Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mt Washington

The ski hill that's about 40 minutes from us announced this week that it has the most snow of any ski hill IN THE WORLD! We woke up to a spectacularly clear day today, and thought it would be the perfect day to check out these claims and to take Dad up the mountain. Keep in mind that we had a spit of snow last week, that the temp has been in the +10s, and while it's been very wet (thus the snow at the higher levels) it's been pretty easy to live with.

They're claiming 5.5 meters of snow, and I can believe it. It was magical, snow piled on the trees, lots of people - likely their busiest day of the year, and it should have been. We watched the guys in the photo here sawing blocks of snow away from the windows of the Chalet - you can see the blocks at the bottom of the photo.

Wonderful to be able to visit winter like this.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trumpeter Swans

These beauties arrived mid-November and there are hundreds of them (well, more like a couple of thousand). They grace the view out our window regularly, and will be here until the spring. I'm thrilled to find this video, taken in the last couple of weeks, from spots we drive by regularly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Tonight Cori, Dad & I finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. We've been reading it out loud to each other after dinners over this last week and have been completely captured by its stories and the way they are told. Meg suggested that we would like it - she was right - and it's been, in part, a way of keeping her with us after she abandoned us and returned to the east. It's been part of a theme that started with Dad's Nov 11 WWII reflections (that we were part of in person this year), and included a remarkable production of Anne Frank's Diaries put on by students at the Comox high school. The book's voices of Juliet and her Guernsey and London friends are so strong that we're sorry that we're at the end of their regular communications with each other and with us. Their stories are not at all easy, but their horror is butt up against plain philosophical talk, an appreciation for the power of literature, and a remarkable humour and grace.
We're going to be looking for another good story so we can carry on reading to each other - any recommendations?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter here

We woke up last Saturday to this!! Along with great protestations from this household's residents about "false advertising" - "who said there wouldn't be any snow out here in la la land". And then the clouds lifted and we could see the peaks across the water, incredible blues and grays in the sky and water, highlighted by the new white snow that stuck to the boughs of the evergreens, the bare branches of the deciduous trees .... and we were glued to our front window "I don't believe how beautiful this is", and then out the front door "It's really quite warm and just gorgeous". The power didn't go out (it did all around us), so we've been toasty inside, although thinking about back up generators. We even used the snow shovels, and the cars needed their brushes & scrapers. Along with the rest of the west, the unusual cold and snow lasted almost a week, until last night.
Meg was with us for a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks, and has just returned to TO. She slipped into our lives with complete ease, reconnected us with our TO roots, met the new people in our lives and poked us about what's coming next. She and Dad are good friends and her visit made the transition of his arrival richer. We were able to maintain our long tradition of seeing Harry Potter films together, which was a bonus. By the end of her visit our neighbours were asking her to walk their dogs!! But back to the earth, ocean and skies.... she, Cori & I had a spectacular day on Hornby Island - a day 'stolen' from the forecast rain - it was cool, with a deep purple sunset and clear night skies; we took another drive down the Island Highway to Qualicum on the weekend - there was a bit more snow, and it was exquisite.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This new year

OK, OK, it’s been far too long since we sent everyone an update. And, it’s been a year, almost to the day, that we decided to make this move and start to prepare Garden Ave. for sale. It’s our own Rosh Hashanah, the new year in this transition we’ve created for ourselves. It’s been a year of being unsettled, and you know, it’s mostly been amazing.

