B.C. : the Basics

Last week my publisher, Dundurn, asked me to write up a little something for their blog about life in B.C. I’ve also posted it on my official ‘author blog’ but I suddenly realized it fits even better here:

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Perched on a mountain in B.C.

Eight months ago I lived in the west end of Toronto in an old brick house with a yard so small I could cut the grass with scissors. Today I’m in a wood frame cottage surrounded by mossy trees, perched on the side of a mountain on Saltspring Island, B.C.

A bit of a change.

I haven’t been here very long but I’ve noticed a few basic things about British Columbia:

1.     It’s green. Freakishly green.

2.     And damp. If you stand still for too long moss will grow on you.

3.     Ravens’ wings make a loud whooshing sound.

4.     This is the only place where I have ever been asked in casual conversation if I own a chainsaw.

5.     Everyone backs into parking lot spots.

6.     Raccoons in the wild are only half the size of their cheezie-bloated Toronto cousins.

7.     Everyone’s got a bear story.

8.     Santa Claus travels by float plane.

Saltspring Island is a weird, unique little place, but in many ways it lives up to every B.C. cliché. Nobody is on time for anything. Nobody locks their cars, and many actually leave their keys in the ignition. The guy at the next table in the coffee shop could be a millionaire, or he could live in a cave. When you meet someone new here, you have absolutely no idea what outfield world-view they’re about to throw at you.

As for writing in B.C., I now stare out my office window at trees instead of buildings, and my concentration is shattered by ravens flapping around instead of sirens. My brain is still settling into the new rhythm. For a long time I found the energy of the city invigorating. The buzz and hum of people doing things – working, hustling, rushing about, and talking talking talking – carried me along for many years, but lately I realized that the city was just making me resentful, stressed and antsy.

I needed to find a quiet, green, bird-twittery hideaway and this place fits the bill. I don’t know much about the writing community in B.C. yet, though they tell me you can’t throw a rock on this island without hitting a writer. And I haven’t been here long enough to have a full B.C.-inspired novel in my head, but my next book will probably include at least one character covered in moss.

Where We At, Springwise

I know I tend to grab the camera every time the sun comes out for a beautiful day, which can give a fairly skewed impression of B.C. weather. For the most part this is what winter looked like this year:

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I took a ferry on January 21 in some kind of super-fog. (Just one day after this epic day.)

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Seriously, I looked over the rail and couldn’t even see the water.

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I still feel pretty lucky though. The winters are mild. Snow and ice may be flying around the country this week, but here is the last brief glimpse we had of the white stuff – a mere dusting in the air on March 21:

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No sign of it the next morning, as we waited for the ferry:

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Cherry blossoms that week in Victoria.

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There have been daffodils and other flowers all around the island for a good 3 weeks or more, however up on our mountain, we’ve only just gotten to this stage:

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Almost almost almost!

Yes, my bulb planting in the fall has actually produced results! I am gobsmacked.

It helps that the deer don’t like to eat them. My crocuses on the other hand… apparently they are delicious, because there isn’t a single one to be seen.

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Almost almost almost here!

The Perfect Birthday

In past years I’ve tried to cram all kinds of indulgences into one day, on my birthday, resulting in fatigue and general frazzlement. This year, however, I finally found the winning formula to absolute, total, birthday perfection.

First, you play hookey from all work, duties, chores.

Next:

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And later, when the sun comes out:

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I read books for six hours straight. It was fantastic.

No music, radio, tv or internet. Just silence and bird twitters.

Yay for simple pleasures!

Just Today…

A splash of sunshine at noon inspired a picnic lunch in the yard. (Actually it was all my co-conspirator’s idea.) (She has recently objected to being called ‘the Boss’. Searching now for a new moniker.)

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It turns out that our mossy grassy yard is extra spongy and comfy to sit on. Prime picnicking real estate!

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Rainbow’s End

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So on Friday, just as we were behind schedule dashing to yoga class (of course), and I was muttering about how we’re always running late, the sun broke through the rain and we beheld a spectacular rainbow over Ganges. As we drove into town it was still hanging on – it was like we drove right through it. It faded by the time we got to our destination. Soooo… if we’d been organized and on time we would have missed the whole thing!

