hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keeping One's Eye on Whatever

I’ve never been very good at watching sports like football where the ball is small and is moved around quickly and where everybody pretends to be holding/hiding it. I’m always surprised to find that the ball is in some other part of the field than where I had thought it was. But, I have always thought that in real life my ball spotting skills are somewhat better. Apparently not so much.

This past week, while I was fretting about the potential demise of Sterling Bank, what was actually demising was the Point Roberts trash collection business. A letter went out to all the residents a day or so ago announcing that, as of June 30, the owner was turning in his curbside trash collecting certificate (this certificate permits him to have a monopoly practice) and would henceforth settle in to tending the transfer station to which we are free to cart our trash and recyclables, although not, presumably, for free.

Well, this has been a long time coming and it’s not that I didn’t think this conclusion was a possibility, but rather that I thought it wouldn’t happen quite this soon. According to the owner, he is calling it quits because it is not feasible to keep trying to conduct the business and also to engage in the drawn out regulatory and legal issues that have arisen between him, the county, the state commission, and some residents. According to the June issue of the All Point Bulletin, a County Judge has ordered him to provide extensive information about the business (including maintenance records for his trucks), and the WUTC said it was conducting a financial audit. (This newspaper account was written before the decision to throw in the towel.)

Well, we are all engrossed in considerations of the appropriate role of empathy these days because of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, and a charge of excessive demands from bureaucracies is likely to elicit such empathy. Who knows, however, where truth, justice, or high moral tone lies in all this. Certainly I don’t. It’s very difficult to know anything about such issues without a willingness to look through and analyze carefully a lot of information, and information is not always readily available, even in these days of the google and all it offers. But even if it were available, it might be that there are very different views about what are the important issues, what outcomes are being sought, and what is the point of the dispute. What we do know, however, is that after months and months of discussion and charges and countercharges, of litigation and mediation, of hearings proposed and conducted, is that we no longer have either garbage pickup service or recyclable pickup service.

My sense of this is that we are worse off than we were, but also that we are back where we were ten years ago, so no worse off than we used to be. Maybe we can just conclude that ‘No Harm, No Foul’ is the applicable judgment. And, with Obama, we can be ‘Looking Forward, Not Backwards.’ If only I was sure where the ball actually is. Or was. Or even will be.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I’m generally supportive of the border agents' intolerance toward bringing rooted plants back and forth over the border.  I think of all that bind weed and all that herbe robert in my garden and I truly would not want anyone to be accidentally taking it up to British Columbia.  The trouble, though, is that the plants have their own route, their own ideas about where to grow.  I already have both bindweed and herbe robert up in my B.C. gardens, although not anywhere to the extent that they are in the Point Roberts garden, and I am not the agent of transmission.  Birds, I think.  In fact, the major bindweed infestation in my Canadian garden seems to be seriously slowing down after the neighbors very judiciously exercised their Round-Up option.  And I can keep the herbe in check with hand weeding every so often.

The Point Roberts Garden Club is finding its own invasion problems in the Tyee Drive flowerbeds that its members have so generously planted for all our visual delectation, but with horsetail, which I am pretty sure is a native, rather than a noxious weed.  We have it around in both properties, but it mostly grows in the grassy areas rather than in the planted ones so I have a live and let live relationship with it.  It is a plant that, I am told, dates back to the dinosaurean age, and it certainly looks like it. “[It is] the only living representative of the very ancient and primitive class Sphenopsida, tree-sized members of which were prominent in the land vegetation of the Carboniferous era (353-300 million years ago." It is a very elemental kind of plant, but it is infesting their flower beds and they have called for the community to come out and help them get rid of it next Tuesday.  I’m interested in joining them if only to find how you get rid of it.  In my experience, it just breaks off at the soil line, its dinosaur brain planning well for its future growth.

Yet another plant that is growing all over my yard this year is the lunaria plant.  I am seriously hoping that it is not invasive because I planted it myself with full intention.  A few years ago, there were two volunteer lunaria plants and I saved the seeds and planted them and soon there were very many lunaria plants.  I remember them from childhood.  They were a feature of cottage gardens and because of their strange seed pods and their in some ways even stranger name, they caught your attention.  The Latin name is lunaria (from luna, the moon), but I knew them as ‘silver dollar plants.’  They also go by the name ‘honesty’ and ‘money plants,’ and Wikipedia tells me they are known in Holland and Denmark as ‘Judas’ Coins’ and somebody else says they are also called ‘moonwort’  (‘wort’ means ‘plant’ or ‘herb).  How can a plant be named both ‘honesty’ and ‘Judas’s coins’?  

