hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, March 30, 2009

Banks, Again

Following the plight of community banks, the Seattle Times reports that “Washington Banks Are Under Stress.” (Blogpost hyperlinks still not working:  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008941813_banks29.html)  This is not because they are deeply involved in home mortgages but because they are deeply involved in real estate development loans.  In the recent stock market rally (of sorts), Banner and Sterling have both been rising in share price.  This morning, Banner is up to $3.02 and Sterling up to $2.02. (Banner still outpacing Citigroup!)  Neither of our local banks is mentioned in the newspaper account, but what is true of other local Washington banks is doubtless true of them as well.  All deposits FDIC insured, of course.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


This past week, I was thinking of cleaning up the top of my quilting cutting table and decided to do so by gathering up all the blue scraps (random choice of color), cutting them into squares, strips, and rectangles as indicated by size, and then sewing them all together into a nice little lap/nap quilt.  It didn’t really get the table top cleared up, but it was nevertheless a very satisfying project.  It took about three days to get all of those newly-cut shapes sewn together, and I’m now halfway through the hand-quilting.  Nothing really so comforting--indeed so virtuous--as gathering up scraps of fabric and turning them into a new wholeness.

I was thinking about this today while at the monthly quilt guild meeting.  I was actually doing the hand sewing on my blue scrap quilt while watching two ‘trunk shows’ (a showing of a variety of quilts a person has made).  At some point in each presentation, both quilters commented how much they liked scrap quilts, how drawn they were to making them.  That’s not unusual, of course: the notion of scrap quilts is what initially draws most quilters to this joyful craft and art.  But why?

Quilting is, in part, built on nostalgia, an unreal yearning for the time when we made things with our hands out on the frontier or some such place, even the very blankets that kept us warm.  Hardly anyone in my circles actually yearns for the opportunity to make their own shoes and blankets and clothes, or even their own bread and butter, but the nostalgia for the time continues.  Just watch the use of quilts in Hollywood movies: no respectable hero/heroine owns a bed that is unquilted, testifying to their downhome authenticity.

 There is also a secondary nostalgia that quilts hold: they are made of pieces of one’s life.  I am not of the generation that used old, worn-out clothes as the material for quilts (very green!).  As a kid, I made small quilted pieces using leftovers from my mother’s sewing, but it was new fabric.  Nevertheless, those quilt pieces had a sentimental quality, even for an 8-year-old, because they were composed of leftover bits of  my clothes, of my sisters’ and mothers’ clothes and, occasionally, even of my brothers’ clothes, all of which my mother made herself.  So, that is a third thing about scrap quilts’ attraction and maybe its most important nostalgic quality.  In some way or another, we are sewing together bits of our lives to make them new and fresh and whole in perhaps a more interesting way than they seemed to have when we were living through those parts of that life.  This may also account for the enormous growth of interest in scrapbooking, as well: bits and pieces--scraps, after all--that show us our lives in a way that definitely makes us feel good about them.

So we like cloth scraps, but strangely uninterested in most other kinds of scraps.  We don’t particularly care about wood scraps: we just burn them in the fireplace, useful but no big deal.  And we definitely don’t like food scraps.  They are leftovers, grudgingly to be used or, more likely, to be left to develop a green covering in the back of the refrigerator.  At best, they are adapted to another meal, less honorable because made of leftovers, or made into compost, a useful but not an aesthetic or otherwise particularly meaningful product: merely back to from whence it came.  Scrap dealers are generally seen as people dealing in the unwanted.  Those kinds of scraps may well be what we call garbage or trash.  

But all that may change now that everything has changed:  scraps may be all that we are left with and the challenge will be how to turn them into something larger and meaningful and whole, once again, because the parts themselves remind us of something.  At least, that is, if quilts are a guide.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

House Records

It has been my sometime custom over the years, having been lucky enough to have lived in many meritorious houses, to keep a house book.  That is to say, something of a record of what the house has lived through during my tenancy.  It’s usually just a commonplace notebook, and I try to remember to jot down in it things that happen to the house and garden over the passing year, and also sometimes things that have happened to us.  I have done better at some times than others, better with some houses than others, but I have been pretty reliable in keeping account of the present two houses, the one in Point Roberts, WA, nd the other in Roberts Creek, B.C.

