Friday, December 31, 2010

A new year's blessing

From our own poet of the woods, LIsa Shatzky:

Had we one more day 

it would not be stuffing envelopes 
to save the world, 
citing love as our reason 
for feasting on romanticized 
atrocities in the nightly news 
(which are still atrocities, cold 
and ordinary, come morning) 
and believing 
that if we analyzed and dissected 
our suffering long and hard 
enough and set up camps 
in stations of the lost 
and joined the victims 
and survivors and born 
again wounded, 
some kind of healing 
would happen. 

Oh, perhaps some good came of all that 
learning and unlearning the languages 
of sorrow which hung heavy 
around our necks and cut 
deeply in our lips, 
but had we one more day 
I imagine we might have 
chosen instead the laughing 
geese above us and their gawking 
at the melodramas 
we made. 

Under the cedars we might have 
lingered, graced by slowness 
of breath and the utter importance 
of the hummingbird 
and petals from delicate 
flowers falling 
with the fragile forgiveness 
of the seasons 
and the godliness of laughter 
and the tenacity of the beating heart 
carrying on without needing 
to know why. 

As remarkable as finding ourselves 
awake, at last, trembling 
and seeing each other 
for the first time. 

lisa shatzky (published in The New Quarterly, 2010, and Simple Praise,2009) 

Happy New Year Bowen Islanders, you irrascible, joyous, generous, garrolous, irritating, humourous, faithful, caring, bunch of humans.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter morning

Ten thirty on a winter morning is one of my favorite times. The village is quiet, the light us low in the sky and on a day like this everything us relaxes. People are where they intend to be a no one is rushing to and fro. Things grow quiet and still.

At the Causeway this morning the tide is very high, flowing in and out of the lagoon with the breath of the swell. There are ducks lazily floating on the water - mallards and buffleheads - and a faint rushing of the waterfall can be heard upstream. A short loop takes me up to an old Douglas for and back through the Memorial Garden to the Snug where a nice espresso awaits. No rush. Easy island time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve storm

Seems like most Christmas Eves around here we have a storm of some kind.  Two years ago we had a foot of snow and today, as we have had in other years, the southeasterlies are blowing at gale force and the rain is lashing down on our little island. Time to build a fire and tuck into to a couple of days of relaxation and visiting with family and friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sunset and moon rise

A beautiful clear day in Howe Sound.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cocoa West

The chocolates at Cocoa West. Christmas goodies!  Joanne is world class (but then we knew that akready!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Bowen Christmas craft fair

It's like Bowfest with coats on!

Friday, December 3, 2010

One of those days

The rain has cleared out and the weather has warmed up. Looked this morning as if the freezing level was at about 900 meters as we crossed Howe Sound. Clearing skies as we enter the month to celebrate darkness and light. Last night my kids sang in the Penrhyn Academy Christmas recital which always runs close to having the performers outlined the audience. Over 100 people there last night to kick off the season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ken Miller passes

Ken Miller has died in Nova Scotia.

When I first moved to Bowen, Ken got my attention.  He was a short man with a straight laced attitude, quiet and shy.  He reminded me of the many people I have met in the Cariboo in BC.  He often stood with his thumbs locked in the belt buckles of his jeans, chest thrust out, proudly taking in the world.

Over the years I got to know him a little, chatting at the beach in Tunstall Bay where he was a regular fixture in the summertime, hanging with his family in the "Miller's Kitchen."  I had some great conversations there with him about his days beach combing the Bowen shores.

Outside of Tunstall Bay, Ken was perhaps best known for being the master of ceremonies at the annual polar bear swim every new year's day.  In these videos from 2008 and 2009 you can see Ken wielding his bullhorn, wearing his winter hat and sunglasses, tending the fire, counting down and encouraging everyone to get wet and cold.  At the end of the 2010 video, he has a now poignant signing off.  The polar bear swim won't be the same without him.

Ken took ill last February and was in hospital in Nova Soctia.  He died there on Monday.  Condolences to Susan, Kelly and Cindy.

Ambrose leaves us

Another friend Has left us. And Ambose Merrell has done it in a most tender way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marian Bantjes: Intricate beauty by design | Video on

Bowen Islander Marian Bantjes on intricate beauty by design . This was her TED talk given in February of this year.

We are surrounded by brilliant people on this island.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Snowin' on Bowen

A little video blog on the kind of snow we get on Bowen.

Snow day

Snow on Seven Hills

Firs snow day of the year.  After a few days where snow fell all around us, we finally got dumped on this morning.  Five centimeters fell overnight by breakfast and continued to fall all day.  We're expecting about 10-15 before it turns to rain at our altitude.  Perhaps I'll make another video about THIS kind of winter weather event.

Just in time for our first winter snow event, the Bowen Island Road Status Tool is up.  Please participate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Squamish howls

Yesterday the Squamish blew at it's fiercest.  The outflow winds through Howe Sound were 80 km/h during the afternoon and rose to storm force in the evening.  It was as hard a blow as I have seen in ten years here, and not the hardest, nor the longest (in 1990 the Squamish blew for two weeks) but it brought lots of tress down and the power has been out in parts of the island for more than 18 hours.

