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October 27, 2008

Can't See the Forest for the Trees

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2008

Yaking about Mongolia

-Duck Creek Park near my house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2008

Crisis? What Crisis?

Not worried about the TSX.
No idea about the NYX.
Doesn't care what the value of the CDN dollar is to the US.
Always leaves home without a credit card.
No emergency fund.
Doesn't own a single mutual fund.
Interest? Self preservation.

and yet has the ability to whether a storm.

October 21, 2008

Peter Matthiessen on Salt Spring Island

- this photo has nothing to do with this story. It's my bathroom door. Except, listening to someone like this man is like opening a door to a world that you would never otherwise have any ability to access.

Tonight I went to a talk/reading by a well-known American author named Peter Matthiessen. Of course, being who I am, I'd never heard of him because I'd never read anything by him and because, let's face it, I'm not that well read. Apparently, in 1950, he started The Paris Review. Having seen him, I intend to read as many of his books as I can.

He was hosted by the Batemans because it would seem that they have travelled together and worked on at least one environmental project together, with Robert Bateman illustrating a book that Mathiessen wrote that had to do with cranes and Birgit taking photos related to some amazing trip to Antarctica. They were both in the audience.

He told a great story about travelling to some remote part of China - Lake Poyang - to write a story on cranes in which I believe he said he was being accompanied by the publisher of the publication that he was writing it for.

He was there to find the Siberian Cranes and when they got to where the cranes were supposed to be, they discovered that the water in this largest freshwater lake in China had all but dried up. There had been a drought.

When he told the story he began laughing because, as he said, he hadn't read that part of the book for a long time and he could just picture the scene. Apparently after a rather trying trip in which he and his publisher sat in the back seat of a vehicle while the smoke of a Mr. Song and a blaring radio assaulted them the entire trip, when they finally arrived, Mr. Song informed them there were no cranes. Matthiessen so perfectly described the ping pong match between Mr. Song and himself of his question and Mr. Song's statement "No Cranes" since, as he stated, he wouldn't have even been in China if not under the impression that it was possible to see the cranes, and he was spending the money of a publication that was paying him to write on them.

It was so endearing to see an author laughing at his own writing. You could tell he was a little embarrassed but delighted and he had to stop a while to compose himself and then made some self deprecating remark about senility.

To make a long story short, the next day, they did manage to find a stream and were able to get in a boat and go on a little expedition up river. Mathiessen describes how he was scanning the shores and a long way into the distance he thought he saw something that was much bigger than the egrets he had been seeing.

He nudged his companion who looked through binoculars only to declare that what he was seeing looked to be workers in the rice fields. But, he took another look, asked his companion to take another look, and sure enough, in the end, they were able to spot all four species of cranes they had come to find with the publisher declaring the journey to be the greatest reversal of fortune he had ever experienced.

Matthiessen has just compiled the three non fiction books he had previously written into one, condensed by 400 pages, and it's called Shadow Country. It's based on a true story of a murder, in Florida, on October 24th, 1910 on an island.

But, I don't want to talk about his book. You can read it.

He also had a wonderful story about the experience of being on an icebreaker in Antarctica and how he hadn't realized previously how different Antarctica would be from the Arctic. It has mountain ranges of 15,000 - 18,000 feet he said. And because the icebreakers are mainly used by tour companies, they tend to be extremely well equipped including the young Austrian girls employed as the hosts, which brought a smile to his face.

He recalled that on the last night of the trip, the group was taken in one of two helicopters to the top of one of the icebergs and how balancing champagne in one hand, he lay on his stomach and looked down into the bluest crevasse he had ever seen. He recognized that in a split second, should the crevasse break, the ice would fall away and to him it represented the fleetingness of life in a perfect analogy. He talked about how the whiteness, the purity of the ice being what kept explorers, like Shackleton, seeking the ice. In some areas of antarctica the ice, he said, is three miles thick.

