hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, January 31, 2011

Walking the Llama

Big bright sun yesterday, all day, accompanied by a crisp 30-ish degrees temperature.  Well, it's still January, if barely, so what can we expect?  We used the occasion of the sun, however, to arrange to take Lily the Llama out for a walk by the ocean.

First, you have to get the halter on her, which is neither easy nor hard.  She might be willing to let you put it on her or she might not.  You might have to wait a while until she expresses the willingness.  But you mostly just stand around while she prances back and forth, watching you very carefully, I guess to figure out what you have in mind.  My impression of llamas (based solely upon my experience with Lily: how about generalizing from an N of 1?) is that they regard humans as an inferior species with some possible interest as entertainment, although mostly not.  She will come over to me and put her face right up to mine and breathe in little snorts, and sometimes she kind of puts her lips on my face, which feels fairly friendly.  But, after a few seconds of that, she walks away as if I have dismally failed some kind of test of interest.

Anyway, Ed stood around with the halter in his hand and she bounced around mostly at a goodly distance.  Occasionally, she'd come right up to him, but when she got within his reach, she bounced away very quickly again.  After about 20 minutes or so of this, we decided that she wasn't going to submit to the halter and got ourselves ready to leave.  And as we made to leave, she came over to Ed and he put the halter on her easily.  Ed's view is that she was just goofing around and suddenly realized that if she didn't stop she was going to lose her chance to go for a walk on the beach.

So we walked her on the beach, or Ed did, anyway.  I just moved along with them, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind.  We ran into a few other walkers who stopped of course and took their measure of Lily while she took her measure of them.  They all seemed okay to her as far as I could tell.  When she's not wearing a halter, she is pretty standoffish.  But with the halter on, she was all over us.  When we'd stop for a bit, she'd lean her head over to me or to Ed, and we'd be standing there, head to head, or neck to neck, just being buddies.  Normally, she wouldn't be the least bit anxious to have me putting my arm around her neck or patting her on the head.  But on the beach walk, she even let the random beach walkers pat her.

Of course patting her on the head requires some height.  When she and Ed are walking together, the top of her ears are about on a par with the top of  his hair, which is in the 6-foot range.  She's really big and taking her out for a walk really isn't like taking a dog out.  She doesn't strain at the leash or have some kind of agenda of her own.  She's just with you out for a walk.  Nice day, you know?

And that's what we do in Point Roberts on a sunny day in the winter.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Disappearing, Appearing

Updated below.

The other night, I was at a book club meeting and I was interested to hear a couple of the other attendees discussing how they hadn't seen one another for ages, in fact had hardly seen anyone for ages.  (The book club meets monthly, so it couldn't have been too long.)  In a place this small, you get used to seeing people here or there regularly, but I was pleased to have that conversation confirm my sense that January is the month for disappearing.

But that may be all about to end.  Tonight, Trinity Lutheran Church re-starts its concert schedule with a jazz ensemble from Trinity Western University bringing itself up to the Point to liven us up.  The church,  in the nature of its being, is usually raising funds for some needed community good that the County wouldn't be in the business of providing, and at the moment they need to get the Church organ's problems remedied.

The concert is one of a long series; the Church arranged and sponsored almost thirty concerts in 2010.  The arranging work is done by Lucy Williams who is like the Sol Hurok of Point Roberts (if anybody still remembers who Sol Hurok was).  It's probably a largely thankless task except for the fact that those who attend enjoy the music.  It certainly amazes me that she is able so regularly to find really talented musicians who want to come to entertain us.  My guess is that they all perform for free because there are those charitable objects that need the money raised by the concerts; and then there is the fact that the price of a ticket is left up to each attendee.  Lucy clearly has spent too much time listening to National Public Radio when considering a funding model.  But we are all grateful to her: she brings us the sounds of joy at a price we can afford.

