hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dealing with Stuff

Plans for permanent house moving in the near-though-indefinite future causes one to look at the stuff in the house that is to be moved on from in a new light.  These stuffs are no longer things you live with and might easily use at any moment (or not), but newly become things that seriously require assessment.  In particular, they need to be judged almost teleologically as to their true and ultimate purpose.  And particularly as to whether they have any such purpose.

Now one way to do this is to think dualistically: save/discard.  But at this point,  I’m not quite ready for that.  Thus, a couple of weeks ago, I was noticing that over the 16 years we have been part-time residents up here in B.C., I have gathered unto me quite a lot of yarn.  Twenty, thirty years in Los Angeles and all the yarn that I owned could have been stored in a small purse.  Here, otherwise.  It’s the weather, of course, that makes the difference.  L.A. is too hot to think about yarn or knitting, even though I’ve always knit EXCEPT when I lived in L.A. (and also in the South Pacific).  New grandchildren required many, many sweaters; cold autumns required many mohair shawls, not only for me but for my non-knitting local friends.  And as a result there are numerous balls of leftover yarn, each of whose diameter is probably less than two inches.  They are all kinds of fiber, all colors: they have no purpose.  They are clearly in the ‘discard’ category, but even the thrift shop isn’t going to have much use for such a large quantity of such small quantities.

I was thinking about what could be done with this yarn, looking out the window, watching the wind blow and the rain start to fall, when my mind urged me to knit sweaters for the trees.  The trees, of course, are not cold, but it would look pretty colorful in the dark of winter and the neighbors might think it was funny and I would like seeing it.  And so I knit about 10 feet of 6-inch wide ‘sweater’ which could be wrapped around the trees once they lose their leaves (which, incidentally, is happening very slowly this year: the leaves are generally still green so there will be ample time for me to get these sweaters knit). 

And then, as in the picture above, we tried it out to check for size.  Well, obviously 10 feet is nowhere near the size that is required for a tree sweater, even for a not very big dogwood tree.  And thus I have kept up the knitting over the past two weeks to the point where I now have about thirty-five feet of 6-inch wide tree sweater.  That ought to be about enough for one tree.  But there are three trees that could really benefit, so I am going about the houses, checking to find further stocks of yarn that might be of use.  My greatest fear is that I will end up going to the thrift store, looking for small balls of otherwise useless yarn.

My second concern is a conscience prick that surely it would be better to be knitting sweaters for freezing children in Africa?  My Berkeley granddaughter recently mentioned to me that she found that question always worth asking, but rarely found it useful as a guide for policy.  I’ll defer to her on this issue, but if the African children need sweaters, tell them to get in touch.  But they will be sweaters of many colors.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Appears

This morning, when we awakened around 8 a.m., the temperature had not yet made it to 10 degrees Centigrade (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the non-metric-fluent among us).  We have not seen such a low morning temperature for many, many weeks.  And now, by 5 p.m., it is unusually dark outside because there is a heavy cloud layer and the rain is coming steadily down upon us.  I recognize that sound; I remember that sound; I just haven’t heard that sound for quite a while. 

And so it begins again, that go-round of seasons and of year that, for me, anyway, begins in September, not January.  Did the Romans get it so wrong because they lived farther south?  If the Romans had lived in  Nova Scotia or Maine, would they have thought that anything actually began in January? 

But, in any case, it looks like we are really here at the Fall, even though a few weeks later than usual.  And in Fall, our thoughts turn to warm fires and cozy things.  Which brings me to thoughts of community and why it is that I am so fond of the idea of community.  I mean, I’m pretty much of an introvert and I happily spend most of my days alone, although Ed is of course somewhere nearby.  But I still think that it would be a good thing if people could get together to do well things that need to be done.  Like healthcare, say.  Or like getting the community events sign replaced.  (We’re pretty okay on the latter, but suffering greatly on the former, of course.)  Or maybe like just getting ready for fall--we could help each other get our gardens ready for the winter.

And in light of that, I was told yesterday about “Blitz Day” in my younger daughter’s hometown.  It seems that every year, one of the local churches organizes a day in which they gather up as many volunteers throughout the town as they possibly can gather (including kids), and everybody goes to work on that day to improve the community.  Blitz Day was last week in the mid-size town where she lives in southeastern Missouri.  It’s a small town inthe midst of a rural area with a small-town feel, a kind of southern U.S. feel, a town where you can imagine lots of people rising to the occasion.  And, indeed, she tells me, 1200 people signed up to participate.  They did all kinds of things: my 12-y/o granddaughter helped to seal the asphalt in a playground; my daughter cleaned lawn furniture at a long-term care facility (pointing out along the way that she might think about offering this service to her own lawn furniture).  A good day, a good job, a community thing.  Gladdens my sentimental heart.