Because I am in B.C. now, what I have at hand is that house’s book, a book whose last empty pages are coming up.  (Is that why we are thinking of selling now?)  It begins on April 17, 1993 (although we moved up here in July of 1992): “Back after 5 weeks in L.A.  When I left on March 10th, there were two salmon berry flowers: one on the road, one in the meadow.  Now there are salmon berry flowers everywhere.”  I’m sorry to have to note that today, March 26, there’s not even a sign of a salmon berry bud, let alone a salmon berry flower, although the salmon berry plants, barren sticks, are still all around us.  

As I page through the book, that is the content that most attracts me right now: how things used to be in bloom well before the end of March.  Thus, in March of 1994 (a month or so after rocking and rolling through the big earthquake in L.A.), the forsythia, thimbleberries, vinca, and bluets were in bloom, though none of them is (yet) today.  In March of 1995, the cherry tree was in full blossom, as were the native bleeding heart flowers.  In March of 1996, the daffodils were all in bloom.  None of those are in bloom this March.  And on, year by year, there is a record of past springs coming earlier than in recent years.  It’s good to know this.  To know what we have lost.

And it’s good to review all the other news that is recorded in the house’s book: the children, grandchildren, and friends who came to visit; the deaths of  all four of our parents, the construction of new gardens, the introduction of new roofs, new decks: the stuff that happens when you are busy doing something else, as John Lennon, I think, said of life.

And also in the book, an occasional phrase or sentence that had caught my ear or my eye, like this one by Witter Bynner (probably from his translation of The Book of the Dao, but perhaps from The Jade Mountain):  “Spring is no help to a man bewildered.”    No Kidding!  At least some things never change.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Speaking of Debt...

Not that I was, though God knows I spend enough of my time reading about it on the net, trying to understand whether we are truly in a situation where assets are temporarily undervalued or, by contrast, where assets are absolutely correctly valued at their new low prices, having for some considerable number of years been getting themselves highly overvalued.  As an English major and a philosophically inclined sort, I’m partial to some kind of Platonic view of value, which is to say that I like the idea that things have absolute value.  The economist, including the one I live with, is inclined more to the idea that the value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it.  Thus, a house might well have been worth $100K last year but now be worth only $65K this year, even though nothing about the house has changed.

So I am puzzled by the idea that economists talk about the housing bubble, and about how people were paying more for a house “than it is worth,” since I have been schooled by the economists to say that whatever someone pays is what its worth.

And, Huzzah!  As I puzzle over these matters, the CBC brings to my attention last year’s Massey Lecture, a series of five hour-long lectures on the topic of debt.  It is written and presented by that famous economist (irony alert), Margaret Atwood.  I have listened to three hours so far and, though I am not a very big Atwood novel fan, these lectures are a delight.  She is reading them and she is not the best reader of lectures that I have ever heard, but it is easy enough to look/hear/think past that because the material she is presenting is so extremely interesting.  She ranges all over the place: etymology, mythology, religion, literary criticism, economics, history, psychological theory, here there and everywhere she goes, showing how debt and its concept-cluster siblings play a central role in the meaning of western culture.

For example: Debt is likely to be understood differently depending upon whether the culture is in a phase in which having things is seen as a mark of God's favor, as opposed to a more ascetic phase in which having things is an embarrassment.  Another example: Jesus, the redeemer.  I’m obviously used to the phrase from my own religious background, but I never thought about why that is the word that is used to describe his role.  The most common meaning of redemption, for me, is in the context of pawn shops.  You redeem things you’ve pawned with a redemption ticket.  I’ve never actually pawned anything, but it’s a common enough phenomenon in novels.  But what does Jesus have in common with pawn shop redemption?  Ah, you’ll have to listen to the lectures to learn.  (The link function of Blogger isn't working today, so you'll have to cut and paste:  http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey/massey2008.html)

The Massey Lectures are one of the things that keep me in mind of Canada’s place in the public intellectual pantheon (as compared to the U.S., say), and especially in the public broadcasting world.  Five nights a week, the CBC puts forward a one-hour program, a documentary in essence, about some important issue.  The program is called Ideas and that’s what it is.  The U.S. public radio system copied the Canadian’s CBC’s news program (“As It Happens”) to give U.S. public radio  ‘All Things Considered.’  Unfortunately, it never took up a similar effort with regard to Ideas, although “This American Life” rises to the challenge many weeks.  But it’s not a five-hour a week program!

