Posts categorized “Bowen”.

The bench that awaits the return of the light


The bench at Killarney Lake on Bowen Island that looks out across a rock and the calm surface of this afternoon’s gloaming.  I love the word “gloaming.” It refers to the dusky twilight that is practically what passes for daytime now, so close to the solstice, when the grey clouds that envelop us dim the already weak northern daylight even further.  I love the cool air and the damp and wet, I love the contrast of walking into a friend’s house full of the smells of spiced ginger tea and welcomed with warmth.  I love that we can huddle together against the chill to sing, as we did tonight with our local men’s and women’s Threshold Choirs, wrapped in blankets in a yurt, singing chants we practice for singing to the dying, accompanied by the random percussion of the rain.

I am built for gloaming of Advent, a northern soul, a winter lover, one who can wait and wait and wait for the returning of the light, for the summer’s long in breath that begins a 2:03 on Sunday afternoon.

Until then, enjoy some other amazing gloaming.

Weathering the storms

View from my garret

View from my garret

When i am working at home, as I am today, my office is a stand up desk in a window dormer that ingeniously is surround on all three sides with windows.  This means I can see the forest off to my right, trees and neighbours down below me on the stretch of Miller Road we call “Seven Hills” and to my left is a glimpse of the Queen Charlotte Channel between our island and the continent of North America, more specifically the low ridge of Whytecliffe in West Vancouver.

Last night and this morning the sky has been what is sometimes called angry.  It has been raining fierce and thick showers, broken by strong gusty winds and moments of serene calm.  i photographed this band of light breaking in the distance over English Bay.  It looks like the sky is clearing but it is just temporary.  Another shower descended upon us ten minutes later and this view was completely obscured by fog and rain. And ten minutes after that it is clear again.

I love this time of year on Bowen Island.  The waiting and darkness of Advent.  The stormy and unstable weather that swells the creeks to breaking and invites the salmon home. The journeying through the cold and wind to small warm refuges of fire and friendship as we visit friends, share a pint at the pub or a quiet lunch at The Snug or Rustique.  The island tucks in to its friendship.  We come to remember that we need each other to move fallen trees, deliver firewood and check in on each other (my neighbour is 85 years old and basically housebound).  There are very few visitors to our island and the beaches and forests are quiet, left only to the seals and the deer.

It echoes, I think, the best of what I am able to extract from this time in my life.  And it reminds me that some days I am at the bottom of the U in all kinds of ways.

Helping to improve the public conversation

another bown from strachan

For the past few weeks I have been trying an interesting experiment in civic dialogue.

Here on Bowen Island we are in the midst of local elections.  We are a small community of 3500 living on a liece of land about the same size as Vancouver, with fairly limited resources in terms of being able to fund local services.  It is a beautiful and inspiring place to live, a place that almost wills one to dream about it.  It inspires people to move here, to build, to steward, to preserve, to write.  Folks run for election because deep down they love this place and they want to do something about that.

We are close to each other on Bowen.  We are a pretty homogenous place.  We live close to the land and the sea, and close to each other’s dreams and frustrations.  The major difference between us is our opinions of the way the world should be.  And, ike most small communities, I think we suffer from what Freud once called the narcissism of small differences. We project a lot on to each other and it surprises me that some of the vitriol that is produced at keyboards and published online and in print does not translate into real life all that often.  I have seen neighbours who seem to be at war with each other online greet each other cordially in the street.  Relationship seems, in most cases, to trump things.

This anger and frustration is not surprising.  Even in a country like Canada there is an increasing dissociation between citizenship and government.  There are massive global entities that operate beyond the influence of many of us, massive blobal issues that affect our daily lives that we have no say over and our democratic governments don’t give us many effective ways to be heard, although we can still cast a vote for them.  We seem to be subjected to arbitrary decisions all the time, whether it is what is poured into our land and air and sea or what time the ferry runs.  It doesn’t seem to matter what we think.

In that sense, local politics feels like the last place we can actually make a difference.  And when it feels like the only way to make a difference is to shout, that’s what we do.  We shout at each other.  We lose ourselves in the thought that our enemies have to be defeated, that ideas have to be extinguished, that worldviews and ways of seeing and being held by other people are invalid.  And maybe by extension that others are invalid.  It’s just a little to easy, when you live on an island, to suggest that other people love it or leave it.

And I have been as guilty as others in the past, so I’m nothing special.  And I facilitate dialogue for a living.  Being human is hard.

