Tag Archives: ex patriate

THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION 2016 – Red Sky in Morning, Sailors Take Warning

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Those who have visited my blog Immigrating to Canada know I am an ex-patriot American, now a dual citizen of both the US and Canada, who left the United States with my husband after Georg W got re-elected in 2004. We left motivated by the Quaker Peace Testimonies and the need to leave a country that had perpetrated a war against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq under the false pretenses of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) with over a million lives lost. This war continues today more than a decade later. For me, it has been nearly a decade of attempting to make sense of our life-altering decision to “walk our talk” and follow our moral compass north to British Columbia and Ravens View Farm.

I have been crying off and on for several days. Only after 24 hours did I realize that I am suffering from my own posttraumatic stress disorder, which originated on election night 2004 when Kerry, who looked to be winning, lost to George W late in the evening. The grief and near hysteria I experienced was a result of the pledge I had made to Mark, to leave the country if Bush got re-elected. This was now to become a reality. The loss of that election was extremely personal as I was soon to leave my family and friends, my home, my community and all that I held dear. (This experience is captured in  IMMIGRATING TO CANADA blog post Reminiscences Before And After The 2008 Us Election.)

Many FB posts and letters by celebrities say in essence “It is our duty as Americans to stay and fight for our beloved country.” This is because half of the citizens of the United States are united in fear and they are aware that during the Viet Nam war many conscientious objectors sought asylum in Canada refusing to fight in that unjust war. Many threatened to leave the US if Bush got re-elected, but few of us actually did. The difference between then and now is that we waited until the next presidential election  working daily, calling and walking door-to-door in an effort to get out the vote and elect a president that would lead the country mindful of the ideals of our democracy outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to leave your homeland, your country. It is not a decision to be made without a great deal of thought and consideration. And for those who left, not from fear, but from a need to speak our truth through action, I hope that we demonstrated that there are in fact many ways to voice discontent, and emigrating to Canada is just one. Freedom of speech and to gather allows for peaceful civil disobedience to protect earth’s gift of water at Standing Rock and protesting in the streets of our cities. However one chooses to take a stand, it takes deep courage and conviction. This election has given rise to both and the nation will be better for it. And remember, no matter where you live in this age of technology, you can take a stand and you can fight.

If you are considering coming to Canada,  you can rent The Cottage at Ravens View Farm for a week. I will cook you farm-raised organic roast chicken dinner and share our experience with you  over a bottle of Okanagan Valley wine.

What does it mean to be a Canadian Citizen? Winter 2015

What does it mean to be a Canadian Citizen?

January 30 – Canadian Citizenship. We just got our letter. We have been invited to become citizens. Our ceremony is March 13, 2016. This is the culmination, a final achievement, and a last step in a seven-year journey. It begets the privilege to vote as I have already been paying taxes (in both the US and Canada). It is a testimony, a commitment to a path, which took us to another country. It is also an insurance policy. Not only is achieving citizenship in Canada symbolic of “walking one’s talk”, it gives me permission to finally speak my mind and walk my talk here without fear of being deported. (As an immigrant, especially emigrating from the US, deportation lurks as a fear especially with Conservative Prime Minister Harper tightening up the immigration policy of this great nation that prides itself on being a “Cultural Mosaic”.) I can join my Quaker Friends to protest the expansion of oil exports through first nations’ lands and nature conservancies. I can be political and I can vote for the amazing green party leader Elizabeth May or the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau.

As a committed Quaker who strives to lead an authentic life, the welling up of tears and the rising of emotion surprises me. Strong emotion. It is joy, relief, and maybe even sadness – I have stepped ahead and made a commitment to a new life in a new country – albeit as a dual citizen. I have not left my nation of origin behind. There is a sense that I have changed my allegiance, but my allegiance is not to a country and not to a government.

However, what I realize at this moment is that my allegiance is to family, friends, and ultimately to spirit. My final and utter allegiance is to this beautiful earth. Everything comes back to a sense of place, which transcends all rules and regulations and laws. It is the unity of heart, mind and spirit that makes me who I am and makes me a citizen and child of Mother Earth. This is what Ravens View Farm means to me; sacred ground that happens to be in Canada, that called to me and invited me to steward it into the future for the next generation. This sacred ground is waking my spirit and my understanding of life, death and existence. The final frontier is actually in our own back yards.