What a summer we’ve had. We’re here, and are always thinking about our special network of friends & family, but we’ve have been a bit busy and our more regular communications have been disrupted. But we’re settling some and today seems like the perfect day to bring you up to date a bit.
Today was the first time since we arrived in July that we were really aware of the ‘surf’ that is so close to us. The wind was quite strong this morning and our usually calm waters were full of whitecaps and waves that crashed against the shore. I was working outside at the front of the house and was thrilled that I could be painting a cupboard and hearing the ocean at the same time.
It’s been a remarkable couple of months weather-wise - the Island has shown us its full summer beauty - maybe three days have included rain for the first two months, although that’s beginning to change now. Every day we spend some time just sitting by a window, or on the deck, drinking in Baynes Sound, the Georgia Straight, Texada Island and the Coast Mountains, or the trees in the back yard. Except in the morning, when everything is bright orange and green, this landscape has hundreds of shades of blue that change from minute to minute. Cori & I are pinching ourselves, that we get to be here, even if it’s a bit of a struggle to find the right name for that specific shade of “blue”.
Truth be, we seem to have lost our words for many things – we’re living in a renovation and things like the “vanity wall” are more often “you know, the place we agreed we would put that thingy we were talking about”. So many things are new or unfamiliar or don’t have the usual ‘anchors’ ... “I really liked that one color that we saw in that store, you know the one (what city, on what street, on what object)”. Or are among a thousand similar things to choose from ….“is this sink less expensive than the one we liked in Calgary (2 months and hundreds of web sites & brochures later)?” But all of that said, we are very privileged to be in a position to make these kind of decisions, and mostly we are managing to communicate with each other and our builders.
The short version of the time here starts with our arrival June 30 to take possession of the house. Cori & I camped out oustairs for two nights, then the furniture arrived from Ontario and we set up the basics. Deb, Billee and Dar from Toronto were our very first visitors – they showed up for a quick hug while the movers were still here, on their way to Hornby. Dad flew in the next day and the day after that my two cousins arrived to help us start the renovations, particularly, tearing out walls and constructing the shaft for the little elevator. We had a great time that week. Bill (from Salt Spring) and Bob (Powell River) are both experienced builders. They’d start at 7:30 (a pattern that was a shock to our systems, but hasn’t really changed since) and worked hard (Dad supervising) until late afternoon when we’d all sit on the deck and drink in the view. They arrived with fresh caught crab, which set the tone for a week of great eating! After ‘the boys’ left, Dad felt assured that everything was well underway, so he returned to Calgary to avoid the chaos here and to tend his garden. Unfortunately not long after he returned, his part of the city was hit with a heavy hail storm that ripped many of his lovely potatoes and annual flowers to shreds. They’ve recovered, but it was an upsetting mess.
The second crew of Comox-based builders began immediately after the cousin’s ‘shift’. Mike, Reubin & Tristan have been wonderful to have working in the house. We’ve left only two walls untouched on the 2nd floor, although we’ve had (& rejected for now) designs on both of them. They’re in the finishing stages of changes to 2 bathrooms, the master bedroom, Dad’s bed – sitting rooms, and the various entrances to the lift. This week they’ve opened up a door and window in the garage in preparation for Cori’s studio, and another team are working on the exterior of the house. You may remember that there were big concerns about moisture in the stucco when we bought the house, and that after considerable anxiety and talking with exterior experts we decided to take the risk that there was no structural damage. This week we’ve confirmed that there isn’t !! So this team is cleaning it all up and re-sealing it, and will give it a new colour (when Cori & I have figured out what we’d like).
OK, back to mid-July. Wayne came to Victoria to have dinner with Marlea & I to celebrate the publication of the book “Working Without Commitments”. It’s been almost 10 years that we’ve been working on this project and it feels great to have this phase completed. Cori & I stayed with Anne & Sheila again, which was lovely, and spent a day looking at house stuff. We’d only really been Comox Valley residents for 2 weeks at that point, but we found ourselves a bit shocked by the traffic, the cost of parking and size of Victoria and were very excited about our drive back up the Island to “home”.
A week after that we got back in the car to go to Calgary to pick up Dad and head into the BC interior for the Philip family reunion - Dad’s mother’s family. There were 26 cousins in Dad’s generation, and who knows how many in the subsequent ones (although there is a “tree” and it was being updated at the reunion). There were 70 or 80 of us camped together, or at the one or two motels in Hixon. Dad was the elder of this gathering. He and his younger cousin Buzzy are the only remaining of the 26. He, Cori, Bob & I shared an RV for a couple of nights, which was new for everybody, but which turned out to be fine. On this weekend where there were more cameras than people, I had a wasp sting me on the inside of my upper lip (it was inside my drink can). I looked a bit like Bart Simpson, and after it stopped hurting and it was clear the swelling wasn’t going to close up my throat, it was kind of funny. Most important, we came away with some new and stronger contacts, which was great.
The first day of our drive back to Calgary was through the Cariboo, and we spoke about how vulnerable the entire middle of the province feels to fire – which indeed broke out a couple of days after we left. Millions of acres of the pine forest have been killed by the pine beetle, leaving dead trees that are like a floor of kindling.
After re-acquainting ourselves with our cats in Calgary and an early birthday dinner for Dad, we left again to spend the weekend at the Canmore Folk Festival before carrying on to the Island. This was our second year volunteering with the Snowy Owl Dog Sled team who arrange (vehicle) transport for the musicians. It was a bit wet, but was a great weekend of music. Two musical highlights – Buffy St. Marie, and, Cori being invited to join the big crowd on stage to sing the closing songs.
Not long after we arrived back, Pramila & Arun came for a couple of days, and it was wonderful to have them here in this new place. Arun was celebrating his graduation from high school, and we were honored to be able to do this with him. We went up Mt. Washington on the ski lift one spectacular day and could see to Nanaimo in one direction and up past Campbell River in the other. Another day we sent them off to see seals and then horseback riding, and on the next we went up to Telegraph Cove to go out on the water to see whales. And they are still there, the whales – in one spectacular moment we saw a pod of orca, led by a minke whale, with a hunchback whale surfacing very close to them. This visit was the beginning of knitting together previous lives with this new one – and was very important. The next week my old friend Vic arrived with his son Liam for a couple of nights. We spend a day on the Francis Barkley, the mail and small freight boat that travels from Pt. Alberni to Bamfield every day. It takes along about 40 passengers, and is a delightful way to spend a day. Terry, who Cori & I connected with by singing our hearts out at a campfire at the family reunion, brought her daughter Natalie to visit overnight. We had just brought in several boxes of peaches to do our first canning, and it turns out that Terry is a master canner. So we spent the evening hearing stories of Natalie’s last 8 years in China and learning to can peaches.
Several people have come for dinners, brunches, coffee – Jan and Rosalyn from Calgary, Anne & Sheila from Victoria, Bob & Louise from Sydney, and Bob & Laura from Powell River and their daughter Krista & granddaughter Sonara from Edmonton.
Our community builder friends here, Karin & Agathe, set us up with a plot in a community garden before we arrived in June, and even planted for us. We’ve enjoyed visiting it every couple of days to water, and now to harvest – we’ve a spectacular harvest of beans & kale. These two women are wonderful, and are looking after us with regular check-ins, the occasional meal and introductions to as many people as we can manage. We had a little garage sale on the long weekend (sinks, tubs, doors, lighting, etc. that has been changed in the reno) which turned out to be the perfect way to introduce ourselves to more neighbours, so we can put more names on the folks who walk by & their dogs. There are almost as many dogs & their people go by here as there are cars!
This canning story captures many of the interactions we’ve had with people here…. We were in Quality Foods picking up cases of peaches. Cori asked the other woman who was inspecting them what she intended to do with them, and she introduced herself as ‘Sylvia the canner’, a lovely woman who is also a nurse. We had a short course in canning on the spot, and then she offered us a sample of her jam. She gave us her address and said she’d leave a bottle on the doorstep. The next day Cori went by, and was welcomed by a golden retriever (who is much like Verdi) and by Sylvia’s husband Dell, a retired bush pilot. He invited her into their beautiful home, showed her the pantry with stacks of preserved fruit & fish, the green house with tomatoes & cukes, the bees for pollinating everything, the smoke house for fish. It came up that we were novices at filleting fish, and Dell asked if we wanted a lesson. So Cori came home, gathered me and the small sockeye’s we’d got the day before, and took us back to Dell who spent another hour showing us how a fisher does it. We left with another couple of jars of his canned, smoked salmon, and new friends!
This next couple of months are going to be similarly busy. It’s Rosh Hashanah, so Karin and another friend are coming for dinner this evening. Then the potter’s guild arrives – Zsuzsa & Carole Anne Michaelson, and three potters from further south on the Island are coming here for a night, then we are all going to Hornby for a couple of nights, then returning here for a bit. Cori’s mom & Max are coming for ten days at the end of the month, which is very exciting (and a reason to push for the finish of the renos). Dad has found house-sitters for November – April, and that’s really great. We’re working on the details of how to actually make that trip (transporting the things from home that will make him comfortable, the cats, the car). We will certainly be in Calgary to help him pack up and get the house ready for the last couple of weeks of October.

