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Post #3028: What has changed.

On Friday night, we dragged the fold-out couch from my studio out on the deck of the studio in order to watch the Perseid meteor shower. It’s now Monday and our outdoor bed has yet to be dragged back inside – and I think it’ll stay there the rest of the week even though I’m back at work today and I don’t get to luxuriate under the trees quite as long in the morning (though I do wake in time to see sunrise).

We’ve been here on Gabriola Island for about two and a half months now – and this is just one of the things so different from our last home – the ability to sleep out during the warm nights of summer (something we could never do in Hastings-Sunrise or Grandview-Woodlands because of light pollution, noise, and just general safety). Of course, this isn’t the only difference in my life these days, moving from the city to the country this time around has been much more of a transition than when I last took flight for rural community. This time around, for example, I am not commuting to the city for work. Not only that, I have elected to work from home three days per week so I feel much more fully attached to my home and community. So what else has changed?

  • Although I have been working for much of the summer, my at-home orientation 3 days per week means that I work much earlier in the day and so finish much earlier also. Although my actual number of hours worked/to myself is the same – this orientation of time makes it feel like I have many more hours of my own with which to hike, swim, or go into “town” for things. It sometimes feels as though I’m summer holidays even as I’m completing work tasks and participating in teleconferences – the space around me is so different and my time allocation is more of my own choosing. Also, going from house to studio is a commute of one minute, which means I don’t have the hour plus commuting time I had in the city or the 2 hours plus commuting time I have when I go into Nanaimo for work.
  • Working at home – I exercise my body differently than I do in a cubicle – standing and walking around during conference calls, sitting in the arm chair when I have to read a bunch of documents. In a regular office environment I sit at my desk in front of my monitor eight hours a day (often only leaving to use the washroom). At home, I do what’s more natural and move around my space according to where I need to be at the moment.
  • We spend a lot more time outside here. Granted, it’s summertime – of course we are outside a lot! But Brian and I both notice that the orientation of our new house encourages using outside space seamlessly with inside. At our last home, the backyard was a level below the main floor of the house. At this place our back deck is contiguous with our main living room. Also, we no longer have neighbours close by which means that outside feels a lot more private and like “our space”. With half an acre (our house smack dab in the middle) we’ve got lots of room on all sides, plus lots of trees, shrubs, and fencing for privacy. Also, ocean swimming is right down the road and there are hiking trails everywhere. I’ve barely scratched the surface of places to go on this island.
  • This is going to sound strange but…. I don’t feel the need to bathe every day here. I suppose it’s because I’m not grimy from the city or germy from taking public transit- but I average a shower every 2-3 days instead of every 1-2.
  • We don’t have to lock up our bikes. I went into the hardware store the other day to get a chain and lock so that we could leave our bikes outside (instead of locked in the storage room) and the salesman refused to sell one to me because it was a waste of my money. In East Vancouver, I kept my bike in a locked shed, and I locked it to itself or another bike in the shed just to make sure no one would take it.
  • I say yes to pretty much every invitation. Want to learn how to make ceramics? Yes. Want to come for a boat ride? Yes. Want to buy some pickling cucumbers from a neighbour? Yes. Want to stop by for a drink? Yes. I’ve got to meet people after all, and that means saying yes to pretty much every invitation which is the opposite of city-me.
  • Further to that last point – I am much more willing to go out here. It’s just much easier when you don’t have to battle traffic, parking, or transit full of drunk teenagers. Also, I don’t mind going out alone here because it doesn’t seem to matter. Also, this island is full of really un-hip people (who are also very cool, don’t get me wrong) – so I never feel as though I’m not stylish enough or whatever I would often feel when I went out alone in the city. For that matter, lots of younger women have grey hair here also – there is a lot less makeup and chemicals in daily use by the general population. I love that.

There are other things too, I’m sure, that are working to take away my anxiety about this move – but these are the ones that most come to mind. Of course there is the other side of things also. I notice, immediately that I lack the sense of *centrality* that I have had at work and in the city for the last several years of my life. I realize that I am out of sight and so often out of mind for lots of folks. But that’s ego work that I don’t mind doing, because that sense was always illusory anyhow. I also suspect that until we meet more people, winter could be quite lonely, and it will definitely be very dark on this island with no street lights. I won’t know for some years yet whether we really *fit* here or not – I figure it takes about five years to truly get a sense of that (4.5 years is when I left the Sunshine Coast after realizing it wasn’t a good fit for me) – though so far I have met a great many people who seem like natural and immediate friends.

