" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

December 31, 2008

Happy 2009!

When I went to work this morning, I was driving along this beautiful country road, snow banks hugging it all the way. Andrea Bocelli was blasting from the car stereo and I was smiling just so extremely grateful that a year that was mostly about being "stuck" has ended so well and become so unstuck and there is such a feeling of contentedness; as if I'm exactly where I'm meant to be right now.

If anyone had told me on January 1, 2008 that I would be living on Salt Spring by the end of the year, that I'd be meeting artists and writing about them and playing in a band, I'd have thought they were on drugs.

As I continue along the road I remind myself to try really hard not to let my vision of this place become common place for as long as I live here. I pass Pauline's house and look for her van. I pass the paper that I write for. I then come to my favourite part of the drive. There's a spot where you head down the hill into Ganges and the view from the car window is spectacular. You see the expanse of the San Juan's in the distance and the ocean. You see all the little sailboats dotting the Ganges Harbour and it's a scene that is so winter perfect with winter blues, greys, olives and whites in tones so strong that awe doesn't come close to the feeling it evokes. If only I had a photo for you to show you but it's hard to do that when driving.

Tonight when I returned home, I passed my landlord's kitchen window. Robert was wearing a tux and looking like a movie star. As soon as I got in the door, feeling kinda shocked not thinking anybody would get dressed up, I phoned their number to find out what the dress code was tonight. Sharon laughed saying that he was wearing jeans on the bottom.

She's singing at The Legion, performing 35 songs over 3 sets and at the last minute I lend her this top that I bought a few years ago for another New Years. It's all glittery and quite perfect for a performer; something I purchased and only wore once a few years back because hey, let's get real! It's not me!

I will force myself out to The Legion around 9 pm even though I won't really want to go alone. But, I want to hear Sharon sing and I expect there will be people whom I've met. I don't expect I will stay long. Robert's the bartender there and they'll be singing a duet at some point during the evening which I would really like to see because I like them and it's entertainment where entertainment choices tonight are slim pickings.

Then, I'll return home and because I don't want to be in a crowd of drunken strangers when the clock turns midnight, I will probably spend midnight alone back in my cottage.

But, I will be happy and I will raise my glass to all my wonderful friends, to people whom I've known and loved in the past. I have a little ritual where I name each and every one of them out loud and wish them well. I'll wonder whether they are happy tonight and thank God for their presence in my life, past and present, and I will go to sleep very contented feeling like 2009 will be spectacular and at the same time aware of that bitter sweet feeling knowing that this time in my life and these feelings will never come again.

My friend Colleen has told me that next year is the Year of the Ox and I'm an Ox (although when I read the descriptions, they seem to have no bearing on my personality traits - except for the stubborness) so on top of feeling so fantastic already, we can only hope that the year of the Ox means Double Happiness.

Happy New Year and bless you all!

December 29, 2008

Annual Reflection

At this time of year I always think it's a really good idea to take some time to assess the past year and to put out intent about the quality of the experiences we would like to have unfold in the year ahead.

For me, it reminds me of all that has happened. It reminds me of what it is I think I should be focusing on and it provides a space to reflect. It's an excellent artificial milestone for assessing where we are and for revising some of the things we'd like to change.Do not censor yourself. Do not ask how. Just write down whatever comes to mind.

Doing this, I must emphasize is not the same as making resolutions. I don't really like New Year's Resolutions because they don't really work because unless the inner self is ready to make change, it can't.

For some time now I have recognized the importance of consciously reminding ourselves, no matter how difficult it is to really imagine, that we are mortal, that our time here is a gift, and that at any time we may not be here. Poof. Gone.

I think it's a good time to remind ourselves that how we think, our intent and our choices really do play a role in determining the direction of our future - immediate and long term. We have choices. It is imperative to really understand that there is choice. As the saying goes, the choice may suck, but it's still a choice. Without that belief then you have given up and the self fulfilling prophecy that you have chosen to run as a tape in your head will be perpetuated.

My work here - the non writing work - is introducing me to people who may not believe that they have choices. They may not believe it because they are broke and view that as an inevitable, a burden, what they deserve, something that they can't change because of the constraints of this island.

They seem unable to help themselves make the change they so desperately need. Their way of being shaped by their past has led them to the place they are in and they are oblivious to the role that they are playing in maintaining it as if they are zombies in a play that they aren't even aware that they are in; as if they just stumbled across the stage by taking a wrong turn instead of the main character in the only role in the only play that matters right now.

Instead of seeing their role in creating their present reality, they are victims. It's the economy. It's the government. It's the people. They generalize a lot cutting huge swaths of rationalizations as stark as clearcuts to justify their personal landscapes. This is not to say that what they are saying is not coming from a place of reality. But, they are too close to their misery to recognize that if they believe they can't, then they are sure to be correct in that assessment.

When I talk to someone who is feeling that way, it's as if a big mirror is being held up above their head and not only am I seeing them but I'm seeing myself; my past self juxtaposed against my current self and the change in understanding that I know I've experienced in the past 12 years.

I understand what it feels like to be trapped, to feel hopeless, to not consciously believe that it's possible for change to happen, to know that you are getting in your own way more than anyone else.

The difference is that I actually took some steps to make change and I made a commitment to myself to recognize that nothing is more important than self awareness. It might take years of therapy. It might take reading, meditation, yoga, religion, spiritual exploration. Whatever it takes the difference between those who change and those who don't are the people it seems who believe the power to change is solely in their hands first, and then, if a higher power intervenes, so much the better.

When I meet someone who sounds like they have given up and they are telling themselves that the town sucks, people are this way or that, that the only thing anyone cares about is money, it's as if they might as well be saying, blah, blah, blah, blah.

What I am hearing coming out of their mouths is meaningless, a figment of their own projections, and yet to them, it's the most important dogma of their existence. I become super conscious when someone starts speaking like that. I recognize it. I've sounded that way myself. Haven't we all at some point?

It happened today. This job is interesting, not because of what I'm doing. That part is actually quite dull and unchallenging. The interest in the position for me exists because it has put me into a position that I had previously had in my mind when the thought of getting another Communications job was as interesting as watching paint dry.

It has put me into a position where I interact one on one with people and that allows some insights I have gained to be shared for whatever they are worth.

What would you like to imagine about your own personal growth during the next 365 days?

December 28, 2008

Dangerous Cookies

Momma Pauline's Christmas Eve Journey as told to Gayle.

You were smart to leave on the 23rd, she says to me. I got stuck. I had to leave the car. I couldn't drive. I couldn't get out of the driveway.

But, I thought, that's okay, I can just stand outside and wave down the bus. So, I loaded up my baking and everything. I had so much stuff I had to get the neighbours to help me just to get to the corner.

When I got on the bus, I couldn't fit through the door the normal way. I had to throw the bag on, hold the bag full of baking and squeeze on sideways. I had to leave the baking at the front, couldn't take it all with me, and it was being passed to me bag by bag down to the back of the bus she says.

So, we get to Ganges and the bus just sits there. Why aren't we going, I ask the bus driver. This bus doesn't go to Fulford he says. What? I almost screamed she says. Not every busy meets the ferry he says.

I couldn't believe it. There were no schedules. I had to get it all off the bus. One bag is slung over my shoulder one way, the other the other way. I have bags in each hand. And, I had to go have four coffees with all those bags just to pass the time for the next bus - two hours later. Can you believe it?

Finally when it's time, I go back to the stop and there must have been 75 people lined up. The bus only seats 20! It's snowing like crazy.
They split people up and somehow because of where they were split, I got to the front of the line she says laughing.

I'm on the bus and when we get to the Fulford Ferry, I ask this man who had no bags if he could carry some of my baking. He agrees. He tells me he'll leave it in the forward lounge Number 1. He works on the ferry. I tell him if he just leaves it I'll pick it up.

He goes down the ramp. For some reason we're all just standing at the gate waiting to be let on. Time seems to be passing and nothing's happening. Then, I hear the muffled sounds of an annoucement. I can't hear a thing, don't have a clue what they're saying but then I see all these people, ferry personnel, running to the forward lounge.

