Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Wobbling in Woodinville   Leave a comment

After arriving in Everett, where we actually live, not in Seattle, thank goodness, we soon wanted, like everyone else up here, to take advantage of the secretly beautiful summer into fall weather.  But first, a comment on getting around here, particularly Seattle.  The traffic in Seattle is currently setting records for commuting time.   It has become so bad that along I-5 they are installing little plastic bag dispensing stations like you see in parks for dogs because so many have to run to the shoulder, quickly try to find a sign or bush, and have something with which to scoop before rushing

Bridge near the entrance to the Sammamish River Trailin Bothell.

Bridge near the entrance to the Sammamish River Trailin Bothell.

back to the car because they think the line might move along without them.  Silly!  They

Nana, ready to go!

Nana, ready to go!

actually have to run back up the road as the traffic here often moves backwards.  Those listening to radios are cycling through a station’s entire playlist.  Audible is making a fortune since those listening to recorded books are finishing an entire volume of Game of Thrones on one commute.

As far as actual labor is concerned, the employees that work downtown are actually only working two hours.  The boss often is the last one in so no one  has to pay the piper for being late.  There are, of course, the hardy souls that bicycle in to work, rain or shine.  They have their little lights just a flashin’ through the fog like tiny mobile lighthouses.  Those that have followed this blog over time know that we like to bicycle, as well.  Nana is a lady of leisure now and I have about 25 miles to get to work, uphill both ways, and resist any tendency that might emerge as a form of temporary insanity to pedal to Sultan.  I’m fine, as I move against the flow…well actually the traffic to Seattle has no flow…dry and conserving my personal energy, inside my mobile cocoon.

But we do like to pedal on the incredible range of bike trails that exist in the region, hundreds of miles. To get started here, before the onset of the wet season, which comprises about 300 days of the year, we struck out on the bicycle trail, or a portion of it, that runs from Bothell to Woodinville.  This seemed like a very logical first choice since near the turn around point there existed several locations where essential supplies could be obtained that would allow us to survive to bike another day.

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We sauntered across the bridge near the start of the trail and followed the Sammamish River into Woodinville.  There were some sections near interstate but much of the trail was lined by fields, trees, parks, and in the river, boaters and ducks.  Some boaters were fishing while others paddled canoes or kayaks down the gently flowing river.  This area has many acres of vineyards and over the

Paddling on the Sammamish.

Paddling on the Sammamish.

Beautiful tree on the winery grounds.

Beautiful tree on the winery grounds.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery - early birds for the evening concert.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery – early birds for the evening concert.

years many wineries have sprung up following the lead of Chateau St. Michelle.  The grounds are beautiful and they produce a wide variety of wines with a wide range of, ummmm, outcomes.

 

We thought that we had some obligation to sample much of this variety of wines.  We certainly did not want to disappoint the worker by refusing to taste at least most of their wines.  We were inside but on the outside there were people sitting in the sun, trying to store enough vitamin D to survive the coming dark times.  “Winter is coming!”  They were actually just waiting, early birds, picnicking  until the gates opened for that evening’s concert, which was Hall and Oates.  They have a fantastic range of performers most weekends over the summer, current rising performers, top groups and performers from times that were contemporary when I was a teen.

 

Lunch in "Hollywood".  The beer is only part of the lunch.

Lunch in “Hollywood”. The beer is only part of the lunch.

Woodinville Bike Trip-126

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we just take the container on the left?

Can we just take the container on the left?

There are more options of various types in the area.  Other wine choices but other types of options as well.  After lunch and beer at The Hollywood Tavern, which was quite good, we walked 10 yards to the entrance of the Woodinville Whisky Company.  So this turned into a triple play, especially after a final visit to the Red Hook Brewery 200 yards across the way.

Angst on entering the Woodinville Whiskey Co.

Angst on entering the Woodinville Whiskey Co.

The distillery produced excellent liquors!  We know because we tried most all of them.  Oddly, they also produced infused honey.  In addition to whiskey they also make other liquors such as vodka.  They also sell a kit where you can age your own bourbon!

 

Well, not too bad!

Well, not too bad!

