hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, June 30, 2008

Very Pacific

In my June 16 post ('Not So Pacific'), I was describing the difference between the wild ocean in central California near Bodega Bay, and the largely calm ocean that I see from my window or on a walk on the Sunshine Coast in B.C. The two pictures above are taken of the Sunshine Coast's Pacific Ocean: respectively from the Roberts Creek pier and from the promenade at Davis Bay, about five miles north of Roberts Creek. These are both south-facing beaches, and the mountains in the distance are the mountains of southern Vancouver Island, about 26 miles away, if you are a crow.

I guess there are a lot of different Pacific Oceans, depending upon where you are. On the island of Yap, in Micronesia, there was a surrounding reef that tempered that Pacific as it entered the transparent and turquoise lagoon (whose water temperature was usually in the 80-90 degree range because it was so close to the equator and because the lagoon was not very deep). In Santa Monica, near where I once lived on the ocean at Venice Beach, there are surfing waves but there aren't the kind of rock formations that central California boasts. To live on the ocean is, actually, to live on a very specific point at which the ocean meets the land. In that sense, there really is no single ocean, I guess; no one Pacific, no one Atlantic, probably not even one Mediterranean.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Taking in Boarders

There are a lot of retirees living on the Sunshine Coast, generally. These are the retirees who worked somewhere else, somewhere to the near south or to the east, and then came here to do the golden years part. Such retirees often talk about ‘having a little B&B when they retire.’ And a lot of them do more than just talk about it, I’d guess, given the number of Bed and Breakfast places that seem to have recently opened up on the Sunshine Coast.

When we first came here, eighteen years ago, we stayed in the only B&B on the Coast, or at least the only one we could find, a very cute little place in Roberts Creek called “Rose Cottage” (in the picture above), managed by a charming weaver named Loragene. Her husband worked in the local pulp mill and she wove rag rugs and attended to guests. She was extremely gracious and the cottage was absolutely exquisite. It was the kind of place that you might imagine finding in the English countryside in the 19th century: brass beds and handmade everythings, including bed quilts and rugs, and old, carefully made, comfortable wooden furniture. There was a little kitchen area, and a wood stove, and everything charming and tasteful but not newish—that is, it didn’t feel designed by some decorator and never touched by human hands. It felt like someplace you might have always been visiting.

We arrived in the late afternoon and she had us into the main house for tea and scones or muffins or such and she provided us with lots of information about where to go to do whatever it was that we were doing. Then, in the morning, we had a more-than-abundant breakfast of pancakes and bacon and eggs and toast and coffee and hot chocolate and fruit and homemade jam and who knows what else at a lovely old round table in their kitchen. Her husband had his coffee with us while she cooked and served and we had a lovely conversation. It seemed so very welcoming; it was so very welcoming.

We stayed with her a couple of times after that—she even recommended a great real estate agent to us--and we always found it as fine an experience as the first stay was. Eventually, they expanded and built an entire additional building with 4 suites, I believe, in addition to Rose Cottage. I am not the least surprised that she has had a very successful career as a B&B operator; she surely had the personality for it.

I have thought about running a B&B in the intervening years. I mean, you have a lot of time on your hands in retirement and, even if you are filling it up quite adequately, there is a vague feeling that you ought to be doing something to earn money and a B&B would be so easy. Loragene made it seem very, very easy. I have a quilting friend who, as she retired, did indeed operate a B&B for several years. She thought it would be a fun way to meet people coming through the area, and after all they wouldn’t stay all that long and how much work can it be to provide breakfast for a nice couple each morning? She pretty quickly found that it was not only a lot of work but a lot of work for demanding and not particularly appreciative people. Although she is a most outgoing lady, she was not outgoing enough for that kind of dealing with the public.

Me? I wouldn’t last two days at it, I imagine, but it is still one of those careers that I vaguely entertain having. A charming little place like Rose Cottage, with delicate teas and scrumptious breakfasts and people as interesting as Ed and me coming to stay and to chat with over breakfast and appreciate what I've created. Sounds great, but only as a fantasy, alas. I think we'll be outsourcing this career to Loragene who really does know how to do it and who accepts reality. If you come to the Sunshine Coast, stay in her B&B and let me know if she is still keeping up her standards!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What Are You Growing?

I think the first farmers’ market I ever went to was in Los Angeles, about 60+ years ago when, in a post-WWII extravaganza, my parents—accompanied by 4 children—drove to southern California to visit relatives. One of the places we definitely went was the Farmers’ Market (at the corner of Fairfax and Beverly) in West Hollywood. I had never seen fruits of such size or of such abundance. Although I very much doubt we actually bought anything, it was plenty wonderful just to look at it all. In those days, you got lots of fruits and vegetables in the summer, but of a fairly narrowly-defined variety. The Farmers’ Market had things I’d never seen: artichokes, giant dates, limes, strange varieties of berries. It had more different kinds of cheese than I could have imagined existed in the world, let alone in a single market. It was amazing.

Fifteen years later, on a summer visit to Pennsylvania, I went to an Amish Farmers’ Market near York, PA, as I recall. They had eggs in a bowl—eggs that came without shells, twenty different kinds of lettuce, strange sausages, molasses pie (called ‘shoe fly pie’). Farmers’ markets in Massachusetts, many years later, were mostly about the many different varieties of local apples I’d never heard of and certainly never eaten: the macoun remains my best memory of an apple, although it might or might not be as good as the fruit on my own jonagold tree. Two weeks ago, in Sebastopol, CA, every crossroad seemed to have a little farmers’ market/fruit stand with all the wonders of central California edibles on display.

So, today, I wandered over to the Sunshine Coast’s Farmers’ Market in Sechelt to see what we had growing here. The weather has been so cool, I didn’t expect there to be much of anything at all, really, and I was not much surprised. There was one stand with four cartons of tomatoes (grown in a greenhouse somewhere locally, I imagine, as the nighttime temperatures are barely warm enough to permit fertilization of a tomato blossom, let alone growing and ripening of a fruit; another with garlic ‘scapes’ (the long green leaves of the underground garlic bulb which are sauteed and garlicy of taste) and ‘sea asparagus’ (this salty delicacy will be found wherever sea kayakers lurk. Carpeting the water’s edge on mud flats, sheltered coves and estuaries, sea asparagus … say no more, I think); yet another had some lettuce and other salad greens. No blueberries (yet), no strawberries (yet), no raspberries (yet)…not much of anything edible, really, and very little promise of too much more in the days to come.

