Sunday, December 28, 2014

Messing around on the island

I've been getting to spend some quality time at home on Bowen recently, which has been nice, and now that Caitlin's walking parts have recovered from an injury, we are able to wander together in forest.  We are especially happy walking in the dark of late afternoon.  Here are a few shots of Bowen at that time of day:

Half moon over the dead trees at Killarney Lake

Killarney Lake after sunset yesterday
And today, with Caitlin off on her annual New Year's retreat, Finn and I went exploring some of the bike trails of Radar Hill on the south west side of the island:

Finn checking out a huge drop on a bike trail in the forest below the radar station

The Canadian Coast Guard radar station on Radar Hill.  There are also microwave towers up there as well as a water treatment plant and a quarry.   
The view from Radar Hill looking west over the Strait of Georgia

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The best picture yet of the Pineapple Express

This is a picture of the entire North Pacific Ocean showing the plume of warm moist air hitting us right in the face. It explains why there is very little skiing happening and why my insulated rain coat is too warm even for a walk to the village. 

What a great photo though. Puts it all in perspective. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rain on the lagoon

A set of three low pressure centres are combining out in the Pacific and drawing another stream of moisture on to our coast.  Today, a walk in the pouring rain down to the Cove covered head to toe in waterproof gear gave proof to the adage that "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing."

I watched the rain fall on three mergansers sitting on a log, curious about the tide so high that it was flowing into the lagoon.  Wondered how many raindrops have fallen today.  Billions? Trillions?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The bench that awaits the returning light

The bench at Killarney Lake that looks out across a rock and the calm surface of this afternoon's gloaming.  I love the word "gloaming." It refers to the dusky twilight that is practically what passes for daytime now, so close to the solstice, when the grey clouds that envelop us dim the already weak northern daylight even further.  I love the cool air and the damp and wet, I love the contrast of walking into a friend's house full of the smells of spiced ginger tea and welcomed with warmth.  I love that we can huddle together to sing, as we did tonight with our local men's and women's Threshold Choirs, wrapped in blankets in a yurt, singing chants we practice for the dying, accompanied by the random percussion of the rain.

I am built for gloaming of Advent, a northern soul, a winter lover, one who can wait and wait and wait for the returning of the light, for the summer's long in breath that begins a 2:03 on Sunday afternoon.

Until then, enjoy some other amazing gloaming.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Pineapple Express on the way

This is the moisture forecast for next week. Another atmospheric River bringing us rain and warm temperatures and further delaying ski season. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mouille frites and rain

This was my spectacular afternoon.  Mouille frites with Salt Spring Island Mussels in a curry creme sauce from Rustique and then a walk home along Pebbly Beach watching the clouds build up over the Britannia Mountains.  The snow line has drifted back below 1000 meters meaning that they are finally getting natural snow up at Cypress Bowl again after a few weeks of melting and high rain.

It's the perfect season for mussels right now and you should head out to Rustique to get the local ones while they are at their peak.  Thierry and Celine will be closing for two weeks in January to take a well deserved break after a successful first year in business.

Not me selling

My neighbour Brad has his house up for sale.  It's a quirky house up at the top of a long flight of stairs that is really hard to get to and is a special place for the right person.  As a result it's going relatively cheap, but the parades of people having a look this summer were an indication that it's not going to be easy to sell. For a young single person or a couple, it's perfect I think, especially as a weekend place.  And I hope he can sell it, for his sake.  The market has been soft these past few years.

I have no intention of selling my house.  I've said often that I intend to stay on this island for the rest of my natural life, and although who knows what might happen, I'm quite satisfied to be placed here on this place.  And having been here 13.5 years I've made lots of friends.

When Brad listed his house, they put the sign at the bottom of the long stone staircase that ends right at the bottom of my driveway.  For the past year, I have had people asking me, in whispered tones, if it is indeed me that is moving.  We are not moving, but I have enjoyed receiving the warmth of the question and the relief that spreads across people's face when they hear that it's my neighbour.

It's kind of like being a guest at your funeral.  Quite sweet to take in the little moments of appreciation.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wind damage in the gloaming

Walking around in the dim dark air this afternoon looking at the wind damage from last week's pineapple express. This alder tree is just one of hundreds that came down in the south easterly winds of the past week. The creeks are swollen, gravel is washed away and new channels are carved. This is how it is in December.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Birding at the Cape

The west wall of Howe Sound, Mount Elphintone to Wrottersley looking back from Cape Roger Curtis

Spent the afternoon at the Cape looking for birds.  Oystercatchers, murrelets, Barrow's Goldeneye, mergansers, buffleheads and several thousand Surf Scoters.

