Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Place of Harmony - Sointula

Utopia: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect

Sir Thomas More, who coined the word utopia, and wrote a novel by the same name, very likely never imagined how many communities would be formed in hope of achieving a perfect society. 

In the late 1800s, Finnish immigrants came to Vancouver Island in search of a better life. Many of them worked in the coal mines. One of them, a man by the name of Kurrika, dreamed of a place where Finns could live an ideal life. He the Kalevan Kansa Colonization Company Limited to encourage more Finns to immigrate to Canada. 

He traveled up and down the coast, looking for land suitable for building such a community. In 1901, the provincial government granted the Kalevan Kansa Company ownership of Malcom Island. The island was promptly renamed Sointula, which means "harmony." 

Here a few hardy souls attempted to create paradise from the wilderness. The task was unending. The colony was soon in debt for they discovered that making a living in this rough environment was an arduous business. Logging, fishing and agriculture proved insufficient. A disastrous fire combined with debt and disillusionment led to the dissolution of the colony within 10 years of its inception. Most of the Finnish immigrants left, but a few stayed, and other settlers joined them. 

Today, Sointula is a small community whose members continue to struggle to make ends meet. Our neighbours grew up on the island and left for economic reasons about 20 years ago. 

The houses are neat and most are painted in colours that bring brightness to the many grey, rainy days of the area. It's a gorgeous island. We drove out to Bere Point Campground. 

Someone created this unique bench that has a view over the water. 
The sun shone while we were there, and the air was very fresh and cold.

Orca whales come to these beaches to rub their tummies on the rocks. Here's a link to a youtube video showing the whales. We didn't see any whales during our visit to the beach.

While we were on the beach, a bald eagle lifted off from a tree just above us. I pointed my camera straight up to get this shot. 

Enormous trees with tangles of roots lie on the beaches, thrown up as if they were toothpicks by the power of the waves.

We visited Sointula in late March during our road trip to the north island. Each island has its own culture and history, all fascinating. 

Linking with Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Five Favourites: A Taste of Summer

It happens each year. Each green shoot poking upwards is oohed and aahed over. When the first flower appears, perhaps a yellow crocus, my heart sings. Little by little more flowers show up and each one is admired. 

Then the first warm days arrive and the blooms rush one upon the other so that it's impossible to keep track of them all. I liken it to when my children were very young and I knew each word they could say. Then, from one day to the next, they began speaking words I hadn't taught them and couldn't possibly count. 

This morning, while putting my bags in the car, this flower-laden rhododendron smacked me with its showy beauty. Last year, it bloomed not at all. This year, it's making up for it by being covered with perfect blooms.  

I took a few pictures with my phone this morning, and went out again this evening for more with my camera. Pink rhodos are first on this post of five favourites. 

Second is cauliflower rice. I'd read about it and thought that it couldn't be very good. When we were in the Cotswolds two summers ago (can it be that long?) I picked up a BBC Easy Cook magazine with a recipe for Cauliflower Pilaf. I tried it last week and was very pleasantly surprised. Have you ever tried cauliflower rice? 

Third are the bleeding hearts. I think they need to be moved elsewhere in the garden because they aren't flourishing. There are just a couple of stems with blooms, but they dangle like charms.

We've had a delightful taste of summer this week, with above average temperatures. I've enjoyed every minute of it. The apple trees obviously like it, too, with pale pink blossoms opening to the sun.  

The stars of the garden just now, for me, are the bluebells. I pick them by fistfuls and plunk them into short vases in the house. I love their faint sweet fragrance, and of course, their colour. So pretty. 

Our little bit of summer is set to disappear over the weekend. I know it will return and I've enjoyed this appetizer of the season to come. It wasn't difficult to find five favourites to share with you today. I hope spring has arrived in your corner (or fall if you're below the equator), bringing with it all the delights of the changing seasons. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sweet Spring Sunday

I awaken in the morning to birdsong outside my window. Drawing back the curtains, I see blue sky, with a hint of frost in the deep angles on the roofs of my neighbours. Clear, cold skies overnight signify a warmer day ahead.