One thing for sure is that our home space and property are inviting me to dream up the re-creation of every corner into exquisite space – which means on some level I’ve decided that I’m staying and not just for a year or two (because some of these plans are years in the offing). When we first came here I was reluctant to invest too much into any changes upfront, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt eager to start making the spaces more *ours*.

It’s been  interesting, this time of transition, and only time will tell how this island will shape us and our future together – but so far I like these things that have changed. I like sleeping outside without fear, I like swimming in the ocean when I’m done work for the day. I like the combination of having privacy with friendly neighbours. So I think I’ll just keep going with that.

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Post #3027: One plus one equals two looms

I’m in the process of putting together loom number two, after moving loom number one to the new house and becoming overwhelmed by it (so big! I’ve never worked with a floor loom! needs a new brake tie-up!).

This second loom came to me via Craigslist and courier and was a very good price indeed – a J-made table loom with a treadle conversion (making it a floor loom). With 22-inches of weaving width it is half the size of my first (also, Craigslist purchase) and a totally different tie-up style.

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself at the moment because the J-Made came in a box and was in several pieces/totally dismantled. So far I’ve managed to put it mostly together and am working now on the tie-ups. My goal is to have it warped this weekend with some practice yarn.

Funny thing though, while putting this together from pieces, I’ve got a much clearer idea of what needs to happen with the larger loom (even though it’s a different type altogether), and am feeling a lot more confident about getting that going as well. I expect that warping the smaller loom will have a similar effect – once I get a warp successfully on, the larger warping process won’t seem so daunting either.

I realize now that I never did get around to writing about the first loom, partly because I never got it set up after I moved it. Stay tuned for more posts about both looms – I’ve gotten re-energized about weaving now that we are moved and my studio is set up. I’ve also get some sewing and knitting projects on the go – really – I’ve got to start posting about this stuff more!

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Post #3026: In which our home is thoroughly warmed

That photo above pretty much sums up our weekend-long house party that ran from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. Smiling people, music, drinks on the porch – and (not depicted here) some pretty amazing eating.  The cast involved some party mainstays, with a few dropping in at random times – for a total of around 40 people crossing our threshold – and 20+ of those people staying somewhere at our place (inside or tenting) for two or three nights. It was grand. It was busy. It was epic. I am truly grateful for the people in our life and the home that we have now warmed.

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Post #3025: When the dead come calling

This past weekend, we held our housewarming party on Gabriola – and a fine time was had by all (more on that in a future post), but there was one incident that occurred on Saturday morning that has stayed with me and that I want to relay here before any of the details elude me (as memories fade almost as quickly as we make them).

Our housewarming party started on Friday afternoon and went straight through the weekend until Monday morning – with many old friends from my Victoria crew coming together and staying together the entire time. Of course this involved late nights and some staying up drinking. On the very first night, one of my guests left our downstairs cordless phone outside which drained its battery while we slept.

In the morning I saw the phone and brought it into the house, putting it on the kitchen counter with the intention of returning it to its cradle. I left it for a moment while I went upstairs to use the washroom, and a group of friends were standing around  the kitchen chatting. When I came back down, one of my friends said “your phone rang while you were upstairs” – something I hadn’t heard, because the upstairs phone hadn’t run (which in any normal circumstance it would have). Curious about who it was, I took the phone off the counter to see who had called. The first thing I noticed (before I saw the name) was that the phone looked as though it had been answered and the speaker setting was switched on (as indicated by the light). Odd, but dying batteries do weird things…… But even stranger was the fact that the call display showed a name only, no phone number, and it clearly read “Bronwyn Charman” –  the name of our friend who died just over two months ago in Berlin.

You might imagine, I was agog with the discovery, barely able to speak and so I turned the phone display towards three of my friends and said “Look at this – do you see what I see?” Two of them (Mel and Marika) immediately confirmed that they saw the same name on the call display (the other didn’t have his glasses) – but we noted afterwards that I did not prime any of them by telling them what I saw first – I asked them to verify the name cold, without prompting (not out of any design either, I couldn’t speak what I was seeing).

