hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fabulous Festivities

The Hansel and Gretel Family: The Aggressive Stepmother, the Feckless Dad, Gretel, Hansel, and The Witch. Quilted dolls, of a sort, by Judy Ross.

Are we having enough fun yet? I speak somewhat mockingly about the number of festivals up here on the Sunshine Coast, largely derived from a need to get the tourists to come up and spend money. The problem, though, is real: the fish are, so to speak, drying up and the forests can’t be clear-cut with the abandon formerly displayed, so what to do? The tourists, for their part, long to be here in the warmest part of Canada, in the midst of all the trees that are left, and right next to the ocean that remains abundantly wet. The ‘warmest part,’ of course, has been more than a little too warm of recent days, but the tourists continue to pour off the ferry, as unable as anyone else to predict the weather. Today, the parking lot of the grocery store was packed firmly by noon, as everyone moved in quickly to buy a thousand pounds of groceries for their weekend/weeklong visit.

But, Point Roberts, much smaller, has its own excitements of a similar sort. This weekend, of course, is B.C. Day Weekend, even in Point Roberts which is not in B.C., and the Point Interface listserver has been sending us many announcements. Indeed, there are so many things happening that the listserver manager has started a second listserver just for the announcement of Point Roberts events. There is an opening of a photography exhibit at the Blue Heron tonight; a pancake breakfast tomorrow morning; songs and dances and reeling and writhing and fainting in coils at the Arts and Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday (which has a pre-start start tonight, and finishes up with a Mariachi Band imported from somewhere farther south); and the Art Walk on Monday.

On Tuesday, we’ll get back to business, but until then we are having fun in the sun, in the unrelenting sun.

The quilters will have a small quilt show as part of the Art Walk on Monday at the Community Center from 10-4, and will provide visitors with the opportunity to do a little art work of their own, as well. The quilts on exhibit will range from large traditional quilts to medium-sized art quilts, to tiny artists trading cards. We will make a quilt while you watch! We will explain how we do what we do if you care to find out. We will be entertaining, educational, and gracious, etcetera, etcetera, and we hope to see you there.

(The dolls in the photo will also be part of the exhibit.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mandala Day

Last week was Mandala Painting Day in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast. Each year, the community repaints the mandala which, because it is right out in the open and immediately in your path if you are walking to the beach or the pier, needs to be repainted. But more than re-painted, each year it is re-designed in its shape format and then entirely re-designed in the contents of those shapes. Everyone in the community--kids, adults, artists, novices--is invited to come and participate, to claim a space, to pick up a paintbrush and to make their marks for everyone else to see and appreciate for the next 365 days. And then it is time to repaint the mandala yet again.

It’s a great sight to see, not only because of its size but because of its variety. And because of its size, its variety is essentially a mystery because unless you spent a lot more time at the beach/pier than I do, you could never really get a handle on all the things that are there within the mandala. Well, you can see them all, but you can’t really internalize much of what you’ve seen. For that, it would take living with the mandala. But that’s okay, because it’s not meant to be absorbed in its particularity entirely so much as to be absorbed in its wholeness and informed by the suggestion of its particularity.

It’s a terrific community exercise and Roberts Creek does it proud each year. It stands out from the host of festivals that clutter the calendar in the summer months in the sense that it is entirely participatory. Even watching the completed project feels participatory, whereas going to the jazz festival or the fibre arts festival, say, feels like being a member of the audience, like being an observer.

Point Roberts has a little of this in the so-far yearly Art Walk, which happens next Monday from 10-4. Unlike the Mandala Project, though, it doesn’t focus on a single event that stays with the community. Instead, a half dozen or more different individuals/groups offer people who come by the opportunity not only to see some completed art, but also to take a run at doing some of it themselves, in at least a limited way.

The quilters have participated in this for the past three years. We make up small fabric books with blank fabric pages, and people fill up the pages with cut up pieces of fabric (collage images or abstracvtions) which they glue on to the pages, with stamps and ink, with ribbons and glitter. And they take their book away with them. But how could we manage to do something that would involve a final product that, like the Mandala, would last for a year and then would be replaced the following year?

Obviously no time to think sufficiently about this before Monday, but there is next year to think about. Certainly everyone who comes could make a painted quilt square and the quilters could subsequently put the squares together for some temporary (i.e., year-long) purpose. Or, perhaps something else that incorporates the other artists. Ideas would be appreciated.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I wrote a few weeks ago about visiting a couple of beautiful gardens and having a dawning sense that what I do isn’t gardening, although it was not clear to me why not or what it is that I am doing all those hours outside the house with plants if it’s not gardening. Finally, I have concluded that I am a practitioner of what might be called Low Impact Management of Parks (LIMP). My job, as I am beginning to understand it, is to allow the outdoors to ‘find’ itself; to develop in such ways as it wants to develop; to protect it from problems that it might not fully understand; to help it to shape itself into a form that it will be pleased to have achieved. I am writing this, and I am seeing that this is the way that I continue to raise children when the children have gone off to raise themselves. I am now raising the outdoors.