On the ferry the ride was reported to be wild, and the freezing spray warnings issued by Environment Canada came to pass, as evidenced by Richard Smith's photos of the Cap.  The video above was my way of trying to convey the power of this wind.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Solving the mystery of guessing at the weather

Dave Pollard has put together a nice summary of how to forecast Bowen weather based on the methods I have used for a number of years.  Have a read here on the Phorum.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What makes my heart sing

In the winter when the snow comes on the edge of the wet southeast winds chilled by the powerful outflow Squamish winds the days are dark and cold. When the weather passes and the skies clear this is the view that steals the breath of islanders no matter how long you have loved here. The Brittania Range is coated in heavy snow and the thin sun is hitting that eastern wall of our inlet on a sharp angle. The white of the mountains and the blues of the sky and sea.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big Squamish blowing

Trees down, power out. Big winds churning down the Sound.

Update: Robert Ballantyne has more details about this big wind.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Snowfall and cloud

Snowfall and cloud

All day the first winter storm of the season has been brewing.  We got a taste last night with a little snow overnight that changed to rain this morning, at least it did below 400 meters, as evidenced by the snow line on the Britannia Range acros the channel.

Tonight is a big deal.  We are expecting 10-15 cms of snow combined with a howling Squamish blowing 80km/h and gusting to 110 km/h in the more northerly inlets along the coast.  That means tonight will be brutal stormy but tomorrow will be stunning.  Camera in hand, I'll hope to capture it all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First real snow on the mountains

Leaving Bowen the other day I shot this photo of the first real snowfall on the Brittannia Range for the season. You can see the snow is at about 1000 meters, three quarters of the way up Black Mountain.

Winter us coming.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Deer everywhere

WE have the tamest deer in the world here on Bowen. If you wanted to you could probably hunt them with a hammer.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NOT picking up hitchhikers is illegal!

Hitchhiking is a way of life on Bowen Island. Before we had busses, and even back before Wes's taxi ran hither and yon, folks stuck out a thumb to hitch a ride to where they were going. Early on in my residency on our rock I learned that you never wave to a driver who is going the same way as you, because they will almost always stop and ask if you need a ride.

When a friend of mine moved to Bowen a few years ago, he was without a car and he hitched to the Building Centre to buy an axe. When he emerged, he was nervous about hitching a ride with a new axe and so he walked all the way back home. When he started telling this story several long time islanders laughed and said that he should have thumbed a ride. They said he would have had a better chance of getting a ride because people would have been curious to see his new axe.

That's how it is. Or at least how it HAS been.

These days people are more reticent to pick up hitchhikers for whatever reason. I think it's about new folks coming to the island and not knowing everyone and not used to the culture of letting people ride with you. But hitch hiking remains a way of life for many without cars - young people, older people who can't drive, and others, and its an important part of our rural and informal transportation system. The bus doesn't go everywhere on the island and Wes doesn't drive so the thumb is the way to go.

Now a new group on Bowen has emerged to make hitch hiking and ride sharing a more organized affair. Bowen LIFT is out to enhance our traditional cultural practices for getting around. Give them a visit, download a sign and get with the program!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Food regulations put small vendors in a pickle - The Globe and Mail

While I was away, BowFeast happened, one of my favourite Bowen Island celebrations.

And then a food inspector showed up. Here's what happened.

Before Bowen Island beekeeper Stuart Cole could sell 25 bars of honey-infused hazelnut nougat at a local festival, he had to tell the health authority exactly how and where it was made and list the ingredients down to the nut.
Then he had to cart his baking supplies to the local school’s FoodSafe-certified kitchen to make his supply for the festival.
All that just to sell enough nougat to break even at BowFeast, an annual three-hour community festival celebrating food produced on Bowen Island.
But at least he wasn’t selling jam. That would require a lab test to make sure bacteria wasn’t festering in it.
“I have respect for what the health inspectors do. To me it’s a question of the scale and application of regulations,” Mr. Cole said. Other vendors were not so understanding.
Five farmers pulled out of the Aug. 14 event after a health inspector wanted to test jams. All other vendors had to fill out a detailed form on their products.
“Why do we have to fill out a form to sell what we pull out of the ground?” said Suzan Philippe, who had to wrap her lettuce in plastic bags. “I think it was a deterrent for a lot of people. I don’t think I’ll do it again next year.”
The rules have festival organizer Michelle Pentz Glave fearing it may become impossible to separate the state from church bake sales and community festivals.
“It’s getting into the realm of the absurd,” she said. “This is kids selling chocolate cookies and a few grandmas selling their jam.”
The law sees it differently, however. Temporary food markets, from farmers’ markets to bake sales, are governed by provincial food safety regulations enforced by local health authorities.
“You are selling [food] in a public place and you have a responsibility of minimum due diligence,” said Sion Shyng, a food safety specialist with the BC Centre for Disease Control. “The guidelines are there to add that consistency while a minimum level of protection is offered for public health.”
Anyone selling low-risk, home-prepared items, including baked goods, dried fruit, fresh produce, fudge or honey in a public place has to fill out a form listing the ingredients, the preparation process, how and where it was packaged, and a sample of the product label.
Health inspectors can then test the recipes to ensure the pH levels and water content are low enough to prevent food-borne diseases such as salmonella and E. coli. After the recipe is tested once, it can be used in perpetuity as long as it isn’t changed.
Some high-risk home-prepared items are banned from markets, including baked beans, cabbage rolls, guacamole, garlic spread, fish, juice and humus.
Mr. Shyng and Vancouver Coastal Health said very few samples fail the lab test, but they could not produce numbers.
For Ms. Pentz Glave, the stringency of the regulations stands in ironic contrast with one of the eat-local movement’s goals: establishing non-commercial food sources.
“We are starting to see the first friction between these two systems – the need for keeping us safe and the need for neighbour-to-neighbour, small-scale, kind of nimble approaches that are going to allow this local-eating revolution to happen.”
The conflict could be solved with more scale-appropriate safety measures, she said.
“They have a one-size-fits-all regulation and it just doesn’t work for us,” Ms. Pentz Glave said, adding that it would be more appropriate to invest in education for small-time vendors. After that, it should be up to buyers to decide.
“Let’s make the people make their own choice,” she said. “Let’s just make sure that we have good public education so the knowledge is there to have food-safe practices.”
The provincial disease control authority disputes that logic.
“Why would one accept a higher or lower risk just because it’s a different location?” Mr. Shyng said.

via Food regulations put small vendors in a pickle - The Globe and Mail.