In addition, each year, Ideas’ producers select someone to give a five-part Massey Lecture, and then they broadcast it, one hour each night for a week.  I’ve heard most of them over the past 16 years and never been disappointed, though some have stayed with me longer than others.  They’re all available on their website.  Just in case you’ve got five hours available.  They deserve special credit for doing Atwood’s Debt series last year.  Just-in-time supply, indeed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Play On and On

One of the things that friends in Los Angeles often ask me is whether I don’t miss all the wonderful cultural opportunities that a big city has to offer.  Mostly, I don’t, I’m afraid.  I guess that is partly because I spent many years of my life taking in such cultural opportunities that interested me and I don’t have any sense thus of being deprived.  I had my innings.  Also, both Ed and I are pretty much introverts so if the outer world doesn’t poke us, we can move along day to day being pretty oblivious to and of it.  And finally, problems with parking have always dimmed my interest in going to great events; that and the attendant crowds.

Of course, there is also the big city of Vancouver right next door which has plenty of cultural attractions, but in fact we rarely set foot in Vancouver.  The building in Vancouver I know best is the airport (and a fine airport it is), but that doesn’t speak well for my interest in Vancouver’s cultural bounty.  The truth is, I tend toward a view of the cultural world as being sort of limited to New York, London, Paris, and Los Angeles, and thus, with no justification whatsoever, don’t much even think of Vancouver.  One might reasonably say that I might apply the same standard to L.A., but I have seen some wonderful performances, concerts, general events in Los Angeles that make my heart, if not my brain, say otherwise.  

I like looking back on those events that seem more like yesterday than decades ago: the original A Little Night Music with Hermione Gingold and Glynnis Johns in NYC (and re-seen 25 years later in L.A., with Glynnis Johns now playing the Hermione Gingold role); Tony Perkins in Look Homeward, Angel, in NYC, in about 1956; a memorable Alan Bates in an unmemorable play in London in the 1980’s; the premiere of Steve Reich’s Desert Music, at UCLA; a touring company of Hair in 1968 in L.A.  And imagine this: I saw Jerry Lee Lewis as Iago in a musical version of Othello with Richie Havens in the title role.  What could beat that? And on.  I visit them; I don’t need more places to visit; they are enough.

And yet.  There is a Scottish fiddler named Alasdair Fraser whom Ed and I first saw perform on Robert Burns’ birthday maybe 20 years ago in some community hall in Newport Beach or someplace like that in southern California.  He was just amazing and we got ourselves on his email list at some point and, as a result, we’ve seen him play 4 or 5 times, here and there.  The last time was in a church hall in West Vancouver maybe 3 years ago.  He’s gotten older, but his music is as wondrous and energetic and inspiriting as ever.  Last month, I got an email with his current performance schedule and saw that, although he was not playing anywhere near me, he was playing near the 18-year-old granddaughter at UC Berkeley.  I thought about flying down to see him and taking her with me to that concert.  But then I thought again.

Instead, I wrote her with the information, told her to buy two tickets and take a friend, and let me know the costs.   A dutiful girl, she did what her grandmother told her to do.  I sent her a check for the tickets and something to drink afterwards, and she and a friend from her English class went to the concert and loved it, and also asked, ‘do you have his CD’s?’  (Yes, all of them.)  She reported, among other things, that she and her friend were the only people there under the age of 50.  And she still liked it. 