So, of course, I got to thinking about what it would mean if Point Roberts had that kind of response to a call for volunteers to serve the community for a day.  Obviously, 1200 people aren’t going to volunteer because we barely have 1200 people, but I’m thinking about how many one could get, and also about exactly what they’d do if you had them.  Then it occurred to me to compare the populations.  So I looked up the population of my daughter’s town and it turned out to be much larger than I expected: 70,000.  If you compared that to Point Roberts, it means that we could expect about 20 volunteers.  Which doesn’t seem so unlikely.  Surely we could do that well.  But what would we do?   The thoughts of fall.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Healthcare Reform

I spent about 20 adult years working in and around health care and healthcare policy as a bioethics teacher.  As a result, little in the current effort to reform something in healthcare and healthcare access (it’s not always clear which one is under discussion) has been a surprise to me.  Twenty years ago, discussions about rationing care, including expensive technology, were perfectly ordinary stuff including rationing that might lead to individual deaths.  We didn’t need Sara Palin to tell us about this possibility because we’d already had that happen with kidney dialysis and the infamous ‘God Committees’ in Seattle. 

But we also talked about things like how justice was served by ensuring that only one disease had treatment costs guaranteed (kidney failure)?  While people with other diseases were out of luck?  The story of how dialysis costs were covered under Medicare, even if the patients were not over the age of 65 was one of the basic stories my co-author and I covered in our 1986 book, Choosing Life or Death, a book for the general public about contemporary legal and ethical issues in healthcare.  (1986).  (A patient who would die without dialysis was wheeled onto the floor of the House of Representatives during the discussion of this healthcare bill.  That got results.)

Anyway, the health insurance debate if not giving me new information has surely been depressing as to effect.  It is indeed hard to think of the U.S. as an important, powerful country when it can’t get even policy as basic as healthcare competently structured.  More expensive, worse outcomes, and little evidence of effectiveness is the diagnosis, and the treatment is that everybody really needs to buy insurance.  Yikes.

Well, in the midst of all this, I had my own insurance experience that did surprise me.  I worked at UCLA and while I was there and since I retired (some 35 years total), I have had dental insurance from UC which the University pays for.  And it works okay even up here in Point Roberts where I routinely go to Canadian dentists.  The tooth numbers are different, the procedure codes are different, the currency is different, but eventually things get worked out, although I almost always have to have some additional interchange with them about whether they are going to pay.  I am helped by an earlier court case that required them to pay in a timely manner or add interest to the payment.  Delta Dental is the insurer.

Unfortunately, this spring, I had a tooth whose root cracked.  It had to be extracted and a permanent bridge installed to fill the space.  Expensive, but on the other hand, I have insurance.  Imagine my surprise when the insurance company refused to cover part of the procedure.  I thought it was the regular deal where they say no and i say yes and then they say okay or take half, or whatever.  The total cost of all this was to be around $3500, and I’d pay about half of it under the terms of the insurance.

But, no.  They refused part of the claim because I had ‘exceeded the maximum.’  Only at that point did I discover that for all those past years, UC has been paying about $500/year for me to have dental insurance whose maximum yearly payout is $1500.  (If I had stayed in California, the insurance would have no payout limit.)   This is remarkably like the Social Security Drug Insurance with the infamous ‘doughnut hole,’ except in this case, there is no doughnut, just a hole.  If you need help with a high-cost procedure, the insurance company says, ‘not our responsibility; our responsibility is the low cost stuff you could pay for yourself.’

The essential idea of insurance is that you pay to cover costs for something that has a low risk of happening but a high impact because of the likely high costs of the event.  $500 a year for a $1500 risk.  Just nuts.  Just right for another cog in the U.S. healthcare not-a-system.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dye Job

One of the pleasures of quilting is dyeing one’s own fabric, but it’s not so much a pleasure up here in the Pacific Northwest because it’s not hot enough most of the time.  Well, one could do it indoors, but it’s a messy activity in my hands and the thing about spreading dye around absent-mindedly is that it tends toward permanency: that’s why it’s called dye and not color.

