la saison des baies


in accordance with the title, despite it not being the most spectacular photo i have taken over these weeks, i felt i should share some berries. it is the season, people. the salmonberries and huckleberries are burgeoning. every morning i have huckleberry pancakes. the salmonberries are dangling lavishly from overburdened branches. there are so many we can’t pick them fast enough and they rot on the vine. i know. the magnitude of overabundance. i give thanks.

first off i should let you know my computer has officially died. which is why there has been no post in awhile. joseph has been so kind and lent me an old laptop of his, which i am able to use until i figure out what to do next. unfortunately though, i don’t have photoshop on this computer, so i can’t shrink down the photos from my camera to a more manageable size for the web, which is why this post has very little in the way of imagery (don’t you worry, i’ll make up for it eventually).

i am in the midst of a five week (at least) hiatus from work. i’ve come home to the wee island to do firewood and start some building projects and install a water cistern and have fun and take a break from all the walking. so far, three weeks in, i have managed a good balance of it all. i figured out that a tank of gas in the chainsaw and splitting about six rounds a day is a good amount of firewood for my body to stay happy and not get too sore. at this point i am fairly sure i have bucked up all that i need to and can move on to solely splitting and then beginning the building projects. i am daunted by the projects on the docket though, since i need to make footings and have only ever done this once before with colin, and the first time i ever do anything on my own that i am not fully confident in is always daunting. thus i am putting it off and am instead spending lots of time sitting around playing the ukulele! i went into long and mcquade (musical instrument store) before leaving nanaimo, to pick up a better capo and new guitar strings, and on my way in saw a line-up of ukuleles. i thought, hey! a ukulele would be great to bring on a canoe trip because it’s so portable and relatively cheap, therefore if i wreck it, it’s not a huge deal. so i picked one up! little did i know how much i would fall in love with it. when i decided to try playing guitar years ago, i tried both it and the uku at the same time, but chose guitar because i liked the fuller sound. this time around that is how i felt at the beginning, but then it became less important how full the sound was, and more about it being back-up for the singing. and the portability! i love how i can just stuff it in my backpack and take it anywhere. it comes to the beach, it comes to the neighbours, it comes on walks through the woods. it seems to be the new star of the show, but the copious photos i have taken of my new love will have to wait. i spent the first week home – a scorcher – doing a bit of firewood everyday and heading down to the ocean in the evenings to swim. there is a 40 acre parcel that our land butts up against that i have taken to calling the back forty. it belongs to people who don’t live here, have no structure built on it yet, and have no road access. though we have oceanfront, the ocean access on their land gives a view of sunset, and, you know, i just love exploring woods i have never been in. i figure it is fine as long as i do no harm, so i spent many an evening there, playing ukulele to the sunset. i guess i never tried hard enough with guitar to learn songs so that i didn’t have to look at the music to play them, but i have with at least a couple on the uku. and oh my, if i had known how blissful it is to gaze out at the sunset and pink mackerel sky while i sing to them, i would have put more effort into this sooner!

i am fairly certain i haven’t mentioned this yet: i got a canoe. ohhhhhhh. i know, there was the cedar one my uncle built, which i STILL have yet to paddle, because it is on the big island and i need to get it over here. but the one i just bought is a PAKCANOE. it is collapsible. it is like putting up a tent that you then flop into the water. it is made of vinyl and aluminum poles. so wild. i bought it specifically for northern canoe trips, the ones where you need a bush plane, because these are cheaper and easier to transport than hardshell canoes. now i just need a northern canoe trip! the one i wanted to do this summer – a month crossing great slave lake – isn’t going to happen this year. it isn’t my first choice for a northern trip, but i figured it was an easy enough one that anyone could jump onto it last minute. the window for it, however, was july, because the winds pick-up come august. i am still holding out hope that a trip will happen, leigh is thinking MAYBE she can go with me late august on a 2-3 week-er, so all i can do is hope. i am basically ready to go, the dinner meals are cooked and dehydrated, i just need to get lunches and breakfasts measured and then packed up. food is always the biggest thing. maps would need to happen too. and coordinating logistics of where to leave the car and shuttling, but that can all happen when i am back in nanaimo working, and when i know for sure the trip is happening. but back to the canoe! i was going on faith buying this beauty. i had never paddled one before, had never actually seen one in person. and holy these crafts are expensive (especially when i get charged exorbitant amounts for duties and taxes!), so i was taking a risk in buying it. valeria took it out onto the ocean with me for the first paddle and ohhhhhhhh. yes. so far that has been the only paddle, and it was a calm evening. my birthday is coming up soon though and i am hoping to take it out again, but you never know with the winds. that is why i haven’t been out again since. as we were paddling, v mentioned the name of the next bay over, which sophia had dubbed ‘salacia’, and as SOON as she said it i thought, wow, what a word. i immediately started thinking of what i could possibly name salatia (in my head i had spelt it with a T, later finding out it was supposed to be C. i stuck with T). and then of course, the lightbulb went off. my canoe was thus christened salatia. it seemed fitting since v said salacia is the goddess of salt water, and the canoe hit the water for the first time in an ocean of salt. i do hope though that she will have a great many trips in fresh northern waters. [as a super-cool aside, when i am walking around delivering mail i tend to say hi to many of the beings i encounter, including cats and dogs and trees. lately i have been doing this in french, so i have been saying ‘salut chat’, to the cats. the two words tended to run together in my head as one word that sounded kind of pleasing, and so would resonate there sometimes throughout the day – saloosha. it wasn’t until three days after naming salatia that i realized how similar the two words are. it bowled me over as i was walking home through the dusky woods, it just seemed too coincidental. sometimes one wonders…]