Sometimes the universe has to resort to the most obvious symbolism and beat you over the head with it before you notice.

Photographic evidence that the rainbow ends at Mouat's Hardware.

Photographic evidence that the rainbow ends at Mouat’s Hardware.

Step 93: Tuning Out

English: January 15, 1938. Mt. Kilimanjaro: Th...

Mt. Kilimanjaro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

March is officially no-facebook and no-twitter month for me. I was in desperate need of a Brain Cleanse, and my days are much more serene without all that online blather.

Downside? Not seeing immediately what distant friends and family members are up to. (ie. sister who’s just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!)

Upside? More time, less distractions. More time for reading books. And actually playing the piano sometimes. Plus the sudden realization that if I miss a few posts (and even the latest hilarious “meme”) the world will not come to an end.

Is isolation from the outside world a good thing or a bad thing? When you’re young it’s nothing but bad bad and bad. Everything worthwhile is happening elsewhere, and (as Neil Young put it) everyone knows that this is nowhere.

But… as you grow older the cultural white noise starts to make your head hurt and the little house in the deep dark woods starts to look like a pretty good option.

Is this part of my country lifestyle slowdown? I suppose so. I still like the hum and buzz of activity, but this month the hum and buzz is coming from me instead of my newsfeed.

Become a fan on facebook

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily Visitor

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… or Why We May Not Be Putting in a Garden…

(I know, cute and all, but if Bambi here chews off my daffodils or crocuses, things are gonna turn ugly.)

I ❤ fire

or… The Wood Stove: Exercises in Manliness

This Valentine’s Day I write a note to my beloved, the focal point of our new home:

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dearest wood stove!

From chopping to carrying to stacking to lighting to stoking to staring at the flames, I heart you, wood stove! (Even though you are resistant to drawing properly, and smoke up the house every time I light you up…)

One of my favourite camping activities has always been chopping wood for the nightly campfire. Why do I enjoy it so much? I think it makes me feel macho. Especially with my new axe!

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Check it out! I feel very manly indeed wielding this baby, and it causes my shoulders and back very manly pain.

(I was lucky to inherit a fully stocked woodshed when I bought this house, so I do more carrying than actual chopping.)

Two of my most prized Christmas presents this year:

new hatchet and wood carrier

new hatchet and wood carrier

And I am giddy with delight when dear old Dad is kind enough to give me –

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Kindling, o kindling!

Yes, everyone needs an obsession and mine is keeping the home fires burning.

Greek Goddess Hestia

For my money the Greek goddess Hestia – goddess of the hearth, architecture, and the right ordering of domesticity, the family and the state – had a pretty good gig. The only downside was that she had to stay at the hearth, and couldn’t go gallivanting about like the other Olympians. Which still sounds pretty good to me…

So I have whole-heartedly taken to this particlar aspect of rural living. At this time of year we have a fire going nearly every evening. And when there are still embers glowing, and all I have to do is blow on them and the flames spring up…

Magic!

Magic!

the “Idiocy of Rural Life” quote

The little phrase “the idiocy of rural life” was rolling around in my head as I started this blog, and I finally decided I should look it up to at least attribute it. I found out that the source is good ol’ Karl Marx, but I also found out that he never really said it in the first place – what he was talking about was rather the isolation of rural life. Read this for a detailed explanation.

A portrait of Karl Marx.

I never said it!

Okay, so the translator manhandled the meaning a little, but the phrase has staying power. And isolation can lead to a little blissful, near-sighted idiocy, no?

I am reminded of a friend who had a very smiley happy baby, and who confessed to me, “We’re worried that she’s not very bright…”

Fungallery

Our new place is fringed by woods, and our woods are, in a word, damp.
Sodden, really. Everything is thickly carpeted with moss and everywhere we go we find the most miraculous fungi.

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Quite possibly the work of fairies. They’d make lovely umbrellas and hats for the wee folk.

(Thinking of christening our new home Fungal Manor.)