But this summer has had day after day when the outdoor conditions were perfect for dyeing.  Contrarily, I managed to take advantage of not one of those days.  Now that we are having the summer extended period, I figured I had better try for at least one day and today was the day.  Also, since I am making some efforts to get a handle on all the stuff we have up here so that it will not be quite so much stuff comes the time when we have to move ourselves entirely back to the U.S., it was a nice way to clean up all the dye materials and make them smaller.

First I decided simply to use up all the dye I had stored in the refrigerator.  Well brought up in the depression, I am inclined to parsimony.  If the dye book says use 1 teaspoon dye for a yard of fabric, I’m inclined to think that a half-teaspoon will probably work just as well, and a quarter teaspoon won’t be entirely out of line.  But having as an object to use up the dye, I was obliged to throw parsimony to the winds.  As a result, I was just pouring concentrated dye straight from the bottle onto wet cloth. 

And what did I learn from this?  If you use more concentrated dye, you get more color.  And since more color is a good thing when one is dyeing (nothing so disappointing as going to the effort and having a bunch of pastel production), I may have to do away with the parsimony principle entirely should we ever have another summer as warm as this one.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dancing with a Star

In Point Roberts, it is now time be be putting away our tents and banners as we look back on the final festival of the 2009 gala season.  The Music and Seafood Festival this past weekend managed a mostly sunny day and stellar performances from both the seafood and the musicians, not to mention a dancer.  Insofar as I am up on the Sunshine Coast and not in Point Roberts, I know this only from reports of friends who had the good sense to stay and participate.

Only a few weeks ago, we had the Music and Arts Festival, and it would appear from these reports that a festival that provides one food for the soul (music) and one food for the body  (the seafood) has the edge on a festival that provides only foods for the soul.  The big feature, say the reporters, was a klezmer band from Bellingham (it is possible that that is the funniest phrase I’m likely to hear this week).  I mean, if you were going to look for a klezmer band, would Bellingham be your first thought?  But Millie and the Menschn, classically trained musicians from Bellingham, also do the klezmer.

And to add to the phenomenon, Ms. B. Hooping Allure dances, at least some of the time, to the klezmer music and she always dances with what appears to be a stainless steel hoola hoop.  I am truly sorry to have missed this. You can see her perform on her website, but I daresay the combination of the dance and the Seafood and Music Festival either before or after the 20 minute downpour must have been amazingly fun.

But it has given me a new idea for a community project that could secondarily contribute to Point Roberts’  economic development.  Ms. Allure, I am told by yet other friends, gives dance classes and she is a great teacher.  So, how about we hire her to come to Point Roberts to teach us to do hoola hoop exercise/dance?  We could all go down to the beach of a morning—say Tuesdays and Thursdays so as not to compete with the Wacky Walkers--like the elderly Chinese practicing Tai Chi in Taiwan parks, and do our hoola hooping en masse.  Given the space requirements, we’d need to be in Lighthouse Park, I suppose.  Or maybe in a great line all around the edge of the peninsula.  (That would make for a great new ‘coastal photo’ project, Ed.)

  Just how long before the National Geographic and the Discovery Channel would be knocking at our doors, begging to interview us and take our pictures?  And then, the tourism to follow.  Well, the mind boggles.  And if Ms. Allure’s general physical condition is any testimony to hula hooping, we could all be looking forward to newer and much smaller-sized wardrobes.

(Thanks to George Wright for the photos!  And to whomever provided the blue skies!)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eating Local

We could do it, but it means that we would be having fruit salad and a limited supply of vegetables (kale, lettuce, and zucchini) three meals a day.  Low on protein, of course, but awfully good food.  Fresh, full of taste. 

Here on the Sunshine Coast, people have apples and plums, especially, coming off the trees right now, and blueberry bushes are coming to the end, but still shedding ripe fruit.  Many kinds of apples are around us and either golden or Italian prune plums, for the most part.  The bears, of course, are out scouting their own meals and it would be okay to share if they weren’t so prone to breaking the tree down in the process.

Each year, the Okanagan Fruit Man shows up here on the Coast.  He comes from the Okanagan Valley, east and north of Vancouver, where they have towns that have names like Fruitland.  And the Fruit Man brings the fruit over to us on a Wednesday morning, setting up his truck by the side of the road and staying until it is all sold or until it is Friday afternoon.  I never quite figure out why it is that the Okanagan Fruit Man with his relatively small operation is able to bring us spectacularly fresh fruit from 150 miles away (I’m guessing at the distance), but the local supermarket has to store whatever fruits it has 3 or 4 weeks somewhere before it shows up on the store’s shelves.  The economies of scale surely do lead to low quality.

