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September 26, 2009

Martians and Windex and Indian Summers

Yesterday. Where do I begin? Yesterday was just one of those days. It was as if martians had landed with an extra large load of windex and got busy shining up everything to inifinity.

English please? It was so beautiful I felt like I'd entered heaven on earth. It reminded me why moving to Salt Spring in late September/October is really the only time to move here (imho) because it's too good to be true gorgeous and one even has some hope of finding a place to rent. That's second.

I was driving to the North End along the road that parallels St. Mary's Lake and hints of oranges, yellows, and tree greens reflected in the mirror of lake water. The morning sunshine, golden with Fall, was streaming through the leaves of the trees along the road and making patterns.

I was on my way to an orchard to talk to the owner for an upcoming Driftwood story and I always like driving up roads on the island because there are so many I've never known and they are full of surprises in so many ways.

I entered the property and drove past a few old cabins coming to a stop beside a beautiful pottery studio with a wooden parking sign.

An older man looking very fit sporting a 2004 BC Seniors Games T-shirt and shorts greeted me by saying, "You must be Alice?" "No," I said, "I'm Gayle."
"Good," he said, "if you'd said yes, I'd know you were the wrong person."

He has a Ph.D. in Zoology and taught Wildlife Management at the University of Alaska and lived in Fairbanks for 30 years. His wife also has a PhD in the same thing. They met at UBC in the 1950s.

They own 17 acres of property that had been owned first by early black settlers on the island (160 acres) taken over in 1922 by English settlers.

Their retirement heaven consists of the main house, a cold storage shed, pottery studio, two other old cottage-type dwellings, a round pond surrounded by a stand of Fir trees with greenery all around its edges and a raft of floating iris in the middle that bloom traditional purple in the Spring.

Bob Weeden of Whims Farm has become extremely knowledgeable about heritage apples and he began his hobby orchard in 1992 when he planted 100 trees. He never intended to have apple trees or even to live on Salt Spring (but a detour on a cycling trip) and memories from his youth in New England during the Depression era when he'd go, on weekends, to the commercial orchards to pick the windfalls in exchange for some pocket change conspired to transform dream dust into reality.

We walked through the gate into a sloping green landscape with the dappled gnarly trunks of apple trees, their waxy green leaves contrasting the hues of apples, dangling like clusters of Rubies, Amber and emeralds.

He told me about them as we passed each tree: Gravensteins. Kings or King of Tompkins County to be more precise. Lemon pippins. Ananas Reinette. The Lady. Belle de Boskoop. Glory of Boskoop and a debate about where the first apple seedling originated: Tibet.

I spent about 2 hours with him, taking his photo, hearing him speak about first the apples, moving on to lamenting how apples seems to have become a second class fruit in this day and age and speaking about John Ralston Saul's the Collapse of Globalism.

After that interesting morning, I was in such good spirits with my Friday off from the "day job", I decided to treat myself to lunch. I drove out to Raven Street Cafe which is becoming one of my favorite places to eat on the island when I eat out.

It's perfect because it's not in Ganges, and often it's very quiet and yet the food is really fantastic and it's close to the most peaceful dock: Fernwood dock. It's a great place to get away from your "regular" on-island life if you know what I mean. I parked the car, walked inside and who should be there but a friend I hadn't seen in ages.

He couldn't believe it. "I've been thinking about you all morning," he said with some exaggeration in that statement I'm sure.

We had lunch together. Got caught up. Walked on the dock and then went back to his place because he said he'd been in Victoria the day before, was at this wonderful place called Delish, and even bought a chocolate mousse with the intent of inviting me over. (Isn't that nice?). If any other guy had said that to me I'd be like, ya, sure, nice line. But, I believed him. Gayle=Chocolate. Chocolate=Gayle. How nice!

Raven Street Cafe
makes the most wonderful salads and really the only reason to eat the salad which is great is because of this "to-die-for" Miso dressing. They need to bottle that stuff. Hey, maybe they do. Maybe I should check that out.

Anyway, afterwards, we went back to his place and had tea and the most perfect chocolate mousse.

Later I went to a talk by a guy who owns one of the kayak companies here. A man who was turning 50 hired him to guide him on a kayak journey from Salt Spring to Alaska. The natural beauty and the wildlife and the feelings of accomplishment would not, in my books, overpower the hell of sleeping on rocks, trying to cook in the rain, five meter swells, and whatever else.

Gross but impressive nevertheless if that's your thing.

And, all in all, just a great day in my books.

September 23, 2009

Seeing your way out of a Rut

- this little boy, yes, it's a boy, has the most wonderful head of hair. He's really young. Maybe 4or 5 and I have no idea why he was wearing these sunglasses backwards but his head looks like the head of a mannequin. Funny.