Wishing you all the best for this coming year. Much love to all, and so many thanks for the love & support that you’ve show us this year.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May & June, Calgary & TO

We are itching to move into the new house, but do not take possession until July 2. So this month has been the perfect time for Cori to go to TO to help friends & family sell their houses, and for me to be in Calgary with Dad preparing the garden.

On the Calgary end, during the week that it was SNOWING here in early May, Dad & I poured over the house blue prints and made drawings for the installation of the lift and re-configuration of bathrooms & closets on the 2nd floor. That's going to happen pretty quickly after we arrive in July .... because it will be quite disruptive, it makes sense to do it before we fully settle in. Two of Dad's cousin's sons (my 2nd cousins) have offered to come to build the shaft for the lift - Bill is a builder on Salt Spring Island and Bob built his own place on the beach near Powell River. So for the first week we will be camping in the house with a bit of an extended family barn(lift)-raising going on. It will likely be August by the time the all the renos are done on the 2nd floor and we can fully move in.

Dad has decided that he doesn't need to move immediately and so we have the luxury of giving our proposed living arrangement an extended 'trial' period, just to be certain that it's going to feel good for all three of us (five with the cats). He is going to come for this first renovation week with Bill & Bob, and then will come back in the fall, to stay the winter. So we are not selling his place, but have been slowing working through clearing out for book sales & the church's big garage sale. We will likely have a garage sale here in June - cousin Linda & her partner Brian may come down from Mayerthorp (AB) to help out. Since it's warmed up, we've put in a large potato patch, and are working on planting the usual crop of annual flowers that make the back yard so lovely (although it's going to be cold again this long weekend, so we may wait a bit).

The other big agenda item for July is Dad's family's reunion. He had 26 cousins on his mothers', the Phillips, side of his family. Only he & Buzzy are still alive, and my generation and all their children don't know each other terribly well. We are gathering at a camp ground in Hixon, about 60 ks south of Prince George, in the middle of BC. Cori, Dad & I will drive to Pr. George, pick up a camper and stay in it for the weekend, which all by itself will be fun.

So, lots going on, much excitement, in the midst of this transition that is going at a relatively gentle pace over this next month. Love to you all.....

Friday, April 30, 2010

We have found our home!

This is our new home!!

We have found our place on Vancouver Island! We're still pinching ourselves to see if we're dreaming. We had a very complex list of things we were hoping for: a view of the water, comfortable space for Dad, offices for Cori & Alice, a guest room, a studio for Cori, enough sun, a place to grow things....... and this house makes all this possible.

It is in a little enclave called Criagdarroch Beach in Union Bay, about 8 minutes south of Courtney. It is on Baynes Sound, looking out at Denman Island and it's northern tip - Tree Island, and further across the Straight to Texada Island, with glimpses of Powell River and of course the very dramatic mountains on the mainland coast. We are a spit to one of the most prolific oyster beds in the country (Fanny Bay oysters), and a spit and a half to the ferry to Denman & Hornby.

We face east, and are across a street from houses that are on the water front. But the presence of the ocean is very big - bigger than can be captured in pics - and we think that these houses will disappear from our conscious view pretty quickly. The waterfront is a long, shallow rock beach with lots of water birds, herons, eagles and some seals. We have already spoken with a neighbour who says there are not many deer, and the occasional cougar!! There is public access to the beach about half a block from us, although it requires a bit of climbing, and there is walk-on access a km down the road (a very quiet, local road with neighbours walking their dogs). The plan is to post tide charts in the kitchen, and to explore the characteristics of different tides by walking down daily.