They bloom early in the spring of their second year with beautiful red violet flowers on stalks and then within about 6 weeks, they begin to form the ‘silver dollars’, many of them on a stalk, and each of which holds several seeds.  The dried pod comes in the early fall and lasts everlastingly; a big vase of them is in my kitchen window, shining silver in the sun.  And if this plant turns into a problem plant, I’m going to be seriously disappointed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Timing the Market

Much talk in the news about glimmers of improvement and the green shoots to be seen here and there. My plan for starting my future investment career was to buy 1,000 shares of our local Sterling Bank if it ever got to a dollar or below/share. And, although it did get very close to that--$1.03, I think, was the bottom so far—it did not meet my timing requirement and so I did not invest in bank shares. Alas, had I done so in early March when it got down very near a dollar, I would now have quadrupled my investment. Of course, because I was going to buy only 1,000 shares, I would have profited only $3,000. I think getting rich probably requires something more than penny stocks, $1,000, and a quixotic timing strategy. By contrast, many have recently found that losing a lot of money doesn’t require much of anything at all by way of strategy.

Sterling (and, to a lesser extent, Banner bank) continue to interest me, though. Sterling was around $9 in January, and now it is $4.33. About a month ago, it surged ahead of Citibank, and has managed to stay ahead, and everybody says that Citibank is insolvent. So the market seems to know that Sterling is better off than Citibank/Citigroup, but then that’s not saying much.

In any case, it may still be too early to give up my dreams of penny stocks. According to the academic economics blog ‘Calculated Risk’ (May 19) ‘Commercial real-estate loans’ (which are the real problem for small banks) “could generate losses of $100 billion by the end of next year at more than 900 small and midsize U.S. banks if the economy's woes deepen, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. . . ..Total losses at those banks could surpass $200 billion over that period “

And today, according to the same source, “the FDIC released the Q1 Quarterly Banking Profile today. The FDIC listed 305 banks with $220.0 billion in assets as “problem” banks in Q1, up from 252 and $159.4 billion in assets in Q4.” That’s 305 banks out of the ‘900 small and midsize U.S. banks.’ And to add to Sterling Financial’s woes: the Fitch Rating Service downgraded the corporation ten days ago: Outlook, Negative.

Those green shoots now…where were they spotted?

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Multi-Purpose Future

The saving of Lily Point from development has been a big source of good feelings here in Pt. Roberts over the last year. Well, maybe the would-be developers weren’t so happy, but they have plenty of other things to be unhappy about and the idea that their ostensibly developable property is bounded by a park can’t be a bad thing. Well, not exactly a park, more a marine reserve. And therein lies a tale, I’m afraid.

Last week, the P.R. Historical Society announced a meeting to have a discussion between and among various interested parties, including the Historical Society, the Nature Conservancy, the County Parks people, and P.R. residents as to the plan to remove the pilings, metal debris, and other sources of shoreline evidence of the historical APA Cannery from Lily Point. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend, but here's how Meg Olson described some of the commentary from the recent first anniversary celebration of the County’s acquisition of the land in the All Point Bulletin:

“Some relics of the Alaska Packers Association remain, from lilac trees planted around the long-gone manager’s house, to the old water tank and remaining pilings. Bean said less obvious relics told the story of a more ancient and long-lived tribal fishery that thrived at Lily Point for generations before being displaced by the cannery and the fish traps.

“The cannery came in 1917 and they chose this location because they could see the native peoples were making quite a haul here. Sadly they disrupted how things had been for a very long time,” Bean said.”

Here’s what the Nature Conservancy’s Spring issue of Washington Wildlands said about the same topic: ‘The Conservancy plans to work with the Whatcom County parks department and other partners to restore the site, including removal of pilings, slag, and debris from the tidelands so they’ll no longer impede the sediment from reaching the beaches of Lily Point and western Boundary Bay. Ultimately, Whatcom County Parks will manage the site for recreation and conservation.’’