so that was week one: firewood, gluing the anchors for the spray cover onto salatia, ukulele mania, and five swims over five days, one of those being solstice! that felt special. along with being the season of berries, it is the season of salad. at the solstice beach gathering i made a triple decker salad stack with three different dressings!

week two was a lot of getting ready for the arts festival. longer band practices, hauling supplies to the hall, making samosas and food prepping with violet and carly, getting my art ready to show and practicing the pieces i planned to read at reading night. tuesday i went to the school to teach the kids how to make the kind of journals i make, which was soooooo fun. it was neat to see how the kids learned, how different they all were in doing the same task, and how different too between the varying age levels. i was riding high on the joy of it all until we started the afternoon class, then i started flagging. by the time i got home i could do NOTHING. i couldn’t play ukulele, i could barely think, all i could do was sit there. my respect to those who work with children all day and do so with grace. i love kids, but holy cow they require so much energy. not that i forgot this, but somehow it was still flabbergasting to be so bagged, i guess it’s been awhile.

then friday came and denise and claire came over for the festival, then rae and max. the festival was fantastic. it is my favourite local event and it has never failed to provide such joy. more on that later in the form of photos!

it is now the end of week three which has consisted of two rest days so far. i needed a day of recovery from festivities, and then turns out i needed a rest day from working! i think i overdid it with too much time in the sun yesterday and was just sooo tired today. i stayed in bed until 10:30 and was still tired! the last few days have been mainly in prep of the water cisterns arrival. i cleared the area of moss and organic matter and hauled up a bunch of rocks from down below to start levelling the spot. i gotta say, there are a great many challenges to living on a rocky bluff with next to no flat spots. i am not in any way saying i regret choosing this spot as my home, just that things really need to be thought out when making decisions. there is no way to drive to the spot the cistern is going to sit (yes, i am wondering as well as you how the cistern is going to get there when the time comes), and unless you are super-human or there are two of you, it is also impossible to haul a wheelbarrow even half-full of rocks up the hill. therefore the painstaking process of delivering rocks to the cistern site require one to either carry the bigger ones by hand the last 40 or so meters, or tow up a dolly containing a tote with about 5 smaller-sized ones in it, which in the end is maybe not even as fast as carrying them by hand. let us say it is a very meditative process. doug also came up with his rock drill this week to see how hard it will be to drill into the rock up here. we are drilling because this is the best way to affix fence posts to the ground in this land of no soil. it turned out easier than he expected, and my fence is also not going to be as big as he expected, so he is kindly willing to lend me his drill! i just need to buy a drill bit. after that we went and walked the property lines with a compass to see exactly where the lines were. that was super fun, just because anything that involves a compass and the woods has to be fun (unless you are lost i suppose… but at least you’ve got a compass!).

tonight we just had a post-festival arts council wrap-up meeting and somehow got onto the topic of octopuses. sophia asked, “have any of you read The Soul of an Octopus?“ and tony, the postmaster, said, “yes!” and started going off on all the amazing things he learned in this book, at which point sophia asked, “are you reading my mail?” to which tony replied, “yes, it was open”. we get books by mail here on the wee isle, they come in cute little (or large) green fabric bags with zipper closures. when you are done you use the zip-ties the library provides to slip through the zipper and a little hole in the bag, essentially locking the bag shut. so what tony meant by “open” was that sophia had not LOCKED the bag, NOT that she had left the zipper open. so tony continued on, saying that octopuses have more neurons in their arms than in their brains, as sophia says to me, “i remember checking my account online and seeing that book was overdue but thinking to myself – hmmm, i’m sure i returned that. i’ve since thought of ordering books on syphilis, sex with sheep, spouse-swapping in your neighbourhood, dealing with overwhelming impulses to murder the postmaster…”

i love living here.


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