The Scoters were something, flying in huge flocks in their usual winter circumnavigation of the island.  Was interesting to see what happened when they came around the Cape and saw the new dock.  They are used to a clean shot along the shoreline.  Today the flock was scattered and doubled back on itself before moving higher to get around the dock.  I wonder if any birds have hit this structure yet.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ocean abstract. Afternoon sailing to Horeseshoe Bay

December rituals

The weather outside has been wild, a full on Pineapple Express for close to a week.  Record high temperatures, something like a foot of rain and high winds.   This is autumn at its best on Bowen.

Today in the Undercurrent, something of the rituals of December life here on the island.  Tina Overbury has a nice piece on what happens from Light Up The Cove through to the Polar Bear Swim, and why these small things matter in community.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I love the slate grey sea
Ruffled in the cove
By winds that buffet the shelter
And whipped into a foamy dance
In the channel between our island
And the continent.

The rains that pound the slate grey rock
And call the salmon back to
Their ancestral streams
Bring us too back to life.

For a face full of wind and rain
Is impossible to ignore -
It awakens the senses
and sends the blood pounding
Through one's veins
Like the swollen streams and rivulets
That course through the forest
Feeding every root and tendril
With a feast of autumnal nourishment

A day to give thanks
For being washed clean
And restored to life again.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Let's do better this election

Election season is starting here on Bowen Island and final papers will be filed on October 10.  We will then see who is putting themselves forward to represent Islanders on Council and at the Metro Vancouver and Islands Trust councils as well.  Already we are seeing some of the rhetoric beginning and it is starting to take on a familiar role.  In an lovely and personal email exchange I was having with another Islander - a man with whom I have had many many disagreements over the past few years, I started thinking about the cost of the way we have done politics in the past few years.  What follows is a frank reflection of where we are at and where we could go.  We have a choice about what happens over the next six weeks.  

Over the past 13 years of living here I've learned a few things about Bowen's "divisiveness."  The truth is that there is a diversity of political opinion on the island - not at all a radical diversity, mind you.  Everyone is basically "small l" liberal in their economics and views on the role of government.  There are a few outliers with unusual political philosophies but they tend to talk a lot more than they act, and they rarely get anywhere near actual power.  We have had a famously anarchist mayor and once an Ayn Rand libertarian ran unsuccessfully for Council, but in general those who get elected stay pretty close to the middle.

But we do suffer an awful lot from what Sigmund Freud called the "narcissism of small differences."  What usually happens is that we see a simplistic "pro-development vs. pro-environment" split in decision making. Strangely people often refuse to identify with one side, but they are happy to demonize folks they perceive to be on the other side.  And folks being demonized refused to be categorized  in such a one dimensional way.  Zoom out a bit however and everyone looks pretty much the same.  

In general what we see on Bowen is actually NOT a lot of divisiveness.  We see diversity of opinion.  I believe that has been conflated in the kinds of online interactions and in Bowen's robust pamphlet culture into something that looks divisive.  We project our bigger fears of what is happening in the world on local neighbours that hold ideas we find disagreeable. But we aren't really THAT divided.  Especially when we encounter one another in person.  The vitriol we see online, or whispered from ear to ear, or insinuated in self-published formats does not translate into real life in any great extent.  There may well be people that can't stand each other in real life, but in general they don't impact the way things happen or don't happen on Bowen.

So with a recent thread on the forum, and with the low hum of this tone echoing through the past three years of benign pamphlet warfare, I feel like I'm watching the beginning of the same old same old: people fighting each other's projected personas when in reality there is a depth to people and a deeper passion that underlies where folks are coming from.  Two a a half years ago I pulled myself away from the forum because I felt that I was not contributing to a healthy tone of discussion there.  That doesn't mean that I'm not passionate about things or that I don't disagree with people.  But in the last three years I've become more aware of my impact and have worked hard to try to serve the tone I want to see on Bowen Island.  Not perfect in any way.  But I am who I am and I'm also changing because I have a long term view to my life here, and I can't see myself living in a community that is deeply polarized.

