New realizations about the “Dream” – August 2010

New realizations about the “Dream” means making sense of life and events at the end of August, at the end of a summer of hard work and harvesting, and trying to keep up with the
processing is challenging.  Learning every day, not having enough time to pick, clean, store, process, cook, clean and then attend to the
rest of my life is challenging.  And, of course, I forgot rest. 

What I feel is a deep tiredness, deep calm, a physical strength that is not quite enough for the amount I have chosen to do. And then
there is the partnership and the fact that I insisted that if we moved to Canada that I have a family farm. But the irony is that we don’t have a family anymore. We are just an older couple and this does not a family make in the context of a farm. 

I realize why farmers had many children because many hands do the make light work.  I realize now why the farmer’s wife did not work off the farm, or, if so, only part time.  While the farmer is cultivating, sowing, cultivating, harvesting and storing, she is tending the family garden, taking care of the chickens, processing the food and putting three meals a day on the table for the farm hands. This was the life of my grandmother. Interesting that they call them farm hands because it is the hands that we need. The extra hand  is what I need now as the universe has really sent Mark the message that he is not to spend time on the farm. This is not his joy, his life desire, nor his purpose. 

In the past two weeks he sprained his ankle so that he could
not even walk for a week and hobbled for another.  And just as he started to get around and was harvesting the garlic he experience a freak accident where a garlic stalk went straight up his nose and cuts the wall of his sinus cavity.  The blood was atrocious. There could not have been two more clear signals that he must spend his time doing what he is good at and what makes him happy.  Even though the sprain occurred while playing softball, I really believe it has more to do with the farm.  He is out of his element. 

Now we really need to get smart and attract woofers and apprentices to the farm to help share in the dream of stewarding a farm back to plentiful production. 

Alison

Visit the website at www.ravensviewfarm.ca<a href=”http://www.blog.ravensviewfarm.ca” target=”” class=””>

Welcome to “Musings from Peachland” and Ravens View Farm

Welcome to my blog posts – Musings from Peachland

These “Musings from Peachland” are a series of missives that were sent to family and friends over the past three years. They chronicle the process of relocating from Boulder, Colorado to Peachland, British Columbia in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. They chronicle a change of lifestyle when one undertakes to steward a small organic farm, Ravens View Farm.
This blog will be of interest to readers who are thinking of moving to another country, ex-patriating from their native land for moral and/or political reasons and those who are interested in becoming small organic farmers. These musings share our experience with major life changes in mid-life.
Alison

Reconciling Buddhist Practice within a Quaker Community

Meditations on Buddhism – Reconciling Buddhist Practice within a Quaker Community

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha . . . What does this mean to a person who identifies herself as a Quaker and who comes from a White Anglo Saxon Protestant background and sang in the choir of the family’s Episcopal church even after her parents left the church?

Taking refuge in the Buddha is taking refuge in the knowledge that we are spiritual beings. Just as all Christians have that of “God” in all of us and all Quakers are guided by our inner light and recognize the inner light of others so to we are all Buddhas.   Essentially this means we are all one regardless of our religious backgrounds and beliefs and in the end we are all spiritual beings.

Taking refuge in the Dharma is taking refuge in the teachings of Buddha and the masters and teachers who are instrumental in sharing knowledge of the practices that aid us in fully experiencing our humanity and understanding our path in this life time.

Taking refuge in the Sangha and taking refuge in a community of people who hold deep spiritual beliefs and hold the space for spiritual practice and understanding and support us on our path to realize ourselves. My Sangha is my Quaker Community.

Reconciling Buddhist Practice within a Quaker Community.

American Thanksgiving 2009

It is Thanksgiving Day in the United States and I am feeling a bit of melancholia.  I could even say that I am feeling lonely. Lonely for friends and especially family. Lonely for a day of good smells, for Caitlin insisting on watching the Thanksgiving Day parade and, dare I say, football games playing endlessly in the background while we putter around the kitchen.

American Thanksgiving was my favourite holiday of the year.  I use the past tense because, although I am cooking a small turkey for some American friends this evening, it is not the same.  Our little house is not surrounded by many other homes engaged in similar activities binding us together by invisible threads of common holiday tradition.  I like to tell people Thanksgiving is my holiday of choice because it is simple, bringing us together for a celebration of lives well lived and appreciated and giving us an opportunity to give thanks for wonderful food, wonderful family and friends and for a wonderful life.

