hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Meet the New Owners

Yesterday morning, a knock on the door and there come the new owners (or the new owners on Thursday).  Or at least some of them.  To our surprise (none of this had been made clear to us), the new owners seem to be 7 in number, a pair of brothers plus one wife, and two childhood friends of the brothers plus two wives.  Or maybe just one wife.  Never obvious.  What we had on the premises was one of the brothers and his wife and one of the childhood friends and his wife.  And a baby. All of them, except for the baby, maybe 25-30.

They've got a dream of a group summer/weekend vacation home for them all.  They live in Vancouver; the guys, anyway, might work all over the world; and in their spare time, they and their spouses and their children (only 1 at present and another one on the way) will make this their vacation home of happy memories.  The guys saw, offered, and bought it the house over a period of about 2 weeks, and yesterday morning, the two wives were seeing it for the first time.  I can hardly imagine how that works, but the wives seemed a little stunned, or maybe I thought that, if I were they, I would surely be stunned.

So, there they were.  We took them around for a tour of the house and the 2 acres that come with it, explaining, while they took notes on their blackberries, how various features worked, and in 90 minutes they were gone.  We were still in possession of the house, which is fast emptying, but the guys seemed jazzed by it all and ready to get going on their dream home instantly.  And I was teary at the thought of what could very well be the beginning of a spectacularly wonderful phase of their life.  At least, that's what I'm hoping for.

And in two days, we'll be history; on to some other phase of our lives, too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Transformation Day

Well, this is an odd holiday weekend.  First, there was Christmas Eve, and then there was Christmas Day, followed by Sunday, which is Boxing Day up here in Canada, and then tomorrow, because Boxing Day was on Sunday and Christmas was on Saturday, Monday becomes some other holiday, I guess called Boxing Day Celebrated.  So, nothing is open--well not the things I need open like the post office and the bank, until Tuesday, which is a little awkward if you are trying to make your residency getaway during that time.

In any case, it is definitely Boxing Day for us, Boxes and Boxes and Boxing of Boxes Day, day after day.  Our actual moving day(s) will be Wednesday, with two much-beloved neighbors--one from Roberts Creek, B.C., and one from Point Roberts, WA--each offering to come and drive a truck-load of goods southward for us.  And then again on Thursday when we make our exit.  But until then, it's boxing day.  I've done this enough times that it should be easy, but no matter how skilled and experienced you are, it is still hundreds of decisions being made: to keep? to recycle?  to abandon?  over and over again.

But it is also transformation day because not only is all that ownership being settled when he become not house owners but former house owners, but the form of these goods is also being settled.  Will that jar of pickles in the refrigerator offer some kind of anchor around which to construct a lunch or dinner? Or does it go with us for yet another dinner? Should I make six loaves of bread and bake them in this big oven in order to not have to move a bag of flour southward?  Will the former towels and washcloths satisfactorily transform themselves into packing material for glasses and bowls?  And when all these decisions are made at the end of today, will there be coffee somewhere for breakfast?  Or an available bowl and a spoon for granola, if I haven't packed the granola, bowl and spoon?  I know there's a gallon of milk, and it, at least, is not going to be packed into a box or transformed into anything else.  So there we'll be the next few days: guaranteed to have milk, the more or less complete food.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

In 1976, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a hotel in Hong Kong. I was living in Micronesia at the time (on the island of Yap, which famously has stone money), so it made some sense to be somewhere else for that holiday, but Hong Kong, as far as I could tell, had very little idea about Christmas, and it was more like Christmas had been erased from the calendar.

This year, I am spending Christmas week on the Sunshine Coast, moving out of the log house we have lived in and loved for the past 20 years. It reminds me a great deal of that week in Hong Kong. I am in between worlds.  There is no Christmas for me.

When we first bought the house in B.C., we expected to live out our lives here. But in between the time we bought the house and our actual move up here, immigration law changed in Canada and B.C., and we were no longer eligible for permanent residency. And thus we began this two-decade cross-border residency, in which we went back and forth every two weeks between Roberts Creek, B.C., and Point Roberts, Washington.

We always knew that this move was likely to come to us, and now time and its commitment to age and mortality,  have brought us to the point where we need to make a full-time return to the U.S. We leave this wonderful house and community with many wonderful memories and with enormous gratitude for the opportunities the house and community gave us. And not only us, but also our five children and eight grandchildren, all of whom have their own memories of summer at the log house to take forward into their lives, many years in the future.