What we’ve got here, I suspect, is several different ideas about what the Lily Point acquisition was/is about. For some, it was preserving forested land from development; for some it was providing additional recreation facilities; for some it was restoring an ecological system. For some, it included preserving important historical and cultural phenomena. I doubt very seriously that Governor Gregoire or Whatcom County cared at all about preventing development in Point Roberts, per se, or preserving historical markers of the APA Cannery. I suspect that County and State marine biologists are largely motivated by the idea that they will now be able to “restore” the ecology of some tiny part of Puget Sound. I think this might require some careful working out of different and--one might hope—ultimately overlapping agendas.

Here are some pictures of the pilings remaining from the APA Cannery at Lily Point. It’s hard to imagine that the pilings themselves, none of them very large after almost a hundred years, constitute some major impediment to Puget Sound’s integrity, though. I guess that’s my opening position.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Border as Canadians See It?

Here is an article from the Toronto Star on how the Canadians see the U.S. border. Also note the comments. (Thanks to Miep for the link.)

Nature: Tooth, Claw, and Otherwise

We’ve been watching an endless series of DVD’s from the BBC called “Planet Earth.” It’s the wonders of nature, but particularly (at least in this set) of things you are never going to see except in this format. Last night’s run was on caves, including the deepest cave in the U.S., discovered only about 20 years ago in the area of Carlsbad Caverns, and called ‘Lechuguilla.’ I’d never heard of it, even though I've been to the Caverns, but that doesn’t mean anything because caves are not my strong point. Scary as it would be for me to be in it, it’s certainly a pleasure, though, to watch it through the eyes of these cameramen (and they all seem to be men). A nice feature of this set of ‘Blue Planet’ is that it includes a segment about how they actually manage to do the photography.

So this comes as a strong recommendation for the sights of this DVD series, except: there’s always an ‘except,’ I suppose. Alas, what it also has is a truly tedious ‘concept’ and script emoted by the actor David Attenborough. It is very, very strong on ‘the little birdies/baby seals/ whatevers are so cute and now (cue the scary music) here come the vicious hawks/polar bears/large carnivores of some kind to make everything sad.’ I imagine Mr. Attenborough and the producers of the series reading/writing this crap while eating a nice roast beef sandwich. And not noticing the irony.

But, in light of the ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ that seems to animate their thinking, I am contemplating, of course, the same nature in my nature/garden, although not so red usually. Yesterday, we discovered the limp/waxy body of an Oregon Salamander caught in the pump of the small pond that Ed has constructed on our B.C. property. I’m sorry this happened, of course, but I am also reminded that this all flows in two directions: the bear breaks up the compost barrel, the slugs eat all the seedlings, the raccoons keep us up in the night, and we are the indirect cause of salamander deaths. I don’t know how to calculate equivalences here, but, unlike the BBC, I think I understand that this mostly happens without intentionality and doesn’t call for high drama or high drama music or even careful ethical analysis. Just awareness that we don’t live together easily and need to develop behaviors/habits/responses that acknowledge this and try to minimize the damage to both parties.

On the other hand, perhaps the move of humans to the city has so removed them from this natural two-way flow that they no longer really believe in it, no longer contemplate that, e.g., when your government conducts a war somewhere, people and animals of other kinds are all likely to be truly, deeply injured. For us, though, perhaps it is time to get some kind of fine wire-mesh cage to put around the pond pump? And a bank vault for the compost; ought to be one those on E-Bay nowadays.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Great Expectations

Last year, the local hardware store had weedeaters on sale.  I got to talking with my neighbor about them, and she said she found them very useful but she didn’t currently have one that she could use.  (Her husband had one that was too heavy for her).  So, we decided to go in as partners on a light-weight, inexpensive weedeater.  And we did, but the hardware store had to back order it and by the time it actually arrived we were into the fall and rain and there didn’t seem all that much point in using it.  And then she unexpectedly moved away and delivered it unto me last fall as a parting gift.  I now appear to be the sole owner of this joint enterprise.

Never out of its box, it perched through the fall and winter on a shelf in the gardening shed.  I thought about it occasionally this spring, but I really didn’t feel like figuring out how it worked.  How could she have just moved away and left me on my own with this problem?  That seemed the right response to it.

However, yesterday, I decided to take on the learning challenge because there are lots of little flower garden areas in my yard that are bordered with bricks and the wild grasses in front of them get quite tall and are hard to pull up by hand because their roots are so dense.  The WeedEater would surely be the tool to address this problem.  So I found the box, opened it, read the instructions, largely to find that there aren’t many instructions except to wear safety glasses and high boots.  I have safety glasses but I don’t own high boots so I just had to assume I could pay attention to where I was putting my feet.