But there were many, many booths, because, for the most part, the Farmers’ Market is a craft sale. There were lots of stands with jewelry, with hand-knit scarves and hats and kids’ sweaters, with garden rocks, with pottery, with more jewelry, with wind toys, and with driftwood decorations. Tables with carved soapstone, with potted plants, with yet more jewelry, soap, locally ground soft wheat flour (!), paintings, drawings, and finally tables with a palmist and a quick-sketch character artist and a busker playing the accordion.

This is what happens when you try to do a Farmers’ Market in an area where there are no farms and where, instead, artists and craftspersons are very thick on the ground. But perhaps we could just think of ourselves up here on the Sunshine Coast as people who farm art and craft, and it appears that we have raised a bumper crop of both.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Banana for Manitoba

Is this just a North American story or is the rest of the world equally prone to such strange ideas?

A Canadian friend came to dinner last night and told us of her recent adventures with the CBC. She, a well-known performance artist, had heard on a CBC radio news program that some citizens of the very small town of Melita, Manitoba, were contemplating a bold new step for the town, a move sure to whip up Melita’s small economic base by flooding the town with tourists. Melita is referred to (by whom I do not know) as ‘Manitoba’s Banana Belt’—a phrase that must have most of its truth in a commitment to irony, since no one in Manitoba is going to be growing bananas very soon unless global warming truly has astonishing consequences.

But nevertheless, there you have it. The champions of Melita wish to build a 30-foot statue of a talking, revolving banana as a way of encouraging the tourist industry that is, apparently, currently lacking. Our friend, who happens to have a large collection of banana objects and information as well as a banana production company , called the CBC to suggest that Melita needed more than a revolving, talking banana because surely, when the tourists poured into town, they would be looking for more information about bananas. So she offered them her banana collection on the condition that they build a Banana Museum to accompany the talking, revolving banana. Her offer was subsequently broadcast by the CBC.

So far, the town’s members have apparently not enthusiastically endorsed the actual building of either the banana or the museum, but if they go ahead, they are not alone in this line of work. One of my own particular favorites is the world’s largest artichoke, in Castroville, California, the World's Artichoke Capitol. Although I would probably not go out of my way to see either fields of artichokes or the world’s largest (30-feet or so) artichoke, I would definitely go there to eat the deep-fried artichokes that are sold inside that artichoke.

So maybe Melita ought to consider, right inside that museum door, the sale of, say, deep-fried bananas, coated in chocolate, with a little ice cream on the side. In the winter, when there are probably no tourists anyway, they could drop the ice cream.

There’s way more of this stuff than you might think. Interested in seeing the world’s largest pysanki Easter egg in Vegreville, Alberta? Or maybe several hundred other Canadian contributions to large roadside signs, photographed by an intrepid collector.

Or how about a variety of U.S. offerings, such as the world’s largest ear of corn, chest of drawers, chair, tire, talking loon, and floating loon? All available when you are next driving around with nothing else to do and plenty of $4-$6/gallon gasoline to take you there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm Not Organizing Sox

When I was in California, last week, I took some time to read Barak Obama’s Dreams from My Father, which gave me some more sense of who the guy is. But what interested me more, in some ways, was his recounting of his 3-year experience as a community organizer in Chicago after he graduated from college.

I’ve been reading about community organizing since the 60’s, I’d say, and I always thought of it vaguely as something like organizing a labor union. Or maybe organizing anything—your children, the sox in your drawer. But I never really thought about the nitty gritty of it. That is, you try to organize workers, you already know what it is they have in common: they are workers and they are not management. You organize your children, and you have some previously established authority, as difficult as it may be to get them to follow your lead. You organize your sox in a drawer, they stay where they are put.

Organizing a community, by contrast, is quite different. It requires attempting to get people to figure out what their common interests might be when there is no previously-defined common interest, no community necessarily other than in your head; when you have no authority to do anything at all, and no one has any reason to go where you put them or to stay there once they’ve been put there. Probably more like the much-quoted job of herding cats when the cats didn't ask to be herded. And what interests me about this is that, after reading about Obama’s experience in Chicago, I realized that community organizing is what the Point Roberts Community Council is trying to do, even if it doesn’t necessarily think of it in those words.

At the last meeting, the ‘Council’ voted to change its name to the Point Roberts Community Association. The general rationale was that ‘Council’ sounded too much like an elected, representative group, and nobody had elected any of us to do anything and we represented people on the Point in only the vaguest of ways. So, now we’re an Association, which makes us something that anyone who lives in Point Roberts can join. We are choosing to associate with one another because we have some common interests. And because we have some common interests, we have the beginnings of a discrete community, even if, at the moment, it’s only the community of the Point Roberts Community Association. One common interest that this small community identified was a need to improve the Community Events sign on the main street. And, with some group work now completed, a new Community Events sign will soon appear. Results!

The next task, then, is to find out if other Point Roberts’ residents have other common interests and whether they and the community of the Association might join together and find some way to advance a common cause. It's baby steps, but I think I’m learning.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sewer Plant Update

The San Francisco Presidential Memorial Commission is moving along with its plan to change the name of something called the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant. They’ve collected more than enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot this fall and the organizers say that their biggest opposition is people who don’t want anything named after this president. The head of the Republicans in the area is committed to defeating the initiative. It’s worth remembering, however, that San Franciscans already voted in favor of impeaching the President and Vice President, so this may just be a small addendum to that project. All the details here.

If only we had a sewage treatment plant, Point Roberts could consider signing up as a kind of sister city to S.F. on this issue.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Visiting the Family Stenzel

Mr. Stenzel lives down the road from us in Roberts Creek, B.C. I take it to be Mr. Stenzel because there is a fancy welded metal sign at the end of his driveway that says ‘Family Stenzel.’ The reason you might notice this when you walk by is that next to the sign is a four-foot heron made of old chain saw blades. Everything that goes to make up this heron is something else: screwdrivers, threaded rods, wrenches, nails, chains, pipe: all that metal stuff that collects in the basement of a handyman and that there is never any way to organize. Mr. Stenzel has organized all this material by re-organizing it into objects. Mostly but not exclusively birds. There are metal birds in real trees, and real birds AND metal birds in metal trees, but they all look like real birds in real trees from a distance.