So before I start this ordinary day here in Canada except for my turkey that will go in the oven at 2:00 for a dinner at 6:00, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on how much I miss you all down there in the lower 48, say thank you for being part of my life and a part of me.

PS

Although this is how I feel this morning after listening to NPR out of Omak, Washington, I must add this caveat. Just yesterday I was exclaiming how much I love our new lives in Canada here on our little acreage in Peachland. Everyone continues to be welcoming, joining our circle of friends and acquaintances whether as Quakers, neighbors, farmers & beekeepers,artists or colleagues. Mark and I could not ask for a better place to be at this time of our lives embarking on parallel careers as farmers in the beautiful Okanagan Valley; another thing to be thankful for.

Alison

 

Reminiscences Before and After the 2008 US Election

Reminiscences Before and After the 2008 US Election

The Weekend Before: A Memory

From this viewpoint and this place in time, the weekend before the 2008 US General Election, it is hard not to look back to the weekend before the 2004 election.  I spent that weekend walking a local precinct and calling the numbers that were given to Mark who had taken on the Precinct to get out the vote for Senator Kerry.

Mark was fulfilling a promise, or one might say, an obligation, or an ultimatum. The story I tell about that time is that Mark wanted to leave the country after Bush got elected the first time. That, I believe, is what he might say, but I know for a fact that as soon as the war cries and the government lies took hold of the US after 911, he was ready to vacate to take a stand personally and politically and leave the United States so that he was not complicit in these militaristic actions that went so far beyond our beliefs and were an affront to our faith.

But I was not interested in leaving.  My parents had left the country after Nixon had gotten re-elected and escalated the bombing in Viet Nam and Cambodia.  After years of anti-war demonstrations and organizing they finally took the advice “Love it or leave it”. This was not too dissimilar to the slogan of the Bush regime of “Your either with us or against us”. Well there was no question as to our answer; we were against the Bush administration’s war mongering based on a series of lies to the American people.No matter how many demonstrations I attended, or letters/emails that were sent to our congressmen, no difference was to be made. The Country and our Congress were int he grips of fear and the neo-cons’ agenda and they gave away our civil liberties,our privacy, and our kids to a false war.

The challenge that I gave to Mark was to do what my mother had done.  Work. Work hard and organize if you want to leave our great country, our home, our family and our friends. You need to earn the right to move by working to get another administration elected.  So he started attending Democratic Party meetings and took over the precinct that someone else had relinquished. This brought us to our fall four years ago,walking door to door, calling a list of voters, distributing literature, and standing outside the polls. We were told that Boulder County would make a huge difference in swinging Colorado to the blue side of the presidential election. Yet our votes weren’t even included in the state count due to problems with our government prescribed electronic voting machines.

I went to the Boulder Theatre were the democrats were gathered in anticipation of victory.I went in confidence and with faith that hard work, perseverance and, I guess one could say prayer, would lead to a victory.  A victory for America, Americans, our civil liberties, a victory for the civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq who were being caught in the cross fire of an illegal war.As you may remember, it looked like John Kerry was ahead, wining the popular vote, winning the key states. But then they started counting Ohio and other states.

The painful revelation that our country had been stolen away, yet again, for yet another four years, was utterly painful.  The grief was more than palpable. Then to realize in the days that followed, the lack of courage, or was it collusion,that prevented Kerry from challenging the vote, challenging the machines, took away any hope of remaining in the country when I had pledged to leave the country.

Mark packed the car the day after the election and took off for British Columbia, specifically the Okanagan Valley where cacti grow in the northern most tip of the Sonoran Desert.He spent four days between rocky mountain snowstorms and found a bank,an immigration lawyer and a real estate agent.  We were on the path to walk our talk and follow in the footsteps of others from the 70’s – “Love it or Leave”, or now, “Either you are for us our against us”.

