St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
No pictures this week. No, the camera isn't broken, but there just wasn't that much photogenic to take pictures of, at least not when I had the camera handy. Unless you want more kitty pictures...!
A highlight this past week was the Vancouver Opera Company production of Naomi's Road, an opera based on the story of the Japanese-Canadians who were confined to internment camps during World War 2. It wasn't Mozart: no one will ever be whistling tunes from Naomi's Road. In fact, I'm not sure there were any tunes in it! The music was modern: tuneless, arhythmic and discordant. However, the acting was excellent. The opera was short, so the second half of the program consisted of arias from "real" operas. I'm not normally a fan of opera - shrieking sopranos on CBC can get me to the off switch pretty fast - but I enjoyed the concert. The highlight was a stunning performance of the Flower Duet from Delibes's Lakme. The event was held right here on Denman Island, in our community hall.
On Monday night, Hallowe'en, the Fire Department set off fireworks at the playground for the entertainment of kids and their parents at the commnuity hall. I got to shovel some sand and man a crowd-control rope barrier - pretty exciting, eh? The exciting part was that I got to ride in the fire truck, and learn about the perils of driving it up and down the big hill. The fireworks were good, too.
Thursday night, we practised extricating someone from under a flipped car. They had set up a junked car on its side, with a dummy trapped underneath it. We learned all about how to block and jack the car in place so it won't tip over, then we used an air bag to jack it up and get the dummy out. Unfortunately, he had no pulse.
When the rain started at the beginning of October, our well water got quite murky for a week or so. We had it tested, and it looks like we need to disinfect it now. It is possible that this is a seasonal thing; we might have to disinfect every year at the start of the rainy season.
This past weekend, I had fun making a very public card for our friend Fireweed, who had a significant birthday this week. The graffiti fence is tailor-made for such occasions, and, being right at the end of our street, couldn't have been more convenient. The only tricky part was trying to fit the painting job in between rain showers. Sunday was the only day even remotely suitable for outdoor painting. However, with a heavy dew on the fence, off-and-on showers in the forecast, and temperatures in the single digits, it was far from ideal for getting the paint to dry without running.
As you'll see, in order to avoid public embarrassment, I made no reference to any person: I kept the sign strictly botanical. However, as Fireweed is one of Denman's best-known personalities, everyone passing by will know exactly what is meant!
We had an excellent party for her on her birthday, and she liked the sign, Whew!
On Saturday, we attended an all candidates' meeting for the upcoming Islands Trust election. The Islands Trust is the level of local government that handles land-use decisions on the Gulf Islands. It was interesting to hear the three candidates' views on various topics of interest, but it was just as important to listen to the gossip about them afterwards. That is sometimes where you find out what they are really like! The meeting was well attended, and everyone, it seems, is an orator at heart. The moderator had his work cut out for him trying to keep islanders' questions from running on and on and on and on...
Here's an interesting trivium. Denman Island and Manhattan are close to the same size and shape. If anything, Denman is a little bigger. The population of Denman Island is about 1,100; the population of Manhattan is about 1,500,000. The sketch map at the left shows the two islands at the same scale, with parks and protected areas highlighted. It makes us appreciate how fortunate we are to live in such an unspoiled part of the world.
The weather continues to be a couple of days of rain followed by a couple of relatively dry days. When it rains here, it really rains hard. I had to go up on the ladder the other day and unclog the downspouts. I'll have to think of a way to handle the overflow from our rainwater collection system: right now it just pours over the top of the overflow barrel and runs off in a small river.
The Beaufort Mountains across Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island have a more or less permanent dusting of snow on them. We have had a few mornings with light frost. The temperature tonight is dropping rapidly under a clear sky, so tomorrow is likely to dawn with temperatures below zero for the first time this season.
Thanks to the Fire Department's training, I am now re-certified in CPR. Next month, I start my "First Responder" training. I may have to shave my beard off soon, at least partly. In order to use the Fire Department's self-contained breathing apparatus and ensure the good airtight seal necessary to protect against smoke inhalation, the contact area of the face mask must be clean-shaven. That will be quite a change, since the last time I shaved was over twenty years ago!
This week's photos are of Pickles Marsh, located about half a kilometre down the road from us. It is one of the island's major wetlands, and is protected by the Denman Conservancy Association as the Inner Island Nature Reserve. It is a natural marsh that has been enlarged by beavers.