Back during the beginning of the artificial turf debate in 2007 I shuddered at the level of vitriol being directed at each other online.  Having worked in deeply divided communities, what I saw was an early warning sign about deep divisiveness here.  Small communities can go sideways very quickly and I had been looking at events on Galiano Island where there is an intractable and spiteful conflict that is decades old and is almost completely unsolvable except by people moving away.  That was my fear for Bowen and that is why i have tried to moderate my own participation in civic discourse and why I have appealed from time to time for a relaxation in the personal tone and tenor of disagreements.

I'm not a pollyanna person.  I'm deeply practical.  I'm not an idealist.  I am an optimistic realist.  And in order for us to proceed from a basis of possibility we need a fertile field of civil engagement and discourse.  I actually feel that the tone of the last election campaign made it very difficult for the current Council to get as much done as they wanted to because, even though they had a majority and a clear view about building a community centre and finally getting the village planning underway. they had so rankled and distressed those with different opinions that no one on the "other side" trusted them.  Therefore they were hamstrung both by the realities of actually governing - which is a slow process - and the need to implement what was essentially a pretty solid community agenda as a strategic communications exercise.  Trust was eroded and we got exactly the context we had all created.

Unless this election campaign radically addresses this need for us to work differently together there is a real chance that we will continue to see-saw between polarities of action and reaction and be quite slow in implementing really interesting ideas that will continue to make our little island a terrific place to live.  I am cautiously optimistic that this will change, but I can almost guarantee that if the campaign dissolves into the kinds of name calling, vitriol and bitterness that we saw last time, whoever gets elected will be quite unable to get anything done for another three years.

One reason why things take so long on Bowen is not Council.  It is us.  All of us.  And all of us have a role to play in changing that.  We will have disagreements and arguments - that's how democracy works.  But we could all use a little skill in how those arguments are conducted.  So when you put yourself about this election season, give some thought to the kind of community you are creating with your speech and actions.  If we have use this campaign to rebuild trust on the island and hammer out good ideas together, then good things will happen quite quickly.  But if we see campaigns and commentary that are full of innuendo, anger, rumour and insult, then we will end up with community in which trust is scarce and therefore action is very, very difficult.  And the fingers will get pointed at those who were unlucky enough to get elected in those circumstances, even though they aren't the ones to blame.

Pogo had it right.  Let's do it right.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Out paddling this afternoon on a calm grey sheet of glass in the soft rain with my friend Tuesday Ryan-Hart who was paddling for this first time. Saw a seal a few meters away watching us. Cormorants and oystercatchers. Gulls and eagles.

And later in the forest a barred owl mistook Tuesday's hair for a squirrel and had a go at her. Caitlin fended it off.

Summer's over and the fall has begun. Air is still warm but the rains have arrived and the salmon will soon be tasting their streams.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Minister of Transportation insults us all.

Dear Mr. Stone.

I am writing to express my astonishment at your letter to the UBCM regarding their analysis of BC Ferries.

Consistently over the two “engagement” processes that Judy Kirk led for your government coastal communities called for a socio-economic analysis of service reductions.  Your government refused to do one.  When I asked my MLA, Jordan Sturdy about the socio-economic effects of cuts he told me that regions of the province that contribute to the GDP get infrastructure  He pointed to northeast BC and Whistler in particular and talked about how the service reductions would contribute to protecting our bond rating.  With no analysis of the contribution of coastal communities, your government mandated service reductions anyway.  

It would be fantastic to have, as you say, "a dialogue to discuss creative solutions” but YOU wouldn’t allow it.  Your government said that BC Ferries was not allowed to have a creative discussion about cost savings, instead, BC Ferries was given a mandate tha the savings had to be found through service reductions.  Bowen islanders provided many incredibly interesting ways of saving money on our route and reducing costs without service reductions, but your government refused to hear them because you were acting on Treasury Board mandates to reduce services.  

You dropped the ball on this.  You imposed conditions on the dialogue and constrained creativity.  Your consultants ignored the results of the first round of consultations that said that coastal communities wanted to discuss ferries as highways, and instead embarked on a second round about service reductions that no one asked for and that were not subjected to any analysis beyond the effect they would have on our provincial bond rating.  My MLA told me this personally.