I realize that if people were to ask whether I would move back to the US if the election goes for Obama, I think, “Why would I move back after living in Canada for four years?”Yet we have only been here for 14 months.  In retrospect, it has become clear to me that I made an intense psychological and emotional break from the country of my birth that sad election night four years ago.Subsequent to that election, so much that has been taken away from the people through line item vetoes, through conservative courts that have betrayed our trust and, more heinously violated our constitution, from condoning retention and torturing detainees to spying on our citizens.  The foundation of our democracy and our country has been eroded, beyond repair? The time had come for us to be witness from abroad.

Election Eve

On this Monday night, the eve of the election, I am feeling ambivalent. I did donate to, but did not participate, in Obama’s campaign. When we moved north, taking our local phone number with us on our cell phone, I expected that relationships with friends would continue.  But only the few tried and true maintained our friendships over the distance over the phone. When people didn’t reach out as I had hoped, I came to realize that we had fallen victim to being“out of sight and out of mind”. Interestingly this situation could be a metaphor for the election. One might assume, given the fact that I am,presumably, so far removed, at least geographically, that we really don’t care that much about the election. One might assume that having crossed a border,and in the minds of some had abandoned the US, I am feeling very remote from the situation.   But, in fact,we joined and listened everyday, all day, to our local Washington State NPR station, including: Talk of the Nation, The World, Fresh Air, All Thing Considers and Democracy Now among others. We got our ballots, we called knowledgeable friends, we studied and we voted. Mark drove the ballots stateside to ensure that they were received through registered mail in plenty of time to be counted.

I am optimistic and anxious as our son described New York City this election eve. I am also grateful for the distance, so if the outcome follows on the stealing of the last election, with 1/3 of the nation’s polls still tied to electric voting machines that can’t be audited, then I will not feel the pain as intensely.  And I can be happy we did what we did, when we did, because a McCain/Palin administration, even if balanced and by a democratic Congress is untenable and beyond imagination.  Even when Obama is elected so much damage has been done to our democracy, our economy,our, dare I say, way of life that even with hope how much can be changed? What can one man, albeit a visionary leader and president do to undo 8 years of a neo-conservative, fascist regime that did so much to undermine our democracy?And if, heaven forbid, Obama loses, what will the world think of us? Or, shouldI say, the USA, because in a very real sense, Mark and I, as ex-patriots, have become disenfranchised, although we are still American citizens and hopefully our votes will be counted to elect Obama to the Presidency and Udall to the Senate.

Fall is a time of transition, death or dormancy for plants that have set their seeds for spring, hibernation for many animals to gain the energy and create the space for change and transformation.  Is this the Obama message of hope that will spring anew in the New Year? I find myself hoping for a change, just as I did four years ago, not believing that it can go any other way and in Barack Obama’s words, I dare to hope.

Election Night

So here I sit tired and exhausted after being optimistic and anxious all day in anticipation of watching the results of our general election.  This morning’s meditation was dedicated to Obama and the perfect outworking for the highest good for the nation with undecided voters electing a democrat.  I picked a Shambhala slogan card with the election as a the focus and received “The humble warrior is supreme.” What better message to guide me through the day.  So I did have a very real sense of optimism that Obama would prevail and it has been an evening of tears of relief and joy beginning when Ohio, then Pennsylvania went for Obama and then to watch the apparently sincere and utterly gracious speech by McCain followed by a brilliant acceptance speech by Barack.

The Days After

It is now Thursday morning and I am home for two quiet days of work in my home office after three days of meetings in town without the space to focus on the election except for the drive home.  I quietly wept throughout election night and awoke yesterday morning and the tears continued.  I was emotional all day yesterday and had to summon my reserves not to cry again as everyone I met congratulated me on the outcome of the election.They had all been glued to the television the night before as well. Don’t underestimate how closely your neighbors to the north follow politics and activities to the south.  We get most of your channels and it was continuously a challenge to figure out which channel to watch CNN, ABC, or CBC.Many people here wept with the results along with others around the globe.  The historic moment is not lost with people around the world.Canadians of African decent believe that the US has become a model of possibility for them in this country.Race is a reality in every country in every corner of the globe especially in a country like Canada that prides itself in its cultural mosaic.