He also told a wonderful story about William Shawn, an editor at the New Yorker who had been with that magazine for 30 years and how after spending gobs of money on an article that he had been researching, Mathiessen had gone to him and said, I'm sorry to tell you this but I will write the article but I'm saving the best parts for my book. He admitted that he wasn't someone who was typically extravagant with a publication's money when they were paying him to do a story. He said he quickly added that if Mr. Shawn didn't agree with this, Mathiessen would do everything he could to pay back his expenses and Shawn could scrap the article. He then said, Shawn looked at him and said, "You do what's best for your book," and how touched he had been, what an amazing way of being to deal with which he added is no longer the case at the "corporate" New Yorker.

It's always such a privilege to listen to the lives of extraordinary people who have had such adventures.

October 20, 2008

Fritz Immemorial

-photo from The Fritz website

Yesterday I decided to spend the afternoon, or at least part of it, at a sappy romantic movie, Nights of Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. It was playing at the local Cinema which is actually referred to as Central Hall and more affectionately called The Fritz after the name of an orphan cat that decided to make the Hall its home early in the new millenium and who was, much to the horror of islanders, struck and killed in 2007.

One long time islander of 35 years told me how Fritz just showed up one day and never left. People would actually stop their cars on the way to the North End if they passed the cinema and saw Fritz lounging ever so superior on the front steps. Just for a little pat.

Someone even made Fritz his own little cat house. I think it was a replica of Central Hall but the perfect feline pad for Fritz to lay his paws and whatever else. He even had a bed made of Salt Spring lambswool and a little curtain for privacy.

There is something so absolutely refreshing about going to a movie where the movie trailers aren't loud, loud scenes of shooting, killing, sex and profanity but instead idyllic photographs of scenery from the island. Sheep faces. Sunsets. And, more than a few pictures of the late and infamous Fritz, lolling about in the sun and posing like the sexiest cat on the planet. There's Fritz again stretched out as late fall rays transform his white coat into the colour of some paint chip name like Dr. Zhivago Cream!

Somebody has even written two books on Fritz. What a brand! What a persona! The epitome of cool in which cool just is, it doesn't have to be anything but what it is. Apparently, that was Fritz. Even the name fits. Like Cher. Madonna. No need for a surname when it came to Fritz.

Somebody even tried to kidnap Fritz once but they were spotted in the ferry line-up, the cops were called and Frtiz was retrieved. I'm not making this up.

Some time in 2005 some woman expressed concern for Fritz. He could get run over she said to which those who were closest to the old boy said, No, don't worry, he's car smart!

I guess they were wrong. In the end, he was still just a cat and I guess his ninth life had run its course but like Elvis, his legend lives on. In fact, I think I heard that someone thought they saw Fritz just the other day in an old Barn at Ruckle Point.

October 17, 2008

Mr. Bean meets Paul Bunyan's Sister

When I first layed eyes on the inside of the cottage and saw that it had a wood burning stove, the first words out of my mouth were "How romantic" to which the male half of the couple I rent from let out a cynical little grunt as if to say, "You'll be a little wood whore soon enough." A slave to its endless appetite for wood.

Now, I get it. First of all, take someone from the city who has never handled an axe. Yes, it's a wee little lady axe. That's what I call it. I was informed that actually its official title is a hatchet. I just thought, oh, how thoughtful, it's a female version of an axe.

First of all, I feel a bit like that guy in Stanley Park who balances those rocks just past the Second Beach pool. That's how difficult it can be at times to find the right balancing point for the wood so that it will, stay, stay, sit, like a puppy I'm trying to train.

Then, when I've got it balanced, I pick up the hatchet, push my hair away from my eyes, wipe my sweaty hands on my coat, spread my legs far apart so as not to endanger striking my thigh in case I miss the wood, and with as much force as possible bring the hatchet down in a way that makes me feel positively capable of violence even though I always stop the car for birds on the road.

The thing is, upper body strength has never been mine. I don't do push-ups. I couldn't do more than a few chin-ups even when I was in shape. So, whacking the hell out of a piece of wood can result in only a minor cut or worse, watching as the big thing topples over, right off the block, a bit the way a golf ball dribbles off the tee when you slice it.

Slowly I am learning the zen of woodcutting. It's not really about how hard you whack it. It's more about where you whack it. It's a bit like when the bat makes contact with the baseball. You know when it's right. And, sure enough, the wood just splits in half when it's right. I suddenly understand the principal behind how those people can karate chop a piece of wood in half. Note. I have no plans to attempt that - yet! I'll stick with the hatchet for now.