At this point the phone was still active and I was totally confused, so I ran upstairs to the other cordless phone which was sitting in its cradle. On that phone’s display was indicated “Line in Use” as though the line was activated. I sat on the edge of the bed then and said “Hello” into the phone a few times, but the line sounded dead. I picked up the other phone from its cradle and engaged it, and said hello again. After a few tries (I could hear my voice coming through the phone to the dead phone), both phones clicked off.

I immediately scrolled back through the caller display to verify what had happened. The dead phone wouldn’t bring up call display at all (the low battery symbol was flashing) and the other phone that was charged showed no record of the call coming in at all. (Later after I had charged the first phone (that the call came into), I could find no record of the call on that phone either. It was as though no call had come in all morning.)

At this point I was confused, and a bit upset. A few of us started working through possible explanations, wondering how it could have happened in a scientific-rational world but none of the answers we came up with made any sense (see below for more detail on that). It was at that point that a couple of our friends came in from outside where a group of them had been sitting around the patio table (the door between them and us was closed, so they hadn’t heard the commotion inside). We told them what had happened, and Masha asked – how long ago was this? I said – 10-15 minutes….. To which she answered, “Well that makes sense. We were just outside having a conversation about all the people we’ve lost over the last couple of years and how we could invite them all to the party even though they had passed over. We even named them – Bronwyn, Brian, Jesse….. and invited them to join us.”

Yup. That’s right. My friends were outside invoking the dead when our phone rang with the name of our dead friend on call display.

Let’s review a few other facts about this so that it’s clear there is no simple explanation:

  • First off – the phone was pretty much dead and in that state wouldn’t have rung at all. The phone upstairs did not ring even though it was fully charged.
  • The phone had clearly turned itself on, and the speaker was engaged, even though no one had touched it when it rang.
  • Bronwyn died in Berlin just over two months ago, before Brian and I moved, and she never had our phone number on Gabriola Island so it wouldn’t have been programmed into a phone or her computer.
  • I have never received a call from Bronwyn where her name came up on call display – she often phoned from payphones or pay as you go cels, and her number would be all that would come up. Also, she mostly called my cel phone, not our old landline. All this is to say that the phone wouldn’t have had the “memory” of her name from some previous phone call.
  • Her name came up with no phone number. All other calls that have come into that phone in the last few months have come up name first (or Unknown) and then phone number. There was no number attached to this call.
  • The one person I thought might have had a cel phone that came out of her storage locker was on her way to our party also and swore that she didn’t have an old phone from our friend, nor had she called from it.
  • I do not believe that any of friends would pull a prank of this nature, and everyone present was deeply affected by what happened.

Once the initial shock wore off, Kyla said “we better make an offering then,” and she and I put offering items together on the mantle in our living room, and said Buddhist words of loving kindness after a couple minutes of silence during which we focused on her release. Throughout the next day and night, other items were added to the offering, but I don’t believe that she left then or later. I had another moment in the night when I was singing a song that she had sung when we were in our early twenties – and I thought I felt something pass through me, had a bodily experience of what might have been her presence. That – I know – can be chalked up to any number of psychological factors. But the phone call, can not. As much as I would like it to be explained away, I cannot find an answer to this riddle, and I have witnesses to its occurrence.

Phone calls from the dead are a bit of a cliche but there you go – we do not choose the forms that visitations take. If anyone out there has an explanation for how this could have happened (beyond the fact that my group of friends are witches and we carry powerful energies when together) – please suggest away. Otherwise I’m going to have to accept that the friend we are all still grieving has not found her way out of this world just quite yet.

 

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Post #3024: More apocalypse, less angst.

I am reading a book at the moment called Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton– and although it is a hard read (emotionally hard, not hard to get through) – I would suggest that it’s required reading for our times. It’s essay length, but I’m taking my time with it – using it as a meditation more than anything as I navigate the minefields of traumatized people and events on my Facebook feed and in my life.

Because it’s been a crap few months hasn’t it? I mean – it’s been a hell of a time for us humans here on this planet – even those of us who are far away from the violence and the deadly heat waves, the water shortages and the extra-judicial killings by police. Every day seems to bring a reminder that we are doomed, that we are in danger, that anything could happen to us at any time – and that feeds the fear, the fear that is causing US citizens to shoot each other with such ferocity, the fear that brings a young man into a church to behead a priest.