So why am I crying? Is it joy in a hopeful future for a powerful nation that now has the potential to change its imperialistic nature and become the beacon of hope that Obama has promised?  Or am I crying with grief that I have left my country of origin four years ago in spirit and in body 14 months ago? I weep for those four lost years of national promise. I weep for the teachers and children who have to teach and learn to take tests instead of to think; I weep for four more years of the dismantling of our civil rights; I weep for the greed that has created a global economic collapse; I weep for the loss of life and limbs of our soldiers, US, Canadian, English and others all we have lost in the US over the past eight years.I weep too for Barack Obama for the seemingly overwhelming challenge he faces. I weep for what the world has become and I pray for the vision of what the world can become.

On 911, I called our son, Kris, to be sure he was safe and was relieved to learn that he was in San Francisco away from his Chelsea home and Tribeca office during that traumatic time.  It took three weeks for him to get home and he expressed that it was hard to be so far from his home when it was experiencing such an intense tragedy.  Oddly, this is a metaphor for me today.  After experiencing such a disappointing outcome after working so hard to get Kerry elected, I am sad not to have been at the Boulder Theatre with all the hardworking democrats to celebrate such a fantastic outcome.  But I can’t help but wonder where all those people were four years ago when the writing was already on the wall.  However, maybe we have learned that all good things come to those who wait.

I am renewed in my faith in my country and many of my fellow citizens.  With our work to reclaim this small orchard and develop an organic farm, I am creating the change, at least in our new life in Canada, that I wish to see in the world.  I am re-dedicated to thinking globally and acting locally as stewards of this land, which will grow to support us and others holistically and environmentally.

 In hope, with peace and gladness,

Alison

 

Second Summer on our Okanagan Valley Farm

It is the beginning of June.  Actually now it is the exact end of June, tomorrow being July 1 Canada Day. It is our second summer in the Okanagan and on the land we are calling Ravens View Farm.  It is hard to believe how much two middle-aged novices have accomplished in our ambitious and slightly, well more like very naive endeavor of becoming farmers and developing an organic farm. It is overwhelming how much there is to do on a farm, but the correlate is how much there is to learn and that makes it exhilarating.

I had an intern once who grew up on a ranch. When, even before I had moved and the reality of our undertaking had fully emerged, I pondered, how, at my age, could I take on something so daunting? She responded,“Don’t you know that your body, your strength, and your stamina grows with your garden?”  I think of her and this insightful comment often these days. With each passing week, I get stronger.  At first I could only do three hours of hard labour. Then it was four hours and, with a rest, an hour more. Then it was five hours and now it is up to six or eight if I take the midday siesta.  I am fueled by water, which I now drink in profusion. I believe what they say that dehydration leads to fatigue. I am able to work much longer, but I drink a giant glass of water many times throughout the day.  I am also fueled by the fruits of my labour. I have learned that you do what needs to be done at this moment on this day during this season.

There are also many lessons to be learned.  For instance, if you don’t know what the particular plant is don’t cultivate it.  Get rid of it!If it is meant to be there it will grow again and even if it is meant to be there it will surely come back.I am referring to weeds. For which my favorite definition is simply a plant in an unwelcome location.But then we have the “noxious and invasive” plants that gardeners across North America are trying eradicate. And there are plenty on our six cultivatable acres.  It has been a season of identifying the most invasive and prevalent plants (leafy spurge, knapweed, teasel, which they refer to as Salsify and looks like giant dandelion and the beautiful hounds tongue which turns into obnoxious burs and finally creosote bush then of course there is baby’s breath) and weeding them out before they go to seed. Then of course some of them are beautiful and so you don’t realize that they are an invasive and unwelcome species.  The other lesson about weeds is once identified just pull everything as you go. Last summer I just pulled out knapweed as I walked by and it is amazing how many fewer plants there are this year. Keep you mowers in good condition and keep mowing if you don’t have sheep as this helps as much as anything. This has turned into a summer of reclamation and observation.

I am cultivating my skills of observation. I am observing myself and all that is transpiring around me. I have learned about my own personal rhythms of work and attention to work. I realize how distracted I truly am by things that catch my eye. IT is in all aspects of my life that I need to cultivate greater concentration

Today Fourth of July we are harvesting the sour cherries. It has been an opportunity to stay focused and follow through in harvesting every cherry on every branch and clear the tree and stick with it until the tree has been harvested. Then they must be processed immediately as they begin to discolour and must be popped into the freezer.45 minutes to pick and an hour to get into freezer bags.