I also haven't quite worked up the courage to cut the wood into kindling because this requires being coordinated enough to hold the wood with one hand while the axe hits it and removing the hand at precisely the point when the axe makes contact on tinier and tinier pieces. I resort to just picking up wood pieces from the ground the way homeless people pick up used cigarette butts.

Watching me chop wood is a bit like watching someone preparing for an Olympic Weight lifting competition or getting ready to throw the discus. I eye the pieces in the cord of wood stacked neatly against the house. I look for knots and avoid those. I choose just the right piece. I walk around the wood deciding which way to hit it. You'd think I was Tiger Woods getting ready for the first drive. I look at the wood. I look up at the trees. I make sure I'm standing properly. I take a moment. Then,in great seriousness, I lift the hatchet over my head.

There's something really empowering about chopping wood. When you've chopped wood, you can look at your box full of wood and think, today, I actually did something. I chopped wood. I started a fire. I made something happen. I warmed up the house so I can now unwrap myself and I begin to unwrap my layers like I'm unwrapping a turban except I start at my neck, unwinding the scarf that has been wound not two but three times and then I unwrap myself from the colourful shawl that I bought in the market at San Cristobal De Las Casas and finally slipping off the wool socks that I have slept in every night since I got here. I can almost picture the beach in Kona.

Too bad nobody can see me in my own little personal installment of Harrowsmith.

This afternoon I thought, how sad (although safer) that there are no witnesses to this little milestone because this would make a really good You Tube video:a comedy. Something like Mr. Bean meets Paul Bunyan's sister.

October 16, 2008

Turdus Migratorious

This American Robin was sitting in the tree outside my kitchen window around 5pm. I ran to get my telephoto to try and capture it before it flew off. It seems huge to me as if it's on steroids.

There are a lot of them around my place. In fact, there's a bush out the front off the deck with the same red berries and sometimes when I open the curtains in the morning, I look out and I see as many as 5 sitting in the bush and they look like those little stuffed birds that people clip onto their Christmas trees.

It reminds me of this story I once wrote when I lived in Salmon Arm. This couple, birders, were visited by this bird called The Siberian Accentor. It's a very small little bird. It's very shy and it runs very quickly trying always to find cover.

It was great fun for me to interview this couple and to gain some insight into the priorities of serious birders who think little of flying around the world at the drop of a hat, or bird dropping, when an unusual one is spotted in an even more unusual location.

I always thought to myself,but if that bird had not landed in the yard of serious birders, nobody would have even known it had flown in as a result of a storm in the Aleutian Islands.

October 15, 2008

How Do You Define Poverty?

Today is Blog Action Day where a whole bunch of bloggers write on the same topic and this year's topic happens to be poverty.

In some ways it seems pretty inane like a lot of what gets written about on my blog daily. Who cares? Just a bunch of words about poverty. How is that going to matter? Really?

The idea is to write about anything that matters to you or means something to you in relation to poverty. And, some people are doing some very concrete things to contribute cash to specific causes. I'm not. I'm a little short on cash at the moment. But, do I feel poor? No. Not at all.

So what I wanted to write about right now that rings true to me is about how we have become so short-sighted and in the grasp of an economic system that doesn't appear to work for anyone but the richest of the richest (and not even them right now - or perhaps especially not them right now) that we've forgotten that it's possible to define poverty in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with money.

And I guess if you think about Maslow's Hierarchy of Need then it's not possible to think about the word poverty without thinking about money first because until you have food and shelter sorted out then you can't even begin to think about other areas of your life. Your days are about survival. And, as a result your human spirit is robbed on a daily basis of any form of joy because it is usurped by worry and need and you haven't got a hope of hell of being the best person you could be. You are as far from self-actualization as it gets.

But poverty can be so many things: It can be addiction. A lack of love. Fear. A lack of friendships. A lack of compassion. A lack of belief in self. An inability to forgive. It can be a life completely out of balance and focused on one area at the expense of all others. It can be homophobia. Racism. Mysogyny. Physical illness. It can be ignorance.