Woodinville Bike Trip-136Woodinville Bike Trip-138This was all good, but we finally had to make our way back down the trail to our vehicle.  It was not a long bicycle ride but the trail did not seem as stable on the way back.  They do have earthquakes in this area but we later did not see any reports for that day.  Not exactly sure what put Nana down.  It could not have been a lack of liquid hydration and the trail was not that long.

She soon recovered enough to slowly pedal past the duck and boaters gliding in the lazy Sammamish.

 

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The Cost of (NOT) Living   3 comments

When we decided to leave North Carolina, at least for now, and transplant 2,786 miles to the left coast, just north of the Socialist State of Seattle, in Everett, Washington, a common question was “Yeah, you will be retired and drawing a decent check from the retirement system here, but won’t the cost of living out there eat up the difference even with your new job?”  There is more than one way of looking at this.  Yes, some things here are more expensive.  Sales taxes are higher, property taxes are higher and with recent changes in pot laws there are lots of people higher.  But there are flip sides to every story, but not to be flip, you may not know what you are talking about.  Several things ameliorate the impact of these points.  Some utility rates are quite good because this area depends on hydro power to such a large extent.  They would be even lower if they didn’t spend millions on some “green”, as in the color of money, projects that often don’t work out or produce electricity at much higher rates such as the stalled, ever more expensive, tidal power generation system that now appears to be going nowhere.  This is particularly true as their electricity is already so “green”.  But with a need for air conditioning that is not a need at all, except for a smidgen of days in the late afternoon, overall utility bills are lower anyway.  There is no state income tax…yet, anyway, though there are rumblings.  Fruits and vegetables, as fine as anywhere, are cheap and plentiful in season.  While it may not balance out completely, the difference is not as much as might be expected.

But so what!

 

Packing for the move.

Packing for the move.

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Straining under the weight of pillows!

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Obligatory selfie…now that we have that out of the way!

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Halfway from there to over there.

 

I have lived in two states my entire life, and I regret that it was only two. That is twice as many as a large number of people, probably a surprisingly large number.  Not that there is anything wrong with making a choice and sticking with it.  That is, if it is a choice.  Inertia is not a choice.  There was nothing essentially wrong with North Carolina.  It is beautiful but planning at any level of government for the future, such as for roads or education, sucks.  In Seattle, the leadership doesn’t want to build roads or add lanes because it thinks that if the freeway is continually in gridlock then everyone will go to the park and ride so that they can get in a bus or will carpool and sit in the gridlock anyway.  Just not going to invest more in petroleum based energy, even though waiting in traffic, stopping and starting, probably averages 17 miles a gallon in a auto designed to obtain 32.  Everyone should just ride their bikes in the drizzle.  In North Carolina, they are just  inept in their planning, little sense of the long term.  They would make terrible Chinese who seem to think longer range than most of us here in the west.

I will not recall living in Louisiana.  I begin to sweat profusely and my underwear starts to stick.

I regret not living in other places, even outside the United States.  Yes, we are avid watchers of House Hunters International.  Perhaps that is not yet too late.  Though, I do have some difficulty with the euro concept of a toilet separate from the bath/shower and sink.  One mistake and it is a looong way to the faucet and soap.  Bidets are cool, child accessible fountains.

 

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Megan and Nana share a jig celebrating sighting of Washington across the Columbia River!

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Even if the cost of living overall is higher, why not, at some time in your life, just go where you wanna go?  Do what you wanna do?  And take the kids!  Living in one place, especially if you are not a traveler, is like looking at only one spot on the body with a magnifier, blind to all else.  That one spot may be quite interesting, but are there not other interesting, maybe more interesting spots?  I should think so.  Much has been written on the richness in one’s life that comes from moving about for travel or to live.  Nana has found herself with tears sparkling in her eyes as they absorb patterns of light that form images of this new world that are stimulating and beautiful.  While not quite driven to tears, each day as I drive to work the world can be different in clear and even measurable ways.  Yes, now that we have left summer, far underrated by those outside the Pacific Northwest, there are days of watching rain sloughed off the windshield by friskly moving wiper blades, but there is so much more.  The Cascades may be enshrouded by thin clouds turned orange by the rising sun, or there may be bands of light and dark streaking out from behind the trees or ridges through dense fog.  But there can also be a crystal morning where our world is guarded to the north by Mt. Baker and Glacier and to the south by Rainier.  There is the unique, once per year, morning where a glistening white shimmers from the nearby peaks with the first snows at elevation.

