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

April 29, 2011

Do You Know When to Leave Your Ego At Home?

 I went to the United Church on Salt Spring, Wednesday night, to hear Makere Stewart Harawira speak. She's from a tribe in New Zealand called the Waitaha. Apparently, they have existed for 2,000 - 3,000 years. Dr. Stewart-Harawira said the word Maori is a generic term that means essence; the natural peoples.

The talk was hosted by the Child Honouring Centre and its founder Raffi Cavoukian was there to introduce her at which point she sang a beautiful song in her language and began to speak about how we are at a critical juncture in human evolution where we can either make decisions that have the potential to lead to huge evolutionary leaps or we will make decisions (as we have been) that will lead to our extinction.  Nothing new in that statement unless you really digest the information and say it to yourself  and truly hear it at a cellular level.

"The sacred needs to be returned to our economic and political structures." For me, that was the most significant insight she shared becauseI feel that everyone feels a lack of "the sacred" every day even when they can't put words  to the angst they might be feeling at any given moment.

When the talk was over, it was question period.

How many times have you been to a talk where someone, usually one or two people, interpret question period to mean, let me bring out my soapbox. Let me challenge the speaker. Let me reveal my own brilliance read, my ego needs stroking, please see me and acknowledge me and help me to feel superior.

Most significantly, this man represented a way of being that would be beneficial to move away from at this point in human history. Instead of a listening and an open spirit, he brought antagonism and his own sense of rightness seeking affirmation and acknowledgement for himself in place of respect for others; not just the speaker but for the mainly female audience.

When I worked at UBC Computer Science, one of the professors  there who was Mormon once said to me, "If it doesn't add anything positive to the conversation, you really need to ask yourself whether it should be said."

So many people (including myself more often than not) are incapable of assessing that and unfortunately this man brought a negativity and a violence (as a result of the interchange it evoked between Raffi and him) to an evening that had been rooted in peace and soft energy prior to his serious error in judgment.

Suddenly, there, in that beautiful little church, what played out replicated what too often plays out in boardrooms, around kitchen tables, in casual groups. The collective anxiety his way of being evoked was palpable.

It was a really useful (albeit inappropriately-timed) lesson for everyone there to reflect upon.
1. Is the thought I just had necessary to articulate out loud?
2. Will this information add to the conversation or merely bolsters my ego?
3. Is this the right time to bring our concerns to the forefront?
4. Would a private conversation be more appropriate?
5. Am I coming from a place of love or a place of judgment?

April 25, 2011

Special Finds on Salt Spring and Off

It was a good weekend even though I am very restless and in need of change. Needing to throw off the winter jacket so to speak, as some child did and forgot it, on the beach.

Friday, my friend Karen and I took in the Easter Art Tour and I guess my favorite part was seeing Morley Myers studio. We were in there at the same time as another on island couple and I really enjoyed hearing him talk to them about his work. He's had this cool idea for a totem and he's sculpting his work out of stuff he finds on the beach such as this styrofoam. The thought of being able to make a living as a sculptor is just so crazy. It just seems so over the top out of the realm of possible. Do you just wake up one day and say, that's it, I'm not a carpenter, I'm a sculptor. Imagine!

We also dropped by Duthie Gallery, the wood gallery owned by Celia Duthie and her husband Nick Hunt, former owner of Duthie Books in Vancouver. The wood products they have in the gallery are so beautiful and done by some of the best wood artists/craftspeople in B.C. including Brent Comber. I believe he made these fantastic lanterns out of tree stumps that hang in their front yard. They've also just opened a B&B called Gallery B&B. It's a very small but cute little space perfect for one or two people within walking distance to town. It's $130 a night in the high season.
At the end of the day we treated ourselves to a meal and some sauvignon blanc on the deck of the best deck (IMHO) on Salt Spring, the Seaside Kitchen. We sat nestled up against the white stucco wall like a couple of tomato plants and soaked in the long overdue heat and the spectacular view. It's the kind of place you need to go to when you're down on living here because it reminds you how lucky you are on a spectularly sunny day. Karen helped me remember. She's in love with this place a little more than I am at the moment. The halibut and chips were delectable. It's one of my favourite places on a sunny day. There are too few really great restaurant decks on Salt Spring given the natural beauty that's all around.

