" 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!