hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, October 21, 2016

Thinking about the Border

Last week, a friend of mine had a very unpleasant experience at the U.S. border coming into Point Roberts.  This is his story: He lives here, he has Nexus "trusted traveler program," as it's called.  He crosses the border frequently, as do most of us who live here; he knows the rules; he was bringing nothing in with him from a half-day trip up to meet a friend in Vancouver.  But the border guard (temporarily) took his Nexus card from him, sent him inside for inspection; and, when he asked, would give him no reason for this action.  It was not a random secondary inspection, which can happen to anyone anytime because they didn't give him a slip.  Inside, he was asked many questions about his residence here.  When he inquired politely about why he was being asked all these questions, he was again refused any explanation.  He then asked to speak to a supervisor and was told that he might not get his Nexus card back.  He insisted upon speaking with the supervisor who came out from his office after a bit of a wait.  When he asked whether he could speak to the supervisor privately (the most recent CBP guy he had talked with was standing next to them), the supervisor informed him that it was not possible.  And so, after a few moments of unsatisfactory conversation with the supervisor, they returned his Nexus card, and told him to go on through the border and home.

Who knows what was going on at the border that day, but my friend is a guy with a very even temperament and he was very unnerved by this experience, its threatening tone, its basic incivility.  After all, we with Nexus cards are "Trusted".  So you'd think if there was something that required some deeper questioning than we usually get, that questioning would be conducted civilly and with respect.

A few days later, I was at a meeting of a local group of people and in the slack moments that 8 or so people were sitting about, I told them this story and asked whether they'd recently had any trouble at the border.  Nobody reported any problems that week, but then, in turn, each related an awful border experience that they had had, some as long as 15 years ago.  The detail of each story was extensive; clearly the experience was seared into their brains.

And that's what it's like to live in an exclave like Point Roberts.  Everyone here is intensely aware of what it's like at least occasionally to be confronted by these (mostly) guys with guns, whether they're just in a bad mood or have some private knowledge that requires a higher degree of concern.  I wish that they, the CBP (custom and border protection), had some grasp of what it feels like to be on the other side of their anxieties.  They create bad memories that people just don't forget.  It's rarely necessary for them to act this way (nobody is waving guns or knives in their faces); but apparently they don't grasp what it does to travellers or what it does to our views of them and their agency.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fearful All the Time!

About an hour ago, the local tsunami siren went off for about five minutes.  I'm not sure that folks everywhere on the Point can hear it, but I live fairly close to it so it was very audible: a long wailing up and down whine.  I looked at the calendar to be sure that it wasn't the first Monday of the month when they do the test check.  Actually, old as I am, I usually know whether it's the beginning of the month, and by the 20th, I'm pretty sure that is the case.  Still, I checked the calendar.

Twice, I went outside to make sure that's what I was hearing, rather than an ambulance, say.  I checked the weather report: no word about high seas here.  And then, the siren turned to some kind of talking which, unlike the siren, is absolutely not capable of being understood this far away.

So, I turned to the Google, asking for "Washington Tsunami Warning" and was answered by:
Millions of people worldwide will practice how to 
Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20* during Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills!

Well, pretty much at my household, we pretty much just learned how to be confused.  I read the All Point Bulletin this past month and I don't remember a warning event being mentioned (maybe in the "Events Calendar"?).  Point Interface has not posted any information about such an event, which one might expect to come from the Fire District or PREP.  So maybe we all missed the Drill and just got the (at least brief) fear.  Perhaps they should have scheduled it last night at 6 pm PDT so that it could have initiated last night's last Presidential Debate.  Now that was something that one could reasonably be afraid of.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Where Is Jessica's Mom?

Yesterday, I was working at the Friends of the Library's Used Book Sale, a regular Saturday feature in the summer here in Point Roberts.  We put out 400-500 books (mostly fiction of many genres), CD's, DVD's, and VHS videos, and for four hours residents and visitors drop by and, in the great tradition of small bookstores, browse the collection, and purchase (at a ridiculously low price) some of the stock.  Some folks look for  a long time and buy one book; others buy a big stack.

Where do the books come from?  From the bookshelves of residents.  We get thousands of books each year from donations and then they get moved on to other people's bookshelves, and the library (and the community) benefits because the Friends can provide extra money for programs that aren't in the regular library budget.  For example, the recent marionette show of "Peter and the Wolf" was paid for by book sale money.  I could say that we're making America read again, but as far as I can tell, America never stopped reading, nor did Canada.