Friday, March 13th, our lucky day! Today was the day Mark and I became Canadian Citizens. So anxious was I, it turns out I input the date for March 11, 2015 as our Citizen Ceremony date. So we made the trip into Kelowna and our friends came to celebrate with us, but as I said, “Better two days early than two days late!”

It was a wonderful ceremony so many immigrants from all over the works and all walks of life. Today 84 people from 30 countries became citizens of Canada. And there are only one million people currently in the queue to become citizens like us. Of course the journey has been a tremendous ride of applications, visa renewals, permanent residency and finally citizenship. They took our permanent residency cards, our proof heretofore of our ability to return to our community, our farm and now our adopted country. This is a culmination of a long life-changing journey. No longer are we legally tied to the racism, sexism, and increasing incivility of the United States as manifested in what is called a democracy. We are now proud and honoured citizens of Canada, which is truly a polite society that is incredibly gracious welcoming, and warm despite being the land above the 49th parallel. Thank you Canada.

The day after the 2012 Election in the US

Wednesday November 7, 2012, The day after the 2012 Election in the US.

It is interesting in this day after the 2012 election pondering what this means for the United States and how I feel as an expatriate.  I am still a citizen of United states although am a permanent resident of my adopted country Canada and will soon be applying for citizen ship having been resident for now fives years. 

We are expatriates, my husband Mark and I, having left the United
States after the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004.  When Obama was elected four years ago so many of our friends,  family and acquaintances who knew of our “defection” asked, “Are you going to move back now?” Well if Canada and the Okanagan Valley had not embraced us so warmly and so generously, maybe I might have considered it. But it is clear that we are meant to be here in Canada, in British Columbia, and in Peachland, on this lovely little “hobby” fam.  But of course we replied that  we will wait and see.  And how prophetically this convenient answer was to this query, because how sorely disappointed we have been in the performance, the decisions and the lack of honouring promises made by this idealistic and amazing young leader.  But when Guantanamo Bay’s prison was not closed down and still detains, to this day, suspected terrorists without due process of law, I wonder, “Where is Justice?”  When the war in Afghanistan, albeit an inherited war, continues as a Quaker I ask, “Where is the peace making?” 

One cannot deny that Obama inherited a hideous situation not of his making and was challenged far beyond what any president since Roosevelt faced with war, pending economic collapse, and countless other debacles that were foisted on the American people by an ineffective and glib and ignorant president who was at the beck and call of people fueled by greed and the hunger for absolute power.

So you can see my politics.  But what are my politics?  In this time of spiritual upheaval and spiritual renewal and spiritual awakening, where are their politics. And what do I believe is the meaning of
this election in which Barack was re-elected by a hair with a country divided in their politics, their beliefs, and their values. 

It is an election where people have

  • respected people of the same sex to marry. 
  • recognized that maybe marijuana is not much different than alcohol and should be legal.  And that the
  • understood that the United states is a cultural mosaic like Canada and not a melting pot in which everyone is assimilated into one, but a country in which we have our differences of race, creed, sex, sexual preference, education and whatnot. 

In a country that is nearly evenly divided, are we “polarized” or are we coming into balance? Are we no longer giving credence and lip service to the extremists, but realizing that there is value in recognizing and respecting our differences? Maybe we are getting closer to becoming “one”.  Is it blind optimism to believe that we are witnessing a shift? We all saw how Romney went from the extreme right trying to appeal to the “Tea Party” to becoming more and more moderate to appeal to a larger electorate. There is a coming together in this balanced and evenly divided election.  I find hope in this election like I haven’t felt in a long while. 

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

 

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

 

Our First Canadian Thanksgiving 2007

Our First Canadian Thanksgiving 2007

Dear all,

This missive is a small attempt to capture and to communicate aspects, pieces and/or insights into what it means to first move, second move to a new community far from family and friends, and third move to another country. I have known for several years that the decision to expatriate in order to divorce our taxes from the war machine that the US has become and to take up residence in a country that, although a member of the coalition of the willing, is not imperialistic and has retained a focus on its people that our democracy has lost was going to be challenging in many ways that could not be anticipated.

