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

October 29, 2010

Pool of Shame

So the other day I finally decided to get some exercise. Think mortality. Consider the shape-shifting of menopause. Suspect the hump beginning to form on the back of my neck from trying to figure out how Twitter works at a desk set-up that's ergonomically criminal. Desperation does funny things to a gal.

For me, preparing to get into a pool requires just a little less prep than a Rolling Stones concert.  It requires shaving every part of my body that might not be covered by fabric, and that, in polite company, shouldn't actually have hair and let's face it, always does.

It requires rummaging through, finding, and then holding up by two fingers with a pained look of confusion on my face, the bathing suit that's been in the bottom of my dresser wondering what in God's name made me think that THAT bathing suit made sense. Ever. It makes even less sense now. It's damn near fluorescent. Perfect for Halloween actually and when I'm in it, rather pumpkin-shaped.

I work part-time at an employment centre in a town of 10,000 people. The only thing worse to do for money in a small town (if you prefer anonymity like I do) would be to be a shrink. I've realized that I really MUST get over being seen by every single person who has ever passed through our office looking for work or I can just hole up, order in, duck and cover. I've tried that. It's hellishly boring. Being seen in a bathing suit is the ultimate "get over it" test. Well, next to being naked.

I get to the Rainbow Road Pool.   I peer inside. Nobody I know is there. Thank you mother of Mary. Well, nobody except the former Olympic swim coach whom I met earlier yesterday who needs to talk to me about something. Is there no mercy? Not now!!!

When it's time for the class to start, I put on one of those foam belts that helps you float (or not drown) since it's a deep water class.  It helps me float so well I feel like I might just begin to levitate over the water the way the good year blimp floats over major sporting event. Note to self: Might not need the flotation device. How about a body fat test instead?

Apparently, my flotation device also doubles as a homing device that works better than a cruise missile. It's target, however, is any body bobbing next to mine. I'm like a big pale white rubber duckie bobbing and teetering and uncontrollably bouncing towards any other wet body near me. Trying not to collide with another means my legs must kick so hard under the water, I begin to picture one of those  old fashioned egg beaters making cupcake icing.

If that isn't bad enough, when I turn my attention to the rest of the class, I'm even a little more horrified.
I'm not sure what it is about these classes but regardless of where you are in the Western Hemisphere or what the instructor on the deck of the pool is doing, it has little resemblence whatsoever to what is happening in the pool. She's got one of those microphones that's attached to a plastic head band and I think, if you're air traffic control, we're in trouble. Remember that Kelly dearest? Kerrisdale. Circa 1996. Aquafit laugh-a-thon.

These women take their aquafit exercising seriously. Well, some of them. The others act as if they're not even in a class or in a bathing suit or in a pool. They're in a coffee shop. They're catching up on their children's  teenage dramas, other people's pet traumas and the obituaries in last week's Gulf Islands' Driftwood. We're not in Tim Hortons Ladies. Hellloooooo! That comes later. Except, there isn't a single franchise of anything here and we do indeed love it like that. (Actually that's a lie, I didn't know that Canadian Tire owned Marks WorkWearhouse).

And, that was that. I did it. I've done it twice now. And I'm gonna do it again. Anyone care to join me?

October 26, 2010

I'm too busy for my Success

 Cowboys are busy too.

In the last two weeks I had some work that involved talking to five small businesses in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland to write about a specific aspect of their businesses. You can find out a lot about a business by talking to the person in charge of it and mostly what you find out about is their ATTITUDE.

Just from talking to one person, I could tell whether I would ever talk to them or I would, on the sole basis of how they were on the phone, forgettabout'em;. All of them were either owners or managers.

One of the businesses has been doing business at the same location on South Granville for 27 years. It's run by a woman. I'm sure she's busy. She has had lots of publicity. At this point she could be like, ya, whatever, I don't need to talk to you because I don't need any more publicity. Everyone who lives in Vancouver knows about me. Instead, she took the time to talk to me and made sure everything was explained properly. She followed up quickly. When it was over she thanked me and told me that she was excited that her company would be receiving notice on the web site where it would be. She invited me to introduce myself the next time I was in Vancouver. Total professionalism.

Contrast that to someone who was "too busy","couldn't really talk, you've got me at a bad time but didn't have the ability to just come right out and say "No, I'm sorry, I can't do this right now, please get back to me at some other time in a month or so." That would have been fine. Just say No and stick to it. I could have moved on. I wouldn't have wasted my time, the time, he apparently thinks is completely valueless compared to his.