When I go for my thrice-weekly run, I run down to the marsh, across the bridge and up the other side. It is interesting to watch the progression of the seasons in the area. By September, the water level was fairly low. With the start of the rainy season in October, the level has risen to within a couple of feet of the bridge deck. The grasses and other marsh vegetation, of course, come and go. As you can see, it is a great place for spooky fog photos.
This morning, there were swans on the marsh - see the photo at left. Denman Island is a major wintering area for arctic birds. I'm so used to birds going south for the winter; here we are the south, and they come here for the winter.
This week, I got some good news from the college: they want me to teach three courses next term. And, best of all, they will be classroom courses, not Web-based courses like I am doing now. It was a bit of a goofy concept, teaching introductory computer literacy over the Web, since the students had to have a basic level of computer literacy just to find the course materials! Three courses will keep me busy, but at least I'll get to meet some of my students. They will be small classes, in a very hands-on lab-based format, so I think I will enjoy them.
Unfortunately, one of the classes will be on Thursday nights, so I will have to put my Fire Department training on hold until the end of the term. That's one of the good things about a volunteer fire department: everything operates on a come-if-you-are-able basis, so an interruption like that is not a major obstacle. Irregular jobs are a way of life here, so everyone understands that an opportunity to earn money takes precedence over volunteer work of any kind.
Last night, we went to a reception for new islanders put on by the Seniors' Association. We've been so involved with various activities that some of the old-timers expressed surprise that we were "newcomers". The reception was well-attended. Too well-attended, in fact, since the sound level in the room, just from conversation, approached that of a jet engine. I don't know how some of the more auditorially-challenged seniors could stand it, because I could hardly make out a word that anyone was saying! Still, it was a nice event, an opportunity to meet some new people. After an hour or so, with our ears ringing, and our eyes and sinuses burning from an excess of perfume in the air, we called it a night.
Today is municipal election day. Because of the unique system of local government on the Gulf Islands, we would get to vote in two elections (the regional district council and the local trust committee), were it not that one of the positions was filled by acclamation. After we have completed our Saturday morning ritual of dropping off our recyclables at the recycling depot (and checking the Free Store for treasures), we will go down to the hall to vote for our trustees. Our Islands Trust representatives are responsible for the preservation of the unique environment and culture of the Gulf Islands, so it is an important election.
My project this weekend is learing to use a chainsaw. This is an essential tool of rural living for cutting firewood and keeping the jungle under control. After the reception last night, my bed-time reading was the saw's manual. ("Be sure to read, understand and follow all of the safety rules that come with your power tools..." - Norm Abrams)
Most of this week, we have been living in a pea-soup fog. It started last Saturday and didn't start to lift until Wednesday evening. Visibility varied between 300 metres at the best and 50 metres at its thickest. It was actually quite shallow, and in the evenings we were able to see stars through it, with Mars still by far the brightest object in the sky.
The ferry kept to its schedule in spite of the fog, but blew its fog horn twice on each crossing. Here on Pickles Road, we are 1 kilometre from the water and 100 metres above sea level, and still it sounded like the ferry was coming up behind me on the road! One more reason we are glad we don't own waterfront property: the ferry starts at 6:40 in the morning and runs untill 11:00 at night. Perhaps one of those waterfront property owners complained, or perhaps the fog horn wore out, because on the final day of the fog, they were using a little tenor truck horn instead of the big bass fog horn.
The base of the "big hill" is where the fog is always the thickest. Probably there is a combination of cool air flowing downhill and marshy ground at the bottom. Visibility there was close to nil most of the week. Unfortunately, there is a sizable permanent deer population right there, so that is where visibility is most critical. No unfortunate incidents occurred (at least none that we are aware of), but there were a few impatient Hornby drivers racing to catch the connecting ferry who did not appreciate my caution.
Speaking of deer, we had three bucks in our meadow at the same time on Sunday evening. I presume they were here because of the "no hunting" sign at the end of our driveway.
For entertainment on Denman, people attend meetings. This week's notable meeting was an information session about someone's application for a water license. The applicants want to build a dam and reservoir on their property, and there was considerable concern in the community. The civil servants from the provincial water branch who ran the meeting didn't make many friends. They were rude to questioners and made it clear that the license would be granted regardless of what anyone thought of it, and that it could never be revoked. Lovely! And very entertaining.
In news this week, Wendy has just accepted a job with the RCMP in Courtenay. She'll be starting in a couple of weeks. We'll have to work out some logistics around commuting, since her schedule and mine at the College won't coincide. (I'm teaching two evening courses next term.)
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013