Saturday, the market was chock a block with local visitors from Vancouver and Victoria and the sun felt warm, really warm, for the first time this year. It was a nice surprise to sell a lot of photos and to have so many people give me positive feedback. What an ego stroke the market is some times. I like that. You've got to take it where you can get it. Sometimes I think, why did I become a writer? I really think I should have become a photographer about 25 years ago and got serious about it a long time ago. Is it too late now? I got some really nice feedback from a photographer whose work I've always liked. His name is Ken Ketchum. He's got a new blog. Amy Melious dropped by and told me she's got a new studio and she's thinking of having an open house when it's ready. She's one of the photographers heading up to Painters Lodge next week to offer a big photography workshop all weekend. Just so many talented people all around.

Let me just digress here for a minute and say I'm having a glass of Syrah from Muse winery and I am pleasantly surprised. It's really decent.

Sunday I took a trip to Victoria and met a young poet/writer who has an MFA from the Creative Writing Department at the University of Victoria and I have to say that sometimes some young people just blow me away. Their intelligence. Their abilities. Their insights. I'm writing a story on him for Boulevard Magazine and it was such a treat to talk to someone about poetry and writing who has had the benefit of some fabulous mentors such as Lorna Crozier, to enhance his obvious natural talent. I think I'll keep him a secret until the piece comes out. I can't wait to write the piece. It's a lot of pressure to represent these really wonderful people and sometimes I just don't feel up to the task. But, I'm sure that's a good thing to feel that way. And, in the end, I know I am. Up to the task that is.

We did the interview at the Fernwood Inn and that's a place I'd love to go back to for a meal the next time I'm in Victoria with someone. I tend to revert to my known spot when I'm alone which is usually if I'm in Victoria. I go to Swans or the cheap but wonderful Chinese place in Chinatown. Swans had a special on Caesars and they offered me a double which I should have declined. I was seated at the window and a table of four women and one man - older than middle aged. It never ceases to amaze me what people talk about. I swear they must have spent at least 15 minutes on their hair. Sheesh! It's impossible not to overhear when you're alone even when you wish you couldn't. The rest of the afternoon was that half in the body, half out experience of having alcohol in the middle of the afternoon. If only I'd been with a friend.

Monday has been a quiet, lazy day. I couldn't stop reading Everything is Goodbye, the book published by MotherTongue Publishing and I really enjoyed it. It's a great first novel. It's really sad. I especially felt sad for the depictions of her relationship with her mother. It felt familiar in all the ways you wouldn't want it to. I went for a long walk around 5pm just down the road and back. It felt good even though it began to pour. I like the kind of things you find sometimes at the beach. A jacket left behind.  A red balloon in greenseaweed. The flowers and the birdhouses offered for sale at the little roadside stand just down from where I live.

The week is almost upon us. Hope you had a visit from the Easter Bunny.  It's almost time to do the best thing you could do all year and vote for Elizabeth May and the Green Party.

April 17, 2011

Well-Placed Pasties Trump Paradise Any Day

What's More Serious than Death? Interviews!
1. I often think too many job interviews are just way too serious. It's as if they didn't get the memo that said, "Relax. We won't be conducting organ transplants or the surgical separation of conjoined twins so act accordingly."  It's okay to be professional and still be fun. I know it. In the past decade I've managed to work with fantastic people who, to varying degrees, have had a sense of humour and smarts. Memo to self: Life's too short to work for people who take every little thing too seriously.

Getting on but still able at The Keefer Bar
2. You know you're getting older when  a two-hour nap is a necessary intervention prior to going out on the town to an event that starts at 10:00 pm. Hey, that's close to my bedtime on weeknights! Colleen set the alarm for 9:00 pm and we got dressed and headed to this nifty little place in Chinatown called The Keefer Bar. It's a narrow little building that has a Chinese medicine-themed decor with drink menus full of Asian-influenced hi-balls.Think Ginseng and gold dust.  Ms. Colleen wanted to see the burlesque show. The costumes were fantastic and so was the M.C., Crystal Precious, along with Little Miss Risk and others. There were three acts. It's a really intimate little venue and we got chatting with two ladies from the film industry who were fun, fun, fun. We both loved it and would highly recommend the venue and the weekly Thursday night burlesque shows. Staying up to 1:00 am was a breeze courtesy of the well-timed nap. Cover was a mere $10.