This week, while the Okanagan Fruit Man is providing us, for the last time this year, with several varieties of pears and apples, as well as peaches and nectarines, the local (Canadian) supermarket is, instead, offering us the same varieties of fruits, but only from the U.S. and from New Zealand.  They haven’t been picking apples in New Zealand for several months, I’d think, since that country’s farmers are now going into spring.  And how is it that the U.S. apples get up here but the B.C. apples can’t?  In the store yesterday, there were maybe 8 varieties of U.S. apples, not all of them even new crop, and only one B.C. apple, a small bin of Galas.  The U.S. and New Zealand apples were up around $2.00/pound; the B.C. galas: 78 cents.  And they were fresh and juicy and great.  Something about this business doesn’t make sense. 

Maybe the work of Archer-Daniels-Midland?  (here and here.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sign of the Times

The Point Roberts Events sign continues to get heavy use, even though our summer festivalizing is largely over.  As you can see from this photo, however, we have this Saturday not only a Seafood and Music Festival (I think of it as the Singing Salmon Festival), but also a Historical Society Potluck Reunion, and a Classic Golf Memorial.  Regular AA meetings have come to us only in the last few years, presumably as a result of a sudden inflow of new residents from ROTUS where they are a little more organized.  The Sustainability Group is, I think, new, and is beginning with a forum on Ridek (an electric car, whose inventor is a Point Roberts resident).

But what I am looking to write about is the ‘Help Our Country’ sign, which seems less an event than a plea.  What struck me about it was that I couldn’t immediately tell whether it was the work of the left or the right (although the ‘God Bless America’ suggests the latter, not because only the right has religion but because the left is less likely to incorporate its religious messages in its political messages).  But both sides of the political spectrum are up in arms these days about the threats to the Constitution.  We all have our views about this, but it seemed to me that the urging to read the Constitution itself was not a bad piece of advice, regardless of its origins.

And so, after taking the photo, I went home, printed the text of the Constitution out and sat down and read it.  And then I had Ed read it.  And then we talked about what we read.

I recalled that the great Constitutional expert Sam Irvin (U.S. Senator from North Carolina and chairman of the Watergate Investigation Committee hearings) used to say that he always carried a copy in his pocket and read it every day.  Neither of us had ever felt that compelling a need, but over the years we had both read it  for one reason or another, mostly in connection with some organized educational endeavor, but we didn't remember that much, so our expectations were somewhat open.  (Our copy, as it happened, did not include the Bill of Rights or the Amendments.)

We were struck with how short it was; how (for the most part) right to the point and comprehensible it was.  Nowadays, such a document would require an introductory chapter before it could even get around to describing what it was intending to do.  But here, in the initial 50 words, the writers pretty much nail it.  The point of the enterprise is to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

The authors have a few things to say about each of these in the following 3-4 pages, but it is interesting to note the things it worried specifically about and the things it didn’t specifically mention but that its writers were very much worried about, and things not mentioned because either they were worried, or they weren’t and thus didn’t think them worth mentioning.  For example, the famous elimination of ‘titles of nobility.’  It seems odd, by now, to think that would be uppermost in their minds.  But that tells one a lot about how the context and culture in which you live naturally arranges your priorities.  They had plenty of problems from ‘titles of nobility.’  Today...not so much.

Slavery is, of course, not directly mentioned, although the text does permit ‘importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit,’ which I think refers indirectly to slavery, since the document refers to immigration as different from’importation of persons’.  I was surprised to see that that permission was allowed to extend only until 1808, at which time Congress could prohibit such state-sanctioned immigration or importation of persons.  They were indeed hopeful about getting a handle on slavery if this was, indeed, intended to refer to that issue.

A second indirect reference to slavery comes later when the document addresses the matter of  persons ‘held to service or labor’ in one state who find themselves in a different state.  This of course required the return of escaped slaves to their owners.

We were pleased to note that the Constitution’s text, itself, reminds us that the President is the Commander in Chief of the military and, by its phrasing, makes clear that he is NOT the Commander in Chief of the People or even of The Country.  We are not a great Army led by the President.