Got to run.

Alison

 

It’s been a year since immigrating!

It’s been a year since immigrating! It was Labour Day 2007 that I took off for Canada, for a new life on a farm in a new country with a new job.  It has been a year of making new friends, developing new routines and learning new things. It is hard for me to believe that it has been a year, despite living on a farm with an orchard where the seasons are pronounced and the passage of time is told by the piles of pruned twigs and branches that grew through the winter, the blooms in early May, the slow and gentle growth of the fruit through the spring into the summer and then the ripening sour cherries, apricots, peaches and now plums that have been picked and processed from mid July til yesterday. The day we arrived we saw a big black bear which had been foraging in our orchard and he came to visit last week, but this time Cleo, our dog, was on guard courageously enacting her role as protector of the land and been keeping him at bay, giving us time to harvest the last of the fruit.

The winter was long and dark literally and figuratively. Our beautiful Okanagan Lake creating an inversion cloud that hung over the valley for most of the winter from late October to April. Combine that with one hour less sun than the lower 48 at winter solstice. Thank goodness for a little wood stove with a glass front so we can seethe flame and our funny electric fireplace that creates a little fake flickering flame with lights and mirrors and a small fan that pumps hot air through hole at the top. This winter we will paint the kitchen and dining area a bright yellow and paint the bathroom a warm red.  We bought anew comforter to get us through the winter with a bit of more warmth. And a new Heat Pump will replace our old oil furnace to ensure a more ecological and economic winter.

Last spring was a “hundred year event” colder longer and wetter than anyone in the Okanagan can remember.  It was a blessing for our orchard giving us time to get trained in irrigation repair by local “friends”, Alan and his son Fred who works in the oil fields of Alberta as a Piper layer during the winter when the earth is frozen and the trucks can cross the scrum.  Mark was a natural and in the ensuing weeks repaired well over 20 sprinkler heads and a myriad of broken lines. The majority caused by anew septic system ensuring that we could handle all the guests we had visit this summer. Twelve sets in all.  A brother and then a sister both who dove with their respective partners all the way from Southern California but only 200 miles further than Colorado.  And lots of other good friends who willingly helped us tackle a project on the farm each day.It is a relief to know that we don’t live that far away and people are intrigued by the award-winning wine country of the Okanagan Valley.

When sharing with colleagues at Ballet Kelowna my amazement at how the Okanagan Community has welcomed Mark and I into this valley, one said that is the culture and nature of the Company, which is open, engaging, and feels like a family. However, when I told this to Mark’s mother she said, “What do you mean?” Reminding me that we have been welcomed into the Quaker Meeting as if we were just returning from a lengthy time away. (I am becoming a member this fall) Mark is the new “kid” on his passionate softball team which plays a double hitter every Tuesday and Thursday. Our Friends Jock and Carmen who we call “Mom & Dad” have adopted us and include us into their circle of friends. The other organic farmers in Peachland Joe and Jessica are always available with advice and a trade of vegetables for fruit. And we could go on.

At last, with the help of an irascible tenant who never paid his rent on time and complained about everything, we decided to sell our beloved house in Boulder. Despite the valiant efforts of friends who were property managing for us, it is simpler not to have to deal with troublesome individuals. I just think that we were supposed to sell last year and embrace our new life, but I just couldn’t cut all ties to Boulder; another lesson about “attachment”. Our lives will be a bit simpler each month and there is so much to attract our energy.

That has been my motto both at work and home: “Simpler is better”, which is quickly followed by “Patience is a Virtue” when restoring an old family farm and building a Ballet Company.

Finally, there is much that I miss, which just as I began to enumerate, I decided that I don’t want to think about how wonderful the past has been. I don’t want to feel sad as we can’t have everything from the past in the present, but I carry it all in my heart and in my memories. The reality is that I am creating another wonderful past every moment. I am staying present with what the universe continues to provide us and being grateful for an adventuresome life shared with a wonderful partner with support from family and friends old and new, near and far.

