beginning…

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i must say, this has been quite the summer. i am sitting on the bench looking out at the mountain, it’s early evening after a great day of waking up to sparkling sunlight, yoga, a couple of songs on the ukulele, two pages of free-writing, putting the finishing touches on the woodshed, splitting firewood, and then hauling it to its new home. a delicious breakfast of pancakes and a few pages of a tin-tin comic book en français were in there somewhere as well. now a small cool breeze is blowing as the heat from this early fall day begins to dissipate. i am loving this season. there was thick smoke in the sky over much of BC for the past few weeks, it cleared up at the end of last week and ever since then its been feeling like fall. the sun is lower in the sky and the air feels different. a tiny rain about a week ago sent everyone into the throes of finishing up major outdoor projects before the real rains start. it was incredibly satisfying to get the roof on the woodshed yesterday, with johnnys help, and today to begin loading it up. treasure for the winter months. the other major project of the summer – the water cistern – is done phase one at least. all of the ground levelling was completed a few weeks ago now, and the cistern was delivered shortly after. a load of sweet friends then helped me roll and lift and maneuver it into place. now i just have to build the roof over it from which i will collect the rainwater. i am hoping to get this done before winter, we shall see. oh, there is also a tiny bit more to do on the woodshed, the footings are made from stacked rocks, which i might have previously mentioned. even-though several people have told me that it looks sketchy, i decided not to take it apart to make concrete footings, and instead plan to reinforce the rocks with concrete later. i figure i’ll do this when i mix the concrete for the cistern roof footings.

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so that has been the work part of summer. it was great to have so much time off to just be here, and i’ve actually only been back to work a couple of weeks out of the last five. not great in terms of money, which i do need to earn more of sooner than later, as i spent pretty much all i made over the spring on the new computer, canoe and cistern, along with daily life necessities, but oh my has it been nice to just be at home.

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the big northern adventure i was desperately wanting didn’t manifest, but that is ok. i might miss it again later, but i have realized that the times i most crave travelling are when i am walking around nanaimo delivering mail, or on the other side in general. when i am here at home, i am feeling pretty happy to just be here. that said, carson and i did have a fabulous adventure last week. there were supposed to be five of us going in marks bigger boat, and we were supposed to head out to bute inlet to find a way up to the homathko glacier, but the day before the trip, mark bowed out, and then carly, and then sean, so carson decided he’d take his rowboat equipped with motor, and of course i was game. we instead decided to head up jervis inlet and save the glacier for another time. when i am on the water, i am used to it being a human-powered venture (other than the ferries), so it was something else to do it this way, but what it felt like was akin to taking a car to get us somewhere beautyfull and then human-powering out from there. this i find interesting, learning the ocean as a means to travel to other places, like a road. ideally i would paddle wherever i want to go on the water, but carson didn’t have the time, so off we went with what we had. it was a blast to travel with carson, he had a list of rules for travelling, or rather he would randomly state something as a rule and i would write it down to turn it into an eventual list. i love lists. here is… 

carsons list of trip rules:

1. don’t fall off the boat

1a. rule #1 doesn’t apply to the captain

2. we can’t go home until all the food is gone [i brought a lot of food]

3. we can’t go home until we run out of fuel

4. don’t fill up dairyland

5. if you see a stick while we’re motoring, point directly at it, then duck, or jump overboard

6. we are only allowed to do seven unsafe things [this after both john and petra admonished us upon leaving to BE SAFE]

