This space belongs to Megan Eliza (Red Cedar), long-time Vancouverite kicking it in the neighbourhood of Hastings-Sunrise. I communicate for a living, play music for pleasure, and fill the rest of my waking minutes with love, home, craft, art, outdoor adventures, photography, writing, grad school, gardening, cooking and even sometimes politics.
Yes. That there is a picture of me on Friday afternoon, holding up 25 pounds of Chinook salmon on the dock at the Lions Gate Marina. That is 25 pounds of salmon that *I landed* on my friend Greg’s boat – and that is the first ever salmon for me.
Truth is, I’ve barely fished at all in my life (despite the fact I work in a fisheries field). I’ve only ever caught small trout (and one rockfish), and nothing larger than two pounds. So this was a bit of a revelation for me. Here are the things I learned on Friday:
- Landing a large fish is hard work! There was a point in the process where I thought that I couldn’t hold on or reel the fish in for one more second – but then what was I going to do? I kept going – and boy, were my arms still sore the next day.
- A large fish is really a two or three person process – there is just no way I could have fought the fish on the line and netted it at the same time. Greg was handling the net while our other compatriot Devona was steering the boat – I just don’t know what you would do out there alone.
- There is a lot of blood. Yes, I know that animals bleed when they die – but there was just a lot more blood than I thought there would be – all over the boat, my pants, and my boots (yay waterproof gear!)
- Catching a fish means processing it right away. It’s great to catch a big fish – but it’s also taking an animal life! In my books, it is pretty much a sin to waste any part of a living creature – which means immediate processing. In this case we dressed the fish on the dock, and I put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, Brian filleted it (video below) and we froze two large portions for later eating (keeping a third out for dinner tonight), started brining one side for smoking yesterday, and turned the spoon meat into fish cakes. All that to say – getting one or two fish at a time is great, but more than that would be a lot of work to process alone.
- I am totally not afraid to be out in the water on a speeding boat – as long as I have something to hold onto. Also, Boston Whalers are really nice and stable – much more than I would have imagined.
- And finally, I’m hooked (no pun intended). I can see what makes fishing so addictive – and I’m ready for more! Maybe not this year, but I am definitely going to look into local charters next year that Brian and I can do together.
A little video of the filleting action:
The picture above was taken the other night, after Brian and I packed the cupboards at the bottom with tomatoes and tomato sauce made and canned over the weekend. At one point, both the pressure canner and the boiling water canner were going at the same time – and we ended with about thirty more filled jars for our basement “pantry”. Last night he made BBQ sauces, and this week I’ll round out the canning with some apples, stewed plums, and pickled beets – thus completing the major cycle of canning that we do each year in preparation for the winter.
For the record, I also did my annual “clean-out” where I remove all jars that are 2 years are old (from 2013 at this juncture). This year that was twelve jars – which I consider exceptionally good since we can about 200 jars worth of food a year (possibly more, I don’t keep good track). I used to have a much worse record of actually using my canned foods which was related to making too much of things that I wouldn’t be inclined to use (I never needed 12 jars of zucchini relish, for example). Over the years we’ve learned to make what we will eat, and eat what we make – an integral part of ecological sensibility around food supply.
I’ve noticed that whenever I post a photo like this out in the world – to Facebook for example – an awful lot of comments come back in the “well I know where to go when the apocalypse comes” variety – allusions to the fact that this looks like prepper behaviour and so forth. So to set the record straight! Though we have developed many skills (hunting, gardening, seed saving, canning, food storage, building small things, sewing, knitting, and so forth) – we are *not* doing it because we believe we will need to survive a nuclear winter or even a really bad drought.
In fact, despite what we were taught as children (my mother, in particular saw learning these skills as somewhat pointless because why bother in the age of mass manufacturing), some of us derive great satisfaction from making our own things, keeping a stocked larder, sustaining our own lives through the work of our hands, wearing clothing made in our own style, and continuing the learning cycle throughout the whole of our lives. At least, that’s my main motivation. I’m not really sure what else is a worthy use of my time either – I mean, I could be watching TV in the evenings or playing video games, but instead I choose to knit, sew, play music and so forth.