The fear the fear the fear – that I will not live forever, that my family will not live forever, that our culture is doomed, that if I don’t win someone else will, that I won’t have enough, that if my God doesn’t win someone else’s will, that I’m going to die, die, die, just like everyone else before me has died.

I feel Ernest Becker looking over my shoulder as I write these words, wishing that the venerable philosopher had lived at least this long to see the naked manifestation of his writings splashed across every news site and television station. This, he said, is what will destroy us – our fear of death is what brings evil into our world (in a nutshell), giving rise to war and hoarding, anti-environmental policies and short term thinking, and tribal violence. These things seems to be reaching a fever pitch at the moment, don’t they? It seems as if the onslaught just won’t stop.

I’m not going to move into a Pollyanna view here, (even though I strongly believe that humans will survive these current global challenges, that some animal species far from dying out are making population rebounds, and that the so-called western world has a much more developed conception of human rights than ever before in our past. Yes, it’s true that there are a lot of people screaming on the margins, but the human rights agenda has pretty much been consistent in its march forward over the past fifty years. It’s true also that technology gives us a greater capacity for world view than ever before, and has some pretty specific solutions that could ride through some of the climate change catastrophes that are coming.)  because I know that no matter what I say you’re not going to believe me, and also it’s important to recognize that some pretty world altering changes *are* coming down the pipe, and changes or no – we really are all going to die. For real, no one gets out of here alive, which is the root of what we’re so upset about.

So yes, we’re facing some deep suffering on this planet, not to mention the suffering *of* the planet itself – with an eventual death that is inescapable for every living being (including the planet because asteroids! and the sun going into supernova!).

Sometimes there are small things we can do to alleviate the suffering of others, or help our wild places, and we should do those things when we can – but it’s also key that we recognize that there is not much we can do about the really big scary stuff (climate change, Trump, Daesh) out there. And what I’m going to suggest is that we not only work to eliminate our own fear by embracing the fact that we are mostly powerless, but that we stop transmitting it to others with the click of a button. (Scranton, by the way, has a great take on the social media fear spreading we all engage in – and I suggest you read his essay for that alone.) Perhaps it seems like all we are doing is raising awareness – but really – think about it – traumatized people don’t make for good decision makers. People who are afraid don’t make rational choices.

When I started this blog twelve years ago I came up with the (rather catchy if I do say so myself) tagline: More apocalypse, less angst. And although my worldview has shifted and my approach to life has broadened from the narrow activist perspective I once came from, I have continued to use it. When I came up with that line, I was of the opinion that the end of the growth economies would be good for the planet (more apocalypse) and that we should approach that from a spirit of transformation, joy, and problem solving rather than fear (less angst). Each time I have redone this blog interface I have asked myself the question of whether I still ascribe to that philosophy – and the answer is always a resounding yes! I do believe that we need to face the current economic and environmental problems head on, but we need to do it from a place of fearless love, which is pretty much the antithesis of what’s on Google News this morning. My Buddhist learning also suggests that we need to detach from our own individual outcomes (that is – our very lives) in order to do so.

Roy Scranton prescribes just this kind of detachment – the recognition that each new day is the death of the previous day, that we cannot hold on to what is an ever-changing present. And that by trapping ourselves in the ideas of what should be, that is clinging to some previous incarnation of ourselves or our world (yesterday’s version, a fifties version, the view from our childhoods), we impede our ability to act on our actual present. At the end of the first chapter of his essay (which you can read here) he sums up by saying:

The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.

(For the record, Ernest Becker says pretty much the same thing in Escape from Evil and Denial of Death but Scranton is a much easier read.)

So I’m going to suggest that before forwarding that terrifying news article, or reminding everyone that climate change is really here now, we meditate on these thoughts before clicking that button. We definitely cannot change everything, but we can stop ourselves from driving fear and trauma into others repeatedly. That’s a possible starting place. And once we take those first steps back from fear, we can observe whatever else comes into our frame as the view widens to include everything that our present moment provides us.