When you spend a lot of time taking photographs, after some time, you begin to get into a rut. Suddenly you realize that the images you've been taking resemble images that you've taken before in the way you've captured the subject through your choice of angle, distance, light, or well, just pick any aspect really.

I think part of that is related to the fact that like everything you spend a significant amount of time doing, you usually get better at it. And, when you get better at something, your expectations and discrimination levels go way up. Suddenly what you used to think was a good photo is now just pretty ordinary and nothing special. In fact, when you look at it, the little voice in your head is going, " Oh god, can't you come up with something more original than that? Been there. Done that."

In writing, it's a good idea to look at it and ask yourself whether each word you're using (and this is true for poetry) is really of any value. Is it the right word? Does it really add anything to what you're trying to communicate? Would your piece/poem be stronger without that word?

Afterall, I think everyone knows by now that writing isn't about the writing, it's about getting rid of the first thing you wrote which in the end you will inevitably, most often, see as a piece of garbage when you really finish the piece. (Let me just say, having said that, that the Blog is different. For me the Blog is just about BLAH - let it all hang out and don't worry too much about it. Stream of consciousness is fine. Those are my rules. I can live by my own Blog rules. If you don't like 'em, get your own blog! I mean that in the nicest way of course.)

So, I find myself in a photographic rut wondering how to shake myself out of it.
A good photographer/friend of mine wrote to me saying, "Plateaus in photography mean that you can now "see farther, better" and your task is to move from old ways into new ones. Of course, the new is built on the old. So don't fret, just let loose and do some photography that shakes up old patterns and you will discover something new." He makes it sound so easy. Examples of photography that shakes up old patterns. (Hold the camera upside down?) Shoot at night. Force yourself to take photos that are in an area no more than 6 feet in circumference. Ask someone whether they can be your subject?

It helps to look at other people's approaches to photography. Especially I think photographers whose work really appeals to you so that you can try and figure out why their images strike you. It's always, I think, about capturing the universal in the specific. Capturing emotion. Capturing light as close to the way we experience it when our camera is nowhere to be found and how it makes us feel. I can still remember the light in a room I woke up in when I was young and greatly infatuated. I remember the way the light looked on the curtains at The ghost ranch in my cabin. I'll remember the orange coming through the fir bough and the purple mountain against the sky as I sit here and type this looking out my window.

I've been reading this book on Kindness lately and it talks a lot about how being open, trusting, and giving others the benefit of the doubt will change your life because suddenly you will "see" possibilities and instead of shutting out the unknown, if you embrace it, and consciously bring yourself back to the moment by being present for yourself and to others, then you will begin to notice things that otherwise you would have missed. So many of us were raised to be exactly the opposite and it's such a burden to come from that place.

So, my challenge is to figure out how to push myself past my current way of seeing - with and without - my camera.

September 22, 2009

Crossing the line on Sleeping Attire

You know you've been single way too long when you suddenly realize that what you've been wearing to bed is dangerous because if you ever died in your sleep you would be mortally humiliated to know that people found you in that attire.

At the very least it matters now because if I do have to get up in the middle of the night to rescue "my lady" she might die laughing if I came to her rescue in the turqouise blue, flannelette pyjamas with the purple and blue cats all over them that my mom, bless her heart, gave to me one Christmas. I pretty much warned her the other night. Don't be alarmed, I say, if I do have to come to your aid in the middle of the night. Just ignore my pyjamas okay?

Take today for example. I look down while I'm making breakfast and waiting for the toast and I have on a pair of men's boxer shorts with green three-leaf clovers plastered over them. On top I have on a tank top, white, and over that an ugly old lady sweater in turqoise with knitted ribbing down the arms that I bought at the Thrift Store when I was freezing my ass off in the cottage last winter. Oh, and let's not forget the brown sox because it's already starting to get a little chilly in here.

It occurred to me, looking down, that the term "letting yourself go" should have meaning for me at this point.

It reminds me of the time quite a while ago now when I was dating this guy that I'd met off the Internet. He was nice. We had a really good rapport and I felt totally comfortable around him. I recall waking up one morning, he was there beside me. He started laughing and he looked at me and said sarcastically but affectionately, "Nice fleece"! You had to be there but trust me, it was really funny.

I hadn't even thought about the fact (because of my comfort level with him) that wearing a moss green fleece sweater-type thing might not exactly be the right thing to wear when you're sleeping with a guy even if you did put it on in the morning after you came back from the bathroom.

On the other hand, if you have to try so hard that you're wearing Victoria Secret and it still ain't working in the bedroom, give it up!

Seriously though, it's definitely time for some new lingerie. I'm going to get right on that.