As an immigrant to this country, Canada, there is much to learn about its history, culture and values. It will take more time and much attentiveness to develop an understanding of this new land, sometimes referring to itself as a “Nation of Immigrants”and its people.

Chai is brewing on the stove for the first time. (For those who know that I make my own Chai each morning as a way to start my day, this is an important marker in my transition to a new home.) I sit here at our small café table in front of the sliding glass doors looking past the porch, past the orchard, past the giant Ponderosa pines that stand like sentries around the property, down the ravine and valley to the expanse of water which is the Okanagan Lake and then to the small rocky rolling hills beyond. It is a beautiful view. The massiveness of the water equals the drama of the Flatirons of Boulder Colorado that have been my constant companion for the last 14 years. I have moved from earth to water as the “ground’ in my life. Water is about transition; its flows and cuts gently and sometimes violently through the earth to create valleys and canyons. It is appropriate that, at this point in our lives which is all about change, our constant companion in this valley is this beautiful lake.

People have asked how I am doing and I ask myself that off and on as well. Interestingly enough I am just fine, at the moment. I think that this is because I am living very day-to-day and I am present with this experience. I believe that I am overwhelmed and this keeps me in the moment. The move was physically and emotionally hard. Both Mark and I have lost many pounds and are pulling our pants up. (For me that just makes everyone I am meeting think that I was a ballet dancer sometime in the past. This might also be because when you are in the presence of ballet dancers you automatically stand up straight, align your spine, pull your center of gravity up and out. I probably look a whole lot taller than I am as a result.)

Most days I spend being grateful for what I have in life even though this move has been hard forcing me to look at what it means to be courageous and cultivate fearlessness. I am thankful for all the friends that called to give us moral support, offered to help us and came for hours, some on several occasions, to help pack, and those who brought food and provided hugs when needed, who had flowers at the Ballet Kelowna office when I arrived and who shooed Mark out of the house at the end. I am grateful for Mark who busted his proverbial buns and stayed behind after I left for Canada to start my job and packed up the rest of the house which was overwhelming, despite the fact that we tried to get rid of 50% of what we owned before we left. (He was the one left to manage two moving sales and move my bees to Sandy’s house with yet more friends) I am grateful for my daughter Cait who drove up here with me and worked to clean the house and paint to make this home our own. I am grateful for the kindness, friendliness and neighborliness of everyone we have met in Canada. Entry could not have been easier as we find we must “rely on the kindness of strangers.”

This is Thanksgiving in Canada and we have a lot to be thankful for. (We have even been invited to our friends Kathy and Dave’s for dinner tomorrow.)

So that is the nice touchy-feely stuff, but what is the reality? Well, we learned everything that was wrong with the house we had been living in for 16 years and what had to be fixed, painted, or replaced before it could be rented. (Thank goodness for Beth of Boulder who managed this for us; I don’t think one can ever repay that kind of help.)We are learning everything that is wrong with this house. But at least we finally have heat. And heat is necessary when fall comes unusually early at this latitude. I am glad to be warm. The hot flashes that I have just come to experience don’t last long enough when the nights dip to 5 degrees centigrade and it is only October. I learned how to network our computers, (thanks to yet more friends) and got us all set up with new Canadian email addresses for work.

I had better become expert in irrigation systems and mower repair before next spring because caring for an orchard is a BIG responsibility. Oh yes and I am learning a new math measurement (metric) and I have to learn the Kings, actually Queens, English. When I write grants, I am misspelling everything and spell check doesn’t catch it!However, it is sort of a relief to walk into offices and see the Queen smiling at me instead of George W. It’s quaint but quite real. I live in a bilingual country where every label is in French and English. This country mayspeak English and share a border with the US, but it has its own culture and I am an immigrant. What an experience. Thank goodness I thrive on learning. Thank goodness friends are only a phone call away.