Mr. Stenzel and his family live in a regular-sized house on a maybe ½-1 acre lot that is covered with Douglas firs, hemlocks, and cedars, which are the three main evergreen trees here, but even more it is covered with his metal sculptures. As a result, it is really hard to take pictures of any of the perhaps 250 objects that are arranged around in his yard because they all appear on a darkened stage, even when it is a pretty sunny day. But there are not just birds. There are warriors and acrobats and elves and jousters and kings and queens and mushrooms and pretty much anything you could think of.

Unlike the metal worker couple in Sebastopol, Mr. Stenzel has, more or less, all his work on display in his own yard, but he, too is happy to have guests. There are pathways around the yard so anybody can walk in and around and get a better look at the pieces. He does have them for sale occasionally at local art shows. And we own one of his pieces. It is the guard dog in the fourth picture.

That came about because Ed had been gathering up the usual metal stuff in our basement and he made a particularly nice selection of unusual pieces and took them down to Mr. Stenzel a few weeks after he had given us a guided tour of the yard. Some months later, we were back for another visit, and Mr. Stenzel gave us the dog, which included some of our parts.

Yet some months later, we were walking by a thrift shop late in the evening when the manager came out to dump some things and, upon seeing us, asked us if we would be interested in a overhead cam cylinder head. (We must have looked like the kind of people that would be out looking for used car engine parts on a late Friday evening.) We took it to Mr. Stenzel, of course, and he made a wonderful scuba diver figure out of it, with the part as the upper torso and tank. I didn’t see it in the yard today, so he may have sold that one. I was thinking about buying it, but never quite got around to it.

Visiting Mr. Stenzel’s yard: that’s what life should be more about and it should be a good deal less about politics, and wiretapping, and invading other people’s yards and countries. More of his very crowded yard here

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In and Out, Out and In

I was out in the yard today sifting compost for the benefit of my toddler hydrangeas, all three of whom could use a nice layer of mulch if the hot weather comes in July. Which it might. Which it often does. Hope is not a plan, of course, but with weather it’s about all you’ve got: hope and a layer of mulch. Sifting away, I noticed some cherry and peach pits. Aah, those came from a year ago at least since the only time we get peaches and cherries are in July when the Okanagan—a summer-hot, inland valley up one of the rivers, maybe the Fraser River, maybe the Columbia or the Okanagan river, northeast of Vancouver-- pours forth fruit in the the way Utah used to pour forth fruit when I was a child in southeastern Idaho. Such fruit is part of what makes summer so amazingly wonderful. That and the fact that it’s finally warm.

Of course, it’s possible that these peach and cherry pits have been in my compost for two or three years. How long would it take a peach pit actually to compost, after all? Nothing composts very fast in my experience. This is because the 4-foot tall, square, black compost bin-like object is mostly in the shade (because all the land around the house is pretty much shaded by tall trees), because the air temperature never gets very warm, and because I doubtless fail to buy something to put in the compost bin-like object to make it work faster. But it works, of course, because time itself will bring everything back to some other form of itself: ashes to ashes, and all that.

I really like the idea of composting. A depression-era related feeling that you are saving yourself from having to buy mulch, perhaps. Or, even better, that you are turning garbage, of all things, into something that you need. It really feels like a wondrous form of recycling. Of course, it’s probably all in my head: all those coffee filters and grounds, all those tea bags, all 4 egg shells each week probably don’t turn into gold just because Rumplestiltskin is inside the compost bin working away. The worms, doubtless, hate coffee grounds. The sow bugs would surely prefer the peaches to the peach pits. The mulch obtained probably doesn’t amount to much.

But mostly what the worms and bugs get in my compost bin-like object is maple leaves. I am so rich in maple leaves that I cannot begin to compost them all. I am as rich in maple leaves as the maple tree itself is rich in maple leaves. Actually, I am burdened by all these maple leaves: why does this tree need to make so many leaves? Do maple leaves turn into spectacular and rich compost that feeds the maple trees? I think not because if they did, the forest floors around me would have topsoil and they don’t. So probably the maple leaves, the coffee grounds, and the peach pits all just represent the illusion of some things going in and some other better things coming out. Change: we do like to think of it as progress, whereas mostly, it's probably just change.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama Cross the Border

McCain was up in Canada yesterday, apparently trailing streams of gaffes. He opposed Obama’s support of a windfall profits tax on oil companies, although he himself had previously supported a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Perhaps the ultimate issue of perspective. He was here on a 6-hour trip to speak to the Economic Club back in Toronto. I hope they didn’t charge much for the speech given that McCain himself has said that he has never been much interested in economics. Perhaps he was in Canada looking for advice.

My Canadian friends and neighbors never ask me about McCain, though they regularly ask about Obama. I don’t know what to say. They obviously care a great deal about who is the president in the U.S. and the people I know, at least, are deeply unhappy with what the Bush administration has brought, so what they are really asking me is, ‘Can Obama win?’ He’s getting good press, I think, because the Canadians are very well-disposed to him although they usually don’t know much about any specific policy issues other than that he is opposed to the war. Of course, I’m not much better off because it hasn’t been all that clear to anyone what his policy positions are except that he is opposed to the war.

Now that he's the apparent nominee, of course, we’ve learned a few things. He’s a big supporter of maintaining the feckless embargo on Cuba, the evil empire to the south. And there appears to be no support for Israel that he wouldn’t be immediately prepared to offer. Today, he said that ‘there was no doubt that Iraq and Saddam Hussein posed an extraordinary threat to the U.S., and the United States is always justified in making decisions that will provide for its security.’ No, wait a minute, that was George W. Bush who said that, back in 2003. What Obama said today was, "And so there is no doubt that Iran poses an extraordinary threat to Israel and Israel is always justified in making decisions that will provide for its security."

Then, yesterday, he announced his support for the ‘compromise’ on the FISA bill which permits the government to spy on Americans, and, additionally, gives the big telecom companies retroactive immunity from any legal actions for previously spying on Americans as long as the administration told them in writing that it was legal.

This is a big issue for those on the left in the U.S. and, I would think, a big issue for libertarians of any stripe. Using the power of government to invade citizen privacy without due process of law is one of the very big threats to that freedom and liberty that those in power are always carrying on about. The telecoms, who are being sued for this violation (admittedly committed at the urging of the Bush administration) want to be taken off the hook because ‘they were just following orders.’ Didn’t we get rid of that defense at Nuremberg? And here we have Obama, who says he isn’t in favor of retroactive immunity for the telecoms but nevertheless supports the bill that includes it.

