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March 31, 2011

Wander a While with Me

Today, why don't you tag along and see where I've been?

I really liked this rock staircase at the far end of Churchhill Beach, somewhat hidden under the boughs of a tree. The photo turned out blue because I actually had my camera set on the wrong setting which is not really all that uncommon for me. But, in this instance, I love the effect. It's as if you dare climb to the top, you'll surely be greeted by Frankenstein's bride or the troll hermit who drags himself in and out of  his ramshackled lean-to just above the beach.
 I had some time to pass and so I went down to a place I've been too many times before hoping, to my disapointment, that there might be something new to see. The "sculpture garden" is really derelict at this point. The sculptures are broken or completely gone. Maybe new ones are coming. Maybe not. I really hope so. The winter storms have desecrated the trail so you have to turn around and walk back the same way, especially if you're not wearing boots. Still, it's pretty and I've almost never met a single other soul when I've been there. It overlooks the gardens at the back of Hastings House. 
While the Hastings House guests sleep in luxurious accommodations, the gardener sleeps on this in the woods. (I'm joking of course). This was a sculpture. It's now a bed of leaves, literally. It's gross and interesting at the same time. I really like it. When you come upon it, it's as if you've come upon a crime scene.
Along Churchill beach there is a rope that hangs off a tree. As you walk towards it on the beach, it looks like a noose. That coul be dangerous. It's hanging with a big loop and part of it is badly frayed. I liked the juxtaposition of the fraying against the still intact rope.
The textures are what caught my attention as if the barnacles are shell condos.

It seems like a long time since I've truly been in the mood to take photos so it was lovely to spend a small part of this sunny day wandering with camera in hand.

Thanks for joining me.

March 27, 2011

Gulf Islands Maple Syrup Surprise

 Maia Green and Elizabeth Woodward

Friend and Gulf Islands Driftwood editor Gail Sjuberg and I caught up at brunch at the Harbour House Hotel dining room this morning. The place was packed which was nice to see. We had a really good candied salmon quiche with a huge salad picked straight from the garden. Her husband Michael joined us to taste the  maple syrup that they were in the middle of producing from the 100 Maple trees out the back of the hotel.

Before that however, I peeked my head into the second location of Solace Organic Spa which has transformed a room off the lobby of the hotel  into a treatment room which is beautifully appointed complete with a fireplace. Leslie was prepping the room for a pedicure. The client was in for a treat with a front row seat of Ganges Harbour while being pampered. Darn. I should have snapped a pic. Sorry.

Elizabeth Woodward (above right) is the daughter of the hotel's owners, Jack and Glenda Woodward. She was busy explaining the process with help from Maia Green. They talked about how the maples were tapped last week and the liquid comes out of the tree completely clear. Boiling it turns it the tawny, syrupy colour. It takes about 100 maples to come up with 15 litres of syrup after a 7-10 hours of boiling. We tasted the liquid through the stages from clear to almost there.

 The Harbour House completes the process to about 90% because they use the syrup in their hotel kitchen and it's easier for the chef to transform it into sauces, etc. if it's not completely boiled.  They've been involved in this process for three years. 

We then took a stroll around the grounds to see how the many varieties of leafy greens were coming.
They just finished installing a second new greenhouse this weekend where they're going to put tomatoes and as we were in the first greenhouse, an employee was cutting more lettuce to satisfy the crowd in the restaurant.

 It's really amazing to truly know that the lettuce on your plate is coming direct to you from the garden right out back and picked minutes before it will end up in your mouth. Now that's fresh!
 Here's proof.

March 23, 2011

Work through the Ages

Help yourself to flourish

When you're young and you've never had a job, the criteria is pretty simple. 1. Don't have job. 2. Want money. 3. Some experience could be useful. 4. Try and get job. 5. Miraculously get job. (Usually a "bad" job). Now, of course you're not going to start "at the top" (wherever that is) but I now know that choosing a job, even when you have no experience, is critical. You don't want a job that is going to make you hate yourself.

I feel quite experienced to speak on this subject.  I had many, many less than stellar jobs when I was young. I worked in a factory making door locks one summer. (Someone drive a spike through my head now. Please!)

I worked as a temp which included tons of office work and even in one instance, a salad dressing factory filling up ice-cream buckets with home-made mayonnaise, Lucille Ball style.