How the hell do we do this? Perhaps we need a Bowen Agriculture Alliance Open Space to figure out how to work with the regulators so they don't kill our local economy before it has even had a chance to get going.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Going away, coming back

While looking for some information for a song I'm writing on the Sid Sirocca, the boat that is beached on Pebbly Beach, I discovered a new Bowen blog: Going Away, Coming Back.  Who is this mystery writer who drops such  beautiful gems into the web sphere?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bowen Island National Park?

The federal government has formally begun its one year feasibility study for a national park for Bowen Island.

I had heard that this was under consideration, and now the planning process has begun.

I'm not sure which lands are under consideration. Obviously Crown lands, which means one of the three mountain tops. Cape Roger Curtis is not one of these parcels obviously, as it is private land, and it is being logged, smoothed out and prepared for houses now. It's gone.

Which is too bad, because there was a time when we could have bought that land for $16 million and made it into a park. But the current owners beat the community to the punch and came up with the money before we could raise it all.

At any rate, what do you make of the idea of a national park on Bowen? It represents a shift in what we think of as a national park for sure. Not too many small rural stands of second growth forest are represented in the national parks catalogue. Do you worry that too many people will come and overrun the place? Or is it just a good way to protect existing Crown land.

One thing for sure, the possibility might exist to put more Skwxwu7mesh identity on the land here. Obviously any conversion of Crown land to park requires consultation with the Squamish Nation. It would be good if we, as a community were to approach them to enter into a relationship with the Nation in whose territory we reside. That would be a welcome change, rather than letting the federal government be the ones to blunder through the relationship.

I'm up for helping on that.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bowen in Transition

Dave Pollard is one of a small group of us who are working on thinking through the Transition Town scenario for Bowen Island. He's got a number of useful links and think pieces at his blog.


A blustery night here last night on Bowen as a weak front moved through.  Winds backing southwest have stirred everything up.

Yesterday was a fun day...50 people crammed into Artisan Eats to watch the World Cup Final (won of course by Spain!) following which we commiserated with many of our Dutch friends here on the island both in person and virtually.  Feeling bad for Teun, Betty and Thuys, Tanya and Jim, Clement, Edwin and others.  Remembering too Miriam and Remy who owned the bakery where Artisan Eats is now, and imagining what it would have been like there if they had still been running the place.  Probably painted orange.

The water in the sea is very murky now, but full of plankton and very bioluminescent at night.  While the moon is young, now is a good time to go swimming at night if you want to see a sea of light.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Katabatic Winds and True Summer

True summer, the deep summer that comes with the stabilization of the Pacific high, arrives here on he coast all of a sudden. The clouds and unstable weather of June gives way to a crystal clear sky and hot sunny weather. Overnight the true summer comes in and with luck it will stay until the sun starts to fade away in August and the ocean cools, weakening the high and letting the fall storms through. 

The summer this year arrived three days ago and we migrated with the season to the outside. Doors and windows were thrown open to the air, our bedroom moves to the porch and we spend so little time inside that we can't even get to the phone when it rings. Work has ended for the year and we enter a deep period of calm and quiet, becoming as stationary as the weather and as relaxed as the wind. 

The days are calm and hot now and the ocean is perfect for swimming. This afternoon at Bowen Bay I swam out past the moored boats and floated among seals and oystercatchers gazing across the Strait through air so clear I could make out the shape of the clear cuts on the mountains 20 miles away on Vancouver Island. 

Last night as we slept the air cooled on the top of Mount Collins behind us and flowed down the mountainside through our house, washing over us on the porch and finally out to riffle the waters of the bay below. Just before dawn the sky began to brighten pink and yellow and Jupiter blazed in the clear sky. 

It is impossible not to feel reverence on days like this, not to be moved to tears by the beauty of this place on the finest of summer days

Friday, June 18, 2010

A year of artificial turf

From a post I made on the Bowen Phorum last week about the artificial turf field.  This was made before Soccerfest (and before our coed team, The All Blacks, won the title!):

Having been a soccer player for the past year, I can say that there has been tremendous community built around what is happening at the field. It is intergenerational, active, fun and very popular. Literally hundreds of people have played on the field this year. There are all kinds of opportunities for people to come and play at every level from five years old and up, including a coed adult league that has been a blast, a women's program cooached by Canada's National Team Manager, a men's night on Tuesdays and some good sides for teenagers. There is a whole variety of competitive levels from rank beginner to pretty darn good. There are adult/kids pick up games on the weekend, and the field is open and available for people to play on when there are no scheduled events going on. For free.

The coed league cup final is on Friday evening, so perhaps folks could come out to watch that and see some of the community that has sprung up around the league.. Maybe one day it'll take on the character of the men's fast pitch league, which I love to watch, even though I don't play in it.