3. A coffee shop on the East Side called Marche St. George. A slice of Provence served up a la carte at East 28th and St. George. Coffee, tea, croissants. High end jams and crackers, pickles, coffee, and quality delicacies.  I had a lovely conversation with Carrie, mom to three-year-old Sloan. It's weird when you meet someone and your life experiences and values just seem to have followed the same twisted path which means you could just talk and talk and talk. I wiled away the sunny Thursday morning there. Strangely enough, there was a Salt Spring connection but I'm still not exactly clear on who owned what and what that connection was but it was there.

4.  The Prophouse Cafe on Venables across from Uprising Breads and Bakery. I don't even know what to say about this place except go there and gawk.  Thank you, Gwen, for introducing me to this colourful, master of uniquness. It's full of tri-lights and orange swag lamps and black leopard figurines and records that the wait staff will yell at customers to put on if the room goes silent. The owner, Ross Judge, was wearing a Canadians Jersey and I got a bad cell-phone photo of him (above) standing in from of one of those old blue hearse like cars with the massive fins and Canuck flags flying from every antenna. Strangely enough, across the room was Heather, a Salt Springer known for her work with North Americans stashed away in Thai prisons at Prisoner Support Society.  She has relocated to Vancouver. We had a brief conversation. On the way out, some guy named Frank York got in on the photo-op and when he heard that I lived on Salt Spring he said to say hi to Matt Steffich  of Steffich Fine Art who, according to Frank, was another East Van boy.

Let me just say, I really am not ready to return to this lovely little island; a world renowned paradise of mind-dulling silence broken only by the croaking frogs and that 4:00 am cock a doodle doo that needs a swift little kick and those bleeting little goats across the road.

Home sweet home. La dee dah. La dee dah.

April 11, 2011

An Enchanted Love Story

When the rain is zooming in at a slant on the sliding glass door and you're sick to death of looking out at nothing but trees, grey sea and the occasional bunny, you just know you better get on the gumboots and get out and socialize before things get as ugly inside your head as they are outside. That was today, probably yesterday by the time you read this.

The first ever Salt Spring Blossom Festival was taking place over the weekend and partaking in Sunday's activities meant showing up at the Harbour House hub so off I went, wet hair straight from the shower just another indication of how far I've let things slide over the winter.

First up was Odette Graham of the newly launched Salt Spring Island FLORIST showing us the basics of Ikebana design. Odette was a florist in Vancouver. Her website will launch later this week and she'd love to find a retail space to sell from, which, on Salt Spring is,  in the language of Tai Chi, like finding a needle at the bottom of the sea.

According to Odette, Ikebana is about simplicity, and being aware of nature and the seasons to create minimalist creations with the container being a key element as well. Often parts of the plants other than the blossoms are used. This, of course, is the Idiot's explanation of Ikebana via me. I love the idea of Ikebana and the end results and Odette would like to bring an Ikebana master from Victoria to give a workshop if there is enough interest.

 Terry Bibby, Saori Weaving was on hand with her loom for the public to help create a woven banner that will be sent to the people of Sendai from Salt Spring. I wonder how long it was by the end of today?
Bibby chose pinks and green to represent spring and cherry blossoms which on a grey day just bubbled with hope as every new inch of weaving materialized.

Masa Ito, a Japanese landscape architect from the Lower Mainland (Richmond?), talked about the history of design of Japanese Gardens in a slideshow and spoke about the meanings behind each feature of a Japanese garden and how those developed out of Zen Buddhism.

There was a box of happy origami birds, popping with colour.

And then the big event, a brilliant idea that will surely blossom into a must not miss occasion. Salt Spring's  fabulous vintners and master chefs gathered in one room to offer, sometimes on a silver platter (for a mere $15) bite-sized tastings of their delectable creations. Give it a few years and this event will be a big tourist draw.

In between the talks and waiting for the food to materialize, the highlight of my day included speaking to an 80-year-old lady who has lived on the island for 20 years. We started speaking while I was flipping through a hardcover photo book showing pictures of the luxury Hastings House Country Hotel. "My husband and I celebrated our Golden wedding anniversary there," she said wistfully. I had to remind myself what Golden meant. Was it 50 or 60 years?

She went on to tell me how she was originally from Australia and she first met her husband to be, whom she had remained married to for 53 years (prior to his death a few years ago), when she was five years old and he was eight. Can you believe it?