Update: We walked down to the church last evening in the misting rain and were indeed treated to a wonderful performance.  Six young men from Trinity Western University in Langley (but I don't know whether that's the U.S. Langley or the Canadian Langley) just knocked themselves out for us for a little over an hour.  They were having such a good time it was hard not to feel we ought to be able to pull out our instruments and join them in the fun, except for the fact that we don't actually play any instruments.  Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter and Thelonius Monk pieces rocketed out of them and I don't know that the church itself will quite be the same after hearing all that.  The only downside was that the place wasn't packed with audience.  I imagine Lucy will invite them back and if you are in the vicinity you shouldn't miss it.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vancouver Adventure

Months--even a year--can go by without our getting up to Vancouver proper, whose heart is only about 20 miles away from us here in Point Roberts.  There's the traffic, there's the parking problem, there's the fact that I like it where I am and that the internet can deliver unto to me most of the things I might need so I don't really need to do much shopping in the 3D world.  Nevertheless, we did make the adventure trip on Tuesday.

The weather people had promised us partly sunny.  Unfortunately, the part that was sunny was not anywhere between Point Roberts and Vancouver central.  Very grey and in and out rain all the way.  It seemed very adventurous until the traffic made it seem a little more in the oppressive field, but we continued on to Granville Island where I longed for some linen supplies, and then we drove on to various places where Ed was chasing photographs.

He has a series of photographs taken thirty years ago by a well-known Canadian photographer and he is trying to retake the photos, to document the changes over that time.  He's been in touch with the photographer who has given him some sense of where he took the pictures, but it is not exact: e.g., Broadway, somewhere between Renfrew and Rupert.  Not an enormous distance, but still, after 35 years, hard to track down.  And then, we suddenly thought, 'maybe he was shooting south, not north?'  Indeed, a puzzlement.

It was about a 5-hour adventurous trip in all and I was reminded once again how living in Point Roberts, mostly staying in Point Roberts and the near environs, causes one to lose track of what cities are really like: how many people there are, how many buildings, how much color clash, how close together everything is.  It surely lacks a sense of harmony.  I was reading a survey of 20-somethings the other day and how they overwhelmingly looked forward to living in a city environment with all the action that promises.  While, doubtless, the 60-somethings are thinking about sun and trees and water.  Ah, we live, we learn.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Failure to Rise Yesterday

Nope, failed to rise for the birthday event, though the children and one grandchild (bless her!) called or wrote.  More rain, deep grey skies.  The back yard is desperately soggy.  Such that one can imagine whoever in the state supervises wetlands would soon be coming around for a supervisory look-see, not to mention the strong possibility of flocks of mallards moving in to glide about on the little pools, becoming resident wild livestock.

But, today we are going up to Vancouver to see how it is faring, which may be rising to the occasion but just a day late.

And for the birthday?  Well, here is what I made new for the world in my 74th year.  Not bad for a year with other calls on my time as well.  That's what you get when you live in a tiny townlet, I think: lots of time to use as you want.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Still Here

Well, I got nothing. It's cold and grey and a bit damp and working its way up to frost or snow. Good weather for cooking comfort foods (bread, chocolate-orange-pecan cake, bran muffins, chicken soup), and for reading good novels (Never Let Me Go, The Echo Makers), and for watching odd but interesting movies (Jack Goes Boating, Ride the High Country). Otherwise, it's a bit like being a hibernating bear that's inexplicably wakened way too early.

Maybe next week we will become more lively. My 74th birthday arrives on Monday (I'm the oldest living member of my family, so no one is left who remembers the original event) and perhaps I can rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January Blues

January is perhaps the quietest month in Point Roberts. It's usually the coldest month, of course, and that doesn't help, but beyond that it's just kind of dim. Nothing much happens. Last January, we, personally, were being catapulted into a medical adventure, which made January anything but dim, and some people are obviously getting to have that kind of experience this January, too. In fact, only the other night, we heard the sound of the medevac helicopter coming into the fire station, and thought about that poor family that was having way more excitement than is good for anyone.

