Monday, September 29, 2008

Rise and Fall

It is a perfect day, as far as weather is concerned. The sun is shining, it's warm, there's no breeze. I sat outside with my mugga joe this morning while Sal sunned himself. The magnolia warblers and Oregon Juncos are busy in the trees, picking off some of the jillions of ants who crawl up and down the trunk and branches. They occasionally come to birdish fisticuffs, as one bird encroaches on territory another obviously feels possessive of.

The toadlily I bought back in April, the one which froze and died back to the ground, is finally beginning to bloom. It took six weeks to reemerge after it died back, and I didn't think it would survive, but it's reached a respectable 18 inches in height, and has about 20 buds. Only one has opened so far though several others are just about ready.

The dainty little flowers are smaller than a dime, and hard to get a picture of with the combination of my old eyes and my camera's tiny viewing window. I took a half dozen pictures and got one which is almost in focus. The body of the petal is the palest pink, the spots are purple, the stamens, held above the petals, are reddish pinky purpley brown.

Colours seem almost electric at this time of the year. Gone is the soft light of spring and the brilliance of summer. Now the light holds a neon radiance and everything it touches shimmers.

The red mums are also beginning to open. The bushes have hundreds of buds, and by the time they all open there may be more flowers than leaves! Everything else in the garden seems to hold its breath.

It's the kind of day to store away in memory and bring out in January or February.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nourishment and Food Too!

Yesterday was a good day. Tony was feeling quite well and we were delighted when SMM and Sweetie arrived earlier than expected. We had a great visit, which just served to emphasize how much I miss the company of this very good friend.

SMM and Sweetie are dedicated "Foodies" and treated us to dinner at a fantastic restaurant called The Vanilla Pod.. We enjoyed an amazing meal and excellent conversation. The food came in small courses, one at a time, and we lingered over dinner for over two hours. I have never liked mussels, but the mussels we were served, in a coconut sauce, were scrumptious. My favorite though was the sushi "pizza".

I realized today that though I had charged up the camera and had it at the ready, when they arrived I was so wound up I totally forgot to take any pictures. LOL

There's something nourishing about the company of good friends. Yesterday we had a great meal, in addition to the food we ate.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Only Four More Sleeps!

Until my good friend SMM and her Sweetie arrive for a visit!

Can we say excited boys and girls? We haven't seen SMM and Sweetie since we left Calgary over two years ago. They fled what they now refer to as the OC shortly before we did, leaving a dreadful hole in my social calendar. No more sushi lunches, trips to the Farmer's Market or raids on the Calgary Herald's annual booksale.

On other fronts, I am house and cat sitting for neighbours who are off to Newfoundland for a couple of weeks. Their cats are a large fluffy grey and white boy named Elvis and a sleek black female named Priscilla. They are the official park mousers, and are allowed to roam, while all other pets must be leashed or inside a fence.

Elvis and Sal have become good friends, Sal insists on visiting Elvis a couple of times a day, and Elvis drifts down to visit Sal several times a day. He's the one who recently left Sal a dead mouse as a gift.

Elvis and Pris are as attached to their Mama as Sal is to me, and they are a bit put out that she has gone off and left them. Elvis is so desperate for love he rolled over and presented belly for rubs today, but until last night Pris wouldn't let me anywhere near her. She finally gave p and let me scratch her ears. But she still had a bit of a whine about her mama's absence.

We are covered up in fruit, which is a good spot to be in. I have the dehydrator full of nectarines now, and yesterday I bought a gizmo which peels, cores and slices apples in one operation. I have a big box of apples waiting to be dried, courtesy of our friends Pat and Claude. Tomorrow I will try that new gadget out.

Then we have two kinds of plums, big purple ones and smaller pear-shaped reddish ones which look something like a ripe fig. Both are yummy but - well - you know why old folks drink prune juice. I made the error of eating about a dozen plums a couple of days ago. I no longer need a colonic, thanks.

