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January 28, 2011

The Wellspring of Talent on Salt Spring

It's so redundant to say there are so many incredibly talented people on this little rock of approximately 10,000 called Salt Spring but people keep saying it because every day it's in their face, not to be ignored.

This week I met with one of them at his beautiful low-slung home right on the water which runs the length of the shore and angles off in interesting directions. His entire front yard is a view of the ocean with little wooden decks staged for perfect summer lounging. It seemed appropriate that a photographer should live in a house where the windows frame the view in the same way the viewfinder in a camera frames potential photographic images. 

In winter, it's grey but in summer one can only imagine the beauty. He told me that his wife, an interior designer, has been coming to the island for 40 years. They also own a little "shack" on the water on another part of the island and when the sun goes down on their main house, they pack a picnic lunch and head over to the shack to enjoy the evening until sundown.

Originally from Scotland, with the true beginnings of his 40 year photography career originating in London, England, he has worked as an editorial and advertising photographer for all of Canada's major magazines and its top advertising agencies in Toronto.  At this point, he's choosing to do what he wants and brainstorming the type of creative projects that he really wants to do: portraits, architectural photography, still lifes of subjects that he, not a client, chooses.

What struck me most about him is his quiet manner. He's very easy to be around. Everything about him and his lifestyle seems very low-key and civilized with ego kept at bay. I like that.

I have decided that I will only agree to offer my writing services to people who I like as people, whose integrity is beyond reproach and who are professional in every aspect of that word. Some people might think you only get to do that when you're financially successful but that's the thing about getting older, you get to make up your own little rules in compliance with your own values and, of course, reap the consequences.  I think it was Tony Robbins who has said, The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your relationships..."

I think making the decision only to work with people who are professional in every sense of that word will eventually pay off even if it means I say "No" when I intuitively know that saying so is the right decision for moi!

He is going to be one of the photography presenters at this photography event taking place in Campbell River at Painter's Lodge in April. I'm debating whether I can find a way to justify going.

I notice there are 4 photographers from Salt Spring Island presenting: Amy Melious, Steven Friedman, Janet
Dwyer, Gillean Proctor.

January 23, 2011

'Numbers, dreams and the fog'

I started to read Brian Brett's book, Trauma Farm, A Rebel History of Rural Life, and on page seven I was struck by a sentence that read..."History, real history needs to run with all of it  - numbers, dreams and the fog."

When I read that sentence, I stopped. I read it again. I mulled it over. 

Earlier in the day I had returned from a visit with "the ninja healer" and I had been sharing with him the fact that I'm approaching a milestone birthday and how when your life has not fit into the box because you haven't been married, you haven't had children, and you really haven't accumulated much of anything except experiences, some good friends and insights then approaching 50 can be really thought-provoking and not in a fantastic way.

 "History, real history needs to run with all of it...numbers, dreams and the fog."

 In his usual insightful manner he just said to me that I needed to go into and accept every thing about myself and every experience I've ever had. Accept. Look upon them with curiosity.  Be kind to yourself. Try to approach every issue with a "playful spirit", not judging, just wondering why, wondering about options, remaining curious and playful in your approach not blaming, feeling guilty or judging. 

I recently watched the new version of the new release of Karate Kid and I feel like this person is my Jackie Chan. He's my spiritual master and just the act of speaking with him and being in his presence allows me to remain on track, much more focused, as if for the first time in my life the word "discpline" has a positive meaning or any meaning at all. Having "discipline" is really about commitment to oneself and one's goals. A form of self love. Deprivation has nothing to do with discpline.

Now, that's not exactly an earthshattering way of thinking that I've never heard before but something about the way he has of knowing what to say to address current fears makes them seem so irrelevant, manageable, conquerable. Almost silly and obscure.

He's not a counsellor. I don't think of him that way.  I don't want a counsellor. Everything I need is inside of me and I have learned that well. He's trained in Capoeira and Qi Gong and has had a spiritual practice for a long time. We talk about spiritual matters in a way that helps me stay on a path that I need to get serious about; a path that won't allow me to make any more excuses for goals not achieved.  It's fantastic. I feel he could make a lot of money doing what he does with me and turn it into his life's work.

I recently signed up for an online workshop by The Renegade Writer and she sent us an audio of a talk by another writer Sage Cohen whose book, The Productive Writer, I've been reading. This books is all about getting serious. Staying on track. Systems and processes for doing, not dreaming. No time to waste.

So regardless of where you're at in your life, and what has or has not happened, ugly words you've spoken, beautiful words you've not heard enough, places you have or haven't seen, just remind yourself, You're still here! There's probably a reason for that. Embrace the beauty of the uniqueness of your path- the good, the bad and the ugly (judgements that you can choose to let go of right now).

Embrace every challenge you have overcome and every hope for a dream that you have yet to make true. Accept and forgive every person and situation you have ever encountered who has made you who you are today - uniquely you and undoubtedly wiser.