What's going on, I ask? Nobody knows what's going on. There seems to be a lot of commotion.

Finally, I see this guy, ferry personnel coming back up the ramp. He's carrying my bag, the bag I gave to the other guy. I'm screaming at him. Hey! Hey! What are you doing? Where you going? That's my Christmas baking. What are you doing with my Christmas baking?

Turns out, they were all running there because they thought the bag was suspicious. As if someone had left a bomb she says and she can't stop laughing. "At Fulford?" I ask, incredulous at the stupidity.

Yessssssss! she says in that long exxagerrated and loud way she has of saying yes where the "s" lasts forever.

I got it back from him and of course they were all joking about how the least I could do was give them some cookies after I'd scared them all like that with my unidentified bags of baking.

I was just glad they didn't pick it up and hurl it overboard as far from the boat as possible, expecting an explosion as it hit the water, she said.

Pauline's Christmas Kitchen

When I last saw momma Pauline she was baking her shortbread moon cookies.
Last count: 150! She calls them smiley cookies "because you can't help but smile when you eat them," she says. Date: December 23rd around 11:00 am.

It was as if her kitchen was sprouting baking that she'd been growing all year. There were round, dark christmas cakes with almonds perfectly positioned on top like buttons on duffle coats. Short bread dipped in icing sugar poked up from the green and blue Christmas tins; just layed eggs innocent and clean.

She was peeling the brown paper off a big square slab of perfectly-formed christmas cake. "Brown paper? Just plain brown paper bags?" I ask as if I'm getting lessons from Martha Stewart knowing full well that my own desire to make Christmas cake is right up there with my desire to, ummm, I don't know.

She was also making a pie and cutting out little pastry hearts to put on top of the pastry that she was painting eggwhite across with a little pastry brush. Home made cabbage soup was boiling on the stove.

Pauline never does one thing. Pauline must do 15 things at once. She is painting, planting 300 bulbs, cleaning out her other cottage, baking, circling deals that she wants to follow up on in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper. She is telling me about the latest book and telling me story after story. I am her most bemused spectator. Sitting at the kitchen table I observe her in awe feeling only appreciation without the slightest desire to emulate this whirlwind.

The house is quieter than usual because her Scottie dog Maggie and Griffin the little terror of a terrier are at her other house.

You know, I say, you're behaviour is beginning to remind me of this story a friend of mine used to tell me. He said when his grandfather left his grandmother for the woman on the next farm, his grandmother canned 300 quarts of raspberries that summer.

"Feeling traumatized Pauline?," I enquired. "No!," she yelled in that way she has, half talking, half yelling, her voice always a raspy exclamation. "I give it away," she says her ruddy complexion growing redder from the heat of the stove and from the exertion of baking and preparing.

There were a few big boxes wrapped in gold at the base of her stairs; presents for her daughters. The fir trees outside were decorated with lights and big white and silver balls were hanging from green ribbons off the branches. Outside the den window chickadees were flocking around the bird feeder.

The little christmas tree inside on the table had those wooden ornaments of tiny people that look like they were made in Holland.

A wreath of golden stars was wrapped inside the place where the skylight is cut out and the grey winter light from outside was reflecting off the gold cellophane making the stars twinkle.

From the french doors off the kitchen, I was watching as the two big Clydesdale horses were running across the expanse of meadow in front of her house and it was as if the only thing missing from the scene were children skating on the pond and a SaltSpring snow princess with a big white furry Dr. Zhivago hat being pulled in an old fashioned carriage by those same horses.

I was indeed making a mental note that morning of the absolute beauty around me and the almost overwhelming feeling of gratitude I was experiencing.

December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Journey 1

Some people like to spend Christmas Eve with family roasting chestnuts, drinking heavily in preparation to withstand the extended period of time they'll be spending with each other partaking in a variety of ritualistic traditions that remind them how lucky they are to live in the industrialized world because, hey, at least they can purchase stuff!

Exhausted from searching for the right presents, sprinkling the sugar cookies and surveying the house assessing what to take to the pawn shop on December 26th in order to pay January's Visa bill, they settle in for the evening waiting for the entertainment that's sure to come when the whole gang arrives and the dysfunction ramps into seasonal overdrive.

Been there. Done That.

This year, I thought I'd try something a little different. It wasn't intentional mind you. I have the white christmas to thank for my special little gift of December 24th.

Because of the bountiful gift of endless snowflakes being dumped on the Lower Mainland, I had to abandon the Mazda mobile and take to public transit.

I spent my Christas Eve afternoon early evening jam-packed into a Skytrain Survivor episode wishing someone would vote me off the joke that passes for transportation in Vancouver.

The world can come to the Olympics but one can only laugh cynically thinking of those poor suckers who will spend thousands of dollars on hockey tickets and who have a 50/50 chance of being stuck on the skytrain as the Olympic clock ticks away and they miss all but the third period (if they're lucky)! I'm thinking I should just consider renting out my Salt Spring place for all those Vancouverites who voted NO and just want to get the hell out of Vancouver when the Olympics happen.

I was at Colleen's on the East Side and with suitcase in tow, knapsack on the back, I got down to the Main and Terminal Sky train in less than 40 minutes.

The platform was packed. The first train whizzed to a stop. It was writhing like a human fish farm, little human mouths inches from each other breathing and speaking, sighing and wheezing, sneezing and swearing.

People on the platform scurried like hungry rodents squeezing into the centimetres beside the doors so they too could be whizzed to their holiday destinations. Then another train. Same thing. Jam packed. No room. Me, suitcase in hand, scurrying from one door to the next, no room to squeeze in like a little mouse who isn't going to get fed if he isn't going to get more aggressive. That was me.

Two trains. Then three. Then four. Swaying with my suitcase running here and there. One human fish farm after another arrives. The hot fishy breath fogs windows. Every single time, I'm not able to see even a spot to squeeze in. Then suddenly there are no trains. I've positioned myself right square in front of where the last train's doors opened preparing to fling myself into the compartment the next time like it's a mosh pit. Note to self. Must travel in Asia. Learn how to push and shove strangers unabashedly and mercilessly.

Finally, I squeeze in. But, the train is just stopped. There is a message from Skytrain Central. "We are experiencing severe delays due to a tree on the tracks and the snow. Another 20 minutes pass. A different voice. Ladies and Gentleman. Thank you for your patience. A computer malfunction means our switching system isn't working. Another 20 minutes.

With each message, I imaged Skytrain employees sitting around a table full of eggnog and chocolate, shortbread and rum. I imagine them handing the microphone around the table so the voice would change. I imagine them laughing hysterically after each announcement that thanked us for our patience, little crumbs from the christmas cake spewing from their mouths.

"Is this a psychology experiment?" asked one passenger. "Is this some psychology experiment from UBC to see how long we'll stand in a train that isn't moving?"

People were reading to each other, handing out chocolates, feeding each other, sleeping on each other, leaning parcels on suitcases. They're doing the crossword, showing each other YouTube videos, texting, calling. There's an echo around the train that says "Sorry mom, you guys eat without me. I'm not going to make it. We haven't moved in an hour. They don't know when they can get it going. I'll get there when I can." That was the voice mail message of the evening.

Finally, at about 4:50 pm the train moves. A cheer goes up. You'd think the Canucks had scored. The doors close. The train moves. Next station, same thing. Every station the train spends at least 15 minutes.

By the time I get out to Surrey it's 6 pm and I left for my little journey at 3pm. Where are the three wise men I wonder? Where's the little star of Bethlehem. That's how long this is taking. If it takes any longer I'll probably give birth the same way Mary did - immaculate conception.

When I almost get to the final skytrain stop - the final stop on the line - the train is stopped again. A voice comes over the intercom. This is Skytrain Central. If you have an alternate means of transportation please use it.
Please get off the train." I couldn't believe it. I actually laughed out loud. I'd endured this journey, had to sit beside a transvestite who claimed to be a male Joan Jett and now they were just saying Get off, abandon ship, we can't help you, the captain has bailed.

