Thursday, August 23, 2012


Night Visitors
I am settled comfortably in our tent. The night is quiet and calm. There is not a sound around me. I am thinking about the idea of coexistence. Our outside kitchen not far from where our tent, is where we make delicious meals right here on our land. Unlike before, we no longer have to go out to restaurants to satisfy our hunger. Built solidly between two trees, the kitchen is supported on the backside with strong shelves that hold jars and containers full of bulk foods. Grains, legumes, cereals and sauces are carefully packaged in raccoon safe containers. Mice just love our outside kitchen. It’s a challenge to keep it absolutely clean. Inevitably there are a few crumbs from morning breakfast stuck under the rim of the sink. Or leftover juices from our last meal still present on the counter top.

Regularly during the night I am awakened by the tap tapping of mice feet scampering past my head right outside the tent. I am not scared. If these mice were running past my head in my house in Toronto, I would be freaking out.

Sometimes racoons check out our kitchen supply. They are cunning and agile. Sneaking up quietly in the middle of the night (actually they’re quite cute) opening jars with their skinny hands and tossing aside what they don’t want to eat. From the opening of our tent we groggily throw stones trying to scare them away. Although I do like these animals in a way, I don’t like them eating our food, disturbing our kitchen and waking us up. So we build a cabinet with a door for our shelves! We string bungee chords around our refrigerator, in case the racoons figure out how to open the fridge. We’re not going to let them eat our food!

Mouse hide-away
Our outhouse presents yet another perspective. Recently I was surprised to find a mouse in the pail of our composting toilet. Though lately I have learned to check the toilet before I sit, I’ll never forget that first time! How does a mouse get in there in the first place? And how do they ever expect to get out? Our toilet seat is completely closed on top of a removable 5-gallon pail. The mouse somehow squeezes under the seat and falls far down into the pail, then struggles to climb up again. Imagine falling into a well! The pail is emptied regularly onto a compost heap next to the outhouse. Sometimes we need to empty it specifically in order to release the mouse.

A Spider's 'home'
A spider has spun a web in the corner of our outside washing room and seems to live there comfortably. She seems to know she is safe. Paul and I lean carefully around the glistening perfect web the spider has woven to reach our electric toothbrush handle. Once I almost destroyed the web, forgetting about our little friend. But I immediately felt the sticky threads on my hands and pulled back. I even heard myself say “Oooops. I’m so sorry!” out loud. To a spider!!!!! As if she was upset with me.

This year there was sighting of a bear on Gabriola. Generally there are no bears here. It is difficult for bears to swim from Vancouver Island and because Gabriola is so small, it’s probably not worth it for them. When the bear was sighted last spring, Gabriolans were informed about how to keep the bear away. “Put all food away. Clean out bird feeders. Wash your barbeque before going inside. Avoid putting out garbage too early.” Although the bear was found on the other side of the island, Paul and I took precautions. We also figured, if the bear were just a little bit smart, he would definitely visit us since we live outside and it would be easiest for him/her to find food. We never saw the bear. We think he’s gone now.

When it rains the slugs come out. Thick, rubbery, slow moving, they slither verrrry slowly across the land trailing a sticky slime as they move. I don’t like slugs! I avoid any contact with them. I definitely don’t want to step on one. My foot might become buried in slime and I can’t even imagine what that would feel like. And yet my stepson Josh and I joke often about barbequing some of them for our next non-vegetarian meal. Co-existing!

The many deer on Gabriola are beautiful, and they remind me to drive carefully. The deer look sweet and gentle. They seem to take such good care of their babies. They prance gracefully through the forest, and are not afraid of people. And… they destroy our gardens! On Gabriola there is no point to plant a garden unless you protect that garden first with a deer-proof fence. The deer are beautiful! They’re precious. I wouldn’t hurt one for anything! And I do everything I can to keep them away from our garden!

