I picked up some treasures from the forest trail and beach on Mayne Island when I was there. The shells and rocks bear the same reddish-brown hue as the Arbutus tree bark. My collection reminded me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gifts from the Sea. She spent some time writing at a cottage one summer. She found the hot damp environment was not ideal for working, which is why I went to Mayne in the cool late fall.
The first week she was there she unwound, letting her tired body sink into the rhythms of the seashore. “One becomes in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, released by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.” But then comes the second week. Oh for a stretch of weeks to write on the shores of Mayne.
The mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense—no—but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind; what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor. Perhaps a channeled whelk, a moon shell, or even an argonaut.
But it must not be sought for or—heaven forbid!—dug for. No, no dredging of the seabottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea. —Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I was reading a little book by Ellen Petrick and Michael Day while I was on Mayne Island. It was about planning outdoor residential education programs; the authors describe a program in Yellowstone National Park. It made me want to go to Yellowstone. The motivation behind holding programs in wilderness areas is to connect people with the land. It is hoped that heightening the connection will translate into a desire to preserve our wild spaces. In this particular program, the staff always introduce relaxation techniques to their residents, not only to help them unwind, but also to sharpen their senses. It is particularly important to be alert in the wild, although I would argue it’s important to be focused no matter your surroundings.
The book is not only instructional, it’s poetic, with poetry and prose throughout. As a nature lover and writer, Thoreau is often cited. He loved to walk at a saunter pace, slowing down to take everything in. Thoreau encouraged people to look in all directions, up, down, sideways, for you never know what you might find. Perhaps inspired by Thoreau, biologists discovered a microorganism in the hot springs at Yellowstone. The organisms contain an enzyme that led to the development of a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that allows scientists to study DNA.
As they say in the book, there is something about being out in nature that is so restorative. I created my own nature residency on Mayne Island and easily slipped into saunter mode.
While on Mayne, I went to see one of the famous cob houses on the island. My friend Caitlin’s mother owns this one, which is a hybrid of cob and cedar, with post and beam framing. They started building back in 2002, kicked off by a two week on-site workshop by Cobworks. You can see photos of the build here and the finished product here. I first came across Cobworks when we were researching the natural building method in advance of creating our own cob garden shed at City Farmer. We wound up going with a local expert who had trained with Cobworks. Cob is made from clay, sand and straw which you mix up with your bare feet. Then you form balls and begin to sculpt your dwelling. Although there is usually no framing, the buildings are strong, perfect for earthquake country. Cob houses are cool in summer, warm in winter. You can build other structures too. We built an oven alongside our garden shed; Caitlin’s mom added a lovely cob wall. You can see more of the many cob houses built by Cobworks on their website. My dream would be to live in a cob hotel on Mayne Island, reading, writing and concierge-ing.
I spent a few days on Mayne Island this week. I stayed at the Mayne Island Resort, a lovely spot right on Bennett Bay. I passed my days walking on a nearby forest trail, beachcombing, soaking in the hot tub, exploring the waterfront neighbourhood, swimming in the indoor pool, and doing a lot of school reading. The sea lions were a highlight; you could hear them roaring from an island three miles out. The hotel had set up a telescope and camera so guests could see them projected on a large TV screen.
There’s an excellent bistro on site and a well-stocked Farm Market a brisk walk away, so the food was all fresh and delicious. While I didn’t have a car, I was not stranded. The hotel owner picked me up and took me back to the ferry, but there’s another very good way to get around—car stops. When I first saw the little cars on the map, I thought they were viewpoints. On further investigation I saw that it was the local transit system. What a great idea! People have stickers on their cars so you can even hop a ride right on the ferry. This was a very short trip so I didn’t have time to try the service, but I will take advantage of the car stops on my return. And I will return, soon. Mayne Island (and the resort) is now on my list of fave stops where I can come to a full stop and soak up the negative ions.
For those who think there isn’t a viable alternative to the present economic model, I would urge you to study Paul Hawken’s restorative plan that is laid out brilliantly in the Ecology of Commerce (Harper Business, Revised Edition, 2010). I know I keep harping on this book, but seriously, it’s all there. Here’s another fabulous quote (p. 146).
The key to redesigning the economy is to shift most taxes derived from “goods” to “bads,” from income and payroll taxes to taxes on pollution, environmental degradation, and nonrenewable energy consumption. Because green taxes are incorporated in to the price a company or customer pays for a resource, product, or service, they create powerful incentives to revise and constantly improve methods of production, distribution, and consumption, as well as a means to reconsider our wants and needs. The purpose of a green tax is to give people and companies positive incentives to avoid paying them.
No this is not about what you pay for a round of golf, this is about a sensible way to integrate external costs into the price of a product. Paul Hawken explains in the Ecology of Commerce (Harper Business, Revised Edition, 2010, p. 145).
The main function of green taxes is not to raise revenue for the government but to provide participants in the marketplace with accurate information about cost. They achieve both goals, of course, but their underlying purpose is to undo the distortions created by the relentless pursuit of lower prices and to reveal the true costs to purchasers. Green taxes would create, perhaps for the first time since the industrial age began, the closest thing to a free market, with many costs that are now externalized fully accounted for. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, there is nothing wrong with a free market; it’s just that no one has tried it yet.
In a recent phone conversation with my parents, I was telling them how I hadn’t received my Shaw statement in the mail, the second time in five months. The first time I called Shaw to report it, they blamed Canada Post and said I should go after them. They refused to send out another statement, forcing me to look up the statement on-line and encouraging me to go paperless from here on in. I argued that for accounting purposes, I needed a paper copy and besides, why should I incur the cost of printing when I pay them plenty for my bundled cable, phone and internet.