I put the two parts together after studying the picture on the front of the box for awhile.  I read that I am to move from right to left, although left to right seems more natural for me.  I got out the long extension cord and, while plugging it into the machine, managed accidentally to turn it on.  No damage, though, because I was watching my feet from behind my safety glasses (instead of watching where I was putting my hand).

Undaunted, I rearranged it and me and intentionally turned it on.  I moved it from right to left, and all the very wet grasses leaned over and kind of flopped into the flower bed behind the brick edging.  Not so much cut as bruised.  Somehow, I had thought this would work more like a vacuum cleaner with a knife edge; that I would kind of push it along next to the brick edging and everything on this side of the brick edging would fall toward me.  Apparently not.  And the noise.  That had not even occurred to me.

I kept at it for awhile: tried it in a few other places with different weeds and managed, inadvertently, to cut down two rose campion plants.  Cut them very neatly, I might add.  Maybe this is not so much a grass/weed eater as a flower stalk/weed eater.  I think I need to have a weed eater wizard demonstrate his/her skills so that I could figure out what this is supposed to be good for.  And if there is any way it could do it a little more quietly.  And I am not even going to talk about the manufacturer’s idea that I am going to be cleaning out the underside of the ridge-sculpted shield, then washing it with detergent to remove thoroughly all traces of the grass paste that is permanently attached to the plastic, not forgetting to dry it with a soft cloth.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News Travels

The weather has been terrific these past few days so we’ve been investing as much of our time as we are physically capable of investing (there has been a crisis there, as well as in the financial markets) in getting the garden up for the summer. Some seed and plantlet planting and transplanting, but mostly (still) just clearing out all the weeds/undesired plants that have made a nuisance (from my perspective) of themselves over the past eight weeks. Ed has had the pruning saw at hand for days, not least because we had a tall maple die over the winter and, because its barren branches are close to the house, it needs to move on to its next life/death cycle station, which would be firewood.

Much of the yard/garden is to be admired already. Not my good work, but its own. The rhododendrons and azaleas are moving in from where the tulips and daffodils and croci and lunaria left off. The lilacs are perfuming the air around. This is really the peak time for flowering in the northwest. The raspberries, too, have joined the move to excellence, and both patches are tall and covered with buds. I’ve replaced their ropes and added new stakes where needed. Only yesterday, I was saying to myself that the side yard raspberry patch (which has terrific natural water flow and excellent sun) was looking better than it ever has.

Such hubris, of course, does not go unnoticed, even if you don’t bother to say it out loud. Thoughts, like words, get around. This morning, I went by that raspberry patch on my way to somewhere else and found that the tops of all the plants around the outer perimeter had been eaten off, including those darling little berry buds. Deer through in the early morning, I’d guess. A nice breakfast.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Give Me Money, Please

Point Roberts seems to be suddenly and desperately in need of money. Toward the end of last month, there was a dinner with an auction sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce to raise money for the 4th of July parade. We’ve had a July 4th parade every year that I’ve been here, but I don’t recall that anybody ever raised money for it previously. It’s been getting a little less impressive every year for the past four years, I’d guess, so maybe money will take the place of lack of participant enthusiasm. Hard to know. In the years long gone when we had fireworks, there used to be a jar to put change in at the USA gas station to pay for them. But that didn’t work either and so we haven’t had fireworks for years.

This month, there was an auction to raise money for Lily Point. Today, there was a flea market at the Cannery (now to be known, apparently, as Pier Point or maybe Pierpoint—I’m not sure which—but why they are playing on the name Pierpont I can’t imagine) to raise money for the ‘Dollars for Scholars’ program which gives money at graduation to kids from here who are going on to college.

Unfortunately, there was another flea market two or three months ago to raise money for the Emergency Preparedness Program (to sustain us in the case of tsunamis or whatever else the universe has in store for us on this rather susceptible and easily isolated peninsula). It is probably the case that we have enough stuff to stock a flea market every week, but I don’t know whether there are enough buyers to make the stocking up worthwhile. I dropped by both events. The earlier one had an awful lot of stuff left over ten minutes before closing, and today’s didn’t have a large clientele at just before noon today when it as almost over, although others told me there were lots of people there in the morning.