If you work the sale, you find yourself taking money and taking books, as well.  I mean, I am as tempted by the promise of a good book as anybody else is.  Occasionally, I am taken by a book I've never heard of and discover upon reading that it is a wondrous book and I can't imagine how it is I've never heard of it before.  One recent book that captured my fancy was a book about ordinary life in 18th Century China.  I kept wondering who had donated that book and whether they still had some other books on their shelves that I wanted to know about.  But there was no name in the book. Perhaps we should all be writing our names in our books, at least if we donate them, so people can get in touch with our library for other wonders.

Names in the donated books are relatively rare.  I suspect many of us older folks are still a little leery of writing in books at all.  Givers of books, somewhat less so, as I don't infrequently see a book that has Aunt Mary hoping that Gordie will really enjoy this account of the friendship between a boy and his dog, or his cat, or his whatever.  People do leave their bookmarks in the books, even when they donate them.  Ah, here's someone who was in a Charleston, South Carolina, bookstore, and the bookmark has, with the book, perhaps, made the trip all the way to Point Roberts.

Yesterday, I was looking through the books to see if I could find any interesting bookmarks.  Out popped one handmade bookmark, made of a piece of paper cut out in the shape of a bare foot.  Written in pencil on the foot was this message: "MOM!  I love you so much that I think I'm going to explode!  Love, Jessica."  What a find!

So, I'm writing this blog to any mom who ever had a daughter named Jessica, and hoping that the bookmark-message can be re-delivered to her in this way.  And also, if the donator of "Six Records of a Floating Life" by Shen Fu, has any other great recommendations, please let me know.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Big Winds of Summer

More strange weather here in Point Roberts.  A few nights ago, we had a very big windstorm in the middle of the night that left many people, including me, wide awake between the hours of 2 and 4 am.  And this morning, we awakened to thunder and lightning, eventually falled by a short but intense rain storm.  Windstorms, usually winter; lightning and thunder, usually spring.  But we're in the middle of summer.  Ah, well, even a little rain will help the dried up grass on view in many yards.

But the downside of the windstorm is that all my sunflowers took a very big hit.  The downside of 5 and 6 foot tall plants with very heavy flowerheads is that they don't do well in the wind.  I'd picked maybe ten of them already, but the last dozen were pretty much demolished in the windstorm.

Next week? Maybe hail or something like that?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Solstice

We have the summer solstice this week and having attended a neighborhood solstice party tonight, I am reminded again how the neighborhoods here are particularly central to whatever sense of community we have in Point Roberts.  There are so many forces that divide people here (residents/non-residents, Canadians/Americans, retirees/working people, conservatives/liberals, wealthy/not so much, boat folks/earth folks, etc.), that we're lucky to find any kind of community feeling.  However, it really does exist in the many neighborhoods that for the most part don't even have any name.  There are a few formal neighborhood associations, and those residents work at their neighborhood community sense more consciously and intentionally than the rest of us, but we all seem to feel the need for this connection with one another, even though it is fragile.

Such feelings of connectedness are frequently activated by events that are mostly seasonal, especially around the Winter and Summer Solstices, or a few other standard holidays.  Usually, somebody offers a casual evening or afternoon party and invites a few friends/relatives from wherever and 10 or 20 or even more folks from their neighborhood.  In my experience, these are mostly events at which no one knows anyone else very well (other than relatives or close friends of the host), but nor are they strangers.  They run into each other occasionally around town, they borrow equipment from one another in time of necessity, they recognize one another's kids if they have any, they have enough in common to be able to talk pleasantly to one another for several hours.  And you leave the party at the end, pleased that you've been invited and been able to come, pleased to know that there is something which you have shared with others who may not be that much like you but with whom you share this place.

Because of the problem with the sudden enforcement of leash laws, dog people have become a different kind of community group: one whose members meet with one another and their dogs on a regular basis.  In part, this is because they are a group that needs to find some way to fix the problem of the absence of a place where dogs may play and run and chase with their owners and, even more so with one another, without the fear of the owners being ticketed.  But, these dog people have also found that they also can enjoy something like the community seasonal parties.   I've been to one of these dog owner outings and hope to go to more, even though I don't have a dog.  But, there we were, hanging out together in a wonderful outdoor setting, a dozen or so people and their dogs, most of whom know one another a little at least.  They spend an hour or so together, and at the end of the dog time, they all know one another a little better.  They may never become close friends, but what the time together gives them is an opportunity to feel a bit more part of a broader community.  And that can only be all to the good for those occasions when we need actually to function as if we were a cohesive community.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Get Crows

There are always a lot of crows around in Point Roberts, but they are never in my yard, and certainly never at my bird feeder which has an ample supply of sunflower seed which I'd think crows would be enthusiastic about.  I used to think that it was because it was too shady with all the big trees surrounding me.  But then I noticed my neighbor frequently had crows on her roof, although she does have fewer trees, but still.  I like crows; they are so cocky the way they strut around as if they were obviously the most important bird in the vicinity.  I mean, they must see the herons, the bald eagles who surely outrank them, assuming that birds, like humans, are obsessed with ranking.  But even if they don't think they're the best, they certainly are under the impression that they are more than just all right.  They're at the top of their game.