I'm thinking of making a plum cobbler for the potluck which is coming up tomorrow. No way can we eat all those plums fast enough to keep them from going south. I could dry some, but plum cobbler sounds better. I just have to figure out how to make a pastry dough with no gluten, so Tony can have some too.

Oh, then there is a big box of purple concord grapes, about the only kind of grapes I like. These remind me of the wild grapes we picked when I was a girl, and when our boys were small. They are scrumptious, but another case of too much to eat in a hurry. They are seedless and freeze well, so I will probably pop a bunch into the freezer.

There's a big spaghetti squash, ripe field tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cabbage, summer squash, tiny red potatoes and portabello mushrooms, all waiting to be cooked. No wonder we are a bit on the plump side.

But we better enjoy it while we can. The weather has been wonderful the last couple of weeks, but tomorrow the temperature is forecast to fall like the stock market. Cool days ahead. Apparently summer is not endless.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Productive Visit

Ian has just spent a week inna Okinoggin, climbing, working long-distance via computer, hanging out with friends and (happy sigh) helping his parents get ready for the winter.

This "getting ready for winter" involved hauling supplies, insulating the water line and digging a trench for it, re-leveling the Beach House (which had decided tilt) and making a good start on putting on the trailer skirting.

Along the way we discovered the biggest orb spider we'd ever seen, whose body was as large as the end of my thumb. Then there was the huge black widow we found in the water connection box. We moved the orb spider to a better location, since she was in the way. The black widow we left to her own devices. She was guarding a brood sack and motherhood is (after all) sacred.

Winterizing will proceed at a slower pace. We have to finish putting on the skirting, we have to insulate the doors - trailer doors are conduits for cold - and we have to put storms on all the windows. Now that will be a job because we have many windows. But little by little it will get done and we should be cozy by freeze-up.

Of course the best part of the visit was just that - visiting. It's so satisfying to see your children grow into well-rounded, highly adept human beings. Our conversations are so comfortable.

Before Ian left this morning I took a picture of my three fellas, Ian, Tony and Salvador. I'll leave you to figure out which is the father, which is the son and which is the Feline Overlord.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Environmental Sustainability

David Suzuki says; "My greatest fear in this election is not that one candidate or one party will win over the other. My nightmare is that the issue of the environment will be ignored in this election and that concerns about our planet will be drowned out by the name-calling and political posturing that have come to mark Canadian campaigns. And if that happens, if we fail to put the focus on the environment, the message to the next government - regardless of which party prevails - will be a mandate for more inaction.

...We have to put all candidates' feet to the fire. We have to show them that we will not accept future inaction. We will demand that they address our environmental concerns - that they represent us."

As we head into elections on both sides of the Canada/US border it is up to citizens to make certain that politicians understand how seriously we take the issue of environmental sustainability. Furthermore it is even more important that we make them understand that this is not just an election issue; it is now a life-and-death issue for species all over the earth.

Summarized by the David Suzuki Foundation here are Five Principles for Environmental Sustainability:

Precaution –Scientific uncertainty cannot be an excuse for inaction where there is a risk of irreversible damage to the environment. This is especially true when alternatives are readily available or solutions, like increasing energy efficiency, can deliver economic benefits as well.

Polluter pays - Those who pollute need to be held responsible for their pollution. No one should be allowed to freely dump greenhouse gases, toxics or other waste products into our environment, leaving our climate, our ecosystems and our communities paying the real costs of these actions.

Leaving the world a better place for our children - Future generations deserve at least the same environmental opportunities as we had. Canadians have accepted this principle for dealing with government debts; now it is time to apply it to our growing environmental deficit by adopting preventative approaches to pollution and putting in place strong protections for irreplaceable ecosystem services.

Make governments accountable for the state of our environment – We must be able to measure progress against national environmental objectives using clear indicators, and we must make such progress reporting routine and ongoing. Access to factory or facility-level and community-based environmental information collected by government must be readily available to all Canadians. Such access could be ensured through the development of a federal Environmental Bill of Rights.