Within the next few weeks, we have another auction+dinner to raise money for the Food Bank. And the Lutheran Church sponsors a concert almost every week in order to raise money for a generator for the aforementioned disaster. There’s some kind of on-going attempt to raise money to get a lighthouse for Lighthouse Park, and it’s possible that there’s a third parcel of Lily Point that somebody is raising money to buy. Doubtless more that I am not remembering, but it’s a lot of fund raisingfor a small place.

All good projects, but it’s beginning to seem like the world’s least efficient way to raise money. Maybe they could have one of those dinners where you pay not to go. I appreciate the idea that these are expressions of community, but if the community was so anxious to demonstrate support for these community projects, maybe they could just put up the money directly without having to have an event to go with it. How did ‘Community Chest’ work in Monopoly? Can we have one of those?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Everything's on the Internet

I wrote to my 12-year-old granddaughter the other day to ask her what a ‘goo-goo cluster’ might be. Somebody on a radio program referred to it and it sounded like some kind of Southern food in the program's context. So I asked her because she lives in southern Missouri, which is more southern than northern, I suspect, and because her father comes from North Carolina and is a genuine southerner by upbringing. I figured, one way or the other, she ought to know about ‘goo-goo clusters.’

She wrote me back promptly, saying, ‘haven’t a clue, but Wikipedia says,” and she went on to describe some candy item with marshmallows, peanuts, and chocolate, invented in Tennessee, and advertised as ‘a meal in a bar.’ I’m not familiar with that meal, but maybe in the south they have an extra one that’s just candy. If so, good for them.

The thing is, I didn’t even think to google the ‘goo-goo clusters,’ although you’d think the name alone might have suggested it. But everything is apparently there--even dumb candies--and with a history.

Today, a guy called Ed (on what we now refer to as our land line) and was leaving a message with a phone number that started with 714. ‘Isn’t that Orange County?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he replied, but now everything’s on the Internet.’ His company as well as goo-goo clusters.

Not to mention commerce. Today I also picked up a package from the post office which contained 400 grams of gorgeous mohair yarn. I bought it on E-Bay and it came to me via Turkey. I paid a total of $8.00 for the yarn and $9.00 for the postage, and the interlude between purchase and delivery into my hands was under a week. At a yarn store, that amount of mohair would have cost me something like $45-$60, but of course I wouldn’t have had to wait even a week. For that kind of discount, I can wait. But still, life on the internet. Simple commerce has changed so radically and so quickly that it’s just impossible to imagine what happens next.

I had to travel to Bellingham to see the eye doctor yesterday. In the future, I’m hoping to just see him on the internet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I’m not sure that I have a farmers’ temperament. I’m not sure that I actually know what it is, insofar as I’ve not known any real farmers since I was a teenager, and even then I just knew them in passing—someone’s dad. Reading novels gives me the idea that they are patient, enduring, adaptable, and accepting because their occupation is uncontrolled by them and uncontrollable by them. It usually rains after you plant seeds, but some years you plant the seeds, they germinate, and then you have a flood and they’re all washed away. Or there is no rain and they all dry up and blow away. I grew up in a high desert where there wasn’t much water and where winter wheat was the main crop. If you were going to grow something else, you had to irrigate. And that was before those big irrigation pipes that make the crop circles you see when you fly over southern Idaho, Utah, and parts of Colorado.

As a result, I’m an unlikely farmer in the Northwest where there is essentially too much rain and too little sun for my kind of crop farming. Mostly, I don’t do much growing of edibles because our schedule is too variable for me to take care of them. But when we bought the house next door, it came with a full farm—or maybe farmette: 3 apple trees, 3 plum trees, 2 pear trees, a huge cherry tree, 1 walnut tree, 1 fig tree, a grape vine, and a pecan tree. The last three don’t do anything reliably, but the apples, plums, cherries and pears provide us with a lot of fruit most years.

This year, though, I’m a little concerned and thinking about patience, endurance, and acceptance. Normally, the cherry tree starts first, blooming in the second or third week of April, quickly followed by the plums, and then the pears and finally the apples. There’s some overlap, but the entire process usually ends by mid-May. And with that length of time, there's bound to be at least one of the crops that gets terrific weather when it needs the bees. This year, though, it all happened at once, but not until the first week of May. And now, the cherry is already finished and the apples are going to be getting to that point within the week.