But, because we live in a world of tangibles, I'll say it again because I've said it before. If you live in North America and you currently are not in the habit of donating either your time or a portion of money to some specific cause that matters to you then you need to really ask yourself why not? Why are you living your life from a place of scarcity thinking that you don't have enough?

If you were really honest with yourself you would know that the belief that you don't have enough is a lie that has arisen because you have become short sighted in how you define wealth. Because, let's face it, in the end, we're all on a journey that will force us to give up even the clothes on our backs. It's called death.

Less is more!

October 14, 2008

Savouring the Day

I don't know about you but there haven't been all that many days in my life that stand out for me as being ecstatically happy. Not nearly enough anyway. And, I've learned from experience that when one of them happens it makes sense to savour it, be grateful for it, revel in it, and just soak up the emotion of happiness and contentment dripping every cell of your body like chocolate soaking the peanuts in a peanut buster parfait.

That's how the past few days have felt. I know I'm gushing and it must be quite annoying to read.

But, I spent a good portion of today with someone who seems very unique and I'm just a little in awe at my good fortune to live somewhere so beautiful, in love with my wonderful cabin, and now meeting this person who thinks, in his words, that "I'm hot!"

Do you know how long it has been since someone has thought I'm hot? I don't even know that anyone has ever really VERBALIZED that. They might have thought it but they've never really verbalized it in such straightforward language.

And, he's 10 years younger than me! Just the fact that he thinks "I'm hot" is good enough for me. I don't even care if anything happens after this - just the fact that he thinks "I'm hot" is enough to put a smile on my face for at least a week!

When I picked him up he was hammering while listening to classical music. "Are you listening to that?" I said. "Yes," he said. "I love peace. Classical music is peace."

"That's unusual," I said.


"I don't know you seem kinda young to be into classical music? You're a little unusual," I said.

"I'm unusual?" he said, looking straight at me as if to imply I might not exactly be an objective judge of such things.

"Well, get used to it," he says "because that's what Saltspring is. "If you want cookie cutter human beings (if there is such a thing) you're in the wrong place."
Good answer I thought. And, we proceeded to have a great conversation throughout lunch; a conversation that makes me just shake my head because he seems to be aware of things that are really important to me. Things about human nature that have taken me a lot of soul searching over the years to understand.

Small Works, Big Talent

Over the weekend I went to an art show because I had to write something about it for The Driftwood.

There was something just so great about being able to talk to the artists about their works. Their stories really made their work come alive. The amazing quality of talent on this island is unbelievable and getting to meet that many artists gathered all in one place to hear the stories behind their work was just so interesting. I was in my element.

October 13, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving and Oktoberfest!

Luckily I joined the beginner band because that's how I met Pauline, who is also learning how to play the flute, and that's how I got invited to Thanksgiving dinner and then to a very unique Oktoberfest.

Pauline has been many things in her life (including a caterer) and she lives between Sidney, BC, where she has a big old house and on Saltspring where she has a cabin that she is continually expanding or "pushing out" by adding one more room here, oh, let's put another there and you get the picture. It's really nicely decorated and has the most amazing bathroom with a big soaker tub and beautiful fixtures. At the moment, she's got Christian building her an office. Christian is a very cute, amazingly nice carpenter.

The two dinner tables set up in her small kitchen just fit and the guests arrived. A very lively Irish woman married a few years ago on Saltspring to a woman from Edmonton, a tilesetter, a carpenter, me, and Pauline's neighbours who are retired. The lively Irish woman regaled us throughout the meal with tales of working at one of the local vets. She could write a book about animal stories gone wrong. The animal sound effects she could make were beyond impressive.

Right after the turkey got pulled from the oven the power went out and everyone pointed out that having an endless supply of candles on Saltspring is an absolute must and that you don't believe it when they say it never snows here. In fact, sometimes we get snowed in they said but don't worry, neighbours look after each other around here they assured me. Pauline's pumpkin pie, made by hand of course, complete with a little pastry heart in the center was delicious. .

Maybe it's the country or something but I don't think I've ever seen people eat so fast and then leave. It seemed like the meal passed quickly and by 8:30 pm it was only Christian, me and Pauline still left and we spent a very enjoyable rest of the evening chatting in the sitting room while Maggie the black Scotty dog and Griffin the one year old Terrier took turns resting up beside me.

