Archive for the ‘Bowen Island’ Category

Vive le Quèbec

Homeboy is off on a school field trip to la belle province this week.

While uncharacteristically tidy the house is empty without his artistic scribbles, his music, his lanky self.

The two accompanying teachers have posted a few pictures to the school’s Flickr account, ostensibly to assure parents their offspring are alive and well, but just as likely to let the school admin think there’s *some* learning going on. We’ll learn the truth this weekend when the gang touches down Saturday.

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This one looks like Toronto airport. Homeboy was so excited about the thought of a couple of wasted hours there: “I’ll be able to show everyone around!”

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Hmmm. Montréal métro, I guess. Don’t you love when small things continue to excite? Makes me so happy.

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And now clearly in le vieux Quèbec. I spent two summers there, pummelling my brain into functional bilingualism, nothing more. Homeboy’s hat: Picked it up at the Monoprix in Aix-en-Province last year. Most remarkably he hasn’t lost it. I’m thinking he wore it for the French fashion flair.

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Goofy kids loving their lives.

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Good boy. Don’t lose that camera!

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Somewhere along the way they met up with another school for a quick game of Ultimate.

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I wonder if they’ve actually spoken any French this week.

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And finally, they were supposed to bring clothes appropriate to going out for dinner. Evidently they planned this beforehand. Hilarious.

The funny thing is that only one of their fathers — guess whose — wears a suit to work.

Quelle bonne vacances!


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If a computer could converse, that’s what mine would have said when I recently downloaded a disc full of pictures.

Seems Homeboy has discovered the magic of the macro lens and found out the fun of getting up close and personal with all sorts of natural bits.

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Well, hello there. Aren’t you lovely.

I love the orange antenna and the luminous green of the leaves. That yellowy underside would be such a pretty colour in a hallway, on the way to the household library. I think I’ll have quince preserves with my scones, Miss Marple. Would you pass the tea, please?

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My mother and I made dandelion (dent de lion — lion’s tooth) wine one year when I was in university. Dandelion heads, lemons, oranges, sugar and yeast. Smelled heavenly as it bubbled away in an old ceramic crock. Super sweet, but that’s how most homemade wines used to turn out. My German-born aunt always had a project or two brewing away under the basement steps.

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Forget-me-nots. Homeboy’s bedroom in our last house was this cheery shade of blue. Periwinkle blue.

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Don’t know where he found this little lovely bit. He was en route to a friend’s house to work on some homework.

I understand he’s also been working on a series of hexapoda close-ups. Next time perhaps.

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Playing the parts

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Both the Tall One and the Princess were part of a recent school  production entitled ‘Star Crossed,’ a remake of the classic Romeo and Juliet.

Minor characters were given major roles, dear R&J did not end their lives in a crypt, and double entendres regarding tweeting, texting and public displays of affection made for a light-hearted romp through 15th century Verona.

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Backstage, in fact the foyer of a chapel next to the school, the actors were terribly deep in concentration as they got into character.

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These two were part of a ukelele-playing Greek chorus. The fellow on the left even has an amplified bass uke. Occasionally the ukeleles were employed as rifles and machine guns, while  the Greek chorus sang “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you” as the Montague and the Capulets were fighting.

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This is a middle school, my friends. Middle. Cast adrift on the sea betwixt childhood and adulthood.

I guess we should be happy Romeo and Juliet did not return as zombies.

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Lady Montague. Romeo’s mother. In real life, as lovely as her name — Aria.

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Some are born to greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. Some merely crave it. (That’s the boy from the dressing room, by the way.)

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The princess here on the end, one of Romeo’s henchmen.

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A remarkably happy group, minutes before going on stage for their final performance. Aren’t they wonderful? So much joy!

The play’s director, Christian McInnis, has a master’s degree in theatre and wrote and rewrote an remarkable script as well as rewriting the words of popular and recognizable songs.

As a result we heard a reworked “Me and Juliet, down by the school yard…” Try to get *that* one out of your head!

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And after the final curtain call, Juliet and my own princess, fully charged.

Encore, you guys! Get going on the next one!

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How he grows

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My tall one passed his fourteenth revolution around the sun last week. Or is it the sun that revolves around him?

Phew, no, not yet. That package of adolescent arrogance has not arrived on our doorstep yet. We are still fortunate to have him able to give us a smile in lieu of a sneer.

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The Tall One has had quite a year. His feet have grown three sizes since September, his voice dropped a couple of octaves and he’s officially taller than his mother. He’s also been working on a year-long art project for school, has recently appropriated my camera for close-up photo-shoots with wee and tiny arachnids and is preparing for a school trip to Quebec this month.

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Some of us are really going to miss him.

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And others may enjoy being an only child for a week.

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Now where did *that* come from?

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It really would be good if they could just stop. Growing. Now.

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What sight through yonder dressing room breaks?

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Why, ’tis my lad, dressed thusly as he is a royal Montague, the father of fair Romeo.

He and his compatriots hath wrought a play of magnificence, such as the world hath never before seen, or so hath they promised.

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Lean and lank grows the lad, who will pass his 14th turn around the sun this Sunday.