Additionally, we economize by purchasing food at its cheapest point in the cycle, and by preparing our own sauces, preserves and so forth – we eat gourmet-quality food all year long without paying ridiculous prices for so-called “bespoke” foods (which are all the rage these days).
I’ve been around prepper behaviour lots in my lifetime – had friends that stockpiled for Y2K (remember that?) and carved bunkers into their basements. For the most part those foods rotted in the ground or got bugs (one of my old roommates brought several bins of Y2K foods into our house and then left them there while they developed moths) – and the culture around prepping was fearful and secretive. That’s not my life, nor the life of my community now – which means that we get to do things just because of the joy of doing them.
The prepper label suggests that those of us who pay attention to what we eat, wear, and make are somehow driven by fear and anxiety – and ultimately slapping survivalist terms on the making of everyday life diminishes the value of what we do and the homes we create. The Urban Crow Bungalow is a place of great joy and love, where we frequently invite people to share at our table in the continuation of our community network. We are not stockpiling ammo and hoarding food – but growing outwards from our own labour in order to support our lives and the lives of those around us. It’s not survivalism that drives us, but love – and nothing more than that.
One of the things that Brian and I did last weekend at the cabin was some trail building. Trail restoring, really – we are working with a long-disused ATV trail (and probably, logging road from the forties though it’s hard to tell that now) – and clearing it bit by bit up and around a moose pond on the crown land behind our place. It’s a short walk up, but pretty steep, and the way is littered with the deadfall of the pine-beetle forest that it winds through. On one hand, it feels like we are making a trail in a dying place – with all the pine infested and black from standing rot; on the other, there is all sorts of regeneration going on – spruce, fir, understory plants once choked by the poor pine replants that happened in the years after the original old growth was cut. (This was once a healthy fir forest, as evidenced by the few big old guys that remain). As we make our way up the hill, we test each rotting pine to see if we can simply push it over, away from the trail – to ensure we won’t be removing it from the trail next season. It’s incredibly satisfying to push a twenty-foot tree to the ground, if a little unsettling to confront the dying cycle of the forest at the same time.
Because the forest is so rickety, and because our cabin is located in an area prone to heavy winds – things are falling down all the time. In fact, it’s a hazard to be in the woods when they start to sway and from the porch on our cabin we can hear all manner of things fall – large and small – on most afternoons when the thermals pick up. Mornings are pretty calm though, not to mention cool, so it’s a safe bet for getting out with our saw, machete, and trail tape. We are doing a significant marking job up there because I want to snowshoe the area, and once a few inches fall it starts to get pretty impossible to tell what’s going on otherwise.
Trail-building is an endless exercise – with the satisfaction of bringing order to a place, laid alongside the frustration of having to clear the same ground over and over. Just when you get one section done, a tree falls over, or a branch shatters across the clearing – and there is more sawing and lifting to bring it back to rights so as to proceed. We have no illusions about the permanence of this trail, it had almost disappeared in spots before we found it – the connection to the road where the ATVs used to come up is severed by trees which have fallen across it. (We hope no one bothers to come up with a chainsaw – but it seems to have been forgotten sometime ago.) We also want to expand on an old animal/hunter (?) trail around the moose pond so that it becomes possible to snowshoe up and around the pond without getting lost.
As we worked together and talked about our task last week, it occurred to me how much trail-building and maintenance is like meditation practice – the foundation is often laid before us in the form of an old road or animal track – but it is up to us to walk it repeatedly in order to wear it into place. Even as we do that work – walking the pathway over and over – things fall into our way all the time. We get tripped up by a bad emotional reaction, a death in the family, the loss of a job, our own ego struggles – like the dead trees that fall – we must clear them, set them to the side, even allow them to be guides along the way – so that we can progress to the next point in our walk where we are confronted by some more debris that needs tending.
But like meditation, there is no endpoint. There are some views along the way, perhaps a rest by a shaded pond in the deep of the forest, but the trail is never finished – which is both a source of inspiration and the overwhelm of the infinite nature of such ventures. It’s mostly quiet though, and so the very nature of the work is restorative to the soul and the surround, even as the path can be a bit of a slog sometimes.
This was a new thing for us together and I love that we have found this practice up above our land – Brian and I – moving forward along an overgrown trail and learning about our own capacities as we go.