I think all of this activity could not have happened if we had not had the AT field. I was pretty mixed on the decision to use artificial turf, but when it went ahead, I chose to just roll with it. I have to admit, that plastic grass wasn't my idea of Bowen at first. When the infill material was discussed I was relieved to see what the final decision was (you can literally eat the infill material now - it's cork and coconut husks). But as long as we have this facility, I figured, let's use it/ Even though I travel a lot, almost every day I am here, I get some time at the field with my son, who is developing quite a taste for playing goal. We play on the field and if there are other kids and adults there, almost always a game gets started. It is a great surface to play on, and you'll forgive me if I tell you that it is of such a high quality that I often forget I'm not playing on grass.

I think we couldn't have done this on grass for a number of reasons. First of all, it's the sustained activity that builds community, not a couple of shoulder seasons when soccer is possible. Soccer is very hard on grass fields. Last summer while we were waiting for the new field to be built, we played our league games in Crippen Park. By the third week or so with only two games a week, the field was a mess. One or two good rains turned it to mud. You simply can't play that much on grass. In my mind a similar outlay on a grass field would have been a waste of money as we would have had to treat it too preciously for it to be of use.

I think the grass field at BICS, even with a massive investment to improve it would still be a problem because of the site and the amount of sun it gets and the kind of drainage that happens. The BICS field is like a bowl, and it is always under water after a rain, especially the south end. Playing on that field in the past has created some nasty injuries - hamstring pulls and sprained ankles, just from the lumpy grass.. One thing you have to do to manage a grass field is keep people off it for substantial periods of time while it reseeds and recovers. Not so with the AT field. It's open all the time and free for people to use. Rain or shine, snow or sun.

So my opinion is that we have built some really lovely community around what is happening with soccer on the island. Just like the community that has built up around the baseball field, and the community that has built up around the Gallery and the open mic coffee houses and kitchen junkets, and the community that will build around the CHAC. It might not be the community YOU choose to be a part of, but it's there.

And as for me, instead of being sad about the turf field, I just dove into using it, and I haven't regretted that decision at all. So this is my report of what it's like from inside the story. if you want to experience it for your self come on out and play with us. Soccerfest is coming up this weekend and there is almost always someone down there kicking a ball around that will play with you.

Now whether the development at the Cape will create community or not...that is another question.

Review the draft OCP!

The Bowen Island draft Official Community Plan is ready for review.  The first round of review will be done by July 5.  I am thinking of hosting an Open Space before then (probably the weekend of the 3rd or 4th) for people to come together and discuss feedback for the OCP Review team.  Readers...would you be interested in that?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Profiling Morgan

A lovely profile in this week's Undercurrent about my friend (and co-ed soccer team captain) Morgan Quarry.  On the eve of the World Cup it's cool to hear stories from him about what the Canadian National Team (the other team he manages) goes through.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A home for our collective creativity

John Dowler is a a generous genius.  He has launched Dreaming Island, a creative space for Bowen's artists, poets, musicians and bloggers, and it is a beautiful site.  If you want to see what a community arts portal can be, especially in the age of Web 2.0, this is it.

The site compliments the rich cultural landscape we have on Bowen.  Last night for example, Finn and I journeyed down to Gino's for the monthly BIMA open mic.  There was a plethora of talent and audience members last night which was fantastic.  It's a lovely thing this open mic, a place to come and drop some polished stuff and try out diamonds in the rough.  Poets, singers, songwriters, all offer a pearl or two and we get to hear them in their glory.  Young artists make their performing debut, and old hands bring new things.

Last night we were treated to at least six new compositions by Bowen songwriters, four new poems from Lisa Shatzkey and some new performance material from others.

Alas the open mic in this form won't be continuing.  Ron Wall has bought the space from Gino for the new Corner Gallery, which is exhibiting Ron and Bill Hoopes' brilliant work.  Ron wants to keep the open mics going, but on Saturday afternoons, with a kind of competition format.  The winners will get a showcase at the Gallery.

Saturday afternoons are a tough time to get people out for an open mic, and the competition format runs really counter to what the open mics have been about.  Over the past year or so these evenings have fostered a lovely sense of community among Bowen's performing artists.  Young artists especially have benefitted not only from the experience but from sharing the camaraderie of established performers.  To pit us against each other seems unwise, and isn't in the spirit of the kind of music making I do.  So I wish Ron all the best with his efforts, and I appreciate the sentiment, but I probably won't be out for these kinds of gigs.

We still have the odd session at the Snug for Irish music, and the junkets are still going, although probably entering a break for the summer.  Perhaps I'll get involved with BIMA to set up a less frequent but more open format for emerging artists to try out their work.

The biggest regret I have about travelling so much in my work is that I don't have time to make music at home with others.  It is the greatest pleasure in my life outside of my family.  Playing with friends and neighbours is my highest ideal of community.  Perhaps here is a moment to make space for that to happen more.

Anyone want to start a band?


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two deaths that make the heart tender

Two of our Elders passed these last few days: Joan Knight and Jeanne Robinson.

My rememberances:

Second verse of "Our Island's Ours Again:"

Their money spent, the continent 
Will accept them in its fold 
The beaches are available 
Though the water's freezing cold 
We can finally find our favourite seats 
On a barstool down at Doc's 
And the women who run VONIGO 
Can replenish all their stock. 

I wrote that line for Joan, who was the dearest of business operators in the Cove. She loved music, used to come to the Evensong chorale when I sang their and always said nice things about her voice. When she hurt herself a few years ago and wasn't able to get out, I'd poke my head in the door of VONIGO and chant a Kyrie for her. Sho loved Our Island's Ours Again, and was tickled about Sue having to restock the place after the tourists left in the fall.

