We’ve just completed our 17th annual Art of Hosting here on Bowen Island. For 17 years I have welcomed nearly 1000 people to our home place through more than 50 workshops we have conducted here. I always appreciate seeing the island through the eyes of our visitors. And so, coming fresh off of that experience, I responded today on our community facebook page to a question posed by a long time Islander, Rob Wall: What is “The Bowen Way.”
This was my answer.
It changes over time and with waves of people who come and go. As a person who has been here for 18 years, I’ve been here long enough to see our culture goes through at least one major wave. Of course, I have no idea what it was like before I moved here or how I and others changed it when we came in the early 2000s. Whatever The Bowen Way is, it is both good and bad, positive and negative, visible and invisible. Every small community has its way, and over time, all ways change.
A long time ago I committed to living here for the rest of my life, and that means paying attention to the changes and embracing what is good and helpful, and rejecting what isn’t. And as waves of new people have arrived (more than 30% of our population has turned over in the past five years, and we have lost many elders who have died or cashed out and moved away) new ways emerge. For those of us that have been here for a long time, sometimes those new ways are as confounding as the old ways are to newcomers. As long as I have lived here there have been these kinds of funny tensions and confusions between old-timers and newcomers. If we can have a sense of humour about ourselves, and remember that really nothing makes sense, then it eases the tensions between folks that believe that THEIR way of seeing things is the right way. We’re all guilty at some point of becoming a bit precious about our views of the world.
I have learned that if I can’t embrace change, then I am liable to be encased in suffering as my projections of how things “should be” fall away to be replaced by stuff I don’t understand. I am so grateful for the many “new” people that have arrived here since I have, who have added immeasurably to this place, and also grateful to the “oldtimers” who keep the traditions I love alive and remind me what is uniquely beautiful about our community.
Bowen Island will never perfectly be the place you think it is or want it to be. It will always delight and disappoint you. Like any long term relations, you will fall in and out of love with it, and your view of it will change over time. Stuff you thought was essential to the place will fade away and be replaced with new cool things that you never dreamed of.
The character of a place is always in flux and change, like the seasons and weather, like the cycles of the forests and sea around ourselves, like the people we know and the ones we haven’t met yet. That is is the real Bowen Way, lives that come and go in waves, all linked into a complex mix of friendships, animosities, and surprises, on 20 square miles of rock surrounded by the Salish Sea.
Enjoy the ride. It’s easier that way.