7. there is always time to fry onions

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we were out five days/four nights, and camped the first night in hotham bay near the harmony islets, the mountains are majestic there and there was a towering waterfall streaming down to the ocean below, just several hundred meters away. the second two nights we were in mcmurray bay further up the inlet, on the way there we checked out a logging camp at the mouth of vancouver river. i was in need of exercise because if i don’t get a regular dose of it i don’t sleep as well at night. we tied up the boat under the bridge and went a-wandering up the road networks. on the way we found a machine-yard full of cranes that we proceeded to dance on so i could film it, and an abandoned work shack where i found dairyland – a milk crate i decided to take home (carson then immediately declared RULE #4). we also found a great swim spot up the clear vancouver river, and i fit in some running down the logging road in the early evening sun. the next day we went on the search for a mountain trail that was on the map, across from princess louisa inlet. this turned out to be the best part of the trip. the trail was beside a river that had been dammed to create power for the summer camp across the inlet, thus the trail started out as a road that ran maybe a third of the way up the mountain, ending at the dam. the road was made of stunning shale a lot of the way, but i wasn’t allowed to take any of it home, it was also lined with bush after bush of ripe thimble berries which carson brought home in his belly. the river was gorgeous, it was basically a series of waterfalls, dip-able for swims, the whole way up. after the road, the trail moved through steep open forest of mainly cedar and hemlock, in which we found an old steam donkey. carson believes they were trying to haul it back down the mountain, but busted it on the way down and so abandoned it there. eventually the forest turned wetter and mossier and full of burgeoning mountain blueberries. there were so many berries that next year when we go back (which we plan to do with more people in a non-motorized way) all carson wants to bring is pancake mix (i would prefer bannock mix). he was also talking about a way to make pies – there were a lot of berries. there were also mushrooms!!! we found chicken of the woods, enough for a feast for many people, and another brown sort that reminded me of oyster mushrooms, but they had a sort of fuzzy chestnut brown stem. i harvested some of them too in the hopes that we would have reception so i could look them up when we got back down the mountain, but alas, we had to abandon them at the campsite because we had no way to look them up. maybe they will spore there. there were gullies on the way up the mountain that were carpeted in exquisite pale green moss, like the colour of lunamoth wings, that seemed like maybe they used to be streams. it was really soooo beautyfull. the time was getting later and later, but carson wanted to make it up to the lake that fed the river. we had long ago abandoned the idea of getting to the top of the mountain, but the lake held much allure, and he kept thinking we were really close, so he ditched our pack on the trail and we pushed on, making it to the top at about 16:15, after roughly three hours+ of hiking. oh was it worth it.

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it was alpine and glacial and the sun was getting low in the faintly smoke-filled sky. this is where the decision was made to come back. someone had roped two big logs together and there was a paddle, so we took turns paddling out and diving off. next time we are thinking of bringing my pakcanoe, because the weight can be split up between four or five people. the hike down was fast and the tide was slack so we quickly motored in and out of princess louisa inlet, just to check it out a tiny bit while the rapids were non-existent. we made it back to camp to be greeted by the beginnings of what were to be incredible phosphorescence. later, taking the boat out for a row, each paddle stroke was a thick rich brush painting day-glow shimmering glitter onto a dark canvas, then a fish would dart through the blackness, sparkles streaming from its tail. the best was yet to come, however. back on shore, carson discovered the sand. turns out when you stomp on the wet sand, it is like sheet lightning in the sky, the whole ground lights up. whaaaaaaaattttt!? amazingness.

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the next day, on deciding we wanted our friends to be able to camp with us on the last night, we pushed through the southeasterly and crossed the strait, arriving soaking wet but happy to the tiny island near johns beach. adrian and kaya and sean and shawn and john paddled out to meet us, instruments in tow, and carson cooked us all coconut curry for dinner, some of us adding in the chicken of the woods i’d gathered. carson brought more onions than we had days, so each evening, regardless of how late it was or what we were eating, we had to fry up an onion (rule #7). part of the impetus for our friends to join us on the last night was so we had help to eat up our food (see rule #2), but it was also a sweet transition back to home, a middle ground between away and arriving.

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as vi and gabe would say – carson fru’ed the kitchen. and in the photo below he refused to go and get my hat as john and i were playing music.

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i brought along some lipstick on the trip because on past trips my friends and i have donned lipstick for ridiculous photoshoots in wild places. this time around we stuck it in carsons pack to put on at the top of the mountain in case inspiration struck. when we got back home, it was the one thing i forgot in amongst his things, so when i came over the next day announcing we were going to have a slideshow of trip photos that night and saying that i needed my lipstick back, he said: if anyone wants to watch the slideshow they need to wear lipstick (and dresses, turned out)! thus another photoshoot was born. you must be able to tell why i love these people.