To now suggest that the UBCM, and by extension the citizens of coastal communities are unwilling to have a creative conversation about is completely astonishing.  Your government has never provided an opportunity for that discussion, and this letter does not do that at all.  Far from it.  It engages in a confrontational tone and sets the stage for a fight with coastal communities.  This is not the way forward.  

I suggest you return to the drawing board and make coastal communities a meaningful offer to engage, or at least work with the already extensive creative ideas from that we generated over the last two rounds of your sham consultation in 2012 and 2013.

I would appreciate a response to this email.  I am publishing it my blog and will publish your response there too.     

Chris Corrigan
Bowen Island

cc: Bowen Island Mayor and Council

      Sheila Malcolmson, Chair, Islands Trust

Monday, September 15, 2014

Late September in the garden

No let up on summer. Hot days, cooler nights, no storms or rain. Bioluminescence in the ocean. Still eating kale and tomato salads from the garden.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The beauty of the transition

The still and steady thread of summer has taken a turn. A hint of autumn has crept into the sound to try our the glory of its grey on the mountains and the sea.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hosted by the sea

I have had nearly a month of uninterrupted time at home here on Bowen Island.  A lot of that time has been alone, or in my own company which can be both a comforting and terrifying prospect.  In this whole time it has hardly rained at all, and the summer is as hot and pulsating now as it it usually is at its height at the end of July.

This year I have made a transition to becoming friends with the ocean.  For the past 13 years living on this island I have shaken hands with the forest and the land and the little creeks and lakes and rivers.  I have been a student of rain and wind, watched the way forests change, followed the paths that deer carve through the salal.  I have been to our local peaks and dove deep into the canyons that carve our island into a set of deeply scarred ziggerauts, step up mountains pierced by the deep gullys that channel water away into the sea.

This is the first year I've decided to turn my back on all that and see what this ocean is about.

And you may think that crazy, given the fact that I live on a small island, but the truth is that I grew up on lakes and although bodies of water don't scare me at all, the prospect of drifting around on the ocean always held some nervous energy for me.  It is unpredictable, and wild and full of creatures and tides and flows.  It changes on a whim.  It is powerful and dangerous.  It is not a place for an idle ramble.  You can die out there.

And all of that is true.

Since my friend Geoff Brown convinced me to stand up on a paddle board a couple of years ago and get out on the sea, I have been doing so,  in every season and in many different conditions.  Until now though, I have taken to paddling when the weather is pleasant, when there is very little wind and the water is like glass.  That is easy.  This year though I have sought the challenge of paddling when the sea is advising me to do otherwise - in conditions of choppy swell, over tidal surges and eddies, against ever fiercer winds.  It has been rewarding to discover what my board and I can do.  It has been challenging to learn how to adopt my stance and stroke for various conditions.  My shoulders ache with the addiction now, as I willingly plunge into any conditions and see what I can make of it.  I've been tossed off waves, as I was a few days ago as I learned to downwind surf the wind driven swell.  I have bobbed up and down to the point of near nausea, and occasionally found myself in situations that were approaching dangerous.  I am learning to pay attention to my instincts.  You have very little room for error out on a SUP when the wind has a different idea than you do and you discover that the tide has turned and is carrying you to places you'd rather not go.  I have not been foolhardy in my pursuit of challenge; it has been a calculated effort to discover my edge, and it has been rewarding.

And it leads to moments of surprise.  Last evening for example, I read the wind forecast wrong. It looked like the calm conditions of the early morning would change to a strong westerly wind in the afternoon, and so around four o clock I went over to Tunstall Bay to head out into the swell and practice my down wind skills a little.  I couldn't have been more wrong about the conditions.

The water was glass, and hardly a wave broke on the beach.  The sun beat down on the rippleless water such that only a single beam of it reflected back into my eyes.  No diamonds on the sea.  just a flat completely calm surface.  I could go anywhere, and had I been with someone else I would have ventured over to Worlcombe Island, but thinking the better of it, I paddled down to Bowen Bay and then made a straight line towards Cape Roger Curtis, a course that took me several hundred meters offshore, where there was nearly no sound except for the explosive out breath of surfacing seals, and the little squeaks of nervous harlequin ducks.