After morning church, we head downtown. First, to buy a new waterproof jacket for me, then to Fisherman's Wharf for our first al fresco meal of the year - fish tacos eaten in the sunshine while watching sailboat masts sway at their slips. 

After lunch we walk along the Inner Harbour. A heron, framed by reflections from a kayak on a float house, slowly turns his head back and forth.

The new Johnson Street bridge is in place and in use. The old blue bridge is partially dismantled and the remainder will disappear in a few weeks. I am not fond of the new bridge, but perhaps it will grow on me.

We wander by the Legislature, and I admire the copper domes against the blue sky. The golden figure of Captain George Vancouver, a British naval officer who charted many of the waters around the islands in the late 18th century, tops the main dome. 

In the gardens around the government buildings, the blowsy tulips are almost finished, but still so pretty.

We walk back to our car under arches of ruffled pink petals. Hundreds of these trees grow downtown to be admired by locals and tourists alike. Home again, I am replete with sunshine. Such a beautiful day.

Thank you for your kind comments on my last post. Yes, blue days come and we get through them. I'm glad that I finished my latest batch of report cards, and spent some time with friends, and walked in the sunshine this weekend. 

Linking with Maggie of Normandy Life for Mosaic Monday

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Every Year is More Beautiful

Spring has shown her sweet side in the past two days. Sun mixed with cloud, no wind to speak of, and gentle warmth that pours like honey onto my head.

We walk, late afternoon or early evening, through house-lined streets where tulips and daffodils nod their pretty heads and airy riots of pink cover bare branches. 

Along the path through the woods creamy fawn lilies (Erythronium) shine like stars. Only by crouching low do we see the details of stamens and pistils. She's a shy flower that charms and entices the passerby to take a closer look. 

Miner's Lettuce (Montia Perfoliata) grows in these woods, too. An edible plant, its crunchy sweet leaves and stems make a fine salad. I pick just one round leaf from a plant growing on a steep bank, tucked into a tree stump where I know a dog wouldn't have graced with his presence. 

We stop to admire the magnificence of a magnolia tree in bloom for a few moments. 

"Everything is blooming most recklessly, if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of night," wrote Rainer Maria Rilke. Rather than shrieking, I rather think it would be music, a harmony of richness, tentative at first, then swelling into fullness. 

Returning home, I notice the rhododendron in the front garden that bloomed not at all last year is getting ready to put on a show.

How quickly the days and weeks and months pass. Term three is ended; one more to go. I love my job and interacting with students, but I'm pulled homewards, too. When I arrive home there's never enough time or energy to do the things I'd like to do. I know it's a matter of adjusting expectations, but I want it all.

John Burroughs wrote "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see." I'd like to teach for two more years and then retire. Again. 

In my garden the blueberries are forming flowers, each one, if pollinated, and watered, will grow into a round fat berry that will roll into my bucket with a little tug of my fingers.

A little patch, very small, of violets has seeded itself under a rosebush. I hope it spreads a little more each year. 

I feel a little blue just now, for no reason in particular. I've been thinking about people I love who are hurting, and of the uncertainty of life. I find some comfort in Tolkien's words, 

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." 

Rosemary in bloom in the late afternoon sunshine. 

I've always found the book of Psalms comforting. David wrote so honestly about his feelings. He whined, complained, grouched, despaired, and then turned towards his God. "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you" he writes. How comforting to be known.  

What a rambling post this has turned out to be. It's like a rather aimless walk. I'll close here with a question for you. When blue days come, what do you do? 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Gardening Weekend

Saturday. Cloudy skies with a few sunny breaks, but no rain. And certainly no snow or ice as was the case in the east. I put on wellies, gardening gloves, and my old fleece jacket. Garden cleanup was the sole task on my list for the day. 

In the morning I snapped the tulips on the left; a few hours later, the same tulips on the right, opening to the faint sun.

The last of the winter garden vegetables. Kale was beginning to go to seed, and the carrots were becoming a bit hairy, but everything tastes just fine. Tim spread compost after I weeded and cleaned out the bed; he helped with the last bit of weeding, too. My fingers were sore from all the pulling. 