The house is on 1/3 acre, and has a delightful, small forest in the back, just behind a separate deck & hot tub. There are raised beds for veggies on the left side of the house (photo above), and a closed (from the deer) garden with fruit trees (as yet unknown) on the other side. The front has far too much lawn, and we will likely add several of the abundant shrubs that grow here .... Alice has always envied Hornby friends' fig trees, kiwi vines, pear trees, etc. so we will see what can be done in this space. And, of course, we are the proud owners of our first septic system, with a field in the back.

The main living area of the house is on the 2nd level. This is going to work for all of us into the future because we are going to install a lift. This has been the source of considerable discussion, and we've found a supplier and contractors who are able to do it. And we like that there are 3 doors to get onto decks on the 2nd floor, and another 3 doors on the 1st floor, so neither level feels enclosed. The living/dining room looks towards the water, the kitchen/family room looks to the back wood and the trees - both are very calm spaces. Offices will be on the first floor, and Cori will be using the garage for her pottery studio/workshop.

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about concerns about the exterior of the house, specifically too much moisture in the stucco finish, which slowed us down a bit after the first home inspection. But after a bunch of consultations and the lack of visual evidence of really big problems either inside or on the exterior, we decided to take on the risk that there might be damage under the stucco. So, one of the first things that needs to be done this summer is to confirm that there isn't damage (fingers crossed) and then re-seal and paint the exterior.

It's ours at the beginning of July, or at least ours and the contractors who will be putting in the lift and working on the exterior. It's all VERY exciting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Musings by Cori on making this move, dancing with the tides, and feeling blessed for friends old and new, near and far

I am aware that most of the people that we have met, are not dissimilar from us in that they too are transplants. We have come across people from New Brunswick and Toronto, from Saskatchewan and Calgary, from Port Alberni and Hawaii. Everyone seems to be genuinely interested in who we are and we have learned a lot about the island from the people that we have met.

There is something different that seems to bring each of the people we meet out here to the Comox Valley. For some it is the desire for 'small town' living, yet not wanting to be so remote that you can't find a good place to get eggs benny on a Sunday morning. For others it is the climate that will allow them to play all day long if they want, most days of the year. For those that like the concept of casual Fridays and wanted that to extend to Saturday through Thursday ... well, they have found home here.

I assume some came here thinking this was pretty untamed and unreal and decided not to leave. We are told that many years ago, it was a place where people came who in some way were looking to fall off the radar so to speak. There are draft dodgers here, radicals of some sort or another, people who take this land very seriously and who are interested in taking an active roll in keeping it clean and healthy environment. People who have made a conscious decision to live among the eagles which are in abundance, much like the sparrow is in Toronto, and the deer, which very lovingly welcome us humans to share their home. (they especially liked to golf with the 10 o'clock crowd)
Close to every day, we meet someone else who has a wide smile and open arms, welcoming us not only to the Valley, but to living here. We have helped our housemates spread soil over the lawn preparing it for new grass seed and also helped with a garage sale. We were invited to go and see the snow birds - the one's that fly all over the world in air shows. They train here for about 2 weeks every year before heading out for their airshows and do they ever give the residence of this valley a show... Because they make so much noise for the 2 week period, they do a couple of free shows over the ocean for all to come out and watch. - Goose spit was packed on Saturday with hundreds of people sitting on the huge driftwood logs on the shore, watching out over the ocean with it's sailing boats anchored in the foreground, and with the mountain peaks in the background. The snowbirds numbered 9 in total, and flew so close to each other without moving out of formation. It was really quite stunning to see them so close. If I can figure out how to get video up here on this blog, I will add some video that I shot. Alice is pretty sure that they ( the snowbirds pilots) are taking their lessons from the shorebirds here.

Until I can load my video's up here, you can watch this video of the SNOWBIRDS IN FLIGHT in Comox.

We took a walk on Goose spit a few days ago at low tide and My Goodness was that a little piece of magic. There were lots of water foul, ducks of some sort following each other. They would travel one way, then we'd see them on mass, just turn and head in the other direction, the ones who were leading, now became the ones who were following.

It's kind of like what we are doing here. I am not sure who followed who here. Did Alice follow me, or did I follow her... We have both really been seeing this side of the country in our futures for such a long time that it is rather a shock to the system that we have actually managed to make it a reality.

So now...we are learning to go with the flow - to allow ourselves the ability and the freedom to move feeling, and resist little. There are lots of learning curves here and the elements here are a powerful force. When the winds blow, they blow wild and hard, moving trees that are hundreds of pounds with ease. The rains accompanied by winds can take down power lines leaving those who rely on electricity 'powerless' for anywhere from a few hours to several days.