 Couldn’t have been better if we’d gone with her.  In fact, it’s probably better than if we had gone with her.  Send a young person to a concert that they’d never get to on their own.  Share your own memories and attachments.  There ought to be a foundation that promotes that kind of activity.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh, Deer

The deer came in the early hours of the morning and ate not only all the tulip leaves (no buds on offer), but also all the crocuses--stems and flowers--and, for dessert, chose grape hyacinths. In eighteen years, I have never had the deer eat either croci or grape hyacinths. They did not eat the standard hyacinths this time, but perhaps only because said hyacinths had not yet gotten their leaves up above the piles of leaves on that bed. They did not eat the daffodils because they don't eat daffodils, but then, in my experience, they don't eat croci or grape hyacinths either. So, what's the good of learning from experience, if it doesn't work?

There is yet snow here on the Sunshine Coast, right in peoples' yards and driveways, but only up above the highway. We have no snow at our house, but we have deer, of course. And gray skies and temperatures in the low 40's. Everyone is feeling kind of down and what they talk about in relation to that is not the financial world but the weather, the lack of spring. Canadians here are particularly inclined to see some part of the world that is warmer in February, and then they return in March to the north, where at least it is not snowing. Now, they are thinking of revisiting the southerly parts of North America for a March session.

Maybe it's not the weather, though; maybe it is just that we all thought it would be better come January 22 (correction: January 21, says Ed), and now it isn't. And worse yet, we are going to have to hear about the X-million dollar contract that George Bush got to tell the world about his fabulous decision skills. It never rains but it pours...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some Friendly, Some Unfriendly Canadians

Today, in Calgary (which is in Alberta, where the Canadians keep their oil patch and their most conservative politicians), George Bush showed up to eat his first foreign lunch while giving a paid-for speech. The attendees (the previously-mentioned oil patchers) paid US$315 to listen to George tell about his struggles saving the free market during the recent and waning days of his reign. A couple of days ago, I read that George was charging $150,000/speech. So, to cover costs (and assuming George paid for his own airfare), there must have been about 500 people there for lunch. (Actually, there were 1,500, so maybe the Calgarians paid for his hotel room and airfare as well. Who would have thought God had undone so many, even in Calgary?)

Outside, according to the Calgary Herald, four hundred protesters threw shoes at the former would-be-monarch of the U.S. One lady brought a hand-made 'shoe cannon,' but the police refused to let her use it. Alas, four people were arrested during the demonstration/protest. It's quite clear that as long as Bush stalks the land--ours and theirs--there will be plentiful use for all those shoes we've been keeping in our closets: too good to send to the thrift shop, not good enough to wear, but absolutely perfect for throwing.

The Herald also mentioned that the costs for Bush's security during his visit would be paid for by the RCMP. Maybe the hosts could have charged a little extra to the oil patchers. After all, it was their party.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Being Prepared at the Lutheran Church

The local church (this picture was taken in March of 2005, and it looks like it was a much more kindly March than we are currently experiencing) has been designated a shelter in time of need by the Emergency Preparedness group here on the Point. Of course, one might expect that a local church would not need to be designated ‘a shelter in time of need,’ because that surely is its mission at all times. Nevertheless, it has this new particularity in that designation. Which is to say, should the world except for Point Roberts disappear, we can go there to experience light and heat and food and a place to lay our weary heads.

In order to provide this, however, the church needed more than spiritual resources; it needed a generator. So Lucy Williams has organized a series of fourteen or so concerts over the past two and into the next three months. They are held at the church, in the sanctuary, a sweet and simple room that holds maybe 150 people if sardined in. I like the space, even though I am not much of a churchgoer. What it lacks in mystery, it makes up for in sincerity. And it’s a nice place to hear a small ensemble perform.

This week, we dispensed with the more routine woodwind, string, or recorder groups, and were treated to a haiku poet, a modern composer/keyboardist, and a sumi-e (japanese brush) painter, all of whom were working, for the day, in haiku-like forms. About fifty people showed up, mostly in casual Friday attire, even though it was Sunday in Church. It is one of the charming qualities of Point Roberts that there is so little dressing range. I mean, there are gardening clothes and there are event clothes, but it isn’t a long trip from one to the other.

