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

August 31, 2010

Finding your archetypal person and/or place

Sunday excursion: Rathtrevor Beach. Qualicum Beach. Cedar, and the Crow N Gate Pub.

This collage (above) is not Salt Spring Island. It's Qualicum Beach. On Sunday at 4pm, it's much like "downtown" Ganges by 8 pm. Deadsville except for the line up in front of Mr. Freezie ice cream which Gwen and I contributed to by imitating the crowd. The emptiness didn't make a lot of sense since just a few streets back the entire town is exploding with suburbia in the form of cookie cutter housing a.k.a my idea of hell.

We did however come across this really nice garden/home decor shop called Smithfords that had beautiful art and funky carved cats including a catfish or a cat with a fish tail that was swimming after a mouse.

I wonder what it is that makes us feel that a particular place feels like home. We could live there. And, then, others, leave us cold and it's different, thankfully, for just about everyone.  Is it some dream we hold inside from childhood and the place either matches our dream or not? Is that what happens in choice of partners as well? Do they simply match some archetype we carry around? What about those of us whose archetype seems broken when it comes to finding a partner, not because there aren't people out there but because we have always been so disappointed by those who we initially thought were the archetype?

Saying that makes me realize how, that is in fact, the test. Can we get past the archetype we carry around and just be open to what comes our way instead of measuring everything against some internal fantasy that long ago has proven to be unattainable? How I digress? 

After the ghost town that was Qualicum we stopped in at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks which is a really cute place. It's a working farm with a few old red tractors. You can watch them milking the cows and pet the goats and rabbits and see the baby pigs. There's a cheese farm and the Mooberry (fruit wine) winery is attached as part of the little country store. Fruit wine isn't my favorite thing but I bought Apple, Gwen bought Raspberry and they were quite tasty in a summer-only kind of way.

We headed from there in search of the Crow and Gate Pub which Gwen wanted to introduce me to. That took a lot of convoluted twists and turns. If you can find Cedar, B.C. outside Nanaimo then you can eventually find the pub which is the oldest neighborhood pub in the province. At least I think that's what it said.

When you think of a place in the province, in Canada, in some other part of the world that just really fits you - the dream you have about where you best see yourself living - where do you think that place is for you and why is that?

August 30, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words

Let's pretend this photo is a New Yorker cartoon. It requires a caption. No ands, ifs or ....well, maybe a but and a butt.  I know you're out there. Comments can be anonymous ya know? Don't be so shy!

August 25, 2010

Transitions: A smoother consistency of yellow

Look at the bottom of this canoe. Sometimes it got too close to the rocks just under the water. Sometimes it got dragged up on the beach too roughly. It was green. Then white. For a while it was a bright Indian red, the name of a type of red in watercolour paint. It has been places. On journeys. Probably just short journeys but who knows. We can tell it has been around for a while. I saw it on the beach at Southey Point and the collage of colours and scraping reminded me first of what Michela Sorrentino had said about her paintings when I was interviewing her and then about how an observer would never know the places that this canoe had been from looking at it. All we can do is surmise.
It's a bit like meeting people as they grow older.  Layer upon layer. Incidents. Emotion. Sadness. Memories. Layer upon layer as if every year and each new meeting introduces a stranger to ourselves.
The other night I was talking to a friend. She said, "I think I"m in a transition. I don't know what to do next." Welcome to the cusp of 50, I thought. I thought moving to Salt Spring was my transition and it was I suppose. But now I realize that the moving here was really just the easiest step. It represented wanting to create a life that was more flexible and allowed my creativity to be at the forefront. What I didn't anticipate is that there's no such thing as just one step in a transition. The first part of my transition seemed like the easiest transition I've ever made. Now, coming up to the finale of the second year I've simply stepped closer to a whole bunch of new questions and wondering what the next step is and how I"m going to push through the colours that have been created in the past two years to move to a smoother consistency of yellow?

August 22, 2010

Salt Spring Re-experienced in Photos

Blue Horse  Folk Art Gallery

Saturday rolls around so quickly each week, beautiful and hot with throngs of market-goers. August is definitely the main tourist month here.