We arrived at the cabin yesterday evening amid a thunderstorm and heavy rain event that went on throughout the night – the first rain the area has seen in a month, but at 15 mm an hour. This after driving right through the eye of another storm on our way through Manning Park – we were so close to the lightning that we could smell it in the air.
It’s cool here this morning, but I type this post from the coziness of the camp bed pictured above, the quilt that took me ten years to make is finally in use – and the extra loft batting is providing enough warmth – though if I was to get up right now I would have to make a fire in the woodstove.
I am writing this blog post from the middle device you see in the picture above – my new Chome Book flip – a 10-inch mini-laptop that also doubles as a tablet. It’s a bit of an experiment in two things for me really
- Will I use a tablet and,
- Am I willing to move entirely into the cloud for my next laptop purchase a year or two down the road.
I have always been a diehard Apple user – and my last four computers have been some variety of Apple laptop. I am currently running a 15-inch MacAir which I love for it’s light weight and metal case. It’s both durable and portable and I’ve been running it for the last two years with no problems (and I expect it to last me quite awhile longer).
But over the same period of time I’ve started to put more and more of my material into cloud services for easy access. I no longer use native apps on my laptop, and have pretty much exclusively moved to Google Drive apps for creating documents and storing files. While I wouldn’t put anything sensitive into the cloud – most of what I do doesn’t fall into that category – web coding, paper writing, random bits of research of interest to no one but me. This habit means that no matter whether I am at work, on my phone, on the road in an airport, or anywhere else – using any device – I can always access the stuff I am currently working on. It also means that I am always 100% backed up without any effort on my part.
It is this tendency that has lead me to question whether I need the traditional laptop anymore at all – or whether Internet connectivity has finally reached the ubiquitous state in my life, that I can rely it entirely for access to my documents. So the mini Chrome Book was inexpensive (less than $300 Cdn) and gives me the ability to test that theory. It also gives me a portable e-reader and all-round device that is larger than my phone, but smaller than my laptop (which I rarely carry around due to its size). This Asus Chrome Book flip has the same metal case that I love on my Mac Air, and has a durable feel to it – meaning I’m not afraid to throw it in my purse without an extra case around it.
For storage purposes (the device comes with 16 G built in) I will purchase a mini-SD card that will allow a larger download of music and some file storage for when my connectivity isn’t great or I don’t feel like using my data plan hotspot off my phone.
So I am playing this morning, by writing this on the bus as I head into work – and then publishing it via my phone/data connection in a truly mobile fashion.
I definitely have some kinks to work out still – like photo storage options – but so far, so good. I plan to take only this device with me to the cabin this week and test its full range rather than relying on my laptop at all.
Walk-jogged to work in augmented reality, am now in my self-contained work pod plugged into bluegrass fusion, simultaneously coding and ordering a book on the life of John Cage and Zen from the library, tracking a package with my new flip chrome book as it heads towards my house. I live in the future of my childhood, no doubt about that.
I feel like I’m ready to give up on people in general. Not the people I love, not the people who support me and love me back for my intrinsic self. But I’m feeling exhausted by pretty much everyone else – and I have at least a couple of relationships in which I’ve started to feel pretty much used. I have to check this feeling because I have some social anxiety issues that pop up every once and awhile which can cause me to interpret things in unintended ways – but after months of a certain kind of treatment, I’m pretty sure I’ve detected a pattern that leaves me pretty sad and unable to keep reaching out with invitations to certain folks.
Fortunately, loss is something that comes up frequently in my meditation practice – something that comes up frequently in dharma teachings really, but my own losses are sharp sticks which I bump up against often and I’m working with them. Not exactly letting go, but living with – and I find that accepting my past deep losses more fully, instead of wishing they weren’t mine or had never happened, allows me to more quickly recognize and step away from the pain of the smaller slings and arrows that are a part of daily relations. Not only that, but the gratitude for those who have been with me on my life path for many years, my oldest friends and my current partner, grows each time I see clearly the relationships which are not characterized by a mutual trust and respect.
I don’t feel the need to be dramatic, to sever ties with words or actions which I cannot take back, I am comfortable with the unfolding of things as they are. But it does help to realize when actions are fruitless so one doesn’t waste their energy in pursuit.