And out there, with the Strait of Georgia stretching away to my left and right, and the mountains of Vancouver Island looming through the smoky air and the sea undulating gently beneath me, the hugeness of things opened to me in all of its implications.  Laid out in that moment was all the grief and possibility of the world.  Images came to my mind of the fighting in Syria, the despair in Ferguson, the playful dumping of ice buckets on heads all over the place.  And I could find myself just melting into the background, the hugeness, the calm, the restful embrace of the sea.

It's hard to describe the kind of restorative power that moment contained.  A kind of distancing from the petty and internecine.  A kind of relief from the thought that everything is a problem to be solved, that everything was wrong and was getting worse.  It was just calm, relaxed ease.

And so the ocean is a great teacher of mood and resilience and offer gifts when one least expects them.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


A thunderstorm. Releasing the humidity in the air. Coolling and soaking everything and letting the island have a long sweet drink of water.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paddling on the undercurrents

We have big tides here on Howe Sound.  Yesterdays low was 2.0 feet and the high was 15.4.  The tide peaked at 730pm.

I went out paddling about 620pm last night.  It was calm out in the Queen Charlotte Channel, so I headed out into Mannion Bay.  The currents were crazy, especially around the point of Miller's Landing where there are some reefs and rocks between the north end of Mannion Bay and the south end of Eaglecliff Bay.  The tide may have been slack but the currents were going every which way.  One minute I was paddling with some light wind swell and then it was like hitting a wall, a slow whirlpool where the prevailing swell hit water that was upwelling around the rocks and catching debris (and paddle boarders!) in a slow gyre.  The power of the ocean is incredible, and it grabs onto you gently but with a strong grip.  It was tiring paddling up towards Hood Point, but when you are in strange currents the thing to do is just focus on your technique.  Attention to small details makes a difference when you are uncertain about the forces that are moving you around.  Your end stays in sight, but you must not rail against the swirls and eddies that carry you in strange directions.  You can't rail against the currents either, but it is helpful to know that even though they are powerful, they are ephemeral and it is all about timing.

On the way home, I paddled with the falling tide and raced back along the Eaglecliff shoreline with long easy pulls to Mannion Bay, but to my surprise, I ran into strange currents as I turned back into the Bay and needed to revert to a short power stroke to get me across the glassy calm water that was nevertheless flowing against me.

SUPping is so instructive.  The intimacy between paddler and sea is such that everything is feel and response.  Not enough power to plow through everything, but enough control to go with what is happening. Simple tools, basic techniques, ever changing contexts.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Walking the web

Exploring the web of bike and hiking trails on Mount Gardner with Finn who says "we are so lucky to live here..."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Super moon

Sleeping out in the light of the super moon.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bunch of storms out there

The sub tropical latitudes of our ocean are currently home to a bunch of hurricanes.

The weather is just pleasant here...a lot hot and breezy during the day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

At the end of the day.

Five o clock. Time to shoot the breeze with the regulars over a pint of Red Racer at the pub.

At the end of the day.

Five o clock. Time to shoot the breeze with the regulars over a pint of Red Racer at the pub.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strong wind warning on the sea

So where does one paddle when there is a strong wind warning up for the waters around Bowen? Flat water and silence on Killarney Lake.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Doing whatever you want

Our Council has engaged in a major revision of the official community plan for Bowen Island. The problems is that with the exception of the Economic Development Committee they never asked anyone about it.

And this wouldn't be such a big deal except that prior to the last election there was legal action taken against the sitting Council for not following good process despite the fact that the previous OCP process had more than a year if consultation and co-creation.

In small communities and large sometimes people just do what they want for all kinds of reasons sometimes good and sometimes nefarious. But the thing that I get upset about is the hubris of demanding one set of rules for myself and another set for everyone else. It is not the mark of a good neighbour. And, where power is used to creat that uneven playing field, it is fundamentally undemocratic.

The island has been consumed this past year with fallout around a ferry consultation process that was a sham. We have been demanding better of the province.

So why, when it comes to our own OCP, do we not live up to the standards that we expect from others?

The substance of the changes is just as important as the process in a democracy. Good or bad, you have to do things right.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Re-industrializing Howe Sound

Now that the dolphins and whales have returned, the herring are healthy and the Britannia Mine site is clean, it's time to think about what to do with Howe Sound.  Of course being a beautiful and partially pristine fjord near to one of Canada's largest cities makes it a natural to turn the whole thing into a park to super charge tourism and protect the gains, right?