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Seattle.

We have approached this as a working vacation.  I work and Nana vacations!  No, just kidding!  Sorta.  She is now a lady of leisure.  Well earned.  Each weekend we try to find the opportunity to explore more of our new world.  I do not pretend mountaintop guru wisdom.  The move largely evolved out of economics, not philosophy, so there is no room for arrogance.  This is a finite life being lived in, for a given lifetime, an infinite world.    But I have not been able to avoid pondering what is the cost of NOT living? I think the costs are quite high.  As a school psychologist we are known to talk about a certain poverty of experience that many children bring to the school environment. From the outside we can see the impact this has on their functioning in school.  I contend that there can be adult versions of a poverty of experience.  It may not be so obvious from the inside but, like an alien might look in on human existence, it may be very obvious from the outside.  I could have dismissed existential crises by just accepting what was and turning way from the choices available.  I have never heard of or known of a person who said that travel to new places and experiencing other parts of the world ruined their life, with only a few exceptions related to going to war and such.  In coming posts, we will share some of the sights and experiences that have begun to transform our aging brains creating a certain newness.

Mt. Rainier, the perfect backdrop for a city!

Mt. Rainier, the perfect backdrop for a city!

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Nana and Mt. Baker on a perfect day.

On the Go! Go! Go!   1 comment

North Carolina is a beautiful state with so much to offer.  As a rather conservative person I think that taxpayer money needs to be not only spent well but frugally.  Unfortunately, North Carolina has not valued educators as it should.  Some paring of funding may well have been appropriate.  With less money most school districts in North Carolina have managed, until changes in testing make long term trends an exercise in comparing apples and, oh, say celery, to not show much, if any, deterioration in skills among their students.  With outcomes similar over time it is hard to argue that some aspects of previous spending were not wasteful.  Education has always been a carousel and pendulum ride between different strategies, methods and, yes, fads.  Enormous amounts of money have been spent on such endeavors.  Now, the trend is towards the use of notebooks, laptops, tablets to further instruction.  This is expensive and there is inherent obsolescence that requires commitment to further large expenditures of money down the road.  While it may exist, and everyone will have an opinion, I have not seen much evidence that these expenditures are justified in outcomes in comparison to other uses for that money, the opportunity cost.  (But it is a grant we won!  How could we turn it down?! Um, that is not free money.  It is borrowed from somewhere, mostly the future and to some extent China)   I hope the positive outcomes will be there because that is a money that could be spent in many ways that have proven effective over the years and to pay for quality teachers.  I am not a big fan of tenure, as I have seen some teachers ride along for years with little productivity and even less reaction to this.

So North Carolina passes a budget with raises for teachers that on the early years of the pay scale yield large raises and nothing, for all practical purposes, for teachers with a great deal of experience.  What must be noted is that these are not actually raises at all give even the low levels of inflation for the past 3 or 4 years.  For the veteran teachers it represents falling behind for another year by the rate of inflation for the year.  Further, in North Carolina, the pay scale is subject to legislative approval most every year.  So if you are a new teacher and look at the pay scale and say to yourself, “Self!  Look what I will be making in 5 years!  Woohoo!” then you could be sadly disappointed as the legislature could do exactly what it has been doing, basically freezing your salary by making what you make at year six the same as for year 5.  It is at their discretion each year.  So watch out!

So why am I going on about this?  In my district in North Carolina our local supplement has not been restored to the levels at the beginning of the recession even the county as a 25% budget balance, far above what is considered prudent.  Taxes are among the lowest in North Carolina.  Have the low taxes led to vast migration of businesses and industry to the county?  No.  What does not appear to be understood by county leadership is that businesses don’t just look at the tax rate.  They look at other factors as well, the educational status and support for education, school ratings on Zillow and other sites on the web, community support for recreation, not just remaking a downtown, and at other indicators of the overall health of a community.  With no prospects for improvement and approaching the end of our working life cycles, we realized that there just would not be enough money to do what we wanted to do in retirement.