We share this lovely land with quite a lot of wildlife that,of course, call it their own, as it is theirs as well. Mark is competing with the squirrels to harvest the walnuts first. The bears got all the fruit in August and only visited the first few weeks that we were here just to make sure they got it all. (Now they off down at the creek fishing for Kocannee Salmon as they swim up to spawn beneath Hardy Falls below our property.) The coyotes come through on an evening and drive Cleo nuts.There are cougars in the hills and we will have deer before too long and possibly some elk. It is going to be lot of work to restore this land and to do so organically and in partnership with the wildlife that lives here. But I figure it has been left for about three or four years waiting for us to get here that it will probably wait for us to get it all in balance during the next three to four years. We are going to do it by moving out in concentric circles from the house, pruning and caring for the trees closest and moving out through the property. It’s a plan anyway for what is a big job.

The computer’s battery needs charging and I need to go up and finish painting the trim in the guest room so we can put down the new carpet. Then we are off to see the company, Ballet Kelowna performing Lake Country just north of Kelowna. They are amazing! I am honored to work for such a committed and talented group of artists. More about that later.

Much love & don’t forget to come visit. The guest rooms are nearly ready.

Alison

 

Love Alison

Impressions of future life in the Okanagan Valley

I am exhausted. First, from the fact that I always have to get all of my work done in the office before I leave for a week.  The other because we have done something precipitous, buying land in Canada before we have the permission to live and work in that country.

But here I sit on the edge of the front lawn, looking past the jumbled flower bed of various planted and volunteer perennials, over the rows of peaches descending across the lawn to the mature Plum tree to be rewarded by a spectacular a view of Lake Okanagan. Over the Deep Creek ravine filled with tall standing pines some tipped with red, which protects the bark beetle that is invading both our countries over the past five years of drought.  The weather has been picture perfect, even a little too cool with its gentle breeze and cloud specked sky. This is just about the ideal, made-to-order, place for me.

 Why?

 It is at the very end of a dirt road atop Princeton Hill that is straddled by cherry orchards, which are simply breathtaking in spring with blossoms and gorgeous with the ripe red fruit in June and July. Although we can hear the faint drone of the farm equipment across the hillsides and an occasional seaplane leaving the water, it feels very remote. Because ravines on each side surround us, this little piece of farmland is a peninsula surrounded by forest and has become “my own private Idaho”.

 I was just about to shut down this computer when I couldn’t resist the temptation to add a few last words on my last morning. Yesterday was an amazing day of meeting cherry growing neighbors giving me warnings about trusting folks and a volunteer at the arts center in Summerland so encouraging but warning me about the pot growing operations (the biggest income source for the province). And then I go to a party and have a wonderful time learning about the key areas of Canadian history from a delightful professor.  And a BC citizen who immigrated from to Canada 30 years ago after working with draft resisters in Puerto Rico.

Travel in the Okanagan.  Making sense of the private Idaho’s in different lands. Wondering if this is the right thing. I guess I couldn’t have asked from more encouragement that I have gotten yesterday despite tales of hangings in adjacent properties and interesting shakes of head about the people of Peachland.  When everyone says that this is the destination of all people in Canada because it this country’s.  Shangri La and Palm Springs all rolled into one.

It is interesting when one travels alone you have the ability to engage folks in conversation that you don’t otherwise. Everyone should pretend they are moving every ten years just to clear out all their stuff, I also think that couples should head out individually and pretend they are new to a community and learn what people have to say. I guess people are all pretty encouraging about the community in which they live because they have chosen to make their lives there.  You wouldn’t disparage a place that you have determined to make your home.  That would make you a fool.  So I look forward o sending Mark up here next and tell him to go meet folks and make friends on his own and begin the network of friendship making.

I am experiencing an odd mix of emotions when I sit on top of the beautiful hill looking at they gorgeous lake and at the same time viewing the promise of what will be the work intensive fruit trees orchard. I also wonder about the huge amount of development going on all around the area without any design consideration with chock-a-block little houses.

 Ah, the little birds are chatting in the beach trees. I have seen more than my fair share of Gold finches and I just wish I could identify all these sweet little birds. Redtail, Osprey, Raven’s and Bald Eagles, I can identify on my own, but it’s these sweet little warblers and others that I don’t recognize. Someday.

Well it is time to get ready to go because I want to walk down and listen closely to the sound of the water rushing over the waterfalls through Deep Creek.

Alison