combined with a thaw/freeze cycle and the generally dry and sunny and cold weather has prolonged winter for an extended spell.

Bowen Island advertising

Bowen advertising

When you live in one of the most artistic communities in Canada, you are bound to get creative advertising. This ad was posted outside The Snug - an artist willing to trade a watercolour for an outboard motor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spring is in the air

Bowen Queen

The dawn chorus this morning, while not exactly bursting with birdsong, had some minor changes in it. For one thing, on this clear calm morning, the birds were very active: Canada geese in the bay were constant, nuthatches going crazy and the juncos were making all kinds of noise. Ravens, crows, eagles, flickers, robins and mallards all joined in the fun. The towhees have started their trilling. All of this is preludes to things to come.

And another ritual has taken hold too, with the replacement of the Queen of Capilano for six weeks by the Bowen Queen. It used to be that the maintenance refits were an annual thing for the Cap, but it seems that they have become less scheduled over the past couple of years. At any rate, she's out for a spell, and the delightful little Bowen Queen is back in the fold. Commuter hell will follow, but I like her.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A crescent moon

Early this morning, about 4am, a waning crescent moon crested Eagleridge and shone with a brightness way out of proportion to it's size. The air was so clear, the nighttime outflow winds scouring the Sound of cloud and rustling the trees.

This morning, hummingbirds fought for territory, but the rest of the dawn chorus was quiet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Midwinter brilliance

A beautiful day, bright and sunny and relatively warm. Finn and I spent the day together poking around hoe in the sun and then heading to BICS where he played indoor soccer for a bit. After that we headed outside and played together in a pick up game with some of our favourite island youth on the only uncovered spot on the field, a little strip at the north end - the rest of the field is still covered in deep packed snow.

While there we heard about a little event at Crippen Park, where a small winter festival was wrapping up. We headed down to the Bowfest field and joined the fun at a beach fire where the was chocolate fondue and stories and songs. We stayed for a couple of hours, as the sky darkened and Venus shone brightly in the western sky. The moon was low behind Apodaca Ridge and the stars popped out one after another, constellations taking shape all around us, a shimmering glitterworld above us reflected in the still water of the Cove on a low low tide. Looks like the sun will continue for the rest of the week.