And yet, and yet. It is a useful way for me to understand what it is I am doing and whether I am doing what I ought to be and how to account for decisions that seem otherwise inexplicable to me. For example, I introduce new plants into the outdoors periodically but make no particular effort to ensure that they have the best opportunity to grow well. In part, this is because I am not there half the time and so it’s hard to believe, for example, that making sure something gets the ‘right’ amount of water the first half of the month matters if, during the second half of the month, the plant is going to be on its own. Might as well be on its own right from the start. If the outdoors wants this plant, it will take it to its bosom, so to speak. And in fact, it does do just that with some things (creeping jenny, rose campion, foxglove, columbine, lupine, forsythia, candytuft, pieris, and spirea are excellent examples); others, not so much. The outdoor park here has twice rejected Japanese maple trees; it scorns peonies; it considered penstemon but after three seasons tossed it to the winds. My thought is that if I want a plant to grow and the park does not claim it as its own, it’s time to put it in a pot and bring it close to the porch where I and not the world will care for it. It becomes more like a pet.

Clearly, this does not lead to a ‘garden,’ or at least not a green and floral space that has been considered and designed and, in some significant way, controlled. Like those kids of mine who keep coming to visit in the summers, it is doing its own thing, with my occasional advice and even warnings (it should not be allowed to want either Broom or Herb Robert or bindweed), but it’s its own creation. Live and let live.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meadow Rue

Lavender clouds. Yet another flower that we should have more of but that we don't see very many of. This photo was taken earlier this year (at the end of June). The close-up is by Ed and it is the truer color. I've grown these for about five years and they don't seem to be much in the business of self-multiplication. Usually, they don't even set much seed, but this year they seem to be setting a lot. I have previously tried to grow them from seed with no success, but I usually had about 2 seeds. Maybe better luck this next spring?

I originally bought two plants from a neighbor on the Sunshine Coast who sells extras from her ever-expanding garden as a home business. I planted one in the shade and one in the sun, and the one in the sun does better, but they have both done well. They get to be about 40 inches tall and the blossoms last about 3 weeks. The foliage is similar to columbine.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Low Points and High Points

The ever-useful, ever-informative Point-Interface email list in Point Roberts has today brought us to a summer low point (which in itself is informative and, perhaps, useful): someone has absentmindedly (?) left a mattress in the parking lot of the Trinity Lutheran Church and someone else has absentmindedly (?) left a dead sea lion on the beach in Lighthouse Park. Is this the natural pathway of a spectacularly downhill-sliding trash collection problem? And if so, what is next? Non-functional ferries left on South Beach (rather than over in B.C. near Deas Slough, where they rightly belong)? Cargo containers gathering up on the baseball field (instead of Mitchell Island) as a result of Americans' failure to buy enough from Chinese manufacturers? Perhaps we’ll start finding excessively amorous Republican office holders cluttering up the corners of the Post Office, creating their own dead letter office.

Hard Times, indeed.

On the other hand, there are high points. I, myself, have just watched a son and daughter-in-law leave after a wonderful visit in which the absolute pleasure of their company was absolutely amplified by their generous willingness to help us along in our twilight years by rebuilding a cement block pathway; doing a lot of maintenance on the frog pond; providing us with a pair of perfectly-engineered hummingbird feeders; and giving me and teaching me how to use a Kindle. All those years of childcare repaid in a flash!

And now I have to go read my new book, walk on the new walkway, admire the much cleaner and better arranged frog pond, and feed a hummingbird before they leave, too. And mop up a few, discrete tears.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Community Disorganization

Here’s how the All Point Bulletin summarized last month’s meeting of the Taxpayers Association in Point Roberts: “The board of the local taxpayers association shrunk again as directors declined to run for another term and no new blood came forward.”

Now we hear from the Point Roberts Voters Association, which held its monthly meeting last Monday. On the agenda, was a visit from the County Treasurer and the Deputy County Administrator, which constitutes a fairly intense level of county participation, I’d say. The Voters Association is perennially concerned with questions about whether Point Roberts gets adequate attention (which is to say resources) from the County compared with the funds that Point Roberts generates for the County. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not clear exactly why so many people are convinced that there should be some parity on this funds in-funds out.

Certainly it’s not true of the U.S. more generally where states like California and New York pour vastly more money—per capita--into the federal government than comes back to them, whereas states like Mississippi and Alaska (states whose spokespersons are highly committed to the idea that the federal government is their enemy and is taking away their freedom of action) get lots more, per capita, from the feds than they send to the feds.

Well, it’s hard to be a taker all the time and I suppose that explains all this to-do from these taking states. By contrast, it ought to be morally pleasing at the very least to be able to give more than you get. It speaks to doing well, to generosity, to a community’s status as part of the solution not part of the problem. Thus, it seems to me that Point Roberts is in a position to be less of a whiner that it sometimes seems to be.