Did you hear that? said my brother when he picked me up in his four wheel drive. Did you hear that. They said, Just get off the train.

As one cartoon said in the paper, Everything will be okay at the 2010 Olympics just as long as it doesn't SNOW~!

December 17, 2008

Let it Snow

View from my french doors, December 17th at 4pm

December 16, 2008


Before I went to work yesterday, I put out some bread crumbs and seeds for the birds. They're probably really hungry I thought. They won't be able to eat with everything covered in snow.

I came home, eyed the tin plate and couldn't believe it. The plate was totally empty. It was as if hundreds of birds had descended and scarfed down the bread like a pack of Texans descending on a McDonalds having a two for one Super Size it special.

I told Pauline this. She uttered one word:Rats. "It's rats," she said. "They're starving. You just fattened them up."

"UGGGGGGGGG! GROSS!" I squirmed.

"Don't leave your back door open too long," she said.
The door. They'll sneak in the door.
"Are you kidding me? Into my house?" "Are you trying to give me nightmares? I'm already having trouble sleeping."

Come to think of it, I do wake up and sometimes I hear things," I said. "Rustlings".

"You've got rats in your roof," she says. "They're roof rats".

How do you know?

"I just know. They're there. It's a problem. It's cold. They're trying to get in somewhere warm. Mice. Rats. It's what happens."

She'd mentioned this before. I ignored her. I thought she was being melodramatic.

She called me tonight.

"I was doing the dishes," she says. "You know how that big birdfeeder is right outside my kitchen window?

"Uh huh."

"Well, I'm washing a plate and I felt something. I looked up and there it was. A rat. Right in from of me. It was in my bird feeder. It's beady little eyes were blinking at me. I couldn't believe it. I started hitting the window with a wooden spoon. I screamed at it. It didn't move an inch. Finally I grabbed the broom and raced out in the yard with it. Then it took off.

And here I am thinking spiders were my biggest threat. Where's it gonna end?

December 15, 2008

Snow Diary

Got up this morning a little early in preparation for my journey into town. Put on men's wool work socks over black socks over brown leotards under my black dress pants.

I pulled on my snow pants that I bought last year for snowshoeing. Was that only last year? Amazing! The price tag is still attached on the inside. I lace up my hiking boots. I pack the thermos and the stew and the Japanese oranges and a flashlight. Put on the gloves and the dorky black felt touque.

Put the birdseed in a tin and leave it outside and head out onto the tundra of the great white island muttering something about being lied to. It DOES snow on Salt Spring, Virginia! And by the way, no Virginia, there is no stupid Santa Claus.

Got down the driveway just in time for my legs to go out from under me. I end up on my butt at the bottom of the drive as if someone had just tossed me from a passing car in a gangster movie. Laughing, I roll over like a Pillsbury dough girl, drag myself back up and gingerly pick my way across the ice on the road as if I'm stalking a deer on the other side. I reach the other side with relief. If I'm going to be hit, I at least want to see what hits me.

Face oncoming traffic when walking on the side of the road I can hear my Dad bark at us whenever we walked anywhere with him as children. He couldn't help himself. Five years in the army leaves one a little tightly wound shall we say and old habits die hard. Apparently, we were his platoon.

It's cold but it's gorgeous. The sun is glinting off the snow like wet sugar.
I get to the bottom of the road and I see a guy with a white van. He's a delivery guy. I walk over to him. Hey, are you going into town I ask?

Well, ya, but first I have a few stops to make.

That's okay, I say, I don't have to get to work 'til 10:00 am.

Sure, he says, hop in. You're lucky. I usually have my little dog with me but I left him at home today he says as he wipes off the passenger seat.

He tells me his name. I instantly forget it. The van reeks of pot. He tells a story about the guy he just delivered to. He had to lift it he says. I have the dolly but he insisted on lifting it. And, he's an old guy, he says with emphasis on the word old. He almost put his back out lifting it. Managed to get it onto his shoulder. Then, only a few steps and sure enough, he's down. I urge him to let me help him. Nope. No. Oh No! He's got it. He can do it. Jeez. Some people he says. I mean, what the *&^%$? I have a dolly. But, no, he'd rather give himself a *&%$# hernia.

I hope it wasn't a flat screen TV, I say laughing.

We pull into the parking lot of some local utility. He jumps out. I'm staring at the dash and looking at his wallet thinking, Man if this was Vancouver that thing would be gone.

He gets back in the car and I say to him, You know, I'm a really honest person so you don't have to worry but if you left your wallet sitting out like that in plain view in Vancouver, it'd be gone!

Never lost anything he said. But, then again, I ain't got no ^%$#&@ money! Let them have it.

We pull into the golf course parking lot.
Probably nobody in there I say.
Don't kid yourself he says. You know how they are. They gotta golf. They got these long pink tees 'specially made for this kind of weather. They got the special flourescent pink balls. They'll be peeved if the course isn't open. Even if it is covered in $#@^% snow up to their knees. They love that shit. It's just more of a challenge. I laugh listening to him. I'm really enjoying his company. He's really very funny.

We stop off at Pharmasave and he dumps off 14 boxes. Every time he marks one off a computerized sound plays. We're just about to leave and the guy from the store knocks on the window. I only count 13, he says. Delivery man jumps out. He's gone a few minutes. The door re-opens, he slams it, and mutters idiot. Can't count! We're off again.

We drive into town. He stops to let me out and says, if you're on the road tommorrow at 9:00 am and I drive by I'll pick you up! Okay. Thanks, I say. Did you say your name was Mike? No, that's my brother's name. My name's Kevin.

About a half hour before work ends for the day, Pauline drops in and invites me to dinner. I get dropped off after work and I conduct interviews over the phone for my feature on our beginner band for this weekend's paper while she's busy preparing turkey and stuffing, yams and turnip. We talk and talk and feast.

She's such a great cook and her house is so decorated it's like meeting the surrogate Mrs. Claus. There are bobbles and white lights. Small trees with little hearts and angels made by a real live nun. There are shiny gold balls on ribbons hanging on the trees outside and a tree outside the living room window, a real live tree, is fully decorated with strings of gold balls and white lights. There are wiry, halo-like golden stars that fit into the area under the skylight. There are angels blowing french horns hanging across the bay window.

We drink wine and listen to christmas carols and afterwards she drives me home but only to the bottom of the hill so she doesn't get stuck.

I get out of the car. I turn on the flashlight. I thank her, wave goodbye and trudge, in the dark, up the icey slope in the pitch black scanning the horizon for drunk drivers, deers, cougars, imaginary bears and by the time I make it all the way up our driveway, the cold air, mixes with the cold in my nose, my lungs hurt and I am extremely happy!

I'm home!

December 14, 2008

City Mouse No. 3

Poor city mouse No. 3 Lisa came to visit this weekend and after a false start where I warned her off on Friday night as a result of the snow, it seemed safe to have her come over on Saturday. Then, sure enough, as you can see, the snow kept falling and falling and falling.

We were at a dinner party next door and luckily had only about 500 feet to walk to get back home but didn't expect what we saw when we awoke this morning. We were up really early and were out in Duck Creek Park before anyone else was even around.

There's no way I'm driving my car in this weather here since I live on a hill. So, this afternoon, we hitchhiked and were picked up right away but poor City Mouse No. 3then had to spend 2 hours waiting for the ferry.

I feel so bad for her. I'm sure she will be just about out of her mind by the time she gets home because the ferry is the milk run ferry leaving at 3:30 and not getting back to Tsawwassen until 6:00 pm. She's still got another hour. My god. I'm so sorry Lise!

December 13, 2008

24 seconds

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24: 24 seconds.
That's how long it took before the RCMP first set eyes on Robert Dziekanski, a Polish Immigrant who flew into Vancouver International Airport before they reacted and tasered him five times (not two as they had originally stated) for a total of 31 seconds at which point he died on October 14, 2007.

He'd been travelling for 14 hours prior to that. He had never previously been on a plane. He couldn't speak English and apparently couldn't figure out where to go because his mother who was coming by bus from Kamloops had told him to just stay put.

