Category Archives: 2019 Trip to the West

Fisherman’s Wharf and the keen pleasure of flaunting success



After we finished our glorious day at Butchart Gardens we drove into Victoria to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. We had been told this was a ‘must see.’

I have to tell you something odd about me.  I don’t like to go boating, except for gentle rides on a calm day.  Nothing exciting. I prefer my excitement on land. I don’t want to own a boat. I did at one time, but I think the happiest day of my life is when I got rid of that boat. I would be willing to sit on a boat on a calm day and sip a glass or rum. Or get a ride on a boat with a competent Captain on smooth seas. Rough waters are not for me.  I am not scared of water. I have swum all my life and always love that. It’s just that boating is not really for me. I guess that makes me a landlubber.

Notwithstanding all that, I love wharfs and harbours. I have no idea why that is the case. I love to walk on the dock and look at the boats. I just don’t want to own one.

Frankly house boats are the same.  I love to look at them but don’t want to own one. There were many elaborate house boats here in Victoria. I assumed that many people actually lived on them. They looked cute, but I would not want to live on one. Why live on a boat?

Here the house boats had another disadvantage. People like me!  I came walking on the dock with no thought in mind other than snooping.  I did not see a single person sitting on the outside of his or her boathouse sipping a rum on this gorgeous day. Where were they?  Hiding inside to keep away from snoops like me? I would be doing that if I owned one. How boring is that?

I assumed that these people had one pleasure in mind when they bought such a house boat. Flaunting their wealth.  Flaunting success gives a keen pleasure.


Fisherman’s Wharf is a floating boardwalk with an entire neighbourhood of floating houses painted in vibrant colours including cool pinks, lavenders, and blues. There are, of course, restaurants and bars aplenty.

It was a beautiful place on a beautiful day.

Breakfast with Stef


Stef and his friend Charli. This photo has nothing to do with the post below.

I had an interesting experience when I woke up our first morning in Sooke B.C. where we stayed for 5 days—I had breakfast with my son Stef.   Get this, for breakfast Stef ate a Long John pastry, very gooey, a heated up wiener left over from last night, and Ketchup chips! About as nutritious as last week’s laundry.

Butchart Gardens: One last look


I now this is over indulgence, but I really thought Butchart Gardens are worth one last look.


In 1964, the owners of Butchart Gardens installed the constantly changing Ross Fountain was installed in the lower reservoir to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the gardens.

Goethe wrote that, “flowers are the beautiful words and hieroglyphs of nature, with which she shows us how much she loves us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the world laughs in flowers.” These guys were smart.

Butchart Gardens: revisted



Stef and his friend Charli did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to Butchart Gardens. Charli has great taste.



In 1888 Robert Pim Butchart began to manufacture cement in Owen Sound but moved to British Columbia because they found rich deposits of limestone in the area. In 1904 he and his wife Jennie established a home here on Vancouver Island.

As Theodore Roetke said “deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”

In 1907 they hired 65-year old Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama of Japane to design a Japanese Garden for them. In 1909 when the quarry was exhausted they set about turning what was left into a Sunken Garden. Nowadays they would turn it into a golf course. It took 12 years to complete.


In 1909, when the limestone quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning it into the Sunken Garden, which was completed in 1921.

In 1926 they turned their tennis courts into an Italian garden. In 1929 they converted their vegetable garden into a rose garden. It has won awards for the best rose garden in North America.

In 1929 they gave the gardens to their grandson Ian Ross for his 21stbirthday. Not a bad birthday gift. Sure beats what we gave our grandchildren.


I love the views of the sunken garden from above

I was surprised to learn that the gardens are still privately owned by the Butchart family.  Currently one of the great great granddaughters of the original owners is the operator. We have a lot for which we must be grateful to them.

William Blake said, “eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

Butchart Gardens: the Most Beautiful Garden in the World?


I don’t know if the Butchart Gardens of B.C. are the most beautiful in the world. I haven’t seen them all. I just think it is the most beautiful garden I have ever seen.


I love flowers.  I don’t love working in flower gardens so much. Does that make me a bad person?

I love Water Lilies almost as much as orchids

The gardens are really a suite of gardens in Brentwood Bay British Columbia just outside of Victoria. The gardens host more than a million visitors a year.