Oh, except Bowen Islanders voted down that idea, and the federal and provincial levels of government figure that liquid natural gas, logs, gravel, real estate development and hydro electric power are all good uses for a clean and healthy inlet.  Here is a map of the proposals being considered:

Yay for industrial development!  We will have another 2 dozen jobs in the inlet without any environmental degradation at all!

/cynical filter off.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why BC Ferries has reduced its schedule: bond ratings

BC Ferries released their schedule for Bowen and all the other islands today today and it features several new holes where regular service used to be.  The holes don't make much sense to me, and they certainly aren't equated in any way with the feedback folks gave during the consultations last fall.

There have been protests up and down the coast as communities - most of whom are much harder impacted than we are - make their concerns known.  But it will not sway the politicians in Victoria to alter the plans because taxpayers and citizens are not calling the shots.

We are told that service reductions are necessary to save BC Ferries money but ultimately, as my MLA Jordan Sturdy told me, it's all about protecting the BC government's bond rating.  All of our public finance capital for things like new facilitates, infrastructure, transportation and other stuff comes from private money, not taxpayers dollars.  When we need new things, or when we have an operating shortfall in our provincial government, we go and borrow money from private lenders.  We do this through bond issues.  Most bonds are owned by North Americans but last November, BC floated a $500 million bond in China too - a so-called "dim sum" bond.

Somewhere near 85% of our current budget is funded by taxpayer supported debt.  Not tax dollars.  Borrowed money.  We still have a good debt to GDP ratio, meaning that if we can grow the economy at a rate faster than the interest rate we pay out on the bonds, we remain solvant.  If our economy stops growing, the price of borrowing goes up and eventually we end up like Iceland, defaulting on our public debt.  At that point our bonds become worthless, no one will lend us money anymore and we have to contract all of our public services or cut them altogether.  See Detroit, Iceland, Greece, Argentina and any other number of recent examples.

This is why protests against ferry cuts that impact taxpayers and citizens don't carry much truck in Victoria.  If you want to see who really sets the policies read what the bond rating agencies say about how the government should run it's finances.  The BC Ministry of Finance puts these on its web page.

What this means is that citizens no longer call the shots in terms of what we get from the Province.  Instead, governments are quite beholden to the bond rating agencies who are out to protect the interests of the private lenders that buy BC Government bonds.  In an era when corporate profits are going up at unprecedented rates and wages are remaining stagnant, lowering public service costs for the good of the market seems totally out of whack.  But that is what is happening.

I think that the service reductions are only the beginning in the BC Ferries battlefront.  The ferry workers are due to renegotiate their collective bargaining agreement in 2015 and mark my words - the union is firmly in the sights of this government.  Bond rating agencies always advise lowering public sector salaries.  Part of the rationale for service reductions I think is to set up a situation where fewer workers are required to run the ferry system.  The only way this ends is if the province sells off BC Ferries and makes it a private corporation or if they buck against the advice of their advisors and take it back into the public highway system.  If they do that our bond ratings will take a huge hit because the Province will also take on all of BC Ferries capital debt obligations.  the Liberals don't like that idea.

Make no mistake: the Minister of Transport is not looking after the transportation and infrastructure of the province.  He is the face of a fiscal restraint program taking place in the transportation sector.  He will do anything you want him to do as long as it doesn't affect that precious bond rating.

 Lost in all of this is greater good.  I wrote an email to my MLA Jordan Sturdy today asking him to answer the question of what greater good is served by the service reductions.  No one wants them, they don't help and by all accounts are going to damage a huge part of the economy.  So why do them?

He hasn't got back to me yet.  My guess is that he won't have anything more to say than we need to protect BC's Triple A credit rating. Our province is owned lock stock and barrel by the private market.  The only way to get away from this is to levy resources royalties on our public held assets, starting with oil, gas and minerals.  Corporations want those and they aren't going anywhere, so if we want to be more self-sufficient and have a ferry system that is based on the needs of users, we have to rely more on extracting money from those that would otherwise seek to swell their corporate profits beyond the already obscene levels they are at.  If you are someone who thinks that this is an economic crame, and that the free market and corporations should be allowed unfettered access to BC resources, then get used to more cuts.  For the rest of us, maybe it helps to understand why this is happening.