People seem to take the time to connect here in a way we have been blessed with among our chosen family of friends, with little time for 'courting the friendship' before committing to it. This is by no means to say there is any type of replacement of friendships we know and love, only to say that we feel we are landing well here and being respected, cared for, and gently nudged up hill, like a goat learning to tread the mountain side. The little goat thinks "I can't make it up those rocks". The more experienced goats say, "Don't worry kid... we got your back!"
We hope to continue to meet more people with whom we can share stories of all of you with and so too share stories of them with you, so that when you are able to come and visit, you will already know well of each other and all hearts will be flowing in the same direction like the sand on the beach, dancing in patterns that are so beautiful. The sand waits patiently for the tide to ebb and flow back and forth and a new masterpiece is created each time. - Just like a charcoal drawing by the most gifted artist.
When I was young I use to lay on my back looking up at the clouds and I'd spend hours seeing all kinds of things in the clouds - patterns, animals, faces, ... lots of things... Now, I will be looking at the sand after the tide goes out and looking for new visions there.
In the picture below I see on the right hand side of the large form in the centre, a persons face clearly, with 2 eyes looking toward the left and an arm curved around to touch it's nose. The mouth is slightly opened or puckered. This is a tree person as it's legs are more like a trunk than legs. The person beside this one on the left, is hunched over slightly, with straight arms dangling in front to the left. This is a woman, with large almond shaped eyes, a long nose and a wide but closed mouth. Her arms are stretched to join into the trunk. ( Oh I could go on with what I see in these sand drawings left by the tides.)When I look away from this, and then look back, I can see something completely different. -

I guess all this is to say, that life is sure to change. Resisting it only makes hard work, but change will come regardless and it is easier and better for the spirit to dance with it.

Note to self... Try not to get overly distracted while walking on the beach at low tide... The tide can come back in really really really quickly!

Here's to long walks on the beach, interpreting sand drawings. It's kind of like reading tea leaves, only saltier.... Alice, wait for me, ... Come back here.... Did you see this????

Honey, did you remember to unplug the kettle when you plugged in the airplane?

We have found a great little neighbourhood bar/pub called the WhistleStop here in Courtenay. It overlooks the non military airfield where you can learn how to fly. We went for a little stroll along the gated area overlooking the runway ( which you too now have seen in these pictures) and saw the plane to the left plugged into something that looked much like the post with the speakers on them at a drive in theatre. Remember the gizmmo that you used to hand on the top of your open window so that you could hear the sound of the movie you were ( weren't ) watching?

I said to Alice... Honey, did you remember to unplug the kettle when you plugged in the airplane?

Snow Capped Mountains to Sparkling Ocean

So... we think we get it when the locals say, "This is the best place to be"! We took a drive last week when we had a few hours that we didn't have house hunting booked. We had heard about Mount Washington, but had not yet gone for the 15 minute drive out of town. ( Maybe 20 minutes, depending if you stopped to see the deer graze and watch the eagles sailing high in the sky, on a wind current.
We started to climb and lo and behold... we got it! We really got it! They say you can ski here in the morning and then go play golf or windsurf or sail in the afternoon.
There was so much snow, we could hardly believe it... We had just come from about 15 degrees, and walking on the sand by the ocean. The picture to the above and to the left was the little space that had been shoveled out so as to make access in and out of this house. The snow layers are surrounding the driveway in front of the house.

The streets ( of which are maybe 5 or 6 total right at the ski hill) were deep in snow, with sections plowed out for driving. It was truly unbelievable.

Behind us you can see one of several chair lifts.
So... be sure to bring your ski's.
I'll be on soup duty!

From the mountain, we headed back down to Courtenay/Comox and the ocean. At some point on the drive down the 14% grade, ( I think it was about 14%). We could see the snow... and the ocean... and mountains across the ocean... and more snow on top of those distant mountains. WOW!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Wet Coast Setback

The Wet Coast Setback

Hi All (feel free to click on any picture for a larger view)

We have almost posted several (very different) news updates this week, but it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Things seem to be settling into the following story.

We’re in the Comox Valley (greater Comox), which we are getting to know and liking quite a lot. On the ferry from Vancouver Cori had stroke of genius (not to mention cyber-space good luck) and began to look for the possibility of joining a Passover seder. She found first Ruth Simkin in Victoria who has written a lesbian-feminist haggadah “Like an orange on a seder plate”. Ruth responded immediately saying that she knew women who would be using it in Comox and that she would put us in touch with them. By the time we were off the ferry Karin had emailed inviting us to her gathering. So we spent the first night of Passover with 11 new (to us) women who welcomed us with such warmth and ease, engaged in the very thoughtful and interactive haggadah, and fed us royally. It felt like meeting sisters, new ones who included a dog walker & web designer, an arborist, acupuncturist, francophone women’s program director & sailor, a mother of five, a retired IT specialist, baker & not-retired activist, a couple of retired nursing profs just back from kayaking in Belize (one who teaches courses about opera at the elder college), a tragar therapist... Karin & her partner Agate have stayed in touch since, just gently supporting us, and we've spent some lovely time with them. Most notably, Karin sent an email in the midst of a disappointing day saying “Hot cinnamon buns, our place, 3:00” which could not have been timed more perfectly.

The house story is mixed. We found a house that handled all our needs, including a water-view. It was across the street from a rock beach, a 4/5 bedroom place with room for a studio, an inside lift, proper bedroom & den space for all 3 of us, and a guest room, in a price range that workers very nicely. So we spent several days getting excited, “moving in”, thinking about the location, floor plans, etc. But the home inspection showed that there were very high moisture readings under the exterior stucco walls that raised very big red flags, although there was no sign of moisture on the inside of the house. We’ve spent the last several days talking with renovators, stucco contractors and “building envelope specialists”, all of whom have told us the same thing: we will likely need to rip off the existing wall, build an internal ‘rain barrier’ and then replace the siding. But they have all been very clear that they can’t make any predictions about what might be under that - there might be nothing or there could be damaged windows, studs, sheeting, floor joists, etc. A pretty invasive inspection could give us/them some idea. Some have said “walk away right now”; others have said “don’t panic, it doesn’t sound like there is deeper damage”. So we haven’t completely walked away, but have extended the period we have to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and are hoping that the owners will do the more invasive inspection that will handle a bunch of our questions and that they

will re-negotiate a price that takes the results into account. At the same time, we are looking at other places and hoping that the perfect one will show up on the market in the next month. The inventory of homes is small, so we need everyone to keep their fingers crossed for us.