Fortunately, it started with sun, but by the time every tree was in full flower, it started raining, it got cold, and there was no sign of a bee for four days at least. It’s still too early to tell whether there was any pollination, but the cherries don’t look too promising. Here’s where I demonstrate my patience. By next week, I suspect I will be working on acceptance. And by August I’ll be full into endurance and looking to neighbors with different varieties who had different conditions than we did and thus have some fruit to share.

Nevertheless, a cherry tree in bloom, an apple tree in bloom, a pear tree , a plum tree in bloom: very close to being as much as you can reasonably ask for from a plant. How's that for adaptability?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Gift

Mother’s Day here on the Point was celebrated with a tea at the Community Center which was sponsored by the Senior Center Group. They did it last year, too, as I recall, and it was well attended and so repeated this year. I was over at the library when the organizers brought in a raft of beautiful flower centerpieces. Of course, that’s the beauty of Mother’s Day; i.e., the date. It comes with the best flowers of the year. Ironically, the organizers of the tea were, for the most part, mothers old enough that they're likely to be without mothers of their own. Maybe their purpose in organizing the tea was to ensure that their children would have someplace reasonable to take them.

In any case, it’s a truly strange holiday, I think. I have passed way beyond any need to think about it or celebrate it. My own mother has been dead for almost a decade, and even when she was alive, there wasn’t much ado about it for her; not at least once we had all left home. A phone call, perhaps. My own three children usually call or write on Mother’s Day, but we all call or write each other frequently, so it does tend to feel like a ceremonial or symbolic event where, instead of the customary conversation, we talk at great length about the weather in order to make it feel different.

On the other hand, when my kids were little, Mother’s Day had a goofy kind of charm, as the kids made cards or cooked breakfast or wrote a poem: did something, provided a kind of gift--if not the kind that Hallmark was planning for--that rose above the daily-ness of our lives. And, of course, that’s what ends up being the problem of rising income in a society that is very insistent upon the need to give gifts for a great variety of occasions. How do you manage to give someone something they want when, if they wanted it, they would already have just gone out and bought it? They already have what they want. That’s the pleasure of being solidly middle class. Oh, there’s always a month in Tahiti or a 6 karat diamond or something that someone might vaguely long for but doesn’t expect ever to get, and you are not likely to be buying it for them on Mother’s Day in any case.

So, I’m grateful that we’ve gone past the presents and if they lived here, I think I’d have been spared going out for tea (although perhaps not for dinner). When they were little, they’d always say, ‘When are we going to have Kids’ Day?’, and I would routinely reply, ‘Well, every day is kids’ day!” And they would groan. But I would now have to tell them that actually, every day is mother’s day. Every day I think about them out there in the bigger world that I am now far away from; wonder what they are doing and thinking, imagine their lives from the inside by thinking about my own life when I was their age. They are the novel I am always reading, always thinking about, always wondering how it will all come out. Not to mention that they are the three most interesting people I’ve ever known. Known them all their lives, and they’re still in large part a mystery to me. As it should be. That’s a Mother’s Day gift I am happy to have.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Border Letter

It’s been several weeks since the border meeting here in Pt. Roberts and I’ve finally decided that I want to write a letter to Ms. James, who is the CBP Field Office Director for a large region including Pt. Roberts; the one who came with her large contingent to meet with us here in P.R. By now, of course, she has probably lost track of the meeting at which she had to listen and we got to talk. Well, maybe not. But I imagine that as cranky as we are here, we are yet only a very small potato on her plate.

But, the thing is, I want to write to her about things that she has no control over, so it doesn’t really matter whether she is thinking of us while we (or at least I) am thinking of her. Not going to change because they are things that nobody in the government could possibly care about. There are three of these things.

First, is the name of the Nexus Program. I don’t mind that it is called the Nexus Program (just as I didn’t care that the previous program was called the Pace Program). Both are largely meaningless names so neither provoked much response from my lizard brain. However, when she and her colleagues refer to it as the “Trusted Traveler Program,” the lizard goes into full enraged mode. It is NOT a Trusted Traveler Program. It is a Distrusted Traveler Program. After all, if they are routinely checking to see whether people with Nexus Cards are bringing nuclear warheads into the country, we can’t really be thinking that they trust us, can we? And when they ask us where we are going when we come to Point Roberts and they have our name and address right in front of them, but they need to see whether we sound guilty...well, I think they don't trust us. They need either to use the latter name when referring to it so that we all know where we stand , or they need to stop using ANY name other than the Nexus Program. I urge the second choice.