I worked as a dicta-typist in an ICBC bodily injury claim centre. (Think of cows. They are hooked up for their milk. Dicta-typists are hooked up to machines and inundated with information that's barely decipherable when adjusters mumble into handheld microphones about drivers and their injuries.)

I worked at a paint store (well, I actually liked that job). I worked at Telus on their 411 repair lines (a job that makes you want to either kill yourself or the caller). I worked at Canada Employment when it was called that, first as a student placement officer (cool job) and then just doing mind numbingly boring filing work. I've worked at London Drugs as a cashier. I worked as an au pair in Finland for a few months (which wasn't really a job, it was a great experience so that doesn't count.) but, in general, my early job history is one that was personally tailored for someone destined to be a writer or a mercenary. In short, it sucked. It did not give me a positive feeling about working at all.

These wrong jobs (for me) didn't give me much needed experience as much as they gave me a feeling about work that was coloured with frustration and hopelessness. Honestly, I'm not overstating this.

In my case, it took way too long to get to the "good" jobs, even when I got out of university and much of that was related to confidence and not having anyone to "guide" me appropriately. As a result, I am vehemently opposed to the attitude of parents who might say to their kids, "just get a job".

Yes, definitely get out of bed before noon and get a job already. But, get a job that has some element in it that you actually like if at all possible. Just because you've never worked before, shouldn't mean you have to be tortured. If you have to, create your own job. Just do it.

Now, all these years later, when I think about seeking the right work, the criteria is almost at the other end of the spectrum. It's like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Even if there are a lot of possibilities, which there are, there are really very few that fit the stringent list of criteria of this mid-life job seeker.

Examine the precious nature of your life energy which you have taken for granted most of your life. Assess, in the best case scenario, the number of years left on the planet (barring unexpected death she jokes) and then really think about what it means to exchange that life energy for money and as importantly, tme. That's the mid-life dilemma.

The criteria is huge.
  1. Do I think I want to spend my days with you and all those others already there?
  2. Is what you're doing something that matters to me one bit?
  3. Would I feel like I was doing something positive for society in general?
  4. Am I going to learn something new? Huge. Huge. Huge.
  5. Is there possibilities to be creative in some way?
  6. Can I see how this job might provide me with opportunities in a new direction when I leave it?
  7. Can I work as part of a small team and yet independently within that team?
  8. Is the job going to pay me appropriately for the amount of time it's asking of me?
  9. Do I want to live where the job is?
  10. If I give up my lifestyle on Salt Spring, is this going to be a worthy trade-off?

Do you see what I mean.? Had I started asking these questions much earlier, I truly believe that looking back, the work picture could have been so much better.

What do you think about when you're exploring new work opportunities, especially if you're going to work for someone else? Share your wisdom.

March 19, 2011

The Spirit of Colombia on Salt Spring

It has been ages since I've gone outside with my camera and wandered with the hope of helping photographs to find me. The long winter/spring of monsoons and greyness has not inspired much of anything but cocooning.  It feels like I need a new locale to reignite the photographer's eye. A vacation. Yes, a vacation would be so fine right about now. Alas, not in the cards.

Today, however, a window of opportunity poked through. I made my way into Ganges early to catch the taping of the CBC program North by Northwest live at Barb's Bakery (a.k.a Barb's Buns).

The place was packed as host Sheryl MacKay interviewed some of Salt Spring's notables.  Here's a photo of writer Brian Brett (author of the book Trauma Farm) reading a poem about bread.

Afterwards, I wandered down to the float plane dock and was snapping photos when I spotted a young woman who seemed to be just hanging out. Eventually we said hello and I learned that she was from Colombia. She's lived on the island for about a year working as an au pair on Stowel Lake Farm.

Her beautiful name is Isela Mileth Espitia Fernandez. Her father told her he'd  heard the name and really liked the way it flowed. Are you sure it wasn't the woman who belonged to the name that you liked, she asked him jokingly. She claims he flatly denied that.

I asked her if she'd mind being the subject of my blog. She agreed and we proceeded to chat about how it was for a young woman from another culture to live here on this little island with so few eligible bachelors, especially in her age range.