Unfortunately, I was already gone to the Sunshine Coast by the time the meeting occurred, so I don’t know whether anyone was convinced by the Treasurer or Deputy Administrator. I did hear from others, however, that the meeting was somewhat less than successful. The important agenda item was the question of the Voters Association merging with the Taxpayers Association. Whatever Point Roberts is, it isn’t a place that is big enough to accommodate two civic action groups, so this merger made a lot of sense. Both groups have trouble attracting steady members, but between them they might have enough to sustain and achieve something. The recent history is of tension between the Americans (who constitute the Voters group) and the Canadians (who are strong in the Taxpayers group). Was it going to be time to get past all that? I certainly hoped so.

But it turned out not to be. Although the Taxpayers had been supportive of the merger, the Voters voted, 8 to 7 against doing so, I am told. What they probably also voted for was our continuing to have ineffective community groups. At least 8 of the 15 attending Voters members wished to let the rest of us know that we are not all in this together. Perhaps the other seven would like to consider just joining the Taxpayers Association instead. That group seems to be showing the right spirit.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welsh Poppies

The birds, I assume, brought Welsh poppies into our yard. A couple of years ago, they began to appear in a zinc washtub that had up until that time been devoted to parsley and chives. By now, they have, through reseeding, eliminated the parsley and chives. And, in unknown ways, they have moved about twenty feet away, where they have set up housekeeping in an abandoned charcoal grill that was filled with dirt. Although the foliage does not look like a California poppy, the flower itself reminds me of one except that it is canary yellow instead of orange or reddish orange. It blooms and blooms throughout June and July and August, and each flower ends its days by putting up a spectacular seed pod.

In normal vision, it is somewhat less spectacular, but in this enlarged close-up, you can see how it works and how it packs hundreds and hundreds of tiny black seeds in the pod. (Click on the photo to see an even larger version.) This flower is a gift in many ways, and the pod is a wonder of design.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Banking on Change

Sterling Bank had another impressive adventure today. For a while it has managed to keep its stock at a substantially higher price than Citigroup (at least percentage wise). Citigroup is generally thought to be insolvent except for the fact that the U.S. Treasury thinks it’s too big to fail. But yesterday, Sterling announced plans to expand its ‘shelf registration’ to $500 million. That means it is asking the SEC to permit it to sell, as it needs to, up to a half billion dollars worth of stock, bonds, or whatever else it might have around to sell. At $2 and change per share, that would be a lot of stock. This would seem to suggest that its managers are thinking they’re going to be needing to raise more capital (sort of failing their own stress test?).

The market responded today by knocking off the Sterling Financial share price by 22%, putting it back down under Citigroup by about 16 cents (at $2.49: not as bad as it was in December of 2008, of course). I keep reading that community banks everywhere are about to be hit by commercial real estate loans gone bad. The FDIC keeps putting banks into receivership (but very few, so far, in the Northwest generally or Washington specifically.) Almost 60 banks closed so far this year, but that is nothing compared to what happened in the 1930’s depression. So, maybe it’s just another up and down for Sterling, and they’re just waiting, now, for the up part.

On the other hand, up here on the Sunshine Coast, we are now into another week of Festivals, and the sun keeps shining. Partying on!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Water Iris in the Grass

Why then do we not have more of these away from ponds? I had never seen them until a couple of years ago and now we have them growing in some abundance up on the Sunshine Coast. But they are more or less alongside drainage paths, assuming there were any water to drain anywhere.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ferry Dangerous?

The ferries in B.C. in the summertime are not much fun. The schedules change so I can never keep track of when they’re leaving; they’re desperately crowded almost all the time; you have to get there two hours early or wait two hours when you come on time and they are already over-loaded. It just doesn’t do much for me.

Nevertheless, once you are on the ferry, there is little excuse for sitting in the car below decks throughout the forty-five minute ride. And yet, that is what we often do. It’s an almost 2-hour drive to get to the ferry and still we stay in the car for another 3/4 hour as if we had been glued there. I am reminded of the old phrase, ‘If you are tired of London, you are tired of life.’ If you are tired of looking out at the incredibly beautiful sights of Howe Sound from the upper ferry deck, you are tired of something, certainly. Mostly, I’m just tired of riding on ferries or, more precisely, of being confined by ferries. Too much an American to be entirely pleased that I cannot leave if the ferry says I can’t..

So there we were, the two of us, lightly drowsing in the car on the 4th deck. (The 4th deck means you are above the water and indeed we could look out the side of the boat and more or less see some water. But it’s not what you’d call a great view and it’s not light enough for me to easily read in the car.) Most of the cars around us—indeed perhaps all the cars around us—were empty, their passengers not yet being tired of life or ferries, or perhaps just in need of food and drink. And then two guys came up fairly near the car and started poking around and talking in such a way that we could easily hear them. One was in his mid-forties; the other younger, maybe 30-ish, with a notebook in which he was busily making notes.