Butchart Gardens is open 365 days a year. I have a hard time comprehending that in Canada a garden can be open all year. Where else but B.C. could they do that?



A Hippie is a member of the counterculture that began in the 1960s, originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world including of course Canada.

Although I never called myself a hippie, I was generally sympathetic to the causes the movement supported, love, freedom, and rock and roll. They, like me considered ourselves rebels against the “establishment.”


The hippies were also generally opposed to the War in Vietnam. They endorsed the expression “Make Love, Not War.” I had sadly, supported the war while in High School but came to my senses by the time I reached University.


Sometimes they called themselves “flower children.”  I actually started calling myself a flower child, much later in life when I started to pursue the beauty in wild flowers.

Illicit Drugs were a common part of the hippie culture. They often felt the drug laws were arcane and stupid. Which of course they were.

The movement died out in name if not spirit in the 1970s when those who identified with it became doctors, lawyers, business people, and other unsavory characters. Sell-outs in other words.

But the spirit of hippies lived on and obviously continues to live on with the likes of the proprietor of the Hippie Shop that we saw in Coombs B.C. where we stopped after visiting Cathedral Grove.  Unfortunately I did not get his photograph.


I don’t disavow many of the views I held then and believe they are still valid today, even though I have failed to live up to them. I particularly love the music of the times. Music that is hard to beat and will live on forever, I believe. Long live the hippies.

Time at the Hippie Store brought back some great old memories. I’m glad Stef dragged us to Coombs

Forest Bathing



Stef, Charli, Chris and I had most pleasant walk through the temperature rainforest called, most appropriately, Cathedral Grove MacMillan Park B.C.  I could not help but think about forest bathing. Many people, like me, believe that there is a power in nature to heal. This is not heebie jeebies stuff.  Nor nude walks through the forest. While this is not yet scientifically proven, there is growing evidence that there are healing powers in nature that are becoming increasingly well documented.

In Japan there is a interesting notion that they call Shinrin-yoku.  This refers to walking and/or staying in forests in order to promote health. It is a major form of relaxation in Japan; however, its effects have yet to be completely clarified.  There was a scientific study there whose aims  were: (1) to evaluate the psychological effects of shinrin-yoku in a large number of participants; and (2) to identify the factors related to these effects.

Shinrin-yoku means literally forest bathing and the activity has become a recognized stress management and relaxation technique.

Some people, like Richard Louv who wrote the book The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, points to research that shows that the diminution of life in the world of nature has been one of the causes of increased rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (‘ADHD ‘) as well as other mental health problems. He is the person who coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe what happens when virtually a generation of young people is disconnected from nature.  The result is an illness—a disorder.

Louv says that it is a short hand way of describing what people knew was happening but had no short way to describe. It is related to the increasing alienation between children and the natural world.  That is the alienation or disconnect that humans feel toward the natural world. He points to recent studies that show that the symptoms of attention deficit disorder frequently are minimized with just a little contact with nature. There are other studies that show childhood obesity is partly caused by the absence of a natural connection between children and nature. Some of those studies also show the extraordinary benefits of connecting to nature  for both children and adults.

Frances Kuo is the Director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois where they studied the relationship between green spaces and human health. She said that the range of outcomes related to deprivation of nature were staggering. Everything from earlier mortality in adults to general ailments in the population, ADHD symptoms, cognitive functions, mood issues and social functioning were often related to this deprivation of nature that many of us too often experience. The symptoms of this deprivation are vast.

On the 2011 CBC radio series The Bottom Line Professor Kuo said “just everything across the board,”  is improved in nature.  According to Kuo the presence or absence of grass or vegetation in a landscape is a huge predictor of whether or not people will like a place. People like nature. They want to see it. They want to be in it. They want to be a part of it. And if they do not feel that connection they often react adversely. They may not understand why, but that feeling of disconnection from nature is uncomfortable. It is literally disconcerting.

Kuo also studied the effect of nature on cognitive and emotional functioning. Her group went to homes in the inner city of Chicago. Some had more green areas than others. They looked at verbal and physical aggression and they found that people who had more grass or more shade trees were significantly less aggressive than nearby neighbours without any green space. Even a tiny green space helped a lot. She was surprised how such a small space could have such a remarkable effect.