A lovely performance was had from all the performers, all of whom live in Point Roberts. In fact, most of the concerts are provided by local performers because there’s an awful lot of musicians, painters, poets, weavers, quilters, ceramicists, beadmakers, photographers, and general artists and general crafters living here, away from the commercial frenzy of the ROTUS. We could entertain each other, in one form or another, every weekend of the year, I suspect. Long past the need for generators. Maybe Lucy will need to become the Sol Hurok of Point Roberts…

Beware the Ides of March

What can be said about a day like today, listening to the rain coming down on the skylight, and then looking out the window to see that actually it is snowing. I am bewared, but the forsythia, just starting to open, is surprised, and the crocuses are fallen over in despair.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Signage and Signs

The Community events sign, after almost a year of talking, thinking, and planning has been made manifest this week, at least in an initial stage. The old sign was removed and the new 16-foot tall posts were erected and concrete was poured to set them in stone. There is yet to be a roof constructed and placed, and some kind of planting, and the actual sign itself placed. And there is a solar panel ready that will provide some lighting (though not so much in the winter because, of course, not so much sun).

It has been an extraordinary long time coming although, having attended one meeting a month for over a year, I can’t actually say why it took so long. Perhaps it is just that, as one of the occasional attendees said to me yesterday, “In Point Roberts, nothing happens fast.” But it has happened, and it has been designed to last a long time and will doubtless be well used.

It has required a lot of help, and it has received a lot of help, including cash donations from individuals and organizations (the Voters’ Association, Stanton Northwest Properties, and the P.R. Chamber of Commerce), and donations of materials, especially from Neilson’s Hardware (those 16-foot 8x8 posts weigh in at almost $400). So it truly has had support from many parts of the community.

And as for me? Well, life teaches you a lot of lessons, even when you don’t necessarily want to learn them, and this foray into community organizations has been that kind of lesson for me. I spent lots of years starting and developing ethics committees in hospitals and thought I knew something about working with a disparate group. But it never occurred to me that a group could exist that would have no particular membership, no clear purpose, and no particular commitment, other than to a single task. But it must exist because now the new sign does, and that means the Community Association must have been there to bring it into being. The new sign truly owes its existence to the small number of people who stayed with the task and the group throughout the months. The community owes them their thanks. And they taught me a lot, as well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One-Click Shopping on Hold

A friend today was regaling us with her tale of misadventures with Amazon.com and her credit card. She concluded—and summarized--this shaggy dog of a story in a despairing tone: “And now, I have no One-Click Shopping!” Perhaps the story of all of us, all over the world. We have run into a loss of our one-click shopping. And now what?

On one of the internet groups I belong to where you trade artist trading cards, the members were all announcing that they’re never going to buy any more art supplies, that they have enough to last them until their deaths, that all they are dealing in nowadays is real needs, not just wants. I felt like I had fallen into a group-therapy experience. Or maybe an AA meeting. There was a lot of confessing of bad behavior and promises never to do it again.

I look back at that long line of refrigerators at the local dump, all X-ed out (as if for execution as another friend noted), and wonder if they are there because of one-click shopping. Buying errors? “What was I thinking? How could I have bought a harvest gold/avacado refrigerator?” How indeed. Or are they all lined up there awaiting disposal because they failed to be sufficiently energy efficient for those who need to save the earth? How many new refrigerators could Point Roberts possibly need in, say, any given year? Surely not that many (the picture includes only half of the death row group).

This is all a very mysterious time, I think. I can’t at all make out whether we are all watching the end of the world as we know it, or a movie of the end of the world as we know it. Does our collective (Western) future hold the ocean at my doorstep, an ocean currently a half mile and 180 feet away from and below me? Or gasoline at $50/gallon? Or food riots? Or is it just that everyone will have to give up their private gym memberships and instead walk briskly around the block where the rest of us can look at them when they feel a need for movement? Cook something when they feel hungry rather than ordering out or going out to restaurants? What’s really there at the fork in the road ahead, just over the top of that hill? Can't see yet.