Instead, he rushed through everything, and as a result, what I ended up writing, he wasn't happy with but he didn't get back to me for more than a week. Didn't respond to e-mails. When he finally did get back to me he just kept saying, I'm too busy, I can't get to this, there's a lot of inaccuracies. No shit, I thought. You barely could talk to me without saying, busy, busy busy instead of focusing on the details.

I refrained from saying to him. You agreed to do this. I am depending on making money from this. If you couldn't follow through you should have said NO, I can't do it!

It was just a really good lesson. First of all, saying you're too busy, and continuing to say that and doing a lousy job on something is not how you want to be doing business. Saying you're too busy, in a world where everyone is too busy, is just lame. It makes you sound like you have a fragile ego that somehow needs the world to know that you're so important because you're too busy or that you are completely unable to set boundaries for yourself.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't people who are over the top busy. But, you know what? I'm guessing, based on what I've witnessed, that those people are rarely the ones that use "busy" as an excuse.  They know how to manage a workload, set priorities, establish clear boundaries and quietly manage to negotiate changes if they aren't able to meet a deadline.

Someone I follow on Twitter said what I've been thinking for a few days since that interaction. Her Tweet said,  "I declare a moratorium on the word busy. Everyone's busy, we get it. Busy is default status. Let us know if it changes."  Her name is Holly MacDonald and her blog is Spark + Co.

Think about that the next time the knee-jerk, "I'm too busy," is about to come out of your mouth and make you look less than you are.

and PS: In case you think everyone on Salt Spring is just sittin' around. It's not true. It's true for those you see sitting around day in and day out staring out the windows at coffee shops but in general, it's so far from the truth.

October 23, 2010

Not a Green Thumb? Aim for a Green Tongue!

A few links:
I've been deliciously devouring the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life, by author Barbara Kingsolver perhaps most well known for The Poisonwood Bible. Her eldest daughter Camille Kingsolver ads in her observations with research back-up contributed by her husband Steven L. Hopp.

She wrote the book in 2007 detailing her family's move from Tuscon, Arizona to her husband's small farm in the Southern Appalachians. It's full of interesting and alarming facts about food sourcing and their decision to grow everything they eat, to find it locally, to align their food choices with the growing season.

It's the American version of The 100 Mile Diet but with more research behind the politics of food sourcing and convincing enough to smack an unconscious mouth into forming a small hesitant question mark before popping in the next bit of artificial sweetened, trans-fatted, square food morsel.

Now, just in case you're a slow learner, I'm not an "early adopter" (do ya think?) and it's quite ridiculous to admit this considering where I now live but coming from the city, I'm used to sleepwalking into a grocery store and practically sleepeating what I've hunted and gathered from the place. That's a slight exaggeration of course. I did shop at Capers which, in hindsight, is a halloween costume of organic lies.  But, I've never eaten an organic piece of meat because I always get this picture of a gentleman farmer chasing something all over the poperty, getting it in a headlock, wrestling it to the ground and just doing an allround messy job of the finale. Crazy I know.

I've never grown anything. Not even a single pot plant. When I buy garden plants, they're already started. Seeds? Huh? Do they still make those? You may not know that humans, in our illustrious history, have eaten 80,000 plant species. Now we eat about eight with even that number heading in a reduced direction to genetically modified corn, soy and canola and who knows, perhaps just a single pill a day by 2040.

I've lived here on Salt Spring for two years now and I'm surrounded by locally grown food whether it be available at farm stalls, at the Saturday and Tuesday Farmer's Market in the Park, at the various farms that open their gates to hungry locals, the gardens growing behind restaurants (Harbour House and Hastings House come initially to mind), in neighbour's backyards, on apple trees, the mushrooms and fungi growing wild beside forested trails, rosehips and blackberries.

I'm at the market almost every Saturday as a result of selling my photographs and only recently have I become a little adamant about eating the locally grown greens, vegetables, fruits that are bulging out of the booths of the farmers who live here.

So, here's my goal and a challenge for you in case you're slow like me.  Try and pay attention to where the food you're buying comes from, how far away that is, whether it's possible to buy locally grown and to eat "in season".