Embrace your own history, accept it, so most importantly, you can move forward lightly: "numbers, dreams and the fog..."

January 19, 2011

The Dude, Lane 31 and a Crane for the Fir Tree

  If you're in the city, sit down somewhere really quiet, listen to your breath and imagine a full moon dropping silver dust across the grass, spotlighting the potholes in the gravel lane and freeze framing the steeley rippling ocean as if you've been dropped into an Edward Hopper painting.

That's what it's like driving along Walker's Hook Road where I live. The narrow, windy asphalt creeps and winds just above the water's edge on the North End of the island. I must keep my eyes on the road to avoid the ditch even though I have taken lately to driving smack down the middle of the yellow line. A car is rather a rare sight in the evening.

With one hand on the steering wheel, I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of the moon and the purple and pink haze of streaky quotation marks around the otherworldly translucent orb. It's my happiest moment of the day. It brings me back to the luck and beauty of  being alive.
Salt Spring Island is a quiet place in the winter. Maybe that's true of every small place. What to do? Read more.Local authors. Brian Brett's Trauma Farm is ready to be cracked open. I just devoured George Sipos's Geography of Arrival. Movies. More movies.  I catch up on watching movies that most other "normal" North Americans have already seen because, let's face it, I'm a bit of a pop culture alien. Understatement.

Last night I watched The Big Lebowski by the Coen Brothers. How could I not have seen this movie? The Dude characterization gave me all sorts of ideas. I"m surrounded by The Dude in various incarnations and as worthy on a daily basis in my job. Maybe I should invite the Coen brothers up for a visit on a little "recky" mission.

As for tonight it's a bloody  miracle I'm not on my knees out in the back yard howling at the moon in frustration related to problems with the creation of a new website for myself. It's never simple. Even when it should be. Especially when an insurmountable problem arises and you turn into an obsessive-compulsive, wimpering, temper-tantruming desperate piece of quivering and totally-stumped brain matter attached to a set of 10 fingers tapping madly at the keyboard all to no avail.

Maybe a dip in the pool and a little weekly Deep Water Aquafit will relieve my angst. Being January, the class is packed with women and one guy who merely, by his presence, I admire immensely. He's cute and he's  a film maker and of course he plays in a band. We discuss it in the hot tub. They're called Lane 31. I'm not crazy about that name. It's the Lane islanders must get into when they return from Victoria and line up for the Fulford Ferry. So?

I'm listening to their MySpace downloads and wow, my first impression wasn't fair. I have listened to this song, Shari's song, about 25 times while I'm writing this. Love it. Love the lyrics. Love the guy's voice.

The evening gets capped off with a long call from Pauline to report in on the latest Monty Python skit of how not to build a cottage.

Turns out that a huge fir tree smack dab up against the new little cottage must come down.

"What?" "You never noticed this before?" I ask stupidly before I think, "Shut up Gayle."

 "It will require a crane," they say. Call your insurance provider they tell her. Check your coverage. Does it cover Acts of God? Freaks of Nature?
Never seen anything like it, they say.
"I couldn't sleep last night," she said. I kept seeing two people -  city slickers -  sleeping peacefully in the new B&B crushed to death by the tree. I imagined hearing the crack and waking up just in time to see the towering inferno of branches devouring the roof.
I'd lose everything. They'd die. Their relatives would sue. Gone. All gone. (Blessing in disguise I think to myself but wisely refrain from saying.)
"It's a miracle that thing hasn't dropped before," said the arborist.
"Is he really an arborist?" I ask. "Like, a real arborist?"
"He has 30 years," she says. "With trees though?" I ask again.

I only ask because everybody here, on this crazy little island, is something whether they are or not if you know what I mean. It's a bit like Hollywood in that way, I imagine. I should ask to see my doctor's degrees just in case.

"Call me when they're ready to hoist it outta there," I say to her about the Giant Evergreen.
"Doesn't matter where I am or what time of day. I want to see this."

But for now, enough already. I lay me down to rest.

January 15, 2011

Owner-less for Life

I took this photo in a Victoria tea shop last February. A bike. Just one example of a highly shareable items that fit well into the trend of Owner-less-ness.

When I lived in Vancouver, I loved belonging to the Cooperative Auto Network. I loved being able to get online and just pick a car to use when I needed to use one.  Gee. Let's see. Did I want to drive a truck? Maybe I'll opt for the yellow Volkswagon bug. I was beginning to get pretty partial to the Pontiac Vibe station wagon. The Mazda Protege had the best visibility even if it was extremely boring.

It would have even been better if the Car Co-op started purchasing really high end cars so instead of just driving regular cars you could opt for the Jag or the BMW or the Mercedez Benz. Of course, the fees would have gone way up.

The best part about the experience is that when I'd finished my trip and use of the car, I loved being able to lock the keys up, and walk away, knowing I had absolutely no responsibility for the stupid metal hunk of machinery if someone happened to sideswipe it, steal it or it went up in flames. It wasn't mine. I didn't OWN it. I didn't have to repair it. I didn't have to think about it at all except for when I was driving it.