Well, over the course of about two weeks I submitted resumes through Teachers-Teachers.com, interviewed and accepted a position in Sultan School District in Washington state, approximately 2800 miles from here, and began the process of retirement here.  On August 20th we journey there with our house sold and a very much downsizing condominium purchase in Everett, Washington.  Sultan is a small district, but when we went there in July we were met by extremely friendly people.  I can’t wait to go to work there.  I was hired there even though I was going to be pretty close to the top of their pay scale.  I wonder if that would have happened here in most districts……

Nana will be fully retired and I will work to fund all of her extravagances!  I expect martinis and lingerie at the door when I get home each day.  Yeah, right!  Not necessary at all.  Instead of constant monetary anxiety I will come home to a less stressed spouse, and that is enough right there.  There are downsides.  Expenses of moving but they will be recouped.  Moving further from two grandchildren but a little closer to three.  I know!!  It is supposed to be wet out there!  Raincoats or hats!  And I do already know, no umbrellas or you will be silently ridiculed!  It will be about a 30-35 minute drive to my district.  Some of the time through residential or I can four lane it most of the way but my favorite route so far is through a beautiful river valley with field that spill over with fruits and vegetables.  The cascades rise to the east as I approach from Everett.  Every day (yes, there will be many days where clouds and drizzle will spoil the view!) has the potential for me and us to see and do the things we yearn for when we travel.  What better conditions for work.

Someday we, at this time at least, anticipate returning to North Carolina to retire, perhaps around Brevard unless it is completely overrun by sweated out Floridians seeking something cooler to the north.  Who knows.  I hope, even among my usually favored conservatives currently running the state, that they find the will to do what is right on a consistent basis for education.  The children and the teachers deserve better.  The state deserves better.  Give us a reason to return.

A Picture   Leave a comment

Pictures capture a moment in time.  Pictures can be altered and given how fickle memory is over time, the memory can come to match the altered picture.  Our brains do that anyway which is why witnesses to crimes are notoriously inaccurate in their descriptions.  So while the memories are fresh I will begin a series of pictures, while those memories are popping fresh, that will communicate some of the experiences that go with them.

But first, we are home.  Post trip blues are clearly evident.  There has been no wrist slashing but that sounds pretty good.  Now, to pay for the trip.  Now, to get rid of the pounds gained on the trip.  Now, to do something with the 1700 pictures amassed on the journey.  Yeah, that many.  Most will be disposed of.  Will memories be disposed of in the process?  Will anyone care in twenty years?  We tend to keep “good” pictures, but are they the ones that tell the best tales?

So, to begin we have this:

So, so picture.

So, so picture.

This is an OK picture.  pretty decent composition, I guess.  Wish I had hid where the stones lead better.  Lighting isn’t great.  Good detail, see the coins dropped in the water, like that adds to the garden!  What do people think?  Someone has to go in there regularly and drag this out of the algae.  The picture is at Butchart Garden.  It is beautiful, though expensive as I noted in an earlier post.  Sneak food in though, they clean up on that.  Anyway, this picture has a little extra meaning for me.  As I was composing the picture and waiting for there to be no one in the shot, something of a challenge to do with the 20,000,000 people roaming the garden, several people came up from behind me.  Both with issues. Please note, the stones are about four inches apart in the water.  Crossing this is not a task from the Amazing Race, or Wipeout.  The stones are relatively flat but not perfectly so, which is part of the intent in gardens of this type in Japan or China.  The water is about 7 – 8 inches deep.  I don’t think many adults would be drowning in this.  So unless you are doing handstands and grabbing coins while crossing you are going to be pretty safe, I think.  The purpose of a blog like ours should not be to make fun of anyone and in this case that is not the intent either…it is tempting though.