Then today, we (Christian, Pauline and I) head out to Miles' place. Miles is originally from Germany and I would describe Miles as a Rennaissance man extraordinaire. The guy has rigged up a solar powered electric fence because he used to have pigs and now only the turkeys are getting zapped back to middle ground. He lives in a creation that is part trailer attached to part house with amazing kitchen cabinets because as well as being able to cook he's a cabinetmaker. He's created this fabulous bath house with the hot water heater on the roof equipped with wood stove, big soaker tub and a window to look out at while bathing solo but big enough for company.

He served up warm pretzels with sweet and tangy mustard to dip them in, boiled white sausage with beers from a Saltspring microbrewery to wash it all down with. This entire weekend has felt like a gourmet extravaganza.

It has been great!

But, I have to say between the people who make their own pies and their own bread, their own cabinets, their own bathrooms, their own houses, I'm thinking to myself, oh my god, what do I do? I need to figure out how to DO something. Something USEFUL!

Thank god I've always been very good at being incredibly appreciative of other people's talents and not everyone can say that now can they?:-)

October 11, 2008

Forest Hideaway

If this doesn't entice my friends to come visit, nothing will!

Natural Spaces

I like the opportunity to see interesting properties here although the picture above is the name of the cottage I rent and the deck has half-moons cut into the wooden railings.

Last night I was invited to dinner by an acquaintance and it required me to drive up this very long, steep dirt road, past a cottage and when I got to the top I parked the car, had to walk across a narrow wooden bridge, up a little hill and there was the house. It was right on the edge of a bluff overlooking the valley below situated on 14 acres. It was a compound unto itself and they built it themselves using wood from the property. Lots of wood. Very homey.

Tonight I invited my neighbour and another friend for dinner to my little abode.

After our main meal but prior to dessert, we got the hot tub going and it was absolutely peaceful and wonderful to be sitting naked in the hot tub, completely in the dark, looking up at the stars with only the moon lighting up the trees and the mist all around us in perfect peace.

It's true that the natural world is so much more in the forefront in the country without the lights and traffic separating you from it. You are reminded of your place; just a small part of nature, not so in control, not in control at all really, just visiting.

Beauty. Quiet. Contentment.

October 07, 2008

Wind Storm

Figures that as a city person when I saw the beautiful trees that make this place look like Stanley Park, it never occurred to me to think about what happens when windstorms wreak havoc with those pretty trees.

Last night, 2:00 am, I awake to what sounds like a wooshing as if I've suddenly been transported to the beach in a storm. But, oh no, it's not waves. It's the sound of all the trees on the property bending and and swaying, their branches being whipped by the wind that seems to be going through the property as if it's a big wind tunnel. Some of the smaller branches from above are hitting the skylight, others are whipped every once in a while against one of my side bedroom windows.

I turn the light beside my bed on. There are windows on 3 sides of my bedroom. Not a particularly good design for a windstorm with really tall trees everywhere. Shortly thereafter the power goes out. I walk in the dark, feeling my way to my Smith and Wesson cop flashlight in the kitchen hoping not to step on any spiders. I grab the flashlight. It's freezing in the house. Are we having fun yet? Isn't it fun living on an island?

I'm standing in the dark, looking out, at the trees and I'm growing more freaked by the second imagining Stanley Park and the destruction I witnessed after the blow down. I imagine a huge tree crashing on this tiny cottage. I just GOT here I think to myself. I can't DIE YET!

The gate on the deck is banging. At one point my french doors actually blow open and I have to grab them and close them. I'm standing with my flashlight in my robe and my wool socks wondering where one is supposed to stand. Is it like an earthquake I think? Should I be standing under a door frame? I'm not even sure you're supposed to do that actually.

I don't think I have been that afraid for a very long time. And, it's not as if I could figure out what to do. Couldn't exactly go outside and feel safer.

I was up for two and a half hours between 2:00 am and 4:30 am when around 4:30 I think the winds started to subside. I must have fallen asleep around 5:00 am. It was SO scary, especially being new to this place and being ALONE in the dark. I'm getting uptight just thinking about it now and wondering when it's going to happen again!!!