Lately, on Salt Spring, I've been noticing a trend. It might be a trend. Maybe it's just desperation masquerading as a trend. It could be both.  I've noticed that more and more people are building structures on land that they don't own. I have trouble getting my head around this. You're going to make yourself a beautiful little space without any control over a landlord's decision to let you keep it on their property? What? Are you crazy? Why put money and effort into building a structure on a piece of land that you don't own? You might have to just leave it if something changes. It's like a floathome on land. I don't get it. Nano homes. Yurt-like structures. Call them what you will. Get a trailer. Buy a caravan. Build a tree house. Use a tent. Not my idea of ideal.

But, maybe I'm just being extremely unimaginative. Perhaps these people are actually pioneers. Maybe they're buddhist-like explorers recognizing that every moment of our lives is about letting go. They have excelled at non attachment. They're able  to risk the possibility for creating a pad of their own - for as long as possible - and accepting the inevitability of change.

Maybe they've got something there. I mean, if you know you'll never be able to own, why not borrow? Respectfully of course.

You can use your imagination and think about all the possibilities here for owner-less sharing. People with huge yachts that just sit tied up could share them. Massive million dollar homes that get used a couple of times a year could be shared. Restaurants, especially on Salt Spring in January, could be rented out for events targetted at attracting those to the island for whatever type of gathering. High end camera equipment. Art Studios. Workshops. Bikes. Motorbikes. Horses. Expensive art.

The potential for the sharing of irregularly used, high end items makes a lot of financial and environmental sense.

Just two days ago I picked up a hitch hiker on my way to work in the snow and he got a call while in my car. It was someone talking to him about his sailboat.

"You own a sail boat?" I asked. "Well, I own a shared sail boat," he answered, "except I'm the only one who seems to pay attention to it and use it."

Okay, so there may be some drawbacks to the sharing depending on who you're sharing it with and the arrangement.

But, it all ties into a trend as pinpointed  on Trendwatching.com referred to as Owner-less. 

Access, Baby! Isn't that where it's always been at in the end?

January 07, 2011

Not Just Any Yak

My friend Gwen gave me a Yak for Christmas. Not a real one of course, but one made by Lungtok. That's what the tag around its neck says. Lungtok even has an e-mail address.

This story began five years ago when a Japanese artist named Tomoyo Ihaya, who lives in Vancouver, first visited India for a couple of weeks of meditation and trekking in Ladakh in the northwest part of the Himalayan Mountains. She fell in love with "its bare beauty of nature, ancient culture and people who live a simple life."

Tomoyo described it as a life-changing experience.

In 2006 while participating in an artist project with other international artists, Tomoyo met some young Tibetans who were selling momos (Tibetan dumplings). She bought them and became friends with one of the sellers.

One day while eating at a small restaurant run by a Tibetan refugee, she noticed a couple of Tibetan boys who seemed to have a talent for drawing. She brought some watercolours and paper but had the idea to teach them how to make three-dimensional figures with needle and fleece or needle felting. She says she only showed them for a few minutes.

The next day when she returned she found they had made a horse and a yak. She says she was really moved to see how alive and honest the fleece animals looked.

She began to think that it could be a good way for these refugees to make a living while allowing them to connect with their cultural heritage and to keep on connecting their hearts to where they feel they belong: high blue sky, rivers, mountains, and green grassy fields filled with those animals.

Since she has returned to Canada she has sold three bunches of these animals and returned the profit to them.

Her dream is to establish a non profit organization in India so she can do more creative activities for the Tibetan refugee community there.

She named her project the Himalaya Sky Project and has been baking cookies and selling them as a small step toward registering a non profit organization in India to help support the art and culture of the Tibetan refugee community in India and in the Himalayas.

When I was in Vancouver, it was sheer coincidence that Gwen and I saw Tomoyo briefly on January 2nd at the kitchen store on Granville Island where she works part time in between her travels.

You can learn more about Tomoyo from a 2008 article in  The Georgia Straight. (scroll down when you get to the article).

January 04, 2011

What's a Lama Doing in a Place Like This?

Mural of a typical immigrant family from the past
In the window of Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens
Serene reflection on garden wall
It's not every day that a Lama from Darjeeling, India walks through the door of our employment centre on this little island and smiles the whitest, widest smile. I was a little confused. "Are you looking for work?," I asked, stupidly. No. He was merely accompanying someone. His robe was maroon and straight to the floor narrow. He had a bright yellow toque on his head. Just a wee day trip they were on. Down from Mount Tuam in the four wheel drive. His white teeth brightened the darkness from the drizzle outside. I didn't have my camera. I wish I could take a photo of every person who walks in the door. Every face is amazing. I can't. Confidentiality. So, instead of Salt Spring, just a few photos from Vancouver's Chinatown taken over my recent break away.