The first group to arrive behind me was a couple, mid-forties (like I can tell how old someone is, not!), and at least looked normal enough.  The female spousal figure, I’m pretty sure it was a spouse, reached the spot next to where I was crouched.  There was room to pass.  She would not.  “I just don’t think I can do this.”  Yes, this series of mostly flat rocks right next to each other was beyond her capabilities.  Last year I hurt my back pretty bad.  I had signed up for a mud run by one of the now ubiquitous groups making money “letting” people for a fee run something like a 5K but with the added element of including 9 or more obstacles in the path of the runner.  These involve climbing, sloshing or crawling through mud and other activities designed to make you feel either a) inadequate; b) awesome; or c) stupid, because you actually paid to humiliate yourself and ruin a set of running shoes, that is if you can find them after they have been sucked down to hell while trudging through thirty feet of stinking mud.  Well, I will let you decide which group I fall into but I think I know.  But, due to my injury I was forced to miss the event, not get the “free” beer I had paid for in the entry fees but did avoid collapsing on top of a tall wall, looking like a coyote, shot to death and thrown over a fence like you see out in Montana.  But with less hair.  So even with encouragement from the spouse, whose eyes said he wanted to go this way, they both turned around and headed for the safety of an alternate route, one relieved, the other disappointed and probably feeling like he didn’t get his money’s worth that day.

Still waiting for the tidal wave of people to depart the other side, another couple arrived.  Probably in their mid-thirties.  Healthy looking enough.  No one overweight, no canes or walkers, wheelchairs, both legs firmly attached.  This time it was the woman that wanted to proceed.  He balked.  “They’re too far apart”, he proclaimed. “I don’t think I can.”  At first I wondered what he was talking about.  But, of course, it was the stones.  The gaps, in his mind were enormous.  I understand being a coward sometimes.  I have never been good with heights.  No roller coasters for me.  A couple of years ago I decided to try and overcome this.  So while in Aspen I paraglided off a mountain.  The fear that comes just as you run off the edge was difficult to overcome.  But as with most such things it settles into another emotion, sometimes sublime or joyful.

Nearing landing a few years ago in Aspen. Overcoming my fears.

But I still have my limits.  While driving along Lake Superior on this va-ca we came across climbers working up the cliffs above the lake.  Well over a hundred feet of straight up or angled outward precipice.  I could not bring myself to crawl to the edge and look over at the climbers below.  But these guys just sat at the edge and helped guide up those below.

Climber assisting climber along Lake Superior. I didn’t even know it had cliffs like this.

Keeping an eye on the edge.

I couldn’t do this, well, maybe, for that million on the Amazing Race.  Maybe. So I will not judge too harshly, but I can’t help but wonder how a person gets to a place where crossing the small gaps in life is too difficult.  At least try.  I hope I remember my own lesson.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  It appears I have reached that here.  I don’t think anyone wants a picture of mine to be worth two thousand!  Done.

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Sad having to leave Vancouver with less done than we had wished due to the weather we moved eastward.  We don’t really like to think of it as beginning to move towards home but so it is.  There is still much to see and do and the weather has suddenly become our friend.  We were able to see a beautiful Bridal Veil Falls along our way.  Seems like every place that has waterfalls has a Bridal Veil Falls.  This was a nice one.  We moved through Manning Provincial Park which had soaring mountains and seemingly endless forests.  It was soon clear that we were in bear county and sure enough, nearing the Okanagan region we spotted a young cub.

Another Bridal Veil Falls.

 

Giant moss covered trees.

 

Manning Provincial Park looking into the US.

 

Don’t blow away Nana!

Big Horn Sheep.

 

We finally arrived in Kelowna.  You probably haven’t heard of it.  For those of us who had not heard of it, well, we are idiots.  This place is fantastic.  Low accessible mountains all around, wineries by the dozens in the area, beautiful lake, trails, food, cherries and other fruits, cheeses, vegetables of all types, crafts and most of the food you eat will be locally produced.  We stayed at Myra Canyon Ranch which is a B&B.  It is up the ridge and the last ranch before entering a large park area.  The views to the valley below, Kelowna, the lake and the mountains, are stunning.  Easily enjoyable from the large hot tub, a great place to survey the vistas and sunsets.  The owners are gracious, helpful and make a really good breakfast with homemade bread and local produce.  No TV’s here.  Peace.  Well except for the dogs that get a little concerned about the welfare of the estate or are trying to keep the horses in line.