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Post #3023: My Interior place

Since we’ve recently moved to a small(ish) island, friends keep asking us why we are keeping our cabin in the interior. After all, we bought that land because we wanted a getaway from the city and now we are pretty much permanently away (except for work trips in). And I have to admit that the fact we own two rural properties does strike me as somewhat ridiculous…. if not for the fact that I grew up in a small community on an island, and my family had a cabin across from a lake at the end of a dirt road Interior….. and so it’s also entirely familiar to me. In the case of my parents, their reasons for having the two places was that the lake place was attached to family history and the land had been gifted by my Grandfather. In my case, it’s that BC’s dry country with its plateaus and valleys, mountains and lakes – speaks to the childhood in me, the summer spent barefoot and unguarded, running in and out of the many homes of our extended family. And while our place now is not the same as our place then – it brings me back down the same highways and into similar weather systems…. and I have to admit that the design and positioning of our cabin bears some striking similarities to the one my father built when I was five years old.

 

I love it something fierce, this landscape – and our cabin is a continual source of learning and challenge for me. Although we have made it a bit harder to visit by moving two ferries away – I noted on this last trip that whenever I come over the rise to the vista of the Jura Ranch along the way to our place – I am never sorry that we bought out there. And I still want to spend time there as much as ever.

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Post #3022: Doing the unexpected, cabinet building edition

If summertime is about beautiful backdrops, mini-adventures, and unexpected projects – summer is definitely going full force in my life at the moment. After getting ourselves mostly moved in and arranged at the new house, I took the last week and a bit off work to do a four day meditation retreat just outside of Squamish, and then spent a week at our Link Lake cabin. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but we’re back at home for a bit, just in time to host our housewarming this weekend!

One thing that I got a chance to reflect on at the cabin was how much work can feel like play when you’re hammering away on something that you have an interest in doing. Case in point: sanding drywall (yuck, boring) versus building a new outdoor kitchen cabinet out of scrap lumber and a donated sink (so much fun! and look at the above photo for proof that we did it!)

As the weather was a bit meh up in Princeton area this last week, it was perfect (as in – not too hot) for small building projects. While Brian started out with a bit of taping and mudding of the drywall, by the end of the week, these cabinets were our real pride and joy – especially since neither of us have much experience building anything except last year’s woodshed.

But necessity *is* the mother of invention – and I was tired of doing dishes stooped over a small table inside – so we devised a three frame solution that worked to create cabinets and counterspace, in addition to holding up a 60 pound cast iron sink. It was a little tricky in spots (that sink is one *tight* fit) – but overall, we had quite a bit of fun figuring it out and doing it.

There’s some finishing work that will happen when we are back in August (staining, cabinet pulls, etc) but we’ve already been using this very functional piece of woodwork and are definitely figuring our next co-build.

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Post #3021: Letting go of the Lady B.

On Saturday evening, we sent bottles to sea at Mile Zero – full of notes and wishes for our friend Bronwyn who died a little more than three weeks ago in Berlin. I haven’t written about this yet because I’ve not been sure what to say – my circle of girlfriends from teenagehood are much more like family than any cousins I have – her absence has been a ragged hole for some time. For though she left us only recently, she has been disappearing bit by bit into addiction for the last few of years.

I confess now that the last time she was in town, I refused to see her and offered her money for a hotel room instead. I was distressed when I spent time with her, and so I had chosen (on what turned out to be her last visit) not to do so.

At the memorial I spoke something that was true to me – and that is that as a woman alone, facing addiction, after a lifetime of living on little money – old age was going to be very unkind to our friend, and even at our middle age it had become clear that she was living with a lot of physical and psychic pain. I worried about her often, even though I found our interactions difficult and m/s/addening for most of the time that we knew each other. Even when we were younger and she was much healthier – maintaining a friendship was a struggle, it was intermittent – though in the moments when it was on, it was totally golden. She was like that – charming, and frustrating, and brilliant, and insulting all at once.

I’ve been unpacking these last two weeks, in the wake of this death, and it’s hard to escape the fact that even though Bronwyn and I rarely lived in the same city – my life is littered with things that she mailed me, made for me, artwork she sold me, notes that she left on my kitchen tables. She built the bookshelves that now grace our music studio, the ring in my nose that she pierced when we were nineteen. It’s amazing to me that someone who I felt I could never get close to, left so many fingerprints all over my life. It makes me realize how present she was – even in her long absences from Canada and from our friendship.