Joan was full of story and and was cheeky as hell. Once I picked her up from Bowen Court to take her down to Evensong at the Little Red Church and she came in on my arm crowing about how she'd just been cruising around with her boyfriend (me!). She cracked everyone up. She'd tease you on the one hand and then express some genuine appreciation on the other. When VONIGO moved up the hill from it's location next to the Snug, I missed her outside sunning herself whenever she could, always remarking on how good it felt to be sitting outside.


Jeanne was a remarkable woman, still remains that way in my mind. What a treat to know her as a dancer, a neighbour a meditator and a singer of Beatles tunes. Seeing photos of her, remembering the performance she gave at her fundraiser last year, it was impossible for me to believe that this woman was dying. She seemed to grow stronger in spirit as her body grew weaker.

And her relationship with Spider was nothing short of inspiring in the depth of love they shared and the breadth of creative output they produced. My goodness, what a blessing it was to know her and be known by her, and what a gift it must have been to be loved deeply by her. I hardly ever saw them apart.

Spider's latest triumph was his collaboration with Robert Heinlein, who has long since departed. Hearing him talk about that work was incredible, as he seemed to bring his hero's presence into the room with him to sit at his shoulder and write. Having done that, I imagine it will be another step up to bring Jeanne's weightless presence down to inspire and comfort him.

And he could probably do with a pot of chicken soup as well.

Love to you Spider. You are in our hearts, which strive to be as big as yours, holding you in this time of deepest transition, transformation and grief.

An asterisk in the record book

Ball season is well underway down at Sung Cove field and Finn has become entranced again with the prospect of making 50 cents on every foul ball he retrieves for the umpire.  He's pretty keen to spend his evenings down at the field, so we headed down again tonight in a light drizzle to watch the Celtics play against the Shakers.  The Shakers are having an incredible season.  They are top of the league, which is shocking to me.  I think they equalled last year's win total on opening day this year.

At any rate, pitching is their thing and they have a pretty solid hitting squad too.  So it was going to prove to be a tough slog for the Celtics who, in addition to being short on pitching, played last night two, and got drubbed by the Firemen.  To make matters worse, The Celtics catcher Scott Miller was running late and they only had eight guys in the dugout.  Some swift thinking on Marcus Hondro's part mean that I suddenly went from spectator to substitute right fielder.  For two innings I watched the game from inside the fences, for the first time ever, with a glove on my hand, clad in my street clothes with my Blundstone boots on, awaiting the fly ball that never came.  But it was enough to see the Celtics through until Scott showed up.

So put an asterisk in the record book.  My stats read 1 GP 0AB 0H 0R 0RBI 0E.  Not bad.  Not good.

The Celts on the other hand - ouch.  It was a tough game from any angle.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Apples on Bowen

A beautiful profile of Bowen Island's most accomplished apple collector, John Riley: From the Garden of Eden to Mount Gardner

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mid spring

Cloudless skies, breathless wind...white boats against azure waters.  We begin the warm days of mid spring, with a taste of summer on the air, and a taste of winter yet in the evenings.

Flowers everywhere, on the salmonberries, huckleberries, magnolias, plums and cherries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

English Bay Launch available for sale

You want to buy a Water Taxi Business?

English Bay Launch has listed itself on Craigslist. Currently the water taxis serving Bowen from Vancouver are struggling. They have made a good go of it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they both fold up totally before the end of the year. Coastal Link which ran downtown, had its vessel seized i February leaving me holding about $100 of their debt in the form of a 10 trip pass which I used once.

Frankly, although I have loved using both services for the past year and a bit - and who can argue with crossing Howe Sound in the company of dolphins - the services have become too unreliable to use on a regular basis. Twice I have nearly missed planes because of unreported delays and once I DID miss a meeting because the water taxi just never showed up, and failed to call to let me know.

So I'm back to using BC Ferries for all but the most relaxed trips into town and of course, the old reliable Cormorant Marine, Bowen's own water taxi, to get me home late at night with David Smith at the helm, blues pumping through the cabin.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Only on Bowen: Coffee couriers

Jennifer reminds us that your friendly neighbourhood drop box comes with some obligation.

The way it works is this: several "public" places, like The Snug or the General Store act as informal courier centres where people leave things for other people. The Snug has always been the go to place for these kinds of items - borrowed books, videos, notes. I've even picked up a check there. One year the Bowfest committee just left checks for all the musicians who played in a box at The Snug and we all waltzed in a picked them up.

It's a cool thing, a generous offering from the business owners and damn handy from time to time.

And, as the posters in the above thread note, it is polite to at least buy a coffee when dropping of or picking up an item. Small price to pay for a convenient service such as this.

Another Only on Bowen moment.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Skinny dipping in the Queen Charlotte Channel

Excellent find from the Phorum in a list of 124 years of Vancouver oddities:

"In 1938, 19-year-old Annabelle Mundigel became the first person to swim from Vancouver to Bowen Island. Not until years later did she reveal that she had slipped out of her bathing suit shortly after starting, handed it to her mother in a following boat, and swam the rest of the way clad only in lard. Yards from the island, she put the suit back on."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Friday storm

March went out like a lion delayed.  On Good Friday we awoke to a gale that had built up overnight and was blowing close to 60 km/h in the morning.  The surf was coming straight at us - a classic southeasterly and the rain was heavy.

By 10:00 the gale had strengthened and was gusting at 80 km/h and higher out in the Strait.  Around mid day, I was working in our loft room and an unholy crash sounded above my head.  Upon further inspection we found 8 large branches, each more than 3 meters long and 5 cms thick that had come flailing off a neighbour's Douglas-fir and hit the north side of our house.  No damage to the roof - although I'll need to get up there and have a better look.  Our neighbours suffered a worse fate though when a Douglas-fir came down on their power lines.

