hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

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!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Yet Another Article about Strange Point Roberts

But this one features photos (taken by David Ryder) and in the pictures are me, Ed, and our cat Zoe, as well as other of our friends.  It should be noted that for Zoe there is a 2-paw rule with respect to how many feet can be on the table while eating.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Another Outsider View of Pt. Roberts

Local resident Arthur Reber sends us via Facebook to another article about peculiar Point Roberts.  No, not peculiar: we are "incredibly unique."  In my English major days, we used to insist that unique was not a word that was modifiable (other than "not unique"), so I can't parse "incredibly unique."  The writer brings up the usual stuff, including noting that in a community of 1,000 residents, "there is NO hospital."  I would imagine that in most communities of 1,000, of which there are many in the U.S., there is no hospital.  But we, uniquely, have none; nor a major concert hall.

Reber, however, responds to the article (on Facebook) with the observation that we DO have "several top-flight restaurants."  Noting that several means three or more, I asked him where they were located.  I should have asked whether they were open for lunch on Tuesday?  He assured me that the proposed new seafood place reported to be replacing Capanna (said report based on an application for a new liquor license application), and the proposed new Blackwater Fish Resort, in the planning stages for about 10 years, could be really first-rate places.  A future hospital could be terrific, too.  As Delmore Schwartz said (sort of quoting Yeats), "In dreams begin responsibilities."  Point Roberts, where we have unique dreams.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Point Roberts Story

Last week, I ran into an article from Slate magazine about the strangeness of Point Roberts.  Of course, about once a year, some writer or another discovers that we are up here living our esoteric lives in our deeply peculiar community.  I can't usually disagree with them; many of us are probably here because we are ourselves somewhat peculiar and thus we don't stand out so much in a 5-square-mile place defined by peculiarity.  Nevertheless, I rarely feel so out of touch with the regular world as when, reading this Slate article, the author, underlining our deprivations, observed that we had neither a dentist, a veterinarian, nor a shoe store.  All true, certainly, but I wouldn't have imagined the absence of a shoe store as being in any of the top 100 spots of things we are missing.  Does the writer not know about Zappos or Amazon?  Does the writer not notice that we have at least five places where packages from the rest of the US are regularly delivered.  It is the presence of five package delivery stores (as well as five gas stations) that is strange, not the absence of a shoe store.

But, one cannot argue with the strangeness.  Point Roberts is a community that is always in search of an economic development plan.  If only we had tourists and something for the tourists to buy; if only it was summer all the time.

On the other hand, a true story.  Tuesday tends to be a bad border day; i.e., there's a lot of traffic coming in (and then eventually going out).  This, I am told, is because the package stores get their major Fedex, etc., deliveries on Monday, after a non-delivery weekend, and the packages are then processed on Monday and ready for delivery on Tuesday.  So Tuesday is the beginning of the package delivery week.  And thus the Canadians are here en masse for their packages, their shoes et al.

So, it is Tuesday.  Two friends and I meet at Brewster's for lunch, but Brewster's is closed on Tuesday, it turns out.  So we go cross border for lunch, in the process running into an unusually long line because the border dudes are making a unusually careful inspection of individual cars.  (Later, I'm told they were looking for elephant ivory from Kenya.  Delivered by Fedex?)  We get through the line, we go have lunch in Tsawwassen, we come back to the Point, and then back to Brewster's where one of our cars is still parked.

There, in the parking lot, we see a Canadian car with three guys in it.  They get out and start to amble up onto the porch.  One of us tells them that it's closed today.  "Really?" one guy says.  "If we knocked on the window or something, would they open up, you think?"

"No, because there's nobody there; there are no cars here but yours and ours."
"Right," the guy says.
"Do you know another good place where we can eat?" inquires the second guy.
"There's a coffee shop down the road," offers the third guy.
"No," I say, "that's closed."

My friends and I think.  No, the marina place is closed; no, the golf course isn't still open by 2, probably; South Beach House? Well it's not night time and it's not summer.

"Ahhh," we say, "there's the Shell Station and the grocery store."  Either of which are okay for a gas station place and a grocery store, but maybe not what you had in mind if you were aiming for Brewsters.  "No, there's really no place to eat on Tuesday at 2 pm in Point Roberts."

"Well," says one guy with great sincerity, "Thanks for being so helpful."

What to say to that? "Thanks for being so Canadian that you think that's helpful."  If only I could have directed him to a local shoe store.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Caucusing in Point Roberts

Caucus: a mighty funny word, with no clear etymology.  I'd bet there was some connection with raucous, but the etymological dictionaries don't mention it.  One source mentions the Algonquin word caucauas as a possible source, meaning a wise councillor.  I doubt that, from the experience.  But perhaps the people always have wise counsel to offer if one can only sort it out from the other kind.