Woe is the mother who lingers in the past, recalling the days of tiny feet, pudgy fingers, blonde curls and a lisp. Oh how he lispeth!

Lispeth lispeth lispeth.

She misseth his lispeth.

Hahahahaha! I must be tired.

Play runs tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.

In the meantime, I’m going to prepare for next Tuesday’s Talk Like Shakepeare Day, in honour of the Bard’s 449th birthday!

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The princess had a school assignment: To prepare a three-minute speech about a topic she considered the most important issue facing the world today.

“Everyone’s going to be talking about the environment,” she said, while thumping a sprawl of papers on the kitchen table. “I want to talk about something else.”

Of course there are lots of others things to talk about, but what would resonate with an 11-year-old, her classmates and a teacher?

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Good morning, everyone: Before I begin, I would like you to do something. You don’t need to close your eyes but please think of someone living in poverty somewhere in the world. 

Look at the person, look at their surroundings, where they live, how they’re dressed, what they have to eat.

My fellow classmates and teachers.  I have a concern that is very near to my heart and I would like to share it with you. It has to do with people who are living in poverty. 

Please, let us return to the person you have imagined, living in poverty somewhere in the world.

I will guess that the person in your imagination is not living in Canada, is not living in B.C., and is not living on Bowen Island.

How strange that we always think that the poor live far away from us when, they may actually be our neighbours and we do not know.

We’ve all seen people living on the street, asking for money. How do you think they got there? 

One reason could be some kind of family abuse, and the person now feels safer on the street than they did in their own home.

Another could be job loss, something that could happen to any one of the adults we know.

A third (but certainly not the only) road to poverty, and one that I feel particularly close to, is mental illness.

Mental illness is a disease, just like diabetes or arthritis, that can come when you are a child or adult. It comes without any warning. It can happen to anyone.

Very recently someone I have known for years was diagnosed with an extreme mental illness. She was in the hospital for more than six weeks. Her three children and her husband were suddenly without a wife and mother, and she could not earn any money. This person is a nurse and has not been to work since the end of February. 

I also know someone here on Bowen, in fact someone who use to go to IPS, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This means he cannot keep a job because sometimes he cannot tell what is real and what is not. For example, one time when he became psychotic, he thought it would be interesting to learn to fly. So he jumped off his roof!

Fortunately he didn’t die, but the point I’m trying to make is that bad luck and poverty can happen to anyone.

I know a lot of people think saving the environment is important, and I agree. 

However, what is the point of taking care of the planet if we can’t even take care of our own friends and neighbours? 

Here is my hope:

That every one of us here reaches out to someone in poverty. Maybe not every day, but at least every week.

There are the usual ways, such as giving to the food bank or donating to the second hand stores.

But more importantly, we have to stop ignoring the people on the street as though they were invisible. We have to look them in the eye and truly SEE them.

I know of a homeless man who was living in the woods across from the ferry. I know the family who  gave him a place to stay and the person repaid their kindness by fixing their roof and building a fence. The family didn’t IGNORE the poor person.

There’s no single solution to poverty but I hope that if we think and talk about it, and be generous with our TIME as well as our money, maybe we can be part of the answer to ending poverty in the world, starting with our own country, in our own small community.

Thank you very much.

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Some of you have been to where this headstone lies and knew the most wonderful woman buried there.

When we had to decide what words, if any, would summarize the issue most important to my mother, the choice was easy:

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me.”

As my friend Alice suggested, I can’t help but think our mothers’ spirits continue to guide our lives.

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A rose by any other name

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So many harbingers of spring these days.

I saw a pair of robins near the front gate of our yard. One dark-breasted, one light — I’ll have to watch for signs of a nest.

A toad hopped across the asphalt drive two nights ago. The sky was too dark for identification but I felt so happy to think an amphibian still found the lands and forests clean enough for its survival. There are a few little ponds and creeks around our place — I wonder if there will be eggs?

The cherry blossoms, the forsythia, the daffodils, salmonberry blossoms, alder catkins… and…

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… the skunk cabbage.

This lush and leafy vegetation is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring and grows in swamps and marshy areas. Given the abundance of rainfall the last number of months, small wonder they pop up, seemingly overnight, all over the island.

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I think they’re kind of attractive, in fact. I like how large and prehistoric they look. I don’t detect much of an odour unless I’m the midst of a large number of them, but the scent is supposed to attract pollinators.

But alas, political correctness has even arrived in the land of the swamp as I understand the proper appellation for these productive plants is no longer skunk cabbage but swamp lantern.

Ever so much better.

All the little elves and gnomes, guided between the gnarled trees and weathers rocky outcrops, all the while holding aloft the blazing yellow blossom of the skunk cabbage swamp lantern.

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Whatever it’s called I find I’m paying more attention this year.

It’s all beauty and it’s all so transient, whatever the moniker!

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Gosh, I just heard the mayor of Brandon, Manitoba on the radio: “Minus 17 this morning. We wonder what we’ve done to deserve this.”

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And a psychologist from the University of Manitoba was quoted as saying there’s been a higher number of cases of depression this winter and he thinks it might be weather-related.