So I wondered if this election cycle would be different, because in the past 10 years or so we have had some unbelievably bad civic conversation about major real estate developments, amenities, by-laws and community plans, ferry marshalling, village planning, a proposal to establish a National Park, and suspicions of conspiracies, conflicts of interest and nefarious motives of our neighbours.  I wondered if this cycle was to be different.  And I wondered if we could do anything to make it different.

For me, when voting for people, I’m not interested in their position.  Anyone can write down a list of things that are good and true and ask if others agree with them.  What I want to see is how you think about stuff that is not so easy to reduce into a yes/no polarity.  I want to see how you confront complexity and how you work with others to figure stuff out.  I saw glimpses early on between a few rookie candidates running for office who started engaging in an online discussion about transportation options for our island.  I saw people doing two things well: admitting that they didn’t know something and sharing information with each other.  It was fascinating.  It gave me a glimpse into how these people might act if they were elected to serve with one another.

I wanted to see more, and regretted that I hadn’t set up a forum for this very function, until one of the candidates on his own set up a facebook page and invited me to moderate it.  And so I stepped in.  Here are the guidelines I posted (if you are on facebook you can see the forum):

1. If you want the candidates to consider a question, either have one of them post it here, or send it by facebook message to me.

2. If your question is a yes/no question, and you send it to me I’m going to ask you to rephrase it because the world is more complicated than that, and dialogue is encouraged by asking questions we don’t know answers to. If you want to see the candidates’ POSITIONS on things, go to their pages. If you want to see them DISCUSSING things together, hang around here. Candidates: please feel free to engage with each other. It’s more interesting to see you discussing things than it is just to read a statement.

3. I’m not sure if we have the setting right, but the intention here is to only have candidates post and respond in the comments. I’m not going to go around deleting comments, but if you are not a candidate and you want your say head over to the Bowen Online Forum. Feel free to “like” things. This space is primarily intended for us to watch candidates working together to figure stuff out.

4. Candidates are allowed to and enouraged to say things like “I don’t know” and “what do you think?” and other admissions of vulnerability, humility and discernment.

5. As things become busier, I’ll prioritize questions from those that haven’t asked any yet. It’s always better to send one great question to get the candidates talking than it is to send a bunch in all at once.

6. Nobody’s perfect. Let these guidelines be good enough to get things going. Message me if this doesn’t work for you.

7. And yes, not everyone is on facebook and there is no way to share this page if you’re not signed on. Perhaps next time we’ll choose a better forum for this conversation. in the meantime, you can certainly cut and paste what you are reading here and email it to others.

Smile. Democracy is more than just voting.

I have to say that it has been a great experience and it has stood in contrast to the Bowen island Forum which is where the rest of the citizenry works out its opinions of one another with a lot of vigour, spontaneity and sometimes quite hurtful attacks.  It gives me a clue to what is possible when we change the way we frame conversation in the public sphere.  Here’s what I learned:

1. The hardest policy questions do not have yes and no answers and we are not served by reducing them to a binary resolution.

2. We need a public conversation that allows us to be wrong or unsure and allows us to share information with each other to make skillful decisions.

3. Everyone needs help to ask good questions and to get away from “gotcha” politics.  (It is interesting how a few people have told me that the facebook page is for “softball” questions because the conversation there has been civil, nuanced and searching.  I have responded that this is because we were trying to deal with real issues rather than gather future ammunition for “i told you so” campaigns.  There is no shortage of material for those searching for conspiracies and nefarious motives, if that is how you choose to view people.)

4. Radically different opinions can actually add nuance and value to a decision if we are able to see the differences and not dismiss people out of hand.  In fact we need this difference.  But learning to live WITH this difference is what qualifies you to a position of stewardship in a community.  Demanding the elimination of difference either by saying that “we should all get along” or “you are fundamentally wrong” erodes community.

5. Facilitating this middle ground requires a commitment to a process, to principle and to boundaries and it requires working with people kindly and respectfully to help them ask the questions they want answers to in a way that opens them for the possibility that they might not get the simple answer they are looking for.  People have responded positively to my private chats with them as we have added more nuance to questions.  We all need help to participate well in the public sphere.

6. Local governance is hard. We do well as citizens to remember this.  Those who will get elected on Saturday are about to take on a job that is many pay grades above what they are going to earn doing it and they will all be confronting novel situations, problems and ideas and will be required to navigate in a good way through difficult waters.  No one knows how to do this perfectly, and I think we owe a little grace and latitude to those who will be entrusted with our future.  And I say that even as I have had significant differences in the past with some of the people likely to be elected.