And it isn't even WINTER yet!

Let's face it, I'd rather kill spiders given a choice.

October 06, 2008

Second Chance at Making Music

Today was a really good day. Not only did I not have to kill a single spider (although the day isn't over yet) but I got to play a marimba and a flute in the same day!

This morning I went and interviewed a woman, Luanne Katz, who is a professional percussionist. She lives with her husband in this house that is high on a hill overlooking Fulford Harbour and the surrounding islands and I can only imagine how spectacular that place must be on a sunny summer day.

They bought the house during a 3 day visit to the island when they had no intention of buying anything. And, it took them about four years to move their life from Oakland, California to the island. She still has to leave for work which mostly takes place with the Oregon Symphony based in Portland because let's face it, there's not exactly a huge demand for professional percussionists on Saltspring.

She's set to give a concert here, her first, with 3 buddies, also percussionists and marimba players who she's known for more than 10 years. They've never played together as a group - only as various pairings.

Her biggest worry is the stamina required because they are giving a concert in Washington State two days before the one here and they have to rent a truck and load four full sized marimbas into the truck, unload the truck, reload the truck and do it all again to get back to Saltspring to then get them into Artspring. I never thought about how much work setting up and taking down drums and marimbas must be. It's a workout! Marimbas aren't exactly small. It's like moving the very large desk of a president of a company or something.

I have to say, there's something you notice after you've interviewed a lot of people and that is that the ones who are incredibly articulate make so much difference when it comes to the experience of the interview. They seem able to describe their experience with depth, in ways that require you, the interviewer, to do very little work so instead of focusing on the questions, you can focus on other things about them,about the environment, about better questions to ask, etc. She was like that. It was a real pleasure.

Then, much to my delight I saw an ad in the paper this weekend for a beginner concert band starting up and so I managed to get in under the wire. I decided I'd like to learn the flute because that's what I always wanted to play in high school but for some reason I ended up playing the clarinet.

Picture this. The practices take place in a mexican restaurant called Cafe El Zocalo. The restaurant was closed and all these little chairs were set up at the back. The walls, vibrant yellow, had photos of mexican characters interspersed with Saltspring Island characters. People came streaming in, mostly women and two or three men. A lot of them seemed to be like me. They'd played an instrument or two in high school or when they were younger and hadn't touched one since and now, as adults, instead of playing what they'd chosen in high school, they were choosing something different.

We all managed to get sound out of our instruments - flutes, clarinets, trombones, french horn, saxophones, trumpets. It was just like being back on the stage of Lord Kelvin Elementary school in Grade 7 where I can still picture myself, picking up a clarinet for the first time and I can even picture the band instructor at the front of the stage. Obviously a momentous day for me to remember it THAT well.

The woman who teaches the class is a music teacher and she just happens to own, along with her husband, the mexican restaurant. He was a professional musician, then a vet, and now he runs a mexican restaurant. Go figure?

Afterwards, they put out nacho chips and salsa while people waited to sort out the details of their instrument rentals.

I was in heaven. I have wanted to get back to music in some way for a very long time. Definitely an enjoyable day, in spite of the gray and the rain.

October 05, 2008

What are Friends For?

Although I have, and I will thank them individually, I feel the need to just say this for all to read.

I always knew that I had some pretty spectacular people as friends but when it came to my moving it was like, okay, unbelievable! Above and beyond the call of duty. I can't thank Richard and Neil enough for moving me; for actually physically heaving my stuff from the Robson Street apartment, then driving a 1-ton van and not complaining even when they were surprised by the stairs they would have to take my stuff up on Saltspring. Having you two with me on what could have been an incredibly stressful day meant a lot to me. It was unbelievably kind of you to do this for me. Just having you here with me helped me feel calmer about my arrival. Brownie points from the big guy in the sky!

To Beth. Thank you for treating me like royalty when I stayed at "Hotel England" on the night prior to my move. Your attention to every detail to ensure my comfort is a lesson I need to take notice of for when people come to visit me. Loved your robe and the couch was tres comfortable!