When I called to report this second missing statement, the Shaw rep first blamed Canada Post and said I should go after them. I said that was their job not mine, among other things. Let’s just say I did not go quietly this time. To his credit, he agreed to send me out another statement and call me in a week to see if I’d received it.
As I’m telling the story to my folks, my 82 year old father informs me that Telus is now charging $2 a month to send out statements. Which means that anyone who doesn’t have a computer, and that includes a lot of seniors as well as low-income people, will have to pay the two bucks. Ah yes, the two faces of Telus. All those cuddly animal ads on TV are intended to make us feel warm and fuzzy about them, while the company rips out pay phones and charges poor people for statements. Yeah, they’re giving back to the community alright. CRTC, where are you in all of this?
The day after I read the riot act to my Shaw rep, I was heading to the pool for a swim. I hadn’t been for awhile, so I checked my bag to make sure all my equipment was there. And what do I find? My latest Shaw statement. Oops, apologies to the nice customer service rep.
I do love those red pandas, but I’m sticking with Shaw.
I got a rip snortin’ deal on Groupon for a two-night stay at the Mayne Island Resort. Now I’m trying to get there and BC Ferries is not making it easy for me. I’m going mid-week and my options for a direct sailing are 10:10 in the morning or 7:20 at night. Alternatively, I could go through Swartz Bay and add considerably to my travel time. Then there’s the return. If I arrive mid-day on say a Wednesday, it would be nice to have a full 48 hours, leaving around noon on a Friday. But no, if I want to do that, again I have to go through Swartz Bay. Otherwise I leave at 7:45 a.m. or 4:55 p.m., cutting my two-day holiday short or ensuring I get home very late at night. And this schedule is what is currently on offer, imagine the convenience when the route cuts just announced by BC Ferries take effect.
As a tourist from the mainland, travelling in the off-season, I’m frustrated by the lack of service, but as a Mayne Island resident, I would be incensed to be dismissed as a “minor route.” It is neither fair nor right to close off what is their main line, in essence the principal highway. Ironically, in an effort to become more financially sustainable, BC Ferries appears to be pricing themselves right out of existence. I can only afford to travel by ferry as a walk on passenger.
There is one way to inject cash into the debt-ridden crown corporation, although it’s a gamble, literally; BC Ferries is looking at installing slot machines on the main routes. With their penchant for marginalizing minorities, they likely won’t pay attention to these statistics from a 2008 BC Problem Gambling Study conducted by Ipsos Reid and Gemini Research for the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Both “problem gambling (9.6%) and at risk gambling (15.8%) are higher among unemployed British Columbians. The estimate of at risk gambling is higher for British Columbians in the lowest household income segment (12.1% among <$30K).” Problem gambling is also strongly associated with certain gambling activities, like, you guessed it, slot machines (25.2%).
Then again, the poor and the unemployed likely aren’t riding the ferries. So bilking them to line the ferry coffers may not be a smart strategy after all.
I have a thing for shoes. I worked in a shoe store when I was in my teens where my paycheque rarely made it home. So my feet got all tingly last weekend when I tuned in to CBC Radio’s North by Northwest and heard host Sheryl MacKay interviewing an artist who made shoes by hand. Renée Macdonald came from a family who made things; her father was a carpenter, her mother a seamstress. She loved shoes too and decided to do a workshop across the line in Washington state that would teach her how to make her own. After the workshop she played around with shoemaking. Then she decided to get a job in shoe retail to understand footwear from the customer perspective, how they fit, how they felt, the emotions they evoked. Let’s face it, people can get pretty emotional about shoes. My knees actually buckled when I saw a pair of rockin’ red stilettos in a store window one evening.
Renée kept at her craft, but decided she had more to learn so she got a job in a shoe repair shop. It was there she really understood how shoes are put together, how they wear, and if and how they could be put back together. Now when she is crafting her feats of foot, she asks herself, “If I design the shoe this way, will I be able to repair it?” She believes every shoe should be repairable. She is not planning for obsolescence, encouraging customers to toss out the shoes after a year and buy a new pair. She is not designing from cradle to grave, leaving someone else to figure out what to do with the waste, or forcing customers to add another layer of leather to the landfill. She is designing from cradle to cradle, taking into account the full life cycle of her product. She is contributing to the restorative economy as author Paul Hawken would say. This is the kind of full systems approach that progressive companies are taking now, whether they’re making shoes or carpets.
If you missed Renée at the Eastside Culture Crawl, not to worry. You can check out her works of art on her company website, Westerly Handmade Shoes.
If you haven’t seen the impassioned plea from the chief negotiator for the Philippines at the UN climate talks in Warsaw yet, watch it now below. Yeb Sano appealed for international cooperation the day after another typhoon slammed his country. We are watching the devastating effects of Haiyan nightly on the news. Only 11 months ago, another deadly typhoon struck killing 1400 people. After Bopha, Sano also urged the UN to act, to recognize these powerful storms as warning signs. The Philippines is one of the countries most at risk as climate change affects weather patterns and storms become more severe. The fact that it’s an island on a tropical storm route makes it vulnerable of course, but so do other geographic events like extreme heating, wind patterns, record rainfalls and rising sea levels. This zonal map from the Washington Post depicts how exposed the Philippines is. Sano broke down during his appeal, his own family has been affected by the typhoon. He vowed to fast until real climate action is taken.
In Sano’s words, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”