I have a lot of respect for the candidates that were able to show up in the forum over the last couple of weeks and I have enjoyed the process of putting my money where my mouth is.  It feels to me like I can trust the folks who WILL get elected to carry this tenor of collaboration across and with differences into their four year terms on Council and I hope we have chances to continue to have these kinds of civic conversations face to face.  I am willing to continue exploring forums for better civic dialogue and participating as I can to host and encourage this kind of exploration and collaboration to continue.

Good luck to all on Saturday.

Being hosted by the land

Bowen Island oriented with Snug Cove pointing towards you, as the entrance to the Island.


Yesterday in our five day residential we invited the participants out on the land for a solo retreat.  Bowen Island, where I live, is an incredible place.  To get here, you have to take a boat across the Queen Charlotte Channel, a deep body of water at the entrance to Howe Sound.  Howe Sounda was formed by glaciers and mountain making processes, and now is a fjord surround by walls of 1200 meters or more.

Entry to Bowen is through Snug Cove, a small and protected harbour that s part of of a bigger bay called Mannion Bay.  it is a deep round sanctuary that serves as a channel into the island, and a kind of birth canal when you leave.  I have never tired of the process of crossing this threshold.

Once you are here, the Island draws you ever inward, with our one main road branching into three at the crossroads and later into dozens of ever smaller roads and lanes ending at beaches, bays, lakes, mountains or sometimes just petering out into the forest.  There are no real loop roads here: once you take a path you have to retunr pretty much the way you came.

This landscape sets us up for a beautiful retreat.  When I have helped people have solo experiences here I have always framed them first with a noticing of the threshold that is crossed.  Richard Rohr captures the power of these kinds of thresholds here:

The edge of things is a liminal space – a very sacred place where guardian angels are especially available and needed. The edge is a holy place, or as the Celts called it, “a thin place” and you have to be taught how to live there.  To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything with respect and honor, you are in a very auspicious position.  You are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways.  When you are at the center of something, you usually confuse the essentials with the non-essentials, and get tied down by trivia, loyalty tests, and job security.   Not much truth can happen there.

via On the Edge of the Inside: The Prophetic Position by Richard Rohr, OFM.

Once we have crossed the threshold, typically a person’s experience will consist of three phases: a moving out onto the land, a resting phases in stillness and a return.  It is a mythic journey in many ways.  In going out I invite people to dwell on what they are getting ready to leave.  In resting I invite people to be still for at least an hour in the forest or by the sea, which is enough time to let the forest close back around a person and let it reveal itself to you.  And the return journey is always accompanied by a gift; you are bringing something back.  These little out and back pilgrimages are important and very powerful for people.  As I learn more about the way this land works us, I feel like I can let it more fully host me and the people I work with and the insights can come.


Taking a stand on my home island

Another beautiful SUP Sunday afternoon out from Tunstall Bay, into a small headwind and down to Cape Roger Curtis.  We are having the most amazing summer, as evidenced by the water restrictions in place and the fire ban.  It’s dry and hot – most days the temperature reaches 25 and the ocean is in the low 20s.

I like that I practice a water sport that requires me to take a stand.  It’s a hell of a way to think about things.

There is a lot happening at the Cape.  Monster houses are going in there – the biggest is said to be 17,000 square feet, which is about ten times the size of mine.  And the docks have started to be built, with the first one on Lot 13 about 100 meters north of the Cape now featuring three sets of piles, two of which have been driven into the sea bed.  It is creeping out to sea and is now probably a hundred feet out from the foreshore, and growing.  There is a current application for another dock BETWEEN that one and the Cape.  The view is already ruined, the iconic view of the Cape with a gnarled and sweeping arbutus tree, is forever overwhelmed by a two story set of pilings soon to be topped by a pier.  A second dock going in between that one and the lighthouse will simply make the whole place seem crowded and cluttered.

Not a whiff of the usual seals and sea lions that hang around there.  Before the construction I would see one every single time I was out there, whether on land or sea.  Perhaps they will return, but for the moment they have fled the pile driving and the rumbling engines of the work barge for quieter waters.