Good global citizenship – The wealth and talent of Canadians (and Americans) mean there are no excuses for our countries not to be world leaders in environmental sustainability. In fact, we should be actively helping developing countries become more environmentally sustainable by demonstrating and sharing best practices. Canada and the US need to be constructive contributors to international environmental protection efforts, not two huge roadblocks to progress.

How do we send those messages?

Canadians can join Vote Environment 2008.

Americans can join We Can Solve It

Original source:

From the "Tomorrow Today" report. A joint project of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Pollution Probe, Sierra Club Canada and World Wildlife Fund.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Woot Woot!

Elizabeth May will be allowed to participate in the debates after all!

May said she was happy the networks' original decision was reversed.

"The important thing is that we have the opportunity for a full and fair exchange of views," she told CBC News. "I'm so grateful to Canadians for protesting loudly enough that we've seen this change. I'm not the only winner today — everybody wins."

May, in an interview Wednesday, said tens of thousands of Canadians came to her defence, with some staging protests or telephoning the TV networks in charge of the debates. May said the events of the last few days prove that "democracy does not happen behind closed doors."

"When you get engaged, you can change the world, and I intend to do that in the debates," she said.

We now return you to our irregularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Banana Republic?

It was announced late yesterday that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will not be allowed to take part in the National Debates.

Feedback I am reading suggests that this strategy will backfire on the major parties, as Canadians react to their protectionist tactics by voting Green.

I like Elizabeth May. She is not your usual politician. We need more of not your usual politician. Do you know her?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Shift to Green

Well, it's official - Canadians go to the polls Oct 14th. From now until then we will have to endure the backstabbing and mudslinging that is mistaken/substituted for intelligent discussion of the issues. I have stated my view that the ALL the issues in this election basically track back to the environmental and energy mess we find ourselves in.

So what do the various parties have to say about environment and energy?

The Liberals have proposed a plan called The Green Shift based on plans that are working other places in the world, including (gasp) Sweden! Perhaps Stephan Dion has some Svedish blood! At any rate he needs to offer a more cohesive explanation of exactly what the Liberals plan to do with the money raised via the carbon tax. But it's a start, and to his credit Dion maintains a dignified tone.

I hesitate to link to the Conservative's environmental issues page. They don't simply criticize their opponents, they ridicule them in a nasty personal way. While they crow about the very little they have done, and brag on their extremely modest environmental goals, they spend over half the page mudslinging, and misrepresenting what other parties have done on behalf of the environment. Stephan Harper is going to run a mean-spirited campaign, which speaks volumes about his character and his party.

The New Democratic Party talks about their record on environmental issues but may have forgotten that you are supposed to have an election platform. I can't find a statement on what their policies on pollution and global warming would be should Jack Layton be elected PM. I like Jack Layton. I think there's potential for the NDP to be a leader in a lot of fields Canadians care about. But they can't seem to get organized into a cohesive force.

Then there's the new political kid on the block, the Green Party of Canada. Green Leader Elizabeth May said in a recent speech:

"...we are emerging to a new reality. The Fossil Fuel Era has been our adolescence – years of partying like there was no tomorrow. The party's over. We are ready to make the next leap – as momentous as abolishing slavery or giving women the vote. We are ready to make the fundamental shifts that allow us to live in balance with our life support systems, respecting each other, achieving social and economic justice, peace and democracy."

Now there's a party a Buddhist can get behind! Green Parties around the world share common values as expressed in the Charter of the Global Greens. The policies of the Green Party of Canada are based on six fundamental principles: Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Participatory Democracy, Non-Violence, Sustainability and Respect for Diversity.

Of course the Greens have not been allowed to participate in the "democratic" candidate debates, and they have been portrayed as nutters and long-haired hippies by the media. The question might be asked, "What are they afraid of?" With a large percentage of people saying that the environment and energy issues are their most pressing concerns this election, the "old boys" may soon find out they have good reason to fear that new kid on the block.