Maybe if I do that, I'll be more motivated to open a cookbook, have someone for dinner,  find recipes that befit the bounty all around. Baby steps. Everything in moderation. What's for breakfast?

Have you changed something about the way you purchase food or what you eat in the last couple of years?

October 21, 2010

The Pre-Emergency, Emergency Room

If you've ever doubted your own mortality, a trip to Surrey Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department should help adjust that delusion in a second.

I was there yesterday and this morning as a result of my father, who is now two years into his ninth decade. He's a tough old guy though. A stubborn Scotsman who survived World War II so aging as the enemy has been a lighter load for him (until recently) than it might be for the rest of us.

When you are called to be there for an elderly parent, your own mortality tends to get in your face like you're staring in a mirror at a carnival funhouse and that scary thing in the mirror, that looks strangely familiar because it is YOUR face afterall, is mocking you.

You're old and vulnerable and afraid and lying there completely dependent upon the care and decision-making of strangers whom you can't hear because you don't have your hearing aids and you can't see because you don't have your glasses either.  And, that's if you're lucky. That's assuming you have someone to HELP you. Because you BETTER have someone to help you. You better not be there ALONE. You need someone to feed you, to get you stuff, to help you out because strange as it may seem, all that caregiving stuff is a la carte in hospitals.

Let me tell you, it's a major motivating factor behind internet dating for mid-life singles. If you're looking for beauty and sex appeal, you're looking for the wrong things. Kindness. Patience. Servitude. Preferably a decade younger. Valid Driver's licence. Calm. Babysat as a teen. Has changed a few diapers in his time. All those skills plus a good sense of humour and a wonderful sense of irony are worth their weights in gold. That's what you really need in an old-age mate.

The first alarming sight in Emergency, especially when like me, you've come from a place where silence and suicidal deer are the two things you most commune with, is that there are human beings on every surface. The psychic energy gets  ramped up about a million decibals. It's like you've gone from drinking chammomile tea to gulping down a couple of cans of Red Bull. (I actually liked that part.) You really feel as if you've just dropped into an episode of ER as an Extra. And everyone is in various states of decay. They're badly dressed, half dressed, half undressed.  Paramedics keep wheeling them in and these people are clutching at various body segments wearing their discomfort like a badge that tells everyone else they have every right to be there.
The ridiculously small Emergency department at Surrey Memorial, which outgrew itself about 20 years ago, can, at times, feel busier than Canada Customs at YVR right after the arrival of a flight from Beijing.

Yesterday it was so busy that some poor sick schmuck (who had probably been out in the hall for hours and hours)  had to be wheeled into a miniscule enclosed room that looked as if it had once been used only for cleaning supplies. Getting the bed into the tiny room was like do-it-yourself movers trying to get a baby grand piano into a non regulation sized apartment elevator.

The hallway has now become the pre-emergency, emergency room. Think of it this way.You feel a little bit calmer because you've entered the building; at least you're in the right place, but you're in the hallway. You've still got all the same symptoms, you're dying, but you're pretty much invisible. That's how pre-emergency, emergency works.

People seem to get moved around a lot once they're in the real Emergency department as well. Some woman with a cane had it in her head that her husband was in that tiny supply room. I'm not sure why. But, she walked in there and my ever helpful sister carried a chair in behind her only to discover that the guy she sat down across from wasn't her husband afterall. Musical patients.

As an observer, I have to say, it cracked me up. Some poor guy, laying prone, staring into the eyes of some woman about to lean over him only to discover he didn't look anything like her husband. Not sure what took her so long to figure that one out but after a couple of decades of marriage, it's not impossible to imagine.

And they were trying out some new GPS-like bed tracking system where they attach something to your pillow and it should tell them where you are at all times. There was only one problem. According to this, she said, your dad's in an elevator and I know he's not in an elevator," she said. "He's been here all day." We had a laugh at that one. Let's just say the system needs a wee bit of tweaking. It also fails to account for people who refuse to stay in bed.

All that talk about the baby boomer generation and what's going to happen when they reach old age (which is looming large) suddenly became more than some theoretical media story happening to someone else. Afterall, I am of that age that I'm at the very tail end of it and those of us who were born at the tail end know that we got ripped off on jobs and everything else so of course it's not going to be any better at the other end of the bell curve.

Forget earthquake preparedness. Old age preparedness makes a lot more sense to me. Because, let's face it, "The big one" will seem like a mere amusement park ride compared to the really big one that's comin down the lifeline pipe.