So what am I supposed to tell the Canadians about Obama? I don’t even know what I’m supposed to tell myself about Obama.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Crossing Wide Waters

Last month, when some residents of Point Roberts offered some complaints about Whatcom County’s lack of generosity/financial fairness toward the Point—complaints published in the Bellingham Herald—the Bellingham readers of the Herald complained right back: ‘What did you think you were getting into when you moved to that beautiful but isolated place?’ The implication was that isolation explained everything lacking, and that beauty made up for everything lacking.

Today, I am in Roberts Creek, up on the Sunshine Coast, and the local paper is filled with complaints about ferry service, and the only way to get here is on the ferry because there is no continuous road up the West Coast of British Columbia. It would appear that the B.C. Ferry Corporation’s response to complaints about prices is pretty much, ‘What did you think you were getting into when you moved to that beautiful but isolated place?’

The ferry business is all about the price of oil nowadays and the Corporation wishes to increase the fares regularly on the basis of the rise in oil prices. Seems reasonable, but those in the beautiful but otherwise isolated place are of two minds, of course. Those who make the commute to Vancouver regularly pretty much did not have regular and multiple surcharges to the ferry fare (or unfare, as it appears) when they moved to this beautiful but isolated place. And many people who don’t make the commute regularly but depend upon tourists doing so are worried that the tourists won’t be willing to pay ever more to come to this beautiful but isolated place. What is to be done by a community when forces way beyond its control threaten its economic stability? Maybe it’s like the news of a bad diagnosis: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance? I’m not sure whether we’re at anger or depression, but we’ve gotten past denial, anyway.

I guess we will see in the next few years. Things will change because change is inevitable and although it is good for some people, it isn’t always good for everyone. Change has winners and losers. The Sunshine Coast has been rolling right along on a development boom for the past five years or so; housing prices have skyrocketed, development has boomed, traffic and commerce have both increased. All that was good for some people; but the ferry fare increases, not so good, perhaps for the same people and perhaps for different people. The increases in rental prices, not so good for the people who didn’t own property that appreciated dramatically. When we bought a house here 18 years ago, the highest rental price around (according to our real estate agent) was around $1,000 per month, but now, according to the local paper, it’s almost impossible to find anything for under $1200/month. People want to stay here, want to hold on to a life they had, but maybe they can’t do that anymore.

We have very probably crossed some wide waters in these past few years. And the fare has risen considerably, even in this isolated and beautiful place. It feels like a fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie: ‘A journey will offer benefits against you.’

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Too Much of Some Things

What do we all have too much of, rich and poor, black and white, rural and urban, whatever continent (except Antarctica) that we’re on?

Well, there’s war and sickness and slugs, and stuff like that, but in the realm of positive items, one thing we have too much of is plastic bags. It’s because they’re so useful, so cheap, so small-space occupying (at least in the house itself). This is one of those things that you might think that small places would have moved to get rid of just because a relatively small effort ought to get quick results. In Point Roberts, e.g., there’s only one or two places that actually give you a plastic bag. There could be none. Roberts Creek, much more of a problem because there are so many more stores, but still nothing like Vancouver or San Francisco (and San Francisco actually has banned them). And yet, and yet: The International Marketplace, the primary source of plastic bags in Point Roberts offers only to take your plastic bags back for recycling. Even the recycling program, such as it is on the Point, does not accept plastic bag recycling.

Why is that? Entire countries have banned plastic bags (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, according to the Daily Globe and Mail). Cities and towns all over the world have done it, but not Point Roberts, not Roberts Creek. The grocery stores in both places offer, as I recall, a three cent credit for each plastic bag you don’t use. Ireland, by contrast, charges you 23 cents for each plastic bag you do use. And at that price, the Irish have very quickly figured out some other way to carry their groceries.

Food prices are up, inflation is up: this may be the time to encourage the use of fewer plastic bags, either by charging more for them or offering a larger credit for using them, or just by people choosing to use cloth bags instead because we’ve all got way too many plastic bags around already. I’ve been using cloth bags for over 20 years—ever since my daughter, then working in a co-op grocery store, bought two or three wonderfully sturdy, black linen shopping bags for me. I’m still using them, along with a half dozen less wonderful ones that I’ve acquired here and there. They live in the car and, because I have so many of them, there are always a few available to me when I find myself shopping. Recently, I have had shoppers behind me in line congratulate me for bringing my own bag, so it appears that it is beginning to sink into our psyches that we don’t need anywhere near as many plastic bags as we have. These shoppers, alas, always say, ‘I forgot to bring mine.’ Time to start remembering, I’d say.

Plastic bags last forever, in landfills. Ocean-going animals have great trouble with them. They’re made from oil and we don’t really need to use that extra amount of oil, surely. Nobody who lives near the ocean is unaware of the ugly, trashy look that washed-up plastic bags give to the beach, and any walker knows what they look like, water-soaked, along the roadside. But maybe the killer argument is that we already have more of them than we need. We wouldn’t have to be giving something up; we’d be not having something we don’t even want.

(Addendum: The New York Times Magazine (June 22) has a terrific article on plastic trash drifting around the oceans, and what it took to clean up one beach in Alaska: go here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Asymmetry in the World

Back to Point Roberts from the ROTUS yesterday for a quick overnight and then on to Roberts Creek. Going from the Big Place to the Small Places allows me to indulge in a lot of empathy for people like these guys. The bows and arrow against the helicopter feel particularly apt. I managed to get through the TSA Magic Arch in the San Francisco Airport but not on my first trip: I forgot to remove my treacherous shoes and so was required to do it again until I got it right. I just need to remember to say, 'Daddy, May I?' before every thought, word, and action, I guess.

Even after a short trip, the asymmetry between us and the ROTUS is pervasive. I am reminded of the time, some 32 years ago, when I returned to Los Angeles from a year on a tiny island in the Pacific. Going to the drugstore to obtain a new toothbrush and toothpaste seemed like a trip that needed to be done over several days. By the time I picked out one toothbrush from among 50 different kinds, I was too mentally exhausted to repeat the choosing task with toothpastes. This trip, of course, the other way: from the big to the little. The little is looking very good. One surprising fact: gasoline is just as expensive there ($4.58) as here ($4.63). Fresh fruit, which they grow in the Sebastopol area is, by contrast, cheaper.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Not So Pacific

Out at the Pacific Ocean today at Bodega Bay. Hard to believe it is the same ocean as the one I would see if I just turned to the right and walked about 890 miles to Point Roberts. The color of the water is both deeper blue and lighter green; the sand is dark and rocky rather than fine and beige or pebbly, and the rocks very big: veritable rock pillars and islands instead of small polished stones. The waves roll in and in and in, relentlessly, as if they came in and never went back out, with the continuous and loud sound of breaking water--so much more aggressive than our waves on a nice summer day. The sky is bright blue, the sun hot, and the breeze very brisk and cold, so that you are somehow both hot and cold at the same time. The waters and the air of the Georgia Strait seem so much gentler, tamer, or just more restrained by comparison with this.

