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Notes from the green bench

Hello beautiful person,

I'm writing to you from a green bench along the Dallas Road footpath, a few blocks from my apartment. The clouds are forming around me but that actually makes it good for writing. The past few days have been so warm and sunny that the glare off my paper has been harsh and my brain would be baking.

The views here all face south, over the cliffs, down to the beach and on to the Salish Sea. Across the water are the Olympic Mountains, all blue-grey in the haze but with brilliant white peaks on the largest mountains, deep inland. From my bench, the mountains seem to come right to the shoreline and continue under the water. But from the air, as I learned during my flight to England, you notice there is a wide, flat stretch of land between the sea and the slopes. Nice green land, good for towns and roads and farms. The Coho ferry crosses the water every day between Inner Harbour and Port Angeles. One day I'll have to grab my passport and go exploring the other side.

That's one of the sad realities of living in the modern world, of course. Those mountains across the water are part of the USA and everyone gets quite worked up over who gets to travel back and forth. Back in the day, it was all one family, Coast Salish cousins and relatives living on both sides of the strait. Can you imagine being told by the new folks that you couldn't canoe over to visit your cousins any more because that's a different country now? That would be infuriating. But I guess back then, it was only one of a thousand new rules about things you couldn't do, languages you couldn't speak, food you couldn't eat and places you couldn't live, now that "civilization" came to the forest. There is no more "we". It's us and them now.

One of the best parts of today's walk is that the camas are in bloom. Camas is a lovely perennial that grows in the wild meadows around here. Knee high, spiky purple flower clusters rising above the bright green grass. Camas bulbs were an important food source for our Indigenous neighbours so it brings me joy to see these plants flourishing each spring.

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about how these wild medicines benefit from harvesting. Traditional harvesting practices (never pick the first or the last, take only what you need, leave more than half) were good for the plants. Natural division, propagation and the like. So I'm waiting to see if any of the local folks take a few bulbs over time, for their nourishment and for the health of the land as well.

My own garden is taking shape. Peas are poking up just today. The first cut-and-come-again lettuce is nearly ready to cut. And a "pushing my luck" tomato plant is potted up and sits under some row cover for protection. I hope to get the rest of my tiny balcony garden planted soon: carrots, flowers, a sweet pepper and one more tomato is all I have room for. Although a nice flower basket might be in the cards this year. My friend Rod in Regina always talked about his flowers, even though I was a veggie guy. I might get a flower basket and think about Rod as I tend it this summer.

I don't have much in the way of profound insights this week, other than I'm noticing one needs inputs in order to create outputs. It seems I'm collecting inputs these days. I'm writing stories in my book but they aren't ready to type up and share yet. Instead, I'm noticing things, like how the honk of Canada geese reminds me of home. That whenever Iggy Cat stretches out on a sunny patch of carpet, she represents all I want from life. That Mount Baker on a clear day is so beautiful that I'm convinced there we are born with some primordial, sub-genetic spirit that connects us to land and nature and every other living thing, a spirit I will never understand but love to feel. And that a hot dog and fries from the Kiwanis Tea Room at Willows Beach is the perfect meal, especially if you eat it while sitting on the grass beside your sweet baboo.

Is there something useful in all of that? I hope so.

Things I saw this week #

  • To Watch: I haven't watched much lately. Or more accurately, I'm watching two things with gusto. I'm hooked on Gardener's World on BBC IPlayer. The British climate is similar enough to the west coast that the seasonal timing of each episode matches what I'm seeing around me. And Race Around the World is a kinder, gentler version of the Amazing Race that feeds our travel bug on our Friday Six Dollar Date Night. Both shows warrant full on essays. Soon, soon.

  • I read Yanis Varoufakis' latest book Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism and found it extremely interesting and disturbing. He's good at explaining how the financial world / global economy works (or for you and me, doesn't work) and how the new algorithmic, cloud based platforms will enslave us all. But having created some excellent metaphors to explain things, he sure beats the reader over the head with them. His alternatives at the end of the book are compelling, but thinly described. I've put a hold on an earlier book of his which describes the alternatives in more detail.

  • I'm deep into Empireland: How Imperialism has Shaped Modern Britain by Sathnam Sanghera. It was recommended by John Oliver in a recent podcast and is very, very good. It's one of those, why don't they teach this stuff in school kind of books, showing how so much of modern British life, ideas and attitudes have their roots in Empire. And by extension, it explains much of what goes on in Canada and the other former colonies too. If John Oliver's recommendation doesn't sway you, take my word for it. It's a good one.

  • Last Saturday was Canadian Independent Bookseller's Day so Cindy and I made the rounds to several local shops. I bought a new copy of Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson and am loving re-reading this classic travel memoir. I've listened to the audio book many times but I can't remember actually reading it. It feels different in print. And since it was published in 1991, right around German reunification, before the EU and the Euro, it's a lovely little time capsule too. He uses traveller's cheques, for goodness sake.

Podcast Update #

A few folks have wondered if, after shipping Episode #200 of Rise Up!, I was done with podcasting. Nay, nay! A new season is in the works and fresh episodes will be coming to your ears in the next few weeks. By June, for sure.

Bakery Leadership Circle Update #

We're a few weeks away from concluding the first session of the Bakery Leadership Circle, the new workshop I launched with Karen Bornarth of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. It's been a great session and we're getting excellent feedback from the bakers and leaders who are participating.

Karen and I are rolling everything we've learned into Session 2, which is kicking off this summer. Applications for BLC2 are now open on the BBGA site. If you are a bakery owner or leader and want to make significant, strategic change in your business, the Bakery Leadership Circle might be just what you need. Check it out and reach out if you need help deciding whether this might be for you.

The Blog #

Did you know that I have a blog? It's true. The plan is to publish more essays and stories over there. If I were a serious creative person with discipline and good habits, I'd publish several stories a week on the blog and then share a fun newsletter with you every week.

There's an RSS feed for the blog if you're into reading blogs. If you don't, that's OK. But I figured I should mention it. I'd hate for you to miss out by not knowing.

That's it for this week. Stay healthy, stay safe, enjoy each day. Happy baking,