Kuo points out how people often feel rejuvenated or refreshed after a brief walk in nature and she said, “It turns out that refreshment effect is quite documentable and quite consistent.”  Her research shows that the part of the brain that deals with effortful activities gets a respite when one walks in nature or is around nature. “By giving that part of the brain a little vacation it gets rejuvenated and is able to operate better afterwards,” she said. It really is resting and then recharging the brain. It is good for us to be in nature. I know this is exactly how I felt after our brief walk through the woods in Cathedral Grove this afternoon.

Kuo also pointed out how there is research that showed that people in prison with no connection to nature had more self-aggression than people who have some connection to nature. They get aggressive with themselves because often there is no one else they can be aggressive towards. That research also showed that the nature deficit prisoners tended to have all kinds of illnesses more frequently than those better connected to nature.

She said that when we design cities we have to recognize the importance of nature to community health and stop thinking of trees and parks as “merely pretty.”  They are much more important than that, though that is very good too. One of her colleagues calls it “the parsley around the pig.”  According to Kuo, “nature in the city is functional. It helps to provide a healthy human habitat and it is as essential as providing vitamins.”

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is another person who understands the profound importance of nature on health. In particular she concentrates on the value of our relationship to trees. What better place to think of her than Cathedral Grove? She is a botanist who describes herself as “a renegade scientist.” Her latest book is called The Global Forrest.

Even in Victorian times they recognized the “forest as a spa”. They knew how it could rejuvenate and heal a person. First Nations people thought along those lines too when they initiated the sweat lodge system. They used the natural antibiotic fungicides from a forest to help heal people. Walk in to a pine forest when the temperatures are about 60º C and the air is rising, the pine trees produce a huge chemical factory from the needles, which are really modified leaves. From a distance you can even see a slight bluish haze rising from a pine forest. This reminds me of the Blue Ridge Forest, which was mainly deciduous. Chemicals are literally exhaled from the trees. They help breathing and provide a mild anesthetic.

Beresford-Kroeger says that in Ireland where they do deep meditation in forests they can actually “hear the trees”. Like children who have much better hearing than adults, can sometimes actually hear the tree. Her theories have not all been scientifically validated at this time. Yet, perhaps, it makes sense to hug a tree.

Many of us realize that nature infuses us with an inexplicable calm. Without understanding why, many of us find refuge in a park, even if just for a short stroll. That was how I felt at the Cathedral Grove.

This was forest bathingat its finest.

Cathedral Grove




After leaving Coombs we drove up the highway to MacMillan Park and Cathedral Grove and Stef, Charli, Chris and I went for a lovely walk through the grove.  The reason for the name ‘Cathedral Grove’ becomes immediately obvious only a few minutes into visiting. Soaring towards the sky, these huge trees form their own beautiful cathedral of nature. Fallen trees here and there allow light to streak through the canopy, much as stained glass windows in churches do.

Cathedral Grove features a magnificent temperate rainforest with enormous 800 year-old trees, a carpet of ferns and draping moss, the trees in Cathedral Grove are amongst the oldest and tallest in Canada.Most of the trees are about 250 years old, having emerged after a fire at the time.

It’s a humbling experience to stand next to these incredibly tall and gnarled tree trunks, some as wide as a car. The tree canopy is up to 80 metres high in places, with the sky in the far distance. As you walk through the forest, beams of sunlight filter through the branches above, illuminating so many layers of green. It is a kaleidoscope of green.


This was a temperate Rainforest, one of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world. This was probably the most magnificent of the rainforests that we saw. The temperate rainforests of British Columbia are not just cool places where amazingly large trees reside. They are rich ecosystems where a wide variety of interdependent species occupy the terrain. The creatures vary from fungi, to amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, trees, mosses, lichen and many other creatures and organisms, both macro and micro. The temperate rainforest is a system in which nutrients are recycled to nurture new generations of living things in which each member of the system plays a role in the continuing cycle, of life, death and rebirth.

It is more obvious in a temperate rainforest than in most other places that death is a creative force.Death is a lot more interesting than we ever imagined. Our bodies also harbor death. Death is intimately a part of each and every one of us. Cells are programmed to die. They all have a limited life span. Cells need to die! We need death. This may sound really weird, but we need death. We can’t live without death.

