Inspired by the strangest of sources

Writing for me has become a passion but like many it ebbs and flows. I’m inspired by the strangest source. For several weeks I have been harbouring the thought that really to write here I need to write to someone – someone special. I know who that person is. I have an idea of how I want to approach the subject of a scientific – to some extent – blog that combines first person. Still I hadn’t done it. And then I read the plea.

An impassioned blogger who writes about the most intimate of things – she lays all on the table. Articulate, hardworking, and still after several years of writing going strong. She examines the changes that writing has brought, the challenges and still she writes. Some people translate this kind of passion into novels or charity or… She has chosen anonymity and though thousands read her work – as she points out a small town dailys worth of readers she is largely unknown. People complain that she adds advertising to support her writing. Still she writes. She is quoted and sin of sins not linked to by large news organizations.

Still she writes. Ultimately because we write to know ourselves. Should the world look over our shoulders and discover that they enjoy our writing – well – that’s nice.

So I write to discover the beauty of the San Juans. Struggle to capture the attraction of me to the sea. To the islands of the sea. Somehow I’m captured by this elusive dream of a book I read as a child of pottering about with sailboats in the Norfolk Broads. Captured by the line from “The Wind in the Willows” repeated by sailors the world over -“There is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doingas simply messing about in boats.”

All of this is true. And now I write.


Fraser Basin Council

One of the things that I learned very quickly about ecology and landscape management was that there is always a context. In the San Juans a major part of the context is the Fraser Valley. That there is a group that is focussed on this area and that they are producing a “Sustainablity Report Card” annually is wonderful.

The Fraser Basin Council has undertaken a number of initiatives including:

  • preparing for the next great Fraser River flood,
  • controlling the spread of invasive plant species,
  • managing the effects of climate change,
  • strengthening rural communities,
  • developing a sustainable fish and fisheries strategy,
  • building constructive aboriginal and non-aboriginal relationships and
  • measuring our progress towards sustainability.

It is this last that produced the Sustainability Report. While some of the Report strikes me as “Soup of the Day” – there are parts that are truly imaginative in delivering a State of the Union snapshot.


Scottish Influence Runs Deep

San Juan Island Lodging at The Highland Inn Bed and Breakfast, outside Friday Harbor, WA

I keep running into this website wherever I turn in the last few weeks. Well linked and well liked I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it as a wonderful place to stay if you are visiting San Juan Island.

I’ve only driven by but I’m certainly of a mind to find out how busy it is as I prowl through the Islands.


Some Day’s Sunshine

Sitting in the sunshine at Whitby’s Cafe and Bookstore in waterfront White Rock is just one of those moments. Across sparkling Boundary Bay sits Birch Head as the old timers call it Birch Point for those who come at a land perspective. And amazingly enough rising gently in the fog and haze of the day is Mt Constitution on Orcas Island.

Having an 84 yr old dentist in my web design class has given me a perspective on the community. Knowing many of the people for whom the streets are named is only part of the story.

In 1922 an Irish immigrant was offered a job in the White Rock sawmill. Little did he know that the planer-man who he was replacing was only off temporarily. Six months later he was again looking for work. Such are the vagaries of the roaring twenties.

And then later in the day an article in the local paper caught my attention. Talking about historical walking tours. It specifically mentioned the street we are on – the old houses. And suddenly the discussion about the sawdust pile that the house is built on took on a whole new sense. A long connection.

Suddenly I could hear the cries of the stevedores and lumberman. The cry of the saw and planer. The smell of fresh cut cedar and pine. And the sunshine brought home the joy of life.


Salish Sea

I first came across this term as I started writing this journal and puzzled I made a note to explore it further to understand what it is and where the term comes from.

Wikipedia gives us our first clues. An ancient name for the area stretching from the south of Puget Sound WA to the top of Johnstone Straits in BC, this is a geographic watershed name. A large estuarial sea vastly changed each day by the tremendous volumes of water that flow through the region each day.

Exploring the origin of the name is fascinating to say the least. This account will almost certainly be corrected as I spend more time in the area. But this is what I know now. The term comes from an aboriginal language family originally identified in Montana. The term is commonly applied to a group of languages (about 12) referred to as Coast Salish. These are the original inhabitants of the area. In digging around I found an excellent map of Indian villages that reflects many of the “best” places to live today.

Amazing how a little question can lead to all sorts of interesting information and history.


Pirates Day – September 19

Okay a day late and a dollar short. But what kind of blog about the San Juans could not mention pirates day?

Okay so we didn’t have Morgan or some of the other greats. But we did have our characters.

In Bellingham in Fairhaven there is a statue dedicated to the fond memory of Dirty Dan Harris. Now there are dry academic approachs to Dirty Dan and his exploits but there are the myths and legends too. After having his rowboat taken by folks from Point Roberts and being left on Sucia Island – marooning in pirate terms – Dan made a log raft and let the tide carry him back into Bellingham. Soon back in business, he laid a wee trap for the protagonists. Mixing a few kegs of whisky with raw sewage, when he was hijacked again, the perpetrators were so ill from consuming their booty they never bothered him again.

More importantly to mariners are the tales of Dan’s incredible knowledge and use of tides. He rowed out to an ebb tide and his boat was carried across the straits from Bellingham to Victoria. Sitting out the next tide cycle while his boat was loaded, he rode the returning flood tide back to Bellingham. He often completed the round trip in less than 36 hours. Something to think about in these times of rising fuel prices!
Many of the reports of Dan talk about him as a developer which may or may not be true. He certainly had a profound impact on the community he lived in. Today he lives on in the historical reconstruction and tourism attraction for the tiny community.