Posts Tagged ‘Bowen Island’

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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Eyes to see

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The Tall One has new glasses.

The old glasses were old. As in last-century old. As in before-Bowen-Island old. As in before he-got-so-tall old.

Wah! Did I mention that before?

The feet are growing, the hairs are sprouting, the voice — the voice is the hardest.

“Mum! I can’t sing the high notes anymore!”

There’s a little app on my iPhone which has recordings of his and Lulu’s voices from when they were wee — well, more wee than now, because it’s my second iPhone and they only last three years.


Time to talk about something else.

I have to make cupcakes for a community movie showing this afternoon. I can’t say I know the difference between a cupcake and a muffin. A cupcake sounds like something with white flour, sugar, butter, and colourful icing… Any suggestions?

I embarked on a dietary cleanse 1.5 weeks ago, the Wild Rose D-Tox. Mostly it involves not eating certain things (dairy, processed grains, yeast) and taking a few herbs with each meal. It’s not difficult and no big deal relative to how we generally eat (minus the dairy) and I was feeling pretty sanctimonious about how I wasn’t feeling anything, maybe this wasn’t doing anything useful, what about all the stuff I read about, etc.

Oh, how the mighty do fall. This past Wednesday I took to my quarters in the middle of the afternoon. Enough said.

Feeling better today thankyouverymuch, but there’s clearly something to be said for a little spring cleaning.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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Happy New Year! From beautiful Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, North America.

If I knew them I’d include latitude and longitude, if only to reassure I’m back on Canadian terra firma following our gastronomic adventure in the south of Spain. It turns out I failed to conclude our travelling story once I departed Barcelona and arrived in Marseilles.

What’s that? you say. There’s more?

Yes, my friends, still a week in France, more good food, some travel and warm evenings in the company of dear friends.

Kind of dizzying, really, how mind-bogglingly good our lives have been post-Orville and Wilbur.

But now, firmly rooted on the rock where we live, life runs more or less as normal.


The Japanese have a word for what transpired out the window this morning — unkai — sea of clouds. It turned out that much of the Lower Mainland (Vancouver and environs) was cloaked in a thick blanket of grey which had settled in the night.

It must have been fog soup down below for the ferry and every few minutes we’d hear the long low drone of the foghorn, alternately warning and guiding, I guess.

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Some of the fog burned off as the sun came up but mid-morning I drove to another part of the island, a home closer to the water where they were still encased in a cloud of humidity. They stayed that way for a few hours more while I came home to blazing sunshine.

It always depends on one’s perspective, doesn’t it? That’s a quote from the book of mothers, BTW.

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Tick. One more activity down, 25 or so to go til the end of the school year.

This year has happened to be the one in which preparation for music exams has filled our lives. The little one is preparing her Grade 6 cello, the big lug for his Grade 7.

No mean feats, these. Many hours of preparing and polishing, parental driving, encouraging, feeding of chocolate, offering heavy coins (we are not above bribery rewarding hard work in this household) all to take The Team toward the final goal.

Homeboy’s teacher on Bowen Island, the sweet and lovely Alison Nixon, has charmed him from the start. With her soft Scottish brogue she has created images of flying herons, fire-leaping Polish dancers, and silver-haired maidens on horseback to assist him in feeling what the composer intended. Truly, it’s a different lad we’re hearing.

This past Friday night the wee (very wee) Little Red Church on Bowen was SRO (that’s Standing Room Only, if you’ve not spent time in the theatre biz) as all Alison’s students played their pieces for the sold-out (donation and a can of food for the food back, please) crowd. From little to big, four years to 13, these children played their hearts out for mother and father, grandparents, siblings, friends and a collection of well-wishing islanders.

I was filled with awe the entire two hours as I realized how far my two have come, how once upon a time they too were squeaking their little wooden boxes up at the front as well.


My beautiful boy.

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Bee mine

Our honeybees relocated to their new home last weekend. Four thousand hard working spinsters, two eggs-on-demand queens, and a couple dozen ne’er-do-well drones, all tidily packed into two screen and cardboard boxes.