From here can be explored the wines, foods and trails of the region, all in close proximity.  More on that in the next post.  You have to wonder, do the people who live and grew up here appreciate fully what they have?  Isn’t that often the case?  Isn’t that one reason we have traveled nearly 4,000 miles, looking for more when sometimes we don’t allow what we have to affect us as fully as it should?  So when this journey is done, maybe it will be time to do just that.  Appreciate more fully what we have.  We do love North Carolina.  So many we have spoken to want very much to visit there.  Do we just crave something different when we should crave beauty wherever we are?  Yes, that is harder to do in some places more than others, maybe almost impossible.  For those in those circumstances, especially those that are young, do all you can to get out, move on and find a place that later in your life you will have no regrets for the choice you have made.

Myra Canyon Ranch Bed and Breakfast

 

View of Kelowna, lake, mountains in trees in the heart of the Okanagan.

 

First sunset.

 

Day is done. But up here the light lingers on the horizon until nearly eleven o’clock.

 

Posted July 6, 2012 by papaandnana in Opinion, Roadtrip

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Its Not All About the Scenery   Leave a comment

The Pender Islands are magical places of exquisite beauty.  Walk low to the water’s edge.  From there, and there means from anywhere on these islands, watch the morning mists and fog creep gently across the small bays, almost as if they are trying to avoid waking those sleeping stresslessly along the shores in their homes.  As the day progresses, other islands appear, ships pass with a gentle rumble, and rays of sun break cross the wakes left by sailboats gliding like skaters on ice.  Was that an eagle flying by?  Stay in one place long enough and you will hear the subtle breathy exhalation of an orca surfacing and diving with at least a small host of podites.

Climb.  rise above the red and orange bark of the the Arbutus trees, fir and spruce.  Climb to a high point and see the waters and world laid out before you.  Islands, mountains, sky and water.  You don’t view it as your kingdom, something to possess.  It all, in its splendor, seems to own you.  Not sure if it really cares about any one of us.  But somehow there is a connection that cannot be broken.  Many do not know it is there, this connection, because they do not have the experiences that allow them the opportunity to bond with this world physically.  Knowing this, some seek out mystic rituals or practices that purport to “center” them and allow them to become one with the universe.  I guess they get credit for trying.  To me, they are trying too hard. To me, these are symptoms of ERAD.  We make up new disorders all the time, this is my contribution.  Earth Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Milada Huk chose a different path.  She escaped communist Czechoslovakia, from the portion that is now the Czech Republic, in 1983.  This was five years before the fall of communism and the end of the rein of the Soviet empire in central Europe.  During this time she had almost no contact with most of her family left behind, communication was forbidden.  She made the most of her freedom and became significant in Canada as a designer and art restorer.  She and her husband were also collectors of art.  I don’t know their wealth, financially, but I think they are pretty well off.  They came to the Penders to try and convince friends to co-own a  property in the Barbados.  Didn’t happen.  Instead she fell in love with these islands.  Having designed for Coca-Cola and other well known names, and having also learned special glass design techniques, she created relatively inexpensive jewelry that has appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue.  If she chose she could be living the urban life in Toronto or elsewhere.  Instead she runs a small shop, Renaissance Gallery, on North Pender Island where she sells her jewelry and also lithographs and prints by Dali and Picasso.  Yeah, they are right there on the wall.

Milada, I can only guess, along with her husband, made a choice.  I think the choice came from the process of allowing that bond between earth and human to happen in a natural way,  just by experience.  It didn’t need a seminar, meditation, an Earth Day parade or any other ritual or artifact of human behavior.  Place your self in nature, be open to your sensory experiences and it will just happen.  I think that this will prevent and for many even cure ERAD.  This doesn’t have to be a Gaia, mother earth thing.  I don’t think the earth itself could care less about us.  I think the earth can be used by humans as much as any other organism on the planet.  But I think it is all about respect.  Avoid the arrogance of being super-“green” and the ruthlessness and lack of respect of those that exploit without regard to the consequences.  Milada, who after many years of trying, was gifted a child while on this island.  We met him.  I have rarely found a youth, and a mother too, who were as kind and open to strangers, with no pretentions when pretensions might be likely.  That is what a special place can do.  I pray that I can carry a little of this home.

Malida Huk. A refugee from communism, living in a world of her choosing, leaving urban for the positively deurban on North Pender Island.

Malida’s son and friend play with Little Nora outside the Renaissance Gallery on North Pender Island.