Alison

 

100 Year Event – Coldest Spring on Record 2008

It is a cool cloudy spring day which is par for the course for this “100 Year Event” coldest spring on record in the Okanagan.  But given that we are having a huge septic system installed which is digging trenches over irrigation lines so we can’t water the many fruit trees which are just finished blooming and did not get caught in the killing frosts of two weeks ago, it is a relief. I can spare the sun for a few more days until the septic is in and we have dug up and checked more than 75 sprinkler heads around our six/seven acres.

It has been a trying and wonderful eight nine months. I suppose when spring finally arrives my gestation period will come to an end and I will have to enter into my new life as a farmer for better or worse and I love it (at the moment) which is accompanied by unexpected tulips and forsythia appearing in beds which I thought barren.

So by now you know that we are pretty sure that the farm will be named “Ravens View Farm” you will get it once you sit on the porch with a glass of wine and watch the ravens soar from pine to pine cawing and clicking to each other with the Okanagan Lake spread out below you with views all the way to Naramata. The Cottage has the best of what the septic guys call a “million dollar view”. I made a joke that we are going to call the garage when it is renovated the “Rook’s Nook” Sound like a guest house already. Don’t know how much will be done by the time you all get here as every construction worker is busy for MONTHS! We do have a lovely guest room and there is tons of places to stroll, to sit and read, and hang out.

We were able to research and secure “eco-lawn”seed, prepare the septic field and spread and water the seed along with wild flowers. Then we were able to get a lawn mower and mow the peach orchard.  Obtain more than enough of the miscellaneous parts that are required to piece together our irrigation system after the septic system installation and finally we prepared and planted an 80 x 3 foot bed along the top of the peach orchard for our first vegetable garden.  Needless to say we made good use of all the time this long Victoria Weekend and we are utterly exhausted.  Thank goodness for this cloudy showering weather today.

Alison

Springtime on a Farm

Today, April 5, I realize it has been seven months since I arrived in Peachland, BC and took up residence on our beautiful farm.  Mark and I are experiencing the joy that comes with the beginning of spring after what felt was a long and was in reality a dark winter  (dark because we reside above the 49th Parallel and because we have a huge lake at our feet, which produces the “lake effect cloud” above our heads all winter).  So much is happening every day every week around the grounds, on the ground that surrounds our new home.  At the suggestion of an organic farmer we met at a dinner party last night to keep a farm journal, I took the 2008 “week at a glance” Herbal Journal Calendar my sister gave me at Christmas to begin to note what we have been doing this winter and what is happening.  So in between the sunny April showers that have sprinkled across the valley off and on all afternoon, and which, at this very moment, has produced a rainbow that is rising out of the lake beyond our pines, I have begun to note my observations of what is budding. These range from the little starburst flowers of pale lavender that have nudged up and through the years of pine needles and leaves that have provided a carpet of mulch hiding them from sight until now.

It is amazing how much is happening outside our windows from the small birds that have returned that we are slowing over time going to identify from the Oregon Junkos to the Towhees and the house finches. They don’t have purple finches in BC. The magpies and the pair of Bald Eagles have been keeping us company since January. The chipmunk has become bold and scampers across the porch in search of seeds and other sundry items

As I walk the grounds and stroll in between the trees in the orchard, I can see the impact of the elements that comprise this particular ecosystem. You can see where the water has flowed generously and the effects of lack of water both overhead which cools the branches in the heat of the summer and the water that ran freely from broken sprinkler heads to nourish the trees from below. I can see the path ways of the bears when I ponder why one whole avenue of plum trees are leaning to one side and the branches on this side have been pruned away. The telltale marks of their claws scratching across the bark to create permanent scars are clearly evident. Then of course there are the trees that have been attacked by the smallest mammals on the land our voles or moles that gnaw the bar in the winter under the protection of snow. I expect that as the seasons progress and we spend a year in this orchards, we will see the effects of other pests even smaller larvae, insects their larvae and the fungi. Not the mushrooms that have grown in the waterways of the broken sprinklers heads either.

So much to do that I must run.

Alison

Happy New Year 2008!

The theme of this “Musings from Peachland” is “the more things changes, the more they stay the same.” 