Something has changed forever on Bowen and these docks are the physical manifestation of it.  There is an irreversibility to it all.  We no longer talk about the land in terms of reverence; instead the public sphere is full of words that describe our island as if you would sell it to tourists.  The way I used to know this community of Bowen Island is now just an idea, and we collectively serve that idea, but the idea is made up and talked about only.  It is marketed, discussed as an economic advantage, but discarded in practice.  In practice we seem to be able to simply take or leave the beauty and the power of the place.  Hardly anyone with any power at all is working to preserve anything.  Instead folks like the Cape developers talk about Bowen’s charms while daily depleting them. Since the National Park vote I think we have lost the public will to steward the natural world of Bowen and instead are focused on the built environment and the economy.  Those two things go hand in hand because the IDEA of the natural beauty of the place is what drives our primary economic activity – land values.  To the extent that development DOESN’T impact MY land values, I’m okay with it, says this worldview.  It’s a kind of every-one-in-it for themselves mentality.  IN that respect we aren’t really an island anymore, we are just like everywhere else.  Where we come together now as a community is around things like Steamship Days which was fabulous, but which was targeted at commerce.  Bowfest, which this year has been reclaimed by community, and Remembrance Day continue to be two of the only things left that everyone gets involved in that have no outcomes other than community building.

We are retreating into the realm of the private.  There are few activities anymore that serve the public interest and few places in which the public can gather and simply be together.  Our municipal Council, who were so gung-ho on building a proper community hall – to the cheers from all of us – have instead re-envisoned it as a municipal campus, as a place that serves their needs.  The last true commons – the sea – now has a large phallic structure asserted across its surface in the most beautiful part of our coastline, with possibly five more to follow.  This was done despite nobody other than the owner wanting it.  Public debate is not about our place; it is angry people yelling at each other, naming each other, projecting themselves into each other’s words and deeds.  It is a disgusting display of rudeness coming from all sides.  We are ungenerous with our words, ungrateful for our neighbours, and we bathe in a narcissistic intolerance for small differences, That is how decisions are made now on Bowen.  Go to a public meeting (not that we even have those anymore) and you will be shocked by the behaviour of grown adults discussing important issues.  Any attempt at reasonable dissent is met with paternalistic carping on all sides.  It’s embarrassing.

This is becoming Dubai with fir trees.  It is made beautiful by friendship and the land itself but the heart and soul of community is now held by private effort, and we no longer speak the language of community like we used to. The community builders are the ones with money, not ideas.  You gain influence here by being accepted by certain groups, not on merit.  Things like “parks” and “nature” and “community centres” are fraught with politics.  I used to write folk songs about this place, because it used to be a place that deserved a folk tradition.  At one time those songs were sung at Council meetings, and artists joined local governors to express and care for the soul of Bowen.  But singing those songs seem quaint now, just another piece of history to celebrate during steamship days.  The poets are quieter, the painters and musicians of Bowen don’t celebrate the community like we used to.  We are in hiding.

But I am not going anywhere.  We have just finished repairing and updating the shingles on our house and three years ago we put on a new roof.  We didn’t do it so we could sell it.  We did it so that it would shelter and care for us until we are too old to climb the back steps.  Committing to things in the long term makes a guy sanguine and reflective.  It makes you pick your battles.

For me, my battleground has been respect and decorum in public affairs, but I’m starting to think I lost that war.  The loud and angry voices have won, and this is the way we do things for now.  I’ve been called a “revisionist” as if my desire for a community-minded conversation was somehow tantamount to criminally rewriting history.  Small cabals of people accuse other people of being in small cabals.  The word “conspiracy” is tossed around by people who sit and conspire about what the other group is doing. It’s all very grade five, very much like ten year olds pointing fingers and calling names.  Last week I made peace with my accuser, shook his hand, slapped him on the back, and drew a line under it.  We exchanged no words until a couple of days later when we made awkward fumbling conversation that was nonetheless a relief.  I still live here and so does he.  Perhaps he’ll draw a line under it too rather than holding a grudge for all time against his idea of who I am and what I do.  But maybe not.  He can choose to carry the stress of mistrust and suspicion as long as he wants.

The only suffering I can take care of is my own.  So this is me greeting the new Bowen.  It’s not the one I wanted, or the one I celebrated or the one I voted for, but here it is and here I am.  I’ll offer my gifts and appreciate others and get on with things and stop expecting it to be different than it is.  And when the wheel turns again, when the docks have been smashed by the sea and wind, when the real estate values collapse, when we remember that we need each other in community, I’ll be here to dust off a few old songs that remind us of who we could still be.

In the meantime, that man out there standing on the sea?  That’s me.

Posted by at 5:51 PM

This afternoon’s office

Nice place to write this afternoon at the Bowen Island Marina in Snug Cove.