Forests are first class recyclers. They recycle rain. They create prodigious amounts of oxygen. In fact together with oceans they are among the most important creators of oxygen. They absorb so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that scientists are recently emphasizing that perhaps the best way to save the planet from existentially dangerous climate change is to promote, enhance, and protect forests. They believe there is nothing else that we can do that would be more effective in mitigating climate change.

Forests keep the soil together and in places with steeply sloped mountains and hills like British Columbia are vitally important in controlling the movement of water down the mountains and out to the sea. Forests are also crucially important in purifying water for us to drink or use in agriculture. All in all, forests are critical to life on the planet.

Forests provide great habitat for a wide diversity of species, nowhere more so than rainforests, both temperate, like British Columbia, and tropical as in the Amazon. Some of the trees we saw included Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and others.



Stef and Charli


Cathedral Grove is part of the traditional territory of the K’ómoks, Tseshaht and Te’mexw people, who have acted as stewards of this area for thousands of years. To indigenous people of the area, these trees have even greater spiritual significance. Cedar trees have long been considered sacred due to their life giving properties. That’s why they call cedars the “the tree of life.”

Many people think that the most prolific parts of our biosphere are the tropical rain forests.  Though they certainly are prolific this is not true.  In some respects at least the coastal temperate rain forests are actually the most prolific.

Temperate rain forests cover a mere 1% of the surface of the earth, but they contain twice as much organic material per acre as the tropical rain forests.  I found this amazing.  These forests can also produce as much biomass per acre as the tropical rain forest, to say nothing of the amazing fertility of the river mouths and the estuaries.

Goat on a Roof: Hippies flying high on the Ground



On our trip to Vancouver Island from Whistler, we woke up early. This is going to be hard to believe—it was because of my son Stef. When Stef lived with us he was never famous for rising early. It came as a big surprise to us when we learned he wanted to go to Vancouver Island on an early ferry. He was on vacation and did not want to waste any time. That is a serious traveller. Much more serious than his parents, who are known to be lazy bums on their travels. Pathetic travelers in other words.

As a result we woke up at 5 a.m. to pack, get ready, and pick up Stef and his friend Charli. After picking them up, we travelled the Sea to Sky highway. Being early, we found out, was also a good idea because we avoided the heavy traffic expected later in the day as this was the end of the Labour Day Weekend. Stef was also a smart traveler, again, unlike his parents.

When we arrived on Vancouver Island we headed north towards Nanaimo, rather than south towards the house we had rented. We wanted to see part of the island where the ferry was located so we would not have to drive so far to see it later. Once more, Stef had planned this well. Chris and I were very impressed with how organized and well-planned Stef was about this trip. This was not the Stef we were used to, but we liked “the new Stef.”

Ever since we met Stef he had been talking about “a Goat on a roof.”  I had no idea what this meant or why we were going to see it. I did not realize it at the time, but apparently this place had been featured in the Survivor television series (or some series like that) and as a result is widely known. When we arrived in the village Coombs we soon knew. At a local privately owned store, in the centre of town, there is a store, large by village standards, with grass on the roof, with at least 2 goats enjoying the grass.

The store was crammed with weird stuff. This was no surprise. After all we were in B.C.—lotus land in other words. The Republic of Vancouver Island. Where good sense goes to die. What else could you expect? In this store standard stuff was hard to find. Odd stuff was everywhere.

Coombs is hippie haven. First, there was an old goat on a bench outside, underneath the real goat happily chewing grass on the roof. The aging hippie was happy to take donations for his music, while contently agreeing to be photographed.

Coombs is a place where you can buy a Tie Dye shirt that talks! Where else can you buy that? Or Goat jerky?  What treasures! It even has a “Hippie Store.” The owner is, of course, another aged hippie, playing Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Pappas. I guess hippies go here to die along with good sense. Here you could buy “After Marihuana Mints.”  What self-respecting hippie could go without that?  You could also buy a card that said, “I divorced my husband for religious reasons. He thinks he’s God.”

Only in B.C.

Spirituality of Skwxú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nation and Liĺwat7úl) Nation


At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) which Chris and I visited in Whistler B.C., we learned that the Indigenous People of the west coast, the  Skwxú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nation and Liĺwat7úl  Nation believe they are the land. That is about as close as a connection between land and people that we can get. It is what I see as the essence of the aboriginal attitude to nature. It is very different from the attitude of most Non-Indigenous people. It is my belief that we have a lot to learn from such people.