I am captured by the reality that with all the things that has engaged me over the past year and with all the dramatic changes in Mark’s and my life things are much the same. How can that be? It simply boils down to,as we all know, you are who you are. You can change countries, time zones,homes, jobs, avocations, clothing styles, and hair (no I didn’t dye my graying head) and you still wake up to yourself in the morning with your same old hopes, dreams, beliefs, worries and, most of all, habits. So the more you change, the more you stay the same.

In this new country with new friends and colleagues, I am still perceived as energetic and enthusiastic, even though I am in my fifties.I am thought to be upbeat and positive. I am still huggable (Artistic Director, David LaHay doesn’t miss an opportunity to show his appreciation for hard work and engaged dialogues about the future. One of the affirmations that accepting the position as Development Manager for Ballet Kelowna was, after a week orientation and about 25 meetings, when I put out my hand to shake

David’s he just wrapped me in bear hug.) This new job is definitely a good “fit”. David is passionate about creating a preeminent Canadian Ballet Company and I am passionate about art, especially dance, and this young company is nothing short of amazing. An easy sell for someone who thrives on communicating the best of what I believe in.

But this brings me back to the more things change. I live on a farm and I work out of a home office. I am close to easy beautiful walks and a refrigerator. But when I start to work, I forget to stop for lunch unless I have a lunch meeting and I had best eat something before I start in for the day. Little habits I had developed in the workplace have established themselves at home (and I think, no I know, I drive Mark a little crazy.) Like, I tidy the office, now house, before I sit down to work. Everything needs to be in its place so I can focus on work with no distractions. The Boulder County Arts Alliance office was always tidy and ready for drop-in visits by artists. Well,no one is dropping in on us now, as it takes an effort and more than map quest to find us. This might be one of the few things that have changed. So far I like it. I think that I am ready to have a little bit of uninterrupted time. I feel less frazzled and more grounded when I am not jumping up and meeting and greeting folks. It may explain why the Ballet Kelowna board seems impressed with how much I have accomplished in four short months.

Another thing that has definitely changed is the weather. Although the Okanagan Valley only gets 9 inches a year, the lake is filled by melting snows in the mountains above us, it is cloudy from November to, or maybe, through March. (They say the sun shines the rest of the year and we get HOT summers.) For Mark as a Coloradoan and me as a transplant with 16 years chronic sunshine under my belt, it is quite depressing.  Mark is thinking of taking up sunbeam chasing, following the one shaft of light that comes through the “lake effect”cloud every other day.  This is more grey sky than we bargained for so we now have a “blue lamp” and are taking vitamin D and we run outside anytime the sun shines to prune a tree just to soak it in. Another great reason to work out of the home when we live on a farm. 

We are attending Kelowna Friends Meeting, which is under the Vernon meeting.  Mark and I make the tenth and eleventh attender in Kelowna. It is just like our first meeting,just as small, intimate and, yes friendly, as the Quaker Springs meeting in upstate NY. We have been welcomed with open arms and feel blessed as we share our contemplative experience of the morning over food at the end of the often”gathered” meeting. Two members of the Meeting are in their third year of homesteading just north of Enderby and have taken us under their wing,mentoring us in the ways of pruning, heritage seed/ vegetable cultivation and other farming activities we are now, or soon to be engaged in.

This is the big change in our lives and has become the calling that brought us to Canada, if you don’t count, what we politely refer to as the militarist fascist policies of the United States that saddened us so deeply and led us to make this move of conscientious objection. Pruning an orchard has become a new “practice” as it is slow methodical and is an art as well as a science. This is a wonderful way to become grounded and experience renewal. After the leaves pop and the blossoms show, we can measure our success against our inexperience.

Cleo is barking to get in after barking for what seems like, and could well be hours, at all the wildlife. She is diligent in protecting our orchard and her farm from any illegal trespassing by deer or coyotes. I hope it effective against the bears when they come out of hibernation and want to see what is cooking at 5010 Elliott Ave in Peachland.  We have a pair of bald eagles cavorting in the skies above the ravine that are clearly unaffected. I fear for the lives of my yet non-existent flock of chickens by these birds of prey and have decided to wait to get beehives started until we get our Great Pyrenees and I am sure we have deterred the bears. 

Well it is another cloudy day, but a good one to draft grants and write final reports in addition to Peachland chronicles for friends and family. 

Best wishes in 2008. May we experience more and lasting peace this year. 

Love, Alison