Heartbroken on my home island

It was a beautiful day to SUP today.  Checked the wind forecasts and it looked like the west side was a good bet, so I chucked my board on the car and headed for Tunstall Bay.


Out on the bay the water was a little windy but I powered into it and headed for the first point, the one I call swimmer’s rock because Sue Schloegl and Sharon Slugget always rest there when they are out swimming.  Rounded the point and SHOCK!


Right beside the lighthouse at Cape Roger Curtis was a 50 foot barge with a crane and a pile driver on it.  It was pounding pilings into the sea bed next to the Cape for the first of the monster single use private docks being built for the new owners of the Cape.  I paddled out past the new house (which clocks in at more than 10,000 square feet) out to where the barge was anchored and watched a small crew of men drive a pile along a line that extended a long way out from shore.


The sea lion that usually hangs around there was obviously AWOL.  Not a seal to be seen either, anywhere.  Just the constant chug of the engine and the clanging of metal on metal as the crew raised and lowered the cuff around the newly installed piling.   I sat on my board for quite a while just witnessing the permanent destruction of one the most lovely and wild views on Bowen Island: the rocky promontory of Cape Roger Curtis, a single arbutus tree and the light house and now, a set of dock pilings and soon a dock and a float and probably a huge yacht.  Tears were shed.  A song was sung. The old world has died, and the new has come, on the heels of a massive failure of imagination and will in the face of greed.


The Stop the Docks crew have been trying to stop the docks, but obviously the owners of these properties neither know about or care about the objections of 1200+ Islanders to these monstrosities.  In fact in the Undercurrent last week are public notices for two more docks, one right next to the one I saw being built today.  Meanwhile the guys that are selling the Cape, the same people that are now building these docks, are advertising their properties like this:


This is an impossibly beautiful coastal site. Its untouched shores, whispering brooks, and deep woods are a Pacific Northwestern gem. We are determined to tread upon this land lightly. We have taken extensive measures to preserve the natural and ecological integrity of the property. Substantial planning and infrastructure work has been carried out, guided by some of the region’s most respected environmental consultants. The vast majority of The Cape’s 618-acre property will remain a protected natural green space. The site plan allows for maximum natural drainage of stormwater, for minimal impact on the water table. Burke and Huszar Creeks – crucial wildlife habitats on the property – have been protected, with generous buffer zones. All in the name of preserving The Cape’s pristine natural state, for generations. Meanwhile, we encourage owners to create a home that respects this pristine coastal landscape, and provide you with every opportunity to do so. From environmentally sensitive design to awareness of sensitive habitats, from intelligent landscaping to the use of local materials, we offer pragmatic guidance to help you build an island estate that protects the fragile natural beauty of this land.

All of that fancy copy is clearly a bald faced lie now because they have forever ruined the “untouched shores.”  They have not tread lightly at all, and have no intention to.  The pristine natural state of the Cape will now be littered with docks, the foreshore broken up, the waters and the intertidal zones impacted forever.  They are lying.  If you are considering buying a property from these charlatans, you should know that.  Who knows what else they’ll tell you to get you to part with your millions.


I hope our new neighbours are community minded, that they come on down and volunteer at the recycling centre, that they join the Fastpitch league or the co-ed soccer league, that they join SKY, shoot the breeze at the Snug and split a bottle of Chardonnay on an overloaded Friday night commuter ferry.  I hope they are like that.  But today my heart is split in two, the Cape has been forever changed and I am trying hard to suppress emotions ranging from sadness to anger.


Improving community decision making

How many of you live in communities where community meetings are boring affairs punctuated by outrage?  How many of you feel like influencing your local government means showing up en masse with a pettion or an organized campaign to get them to make a small change?  How many of you are just plain disillusioned with your local government and have given up trying to help them involve citizens in decision making?

And how many of you are leaders that are frustrated by citizens who just yell at you all the time?  How many of you don’t actually know what you are doing, but could never admit that in public?  How many of you have tried to involve the community once, failed and vowed never to do it again?  How many of you have strategic communications strategies (public or secret) for dealing with your own citizens?

This is what it has come to in many places.  In my local community, not unlike many others across Canada, our local Council was elected on a tide of resentment that was stoked against the previous Council.  For most of the previous Council’s term, a group of citizens mounted a campaign of smear and slander, including starting a newspaper funded by developers devoted to criticizing almost every Council initiative and culminating in an election campaign where four of the sitting members of Council were branded “The Gang of Four.”  And even subsequent to the election 18 months ago, there has been an ongoing litany of blame against the old Council and people considered to be nsupportive of the old Council (and I count myself as one of them).  The result is, on our local island, there is a real sense of cynicism.  The new Council has not created any new initiatives with respect to involving citizens, and has, if my records are straight, only one “town hall” meeting.  We have been short on dialogue and deliberation and if there are any decisions being made at all, they are being made without the invitation of the community.  It feels sad, not because somehow the old Council was better than this one, but because our community can be so much more interesting and engaged.