To Lisa for throwing me a great party and for having a beautiful sign made that welcomed me to my island life. And, for the day after my moving out of Robson Street when you left your housekey under the mat so that I could come into your house, have a shower, make myself at home and wait for your arrival. Thanks for spending the day with me when I had nothing to do but pass time prior to leaving for Saltspring. Since 2003 when you arrived in my office to introduce yourself at UBC, we've had some pretty damn good times, tons of laughs and I'll miss not having you right here more than you'll ever know. I already miss you!

To Peggy for being so easygoing, supportive and positive and for allowing me to dump a lot of my stuff at your place, even the stuff you certainly wouldn't want but pretended that of course you would! And, for all the fantastic dinners you have cooked for me in the past year or more. I'm not going to say I'll miss hanging out with you and Chris and Catherine because as you said, you're just a ferry ride away. To me, your house is "the family place" and I really enjoy that place because you have the best family I've ever been around.

To Gwen for being so supportive and for being so incredible in showing up to put the finishing touches on the cleaning. I don't know what I would have done without you going the extra mile and showing me how cleaning is REALLY done. Oh, so that's how you do it. Comet! Forget the eco-friendly crap and go with the Comet. It works. Thank you so much for working so hard on my behalf when you've just finished a very stressful time at your "real" job. I don't know what I did to deserve such assistance but I know I couldn't have done it without you and had you not been there that miserable landlady would have really had something to bitch about. (Not that it stopped her). Thanks Gwen.

To Kelly for being so motherly and providing me with a care package for my arrival. I love the book. Can't put it down. And, I did eat the noodles, munched all the cookies within a few days, have put that picture of you and I on my bookcase and made a tuna fish casserole using the tin of tuna you gave me. Thanks for being so great at keeping in touch. I'll miss your stories, your humour and your caring. You and Tom have to come to Saltspring within the year!

To Dee for listening, for the walks around the park and the laughter. When you and I start walking and talking, we laugh. It's inevitable. You must come and visit me. We never did get to Mayne for cycling. So, you must come to Saltspring. I'll miss our impromptu walks and your effervescent enthusiasm and energy.

To Colleen, thank you for being your usual supportive and positive self regardless of what's going on. We've known each other more than 10 years and you never cease to amaze me whether you're taking Cuban salsa, South East Asian classical singing, the Jembe, or learning Mandarin, you've always been an incredible inspiration and as I said on the phone today, I miss you already as well and I'll miss all the "unusual" events you would find for us to partake in.

Keiko. Your painting will find a special place in my new place. Thanks for that. I'll miss our coffee time and your wisdom. It was a pleasure to get to know you much better in the past year and I hope, when I come to town, if I plan ahead you can fit me in. And, since you and George have never been to Saltspring, and it's so artsy, of course you must come (in the Spring)! Lots of watercolour subject matter for sure.

Dave:Beer and conversation. They have a pub here you know. Enough said.

To Paul just for being you. There's something about being around you that always makes me feel better. Thanks for cooking me dinner and buying me dinners. I like your stories. I aspire to live the life you're now living. International travel at the drop of a hat. Romantic getaways. You've always been a favorite and you must come to Saltspring with you know who!

To Michelle from afar. We've each had a year that's left us a little speechless (if that's ever possible) and your support via the long distance telephone lines and e-mail has been a real comfort to me. We'll get it sorted out sooner or later. I'm sure of it.

To Anne. We don't see each other much anymore but I know you're always there. I'm sending you positive wishes. Keep the faith!

Hazel. You make me laugh. You just might be the sweetest person I've ever met and, as I said, anyone who has a sick child would be blessed to have you as their doctor. Those chocolates you gave me are SO good. I've almost devoured the entire bag. You make running look effortless and you were the second best thing about joining The Running Room. The first? The fact that I joined The Running Room at all! What's wrong with this picture?

To Murray for proving it's possible to meet a nice, kind, relatively sane man out of the blue on the street. Thanks for your kindness, the too cute camper charm you gave me at the party, and for generously making me feel better when things didn't turn out as expected that day on Saltspring. You really helped put it all in perspective and once again, your generosity was above and beyond.