My first impression was that the older guy was a ferry employee who was taking a (younger guy) safety inspector around to check various stuff. At the end, I’m not so sure of that. Ed’s view was that it was an older ferry mechanic taking a new employee around to show him the ropes.

Anyway, what he’s showing him and what the younger guy appears to be writing down is about the rust condition on the boat. The older mechanic is outraged by the amount of visible rust. ‘And,’ he pointed out repeatedly, ‘If you can see this much rust in the open, you gotta know that there’s even more of it behind the walls here where you can’t see it. And even more on the lower decks where you can’t see it.’

Does he think it’s dangerously rusty? I don’t know. Ed and I are looking at each other, rolling our eyes, feeling like we're in some George Clooney thriller. The two guys move around, inspecting more rust, inspecting more deficiencies. Finally, they are standing just ahead of us, looking at the fire door. The older guy points out that in the last refit, all the fire doors were serviced (not the word he used, but I can’t remember it specifically), but that within a few weeks, they were back to their old state. ‘This door,’ he says. ‘This door is not being held open. It’s supposed to go into a magnetic hold, but it’s not anywhere near it.’ He demonstrates this by pushing the door shut without detaching it from the magnetic hold, which it is obviously not attached to; then reopening and finally lifting the door upwards so that it can reach the magnet. ‘This door,’ he says with a very serious tone, ‘is simply holding itself open.’

Something about the despairing way he said this made both Ed and me burst into laughter. The mechanic guy turned, saw us there, winked at us, rolled his eyes, laughed, and guided his younger guy up the stairs.

I can’t decide to be alarmed or relieved. Just a moment on a ferry, of course. But then I asked Ed, ‘Was the mechanic guy wearing a life jacket? All the time during an ordinary ferry crossing on a perfectly calm day?’ ‘Maybe it was a down vest?’ he offered. Maybe, but the temperature that day was 85 degrees, so probably not. Maybe just a guy who knows when to be prepared.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Queen Anne's Lace

Why do we think this is a weed? I would be happy with a yard full of this in the month of July!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sign Manners

I probably should have applied earlier in life to become whoever is the actual Emily Post nowadays. I have ideas about manners in every aspect of life, I’m afraid, and it’s no accident that I ended up teaching medical ethics for years. Today’s manners discussion includes a good new/bad news focus as well as a good acts leading to bad acts (like the border lane jumping behaviors): excellent and responsible behavior from some members of the community which not only contrasts with but also gives rise to problematic behavior from some other members of the local community.

This month, the people who had taken on the reconstruction of the Community Events Sign got the sign board itself up. There is yet a roof to be built, but within the first few days of the signboard itself being up, there were any number of useful signs posted on the board. Good work, good response, good deal. It took awhile, but that is behind us.

The P.R. Quilt Group is participating in the Art Walk that is going to be held on B.C. Weekend. We’ve done this for several years. The Arts Foundation does an Arts and Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday and then there is the Art Walk on Monday. This involves a number of artists setting up workshops where people can come and look at various art projects and also actually participate in some aspect of that project. So, the quilters have a small quilt show, e.g., and then they also do a hands-on fabric collage project for people who come and want to try it.

Because the Art Walk is in a couple of weeks, the quilt group wanted to put a poster on the Community Events board that would specifically announce the quilt show. We wanted to do this because most of the Art Walk activities are on Gulf St. down toward the beach near the Blue Heron and the Maple Studio, whereas the Quilt Group’s activities are farther up Gulf at the Community Center and people who come down to those activities don’t necessarily know that there is another activity a ways up the street.

Thus, we made a poster and carefully taped it up to the Community Events signboard. Simple, basic information, black and red text against a light background, easily readable from a car driving by. Looked good. There were two or three other signs up there and we just set ours in adjacent to them. HOWEVER, a few days later, I drove by and noticed that the events sign situation had changed a good deal. Someone had put up a very large poster for the Arts and Music Festival which dominated most of the signboard and was artfully arranged so that it had a lot of blank space around it. In the process, they had taken the Quilters’ sign down, torn it in the process, and jabbed a thumbtack in it, locating it so that it was partially obscuring another sign. The Festival’s large poster was put up in such a way as to partially obscure yet another sign.

What is the lesson here, people? It’s a Community Sign Board. Nobody’s monitoring it or establishing and enforcing carefully designed rules. So use some sense. Nobody’s sign is more important than anybody else’s sign. Use the space efficiently. It may sometimes be necessary to move signs in order to put up new ones, but it is never good manners to use more space than you need or to obscure other peoples’ signs that were there before you came to put yours up. (Note: the picture was taken a few days later when two more signs had been added at the bottom.)

If you want a different opinion, check with a different Emily Post.

