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!