Perhaps more appropriate that the chilled English first made their way to the northern waters, while the heated Spanish came here to the south, to Bodega.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Art for Art's Sake

Visiting in the middle of California’s wine country, I am surrounded by rolling hills, small truck garden farms, cows in every small field, strawberry fields and farmer’s markets. Lots of collapsing wood barns and even collapsing metal barns. Narrow roads. It has some echoes of Point Roberts but the area is much drier and way more touched by its neighboring towns and cities. In fact, seeing this area makes me realize just how untouched Point Roberts is by the close-yet-far urban and suburban areas to the north and south.

The nearest small town to where I am is Sebastopol, which carries to the visitor no memories of the Crimea, where I believe the original Sebastopol was located. Nor does Sebastopol remind me of the slick suburban areas I know from southern California, where every house appears to be either a recently built or a recently remodeled Spanish hacienda.

Instead, Sebastopol appears to be filled with small stores and small, functional and beautifully maintained houses with a kind of spontaneous ambience. On one street, a few blocks long, most of the houses’ front yards feature witty, intricate, recycled-metal sculptures. The ones above are typical, but there were maybe two dozen different pieces. Some were almost as big as the front yards they sat in. It’s hard to believe that every house owner had purchased this art; easy to believe that the sculptor gave them away for the sake of a permanent exhibit.

That’s an idea that Point Roberts, if it had a charitable sculptor of witty, intricate, re-cycled metal pieces, could easily borrow. Photos of more Florence Ave. sculptures here. The metal artists: Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leaving the Northwest

You stay in Point Roberts/Roberts Creek too long and you forget how the rest of the world (or at least the ROUS) works, or at least how to work with the ROUS. A brief trip to central California left me at the Vancouver Airport yesterday, faced with the Canadian equivalent of the TSA and the American customs people in a different configuration from the Point Roberts’ border experience.

I guess I am too old or too temperamentally ill-equipped to deal with what certainly appears to be irrational authority. The take-off-your-hat, -jacket, -scarf, -shoes mentality completely evades me, given that I have to march through the Magic, All-Seeing Arch of Oz, but I reluctantly and unhappily do as I am ordered. I just refuse to participate in the little plastic bag with liquids, creams, unguents and emollients ritual, so I don’t bring any of those things with me. Nor would I dream of submitting to having my digital camera, computer, I-Pod, and whatever up for being turned on, searched or justified, or examined in the myriad ways they could think up to investigate them, so I travel with nothing electronic. I have things made of fabric plus a plastic toothbrush, comb, and hairbrush. My theory of travel in the Strict Daddy State age is that everything I need can be found at the other end of the trip. This, I believe, will keep my interaction with the TSA at the maximum minimal level.

The theory turned into practice is less successful. I arrived early for the flight with my pre-printed boarding tickets, my passport and customs card in hand. At the airline ticket office, the agent congratulated me for having everything done just right. I get through 45 minutes of customs. I make my way to the magic arch, remove all my outer garments and shoes, place them and my suitcase on the conveyor belt, step through the magic arch, put my clothes and shoes back on, put my purse on my shoulder, and walk away, with great relief. Ten minutes later, I notice that I have no suitcase at the end of my hand.

A walk back and a long rigamarole in which I successfully demonstrate that my suitcase and I are meant for one another. Which all goes to prove, I guess, that anxiety creates reality. Really: just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Off to the Races

The July 4th holiday is a big time in Point Roberts. There’s a wonderful, old-timey kind of parade with a kind of corny theme (this year it’s ‘it’s a small world,’ of course). The Vancouver RCMP motorcycle precision drill team comes down and races around in figure eights for our amusement/amazement. The Shriners from Ladner, B.C., drive down in their calliope truck (and occasionally with their tiny cars), sporting their fezzes. The local businesses and groups all get together some kind of float: some of them pretty minimal but others very elaborate. Town dignitaries drum up an old car or a convertible and wave to us, while kids race around grabbing candy from whoever is throwing it; grabbing as if they were starving for candy, I might add, though that is not likely to be the case.

For my taste (an old-timey one, for sure), there is not enough music: no marching bands struggling to play on key while marching. No baton twirlers, though there has been a stilt walker the last couple of years. There are horses, some decorated; there are kids riding decorated bicycles. And, perhaps most impressive, there are a herd of white samoyeds that belong to different people but who march—or at least trot--in the parade as a group.

After the parade, there is food, music, and arts and crafts on the beach, and the evening then offers dinners and barbecues at the local eating spots, but no fire works in recent years. And we all hope for at least a day without rain which is usually a wish easily granted in July.

This year, however, the 4th will be followed by the 6th of July, an event at least as good as the parade and maybe even better though with a shorter history. This year, on July 6th at 11 a.m., we will have the return to Point Roberts of the International Belt Sander Drag Races. Lorne Nielson (of Nielson’s Hardware on the Point) apparently invented this activity in 1989, but eventually it became such a successful event that the international race had to move around to other towns, states, countries, so we haven’t seen it here for maybe five years.

In a belt sander race, electric (corded) belt sanders race one another. Some of them are souped up a lot, some of them are decorated a lot. They run, as I recall, two at a time in parallel wooden ramps, and it goes on for hours. Everybody standing about cheers and yells and generally carries on, but I think there is neither on-track nor off-track betting. Anyway, the sport may be Point Roberts’ second greatest claim to fame (the first, of course, being our location), but location and event are equally odd, surely. Come visit on July 6, see the sanders go! But if you can’t, check out the race nearest you. Pictures and instructions included.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Humor in Politics

A friend noted to me the other day that if we didn’t get some humor in the political world pretty soon, that alone would be the death of the country (or words to that effect). So I thought the following interchange on The Daily Show worth noting:

Last night on “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart was chatting with Ralph Reed about a variety of election-related news regarding people of faith (Reed was the former head of the Christian Coalition, before destroying his reputation by hooking up with disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.)

Stewart noted, “There’s talk that 40% of evangelicals will go with the Democrat [on Election Day]. When did the evangelicals lose their values?” Reed responded, “I don’t think that’s supported by the polling data. I think if you look at most of the general-election polls, McCain’s getting about 60 to 65 percent of the evangelical vote.” (Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report.)