April 9th, We celebrated Cori's birthday with a traditional Scottish horseshoe ring which was/is a tradition in the de Wolff family from grandmother de Wolff days. Alice went to the garden where we are staying in Comox, and collected a few flowers and herbs and made an amazing pouched egg breakfast with candied salmon on the side - a first nations specialty of the island here.

We’ve had more time to explore the Valley, and are really enjoying it. I had not really understood why, what I’ve always thought of as a coast, would be called a valley but the mountains are spectacular right now with heavy snow on their peaks and they define the ‘valley’ more clearly than in summer. Mt Washington & the peaks in Strathcona Prov Park cradle the fresh green fields of the small farms to the north/west of town and there is always a hint of the coastal mountains across the Straight to the east.

We’ve found farmers & fishers who sell local eggs, lamb & beef, PRAWNS,

salmon, etc. not to mention the farm markets that have just opened. We are appreciating the short distances and light traffic – it takes 30 minutes to get from anywhere to anywhere else, although in a year we may find these times daunting, as people do who’ve been here for a while (“It’s going to take me 20 minutes to get home so I have to leave early”).

The deer on the golf course in these pictures are on the MOST urban of the courses in the area, in downtown Comox.

We’ve been out to find out about night life and music a bit. The first was one of those magic moments when we found someone we had not idea would be there. A band was playing at a local pub, and we were stunned almost immediately by the guitar player, who turned out to be Hawaiian, now BC musician Anela Kahiamoe (here using his cell phone as a slide). He was o

ne of the best musicians we have ever run into in a small venue. Last night we went to a local theatre production of “Curtains”, which was fun.

Minutes before the "long" road back in from the beach to the theatre (about a 7 minutes drive or so...) And we saw a mom and her child go into the ocean yesterday -

yikes... we had on a fleece jacket and turtle necks - but they were boldly going where... perhaps only a few others have gone before...It was about 13 degrees or so - lovely in the sun, but... and we mean BUT!!!! C'mon people.... Really now!

We found people doing kite sailing in the harbour here in a very protected little bay that gets great winds...

It was fascinating to watch these men and women soar with their kites...– it's a pretty perfect place because kiters are

protected from any big waves on the open water, but they can take real advantage of the wind. And do

they move!

We stayed at Judith’s Tiamat on Hornby Island over the Easter weekend. It turned out to be the weekend of the biggest storm of the season. The house is on Tribune Bay and the big south-east winds came ripping up the coast and right into our front yard.

We were very safe and warm, with a front row seat, so it was glorious even when the power was off (for a day & a half).

We hung out with Judith & Vicky, I read and Cori worked on harmonies for a Jerry Brodey song, went to the artists’ market which everyone decided to have regardless, and then to the Island Easter egg hunt which was a hoot.

Yesterday Cori & I sat on the beach just east of Comox, looking at the clear as glass water and the infinite shades of blue in the water/islands/mountains/sky. A flock of several hundred shore birds, likely sandpipers, put on the most amazing show for us. They were like a school of fish.

They’d all take off at once, wings almost in unison, hundreds of black dots tight together in an elongated wave, or in an oval, then suddenly they’d shift directions so the white of their wings caught the sun so they shimmed over the water, for several seconds all would soar, wings still, then flap to change direction, then at the end of whatever this exercise was for them, they’d suddenly land to become almost invisible in the rocks on the shore. Stunning. The Snowbirds (airplanes) are at the military base here practicing every day and we thought they’d be daunted by this performance. It's not easy to see the birds in this little video but at least you'll get a chance to see what we saw - sort of. -

Quicktime will play this. I am not sure what other movie programs as this but give it a whirl.

While sitting on the beach we saw a seagul swim to shore with it's butt way up in the air. Clearly it was hauling something pretty heavy in its bill. Well... it was a star fish that it proceeded to puncture and start feating on the internals of this purple star fish... Just like that! Cori went to see what it was that seagul had brough to shore and this is what was l eft after the pickings.

Alice found this beautiful little sand dollar - absolutely perfect.

More later. Hope all is well with you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Heading back to the Island

A quick SPRING update. We're heading back to the Island tomorrow AM. We'll get to Kamloops or Merritt tomorrow , then through Vancouver and over on the ferry on Thursday. Sue, our realtor in Comox is ready to show us a bunch of places on Friday.
We don't know if the right one is in this bunch, but there are a number of good possibilities and we're excited about seeing them. Regardless, we're going to spend a couple of weeks in the Comox Valley, getting to know it, seeing if we can imagine ourselves living and working there. And then, regardless of whether the perfect place has presented itself, we will likely head to the Victoria area for another look. There is a good list of possibilities there, particularly in the Metchosin area.
Dad's been back from Arizona for over a week - he had a good visit with his friends and several golf games. Cori & I have both had a nasty cold, and remarkably, Dad hasn't caught it. The five of us (3 two leggeds & two four leggeds) have had a very gentle week and have been quite enjoying one another.
Send us good house-hunting wishes.
Many hugs,
- Alice