It is clear that there is a big up-tick in rentals here on the Point since Christmas; most of them long-term, not just before summer stuff. Many houses for sale at high prices, but the realtors are urging that people make offers, strongly implying that owners will accept considerably less than the stated price. I guess we will all get to stay tuned for this.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Daylight saving begins and leaves me surprised, as usual. It will be so light tonight at dinner time that I will not even believe it is time to cook dinner. However, even though daylight savings time has arrived, presumably because we have entered the vernal season, it does not feel like the vernal season. It feels still like winter and, yesterday, we were treated to high winds and a little snow, followed by hard sunshine and temperatures in the high thirties. Today, it is even colder, but we are spared the snow.

In honor of the reality—as opposed to this vernal fantasy--I was reading today about the bankruptcy of Iceland. It is not clear to me how a country becomes bankrupt (as opposed to a business or a person), nor what it is like when that happens. Presumably, the article on the topic in this week’s New Yorker is going to explain it to me. Alas, after an hour’s work on my part, I am informed as to how the banks all failed (pretty much the same as here), but not quite clear on how Iceland itself failed. (The New Yorker article may not be available on the net without a subscription.) (Update: Vanity Fair also has an article about Iceland's state of affairs, which is available without subscription. )

What I do discover, however, is how at least some Icelanders feel about living in a bankrupt country. Some, of course, are furious, and go out and march about with signs and demand that heads roll. Oh, where is the guillotine when you need one? But others, and in this I recognize some sparks of myself, think it is all for the best. They think that Iceland’s recent spree of easy money risked the loss of their basic character. Now, they can go back to being the kind of people we know, here in Point Roberts, are basic Icelandic stock. (Those of you from Away will recall that Point Roberts was originally settled (after the Native Americans/First Nations, of course) by Icelandic farmers who came here by way of Vancouver Island. The old families were Magnussons and Thorsteinsons and I suppose some Olafsdottirs, but I’ve never heard any ‘dottirs’ names in my local history reading.)

Says the New Yorker writer, as if it explains all, ‘there is talk of knitting.’ Ah, now we are talking business, character business. Icelanders are going back to knitting. I suppose that would be the ‘dottirs’ who are doing that, whereas the Icelandic men will be going back to their boats, where they engage in the partner word, ‘knotting.’ The New Yorker writer speaks of knitting here with some level of contempt, I fear, but also some level of understanding that knitting is the most basic of home-like things, a bed-rock of character activity.

In the days before steam engines and gas motors, girls and women of all ages, knit socks for their family, and knit socks to sell to others. It was like butter and egg money, the socks money. And hard earned in the way of time, since knitting a pair of the simplest kind of adult socks is something that takes about 8-10 hours, at least, even for an experienced knitter. I doubt if anybody paid a lot for women’s work, but they paid enough so that socks were not a disposable commodity as they are now. Folk had few pairs and when they wore out, people (again, mostly women) knew how to darn them. And they were darned regularly because they were valuable.

Valuing that which is basic to our lives: what a good idea! Perhaps that is what the Icelandic people are talking about as the something that they want to go back to. Sounds good to me, especially since I am myself a knitter. And a darner of socks, on occasion, as well. Perhaps with our Icelandic connections, Point Roberts could become the knitting capital of the newly bankrupt/newly restoring world. Perhaps that could be our economic development plan. We could have a slogan, ‘The community that knits together, fits together.’

A limiting factor, of course, is that we have no sheep. Goats, chickens, cattle, horses, burros: but no sheep. So, getting sheep could be the first step in launching both our economic development plans as well as our character restoration goals.

(Sterling Bank got down to penny stock territory this week, where it joined CitiGroup.)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Trash is on our minds again these days. According to the local paper, the most distressed parties to the current recycling/trash collection distress in Point Roberts are engaged in a mediation intervention under the guidance of a judge. And the parties would, I think, be Arthur (who is the current possessor of the trash/recycling license), the three P.R. complainants, and the County itself.