When we were younger, I wished I could be like her – the brilliant parts, the relentlessly creative and charming parts. But as we grew older I saw that the other side of that was a kind of distress, and disappointment in other people that could find no salve. For as bright a light can be, its shadow side will be equally dark – and she struggled under the weight of this all of our lives.

I don’t regret that I didn’t see her on the last visit to Vancouver because I know  we would have argued with each other as we had been doing. I couldn’t give her what she wanted, and I was far too boring for her, and I wanted her to take responsibility for her health and get some help and on and on and on.  On the other hand, I am deeply grateful that I reached out to her in April in order to send her some film she had left in my home – and that we had an exchange that was much more careful of one another.

I am going to close this post with the last thing she wrote to me because it seems prescient even though it’s clear she felt the change she describes didn’t involve her. She saw the contours but missed the light – such is the haze in which we all find ourselves, I’m sure, near the end of our lives.

In the last few days, her voice has come to me quite strongly. I hear her in my head making commentary about my actions, I turn over notes from her among my things. When I read this final bit of writing to myself, I hear her intonation and volume. I realize how well I knew her, and how much I have missed and will continue to miss her vital, vibrant, presence.

From Bronwyn, April 4, 2016

I have been reading about a group of Hindu mystics that worship an especially violent manifestation of Shiva and dose themselves ritually and regularly with an alchemically refined form of mercury in order to achieve immortality thru transcendence of their addiction to time. Which makes a perfect kind of sense. The left hand path of god.

These are strange days, defined primarily by the absence of time and light and the comfort of other people. An endless night of dark dreams. I’m busy with the old gods- the anti-social and insane ones. Dangerous business no doubt, but an undeniable whimsy of the strange driver I’ve given over the wheel to.

Relinquishing control is never exactly easy or comfortable, and come to think of it- I don’t remember doing so actually, the where&when, like accidentally selling your soul to the devil, only to be surprised at some moment when he comes to collect.

Now, at this moment, I find myself here, in a dark corner of some messy and drunk bar, surrounded by what passes for my community, all these drunk monkeys.

Winter inundates itself into the fabric of reality. I am turning the dawn into a silver nimbus and folding these days into a filigree of ash. Fill my pockets with it, cover my skin in it, breathe and sleep and dream in it.

Silence and loss.

Like ships passing in the night- there is a sense of vast and depthless space surrounding this tiny island I am living on. Within these four walls time stops almost completely- it vibrates and hums like a violin string pulled taut, and before it breaks it’s tight resonance could break glass.

Nothing changes, but at the same time it is sure that the center cannot hold.

These days seem to crawl from some cthulian place, grey and murky, bending under the weight of
themselves. The fabric of the sky rends with the sound of old clothe ripping, and snow pours thru the cracks and fills the spaces between all things with the silver secret promise of transformation.

On the streets outside malignant forces are gathering- insurrection or the first days of war- it’s hard to tell in the beginning. Riot police gather on the corners like gangs of mean kids, at ease (for the moment), but making their presence impossible to ignore, full of the promise of ill intent, body armour and tear gas, cameras and malice clutched in tight fists. Clusters of black hooded figures drift and then dash into doorways, and the friction of these two opposing forces attempting to occupy the same physical and psychological space casts out sparks of energy, of diesel and intent, and all up the street things are catching fire, cars and dumpsters and abandoned christmas trees. All the streetlights on the Rigaerstr. have all been sabotaged, and the light at night is now the shifting dancing red light of fires climbing to the sky, the ashes dancing between flakes of falling snow.

Strange days for sure. A dangerous kinetic sense of possibility and change to come. I’m not a part of it, but it is all around me.

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Post #3020: Studio in progress

Or should I say – studio in disarray? As you can see from the photo above, things are a bit of a mess at the moment.

I returned yesterday afternoon from Bronwyn’s memorial in Victoria (more on that in a future post) with a seriously bad cold. I had driven down with it, thinking it would get better over the weekend – but the exact opposite happened and I’m home from work today feeling pretty sorry for myself. It’s one of those real congestion things – in the lungs, ears, nose – and everytime I try to do too much, I break out in a sweat and have to lie down.