Canadians, if you'd like to add your name to the petition for the inclusion of the Green Party in the National Candidates Debate click here.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Between Denial and Despair

My Faithful Reader wrote:

"I don't know if you have been watching the political coverage of the conventions...but I was wondering if you might take to your blog and give us your faithful readers your perspective?"

Oh dear oh dear. How can I remain zen-like with such a challenge? (Hint: It ain't gonna happen.) I admit I watched parts of the Democratic Convention, but there's was not enough Gravol in BC to induce me to watch the Republican Convention.

John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as Vice-Presidential Candidate was so cynical it is absolutely mind-boggling. Gender aside, this is a person with NO national political experience and not a clue about foreign policy. Her only "qualifications" are:

1) She is a adamantly opposed to abortion under any circumstance unless the woman's life is in immediate danger. The 12-year-old rape or incest victim is shi* out of luck.
2) She is a long-time member of the National Rifle Association, who has enormous political power in the US, and
3) She's eager to move drilling rigs into one of the world's most pristine and fragile ecosystems, Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

These three positions attract some powerful political allies. And probably the best part is, that like "W", she would have to rely entirely on "advisors". I see political marionette written in big red letters across this woman's forehead.

With nine percent of Americans currently in the process of losing their homes, jobless rates soaring, young Americans and Canadians dying on Middle Eastern battlefields in appalling numbers, 45% of Americans without health care insurance and energy prices at an all time high it seems to me that it's time for a new direction in Washington. In fact it's time for a new direction in almost every government in the world.

We need to return to local economies for food, building materials, and many kinds of manufactured goods. I see logging trucks go by, one hauls logs north, 30 seconds later one goes by headed south. Both trucks are probably hauling logs to the coast, where they will be shipped to China to be milled and then shipped back to BC at an astronomical cost, both to the consumer and to the environment.

We have the technology to have business meetings and medical conferences without ever leaving our offices, and if nothing else has convinced us to use it, the price of a ticket to Cleveland may.

Barack Obama is moving in the right direction when he says it's time to invest BILLIONS of dollars in renewable, green energy. He proposes to create five million new jobs by investing $150 billion over the next ten years to encourage private efforts to produce clean energy. His goals are commendable but too modest.

And since Stephen Harper is going to dissolve Parliament and call an election here at home within the next day or two, I was looking at the Conservative Party of Canada's "Green Plan" today, the goal of which is to "reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 and cut air pollution in half by 2015." You know, with 34 million people in this country it's pathetic that Stephen Harper is the best leader we can come up with. I won't even mention the sad leaders of the other parties, fine people all of them but between them they couldn't get up enough spark to couldn't light dry tinder.

Sweden has only nine million people, but they must be of stellar quality, because they certainly appear to have better leadership than countries many times their size. Their goal is to be powered by 100% pollution and nuclear -free renewable energy by 2020. That's 12 years from now. The Western Harbor Development in the Swedish city of Malmo has already accomplished this goal.

Let's go back a bit. The economy has done a major nose-dive in the past year. If we back track carefully we come to an inescapable conclusion. We have hit the energy wall, and the real costs of our lifestyles are becoming painfully apparent not only in economic but in environmental terms. Meanwhile, we sit, as Al Gore said, "Between denial and despair." How the hell are we going to get out of this mess we've made? It's not going to be by casting a vote for a politician who has the lofty goal of reducing emissions 20% by 2020.

Our buildings gobble energy and produce 50% of carbon emissions. Yet we are still building houses as if we lived in the 19th century. Worse, building codes force us to build homes which waste energy and water and dump our pollutants into our water supplies.

From this day forward EVERY new building built should meet an environmental standard which includes building with locally available materials. Existing homes should be upgraded to a new environmental standard as much as is practical.

Homes should be heavily insulated and oriented to take the best advantage of sunlight. EVERY new building should utilize some form of composting toilet and include a grey-water recycling system. In Sweden it's been illegal to install a water-flush toilet for years. Not only do toilets waste water which has been treated at great expense, they carry chemicals and excreted medications into the eco-system. The fertility rate of young men has dropped by 50% since 1930, and it's believed that one major factor is estrogen and estrogen-like compounds in the water we drink.