Over the years citizens on Bowen have self-organized not just is lobby groups to advocate for particular policy decisions, but to actually build things that local governments should otherwise be doing.  A group of citizens from across the political spectrum participated in a unique group called Bowen island Ourselves, which sought to undertake these kinds of initiatives to compliment local government services and functions.  As a result, we did things like develop a crowdsourced road status tool, hosted a parallel process of Open Space dialogues alongside the formal consultation process for our official community planning process, sponsored deliberation meetings on issues such as local agriculture and the proposal to create a national park on Bowen Island, organize and implement BowenLIFT as an alternative transportation system.  Lots of stuff.

But when the well becomes poisoned and citizens and elected officials begin just screaming at each other, fear takes over and stuff like that shuts down.  We are in a period like that right now on Bowen, and the result is that a number of decisions are being made that have a significant impact on the future of our island, especially with respect to our village centre, without having any creative public dialogue.  There is simply no place for the public to be a part of co-creating the future.  We will get open houses on the plans that Council designs with a few advisors.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  There are thousands of tools out there that can help people do interesting and creative community engagement.  This list of decision making tools from the Orton Family Foundation came through my inbox today. What is required to choose these tools?

Well first, a local government must be brave enough to stand in front of it’s citizens and ask for help.  Assuming that you have the answers to complex questions is unwise.  Better to be learners in office than heros.  Second, a local government has to trust it’s citizens and create a climate where ideas can be discussed respectfully.  Sure there are always going to be people wanting to take shots at you (especially if you played that way before you were in office) but as local leaders, there is an art to opening space where citizens can be in dialogue rather than debate.  Third, local governments have to be serious about using what they learn and being clear an transparent about why they are choosing some ideas over others.  Lastly it helps if local government leaders actually relish their jobs and see their community members, even the ones they disagree with as interesting and worthwhile neighbours.  I have heard many local elected officials over the years express outright contempt for their citizens (although rarely does it happen while the official is sitting in office)

If you get some of this right, things can open up.  If that’s what you want.  But it takes leadership, and not just the kind that massages agendas and works behind the scenes.  It requires leaders to stand up in front of their citizens and declare their willingness to make a new start and to leverage the best of their community’s assets.  It requires leaders to trust their citizens and to relish working with them to create community initiatives and services that are loved and enjoyed by all.

I’d love to hear stories of local governments that changed their tune midstream to become open and excited about inclusive and participatory decision making processes.  It would inspire me to hope that maybe something like that is possible where I live.

Self organizing transportation options in community

Here on Bowen Island, we are still small enough and friendly enough that stuff like Bowen LIFT can get started relatively easily.  Bowen LIFT is trying to help people self-organize transportation options to complement our limited but excellent public bus service. This morning on CBC Radio, our LIFTers got a lift of their own.  Listen to the podcast here.

The varieties of winter on the west coast of Canada

Perhaps we need words for the seasons here on Bowen Island.  “Winter” isn’t exactly accurate.  Since December 21 when Winter was supposed to have begun we have had the following kinds of days, among others:


  • Cold and clear days with no wind
  • Snow that falls in some places but rains in others
  • Southeasterly winds with rain.
  • Calm and cold everywhere except in the Queen Charlotte Channel where a Squamish wind one mile storm force wind is blowing with freezing spray.
  • Foogy to 100 meters above sea level with an inversion making it 10 degrees on top of the mountains.
  • Damp evenings that produce heavy hoarfrosts in the morning.
  • Nights when the owls call for joy.
  • Sunny and warm mornings when the winter wrens take a stab at their spring calls.
  • Heavy snow that falls and stick on the Douglas-firs and cedars and brings down the alders and rotten maples.
  • Quiet mornings when the towhees explore the underbrush.
  • Days when it rains so hard that the deer just stand in it looking miserable.
  • Calm days where the ocean is like glass and you can here ravens calling from miles away.
It makes more sense around here to follow the old Celtic calendar which has just ticked over Imbolc on February 1, the beginning of spring.  It feels like that today, with southeasterly winds blowing and rain showers coming and going with patches of bright sky over the Sound.