The airport staff didn't seem to notice that a person had been standing in the airport for 10 hours which makes me think it wouldn't be that hard to be a terrorist, hanging out, at YVR if a very tall and very large Polish-speaking guy is able to just hang out for 10 hours, even when visibly agitated.

So, the blame has to jointly fall on both YVR procedure and security and the RCMP members who this weekend had no charges layed against them when The Braidwood Commission revealed their decision. But, it also most prominently comes back to the question and controversy of whether the use of Tasers is actually a reasonable, necessary and safe means to subdue individuals.

The question I always have when I hear about stun gun deaths is why other means are not used by police prior to them resorting to what seems from the outside to be a very lazy form of policing. There were four mounties. We all saw what happened on the video and clearly they didn't use any kind of conflict resolution. They didn't have time to think about what else they could do besides using a Tazer even though it was clear the person didn't speak English and therefore would not know what they were requesting. His hands went up in the "I'm not going to do anything crazier than I've already done so don't hurt me" mode.

They didn't use any kind of take down methods that existed prior to Tazers being part of their arsenal which they must have been trained to use as part of their training. Having worked for a year at the Justice Institute of BC which trains police and has a world class program in conflict resolution, whenever I hear about these incidents I want to know why it is that tasers are not really being used as a last resort when training must present it as such.

Yesterday, December 11th, no charges were layed against the four officers because apparently there was not enough "evidence" to lay criminal charges. But, anyone who saw the video has to think that there must have been another way for four large RCMP officers to subdue this guy. And let's not forget that it was a private citizen who actually showed the world the truth when the RCMP tried to downplay how many times they tazered him and why.

I can't imagine what it must be like to be his mother, first in hearing about his death and now in hearing that criminally, the four RCMP officers are not responsible. People often try to create meaning from some senseless act and this is yet another case in which it's just not possible to do that.

Read the BC Civil Liberties submission to the Inquiry.

Read what Amnesty International says about "conducted energy devices" a.k.a. Tasers.

December 12, 2008

Beginner Band Accident

Before I joined the beginner band here, I had forgotten how much instruments can sound like animals in pain (or pleasure).

Trumpets? I sometimes imagine them a bit like the sound of elephants mating. Clarinets? Who's whacking a Canadian Geese with the end of a canoe paddle? Flutes? A small child trying to get a sound out of a sharp blade of grass rubbed between two hands on an August afternoon. Put it all together and what have you got? Auditory chaos and a big headache!

But, after a mere 6 weeks of learning an instrument, we did manage to put on a little concert thanks to our mentors - Wendy - and her husband Derrick, former professional trumpet player turned veterinarian.

And, just to confuse everyone, we had orders to dress in a combination of black, white and red, (no psychedelic prints or tie-dye allowed and leave the Birkenstocks in the closet), we arranged ourselves in our usual spots in the Mexican Restaurant where we normally practice.

After transforming Jingle Bells from a holiday favorite into the fugue version, and to celebrate that our audience survived listening to our seven-song concert, beer, nachos and chicken wings were sent all around to wash down the knowledge that performance anxiety can truly be conquered if we keep on practicing.

That's right, given enough time, we too can become members of the Saltspring Community Concert Band. That's my goal. I'm not leaving the island until I've played in at least one concert.

December 11, 2008

City Mouse Visit No. 2

This is what happens when you have a Masters in Science degree. You aren't interested in creating just another basic snowflake. Gwen, visiting for a few quiet days, saw this snowflake design in a room at the highschool where she goes to band practice. She studied the specimen and recreated it for me to hang in the window.
Isn't it purdy?

December 07, 2008

City Mouse Visit No. 1

City mouse Dee came to visit overnight from the big smoke. She has the distinction of being the first visitor. Wandering in Ganges. Trying to figure out how to make paper snowflakes off Google. Wine. Hottubbing. Wood burning fires. My pet spider. Goat Cheese Omelletes. Winter Craft Fairs. Ruckle. Karin. Fulford Community Center. Beaver Point. Turkeys. Live ones with no idea of their fate. Sunshine!

December 04, 2008

Duck Creek Park

There's a park near my place called Duck Creek Park. It's a dog park. I found that out when I first moved here and went there one afternoon for a walk about 4:00 pm. Big mistake! It was like a coffee break in a unionized factory - for dogs. Every owner and his/her dog had convened for their daily, annual ritual a.k.a the walk and the poo (the latter done only by the dogs, not the owners.)

This photo was taken on one of the beautiful sunny November afternoons we had this year. Because it is a dog park, I am often quite on guard when I'm walking in it because although I've long known that I have a fear of big unknown dogs, I didn't realize it bordered on a phobia until I ventured into this park.

There's a beautiful secluded stream that runs through the park and it's a very dark wooded area and often when I'm down there with my camera, I hear very big barks coming my way and I almost break out into a sweat. I stop breathing, my heart starts beating faster and louder all just because one day I saw a man with a rottweiler walking his dog, off leash, and all the other dog owners were asking nervously, "Is he friendly?" as their voices rose an octave.

It made me laugh because inevitably the owner (who is completely nonchalant and has known the dog from puppyhood tends to be a wee bit biased) but, without fail, will always answer in the affirmative even while the dog is looking positively unfriendly, circling in an excited state making you feel a bit like a guppie in the shark pool.

I keep forgetting where I am and the dog of choice on Salt Spring seems to be either Labs or Golden Retrievers. Not exactly ferocious beasts. They're more likely to "goose" you to death, than bite. So, I'm not sure why that realization hasn't really translated into me just chillin' out whenever I venture into this park.

But, this isn't about dogs. It's about my lovely photo above. I took this photo because I really liked the way the background evergreens contrast with the orange leaves on the ground.

December 03, 2008

Boundaries Resurfacing

- if only all boundaries were as straightforward as this lovely fence...

I never thought I'd say this but I now know what my short working stint at BC Mental Health was all about. It was the theoretical practicum for the real-live, hands-on test of having to diplomatically, compassionately and patiently work with the public who are walking through the door of the place I just started working at.

I walked through the same door when I first arrived just to check out what I might be missing in terms of work. So, clients could range from those with a PhD (have yet to see that in 3 days) or someone who wouldn't be certifiable under the Mental Health Act because they aren't really a danger to themselves or anyone else but they are completely krazy with a capital K; not operating in this solar system so to speak.

And it's sad. They're homeless. They're living in a tent. They're not on medication because it costs a lot of money. You look at their background and somewhere along the line they were in university, they went to school and then a mental health issue usurped everything. It's clear that they're not stupid but they are just in need of major intervention in every aspect of their life.

Meanwhile, they are in the office because it's public. They're trying so hard, looking at the job board, phoning people and all the while you're thinking oh my god, I've been in the office 2 days and already I'm seeing a major moral dilemma. They have the right to look for work, and look at the jobs on our board but at the same time don't we have some responsibility to protect the company's reputation and not allow them to indiscriminately call employers off the job board when clearly they are not employable.

So, it requires assessing this fine line of being compassionate and recognizing their precarious mental state while at the same time not wanting to have them in your face for great lengths of time or disturbing other clients who are in the office and who may be sitting less than a foot from them at a computer.

What is my point? My point is that you can't go anywhere without having it made clear that mental health is a serious crisis whether you're downtown Vancouver or on what is an idyllic little island. And, even if it wasn't a crisis, even if all the services in the world were available, would that be enough to change their paths?

How can you look for work when you have no phone, no e-mail, no computer, no car, no place to live but a tent? It's hard enough when all those are a given. How can you look for work when you can't even focus on answering a question without launching into some rant that ranges from how horrible it is that children are sexually abused to some delusion about a lawyer trying to electrocute you?

And, then I'm thinking, I just have to work there one month and I will be a familiar face to every person who walks in there. So much for anonymity. I mean having your name attached to a byline in a paper is one thing because there's a certain distance with that but that doesn't exist when you're dealing with a lot of people face to face.

I am finding this very interesting from a spiritual point of view. I"m mulling over the concept that there are no coincidences.

So much for the peaceful little New Age enclave!

