Book Release & Reading: The Agony of St. Alice

Come one, come all! The third book in the Lizzie Saunders series, The Agony of St. Alice, will be held on October 19 at the Cumberland Museum & Archives, starting at 7 pm. Come and join us! Bring friends! Let’s talk BC history, Victorian medicine, a little bit of murder, and a whole lot of writing!



Big Wide World vs. Little Island

I live on an island, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that there’s a huge beautiful world on the other side of the strait, bustling with people and things and ideas. I know that sounds terribly isolationist. I grew up on the island and so my childhood was defined by water; if we went on a vacation, we had to take a ferry, so boat rides became synonymous with venturing into the great unknown.

When I was a teenager, I knew the farthest I could drive was two hours (either north or south), and then I’d hit water, and if it was after 10:30, no ferries would be running and there’d be no option to go any farther. I had a friend who’d never left the island – ever – and she didn’t exhibit any great desire to leave. Maybe we just knew we couldn’t afford to take the ferry, so we convinced ourselves that the island was enough. Or maybe we liked the sense of security that those ocean boundaries gave us, even if they were an illusion. (When a particular serial killer was stalking Vancouver’s children in the 1980s, I remember some of the adults talking openly about how we were safe here on the island, as if the Georgia Strait was a weird wall with the magical ability to keep out murderers. Not true, of course. Even as a kid, I sensed that was a strange level of bullshit to calm terrified minds. People are so good at lying to themselves, aren’t they?)

When I lived in Vancouver, I shed this sense of borders and boundaries, but not quickly. For a long time after moving to the mainland, I would wake in the middle of the night with thoughts like, “If I got in my car right now and drove east, I could go all the way to New York! Right now!” That sounds silly, now that I’ve written it down, but it’s true. It gradually lessened. Eventually I lost that insular sense of disconnection, and I became part of the larger world without the need to consciously remind myself that I was part of the larger world.

But when I came back to the island, I fell easily and effortlessly into the island mindset again. My environment became clearly bounded. Travelling anywhere becomes a financial consideration and a scheduling hassle — I can not simply pick-up-and-go, but must make sure I can (a) afford the cost of the ferry and (b) work to their timetable. There is a strong sense of who is an islander and who is a mainlander, because mainlanders have a capriciousness to their travel plans that seems so very innocent. They haven’t had to spend 8 hours in a ferry line under a hot August sun with two unhappy children. They do not seem to recognize the importance of packing snacks, juice, and comic books.

That friend who never left the island? She left. I think she lives in the prairies now, where the widest stretch of water is a river you can throw a rock across. I like to imagine she got to the other side of the strait, pointed her truck east, and just kept driving until she ran out of gas. Late at night, I wake and wonder what it must be like, to live in a place where you can see forever, and know that if you wanted to go in any direction, there’s nothing that nature can do to stop you: no cliffs, no ocean, no mountains, no jungles.

Y’know what? I think it’s time for a road trip.

Ancient Chinese Poetry & Bird Watching

In my humble opinion, it goes together like chocolate and peanut butter.

On Friday, I spent the afternoon with a camera, wandering along the beach and planning a short video to celebrate the poem ‘Travelling Again’ by Chinese poet Du Fu. You know, as one often does.

Winter is a great time to view migratory birds on Vancouver Island – ducks, geese, swans –  and there’s even been a rare redwing spotted in the region, which has whipped up the birding community into a frenzy. By sheer coincidence, I recently discovered the poem ‘Travelling Again’ by Chinese poet Du Fu, (which was written in 761, so it I guess it only took me 1255 years to find it) and there was something in the placid nature of its words that reminded me of the feeling of birdwatching…. a sense of slow excitement, of patience and acceptance, of being simultaneously moving and resting. So we set it against Shawn’s serene song ‘Winter Chords’ and it came together rather harmoniously.

Yes, it’s an ancient poetry bird watching piano mashup. Awesome!

I don’t always put our Fox&Bee stuff up here, so if you’ve like it, why not come and join us? And if you have other ancient poets you’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear your suggestions. I’m always looking for new voices from the past, especially works about birds, nature, and the great outdoors.

Instagram: @foxandbeestudios



Sharing is Caring, My Friends

It’s been a rollicking sort of autumn, full of exciting twists and turns. And whenever it gets a little too exciting, I head into the woods, where the gentle sounds of ravens and rainwater and the wind in the trees soothes my heart and calms my mind.

But what happens when hiking through nature is part of the job? Absolute bliss, that’s what.

Back in September, we filmed a new documentary-style video for the Cumberland Community Forest Society, which is currently working hard to save a forest. With only 9 months left to raise $1.2 million required to purchase the land from the logging companies, this little village is gritting its teeth. It’s rolled up its sleeves. It’s doing all it can: parties, marathons, bike races, trivia nights, silent auctions, and a massive campaign to raise awareness. And while it’s doing all these things, the organization is building a lot of excitement and a strong sense of community, too. I’ve never been a part of such a vibrant, gutsy, close-knit, passionate and driven crowd of people.

We filmed a cross-section of the group, explaining what the Cumberland Community Forest Society is and what our goals are. Have a look, and please share widely, and if you’re looking for a fantastic spot to visit for an afternoon walk, come and join us in the woods.

Into the Woods

As you may already know, I’m part of Fox&Bee Studio, and we create videos for all sorts of people, groups, and organizations. One of these groups is particularly close to our hearts: the Cumberland Community Forest Society. When I say ‘it’s close to our hearts’, I mean, it is literally close to our hearts, with its trees only steps from our front door.

Today we just released our newest video for the CCFS, which has been submitted to the BC Hydro Community Champions contest. It took about two weeks to film, a small army of people, and many hours of phoning*. We filmed in pouring rain, which contained all sorts of exciting challenges. Imagine, if you will, me with my sound equipment and headphones and clipboard balancing an umbrella over Shawn and the gimbal and camera as he films a woman surrounded by eight little energetic children and a dog in the midst of a downpour… yowzah! But it really was a lot of fun, and everyone did a fantastic job.

Watch, enjoy, and visit the Cumberland Forest, if you’re in the area.

* Who knew film-making would require making so many phone calls? But it’s a significant part of the process. Future film makers, take note: texting doesn’t cut it!