Josh, our Lil’wat interpreter at the Cultural Centre, explained that the two nations who created the centre at one time shared a village in their joint territory before it was destroyed by volcanic forces. The nations have learned to share rather than fight over it. As a result they recognize each other as family. Again, we have a lot to learn from these people.

They also believe that they learn through stories that teach their values of generosity, humility, and compassion. Frankly this reminded me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible, namely Micah 6:8, where the prophet said, “He has told you, man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I don’t think religion gets any more profound than this. Or consider when the Prophet Isaiah said, “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, abolish oppression, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”  I think such words get at the essential good things about spirituality. The best of religions are invariably complementary, not antagonistic. In fact, I would say, they are fundamentally the same!

Cedar often plays an important role in the ceremonial and spiritual life of many West Coast Indigenous peoples. They even have a creation story about cedar. It is that important to them. As explained by Alice Huang,

“According to the story, there once lived a good man who always gave away his belongings and food to others. The Creator recognized the man’s kindness, and declared that once the man dies, a Red Cedar tree will grow where he is buried, and the tree will continue to help the people. The Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island have a similar origin story for Yellow Cedar. According to their stories, Yellow Cedar trees were transformed from three young women running up a mountain. Therefore, Yellow Cedar trees are found on the slopes of subalpine mountains, and contain soft inner bark, like that of woman’s hair.”

In addition to everyday use, which I described in my previous post to this blog, cedar is used for a variety of ceremonial purposes. Families often commissioned a carver to create cedar figures for a potlatch, usually as a welcoming gesture to the guests. Ceremonial dancers’ regalia might include head rings, neck rings, wristlets braided from cedar, as well as cedar masks. I will have more to say about potlatches later in this blog, but for now, we must realize that they were a means for individuals or communities  to demonstrate their generosity. Generosity was the sign of greatness to West Coast aboriginal people. It had spiritual value. It was so important that some leaders actually impoverished themselves to demonstrate their generosity. The exact opposite of the attitude of the current American President.

Given the importance of cedar in everyday life, it is clear that cedar also plays an integral role in the spiritual beliefs and practices of coastal First Nations. These beliefs recognize that the cedar tree has its own life and spirit. According to Alice Huang, “Coast Salish and Tlingit shamans often had cedar “spirit assistants” or “guard figures” to protect them.”

The Coast Salish is a group of ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous peoples of the west coast of North America that live in parts of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They are a large loose grouping of many tribes with numerous distinct cultures and languages. The territory claimed by various nations within the group include the northern limit of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait), on the inside of Vancouver Island including most of the southern part of Vancouver Island, and most of the lower mainland of what is now called British Columbia and much of Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula in what is now called the United States. Major cities now included in this territory are Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle.

Cedar was also widely valued for its healing abilities. Yellow Cedar bark, which has anti-inflammatory properties, was frequently applied as a dressing for wounds, as a tourniquet, or to ward off evil. Many beliefs and taboos are also associated with the cedar tree. For example, a person who killed a tree through improper harvesting would be cursed by other cedar trees. Similarly, some believed a pregnant woman should not braid baskets, lest the umbilical cord would twist around the baby’s neck. As the cedar is a long-lived tree, some Coast Salish groups ensured a long life for their infants by placing the afterbirth in the stump of a large cedar.

As a plant that has ensured the survival of people for thousands of years, cedar has become a powerful symbol of strength and revitalization. The deep respect for cedar is part of a rich tradition that spans thousands of years and continues to be culturally, spiritually, and economically important.

Canoes, often built of cedar,  were considered living beings. They had to be blessed before being launched. That was believed to breathe life into the canoe. That is in fact the meaning of spiritual: breathing life. The canoe was considered by the Indigenous people to be a gift from the forest. It allowed them to move through their land and connect to it. Similarly, the Indigenous people considered the bear, and other animals, their kin.

All of this spirituality is part and parcel of the belief of many Indigenous peoples in this region that all of them were deeply connected to the land (environment really) in which they were located and to all life in it and even non-life such as rocks. That is the basis of their spirituality and I would submit the spirituality of all of us.