What do you most fear about aging?

October 19, 2010

Just one of The Fellas on Salt Spring

Meet one of The Fellas. "Made with Salt Spring Wool, Love and a Lot of Weird!" You can pick one of 'em up at Rainbow Road Trading Company. They used to hang out at The Saturday Market but the creator of The Fellas decided it was more fun to just invoke Fellas when the creative gene blossommed on its own schedule, not on a mass-produced conveyer belt of peace and love and hurry-up felted Fellaship.

This is Gary the Cynic and after a day at the office, call me crazy, but haven't we met before? Can't you just hear him espousin' on and on and on. Complainin again and again to your teeny, weeny peabrain (let me squeeze your head 'Kids in the Hall' style) on how this and that is and it's all really bad and hopeless of course because, hey, he's Gary the Cynic.

And, if you don't like him, there are a lot of other Fellas (not all male mind you) that might remind you of someone you know or someone you'd like to know or someone you wished you'd never met.
The next time you're in town, go to Rainbow Trading Company and go mingle with one of The Fellas, way easier than finding a parking spot in Ganges on Saturday Morning or...well, you know.

PS: And, just as soon as I recall the name of the lovely woman who makes them, I'll put it here!
Her name is Tamara MacDonald.

October 15, 2010

Try listening to your own good advice

 Every once in a while because of the part-time job that I do at the CARE Employment Centre on island, I get confirmation that what my co-worker, Suzanne and I, do makes a difference in tangible ways. Not for everybody but for enough people.

Today, someone returned to the island after being away at a job all summer where he flew a helicopter in the Yukon and undoubtedly made really decent cash. More importantly, I think it gave him back some self esteem that had seeped away over the years as a result of the immense challenges of trying to make a living here that we see and hear about every day. It takes a toll on people.

He brought my co-worker and I a box of the best chocolates ever, handmade locally here at Harlan's Chocolates, and he thanked us for helping him. We were just doing our jobs. I encouraged him when he was feeling nervous about returning to an industry that he didn't really want to return to.  I was worried when he left that it might not work out. Or worse yet, that he might have an accident and die! I really did have this visceral fear for a few days after he left that he might not be safe if he hadn't flown for a couple of years.It's not as if we'd met him just once, we got to know him a little bit over the year or more that he'd come in and out, like so many of our clients. We rarely see people just once here.

I really hoped the job and the people he'd work for and get to know there would be really good for him. And, yesterday, I got confirmation that it was the right choice for him. Yay!  He even liked it. He's even going to go back in a bit after a break.

That was SO nice. It's not that I need to hear it. It's my job. But, hey, hearing it made me feel really good. We do actually lend a lot more than "information" to a lot of people who walk through our doors. We listen - or we try to - and we lend our support - not to everyone - but there are varying degrees of need and varying degrees of an individual's ability to be open when they really need and there are our very different personal temperaments which mean we connect (or sometimes we don't) with everyone to varying degrees.

I couldn't help but think of the day he started reluctantly calling helicopter companies from our office and he really wasn't too convinced that it was what he should be doing and I just looked at him and said, "What's going to be different here, if you don't, six months from now, a year from now, and on and on?" 

I know that sounds harsh. So much for unconditional listening or motivational interviewing. I know those have a place and I have been the recipient of a lot of unconditional listening in the past via therapy and it has its place for sure, but you know, sometimes it's a huge relief to get a little bit of insight that comes with directions. A push perhaps. A confirmation that change is necessary and transformations are never a piece of cake.

In fact, just seeing him reminded me that maybe it's time I tried listening to my own good advice.

October 12, 2010

Duck Creek Park: Two Parks in One

This afternoon, I was out foraging in the forest looking for mushrooms. If this isn't a sign that I've become a little too "Salt Spring", I don't know what is.

I needed a break from some work stuff I was doing at home and I hadn't been to Duck Creek park for a long time. A reunion seemed long overdue. It was time for some reflection(s).
I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of "destruction", natural, with trees down from last winter.
I like to think of Duck Creek as a fantastic Salt Spring secret. You wouldn't know such a place existed if you didn't get off the main grass and onto the trails that are hidden off to the side. And, that's where I started to notice mushrooms dotting the forest floor and suddenly I felt like I was on a mushroom scavenger hunt. Only problem? I know squat about mushrooms.
I like the way the water drops make this one seem extra special.
Could this be a Chanterelle? I don't think it is. The underside is not veined in the way of a Chanterelle.
And I wonder what this little orange umbrella-top is?

