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Perceived danger: What should you REALLY be afraid of?

July 27, 2011

I spend a lot of time in the wilderness alone: kayaking, hiking, mountain-biking, trail-running. Sometimes I am out for just a few hours. My longest solo trips have been over a week, often not seeing anyone for many days at a time.

And so many people seem impressed by how “brave” I am. And that is so not true! I fear for my life a lot of the time. Just not when I am out there, in the wilderness. Honestly, out there is where I feel safest.

But this common reaction makes me reflect on what fear is. Or, more accurately, what leads to a perception of danger. Many of my girlfriends here in Port Alberni won’t go running on trails alone because they are afraid of “something” happening: a fall, a bear encounter. Yet they will go on long road-bike rides, 40 or 80 or even 100 km (my sporty girlfriends here are pretty impressive, I must say!)

I do rides like that too. But it’s doing road rides like that, with cars hurtling past – sometimes only inches away from my body – that makes me experience legitimate fear. Not being alone in the wilderness.

It seems to me that many people’s fear Read more…


You, too, can grow veggies – even if you don’t have a yard!

July 20, 2011

You, too, can grow veggies – even if you don’t have a yard! (Just check out those strawberries… and that photo was taken after I’d already eaten handfuls of them!)

It’s absolutely not intentional – but I find that so many of my blog posts have to do with gardening. I think that’s because the way that I think is in terms of connections (as opposed to objects, or things) and that gardening, especially vegetable gardening, represents the ultimate connection between humans and this planet we live on.

Growing my own food is really important to me. It is relaxing and meditative, a definite part of my personal mental-health program. It is also good exercise, it’s good for the environment, and it is definitely good for me: eating fresh, tasty, local, organic food.

A lot of people I know say “Well you’re lucky, Jackie. I don’t have a yard.” Well, I have not had a yard for the last two years (I was living in a townhouse in Tofino). And even now that I do have a yard with a productive little veggie garden in it, I still Read more…

Relationships in the virtual world: Connections or friends

July 13, 2011

I am in Vancouver this week, and just in from lunch with a newspaper editor who I have been working with since 2006. It was the first time we’d met face-to-face.

I’m here in the city for exactly this reason: to get some face-time with people who I interact with mainly, or in some cases exclusively, online. My trip was timed to coincide with the summer session of UBC’s Optional-Residency MFA program in Creative Writing (which I am most of the way through now), so I could meet up with many of my fellow students as well as some of the profs. But I am also taking advantage of being based here, downtown Vancouver, for the opportunity to have lunches and coffees with people who I don’t normally get a chance to see.

And all of that has made me think about this business of “friends” versus “connections,” and online relationships versus “real” relationships. I’ve managed to avoid Read more…

Looking at the big picture

June 29, 2011

Do you make your decisions, or form your opinions, by looking at the bigger picture and coming up with an idea of what you think is best, or right? Or do you simply look at how the issue will affect you?

There’s this land-sharing cooperative that I’m a member of, up the coast. A few times, an email has circulated around the group because a recent clearcut* is visible from our lots. That bothers some property owners.

Whereas for me, that one clearcut does not bother me any more than the many other recent clearcuts in Clayoquot Sound (UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve – and please note, there is no “P” on reserve). To me, cutting ancient forest down is not an issue of aesthetics; it is an issue about processes. Whether or not I ever lay eyes on any one specific clearcut, I understand what Read more…

Rise up, Canada! But not over a hockey game.

June 22, 2011

Little over a month ago, as my fellow Canadians re-elected a federal government that had defended a minister who had altered government documents after their signing (and then lied about it), and that then, for unrelated reasons, had been found to be in contempt of parliament, I wondered:

What would it take to make Canadians rise up and demonstrate?

I know that much has been written this past week about the hockey riots in Vancouver, and I think that anyone who has paid any attention to them has experienced a range of emotions.

My initial feelings – as I watched the riots live on streaming internet – were of shame and disgust. But by the following day, my disgust was tinged with irony. I’ve wanted to see my fellow Canadians take to the streets, to demonstrate make a stand – for the environment, or against a federal government that protects lying cabinet ministers, for anything that matters.

But when they finally do, it is over a hockey game.

It’s been a year of protest around the world. Demonstrations that Read more…

Rice and beans around the world!

June 15, 2011

I had this post on my list of things to write about for some time in the future. But last week I received an email from my old friend Lucy, in Australia, saying:

Not sure if you will get this in time but I have a hankering for that bean and rice dish we had while you were here, but I can’t remember the details.

Even though Lucy and I are not in regular contact, we are those kinds of old friends who can pick up the thread of conversation as if we only saw one another yesterday – even if it has actually been a year or more since we were last in touch. She was one of my first room-mates when I moved to Australia in the late 1980s. My last visit that she is remembering was back in 2008.

But I’d already been thinking about that rice and beans dish, and how intertwined it is with many of my friends around the world. I first learned the recipe back in 2005 or so, when I was staying with a friend of a friend in San José, Costa Rica.

Gallo pinto (which literally means something like “painted rooster” or “speckled hen,” in reference to the speckled nature of the black beans mixed with the white rice) is standard breakfast food in Costa Rica. Rice and beans are served with most dinners there. In the morning, Read more…

What I am made of

June 8, 2011

I’ve always loved gardening. But it is only in the last few years that I have realized why. Gardening, especially vegetable gardening, is much more than a “hobby.” The act of gardening is a connection.

<–[my spinach]

The sun is beaming in my office window here and, when I finish writing this post, I am going to head outside and plunge my hands into the earth. I have eggplants that I want to plant today. And I expect that the beans that I sowed last week will just be curling up from under the earth. I need to go out to protect them from the blue jays, who love to pull them up just as they emerge.

[my first little broccoli of the year]–>

Gardening – producing my own food, is a way of connecting myself to this planet: by the direct connection of my hands in the soil, and also by the food that I eat. (It’s barely June – but in the last week I have harvested asparagus, spinach, arugula, lettuce, bok choy, and more… the earth in my yard literally becomes me!)

Gardening is also a connection to the seasons, this perpetual cycle of change that repeats as a result of our planet whirling about the sun. I’ve been growing veggies since Read more…