Arthur, I think, wants everyone in Pt. Roberts to have to be a part of the trash/recycling service. (Currently, it is dealer’s choice, and not enough of the dealers are choosing to be part of it.) The complainants want the County to take away Arthur’s license to handle the trash/recycling and, further, to award it instead to someone who will provide curbside recycling regardless of the universality of membership in that club. And the County, it would appear, just wishes that the whole thing would go away without its having to alter the ordinance that does not permit requiring everybody to participate monetarily in trash/recycling in rural areas. If the mediation doesn’t lead to something agreeable to the three parties, then the WUTC (the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission) will take the matter in hand later in the spring.

As it happens, we went out to the trash/recycling center (which is called either The Transfer Station or The Dump) to deliver unto it a large quantity of recycling that we had been gathering up over the weeks and months since Arthur’s company had ceased picking it up (on a bi-weekly basis). Plastic bottles, glass, tin cans, paper and cardboard are the stuff of recycling in this venue. I hadn’t been out there for several years and it had changed a lot. I don’t remember, actually, what it used to look like, but I don’t remember it looking like it currently does.

What you have is a large yard with abandoned refrigerators lined up on one side, and dumpsters of various sizes located in the center. You drive up a ramp arrangement and park your car. Then you take your recycling (or whatever you are taking to them) and put it in the appropriate area/container. The recyclables are in one area, and everything else is also in the central area slightly separated from the recycling part. There are signs explaining what goes where and how what is to be rendered before it goes where. The paper goes here, and the cardboard goes there, and the plastic bottles/tin cans/glass containers are dropped over the edge into a large dumpster. The sign says that the plastic bottles must have necks and that the plastic bottles must not have lids and that the plastic bottles must be flattened. The glass containers and the tin cans go in as God made them.

However, as you can see from the photo, the plastic bottles are often not flattened and their lids are still with them, the cardboard is not glass, metal, or plastic and thus is erroneously dumped: here, as in everywhere that humans function, directions are intended only for those who care about directions, a small and tedious bunch of people, one might assume.

More sorrowful than that, though, was the very sight of it all. As with the making of sausage and laws: you’ve got to see it happen before you can really know how much of a fan you want to be of the product. I remember suggesting to people who drink and drive about the advisability of spending a little late evening time in an urban emergency room before they pursue that activity. Just seeing all this stuff, all those refrigerators, all these bottles and cans and things, all this detritus. Not an uplifting sight with respect to the makers of all this after-material.

Two thoughts: (1) It’s not a particularly pleasant experience going to the dump and adding to the mass of material, but maybe that’s a good thing, in that it requires us, just a bit, to see what the dark side of a consumptive life looks like; and (2) It’s not a particularly pleasant experience but, as with pumping my own gasoline, I suppose I could get used to it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Orphans of the Storm

Everyone has his own private myth, of course, but I am coming to believe that perhaps towns, too, can have a personal myth: the story of how it came to be and why it its life is as it is. This is not about history or facts, of course, but about myth…the symbolic truth. It is the inner spiritual truth that explains all outward facts and signs.

I have never before lived in a small town that seemed to have a personal myth, but I can easily imagine that it is true of towns in the South; indeed, the whole South (as in the Confederacy) has a personal mythology that people often use to explain everything that happens there. But of that, I know nothing, personally. Of Point Roberts, perhaps more.

Here is what I think the Point Roberts myth is, at least what it is for some people. We—the residents of Point Roberts--are the children of royalty who abandoned us long ago, but who left us with many family resources. However, because we were thus made orphans, we were put rudely into a rude guardianship, and our guardian took charge of not only us but of many of our resources. Like orphans everywhere, we are badly treated: our roads are not plowed, our streets are not maintained, our ditches are not cleaned quickly enough, our water is mishandled, and our cruel guardian takes our money from us and instead of using it all to provide for our needs, uses it for its own nefarious needs.