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My father just telephoned from “sunny” Manitoba, as he likes to remind me, to say there’s a huge snowdrift out by his bee hives and he can’t get out there to check on them.

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Poor bees. So much to do and so little time.

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Umm, Dad? Mayor Decter?

All those times you laughed about the west coast rain, the grey skies, the foggy mornings, afternoons and evenings… We kept quiet because  while we envied your days of cloudless blue, we didn’t really envy your frigid car-won’t-start winter mornings or your itchy bug-bitten summer evenings.

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But now? Well, we don’t really know what you’re talking about.

However, if you’re searching for a peaceful place to contemplate the spring thaw, you’re always welcome to wait it out in our guest room.

Toast and honey on the house!

Nicholas B photos

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A few years ago I attending a thrice-weekly workout program with a solid Serbian named Svetlana. Embracing her was like hugging a tree.

Her name in fact was Suzana but in my mind she was better suited to ‘Svetlana.’  When asked if her family members had spent any time in the army she replied, “Loyse, we were the army.”

Her exercise program was called GI Jane Boot Camp, her company was called MYA Fitness. I asked another hapless question: Why MYA?

“Loyse, I’m gonna get you to move your a**!”

Got it. Ma’am.

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Well now, that was then, this is now.

Meet my new personal trainers.

They bark at me, just like Svetlana, and they have no patience for the fact that I continue to be woefully out of shape. Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!

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So just about every morning we tackle a walk out the door, down our driveway, past the mailboxes and further down to the water.

This brand new set of stairs was constructed last spring by the municipality. I don’t know what it replaced but I know I’m one of the few users. It’s not exactly for the faint of heart and certainly scared me off for a while.

This set of stairs is one of two, the second half that takes one down to the water.

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And this is the other, the set that takes one back up to the road. I’m standing on the small patch of level land between the two.

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And here’s the coach. Come on, Loyse. Let’s go let’s go let’s go. I want you to move your a**!

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Done for today.

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At Christmas time or her birthday or when I needed a break I’d bring Svetlana some treats. And on rare but very pleasant mornings after class she’d make us thick Turkish coffee the way she’d learned from her mother and we’d sip and listen to a few guarded stories about life in the homeland. And the reasons for the move to Canada were pretty clear — a better life for herself and her family.

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As for me and my trainers, after we’ve completed the final upward hike on the drive we enjoy some treats as well. A nice cappuccino for me and some butcher discards for the coaches, who then settle in for a nap.

Life in the homeland is pretty good.

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Keeping cool

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How do you manage your stress?

Do you nibble your nails? Bite the heads off unsuspecting passersby? Seek solitary solace?

Some people, of course, manage to go through life without any obvious evidence of ever being touched by the blight of nervous tension.

My father is one of those saints. I have not ever once seen him lose his cool about anything.

A couple of soggy Manitoba summers ago, Dad was determined to get his meagre crop of wheat off the field and out for sale. Maybe he would have gotten a couple hundred bucks. Maybe. But since when has making money had anything to do with farming?

I digress.

So Dad swathed the field with the tractor a couple of times, creating thin rolls of the wheat stalks, enabling it to dry in the summer heat.

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Except it was the summer of the everlasting rain cloud. The rain fell, the wheat sat. The structure of the swaths kept the wheat from rotting on the ground but dryness was hard come by that year.

Dad waited and waited, the wheat was finally dry enough and he swapped out the swather for the combine. Up and down the fields with this noisy machine which separates the wheat kernels from the stalks (which later become bales of straw).

At the end of one, perhaps two, days (a small plot, only 25 acres) all the wheat was off the field and in the hopper of the combine, and was then augered out (like a giant Archimedean screw) and in to the back of Dad’s old pick-up truck.

Have I lost you on the process? Wheat in field, wheat in combine, wheat in truck.

From the truck he shovelled all the wheat — a couple hundred pounds —  into a granary, a little drying shed. There it sat for a couple of days, another step in the drying process.

And then Dad shovelled it — a couple hundred pounds — back into the truck, ready to take the wheat to the grain elevator. Elevators are those big tall structures you see dotted across the prairie landscapes, like giant milk cartons, connected across the land by endless miles of train tracks. Farmers sell their wheat at the elevator and the grain starts a journey that may take it to the other side of the planet.

Except on this day the elevator folks didn’t want Dad’s wheat.  Too moist — we’re not in the sprout business, mister. So Dad drove back home (fortunately he lives only a couple of kilometres from the elevator) and then shovelled — a couple hundred pounds — once again out of the truck and into the granary.

All that work. All that waiting, then the field work, then the shovelling… I expected Dad to at least kick the tires of his tired F-150, but he shrugged. What can you do? he said.

A couple of days later he shovelled it — you get it now? — all back into the truck again and rumbled off to the elevator.
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He returned after a while, the truck box empty, a couple hundred bucks in his pocket, and a grin.

Was the wheat finally dry enough? Was a different person inspecting the grain? Had the ‘nice guy’ approach worked for the eight-thousandth time? I never really found out.

But get worked up because they wouldn’t take your grain the first (or the second or the third) time?


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He knows how to manage his stress.

He’s the king of cool, my dad.

Cool as a cucumber.

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