After a hot shower I relaxed with a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, and a new Country Living (UK). Small treats like this are a fine reward for a day of hard work. Of course, looking out the window and seeing the garden beds tidied is in itself, also a reward. 

The "novelty" tulips purchased a week or more ago are aging beautifully: petals curling slightly, colours intensifying, and texture becoming silky. 

Do you like dates? The edible kind, I mean. On Sunday afternoon I made an Easy Date Cake and then a cream and caramel sauce to go alongside. How good it was warm from the oven. 

Easy Date Cake

2 cups chopped dates
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pour the boiling water over the chopped dates. Add the baking soda and let cool for 15 minutes or so.

3. In a mixer, beat the butter until creamy, add the sugars and beat well. Add the vanilla.

4. Stir in the date mixture. The batter will look quite thin and watery. 

5. Add the flour and stir well. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. 

Cream and Caramel Sauce

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, whisk the egg yolk, brown sugar, water, and butter until melted and smooth; bring to a boil while whisking continually; boil one minute. 

Add the salt, vanilla, and cream. Heat but don't boil.

One more garden beauty - the first Centaurea Montana popped out over the weekend.  Isn't she a beauty? 

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Alert Bay

As we boarded the ferry for our 40-minute ride to Cormorant Island, three snowy peaks drifted in and out of our sight line, sometimes obscured by another island, then visible again as we made headway. I've not been able to discover their name, but they made a stunning backdrop for a day of exploration.

Alert Bay is a small community of 1200-1500 people on Cormorant Island. The Namgis First Nation has the largest population (600-750 people), with the remainder composed of the Village of Alert Bay and the Kwakwaka'wakw Tribes. Alert Bay is named for the Royal Navy ship HMS Alert which conducted surveys in the area around 1860. 

The island is a quiet place in the off season, and becomes busier once the tourism season begins. We had hoped to visit the U'mista Cultural Centre, but it was closed. We wandered through town, glad for our layers of clothing as a sharp, cold wind blew across the water.

We admired the handiwork of the many totem poles throughout the village. The older poles have lost their colour, and I found them more evocative, standing tall after years of exposure to harsh weather.

A piece of land near the water held many large logs and showed evidence of work, however, no one was present during our visit. I placed my foot on the edge of this yellow cedar stump to give you an idea of the size of some of the trees.  

A stop sign, with the word in both English and Kwakwala fascinated me. I'm happy to see the traditional languages revived. There are two elementary schools in Alert Bay, and older students take the ferry to Port McNeil. 

Christ Church (Anglican) was built in 1879. Regular services are still held there and I thought the building so pretty with the gingerbread on top and around the bell tower. 

In 1929, with direction and help from the federal government, a residential school was constructed. Here First Nations children were taken from their families and not allowed to speak their native languages. The school building, later used for other purposes, fell into disrepair and was taken down a few years ago. A plaque of memorial remains. 

We visited Alert Bay on Good Friday and I found it interesting that the people who greeted us with "Good Friday" or "Happy Easter" were mostly from the First Nations. Are they able to dissociate the wreckage of the residential schools from the message of the gospel?

In 1909, two Englishwomen began a hospital in Alert Bay that served a vast area of small populations. The modern hospital there today pays homage to these early medical workers with a display in the front lobby. Our neighbours were born in this hospital, and their children. Their parents were Finnish immigrants who lived on a nearby island that I'll write about in my next post.  

Fishing and logging were, and continue to be the main industries in Alert Bay. The building above was constructed as a saltery, where fresh salmon were salted and mild-cured before being sent to Victoria. Today, the building is almost derelict, but is used as a net loft, where fishermen hang their yards and yards of nets for mending. 

Above the village is a small ecological park with a board walk. The sun poured down in this space and we enjoyed respite from the wind. This swampland was created by the damming of a small river to create a freshwater source for the saltery. The trees killed by the dam stand like ghosts, with long tangles of moss draped in and around their branches. Bald eagles soar overhead, and the raucous calls of crows fill the air. 