But, such experiences notwithstanding, it is plenty quiet around. Lots of people have taken off for the winter. About a quarter of our quilt group disappears at this time of year to places with more natural heat. I checked the Community Events Sign this afternoon, and there are no events. I looked at the bulletin board at the International Market, and found that there were plenty of empty spaces for announcements. In fact, so much space that there were two copies of one announcement posted. That just wouldn't be an accurate description of the bulletin board any other month. Very quiet at the library today, too: only me and the librarians while I was there.

BUT, there is yet one very lively place in town. Both last Saturday and the Saturday before that, I drove by one of the private mail companies and the line of people waiting to pick up packages was way out to the street both days. Around Christmas, this would not be surprising. But half-way through January?

Apparently our neighbors to the North are using their credit cards overtime in the U.S. All the cars parked round the package center had Canadian plates. Saturday is the day you have time to drive down to P.R. and get gas, butter, and your most recent cross-border internet purchases, I'm guessing. The U.S. and Canadian dollars are pretty much of equal value these days, so this may be an excellent time to shop if Canadian dollars is what you are long in. Also a good time to fight back against January's dreariness.

We've been being frugal since the fall of 2008, but apparently now we're tired of it. We have frugality fatigue, and when you put January on top of that, well, No Wonder! they're lining up at the package delivery center. Point Roberts used to be the place that Canadians came to to drink. Now, it's more like to pick up their shopping.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Good Looking

We were down in Bellingham this past week.  I don 't go there all that often and I don't know many parts of the town...the malls, the hospital, Cordata, the Co-op, the Hardware Store, and Trader Joe's are where I'm most acquainted.  So, this may not be a judgment that generalizes to Bellingham itself, but James St. has the most appealingly painted stretch of houses that I may have ever seen.  It's not that the houses themselves are spectacular architectural wonders: they're mostly small and older.  But they all are freshly painted in interesting and effective color combinations (just paint and trim combinations).  And they seem always to look as if they had just been painted yesterday.  Those houses come with some sort of covenant that requires annual paint jobs?  Unlikely.  An entire neighborhood of compulsive paint renewers?  Probably not.  Maybe just neighborhood standards that are encouraging of everyone to step up to the aesthetic?  More possible.

It made me feel some need to paint our house which definitely is not looking spritely sprightly (thanks to stephen for the correction).  I don't know that the neighborhood would respond similarly, but I would feel the better for it having been done and next January I would definitely be happy to see it looking fresh, and January almost always could use every bit of cheering possible.  I did repaint the (antique)  front door last summer, so maybe a whole new house paint job could be in my spring or summer.  Obviously, a lot of color schemes to choose from.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wait a Minute!

Suddenly, we are faced with a week of temperatures in the high 40's and even low 50's.  And only mid-January. What can this mean?  The Indian Plum bushes, one of the most common  tall bushes in the undergrowth here has buds that are green and aching to open.  The crocus tips are greening up nicely too.  Seems a little early yet, but they don't look like they are in the mind to wait.

What mostly occupies my mind about this (after just being thankful for it not being so very cold) is that all those garden chores that were left undone last November are still out there waiting to be done: one raspberry bed not quite cut back;  peonies not cut back; fuschia bushes, ferns, campion, hydrangeas, all of it not cut back.  Which might mean that instead of blog writing, I should be out in the yard in this light moment between rains.  The Protestant Ethics calls.  Although, of course, one could be playing golf, if it didn't rain for a couple of hours and if the golf course part of the golf course were open.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's Open

Kind of an update from last week, but more just an astonishment. Today I saw, coming in to the Point from Tsawwassen, a sign by the side of the road informing me that the Point Roberts Golf Course is open every day..like the International Market and the hardware store and the gas stations. Except it is near freezing most days and raining or snowing most or many days, and people are expected to be golfing? That's some devotion to sport!