Second is also something of a language issue. Ms. James and her colleagues should stop telling the public to understand that, in the difficult work lives of her many CBP minions, said minions are occasionally liable to be having a bad day. It is not that I don’t want to or can't understand that, it is just that I don’t want to hear about how understanding I should be. Well, I don’t want to hear about it unless they are also willing to understand that occasionally the Nexus Card holder may also be having a bad day: the kind of day wherein they forget to notice that their spouse or child or grandchild has left something in the back seat of the car that shouldn’t be there when crossing the border. The thing is, when I have a bad day, I am likely to lose my Nexus Card; when the CBP folks have a bad day, I am likely to lose my Nexus Card. There’s something there that suggests we don’t have the kind of level playing field that would encourage my sympathy for their bad days.

The third and last is more of a process issue. Apparently, from all the stories I have heard from people who have lost their Nexus Cards, the individual CBP agents standing in their little booths are allowed to look you over and decide whether you have offended them sufficiently with your lettuce head or grandchild’s sweater and then confiscate your Nexus card on the spot. That seems to me a whole lot like letting the beat cop send you directly to prison without his first having to go through some tiresome legal process. I believe Lewis Carroll already caught the Red Queen in that maneuver: ‘Off with their Nexus Cards!” Sentence first, verdict later. Maybe better if they recommend, but somebody else makes the actual decision after thinking about it for more than five minutes.

That’s what I’m writing to Ms. James about.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Birds of a Feather

In our yard each spring, we see nuthatches, juncos, goldfinches, house finches, chickadees, pine siskins, flickers, spotted towhees, brown creepers, sapsuckers, hairy woodpeckers, swallows, bald eagles (only very rarely actually in the yard, but they sometimes settle into one of our tall trees for short periods of time), two kinds of hummingbirds, winter wrens, and probably some others that I’ve forgotten for the moment. But our primary spring bird is the robin. They arrive early and stay late. And they nest and nest and nest, which the others must do, too, but I rarely see their nests. The robins, by contrast, build their nests where we can see them.

For several years, I had a robin who came back each year and built a nest just outside the door to my quilt workshop. She usually had two clutches of three babies each spring, and one year drew it on into the summer with a third one. She didn’t come back last year. But her last nest is still their awaiting anyone who wants it. Another Point Roberts abandoned house.

That robin, like most of our robins, has a bird brain. Which is to say that she has a perfectly good plan for her life’s work but it rests on an unquestioned assumption. Her belief is that the biggest threat in the world to her and her chicks is Ed and me. And because we are so dangerous, these lady robins build their nests right by our back door or the workshop door or the orchard house door so that the moms can keep a close eye on us. Which means that every single time we come in or out of the door, she has to fly up in a panic out of the nest and fling herself over to the over side of the yard so we won’t be thinking that there are babies in the nests and thus we won’t be going to eat them.

Since we are not interested in eating either her or the babies, her life would be a lot easier if she just calmed down and entertained the idea that we are the best friends she has ever had. But we’ve never had a nesting robin that thought that until this year. This new and improved robin set up her nest in the middle of the orchard, in a plum tree, and about 7 feet from the ground. It is right in the pathway of our trek back and forth from the little house to the orchard house, so we pass by her constantly. But, she is not interested in us; she is not concerned about us; she does not think we are going to eat her or her children. Maybe it is just that it takes robins 15 or 16 years to begin to trust people.

In any case, she’s got three little ones out there now and Ed photographed them this morning. He climbed up on a ladder to get this picture and they didn’t even look up. And she didn’t rush back from wherever she’d gone that moment to collect the worm breakfast.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Big Trash Day

The Canadians have an event that I’ve never experienced anywhere in the U.S. where I’ve lived: Big Trash Day (although I don’t suppose that is it’s official name, but it’s how people I know refer to it). On Big Trash Day, which happens only one time each spring, you are allowed to put out some amount of big things (washing machines, couches, chairs, 4,000 plastic plant pots, etc.) and have it taken away by the trash collection department at no extra charge. You get to put it out several days in advance of the pick-up and everyone roams around to see if there’s anything they want to haul away in advance of the trash collection. It’s a pretty funny event, just seeing what is being thrown out and what is being carted off in advance.