I've had a kind of nomadic life.  This is the twentieth time I have moved from one house to another in the past 55 years. Maybe the last such time. It is never easy, and yet there is always something to look forward to as well as to look back on, but mostly right now I am stuck on the looking back part. What an amazing twenty years this has been. We have been so lucky to have had this time, this place. And now, we need to hand it on,  entrust it to its new owners. We can only hope they will find as much joy and fun and 'hey, we won the lottery!' feeling as we have had here, every day of our lives... just every day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Sign

This morning, i noticed that crocuses are up about an inch in several places in the yard: both in big pots and in the ground. Seems early, but they have only about 54 days before their expected bloom date, which would be Valentine's Day. So, maybe they need that much time for all that complexity, this is what they always do, etc.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to think about Noah looking at the rainbow and the dove and feeling very hopeful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No Eclipse for Us

When I headed for bed last night, around 11:15, I looked up through the bedroom skylight in hopes that we'd be able to lie in bed and watch the eclipse if we could stay awake that long.  The moon was barely visible as clouds passed in front of it, and by the time Ed got there, half an hour later, it was entirely hidden by pretty solid clouds.

Maybe it all cleared up by 12:30-1:30, but probably not.  However, I do remember watching the total eclipse about 6-7 (?) years ago.  We were up on the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver, and we went on a really cold, crispy, crystally night around 8 p.m., out on the Roberts Creek pier, and watched it for about an hour as it came and went.  It was so surprisingly red.  And the pictures I saw of last night's also showed that same, surprising red.

2014 the next one.  I doubt if I'll be around for that one, but if I am, how about earlier in the evening, and not too cold?  If I'm going to watch astronomical splendors, nice to be comfy, as well.  That's humans for you: they not only want ice cream in summer, but they'd like it in a cut-glass bowl with an antique sterling silver spoon.  And nice music in the background?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kids Have Their Say and Their Song

This past Wednesday was the Pt. Roberts' primary school's annual Christmas Program.  There are about 15 of these K-3 kids this year and there was an almost full house to watch them perform.  They are all pretty good performers, although of different forms of entertainment.  There are the kids who are so intent on not making an error in front of everyone that they look like they might break into pieces from the intensity of their concentration.  And kids who can hardly believe they are on the stage while all the adults and older children are sitting down watching them.  Those kids are at all times looking all around them as if they had never contemplated the possibility, let alone the actuality, of being in such a situation.  There are kids who, except when they are actively performing, seem to be under the impression that they are in a locked room where nobody at all is looking at them...those are the little girls who appear to be considering pulling their dresses or sweaters over their heads in their spare time on stage.

There are kids who appear to be under the impression that their parents will not recognize them in such a strange setting and who, thus, are repeatedly trying to make contact with said parents: hand waving, grimace-grinning, etc.  There are kids who look like they figure that a public error is essentially unavoidable and who are thus trying to make themselves as small as possible.  And there are kids who step right up to the microphone, look right into their audiences' eyes, and send the message strongly, 'Yes, I'm here.  Just watch this!'

All those kids were at the performance, and all were more or less performing up a storm.  They read poems and quotations and said wise things of a Christmas and Conservationist nature.  They sang and performed a little play to lecture us on the fact that, with respect to conservation, We Are The Problem.  And they played Christmas songs on handbells with a fierceness of concentration that was exhausting, to them and even to us watching.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for that next note until an older girl was required to issue a poke to the laggard bell ringer.  A few of the bell ringers knew how to do the upstroke at the end of each ring, and watching that might have been the most fun of all.

I've been to the kids' Christmas programs for a number of years and they are always different.  There are no revivals on this Broadway.  This years' program wasn't really as stunning as last year's, when the kids all appeared in penguin costumes, but the handbell ringing was an experience not to be forgotten.  I can hardly wait until next year to see what they do!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh

We received our property tax assessment today from the Whatcom County Assessor's Office. Not entirely clear to me how it is that, in the midst of the biggest real estate price collapse in my lifetime, our house/land's value has gone up by 10%. Just lucky I guess. Or, perhaps, that's the price you pay for all those refusals at election time to raise any other kind of tax.

The Post Office Comes to Life

Over the past ten days, I've been in an out of the local post office with unusual frequency.  Not that I had gotten around to mailing any Christmas gifts.  More like I was going to the post office to figure out whether I wanted to be mailing any Christmas gifts.  Each time I've been there, there has been virtually no one in line, which is quite a contrast for the month of December in the past.