Around noon we lost power and it was off all night and clear through the next morning.  All told 24 hours without power which was beat by homes on the west side of the island who were out for nearly 36 hours after a large hemlock fell across the Grafton Road by the entrance to Artisan Square.  It was the second tree this year to fall across the road there.

There was a a lot of duff down on the roads but not too much other damage.  Our neighbour Kay lost some shingles, but we all came through all right.  However walking down on Pebbly Beach today there were two boats washed up on the beach: the two master Sid Sirrocco and the smaller eponymous Diduin which was lying above the high tide line on its side by the beach access.  The Sid Sirrocco was leaking oil all over the beach and the smell of diesel is strong there.  Hopefully it will be gone soon.

Thinking that this is probably the last big storm of the year, but we'll see.  It has been a strong El Nino year and there is a lot of energy in the atmosphere.  A series of lows and strong fronts over the past three weeks has brought really unsettled weather to the region and we have a strong high building off the coast but it hasn't been able to sneak this far north yet so it is steering all the storms over us.  Spring is sprung.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bowen Island Undercurrent - Long-time Bowen family moves to Coal Harbour and beyond

My friends Brad and Julie Ovenell-Carter are leaving the island. They have been here for 22 years involved in all kinds of things from running the local middle school to comiling anthologies of Bowen writing to bread baking to running a restaurant to Brad wailing away on his bodhran at our regular Irish music sessions. There was a nice article in the Undercurrent about them: Long-time Bowen family moves to Coal Harbour and beyond.

There are some people who leave and who don't make a difference in their leaving, and there are others who leave a hole in our collective heart when they fly away.

We're going to miss these guys alot.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dolphins and hurricanes

For some odd reason Pacific white-sided dolphins have invaded Howe Sound.

Last week on the water taxi to Granville Island in the late afternoon out of the blue we were surrounded by dozens of dolphins.  We could see them maybe 100 meters off our port side and then all of a sudden they were all around us swimming alongside the boat.  We stuck our heads out the windows and were right there, looking them in the eye as they swam at speed beside us.  Off in the distance there were several more groups of dolphins, each with dozens of individuals.  It looked like there was at least 100.

A few days later, Caitlin phoned the Vancouver Aquarium and they said they had been receiving reports of dolphins, but they hadn't seen them yet and they were clueless about why so many had showed up altogether at once.  It's a mystery, which is par for the course when it comes to the sea.

Returning from town on Saturday we saw three more far off towards Passage Island, and Caitlin spotted another pair in the wake of a boat.  If you are travelling around the mouth of Howe Sound, keep an eye out for them.

* * *

Tonight and last night we've been deluged with rain and wind.  There is a series of low pressure systems and cold fronts crossing the coast bringing highly variable and at times violent weather.  The wind at our house gusted to at least 60 km/h and probably more.  There was rain being driven through our window panes which usually indicates wind speeds approaching 80.  Not so much debris on the road this morning, but it was an alarming night last night.  Rain continues tonight and one more cold front is due to come through before our late taste of winter passes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Supporting local businesses

There is a thread on the Bowen Phorum about high food prices on the island.  I have played a little in that thread, but as the 72nd poster I wrote a response to some who feel that it isn't their duty to "support" local businesses.  Here is my reply:

I had another thought too, and that is that some are making the point that you don't "support" a local business, you just simply buy there.

That has been bugging me a little.  For me there is a difference between The Ruddy Potato and Costco and the difference is that The Ruddy Potato has a different relarionship with its customers than Costco does.  Costco's sole goal is to make money by offering bulk prices on goods that they buy in huge quantities. They live and die by the market and have no scruples about pounding their competition into the ground if it increases their market share.  They would just as soon eliminate The Ruddy Potato as they would Superstore.  That is how big box retail works.  It's about creating the monopoly, increasing your market share to the largest extent possible and growing the return on the investment of the owners.

So fine.

But I think our local businesses on Bowen ARE different.  And I think the difference is that they are trying to do several things at once.  Number one is make a profit, so they have to cover their costs to do that, and as I've said before, costs are high on Bowen, higher than on abandoned industrial land in Port Coquitlam.  Second, they operate within a community with customers who are also their neighbours.  In that there is a trust relationship.  They can certainly break that trust with predatory pricing to either put the competition out of business or to gouge customers, but why would they do that?  To do so risks the relationship they have that will turn people away for them and no one is coming over from Horseshoe Bay to shop at the Ruddy.  In short they have a relationship with us, and they SUPPORT our community.

I'm not saying you have to support them back, but think about it for a minute.  It is an invited part of the relationship.  The Ruddy and the General Store and the BBC and others sponsor events on Bowen, they help raise money and help when people need it, they provide learning experiences for students and jobs for residents.  They make it a mission to bring quality products to our shores, something we would miss terribly if they didn't exist.  They are not merely businesses and I believe that there is a social contract that says they will continue to support the community if the community continues to support them.

The cold emotionless dynamic of the free market is not the core mechanic of our community.  We all live together on Bowen in a community that is rather more complicated and nuanced than that.  If you want to live in a place with low prices, where the only relationships are transactional, plant yourself on Bridgeport Road in Richmond and shop at Ikea, Superstore and all the other big boxes.  You'll get your dollar's worth but you'll miss something.