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one thing that has happened this summer is that i have grown into a lovely family here, based around my bandmates. the folksy band started after i played guitar at the coffeehouse here in may, and john came to watch, after which he essentially said: we should try playing music together. john lives with violet and gabe and rune and carson. i came over for our first practice to discover that violet plays mandolin. everything snowballed from there, their house is one of my happy places. rune is v & g’s two-year-old, and i am constantly marvelling at how he gets to grow up, surrounded by community – all of these people who love him and watch out for him. he spends his days on his ‘mokocycle’ (often naked with sunglasses and a helmet and first-aid-kit briefcase), or the trampoline, or in the garden, or working with johnny in his shop, or with noel in her and colins garden, or baking bread with his dad, or in the sand pile, or pulling whichever person who happens to wander by into play. everyone has an eye out for him, everyone takes care of him, everyone loves him. it is how i feel families should live, like in other cultures where generations and extended family all live and work and play together. and he gets to have this. it is such a marvel to behold, and i wonder who he will be when he is older. i hope to be around to find out. 

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we have been playing much music in the last couple of months, getting tighter as we go, and have even started playing music at the market behind violet and gabes bread stall. last market, kaya played her melodica, ken played another mandolin, sara joined in on her guitar and finn and barb sang, and oh lordy, did i bliss out! so many voices and harmonies, it was AMAZING!!! i am so grateful for these people and this music in my life right now.

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my other family is the marimba band. i believe i have said this already, but every practice is joy. grins and dancing and just pure warmth inside. we played on the dock in late july and so many people came out to dance and rejoice with us. other delights of this summer: making cyanotype prints with sue and finn! a new-to-me process that i’d been wanting to do for the last few years, which is HIGHLY addicting, and i am so excited to do more. kayaking with finn and simmah and peter. friends coming to visit for walks in the woods. a solo-hike up the islands highest peak for an overnighter with the moon and my ukulele and natalie goldberg. my birthday canoe-trip with valeria in which she and i took out salatia – my beautyfull red canoe – and paddled to a group of islands near here to camp. there were so many amazing things about this birthday. one was that for basically every canoe trip i have taken in the past, i have loaded the canoe on top of a vehicle of some sort, and driven out of the city to get to whichever body of water was the choice at the time. this trip v and i essentially left from my back yard, put the canoe in the ocean, paddled to the islands, camped for a couple of nights, and paddled back to her bay, where we only had a 15 minute drive to pick up my truck for me to get salatia home. it felt INCREDIBLE to leave and not have to road-trip to get there. revolutionary really. the other main amazing thing about this birthday is that there were 23 of us there together! as you may know, my yearly ritual is to go off into the wilderness to camp and wake up in my tent for my birthday, this means it is either solo, or not more than 4 of us total on a canoe trip. last year i made a bit of an exception – waking up here on the land and the heading off to corrie and sheldons weddding, so though i was with tons of people that day, it was about them, not me. this year, all of these people came to celebrate me, and i didn’t have to do a thing! valeria just called up some friends and said come over, and they all showed up with food and instruments and children and we had such a delightfull time. we were camped in a rich seafood bay, so we steamed oysters up all evening, and made tea from the gumweed, desert parsley, yarrow, yerba buena and rosehips we collected from the island. the area had a very large midden, and apparently desert parsley was introduced by indigenous folks way back, so all of this made it feel like a very special place to be.

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i cannot possibly tell you all that has transpired this summer in glorious minute detail, but i will end by saying that i seem to be falling in love. it feels highly romantic to say this as i am in the giddy beginnings of it, but the beginning is generally the place where one steeps in the magic, so it just seems right to revel, don’t you think? i realize an amazing thing in this beginning place: i haven’t fallen in love in a long time. back in my 20’s when my relationships were shorter, there was a lot of breaking up and getting together, and there was also perhaps a lot more lust than love;) but my last relationship with jere began in 2012, six years ago, and lasted four years and there has been no one since him. it is a novel experience, falling in love, i hope i am able to revel in this joy for a long time to come.

*tell me if you can figure out which of the lovelies in these photos he is, i will give you a clue by saying his name starts with j.

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the bounty j brought over for our first date.

**in the interest of finally getting a post out after my delinquent summer of not posting, a whole slew of exciting photos of things that took place over the course of the summer are not making it in here. i will attempt to fit them in later on, in perhaps a post of mainly photos and little text. we shall see.

*photos 53 and 78 by carson

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