So, maybe before we get the humor, we need to get the math or the logic straightened out. It used to be that there were facts and then there were opinions about facts. The facts we could agree upon, but the opinions we didn’t agree upon. Then we moved to all opinions all the time and whatever the topic, everybody’s opinion was given equal weight, whether they had command of the facts or not. Now, with Stewart reporting a fact about what the polls say--that 40% of the evangelical vote is likely to go to Obama--and Reed countering that Stewart is wrong about the fact because Reed’s view of the fact is that 60% of the evangelicals are supporting McCain. And the fact is that the poll says both of those things and they add up to 100%.

So, are we back to agreeing on the facts? Or we now taking the position that there are two sides to a fact, even though everyone agrees on the fact itself? Humor would surely help.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moss and the Family Manse

When I first moved here, I was amazed not only by the moss-covered trees and ground, but also by the moss-covered roofs. They looked so charming and brought to mind Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse, a book I have never actually read, but remember clearly from a childhood playing the card-game ‘Authors.’ A moss-covered manse (as he called it) seemed mysterious, filled with strange possibilities.

Once I began working on the abandoned house quilt series, however, moss-covered roofs began to seem all too obvious: once the moss sufficiently covered the roof, the water seeped into the very structure of the house and it began to slump, even if only ever so slightly. Moss was not mysterious: it was rot.

So today, in this lovely month of Junuary, the summer solstice almost upon us, I was more than a little surprised to look up and see that our roof is absolutely paved with moss. We have never had so much moss on the roof. The roof is essentially covered with asphalt shingles, but now every shingle has a tiny green carpet upon it, a emerald green carpet of extraordinary beauty with respect to color and texture, but nevertheless an absolutely devastating sight. How did this happen? Normally, the roof gets cleaned regularly (happily, it has no very big slope) and, as there are zinc strips along the ridge line to slow the moss down, the cleaning can be done pretty much by sweeping the roof with a broom on a dry day. But the endless rains of this spring and summer have provided no time for the roof and its mosses to dry out and be swept. Thus, it felt, as I saw it fully today, like we were facing ruin.

But it is not that bad, really. Roofs are, however, a serious problem up here. In Southern California, one could not help but feel very sorry for roofers. On those endlessly hot and sunny days, to be working on a roof seemed like one of life’s serious punishments. Up here, the other way. For six months of the year, it’s hard to find a day nice enough to work on the roof, although there are some deeply-committed roofers who get up there in any weather. But for the most part, we’re more inclined to tarpaulins, particularly blue ones. It sometimes seems to me that one is not a true resident of Point Roberts until you’ve had a blue tarp somewhere on your roof for at least a year.

We have one, but it is small, over a leaky skylight. The blueness of the tarp gives the room it’s over an even darker cast on those days when there is enough sun to make a difference. Our neighbor’s house, pictured above, is much more seriously tarped. He had a large tree branch fall down and partly through his roof and has had a very big blue tarp since then. He has part of a new roof, which gets worked on a little at a time, as the rainless days allow. It’s not the best thing to look at, out the window of my kitchen, but at least he has no moss.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Miranda's Revels

My daughter has an elderly cat named Miranda. Everybody thinks their own cat is a particularly special one, but Miranda who is, of course, not my cat, has had something of an unusual life. She was born in Minnesota and entered my daughter’s family life in the course of some personal sadness and that may be why, although she was never my cat, I had a particular fondness for her even though I’m not particularly a cat person, not least because I have a mild allergy to cat hair. After a few years of graduate student-apartment life in Minnesota, Miranda and her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she lived in a bigger apartment with a new kitten named Fenton. But in between Minnesota and D.C., Miranda spent a year with my son when my daughter and her husband went to Germany. At my son's 5-acre place, Miranda learned to catch mice and run wild in the tall grasses. But after that year was over, she returned easily to apartment living.

A few more years and a baby, and Miranda and Fenton, the baby, and the grownups moved on to a small town in Missouri on the Mississippi river. There, Miranda had the run of an entire house and, on occasion, a stroll in the yard with real grass and flowers. But she never went out of the yard by choice. She’s a pretty cat, but of an ordinary appearance in the grey stripe direction as you can see in the picture above. She watched birds right close out the window there in Missouri. She met and took no liking to yet another baby. She wasn’t all that crazy about the first one or about Fenton, either, but she tolerated them all in that superior way that cats have. On the other hand, she loved my daughter and my son-in-law.

Then, one day, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, when she was around ten years old, she walked out the door one day and didn’t come back. Days passed; no sign, no collection by the cat pick-up people, no news. No Miranda. Well, of course, there were plenty of cars around, and the town, while not rural in any way, has wildlife that could easily provide the end of Miranda. So there was mourning for Miranda. Then, many months later, Miranda reappeared. Wherever she had been, she was now home, but she was living in a drainpipe in the small woodsy area behind the house. She was sleek, well-fed, and self-sufficient, with no interest whatsoever in returning to the life of a house cat.

Over time, she did come to live nearer to the house and, finally, in the garage, at least in the winter. She accepted cat food as within her wild animal definition of okay food. She even let the children (and me) pet her now and then, though she definitely showed no interest in reigniting her relationship with Fenton who is a solid housecat in every sense of the word. She was in this domestic world, but she was not OF this domestic world, she made clear.

Last night, I received an email from my daughter with the picture of Miranda admiring some flowers a month or so ago. My son-in-law had found the cat dead in the yard that evening. She was 17 years old. Miranda’s revels now are ended, but I am very happy to have known a cat even slightly who had those kind of revels, who appears to have found--on her own initiative--exactly the life she wanted and was willing to undergo extraordinary changes to have it. She was a cat who, late in life, went on a quest and, in some sense, came back with the grail.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The World of Trash

Almost everything in a place like Point Roberts is just a little more difficult. Want someone to lay carpet? Probably have to convince somebody to drive the 100-mile round trip from Bellingham (crossing the border twice on each trip, of course), or find somebody in nearby Canada who has a green card to work in the U.S. Need to get the snow off the road in the winter? Probably have to have somebody from Bellingham make that same trip, but probably only after they’ve ploughed all the rest of the roads that are much closer to them. From the perspective of the rest of the county, indeed perhaps from the rest of the world, the response usually is ‘Well, what did you think you were doing when you moved to such a strange and isolated place?’