I enhanced my display by purchasing a large easel made by hand by Keith of Keith and Sherrin who are leaving the island after 19 years. They've sold their beloved home and B&B and I know that they can't help but be a little sad about leaving. She's a watercolour painter who paints whimsical scenes of Salt Spring and of flowers and scenes around the Mediterranean. I bought the easel at their yard sale last week and it really helps to show off my matted photos better. They're such nice people and they've had a few setbacks in the past month. I know things will turn around for them again and I just know it has to be positive to have a piece of their good energy behind me every week.

A sweet little older lady bought four of my photo cards and told me she'd been coming to the island for 37 years! I asked her where she stayed and she said she always stayed at Birdsong B&B. I'd never heard of it but almost every review on Tripadvisor, except for one, was overwhelmingly positive.

I also met the editor of the alumni magazine for the University of Washington. He bought two of my matted prints  - the leaves on the pond at Duck Creek and a barn at Ruckle and he seemed to genuinely love my photos.  There's even a possibility of work coming from that meeting.

I like to know where my photos go after they've been purchased.  Last week a woman who was a chef in a high end restaurant in London, England, bought a large 11x14 of my red window so she could take it with her to New York when she moved there to a new job in some other high end restaurant there.

I like to think of my photos travelling where I haven't been able to get to yet and just the brief interactions with the folks who are touched for some reason by one of my photos is really the best part of the market.

When I'm selling my photos I have to remind myself of my own experience of purchasing someone's work. I went to the big island of Hawaii in 2005.  I bought a small watercolour painting that I absolutely loved. It was an old tin-roofed cottage set back on a property with a little lane leading to its front porch and dwarfed by huge palms and massive ferns. It had the words "old style" scrawled across the bottom in pencil.

I look at that print almost every day and it still brings me joy and transports me back to that little village of Volcano where I purchased it on a day when the rain was teeming down shiny on every piece of greenery and making the giant fiddleheads droop.

I just think of that to remind myself that it's about capturing an aspect of their experience and presenting it back to them as a keepsake. They're buying their own experience. My photos, just happens to re-ignite that in some way for the people they resonate with and since I know what I love about Salt Spring and what captured my own heart, I feel I just have to remind myself of that to help capture theirs.

August 20, 2010

At the Lake on Salt Spring

After a serious reconnaissance mission on trying to find the perfect place to go swimming on Salt Spring, I finally gave up, started back at square one and waded into St. Mary's Lake, the public access no less, right off the road that curves around it like a bikini does on some hot young thing's body.

First I went to Southey Point. There's a very small access there and if nobody is there, it could be good. Except on this particular evening, the water was really "messy" with seaclutter. I peered down into it and saw a few purple-black crabs scuttling sideways and that did it for me.  I can't swim there. I'm citified. They might pinch my baby toe! What else might be lurking in that cesspool of seaweediness?

I didn't want to drive all the way out to the Indian Reserve where there is hardly ever anyone on my favorite beach. Stowell? Weston?Cusheon? Nah! Didn't want to drive that far. Blackburn is out. The last time I was there was many years ago before I knew that it was a nude beach, I had only figured that out as I tiptoed over the naked bodies on the dock, slightly mortified that I hadn't noticed anything prior to almost stepping on a rather small appendage.Why is it always the people who you don't really want to see naked, the only ones naked? You are then  left with an image stuck in your head that arises at the most inopportune times, like when you're about to chow down on a Tuna fish sandwich?

 It was 7:30 pm. There weren't very many people there. There were a few fully-clothed moms on blankets watching their kids play. Two lesbians who couldn't take their hands, or their eyes, off each other were half in and half out of the water. I have to think it must have been a "new" relationship as a little boy played around them. The water was pea-soup luke warm and easy enough to get into with its sandy bottom.

I didn't wear a bathing suit. Too fat for that. I put on my black fast-drying shorts and a Jockey camisole; beach attire for fat people who think people won't notice that they're fat and that's why they're wearing what they're wearing. I can't have one more thing sticking to my body that isn't already a part of it. As an aside, many, many years ago - I might have been 25 - I bought a poster in Victoria that was a painting of the five stages of women. The middle one was just an apartment-looking rectangular block. At 115 pounds then, I didn't get it. What's that? I stared at that for years thinking, Why is the middle represenation of a woman just three solid blocks?  That ignorance was a good thing. I still have that poster. Now, I should just circle the middle block in red and attach my name to it. Now I get it. Menopause. Here. Not a good thing. My doctor in Vancouver told me I needed to stop drinking, completely. Not one drink. "Empty calories," she said. I just looked at her like WTF? But, now, I'm beginning to consider it. Just as soon as the summer is officially over. I mean what pleasure will I have left for god sakes? This is what my life has come to. Bathing-suit restricted, alcohol restricted self inflicted deprivation and not even a single adult being in the form of an offspring to blame for my deterioration? Geez!