I think I see why we have a security system that includes video cameras and why the two of us have panic buttons.

I hope I never have to use mine.

December 01, 2008

Life Drawing 101

-part of a "Small Works art show on Salt Spring" by Charles Breth.

I started my new job today. I think I'm going to like it. Although, I have to admit, being confined in a single space and having to stay there for 4.5 hours is actually something I need to re-acquaint myself with. It was quite busy however. Lots of different people coming in because let's face it, if you want work and you're not working here then it's the place to go.

The best thing I heard today was: Here's a job. It pays $18 per hour and all I have to do is take off my clothes? I can do that! I've been doing that since I was born."

Maybe you had to be there but it was very funny the way he said it and it cracked me up!

It reminded me of my friend Keiko who goes to a life drawing class. She talked about how as an artist you're so focused on the shapes that you really aren't even concerned with the person's overall body and in fact it's much better to have someone who is overweight with lots of curves because they make a better subject and are more interesting to draw.

So, if this gig doesn't work out I could be a model for a life drawing class but then I'd have to shave my legs...

That's all for today folks!

November 28, 2008

Window to my Day

- Now THIS is a window! Yes?
Okay - here's me coming clean. I am doing so much writing off the blog that my enthusiasm, inspiration for this writing has, as you can tell by reading, subsided significantly. I am about to resort to detailing my day. How to drive away the audience of what, 10 regular visitors? Hope you've had your coffee. Warning: Not exactly riveting! I spared the details on brushing my teeth.

8:00 am: Eyes open. Freezing as usual. Check the ceiling for spiders. None. Look in the mirror. Whoa. Really time to dye the hair but I can't. I don't want the dye going down the drain, into the septic, leaching into ground water. Ecology over beauty.

9:30 am: Tour of ArtSpring by the Artistic Director. Get to go to where the audience can't see. Hear all sorts of interesting things about the building's design and modifications that had to be made because architects think of their creation, not necessarily of practicality. I get this tour because I have volunteered to be an usher. Who knew being an usher came with such responsibility. Other woman on the tour seems quite rigid. Can't stand that everyone on Salt Spring comes late to everything. She's sick of the excuse, "But it's Salt Spring!" Seinfeld's Soup Nazi dances across my mind.

11:30 am: Coffee at Barb's Buns. Must get my ginger twist fix. Sitting there and in walks the owner of the hotel I wrote the Green feature on. He's a lawyer. I spoke to him on the phone. The farm manager who I spent most of the time interviewing for the feature introduces me. He shakes my hand, opens his briefcase, whips out a copy of my article from at least 3 weeks ago now and says, he carries it around with him. He's going to have it laminated when they get a farm stand (to sell fruit from). I have to admit that it made me smile.

12:00 pm: Run back into George, the artistic director. We get into a discussion about writing reviews because someone took offence to one of his.
12:15 pm: Following the discussion I end up buying the book that had caused said discussion; a book that had been published here on island. A poetry book. He introduces me to his wife who works in Salt Spring Books.

12:30 pm: I call Peggy. We discuss all myriad of things.

1:00 pm: Meesh calls. We discuss her ongoing saga of waiting and waiting to be approved to work for the U.S. Consulate. She might as well be in Guantanamo Bay. She's in limbo. She did pass the criminal record's check. Now, they're waiting on her medical. We discuss her trip to Ottawa next week and how her mother has already booked her into three soirees with the Finnish Consulate, the Japanese Consulate and one other. I say she should really be getting at least $1,000 a day for being that kind of escort service. I tell her how to say some things in Finnish (having been there when I was 19) because we all know how important it is to impress the Finns she says, sarcastically. A la hupputa! (inside joke).

2:00 pm: Finally take my coat off. Make some soup. Build a fire. That was backwards. Should have built the fire, made some soup, then took the coat off.

2:30: Convince Visa that I want to cancel my balance protection. What do I care if I die or get cancer and I owe a ton of money? Someone else can deal with that reality if it happens I say. Suddenly, instantaneously they can lower the price of the balance protection. How friggin convenient. Just like that. Maybe you only need coverage for a few things - "like if you get sick" they say. Who are these people really? They have a direct link to the mafia I think. Vermins!

2:45: Call BCAA: I realize I have tenant insurance, except it's covering me for living in an apartment I know longer live in on Robson Street. Must correct that.

3:00 pm: Talk to Gail, Driftwood Editor, about tommorrow night's concert and dinner at Cafe El Zocalo with my band group. We're going en masse to see the classical concert at ArtSpring because we are the "farm team" and this - this concert group -Bandamonium - is what we are aspiring to, working towards. How many years will that take I think to myself?

4:00 pm: Lise calls. Work talk. Baby talk. Pre-Natal talk. Born again christian annoyance talk.
Does everybody have to talk to me within a span of 3 hours?

5:00 pm: Get told via e-mail I got the job I interviewed for on Wednesday - 4.5 hours a day, 4 days a week until June. 10-3pm. A maternity leave replacement. YEAAA! It's perfect. Will still give me enough time to do writing because I MUST not lose sight of why I came here. But, I'm very, very happy about getting this job. And, it has been such a long time since I have said that! Years.

6:00 pm: Make dinner - omelette and sausage. (I think of Meesh's blog and feel ashamed of my creation) There will be no photos! No photos allowed!

7:30 pm: Head over to Mahon Hall. There's a fundraiser for a village in Lesotho and a woman I met previously, Andrea, and her family have been going there to work/live for months at a time. Saltspring residents raised enough money to build a school with 8 classrooms. (This is related to the next post I will write).

There's a band from Scotland - Shooglenifty playing. This is an all-ages dance. No alcohol. Coffee. Tea. Juice. Pumpkin pie. Brownies. Baclava. All manner of individuals are present. Children in kilts. Men with beards. Men with long hair. Women in those peasant skirts. Conservative looking people. I meet a newcomer from kamloops named Wendy. I put her number into my cell phone.
The music starts. People are like molecules being heated. They're bouncing. Faster now. I have my cowboy boots on (because I haven't taken them off since I got here). I decide they must come off if I'm to dance.
I take them off. I start dancing. The celtic connection between the music and my genes is irresistable!
10:30 pm: Enough.I'm tired. I've had my fun fix for the evening.
11:45 pm:Bed time. Pull the portable heater into the room.
Lift my pillows. Inspect for spiders.
All clear!
Great day!

November 23, 2008

Heritage Barns

I just love old, run-down buildings. Wooden. Usually barns. Windows. Doors. Dirt floors. All the conversations and relationships of every one who has ever passed through somehow lingering in the dirt and the patina on the wood. The silence of relationships past. Space to imagine in.

Yesterday I was wandering around and towards the south end of the island there is a place called Burgoyne Bay where these old heritage buildings sit at the side of a dirt road. They have signs saying do not enter. Probably no money to fix them.

With my camera in hand, I never feel alone. I am in my element. I am able to spend hours just wandering and looking and it always makes me happy. I'm beginning to wonder why I call myself a "writer" when in fact photography is what truly brings me joy. Writing is such hard work.


I've been organizing my bookcase and I came across this little Cottage Journal that I must have picked up in 2000. It's the kind of thing you buy when you own a cottage and people come and stay and they sign the guest book.

I'd forgotten how long I've been dreaming about living in a little cottage. At the time, I was living in a bachelor suite at 1877 Haro in an old Heritage building. It wasn't anything like a cottage but for some reason it had a bit of a cottage feel to it.

So, I must have picked up this little journal with the thought that I could practice until I got my cottage. In the front of it I wrote March 2000 and "inspiration for owning the Sunshine Coast cottage." All I've ever wanted was a cottage. I would rather live in a shack in the forest than in suburbia. I'm not kidding. Of course, I'd rather live in an amazingly beautiful log cabin type cottage on the ocean with a south facing exposure and solar heating, heated tile on the floors, a sauna, a hot tub, and an amazing kitchen with stainless steel appliances but baby steps. :-) Oh, and it would be even better if I actually OWNED the cabin.