It is not a vision of the common good that I signed on to. But neither am I surprised how the private market has played the common good for a sucker.  And we shouldn't be surprised when the folks running our government bend to the will of those who fund them rather than those who elect them.  Unfortunately for citizens, those are two different groups now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spring rains

Herring season has begun. The herring spawn this time of year when the rain is soft and the days are lighter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Blustery morning.

Sun and cloud. Cool winds swirling. Winter dropping in for a visit.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The creatures in the Sound

Meribeth Deen is our new Undercurrent Editor and she has fallen in love with the ocean.  Today my morning coffee was accompanied by her excellent article on the cetaceans that surround us.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Cape

This afternoon at the Cape.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


A week of snow and rain. Yesterday was bluebird clear. Today is sleet but calm. Varied thrushes calling in the quiet morning.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wintry afternoon

Leaving Snug Cove, Monday afternoon

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Squamish returns

Here is the weather right now.  A fierce Squamish is blowing out in the channel for the first time in months. It is clear and sunny and cold and the water is churning under the gale.  We have had so little wind this winter that I notice every breath that moves through the tree tops.  Today that breath is roaring, and it's welcome to see the regular pattern returning.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Foggy sunrise

Beautiful morning. This has been the winter of amazing sunrises. Today the sun rise through the drifting fog over the channel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Little cat feet

The fog rolls around. In and out like the tide. Our extended inversion continues.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fresh kale

It's warm out and I've harvested kale which has been growing all fall and winter. We are expecting spring weather this weekend with highs next week into the double digits. Global weirding.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rain and snow

The storm has come and is waning now. Lots of snow in the mountains and rain down low. The cold front has come through and the air has a little bite. Winter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Finally our first hurricane of the season

Look what's coming towards us.

After a couple of months of high pressure keeping everything dry over the west coast we are finally getting a good old fashioned fall windstorm.  Better late than never.

We have rain warnings right now, expecting 50mm of rain tonight and snow on our mountains, so perhaps we'll hit the slopes finally.  And Saturday will be crazy with 90km/h winds.  Feels like things are back to normal.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tourism here on Bowen

On January 20 there will be a meeting at the Council Chambers to look at updating the tourism plan for Bowen.  I won't be able to make that meeting, but I have a few thoughts on the question.

Our business is working with groups of people, teaching, leading learning retreats and hosting strategic conversations.  Usually we do this by travelling off Bowen to meet with people but increasingly I am wanting to bring people over to Bowen to do this work.  Last year we hosted over 200 people on the island, all of whom stayed for more than two nights, and most of whom cam during the off season.  This year we are projecting to have 260 people here.  And that doesn't include numerous day visitors.

We have a plan for doing that and it hinges on some of these key features of Bowen:

Our clients are here to go deep personally. People we work with are coming to Bowen because it is not the city, it represents a different place to do their work, whether that is personal development, leadership learning or gathering to figure out tough problems in the context of a relaxed and beautiful environment.  We don't see our clients as a "market" or as people to extract tourist dollars from.  I think this very human based approach has much to recommend it for other businesses on Bowen, and you see it everywhere.  In fact I think we have been inspired in this approach by our friends and neighbours.  Most of the business owners and operators I know of on Bowen treat people beautifully, are genuinely interested in who they are and where they come from and are chatty and affable.  When we have people here on Bowen doing work we like to direct them to businesses that treat them this way too.  And so you will sometimes see groups of visitors heading into the village to visit The Snug, The Pier, The Bowen Island Pub, the Wine Shop, the BI Coffee Company, the Ruddy Potato, Phoenix, Artisan Eats, Cocoa West, Movement and the Artists Coop.

The village is an asset, but not in ways you think.  Our village does not look like the villages that have had tourist plans applied to them.  It lacks the typical banners, and hanging flower pots and "vintage style" street lights, and other infrastructure kitsch.  This is a GOOD THING.  It is an honest village, a lived in village.  Spend an hour  in the village and you quickly realize that what makes Bowen work is the relationships between people.  For most of us who have lived here for any length of time, it is impossible to walk in the village without running into people we know. And when I am with visitors, I am amazed how many times I run into people that my visitors just need to meet.  It is very important that how ever the village evolves that it does so in a way that continues to have people encounter one another there.  Those encounters are what makes Bowen magic, not dressed up lampposts.