Update: Ah, I'm informed that it is the restaurant at the golf course that is open everyday.  I'm glad I didn't run right over with my golf clubs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Art at Home

This past weekend, Pt. Roberts hosted a little art retreat.  Eight or so women (as it happened, they were all women) came to spend several days together working on altered books.  Or at least some of them worked on that while others worked on other things.

We are living through something of an art renaissance right now and it's nice to see it gathering here at our Community Center.  Of course, Point Roberts has probably a particularly high incidence of artists among its residents, partly because it is something of a retirement community and lots of retired people, once they have the time, turn to the reengagement with the world and the imagination that art offers.  But, also, it is the kind of place that artists of all kinds are inclined to show up to.

There is a general inclination in this culture to equate art with galleries, New York City, museums, things like that that might be called 'high art,' but might just as easily be thought of as commercial art.  And then there is the other kind: not low art, but non-commercial art.  Art that is made for the joy of it, not in order to try to become famous or even just to make an adequate living.  It is more about the opportunity to learn something about a material or variety of materials and about one's self in relation to that material and to the ideas that the material inspires.  To see what one can make, most simply put.  Like God creating the heavens and the earth in the Bible, the artists reaches out their hands and make things with what lies before them.  And then they think about what they have wrought.

The Community Center's  tables were overflowing with things when I was there on Sunday.  I wasn't participating in this particular event (although several of the Point Roberts quilters were), but I dropped in to see what they were doing.  And they were doing lots of things: making altered books and making brand new books with old things, making art journals, making paper sheets for backgrounds, making nuno felt scarves, which last has nothing to do with altered books but everything to do with making art, in this case wearable art.

Luckily, I can pretty much do this kind of thing most days of my life, freed from the obligations of employment and child rearing.  And I know how much joy it can provide.  And was providing to these artists.  It was the first time this group had been here (usually, they meet on Whidbey Island, I believe).  There is lots of art here in our townlet and there is always room for more.

If they come back, which they might in the spring, drop by and see what they are doing.  You may catch the fever.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not an Economic Development Plan, But....

I've got three or four threads coming together here, so stay with me.  First, looking at the weather report for the next five days, I'm seeing nothing but days in which the high is below freezing.  This is cold weather for here.  I know, it's not cold weather for Alberta or Minnesota, but we don't live in Alberta or Minnesota, we live in Point Roberts and we think 40 degrees F. is about cold enough.  And we've had more than usual sub-32 degree F. weather since last November.  So it's cold.  And we are all in this cold together.

Second.  Fortunately, for us, Llily the llama and her four pygora (pygmy angora) goat companions have shared their fleece with us and Ed has a lovely full llama fur/fibre hat to keep him from the cold, and I have a brand new pygora headband to keep me warm.  And these are very good things.  The llama and the goats don't seem to sense any particular close relationship between them and us when we are wearing our new hats, but you can't have everything.  Anyway, we've got cold and we've got these lovely llama and pygora headgear, see below!

Now, third.  Recently, the library has been sponsoring a knitting group at the community center/library on Tuesday evening around 6 p.m.  Included in this group are some of the local teenagers who are just learning to knit.  Knitting a headband or a plain hat is a very easy and nice thing to do when you are just starting knitting.  And having everyone in Point Roberts have a chance to have a llama or pygora hat/headband is a really cool idea, I think.  (Speaking from experience, it is actually a very warm phenomenon, as well as a cool idea.)

So, what I'm thinking, is that the teenage and other knitters ought to be making hats and headbands from llama and pygora fiber to sell at the Community Market when it opens next Eastertime, and keep knitting them and selling them until winter comes upon us again.  And then we will go out into our exclave and immediately recognize one another: who belongs and who is just dropping in for packages, gas, or groceries.  Of course, the visitors could come to the Community Market and buy a hat/headband, too, but then that would just indicate their willingness to stand in unity with us in the cold, no?  And we would welcome that.