Back at the beach, the water was a beautiful wavy emerald green. It was the exact colour of "the Jag" I wish I owned. Someone was trying to teach a little boy how to jump off his shoulders properly propelled at the exact moment into the liquid greenness. "Keep your legs straight until I lift you out of the water," he kept shouting, as if he was an Olympic gymnastics coach. It wasn't even his kid. He gave him one last heave and then he was gone to join his wife at the car, his pink towel wrapped around his waist. A man secure in his manliness. I like that. It's too rare.

I floated around for at least 20 minutes, enjoying the view from the water, the reflections, the conversation of kids on the beach, swimming, checking out that beachside resort that looks way nicer from the lake than from the road. I thought about my own childhood at the lake, Osoyoos Lake, and I relaxed, away from technology,  cool green water soothing me, completely, at the end of a very hot summer day in BC.

August 17, 2010

Salt Spring: A Wasteland of Cultural Diversity

A couple of things on my mind lately. Well, more than a couple actually but here's a few I'll share here.

White. Whiteness. A sea of white. Homogeneous whiteness. Tapioca pudding.

When you live in Vancouver, you get so used to the multicultural nature of the Lower Mainland that you totally take it for granted. You get used to the fantastic ethnic food and seeing people wearing beautiful saris and colourful turbans, the occasional flowing black robes and hearing other languages, even ones that can be loud and annoying sometimes to be honest, that you forget that it's really an example of what Canada is all about. I always thought the Robson Street bus was a great example of that. You couldn't get on the Robson Street bus without a mix of tourists from all over the world and students from Mexico and Korea, Japan and China there to learn English. Diversity is what makes it so interesting and the food so great. That was not true of the Vancouver pre-Expo 86.

I think my feeling that something was missing here because of the lack of  diversity has been a re-ocurring theme for me since I moved here. It's not that I didn't know where I was moving to and what it was like but the lack of cultural diversity bothers me more than I ever thought it would. Thank God the island has it's spectacular natural beauty because, let's face it, to say Salt Spring is not diverse - culturally - would be just too big an understatement to even bother stating.

I was thinking about this and reading the too many responses on the CBC website from Canadians about the illegal immigrants on the Tamil ship that arrived on the weekend. If ever there was a sense of scarcity, you will find it in many of the comments. "Send them back! "Why do we even let them land?" "Our immigration office is a joke." On and on and on.  It's as if the people who say this think these people are arriving from Maui or something and they just got bored of where they were living and thought they'd cram into a small boat with 499 other people for 3 months to kick up the exictement metre in their lives a little.

I'm not defending illegal immigration but there's something about the mean-spirited nature of the comments that just saddens me.  It's as if we're on this luxury liner called Canada with so much space and money and we're peering down on a floating raft and screaming, "Drown suckers!"  Once again, I'm not defending their way of arriving, but from what I've read, more than a few Canadians would be happy to stand down at the shore with a rifle in hand and would happily kill them, rather than let the ship land.

And, that's something that I'm sure First Nations peoples, wished, in hindsight, they had of done when European explorers arrived on "their homeland."  But, we're all here. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Learn more about the Tamil people.

Follow up: Since writing this I was listening to a CBC radio show and I was enlightened to find out a lot more about this.  Unfortunately, these people are asylum seekers, not refugees. Refugees actually have to be declared that through a process, they don't just get to show up on the shores of a foreign country; one that is known to have a Charter of Human Rights (such as Canada's) that prevents us from doing anything but accepting them to begin the refugee determination process once they've arrived.

August 13, 2010

Caught my eye on Salt Spring

Sometimes you take photos of things that you just love that other people might look at and think huh? I love these wheelbarrows stacked up outside Mouat's Hardware.

I love peeling pink paint on a barn. Who paints their barn pink? And, I like the red too!

I love that Mr. Rooster has no use for a No Parking sign.

I love that birds don't discriminate!