The photograph above was taken this morning on my way into work – I’ve never noticed the words on this hoarding before – but they seem appropriate to how I’m feeling right now. I’m not too afraid to let go of what isn’t working for me, not scared enough to accept poor treatment in ways that I used to just let it go. It’s these words that I’m sitting with today.
Today was day one-hundred-and-one for me – that is – days in a row that I have meditated. I have a timer on my phone that I use when I sit down to meditate, and that also keeps track of the number of days I meditate for thirty minutes or longer. The time setting is my doing as thirty minutes feels like a minimum amount to me and something I can always fit into my schedule, though mostly these days I sit for forty-five minutes – and in retreat or at the zen-dō, much longer.
I’m not sure that there’s anything in my life that I have done unfailingly for a streak of a hundred days or more – not even flossing my teeth – so on one level it seems like a big deal to me. On another level, I know meditators who have sat every day for the last twenty years or more – and in that context, one hundred days is nothing. In a month I will be coming up on two years of practicing meditation – another milestone that is both large and small.
As usual, there was nothing particularly special about my meditation this morning – forty-five minutes of attempting to focus on my breath, and my breath alone. My mind played across all the things I am working on, delved into the problem of other people’s expectations, did some self-justifying routines about recent decisions I have made – and got pulled back in to become the breath over and over, for a few seconds at a time.
It’s not magic, this practice. And I don’t have the kind of mind that produces visions or revelatory voices – so mostly it doesn’t even feel insightful. And yet it provokes my curiosity endlessly – glimpses of the mind in its settled state, seconds in which the mind and body integrate to create the relaxation of holism, the occasional glance over the precipice of no-self, and deep feelings of universal love that wash up at the most unexpected moments. This morning practice that I do tints every other aspect of my days as though through a filter which slows down time and reaction instead of refracting light and colour.
And so I am certain that these hundred days will be followed by another hundred, and another. I feel quite sure that this is a lifelong practice, no longer just an experiment to see what it is like. I could be wrong about that of course, but in my current thrall I can’t imagine not getting up and taking my place on the cushion each morning – never sure of what the next breath will bring.
Besides visiting with family and friends, drinking too much in my backyard, and going to the zendo – I spent my long weekend on Project Sewing Room Closet.
Without going into too much detail on what is evident in the photos – my project goal was to create fabric storage that was organized, specific, and not overflowing. This meant doing a major fabric destash as well as painting and installing an Ikea Algot organizer in the available space. In the end I got rid of four bags of fabric to donation, and two bags of garbage/recycling. There is still much more organizing to be done and I have started on organizing all the bits and pieces that will find their home on my large shelving unit. As that shelving is the only current piece of furniture I am keeping in my recongif, I am confident that however I organize it now will work for the changing space come fall.
I’m feeling really great about this weekend’s project for a few reasons – but most important is the destashing of fabric. I now only possess fabrics that are either those I love or practical (like quilt batting and plain jerseys). And as I went through the two culling passes, I noted that the fabric that I kept was for the most part stuff that I had very intentionally bought, whereas much of that going out the door is stuff that I thrifted, was given, or got through community fabric sales. In short, material that I bought with a purpose is still in the collection, and pretty much everything else is going back into the donation pile. I hope this recognition of a pattern is helpful in keeping down future acquisitions – as my closet is currently full – and I’m not allowing anything else into it until some of the material makes it into garments and quilts this fall.
My closet is no longer an overwhelming hoard that I refuse to look at! Fabrics are organized by garment/project type – skirts, dresses, tops, specialty, jersey, quilt scraps, quilt yardage, and interfacing/batting. On the top shelf that can’t be seen here is a stash of neutral cottons. And so I can easily look and see whether I do have any summer-weight dress fabric or winter-weight skirt material before I make another purchase that will eventually get lost at the bottom of things. This seems elementary on one level, and this is a project I could certainly have tackled long before now, but it seems that I needed the inspiration of an overall room redo to get me thinking about how I actually work, and what organization would be best for me. Some people need to have lots of variety in materials around to feel inspired. For me, too much choice makes me claustrophobic which brings me to a grinding halt rather than encouraging productivity.
At the end of this sewing room project, my aim really is to get to “a place for everything, and everything in its place” – giving me much more room in which to actually make things.