I hope I haven't missed anyone but this past year has been unusual and unpredictable but interesting in its own right and I am so grateful to every one of my friends for keeping the faith (not to mention picking up the tab) more times than I can remember.

Each of you has set the bar way too high for the friendships I'm sure to make in the future. Bless you all with love and gratitude! Onward!

Just a peek

This is where I'm now living and you know what word comes to mind: Gratitude! All I can think is gratitude. Because if this came to me with no effort, through serendipity then gratitude and synchronicity are where it's at.
This is just a taste because the rest of the rooms are too messy still. This pictures the driveway, my bedroom, my view from my deck looking down on the jacuzzi and my deck out the french doors.

Thought you might like a peek so you can picture me here.

October 04, 2008

Feels Like Home

Isn't it wierd how you can be thinking of something for so long as just one of those dreams that you don't really believe you can make happen. And then one day you decide and the only difference is your mind. You believe. And, you make it happen. And, it's so easy you think, why didn't I do this before?

I'm writing this from my one-bedroom cottage on Saltspring surrounded by trees as if I live in a botanical garden. My cabin is elevated on a hill on a property that is almost an acre. I have a beautiful deck and a woodburning stove and a jacuzzi. My furniture fits in here as if it was made for it. Even the colours work. When I look out any window, of which there are many, all I see are trees: evergreens, arbutus, leafy forest. No people. No roads. Just the forest all around. Today I saw a really big Stellar's Jay on the deck.

It's weird to arrive in a new place, open the paper and see your byline as if someone else with your name lives here. It was mental health week this past week and I'd almost forgotten that I'd written a story prior to coming so when I got the paper, I opened it and there was my name as if someone else with the same name had written it.

I have been a slave to the fire in the woodburning stove because I'm not yet seasoned at being able to make fires effortlessly. Afterall, it has only been 3 days. And, the other things I've been a slave to are the spiders. I forgot there are spiders in the country.

Last night I woke up sweating, my wool socks on and the little place too toasty from the fire - the first fire I've ever made myself - and I turned on the light to go to the bathroom only to see a big black spider on the wall of my bedroom. I stared at it. I debated killing it. I moved my bed away from the wall. I stared at it more. I checked under my pillows and lifted the duvet and when I was absolutely certain that there was not a tarantula in the bed, I pulled the duvet way up over my head and went back to sleep, creepy crawly movements in my semi-conscious dreams. Yuk. Hate spiders! Had to kill another one this morning with my hiking boot.

It is so quiet and dark here that I sleep in until 9:00 am which was unheard of for me in the city and I know in the past that type of quiet would have frightened me but now it's merely there for me to check whether such space feels like strength or fear. I can't explain what that means if it doesn't make sense.

I've gone on a walk with Sharon and her dog Thula who live with her partner on the property as well in the main house. I've gone to an exhibit of photos that depict the life of a woman living with Huntingdon's Disease, a genetically inherited brain disorder. Her mother and her sister have died of it. And, now having seen what they've been through, she is on the path to the same deterioration. The challenges some people face are unimaginable.

I've chopped a bit of wood looking exactly the way you would expect someone from the city to look when they're chopping wood:Nervous! Don't want to chop off anything now do I?

I've been to a lecture at the Baptist Church by a woman from Comox who was speaking about clearing your clutter and she and her husband drive around in a Westfalia van that is now powered by recycled vegetable oil. She has a website called Clutter's Dirty Secret.

Today I met the owner of the place I live. He's a cameraman with the television show Smallville and he seems super nice. Friendly. More than willing to fix anything. He came to weatherproof the french doors off the living room and I felt like I'd known him for a long time he was so easy to talk to.

Monday I am going to interview a professional musician named Luanne Katz who is performing at Artspring on October 18th. She is a percussionist who has performed with orchestras across the US as well as extensively as a chamber musician. Apparently, the marimba is her special love. In her e-mail to me she tells me to drive up to their gate and hit it with the car to make it open. It's a bump gate she explains. Bump it with your car and it will open. We'll see if I'm willing to do that.

So, all of that in addition to unpacking and cleaning suffice to say that unfortunately, I have no photos of the place yet to stick on the blog.

Stay tuned!