I really, really love the way the shadows fall on this curtain.

The way this sock looks on this baby's foot. 

The way the light shines off this BC Ferries railing.

August 12, 2010

Salt Spring and the invisible Tsawout

There's one very special place, among the so many very special places on Salt Spring Island that seems to captivate my visitors more than any other place. Is it the peace? Is it the fact that when I go there almost no one else is ever there and it feels, from the winding shoreline trail, like a private sanctuary. The towering fir trees. The Arbutus growing ever rustier red this time of year, shedding their skin with vibrant green patches underneath. Garry Oaks. It's as if this space contains the spirit of heavenly ancestors breathing out cool air, calming every cell in your body with their evergreen breath.
There is one especially haunting place where the light streams through the trees in a way that makes you stop and look up.

It's Tsawout Land, 43-acres on the Eastern side of Fulford Harbour established in 1877 according to Charles Kahn's book on Salt Spring. Their official Band name is Fulford Harbour 5. The Tsawout First Nation is one of five bands that constitute the Saanich Nation. The other bands of the Saanich Nation are: Tsartlip, Tseycum, Malahat and Pauquachin. They have land as well on Saturna and Pender Islands. There are about 760 people who make up the Tsawout with their main centre in Saanichton.

When my friend Peggy came here she was asking me a lot of questions about these people that I couldn't answer. If it's reserve land, why aren't there any First Nation's people living on it?  Do they ever come here? I think they used to use it as a ceremonial ground, I say, not knowing whether that's truly accurate. Why are there almost no First Nation's people on Salt Spring at all? I want to find out the answers and learn about their history.

Colleen loved it here, on this white shell beach.

August 08, 2010

92 years of change

My father turned 92 on August 5th.

Think about what's happened with computer technology in the past 40 years and especially in the past 25 years and try to get your head around what it must be like for someone who has been on the planet since 1918 and their ability to process all that has changed?
The first World War ended on November 11th, a mere 3 months after he was born.

He grew up in New Westminster. Milk and bread were apparently delivered by horse and buggy directly to people's homes.  There were street cars.
His birth predates the first successful flight by the Wright brothers in 1903. 

It was years before television.  When he went to Europe as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, the troops didn't fly because there were no commercial airlines. They took a ship. They wrote letters.

Is it any wonder, given the changes, that it does seem like he acts as if he's seen it all. Maybe, for him,  he's just seen enough.

Recently, he had a fall while out on one of his legendary long walks. He was in the hospital for about 2 weeks as a result of bleeds in his brain. Now, he doesn't seem to know what year it is. He says it doesn't matter.

And, you know. I get that. It doesn't really matter what year it is. It's just a number.

Here's an article on a few "secrets" to aging well.

August 05, 2010

Winston Churchill Visits Salt Spring Saturday Market

Winston Churchill was at the market and he was damned tired of looking at all that stuff. Geez. Enough already. Where is that woman anyway? It's not enough that she has to practically emasculate me dressing me up like some chi chi  chihuahua with this gold scarfe around my neck but now I have to stand beside him, he who still hasn't figured out that wearing white socks with sandals is fashion suicide. He's got on his Day of the Dead baggy pants paired with Birkenstocks thinkin' he fits in (and the sad part is that he actually does.)  I'm just done!

August 04, 2010

The Art of the Photograph

Purses or dogs?

I was in Victoria today interviewing Quinton Gordon and Diana Millar of Luz Gallery for an upcoming article for Victoria's Boulevard magazine. It's so great to talk to someone who has so much experience as a photographer and who has a vision about what they're trying to achieve.

They have a lovely new space full of light as a result of the big windows and in a funky old building on the corner of Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street about 10 minutes, if that, from downtown.

We had a good conversation about what the last year has been like for them birthing this new venture, what they look for in portfolios and about the difference between a focus on process and a focus on content as well as how they've made it so that community - at least the photographic community not just in Victoria but in Portland and Vancouver and other places is finding them making everyone's lives richer who need a place to talk about visual art.

Quinton talked about how happy he is to hear people coming in to discuss the art and the projects that created the work, not the process. He emphasized how important it is to start with the why behind the photograph and then the process. Too many people have it backwards he said.