She said she had a great host family and that she liked it. She's 26 years old and she originally left Colombia to be an au pair for a family from Pakistan who were living in the U.S. But, she returned to Colombia prior to coming to Canada and has hopes to be a dental hygienist once she gets her landed immigrant status. She found her host family on a website called GlobalAuPair.  After Skyping a few times, their mutual decision was made. She arrived on island in February 2010.

Her host family either owns the company of the cup she's holding (or maybe a franchise of it) called Guayaki Organic Yerba Mate. I wasn't totally clear on that. Her English is excellent and she said she learned it by listening to English speaking films and lyrics from popular songs. She'd take a line from a song and then try to learn it and understand it. How's that for dedication on learning a second language?

She looks after two small children who also speak Spanish and she says that Rio, the youngest, helps her to pronounce English words properly. She admits to having a lot of trouble pronouncing worm as in creepy crawly versus warm as in temperature.  Repeat after me: The rain in Spain grows mainly on the plain and the Yerba Mate in Colombia is warm, not worm.  

Since she was passing time and I had the entire day stretched out before me, I invited her to breakfast at The Treehouse.

 Afterwards, we walked over to a craft fair where Cory Judge, a friend of her host mother, was selling exquisite chinese silks and other "tantalizing textiles" under glass created into necklaces, earrings and belt buckles. Judge's  Shi studio is based in Victoria, B.C. This photo does not come close to doing the pieces justice.
  Create your own custom piece by visiting Shi Studio.

It turned into a lovely little morning. With camera in hand, you just never know what you might find or who you might get to know to turn an "ordinary day" (if there is such a thing) into a sweet little memory.

March 14, 2011

What Can You Do with Someone Else's Catastrophe?

It's impossible to fathom how people in Japan are coping.

I've had to tear myself away from Twitter and YouTube because I can't take watching any more of the catastrophe.

If you're a very visual person, it's best to limit that imagery if you can. Even if you're not, if you can't change a situation, is it really wise to consume yourself in it? It's good to be informed. It's overwhelming to be glued to your TV and the Internet.

I don't know the right answer or if there is one and of course it depends whether you have family/friends in the situation but I'm thinking a few things.
Here's five things I'm going to do.

1. I'm going to make a donation, no matter how small but equal to my financial abilities, to a reputable agency that can help. It's important, no matter how small. We are one world.
The Canadian Red Cross
Network for Good
Global Giving

2. I'm going to visualize positive outcomes related to the nuclear reactor situation happening in Japan. If you don't believe in the power of intention, then read Adam Dreamhealer's site. If you can't get your head around that, in this type of situation, then at least visualize positive images of people helping people in Japan and people finding each other. Visualize positive outcomes for families. Close your eyes and see it until you feel their overwhelming happiness at finding each other.

3. I'm going to make an extra effort today to bring beauty (flowers, nature, whatever you deem beautiful) into my daily life and someone else's and stay present.  Do something small for someone else.

4. Remind yourself of The Golden Rule and try and move towards living more compassionately. It's a daily struggle. Listen to this fantastic interview with Karen Armstrong, a religious scholar who has written the book steps to leading a compassionate life.

5. I'm going to get prepared already! Make this time the time you finally do get prepared for an earthquake/tsunami (as much as you can) given that we all know, those of us who live on the coast of British Columbia, that the same type of catastrophe is expected (tomorrow or hundreds of years from now) to hit British Columbia. Write it in your daytimer. Decide what you need to buy. Keep it in one of those large transparent plastic bins.  Just do it finally.

March 11, 2011

Young, Male and Just a Shell of his Boyhood Self

Nothing makes me sadder in my day job than when I see young people - more often than not they are young guys - who are without a high school education, direction, support and positive role models as part of their lives.

I know how low self esteem can dramatically alter your reality and dampen your life energy making your future less than it might have been.

I've always wondered what the difference is between those people who take difficult backgrounds and use them as the reason to succeed, and those who can't seem to overcome what I have decided to call the intergenerational consciousness of scarcity, as if generations of low self-esteem get handed down, over and over, and become a genetic component of a family.

In my job, when I see a young guy who seems lost, I wish I could take him aside and speak to him really honestly about what I'm seeing, but I really can't do that because I'm not a counsellor so even though I believe I have the wisdom to do it, it's not really within my realm to go there. But then, I ask, whose realm is it within?  