And finally, the all-time-great one-sentence paragraph: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”  I think that’s about all that needs to be said on that topic, although my granddaughter, interning in D.C. this semester, recently reminded me that the Supreme Court had found Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War unconstitutional on the grounds that, as long as the Courts were functioning, the Constitution's prohibition could not be overcome.   Lincoln and the Military ignored the ruling, but we are a nation of laws, not men, and that’s why we were reading the Constitution today.

Finally, what’s it got to say about religion?  Only one thing: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  No mention of the U.S. being a Christian nation nor of God having some special interest in our trajectory.  Just for the record, I mention this.

So that was our Constitution Event.  The next day, when I drove by the Community Events sign, the announcement signs had all been re-arranged, but the ‘Read the Constitution’ sign had been removed.  I guess it didn’t seem like a community event.  But maybe we could make it one.  We could all meet at the Community Center and have somebody read it out loud to us once a year, and we would listen with care.  It wouldn’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes, I’d guess.   We could then go home and choose our own discussants.  And if we had questions, we could ask Google. [added: the granddaughter tells me that today is Constitution Day, so it really was even-oriented.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tending the Reserve

It’s been about 1 ½ years since the Whatcom Land Trust deeded Lily Point Reserve to Whatcom County.  And that deeding, I would suppose, means that the County is responsible for the Reserve’s upkeep.  But in these days of diminishing government income levels because of the financial crisis and of taxpayer resistance to tax increases, even for services the public wants the government to provide, the availability of Whatcom County funds to preserve the Reserve are doubtless scarce.

And that is why it is a very good thing that the Whatcom Land Trust staff organized a work day to help get rid of some of the English ivy that is climbing the big trees as well as spreading out across the land.  The event was organized by the Land Trust’s new Volunteer Coordinator, who comes to the Trust via Americorps.  A bright and cheerful young Kansan who always dreamed of living in a place with mists and tall trees and rain sent out notices via the Point Interface urging Point Roberts residents to join the Trust from 10-2 in getting some of this work done.

And so it was that Ed and I got down there this morning, a little late for the opening salvos, but nevertheless there in time to do almost three hours of ivy eliminating work.  Unfortunately, we were there with only, as far as I could tell, four other people from Point Roberts.  Well, of course, lots of people left after Labor Day, and it was a Tuesday so some people had to work, but still…only six people?  It didn’t feel like we were showing much propensity for community effort here.  And it must have felt a tad discouraging for someone just beginning her volunteer coordinator work.

Doubtless, there are Point residents who go at their own times to do this kind of work.  Certainly it does not need to be done in groups.  But it does need to be done if Lily Point is to be the kind of place that the community seemed to hope it would be back when the acquisition was completed.  For Ed, who was sawing away thick ivy vines scaling very big maple trees—almost an hour and a half on just one tree-- it was very hard work.  For me, on my knees, trowelling and hand-pulling yards of ivy stems from the ground, stems that were heading for maple trees, it was somewhat less hard, but wonderfully peaceful, nevertheless. 

Lily Point is a visually beautiful place. When I go there, though,  it’s usually down to the beach with just a quick walk through the forested part.  This was very different, though.  Digging in the dirt of Lily Point’s forest for a couple of hours, I got especially to hear Lily Point in a way I had not previously experienced.  Thanks to Whatcom Land Trust for giving me that opportunity.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beautiful B.C.

Ed flies a helicopter around here and there occasionally and gets to see much more of the varied border terrain than do those of us who just hang around Point Roberts (that would be me).  A couple of weeks ago, he found a lovely pinnacle up in B.C. with, he reported, a spectacular view.  He had his camera with him, so he tried to do a 360 degree view of the sights in the nearby high mountains.  However, he didn't have a tripod with him and it didn't do it justice.

So, this week, he went back with a tripod and got it.  You can see it here.  Mt. Baker (the highest mountain around here next to Mt. Ranier, which isn't quite so much around here) is in the background of the first part of the picture that you see (the farthest left part).  We got the ocean, we got the mountains, we got it all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 and 9/15: Here They Come Again

This year, for the first time, the country doesn’t seem to be obsessing about the 9/11 anniversary, although Obama did note today that Al Quaeda is still hanging around.  Whacked almost a year ago (September 15, when Lehman Bros. declared bankruptcy) by the threat of the economy disappearing, we seem less frightened by terrorism than by bankruptcies and foreclosures of one sort or another.