Anyway I found this little journal and it was just nice to read some of what people had written when they visited me there.
My favorite entry is ..."The cottage has been refurbished for spring - fresh paint, wallpaper and softly flowered new curtains. It is so cozy, I feel like just moving in. Add to this a lovely homey feeling. Off for a walk (though we hate to leave). Will visit again soon. M.

I no longer see that person. She lives somewhere in Ontario. But, I guess I better leave the journal on the table for guests to sign now that I really DO live in a cottage. Sometimes when I've got the fire going and the cottage is warm and cozy I just sit and look at it and look around and a smile comes to my face because it's hard for me to believe that I'm actually living on Salt Spring Island and I made it happen because I really wanted to live like this in this place that is so beautiful that even before I lived here I decided that this is where, when I die, I want my ashes scattered. And, that brings me to my post today: Dreams.

It's been hard for me to have dreams. When you've had a lot of disappointments, you're afraid to dream. You're afraid to believe you can actually have what you want. That you deserve it as much as everyone else. That you can actually have what you want. That you are here for a short while and joy is allowed. Maybe it was the Presbyterian upbringing but sometimes when I get too much of what I want I get nervous. Not so much anymore but definitely in the past. And, let's face it, it's not as if my dreams are really big. No ferraris. No castles. No luxury furniture or trips to the south of France. My dreams are much more about freedom. What that means. How to get it. What it looks like for me.

So, I've realized over the past few years that you can decide that you can have what you want. It might sound so simple but in fact it IS simple. Just decide. Then, it will happen because you will make it happen if you want it - whatever it is - bad enough. The really hard part is knowing or understanding what it is that you really want. Not what your mothers wants. Not what you think your friends think you should want. Not what society says you should want. Only that which will make you feel content at the end of the day.

So, that's my message for today. Take just five minutes or 10 minutes and dream. Think about what you would do if money was no object. Think about what you would do if you were free of all encumbrances - relationships, children, debt, family, the history that plays a story about who you are that is no longer true. It's just a story. Think about you as a child and really try to imagine yourself as you were then. What were your dreams then? Did you even have any?

Think about the clothing you would be wearing in your ideal life. The environment you would be living in. The person you would be spending time with and making love to and caring for. What does your community look like? Get a clear picture of that life in your mind. Write it down. Describe it in every detail.

My wish for you is that it is not so far removed from where you are at the moment that you would need to die and be reincarnated to get there. (ha).

And, this thought from RUMI for November 22nd from my A Year with Rumi book seems fitting:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture
still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

November 22, 2008

Mind the Ditch

Last night I was initiated into island life. I drove into a ditch. Just think of the leaf as my car. Stuck. Not really meant to be there. I mean, you're not a true islander if you've never driven into a ditch. Now, I admit, that makes it sound a lot more dramatic than it was. It's not as if imitating a move from the latest James Bond movie Quantum Solace or Quantum Leap or whatever, I came around a sharp corner, went airborne and when I landed I was in a ditch. No. Thank God. That wasn't it.

I was going to hear a noted biologist, pilot, ecologist David Hancock, speak and show his slides of eagles. You must check out the live webcams on his site.

They always hold talks here at churches or wherever they can rent space. This church isn't too far up the road from me. It's the home base for Christian the Born Again christian. It's pitch black. It's raining. And, a lot of people are headed toward the talk trying to get into the gravel driveway of the church parking lot. In order to get off the road to let the cars behind me go on their way, I decided I'd just pull into the driveway beside where the other car was pulling in. Unfortunately, I didn't know the driveway had stopped about three feet from me. No driveway. Only ditch. Apparently Community Gospel is run by Scottish people. Too cheap to even put in reflectors on the side of the driveway to alert innocent city folk to stay out of the ditch.

Luckily, I wasn't moving very fast at all and at first when the car headed down into the ditch I was totally confused. What the hell's going on. I felt like I was on an amusement ride. Sharon (my sub-land lady) had warned me that during her first year here she had driven into a ditch more than once. When she said that I thought, Well I'm not going to do THAT! She must be a lousy driver I thought as I would in my usual nonjudgmental manner. Apparently, it has nothing to do with your driving ability. Ya. I would say that now. It does has something to do with eyesight. I've never been very good at driving on dark, rainy nights. And I mean pitch black. There are no streetlights here.

But, the great thing about these little places is that when the talk begins, the announcement gets made that someone (silly idiot) has driven into a ditch and if anyone can help, meet at the cookie plate after the talk. So, I left the flashers on, grabbed a cookie (of course) and just enjoyed a great talk with amazing photos of eagles all the while hoping nobody would crash into my car because the back end was aligned with the edge of the road.

Luckily, there were two guys. One named Phil with an Australian accent and cute. And one named Brian. Phil had the four-wheel drive. Brian had the rope. Actually, I'd already met Brian at Thanksgiving at Pauline's place. The beauty of small towns. BCAA? Who needs it here?

And, apparently driving into ditches here is about as common as, well, deer! Even if you're sober, it's a definite possibility. I don't think the car was even damaged because luckily it was a rather shallow ditch that had no water in it.

You might say it was the best case scenario for driving into a ditch. Driving into ditch 101 so to speak. And I passed.

November 21, 2008

Ferron, Still!

Tonight I went to see Ferron. I chose this photo above (which is actually in front of Pauline's house here on Salt Spring) because seeing Ferron sing is like seeing an old friend.

She'd be someone I'd want to sit down and have a conversation with. I like her irreverance. I like her love of words. She's a poet.

She spends half her time on Saturna Island and the other half in Michigan on Ojibwe Land. She herself is a Metis - something that, from what I gather, took year and years to trace.

I hadn't seen her perform for probably more than 20 years. The last time I saw her I must have been in my 20s and it was at the Vancouver East Cultural Center. No matter how many times I listen to her music it withstands the test of time. For me. And apparently a lot of other people. Lesbians mostly.

She has an old album called Testimony. I'd really like to get it. If you've never heard her, listen to this.

November 20, 2008

Arbutus Berries

When you look at these photos, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you were looking at a photo of somewhere in the Mediterranean but in fact, this was November 19th in the Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island.

We were a little spoiled today with the sunshine and I was definitely wandering around in it with the camera.

I'd never seen the berries of Arbutus trees. In fact, I didn't even know they had berries so I was pleasantly surprised to spot this today under the bright blue sky.

November 19, 2008

Woman Who Runs with the Ducks

I don't believe I've ever run after a duck trying to corner it but that's what I did this afternoon.

Well, that isn't completely accurate. I was actually running after the person, Christina Richard, who was running after her duck whose name, appropriately enough, is simply Running Duck and is actually an Indian Runner Duck. Sounds almost native indian when you say it like that; Woman who runs with the ducks.

I had my camera in hand ready to snap the photo as she snatched the duck. I'd show you the real photos here with her in it but I haven't asked her permission, and I'm not sure she'd want to be on my blog. So, I'll have to make due with just Runner Duck. Caught. He was actually quite photogenic and amenable to the camera settling right down into model mode.

She's an illustrator/animator from San Francisco who lives here part-time and has just illustrated a children's colouring book. Her drawings are the whimsical drawings of animals in the same manner as Beatrix Potter. Horses and cows. Elephants. Ducks. Bears. The characters of childhood storybooks. Personalities.

Christina and her husband have a 5-acre Hobby farm and live in a old farmhouse that was built by a woman in 1945 when all the men were off at WWII.

It was just so much fun petting the bunnies and running after the poor duck, feeding the sheep and talking to her about her work.

November 18, 2008


Don't you wish it was that easy? RELAX! This way! A little to the left. Nope, you've gone too far, back up! Ya. Right there. Oh, that feels good! Keep doing that! What? Nothing. Nothing at all.

I was out for my walk yesterday to soak up some Vitamin D while I still can (soak up the Vitamin D, not walk) and I came across this sign on a tree. I looked to the left and I couldn't see anything. No sauna. No hot tub. No magic chair. No pot plants. Relax? Maybe it's a brothel. Thoughts have crossed my mind here that given the dearth of ways to make money, why hasn't someone started one of those? Maybe they have. Maybe this is the sign.