And for lots of things, that is a pretty fair response. I think we do have a fair complaint about the border because all the people who were here before 9/11 (coming up on 7 years ago) definitely didn’t know that the border was going to become so very difficult when we moved here. For all those other things, though, it’s a response that at least has to be addressed.

One of our current problems is trash. When we moved here 12, 13 or so years ago, I don’t think there was any organized trash collection of any sort. Certainly, we composted what we could, recycled what we could by taking it either to the U.S. or the Canadian recycling depots depending upon which one we drove by first. But I don’t know what we did with that, for us, very small remainder of stuff that neither composts nor recycles. Perhaps delivered it in person to the transfer station. Then, Hosanna! (as I guess we must have felt), a young man and his family came to the Point to start up a regular private trash and recycling business.

The county and the state, of course, have a lot of regulations about how such a service is supposed to work. A private service is allowed, but it must meet certain standards, one of which is that the service must provide regular pick up of recyclable material. If it’s a private service, apparently the use of the service has to be voluntary. That is, a private service doesn’t mean the county is going to hire a private company to pick up everybody’s trash and pay for it via taxes. Nor is the county going to send its own garbage trucks up that route to haul any trash, assuming the county has any trash service, since that is usually more of a municipal function. But somehow, the service got started and you paid by the can for regular pickup service and a monthly fee for the recycling. The company has the use of a transfer station (which I think is public land) to get all this stuff moved from one place to another: we don’t have landfills in this tiny area waiting to be filled.

It’s now 5 or 6 years at least that this service has been working for us, but recently the recycling truck, which the company had purchased used, broke down and was beyond the point of repair. And the company hasn’t the money to buy a new one. So the company suggested that residents just bring their recycling to the transfer station. The state/county aren’t happy with that because it's against the rules: private garbage pick-up must provide regular recyclable pickup. What to do?

We can force the company to go out of business by insisting that it operate only if it buys a new recycling truck; or we can require everybody on the Point to be part of the garbage collection system (which would increase revenues sufficiently to support the recycling system); or the state/county could provide some financial assistance or some truck assistance or some rule-bending assistance. Or, finally, we could stop producing trash. So, what did we expect when we moved to a place like Point Roberts? I’m pretty sure I didn’t think about it at all.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Volunteer Careers

When people move to a place like Point Roberts, it is often because they have retired from some other career or, have achieved semi-retirement with some continuing career work via the net. One couple retired from a university somewhere else but are extending their academic career at a Canadian university in Vancouver. Ed and I took another alternative and, for three or four years, lived here for a month and then returned to Los Angeles working the next month there. Over a decade, the six months in each place slowly turned into no months in Los Angeles and all the rest of the time here in the northwest. And then, there you are with every day open to whatever suits you.

It’s a lot of time to work with after the first few months. Most of us have lived lives of carefully and full-time scheduled lives. Without all that work stuff, we are left with three meals a day (which, of course, take on great new significance) and whatever other routines we can figure out. Lots of people who come to Point Roberts under those circumstances take to volunteer work of various kinds. There are a lot of organizations on the Point that operate with volunteers. But it isn’t entirely easy being a volunteer as compared with having a job because jobs are relatively clear and suited to your abilities, while volunteer jobs often are neither clear nor suitable.

It seems to me that by the time you’ve finished off your work life, the people you know and work with pretty much understand your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and your non-skills. You are generally encouraged to do things you do well and discouraged from doing things you’ve shown no great aptitude for. And life is the better for that most of the time. But you move to a new place where no one knows any of those things, you may well be asked or encouraged to do things as a volunteer that you have no ability to do, but not asked to do things you really know about.

In my work in Los Angeles, no one I know would have ever allowed me, outside of a classroom, to be involved in meeting with and encouraging a lot of people I didn’t know to do something. I’m a bedrock introvert and I hate asking people to do things that they haven’t already agreed to do. Other people are terrific at doing this kind of thing (think of all the people who are fund raisers for various causes, which seems to me the very extreme end of this kind of job). Nevertheless, I have somehow found myself agreeing to do just this thing in my attempt to be a cooperative volunteer, and nobody stopped me.

So, here’s the small lesson: before you become a post-retirement volunteer in a small community project, remember to remember what you do well and try not to stray too far from that, at least not as a first step in expanding your abilities.

Little Dark Days

Wednesday was the coldest June 5th in historical records (which means that the lowest temperature for every other June 5th was higher than this June 5's highest temperature) here in the northwest corner. For the third time, we have un-turned off the pilot light. At least one can say that hope springs eternal. Not only has it been unusually cold, but it has also been very cloudy and dark and it has rained almost steadily from Monday evening until Thursday noon.

It has not been an easy three days because we have just gotten to the point where we are thinking that warm weather is our natural right. But the sun came out today in the late afternoon, many large slugs were trying to find darker corners to hatch new plots and new slugs, and the people are once again looking forward to a good day.

In the meantime, if you can find the June 9/16 New Yorker, read Haruki Murakami's wondrous essay on how he became a novelist and how he became a long distance runner (unfortunately, not available on the web). It showed me with absolute clarity why it was that I didn't become a novelist, didn't become a long distance runner. I wish I'd read it when I was 16.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thanks to Whom?

Today was the celebratory day for the purchase of Lily Point, the southeastern 90+ acres of Point Roberts, which is now the joint responsibility of the Whatcom Land Trust, Whatcom County and Washington State. An exquisite piece of land and waterfront is now safe from development. One of the speakers at the ceremony pointed out that the Lummi Indians had taken care of this land for 10,000 years and now it was the responsibility of the people of Washington to take care of it for the next 10,000 years. (There is a little in-between time there that we're not talking about that ended in somebody selling the area for $3 million and change, and I guess we can stipulate that for that price the 'owner' took good care of the land along his way.)

I try not to be too much of a cynic, but it does occur to me that nobody offered the Lummi a very good price for that land while it was in their hands. It's certainly possible that their cultural values would have resisted the sale of land that provided at least a major part of their food supply, but I'm not so sure that Washington citizens for the next 10,000 years will be able to resist the offer of big money given the many other things that they may be needing or wanting money for (Clean water? Energy resources? Clean air?). Especially given the fact that Point Roberts is no big food supplier for anyone and likely to be less so as the fish and shellfish go away. But let us hope for the best, and just settle for good outcomes for a century or two.