Addendum: The signboard has taken a long time to get done and has turned out to cost more than the Community Association contemplated back at the beginning—just to get the sign up with a roof is going to cost in the range of $1,500, I think. Raising money has been difficult, but this week the kids in the P.R. summer camp got together a bake sale and carwash and raised over $500. Now, that’s a community contribution to be celebrated.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Border Manners

We had a couple of ‘incident’ days at the border this past week. Ed was coming back in the evening from Bellingham, thus crossing two borders (Peace Arch and Point Roberts), and they were doing much longer question interviews, and were opening car trunks, etc. The Nexus lane was closed at this time, so this was happening in the regular lanes.

The next day, I crossed the Point Roberts border around noon and noticed, as I went through the Canadian side that there was a very extended car line-up to get into Point Roberts. I didn’t have a lot of business in Tsawwassen, and thus offered up a request to the skies that the CBP get this mess cleared up within the next half hour, say.

Alas, within a half hour I was back, and the lines had gotten only longer. There were two lines, one leading to the Nexus entry, the other to the regular lane (or lanes). I was too far away to be able to tell whether there were two regular lanes open. If I had known there were two, it might have been worthwhile going into the regular lane. On occasion, the Nexus lane computers get bollixed and people in the regular lane move quickly through (since they’re looking at passports there), whereas people in the Nexus lane wait and wait because some problem has arisen with reading the Nexus cards.

Anyway, I just stayed in the Nexus lane and hoped for the best. I waited, but lots of cars came up, saw the line and made amazing u-turns or drove up over the curb and over the park grass to turn the corner ahead thus avoiding going to the border. It was like dodgem cars there for awhile; at least until I advanced well beyond the end of the line, but still far from the border.

My general policy while waiting in line in a car if it is a slow-moving line is to turn the motor off until there are at least three car lengths in front of me. Saves on gas, saves on emissions. And it seems only right to do it while waiting in line in B.C. which advertises itself as an ‘idle-free Province’ (or words to that effect). So, I’m sitting and waiting and then after awhile, starting the car and advancing 50 or so feet, then turning the motor off again.

This line is truly moving slowly. Hard to imagine what they’re doing up front. The regular car lane doesn’t seem to be moving any faster, so maybe it’s leading up to only one lane instead of two. And then, a car from the regular lane suddenly pulls over in front of me in my (at the moment) 2-car length empty space. And then, five minutes later, it happens again.

At this point, I realize that no good deed comes without a downside. The fact that Nexus card holders can now go in any lane means that they can car hop from lane to lane opportunistically. When I get to that stop light intersection--a long block before the border--the light turns red and now there are additional spaces to jump into. At this rate, the regular lane will soon be faster. At this rate, I will be in this lane forever. At this rate, I will go back to letting the car idle throughout the experience, creeping ahead inch by inch constantly, giving no opportunity to the lane jumpers. Emissions, gas, all irrelevant, as I am experiencing fully my irritation at these drivers who can't stay put, even though they have no real information about what lane is going to get them through faster.

Almost 40 minutes after I got into this line, I get out the other side. There were, indeed two regular lanes, although those lanes weren't moving any faster than the Nexus lane individually, but perhaps (a thinly-held judgment drawn after the fact) were a little faster as a single choice in the range of say 2-3 minutes. The CPB folks are indeed inspecting cars, opening trunks, lifting up interior compartment lids, although I must not look like a dope runner because they just pass me through.

Maybe there’s some other way to think about this lane changing stuff, but I do remember how people took to very aggressive behaviors back in L.A. during the 1970’s gas shortage when cars cut into lines at gas stations. Probably not a good idea right at the border where all the CBP folks are armed. But still. Isn’t it bad enough that we have Goldman-Sachs and their like grabbing every opportunity to fleece us without our doing it to one another?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cherry Invasion

Today, Monday morning, the cherries continued to ripen and the robins continued to peck at them and ed continued to go up on the ladder to gather them, and I continued to eat them and freeze them and make them into jam, and, then we were all joined by a raccoon family who had heard about the good and free eats. GREAT pictures here (by ed).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Enough for All

We have a very big Ranier or Queen Anne cherry tree (I don't know how to tell the difference between the two varieties). Over the past four years, it has been very inconsistent in its harvest, although there are always more cherries up at the top where we can't reach them, even with a tall ladder, than down lower where they are easily within my reach just standing about. As a result, we usually get a few cherries while the robins and other assorted flyers get a lot of cherries.

This year, the harvest is abundant and there is more than enough for us all. I am discovering just how many cherries I can eat at one time, in an hour, in a day, in a week. But after that week or so is gone, the cherries will all be gone for another year. (A picture of these cherries as blossoms is here. My patience was rewarded, obviously.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Library Daze

Here is the quilt that the Point Roberts Quilt Group just finished for the Point Roberts Library. We got it up on the wall this week and it seems already to look as if it had always been there. This is of course the second quilt we have hanging in the Community Center and we have in process a second one for the Library.