If you know me, you know that I'm usually someone who has a fairly decent memory. I usually always remember appointments or show up when I've committed to being somewhere.

Lately however, ever since I got here, I just keep spacing things. Completely. Then, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and think, oh shit, I was supposed to be .... Or, I'll be taking a bite of dinner, having a glass of wine, watching Coronation Street and suddenly, I'll have a hazy vague feeling that I was actually supposed to be doing something, and sure enough, I've missed some talk I really wanted to go to. This keeps happening. Part of it is related to me not paying attention to my daytimer like I used to but the other part, I'm convinced, is related to silence. There are no auditory clues as to what day it is, where I am, what time of day it is. I feel completely spaced out here and I am convinced it's because it's too damned quiet. The second week I was here I actually slept in until 10:00 am. That is like someone else must have snatched my body because that's not me.

But, there is nothing to wake me up. No dumpster divers. No dump trucks. No sirens. Nobody yelling. No listening to the next door neighbour showering or having sex or
arguing. No horses trotting down Robson Street pulling tourists. No street lights. No bottles being thrown into recycling bins.

I have never known silence like this for this length of time. I'm beginning to wonder if this is perhaps just another layer of experience in preparation for my ultimate destiny: the convent!

Maybe that explains why people can't drive here. They're too relaxed. They can't pay attention long enough to stay on their own side of the road. Maybe they're multi tasking. Maybe they're actually bird watching and driving. Maybe they're not using their blackberry, they're looking for blackberries.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like quiet. I think but I could be wrong that it is actually a necessary component of relaxation or trying to get into that state. It helps you focus. It's actually much easier here to figure out that you're wasting time frittering away the day or, perhaps, your entire life.

In the city, you can just fill up your life with stuff that has nothing to do with your life purpose. Here, the fact that you don't have a life purpose becomes even more magnified. Because you can't go to the mall and shop it away. You really feel like things get stripped away so that you're really faced with yourself in a way that's more direct than being in the city allows for. Good thing I like myself because if I didn't I'd really begin to hate myself sooner if that makes any sense.

When I saw this sign it also reminded me that having someone tell you to relax is a surefire way to get you more uptight. Don't you just hate those people. People who are so arrogant that they actually utter the words to another human being, "Just RELAX". You just want to slap them. You want to say, No, YOU RELAX, just shut up and RELAX yourself! I'll relax when I damn well feel like it!

And all that just from a sign. I might just have too much time on my hands.

November 17, 2008

Everyone needs a Compadre

On the weekend I talked to a musician named James Keelaghan. I'm supposed to write something in advance of a concert he and his compadre Oscar Lopez are having here on November 26th.

He lives in Winnipeg after spending most of his life in Calgary because as he wrote in his song Gathering Storm, "A long hard ramble and endless roam by a twisted road I came back home/But the town I loved was there no more,gone now the things that were there before/The hills I roamed when I was small, covered with houses and shopping malls/All the talk was of buy and sell, they thought living high was living well.../

Turns out that James Keelaghan has a history degree from the University of Calgary but he started playing his guitar and singing in coffeehouses in Calgary in the early 1980s. In 1983 another well known folk musician, Garnet Rogers (Stan Rogers' brother), heard him, and actually bought him a much better Grit Laskin guitar named after the guy who makes them and urged him to consider becoming a full-time musician. He did.

Ten albums later, one Juno, several Juno nominations and a collaboration with a guy named Oscar Lopez (also a Juno-award winner who I actually had heard of) and they are on a tour of Western Canada including Salt Spring. They call themselves Compadres which they are, on and off stage.

Now, the interesting part of the story is why they named their second collaborative CD, Buddy Where You Been? Where they been is not where any of us want to go - personally. But, come to think of it, I actually have been there. Different story. Same type of caged pain.

Oscar Lopez suffered a debilitating depression that began in 2001 after struggles to get his managers to see eye to eye on his approach to an album. Then, a divorce and poof, life as he knew it, gone. For more than 3 years he was professionally and personally paralyzed. He could barely leave his apartment. He couldn't get near a stage without having a panic attack. He barely picked up his guitar. And when you hear him play, you really get what a tragedy that was.
James Keelaghan was having his own lesser struggles with his managers and his creative muse. He was set to perform in Australia and New Zealand. He decided to buy Oscar a ticket to come with him. Thought it would be good for him to have a change of scenery. He didn't have to perform. He just had to hang out is what Keelaghan said. And, so he did. But the interesting part is that without the pressure of performing in front of people who knew him where he could totally destroy what he had built in terms of reputation, he was freed to just get up and play. And he did. And he found his way back to his performing self and found a reason to stay with us.

Now, doing that for a friend is more than friendship, it's love. And, it's really great to talk to someone, male, who has that kind of frienship with another guy. Because it seems like men are in two camps. They either have that or they have a wife and have somehow not managed to cultivate those type of connections with another guy or guys and I think men need that as much as woman do.

How many of us would invite a friend who hasn't been able to function and/or work in three years on a long trip? I mean let's face it, depressed people aren't exactly the number one choice in travelling companion. I've been there and I don't like being around depression. It's a drag.

When I interview someone on the phone, I always get a sense of who they are and whether they're nice or they're self centered or aggressive or their genuine. This guy was NICE with a capital N. I mean, after all these years of touring, he probably enjoys talking to "reporters" as much as most of us enjoy going to the dentist.

I'm looking forward to seeing them in concert next week.

November 13, 2008

Picnic? Where?

Spectacular day here today but I was out of sorts to be honest. I was feeling a bit like this empty picnic table: blank! Where's the food? Who forgot the food? Where's the potato salad and the wieners and the BBQ. How could you forget the six pack? Honestly! I'd give anything for some chips. That's how today felt. Too quiet.

I've been having a lot of trouble making fire because the wood we got is not good wood. It's damp. And, that means it takes forever for me to get the fire hot and that means I've been a little cold and I don't like cold. I don't like winter. And, it isn't really cold yet? I have to get this fire thing down before it's really, really COLD. Cavewoman. Fire. Now. Hot. Why not working? That's how I"m feeling.

I was missing my Vancouver friends today. I was missing their quick wittedness. Missing the banter and the intellectual stimulation. You forget when you move somewhere that it takes a really long time to find people that you really like and vice versa who you are comfortable with so that you can just be exactly who you are in all your improper glory.

I'm thinking of ending this Blog and creating an anonymous one so I can write what I really want to write about being here. You may have noticed that the posts haven't been too inspired lately. It's because I feel like I really can't say too much...just in case.

So, if you have any suggestions or you'd like to know something about Salt Spring and what it's like living here, I'm all ears...

November 11, 2008


Every year I take the time on November 11th to either attend or watch the ceremonies at Victory Square in Vancouver on TV, but I was too cold to get it together this morning to see what happens on Salt Spring. They do have a cenetaph in the park in Ganges.

The photo above is a collage of my dad, and if you look closely, there is a hankie that is from Belgium that says "To My Darling". It's an actual hankie that my father sent my mother sometime between 1942 and 1946 when he served overseas in World War II. He wasn't someone who was a good writer so he would just send her these, I guess, to remind her that he was thinking of her.

Now he is 90 years old and doing quite well except I know that this time of year, especially this year, is difficult for him. It has been almost a year since my mother died (November 20th) and I feel there has been a change in his voice when I talk to him just recently. It could be because of how "ugly" November can be in the Lower Mainland this time of year but I know that's not it.

I'm trying to imagine my parents back then and of course I can't. I can't imagine my mother receiving these hankies in the mail - from Belgium and France and England. I can't imagine him asking her to marry him and wiring her money for a ring while he was away for five years. I can't imagine that such a beginning between two people could keep them together for 62 years.

I can't imagine what it would be like to be 90 and all the memories you would have of that person you loved and knowing that they are not here anymore. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

I think Remembrance day is always an emotional day for my father. Sometimes my brother, if he is in town, takes him to the Legion, a place where he typically would not go.

I must call him today to let him know I'm thinking of him.

