Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baring All to Resident Squirrel

Big news--the wind is changing direction, causing havoc in the canopy. I'll have to consult my neighbour (self-taught expert on all Things That Matter (air, water, fire, and more)) which direction it's blowing now. The sun is also shining. Earlier, I spread out a Mexican blanket in the small meadow beside the cabin and felt the heat penetrate my bones to their very marrow.

Today was also shower day. No small feat during a water shortage. The water comes all the way from the municipal tap in Masset--16.5 km. down Tow Hill Rd. I've been hauling it home in a variety of plastic containers as our rain barrels have been dry for weeks.

An Off-the-Grid Shower:

1. Heat hauled water on wood-stove until perfect temperature
2. Pour water into coffee pot, funnel into Stearns Sun Shower (a heavy-duty plastic bag with nozzle and 9-Litre capacity)
3. Stand on chair and hang shower bag on nail jutting out from cedar log on south-side of cabin
4. Retrieve towel and undress
5. Walk outdoors to bare all to Sitka spruce, salal, huckleberry (sometimes the resident squirrel)
6. Unscrew nozzle. Feel wind on wet skin. Watch all manner of green, green leaf shimmer in the sunlight
7. If necessary to wash hair twice (and it's always necessary)--ensure to save enough water to rinse out conditioner
8. Stoke fire in woodstove. Stand in front while drying off. Enjoy smelling clean for ten minutes (the amount of time it takes to smell like woodsmoke again)

Writing news? Well, I put together a submission for the Malahat Review creative non-fiction contest. I've done a little research for a non-fiction piece set in Kalimpong, West Bengal. I've sent out another article (again) to several newspapers. It's called "Heroes of the Hills" and is about my friend Dr. Laura Louie and a volunteer project she runs in another town in West Bengal--Kurseong. This article is desperately seeking a home as there are many people in need who could potentially benefit from its publication. If anyone out there has any ideas where I could send it, your help would be much appreciated.
(update: this article has found a home--it will appear in Kyoto Journal (Spring 2011))
Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Charge Party

A north-westerly still blows and there is so much power, we can throw caution to the wind out here. I can charge my Dustbuster, cell phone, laptop. I can turn on my two lamps at once and even the string of faerie lights. But I'm starting to feel the effects of all these electrons.

I wait for calm to prevail, for the ocean to stop churning and throwing refuse on the beach. For the dunes to stop shifting. Once upon a time, I thought wind was romantic and listened to the sound of it like music. But try listening to the same piece of music for one week solid. I can't escape the sound within these cabin walls. Well--walls may not be the right word to describe eighty cedar logs chinked with moss, newspaper, and, in many cases, nothing. But don't think I'm complaining. I just need to visit a friend with insulation.

Meanwhile, I continue the against-the-wind battle of the writer's life. The other day I received a kind rejection letter from Douglas & McIntyre. My collection of essays about India isn't very marketable, apparently. But the writing is "quite nice." I think that may be a compliment. Regardless, it is so rare to receive a personalized rejection letter that I felt downright joyful after reading it.

My Anne Patchett marathon stopped with Run. After Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars, I don't know why I expected yet another masterpiece. I should have been content. Now I'm looking for a new author to take me away from this wind. Ideas anyone?

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Return of Smokin' Joe

Last night, Smokin' Joe arrived with a load of firewood. It was cause for celebration. I'd been waiting a month and a half and had resorted to burning driftwood. Some of you may wonder why anyone would need a fire to keep warm in mid-July. Well, maybe you've never been to Haida Gwaii. Last week we had two hot days (24 degrees) and the grocery store ran out of ice. People were complaining about the heat. But today we're back to cold, grey, and windy. Just the way I like it. Sunshine has never been conducive to writing; I get too distracted by my Vitamin D deficiency.

But cold, grey, and windy doesn't seem to be conducive to writing today, either. I thought I'd clean the bathroom but that only took five minutes. There's only so much one can do to clean an outhouse. Throw sawdust in the pit. Sweep up the bits of bark and twigs. Squirt the seat with cleaner.

I could go on about my day because I'm pretty sure no one will ever read this blog. But if they do, they probably won't want to hear about how I hauled enough water to fill the pot that sits on the woodstove, and the drinking water jug. Then there was the kindling splitting, and the soup making.

And now it may finally be time to open that bottle of Beaujolais that will help me dream of France.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creatures of the Grid

Today I received this month's National Geographic. An article called "The 21st Century Grid" caught my attention. Some of you may wonder what all this grid business is about. I know I'm still learning. If you're interested, here's the link:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Poetry and Cinnamon Buns

A north-westerly blows and the ocean churns up piles of kelp and the odd plastic bottle. We have lots of power. I've spent this week working on various projects from a story about my Italian in-laws to an essay about my recent journey from Vancouver to Toronto on Via Rail. After a long hiatus--I even started a new poem.

Today I visited The Moon Over Naikoon Bakery--an off-the-grid gem about a minute from my cabin. I work there once a week. I like standing behind the counter kneading dough while tourists browse through the poetry book I have for sale on the hand-made shelves. I never tell them I'm the author unless they recognize the photo. When that happens, they usually buy the book--perhaps out of pity for the flour-covered author. Perhaps because of the novelty of buying poems and cinnamon buns created by the same hands. Whatever the reason, I'm grateful for the kindness of such strangers.

This week has also been a week of reading novels--two of them--Half of a Yellow Sun (by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and The Patron Saint of Liars (by Ann Patchett). Excellent books. One set in Africa, the other in Kentucky. One about the Nigerian civil war of the 60s, the other about a home for unwed mothers in the 50s. All week I've felt immersed in contrasts. It takes me awhile in the mornings (after I stay up reading until 3 a.m.) to remember where I am.

The sun has already started to set and the Sitka spruce surrounding the cabin are awash in golden light. It happens every evening, but every evening I stop whatever I'm doing to admire them. I just can't help it.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday in Naikoon

This is my first blog. I've been told (repeatedly) that it would be a good idea to enter the modern world of social media. So here I am. I'm a writer living off-the-grid in a cedar-log cabin on Haida Gwaii. I collect rainwater and fuel a laptop, printer, and high-speed internet connection with wind power. I didn't set out to become a "green" writer--but it seems that's what I've become. Welcome to my blog. Depending on how strong the wind blows, I'll visit this space as often as possible.

Thank you for reading.