A streak of good weather here this weekend will make it seem a little bit more summery—in summer, we don’t have to think too much about 9/11 or 9/15--but the news on my street is that two of our eating establishments are closing, which doesn’t bode well for the local economic front, such as it is.  We had five restaurants and now we have three, apparently, and only 1 of the 3 routinely provide evening meals.  Although that might change for either or both of the survivors, I suppose, given the vacuum.

Hardly a year ago that we were fussing about the proposed housing development next to Lily Point Reserve where Stanton Northwest Properties was aiming to build a hundred homes of the million dollar each variety so that 100 ROTUS families would be able to participate in the oceanside paradise that is us.  The newspaper reported last month that that development is on hold.  A rather more dire sign is that when you call the main (and only) phone number listed on Stanton Northwest Properties’ website, as I did today, I was informed by a recording that this number is no longer functioning and I was not given some other number to try.

On the other hand, the County has approved permits for yet another 100 house development around the Point Roberts Golf Course.  These developers appear to be moving somewhat cautiously, talking about building only a few houses to begin with, presumably in order to find out if there is a market for paradise yet. 

In the fifteen years we’ve been here, the massive housing development is a constantly looming event, but like an antic pirate ship in a Gilbert and Sullivan comedy, it only looms, it never attacks.  Perhaps just an important engine of the plot line, although the story, ultimately, goes somewhere else.  It's just not yet clear, though,  whether this is going to be a tragedy or a comedy.  Forty-one of fifty-one economists, it is reported today, have announced that we are out of the recession.  But for the moment, it’s not apparent up here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pt. Roberts Leads the Country

Perhaps we’ve become a kind bellwether town.  Today I read that, in Philadelphia, they are having the kind of trouble that is leading them to the this action:

“* Households will receive robo-calls this week, notifying them of the switch to twice-a-month trash collection.”

Of course, they’re not really going far enough in Philadelphia on the trash scene, given our experience.  On the other hand, they’re planning to close all the libraries, which makes our 3-day/week look like we're just not making enough effort in closing down civic life.

Our trash collection problems, of course, remain unresolved.  Freedom 2000 (name not yet updated to 2008) is the local company that has applied to become the new trash collector, but the county appears to be somewhat reluctant to approve its application. [Correction: as noted in the comments, it is not the County but the WUTC--Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission--that is required to sign off and make a recommendation on the application.]  This might be because the county [correction, again: WUTC] has previously had some problems with the company's owners over licensure and dumping practices, according to the newspaper in its August issue, which is not currently on line so I cannot offer a link.  Or it might be because the company's plan is problematic with respect to profitability given the small customer base and the newsness of the company to the business, according to the September newspaper.  (It should be noted that the previous trash collector reported exactly that problem but the County [again, WUTC] was somewhat less than sympathetic to him from all accounts.)  Or it might be that the County [again, WUTC] is hoping someone else will object to Freedom 2000, making it possible for the County [again, WUTC] to keep its hands clean. (Newspaper headline: "Little Opposition to Trash Hauler Seen") All I know is what I read, of course, but between the lines of the trash stories in the last two months' All Point Bulletin, it certainly looks like those are some of the lines of thinking at the County [again, WUTC] level.  

Maybe Philadelphia would like to offer some advice?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fruits of Fall

Well, here we are past the beginning of September, at the end of the Labor Day Weekend, and Point Roberts is closing down.  The skies continue in their greyness, although there is little or no rain and the temperatures are quite moderate.  It just doesn't look very encouraging, but it's actually quite pleasant weather. 

I went out for a walk and, in a half hour on the streets, did not see a single moving car.  I did see lots of houses that are closed up; lots of boats brought home to roost; trucks in driveways hitched to third wheels or trailers.  Time to go home.

On one street, there were big tomato plants with ripe tomatoes in even bigger pots, left out at the curb (if there were curbs) like the weekly trash for pickup (if there were a weekly pickup of trash).  My guess is that they are out there as a gift for the passing walker, fruits of fall after the farmers have gone back to their real homes.

Our yard is effulgent with fruit.  I gathered up a box of ripe apples from one of our several apple trees and left it out on the road (where the trash would be picked up, etc.) and within 8 hours the box and its contents were gone.  Must have been people; raccoons would have left the box.  But raccoons wouldn't have eaten the apples because either they don't eat apples or there are far too many apples around for them to bother with those in a box.  We have more apples and plums than we know what to do with, as does pretty much everyone I know.  The pears are scarcer on the ground, as well as on the tree.  Pears seem to be more finicky.  We have at least one ripe fig, and people who never get grapes are reporting bunches on their vines (we have one bunch with about 6 grapes).   And the blueberry bushes, the both of them, are still heavily laden with fruit.