In any case, caucus we did this morning at the Community Center.  "Begins at 10, so come at 9:30," we are advised.  Perhaps breakfast will be served.  We arrived at ten and on our way, I spotted a unusual mourning dove sitting on a power wire and wondered if perhaps he, too, were on the way to the caucus, mistakenly expecting to find Bernie Sanders there.  But he did not appear: neither the dove nor Bernie.

The rooms were full when we got there; maybe 90-100 people turned up to do their bit for Hillary or for Bernie or for Democracy, but not for breakfast.  The caucus "tradition" comes to us as a result of the unfortunate Chicago Convention in 1968 when the people expressed their disapproval of party bigwigs making all those decisions in smoke-filled back rooms.  Let the people in, was the cry.  Let them go sit with one another at the Community Center for a couple of hours, working their way through a most peculiar set of practices such as:

You fill out your registration sheet on which you record your name and all the information that routinely trails after your name plus your candidate preference (or your failure to have a candidate preference).  Then someone stands up in front and tells you what will happen next.  And what will happen next is you will elect that person the Precinct Captain, largely because he/she volunteers for the job and because no one else apparently has any idea what we should all be doing.

We can offer something to the County Democrats platform statement.  If anyone had any idea what that was or what could be offered.  And talliers, a secretary, and watchers must be named.  The talliers must be capable of counting; the secretary of writing, and the tally watchers must have functioning eyes.

And then, when the tallying is finished, we can if we wish make a presentation upon the part of our candidate in order presumably to persuade others who for unknown reasons have settled on another candidate as their choice.  And after that, we can all change our minds about who we wish to support and revise our registration sheets, and then the talliers et al can do it all again.  And then we're almost done, except that we have to elect delegates to go to the county convention, where they will elect delegates to go to the state convention, where they will elect delegates to go to the national convention, winnowing all the while.  And then we can elect alternates as well.  And then we can go home.

And in between each step, we will sit and chat with one another in a room with bad acoustics so that all one really hears is a constant roar.  The point of the chatting is perhaps to encourage us to get to know one another, but for the most part we have chosen to sit with people whom we already know.  So, we were not enlightened.  Then the talliers report that by counting the registration papers, they have determined that Bernie has earned 4 delegates, and Hillary has earned 3 delegates.  The people who choose to speak for their candidates get up and speak kindly about both candidates, although acknowledging that they do prefer one or the other for some vague reason ("more experience", for Hillary; solid ideas about "what needs to be fixed", for Bernie.  (One might conjecture that Hillary probably has too much experience, all things considered, and that Bernie--as he himself acknowledges--doesn't expect to be able to fix anything solely by being elected, so it is not so much reasons as hopes or beliefs that are on offer.)

And then no one wants to change his vote but two people have come in late, so their registration pages have to be incorporated.  Another wait for the re-tallying which results in 4 delegates for Bernie and 3 for Hillary.  And people are leaving, but the hard core sorts (like us) hang in to vote for the 4 delegates and 4 alternates who will go to Bellingham to do our will.  Six people put their names forward as delegates.  After some discussion about how to vote, we each write 4 names on a slip of paper.  And someone goes again to tally the delegates as well as the alternates, and we all go home.

Well, it was an experience, even (as it happens) a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Memorable?  Well, maybe not so much.  No great feeling of authenticity, no sense of genuine participation in something important.  It made one understand something of the appeal of those smoke-filled rooms that used to provide a short cut for all this.

In surveys, about 65% of American voters think that the electoral process is broken.  And yet, here we were, a bunch of ordinary folks sitting about making decisions of some sort about who should be nominated for president and none of us paid anyone anything to be there.  Everyone appeared to be reasonably knowledgeable about what the election was about.  Sounds okay.

Yet, the Democrats main concern in this election seems to be the excessive role of money and corporate power in the election and in government generally.  By contrast, the Republican power brokers endlessly complain that their money and their power are having no effect whatsoever on the primary and Donald Trump is the living proof that outrageous amounts of money and power are not enough.  So, there's too much money and power pushing final results and the money and power can't get the desired results.   Sounds like something is definitely broken.  It was a mourning dove I saw on the way to the caucus.  That could be the sign we've been waiting for.  

By 12:15, we were safely back home.  Ed tells me that there was talk that the Democrats will be moving, doubtless incrementally, to a direct primary.  I'll vote for that.