Monday, March 8, 2010


I recorded this song in the wee hours of March 8, 2010 - International Women's Day, while thinking of my amazing women friends back east. I think I learned this song originally from a friend of Jessie's ( Beth ) around Jessies kitchen table one year. I have since found this link which provides more information about it's possible origin.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

IWD Greetings

Thinking about all my good friends & comrades on IWD. I missed Saturday's rally in Toronto and marching through the streets. I understood that it included a very satisfactory demo in support of INCO workers.
The day is causing these more immediate musings....
While I think the Tories were idiots for they way they proposed changing "Oh Canada" and their proposed change was ridiculous, the resulting backlash has certainly reminded me that all is not well. I've been reading the Calgary Herald, where there's been intense outrage against the very SUGGESTION that there are gender inequalities, against the notion of gender itself, and the derision (not to mention misunderstanding) of languages that have few gender signposts, trumped by the constant assertion that language means nothing ("sons" = all the country's people).
A brutal kind of violence is closer than I usually experience it - this morning we heard that a friend of a friend is terrified and is taking out restraining orders against the father of her kid. I know that women on Hornby are gathering for IWD particularly in this difficult year when one of the Island's lovely young women was killed and I want to pass on solidarity.
Today's Sunday Review on CBC reminded us of the cross country 1970 Abortion Caravan, and that the Voice of Women's fight against nuclear arms began 50 years ago. I'm reminded that the CBC continues to be a crucial connection across the country, eg. for women in communities where the local IWD events are business networking opportunities.
I am going to miss the IWD gathering of good friends that has happened at Garden Avenue for years now. And we are taking the tradition with us - several women are joining us for a pot luck gathering tomorrow evening here in Calgary. We will be toasting you all, and hugging you at a distance. Even longer arm hugs for those of you in other countries.

In Solidarity
- Alice, with additional hugs from Cori

Tuesday, March 2, 2010



Make yourself a cup of tea and have yourself a little break. Close your eyes and listen if you will to a new song I've just recorded here at the dining room table.

click YOU DON'T HAVE TO WEEP FOR ME to listen.
(Then, just click on the song title when the new window opens)

Perhaps I am a little bit addicted to my blackberry, but really, it is a great tool.
While Alice and I have been travelling through the mountains, I would either be taking pictures with the little thing or, I would open up the recording device and start singing. There are a couple of songs, which I have written, or am in the process of writing, but they are not complete yet.

Just a few days ago I told one of our friends that I would send some music to soothe her from my wide selection of music. While searching for just the right one to help in some way, I found my self singing a different tune so to speak.

It is certainly difficult to be so far away from friends when difficult times occur, be it a death in one's family, or bad news which can happen any day, or those big changes in life... Though I am not able to hold my friend gently during this time of loss for her, I did seem to be able to write a song... Actually, I don't think 'write' is appropriate. It really just sort of came out.

Without my friend knowing (until she reads this) I have actually been with her for the past 2 days. Recording it, adding harmonies, changing the levels, re-singing parts, adding and removing bits... I have enjoyed this process (as I always do) It seems that when I have something to write or sing about... it is just there.

I hope you enjoy it.
(By the way, that cup of tea and muffin were the best cup of tea and muffin that I have had in ages. Thanks to my mom's most amazing carrot cake recipe that we 'muffinized' and baked in parchment pockets.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb 26, 2020 Back in Calgary

Our Long & Winding Road (road pics from the Coquahala BC, Morley AB, & Yamnuska AB)

Back in Calgary

February 26, 2010

It’s been exactly a year since that life shaking pulmonary embolism that precipitated some needed focus on my health, and then deeper questions about what I want to be doing with my life. As you know, at least two answers have surfaced: one is that I really want to live with Dad and the other is that I really want to be on the west coast. It’s kind of amazing, but Cori, the cats and I are now in Calgary, living with Dad in the interim between selling Garden Avenue & finding a home on Vancouver Island.

Over the last month we’ve learned a bunch about what’s likely to happen in the next phase, and have had quite a lovely time doing it. We left here on a glorious prairie day that offered a spectacular entry to the mountains. Were surprised to see how little snow accumulation there was along the whole route - but that said, we missed by maybe 16 hours an avalanche that closed the Roger’s Pass for part of a day.

We learned about extreme snowmobiling from the guy who ran The Peaks Inn restaurant in Revelstoke – we left our breakfast conversation with him & his wife to drive in a snowstorm , that became rain and intermittent intense fog, and four hours later were in the bursting, spring green of the Fraser Valley (see pic). No car that I’m driving can resist turning at Lickman Rd , (just outside of Chilliwack) in order to drive down Unsworth Rd to see what were my aunts Nan’s and Jo’s places. This time we stopped and spent a good part of an hour talking with Gary who currently owns Jo’s and playing with his young pup. Buzzy (Dad’s cousin) and Art in Aldergrove put us up for the night and then we caught the Tswassen ferry to Victoria – the Saanich Peninsula, to be more precise. (Right click on these links to see more details).

The fastest route from Buzzy’s to the ferry is to go along “0” Ave, which is the Cda-US border. No walls or fences, just a ditch & the occasional security camera. It’s a very unassuming road, with a no-person’s land feel on the US side except for the occasional house that shows through the trees. Kind of surreal.