September 21, 2009

Heaven Sent Innocence at the Fall Fair

A slice of peach-mango pie. A lamb burger. Chocolate-walnut fudge. A diet coke (cuz calories matter she says jokingly). A hot dog. In exactly that order. That's what I ate yesterday. Yes, starting with dessert seems right when the Fall Fair is on.

Innocence. All around pure innocence.

In this day and age I think it's something that a lot of us crave without even knowing it until, that is, we're standing in front of the Zuchinni races and see how excited the audience gets. The kids get to make these racers out of zuchinnis and they do an amazing job. There was a great white shark zuchinni racer. There were zuchinnis with antlers. Huge zuchinnis, bigger than watermelons with capes on and wings and little zuchinnis nailed down into wooden structures. Then, ski-jump fashion, they compete against each other - two at a time - and let the zuchinni demolition derby begin. It was so much fun! It makes you want to run right home and make the weirdest zuchinni thing you can imagine and then put wheels on it. Honest.

The weather was spectacular as it has been, it seems to me, all summer long. And, the displays were full of flowers exploding with hues of every shade on their full blooms, multi-dimensional hand-made quilts and artistic basketry, photographs, Leggo art, watercolour paintings, junior floral arranging and blue, red and white ribbons for first, second and third on the jams and marmalades and cookies, cakes and tarts.

The pie ladies had baked the 100 pies which sell out ever year. Bumbleberry, Pear-ginger, mango-peach, raspberry raisin, every berry imaginable tucked neatly into the safety of the flakey pastry waiting for forks to pierce their perfection.

There was Liam, the little guy from Utah, with his parents who was wearing his OshKosh overalls and looking criminally cute.

There were weird hats with miniature forests growing on them and old farm machinery making weird noises working well oiled pistons that hadn't worked that hard since last year's Fair. Don't forget the classic cars with fabulous grills and hood ornaments, corn on the cob roasting and served up by the Fire Department, horse racing and little girls in their riding attire and blow up slides for kids to play on.

Of course Valdy was there with his red sox and his red shoes and Tom Hooper's family and a local band called The Relatives made up of mom on drums, dad and two teen-aged sons with each of them able to play just about every instrument. The two sons had interesting strong voices and the audience wanted them to play longer. More.

Of course there was the beer tent and the visiting and the running into old friends and the being sure to catch a glimpse of what so and so had submitted and comparing pie flavours and buying a ticket on which square in the middle of that blue ring that the cow would poop in and voting on Audience choice on the crafts and spinners and weavers and potters. And there was Judy, Search and Rescue volunteer, there first thing in the morning directing traffic and there last thing in the late afternoon when it closed down at 5pm on Sunday. Volunteers make it happen.

Mark your calendar for next year. It's fabulous, old-fashioned fun and it will make you happy to experience it and to know that such things still exist. Third week of September.

September 20, 2009

Salt Spring Reaches Out via Radio Waves

Salt Spring now has its own radio station at 107.9 or www.cfsi-fm.com

Today is pretty much my first morning of tuning in because it has just come on the air.

If you want to get a sense of the island, I can't think of any more immediate way of doing that than by listening to the station which I'm sure will improve as the kinks get worked out. I couldn't find a schedule on-line which is either my typical inability to find what's obvious or it's a major oversight on their part.

It's very much modeled after Co-op Radio in Vancouver with locals putting together programs on a volunteer basis but given the diversity, education levels and opinionatedness (is that a word?) of the locals, I'm sure it will be interesting, humorous and informed.

It's cool that such a small place has its own voice on the airwaves.

September 16, 2009

Service is Joy

This is a message from the Center for Attitudinal Healing that I thought was especially appealing given that I do find "serving" my lady does provide me with a sense of purpose that I like.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindranath Tagore

One of the key teachings we work with is that giving and receiving are the same. And…they are instantaneously linked. There is no time lag between giving and receiving. As I give I receive at the same time. It has nothing to do with how my gift or service is received.

Tagore so beautifully illustrates this truth in the quote above. When I am 'asleep' (in my ego) I dream of joy and how I am going to receive that in my life. When I 'awake' (listen to the Truth within me) I realize that the only joy, in Truth, lies in service.

So often we see clients at our center confusing ‘sacrifice’ with ‘love’. It is not until they see that their interest is not separate from another’s that real healing begins.

September 14, 2009

Tuscany in BC

I used to go to the Okanagan as a kid with the parental units. It was our annual summer vacation.

I'd sit in the back seat of the old boat of a blue pontiac station wagon as it made its way along the windy road that was Highway 3 that went past the Hope Slide and the old mine at Hedley.

Sometimes, not very often, I'd get car sick as kidlets are known to do. I'd get sick from the Gravol forced down me prior to leaving in an attempt to prevent such a thing.