If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take when the child, now grown, has lost his way?

I hear from an employer about why this person didn't work out and (although I take everything with a grain of salt highly aware of who the messenger is), there is some information that an already superfragile ego might not be able to hear. So, instead of directly communicating that information, I just encourage the person to keep going or to seek support from Salt Spring Community Services when I know that their lack of self esteem is the wellspring of ongoing problems that, unless addressed, will haunt them for life.

There needs to be some sort of Big Brother support group for young adult males facilitated by men who aren't getting drunk every weekend, who aren't zoning out in a pot haze on a daily basis, and who can find a way to re-ignite the enthusiasm that existed before these young guys must have been made to feel that they didn't matter and in turn believed it and have been living it until they have actually almost, made it so.

If there was an ongoing support group that incorporated reflection on self esteem, and included spiritual and physical components, it could be a really significant focus of behaviour change.

I can even think of three men I know who would be perfect candidates to facilitate such a program.

Globe and Mail Article on Boys Falling Behind

March 08, 2011

Taoist Tai Chi and Green Tea

A Lake on Salt Spring. Nothing to do with Tai Chi except in its Asian-type feeling.

I decided to sign up for Taoist Tai Chi recently and I've been to three classes. I'm not sure why I signed up. It may have been the influence of the ninja healer. Perhaps it was my fond memories of Karate Kid, the original film, reignited by watching Karate Kid the remake. Maybe the price was just right.

We've probably all had the experience of watching people do Tai Chi. I would often pass people in Stanley Park,  usually Asian people, as they did Tai Chi in the morning. I'd look at them quickly and think, "Why the heck would anyone want to do that?"  "It's so S.L.O.W." Now,that I'm a newbie Tai Chi mistress, I'm liking it even if I'm guessing that at times, I look like an overweight ballerina on crack in slow motion.

There are 108 moves. It's a bit like a more sophisticated version of Twister without all the entanglement with others unless you accidentally step on others' heels. Our classes take place in the bottom of a church in Ganges. Half the room is full of the "continuing students" and a smaller portion is dedicated to us, the beginners. 

There are 108 moves in Taoist Tai Chi. I like the names of some of those moves. Single whip. White Snake Turns and Puts Out Tongue. Fan penetrates through the back. Hands Like Clouds. Go back to ward off monkey. Grasp a Bird's Tail. Isn't that beautiful? It's like poetry. Until you see me executing it that is.

Our instructor is a Caucasian guy whose name I can't even recall at this point. He's a good instructor. The other thing I like about Tai Chi is the civilized practice of having green tea before the end of the class.

While I was drinking my green tea during the last class I asked one of the other participants what prompted him to sign up. "Quadruple bypass," he said, matter of factly. "Oh." I said half tentatively. I wasn't expecting such a dramatic answer. I didn't know the two correlated. 1. Quadruple bypass. 2. Tai Chi.  I'm not sure if he's a writer or an actor but he described his heart attack and his out of body experience in such a way that made me think he's used to thinking about audience. He was really getting into the telling of the experience and I found it really amusing.

According to Frank, (I just recalled his name), your whole life does not flash before your eyes when you die. Thank God for that. Once is enough. There is, however, a really bright white light. Frank said that the second time he got "the paddles," he came back. He said it was as if he had to fight to come back and make a conscious choice to be here. "Really", I said. Just like Sylvia Browne has described, I thought to myself.

I also got to look into the very Danish-looking face of a nice old guy named Henry who has very sparkly eyes. Henry brings eggs to Tai Chi. You can buy them. They are blue and speckled. I'm guessing that Henry might be in his late 80s. He wears really heavy shoes and his work pants are the best "flood pants" I've ever seen. I imagine him living in some shack, chicken coop out back, general domestic disarray keeping him upright.

Whenever Henry enters the room, he grabs the hand of the nearest lady in a greeting. I found that out the first night. His hands were freezing. Last week Henry had to sit down a lot. "My doctor would be really angry with me if he saw me here." His foot hurt.  "Nothing like following doctor's orders," I said with a smile. I really like Henry's personal energy.

Most of all I like the focus that Tai Chi requires. You have to really think about the movements and you lose yourself in the moment. It's a bit like doing a crossword puzzle, physically, with your body I mean.