This library quilt was sort of a long time arriving, partly because it's a very big (wide--almost 10 feet) and heavy piece. The quilt group, which includes about 12 people, is remarkably stable given that people come and go, as they often do here on the Point, for longish periods of time. Folks will be away for the winter or the spring or the summer or, in my case, half of every month, but still we manage to get together every month and keep at one project or another. Our biggest project, perhaps, was the four 'Seasons of Point Roberts' quilts that hang in the great hall of the Lutheran Church.

The Library’s Kris asked us almost 2 years ago, I’d guess, whether we’d be willing to make one or two quilts for the library walls. We said ‘Yes!’ quickly and started in the planning. The 'Four Seasons' quilts and the 'Community Quilt' all involved creating landscapes, and the other quilts we've done for the community were somewhat traditional (the ‘Boat Quilt’, which hangs in the hallway at the Wellness Clinic, or the ‘Lighthouse Quilt’ that used to hang at the Roof House, or the Bird Quilt, which I think is hanging at the local primary school). In this case, we jumped off in an entirely new direction by agreeing to have each of us make a self-portrait with our favorite book. I was pretty much the only group member who’d worked with portraits of that size (18”x24”) and it proved to be more of a problem to fill all that space than people had anticipated.

So we ended up with six quilted self-portraits, each with one (or more) favorite book, and six similarly-sized bookcase blocks that included smaller photographs of other members who had either worked on the quilt or worked on previous group quilts that we had completed. Some of the portraits involve printing photographs on fabric, one of the things that ink jet printers are very good at.

It’s certainly a self-referential piece, a kind of Advertisements for Ourselves, I guess, with all of us grinning--or at least staring--out at the Library visitors and patrons for years to come. But there we are, members of the community who have actually done something for the community, I think. Today, a few of us from the Quilt Group spent the morning, at the request of the Library staff, providing a summer craft program for local kids. A dozen or so kids and their parents came and everyone appeared to be having a very good time making little collage books out of fabric. (One little girl titled her book “I Like Everything.” ) It was a very low key, but very pleasing way to spend a couple of hours. And it reminded me of a funny conversation I had about 18 months ago with a member of a local poker group. The question was whether the Quilt Group was a ‘community group’ or a ‘hobby group.’ His claim was that it was no more a community group than was his poker club. But it occurred to me today that nobody has asked the poker club to come teach the local kids to gamble, or even to play cards.

There will be a reception-like event for “My Favorite Book” in early August. Come and meet us. Better yet, come and meet the quilt.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 4 Parade, Part II

Last year’s July 4th parade in Point Roberts was something of a disappointment. Usually, the parade is organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, which is a relatively small group because we have relatively little commerce that wants to be organized in this way. And last year, the relatively small membership of the Chamber of Commerce somewhat disintegrated just as it was about to get the parade organized. So, although one stalwart member delivered the parade in time, it was a little short on content.

That meant that this year’s parade would have to be either better or worse; no way it could remain at the dismal level it attained last year. Fortunately, the Chamber underwent some kind of revivification this past year and word was out, long before July 4, that the parade trend was definitely up, and even a big up. My idea of a very successful parade includes lots of kids on decorated bicycles, music that is loud (bands are the best, of course), groups that are funny, horses with decorated riders, dogs, jugglers, stilt walkers, and a few knock out decorated floats. People of some vague importance sitting in cars waving desultorily (or even aggressively) and public agency vehicles fail to draw my interest. You can’t make a parade out of nothing.

So, on Saturday at noon, I walked about a mile to the point at which the parade comes closest to me to see what we got. (Note that I do nothing whatsoever to make this parade better or even possible.) As it happens, my spot is at the end of the parade, at the corner of Tyee and APA Road. It takes me about 25 minutes to get there and it takes the parade (which begins at noon) about a half hour to get there. I arrived in plenty of time, along with lots of other people, all of us in the bright, hot sun, sitting mostly on the curb. There were about 40 cars parked along APA which was a sign of a very good turnout.

And I waited for the sound of the Vancouver Police Motorcycle Drill Team which, up until last year, had always begun the parade. But no motorcycles were heard. Not much of anything was heard. Within ten minutes, however, the first float turned the corner of Gulf and Tyee and headed toward us. It was the Shriners’ float. These are Canadian Shriners because I’m pretty sure we don’t have any in P.R. and if they have them in Bellingham, I doubt if they’d come up here for a parade. These Shriners are usually in our July 4 Parade (which is good of them since it isn’t their holiday) and sometimes they bring their little cars and sometimes they bring their calliope and play music. But this year’s Shriners look as if they’ve moved on past both little car driving and calliope playing. These guys are getting on, like WWII veterans who sell poppies in the fall in Remembrance of WWI. Although one appreciates them, it didn’t really seem like a great beginning for a July 4 parade: a bunch of old Canadian guys with funny hats sitting in front of a totem pole.