We'd eventually reach Keremeos and then when we were getting really close, the Spotted Lake was on the right hand side in a valley. Sitting in that back seat was like watching a movie; face pressed against the window as the miles stacked up and just wonderful for the little dreamer that I was.

Strangely enough, I'd always be dreaming about living in a cabin, in the forest, homesteading before I even knew what such a thing was. That's just weird for a little girl don'tcha think?

In all those years, I don't ever recall visiting Naramata and so when I finally got there this weekend, I was so overwhelmed by its beauty. The Naramata Bench, on Skaha Lake, around the other side of the lake from Penticton boasts about 150 wineries according to the owner of Hillside winery - one of the oldest wineries on the bench (at 26 years).

So, on a road trip that was much different than my childhood ones, with two friends from Vancouver and two more converging from Edmonton on a place called the Sandy Beach Resort it was time for fun.

And, we did have fun except the young guy, Gabe, who was running the place wasn't amused when one of the friskier cougars in our group tried to throw him into the pool. Gee, I can't imagine why he seemed to take a dislike to us and was on us after that like he was our probation officer. Other than that, the rules, which are rules for a reason, (whether you've had one glass of wine or 15) are not meant to be broken especially when it's time to close the hot tub down. What is it about the married ones anyway? It's like they're the worst. It's as if marriage is such a drag, so confining that when they finally get a little FREEDOM it's like 16 year olds on PROM night. Okay, I exxaggerate slightly.

Ms. Eaton and I managed to get in the canoe each morning and go for a paddle exploring the real estate along the shore. It was paradise. Every single dock seems to have one of those hydraulic lifts for speedboats and as I was paddling and taking in the scenery I really began to wonder where I was on planet earth when they were handing out the endless buckets of money to so many other people. Did it just fall from the sky? Does it grow on trees up there like apples or pears, peaches and plums?

With the long lush rows of vineyards stretching down to the blue of Skaha lake and the most fantastic weather of this past weekend, we all felt like we'd left BC for a mini version of Tuscany.

So, I know, I know, I'm really losing control of the blog and don't really have time to write this so let me condense it.

If you ever get to Naramata, here's some things to check out and places where we went that were great:

Sandy Beach Lodge and Resort
Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa
The Coffee shop in Naramata village
La Frenz Winery
Therapy Winery
The Red Rooster
The Naramata Tailgate Party
Lobster Fest at Hillside Winery
Lake Breeze Winery

Just a word of advice. A weekend in September is about 3 days too short. Go for a week. It's heaven.

September 05, 2009

Salt Spring experience the icing on the cake but what's next?

-chocolate ganache tart with coconut base - raw food from Luba at the Saturday Market

It's coming up to a year since I moved to Salt Spring Island. It's been a very busy and very enjoyable year. It was totally the right move at the right time. I've met new people, feel like I immersed myself in the community in a lot of different ways from selling my photos at the market to joining the beginner band, creating the photo meet-up group, and writing for The Driftwood as a contributor. It has been good. It has been intense.

I feel like for the past year my mind has been completely consumed and there has been very little down time here. In fact, I've been busier here than I was in the city in a more holistic way. I feel like my life here folds into daily existence in a much more integrated way if that makes any sense. The sense of community here is something that, as a single person, really make me feel more connected.

I've met Pauline who has been wonderful to me, I've really enjoyed having Karin as a friend and the more I get to know her the more I like her and I liked her a lot to begin with. I've enjoyed having many of my friends from Vancouver visit. I have a fantastic co-worker and my part-time job exposes me to a completely different side of Salt Spring from the creative and has also given me some food for thought about returning to school to do a Masters in Social Work so that I could get a better job; a more transferable job or perhaps I could work for myself as a result. I've also recently thought about doing a one-year course online related to career counselling. And, I've thought about paying down debt (which is why I'm moving) and saving money to go travelling.

So, in the last while I've been wondering what's next? It's wonderful to live here but I've been wondering if the financial sacrifice and the lack of intellectual challenge in my daily work life is going to be okay for the long term. I'm wondering what I could do differently here to bring in more money since I have not done a good job, as always, in trying to market myself to get more freelance writing work.

I have faith that the next move will unfold and I'll know when I'm ready in the same way I intuitively knew it was the right thing to move here and I would like to continue living here for another year but after that, I'm not sure. And, as I say that I realize it's completely ridiculous because none of us know what the next year will bring.

These are the kinds of things I'm thinking about as I come up to my one year anniversary here on what I still believe is one of the most beautiful places in the world that someone could live.

In a way, that is the problem. When you live somewhere so beautiful and yet it's a challenge to financially make it work and the options for suitable employment are so limitd where do you go from there?

September 01, 2009

Ver Boatin'

Stay tuned for the story, later...when there's more time.