So we are enjoying the fruits of fall; the actual fruits and the indirect fruits of quiet.  Both much to be desired.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dogs Day

We are well past the Dog Days of summer, the ones at the end of August where it’s hot and sultry and we lie about drinking cool lemonade and thinking about the fact that Sirius, the dog star, used to be on the horizon at sunrise during these days, thus giving them the name.  But we’re not there anymore.  Today we are instead at Dogs Day which was a remarkable Point Roberts event, far more deserving of the ‘festival’ name than most of the festivals I’ve seen this year.

What we got was a dog show at the Community Center with a prize for every dog, because every dog competed only in his/her own category.  I counted forty dogs, so I imagine there were closer to 50 since there was considerable moving around of animals during my counting period.  All kinds of dogs showed up with their people, big ones, little ones, barky ones (but not too much of that), very quiet ones, friendly ones, nervous ones, some of everything for our entertainment and admiration  And not a sign of anybody being paid to entertain us.  We were entertaining ourselves, for the most part.

I don’t have a dog, so I was truly just a spectator, but I felt like I had a dog there today; felt like I might have a dozen or so of these dogs.  What a bunch of good sports!  And their owners too. 

Unfortunately, the weather was September and overcast and drizzling off and on.  The organizers got permission to conduct the judging indoors in the hallway of the Community Center (all the other rooms that might have been used were engaged in a big raffle, yard, and bake sale, all of it, including the dog show part, to benefit PAWS, the local organization that cares for our domestic animals in need of care). 

It was a little crowded in the hallway, so most of the 2-leggers stayed outside while the dogs and an owner took them indoors, in turns, to be addressed by the judges.  The task of the judges was to determine the category of dog in which the particular dog before them was the clear winner.  Brownest eyes in a black dog?  Shortest legs on a big dog?  Cutest dress?  Nicest bowtie?  Most dignified dogs?  Dogs with reddest scarf?  Most welcoming dog who is also a border collie? Every dog a winner!  Yes, indeed.

                                                                     Bring it back next year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Well, most basically, what’s wrong is that I chose to plant a zucchini plant in the new vegetable garden this year when, as everyone knows, it is a mistake to plant more than one-half a zucchini plant. You do a whole plant and you just become a neighborhood embarrassment or, worse, a neighborhood menace, sneeking around at night dropping excess zucchini on your neighbors’ decks.

Beyond that, there is the mistake of leaving the zucchini plant alone for two weeks during a hot period with no plans for it to be watered. I thought that would work, would slow it down. I picked everything on the plant before we left for B.C., and this is what I found when we returned (along with another one about half this size and two small ones that were perfectly respectable squash).

I didn’t buy any zucchini seeds this year; what I bought was butternut squash seeds. I planted about 40 of the latter seeds, at different times in the spring, some in the ground, some in pots in the house, some in paper pots in the kitchen, some in paper pots in the ground, some in paper pots sitting in standing pipes (don’t even ask about the logic of the last one, although slugs are involved in the explanation). Ultimately, three of the butternut squash seedlings actually made it to five inches and they have gone on to creep around a bit with small, discrete leaves and two very small promising butternut squash-like shapes which may eventually turn into butternut squash if I or the warm weather lives long enough.

My zucchini plant was pressed upon me by a neighbor who had planted one seed each in two pots and both seeds came up. When he gave it to me, it was already five inches. It seemed unkind to turn him down given the nature of his burden, so I took it in and planted it in the far corner of the small vegetable garden. By now, of course, it’s enormous, literally overwhelming the beets, the kale, and certainly the pathetic three butternut squash plants. So that’s the many things wrong with this picture. No more Mister Nice Guy, next year.

Here’s another place where there’s something wrong with the picture. In the most recent issue of the All Point Bulletin we are told of a recent Parks Board meeting. The Parks Board oversees the Community Center, among other things, but that is sort of the biggest thing they do. Complaints were being made to them that the Center was looking lackluster, had unchanged, dead lightbulbs, and insufficient gardening and landscaping. Apparently, by the end of the meeting, it was made clear that the trim painting was going to be improved, and that the Parks Board would lay out money for 6 dozen tulips. I don’t know about what’s going to happen with the lightbulb(s?), but one of the Parks Board members volunteered to pay out of his own pocket for an extra two dozen tulip bulbs.