Here in Pt. Roberts, we don’t have a Big Trash Day because, more or less, every day is Big Trash Day. Here, anyone can take some large item out and leave it near his/her house and next to the road in hopes that someone else will want such object and the original owner will not have to pay to get it to and in the dump collection. When I was last here, thirteen days ago, there was what appeared to be an old-time xerox copier sheltering in a blue tarp a block or so away. Haven’t been down there yet to see whether it’s found a new home (either someone’s house or the dump), though it’s hard to imagine who needs an old xerox machine that handles both letter and legal sized paper. Certainly no one had needed it during the two weeks I was here in April.

We don’t do much of this large disposing but about a year ago we did find ourselves with an oversized mirror in a horse-shoe-shaped wooden frame that we neither needed or liked (it came with the house). Eventually, during a spate of good weather, we put it out by the road and after a few days were pleased to see that it had disappeared. Good work! It had found a place in the world.

Today, Ed was out making a bed delivery (explanation below) and when he returned found that that horse-shoe (not exactly good luck here) mirror was returned to the place by the road where it had originally been put out…a year ago. It had not been there when he left to deliver the bed, a task that had not involved more than twenty minutes. Nearby was parked a car and a woman in the car. There aren’t any other houses right there, so it’s hard to know what she was doing other than unloading the mirror. Ed pulled in, engaged in a little conversation with her in which she nervously noted that she had been driving by and seen the mirror and was looking it over but thought it was too big for her use. Ed was pretty sure she had just unloaded the mirror, not least because her ‘driving by’ involved leaving by making a u-turn. Well, if so, there’s a lady who doesn’t understand the Pt. Roberts-style Big Trash Day.

Ed was delivering a bed to someone who had announced (on Point Interface, the local email list for residents) their need for such a bed for a visiting relative. We had a couple of extra ones up in our Canadian house, so he contacted the needer and arranged to bring it down with us today (atop our car). I hope this person understands the rules, though, because I surely don’t expect to have that bed turn back up at our house once the relative has returned to whence he or she came from.

And should anyone out there need a horeshoe-shaped-mirror with a wooden frame, get in touch. Better yet, just drive by and pick it up.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

All About Me

This past week has pretty much been totally devoted to getting this 'featured artist' quilt show exhibit up and running. The Sunshine Coast Quilt Guild has been around for many years and currently has maybe 150 members. I’ve belonged to it for about 14 years and most of the people I know on the Coast I met through the quilt groups so doing an exhibit with and for that show is like playing for the home crowd. On the other hand, these are people who have watched my work over the years so they’re not easy to impress. Of course, most of the people who come to the show are not quilters, but people who like to see quilts and don’t need to be wooed. My job this week is to get my quilts up and then to spend a few hours each day keeping them company and talking to people who come through.

The space for my exhibit turned out to be different from what the planners had expected and totally adequate. This part of the show (there are two venues, one in downtown Sechelt and one a few miles north), is in a big Catholic church hall, and includes about 80 quilts plus my twelve. The other venue is smaller, and includes another 40 or so quilts plus a group of wearable art jackets.

Hanging my quilts turned out to be very problematic and if Ed had not been there to help me, I think I would have just turned around with my quilts and gone home. But he was there and he did hang them, although it took him 4 hours to do it. The space is open, about 20 feet long on the back side, and ten feet each at the two ends. There are five quilts along the long wall (the ‘autobiographical quilts’) and two political ones at one end and five more at the other. In the middle, there’s a small table where I preside or something while I’m there.

I’m not entirely comfortable talking to strangers, but there are enough old friends and acquaintances who come by as well, that my anxieties are kept at a reasonable level. Mostly, people are taken by the humor of the pieces which they don’t expect in quilts. Most people make the effort to say something to me, if only to say that they like the pieces or that they admire the effort required for such work, and many want to know what compelled me to make them. Indeed, more want to know that than want to know how I achieve particular effects, which was a little surprising because quilters are often most interested in technical matters.

The quilts like all being together, I think, because it rarely happens: I don't, alas, live in a house with museum-type wall space. I’m happy because I like to see them all together. It’s like having all one’s children home at the same time: a lot of work, but very good for the soul. All in all, a happy three days so far, and I expect tomorrow to be more of the same. We are all pleased, I think!

Individual photos of the quilts in this exhibit can be seen here.