They were followed by the Grand Marshall, who was/is, I am told, the star of a TV show that may well be called Stargate. Having no TV, I am in no position to speak to his presentation, but nice of him to come in any case. He wore black with black sunglasses and had a woman and child with him in his black convertible.

From then on, it was not a disaster, but neither was it a blazing success. The very highest point of parade amusement—and a high point it was--came with the work of the Precision Lawn Mower Drill Team (which, for some reason was billed as the Precision Lawn AND Drill Team), a group that easily duplicated many of the best moves of the Vancouver Police Motorcycle Precision Drill Team, although at a much slower speed and with a great deal more aluminum foil. (It must be noted that with space travel as a parade theme, virtually every parade participant was decked out in several rolls of aluminum foil: aluminum foil: the new crepe paper.)

Music was brought by a couple with a keyboard and another instrument, whose work or something is to be found at spacefantasymusic.com, according to their float sign, but there does not seem to be any there there on the web. An additional music entry was a 5-person kazoo band. They looked unhappy to be there, but perhaps they were just lonely. Five people is just not enough for a kazoo band.

Eventually, an 18-wheel truck took about ten minutes turning the corner of Gulf and lumbered ever so slowly down to the end: PR Auto Freight services, bringing us (more) aluminum foil and packages to and from space, I guess. And then nothing. My near viewers and I stand around, trying to figure out what is happening. But nothing is happening, even though this is a very unsatisfactory parade conclusion. We are disappointed (and people express their disappointment audibly). Eventually, and slowly, we disperse, sorry to think that it has ended like this, and I with the other 75 or so folks near me disband and return to our cars and homes.

Twenty minutes later, as I am getting close to home, I am passed by a float that says something like “Martian Fantasy Garden.” I had not seen this float in the parade I watched, and it slowly dawned on me that there had been more parade than I—or my co-viewers--had seen. The garden float was superb. Perhaps the organizers had saved all the best for the end? I called around and heard about a number of great entries at the end, including the kids on bicycles, the horses, the dogs, a funny group (the Red Hat Ladies as ‘Pigs in Space’) and the beautiful Garden Club float (Martian Garden Party). Well, there wasn’t a band, but ‘man’s reach must exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?” as Robert Browning, I think, said about his own July 4th parade experience (or some other experience). The word is that Delta Cable wanted to interview everybody so there were big slowdowns because of that. I guess next time, they need somebody dressed like Porky Pig to come at the very end with a sign that says, “That’s All Folks!”

Pictures are to be seen here. Thanks to friends with more sense than I had for the pictures of the things I didn't see, and thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for their good work. Next year, even better, I’m sure. And I’ll try to be a better viewer, too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Parade, Part I

There’s the July 4th Parade and what it’s about abstractly and there’s the July 4th Parade and what it’s about practically, tangibly maybe. First the one, then the other. The other is the one with all the pictures.

But there’s a picture for the abstract meaning of the parade, too. Here is a guy who is what the parade is about for me. He marched in the parade, all alone, with the same sign last year, too. People where I was standing, at the end of the parade line, cheered him on some last year. Last year, we were distraught about Bush and his war and wanted it over. We were pretty enthusiastic about Obama, I guess, and thought if only he won the presidential election, that war would be over. I was struck that no one was marching with him last year, but happy to hear encouragement, including mine, from the onlookers. Right, we were thinking, let’s end that war.

But now it’s this year. Same guy, same sign, same war. I was standing in the same place, right at the end of the parade. He was still alone, but this year, other than me, no one called out with approval to him from among the many people who lined the sidewalk at APA and Tyee. That war is over, I guess. Obama ended it, must have, sometime when I wasn’t watching.

But this year, I was ready to go out and walk with him if only we weren’t at the end of the parade. Whoever you are (and why don’t I know who the lone anti-war marcher is here in this little place?), get in touch with me next year if this issue still has to be addressed and I’ll get my own sign, just like yours, and walk with you, here in my own community, and hope my neighbors, too, will endorse supporting the troops by ending the war.

This guy’s willingness to get up and say/stand behind what he thinks is what the parade is about in the first sense. About our caring enough to object to government actions that we think are wrong. Still not such a popular idea in a lot of other places, and that alone gave meaning to this July 4 parade to me. But maybe we all should cheer him—on just this occasion, at least--for his willingness to speak out, to make manifestly real what the 4th of July is about.

Another view of this matter (i.e., ending the war) is expressed here by The Medium Lobster.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Your Year, My Year

Today, a new form of wild life. Well, not new to the world or even to the Northwest; just new to my writing about wildlife.

Our log house features wasps. One of the many things about log houses is that in between the logs where they are parallel to one another and in the places where the logs meet perpendicular to one another and around the windows where there is trim across the logs, there are little insets, little hidden places, little dark areas where wasps can make small nests. Some kinds of wasps are willing to make small nests even though they are also capable of making large nests. They make a lot of them—I think the makers are yellow jacket wasps--in these little nooks and crannies of the log house.