Sometimes, co-existing means setting boundaries and taking the steps necessary to make those boundaries understood! We can learn to live in the wild, and, to some degree, we can help the wild learn to live with us.  That's co-existing!

Monday, August 6, 2012


There’s a circle ‘round the moon
It settles through the night
The stars are serenaded
And illuminates with light.

Circles are thus holy
With beginnings all around
The endings are invisible
The timelessness profound.

The centre of the circles
Warm me from within
I’m hugged by my surroundings
And feel the calm settle in

There’s a circle ‘round the moon tonight
A reflection of our lives
The journey that we sail upon
Epitomize our times

There’s a circle round the moon tonight
It cradles me with love
As I think about our lives tonight
I thank the stars above

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Life On A Small Island

It is morning. The sun is bright. I wake up throwing on my terry cloth robe, and descend the stairs from our yurt. The weather is warming lately. It is as it used to be, as I remember those summer days, bright sunny mornings and roasting afternoons. The rain has subsided. I click on the coffee maker. The day begins. The smell of fresh coffee begins to permeate the air. I breathe deeply, look around and welcome the day ahead.

Neighbourhood dogs have eaten from the bowls filled with dog food left from days before. The birds are busy in the trees. Their communication has become an expected part of our morning routine. Squirrels, playing high up in the trees, bombard the ground with pinecones. I stop to listen to it all in awe as the wind blows gently through the trees.

This morning we are making the 10:05 ferry into town. Nanaimo is the closest town from Gabriola. We need to go there whenever we have to purchase something big. Our refrigerator has conked. The ruthless sun shining on its’ outside walls during the last 6 years has created an early demise. Our new fridge is stainless steel so the reflector action might make a difference. Outside living requires new approaches to old ideas.

On our drive to the ferry I watch the active ocean. Fluffy clouds, the colour of milk, swim across the bright blue sky. It’s another clear day! Several cars pass as we travel. The drivers casually lift their hand from the steering wheel in greeting, sometimes offering a gentle smile as we pass. Runners and bicyclers of all shapes and sizes line the right side of the road. They (and we too) are hugged by the tree-lined roads. Smiles and serious expressions are noticeable.

We stop at the local coffee shop, Mad Rona’s, where the coffee is hot and delicious and the various sandwich choices usually make me hungry. We’ve packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to have with our coffee so I refrain from ordering the sausage, egg, goat cheese, pesto, tomato, spinach and aioli breakfast sandwich. Geez, I wish I didn’t pack peanut butter and jelly!

We joke with the people in front of us in line. It’s early still and it seems that sunshine outside fills the hearts of the people inside. People on Gabriola seem happier. They smile, say good morning and often stop on the road just to talk. Time is different here. There seems to be time to embrace the simplicity of lifes’ opportunity. A chance to speak with a friend. Sitting outside in the sunshine with a delicious cup of coffee. Verbal reminders of appreciation for the glorious colours of the natural world. I see friends sitting outside at Mad Rona’s. I stay and chat for a while. Friendly and amiable, there is time to say hello and chat. I feel a comfortable sense of belonging.

The ferry line-up is reasonable and there is no doubt we’ll get on with our vehicle. Living on an Island means that we need to plan according to the ferry schedule. At certain times of the day, or even on certain days, it’s necessary to get to the ferry way ahead of its departure time to ensure you’ll get on. Otherwise, it’s necessary to wait for the next ferry. People who commute to work remain constantly mindful of getting there on time. I would guess “I couldn’t get on the ferry” just doesn’t cut it when creating excuses for the daily trek to the office.

Our time in town is intentional and focussed. We are both eager to complete our chores and make the earliest ferry back to Gabriola. With carefully created lists we plow through our tasks.

On the ferry home, the cars line up transporting families and friends over to the island to celebrate the long weekend. I see their happy faces and their relief about having a long weekend ahead of them. I don’t mean to be smug. I want to embrace our visitors. I feel grateful that I get to stay past the weekend. This is my home. Paradise. That’s where I live. On a small island.