March 04, 2011

Highland Water District's Bonnie Blue-Green Algae

Every time I hear the term Highland Water District, I keep thinking that somebody forgot to tell me that tucked away in a magical pocket of Salt Spring Island there are fantastic looking swarms of beefcake-strong men wearing kilts and running around participating in ancient Celtic rituals heaving massive poles as they do in the Highland Games.  Doesn't it sound like that? Don't you wish? Then there'd really be even more reason to visit here, live here, stay here. Alas, it's only in my imagination.

I know this because I live in the Highland Water district and even though I'm surrounded by water, not only are there no kilted hunks but there is a don't drink the water advisory from the Vancouver Island Health Authority that has been valid for the past month.

There is blue green algae in the water of St. Mary's Lake and the filtration system that exists for the Highland Water district is not able to filter out the microcystin toxin produced by it. Walk alongside the lake and it has a smell to it. It's not possible to just boil it and get rid of it. The Chief Medical Officer for VIHA says that they are erring on the side of caution by imposing this ban. They say you can, however still brush your teeth and take a shower although if you have a vivid imagination, as I do, then you can't help but think of the green slimey things that may be invisibly crawling over your body and your casserole dishes.
For the past month, residents in the Highland Water District have had to go to a tap in front of the water building across from the cemetary and fill up containers of water for cooking/drinking. I was filling mine up the other day and for a split second I was transported to Africa, cracked earth under my feet. I was wearing a beautiful colourful sarong and carrying a jug on my head. Nope. Can't picture it. Can you? 

Do we take H20 for granted or what? 
I just get this uneasy feeling that other than the message, "Don't drink the water," I don't know very much about how they actually test our drinking water here on island and what type of training/qualifications are needed by the person who does it. Who monitors the person who is monitoring the water?

The Pumphouse
I notice that the little shack pumphouse on the side of St. Mary's lake is where this water district's water "headquarters" exist. It's not exactly a stunning edifice to instill confidence. Is the monitoring that is taking place done in such a way by a qualified individual that we can really "trust" the results? Who are they? How long have they been doing it? What exactly is involved in the process?

Umm, why are dogs allowed at all? We drink it!

Just now, (I'm a slow learner), I realized that I'm drinking water that is coming out of a lake that swarms with babies and toddlers and bathing-suited bobbers in the summer, cars lining the windy road that snakes along the lakeshore. Sobering thought that took way too long to sink in. Questions. Questions. Enquiring minds want to know.

March 02, 2011

Salt Spring What Ales You?

Think beer and you're bound to think guys. Men's men. Then, you begin to visualize the less than sexy end result of too much beer: beer guts. Hold the cans, please. Rough. Loud. Endless television advertising drowning out conversations in a pub. Sporting events. Those are the stereotypes. But, is it the entire picture?

My friend Gwen loves beer. I would definitely call her a beer aficionado. Raspberry Wheat Ale. Chocolate beer. Amber Ales. IPAs. The more unusual and different, the more intriguing.

Unless you live on Salt Spring and you're a beer drinker, you might not even know that the island has its very own  brewery called Salt Spring Ales. I love their tagline: "Drink Beers with Nature." I'm not totally clear on what that means. I suppose they couldn't very well say Drink Beers in Nature because those of us who live here (and especially the RCMP) know that happens way too frequently and it would be irresponsible to suggest such a thing in a corporate tag line. I tend to like Beer au Naturelle. Just my personal opinion. No need to get defensive. It covers the natural aspect of their 100% organic beer and the fact that nudists have been known to drink it down at Blackburn Lake on the dock. Not that I'd know for certain.
Have beer, be happy smiles Dee
Anyway, Salt Spring Ales make a really wonderful Porter. Their Golden Ale is good. In fact, I have to say, I really like their beers and I like their labelling. I see they have brewery tours on request. Next time Gwen comes to visit, I'll have to set that up.

As I was perusing their site, reading about the fact that they grow their own hops, honey and use the Heather from Butchart Gardens, I couldn't help but notice that they had links to two sites for women interested in beer. 
The first one is Pink Boots Society and in Vancouver there's a chapter of the cleverly named Barley's Angels.

When I read the descriptions of these organizations, I wholeheartedly believe that I may have accidentally stumbled (and I'm not even drinking) on Gwen's next career move.   That definitely calls for a pint!