This photo, a reflection in the ferry window, captures the last day we wore our winter coats – we shed them when we landed that afternoon. The City of Victoria hung flower baskets in the streets in honor of the Olympics, for pete’s sake. It’s both known in the rest of the country, and a closely guarded secret that spring in Victoria was well underway when we arrived in early February, with not just snow drops showing, but rhododendrons and cherry blossoms.

Ridiculously sweet.

Shelly Gordon had put us in touch with her friends, Anne & Sheila, who offered us the suite in their basement for the time we were looking around Victoria. It was the perfect place! They greeted us with dinner, and over the couple of weeks we were there they provided us with shelter, real estate advice, companionship watching the Olympics, and entry to the women’s community. We have become very fond of them both and their two gorgeous smoky grey Thai cats. They took us to a “Stolen Sisters” march on Valentines day, led by many from the surrounding first nations communities, that was both a great introduction to activists and our first real walking tour of downtown Victoria. We spent lovely time with Jane Hastings who I first met at Simon Fraser U., Sue Birge, my colleague from NAC days, and with Marlea & Cathy. Marlea is another old buddy and now co-reseacher/author on the “employment strain” book I’ve been involved with for years, and she & Cath have been very encouraging of this move. They live in the completely interesting development called “Dockside Green”, a large environmentally conscious project that is building new residences along some of Vic’s old port lands. Cori’s pottery community put us in touch with Cathi Jefferson who invited us to stay in her cabin outside of Duncan. That didn’t work for us, but we spent a wonderful afternoon with her, delighting in her pottery, drooling over her workshop. We took a day to go to Galiano Island to see my old friend Dorrie Ratzlaff at the opening of the Twirly Tree arts shop, which shows some of her work. At the end of the day I won the “door prize”, which included some great Dorrie graphics, and other goodies. My brother Bob & I had a long lunch – he & Louise moved exactly a year ago to the very north end of the peninsula, and have useful experience to draw from. And Mike & Jo from Calgary are, like other Albertans, learning the joys of bailing out of Alberta in February and are staying in Sydney – we had a delightful lunch with them too.

But most of the two weeks we were in the area we were not socializing, we were looking at houses. We looked at houses up to the tip of the Peninsula, to the bottom west of Victoria in Metchosin. There were ‘executive homes’ and tear-downs. Some had spectacular views, others said they did but you had to bend the trees on someone else’s property to see what they might be talking about. We learned, from sending floor plans to Dad by email and then long SKYPE conversations with him at night, that the best space for him will likely be on the main living floor (a master bedroom and maybe a den) so that he isn’t removed from our collective living. I am still holding out for a view of the water, or at least a vista, and we’ve re-confirmed that we need to be careful that the house gets enough sun. Some places have had huge workshop / studio space for Cori – others have not. But we saw enough to feel that one would eventually show up that fit all our criteria. Cori did considerable scouting about working as a realtor on the Peninsula and left feeling that there were good possibilities. But the area is expensive, and that worries us. So did the freeze on government spending that has already happened and will get tighter, and the consequent non-existence of both government & non-profit jobs and contracts that might employ me.

Then we spent five days in the Comox Valley. It’s a 3 hour drive from Victoria; 1 hour north of Nanaimo (and a direct flight from Calgary). If you move the map around a bit, you will see that it’s close to Hornby Isl. which most of you know is our favorite place on the planet. We stayed in Courtney in another basement suite that was referred to us by several friends on Hornby. It’s a smaller community, so there were not as many properties to look at – but many of those that we did see were very close to what we’re looking for. The perfect one wasn’t on the market, but we feel certain that one will show up. I was knocked out again by how beautiful the Georgia Straight is, and how much I love the part that lies between Comox and the tips of Hornby & Denman Islands. The houses seemed to be much more like what we expected, and some of the locations had a wild-ness (not remoteness, just not heavily developed) that felt right to us. It is, however, smaller. Cori did her realtor scouting again and found that she would likely have to work harder (ie. sell more houses) there to make the same income as in Victoria. At the same time because costs are lower, there might be less pressure to do so.

Judith and Vickie encouraged us to come to Hornby over the weekend, and we had some lovely time with them. We picnicked on the south end of the Island on one of those really foggy days that the world saw during the Olympic coverage. We couldn’t see a horizon – the fog and water merged not very far off shore. But what we did see (and hear) were Stellar sea lions – huge beasts whose backs looked like small whales as they swam - who were waiting for the herring run, on their way further north.

So we’ve not found the perfect place, and are not yet completely certain where we want to be, but we have had a good time looking. There are of course days when we’re a bit panicked that we’ve not found it and don’t know what the next phase will look like. But mostly we’re happy with what we’re learning, and continue to know that the west is the right direction. I think Dad is enjoying “the hunt”, and is very much in the middle of all our conversations about what might work & what wouldn’t. He & the cats had a good time together while we were gone, with enough time to train each other in their various habits. His cracked pelvis seems to be healing, which is good. He’s off on Monday for two weeks to Pheonix, to hang out with his friends Jim and Moira, and to play the occasional round of golf.

We miss being some dista

nce from you all. It’s particularly strong on days when we are confused about what comes next and could use all your good sense and counsel. One of the hard things about traveling was not being able to easily pick up the phone for a good long talk. We’re back to a permanent land line, so please call if you can.

Many hugs,

- Alice