Salal is a native plant that grows all over the coast. I have never seen it grow so tall as here in these northern rain forests. It was well over my head, and Tim's, too. The trails were tunnel-like in their narrowness with tall walls of salal. 

We disturbed a pair of wood-ducks courting in the pond-side growth and they paddled off in a hurry. The ecological reserve is a quiet and peaceful place. 

As we left on the ferry, we both said that we'd like to return one day when more things are open. It's a fascinating bit of our country's history that we'd like to explore. 

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Spring Puttering

"Nothing is so beautiful as Spring
     When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush...
    The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
    The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling."
                                                                                                   Gerard Manley Hopkins

Spring is not my favourite time of year. I enjoy each one of the seasons, but Spring is too capricious and moody: one day smiling with sun, the next sullen with a chill wind that drives like a knife. Still, I cannot deny the absolute delight of seeing green shoots and flowers emerge from the brown earth. Blossoms in the rain are as equally beautiful as those in the sun. 

All the fresh newness outdoors inspires me indoors to putter. I looked up the meaning of the word today: busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner

Today I've been puttering. It's been leisurely and casual, but I hope not ineffective. 

Puttering goes alongside housecleaning for me. The house hasn't been dusted since before I left for Mexico. Taking everything off of mantels and tabletops in order to dust is a perfect opportunity to put things back in new ways. Above is the result of the living room mantel putter. 

The kitchen mantel is narrower and I have a hard time finding things to fit. I've been craving greenery and need to replace some of my houseplants. Today I went out into the garden and clipped whatever I could stick into water - rosebush leaves, trailing vinca, and a cornflower getting ready to bloom. The light is rather dull today with grey skies threatening rain and the clear glass with greenery brightens things a little. 

You might remember my "Her Ladyship" mug I received for Christmas. For Tim's birthday last month, I looked for the matching "His Lordship" mug, but Murchie's said they didn't have any more. 
What to do?
I spied the Chauffeur mug and since he usually drives when it's the two of us, I purchased it. He thinks it's quite funny. And I confess to thinking about Lady Sybil and Branson in Downton Abbey! 

I finished reading The Nightingale on our short trip last week, and re-read the ending again this week. It's the story of two sisters in France, during World War II. A lovely, sometimes heart-wrenching story. 

Before I left on my long trip last month, I went outside to take a photo of the back of the house (bottom left). Tim was planning to do some major puttering while I was gone. He replaced the sliding glass doors with a single door with a large window, and installed a new window in that blank wall to the left. This is all part of the ongoing kitchen renovation that is going to take years rather than months. The fireplace was the first step. The window and door are the second. 

There is still finish work to do around the inside of the door and window and that is being worked on in his free time. As well, we will paint the outside once it's warm enough. This project has made a huge difference in the amount of light in what was rather a dark room. I like having the table right up against the window.

There used to be a white lattice railing around the deck, but that was removed last fall. The new deck is in Tim's shop, waiting for a stretch of good weather for installation. After that there will likely be a long hiatus in renovations. 

It's been good to get back to home cooking again. Since halibut is in season, I pan roasted a filet and served it over roasted tomatoes from our garden (roasted and frozen last summer), with sauteed kale picked fresh from the plants that are bursting with green leafiness. 

Yesterday morning, while sitting at the table by the window, I spied a flash of colour in the lemon balm stalks that need to be cut down. This Finch, probably a House Finch, stayed long enough for me to change the lens on my camera and take quite a few shots. There must have been something delicious on those dry stalks.

Speaking of the seasons, Gladys Tabor writes, "Who can say which is the most beautiful? Each has its own charm, each bestows its own blessing, and we welcome each in turn...There is a security in knowing that spring follows winter and summer comes after spring...I wish all my friends, everywhere, the joy and sweetness of spring." 

Whether you are reading this in the midst of a late snowstorm, or perhaps in early autumn in the southern hemisphere, I wish you joy.

Linking to Mosaic Monday, hosted by Maggie of Normandy Life.  

A Bit of This and That

  Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. T...