He was the little brother of one of her girl friends. She didn't think anything of it. Not until they were teenagers.  They both ended up going to university in Sydney and kept bumping into each other over the years. After he graduated from engineering, he decided he was going to move to Tasmania. She decided that she better follow her guy and finally give in and married him. She was 21 and he was 23. "We travelled all over the world," she said. "He'd call me from some project, and he'd send me the airfare to meet him in Frankfurt or South America." She was really sad that he was no longer here at which point, envious of such a life, I had to remind her that she had her wonderful memories to sustain her in the present and I hadn't met all that many people who would describe their lives as "enhanted".

You do realize that very soon 50-year love stories will be a relic of another time as that war-time generation passes away.

April 05, 2011

Poverty: Is it really their fault?

 There is no such thing as poverty in nature

 I wanted to write something about my experience working at the island's employment centre now that I've decided to move on, but, for whatever reason, I always have trouble writing about those things in my life that have affected me deeply. Then, yesterday, I saw the story in The Victoria Times Colonist about the Salvation Army's Dignity Project. A project that referred to the results of a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid in January 2011 on 1,025 Canadians in order to gather their perceptions on  people who are financially poor.  

I read the absolutely astounding figure (how can that be accurate?) that 50% of the people polled believe that a family of 4 should be able to live off $30,000 a year.  About one in 11 people in Canada lives in poverty and that number, according to Statistics Canada, has remained stable in the past decade. Picture children. In B.C. and Canada, they are a large number of the poor. This poll made me angry because, once again, the complexity of the human condition, through a poll, is reduced to unhelpful simplicity. 

Almost 25% of those polled said that poor people are in that position because "they are lazy" and they have "lower moral values" than those who are not poor. 

But, having worked at the employment centre on Salt Spring Island, what I mostly came to understand, or deduce, were circumstances that began so much earlier in a person's life to shape their current challenging realities. What I saw was the very reason why the philosophy behind The Centre for Child Honouring needs to exist.

Perhaps you`ve heard the statement `Hurt people hurt people. And, hurt families hurt each member. The results of that hurt can haunt people for life. The results show up in a lack of self esteem that leads to addictions. I saw mental health conditions that dampened potential.  Occasionally, very rarely, I saw laziness. 

Judging people who are poor does not  allow room for understanding about what it's like to be raised by alcoholics or drug addicts. It has no room for learning disabilities or sexual abuse endured as a child. There's no time to care about what it must be like to be a First Nations person in Canada or to have survived residential school, to live with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome through no fault of your own. So much for overcoming disabling bouts of depression as a result of circumstances that may have led to it in the first place.

Myths about poverty do not take into consideration what life might be like if both your parents died when you were an infant. Stereotypes about the poor being  lazy do not account for all those people known as `the working poor` who have more than one nearly minimum-wage job. There is no acknowlegement about the reality of people who are driven to create - artists, writers, musicians, poets, actors - often poor because of how little their talents are valued in a world where money seems to have become the exclusive form of currency.

The moral superiority and false security that stems from having more than enough money does not believe in the existence of `bad luck`. It doesn`t dare allow for the realities of  illness and accidents, especially without insurance. There is no accounting for how the actions from our past lives may play a part in current realities regardless of your moral fortitude.

When did our value as human beings become so entangled with how much money an external force decided we were worth?  I`ve known what it`s like to have very little money. I know it now. I have also known what it`s like to live off a salary as a single person that some families of four can only imagine. Neither circumstance changed who I am at the core of my being.

One of the things that the job at the employment centre showed me about myself that I`m really glad to know is that I do have the ability to look beyond someone`s current circumstances, however wretched, and see their spirit.

Yes, for sure, I would lose my patience. There were days of judgment and annoyance and disbelief and dislike and exasperation but always, I could usually overcome my surface reaction and see the heart and soul behind behaviours that were, in the moment, blocking a clear view of every unique self that walked through the door. My co-worker could do the same. I believe it may be one of the most important requirement to work there or perhaps to work with people in general.  

All these poll results say to me is that too many of us are still so extremely judgmental, especially of that which we most fear.