November 08, 2008

Success an Inside Job

-taken through a window in Scottsdale Arizona

A friend in Tennessee sent this to me yesterday. I thought it would be good to share. It is written by the writer Alice Walker.

Nov. 5, 2008
Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear.

And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that
the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing
the world back to balance.

A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large.

We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as
white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking
strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they
remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family
deserve this fate.

One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most
damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those
feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain
religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies,
but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely.

However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often
fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of
healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

November 06, 2008

Oh Baby!

-this photo was taken in the parking lot of Lynn Valley Headwaters park in North Vancouver. It was a few days after the friend I write about here had told me she was pregnant. We parked the car, got out, and right in front of the car was this tiny shoe. It just seemed so fitting.

Yesterday I went with a friend to an appointment at Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. She’s pregnant, almost 40, and as a result decided to have an amniocentesis which apparently (and amazingly) can determine to 99% whether the baby will have Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida or something called Trisomy 18. Her husband was out of town and so I went with her.

We were led into an office and a nurse came in with a paper in her hand and said I have the results of your blood tests. It’s good news she said.

If you look at the paper, it’s showing that in spite of the fact that you are almost 40, you have the risk factors in this pregnancy of a female who is less than 15 years old. I’ve almost never seen anything like this she said.

I responded to that by saying something like, My God, look at you, a super human specimen. My friend, who I have noticed tends to absorb news – good or bad – with reserve didn’t really respond although obviously she was pleased.

Whereas soon to be mothers who are 40 have a 1 in 124 chance of having a Down Syndrome Baby (which is amazingly high), my friend’s chance of having a Down Syndrome baby was calculated to be 1 in 5,330. Whereas women her age have a risk of having a baby with Spina Bifida at 1 in 1,000 births, my friend has a risk factor of 1 in 2000.

As a result of this, given that the risk of miscarriage with amniocentesis is 1 in 200, my friend decided to forego the test because based on the nurse's insinuations, having the test, under the circumstances, would be more risky than not. The thought of having a huge needle stuck in your belly button or wherever probably helped to make that an easy decision as well.

Pregnancy, even when it’s not your own, brings up all sorts of ethical and moral questions it seems. For some people, once they’ve made the decision to have a baby, they might choose to not proceed with any test. Others, given the opportunity/precaution to discover some serious birth defects, would definitely choose to check it out and then be faced with either an easy decision or a very difficult decision depending on their philosophical or religious beliefs.

Some people would not see having a Down Syndrome baby as anything but a gift; especially given how many people who have had that experience have been known to describe it that way.

My friend understands that there are no guarantees in life.

The thing is, even if the baby is 100% physically healthy at birth, maybe you’ve noticed that humans, that would be you and me, have a multitude of challenges that arise even when we are physically healthy at birth.

We get depressed. We develop addictions. We get cancer. We might have learning disabilities or serious asthma or we’re ADHD or we have a speech impediment and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes our imperfections are actually the things that endear us to others, set us apart, provide the individual characteristics that make us who we are for better or worse.

Parenthood is a total crapshoot isn’t it? And, let’s face it, that reality is a two way street - for the parents and for the kids.

I personally believe it's actually what happens after the birth that is a lot more important, regardless of our imperfections.

Secure attachment. Insecure attachment. Ambivalent attachment. Our life experiences as adults will be shaped to a much greater degree than most people realize by our experiences as babies.

Did our childhood set us up to feel secure, to take risks, to feel that we are worthy just because we are or did the expectations and criticisms of our parents set us up for insecurity to the degree that it will affect the quality of all the rest of our intimate relationships?

Luckily, there are other factors that intersect with the quality of our beginnings but research into attachment theory has shown that its significance has been severely underrated until recently.

Choosing to become parents, maybe more than any other decision, is a risk and if we are wise it’s a risk that we already understand has a responsibility attached that urges us to shape our interaction with our children to be respectful, gentle and full of reverance, always mindful of the miracle that occurred the moment they were conceived.

As Kahlil Gibran wrote: “Our children are not our children, they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself, they come through you but not from you and though they are with you, they belong not to you...

Give your child wings

October 27, 2008

Can't See the Forest for the Trees

I've been thinking a lot lately about my photography and what I'm going to do with it. I don't like taking pictures of trees. I find that kind of boring. This photo above is two photos combined together. I came across this cross etched into an Arbutus tree while on a hike and the leaf, well, just a leaf on the ground during a walk.

I think you can reach a point with your photography where you can feel stuck. I feel that way. I'm not doing anything that's interesting and even though I might take some pretty pictures, they aren't cohesive and there's nothing about them that is getting at the heart of me expressing something creative that means something to me personally. They just aren't cutting it.

That's where I feel I'm at. I need a way to define my way of seeing, a niche, an approach that's about more than just photos that are pleasing to look at.

Here I am surrounded by the most heavenly beauty and for some reason I suddenly feel like I have nothing to photograph. I've never experienced that before.

October 25, 2008

Yaking about Mongolia

-Duck Creek Park near my house

Today I went to listen to a woman, Vanessa Hammond, speak about her experience working with felt makers in Mongolia and she's the one who named it, Yaking about Mongolia. She was an amazing speaker. Her father had been an officer in the British military and as a result she had travelled many, many places as a child and just kept right on going.

What was really inspiring about her was that she wasn't young. I'm thinking she was probably in her mid 60s. She didn't really explain how she came to take on this experience of organizing felt makers in Mongolia but she couldn't say enough fantastic things about the Mongolian people and her experience was the result of the Canadian Cooperative Association.

She was dressed in a purple brocade silk outfit - a pantsuit - that had been made in Mongolia. And, I have to say there aren't a lot of women who could carry that off standing in the middle of a non descript little room in a small hotel on Salt Spring at 10 am on a Saturday morning.

It was fascinating to see on a map where she had been, to see photos of the steppes, the vastness of the landscape and the yaks.

Her photos took us inside their homes called a ger or yurt and she explained how the temperature goes down to -45 degrees there. In fact, she said that a few years ago the weather was so extreme that many of the men froze to death with their herds so a lot of women are now raising children on their own and it's typical for them to pack up the ger and everything they own which fits into two bags that can attach to the yaks and move the ger every few months.

To hear about the generosity of the people even though the average wage is $2.00 per day and that when the Canadian office was vandalized last week, the Mongolian cooperative (MCTIC) rallied and raised $1,600 to send to Canada. That's a huge amount of money given their standards of living. Unbelievable.

But before she spoke, I had to sit through the meeting of the Canadian Federation of University Women and I have to say, not my scene typically, and I swear to god that I thought I'd walked into a Margaret Laurence novel, like I'd been transported to her fictional town, Manawaka.

The majority of the members were older, much older, and they were trying to conduct a meeting and they were getting approval on a new logo for their newsletter called, wait for it, The Lamplighter.

I mean, it took everything I had not to just stand up and say, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What year do you think this is? Poor things. Haven't got a clue. They were approving their logo and someone wanted to ad an addendum that would say that it was up to the discretion of the interest groups whether to use it or not. No. No. No.

They were talking about bridge and whether beginner bridge fit within the umbrella of the advanced bridge that takes place...you get the picture. It was like, somebody bring me a sharp spike, I might need to ram it through my forehead if this lasts even 10 minutes longer.

If it wasn't so painful, it would be charming. I'm sure it was charming. Not my kind of charm however. Anyway, bless their hearts, they did bring in a wonderful speaker.

And, in addition to the speaker, I did meet another woman, around my age, who I ended up talking to and who I am going to have coffee with. She's a writer who has just finished writing a book about her experiences working in community development in Lesotho. She taught there and she is concerned about the people losing their oral traditions much the same way so many aboriginal people in Canada have and so she is concerned about bringing language and literacy to people from a top down approach within community development.

She said she was feeling a bit deflated because she's sent her book off to a publisher but nothing has happened and she's back to having to find money.

It's great to meet someone where there's sympatico. Other than that, really quiet day. The initial excitement of the move is beginning to wear off and now it's a question of how to make this work (financially) which is a common problem - in Newfoundland and on Salt Spring.