EVERY new building should have a combination of solar and wind power to generate its own electricity. New vertical axis wind turbines which begin to produce power at wind speeds of five miles per hour will soon make wind power available to almost any homeowner, and certainly to developers.

EVERY new building should be heated and cooled with a geothermal system. Geothermal systems are the worlds most advanced and most cost-efficient heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems.

This applies to plants and factories as well. Clean up your industry or fire the CEO who can't make it happen and find someone who can.

Environmental stewardship extends into almost every decision we make, in every dollar we spend, in every bag of garbage we produce, and even at the ballot box. Politicians need to be told, repeatedly, that we expect real leadership of them, and if they are not prepared to offer it, we may advertise in a Stockholm newspaper for leaders who will.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's a Green Party!

Because inquiring minds have asked for it, here is a photo of my incredibly simple laundry-basket composter. You will recall that this plastic ready-for-the-dumpster basket has greedily consumed all our kitchen and garden scraps and trimmings all summer.

I'd tried composting before, with a commercial composting bin, but it was too large for me to handle, and it didn't work well. This system is just the right size for a two-person family. The basket already had holes in the bottom, and of course had a mesh pattern on the sides, so air access was good and any excess moisture could drain out the bottom.

I started with a layer of sticks in the bottom, added some composted manure/soil mix from a bag, spread my kitchen scraps on top and covered them with a layer of the bagged soil. After the layers built up a bit I would just pull the top layer of soil back, dump in the scraps, and scratch the soil back over them. Other than that I have watered it occasionally and put my grass clippings and garden bits on top to dehydrate a bit before covering them up. There's never been any odor. The basket sits right under my bedroom window so if it smelled I'd be the first to know about it.

The compost is now so bio-active it practically reaches up and grabs any offerings I bring. In three or four days most kitchen scraps completely disappear. It even eats corn cobs! It is black and crumbly and will be a fantastic addition to the garden next spring. Best of all it's kept all those scraps out of the garbage!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Question That He Frames

In all but words,

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

The Oven Bird ~ Robert Frost


The campground is empty. Two weeks ago the park was bursting with people, alive with children's shouts, the whir and buzz of bike tires and skateboard wheels. You had to thread your way carefully through the maze of cars, boats and trailers. Today it's quiet enough to park your car in the middle of the street, get out and go visit with your neighbour.

Mornings are cool enough to make the warmth from the fireplace not only pleasant but necessary. In the garden there are still lots of blossoms but almost everything is going to seed, shrinking back, drawing in. Leaves look ragged and bleached out, like old clothes hung in the sun too long.

I tour the garden in the chill morning sun, taking just a few more pictures. The change is probably not even perceptible to someone who doesn't know every plant as well as a life-long friend.

What do we make of a diminished thing? Quietly but steadily, family members who were the nucleus of my world when I was a child have disappeared. I have a brother left. His heart is failing. He is tethered to an oxygen line and is house bound. He is caregiver for his wife who is trapped in the living death that is advanced Alzheimer's. She is a fragile shell which requires the same level of care as a newborn. He feeds and changes her, bathes her, combs her hair and sings to her with exquisite tenderness. They have been married 54 years. He refuses to put her in a nursing home. "My bride," he says, "My bride doesn't want to go to that place."

He is not up to the task of caring for her, even with help. His doctors and his children want both of them to go to the nursing home, but he refuses, partly because they would be placed in separate wings of the building. He clings to the home they built together, putting up with incredible inconvenience and discomfort, while their daughter tries to care for the two of them, care for her own family, and hold down a job.

What do we make of life when our options are diminished? There are no easy answers. We live day-by-day, making of the time what we can. Moment by moment life unfolds. While many fade as flowers in autumn, some have learned along the way to embellish with joy the diminished thing. Joy is a lesson that must be learned before the challenges of autumn and winter begin.