April 04, 2011

Saturday Market Memories: Day One

The Salt Spring Saturday Market kicked off for another season this weekend and it's hard to believe that all three of us are going into our third year as vendors. That's Lorne, salesman extraordinaire, moi, and Tom. It was freezing as you can see by the look of Linda, below, but at least it wasn't raining.
The very best thing about the kick off of the market, (other than the fact that Lorne was finally shamed into purchasing a new handmade felted Funk hat) is meeting new people and talking to all the people you already know who drop by for a quick chat. It's as if someone opened the doors on the cabins like they were letting the cows out of the barn while screaming, "Don't let the door bump your bums on the way out."

They ramble down to Centennial Park and the festivities begin. The tents go up. Rob, Market Coordinator, gets the group organized. The jockeying for points-based positions begins. The wind kicks up. Displays are knocked over.  Things break. Sizing up takes place. Good are perused. Wallets are cracked open. Conversations ensue. Let the socializing and the networking (and in some instances), the bickering, begin.
It's a microcosm of the planet really. War and peace. Politics and religion. Beauty and bullshit. Creativity and connection. Friendship and revelry.

Here's a whirlwind summary of what I vaguely recall. I asked asked a few people how their winters had been. How is it possible that I never saw them for 6 months. Noticed who had tans which explained their invisibility. One word: Mexico.

Met a New Westminster city councillor named McEvoy. Told him my family had lived there for seven decades up until 1979. His wife bought three cards.

Sold a Telus Networking expert a card for his 90-year-old mother in Surrey. Got followed by Judith, a Salt Springer with a Twitter account who bought some of my cards and whipped out her Iphone to "follow me".  Met a lady named Mary Lou (?) who says she always looks at my photos because she's in the middle of renovating her house and she loves my photos and wants to buy some when she's done. Hey, that works for me.
Met a woman who had grown up on Salt Spring and was in the Canadian Military. "You must have been raised by two hippies," I said. She laughed and nodded with surprise that I'd pegged it. She's a logistics officer who has been in the military for 16 years and has gone to Afghanistan on three tours of duty. She bought a card.
Was descended upon by a woman who told me all about her beautiful white German Shepherd named Ivar who lived to be ten and how she originally came to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I listened to her compassionately. She was all worn out from a couple of hours at the market.

I amused myself between customers taking photos of everything and nothing.

Ran into my friend Deborah who had to put her beautiful Boxer, Maggie, to sleep on Friday but seemed to be holding up relatively well after drowning her sorrows in the wine the night before, and the company of a friend from Victoria

George and Gordon dropped by the table. Gordon bought three cards, one for his soon to be arriving grandchild. Said Hi to Karma. Talked to Rachel about why I decided to move on from my day job. Said Hi to a few clients from my now former day job.

Got zeroed in on by a person well known to the community with a major drinking problem. How's that for diplomacy in description? He proceeded to belly up to my table and ooh and aahh in a drunken manner over my photographs. He wanted me to take his photo. I did. Thought that might get rid of him. Stupid idea. He was drinking red wine straight out of the bottle. It was dribbling down his face. I wondered where a) Market Coordinator was b) how long he was going to bother me and c) if the RCMP ever wandered by. I suggested that he might like to sit down in the sunshine in the park. He finally took the hint. 

About 15 minutes later, I walked to the other end of the market and saw him lying on his back, on the pavement, in the middle of the main strip, in the sunshine. Oh my. We might all know who he is but the tourists don't.

Got given, on a silver platter no less, a cupcake from Elizabeth who is selling cupcakes. Got handed $20 from Lorne who sold my matted photo of the Japanese floats while I was in search of something to eat for lunch. 

Talked to Christopher and Jon. Met their respective cute little sons. Talked to Jim and his dad. Look at that family resemblance (below). John is 90 now and still sells his book about his WWII experience of being shot down in a plane, being the only one to survive by parachuting out, and shortly thereafter enduring a long stint at a POW camp. When the son of one of the crew members caught up with him a few years back, I wrote the story of an unlikely reunion, especially since the son had never met his father (another crew member who had died in the crash) and been killed prior to this son's birth. 

Spotted one of my favorite toddlers (from all the toddlers who used to accompany their parents at the employment centre). She was all decked out in a new Tu Tu that her dad bought her carrying a bread stick in one hand and a rainbow coloured flute in the other.
Packed up my table around 3:00 pm with more than enough money to buy some groceries.
Headed to Thriftys.

Turned my head just in time to see previously mentioned well-known person with a drinking problem in the back seat of an RCMP truck.

De ja vu!