We host people here.  Bowen is not a very easy place to navigate on one's own. You can grab a map of the trails and walk in the park, and if you are more adventurous, you can pick your way around Mount Gardiner.    But where Bowen really opens up is when people are hosted and guided here.  Whether it is on the water, or in the village or in the forest, visitors will taste the village life only when they are with someone who knows it.  When we host groups here it has become common practice to bring local people in to teach with us.  Paul Stewart comes to teach juggling.  Brian Hoover and Shasta Martinuk come and teach rhythm.  One regular group we work with gets taken out to dinner for a feast at Artisan Eats or Leftbank.  They get to see the village, meet our friends, see the talent that is here, discover what Bowen has to offer on a deeper level.  Our principle is that when people are here the village is hosting them, and so we work with the village and our own inherent talent to give people awesome customized experiences.

For us, Bowen is a place of slowing down.  We do not over program our guests when they are here.  Bowen is a sanctuary in a fast paced world.  When our clients come here the first thing they do is sigh when they get off the ferry.  Likewise, we are not interested in having people come and go on the same day.  When people spend a night here in the quiet and the dark it is a powerful incentive to return.  When people have a day when they are not ruled by the frantic need to plan for the next ferry, they can savour something of the island.  Bowen is best experienced slowly.  I've been here 12 years and I'm only now sinking into another level of appreciation of this place.

The winter is even better than the summer.  Out on the west coast, people are invited to come and watch storms during the traditional non-tourist seasons of fall and winter.  Our fall and winter seasons are wet and dark and quiet.  They are beautiful.  There is no one around and everything is resting.  It is a perfect time to come to Bowen.  You aren't going to get the chipper energy of summer, or the "all hands on deck" feel of Steamship Days or Bowfest.  Instead you have the joyful community celebration of Halloween, the contemplative and inspiring Remembrance Day, commemoration and the lighting of the Cove in December, salmon runs, grazing deer, transient orcas and flotillas of surf scoters.  You have occasional high quality, intimate arts events (John Reischmann was here last weekend!) You have forests, beaches, coastlines and coffee shops all to yourself.  With the right clothes and a place to stay that is stocked with a load of dry firewood, fall and winter are the best seasons here.

My own business operates on a view of Bowen that sees the common areas of the island as important: park, ocean, forest, beach and village.  We bring groups of people together who are building relationships and are inspired by village life to think about how they might do the same within their organizations and communities.  They don't just come and talk to themselves - they travel out on the land and visit the village.  What we need to continue expanding our offers here is for the commons to be appreciated and protected, for more affordable and diverse gathering spaces and for a relaxation on the kinds of overnight accommodations permitted here and a continued appreciation of the intangible aspects of community that make Bowen unique.  Beyond the wild spaces (which are not scarce at all around Vancouver) Bowen has that sense of an island community.  That is what makes us different, and that is why people return to stay, and why we live here.

I hope some of these thoughts are useful to the tourism committee and the folks that are thinking this through.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Only on Bowen: letting the community manage your business

Happy New Year.  Summer continues here - well, not summer exactly, as it has been cool.  We have had high pressure systems take up residence over the north Pacific for most of the fall and winter hasn't really arrived yet.  It will soon though.

In the irregular set of posts I call "Only on Bowen" comes this Undercurrent story about Fawn Gill's strategy for coping with demand at the Bowen Island Gym.  Dig it:

Since the beginning of December, the Gym at Artisan Square has been open every day from 6am to 10pm and owner Fawn Gill says the experiment in this new operating method has been such a success that it is here to stay.
Gill says she needed to move to a system like this because she was getting burnt out by being on call every time one of her volunteer staff wasn’t able to make it. She also wanted to offer people more flexibility for their work-outs. 
“There are people on this island whose lives have been saved by working out, so on a certain level I really see making it easy for people as a community service.”
Gill says that so far she’s received positive feedback from members and more people are working out on a daily basis. A few new have also joined up. 
“People are looking after the gym,” says Gill, “and they’re looking after each other.”

Where, in any small business text book anywhere does it say "to increase your operating hours, just give your customers the key!"  Fawn is not just a business owner; she hosts a small committed community up there at Artisan Square.  I think Bowen Island Gym members are as fiercely loyal to her business as you are likely to get.  So naturally she parlays this loyalty and trust by letting them self-manage and look after each other so she can have something like a 40 hour work week, and her customers can still meet their needs.

Awesome.  Welcome to Bowen Island, where everything you thought you knew about business just doesn't apply!