On my way out of the park, I noticed this black one. It could be a Hawk's Wing but the stem is different.

And, therein lies the problem with mushroom identification. Looks are deceiving. It might actually be a fungus, not a mushroom.

If you live in Vancouver and want to find out more about Mushrooms, I noticed that the Vancouver Mycological society is having a Mushroom day on October 24th at Van Dusen Gardens. And if you're in Victoria, there's the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society.  

As for on island, I'm not sure. If I put it on "the List", I undoubtedly could find out. But, maybe I'll just start at the library.

October 06, 2010

Walking Meditations

When you go for a walk, even if it's down the same road each time, your attention will focus on something new. The way the rocks off Galiano Island reflect golden into the water.

The reflection of pillars in water
and how boats on the beach look from above.
and docks look from below
snakes by surprise on the side of the road

and a perfect dusty red rosehip.

The Country.
Posted by Picasa

October 04, 2010

Slow Food, Slow Money

Posted by Picasa

It's that time of year again. The bounty has arrived; a rainbow of natural colour in the market's stalls.

Walking by the Foxglove Farm stall, I got handed a tiny, shiny orange tomato by Michael Abelman who is gracing this month's Aqua Magazine . I also have a story in it on artist Christina Sorrentino.

"I could tell YOU wanted one of these," he said, after a tourist had declined his offer. And, yes, of course, I did. Who would refuse such a beautiful small orange gift and the perfectly contained explosion of sweetness that results after that first bite that is so fantastic, if I had a stock of those on hand, I'd never need any artificial sugar, ever...again!

Now that I've started to buy locally grown vegetables - sometimes from the farmstand just around the corner - or at the Tuesday or Saturday markets, the difference is truly spectacular in terms of taste. It's as if I haven't really been eating food up until now and on this small island, I'm finally accessing the real goods. Especially, perhaps, in the tomatoes if you're used to those styrofoam blobs painted red that they sell as tomatoes in most big chain food stores.

Later in the morning, a man stopped at my table and asked me if I had any more food photos. When I asked him why, he said he was a chef, creating a new website and he was looking for natural looking photos of food and he liked mine because so many are photoshopped to death. I got his card and told him I'd think about how to go about that in terms of cost and licencing.

A while later, I recognized another man who walked right by my table that I'd taken a freelance writing course from in Vancouver perhaps about 15-20 years ago. When I asked if his name was blah, blah (and I know it seems crazy not to mention it but if I mention it and you know anything about writing in Vancouver you'll know his name and then I won't feel like I can share this story.) He looked at me with a weird expression, not wanting to answer my question, which was just, Are you (name here?) He never did answer it as if he was perhaps expecting that I was some long lost stalker who was about to inform him that I'd had his baby and she was now 12 years old or something. It was strange but anyway, perhaps, as a writer, he was just surprised that ANYONE would recognize him. I never forget a face.

He's still writing. I knew that. And, of course, he's writing a story on Salt Spring and "slow money". Why didn't I think of that I thought to myself amazed at how challenging I'm finding it to come up with ideas and then gathering just enough info to transform it into a query. It's harder than writing the stupid story. I'll never forget one of the things this guy said in the course. He said, When you write a query all you have to do is just ENOUGH work so you can write it and not more. Well, maybe HE can do that. I feel like writing a query requires ALL the work so that you have ALL the info in your head in order to write the damn thing in an enticing enough way. I have just not had enough consistent practice at it over the years I suppose. Are we having fun yet?

Well, in fact, I had thought of the idea he is putting forth but I didn't quite know how to wrap it all into a query with a bow on top and of course he has it all worked out. He hadn't heard about the Salt Spring Community List so I gave him all the details including the name of the guy who started it because it's the technical root of slow money on Salt Spring.

I won't share how he's pulling it all together here - since he's just in the middle of gathering the info - and god knows, millions flock to my blog and the idea might be stolen (joke).

Anyway, these short interactions prove, once again, that the best part about the market, is the short conversations and meetings that take across the tables.

Slow Food. Slow Money. Or maybe those should be the other way around because for most Salt Springers, including me, it just describes the pace at which the meagre amounts they earn trickle into their bank accounts.