I talked to one of post office employees who said that it sure was unusual but that he didn't know how to account for it.  Their incoming package mail was even higher than usual for December but the outgoing: not so much at all.  He thought it might be that there was a considerable increase in internet shopping with direct mailing to the recipient.  Then I talked to the UPS office and they, too, were having record incoming packages and not so much outgoing.  So I guess a culture that 70 years ago was all about carefully made or or at least inspected gifts are now replaced by a virtual gift-giving experience, or something that is not even much of an experience.  Nothing much the better in that, although at least you don't have to stand so long in line at the post office.

But then, today, I went to the post office with my own actual first gift package to mail, only to find that there were about 14 people in line already.  So I just brought my package back home.  Maybe no one will notice if it doesn't arrive until after Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Overwhelming and Overwhelmed

(The Point Roberts Craft Faire this past weekend proved a great success.  Lots of vendors at tables with a considerable array of lovely and useful goods all handmade in Point Roberts.  (That was one of the rules: you could sell only things you had made yourself, and you had to be a U.S. citizen or hold a Green Card in order to sell.)  It is pretty amazing to see how much handmaking goes on in a place with such a small population.  There were elegant chocolates made with exotic flavors (my favorite was strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar: just incredible, really); lotions, creams, soaps; jewelry with semi-precious stones, with metallic rings, with beads of all sorts, with polished stones, with anything you could reasonably put in jewelry; knit goods for the winter cold; pieced baby-blankets; flowers; cards, photos, notepaper; ornaments of many shapes and colors; quilts and quilted things; yarn and fleece sheep and llama (just one llama, as all the llamas made of llama hair that were available were of, for, and from Lily the Llama).  And more of those things. Lots more.  And hot cider throughout the day, and soup and chili and tea and coffee.

The hall was decorated with the goods, but also festooned with garlands and trees and lights and general glitter and bling and as far as I could tell, a good time was had by all.  The number of people who came through the space on Saturday was astonishing, and not least because Canadians who had come down from above us were telling tales of 90 minutes in line at the border.  Later, I was told that it was not just overwhelming numbers but a computer problem, but there were really a lot of people.  And they bought generously, perhaps stunned from having been in a border lineup for 90 minutes.

Then Sunday dawned very wet and very grey with the impediment of a flooded Gulf Road which proved something of a challenge for shoppers trying to get to the Community Center.  But, by noon it had drained off a good bit, rushing down the full roadside ditches to the ocean, and the shoppers re-appeared.

It was all over by 5 p.m.  They drew tickets for all the raffles and the immediately locatable winners collected their winnings and the rest of us packed our (small number of) remaining goods and went home to take a hot bath or a short nap or something: overwhelmed we were by it all.  Which is why we do this only once a year.

My thanks to everyone who showed up and participated.  See you there next year.

This is my quilting and spinning friend Heidi (Lily the Llama's Mom) and me at our shared table.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Christmas Season

I think that the first Christmas-y event here in Point Roberts is the Christmas Craft Faire, held at the Community Center this weekend (Saturday, Sunday, 10-5).  Sometimes, the quilting group has a table, but mostly we don't because quilting work is pretty labor intensive and it tends to make the work somewhat more expensive than is customarily effective for this kind of event.

Sometimes, however, one or two or three of us will go it alone.  This year, I agreed to share a table with another quilter, and we will have various smaller items available for the customers' Christmas delight.  Or something.  Here are pictures of a few things that will be available from my hands.

A Lap Quilt

Nankes: Christmas Tree Ornaments

Five-inch Tall Ladies: Pins or Christmas Tree Ornaments

Also, quilted and hand-embroidered covered journals, fabric postcards, cute little bags, etc.   Come by and say hello, at least.  And even take some of this stuff off my hands?  Merry  Early Christmas!

Difficult Questions

I was talking with a Canadian the other day and commented that it was hard for Americans to understand why Canada still had a queen.  She replied that the Queen did some good, was a tradition, and did no significant harm.  On the other hand, she added, it's very difficult for Canadians to understand why Americans don't make sure that all their citizens have access to health care.  Point, set, and game to Canada!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Hole in the Sky

Last month, we went down to Bellingham and found a very puzzling sight: two workers working on a hole in the sky. We had never, either of us, seen anything like it. It was something in theprocess of being built, and perhaps what we were seeing at that moment was some uncovered infrastructure/framework, something that when the work was finished would never be seen again. Maybe it was some kind of fancy electronics for some kind of futurama border crossing news phenomena. Maybe it would provide us with real-time news and pictures of terrorists in our midst?

Ed took a picture of it as we drove through the border, conscious that we probably ought not to be taking photographs at the border if we valued our Nexus cards, but it was such a stunning sight, and one we expected never to see again.