To the best of my knowledge the businesses that have gone out of business during the time I have been on Bowen have mostly failed because they didn't manage to connect to the community.  Their prices might have been lower and their quality fine, but the businesses were dark.  No one went in there, no one talked about them and the businesses themselves didn't get involved in the community.  A few have failed for purely business reasons: they didn't know what they were doing, they got into a bad financial situation (if anyone has the monopoly on Bowen, it is the owners of commercial land...there is a true scarcity of that and they can charge whatever they want in rent).  Some of these came and went with scarcely a thought and others, largely victims of financial externalities they couldn't control (read RENT), like Lily Hooper's Teahouse and La Mangerie, I miss even now.  

So I think I do have an obligation to support our local businesses if I want a community in which they are an active part, a community in which they support us.  Feel free to disagree, but for those of you out there who own and work at Blue Eyed Mary's, Bowen Kayaking, the Taco Shop, The Snug, Mik-Sa, Tuscany, Gino's, the General Store, the Beer and Wine Store, the Village Baker, Phoenix, The Ruddy the Video Store, the Pharmacy, Artisan Eats, Cocoa West, Movement, Alderwood, BBC, the Gas Station and all the other services, insurance, notary, massage health and otherwise, thank you.  You have a loyal customer, and a supporter in me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Always looking for new names to describe what is going on around here.  Richard Smith over in Tunstall Bay discovered this gem:

I don’t think I had ever heard this word “soughing” before it was offered up as a translation for a phrase in Chinese. My son and I were in a market in Hangzhou, China, and were taken with a scroll that we saw. We asked the graduate students who were showing us around for a translation of the text, and were told that it was “the soughing of wind in the the trees looking over the sea.” A more appropriate phrase I couldn’t imagine for our home on an island, surrounded by tall trees, and overlooking the ocean. We bought the scroll and have it posted in our home, facing the ocean. The dictionary definition is “(of the wind in trees, the sea, etc.) make a moaning, whistling, or rushing sound.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Only on Bowen: coming home

This is how it is when I come home.

Sunday morning on the sparsely populated 9:00am ferry from Horseshoe Bay.  I'm coming back from 10 days on the road and expecting to sit on the ferry alone, sort out some receipts and make some notes.  Friends Jackie Minns and David Cameron are on the ferry, coming home from an over night in town.  We start jamming on exercises for our nascent improv group.  They ask if I need a ride.  I tell them I'm good - Caitlin will pick me up in the other side.

Get off the ferry, Caitlin is running behind, so I wait by the library.  Murray, Patrick and one or two other people driving ON the ferry honk and wave hello, welcoming me home.  Dale stops and asks if I need a ride.  The bus comes around the corner, all of 20 meters from where it started, and asks the same.  I politely decline all offers.  

At last it gets quiet.  Ravens, crows and gulls are wheeling overhead and there is a little bite in the wind coming off the bay.  I'm smiling at how darn hard it is avoid all the friendliness here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The deep essence of what it means to live on Bowen

Please just read these notes, a near verbal transcript of a conversation at one of our monthly dialogue sessions, where four people told their stories of coming to Bowen and why they love it and what it means:

What Do We Appreciate About Living on Bowen?

A snippet:

Bowen Island provides the sanctuary to experiment, we came here for personal reasons and we are doing a fair bit. We’re getting past the personas we had to take on to survive in our ‘former’ lives. Now I’m trying to learn who I am. For thirty years I have been wearing all these roles, that don’t really fit me very well. This place gives us the opportunity to rediscover what’s important.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympics everywhere

Olympic fever has extended its tendrils everywhere.  The Games are underway and all anyone is talking about are the gold medal in moguls, the intricacies of luge track engineering, the chances of the Canadian women's hockey team having a goal scored against them or the technicalities of a triple Salchow.  In fact I think I only ever hear the term "triple Salchow" every four years.

The other day in Vancouver seemed like Christmas, everyone upbeat and friendly and a little excited.  Finn and I went into town and bought some red mitten for ourselves as a way of supporting Canadian athletes and downtown was alive.  (This was before yobbos smashed the windows of the Bay in yesterday, but I think that hasn't dampened the spirit of the place much...)  We'll head back into town a couple of times this week to take in the festivities.  Seeing a concert on Tuesday night and various crowded events on Sunday.  We might even get up to Whistler to hang out with family there and take in the spirit of things.

Here on Bowen, things a lazily moving along.  Other than a TV at Artisan Eats and a few more people in the Pub watching coverage together, nothing has really changed here.  There are a few visitors on the island, lots with various European accents, which is highly unusual for February, but other than that you would know that there are dozens of international sporting tournaments happening across the water from us.

Bowen just stays quiet, which is kind of cool.  That even when the eyes of the world are trained upon us, as you see our little island in panoramic shots of the Vancouver waterfront, no one seems to wonder too much about what it's like over there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lights in the sky!

One of the cool Olympic things happening are lights in the sky over the city which we can see from our house.  They are part of an interactive art installation called Vectoral Elevations.  Very cool, and you can play too!

The flame! The flame!

All of my post titles during the Olympics will be breathless exclamations!

Hundreds of islanders gathered in the Cove this morning at 5:45 to watch the Olympic flame travel down the hill from BICS to the pier where there were some ceremonies, thank you's, draws for prizes and singing of Oh Canada and Lorne Warr's new Bowen Island song.

There was a whole mix of people out, reflecting I think the overall mood of things.  Some were cynical, some were genuinely excited, some were really trying hard to get excited, and some were a little over the top excited.  There was a small dissenting crowd led by a runner who proceeded the flame with her own "shame" torch and a sign advocating for more housing and services for the poor instead of spending money on games.