We hope that someday, our royal parents will come back and set things right. But if, as is possible, our royal parents are now dead or—worse—imprisoned by our fearsome guardian, then we may have to rescue ourselves by developing an economic plan so stunning that we will be able to demonstrate once and for all that we are able to stand on our own, that we are the equal to (or even better than) our guardian, much more powerful, able, mano a mano, to win our freedom. And our economic development will be so stunning that we will be able to buy and sell our former guardian, and we will incorporate and no longer send our money or the Canadians' money away.

Suffice to say that I have recently been to another community meeting in which we sit around the campfire on a dark and stormy night and re-tell the oft heard tales of the cruel County. These tales focus primarily on the County’s never-ending desire to take from us our money in the form of taxes and to refuse to give us back, in kind, exactly the same amount of money. Thus does the cruel County demonstrate not only its cruelty but its failure to understand American democratic values (those who have a lot should pay a lot, but then they should get it all back so they won’t feel they’ve been treated unfairly).

And in addition, I am told, the County is refusing to repair the boat ramp in Lighthouse Park, which would mean that no longer would there be anywhere here to launch boats. End times? First Whalen’s Park disappears and now the boat ramp.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Dreams

Leaving the Sunshine Coast required us to leave the snow behind. Well, we did it, and I’m hoping to have that be the end of winter. Down in Pt. Roberts, it’s definitely more like spring than winter, but not a lot more. There are alpine primroses blooming in the garden and purple and yellow crocuses just starting to open. The daffodils have big buds. All the bushes are showing green buds and the hydrangeas actually have a few leaves out here and there. (Our house is in a primarily shady area because surrounded by tall trees, so it would be even more marked in the sunnier areas.) The community flower beds on the main street, Tyee, are showing little colored crocuses, though they are mostly pale lavender so not very showy.

This morning, the owners of undeveloped acreage several hundred yards from us decided that their property had way too many trees on it and brought in the machines to get rid of all those undesired trees. About a year ago, when the water situation was dire, the owner of the property put in a well as part of some kind of development plans, so I guess his plans are continuing, financial disaster all around us or not. He has hopes, I guess.

The local paper tells us that there are giant plans afoot to turn The Cannery into a Wickeninnish type of resort. The Cannery is over on the west side, on ocean-front property. The owner of that piece built it some 20 years or so ago with plans for it to become a wonderful Point Roberts institution. It had a restaurant and a bar and a dance place, as I understand it (this was before our time here). However, The Cannery has been dead empty for all the 14, 15 years we’ve been here, so I have assumed it to be another case of dreams going to die. It's not an abandoned house, but it's at least an abandoned dream. (The photo above of The Cannery was taken last summer.)

New dreams now arising there, though, with a hotel, spa, bakery, restaurant, and organic garden all planned. It depends, first of all, on getting various kinds of zoning cleared up with the county (never an easy task), and second on attracting a clientele. There’s this great conviction that there are rich people who would are just longing to come to Point Roberts if only there were someplace for them to stay once they got here.

I’m dubious about this, largely because Pt. Roberts isn’t dramatic enough for rich people. Too small, too confined, too ordinary, in a sense. The Wickeninnish Inn is located on the west/ocean side of Vancouver Island, in an old and established area. The area is dramatic. The hotel is built on the rocks of the beach, and the storms from the ocean bring these crashing waves right up to rooms. The waves whip up dramatically for your entertainment. When the storms stop, you can walk for miles down a gorgeous, long, flat beach with ocean forever around you. And there’s a lovely little town with all kinds of native art and other little shops: it’s like Carmel, kind of. By contrast, here in Point Roberts, we don’t have those kind of storms because we’re not facing the open ocean, we've got a narrow, flat, short beach, and the view from The Cannery is of a lot of islands, of the marina to the south and of the B.C. Ferry terminal to the north. It doesn’t feel wild, dramatic, historic, or romantic in the way that Tofino does. And the town is pretty minimal.

But, people will have dreams. And good luck with them. I hope that the people with dreams also have financing. One does wonder whether the smart money is putting its money on developing fancy resorts right now. That Saudi Prince who sank $20 billion (or something like that) in Citigroup last fall might be wanting a cool and rainy spot to put up his feet and think about his losses. And he’s probably still got a few billion around looking for a home.