Popping off the top, ready to transfer bees to vacant hive and empty combs


Good Neighbour Ian lives a few kilometres away where he cares for three hives of bees

Healthy government-approved bees are harder to come by than you might expect.  Honeybees used to be imported from the US until the 1960s but American Foul Brood, the varroa mite and the fear of cross-breeding with the Africanized bee — also known as the ‘killer’ bee) slowed down importation until bees could no longer be legally transported across the border.

A solution of protein-boosted sugar water has kept the bees sated for their transworld journey


The queen gets her own chamber, only to assure the bee buyer that she has arrived alive; many bees do not survive the journey and up to 20 per cent expire within the first few weeks of arrival




So now Canadian bees share much in common with the lifties from Whistler — they’re all from New Zealand! (cheap shot joke) NZ bees are supposed to be good New Canadians on the wet west coast as our climate bears considerable resemblance to that of the kiwis’.

Were it a hot summer's day these gals would be in attack mode; the current chill is potentially lethal so they clump together


An unceremonial dump of the clump


And so last week, as if the Christchurch earthquake weren’t enough, these little gals, with a queen per box, were hustled onto a cargo plane with several zillion of their sisters, and carefully kept at about 90 degrees F — their optimal ambient temperature — at least until they arrived in our laundry room, where they huddled and buzzed, loyal subjects keeping their queen warm.


The queen, who for the last few minutes has been tucked in a warm jacket pocket, makes her triumphant arrival


And off she crawls to prepare for her life's duty -- when the warm weather arrives she will begin laying upwards of 2000 eggs per day

We’d confined them to the laundry room until the outdoor temps were above zero for a day and then with the assistance of a kind neighbour Ian, we welcomed the gals to their not so tropical isle.


No flowers in bloom right now therefore no pollen -- no food; we'll be feeding them 'pollen patties' for the next few weeks


Stragglers must find their way in before they're too cold to move


Can’t say they were thrilled but we’re hoping they’ll enjoy the view.



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One of the first things a body notices about our wee island is the spirit of community.

That spirit comes through in many ways — the current only slightly incendiary debate over whether to turn Crown land into a national park, for instance — and a combo Native/Celtic monthly after-school art class is another.

Gerald Morrisseau, of Scandinavian-Cree heritage, leads the clutch of young artistes who tumble once a month into the community school’s multi-purpose room into an examination of some of the more beautiful elements of B.C. native art.

This particular month Gerald spoke about traditional button blankets used amongst some of B.C.’s native people to display their family crests.

On their first meeting with Gerald, my little mice were a tad, ah, intimidated. I believe The Princess counted his earrings (11) and Homeboy assessed that additional tattoos (angels’ wings) decorated the man’s back. And like most gone-wrong first impressions, Gerald has been a great source of artistic inspiration.

For this class, Gerald prepared simplified versions of iconic First Nations images which the children then copied in black and white felt and then pasted on a red felt background. Small or extremely detailed areas were outlined in white shells or beads — an excellent way to detail tiny elements of the design.

And speaking of iconic, the Hot Glue Gun saves the day again. Not sure what the First Nations folks did before thermoplastic adhesives, but hot glue should most definitely reside in every artist’s paintbox.

Beautiful. It hangs on her wall.

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Island Boy


As their minds are hard pressed at the best of times to focus on calculus, Shakespeare and landforms of outer Mongolia, during this last week of classes students from Homeboy’s school launched themselves into the world of the less fortunate.

Island Boy with commuter cup

Spending the day working at a North Vancouver shelter for the homeless gave Homeboy a glimpse of a world very different from his own.

The students changed beds, folded sheets, stacked cans of food, and learned the message of the shelter is not one of pity but rather of hope.

A food exchange at the shelter allows food bank recipients to swap their canned lima beans for canned pork and beans, for example, giving some choice over the contents of the packages.

On a different day, students collected items for the food bank while others washed, scrubbed, raked and swept at a Bowen seniors’ centre.

It impresses me that a school takes interest in its community and then acts on it. Too often we’re encouraging kids to wash cars, have bake sales and sell chocolate bars so the community will support *them.* In these particular instances the students get nothing — nothing tangible, at least.

Waiting to board for their 20-minute commute to the mainland

One hopes for a joyful heart, filled to overflowing.

The spirit of the season.

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