I have to say that Olympics is creating tons of cognitive dissonance in me.   As a kid, I loved the winter games, and was a devoted watcher of them every time they came around.  I wanted to be a luger, and a distant relative of mine, Vic Emery, was a bobsled driver who won a gold medal for Canada in 1964.  When I was a kid I sent him designs for the 1980 Canadian bobsled team colours.

My favourite games of all time were probably the 1988 Calgary games, and of course the Canadian hockey teams winning gold in 2002 was an all time highlight.  Since then, things have changed for me.  As a life long hockey fan, my love of the sport has waned considerably in recent years, due largely to the way the NHL has been run.  That all started with the lockout in 2004, and I have never really recovered an interest in hockey since then.  And then of course in 2006, the Canadian men's team broke my heart with an appalling performance at Turin.  They played hubristic hockey with an entitlement mindset and they got creamed.  That was the final straw for me.

When the games were announced for Vancouver in 2003 I have to admit I was excited, but a number of events over the years dampened my enthusiasm for them.  I think the first thing that made me cynical was the logo. The organizing committee has made a big effort to include First Nations in the planning and execution of the games, but I was in the First Nations Summit offices the day the inukshuk logo was unveiled.  With a deep and world renowned genera of visual art springing from the indigenous west coast of Canada everyone thought that a logo featuring a west coast design would be a natural.  To have chosen an indigenous image from 5000kms away, that has no relevance in this part of the world was a huge message to First Nations communities here, and it was received as a slap in the face.  

That was the beginning.  Since then there was been the two years of destruction, demolition and paving of the mountain across from me, which has left an incredible scar and a devastated arbutus forest.  All of that was unnecessary as a tunnel by-pass was a viable option.  in recent months the security situation has been ramped up and now there are security guards roaming anywhere flexing their minimal muscles.  there have been many little irritants over the years that have added up and until now, very few credits in the other column.  One has the feeling that VANOC and the IOC get their way with anything they want to do and so they have done very little to provide little exciting things along the way.  Ask the folks in Whistler.

So there is great spirit around here, but I'm not feeling it.  Until this month there has been very little community oriented events around the street hockey tournaments, no go-kart races, that kind of thing.  Now of course, Vancouver is wide open and lots of free things are going on, and we'll head into town to catch some of them, but I'm ambivalent.  I'm trying to get excited, but it's not working. I'm content just to skate through the next couple of weeks and be with what is, finding a middle ground between over the top boosterism and downright cynical contempt!

We'll have some fun, but I can't help wondering how, in the end, we will pay for all of this.  This endeavour seems totally imprudent - like taking a round the world cruise when you have just lost your job.  It is costing our province $6 billion dollars that we don't have and we will pay for that in service cuts in years to come.  Had these games been financed privately and run to cover their costs, I would have no problem I think with things.  But we're going into deep debt to pay for these games and that is going to hurt.

So I'm ambivalent.  I'll take in what is offered, and hope Canada does well, and I won't "ruin it" for others but I'm having a hard time getting up for it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Olympic rainbows

Have you been outside today?  It feels like spring - this end to the warmest winter we've ever had.  Daffodils are coming up and the cherry blossoms are appearing on some of the early trees just in time for the world to arrive for the Winter Olympics.  I was Skyping with colleagues from Australia who were asking me where the snow was.  There is snow at Whistler and some up on Cypress where they have been trucking it in from Manning Park, but otherwise it's calm and a little damp and very warm out there.

Caitlin and I went out for a walk this afternoon down to Miller's Landing beach where we were greeted with an intense rainbow slashed across the flank of Black Mountain.  A neighbour passing by had the same thought we did: the International Olympic Committee put it up!

Perhaps, eh?  Six billion dollars can buy a lot of cool stuff.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Back home after 26 days on the road in an amazing trip that took me to Hawaii for two weeks with the family and then on to South Africa and New York City for work.  Retunred on Friday to see all of the Olympic preparations underway in Vancouver.  The airport was becoming zoo-like, with the usual exits blocked off and taxis and things diverted to other places.  Olympic lanes are in place downtown in Vancouver and the cabbies are unhappy because they aren't allowed to use them or pull into them to drop off or pick up passengers.  To do so risks a $120 ticket.  Seems harsh.

On arriving in Horseshoe Bay on Friday evening I was greeted to more security shenanigans.  There is a sign at the ticket booth reporting that the current security level is MARSEC1.  When I asked a security guard what that meant he told me that it stood for "Marine Security Level 1" which, he said, we are always at.  I rolled my eyes.  Is this really necessary?  Why do I now need to be told the name of a made up security level that has apparently remained unchanged since the Second World War ended?  This strikes me as strangely alarmist.  What is to be gained from this?

There seemed to be some incident unfolding at the ferry terminal as well in which an Islander was detained for complaining about the ticket cut off time and then further detained when he took a picture of the security guard who prevented him from boarding the Cap home.  So the theatre escalates.  I saw none of this silliness in either South Africa or the United States, bar the usual "security threat level orange" announcements that have been playing in US airports since September 12, 2001.  I feel neither safer nor less safe than before.  But all of this does feel a hell of a lot more patronizing.

Hopefully after the Games are over we can all go back to being adults again.    

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

Footage from this year's Polar Bear Swim, which I missed again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

It's a blustery and stormy New Year's Day here on Bowen Island.  Rain is falling and the wind is howling, probably gusting near 70km/h I would guess: a classic southeasterly, known as a Pineapple Express.  Air is warm, so today's polar bear swim should easier than usual, or at least as easy as diving into the north Pacific Ocean on New Year's Day can ever be.

Happy New Year to you all, wherever you are.