Now, Llily and the pygora goats probably can't single-handedly (or whatever the proper word should be there) supply that much fleece/spun yarn, so it would have to be outsider fiber at the beginning, but over the years, it could be different...Well, it's an idea, or the beginnings of one.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Are We Open? Or Are We Closed?

News from the Cafe Capanna that they have entered their winter schedule, which would be open on Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday, and closed on the rest of the days.  The healthcare clinic is on its all year schedule, which is open on Monday/Tuesday/Thursday.  The library, also on its all year schedule, is open on Tuesday/Wednesday/Saturday.

The grocery store has a just regular open every day schedule, like the gas stations.  Neilson's Hardware is open most days, but it has special winter Sunday hours that I can never remember.  The liquor store is open most days, I think, and maybe even all but one day, which could be Monday.  Brewster's Deli/Fine Foods is open some days and closed some other days but I haven't a clue as to which days.  The Blue Heron Gallery is normally open Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday, but in January isn't open at all.  The Maple Studio Gallery is open only by request.  The dump/transfer station was open Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday, but now it's open only Sunday/Tuesday,Thursday, I think just winter hours, though.
update: according to the newspaper, Brewsters is open for lunch every day.
What is the point of all this here on the Point?  Well, it seems to me that it is getting harder and harder to remember all these odd times and days and perhaps we ought to urge somebody (Chamber of Commerce?) to try to standardize them a bit?  Or maybe someone could put out a little magnet item for the refrigerator which would have the complete schedule for all our enterprises and civic institutions?  Or maybe a big magnet.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What Do You Know?

Today's headlines: "Canadians Not as Healthy as They Think."

Tomorrow's headlines, doubtless: "Canadians Not as Nice as They Think"

How about: "Canada's Health System: Much Better Than Americans Would Like to Think; Also Much Better than America's (Non)System."

Saturday, January 1, 2011


New Years Day and if we were the relaxing sort, we would be relaxing because we had completed moving out of our British Columbia house and returned safely and sanely to Point Roberts.  Not an easy move, all things considered including our advanced years.  We are considerably in debt to our friends who brought their trucks/vans up and over to move the boxes and who came to pick up the remnant goods in the dark on Thursday night, with a promise to bring them down to us next time they come this way.

Our Canadian neighbors, both here in Point Roberts and in Roberts Creek, B.C., have been, every step of the way, helpful in every conceivable way.  Barry and Lynda, who watched out for the house when we weren't there all those years and who mowed the lawns for us in our absence over this past summer when it was for sale; Don and Jean, who took us in for Christmas every year, who offered their truck for many problems for which a truck is the only answer, and who the first day we moved in got our moving truck unstuck; Tom and Lorinne who have answered every call even when we were not sure we needed to call.  I've never had such neighbors in the U.S.   Maybe just chance, but maybe Canadians are just really kinder and more generous than we are down here to the south, crazed as we still are with conquering whatever is in front of us.

We left the house looking like the Joads on their way from Oklahoma to California in the 1930's, car jammed full with boxes and then finally just loose goods; boxes and things tied to the roof rack.  A young deer came round shortly before we left and while I stood there, he ate all the buds of a rhododendron bush, as if to say, 'Take that! You quitter!"  Paid no attention whatsoever to my urging him to move on.  "Move on, yourself."  Yes.  Yes.  That's exactly what we are doing.  Someone else will have to protect the rhododendron and hydrangea buds now.

A dark, clear, starry sky and freezing temperatures accompanied us southward on the ferry and through Vancouver.  When we arrived at the Point Roberts border crossing, one of the CPB agents we have known for years was there to greet us.  "Bringing anything in tonight?" he queried, before he noticed that we were bringing virtually everything in tonight.  Ed explained that this was the last of our goods from our Canadian house that we had just sold.  "Oh, well, yeah," he said.  "Welcome home.  And the computer says I have to look under your hood."  So we struggled, all three of us, to find the hood release  button, and he checked under the hood.  Then, waved us through with the comforting news that "You've still got a motor there."

And we were Out, or perhaps In.