(Link here to larger version of photo.)
And, then, a couple of weeks later, we passed through the Peace Arch crossing again, and the hole in the sky was still there, although there were still workmen around. And more recently, our friend Rose was crossing at that border, and the hole was still there, but without workers about. It appeared to be finished.

When Ed saw Rose's picture, he Googled 'peace arch crossing,' 'billboard,' and 'art," on the off chance that the border people were investing in public art as a welcoming gesture to terrorists and fruit smugglers, and other miscellaneous travellers. Lo and behold, everything was illuminated by the Bellingham Herald.

It is publicly-funded art and the piece is not, unfortunately, named 'A Hole in the Sky.'. So unimaginative the real title, 'Non Sign II.' But so imaginative and evocative, the art itself! Watch for it on your next trip...on the right hand side by the U.S. booths heading south.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Rock, a Stick

The weather stays unusually cold; some days are grey, some days the sun shines, but it shines with an amazingly cold light.  Looking out the window at the ravaged garden, there are no warm colors to be seen.  The leaves and stems and stalks that remain have only a little cold yellow in them, or a lot of greenish, cold grey.  The days go by much like one another, making it harder to remember what day of the week it is.

I went down to the beach today, thinking to see if the sun seemed any warmer there, over the broad expanse of water.  It didn't, even though it was mid-afternoon and in its early setting mode.  There were some golden lights in the sky, under a band of dark grey clouds, but even the gold seemed a cool color.  The water was dark and grey.  There were a few ducks rocking in the water as the tide relentlessly arrived at the shore, breaking every few moments with a cold hushing sound.  To the south, the snow-covered mountains on the Olympic Peninsula were in view.  Not welcoming.  One fishing vessel out a ways, but no sign of any other ship traffic.

Not much of a walk, either, as it turned out because the tide was pretty high and I couldn't get to what sand was available because of the pools immediately in my path.  So, I resolved to find, within the small area I could track, the finest rock and the best piece of driftwood available to me.  So many rocks, so much driftwood, all of it appealing in its way.  But even allotting myself one of each, I could not choose.  I came home with two of each.

Which makes today different from the week of days that went before because on those days, I neither went to the beach nor gathered a favored rock or stick, or two.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Cautionary Tale

Last week when we had the two power outages, we had another interesting event as well.  The second outage occurred in the late afternoon of Thanksgiving, so that meant we had no light and up here it's dark in the winter without electric lights.  Ed lit the two propane lamps, which burn with great brightness, and I lit a couple of small, decorator oil lamps for the bedroom and bathroom.  That's the usual routine.

Last time I used the oil lamps, I had trouble with the wicks in both of them.  We've had these lamps for over two decades.  They came from Pottery Barn and were very trendy for a brief while because they are very pretty.  Small, clear glass cylinders with a little oil-holding sphere within.  You send a match down and light the wick and it glows like a glass candle.  Very nice.  Not a lot of light, but enough for  our purposes or for a glamor touch if you are in to those touches.  Which is to say, if you burn candles when you don't need them for the light.

The wick was continuing to be problematic, providing way more flame than was needed, so I trimmed them down and just accepted that there was more flame than necessary.  Two hours plus and the power went back on, I blew out the oil lamps, turned off the propane lamps, and we returned to cooking dinner.

But later in the evening, we both noticed a kind of miasma in the room, which dissipated, and even later, I noticed that my hands were kind of grey-ish and that Ed's moustache seemed to be grayish whereas it is usually whitish.  And then I walked into the bathroom and noticed that the grate on the wall heater had turned solid black.  At first I thought it had overheated and was burning up.  But not.  It turned out it was covered with an oily, sooty substance.  I washed it off with some considerable effort.

And then I slowly noticed that everything in the house, every flat and hospitable surface had a thin coating of this stuff.  Ed's moustache included.  We were the recipients of sooty oil from the oil lamps bad burning habits.  Just imagine what the 19th Century must have been like!  I wonder if whale oil burned cleanly and that's why it was in such demand?

So, in the ensuing week, I have washed down every window, every cabinet door, every everything that it had covered.  By yesterday, I was coming to the end of this tedious set of tasks, and I washed the living room curtains which are made of bleached muslin.  A commercial laundromat with big tubs, lots of soap, very hot water, and all.  And then into the dryer, and spray starched.  And, as I began to iron them, I saw there remained large patches (like camouflage fabric) of grey here and there across all the yards of fabric.

So they'll have to be replaced.  And I'm thinking of putting a notice on Point Interface:

"Two lovely, almost vintage decorator glass oil lamps; Pottery Barn, circa 1986.  Free.  Need wickwork."