The celebration was set for today because today was the lowest tide for some long period and it was indeed impressive to see the extent of sandy shore that was uncovered. All the bald eagles in attendance, looking for a little seafood of their own, were also impressed. Whatcom County Parks staff provided guided walks around the trails and on the shore; and a spectacularly good lunch was served to all the attendees, some 150 or so people. On the other hand, the weather was less than desirable, being in the late 50 degrees, with a very gray sky, and light wind: weather designed to make you feel quite cold while standing for an hour or so in the gorgeous outdoors to watch and more or less listen to the 'ceremony.' (More or less because there was no amplification and most of the speakers did not have enough personal volume to be heard clearly beyond the first few rows of people standing around them. I got the general drift of what they were saying, but often not the specifics.)

Actually, it was a pretty stunning example of the inability of people of my tribe to produce anything like a ceremony. Elders from the Lummi tribe did their part to pull it off, offering tribal costumes, drumming, singing, and a few stories each about their experience of Lily Point from their personal and tribal past. When they spoke or sang or drummed, it was clear that they were trying to make a connection with the audience. They spoke of how lucky they felt that this land in which their ancestors were buried was now safe for them, as well as for those of us who were later arrivals on Point Roberts. The Lummi elders were followed by the 'new caretakers,' who went through a fairly endless routine of thanking themselves for their good work. I appreciate their good work, but who is it that thinks that repeatedly thanking yourself and your colleagues for your and their good work constitutes a ceremony? Well, to some extent I know the answer to that at this moment.

But welcome to Lily Point Park! If I had a sparkler, I would wave it in the sky as a ceremonial gesture. Since I don’t, here’s my imaginary sparkler saying, ‘Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Stay 10,000 years.’ (And thanks, too.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Younger Generations

Once you get past a certain age, I think, you really lose track of kids and what they’re like. Babies and toddlers seem more familiar to me than older ones, probably because there’s not quite so much variation among them. But the rest seem to merge into a single person: kids. It isn’t exactly stereotyping, but it is certainly some kind of over-generalizing tendency. When I see teenagers, for example, on a bus, or flooding the mall at lunchtime, or at the movie theatre, they all seem sort of the same to me. They all seem to be wearing the same outfit, the same hairdo, the same kind of shoes, listening to the same kind of music, reading the same books if they read at all, talking with the same limited vocabulary. They don’t differentiate well for me. And I begin to think that they are indeed all the same. They are teenagers (and not nearly as admirable as teenagers were when my generational colleagues and I were teenagers).

I was brought up by this today because I had a new quilting student in for her first two-hour lesson. I don’t have a lot of students (only two at a time, in fact), but what struck me by this new one was how absolutely different she was from the others I’ve had. I expected this lesson to be pretty much like a first lesson for any of the others, given that they are all beginning sewers first and foremost. But it wasn’t and she wasn’t. Although the process is the same for all of them, and the project they start with is the same, yet each one comes to it with a different attitude, different knowledge, a different physical approach, and different physical aptitudes.

Some of them are quick to see how the machine works, others slower; some are almost afraid of the machine, others indifferent to its speed and motion; some pick fabrics very carefully, while others move more spontaneously. For every movement needed by the task, there is variation among the students. That this is true and indeed a truism, of course, accounts for the real joy of teaching. But when you have 30 kids in a class (as I have had in university teaching), you very often, perhaps daily, or even every minute, are wishing that there was just a little less variation. The luxury of one student is remembering that the kind of teaching that feels just plain good involves looking at that one child to see how she or he is responding each moment to each action or idea that arises, and finding, as a teacher, the words or action that will effectively move that moment on to the next one.

We are a culture that tends to believe that teaching is not a particularly valuable skill. The sadly common aphorism, Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach, attests to that. Rather, we believe that anyone can do it. That might even have some truth to it since we are all called upon to teach throughout our adult lives, although not always in a classroom setting. And a willing teacher requires a willing student. But probably no one can teach very well if they do not have the opportunity, at least some of the time, to teach just one student at a time, an opportunity to see each student as a genuinely individual person. That it is a luxury (or an absolute omission) and not a necessity in our classrooms speaks volumes about our culture, I’d say. But it is a luxury that is given to me by me. Good choice on my part.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kindly Canadians

A tiresome trip between countries today because we are now into the summer weather, which means that the ferries become very unreliable as to having enough room on them for everyone who wants to board. Gas prices and all that to the contrary notwithstanding, it appears that driving up to and back from the Sunshine Coast of Canada via the Queen of Surrey ferry continues to be one of life’s very best pleasures for a lot of people. Once aboard, they can eat, play video games, and buy tourist trinkets, or just look out the window for 45 minutes. Why not a crowd?

Today, we aimed for the 12:20 ferry, but when we got there (about twenty minutes early), we were already too late. Almost three hours later—spent in the ferry line-up lot--we boarded the next scheduled ferry, which was running a little late because of its heavy loads. Then a Sunday traffic-heavy trip around Vancouver, with an opportunity to stop at every stop light ever installed, and to the border by around 5 p.m. Blessedly, the border guard hardly even had us stop long enough to note whether the pictures on his computer matched us in our car.

Leaving your home for two+ weeks during the late spring and early summer is always a little dangerous for yard and garden maintenance. If it rains a little and is gray and overcast a little and the suns shines a bit, it usually works out okay because nothing grows too fast or gets too dry. And that is the typical pattern for the weather at this time of year. But the last two weeks have been longer on the sun and absolutely deficient on the rain, so I expected every little seedling and small plant to have simply fallen over at the ankles and not to respond to any form of resuscitation I had to offer. Similarly, Ed expected the yard paths (which are the only parts of the grass that gets mowed) to be knee high if not waist high from all that sun (they get underground water I think). But when we got here, what should we find but nicely mowed paths and plucky little plants everywhere the eye could find a little plant or path.

Usually when we are gone, I impose upon my neighbor to do a little watering for the most needy plants, and I do the same for him when he is away, as he is a Canadian and is also not here all the time. However, he is a 70+ year-old hockey player as well as a terrific friend and neighbor, and a month ago his hockey playing came to a temporary halt when he broke his ankle and some other bone higher up in the shin. It seemed an extraordinary imposition to ask a man with a broken leg and ankle to hobble over to water my plants on a regular basis, so I didn’t mention it when I left. But, lo and behold, not only did he water the plants but he mowed the lawn-paths as well. That’s a doughty fellow!

I went over to thank him for all this and he and his wife pressed upon us a pint of freshly caught spotted prawns for our dinner. Not only doughty but generous and very kindly. In Los Angeles, no one ever mowed our lawn for us or gave us prawns. And that’s why we’re here and not there, I guess.