But even so, I’m compelled today to slow work on getting the studio unpacked from boxes at least. I’m not moving fast, and I’m not engaging in any heavy lifting – so it’s feeling possible to shuffle things around despite the fact all I want to do is sleep. Have I mentioned that I have a great napping couch in my space now? Pictures of that once everything is tidied up again.

My studio is on the second floor of the garage/out-building – and as such, it feels very much like a treehouse for I am surrounded mid-tree height by branches and the sounds of birds. On a good day (when the person across the road isn’t weedeating, as they are at the moment), all I can hear from up here is the ocean and the birds. It’s a very compelling space – what with windows on all sides and a fresh white paint job – even though I am still totally in love with our new home, I find that today, all I want to do is sit in my messy studio rather than abandon my unpacking job entirely.

I’ll return to that now, the shedding of boxes. I feel that if I at least get everything out of boxes it will be organizable – I’ll be able to see where it all goes. While still hidden, my belongings become opaque to me and I can’t remember exactly what still has to come out in order to help me plan my space. I hope to have this project finished soon, for I have been quite unhappy not having access to my materials for the last few weeks.

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Post #3019: New house, new garden.

I feel like I haven’t done nearly enough photo posting about the new house yet – which I’ll rectify shortly – but the weather has been a bit overcast since our move which isn’t showing things to their best advantage. While I am really glad for the wetter weather (than predicted for June) because we now live on a drought-prone island – it’s made garden work and photos intermittent. Not to mention the fact we’re still getting sorted.

Although I told Brian when we were looking at houses that I did not want a large garden to maintain, I have to admit that I am a sucker for landscaped and food gardened homes – and on agreement that I could hire yard help when necessary, we ended up with a place that has a sizable amount of yard work. Fortunately, the garden bones are very good and it doesn’t seem to suffer from any pernicious weed infestations – plus it’s mostly native plants, and plants adapted to the PNW climate (never mind the huge palm like plant growing on the deck – that’s going to go at some point). There are a few garden boxes for veggies, and some overgrown herbs – but no food plants beyond that (save for a single young cherry tree).

As to be expected with a house on the market for a year, the gardens are all a bit neglected at this point. It’s hard when you are selling your house to put the  effort in to gardening, and I expect that last summer’s drought on the island didn’t help matters either. There are several plants that have severe drought damage, including some trees on the perimeter that are completely dead – and the veggie boxes are as hard as cement (they haven’t been gardened in some time).

But mostly what’s happening is the out of control shrubbery (pictured above, and that’s after I hacked away at it yesterday). Around our deck is a thick hedge of California lilac, which all but blocks the lower part of the yard, and is interspersed with some really out of control Skimmia (lots of it), Rhodos (all drought damaged), and ferns. While the greenery is quite striking, and drought tolerant (super appropriate),  it’s also a bit *much* and so I’m working away at it here and there. Like yesterday when I was working from home and took a fifteen minute break to descend into the bushes with the loppers, only to emerge, twigs in hair, with another bit of pruning complete. Or not – complete – because there’s no such thing when it comes to gardening – but done for the time being. As recommended by my friend Kyla I am trying to introduce arches between the lilacs and pathways in the skimmia so that at least the yard is reconnected (on the other side of these hedges are more neglected veggie boxes which probably got more sun at one time in their existence, and which I would like to grow greens and herbs in for now).

The nice thing about working on a garden that you didn’t build from scratch is that it’s incredibly easy to pull things out and hack them way down. Much easier than when you can remember how much this or that plant cost, or watching it grow from just a wee thing. One of the very first things Kyla and I did (mostly she did) was pull out a horrible vine plant on the front of the house that was both growing into the siding and killing everything else around it (think morning glory but with no flower and a single stalk) – a remarkably easy thing to do when you aren’t attached to having planted it, or made the choice to grow something so pernicious in the first place.  On the other hand, a new garden is one in which you don’t have to repeat the mistakes of your old garden (for the record – ornamental ivies are always a bad idea, also don’t just take any old raspberry cane from anyone, and make sure you don’t buy the cheap soil from lawn boy…..). While this garden already has a lot going on, there is also a lot that can still be developed and worked on (like more food plants!)

In the meantime I am working on uncovering the many sweet spots that just need a little trimming to reveal themselves – like this sitting rock in the front yard.

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