They don’t pay much attention to people even though we are around the house all the time, around the logs all the time. They are going about their business much as the deer, the bear, the raccoons, etc., are and as long as we are not interfering with them, they do not find us of much interest. This is hard to believe, I know, because what conceivably could be of more interest than people? Hard to know, but in the world of wasps, people are not priority number one or even interest factor number one.

So, it is more of live and let live, life in cooperation. A few years ago, this folie de deux sort of fell apart when we had to have the logs refinished, which involved, in part, our washing off each individual log by hand. This genuinely required interfering with the wasps. We wore long gloves and long-sleeved shirts, we worked quickly and in the cool of the late, late day or early morning since the wasps were more around during the mid-day. I don’t know what else they were doing; maybe they had a big nest somewhere in the bush that they had to attend to. And we didn’t get bit very much and it hurt quite a lot only at first. And we got through with that project and we settled back into our old relationships.

In addition to wasps in the logs on the front deck of the log house, we have a barbeque on the front deck of the log house. It is fueled by natural gas so there isn’t smoke to disturb them. They don’t mind it and we don’t use it very often, anyway. Last week, as the summer season was setting in, Ed was looking to clean up the barbecue from its winter travails (it doesn’t have a plastic cover on it because it has a metal cover on it). And as he approached it, he noticed an odd thing. A wasp was going into a vent; and then a wasp was coming out of a vent; and then it became apparent that the wasps had built themselves a large nest inside the barbeque.

We are now thinking about this. Maybe we can do without a barbeque this year? This year, theirs; next year, we put a better cover on it and its ours. Or, what?

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Salute to the Border Folks

And today, not the trash, not the garden, not the animals: it’s the border.

A little over a month ago, the border people held a meeting up here and promised us that if we would only give them a chance, they would show us that things could be better. We didn’t really have much choice about giving them a chance, I suppose. They do what they do and we respond. But the thing is, they have done better. And here is the evidence:

1. They now appear to be opening a second regular lane at the border whenever a line starts to form. That means that people without Nexus cards aren’t stuck in blocks-long lines. We came through the border in the regular lane this week midday, a Tuesday, granted, which shouldn’t involve long lines in any case, but it’s summer and it was the day before Canada Day. A holiday mid-week is a little hard to figure with respect to the border, but when we arrived, there were two regular lanes with only two cars in each and we zipped right through.

2. This isn’t really a result of the meeting in Point Roberts, but it dovetails with the above fact that is a result. The border lanes are now configured so that if you have a Nexus card, you can go through any lane. Because on occasion the Nexus lane is longer than the regular lanes, that means if you have a Nexus card, you can go into the shorter lane, which is more efficient for everybody.

3. As a result of the border meeting and the bitter complaints about Nexus cards being taken for silly or no reason, the Seattle office (a shout out here to Michelle James who is the head of this region) ordered a review of all Nexus cards that had been denied or taken from Point Roberts residents. This was announced in the newspaper on June 1. I know of at least two people who have now had their previously denied/removed Nexus cards restored. In at least one case, the person received a personal phone call making arrangements for the final interview to be conducted and a personal letter after the card was issued. Furthermore, no additional fee. I don’t know how many cards have been removed/denied or restored, but at least this is clear evidence that the CBP are not only trying to do the right thing, but are actually doing it in these cases.

So, THANKS! to Michelle James and her staff.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cooperative Living

It’s Point Roberts, so I could be writing about trash, of course; or about the garden, or strawberries, or wildlife, or even the border because what else do we do up here? Today it’s strawberries and wildlife.

When we left for B.C. two weeks ago, the slugs, not me, were eating the newly ripened strawberries, and as I left, I removed the nets that were keeping the raccoons out. As part of the live and let-live deal with the wild life, I figured that the raccoons ought to have an even chance with the slugs at the berries, or at least they ought to once my desires were out of the picture.

Upon our return, I didn’t rush out to see what had happened because I figured I knew what had happened. Between them, the raccoons and slugs ate all the berries. However, when I did chance to look at the three beds, I discovered that they were filled with strawberries, ripe strawberries. Apparently, it was too dry for the slugs (no rain during that absence and no watering of the strawberries except from the water table which is fairly high near the strawberry beds) and the raccoons, I assume, are on vacation.

I gathered a basket full and we ate these lovely, succulent, deep red and sweet strawberries for dessert last night: a little powdered sugar added to my bowl, a little demerarra sugar added to Ed’s. And this morning, I went out and gathered another quantity…about two quarts in all. But this morning’s gathering, on my hands and knees caused me to notice that about half of the leaves of the strawberry plants were missing, the stems, though, sticking straight up. The mark of deer munching.

Almost too much cooperative living to my mind, I’m afraid. Surely something else is going on here, but I don’t know what it is.