It made me think of my experience at the market. One of the questions I always get at the market when I'm selling my photos is "What kind of camera do you use?" As if the camera had anything to do with the image. My eyes just glaze over when someone asks me that.  It's the least important aspect of photography.

 It might just be a way for them to make conversation and I understand that but honestly, I have a low end Nikon D40 digital camera. It's not the camera that sees and then decides what to take or make a photograph of and it's not the camera that makes further decisions about what photos might actually be appealing to people in the context of the Saturday market. When it comes to the market it's all about taking photographs "of" something. The most basic form of capturing an image.

Then there's the people  who want to challenge you about the fact that you altered the photo as if it's now tainted or something?Where does that come from in an age of digital manipulation? I mean, even in the past when photographers were burning and dodging in the darkroom process, they manipulated their photographs. Do you like the end result or not? Does it really matter how the creator of the photo reached the end point of an image that either speaks to you or not?  As with all art, it's subjective. It's the same as in life. What you perceive is much more about you than the actual physical thing or person in front of you. It's about what emotions or memories it evokes for you and the experiences you've had that colour your interpretation of it in the first place. It's why we don't all love the same piece of art or the same photo or the same anything.

It was the kind of conversation that I have too rarely and I forget how much I enjoy talking about that stuff - the stuff of creativity - until I happen up against it in a moment.

It was a good day.

August 01, 2010

From Wales to Salt Spring

Coming back from Vancouver on the ferry on Friday night and met two interesting men.

Of course, it took longer to load the ferry than anticipated. I was on the deck watching semi-controlled chaos when a young guy complete with braces came boldly up to me and started chatting as if we'd known each other for years. His name is Zak. He's 15. He's from Richmond and going to visit his grandparents who live on Salt Spring. When he started talking to me I was literally staring at him because of his confidence and his ease of talking with me. I thought back to when I was 15 and how it would not have been possible for me to do that.

He tells me that he's homeschooled and that he likes acting. He's taken a lot of acting classes and he has really bright, sweet brown eyes. Next year he's going to go to high school part-time. How come I don't meet 49 year olds that entertaining? He also has had Crohns disease since, well, forever. As a result he's on a special diet that sounds like don't eat anything but soup. I felt such an affection for him because his personality was just effervescent but not in a cloying way.
After about 20 minutes, we parted by making a bet on how long it would actually take the ferry to leave.

I wandered into the foreward lounge and moved some tourist brochures from a seat to sit down. A few minutes later, a guy with an accent said you're sitting in my seat. I looked at him and said, well actually, some paper was sitting in your seat but you weren't! Very American of me don't you think? I think a typical Canadian female would be like, "oh, oh, Sorry. I'm really sorry! Instead, I just said, "I can give you your seat back though," I said. He didn't seem to take the comment too badly so I moved over a few seats. (As an aside, I never understand how people think leaving a bit of non descript paper on a seat indicates that it's their seat and why in a ferry full of seats, attachment to a seat when their are many seats left, is so strong).

Turns out, Zack then shows up. I was sitting right behind his mother and his sister. The new guy starts talking to me. He's going to Salt Spring. He's from Wales but he's been working in Vancouver since 2008 on a special type of visa for skilled workers. He's a carpenter. I ask him where he comes from in Wales and some mumbling, bumbling, garbled line of vowels and consonants that only a lunatic could have strung together slides out of his mouth. He asks me if I have a pen.
This is what he writes:
It translates into "In the hollow of a white hazel near to a rapid whirlpool of St. Mary's Church near the red cave of St. Tysilio." 
I just have to take his word for that. I figure nobody could make that up so it must be true.

His name is David and he's the youngest in his family and he never wanted to leave Wales but he lived on an island and there was no work. Sounds like Salt Spring, I say. We spend the rest of the voyage talking and I'm struck by his openness and his humour. On a long weekend in August, while on the ferry, he was still wondering where he'd stay on Salt Spring. You don't have a reservation anywhere and you don't have a car?  He takes out a piece of paper with some phone number on it. To make a long story short. We finally arrive at the Farmhouse B&B at midnight and I let him off.

The next day he finds me at the market and buys me lunch when I can't leave my booth at the market and was in a spot surrounded by people I didn't know. I toyed with taking his photo but it just seemed a bit much.

That's the thing about travelling even short distances. People are usually in the kind of moods that allow them to connect moreso than when they are just going about their daily routine.

Why is that?