The other part of this ‘what’s wrong. . . picture?’ comes later in the newspaper where the real estate folks advertise their wares. Last month, one (and perhaps only one) property was sold in Pt. Roberts, a beach house with 4 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms (what does that septic system look like?), costing $2.5 million. Pt. Roberts has many, many beach houses; it’s like Malibu, California, in that respect. There is a ton of money here. And we can’t afford, as a community, to get the light bulbs changed or buy an extra 2 dozen tulip bulbs, even when we’re just north of the biggest tulip fields in the U.S.?

What indeed is wrong with this picture? Maybe what we need is a Point Roberts Endowment Fund where we can all make donations to cover the costs of light bulbs and tulip bulbs, and whatever other bulbs, literal or figurative, are needed for civic life. Apparently county tax revenues aren’t able to provide such funding. Given that we don’t pay any state taxes, perhaps we could pay the equivalent, voluntarily, to the Endowment, especially those of us who came here from high state income tax states (think California) and who thus save 10% of our federal taxes overnight just by moving to Washington.

Alternatively, maybe the right model is tithing. If we believe in Pt. Roberts—and who would live here if they didn’t?—maybe we should tithe to the Pt. Roberts Endowment. Well, if there were a Point Roberts Endowment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall Bursts In

Ouch! The calendar page turns, the sky turns dark, the rains start to gather, the vine maples turn red, and every tourist on the Sunshine Coast and in Point Roberts heads for the exit. The ferries today were backed up for at least three sailings from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay, even though it’s Tuesday, the day after a non-holiday, ordinary Monday. So apparently we’re into fall, even though Labor Day is yet a week away.

I was reading while waiting the two hours for the next ferry and during the ferry ride itself a book about art and art museums by Peter Schejldahl, who is the art critic for The New Yorker. In particular, his division of museums into categories made me think a good deal about Point Roberts, strangely enough. He describes museums as being either encyclopedic (like The Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art; he compares the encyclopedic museum to Home Depot, the place that has everything you need and a bunch of stuff you don’t need but might some day); or homelike (a museum created by a single person in which everything is chosen from a single perspective of meaning); or ‘the boutique’ (very narrowly defined area of acquisition); or ‘the laboratory’ and ‘the pavillion’ (a sculpture garden would be included in the latter, L.A.'sTemporary Contemporary in the former); and ‘the destination’ (Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, Portugal--[Ed says Spain and I'm afraid he's right).

Over the years, there has been endless talk about having a history museum here on the Point, but nobody is ever quite able to generate the funds for a building or its maintenance, even though there is already something of a collection of historical goods, tended by the Point Roberts Historical Society. So what I was thinking was a kind of entertaining thought experiment. If there was to be a museum about Point Roberts in Point Roberts, what would be in its collection, what kind of museum would it be?

It could be encyclopedic, presumably and just put the best of whatever has happened here in it in documents, video, photographs, and actual stuff that remains. I have an ironing board allegedly made by Arnie Myrdahl, an original settler, although it has a Canadian company’s name on the bottom of the board, so maybe not so much, but I’ve also seen some original settler’s spinning wheel, and there could be other things like that. It could be homelike, and then the Historical Society could just pick whatever things they like and that have meaning for them. Or it could be a boutique museum that just focused, say, on the fishing and canning industry that operated here. Or it could be a pavillion/laboratory style in which Lily Point would be treated as a museum ground and wonderful things could be included there, creations consistent with Lily Point’s nature (like Storm King Sculpture Park in New York ). Or it could be a destination and either Frank Gehry or all the summer festival operators could get together and design a single, spectacular venue to house the irrelevant artifacts that would be contained therein.

I realized halfway through this process that the window sills in my houses function as tiny museums, places where I leave strange seeds, dried flowers, glass bottles, other odd objects that have come to my hand and that I was unwilling to let go of, at least yet. I leave them there in little unrelated groups (rather encyclopedic) for years at a time. Over time, I consider how they came to my hand as I stand before them and look out the window through them (a more home-like museum). I’ve come to have a substantial collection in this way, but it's narrow, boutiquey, and sort of like a laboratory in the sense that some objects are beginning to relate to others. Schjeldahl doesn’t mention that museums are also places filled with mementos of many sorts. Must be fall that turns my thoughts in this direction.