I feed a trio of small raccoons who show up every night if I've got something that is excess or has been around too long.  They're not too picky, although one night I left a small amount of a casserole that had noodles and mushrooms and chicken and asparagus and gravy out for them.  The next morning, it was all cleaned up, except for the 4 small stalk-pieces of asparagus, each perfectly licked clean.  So, if you ever want to get rid of a bunch of asparagus, I would not advise looking to the raccoon population for help.

Today, a friend offered me a bag of stale puffed rice that was coated with cheese flavor, thinking the raccoons might be interested.  I mixed the pieces with chunks of stale bread that I had for them and set out equal amounts of both in three small bowls around 5 pm, although they don't usually come until dusk.  (If I leave everything in one bowl, the biggest of the three trends to hog it all to the best of his abilities; with three bowls, everyone gets a fighting chance, although the big guy still seems to get the most: certainly he keeps getting bigger.)

About an hour after I left the bowls in the yard, still broad daylight, there was a great flurry that grabbed my attention in the tree nearest my house, a big and spreading walnut tree.  Six crows had spread themselves out in the lower branches and were eyeing the bowls.  The cockiest of the bunch jumped down, poked at the bowls and lifted a piece of puffed rice with cheese into his beak.  And another piece.  And then all six of them landed, grabbing puffed rice as fast as they could swallow it, but not a single piece of stale bread went down their gullets.  In ten minutes, all the puffed rice and cheese was gone and so were the crows.  So, I DO have crows; I just didn't previously have any crow food, I guess.  I wonder if they'd like potato chips?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Younger Generation

Today, we put up the first of the weekly booksales at the Saturday Market (10-2).  The buyers and sellers were somewhat limited in number, but that is customary at the beginning of each summer.  If we had more venders with plants and with produce, or with baked goods, it would probably draw more folks.  But food products are a problem with the state, unless they meet specific standards or are baked goods offered up by a charitable organization.  And more crafters would help, even if the same ones weren't there every week but at least occasionally showed up.  Or  maybe this is the best we can do here with our small and sort of rotating population.

In any case, we put out about 8 racks of books (and CD's/DVD's) each Saturday mostly fiction of various sorts.  It's always fun to talk to people about the books they find for their this week's reading.  I wish the people who give us the books would write their names in the books so if we come upon a very unusual treat of a book, the buyer could maybe contact the donor to see if he/she had any similarly wonderful books that they might be willing to recommend, if not to donate.

Today, i had brought a book called "Map Art" and a couple of quilted pieces that I had made inspired by the book's suggestions to show a friend who has his own obsession with creativity.  But he didn't show up, so the pieces and the book were just sitting on the table where I was taking money for books.  A lady came up with a book, but before she got her money out, she asked me about the quilted pieces and I told her how I had come to do them (one a quilted map of my yard, the other an accordian fold-out book which included drawings of every house I had lived in in my peripatetic life).  We talked a little about them and I showed her where in the book I had been working from.  Then she asked me, "Can I buy the book?"  I hadn't brought it to sell, but I didn't need it any more.  She told me she had a granddaughter arriving this week and that she would love to make stuff out of the book.  So, of course, she went off with the book.  The pleasures of the book sale.  It's not just selling used books, but small moments in which we find we have something more in common with someone else here than we thought.

A little later, a twenty-something year old guy came up and asked me if we had any Hemingway books.  I found him a book of short stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," and he was pleased to have it.  Then he told me how much he liked Hemingway and asked whether I'd ever read any of his books.  "Yes," I replied, "pretty much all of them."  He was pretty surprised, clearly not realizing that Hemingway was considered one of the very great American writers of the first half of the 20th Century...a century in which I had spent 63 years, much of it studying literature.  He nodded his head, acknowledging that we shared an admiration for these books, and then said, "He is just one of the best travel writers ever."

What to reply?  "Well, I never really thought of him as a travel writer," I said.  "Although he did write about a lot of countries."  "What kind of a writer did you think of him as?"

"Just a great one, I guess." I answered lamely.  There was the connection, there was the gap of almost 60 years."  Good reading, guy!